Spartan Race Trifecta Weekend, Poiana Brasov

When I heard there’d be a Trifecta weekend in Romania this year I knew I had to go! I love exploring new countries while racing, and I want to experience something or somewhere new every year. I’ve done the Trifecta weekend in Austria the past two years, and I was looking forward to seeing if Romania could measure up on the mountains and beautiful scenery of Tirol.
With a little help from Clif my trip to Romania became a reality, and as the weekend approached I noticed a big difference in the setup to what I’m used to in Austria. In Tirol the order of the three races are the longest on Saturday followed by the shortest straight after and the middle distance on Sunday. In Romania, they kind of flipped this around, as we would be facing the Sprint at first, followed by the Super and the longest, Beast, on Sunday.
I was a bit concerned about this setup, as I find it mentally harder having to do the longest and most hilly race on Sunday after doing two races the day before. Never the less I was up for the challenge, and was excited to get an unique experience in the Ski Slopes of Poiana Brasov.

 

Sprint
Distance: 7,46 km
Elevation: 672 m
Obstacles: 23

The Elite Heat of the Sprint was sent off at 8:15 Saturday morning. Most of the runners were coming from neighbouring countries, so I didn’t know many of my competitors, but it didn’t really matter. My goal for the weekend during all three races, was to focus on my own race and how I executed to the best of my abilities, not getting distracted by anyone around me. Another goal was to give everything I had during all three races, not holding back in order to do better on Sunday’s Beast or trying to be tactical. I wanted to do my best with what I had in my body every time the gun went off.
I got off to a pretty good start, found a suitable pace I could sustain and focused on the job ahead. I got ahead of the pack pretty quickly and I was feeling energised. A few kilometres in we hit the Sandbag Carry, which went smooth, I ran the best I could uphill and put speed on the downhill till I could throw the bag and turn my attention to the obstacle following right after: a diagonal monkeybar in an A-shape. Despite the sun being up, the monkeybars were wet from the dew, and I made a huge mistake by trying to go sideways on the thick slippery bars. I failed. 30 burpees and I lost more than a few spots. It didn’t derail me though, I knew there was a lot to come and I chased the pack down as well as I could.
Just around the corner the uphill started. This turned out to be just the thing I needed to catch up and get ahead again. Despite not having any mountains to train in in Denmark, my legs felt surprisingly good going uphill and I was able to keep a slightly quicker pace than the rest of the field going up.

What I didn’t know was my nemesis was waiting for me around the next corner: the Spear Throw. I’ve never been good at anything that involves aiming, throwing or shooting at a target. I could’ve practiced this obstacle, knowing it was going to be here, but I really only played around with it for half an hour leading up to my trip, so I didn’t expect much. Surely enough, I missed it, and as I started my 30 burpees penalty I saw the second girl approaching. Luckily for me, she missed it too, and I could run off in front again. The next set of obstacles went smooth, and we went uphill for a little while longer before turning around to head down towards the event site again.
I love running both uphill and downhill, the uphill gives you some beautiful views on top and it also rewards you with a downhill run that allows you to lose control and blast down like a playful kid!
On the way down we entered a forest, with some very technical single trail elevated on the side of a mountain, meaning it wouldn’t take too many missteps to fall a few meters down to the left. Some may find this kind of trail scary, but I absolutely love challenging trails!
Coming out of the forest to the open field again, we approached a Plate Drag. The ground was very uneven in some places, and not paying attention to this, I mistakenly chose a Plate in the middle, not one the guys had already used to plain out the ground. I struggled to drag it down one way, but pulling it back in a rope was nearly impossible for me. I simply couldn’t get the thing over the huge bumps in the ground. I spent FOREVER trying to get this thing to move just an inch, and the next girl caught up with me after I’d been struggling for a while. She was definitely way smarter, choosing the first plate in the row on more even ground, and she made it look so easy dragging the thing back and forth. She passed me, and at this point we were only 800 meters from the finish.
The route was only descending from here, and I tried to push the pace all I could in order to catch her! I got really close to her on the A-frame Cargo Net, but she was just midway or finished with an obstacle as I started it. When I got to the Twister she was halfway through it, and I tried to swing long to catch her, but it wasn’t quite enough. After the twister only an easy Tire Flip, a Hoist and a small Wall was between her and the finish, and though I did everything I could to catch her, it was too late. I lost by 22 seconds, but I fought the best I could and gave it all I had, which made it a great race for me. Often I give up mentally if a competitor gets ahead, especially so close to the finish, but this time I didn’t, I believed I had a chance to catch her and that nothing was over until the finish line. That mental change was a huge win for me.

