Welcome to a weekly feature on my blog – Ben’s Zone. Written by husband… Ben. A foodie, coffee obsessed, ex-smoking, ex-drinking and Ridgeback loving Dad. Who is also seriously into his fitness. You can find him on the blog (mostly) on Sundays. Enjoy!
Back into the Breech – Spartan Trifecta Weekend 2021
A lot can happen in a couple of years. Two years ago, my regular ace buddy Andy and I were just finishing up our Spartan Sprint at Windsor. We’d had a great time running and it was super convenient being in our local forest. Confident and full of beans we bought trifecta passes for the next year. For the uninitiated, a trifecta is completing each of the 3 Spartan distances (21Km Beast, 15 Km Super, 5Km Sprint) in a single season.
It seemed eminently doable as there are a ton of Spartan races across the country. We had big plans of doing the Wales one, the Midlands one, and then finishing in triumph at our local in Swinley forest. What’s not to love?
Then covid happened and obstacle racing, along with a ton of other stuff, just stopped. Now, I’m not moaning, covid was awful, and not getting to race was a minor inconvenience at best but it did mean that I had a 2-year break off any kind of obstacles.
I’ve not been chilling. I’ve kept my running up as it keeps me sane and I started to do more strength work if anything but it’s not like actually being out there on a muddy hill and actually doing it.
As time ticked on it became clear the only option to get the races in would be to do the trifecta weekend, that’s the Beast on the Saturday, the Super on the Sunday morning and the Sprint on the Sunday afternoon.
Another minor wrinkle was that the venue moved. Away from the hallowed forest loam of Swinley and over to Pippingford in Sussex. I’ve run there before and all I could remember was hills, lots of brutal hills.
I’ve raced a lot and the only race that has ever scared me was Tough Guy, until now. The thought of covering 36km pounding up and down those clay hills chilled me to my core. I have to be honest about 2 things, first, if it hadn’t been for the commitment to Andy I would have bottled it, second, I didn’t really sleep the night before.
The first day was very hard. Our 10 am wave was an early one so the ground was not too bad but I soon remembered another thing about Spartans, lots of walls. Man, I can’t do walls. As the day wore on we plugged away. I did lots of Burpees and penalty laps but I also did manage the monkey bars, which I was stoked by. There were endless sandbag and bucket carries but there were also two good if short swims.
The obstacles were really tough, I need to get better at them really to get the most of Spartan. I have nothing to prove, but by the same token, I’m not getting the best of what the experience has to offer if I am missing obstacles.
Throughout the day I was conscious of cramping up. I had not got any race shoes and as I was sort of planning to retire I had not bothered to replace them. Going to Spartan in my trail shoes was a mistake and one I paid for with my ankles trying to get traction.
There was no point where I thought I wouldn’t complete it, which was good as, obstacles aside, it was relatively sparsely marshalled, but it did seem to last a long time.
I did not really enjoy it but that wasn’t due to the race but more about my fears around being back and cramping up. Finish it we did though, me a big hot mess, Andy bouncing around like a Duracell bunny.
The next night I still didn’t sleep. I was exhausted but I was also terrified about the next day. Yes, I had made it round, no, I didn’t cramp but it was a close-run thing. I nervously slathered myself in Voltarol and ate ibuprofen like sweets.
We’d done the big distance, but today we had to do nearly as much on tired and broken muscles. How would it ever be fun?
Well, it was. As expected the Super was a cut-down Beast course (still loads of walls and carries) and the Sprint cut down further but as the day went on, the certainty formed that, while this might be tough, yesterday was tougher and we made it. So, psychologically, each race got easier, or better or something, but I still can’t do walls. Another big help was Andy lending me a spare pair of race shoes to lessen my suffering.
As time wore on, I remember how much I enjoyed OCR, and the more I thought about it, the more ‘retiring’ seemed like a bad idea. The peak of the day, for me, was running the Sprint with a whole bunch of RAW teammates and crossing the line together. That spirit of camaraderie turned the day into a genuinely joyful experience. This is why I do OCR.
So, this is less about the Spartan Trifecta (in short, if you like OCR do it, if you’re not sure, start with the Sprint) but more about me finding out I do still really love running races, particularly with the team.