The goal of finishing in the top-20 at the Reebok Spartan Race World Championships did not last long for Vancouver runner Jesse McChesney. But his experience on Oct. 1 at the Squaw Valley Ski Resort was among the most rewarding of his running career — the first time he’s been truly proud of a finisher’s medal.
A bum ankle forced McChesney to gut out 15 miles of mountain trails and 35 obstacles in South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
McChesney, 28, finished 33rd in the championship. For most of the 3 hours, 4 minutes and 26 seconds he was on the course, he had to protect a sore ankle.
“I didn’t place as high as I had wanted, but I did the best I could with the circumstances,” McChesney said. “That’s what Spartan Race is all about. Being able to adjust, and deal with adversity. That day my biggest obstacle was a rolled ankle and I crushed (the challenge).”
It was a rock as he approached the first obstacle that turned race into a test of pain tolerance and fortitude. A previously injured ankle rolled awkwardly.
Running at the start of the race alongside the defending champion and the United States Spartan Series winner, McChesney soon was getting passed by groups of runners. Three water pits chilled him but numbed the ankle a bit, and on a 2.5-mile climb he made up ground.
Running downhill, though, was painful, and ultimately kept McChesney from threatening the top-20.
Among the obstacles that challenged him were a quarter-mile sand-bag carry and a 150-meter swim in a mountain lake. Then, at mile 13, runners had to carry an 80-pound bucket of gravel up hill for a quarter mile and back downhill. McChesney called it the most difficult obstacle he has encountered, but thanks to training for such carries he was able to pass about 10 runners during the bucket carry.
The only obstacle McChesney failed was the Herculean Hoist, which requires pulling a 105-pound bag via rope pulley to 20 feet off the ground. At 135 pounds and exhausted, McChesney got the bag 5 feet off the ground before the rope slipped. Still, he completed his penalty — 30 burpees — and completed two more obstacles over the final 800 meters to the finish line.
Compared to marathon training, McChesney said he spends more time running trails in the Columbia River Gorge to prepare for the amount of time on his feet, which is similar to a full marathon. The difference?
“There is so much stop and go you never get into a rhythm,” McChesney said.
An avid runner who competes for the Bowerman Track Club elite men’s team and has completed four marathons, McChesney got his first taste of obstacle course racing at the 2014 Spartan Race in Washougal. That day he entered the open race and finished second, learning afterward of the more competitive divisions. This year he won the Spartan Portland Sprint at Washougal, a victory that followed a second-place finish at a longer event in the spring at Seattle.
His recent experience at the Spartan Race championships only whetted McChesney’s appetite for obstacle-course racing.
This coming weekend McChesney plans to double his fun at Spartan events in Seattle. He will enter the Beast race on Saturday and run 12 to 14 miles then return on Sunday for a Sprint race covering 5 to 7 miles. He is shooting for a top-3 finish in both races.
Longer term, McChesney plans to compete in the 2017 Spartan U.S. Championship Series. This year’s series involved five races televised on NBCSN.
“Altogether it was an amazing experience — getting to race the best obstacle racers from around the world,” McChesney said. “I can’t wait to have another shot at it next year.
“Spartan Race is really something special. Like their slogan says: You’ll know at the finish line” why you run.