Road to OCRWC – Michigan Spartan Super
Yesterday was my last of 6 Spartan races this year, my second super, my second Trifecta, and my first Double Trifecta, and my first Competitive heat ever!
The race itself may not have gone as well as I would have liked, but as I think about it more and more I don’t really feel that bad about it.
When I feel like I should be at a higher level, or that I should have done better, beat myself down about how slow I am or whatever, I have to remind myself just how far I’ve actually come.
Last year I did one Spartan. I didn’t even know OCR Worlds existed. That one Spartan Race was my first Beast and first race of any considerable distance, and I was miserable. I signed up for races barely planning ahead. I was learning just how big the OCR world is.
Yesterday I completed my 6th Spartan Race in one year. I did almost 30 miles in two days just two weeks ago. Last year one 14 mile race destroyed me.
So yeah, maybe I’m “slow” at flat running still, but I’m miles ahead of even what I was able to do last year. I’ve had the best race of my life at a course known for its initial ski slope climb – one where several of my teammates and trainers struggled. My best race was at a ski park this year? A year ago I would have said no freakin way!
I’m insanely excited to have that Spartan Double Trifecta Medal. It represents a big step for me – increasing the number of races, obstacle skills, running and climbing, attempting a competitive heat?!
The anxiety about doing a competitive heat didn’t really hit me until the night before. The weather was in the 40s – also not prepared for cooler temps.
Full of anxiety in the morning – away we went to the Michigan International Speedway.
I was the only one in my little group anxious. My race buddy frequently races in the competitive or elite heats. She was excited for the flat course Michigan was going to have. I was less so. Super flat means less hills to slow everyone else down.
It was foggy kind of like West Virginia and elite starts got delayed by 15 minutes. So we had a little time for a warm up. I still wore long sleeves because I was cold.
We got fuzzy wrist/sweatbands to designate our “competitive” status. My first one ever.
I did feel awfully slow and ill-prepared at the start. Distance running not my thing. But I wasn’t left totally in the dust like I expected. It was still an 8-9 mile course so no need to sprint the start.
My friend did pull away fairly early. As expected for an experienced cross country runner. She liked the course. I didn’t. It felt boring to me. Too much concrete and gravel to run on. Too much flat. Not enough obstacles to break up what was monotony to me.
Twister was early, though, which was good. I fell off yet again. 0 and 6 on that one. I haven’t quite figured out the transition still to the second section of grips.
Counting out 30 good official burpees sucked. Nothing to sugar coat. It just sucks.
The good thing about the earlier start time though, is that everything was dry. It was a dry day anyway, but even when we got to the mud pits they hadn’t been filled up all the way yet. Rumor was this was due to the lack of volunteers this weekend.
Whatever the reasons – everything was dry and obstacles and terrain hadn’t been destroyed yet.
I will forever be salty about the spear throw on this race though. I hit the hay bale and was about to run away but the volunteer made a noise at me. Apparently the spear fell out. What a cheat! Seriously feels like you’ve been purposefully cheated when that happens.
I’d like to blame the fact that the spear tip was bent and that’s why it didn’t stay in, but I honestly don’t know why.
It was extra demoralizing because immediately after the spear they had an event specific new obstacle called the 1/4 mile challenge. The fastest 3 men and women in elite and competitive would win a race.
As a sprinter back in the day this was exciting for me. But because of the stupid spear rule I had to do burpees right before it. So I had no time for recovery before the sprint challenge. I did attempt it still, I just didn’t do as well as I’d wanted.
Stupid spear throw rules.
For some reason my stomach was acting up a bit too this go around. Can’t be certain, but I suspect a lot of my physical issues this race related to not carrying my hydration pack.
I drank the water at the stations but then it just sloshed around in my stomach. Which I think made it start to get angry with me. Or maybe I ate something it didn’t like? Something in the hotel oatmeal seems unlikely.
Atlas carry, tire flips, and sled pull were all cake. The running between all of them was featureless and flat. For me, this made it very hard to be motivated. For some reason I also felt like I moved slower. Maybe it’s mental. My mind is like you’re tired and bored just walk?
I disliked all the hard concrete and gravel we ran.
The bucket carry had a new twist, thought. It was (gloriously) short and filled with sand/dirt instead of rocks. I am a fan of the dirt. It was flat and a lot easier to make it the whole way without resting compared to West Virginia.
