Because, to be honest, I had given my all in the World Championships the day before; running 14 miles in 3:37, getting soaked 3 times in cold water, and doing 60 burpees along with the rest of the obstacles. Read about my World Championship Spartan race here. With 18 hours to rest up, I had used every supplement tool in my arsenal, including Kion Flex, H2Now Hydrogen Water tablets, Emergen-C electrolytes, Spirulina tablets, Essential Amino Acids, my regular vitamins supplements, and a great bacon cheeseburger at a restaurant in town.
By 6:15 I was lined up and shivering, ready for the start. Thinking I wouldn't know anyone in the dark, I immediately bumped into my teammate Phuc from Salt Lake, and also bouldering competion teammate Aaron. Small world. We lined up early to get into the start corral, and I found myself on the front line of competitors. This was my day, I thought to myself.
It was cold. I had added arm warmers and a windproof vest to my arsenal, but still refused to carry a pack. To be competitive, I needed to run myself warm and dry, not spend time changing clothes and carrying around extra stuff. Rumors circulated that the swim was cancelled, but the official announcement was that it was still open. All I knew was that by 7 am at the pond, it would be very cold, barely daylight, and quite shocking.
I had no idea how many people had raced the day before and were also attempting the Ultra. I felt pretty good myself, after walking for a few minutes, and wondered how long I would be able to run. I felt like it was all coming together with my fitness and preparations, but remembered not a few races where I had been reduced to a shuffling weak walk somewhere in the second half.
The shouts echoed down the trail. "The Swim is CLOSED!" I was very happy to hear that, and passed the message down behind me. I asked the volunteer manning the lifejackets "why?" as I ran by. "It's only 32 degrees up here" he said. Good enough reason, I thought. In fact I hadn't considered the idea that there was any reason we wouldn't be tortured with the swim regardless of the temperature. My minimal clothing choices immediately became a bonus, with very little to carry.
After another grueling gauntlet of heavy sleds, heavy stones, and that rolling barbed wire, I was bruised and hurting. At least this time I was dry, warmish, and fairly clean. Tahoe dirt seems to just blow away, unlike some venues where it takes a week to get the sticky dirt to wash off. The dunk wall was closed too, and the day just kept getting better.
Then we started the "extra" 3 mile loop on the Ultra, which took us up to 9000 feet of elevation, along singletrack leading to almost the very top of the mountain. Somewhere along the way, we carried a sandbag for about 1/2 mile. In that loop, I could see there were a couple of women not too far ahead of me, and a couple more behind. Back to the regular loop again, I knew the Twister was coming up, and pulled out my secret weapon from my vest pocket....hand warmers. I stuffed them into my gloves and started clenching my fists as I ran. It worked. I hit the spear, high-fived a volunteer, and sped through the Twister.
Back downhill to the festival area and I was warm for the first time all morning. I made a tactical decision at the Ape Hanger to save my strength, wade through the water, and do my burpees. Shortly after that I passed Phuc, who was unable to get his fingers under the 400 lb men's tire, which was sitting on concrete for this race.
Again the second half of the loop was a grueling steep uphill, but then I found myself still able to run back down into transition. Could I keep that up for another loop? I passed a couple of women, and then wouldn't see any again for the next 5 hours. In transition, I dumped all my extra clothing and kept only the purple ultra shirt everyone had to wear. It was warmish and sunny and the swim was still supposed to be closed so I could go ultralight. 2 minutes flat and I was back again....no transition suck for me.
One more big loop. I walked uphill munching on cheese, regretting my empty water bottle and no water stations for another two miles. When I did get to the water, I drank a bunch and took more electrolytes. Stomach happy. The third time through the barbed wire, I had nothing to protect me. It hurt, I grunted, and closed my eyes against the rattling wind gusts blowing dirt in my eyes as I rolled. The world circled around a million times, and I got up staggering like a drunk. Done with that bruise making monster.
Third time on the spear was a miss. Oh well. 3 sets of burpees during a whole Ultra didn't seem too bad at all. Another competitor was on my tail, and we pushed each other to run fast back down the technical trail to the valley. Only 4 miles to go and after walking again through the Ape Hanger water and my last set of burpees, I knew I just had to keep pushing. By now I was passing Beast competitors who had taken almost as long to do one loop as I had to do two. Very few purple jerseys around at all.
I did math during the final uphill for distraction. 3 bottles of drink mix x 200 calories. 2 small cheeses x 60 calories. 1 x shot bloks x 200 calories. 1 x UCAN bar x 190 calories = 1150 calories for the 30 miles of racing. Then I started betting myself that I could beat 9 hours at the finish. Time seemed to move fast after that. The crest of the hill never looked so good, and I found that I could run, and run very fast, on the final downhill. Beast competitors moved to the side as I sped by. It was very very satisfying for some reason, to feel that good after 44 miles of weekend racing. My final mile was my fastest. Almost a sprint. No one was going to pass me at the end!
That 2 mile run to the finish is seared into my mind...I felt invincible, and flew over the final obstacles to sprint over the line.
Final time was 8:50, and to my great delight I saw 1st place show up in the results. First overall Age Group woman finisher! A few women would trickle in over 30 minutes later, but the next woman in my Age Group behind me was 3 1/2 hours later. I had the podium to myself during the Awards. My first win and I was really happy it was here in Tahoe.
|4x Trifecta and Ultra finisher's buckle|
|Post race bruises, mostly from the barbed wire crawl|
|No prize money for Age Groupers so I gave myself the gift of post race pizza!|