The Spartan WC is the most competitive event in OCR. Hands down. It has the biggest individual payout (now that Warrior Dash is done with their WC of $30,000) of the World Championships. It has the TV coverage and the TV show. If you want to be seen and to measure yourself against the best in the world of OCR athletes on a short course (in my opinion it’s a short course), then come to the Spartan World Championships.
I answered this call. I really shouldn’t have, but I did.
Why? I didn’t belong there. I started racing Spartan in the summer of 2015 and in the 9 races that I have competed in; I have never reached the podium. I’ve made the top 10 in every one, but never close to the podium. I’m a slow twitch, long distance runner. I’m the turtle against the rabbit. I excel in races longer than 6 hours. Every race over 6 hours that I have competed in, I’ve reached the podium (besides my first WTM). I won a BFX, 3rd place in a 50-mile trail ultra, 2nd and 3rd in WTM, and 2nd in the Killington Ultra Beast. So why did I sign up for a race that’s done in 2.5 hours against the best in the world at an elevation that I am not adjusted to? Because I wanted to be there…just once.
Alisha and I showed up 2 days early to settle in and relax. We brought our new fat tire bikes and wanted to break them in around Tahoe. I believe in the “2 weeks before or day of” rule for acclimation to an area and arriving 2 days prior breaks this rule. Riding our bikes around I felt great the first day, but not so great the second. There is truth to that rule.
Before bed I pre-made a waffle for the morning so that at 0500 I could wake up, eat it, and go back to sleep until 0630. At 0630 I made my way to the starting corral and did a quick 1 mile warm up.
Spartan blocked the starting corral with a wall and let the elite athletes jump into the corral first, the guy with the microphone gave them all a nice intro and once they were settled it was time for the rest of us “chumps” to jump in. As soon as we got the get go, I was pushed and shoved forward from behind and everyone crashed into the wall like a bunch of confused animals. It reminded me of being a kid in a mosh pit. I was pissed. I spread my arms and pushed back against the crowd so the guys in front of me could get enough space to climb over the wall. I was pretty disgusted with my fellow racers that morning. They were all “too” serious and ready to trample me if it meant they got a millisecond head start. Not a cool crowd.
When the gun fired and we took off running the course narrowed and I was stuck jogging behind runners while they set their watches. I didn’t mind though, the race doesn’t start until the uphill. Jogging through the city I heard someone cheer me on (specifically) and that was it, I was motivated, game on. I picked up the pace and charged forward feeling like I was running a 4:30 mile pace. I looked at my watch, 6:00 pace. WTF! Oh yeah, the altitude. This is gonna be a long one. I settled in mid pack and decided that running a clean race would get me ahead. All I had to do was keep my heart rate down and do the obstacles. I’d make up time on the downhills and pass guys when they failed obstacles. After the first big climb I got a break. About 10+ guys had failed the monkey bars. The monkey bars! I thought this was the World Championships, how do you get here and fail the monkey bars! I don’t know I don’t care, I cruised through and picked up placement.
Usually I am a great climber. I pride myself in never being passed on an uphill (besides Josh Fiore during the Killington UB). Well today everyone was passing me. I felt like a total loser, but I couldn’t do anything about it. I could breathe but there was no strength in my legs. I had to walk. I waved goodbye to a good finish and began to focus on the scenery while having a good time at the Spartan World Championships.
Coming down from the first climb I leaned forward and let the hill bring down. Into the festival area we were introduced to a new obstacle of traversing punching bags. We were allowed to use the chains on top to hold on and this made the obstacle very easy. I cruised through no problem then began the next big hill climb up the west side of the resort.
On a good day I could have ran most of this course. The hills were timed perfect and not “too long” and not too steep, but they were long. There was a few hiking sections because of big rock steps and steep trails. Still on a high from seeing my girl and passing Ian Hoesk (who was dropping out from an ankle injury) I caught up to and passed Josh Fiore. We chatted a bit and he mentioned saving himself for tomorrow, hence why I saw him walking the course and being a chatty Cathy with everyone he saw. Halfway up the hill (Mile 7) We came to the spear throw. I walked up to a spear and pulled it in. The camera man saw me getting ready for a throw so he ran over with his camera and stuck it next to my face as I released….Let’s just say you won’t see that throw on TV. I ran over and started a slow and easy 30 burpees. I gave up on my top 50 goal and just wanted to have fun. Josh sank his spear throw and took off walking ahead of me.
At the top of the hill (about 8 miles in) Lindsay Webster the first place female caught up to me. Some guy yelled out that we were getting chick’d and he picked up his pace. I didn’t care, I just continued to run my race and enjoy the camera time as Lindsay and I did a heavy set of 6 obstacles together. The Spartan version of Tip of the Spear, the Sled Drag, Spartan rope traverse, 2 barb wire crawls (shaped like a U) and the a new obstacle consisting of a rope climb from the water into a rope monkey bar. I loved this section of the race and had a great time cruising through these new and difficult obstacles.
