It’s hard to believe that the entire trip to Mexico was under three days long. The friendships created over the last couple days not only flourished but those existing grew stronger. It is true that most race trips I go on the actual race is the minor detail in the entire trip and this trip to Mexico was no exception. After the longest pre-race “rest” day in the history of Spartan Race it was finally race day.
We assembled in the lobby at a quarter to six AM and waited for our driver Artoro, the same guy who got us lost most of the day on Friday to escort us into the van. One of the guys said they heard that Artoro had come down with vertigo, seriously I thought it was too funny to be true and figured it was a joke after the antics of the day before. But no soon Miguel came upstairs looking stressed saying yes Artoro (now known as Vertigo) had indeed come down with a bad case of vertigo. He would be unable to drive us. Soon Artoro aka Vertigo appeared in the lobby looking wobbly and green in the face, speaking with Miguel (the only one of us who speaks fluent Spanish). Soon Vertigo would be walked to the bathroom with the aid of Hunter and another and proceed to violently vomit in the bathroom. It was time to figure out Plan B.
As the minutes ticked away as a second plan was hatched, most of the guys started to stress a little about making it to the race on-time factoring in traffic, a long rustic stretch of road, and the getting lost factor. However, Chris Rutz of Tough Training took a more laid back approach as he fell back asleep on a couch. We waited, phone calls were made and around 6:30AM a new plan was made, Chad from Hotseat Media would be our driver. If he could drive in China he could drive in Mexico! We boarded the van and soon found that Chad’s right foot had been replaced with a lead weight as we sped down the road faster than we had in the last couple of days.
As we sped down the roads of Mexico and had to make a U-Turn off the highway to get on our exit. Yes the U-Turn was the only way off this road. We were making record time but as it happens when you have a van load of over hydrated athletes we had to pull over to pee along the way, something we did throughout the entire weekend. I think we peed at more strange places over the weekend and roadsides than I have in the last year. As we all peed near the road turn-off to get to the race site, we say a large bus turn down the dirt almost two lane road and all groined. But we had Chad driving and he was sure to get us around the bus. As we passed vehicles around blind turns and cruised down the dirt road, every was laughing and excited to race. We reached a part of the road which was cobble stone and instead of slowing down Chad sped up and said “It’s like one of those Japanese magnetic bullet trains” as we glided over the stones. We reached the site in under an hour and a half and thanks to Chad had plenty of time to warm up before the race.
The men set off first, with much anticipation on how the American’s would fare. Hunter the reining champion, had many challenger both American and Mexican after his title. The Mexican athletes were out in force with several pro-triathletes racing as well as a two time New York City Marathon and former Olympian running in the men’s heat. A stacked field of professional athletes. We watched them take off and Andi Hardy and I finished our warm-ups and headed to the start. A few times we were stopped for pictures as we entered the shoot. I knew a few of the women would be good before the race began and heard the MC talk about a woman and the whole crowd cheered, one of the many times I wished I spoke Spanish over the weekend! I figured she was someone of interest but it didn’t matter I was there to race too.
They counted down and we were off and running. It is important to note that I live at 4,300 feet and very often train at 6,000 – 8,500 feet. However the start of the race was just about 9,000 feet and would only go up from there. I cautiously was optimistic that at least I no longer live on the east at around sea level. As I took off nearly instantly I noticed the lack of oxygen while at the same time noticing A LOT of women passing me. It was a long race and I knew I would catch them later. We ascended and descended down some technical trails, through shoe sucking mud up to your waist, and over up and around traditional Spartan Race obstacles. As I ran I felt the burn in my lungs and kept pressing forward. It is safe to say this was the hardest race, not in terrain but in lack of oxygen. My legs burned and I willed them to move faster, using the downhills as recovery and bracing myself as each uphill climb prevailed. I had a faint sense the entire race that at any moment I might vomit, but kept moving forward, the faster I moved the faster the race would be complete. The obstacles I breezed through and was excited as each one came. As the race progressed I picked off more and more women but had no idea where I was in the overall standings. The last half mile was out in the open and made another pass, but didn’t see any other women in front of me, as I reached the last few obstacles I would pass yet another woman, my face was white as a ghost as I crossed the finish line. Dave Huckle handed me my medal and told me he thought I was at least top 15 maybe top 10.
I would later find out I was 9th but bumped to 8th after a DQ of the 3rd place woman for skipping burpees and possibly skipping a whole obstacle. I applauded Spartan Race Mexico for taking a firm stance on the rules. At the awards I would find out that the winning female for whom I was about 15 minutes behind the same women I mentioned was recognized at the start as she represented Mexico in the Beijing Olympics for Triathlon. Some serious professional athletes as I said before showed up in Mexico!
As we waited around for the afternoon, the festival area was great although the footsteps of over 5,000-6,000 who were there for the day created a lot of dust as the wind kicked up. We all had a solid layer on us as we walked around. We were all tired from racing and ready to head out, we headed back to the van to find it unlocked but yet the keys were not there. Causing a new twist to the day best described in the video below, taken by Brad Fredricks:
During this time, it started to downpour rain. We huddled under the registration tent as more video was shot by Brad, and bottle of tequila was introduced out of Miguel’s bag and was passed around among some of the racers. As the Mexican volunteers laughed at the crazy gringos, I chalked this one up to experience and reminded the group as Brad says in the video, “the race is not over until you get to your own bed”. Never was this further from the truth. As the rain calmed Chad appeared on a four-wheeler with Leo the other camera guy and we loaded into the van and left the race.
Part way down that cobblestone, dirt road, bumpy trail I had to pee. It came on fast and hard and I was doing my best to hold it. As we rounded each narrow turn it went from level 1 quickly to level 3, the kind where it hurts you have to pee so badly. We pulled off a corner and I darted out of the van as did the rest of the troop. We got back in the van and headed to the hotel in Valle de Bravo to pick up our stuff and continue on to Mexico City. Upon returning to the hotel Vertigo, seemed to be better and would now be driving us back to Mexico City. Artoro/Vertigo has a special place in my heart as he really created all the stories of the weekend. We drove back to Mexico City without getting lost, stopping to pee a few times along the side of the road, finally pulling into Mexico City and our hotel around 8:30pm.
We all cleaned up and headed out to dinner around our hotel in Reforma. We had a great dinner full of laughter and stories. Chris Rutz and I returned to our hotel after dinner around 11pm as the rest of the group headed out to the bars. As I laid down in my bed I had never been happier to rest and sleep after a race. The day had been long and the race was a tough one.
The next morning, Andi and Hunter left early to make their planes. Brad, Dave and I all headed to breakfast and found a fitness festival outside our hotel. It was an amazing site, people on bikes, running, rollerblading, doing Zumba, practicing yoga, police painting the faces of children, and free medical testing doing preformed. It was amazing to see the positive energy around the area. You could feel the positive vides radiating from the area. Not the picture many paint of Mexico City. After breakfast, Chris, Dave and I walked around part of the city, seeing more and more people out and enjoying their Sunday. It was amazing. As we departed and headed to the airport our adventures were just about over, returning to the US and then to our homes.
It’s hard to believe that everything happened in such a short period of time. Overall, in the race the Mexicans showed us just how tough they are and we all gave it our best finding out elevation can be a killer. Thank you to the people of Mexico for being so inviting to a group of Americans, thanks to Spartan Race Mexico for treating us so well, and thanks to all the hard work that happened behind the scenes. Thanks to a fun roommate for the weekend in Andi Hardy! I definitely will be going back to Mexico to race in the future as it was one of the best overall trips I have had abroad with a great group of people.