The Race That Broke Me – Spartan Gold Coast (2017)

Australian Obstacle Racing News   |   Feb 26, 2017

My name is Amy Reynolds (Age: 22 – Height: 165 – Weight: 62 – Racing for: 11 months – Favourite obstacle: Gut Check [heartbroken it’s gone]).

I’ve been a born-and-bred athlete for my entire life, being the current National U23 Fencing Champion.  I took up obstacle racing to be humbled, and I had that served to me on a platter this weekend.  I’ve started my Monday more of a broken woman than when I left on Friday night. Thank you, Spartan… I am fully aware that if I am not winning, I am learning. But for those of you playing at home that weren’t there, we’ll start at the start.

tl;dr:
Best Obstacle: Finish line beers
Actual Best Obstacle: Creek crossing
Worst Obstacle: Porridge
Top Temp: 38C
DNFs/DNSs due to heat: Very High
Suffer Score: Extreme
Doable: Yes
Doable Without Training: No.

7AM, February 11: Festival area.
Hot, sweaty, too dehydrated to need to pee.  Bad bad not good sign. Pay attention to and get talking about your outputs, everyone. Nervous as all hell.  Atmosphere was bloody incredible.  It was so awesome to watch the Elite Super competitors go off. Those guys are absolute machines and one day I’d love to be able to do what they do.  It takes a pretty incredible level of trail running endurance to be on that level, and it’s a skill I really admire.

7:20AM: Elite Sprint Start
I know now that I went too hard, too early. I’m still young and overexcitable, and I get a little bit too pumped up at the start.  Something about shouting “I AM SPARTAN” standing around wearing more sunscreen than clothing gets me going. Each to their own. Cue full speed, realising I need to back off, being too nervous to back off, and then running out of power 500m later when the lactic acid sets in. I never claimed to be very bright.  I’ve got that piece of advice under my belt now, which I’m sure will do me good.

Have you ever gone for a run in porridge? Because that’s what this course felt like to me. Porridge. And not the nice gourmet kind either; like prison-grade, sloppy porridge. Shoe recommendations more than welcome below. Help me. I run in the inov8 212s or 225s depending on the day of the week, but I’m not sure they were my best option this time. I think I needed something a lot sturdier, maybe with some superpowers on the bottom.  For those of you never to racing, a good pair of OCR shoes is highly recommended. 

100 metres or so in we hit the 8ft wall – normally my biggest enemy being 5’4”, but this one had hand and foot holds! Not really a challenge. If I’d failed here, I would’ve fully understood being tapped on the shoulder, turned around and told to go back to the start line and jump in a later wave.  Fair call.  Very achievable for everyone, kudos to Spartan. With the absolutely massive turnout I’m really glad that SO much of the course was so accessible and doable at whatever pace you decided to do it.

The obstacles, in my opinion, were well placed. Whenever I thought I couldn’t possibly run anymore and I was about to sit down and have a nap, there was an obstacle for me to focus and catch my breath on. Great setup, well done on the planning front.  The creek crossings were also a godsend. There were so many it was almost a biathlon, and I am SO thankful for it.  Water stations also frequent, friendly and well placed.  Other than the heat, there was not a single obstacle out there that couldn’t be done by a tiny woman with a bit of grit, some luck and a little perseverance. It was a pretty standard course, obstacle wise, nothing new, but in that heat it was a really good thing. There was enough to compete with trying to survive, and it was a great call not to mix it up.

The sandbag carry was a slog. Harder than Bright, nowhere near as hard as Picton. The lady who started the climb behind me and eventually won (I think her name was Vivienne?) powered past me very cheerfully. Happiness is contagious, so I didn’t stop like I wanted to. Thanks Vivienne, if you’re reading this.  Remember, racers: be nice to everyone. A smile goes a long way, and the way everybody supports each other is one of my favourite things about OCR. I’ve done a LOT of very high level sport, and never in my life have I ever seen anything quite like it.  It’s really something else.

By this time, I was struggling at a fast pace. I’m learning to be good at suffering, but I’m not great at it yet.  I survived, entirely, and I’m sure she’s figured it out, by playing a game of “monkey-see, monkey-do” with the woman in front of me. Now, I know that her name is Sara, she came in third, and is maybe the only reason I came in fourth.  One day I will be able to chip away at that pace by myself, but I was dragged through that course by focusing on putting my feet where she put hers and mimicking her every action. Yeah, I’m creepy, but the only way to be half as good as someone that good is to play copycat.  I’d definitely recommend it for anyone struggling in a race – pick the person in front of you and just try and be them.  Imitation is the highest form of flattery.

8:23AM: Finish line.
Everyone was up for a hug, which was great, because that was all I needed. Everyone should give everyone hugs at the finish line. Especially hug the clean people. Clean people love hugs.

10-somethingAM: Super Start
By now, it was getting REALLY warm. Here’s a screenshot of how warm we’re talking:

I’m not sure whose idea it was to have a Spartan in February in the Gold Coast, but I wouldn’t have minded giving them a good backhand on Saturday. That’d probably be my one and only complaint about this race – the fact that it was in February. Well run, well done, well planned, well executed, great location, awesome course – IN FEBRUARY. C’mon, guys. We were such good friends.  We watched people drop like flies from this. The amount of people I know that did one race but not the other, dropped out with heat stroke, or simply the amount of uncollected packets at registration was a real show of exactly how much they were testing people. We all needed to do a bit more preparing for the worst case scenario. I’m really proud of having finished, but not proud of what it took to get there.

So 10-something AM, I took off at a much slower pace with my better half. Turned off from the combined course into the Super course, and started going up. I’m not sure if we ever stopped going up. It’s all a lot blurry. By the end of the day, the ups had been roped off, as had the sandbag carry.  Really well done on keeping all of the water stations stocked, guys, including the far out ones. Things could’ve been a lot more heatstroke-y than they were.

My lowest point of racing ever came at about midday, when I’d stopped twice going uphill, couldn’t see straight, everything hurt and I’d been thinking about dropping out for what felt like hours. I missed an obstacle, got halfway through my burpees, knelt down, and started crying. It was a pretty pathetic sight, and I had to be picked back up off the ground and coaxed into doing the other half of my penalty. I learnt a lot this weekend, but one thing I think I learnt the most was that you don’t have to do everything alone. I am perfectly comfortable admitting I would’ve DNFd this race without Alex. I have nothing to report after this. I remember nothing but a long slog, a lot of lifting heavy things, a lot of lifting myself as a heavy thing, and then sitting in the creek until I was a little less delirious.

A massive congratulations has to go out to the people that finished both races comfortably. You are impressive, and I don’t know how you did it.

2PM – Beers:
Pressman’s Cider worked with Spartan this time, and I’d like it if they could do that EVERY time. I’m sure it was great because it was cold, but it was also great because it was delicious. 10/10, would race for more cider.

2:15PM – Beers in Creek:
11/10. Life is great, exercise endorphins made twice as great by lying in a creek with your clothes still on with some CocoWhip and a Pressman’s.

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Overall, Gold Coast Spartan was an experience in itself. It was a REALLY well executed race, and I’m sure that without the stifling heat it would’ve been more amazing than it was. The setup and partnerships were fantastic (swirly potatoes!!) and they really did their best to provide shade. And as always, the best part of Spartan was people helping each other, supporting each other and getting everyone around them to be the best athlete they could be, no matter what. Thank you, Spartan team, and thank you, Gold Coast for the stellar weekend.  We will be back.

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