This was my third time racing the D.C. Spartan Sprint. In 2014 this was actually my first OCR race ever, so it holds a special place in my heart. The venue and terrain have changed a little bit over the years, but I will always have a connection to this event and I was very happy to be back this year after missing it last year. I came back this year with something to prove. It’s the first time I’ve been here with any sort of real training under my belt and I really wanted to see what I could do!
The weather was pretty awesome, it was a partly cloudy day that stayed in the low 70s. The event was again held at the Maryland International Raceway. It’s always nice when event organizers pick a venue with something civilized nearby since it means you’ll have a real parking area to park in, and that usually makes parking much easier and faster. Well, it was easy to park this time, but it was not quick, at least not when I arrived. I waited in line to park for sometime, which was giving me some anxiety. The festival area is a short walk away and I hate arriving rushed. I feel like I always have a bad race if I’m anxious and worn out before I even get to the start.
The race itself was a little over 4.5 miles and was run over some very familiar terrain. Mostly trail running or dirt/mud road usually used by ATVs. I found it funny that I actually have started recognizing some of the hills from previous races. It’s a strangely comforting and nostalgic feeling! Other than the Rolling Mud/ Dunk Wall obstacles there wasn’t a whole lot of mud on the course. There were some spots in the trails, but most of the bad stuff was easily avoided. There was also a little bit of creek running. The cool water on your feet actually felt really good and helped clean you off a bit.
For the most part I would say this was a pretty standard Sprint. There wasn’t anything that really stuck out about it. That’s not to say that it wasn’t a great race though! I think that it was really well done. I think that it was just the right distance. The terrain was great and wasn’t stale. There were plenty of hills to wear you out, but not so many that it was agonizing. The obstacles were pretty well spaced out. I actually think it was almost a perfectly executed event! It is strange to say such a great race was ‘standard’, but I just mean that there wasn’t any special, defining moments on the course. But you know what, sometimes you just want to go out, run, and have a good time. And this course was perfect for that kind of day!
As for my performance I am pretty pleased! That’s not to say I had the race I was hoping for, but I came in that day with one goal: To do the best I could do. And I really think I came close to achieving that!! I realized recently that my first year of racing was really the only time I really raced. After my first year, once I realized what I was up against, I settled into this habit of ‘just finishing the race’. Which is fine, there is nothing wrong with that and I did have several valid reasons that I did it. First of all, I have a history of knee injuries and some problems with my Achilles tendons. Also, I was pretty overweight and hadn’t trained for the races. These combined was a good recipe for a serious injury. And while I wasn’t always happy with my times I am happy that I was smart enough to realize that so that I can continue to race.
I still had fun and enjoyed every race I’ve done, but I was never really racing. And that mindset carried over into this year. Even my strongest races of the year, looking back, I find that I am constantly trying to pace myself (read: slowing myself down or taking it easy). I’d approach everything carefully and wouldn’t take too many chances. “Oh, there’s a little hill here, better walk it so that I don’t wear myself out for the rest of the race!” or “Probably should walk this to protect your knee.” These are the thoughts that would hound me the entire event. And I would listen to them! They made a lot of sense! But, you’re never going to get anywhere by deliberately holding yourself back. So this race I really wanted to race!
I ran in the competitive wave at 8:00am and once the race started I saw a completely different race atmosphere. I normally hang out at the back of the pack when the race starts; I don’t want to be in anyone’s way when they are all running faster than me. But not this race! I started in the front part of the middle of the pack and I did my very best to keep up with everyone around me. I did surprisingly well, and actually it was kind of fun to surrounded by all these people running through the wilderness. Normally I don’t see so many people together at one time. I have to say, I like running with the big dogs! Of course, it did thin out after the first mile or so, but that first bit was kind of exhilarating.
I am most disappointed in myself for failing the obstacles that I failed. I have the hardest time with Olympus. I have completed it before, but I am very inconsistent with it, and I’m not certain as to why that is. I think part of it is mental, but I just can’t seem to conquer it. Twister is another one, I can complete it, but it depends on the day. My arms just didn’t feel up to it this day. Believe it or not, they still felt tired from WV two weeks before! I really did a number on my upper body and it has been taking its sweet time to heal. Those two I can come to terms with failing, but I am pretty proud of the fact that I can always take on the monkey bars these days, but I didn’t make this time! I don’t think I would have completed Twister either way, but as it was an early, cool morning both of these obstacles were very damp which made the grip difficult. I didn’t even make it to second rung on the monkey bars before I slipped off. I can’t tell you how much I’ve been dwelling on that since the race. In a way it’s a good thing because I think I know what I did wrong and I think I’ve come up with some strategies for these situations in the future. 90 burpees isn’t bad for me in a race, but I was mad because I wanted to do this one faster.
This whole season I have been silently thinking how amazing it would be if I could, in a year’s time, go from a fat, out-of-shape guy to an OCR World Championship qualifier. This race was really one of my last shots at qualifying. If you read my post about the stadium race, that was supposed to be my qualifying race. That’s the main reason I was so devastated by my poor performance at that race. I felt if I couldn’t do it there it wasn’t going to happen. I still have one Super and one Beast left in the season, so anything could happen, but I feel like it’ll be a little harder for me to qualify in those races. I felt like this was my last shot and I really wanted to give it everything I had, to see if I had enough to qualify.
Other than the failed obstacles I can’t really think of many instances where I could have run a better race. There were a couple of hills that maybe I could have hiked/jogged up a little more, but I ran almost every bit of flat or downhill part of that course. I am very happy with my consistency in this race. I wish I was going faster, of course, but I was steady. When I first ran this race it was shorter and it took me 2 hours and 36 minutes to finish. I definitely wanted to beat that time. I looked at last years results and the people who would have qualified for OCR WC ran it in about 1:20, so that was my goal for this year.
I was a bit mortified when I crossed the line at 1:27!! In a way, it was amazing! What a PR! But I was worried it wasn’t enough to make the cut for qualifying. When I checked the results at the event it looked as though I *might* have qualified, but there were still people on the course who started after me that could have bumped me out of contention. I waited for a while to see how the results would come in. When I figured everyone had come in from the competitive wave that could have beaten me I checked the results and… I didn’t make it! I couldn’t see anyone else’s times, but based on the rankings I wasn’t qualifying for the championship. I was disappointed and angry at myself. I have since done a lot of thinking about it and realized that it doesn’t matter how I finished that it’s how I performed that mattered most. I had a great race and I am very proud of how I did, regardless of status symbol.
I should have also not even bothered to check those rankings because they are unofficial. Once the official rankings were posted on the site I checked them and was in shock! Unbelievably, I qualified!!! That’s right everyone, you’re looking at an official OCR World Championship qualifier!! I still can’t believe I actually pulled it off! I am the very last person in my age group to qualify from that race, but I still qualified! It really means so much to me that I accomplished this back at my home course, where it all started. It actually makes me happy that I missed it in my other races, because this makes it a little more meaningful to me!
Due to timing and other commitments I won’t be able to make it to the OCR World Championship race this year, but knowing that I can qualify next year means that I am definitely going to mark it up on my calendar! I have two more OCR races and one road race left for this race season. Then it’s back to training hardcore! At that point I’ll also be returning more to posts that are dedicated to running, diet, and training. Trying to keep it all up during race season seemed to be too much for me to handle. Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten my goal of a sub-five minute mile! Actually, I’ll have a post soon about where I am, so keep on the lookout for that!