SRWC Reminds Us Why We Love OCR By Brent Kocal – Founder of Human Octane
Fuck me! That’s pretty much what I kept repeating to myself during the entire second climb of the Spartan Race World Championship in North Lake Tahoe last weekend. I completed the Bender obstacle down in Squaw Village and felt great physically. I felt even better about my time. Then we went up … and up … and up some more. Going deep into the pain cave reminded me why I love OCR so much. I’m sure I’m not alone. You know that feeling you get after you’ve pushed yourself to the physical brink? I’m not talking about the tired muscles and blurred vision. I’m talking about the feeling of great accomplishment. You know this one. It’s the one that has you signing up for your next race even though you’re so depleted from the last one that you can hardly stand up. Spartan Race World Championship brought that feeling in shitloads.
I’ll get to the first person perspective on the race in a second, but let’s talk about gear first because you know I love gear. If you’ve read previous posts, you know that we’re coming out with elite compression tights early next year. Two days before the race, we got samples for men and women in every size. We had four men (including me) and two women wear them for the race. The women also wore our new elite sports bra. We’ve tested them on trail runs before, but it was important to me to test them in a brutal OCR like this one. They’re going to be expensive, so we have to make sure they can take a beating. They did actually make me feel invincible. Perfect!
On to the race.
For the first time since SRWC has been at Squaw Valley, they started off uphill with an O2 deficit out of the blocks. Fire road gave way to single track as we snaked our way up the face of Emigrant Peak. The first new twist on an obstacle came at the vertical cargo net a couple of miles in. The difference is a platform on the side you climb up, which pretty much requires you to do a muscle up to get on to it. If you can’t do a muscle up, like the dude who got there when I did, you have to figure out something else or you’re doing burpees.
Spartan has this way of lifting your spirits, then smashing them to tiny pieces in a matter of minutes. Example: we started running downhill thinking High Camp and the spear throw is the next obstacle when we rounded the corner to see the bucket brigade. I only felt sorry for myself for a second, then made that bucket brigade my bitch. Nailed the spear throw 400 yards later, too.
One of the things I love that Spartan has been doing lately is clustering obstacles at different points in the race that give spectators a good view of the action. SRWC was no different bunching together the Atlas Carry, Tyro Traverse, Ape Hanger, Barbed Wire Crawl, Rolling Mud and the Slick Wall in a tight little quarter mile just above High Camp. My biggest mistake in this obstacle gauntlet was going in to Ape Hanger with negative thoughts. I got from the rope to the bars and about half way before deciding I couldn’t do it and dropping. I’ve got to get those negative thoughts out of my head because I’m strong enough to do every obstacle out there.
Quick gear check after that cluster of obstacles. The elite compression tights are holding up really well! They’ve been wet, dirty and through a double length barbed wire crawl but are still comfortable and don’t have a scratch on them. A couple people on the course have commented on them so far … but I suppose it’s possible they just liked my ass. I have a good ass. My wife says so.
From that gauntlet, we ran uphill a little further to Olympus, the only thing notable about which was that it had 9 panels versus 6. A couple more easy obstacles led to the double sandbag carry, which is always a bitch. I’d trained a lot with double sandbags, but this one was still rugged. If that wasn’t enough, there was a second bucket carry half a mile later. FML.
In the days before the race, it felt like social media was blowing up with people worried about the alpine swim because the water was going to be so cold. I’d jumped in a few times over the summer (see the video here) when it was in the 40’s and it’s really not that bad. You just can’t stand on the side and think about how cold it’s going to be. Same for me on race day.
On the way down the mountain, you get Monkey Bars, Herc Hoist and another Sandbag Carry (but at least that’s just a single this time). Back in Squaw Village, the Inverted Wall and Bender are the last two obstacles before you ascend the next mountain.
Pause for a moment here. That was about 11 miles in to the race and I think I was at 3:15 minutes or something close to that. Last year’s SRWC was 14.2 miles and it took me 4:54:17. I was CRUSHING my previous time despite being a year older. That felt AWESOME! Then came the incline.
By my Garmin, we climbed that second mountain for a little over two miles at an average incline of 24%. It felt like it would never end. Every time you get to what you think has to be the summit, you turn a corner and see another impossibly long climb up a fire road. The aforementioned reference to the “Fuck Me!” thought is well deserved and perfectly describes what that climb did to people. I was depleted of electrolytes despite sucking down three GU’s by this point in the race. I started seeing a bright white blur through the middle of my field of vision. I had to sit down. I eventually got up but still felt like shit. Before time for Stairway to Sparta. This was the one time in a Spartan Race or any OCR for that matter that I thought that the death waiver I signed may actually come in to play. Happily for all involved, it didn’t.
A blazing fast descent was paused momentarily for a second spear throw (2 for 2, bitches!) before another mile of single track leading you back to the Village where the final half mile would test the shit out of your grip. A couple of familiar obstacles started off the home stretch; rope climb, tire flip and A-frame. All easily finished. Next up was this thing they called Monkey in the Middle which is two lengths of Twister, Monkey Bars, then two more lengths of Twister. They also had two bells to hit. The first was after the Monkey Bars and the second was after the second stretch of Twister. Don’t get to the first bell, you do 60 burpees. Don’t get to the second bell, you do 30 burpees. I did 30 burpees and I’m actually proud to have made it that far.
Two obstacles guarded the final 100 yards to the finish line. A second Herc Hoist, which I crushed and a multi-rig, which I did not. I remember looking at the Rig the day before the race wondering what I was missing. It looked easy. Now I get it. It was never about the rig being overly difficult. It was about being totally depleted and not having enough grip strength left to peel a banana, no less support your bodyweight with your hands. 30 more burpees before crossing the finish line at 5:07:14.
When I finally sat down with my FitAid (one of the primary reasons I race) I looked at my Garmin. 17.5 miles with 5,584 feet of elevation gain. Holy Santa Claus shit that was hard. I had the pleasure of meeting a few people at the post race festival who’d worn our Balls to the Wall compression lined shorts and/or our armored compression sleeves during the race. I still get geeked when I see people wearing our gear. Speaking of gear, the Elite Compression Tights held up really well though this tough course. The test showed me why they made me feel invincible at the starting line. It also told me we have one little fit adjustment to make behind the knees. Good to roll into product once that’s fixed. Release date is still looking like late February 2018.
I finally took all my muddy shit off, changed and went on the hunt for pizza and beer. What do you think I did right after my second beer? I signed up for another OCR. It’s possible the two beers in 5 minutes on an empty stomach made me do it, but I think it was the feeling of accomplishment that made me tap the Buy Now button.