Road to OCRWC 2017 – WV TRIFECTA WEEKEND!!
Last weekend I participated in the West Virginia Spartan Race Trifecta Weekend! It was a new addition to the championship series, so a lot about the event was unknown. New venue, new course. And to date maybe the most ambitious OCR event I’ve attempted.
Short version: beautiful location. Venue was great! Having actual toilets all throughout the course since it was a Boy Scout camp as well was amazing.
The weather could hardly have been better. Challenging terrain, all the Spartan obstacles and some brutal heavy caries. Over all 3 races we hit just under 30 miles, 77+ obstacles, and 5-6000 feet of elevation gain. Amazing, grueling, awesome experience.
I am not a distance or endurance athlete. I don’t do many long runs. When I do they rarely reach double digit mileage. So three races in two days definitely intimidated me.
Last year I was worried about being able to do the Beast distance alone. While I may be slow, like Amelia Boone has said: I’m fairly good at suffering.
I wasn’t as prepared as I wanted to be. My vacation to Greece took more out of me than anticipated, and then I got sick as soon as I got home. Which wasn’t ideal. Race weekend came anyway – so I packed up more than I had for 10 days in Greece and hit the road!
The Summit Bechtal Reserve venue in WV is only about 3 – 3.5 hours from home. I drove down with some OCR buddies Friday night so we wouldn’t have to drive over at 3am.
The 14.6 mile Beast was first. All told I think it ended up close to 15.6 miles with the heavy carry obstacles. A point of contention at Spartan races. Their mileage doesn’t count the log, bucket, or sandbag carries as part of their distance. So while they says it’s 14.6 you actually cover more than that.
Four of us arrived that morning at the reserve, the air was still a little chilly. Parking was easy and quick. Not as close to the check in but right next to some of the scout camp bathrooms. They even had showers!
We could see the swim obstacle on the way to check in from the parking lot. We got lucky enough to see the leading men do the swim as we walked by. Turned out to only be actual swimming for like 3 strokes – the rest you could walk through.
Robert Killian ended up taking first after we saw him do the swim. It only took him between two and three hours. My group? Over 7! Granted we did stop for photos and water, protein bars/gels, and were in a group. Still awes me that the elite runners can finish these courses with 6-8 min mile paces even with the terrain, obstacles, and everything else.
Due to all the fog that morning all the start times were delayed by 30 minutes. We ended up leaving around 10am. It had warmed up pretty decently by then and got hot in the sun, but not nearly as oppressively hot as I anticipated WV in August.
Regardless, so very thankful I have a hydration pack now! It was a lifesaver! I was able to keep up my energy and momentum much longer than when I didn’t have it! I avoided cramping until about mile 10 and 5 hours in. It was minimal compared to my first Beast even then.
As for energy, gels and gummies aren’t for me. My stomach always gets funky when I take them during exercise. I started taking granola and larabars with me and have had good luck with them. And honey packets. The honey is great. Just sticky.
The very first hill may have been the worst incline. It stretched on forever it felt. It wasn’t so bad on the Beast day, while I was still fresh and we met another racing group teammate that we chatted with on the way up. It took the mind off the relentless uphill.
There were a lot of inclines, don’t get me wrong, but they were interspersed with flat spots so you could take a break off to the side if need be. A lot of people took these opportunities to jog around the bed and pee it looked liked. Totally acceptable. Otherwise they may be going in the muddy pits.
The water stations this event were well places this time too. The first one was close to the top of that terrible initial ascent. After the railing you have to go over, and the over-under-through obstacle. Really made you feel like this Beast wouldn’t be so bad.
Then it was terrain for days. Up and down through some really gorgeous forest. I was a fan of the really soft, thick dirt in some places. All the gravel paths we went down took a toll on my legs and joints, so the soft dirt was nice. The fact it was dirt and not mud was excellent too!
The hornets nest we ran into was less enjoyable. I got stung through my tall socks. In the same spot opposite leg as the wasp sting I got a few weeks ago! At least they took us around that nest the next day!
At the summit of all the ups we had Stairway to Sparta. Breathtaking views, I could have sat at the top for the rest of the afternoon.
The dunk wall here was infinitely better than the Ohio one. It didn’t reek and I actually could see the camera man on the other side!
That downhill was terrifying. People were falling all over the place. At one point a deer burst out of trees in between where runners were walking with their buckets and where they went back into the forest after dropping them off. It sounded like a runner falling downhill at first.
The most devastating obstacle of the day, though, was definitely the log carry. The log carry from hell.
They had a shortage of logs in the men’s weight because it was taking so long for people to finish. The women’s logs weren’t cake either. They were short and fat. It was like carrying another bucket only heavier.
You took the log down a hill, went around a bend, and you thought okay I got this. And then you finished the turn and you saw the steep incline and rock traverse ahead. Then your soul died a little.
It may have been short, but the incline was so steep I even had to take breaks and typically the heavy carries are my strong suit. People left logs on the course. They flipped them or rolled them along.
Across the board the log carry came up as one of if not the most difficult part of the Beast Saturday. It was towards the end as well, when you’re ready for it to be over, but before all the grip focused obstacles.
The third carry was the sandbag carry. Since I’ve been training with the Wreckbag at the gym on an incline treadmill I felt personally challenged to do the “men’s weight.”
The sandbags are hard to tell weight anyway, they’re hardly uniform. So I took one from the men’s bin and shimmied it across my shoulders. I love the sandbag. It made me feel strong and Accomplished. I may be a slow runner but I can haul a sandbag around – ha!
My other favorite obstacle – always – is the Herc Hoist. I made short work of pulling that sandbag up every race. Even at the end of the last one. So while I may have been feeling defeated by some of the other technical grip obstacles, the hoist always gives me a boost.
The Hoist seemed so easy last weekend. Probably a combination of my skill set and the fact it hadn’t rained on the bags all week like at the Ohio races.
Of course, after running us ragged for 14 or more miles, we had all of the upper body technical challenges. The burpee makers: Twister and Olympus.
I got further on twister than I ever have before but still didn’t get a good transition to the second section. Olympus I got further as well – but it destroyed my knees. I only got across when a teammate supported me the second half the way.
The Beast had a Rig made of rings and a bar. I got a good swing going on the rings but the bar was so high and far away from the ring. I was already spooked by my ugly twister fall that I got wigged out by the jump from rig to bar and went down.
We took the ENTIRE day to complete the beast. I know my teammates were hurting. Some of them felt so broken and defeated that they didn’t think they could do the second day.
We ate our dinner while taking turns in our makeshift hotel ice bath. It really helped my lower body feel better for the second day of racing.
Considering a year ago I was terrified of a distance with double digit miles, I was and still am proud of what I’ve been able to achieve this year. It’s amazing what we can achieve when we believe in ourselves, and when we find awesome people to keep us going when we forget.