I was continually overrun with the feeling of Deja Vu during the Spartan Race World Championships, so much so, I was almost tempted to simply copy and paste last years blog, this would at least give me a chance to catch up on some much needed sleep after the long travel.
Much about this event was going to be the same but I couldn’t quite predict that everything about me racing it would be too.
Held again at Squaw Valley near Lake Tahoe, the course was slightly different with two climbs as opposed to simply heading straight up and down again. Spartan had a few new obstacles featured too but it seemed like these had replaced older ones as opposed to adding to the total tally that we would face (33).
Arriving on the Thursday I had abandoned the ‘2 hours or 2 weeks’ approach that is recommended for when to arrive if racing at altitude when not acclimatised. Besides, even though I didn’t hold much hope for my chances, I was still expected to be on the athlete panel press conference the day before. Mud Run Guide had published a ‘ones to watch article’ but I would be the only one featured that didn’t live at elevation or spent any time acclimatising.
I may not have prepared my body for the thinner air but my race tactics were very clear, at no point can I push beyond a comfortable work rate, especially in the beginning. It is so easy to ride a wave of chemicals in your blood and push too hard at the start. In normal circumstances this isn’t too detrimental but experience has taught me that if I go into red when not acclimatised, there is no recovering. It’s difficult to race like this when you want to do as well as possible but to chance pushing too hard was not an option.
After the usual national anthem, some ‘arooing’ and a speech about heading into war we were of. ‘Easy, smooth, breath’ kept rolling around in my head, not the usual thoughts to start a World Championship race too but it was necessary. I was back in 15th or something but was happy to at least still see Ryan Atkins ahead as we were making our way to the top of the climb. There were some obstacles at the top and it was annoying to feel the affects even on these, I felt a lack of power when jumping up walls and had to use my legs to the maximum to propel myself through the monkey bars. Still, the downhill was coming and at least here I could open up a little, passing a few athletes I was with Ryan and in about 10th by the bottom.
One third done but I knew that we had all the carries to come and a bigger mountain to climb. Still trying to coast uphill I started to pull away from Ryan, I in turn was overtaken but knew much of the race would come down the carries, especially the bucket which was longest and last.
Catching Hunter, I laughed to myself as we once again ran side by side. Me and hunter seem to complete each other, my lack of strength but faster running seems to directly mirror his strength but slightly weaker running. So more often than not we find ourselves next to each other on the course. This time a cockup would ruin the fun though, some rule changes had made the course a little confusing, some obstacles you were allowed to change lanes and have multiple tries, on some you couldn’t, some you could use your foot to ring the bell, others you couldn’t. Without thinking Hunter hit the bell with his foot on the rope ladder monkey bars…this apparently earned him a 30 burpee penalty.
As we came to the log carry, I could hear Steve Hammond shouting ‘pick a good one’. Not paying much attention I grabbed the first I saw. On this carry we would be heading downhill for around 100m before heading back up the ski slope. I have a problem when the carries are set up like this…the sooner I get down the slope the sooner the pain of going back up starts, this means I end up going slow downhill to delay the experience…not great when the rest of you is screaming to be able to put the stupid thing down. Ryan’s brain obviously doesn’t do this too him because he screamed past me within a few meters.
Strangely enough it was the sandbag carry that was my saving grace. Two 40lb sandbags felt far more manageable that the 2X50lb in Plamerton and hoisting them both onto the back of my neck I started up hill. Passing about 4 people there was no sight of the big boys but I was now in 5th!
It was all downhill from here, except for the swim (which was flat) and the bucket carry (which was 400m uphill followed by 400m down). It was here that I got an idea of my position and who was where. Hobie Call, was first to pass me heading back down, followed by Robert Kilian, then Ryan. I could see I was gaining on Cody Moat who was still on the uphill and nearly made contact by the top. He was faster than me on the way down but I was still in touch.
We just had a mile left with a spurt of obstacles left in the event village. One being the Hercules hoist. Normally my arch nemesis because my lack of body weight to assist pulling the rope to hoist the weight up. Another rule change by Spartan would actually help me here, no longer did we have to have ‘one foot on the ground at all times’. So jumping up on the barrier and climbing the rope a little the weight still didn’t budge, yanking hard I fell to the ground and the weight had gone up! Success, repeating a few times my weight hit the top and I let it down slowly. Cody next to me didn’t quite have as much luck and dropped his bag from half way down resulting in a thirty burpee penalty. So now I was in fourth with just the dunk wall, bridge, rope climb and rig left. All wouldn’t be a problem so I crossed the line in in a little under 2hr30min, behind Robert, Ryan and Hobie who had won.
Once again fourth in a Spartan but at least the highest placed non acclimatised finisher in this one, same as last year.
It was ok to hold this event where people that live up high get an advantage one year, but now two years in a row seems a little unfair. It would be great to see the event move for next year, maybe even to Europe so we can see how the traveling shakes up the top 10, which at the moment is dominated by athletes from the Americas.
This weekend I am in Sweden for the Toughest Mini Tour Final before making the trip back over the pond to Canada for the OCRWC. Preparations are also now in full swing for the 24hour Worlds Toughest Mudder, fun times ahead.