2015 Spartan Race World Championships: Part 1 – The Road to Tahoe

During my quest conquer the 2015 Spartan Ultra Beast at Sun Peaks B.C. I somehow managed to qualify for the Spartan Race World Championships in Lake Tahoe, California.

Trust me when I say I was very surprised that I qualified.

For one thing I didn’t even know qualifying for the world championships was even possible. I thought all you had to do was sign up. That is until one of my friends qualified and was awarded a Spartan Race coin as he crossed the finish line of the Spartan Super in Ottawa and was told that he had qualified for the Spartan Race World Championships. Needless to say as soon as I found out it was possible to qualify for the championship and run with some of the best obstacle racers in the world I wanted to qualify too! I turned to the internet to find out how one qualifies for the World Championships. In order to qualify for the money heat (prize money would be awarded in this heat) at Lake Tahoe in 2015 you had to earn a Spartan Race coin. In order to earn a coin you had to place in the top 10 (males/females) in the elite heat of any international Spartan Race (Top 5 inside the U.S.). If racers in to the top 10 already have a coin, then that coin is passed down to the next racer and so on.

What a stud showing off his fancy coin
What a stud showing off his fancy coin

When I found this out I was excited and stressed at the same time. I had placed 8th in the elite heat at my first Spartan Race of the year at the Vancouver Spartan Sprint. However I was never given a coin or any sort of indication that I qualified for the World Championship. The Vancouver Sprint was in June and I did not know qualifying was possible until mid-August when my friend earned his coin. With the championships being held in early October I really wanted to find out if I had indeed qualified or not. I figured that because I worked so hard this year training for the Ultra Beast, if I have managed to qualify for the world championships I better go. Who knows if this opportunity would arise again and it’d be the perfect way to cap off the season.

The only way I was going to Lake Tahoe was if I qualified for the money heat. I could have easily registered for the elite heat (no prize money) or an open heat and run the world championship course, but I didn’t want to just show up and run. I wanted to earn my right to be there. I knew even if I ran in the money heat I would not be anywhere close to winning any sort of prize. Nor did I think my body would be physically ready to do well as I would be doing the Spartan Ultra Beast the week before. I wanted to go to the World Championships purely for the experience and to have fun. But I wanted to pride myself in knowing that if I’m travelling to Lake Tahoe to run the World Championship Beast course I belonged/deserved to be there. Therefore I began emailing Spartan Race Canada West like mad, trying to get confirmation that I have indeed qualified for the money heat. After many emails between myself and Spartan Race I could not get any confirmation that I have qualified. During this time I had met a few other Spartan Racers who said they received there coin in the mail a few weeks after the race. Well nothing every showed up for me in the mail…stress and anxiety levels were rising. I wanted my coin if I did in fact earn it! Or at least some clarification as to why I had not qualified!

It wasn’t until the Red Deer Spartan Sprint (Sept 13, less than a month till Tahoe) where I finally got confirmation that I had qualified for the money heat. After the race I went over to results table and asked the guy sitting at the computer if he knew if I have qualified or not. He asked for my name and looked at his computer “Yup, you qualified back at the Vancouver Sprint. It says so right here.” Hearing that was music to my ears. I told him that I never received a coin or anything and he tossed me one from behind the table. Never had it felt so cool to hold a tiny piece of plastic. It’s been confirmed! I qualified for the money heat at the World Championship Spartan Race!

my coin
Not quite as handsome as that other guy…taking selfies is weird 

The World Championship race was less than 30 days away at this point. I had to get everything planned and organized last minute. All the hotels and condos at Squaw Valley (the race venue) were booked solid. I ended up finding a hotel in Truckee which is only a 20 minute drive from Squaw Valley. I tried vigorously to convince my friend who had also qualified for the money heat to come with me. No matter what I tried though I could not convince him. He’s getting married this year and decided to save his money and spend it on the wedding (laaaaame haha jk :p). So I got everything booked and ready to go, and away I went to the Spartan Race World Championships riding solo.