After the heavy set of obstacles we began a long descent back to the Village. Usually when you’re 8+ miles into a Beast and you’re running downhill the worse of the race has passed and you’re on your way home. Not in this case. Spartan saved all the toughest carries and hardest obstacles for the last 6 miles. First up was the log carry.
As I approached the logs I picked one out from a distance that was perfect. It was small and round. I could picture it settling into my shoulder groove. As I got ready to grab it I realized it was a girls log. The mens logs were the pile next to it. Yeah they were round, but not round like a soda can. More like a pancake! It was pretty awkward to carry but I managed to rest it on the back of my head and do the whole downhill to uphill carry without setting it down.
After putting the log down and moving on I got sight of the lake and looked forward to the plunge. Instead of a plunge I got a double sandbag carry up and back down a hill, nearly 600m round trip. This obstacle took a lot of strength and brought down a lot of podium hopefuls. The one thing I love about Spartan Race is that you can’t just be a good runner and a monkey on obstacles, you also have to be strong.
On most days I smoke the carries and make time on competitors, but this World Championship day, I was hopeless. I cradled them like 2 babies in my arms and took it 10-15 steps at a time. I tried the farmers carry walk and that was hopeless. These bags were at least 60 lbs. a piece. I looked around to see how horrible I was doing but I wasn’t alone. No one was passing me and I was passing no one, we were all suffering. Finally, I took both the sandbags, stood them up like soldiers abreast, and bear hugged them so tight they wouldn’t budge. This technique worked perfect and I did the rest of the uphill and all the downhill carry without putting them down. I did have to stop for several breathers but I was able to squat and rest them on my knees while keeping them wrapped in my arms.
Finally plopping down the dumb sandbags I felt supercharged and I sprinted towards the lake. I saw some guy shopping for the perfect life vest. I grabbed the first one I saw and made an easy pass on him. When I jumped in the water I was expecting a polar plunge, but instead got a standard PNW lake. It was nothing. I enjoyed the time off my legs and doggy paddled in my huge orange life vest around the buoys and back onto shore. Coming out of the water I saw Wesley Kerr and I had to stop to chat him up a bit. He is a great guy and I respect him much.
After the dip in the lake we had a long downhill run that was mostly uneventful until mile 12.5, the Bucket Carry. During summer preparation I trained my ass off for the bucket carry and got to the point where I could walk 800m without putting it down…in training. But 12.5 miles into a race and after 2 previous heavy carries the damn bucket kicked my ass. It wasn’t my grip, it was my legs and my back. My legs were struggling to propel my body and bucket weight up the hill and my back was struggling to keep my topside upright. I blame that struggle on a lack of core strength. The whole nightmare took me 19 minutes. Pathetic. Ryan Atkins did the whole carry in 9:50 without putting the bucket down. I need to step up my game.
After the Bucket Brigade the race was pretty much over. We ran another 1.5 of MTB trail downhill and the last 0.3 miles was through a spectator filled village. People watched as I hoisted the heavy hoist, dunked under the wall, climbed over the spartan ladder, and approached the rig. There was a huge crowd around the rig at this time as Lindsay Webster and the 3rd place girl had both failed the rig and had a burpee competition to see who would come out on top. I heard they finished a second apart and it was pretty exciting. The rig had 8 rings, a traverse bar, and 4 ropes with foot holds on the bottom. I thought it was the easiest rig I had every done, but maybe I’m just taller than everyone else. I heard the shorter people had a hard time reaching the bell from the last rope.
Anyway, I finished the race in 3:15 and placed 59th overall, in the world. I am very happy with my result considering I didn’t taper for the race and I ran it for fun, not really giving a crap. The course was beautiful! I plan on coming back next year and putting my efforts into the Ultra Beast. I finished the beast feeling really good and think I could have carried that pace for another lap that day.
Here is a link to my Strava
*Note: Spartan removed my results and sent me an email giving me a free race entry because I “missed the Tahoe WC”. I guess they forgot I was there. Anyway, I reminded them that I WAS there and I rejected their free race entry. I shall not be doing anymore Spartan Beasts in 2016 or 2017.
The 2nd hill climb was 3.2 miles, 2,000 ft. climb, and 11% average grade. Fastest male time was 39 minutes. Me, 53:00.
The double sandbag carry was 0.3 miles, 155 ft. climb, and fastest male time was 5:45. Me, 12:14.
The full course was 14.5 miles and around 4,000 ft. of climbing.