The special thing about the Breckenridge Spartan Sprint was the fact that it was held at altitude. Set in a ski resort town in Colorado we would be staying at roughly 3000m above sea level and would be running up to over 3500m! This worried me slightly as my experience with altitude is practically zero and I live at sea level. As the Spartan World Championships is also to be held at altitude I knew this would be a great learning experience…and that’s exactly what it was.
Thinking any short amount of time I could use to acclimatize would be worth it, we landed in Denver and drove up to Breckenridge 3 days before the race. The first thing we noticed was thirst; buying a crate of 1litre water bottles I proceeded to drink something like one every three hours even though I wasn’t exercising the slightest! This had a knock on effect…peeing more and watering out the salts in my body.
Upon arrival it was time for a test run. After being cooped up on a plane we needed to stretch our legs and were also interested in how the thin air would affect us. Completing a little 4 km jog out and back from the hotel it was clear our bodies weren’t especially happy. My breathing seemed fine but for the pace we were going my pulse seemed massively high compared to where it should be.
Breckenridge is an amazing place; surrounded by snow topped mountains the views are spectacular and the activities to do plentiful. We found great trails right from our hotel and could have spent hours at a time exploring – if we felt we had the energy.
The next few days passed without much happening, we would take a jog each day to keep the feeling of undertraining at bay but didn’t do too much else for fear of tiring ourselves out. I was starting to feel bored and sluggish from not training. It felt as if my body was getting lethargic while my heart had been working overtime to keep my body fueled with oxygen even when resting.
Race day soon came around and I woke with the excitement of racing but also the feeling of dread. This would be one of the most competitive obstacle races I have taken part in to date and I was out of breath from walking up the stairs! Telling myself everyone would be in the same boat I went out for a 2km warm up jog, arriving back at the arena I looked at my heart rate which had averaged something like 20 beats more than it should have. Knowing this affected me psychologically too and didn’t exactly make me look forward to the coming 8km of mountain obstacle racing. The course would predominantly climb for about 5km before descending back to the finish over another 3km.
The rest of the race was a battle for me to keep my speed above zero. As Ryan passed me I found myself not caring, even on the down hills I was out of breath and unable to power along. I didn’t find any respite with the spear throw. Approaching it I was informed the 4 or 5 competitors in front of me had missed! This was my chance, a hit and I would undeservedly move into third position. It wasn’t to be though, as the spear powered forward it pinged back just inches from the target: the attached rope had snagged leaving me with a 30 burpee penalty.
As I was on something like number 20 I heard a cheer as a few competitors came through hitting their spear sending me back to 8th. No worries I thought, I will soon be done and can try to find some oxygen to breath!
As it happens it was only another mile of downhill before the final flurry of obstacles and the finish line, crossing in 8th it wasn’t my best race but as a learning experience it was A*.
I couldn’t be disappointed with the result as I learnt so much but will be looking forward to heading back over for the World Championships, hopefully a little more prepared!