Race Report: Spartan World Championships 2015

From fb
The Spartan Beast course map

Date: Oct 3, 2015
Distance: 14+ Miles / ~23 km
Obstacles: 30+
Terrain: Sierra Nevada Mountains
Avg. temperature: High 87°F (30°C), Low 56°F (13°C)
Elevation: 6,200. A vertical gain of 2,850 ft. makes the total elevation 9,050 feet

Results

Time – 04:48:47
Male – 235th of 252
Overall – 340th of 420

Summary

Although it’s only my 3rd Spartan Race, it was definitely the toughest race I’ve ever done in my life! Not only that, it was probably my worst performance. It was an amazing experience and I have been extremely humbled by the athletic prowess of the world’s elite obstacle racers. There is so much for me to improve on if I ever want to compete with these Superhumans. My first OCR world champs has not only exposed numerous weaknesses, it has also ignited a new bonfire inside my heart to chase my lifelong dream of becoming a pro-athlete and giving the world’s best a run for their money.

Plus Points (+)

Hills

After doing Vermont 2 weeks ago, my perception of hills have drastically changed. No hill is too steep, nor any mountain too high anymore. Somehow this new mental edge allowed me to keep pushing and not worry too much about conserving my energy for the rest of the race. I even discovered a new technique of pushing the pace uphill. This involved alternating between large fast steps until I started to feel the lactic acid setting in before switching to short easy strides until the lactic acid cleared. This method helped me overtake quite a number of people!

Nutrition

Race Fuel

  1. Hydration pack
    • 2 scoops of Natural Force Iskiate Endurance mixed in coconut water (~660ml)
    • 1 Camelbak Elixer Tropical Punch with Energy (Electrolyte hydration beverage)
    • Extra mineral water for added volume. (Total volume ~800ml)
  2. Bars: 2 Kit’s Organic bars (coconut chocolate & chocolate peanut butter) and 1 Epic Beef bar (Habanero Cherry)

Notes: Throughout the entire race I only drank from my hydration pack and was never hungry or thirsty. Furthermore, I did not experience a single cramp! That drink combination was really something. I didn’t even finish the hydration bladder, probably only 3/4 of it. Lastly, I did not want to carry any extra weight so I did not fill up the bladder to its capacity. It was great that I did not underestimate the volume.

Post-race injuries/exhaustion

It seems my body is adapting well to the rigors of obstacle racing!

After my first race in Hawaii, I could not walk properly for 5 days because my feet took quite a beating from not having adjusted to trail running.

Thereafter, following Vermont 2 weeks ago, my legs were jelly for about 3 days.

Today, 1 day post-race, I don’t feel that beat up. Furthermore, I slept at 1130 and woke up naturally at 430am this morning. I felt refreshed but forced myself to fall back asleep and even that took awhile.

Injuries wise apart from a minor sprained ankle, I’m almost scathe-free! I attribute that mostly to the Viper padded elbow and knee guards and gloves I wore.

Obstacles

I CONQURED THE 8″ WALL!

This is a milestone because being 1.67m tall, I have a height disadvantage. Previously in Vermont, my futile attempts at trying to run up to and getting a good kick up the wall only ended up with me smashing my knuckle, wrist and ribs into the wall because I was too tired to concentrate on proper technique. This time, I took quite a number of breaths to steady myself and even then, only made it over the wall after 5 attempts. At least, the knowledge of knowing its doable will aid me in future races. 

Negative Points (-)

Nutrition: Breakfast

  1. 3 bananas
  2. Half a cup of coffee from the inn (with 3 cups of creamer)
  3. Handful of raw almonds

Notes: had a pretty bad stomachache 15 minutes before the race and my warmup was literally running to the portable toilets for a ‘download’. Think it may have been the creamers which aren’t part of my usual diet.

The cold

The first half of the race went pretty smoothly until after the 400 yard cold water swim. The swim itself wasn’t so bad because my entire body just went numb after a few seconds of being submerged. It was what ensued after that destroyed my smooth cruising pace.

The winds started to really pick up and being soaked to the bone, I was freezing! It got to the point where almost every muscle in my body felt fully contracted and locked. Running did not make a difference and stopping wasn’t an option. I think I ended up having a minor hypothermic reaction where I felt dizzy and could not continue running in a straight line. At this point in the race, I was no longer running for time; I was running for survival.

Upon reaching the spear throw station, I stood there holding the spear for about 10 minutes thinking I would warm up after a while. Obviously, I didn’t and ended up missing that and enjoying my 30 burpee penalty instead. On hindsight, I could have shaved off so much time if I had just thrown that spear immediately and went straight to the Burpees, which did a great job of warming me up.

