Fun runners take on first time in Spartan World Ultra Championship in Iceland.
There are quite a few holy grails for anyone who does OCR, what first time gets booked as once a lifetime thing? – World Toughest Mudder, World OCR Championships, One of three Spartan World Championships.
Every year there is massive hype about the WTM and its brutality, how it destroys and pushes everyone involved. But this year it has been overtaken by Spartan World Ultra Championship in Iceland with the possible 1 million dollar payout. It was an insane amount for the insane challenge, but many in the OCR community believed that we had the very man for the job – Jonathan Albon.
In short, the Spartan race put down the ultimate Trifecta with a payout of 1 million dollars – paid to any one person winning all 3 its World Championships. Jonathan Albon was two down and only Iceland to go. SO close, just 100 miles. If you haven’t heard about the story, like The Telegraph calling him the unknown runner.
Most of us laughed calling multiple World Champion unknown? But in the age of Kardashians and breaking internet with selfies, what did you expect? Obstacle racing is still obscure and an unknown sport for the majority of people. Maybe your Facebook consist of thousands of friends and acquaintances you found through OCR but how many people you met in everyday life where they first time heard about it from you?
A lot of people dismissed the 1 million Spartan as just PR stunt, but it isn’t any different from Tough Mudder giving the 100 mile World Toughest Mudder challenge years before. It moved our beloved sport on to TV and more out there! Its been long going and besides the hype and spotlight on Jonathan Albon, there was the age-old accountability question what still makes OCR not a real sport like triathlon or park runs.
Accountability and OCR.
Spartans have worked hard on accountability and to show the world that OCR is a real sport, adding referees, filming and analysing burpees for the elites and age groups. It gives the sport a real future to be taken seriously, not just be weekend warriors with a very expensive hobby.
In Iceland Ultra this accountability was taken a step further by adding age group and giving it the same standards as elites. What did it mean apart from a lot of people dropping out of the age group?
You get a burpee passport – 6 obstacles have burpee penalties (Olympus, Tyro, Multi-rig, Twister, Spear Throw, Herc Hoist) you get a punch for each complete obstacle and at the end of the lap you hand in the passport and do your burpees in front of the camera. You could get up to 180 burpees per lap if you get unlucky enough. Thankfully, they were halved to 15 burpees per obstacle after midnight.
Straightforward, but for every missed burpee you get a minute. It also could mean DQ if the added time to the course time took you over the dreaded 24 hours. I’m still not sure if I did 90 burpees first time around, you make mistakes you learn. Tip of the day – use stones to keep a track where you are.
The main thing what made it true 24-hour race is you not only needed to do 4 laps but also needed to be out on course for 15 hours to claim your 24-hour medal. 15 hours was average time what racers spent last year on course, what no doubt will change. Also spending more than an hour in the pit would mean you need to go out complete another lap. Simple, accountable and you get an extra medal. The best and worst thing about pit – it was heated dome, what even had beds if you wanted to have a nap.
Black ice and pits of sadness.
The race itself was brutal. Ryan Atkins said it and I won’t disagree on that. When you are there you understand why Iceland has been chosen, it literally will take your breath away. With each lap it feels like the race is growing, the carries feel longer and heavier, the mountain steeper and the black ice slicker.
If you haven’t experienced breathing in such wind and cold, it takes you by surprise and ruins your best laid out plans. You could have the best training, the best gear but after racing in sunshine all year nothing can prepare the airways and lungs. One of the most common problems for most racers that night. Did I mention the being ping-pong ball between trees on black ice? Or black ice and sandbags? Or sandbags and the knee-deep pit of sadness?
As every race is different the expectations are different but without experiencing them we can’t learn. Failing to prepare for the unknown is a lesson, not a failure. I could go on about the black ice and how cold it was but at the end of the day, I am grateful to be part of all this.
The same can be said for any of the big races, you need to be there to understand it as it doesn’t compare to anything else. The only negative side is that the only Northern Light I saw didn’t look like Northern light at all. It would have been the cherry on top of the painful and suffering cake that was the race. Was it colder than Atlanta? I don’t care, we all ran our own races and for different reasons.