After last week’s race (X Warrior Challenge) the winner and one of my training partners Kristian Wieclawek told me something that embedded itself in my mind. While hanging out at the festival area he looked at me and said “Man you train way harder then you race.”
Sort of a backhanded compliment, but it’s something I definitely needed to hear. I knew this to be true, but it still sucks to hear it. Whenever I race I have the fear of blowing up. I often become contempt with the pace I’m running and don’t strive for more. However when I train I go as hard as I can because I know there is no penalty for failure. Whereas in a race if I go out to hard, I may blow up and not be able to finish the race, or fail an easy obstacle and have to do burpees. While training I have the peace of mind of knowing when it will be over, but while racing in OCR I find it can be extremely difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I know racing hard is something I need to work on, and with Red Deer Super and Sprint being my last races of the season I really wanted to leave every ounce of myself out there. I want to risk blowing up for once, fight through the pain and discomfort of pushing myself to my limits. I’ve pushed myself hard on the endurance end of things (long slow distances), but have yet to crack the nut on pushing hard on the short stuff. So that was my goal this weekend, leave it all out there no matter the consequences.
Right off of the starting line the top athletes took off and began to separate themselves from the pack immediately. My goal was to stick with them (relatively speaking) as long as I could and see what my body can handle.
Running through the first section of the course I wasn’t with the lead pack nor was I in the chase pack. I was situated in limbo trailing off the tail end of the leaders. Feeling strong though and comfortable with my pace, I was excited to see what I can accomplish today.
The beginning of the race consisted of flat open fields with a number of walls scattered throughout. Barely a mile into the course we came to the inverted wall and I felt my Nike+ GPS watch fall off my wrist. I didn’t bother to pick it up. I had broken the straps last weekend at the X Warrior Challenge and decided that I needed a new watch anyway. I kind of regret the decision now. After shopping around I forgot how expensive these damn watches are!
When I lost my watch I was worried at first because I’d have no information on how far or how long I’ve ran. Then I realized this may actually be a benefit for me. Far too often I end up looking at my watch and determine that I need to ease up and save myself for later in the race, so I can push hard towards the end. Well I can tell you I rarely push hard towards the end and I generally cross the line tired but with some juice left in the tank. However now without the watch I had no choice but to go hard for the whole race. I couldn’t save myself for the last km because I had no idea when that’d be.
Therefore I took this “watchless” opportunity to really push hard for the whole race… or at least try to.
Emerging from a small section of single track we came upon what I like to call the obstacle gauntlet. The obstacle gauntlet is a wide open field that racers will zig-zag across encountering numerous obstacles. Obstacles that made up gauntlet included; 7 ft wall, rolling mud, stairway to Sparta, tire flip, parallel bars, hobie hop, Z-wall Traverse, cargo bridge, and bucket brigade.
I was still hanging on to the tail end of the leaders as we ran through the gauntlet, but they were slowly pulling away. Still feeling strong I looked back and saw a pile of high end competitors close behind me. A mistake on an obstacle at this stage in the race would be costly with so many racers nearby.
Making my way to the tire flip I was surprised to see a few of the leaders still flipping their tires. I thought this would be a great opportunity to catch back up if they were struggling with the tires, because obviously the leaders are weaklings and I’m The Hulk…NOPE! Those tires were the heaviest damn tires I’ve ever seen. Flipping the tire 4 times was no easy task, and it really caught me off guard.
Luke Ball arrived at the tires after me but flipped his tire like it was nothing and kept on his way. Once I finished my tire flips I pushed hard to stay within a couple of seconds of Luke.
Added motivation to keep going hard was having Spartan Pro Team member Faye Stenning right on your ass. If you don’t know who she is, you should. She wins nearly every race she enters and is an absolute machine. Faye was fresh off a victory at the Breckenridge Beast the weekend prior, which is probably the only reason I was ahead of her. Regardless, having the opportunity to race a Spartan Pro Team member doesn’t come by every day and if you have a chance to beat one you take it! Even if she’s a girl that doesn’t mean much because she kicks guys’ asses all the time, so beating her still warrants some bragging rights (I think at least). I’ve also been fortunate enough to train with her a fair bit this year aswell and no matter whom it is you train with, you always want to beat them in a race.
The parallel bars were the next obstacle, and they were covered in water from the morning dew. Never having any trouble with this obstacle previously I hopped on and made my way across. The water made the bars extra slick. I slipped a few times and lost my grip on the bar, fortunately I was able to recover. In hopes of warding off another slip I took my sweet ass time getting across the rest of the obstacle. Slowing down on the parallel bars allowed Luke to pull further away and for Faye to pass me.
I managed to stay right on Faye’s heels as we made are way through the hobie hop and onto the Z-Wall Traverse. At the Z-wall, I took a few breaths and hoisted myself onto the wall. The morning dew had also coated the Z-wall. The holds had a slimy texture to them, making for an extremely difficult traverse. I was confident though as this obstacle has never given me problems in the past. Cautiously I moved along the wall, making it to the last section of the Z and then before I knew it, I slipped, and I was on the ground.
FUCK! I’ve never yelled so loud nor have I ever been so pissed off in a race before! I remember thinking to myself, “that I have spent too much time and effort (the slimy holds required a lot more energy to stay on the wall) cautiously making my way along this wall to fail. I’m almost near the end. I’ve done a good job with the slippery holds. Now just make it to the end.” Then next thing I knew I failed. Trust me when I say I yelled loud, many people shared a laugh with me after the race, recalling they heard my cry of frustration.