Before the race, while talking to a fellow Spartan, he gave me a valuable tip of bringing along a ziplock bag to put a dry shirt in before the swim. I did something like this where I put my upper body tights into a ziplock in my camelbak and ran bare body. Unfortunately, water got into the bag during the swim so I did not wear that until I was absolutely desperate. This proved to be a good decision because I started to warm up pretty quickly the moment I put those wet tights on. Oh well, lesson learnt: dress up or at least pack for the cold.

Obstacles

In total I did 120 Burpees which meant that I failed 4 obstacles.

The first was this this bucket pulling station where we had to sit on the ground and pull a large pan-shaped bucket filled with stones. The first bucket I tried did not budge at all, not an inch. I then tried another one and managed to pull this halfway but then it got caught and stuck in the sand. Thereafter I was completely worn out and decided to burpee out instead. On hindsight, I should have tried standing up and pulling, as Amelia Boone did in one of the pictures I saw post-race. This would change the angle of the bucket and not allow it to get stuck in the sand.

The next one I failed was the Herculean hoist. This was a classic case of ‘less haste, more speed’. Upon arriving at the station, I rushed to grab the nearest rope to hoist the sandbag up. I started pulling and to my amazement, it was not as heavy as I had envisioned. Spurred at the thought that all my training had finally started to pay off, I grabbed and pulled like no tomorrow. I was even heaving with pride at the end. Soon, my ears started to pick up more of the background noise it had been filtering out as I was pulling. A volunteer was shouting, “White ropes for the men, red ones for the women.” I looked at the rope in front of me. Red… Cussing at my stupidity, i attempted a futile tug at the white rope and proceeded to do my burpees.

The third obstacle I failed was the spear throw. As mentioned above, I was freezing too badly. Last but not least, the forth one was yet another classic case of overconfidence and rushing ahead of myself. This was the final and last obstacle – the double rigged ‘monkey’ bars. Weighing in at 115 lbs, this obstacle was definitely well within my capabilities and I knew that all too well. However, with the finish line in sight and a throng of spectators at the sidelines eyeballing me, I felt pressurized to perform. Thus I attempted swinging on alternate grips just to clear the obstacle faster. Just as I reached out to grab the first rope with a knot at the end, I lost my grip, slipped and fell. That was absolutely disappointing and embarrassing and I finished my burpees with my head down, staring at the ground.

Race prep

Not enough race day research. Amidst the cacophony of catching up with schoolwork, meeting assignment deadlines and revising for tests, I did not set aside time to thoroughly research about the race and possible setbacks I might encounter. I was not as prepared for the cold as I should have been.

Additionally, I arrived 1.5 hours before the race but spent half an hour waiting in line to collect my registration pack. Then I started panicking rushing too much trying to get all my gear sorted out before the race. To make matters worst, experiencing that stomachache meant that I had to plan for more time to make a toilet run and only hurried even more. All that early morning turmoil resulted in me not having a clear racing head and starting right at the back of the 300+ crowd.

Going Ahead

After witnessing world class athletes performing at the top of their game, I now feel like every little detail matters. Everything from my warmup to what I do in training to my recovery protocols, how strict I am about my diet and most importantly, race research and preparation.

Thus I need to continue working on the following:

  1. Total, complete, thorough, exhaustive, research about the race. Everything from weather, venue, obstacles, race gear, fuel and etc. If possible, never leave anything to chance, never perceive the race/obstacle lightly and always prepare for worst case scenarios. “Proper preparation prevents perspiration.”
  2. Race day protocols.
    – Create a habit of arriving at least 2 hours ahead of start time.
    – Don’t line up at the back, was too congested starting out and lost so much time being stuck behind people on trails which were only 1-man wide
  3. Continue working on weak obstacles, incorporating them into training and practicing them often outside of training. For example, including calisthenics and monkey bar practice into my warm-up, incorporating lots more loaded carries into my routine, skills practice for cool-down, etc.
  4. In my opinion, when it comes to health, diet is king, exercise/physical activity is queen followed closely by sleep. Thus, I need to exercise great willpower and discipline in these areas of life and not sacrifice potential results for instant gratification.
  5. During races, when encountering obstacles: Pause, Access, Execute. My fatal flaw is rushing for time which, more often than not, costs me more time than if I had paced myself. As the great Coach Wooden liked to repeat to his athletes, “Be quick, don’t rush.” Time should be of the essence but not at the expense of losing your concentration and making silly blunders.
  6. Gear: need to research and get some tights that have both the ability to keep me cool when running, dry fast and also keep me warm when I’m wet and the wind blows.

“Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.”
Winston Churchill 

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