I landed in Reno early Friday morning (just after midnight) and was surprised at what I saw. I didn’t know much about Reno but it looked like a mini rundown Las Vegas. I’ve never been to Las Vegas either but that’s the impression that I got. Anyway I hopped into a cab that took me to my hotel. The front entrance to my hotel was also the front entrance to the attached casino. Walking through the front doors at 1:00 am I was greeted by a nice lady trying to sell me her rusted bicycle so that she could buy her baby, diapers. She insisted that her story was true and that she was not a gambler. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but something about her being outside of a casino at 1:00 am made it difficult to believe her story…great first impression of Reno.

In the morning I picked up my rental car and headed south. I planned on arriving at Squaw Valley Friday afternoon so I could check out the race venue, hear Joe DeSena’s prerace speech and attend the prerace dinner. I had all day to get there so I took a bit of scenic drive to take in some sites and enjoy the day. I made my way to Kings Beach, located on the northern tip of Lake Tahoe.  I found a nice little deli by the lake to have lunch and hangout for a while. After lunch I took a little walk along the shore of the lake. Lake Tahoe is an absolutely gorgeous lake, if you every get a chance to go there you shouldn’t pass it up.

First view of Lake Tahoe
First view of Lake Tahoe
Down at the shore near Kings Beach
Down at the shore near Kings Beach
Chilling on the wharf...(what a crazy word...wharf...ha)
Chilling on the wharf…(what a crazy word…wharf…ha)

Back in my car I drove along to shore of the lake and made my way to Squaw Valley. As I approached the race venue I was already getting a little nervous and awe struck…“I am actually here at the Spartan Race World Championships” I thought to myself. I still couldn’t fully believe it.

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Made it!

As a first timer at the Spartan Race World Championships and at a Spartan Race in the States I wanted to be sure to get the full Spartan Race experience. I arrived early in the afternoon so I could take in all the sights and sounds of the World Championships. Walking around the festival area at the base of the mountain was surreal. The slopes were high and steep. The natural terrain of the area would surely provide for a very challenging and technical course. As I walked around I scoped out the mountains and the few obstacles located near the festival area. Amongst the people wandering around I saw many national team colors from all around the world; U.S.A., Sweden, Mexico, England, Czech Republic, France and Canada just to name a few. The atmosphere around the festival area was awesome. Everyone was super excited and happy to be there. Striking up a conversation with a total stranger was a breeze in such a great and welcoming environment. It was awesome.

Checking out the steep slopes of Squaw Valley
Checking out the steep slopes of Squaw Valley. See that peak right in the middle of the picture? The race course takes us out and to the top of that peak, pretty incredible!

However I did not realize how much time I’d have to kill hanging around the venue. I arrived around 2:00 pm, Joe DeSena’s speech was around 3:00 or 4:00 and dinner wasn’t until 6:30 pm.

I attended Joe DeSena’s prerace speech. The gist of his speech was about the rules and regulations of the race. Do your burpees and do them correctly and DON’T CHEAT. It was not a memorable speech by any means so I’ll gladly skip any prerace speeches if I ever make it back to the Championship.

When Joe DeSena finished giving his little spiel I had a couple hours to kill before dinner. I was exhausted from travelling and all I wanted to do was drive to Truckee, check into my hotel, and find some food then go to sleep. But I was here for the experience so I better stick around for the $50 U.S. dinner I had to prepay for. Along with the dinner, attendees were promised a bag full of goodies that was supposed to be worth ~$50 so there was good incentive to stay and get that bag.

You can only wander around the venue so much before boredom takes over. As the afternoon went on the excitement died down and after Joe gave his speech most people retreated back to their hotel rooms. I wish I could have done the same. I would have given anything for a comfy couch or chair, anything to sit on and relax. And some place warm! As soon as the sun dipped behind the mountains, the temperature dropped rapidly.

