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Thursday, February 22, 2024
Feb. 22, 2024

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Local athletes set for big test of Spartan World Championship

Squaw Valley hosting obstacle race

By , Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter

Yes, racing more than 12 miles while completing more than 30 obstacles at an elevation approaching 10,000 feet will tax Erin Seekins physically.

But thriving in the Spartan World Championship will be as much a mental test as a physical challenge.

“It’s you against your brain,” Seekins said.

The 23-year-old Washougal resident is one of several athletes from Clark County who qualified for the Spartan World Championship event, which will take place on Saturday at the Squaw Valley Resort in North Lake Tahoe. Seekins and Vancouver resident Ryan Polin qualified for the competitive Elite Beast course world championships at the Spartan Portland Sprint, held in August at Washougal MX Park.

One of the younger competitors in her sport, Seekins won the 20-24 age division at Washougal. She completed the completed the 4.5-mile course and 25 obstacles in 1 hour and 5 minutes. Her 11th-place overall finish among women was good enough for an automatic spot in the upcoming championships.

Polin, who turns 30 on Saturday, qualified with an eighth-place finish at Washougal with a time of 46 minutes. That was an improvement of 12 minutes and 32 places from his 2015 result.

Vancouver resident Jesse McChesney won that Washougal race with a time of 41:24.

A personal trainer, Seekins caught the obstacle course bug after entering the 2015 Washougal race with a friend. She knew right away she’d found an outlet for her energy and competitive spirit. The championship will be her fifth obstacle race since April.

Polin, currently stationed in Portland, was introduced to obstacle racing by a fellow member of the Coast Guard. He figured he could excel on the obstacles to make up for racing faster runners. He learned he was wrong.

Even with walls to climb, barbed wire to crawl under and spears to throw at spear at a target — and penalties of 30 to 60 burpees for failure to complete a challenge — a Spartan Race is still a foot race. That is why Polin worked to shed 15 pounds this year. And it is why Seekins sometimes feels like an underdog in an age group dominated by former college runners.

“At the end of the day it is a race so you have to be fast,” she said.

Except when approaching an obstacle. Taking time to calm down and think about the correct way to approach each challenge is vital, Seekins said.

Polin, who last year was a non-competitive participant in the Lake Tahoe race, said it comes down to determination.

“It’s three hours of pain. You just go out there and leave it all out there. Finishing is an accomplishment in itself.”

Actually, it was 4 hours and 21 minutes of pain on the championship course last season. Polin said he wasn’t prepared for the altitude, or for the cold temperatures. Add in an ice-cold river midway through the race and that turned into an excruciating challenge.

Seekins grew up as a dancer. When a hip injury led to the end of her dance career, she found her competitive outlet in obstacle racing and quickly became addicted to the adrenaline rush.

Daily training sessions that can last two hours, and that does not include the injury prevention warm-ups and cool-downs, or the ice baths needed to combat inflammation. Indeed, training for obstacle-course races is a lifestyle that includes pushing through the pain that comes when pushing a body to its limits, Seekins admitted.

“There’s a lot of sacrifice involved to be able to compete at an elite level, and to make it to the world championship and to be consider one of the best in the world really makes all of that sacrifice and heard work worth it,” Seekins said.

Yes, Seekins sees quizzical looks and often gets questions when she’s running stairs at Doc Harris Stadium carrying weights, lugging a bucket of gravel around a park or aiming her spear at a target on a tree.

“The draw of it is you put yourself through this thing that’s crazy and brutal and push your body beyond normal limits and when you get done you feel so alive,” she said.

Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter