I was worried. Scared. Anxious? I just completed my first ever spartan race in Scotland, and now I was making an attempt to do two more on one weekend, 3 weeks after my first ever OCR race. Not to mention, significantly longer races, Beast and Super.
What I have learnt on the first course, it is important to have some (a lot) upper body strength. I kept doing my crossfit trainings, but I only got into this in the beginning of August, so you can’t really expect miracles in muscle and strength growth in such a short period of time. I knew I’ll suffer.
The weather forecast was changing, it was difficult to estimate how it will really look like on the race day. We assumed it will be similar to Perth few weeks earlier on, when we were running Spartan Sprint. It was further North but also earlier in the calendar year so we didn’t think it will be much different, hence we decided on same Spartan costumes for the first race.
The moment we got into the registration tents the rain started pouring. Still in good moods we were hoping it will stop in a minute, or two? Well, it didn’t. It didn’t stop raining until we finished the race.
Our start time was set for 11:15am, since there were many groups before us with earlier start times I was expecting some mud on the way, and I wasn’t disappointed in my expectations. They were far exceeded. Not long after the start line, maybe 500m, we had our first muddy bog to cross and many to come later. I didn’t know that yet, and tried, so did many around me, to save my shoes and not wet them at the very beginning. I had a half marathon ahead of me and many obstacles waiting to be crossed.
Me, Raissa and Andre, Beast Dream Team, were going like a storm in that rain, helping each other, assisting monkey bars and giving bum push or a hand whenever it was needed. It was all going well for about first 15 kilometres. It was cold, rain was pouring on us, and only those bits of the route we had to run in the woods were wind free. I stopped feeling my fingers, which made most of the obstacles very difficult to pass – so good to have the team with you to help in such cases! The route course was a constant up and down, jumping logs, getting hit by pulled branches and slipping in the mud. Unfortunately I started feeling pain in both of my knees and my back. It changed everything. At some point I was no longer able to run, pain got too severe. It was so bad, tears were coming to my eyes and I wanted to scream with every step. I knew that pain. I haven’t felt that for a long while. It was with me every time I went for a longer hiking holidays when there were hours of downhill to go. I am not an experienced trail runner, started my journey with trail in August, 2 months ago. My joints were not yet ready for what I have served them on Saturday. The pain was very real. I had to walk, but in that temperature, with wind and rain and the short dress I had on me, when I stopped moving and started walking, very quickly I got cold. Unbelievably cold. I have never in my life been that cold and uncomfortable for that long period of time. I was shivering. Heard my teeth ringing. Didn’t feel my fingers. Everything was wet. Water in my shoes was giving me the illusive feeling of warmth squeaking with every step and after every bog and stream I crossed. We only had few more kilometres to go. I felt bad I am stopping my team. They were jumping around trying to warm themselves up. Cheering and singing. Me and Raissa were so cold we started passing some obstacles towards the end. We were that cold there was no grip strength left. I started repeating out loud: PAIN IS JUST A WEAKNESS LEAVING YOUR BODY… Over and over again. One reason was because I found it funny and ironic and other reason because I wanted to believe it. It was written on the ribbon of my first half marathon I ran in 2017. Blue ribbon, white font. It got stuck in my head.
There was one point at the second sandbag carry my foot got stuck in a mud, I couldn’t move and Andre had to grab my ankle to pull my leg from it. I wouldn’t be able to do it myself. If it wasn’t for him, I would still be there!
We had to do sandbag carry twice, log carry, bucket carry(with rocks inside), atlas carry and tire carry. No wonder my back (injured when I was 19) was trying to tell me something (screaming with pain) – Because of that and the cold, me and Raissa skipped atlas carry, it was nearly at the end and I didn’t want to hurt myself any more.
We were walking hand to hand towards the next obstacle. Rain was pouring heavily when we saw Dom, one of the OCR organisers in a little ‘woods ambulance car/truck’. We didn’t know him then, he stopped his vehicle and gave us a look like he’s going to pull us from the race. We must have looked pretty miserable. He asked: “Are you ok?”. We were not entirely ok but very determined. I asked if he has foil blankets. He handed us two. Raissa had to help me open mine as my fingers were not really cooperating at that point.
The walking Burritos
Blankets helped. It wasn’t a massive change and we didn’t feel nice and toasty underneath, but it was better. A little protection from cold and rain. We got to a slip wall and were very keen to pass it. All of us were so cold we didn’t feel our fingers but the we ran into Darren. Thanks to his encouragement (quite persistent!;)) we decided to give it a go. We have turned our burritos into capes and went for it! It was nearly finish and we made it. Few more obstacle and we were there, jumping through the fire getting our beautiful Beast medals and quickly going to the tents to put some dry clothing on. It felt so good to have a dry jacket on! We met with Chris and Georgia at the end. They both survived their Beasts. Chatted and went to the Bagshot Premier Inn for well deserved dinner where we met with Derrick who rocked his two Beasts in one day! Food never tasted better.
Spartan Super aka Superhero Sunday
New day new beginning. The pain was everywhere. I had massive bruises on my thighs from crossing the walls, on my arms, hands, everywhere. Some scratches and general pain everywhere. Back pain was gone. Knees were so so but much better than the day before. Today was a Superhero day! Thor (me), Wonder Woman (Raissa), Batman (Andre) and Vadim (Superman). Vadim was Andre’s friend he met on other Spartan race in Greece. We knew what was waiting for us, we got into the first muddy bog and just simply crossed it getting mud above knee high. There was no room for hesitation. There was more of it waiting for us. Today we put some base layers on. There was no forecasted rain but we also wanted to feel a bit of warmth after yesterday’s experiences. Very rough experiences. We had a lot of fun, the day was sunny and we were enjoying ourselves. There were obstacle none of us could cross on their own but we were there for each other – team work! It was so much fun when Vadim gave me a piggy back and I just flew barely touching twisters and monkey bars. It was a bit more tricky to support guys on the obstacles as they were way heavier than us but we managed!
I didn’t do well with a Spear Throw but I nailed a Thor’s Hammer throw and got it perfectly where it was supposed to go! One of the volunteers recorded it for me. This will be my version of this obstacle from now on! I’m surprised to say, one other favourite moment on Sunday was Hercules Hoist. Last time it didn’t even move when I put my whole body weight on it and pushed with my legs but on Sunday I lifted in 50cm from the ground, myself! Unfortunately there was no energy left to pull it up till the end and my back cracked so I let it go. Nothing serious happened with my back as I was able to cross 8ft wall myself! Needed a bit of assist on the way back but I definitely saw some improvement against my first OCR 3 weeks back.
Beast on Saturday:
Roman warrior outfit (Amazon)
Compression socks (ZeroPoint)
Shoes (Salomon XA ENDURO W)
Watch (Garmin Forerunner 235)
As I told Raissa, it is difficult to say if we smashed this weekend, or if this weekend smashed us. There definitely is a lot of room for improvement in terms of planning. It is important to remember that health is more valuable than fabulous photos from the race or at least plan better for the weather. You still can have a cool costume when it rains, just need to adjust it for the weather conditions. I was never before, in my whole life, that cold, for such an extended period of time. It nearly turns of your thinking. It’s dangerous. I was fine and I knew I’ll make it to the finish line but I have learnt my lesson. It was definitely a memorable weekend!
Fun fact: 10 volunteers were pulled out from the race due to hypothermia (a news one volunteer told me on Sunday at the registration tent). Imagine how cold it was for people not dressed and going through the obstacles. We were neraly hypothermic ourselves.