It was Friday night and minutes before the press conference when reality set in. Athletes from around the globe filled the room at the K-1 base to listen to a briefing about race rules and to question the Pro Team about life. There was discussion of a “dark horse” from the UK to be a top placement. I had been talking with a USA Olympic marathon runner from South Sudan. He was excited to run his first Spartan to prove himself in the field. Matt Novakovich made jokes about training in Canada and referenced swimming in glaciers.
Forget “knowing it at the finish line”, at this moment you could feel the anticipation in your chest. This was the moment that I realized “I’m running Vermont”.
The Killington Spartan Race World Championship was one of the fastest and hardest single day races I have ever seen. There have been amazing breakdowns of altitude and can be found easily online. Between the near 10,000ft elevation change, the platinum rig, and an epic sandbag carry—Vermont will be a race we will never forget. No official stats have been posted, but it is believed that there was over a 26% DNF rate at this event.
With a light hearted word from Joe De Sena before the race about hoping that USA would win the race—they were off! The first mountain spread the athletes out over the one mile hike to the summit. The race at this point was understandable, and even anticipated by all racers. The initial sandbag and bucket carry were taken on fast and we all anticipated a second. Before the fourth mile all racers approached the Tarzan swing and swim in 51 degree water. I feel like I speak for the majority of the athletes that to this point, things felt pretty good. We thought that the course was going to be fast as it started to open up a bit.
Mile five started another ascent up Killington to other familiar obstacles like the vertical wall, a barbwire crawl, as well as “A frame” cargo nets. The log carry started to spread the group out some more. With major changes in log sizes this played to some racers advantages. Personally, I feel that this is an amazing obstacle, but would love to see more consistency in the log size. There has been a lot of push on the sport to go to a standard size or range for this to continue to be an obstacle. Slight changes to other obstacles such as the balance pegs were added with a balance log in between them. Once the group hit the summit, the race started to turn.
The group started to approach the summit and the weather turned from cool to cold with howling winds near the first spear throw. This coupled with a double tractor pull started to change the minds of all the runners. The memorization took a new turn this year where athletes were allowed to take a Sharpie marker on the course and write their number and code down for memorization. This was made public knowledge in the briefing Friday night at the K-1 base. Upon this we all came back down the mountain for a second bucket carry, reverse wall, as well as a one mile hike at 28% grade. Once again hard, but not to defeat you. Shortly after the tire pull everything changed…AGAIN!
I remember when I approached the half-mile loop and heard the simple instructions, “grab a sandbag…elite men take two!” Knowing we were 12 miles deep, I felt we were not far from the end. Within seconds we all fell to the reality of the weight. My thoughts became simple:
- Maybe this isn’t for me
- No I am fine
- This is going to be an hour
- Figure it out
While on that portion I heard the elites come in across the finish line. I heard the crowds cheer and scream as they sprinted past the fire. In the mean time, I met other runners from all walks of life who traveled to the event. I watched some elites lie and take one sand bag and pass a group of us who were all together. I watched the elite women destroy single weights, as well as the open heat men gain on us. I saw, like many runners out that day, my life as an entire race. We all knew it was far from over and we were shot. Somehow we had to keep going, it wasn’t over. We cramped, we struggled, and in the end… we put two sandbags back in the pile.
After the sandbag carry we had another run, finally followed by the platinum rig. This was an awesome obstacle that requires stability, flexibility, and grip strength. I hope we see more of the platinum rig in the USA circuit for the 2015 season. After this we came into a gauntlet back up the mountain to the start line. This included barbed wire crawls, hoists, monkey bars, and everything else. If you had anything left in your arms this is when you needed it. The race itself was really set into place with a missed spear throw between Jon Albon and Ryan Atkins. 30 burpees gave Jon the time he needed to start pulling away and ensuring the win. And like that is was over.
One might ask, “What did this weekend teach us?” Personally I took a lot from the 2014 Spartan Race World Championship:
- It’s getting bigger. NBC and Spartan built rivalries in the sport within the US viewing population between racers like Matt and Hunter. Jon Albon & Ryan Atkins took them both out. Matt and Hunter were not on the Beast podium. OCR is now a global race and it is still anyone’s game if you want it bad enough.
- There is a new class, it is professional. I fully expect to start seeing more professional obstacle racers in the coming years. There are men who could run the majority of the course. These men are dedicated athletes and put forth more in the gym than the average runner can comprehend. I respect that. It’s something you have to see to fully understand. Elite men, my hat is off.
- We can all break. Bad things will happen to us. What we do with our hard comings will define us as people. We can all be better than the person we were yesterday. I challenge each one of you to do that. Find it within yourself and take it.
Personally I can’t wait until next year!
*Photos By: Spartan Race and Amelie Green-Vamos.
Jacob Bosecker is an adventure racer, OCR athlete, and snowboarder from Southern Indiana. Bosecker comes from a background in pole vault and doing parkour in his free time. He lives in Columbus, Indiana and is the captain of an elite OCR team Project Titan.