From OCR Champ to mountain CRAMP!
Alright, let’s be honest here. I have NOT focused my athletic career on running long distance mountain events – so what am I even doing here, crushing ascents, descent and getting my ass kicked? The answer comes in 2 parts:
1) I really needed a qualification for the Spartan European Championships this December. It’s just 1 week after Bestial Race and on the neighboring island, so I want to partake!
2) I miss the mountains.. And although I don’t missing racing in them, then I missed the beautiful views, fresh air and tranquility.
So it was partly a formal trip and then a fun trip to build motivation and have a blast! Turns out finishing top 10 was much harder than expected and having a blast didn’t just burn some cash, it also cost 10 days of very sloppy training.
The B E A S T
I arrived at the cold and misty event location at 0445 with Ida. We dressed in our warmest gear and prepared for a COVID19 friendly OCR. We checked in, warmed up, dropped layers, stretched and so on, just like normal. Except this time I couldn’t quite understand the speaker, as he spoke Slovakian. So whilst standing in the bag check line knowing I’m a little busy with 2-3 minutes to the start, I hear the familiar deep countdown voice; “6-5-4-3-2-1-GO“. My eyes widen and I ask people around me if it was a test?! But nope, it was me being a damn idiot – and this idiot was in a hurry!
I tossed the bag into the tent and ran towards the startline, jumping fences and arguing with volunteers to let me go and chase the pack. Off I am, alone on the first steep incline and my heart rate is already on its way up faster than my body is going up the mountain. I somewhat quickly catch the slowest ELITE guy and feel a bit like a badass, until I realize this guy only has 1 leg and he’s on crutches! Not so badass anymore, I complete the first 550m vertical climb over 2,5k, overtaking a few quys and re-adjusting my strategy on the go. Today was all about trying a similar-to-Spartan-European-Champs course, the actual competition wasn’t so important for me, and I reminded myself just that a few more times and tried to ignore the urge to just crush whoever was in front of me. It would be a long race and the very best climbers of the Eastern European scene was here anyway.
From ascent to steep descent, I arrive at the 2nd obstacle after ~4 km. Here begins the long and steady climb to the top of the mountain, a 9km runnable section with ~850 vertical meters and a few obstacles. I was in a pack of 5 guys as I finally got control of my heart rate. The grind was real, but these 9km were the most controlled of the race. And also, I destroyed the other guys on Twister, so that’s nice.
On the top I’m by myself after having outrun the pack. I can see 2-3 figures in the distance and after some technical running I arrive at a small loop – and I see Richard Hynek! Apparently he’s not that far ahead, and he’s a favourite to do well at this race. I chase down the 2-3 other guys between Richard and I, which was fun! One of the guys was Petr Vinicky whom I know from past Toughest events, so we have a little chat and grind through some insanely steep up- and downhill as we go through the obstacle gauntlet area on top of the ski resort. To my dissappointment, Petr says we’re about 8th at this point. I also outrun these guys and it’s Hynek in front of me, as I pass the 18km mark and close in on the spear throw. He’s 75 seconds ahead of me (not bad, eh?) as he makes his spear – and I miss mine. So does Petr, but not the other guys we ran with and we can see them cruise by as we burpee out 30 good ones.
Through an easy rig, up a rope and down to the carries of doom. Placed after almost 1600m of ascent, they’re already not fun – but it was the sheer length and steep route that knocked me out. Guys, I don’t recall bonking (crashing) as hard at a race, as I did here! I could hardle move with the bucket and I had to sit down 6 times with the 27,5kg sandbag! The only thing that got me moving was the leading female (Ezsther), who was catching up to me. I was so slow and exhausted, I just let people pass me and I gave 0 fucks. I just wanted to rest.
The last 4km of the race consisted of an easy descent, a few obstacles, a tiny climb and the final obstacle gauntlet which had the slackline, atlas carry, barbed wire crawl, not-tires-but-something-else-to-flip, herc hoist, a water crossing, a slip wall and a cargo net A frame. Sounds easy, right? At this point I had stopped racing, my heart rate was below 165 for the first time in the race and my quads, glutes, hip flexors and stuff I don’t know what’s called, was cramping.
I made the slackline, carried the stone and rolled underneath the barbed wire. I flipped the thingy and failed herc hoist. I’m too light to simply hang in the rope, so I used a lot of power to pull that thing up – and every inch had me cramp more! I couldn’t pull it more than halfway up and I slumped my ass through another 30 burpees as Ezsther finally passed me. Finishing wasn’t as fun as I hoped for – my body was pretty destroyed.
Top 3 men
1st: Peter Ziska
2nd: Jakub Haviarik
3rd: Peter Ceniga
Top 3 women
1st: Eszter Hortobagyiova
2nd: Ida Mathilde Steensgaard
3rd: Janka Pepova
The S U P E R
This was the day, I was planning on being competitive. I was all about that podium and I felt like I was not longer totally on new ground. The race would be a reasonable distance and now knowing the course, I had a solid plan set out!
There’s just one thing I didn’t add to the pool of ingredients here: A 100% destroyed body! The Beast had killed me and even though I did everything right after the race (nap, massage, sauna, food…) I still had a hard time just walking, and so did Ida. We woke up at 0330 feeling pretty sorry for ourselves, but did our routine and drove to race site again. We chucked Red bull and listened to dope music, ignoring all signals of weariness or pain! Warming up took a lot longer, but hey – I didn’t miss the start!
Yesterdays winner, Peter Ziska, didn’t look phased or tired. He’s also the guy who’s won the most Spartan Races in the world, I think? He’s an alpinist, so I figured it’d be super dumb to run with him during the first ascent. I ran my own pace and was dead last the first 3 minutes, until I slowly started overtaking people. I ran super smoothly and my body was back in business! I overtook a bunch of guys on the obstacles and after about 6km I was on top of the mountain with a clear view of the spear and the carries. I let out a huge sigh and a laugh once I saw the carries were MUCH shorter than yesterday! Also, I could count only 4 guys in front of me and I had no one close behind me – not too shabby. I felt good and that spear flew perfectly through the air, but fell just a bit too short. Biceps wins races, but I didn’t use mine here..
I did burpees without having anyone overtake me and I rushed towards the carries. This day I killed them and closed in on whoever was in front of me. I overtook him on the downhill as we did Z-wall, only to have him outrun me on a small climb. I wanted to beat this guy badly – but I also needed the top 10 for an EC qualification. I ran pretty hard and had surplus energy as I reached the last gauntlet of obstacles. Maybe I was a little cocky here, cos I failed the damn slackline..
That’s too many fails and the 2 guys behind me caught up. They overtook me – and I was OK with it. The race was basically over and I counted a top-10 finish, so who cared if the paper said 6th or 8th. I had fun with the photographers, volunteers and the other racers as I wrapped up the race and the cramps from yesterday came sneaking in. I was thrilled to see Ida finish 2nd once again and happy to NOT have to race on the mountain again. I wanted to run on it, but not race on it. That shit was tough!
My avg. HR was 171 on the Beast, a +3 hour race. My avg. HR was 170 on the Super and I ran better, faster and more controlled. Food for thought.
Top 3 men
1st: Peter Mlynar
2nd: Peter Ziska
3rd: Jakub Haviarik
Top 3 women
1st: Eszter Hortobagyiova
2nd: Ida Mathilde Steensgaard
3rd: Petra Janigova
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