AT&T Park Sprint: Failure Breeds Success.

Att Park Sprint Review

The Race

As I watched my spear veer to the right of the smaller than normal target, I was immediately enraged. I had to do my first ever burpee penalty in a Spartan Race. My hope of a top 10 finish crashed to the ground along with that spear. Before this moment, I was flying along curshing it. I had never felt stronger or faster during a race. I overcame the initial mix up associated with signing up to late for the elite heat and all things considered, the race was going great. Until I missed the spear; the next ten minutes would be hell.

I’ve prepared for this moment physically in training, but the mental side is harder to overcome. It’s brutal to feel the time pass as I’m standing still, losing placement and extending my finishing time. I did not know that this set of burpees would be the start of a stretch of challenges that took me out of contention for top 10 in the race. The volunteers yelled at all of us to count out the burpees, I tried to finish these up in the most energy efficient way possible, but at that stage of the race I certainly was not fresh.  I had a hard time completing them quickly. I’d say they took me at least 2.5 minutes. Not to be defeated, I got up to speed as quickly as possible. Looming around the corner was my ultimate nemesis just a few hundreds yards from the spear throw. The Hercules hoist.

I hate the hoist. I hate the hoist when I didn’t just finish burpees and I hated it more that day. I grabbed the rope and tried to move the bag. Nope. To make matters worse, the race organizers placed tape 4 feet from the fence and prohibited the competitors from using the gate to create leverage. That’s what saved me in Monterey. When your feet are wedged into the rail you can essentially do a deadlift over and over rendering the load of the bag relatively light, while challenging the grip endurance (holding the rope).

I backed away from the fence and made a feeble attempt to lift the bag to no avail. My feet were sliding on the ground and I was practically being lifted into the air. Needless to say my 147 lb frame serves as a poor counter weight to the 135lb sandbag. I even took off my shoes, but that did not provide me with more grip. I tried for a bit, but to avoid losing more time I resigned to burpees.

This was a real failure. The spear I can live with. To be physically beaten by an obstacle is a harsh reality I have yet to experience in my OCR career. The idea of another 30 burpees just a few minutes after doing 30, simply made matters worse. Anyway, I cranked them out and sped off. Around the next corner were the chest to ground hand release push ups. I yelled curse words loudly and fiendishly completed a difficult set of push ups that normally would have been a piece of cake. I had to break 3 times.
I knew the rest of the race would be a matter of pure guts. I brought myself to what felt like a sprint. My pain threshold from doing mile repeats certainly was paying off in this moment. I harnessed that strenght and made a mad dash through the rest of the course and over the rest of the climbing type obstacles. It simply would not be enough to overcome my errors and shortcomings the rest of the race.

As I crossed the line, I experienced a stark contrast to the elation I had felt for finishing this same race a year ago. On balance, it was a relative success. My time of 38:55 was almost 10 minutes faster than my 47:32 the previous year. I placed in the top 20 rather than outside of the top 100. Still I felt massively disappointed. The ceiling I am trying to break through was right there and I smacked my head against it and fell to the floor. Being just 6:00 minutes behind the race winner is encouraging considering the burpee penalties, but that also makes the defeat a little more bitter. Burpees are part of the race so it’s not an excuse. But taken it context the race winner compared with my time, at the very least, puts me within arms reach of these guys.

I felt really fast on all the carries, jumps and stairs and every other obstacle. I have put so many of the pieces of the puzzle together over the last year. I just made some mistakes and that cost me. As I write this about 1 week later, it still stings a bit, but I am using this experience as fuel to the fire that drives me to get better every day.

Pre Race Strategy

Sleep often eludes me prior to any Spartan Race. The excitement of the event, the nerves associated with waking up early and the anticipation of putting my training to the test often keeps me up at night. Also, for most of the races I have done so far, I’m on the road and out of my element. For a finicky weirdo like me, that can me rather off putting. This race was a home game, which is much easier to prepare for. The night before I made my glutamine, tumeric, raw honey, heavy cream and almond milk tea. I sipped that before bed and easily drifted off to sleep. I woke naturally at 4:30am and began my morning meditation. Then I got the coffee brewing and gulped down my BeetElite. I even had time to eat some breakfast. I tried a new pre race meal of 2 sunny side up eggs, 1/4 cup of beans, 1/2 cup of rice and 1/4 avocado. I had 2 full hours to digest this meal. After I ate, I sipped on some fat infused coffee. Yes, this was nice. The nutrients had me running strong in the race. It would be an easy race prep. Except for one thing, I was not enrolled in the Elite heat.

I entertained the idea I would be able to talk my way into the heat because I had recently bought the year pass. This delayed me from signing up for the ATT park sprint because I wanted a full year of races (which might include next years race depending on the giants schedule). I’m always looking for some sort of deal, but at the end of the day this would cost me. On the website they say the annual pass gets you into “any race, any time.”

The fine print they left out that is if the heat is sold out, you can’t get into it. The solution to this is simple enough, just register for the heats in advance. Of course, that wouldn’t work for this race. I arrived to the stadium at 6:00am and tried to plead my case with the blue shirt Staff. I was directed to Colin and he immediately crushed my dreams and told me there was nothing he could do for me. 6pm would be my start time. Not. A. Chance.

This race was completely sold out. There was no way I could handle wading through the sea of humanity at each obstacle. It’s either get into an early heat or go do my own workout some where else. After being rejected for the elite heat, I decided I would go inside the venue and access the situation. The volunteers seemed prepped to check the wristbands for start times. “I might be screwed.” I tought to myself.

But once I put my band on, the perforated ends with the adhesive somehow was damaged and the six was now unreadable. What was left was x:00 PM. All I would have to do is forge the P into an A. Then I would be good to go for the 8:00 AM start time. No one is going to look that close at the wrist band. By this time it was like 7:15, I wouldn’t be able to sneak into the Elite heat, besides, it didn’t really matter because I wouldn’t be eligible for the points anyway. Also, the chips are encoded for Open or Elite. In leu of rushing to get ready for the Elite, I took my time and got adequately warmed up for the 8:00 AM start time. As I approached the volunteer at the entry to the start line, I felt like an underage kid at an 18 over club who had a jimmy rigged wrist band to alchohol. Anxiety mounted, but I easily went past the bouncer. I nudged my way to the front of the grouping, the elite women hadn’t even been sent off yet

All things considered, the start of the race couldn’t have gone any better. I was adequately warm, I got into the 8 am heat and i didn’t have to sit in the corral long. They sent us off at precisely 8:00am. I went out like a bat out off hell and immediately distanced myself from the field and started picking off member of the elites that had a slight head start from me. I knew I was keeping a great pace until I got to the spear and it all fell apart.

There you have it. Another awesome experience at a Spartan Race. As for my placement goals ect. I’ll have to wait until next year and the next race. I am happy my training strategies are working and I’m staying healthy. Next up Pac West Sprint.
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Written by elijahn5@gmail.com

Hello, My name is Elijah Markstrom. I am a personal trainer and fitness coach. I live a dynamic life and I love to give people access to how they can live a dynamic life as well!