Spartan Race vs Tim’s ankle… Round 2: Spartan Race Scotland
I’ve had a great relationship with Spartan Race over the years. This weekend I took on the toughest UK Spartan Race to date in the form of the Spartan Super in Scotland. To explain why it was particularly tough for me, I need to take you back three years to the 2012 London South Sprint, my second ever OCR and first ever competitive race (Even though I wasn’t in the Elite wave, I decided to go for it). On this fateful day, I got addicted to OCR. If this race had been as disappointingly easy as my first OCR, Tough Mudder Kettering, I may never have continued looking for more events and there would have been no Obstacle Trainer, Obstacle Kit, the race team or any of the other things that I’ve put my mind to in OCR since.
Towards the end of this Sprint was a tyre run, quite a long one. High on endorphins and atmosphere, I sprinted through the tyres and caught one just wrong. A small tyre meeting with my massive size 12 feet and laws of physics resulted in rolling my ankle for the first time ever and a legacy of having a weak left ankle moving forward. As that ankle had previously been broken badly, it never stopped feeling weak from this point onwards and until recently I’ve never been able to run on it without some serious strapping.
Fast forward to 2015, and that same injury caused me all sorts of problems on the Spartan Sprint in Scotland. After flying to Edinburgh on the Friday night and settling into my B&B, a convenient 500m from the start line, I was all set for an exciting race which promised stunning terrain and some old skool Spartan-tough obstacles. For many of us from the original few Spartan Races in the UK, some of the previous years have seen some of the obstacles we loved get replace, weights get lighter and all in all feeling a little watered down. This would be my first race under the new management of Karl, Ben, Rich, Fay, Jordan and co and I was pretty excited to see what they had in store.
Arriving in a very wet and windy event village, it was clear that the high windows had caused a lot of issues. The rope climb was shut due to 40mph+ winds and a lot of the event village tents had been lost overnight. The spirit soldiered on and despite the race being delay a little to let the storm pass, spirits were high as we lined up on the start line for the off. A very last minute wardrobe change meant I missed the yell of “Go” and found myself changing my top while storming forward trying to get a place somewhere in the top 20 before hills, obstacles and possible queues. We set off and after a short slalom we began our ascent of what turned out to be the mother of all hills. A wall of silage bales to hurdle and a fence in the way and we were on our way to the start on the hill climbs. I started making up palaces on the hill- I love hills and keeping a steady pace allowed me to catch and pass many runners that had shot off at the beginning. We approached an a-frame cargo net and then back to a barbed wire crawl up hill through long grass, stinging nettles and thistles. The wire was very low at this point, tearing a huge hole in my shorts and giving my head a few scratches to boot. Coming out of the crawl we started the main ascent and I was sitting somewhere in the top 10 and feeling good.
The hill went on forever and ever. Running turned to jogging, which in turn turned into hiking. The only solace was that we could just see Connor and James doing the same up ahead, so at least I didn’t feel too bad for slowing so much. As we approached the top, in unfortunately slipped and twisted that left ankle. It hurt like hell, but powered on, not wanting to stop after working so hard to get up the hill and maintain my position. Disaster stuck as I took the final left turn to the summit, after 300m of ascent and 550m above sea-level: I rolled my ankle outwards and it ended my race. I hobbled up to the marshals at the closed rope climb and they quickly got me the attention I needed. Unfortunately that was my Sprint over with, but fortunately Brocket Gear teammates Alex and Faye did use proud with 7th and joint 4th respectively. I took the rest of the day to rest and refuel with Faye and try to make a plan of action for Sunday.
Sunday was soon here and with clearer weather and my ankle taking weight ok, I decided to give the Super a go but as a run, not a race. Look after the ankle and take in the scenery without pushing it. With this more relaxed pace and the weather being far less windy, I enjoyed finally reach said summit in the Super and smashing the now opened rope climb as usual.
We took a sharp descent across open fields with undulating terrain, proper fell running stuff. I was reminded on the descent that my ankle was not ok, so slowed up as it began to get painful again. A big shout out to Joda and John from Muddy Kit / Tartan Warrior for making sure I was ok as the passing me hobbling on the descent, the true spirit of OCR shining through.
I made an effort to move to the side as people overtook through the long descent, not wanting to slow anyone down. Passed by a few familiar faces who would stay with me for most of the race like Kevin form Team Raw, Ollie Beany and OCR/Spartan legend Luke Lawrence (A UK Spartan Race isn’t a Spartan Race without Luke on the start line as far as I’m concerned). We soon hit a small wade/ swim to an island with a very cool rig setup and a swim over the other side. By this point I was probably top 50 but there were a lot of people burpeeing having failed the rig. The rig had monkey bars, rope swings, more bars and hang tough hoops. It was hard to keep momentum but priding myself on these sort of obstacles I made short work of it and suddenly found myself about another 20 places up!
A few more Km’s of fell running including some barbed wire crawls upstream (which was tough as the current was working against you) we came to the Hercules Hoist. In a very welcome treat, the team had upgraded from the usual 10/20kg weights for ladies/men to 20/40kg! This was perfect for me as once I found some footing the kettle bell shot up and I was on my way leaving another batch of runners burpeeing.
More fells and a long uphill barbed wire crawl led into a descent which again hurt my foot. I was gagging for more water as it was doing a great job of controlling the swelling, and after being passed again by Kevin (who was very surprised to see me ahead of him again!) I was pleased to run with Ollie Beany through a section of stream, cooling my ankle down before another killer ascent which had us down to hiking pace.
What followed was huge hills and more obstacles including a tyre carry with walls to negotiate, a double-brick carry with tractor tyre flip, a double sandbag carry, an A-Frame, a cinder-block drag, an angled climbing wall and a very heavy log carry. I soon found myself running back into the event village for the final three obstacles. This was my first attempt at the spear throw since the rope was introduced to the back of the spear. I let it fly and it stabbed into the lower left side of the bale, then slowly, very slowly, it slid out again… 30 burpees for me for only the second time ever!
After smashing out the 30 I hit the last two high walls and vaulted them with ease then over the fire jump to a very welcome cup of water and my first of the new medals. The atmosphere at the finish was great and I had chance to catch up with Conor and Connor and hear about their epic completion times.
As the adrenaline started to wear off, the pain in my ankle started to increase and confirmed in my mind that a week or so of rest is needed after pushing so hard over the last 3 months to start getting back to fitness. As I popped back to the cars to grab my teammate Faye’s Dryrobe ready for her crossing the finish line, I had time to reflect on what had been a really tough run. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt so broken at the end of an event that I wasn’t going 100% at.
I’d have to think really hard to bring up faults with the two days: If I was being competitive then I may have been annoyed that so many runners around me were using the stepped sections of the last two walls rather than being given burpee penalties. In days gone by these were designated as “male” and “female” side and while I’m all for equality, the first of the two walls looked really rather easy when using the steps. It would also have been nice to have seen a water station halfway through, as when the sun did eventually show itself it was pretty warm in those hills!
But that’s it, with that exception the event was great. Considering all of the administrative changes that have been made at Spartan Race in the UK in the last 12 months, this was a cracking event. If the momentum of starting to make the obstacles themselves tough again continues then it looks like the 2015 revival of is well under-way.
Thanks to Karl, Ben, Rich and the Spartan Race UK team for a great event and my team mates Alex and Faye who joined me up there and smashed their respective races. Bring on the Beast!