I really really wanted to avoid burpees here. I watched another women slip off a ring and complain that the they were too smooth and that made them slippery.
I stepped of the block in that line and chose a different lane. Monkey bar style I made it across for only the second time ever. I was relieved. Also felt like it was almost easy. Like – how had I ever struggled?
Have I said I love dry obstacles yet?
In between all the running at one point they also had the World’s Longest Wire Crawl. It took approximately two hours for the crawl alone. At least it felt that way.
When we stared back towards the stadium I was happy. Finally. Give me something to do! This cross country style running is getting old!
That was stupid thinking.
The sandbag carry was up the stadium stairs. I knew it would be. I wavered for a second at the bag bin. Wonder Woman would take the heavier bag. I always took the heavier bag.
Also dumb. That was the game changer for me. I immediately regretted that decision.
For some reason doing stairs was much worse than just an incline or hill. The bag itself turned out to be poorly proportioned. Slightly more than half the sand was in one end while less than half was stuck in the other end. It was too lopsided to wear comfortable across my shoulders.
I haven’t had to stop and reset or rest that much I think …ever…during a sandbag carry. I won’t lie and say I looked deep and found inner strength blah blah. It was demoralizing.
I felt like utter shit. I made it up to the top slow as hell because I’m stubborn and angry. I held the handrails on the way down.
The volunteer at the bag bin called me out for being a badass. I’ve rarely felt less like one.
After throwing the bag back I could feel right away that my calves were not going to hold up. Not even with less than a mile left.
The fact they had us go back to the top of the stairs again immediately after that didn’t help matters.
The Herc Hoist was behind the stadium near the stair climbs. My legs screamed and shook getting there. I had to prop my feet on the fence so they were flexed in order to stretch my calves. I could feel my muscles trying to spasm then.
My arms were good so I still managed not to slam the bag down after pulling it up. I felt a little bad for the woman next to me. She fought so hard just to get the bag off the ground that she just went for the burpees instead. She stated that the bag was too much of her bodyweight.
I couldn’t relate.
There was a water station near there. I had to pause to try to stretch out my seizing calves. Pretty much already too late at that point.
The final stretch to the finish line was lined with spectators and other runners. Several OCR teammates and friends were there.
They talked me through the last few obstacles and offered encouragement and advise. I don’t think at the time they fully understood how much my legs did not work.
I even failed the rope climb. This was Heart breaking for me. However every single time I tried to get up off the ground my legs would spasm and I couldn’t wrap them up on the rope, and my arms couldn’t hold me up alone long enough for the spasm to pass.
Burpees at the end this way was agony.
I got a lot of advise going up to Olympus after that. Same story as the rope, however. I couldn’t trust my legs for anything.
They had the inverted wall as the last obstacle before the fire jump. I was so close to the end and I could not move any faster. I got to the wall and by a miracle I got up to the top of the wall with mostly upper body only.
As soon as I got to the top both calves went. I had chronic calf Charlie horses in high school and this was just like that only both legs at the same time – and worse because I was on the top of a slanted wall.
I had to lower myself down the other side by my arms. I could only maneuver my legs above the knees. Below that was just panicking muscle.
So close and yet so far. This was one of the moments where I definitively did not feel like a badass.
I was 50 paces from the finish and I had to try to stretch my legs. One leg eventually let up enough so I could hobble to the fire.
I’ve never not jumped a fire or attempted to sprint the finish. I just couldn’t physically do it this time. And I killed me. I was so angry and in pain. I hated everything about stepping over the fire.
I hobbled from the fire to the official finish line.
I almost wished I’d actually gotten injured. Cramping feels like a poorly prepared persons excuse. After my 2016 cramping experience at the Ohio Beast I’d sworn a la Scarlett O’Hara that I’d never cramp like that again.
I had been extremely angry and upset about that finish while it was happening and right after.
However, all the teammates and friends who met me at the end had nothing but positive feedback to help me get out of my own head.
The Double Trifecta medal at the end helped too!
And to that guy that felt the need to comment on my ass – please stop being that guy. It’s unnecessary. It’s creepy. We’re not besties. Comment on my dedication, determination, strength, will power, my cool shirt. You were literally the only person at a race whose ever felt the need to say something about my body, and this sport’s awesome community is better than that.