I ended up wandering into a photography shop full of some really cool photos. Hung on the walls was large canvas pictures of everything from skiers dropping huge cliffs, to a perfect panoramic of Lake Tahoe in the summer. The best thing about this shop though was a big comfy chair located in one of the dimly lit display rooms. I headed right over and plopped myself down and sunk deeply into the cloudlike chair.

I found it a little strange that there was no one else present in the shop. No potential customers and no apparent employees. A part of me thought the shop was closed but the door happened to be unlocked. Although my concerns drifted away as I was too comfy in my new found favorite chair to get up. There was a book on the table beside the chair and I figured I should pick it up and pretend to read it. If someone did come by and see me, they may think I’m reading the book and not just snoozing like a homeless person in their chair. I closed my eyes and relaxed into the chair drifting in and out of consciousness (that kind of half sleep but half-awake state).

A man eventually did come by and began talking to me. Asking if I needed any help with any of the pictures or with the book I had in my hand. I told him that I was just looking around and that I didn’t need any help. He proceeded to tell me the story of the book I was holding. The book was about an expedition to the South Pole (maybe north?). One of the members was a paraplegic and (I think) he’d be the first paraplegic to reach the South Pole (or north? I seriously can’t remember). Anyway the expedition succeeded in reaching their destination and the paraplegic man’s wife was there waiting at the pole for when he arrived. The story was very heartwarming, and the book actually looked pretty cool. The pictures that I saw as I thumbed through book were fantastic. Regardless, I knew I wasn’t going to buy anything though. I figured now would be a good time go. I felt uncomfortable knowing that all I wanted to do was sit and snooze in this gentleman’s shop and not to be bothered or buy anything. So I thanked the man for his help and for the information about the book I was holding and left. I also think that man was the photographer who took all those amazing photos, so again I feel bad for not buying or showing any interest in his work…my only interest was snoozing.

here’s a link to that guys website (Keoki Flagg) http://www.gallerykeoki.com/index.php

Back outside I wandered around until it was finally dinner time. I was expecting the dinner to be buckets and buckets of pasta for all the traditionally fueled athletes to carb up before the race. Pasta was exactly what I was craving too and I was let down to see the only pasta available was a pasta salad. The buffet meal consisted of, buns, spinach salad, caesar salad, pasta salad, fish, steaks, and one other meat (likely chicken), along with cakes for dessert. I’m not sure why cakes would even be there, you’d assume most athletes would shy away from that on the night of the race. The food was mediocre, nothing special. I sat down with a guy from L.A. and chatted about how Spartan Race has had a life changing effect on both our lives. It’s gotten us off the couch, back outside, and brought us back to life. I finished up my meal, wished the man across from me good luck, grabbed my “goodie” bag and finally headed to my hotel in Truckee.

On my way to the rental car I came across a map of the race course. I studied it for a little while, making mental notes about how far in some of the obstacles are. Such as the sandbag carry which was roughly at the halfway point. I took a picture of the map with my phone so I could look at it a little more closely back at the hotel room.

Spartan Race World Championship Course Map
Spartan Race World Championship Course Map

Finally reaching my hotel room I opened up the bag that came with the dinner to see what was inside…Junk. There was one Fit Aide drink, a few promotional stickers, and soap, among some other useless stuff. I can’t exactly remember the contents of the bag because there was nothing that I kept or used besides the one can of Fit Aide, that’s how memorable the contents were. I assure you that the content of the bag was not close to $50. I understand the bag itself may be worth a little more, but it’s a small draw string bag, that is not worth $50 in my mind. A little disappointed I got my race gear and fueling (Gu Enerngy Gels and 1.5 L of water with Nuun) all ready to go and off to sleep I went.

Next thing I knew my alarm was ringing and it was time to get up and head to Squaw Valley. It was race day for the 2015 Spartan Race World Championships!

 

…If you actually read through all this color me impressed. This post was more of diary entry for me. The race experience/report will be on the next post so be sure to check that out!

 

 

 

 

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