WHAT. A. RACE! The Spartan North American Championship, located in West Virginia, was an amazing event! Luckily for the readers, both Luke and Joel were at the event and will be providing their perspectives. We'll start with Luke's side, and roll into Joel's from there, so make sure you read all the way through and you'll get a better picture of the race as a whole. There is also a recap video that we did Live after the race, so check that out at the end of the article.
The Spartan Race North American Championships in West Virginia. It's a pretty big deal. To run in the Elite heat you had to have qualified at a previous race so that adds a feeling of accomplishment and gives you a sense of pride as you stand there at the start line with the top Spartan Racers in all of North America. It's an awesome feeling to know that you are standing next to some of the most fit humans on the planet.
Side note: Last year's NAC was probably my worst race ever. After about a mile into the race a started having trouble breathing, I got dizzy/light headed, and my body just would not work. For the first time ever, I almost walked off the course but I had so much encouragement from other athletes and Momma didn't raise no quitter, so I literally walked most of the course to get my medal. Was it sports induced asthma? No clue, but I was pumped up to make this year much better.
This year was fantastic! I loved every minute of it even though I complained to myself "when is this going to be over - I'm hungry - wah wah wah".... it's all just part of the process. The terrain/elevation change on the first half of the race seemed pretty tame. The second half was killer! Maybe that's because I train for sub 8 mile courses or maybe it's because there was a very long swim, some extremely steep inclines, and rough technical trails. If you were there, you'll remember the most extreme incline of the whole course. Straight up for who knows how long but, at the top there was a fantastic view of the entire venue and the mountains surrounding it.
After The Armor, which of course was light as a bag of feathers, I was running down the gravel road and saw the athlete in front of me flailing his arms around and swatting at himself. Instantly I knew what was wrong. Bees. Sure enough, as soon as I reached the spot where he was, BAM! a hornet got me right in my leg pit (you know, behind the knee)! That sucker hurt! Though, It did make me run faster so I could get away from them, so that was a plus.
The swim was slow moving! It was a lot longer than last year and I almost ended up getting cramps in my calves. I will say that I am glad Spartan has swimming in some of races. I think it's a great obstacle that really screws up a lot of athletes who focus too much on certain aspects of their training and neglect others. That's the beautiful thing about obstacle course racing, every time you hit the course you find out what your weaknesses are and how you can improve yourself. The real question is, will you get out of your comfort zone and work on your weaknesses?
The last few miles got your blood pumping as you could start to hear the music and DJ at the venue. As the course came to a close, it was a ton of fun running on a boardwalk and stairs toward the finish. There was so much terrain variety! That's part of the reason why the WV course is one of my top 3 favorites. I still can't figure out why Spartan has Pipe Lair....it's not an obstacle...it's just an annoyance.
In the end I came out with 100% obstacle completion! The Spear throw? Bulls eye! Tire flip? Like flipping a pancake for breakfast! Atlas carry? No burpees (anymore)! Twister? Yawn! Fire jump? Too tired to strike an epic pose but oh well! I didn't run close to as fast as I would like and the hills fried my legs, but I feel amazing knowing where I'm at and I feel confident that I can make my weaknesses my strengths and make massive improvements with my performance.
Spartan did a fantastic job creating an energetic atmosphere and killer course to make one EPIC North American Championship. Though they did have a hiccup before the sun even came up... the venue was not fully ready so they didn't let any athletes into the venue until about 45 minutes before the race...there was plenty of grumbling but at the end of the day it wasn't a big deal. I would definitely recommend this race course for anyone who hasn't tried it!
The Elite Qualified race was to start at 7:15. The very beginning of the race was a 100 yard flat section leading up to hay bails, followed immediately by a short, but quite steep, hill. I personally love how Spartan sets up obstacles early in races to break up the athletes from one big pack and spread it all out.
At a race like this (double the number of athletes in this wave compared to last year) you can't afford to get behind too many people, so I had to run faster and harder than I wanted to for the first 1-2 miles. It was fast, fast running. Wide open gravel paths and grass fields. The Monkey Bars were early on, and though the athletes had spread out some, there was still a large portion who hit the Monkey Bars at the same time. I was in that group, and it was without doubt the most crowded obstacle I've ever been on. I had to wait behind an athlete at one point, and was getting bumped, and bumping into, other athletes as we all made our way through.
The first three miles absolutely flew by. I passed some athletes, and was passed by others. The log carry, which I used to hate, was actually fun; it helped that I picked a smooth log that wasn't scraping my shoulder and neck the whole time. The carry took us into some shallow water twice which made it that much more interesting!