Race day morning arrived with temperatures in the 40s and a forecast for overcast and light rain all day. By the time the elite men took off at 8:00am, the thermometer had not moved very much at all. The starting line for the men has a lot more excitement lately with 1st place up for grabs. Hobie Call, who is busy building Extreme nation, is no longer attending every Spartan Race. Having said that, you could probably safely wager that the first four would most likely be Brakken Kraker, Alec Blenis, Elliot Megquier and David “Bear Jew” Magida ,just not in necessarily in that order. In a wide open female field, 10 different women have made the podium over the previous 4 races. If there was a favorite, it would have to be Ella Kociuba. She showed up at the start line with a fresh new leopard haircut and a desire to win another race.
The men took off and less than 40 minute later, they came screaming through to the finish line. Brakken was first with David and Alec not far behind. Shortly after getting their medals, I got to hear them have a lively conversation about something that is a rare subject for them. They were talking about the burpees they all had to do.
Due to the rain and cold, The top 3 all did 30 burpees for falling off the traverse wall. Alec was actually ahead of David on the wall but fell off the wall after David did, assuring him yet another 3rd place finish. A very pissed off (see photo below) Elliot Megquier had to do 90 total burpees when he failed the monkey bars, traverse wall and spear throw.
For the women, Ella did come through first, followed 13 seconds later by Hannah Orders, who had her second, 2nd place finish in a row. Third place was 51 year old Liz Law. I had never met (or heard of) Liz before but it turns out I better start paying attention to her. She won the Saturday Mid Atlantic Spartan Super last year and is obviously 1st place in her age group for every Spartan she enters.
I was watching other finishers come in and thinking about how miserable, cold and wet I was going to have to be on this course. A little bit later, David Buddy Homa came through with his friend Brandon Seale. David was kind enough to hang with me on his 2nd lap in Georgia 2 weeks ago, so I figured going out with him again would be a good move. David and Brandon are faster and in considerably better shape than I am, but on their second and very tired, cold, and wet lap, we were about the same pace. As the course went along, we would take turns passing each other, half encouraging and half ribbing each other.
Everything was going along great. About 2 miles in, we reached the “rolling mud”, a series of small but very muddy hills that go in and out of waist deep moats of water and mud. These are fun and take a little bit of tricky footwork and balance for the average “in-shape” person. This is where we came upon Karen, who weighed about 300 pounds. I asked her if she wanted some help and began to pull and push her up the muddy hill. I looked over at David and Brandon to help and they jumped in right away. When she got to the top of the first hill, she slid all the way down face first into the water. There was nothing to do next but to help her over the rest of the rolling mud hills in that obstacle. Up until that point, I had thought about the pace I was running and how I might finish overall. Once we started helping Karen, all of that went away. How important can finishing 15 minutes faster be to helping someone of that size finish a Spartan Race?
As I said last week, I have never preached that I want to “Get People Off the Couch” or be the guy that talks about helping everyone you run into on the course. But something is changing in me lately. Two weeks ago I was moved by Michael Mills and Matt Reynolds. Watching them do something most people don’t think is possible got me to slow down and start to notice in a big way. This time, a stranger named Karen, completely changed my outlook and made my week.
Later in the race, I did something I had never done before. As we approached the sandbag carry, I thought about Matt “UltraBeast” Dolitsky who often does multiple laps at obstacle races. He also runs the entire course with tires or sandbags or anything else heavy he can find. I turned to Brandon and David and yelled out “Real Men Carry Two!” I grabbed two bags, screamed “GET SOME” and bombed down the hill.
The momentum, testosterone and adrelanie lasted for about 30 seconds before I was out of breath and dropping the sand bags all over the place. Other runners came by me as this was happening and were encouraging me to leave one of the sandbags in the woods. I entertained that for about 1 second then got really determined to get it done. When I rounded the corner and started going back up hill to the end of the path, I took off as fast as I could. It took almost everything I had to get up that hill and my arms felt like they were going to fall right off at any moment, but when I finished and threw those two bags down, I felt the kind of elation I haven’t found anywhere else lately.
So there I was, almost at the end of my heat and OCR had given me things I have a hard time finding in my day to day life. The ability to stop thinking about myself and help others and the ability to push myself farther than I think I can go.
When the race is over, the medals are hung up, and muddy clothes are rinsed clean It forces me to look at myself and ask “What can I do to help others?’ “What can I do today that I was afraid to try yesterday?” We do these races for lots of reasons. For fun with friends, for bragging rights on facebook, for fitness and weight loss benefit. However, I am starting to think that these reasons that affect us after the race is over and why more and more of us keep doing it more and more and have made OCR a part of our lives.
You can find the Obstacle Racing Magazine tent and staff this weekend at The BadAss Dash in Stone Mountain, GA on March 30.