Just when I thought the @spartanrace NBC US National Championship Series couldn’t get any more intense, it did at the Monterey Super. After missing the Spear in Montana (that cost me the win) I wanted to bounce back and build that confidence back up. I knew it would be an even harder task since I only had four weeks to tighten up training and two of which were spent working 16+ hour days at Fort Polk Louisiana conducting a Joint Readiness Training Center Rotation with my unit 5th BN 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne). But that wasn’t going to stop me from giving 110% on race day.
Toeing the line before the start of the race I looked around at the most talented field of Spartan athletes since the World Championships last year at Tahoe. Everyone was there and I knew it was going to be another side by side race for me. I knew Ryan Atkins would be right there with me after an amazing performance in Montana and well let’s face it; he’s a threat in every race he does. I predicted that Cody Moat would either be in front or right with us and Hunter McIntyre with fresh legs pushing down those hills like a madman.
From the gun I was defiantly correct about one thing, it was going to be a fast race. Ryan Woods went out the gate like we were on the track for a 5k and everyone tried to chase him down before getting on the single track trail. You don’t want to lose precious seconds on the first few obstacles from having to wait for others. With that in mind we all spread out wide and were literally sprinting to get there before the crowd. I felt some of that pain while negotiating the O-U-T (Over Under Through) when Hunter couldn’t roll under because of his “macho shoulders” as he would call them. I gave him a push and was like hurry up we’re getting passed left and right. From that point I put in a surge to get back up to the front of the pack, but to be honest I wasn’t feeling that great.
I’m not sure if I was a bit dehydrated or those two weeks in Louisiana were affecting me more than I thought, but I just didn’t have that extra 10% I normally have to push myself. I knew this was going to be a long day at the office. At that point I was in 5th place and thinking, man I might not even podium today. We all went hard into the barbed wire and I dropped back even more during the uphill climb when rolling wasn’t an option. I was really starting to lose steam and confidence at that point. Although, we still had 7 more miles to go and anything can happen in a Spartan Race.
I quit feeling sorry for myself and starting making my way up to Woods’ heals on the next hill. If there is somewhere you don’t want to be in a race is behind 4 guys setting the pace for you on a trail where you can’t see your footing, you’re chopping your steps, and have no room to pass. At about mile 3 I started to notice Woods was finally slowing down, but I had lots of company now hot on my heals. Atkins and McIntyre were pushing on the descents and closing anything of a lead Cody and I would get on them during the uphill climbs. Since we were all about equal as far as running the course and working our strengths, I knew this race would come down to obstacle negation.
We all pushed hard over the next few obstacles to the insanely long bucket brigade. Having this obstacle in the middle of the race was a game changer for some. I knew Atkins and Hunter would be strong and quick so I need to push hard if I didn’t want to lose time. About half way up I was already hurting. I had to stop twice and my bucket shifted around three or four times. I almost lost some rocks but was able to use my leg to rest my bucket on for a few seconds. I actually found that after the rest I was able to close the gap very easy back to Cody and Atkins which was good for two reasons; no time lost and I knew they were hurting just as much as I was. We all finished in the same place we started and pushed on to the next hill climb.
It really wasn’t until the plate drag where the separation started to form. Atkins was about an arm’s length in front of me with Cody about the same distance behind and Hunter only a few seconds back. At that point we had created enough of a gap on the rest of the field that if we all went burpee free; we were going to be the top four finishers. What I didn’t know is who would finish where, and if I would be able to counter a strong surge.
Coming into the plate drag I tried to site ahead and look for a lane with a decent surface to drag the super heavily weight sled over. After passing the first five, I was like, well that was wishful thinking because they all had loose dirt mounds and holes for the sled to get stuck in. However, I saw what looked to be the best lane and headed for it. Well it definitely pays to be in the lead, and wouldn’t you know Atkins hops on that lane first. Damn! I stopped where I was and grabbed the rope, but after two pulls my sled was already stuck and wasn’t budging. I looked next to me and Cody was having the same issue, Hunter and Atkins were getting a massive time advantage. I was using every bit of grit I had to get that sled moving. I finally got it all the way to the stake and headed out for Atkins, Cody was still working but Hunter was now right behind me. We pushed hard on the uphill and were taking massive risks on the downhill, but no one was able to make a move that stuck.
Going into the rope climb Hunter and Atkins were still strong and got a few more seconds on Cody and I who were literally ringing the bell at the same time. Right before the sand bag carry Hunter made a surge and passed me then got Atkins as well. Again, we all pushed hard during the carry and no time was lost or gained. After the carry I made the move to pass Atkins and it was us two pushing each other for a while trying to site Hunter back in. I’ll give it to Hunter though, I didn’t think he would be able to attack that last hill like he did and hold us off. When we got to the top Atkins and I were side by side and Hunter was just in front of us. I knew the last mile was a massive downhill and I would have to give everything just to try and keep up with whom in my mind, are the two best descenders in the game.
That assumption quickly became a reality when they already had 10 seconds on me in the first 400m. I looked at my watch and was running 4:55 pace on mile 7.5 of a Spartan super and was still LOSING ground. Hunter and Atkins were taking huge risks that I wasn’t prepared for this early in the season. However, I didn’t look back and kept pushing thinking that the last gauntlet of obstacles is still down there and one mistake could put me right back in it for the win.
I got to the spear throw and didn’t see Atkins or Hunter in the burpee pit which would have been a great site after feeling that pain in Montana. Now I had to focus on keeping myself from making that same mistake twice. I was all alone so took a little extra time and nailed my toss with no doubt that it was legit. I could still see Atkins and Hunter at the Atlas carry so didn’t rule out a second place or even first if I pushed.
Going up the last small hill after the Atlas Ball I could hear the crowd cheering for Hunter and Ryan. I wasn’t far behind and they were just getting up the slip wall as I was in the second mud pit. I was trying hard to keep my hands free of mud being there were quite a few grip strength obstacles coming up. I lost a TON of time to Atkins on the new Tyrolean Ladder in Montana and was determined to learn from my mistake of going feet first last time. I hopped on and started towards the bell and seemed to be making good time, but in my head all I kept thinking was that these bars are super slippery with wet hands. Don’t fall off!
I made it to the bell, went up and over the bridge just in time to see Atkins finish the rig with Hunter still on the Herc Hoist. I took my time and walked through the next couple of obstacles at that point since I didn’t see Cody and why take a risk if you don’t have to? Feeling the way I did at the start of the race, I was truly blessed to be finishing on the podium and didn’t want to chance falling off the rig right after the Herc Hoist. I took some time to enjoy it and reflected back to the Spartan World Championship when I kicked the bell. It only felt fitting to do it again, if even just for third place. In a field where on any given day one of us could be on top of that podium it’s an honor to be living this dream and being supported by so many. Thanks to everyone who has inspired and supported me over the years to keep pushing to achieve goals.