It was with mixed emotions that I made the decision to take part in the new 3km distance during the World Championships race weekend in the Blue Mountains, Canada. I only decided to do so a week before I was due to travel and was only just learning about the format and how this style of competition, that we hadn’t seen before, would be organised.
The short course was scheduled for the Friday, with the classic 15km course on the Saturday and the team event on the Sunday. This would make a big weekend of racing but this is something I am used too. I was keen to take on the challenge but also wanted to show that a true obstacle racer should be able to excel at any distance, be it 3km or 24hours.
Even though I had decided to race, I knew it wouldn’t be until we were shown the course that I would know how detrimental racing may be on my chances of winning the classic 15km the next day or whether the format would even work.
Arriving at the course and looking around I was surprised to see it was mainly made up of normal style obstacles, like rigs and traverse walls, split up by hilly running sections. Not too many obstacles that are completed at speed themselves like step ups, hay bales and crawling. There was also a carry but the organisers had made this half the distance of the next day. It would be up and down a ski slope forming 10% of the course, and probably take around 25% of the time taken on course to complete. This truly was a short course as advertised and not a sprint, the course would mimic the 15km distance, just a bit shorter.
Athletes would be set of in waves of 8 with 2 minutes between each. This was described as a ‘time trial’ but in my mind a time trial would be one athlete every 30seconds, only after the event would it be clear if the format was a success.
I was happy to find out Ryan Atkins would be racing in both distances too. For the past years we have been the fastest competitors at the World Championships and it was nice to know it would be a level playing field between us. The two athletes not racing on the Friday who would most likely make an impact during the classic course was Robert Kilian (2015 Spartan world champion) and Connor Hancock (2015 OCR WC 4th place).
Come mid-day these two athletes were far from my mind as I made my way out to the starting area. What was on my mind was how many people were rammed into the starting pens. Standing at the back I was a little confused, the organisers had said ‘the best go last’ but looking around I couldn’t see Ryan or Hunter or any of the other big names due to race. I could see Cimmie Wignell, Ludvig Werkmaster and Nikolaj Dam who were all from Europe and mentioned in the ‘ones to watch’ press in the days before. A little confused I talked to one of the organisers who said he could get me to the front, he wouldn’t be able to help my companions though.
An on the spot decision to stick to my morals and race from the back alongside this small contingent left me another 15 minutes to warm up whilst waiting to start. It was a little alarming to see all the other favourites go of first, they would have a clear course, a choice of all the lanes and each other to pace from and race against.
I was sure my wave could push each other along but not having a clear course would turn out to be a problem and as it happened, I didn’t do much racing against my companions either…as we started I took the first hill alongside them but soon blasted away in what was a break neck speed.
By the second obstacle I was overtaking people that started 4 minutes before me, it was some ninja steps and luckily enough there was a free lane, I flew through jumping in between them. Next up was the dragons back. Then the ‘samurai’ rig where we had to traverse between vertical wooden poles. After that was one of the big ones, a classic platinum rig, running up to it I saw a familiar face of Adrian Bijanada who was keeping a lane clear for me.
Swinging my way through I was now onto the second half of the course and starting to feel the effects of maximum effort. I was overtaking a steady stream of competitors now but weaving my way through was about to get harder, as hoisting a wreck bag on to my shoulders made me a little wider.
Painfully putting one foot in front of the other I was glad to reach the top, turning around I tried to let my legs fly and hurtle as fast as possible, not something that comes naturally with the extra 50lbs. Dropping the bag at the bottom made me feel light but not enough to make the following wall an easy ordeal. Another loop with monkey bars, hanging traverse walls and an Irish table and I was back in the event centre for the final stretch.
Next up was a zip line. I thought the handles were meant to be pulled back for us but jumping up to a lane there wasn’t one there. Jumping down and changing lanes, again it wasn’t there. Pulling in the cord to retract the handle I jumped on and slid down hopping over the bumps installed to make it a jerky ride.
Two obstacles left now, Urban Sky’s spinning wheels/helix monkey bars and the final slip wall.
I’d been in a lot of pain for over 15minutes now and was relieved to cross over the line and collapse. With no idea where I had come I tried to breathe deeply and control my body which was going haywire. My lungs felt weird and I recognised the feeling, Stoltzen lung. Not good, but it would be worth it if I had done enough to podium and I had.
The results were soon in with me finishing 18 seconds behind Ryan Atkins in a time of 16 minutes and 10 seconds.
Ryan had battled hard to win and I wouldn’t like to have been beaten by any other athlete more. I never used to be a competitive athlete, I just didn’t like not being the fastest person out there. Since becoming a full time athlete competitiveness is something that has grown within me and it was for this reason that a fire had been lit within my belly, but would it be enough to power me through the 15km course the next day to victory?