How I lost out on 8th place elite and got a DNF instead
My first race of the 2017 OCR season was Polar Hero Montreal, the elite heat 10.5 km. It was my first crack at a Polar Hero event. I was really looking forward to this event because mandatory obstacle completion is my jam!
We were planning on bringing Apple Pie Oatmeal with us to warm up Saturday morning before the race, but on Thursday night when I went to make it, I realized I was missing two ingredients. So I brought a few packages of Nature’s Path Qi’a Superfoods Hot Oatmeal Superseeds & Grains and planned to grab breakfast at my favourite vegan restaurant.
We didn’t realize the hours of the restaurant had changed, and they weren’t open before the race. Luckily I ate at least one pack of oatmeal, but it was only 150 calories with 25 g of carbohydrates. We were already in the car with no other option, and with the food intolerances between us, there was no possibility of stopping at any random restaurant for breakfast.
I had packed a Lara Bar for each of us for post-race, but we ended up having to eat them before the race to increase our calorie and carbohydrate intake. The Lara Bar was another 210 calories with 28 g of carbohydrates.
I also took one Endurance Tap Salted Maple Energy Gel about 10 minutes before the race started, for another 100 calories and 23 g of carbohydrates.
Total: 76 g of carbohydrates
Ideally, I should have had 260 g of carbohydrates 3-4 hours before race time OR 130 g of carbohydrates 2 hours before race time and another 30 to 50 g of carbohydrates 30 minutes prior to the start time.
I started the 10.5 km race in a HUGE deficit.
Around 9:10 am we started the race. There was a lot of powdery snow on the ground and the course was very single-track so unless you ran out ahead of people, you got stuck behind people until you had an opportunity to pass.
There was a back-log at the sandbag carry and at each of the rigs that followed so the first lap took me a lot longer than I had anticipated. I got through every obstacle on the first try on the first lap, and found it relatively easy but very enjoyable. Many of the obstacles were similar, with a big focus on upper body strength.
There were a lot of elite athletes who struggled with the obstacles and I saw a lot of people hand in their bibs on the first lap.
When I got to the finish line of the first lap, I had already burned through over 1,000 calories according to my heart rate monitor and I was really feeling it. I was getting dizzy and I almost didn’t even go out for my second lap. I grabbed a bottle of water from the finish line and started the second lap just walking.
About 800 m into the second lap, while going through the sandbag carry, a volunteer cheered me on and told me I was in 8th place for elite women. I was completely shocked, since at this point I had already been on the course for nearly an hour and 45 minutes. But, that’s why I love mandatory obstacle completion!
That news gave me a bit of a second wind and made me not want to give up, so I kept plugging along. The great part about the second lap was that because I was elite I got to cut to the front of the line at every obstacle and now it was just open racers on the course, so I wasn’t getting stuck in lines.
Again, I got through obstacles with ease until about midway through the second lap where I came to a rig I had absolutely no trouble with on the first lap. It was a series of rings. On the second last ring, my hand slipped and I tore open a callus. I started bleeding like crazy so I sat down for a bit and held some snow to stop the bleeding.
Luckily, I had a pair of gloves with me, so I threw them on and went to attempt the obstacle again. And I failed, again. I felt so exhausted. I took another Endurance Tap and waited at the obstacle for a while. Finally after about 15 minutes and a handful of attempts I got through the rig.
While I was at the rig, another female elite athlete approached. She failed the rig and handed in her bib. So I felt safe still sitting in 8th place elite.
I continued on and with about 1 km left in race and I was going at a faster pace than the first lap. At this point I had burned over 2000 calories and all I had consumed was 400 ml of water and 3 Endurance Tap gels (300 calories and 69 g carbohydrates).
I arrived at the slackline traverse (about 30 or 40 feet long) and when I was about ¾ of the way through, my slackline started bouncing viciously and I nearly got bucked off. Another racer (open division) had gotten on the same slackline as me. I started yelling at the volunteers and by the time they asked the racer do debark from the slackline, he was practically at my feet and I got knocked off the slackline.
Needless to say, I was PISSED! I was already extremely fatigued and knew there was no way I was getting through that obstacle again. I stood around trying to give myself a short rest, while one of the volunteers kept yelling at me to not give up. Again, I repeated to her that I was upset because there was no way they should have allowed another racer on the same traverse as me, there were another 5 or 6 stations that were EMPTY as well.
I started on the traverse again, and ¾ of the way through I couldn’t continue on. I literally fell off, and not graciously either. My back smashed into the ground, so luckily there was a ton of snow. I sat there for about 30 seconds fighting back the angry tears.
Finally, I looked at the volunteer and said to her “I don’t care, I am not trying again and I am not giving you my bib. I’ve now done 1.5 lengths of the traverse and never should have had to in the first place. If you want to tell on me, go ahead, but I will be speaking to the race director at the finish line.” And I took off.
I finally got within 10 metres from the finish line and had 2 more obstacles to get through. Another rig I had no issues with on the first lap (a series of 4 ropes with knots on the bottom to 2 rings, to 4 ropes to a ring) followed by a very tall Irish Table.
I got about ¾ of the way through the obstacle (seeing a pattern here?) and couldn’t make it to the end. My arms were totalled from doing the traverse twice right before. There were a few other elite men stuck at this obstacle, still wearing their bibs and not willing to give them up either. One had been there for 40 minutes already.
I took my last Endurance Tap and drank a ton of water, waited a few minutes and tried again and failed in the same spot. I think I attempted the obstacle a dozen times over the next 1.5 hours and kept getting stuck at the same spot, not being able to transition for the last two ropes.
At this point I had been on the course for 4 hours and 45 minutes and had burned 2800 calories. Colin had been done the race for 3 hours and was waiting on me so we could go to lunch. I was starving. I was dizzy. I was angry at myself.
While I was at the obstacle, another elite woman showed up. This was at the 4 hour mark of the race. She had failed multiple obstacles in her first and second lap, and would sit and wait it out and then try again and succeed. The same thing happened at this obstacle. She tried once and failed, and then she sat down for 40 minutes before trying again, and she succeeded. So she ended up becoming the 8th place elite female.
With tears in my eyes, I finally admitted defeat, took my bib off and walked the last few feet to the finish line and accepted my medal. I later found out one of the elite guys I was with at that obstacle (he had been there over 2 hours) finally got through it about 20 minutes after I left.
Instead of finishing the race in 8th place elite, I wound up with my first DNF of the season. I know the race didn’t count for anything and wasn’t an OCRWC qualifier, but it still made me feel like a fool that I was to blame for my failure.
I had been training. I was strong enough to get through the race. But because I didn’t eat enough and was at a 2000 calorie deficit by the end of the race, I failed.
The difference between an 8th place (or even possibly better) finish and a DNF was all in my nutrition (or lack thereof). I’m a Nutritionist. I KNOW BETTER!
The race had a 75% DNF rate for females.
Luckily, this race WASN’T a qualifier or I probably would have never forgiven myself. I can dust off the cobwebs and make sure I don’t make this mistake again this season, at a race that actually matters.
Considering my next obstacle course race is the Spartan Ultra Beast, you better believe I won’t be messing up my nutrition that day.