Reebok Spartan Race World Championships
I don’t know what to say, I still can’t believe I won!!
My legs want to say thank you to Norm Koch, my bank account wants to say thank you to Reebok Spartan Race, my heart wants to say thank you to everyone, and my brain is still in denial that I actually won.
I’ve always had a preference for the shorter more obstacle intense races, and as the the calendar inched closer and closer to September, I had to make a decision; was I going to train for Vermont, or keep doing what I was doing? I decided to stick with what I enjoyed the most.
After Virginia, to be honest, I was a little burnt out, and trying to fight off an injury. But an even bigger issue was that the challenge was given to Norm Koch to not let anyone finish the Vermont Beast under 4 hours. I had failed to win the two previous years in Vermont primarily due to my lack of endurance training, and now they were promising that it would take an entire hour longer to finish this year. I completely lost any glimmer of hope that I had had of winning. The 4 weeks between Virginia and Vermont were not pleasant. Not only did I lack the motivation to train, but I also couldn’t train properly because of my injury. I was contemplating not even bothering to show up, but then Spartan announced that in order to qualify for the season points system winnings, attendance in Vermont was mandatory.
In the end I decided that I needed to conserve every ounce of energy I could for the race just to keep from crashing. So, I slept in as long as I possibly could, and after picking up my packet, I lied down with my legs elevated until I had to go to the starting line. At the starting line, David Magida was gracious enough to let me use his shoulder as a headrest since the ground was wet, and I didn’t want to lay down in it. My warmup would just have to be the beginning of the race.
Once the race started, my mindset was “how fast would I be going right now if I were 3 hours into the race?”, and then I wouldn’t let myself go any faster than that. So, for those first few steep climbs, I made myself walk. It was difficult to watch those in front of me slowly pull away, knowing that I could keep up with them if I wanted to, but I had to do what I had to do.
……. Now, although I had contemplated not coming, and certainly wasn’t looking forward to the “race”, there is one thing that I like even more than winning, and that’s the atmosphere of the events. People are so passionate and excited to be part of obstacle racing and nowhere is that more evident than at the Vermont Beast. We really are one big happy family…. Crazy no doubt, but happy. So, I decided I was going to have FUN regardless of how the race unfolded……..
At the sandbag carry, as I was heading up the hill, Cody Moat came flying down it in the lead, shortly followed by Matt Novakovich. I was genuinely happy for them, and completely confident that they would finish first and second. They are both very committed and talented athletes that excel at long distance mountain running. They deserved to win more than I did.
My watch beeped and without hesitating, I set down my sandbag, and took the time to refuel myself. I wasn’t about to risk getting dehydrated or running out of calories before the race ended.
Shortly after the sandbag carry, I heard that I was nearly 8 minutes behind the leaders. By this point, I had become completely content with the fact that by the end of the race that 8 minutes would probably be 15, and I’d be lucky to finish in the top 10. It didn’t matter, I was having a genuinely good time running my pace and enjoying the moment. Then, in what seemed to be just a short moment, everything changed. People started to struggle with obstacles. Hercules hoist, barbed wire crawls, spear throw, rope climbs, swims, Tarzan swing…. The next thing I knew, I went from a distant 10th place to Hunter McIntyre and I in first and second. For the first time in the race, the thought popped into my head that I actually had a fighting chance.
Then what was probably the most memorable and definitely the most enjoyable part of the race happened. Just Hunter and I in the woods, no crowds, no cameras. We’re running along, Hunter about 15 seconds ahead of me,when all of the sudden I hear him cry out, “CRAMP!!” I quickly catch up to him. He’s holding his leg and screaming, wanting to know how to make it go away. I told him I was sorry, but there was nothing I could do to help, and continued to keep running. Then about 15 seconds later, “CRAMP!!” “NOOOO!” So here I am grabbing my leg as Hunter hobbles towards me. We’re both crying and rubbing our legs and hobbling along the best we can for a quarter of a mile before we really start moving again. I couldn’t help but to continually laugh at our situation and how ridiculous we must look as we fought to hold onto our lead. Soon after, my conservative start began to pay off, and as we hit the hills once again, I was able to run up them while Hunter and Matt Murphy who was chasing close behind, had to walk. So, I was able to pull a considerable lead by the last sandbag carry. It wasn’t until that point that the reality of the moment hit me. I was probably going to win. All I had to do was avoid a debilitating cramp, and this race was mine. But a cramp wasn’t out of the question, so I still had to be cautious, and I wasn’t sure how far we had left till the finish. After the sandbag, the course crossed through a row of trees, and the finish line was 100 yards away. It was over!! It was over?? I couldn’t believe it!?!? I was stunned. I had done it! I was too excited to race. I began to scream, waving my arms in the air. I slowed to give everyone high fives. I still don’t know what to think of the moment, it feels like a dream.
I have to give Norm credit. 3 rope climbs, one with a Tarzan swing, and two swims all in a 1/3 mile distance of each other made all the difference. That section of the race changed everything, and put the glory of “obstacles” back into obstacle racing.
3 hours and 35 minutes. I still can’t believe I survived it without hitting a wall. Thank you everyone for your support, encouragement and kind words. These races are becoming a family reunion for so many of us, and it’s wonderful to be a part of the experience.
A huge congratulations to everyone who showed up and gave it your best. As Jason Jaksetic said, “this wasn’t some extreme sounding weekend activity engineered to make you feel good about your finish”…. this race was built to destroy.