It’s pretty rare that you go into a race without much of a clue what to expect. The great community in the UK OCR scene means that it’s rare that in the run up to a race, especially a big one like a Spartan Beast, that you haven’t seen 17 different thread topics online about what shoes to wear (a million different opinions), 17 more with conjecture on how far it’s going to be (nobody right) and maybe 17 more on what obstacles we’re going to see. It’s fun – it adds to the build up and it’s all part of the game.
I was pretty lucky that my Mexico trip happened to coincide with a Spartan Race. I was pretty excited at this alignment of stars and thanks to my star uncle who offered to drive me, it wasn’t as difficult to get to as it could have been (I have no idea how I would have got there on public transport).
What made it more exciting was that I didn’t have all this normal conjecture – I’d tried to find info online but I really didn’t have a clue what to expect from the race and from Spartan Race Mexico in general.
After a night in a hotel down the road in Valle de Bravo, with an early(ish) start we made it to the site at Cuadrilla de Dolores. The air was cold but the clear sky threatened a warm day ahead – it was sure to get hot as soon as the sun got up to speed. For the first time ever (unless it has been part of a mandatory kit list) I decided to use a hydration pack – I wasn’t sure on the amount of water stations and I don’t deal well in the heat.
The elite men were sent off before us and about 15 minutes later, at 8.30am we were released onto the course to the soundtrack of AC/DC – full of adrenaline and readiness to start the course, I set out quite fast in the small pack of elite wave women. It was fortunate that I did this as the first kilometre was largely through tight trails, I stayed on the heals of the mid-pack girls in front of me, happy that the pace wasn’t too fast. The race started at 7,000 feet and even after being in Mexico City for a few weeks, I still didn’t feel used to the elevation. To be that high in the UK, you need to be in a helicopter; the summit of Ben Nevis is 4,411 ft. My 5km times here have been shocking (with a heart-rate that suggests it should have been a PB) and I almost passed out in my first workout. I wasn’t expecting to do too well here, but was just here for the ride.
After about a km we came out of the trails onto a large open section that mainly consisted of deep, reed-filled bogs. The other girls stuck to the edges, holding onto the guide tape for balance, but causing a bit of congestion. I wasn’t expecting this kind of terrain in the heat (although it wasn’t yet very warm) and clearly neither were they – but f**k it, I thought… and took to the centre of the tape and waded through the muddy bogs, feeling quite at home!
It was a while until we had any burpee-obstacles. The first few were walls – over, under and through. This is where I noticed that even though I was losing ground on some girls on the running sections, I was easily making it up on the obstacles.
We weaved back across this open bog section for another couple of kilometres and back into the event village where we went over an inverted wall – a huge crowd was gathering to watch the runners through – I heard my uncle and James cheer and I climbed over the wall with ease, jumping off, and surprised to see that I’d overtaken about 3 or 4 people on it. After thinking I was nowhere in the pack, I began to overtake more and more of the men who had started 15 minutes in front of us.
After crossing the bog plain again, we came to the first burpee-maker – a Z-Wall. Not normally much of an issue, I struggled straight away as the blocks were covered in mud from the bogs and I slipped off. 30 burpees! The marshals were brilliant throughout the whole day – cheering encouragement (not that I could understand most of it, although I obviously got the vibe), but also keeping a close eye on burpees – asking people to count out-loud. This was very welcome, as always.
From then on until about mile 10, the race took place in the woods away from the event village, the other side of the boggy plain. The terrain was everything you’d want in a Spartan race – beautiful yet brutal – taking us up a couple of steep climbs up tricky trails, and back down again… and of course, back up again.
Stand-out obstacles included a huge net wall, I estimate about 25/30 feet vertically up. Also a large wooden A-frame with wooden slats, but required a running jump and then a pull-up to make it to the first slat. And although it earned me some burpees, a rig consisting of a long beam to shimmy across hands-only, short hanging ropes, and then another beam. As expected, I got across the beam no problem but fell on the ropes. In hindsight, I’m frustrated with myself for expecting to fall off the ropes, it cements further what I need to work on in training.
Other obstacles included:
- Obviously a bunch of Spartan walls
- Log carry switchbacks
- Balance logs
- a 10 metre double log stump carry – 10 burpees – 10 metre carry back
- Bucket brigade
- Tyrolean traverse
- Spear throw (burpees)
- Hercules hoist
If I had a negative for the race, it would be that for a Spartan, the carries were a bit easy. The bucket brigade took less than 5 minutes, compared to the brutal (almost) 30 minutes it took at the recent European Championships in Scotland. The log carry was trickier as it was out in the open sun near the end of the race, and had a couple of switchbacks, but still didn’t cause too much bother. The women’s weights were lighter, so it may just be that I was at an advantage as I was clearly a lot bigger than the (generally) shorter and smaller Mexican ladies. But I think a Spartan carry should be one of the hardest parts of the race (I may regret this complaint!!).
The last 3 miles of the race were tough for me – it was now closing in on midday and the sun was very strong, and without the shelter of the woods, it felt very warm. Although there were plenty of water stations across the course (5 or 6 maybe), I was glad of my pack so that I could take sips of water and electrolytes when I needed them. I was also glad to cross the boggy meadows again – splashing some ‘lovely’ water on my face as we waded chest-high in the water. I knew a few girls were close behind me, as we smiled and encouraged each other as we passed on the log-carry switchbacks (“vamonos chica!”) but I felt ok that if I kept the same pace, I would stay in front. I groaned when I saw a balance obstacle (5 logs vertical out of the ground) but surprised myself by getting across. Spear throw fail (d’oh) but fortunately no one overtook me during my 30 burpees.
I finally made it into the event village where an even bigger crowd had formed, watching people on the rope climb. I’d heard the cheers from a distance through the woods – the crowd getting behind people’s attempts. As with most of the other obstacles, I was able to overtake a few people. I feel a bit bad, as I definitely had an advantage being taller than most (all?) of the other women, and the sheer number of races in the UK means I have much more race and obstacle experience.
But what’s a girl to do…. I was up the rope and on my way to the final loop before the finish line. The thought of a lie down in the shade gave me a boost for the last couple of hundred metres – up an A-frame, through some high plants and up the penultimate obstacle, a slip wall with rope – easy as it was dry in the sun. I paused before the fire jump, to enjoy the end of what had been an epic race.
Turns out my late flurry in the final kilometer meant that I had broken the top 10, placing 9th, which I was pretty chuffed with!
Spartan Race Mexico put on a great race – a course that certainly challenged every racer. The event village was one of the biggest that I’d seen and had plenty going on for the many supporters that assembled for the day. I hope that I get the chance to do another Spartan Race in Mexico!
Thanks again to my great support team, Toby and James for making the race possible and for the great support (and photos).
Elevation gain: 442m / 1450 feet
Time: 3 hours 27 minutes
Kit: Inov8 Terralaws, 2xu shorts, Rumble Racing tech top, Inov8 Race Elite Hydration Pack.
Nutrition on course: Bulk Powders electrolytes, SIS gels