While doing my 30 burpees I was at least comforted by the fact that others would fall off the wall after me and join me in my burpees. Only a few came to do burpees though, the vast majority would complete the obstacle and carry on.
Faye also failed the wall as well, giving me a chance to get ahead of her again. However I suck at burpees. I haven’t trained for them nearly as much as I should have. Faye started her burpees after me and finished well before me.
Finally done my burpees and exhausted I staggered back out on the course. I headed up and over the cargo bridge and through a relatively light bucket carry, which finished up the obstacle gauntlet.
There were two runners well ahead of me after the bucket carry, and I really wanted to pass them. I settled into a strong pace and was able to reel them in, as we made are way through some flat single track.
Next up was the sand bag carry. As I picked up my bag, John (another training partner) was dumping his off. This gave me a glimmer of hope as I thought I wasn’t too far behind. But once I made my way out along the track, I realized that John was a few minutes ahead of me. The sandbag carry was quite long, but very flat. I ran the majority of it, trying to make ground on the runners ahead of me.
Coming out of the sandbag carry the trail was a flat, wide dirt path. I pushed hard and was able to pass two more runners. I carried my speed into the tractor pull, and was able to get this obstacle completed quickly. Still making ground on the runners ahead I passed a few more, eventually catching up to Tom Petryshen.
Tom matched my pace as we traded positions multiple times throughout the next few sections of the course. Right before a small water crossing, I caught a glimpse of Faye. She was on the other side of the water, but I was happy to see that I had slowly closed the gap on her as well.
Tom and I were still neck and neck as we crashed through the water and came up to the balance beam. Once there I saw Faye doing burpees, giving me another chance to get ahead of her. I took a few deep breaths and began walking across the zig-zag balance beam. The morning dew also coated the balance beams making them extra slick. I’ve never been so wobbly on a balance beam before, but I was able to maintain my balance (surprisingly) and slowly make my way across.
Passing Faye gave me a burst of energy as I continued on to the multi rig. I grabbed the rings, and as expected these were soaked too. I made it to the last horizontal pipe where all that lay between me and the bell was a small Tarzan rope. I reached for the rope, failed to get a good grip and I fell. Thankfully though a number of people were failing this obstacle, Faye included so I still was ahead of her!
I was exhausted after completing this last set of burpees. My arms felt like jello and my legs were screaming. However I knew I was nearing the finish and had to keep pushing (remembering what Kristian told me).
After the rig, we encountered the barbed wire crawl and the slip ramp. The slip ramp was by far the hardest one I’ve ever done. A combination of the morning wetness and the mud from the barbed wire crawl immediately before the slip ramp, made this obstacle very challenging. It was then back into the trees for a short section of single track.
Coming out of the trees, I saw the Hercules hoist. I was surprised to see people doing burpees at this obstacle but didn’t think much of it. I grabbed a rope and began to pull the weight. And holy shit was it heavy! I had to use my whole body weight to get this thing moving. Getting the weight to the top was the easy party too. Making sure to lower the weight slowly and not drop it was extremely difficult. My forearms were screaming upon finishing the Hercules hoist.
My grip was fatigued from the Multi Rig and my arms were tired from the burpees. And now my grip was thrashed from the heavy Hercules hoist, and the next obstacle was the monkey bars…
I’ve never had trouble with monkey bars in the past but I was quite nervous this time. I approached the monkey bars with exhausted arms and forearms. Oh yeah the monkey bars were wet too. I grabbed onto the bars squeezing as hard as I could, kept my arms at 90 degrees, and made my way across. Adding to the challenge was that the Sun was directly in my line of sight. I could barely see the next rung because I was being blinded by the Sun. Struggling I made it 5 rungs out from the end and my arms were now fully extended. I told myself that I did not just do all that hard work to do burpees. Arms fully extended I shuffled my shoulders as I heaved one hand at a time to the next rung. The volunteers told me I just had to touch the last rung. When I was 3 rungs out I double checked that this was the case, and it was confirmed. I feebly reached for the last rung and got a solid wrap on it (just to be safe).
Thrilled, I was now on the home stretch. I thought I was exhausted before, but now I was really feeling it! My arms were completely done and my legs were feeling heavier and heavier. But I knew the end was near. Just keep pushing I thought to myself.
I carried on, through more single track, the Tree Maze (ropes strung across trees that you have to crawl over/under), and finally reaching the last climb of the course, a long set of steep stairs. I climbed these stairs as fast as I could, arms flailing, legs dragging, and drooling (it wasn’t pretty).
Atop of the climb the spear throw awaited my arrival. I could not fathom doing more burpees right now so failure (as always) was not an option. I took aim and fucking nailed it! I haven’t thrown a spear and felt so good about it ever! Completing the spear throw gave me a burst of energy as I charged to the finish line.
All that was left was the vertical cargo net, rope climb, and fire jump. I crossed the line exhausted. I’ve yet to exert myself that hard in a race so I was happy with that. Although I worked hard, my execution of the race could have been better, 60 burpees on obstacles I shouldn’t fail is a tough pill to swallow. I finished with a time of 1:18:28, putting me in 14th place. Again just outside of top 10 which I probably could have had if I didn’t fail any obstacles. But oh well, I have one last try at the Red Deer Sprint.