Going into this race I had spent the last 2 weeks trail running and exploring in Yosemite, Sequoia, and Zion National Parks. I had run at 11,000 feet and in temperatures above 100F degrees. I was not worried about the elevation at the event (5,300 ft.) or the heat for the weekend (100F).
I did get a little nervous when the course map was leaked on Facebook and I saw the grouping of the obstacles after the first hill climb.
Clif Mutli-Bar – Plate Drag – Rope Climb – Hercules Hoist – Z-walls – Tyrolean Traverse – Atlas Lift
All back to back within what looked like a 800m section of the course, and heavy on the grip strength. None of these obstacles seemed too hard to complete in itself, but to do all 8 fast would be tough.
After that crazy section the course looked like a normal OCR again and I would get a chance to put my new running legs to the test.
Strategy: Hang back in the beginning and take it easy. After the difficult obstacle session I would pick up the pace and get in the game. Coming from behind, my favorite approach.
I arrived early and quickly made friends with a fellow veteran who was running his first Spartan at the age of 39. Since this was my second Spartan I gave what little obstacle tips I could, and did we a quick warm up run together.
At the starting line the elite males sang the Star Spangled Banner for the crowd of spectators (motivating) and we were off.
The race started fast and there were dozens of bodies simultaneously throwing themselves into the mud ditches without fear. It was amazing I made it through without being landed on. Once I made it out of the third and final ditch I settled into a comfortable pace and tried to make a few passes before we hit the single track up the first major hill climb.
I’d been training for hills and it really showed. Passing was difficult because of the single track but I just kept running and yelling “on your left” as I made my way to the front of the pack.
At the peak of the first hill I believe I had worked my way up to 5th or 6th as I began the steep descent down another single track through thick brush. I got stuck behind a runner and heard the footsteps of the guys I had worked so hard to pass on the uphill catching up to me. I couldn’t make a pass on the guy so I yelled for him to run faster because we were being chased down. He complied.
Getting closer to the event area again the obstacles came back and we ran straight into the “tractor pull” pulling a cinder block tied to a chain. Instead of throwing the chain over my shoulder I pulled it behind me using my hands and found this a lot easier.
Keeping the same position we ran around a loop and came to the “Clif Multi-Bar”. I really liked this obstacle, similar to stuff to see on Ninja Warrior. You had to traverse rings, ropes, and horizontal bars using only your hands. I kept my elbows tight as always and made it through no problem. Unfortunately, so did my competitors.
Still in the same group we ran up to the “plate drag”. We had to sit on our arse and pull a plate towards us using a rope. This was heavier than expected but manageable. After pulling the plate to the pole you had to stand up and drag it back out until there was no slack so the next guy could use it. Save the volunteers some work…..anytime, I love the volunteers. They make this sport!
Next up was the rope climb. No problem climb the rope! I used the S-pinch to save my arms for the next obstacles, the “Herc Hoist”. This is a cool addition to the OCR circuit and adds some muscle to the game. Instead of pulling arm over arm continuously, I used a heave-ho method pulling with my body. I beat the guys next to me and moved on to the wall traverse.
For some reason I ran up to the wall and jumped on in stride putting all fours on right away. Before I even had a chance to contemplate a move, I slipped off because I had rushed myself. REMEMBER: take you time….I didn’t.
I ran to the burpee area and started cranking out my 30 burpees in front of all the spectators while I watched my opponents pass me…1….2….3…4…5….6……kept flying by
I got up with a vengeance, disappointed but not dispirited, and went straight to the rope traverse where I used my legs and arms to walk the rope passing 2 of the guys that had passed me on the burpees. I ran up the hill still pissed at myself and saw the 3 guys doing the Atlas Lift. I picked it up, walked it 5 meters, did my 5 burpees, walked it back 5 meters, and took off for yet another big hill climb…my chance to make up some lost positions!
The hill was a little more mellow this time but it succeeded in slowing some of the younger guys into a walk. I continued to run but took an occasional 2-3 step walking break up the hill. I passed a guy in green shorts and picked up the tail of a 4-man group which I would remain with the remainder of the race. Battling and chatting with these guys was fun.
Back down the hill we ran into 2 “wall” obstacles before turning into the mountain for another hill climb where I made another pass and worked my way onto the tail of man 2 and 3.
At the bottom we ran up to the monkey bars which were fat grip bars set unevenly (very fun twist to the age old monkey bars). I breezed through it and kept running. Next up was a jump into muddy water with a swim under a wall. On the other side I could see the racer in front of me so I scrambled out and charged uphill again, for the last time. My last chance to gain some position before the downhill to the end of the course.
Next up was a cargo net A-frame, easy, and the tire flip. I heard a lot guys struggled with this because of the weight (the tires weighed about 200 lbs. I reckon), but if you do Crossfit, this is no problem. We had to flip them x2 out, and x2 in (4x total). Then we continued up the hill.
Up the hill then back down and through the sandbag carry I had worked my way up to the front of the 4-man group. I held this over the vertical cargo and a long sprint downhill (hitting a 5:20 pace) to the bucket carry. On the bucket carry we had to fill a bucket with gravel to a line made with drilled holes. If a hole was showing we had to do it all over again. I filled mine to the very top to be safe and walked it up the hill, around the tree, and carefully toe’d my way back down the steep slippery hill. The volunteer checked it, I dumped it, and I took off with a quick glance at my competitors behind me still carrying their buckets.
With less than a mile to the finish, the spear throw in front of me, and 4 competitors right on my ass; I knew I had to hit the spear throw. Last time I threw it straight but to high….Not again! I ran up to the spear throw, grabbed the spear, threw it too hard (adrenaline), it spun like a baseball, and I missed. I had cracked under the pressure…..but had not given up.
I sprinted to the burpee area and started cranking them out as fast as I could. A small crowd was cheering me on as the first guy behind me walked up to the spear throw. I had done 10 burpees by this time and knew that if he missed I would still get him. He hit…..17 burpees in….guy 2 hit……24 burpees in…..guy 3 hits…..28 burpees in…..guy 4 hits….I finished and fell in behind the 4th guy who I would battle with the last mile of the course over 6 more obstacles.
I was beat from the burpees but managed to keep on his tail over the set of 3 walls and up the Thermopylae. We had a slight uphill run to the downhill barb-wire crawl and I gained enough ground to get right on his arse. He jumped under and started crawling, I jumped under and started rolling and gaining ground. His family was watching and must’ve yelled for him to roll because the first time I stopped to look. He was rolling too. It became a rolling race under barb-wire and through sprinkler fed mud. The barb-wire must’ve stretched for 100 meters because we rolled forever under the sound of the crowd cheering for the guy in front of me to pick up the pace. I was dizzy and fuck and I knew he must be too. When we finally reached the end I saw him stand up and fall over. I stood up and with the world spinning around me I continued to move forward towards the slip wall. The daze faded on both of us and we went stride for stride up the slip wall. I could hear the finish line announcer calling our head to head race. We finished the slip wall together and ran toe to toe up to the ladder. I climbed as fast as I could and halfway down the other side I jumped down and sprinted over the fire for the finish line second ahead of him.
I finished the course in 10th place overall, my friend finished 18th. I am very happy with this finish against the racers of Utah. Cody Moat won the race and beat me by 16 minutes! Here is a link to my Strava
Thanks Spartan for putting on another epic event. The course was beautifully designed with 4 major hills climbs evenly spaced between obstacle heavy sections close to the spectators. Thanks again to all the volunteers for your dedication to the sport, time, and motivation. In the future, let’s make spectating free. Help grow the sport.