Obstacle racing as a competitive sport has been developing for a few years now, but it still has a long ways to go. At present there are many championship races from both big race brands and specific races under the guise of federations or simply as independent championship races. Over the years I have supported both where possible, taking part in races such as the Spartan European Championships and the OCR European Championships.
Sometimes races clash and fate would have it that both these races where scheduled for the same weekend…so how to decide between them.
Neither, in my opinion, are perfect, so which to choose? The OCREC in 2018 had a terrible course which was 90% rig obstacles, hardly a well balanced test of all the fitness traits a human should have. Spartan have standardised their obstacles producing a slightly predictable and boring race, except for the variation of terrain. They also have the burpee penalty which makes it different to the OCREC where you have to complete all obstacles.
In the end I went for Spartan this time around. The memory of last year’s OCREC still made me cringe and to take a trip to the Dolomites is never a wasted one. At least this way my hands would be rip free afterwards and I could get a jump start on acclimatising to altitude ready for the summer.
The competitive focus of athletes within Spartan has grown over the years making it more and more difficult to simply turn up and win. It pains me to say it but to train Spartan obstacles and carries is helping everyone specifically improve. This isn’t how I train and it often leaves me nervous that maybe this is the day that I struggle.
I have plenty of experience though and the training I do helps in many other ways. So after the first 5km of the 23km race, nearly 2 minutes behind the lead I try to remain focused and calm.
We had already done 600m of the total 1800m climb in the race and it was starting to warm up. Peter Ziska had gone off like a bullet leaving Sergei and myself trailing.
As there comes more obstacles and carries I start to get into more of a grove. I close the gap by a minute on the sandbag carry alone, opening one of the same on Sergei.
Next is the ape hanger (rope ladder monkey bars) where I again close the gap and nearly make contact.
At roughly half way we have descended all the way back down to the arena and Peter and I are neck and neck. Another massive climb follows and I hike away creating a bigger gap with every stride.
It has really warmed up by now, the 500ml of water and 3 gels I was carrying are gone and I am still going uphill. I feel okay but every time I come to a carry or drag my legs I feel like they double in weight. Not a good thing knowing I still have a way to go!
Final uphill and I alternate between 10 seconds running and 10 seconds hiking in an attempt to make the gap to second place bigger. The helicopter is a welcome distraction which hovers dangerously close to me and the ground.
Final kilometres and the three sketchy obstacle are left. Slack line, balance beam and spear throw. Last time I threw a spear was in Iceland last December, I complete them all without any burpee enalties and swing through the final rig still in first.
2 hours 18 minutes on course and I am glad that was all. The altitude and heat really made this extremely tough but still a “fun” racing experience and a pleasure to have won this race for a third time.