Elite global athletes take on the race with a slow start
The Spartan Race World Championship was everything I would expect of a World Championship – elite athletes traveled from all over the globe to compete. The morning of the Championship, after a short announcement of some of the top contestants, and the national anthem, we were ready to roll. The race started with a steep 200 meter downhill sprint to get into position for the mountain. The beginning of the Spartan Race course took us straight up the mountain from bottom to top in and out of trees and brush into open ski slopes and meadows.
I started the race in 3rd place behind several runners that I didn’t know, but I wasn’t too concerned about it. Honestly, the first 3 miles of the race there wasn’t a lot of action, almost like the calm before the storm. After climbing to the top in the first 2 miles, the 3rd mile took us down a steep fast descent to the lake far below. By this time, Max King and a few other top athletes had moved ahead of me putting me into 5th place.
I entered the freezing cold lake with a shock that took the wind right out of me. The swim being probably my biggest weakness and the water bringing out my greatest fear- I moved slowly through the water to the Tarzan swing, the first major obstacle of the day. I made the swing but because of my slow swim, I came out of the water in about 10th place. I kind of panicked; I had no plans on ever being that far back.
Picking up the pace and gaining positions
I picked up the pace around the lake and into the trees and within 5 minutes I had managed to secure my spot back into 3rd place with John Yatsko right behind me in 4th. I didn’t know much about the competitors ahead of us, but as the race moved on, I noticed I was gaining on the two runners ahead of me on the up hills, but then losing distance on the down hills. So in essence, I wasn’t gaining anything.
After the first spear throw I began to get worried thinking maybe the guys ahead were better than I thought. So I decided it was time to start making a move. I kept telling myself, I have to take the down hills faster. Finally, at around mile 9, I passed Ryan Atkins from Canada on the bucket carry. I was feeling great and knew it was only a matter of time before I caught fellow inov-8 teammate, Jon Albon. The next section of the race was a steep uphill in which I cut Jon’s lead in half. I was gaining fast and I knew I was going to get him.
Losing grip and losing momentum
At about mile 10, I popped out of the trees and saw the sand bag carry before me. I usually love the sand bag carry, it’s one of my best obstacles so I was excited. Only this time, it was a double sand bag carry. I could see Jon Albon was struggling and I was feeling great so I put both sand bags on my shoulders and run up past Jon into 1st place. I knew at this point of the race that the race was mine, I knew I could beat them on the hills. However as my shoulders began to get tired, I turned around and saw Jon carrying a sandbag in each hand. It looked easier than what I was doing so I dropped the bags off my shoulder and carried them like he did in my hands.
Much to my surprise it was harder on my grip and forearms than I ever could have imagined. I was no longer gaining on Jon and now Ryan Atkins was gaining fast. The problem was, I couldn’t get the sandbags back onto my shoulders. So I continued to drag and pull the sandbags (bad idea, my grip was failing). Even on the downhill, I could hardly grip the sandbag anymore.
Ryan passed me and then Jon passed me before I could finish the sand bag. Back into 3rd place I was still positive that I could catch back up in the running but now I was worried. I realized at that point that my forearms had nothing, my grip was gone and I knew all the hard upper body obstacles were in the last 3 miles. Would I be able to pass a single obstacle from then on?
Getting through the last obstacles and finishing in a strong 3rd place
The very next obstacle was the Rig. I had never seen the rig before and didn’t know anything about it. I got past the rings, the swings, and the rope on the rig but I came to the foot rings and wasn’t even sure what to do. I put my first foot in the ring and let go of the rope. I spun around backwards and could have recovered if I had anything left in my forearms but of course I didn’t and I fell flat on my back. So instead of making a move on 1st place, I was doing burpees.
I was able to get through the Traverse rope but then failed the spear throw, so another 30 burpees. I barely slid past a couple more taxing obstacles that normally would have been easy. I got to the Herculean Hoist and easily pulled the sand bag up 15 feet but my fingers wouldn’t grip. I decided it would be quicker to let it drop and do 30 burpees than sit and struggle for a few minutes, so that’s what I did.
I was able to pass the rest of the obstacles and finish in 3rd place. Although it was a podium finish, I couldn’t help but feel a tad disappointed because I went from knowing I was going to win to wondering if my grip would hold out enough to finish the race.
I would really like to thank my sponsors: first to Spartan Race for all that they do for their elite pro team. Second, to Inov-8 for the use of the X-Talon 190’s (the best traction, light weight shoe ever) and for their pack the Race Ultra 1. And finally to Gnarly nutrition- the Gnarly boost in my water was great, it kept me on top of the running part of my race.