This mud-fueled race venue means getting the feet stuck (tie the shoes tight!) and accidental slips on obstacles; but that is no match for the determination of the top elites wanting that podium and Championship Series points.
Cole Schwartz is a Western Washington University student and Team AMA athlete. He is a consistent podium contender, to include his 3rd place finish this past weekend at Seattle Sprint (Spartan Race), and took the time to share his race weekend recap.
Location: Monroe, Washington
Length: 9.8 miles/ 4.9 miles
Elevation: 900 ft / 200ft
The NBC Spartan Super would be my first race as part of Team AMA AND my first NBC race. I simply didn’t know what to expect. The week of the race, nerves took over as I perused through social media and saw tons of standout athletes posting about how excited they were to throw down in Seattle.
I started comparing myself to these athletes and thinking “I can’t beat these guys”. Luckily my team AMA teammate (Matt Kempson) gave me a call the day before the race and got all these thoughts out of my head. Matt has had lot of experience in NBC races and even placed on the podium at an NBC race last year. He told me that anything can happen in these races. If you go in with the mindset that a particular racer is going to beat you, then he will beat you. He reminded me of the huge advantage I had going into the super. The Spartan Pro Team members had a ton of pressure on them to perform well in front of the camera, while I had no pressure. This meant I could take more chances while the pro team would be overly cautious not to fail obstacles (I could jump to reach bells, run with the bucket even if I may trip, etc). My conversation with Matt ended by him telling me to “have fun, talk to competitors, take chances, and kick them in the balls”.
That was the mindset I took going into the weekend. With this being an NBC race, I definitely didn’t expect to be on the podium. I am a much better mountain runner than a flat runner so I didn’t have the highest expectations. But I did expect to mix it up with the Spartan Pro team and show everyone that I am a serious contender this year.
Honestly, the obstacles all went great on Saturday. The spot that I was the most afraid of losing my standing was on the flat running sections. There were so many strong runners on the course that I knew that they could catch me at any point.
The most memorable obstacle of the race was the double sandbag carry. 4.5 miles into the race all we had done was flat running and I was struggling to stay in contention with the top athletes (falling to about 25th place).
We reached the double sandbag carry and were told to pick up two 40lb sandbags (The slick kind that is used for flooding). I threw the first sandbag on my shoulder and then put the other sandbag right on top of that one (stacked two high), and used one arms to stabilize the sandbags and then maintained running form with the other arm.
I immediately caught three athletes and was rapidly reeling in the rest of the field as I watched competitors struggle to keep the sandbags on their shoulder. I was able to run the entire ½ mile sandbag carry and pass top level athletics such as Jesse Mchennsey, Veejay Jones (Spartan pro), and Ryan woods. Upon finishing the carry I looked behind me and apparently, Isaiah Vidal had been following me the entire carry.
This obstacle brought me mentally and physically back into the race.
Get Chatty, Finish Strong
I took Matt Kempsons advice and I talked to my competitors during the race, something I never do. It definitely made for a lot of one sided conversations, but also allowed my mind to ignore the pain I was feeling.
Going into the final obstacle of the race (rig), Ryan woods was about halfway through when I started. I went as fast as I could to try and catch him. He slipped, and I pressed to pass. It was a major confidence boost to beat an athlete of his caliber and athletic background (sub 14 minute 5k PR).
Day2: Spartan Sprint
Going into Saturday was a completely different feel. Everyone was banged up from day one, and there was less pressure as a non-NBC race. Team AMA recovery protocol (coach Ryan Kempson) and Topricin left me nearly fully recovered for the sprint. The first two miles of the course were flat and the last three miles had rolling hills with a heavier obstacle load. I knew the second half of the course was my strong suit but I also knew that I needed to stay in contact with the leaders during the first half.
The gun went off and I quickly realized this was going to be a four-man race between myself, Ian Hosek (Team AMA), and Spartan Pro team members Veejay Jones and Angel Quintero. I stuck with my plan and stayed right with the lead pack until the spear at mile 2.5; but had to run a faster pace than I would have liked.
Unfortunately, I lost sight of Angel, Ian, and Veejay after the spear and I was forced to grind out the race on my own in hopes that one of them would fail an obstacle and allow me to pass.
Catching a Break and an Angel
The Hercules Hoist was less than a quarter mile from the finish and I had accepted that I was out of podium contention at this point. As I approached the Herc someone yelled to me that Angel was doing burpees. I got a huge boost of energy and all the pain I was feeling completely went away. I was even more excited when I got the hoist up and realized that I had almost caught up to [AMA teammate and running coach] Ian Hosek going into the rig.
No obstacle failures either day left me with 12th place Saturday and 3rd place [podium] Sunday. I feel great about my obstacle techniques, but feel like I was outrun both days. There are always weaknesses to work on, especially early in the season.
Montana Beast and Sprint in early May, my dad and I will be heading to Montana for our third year in a row and we will both be racing. Montana is my favorite OCR course I have ever done. 14 miles of bush whacking and climbing mountains, doesn’t get much better than that!
Follow Cole on Instagram @cole.ocr and on facebook at facebook.com/cole.ocr for his incredible training photos and watch him give the Spartan Pro Team a run for their podium!