 

Super
Distance: 13,9 km (measured 14,9 km)
Elevation: 1081 m
Obstacles: 27

After running the Sprint distance in the morning, I had a few hours to get ready for the middle distance, Super, at noon. Straight after the completing the Sprint I made sure to get a lot of food and focus on recovery as much as possible within the short time frame. The Sprint award ceremony was just an hour before the start of the Super, so we didn’t have that long to warm up.
As I was jogging before the race started my legs felt a bit tired still, but I was ready to give it my all with what I had left when the gun went off.
I noticed a few girls at the start line who hadn’t run the Sprint in the morning, but I reminded myself it didn’t matter, I came to do my best and focus on my own race.
The start of the route was similar to the Sprint in the morning. This time all the obstacles had dried up, and I approached the A-monkeybar going forward, clearing it without problem.
Going uphill after the monkeybar my legs felt significantly heavier than first time around and my push running up wasn’t at all as energetic and powerful. I was in second, the first girl was getting a comfortable lead, but all I focused on was not looking back over my shoulder. In the Sprint when I was catching the leader after getting behind, the girl in front was constantly looking back on the uphill to check where I was. It is a very tempting thing to do, especially when you’re struggling, but I kept reminding myself of my goals for the weekend, and none of them included looking at my competitors. If their placing could affect my effort I was either not giving my all, or I would be looking for a reason to “lay back a little” if I had a comfortable lead, and neither of these reasons would be acceptable or aligned with my goals.
Around the corner on top of the first hill climb the Spear Throw was awaiting me again. I took my time to breath, aim and throw the best I had learned from the half an hour practice at home. The spear was actually moving in a perfect curve this time, only problem was I was aiming just to the right of the haybale.

Damn, 30 burpees served! Luckily I’m quite effective at my burpees, so it didn’t take too long, it just leaves you a bit out of breath for the next push, which of course was upwards with a Multi Rig and Bender within the next 100 meters. I cleared those pretty smoothly and I remember passing one of my fellow race buddies from Denmark running in the men’s elite heat.

“Fuck, this is tough”

I exclaimed gasping for air going upwards as I could feel my legs tighten way faster this time around.
After the words had left my mouth I immediately reset my mind going

“Okay Ulrikke, now you got rid of that, time to get back to being positive”.

I looked onwards an upwards (quite literally), as the route continued in a new direction.
The next obstacle awaiting me was one I’ve previously met at Strong Viking but never before seen at a Spartan Race: Walker Walk, in other words, restricted Bunny Hops. A strong rubber band was placed around your feet and on you went to bunny hop 75 meters downhill and up again. This was pretty taxing on the legs which made the following climb even more acid provoking. I focused my attention on my breathing and reminded myself, as I always do when I’m struggling uphill “what goes up must go down”.
The next obstacle was a tractor pull, and there was a water station at the start. I immediately threw a few cups down and poured one over me before heading on. The race organizers had recommended wearing a water pack for the Super and Beast distance due to the hot weather, but I feel very restricted by those, so I always try to run as minimalistic as possible.
After completing the pull, one of the marshals let me know that the leader wasn’t that far ahead. It didn’t affect my run though, I was already giving it everything I had. The course went up for a while longer until we couldn’t get up higher. We were literally at the very top of the ski slope where the gondola ended. A small group of people was standing on the top cheering us on, looking at the next obstacle, Slack Line. I tried to catch my breath a bit before I jumped on, almost made it to the end, but had to face my defeat. Down I went and another 30 burpees break.
We ran along the top for a few hundred meters before the course started going downhill. I had time to get a quick look around on the top, and the view was absolutely amazing. I made sure to take it all in, reminding myself how lucky and grateful I am of these opportunities.
The route was pretty steep the first part going down, and I managed to trip on one of the loose rocks in the road, twisting my ankle. I started hyperventilating out of fear of spraining my ankle, but after a few steps it was okay and I could continue with a bit more caution. Pretty soon after I met an 8ft wall, and once I set off my legs started cramping.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck”

I breathed deeply and slowed down a bit to try and shake out the cramps.

“Come on, Come on Ulrikke, we’ve got this”

I got my legs under control and tried to let loose the best I could downhill until we got to the next gauntlet of obstacles; Barbed Wire Crawl, Rope Climb and Z-Walls.


The volunteers were cheering and in the best mood, and I couldn’t help but smile as I was rolling through.
The following section of the course was leading into the forest on a technical trail as on the Sprint, this time for a longer distance, still single trail, and still pretty risky but so much fun! I was struggling a bit to keep the cramps away, while my eyes were glued to the narrow ground with roots and stones sticking up. After I’d been running for quite a while with no one in sight I started worrying if I was going in the right direction. I hadn’t looked back the whole race, and once I did, to see if I was accompanied by anyone, no one was there. My watch showed 12,9 km so I calmed myself, knowing I still had some kilometres to go. The route then went down a narrow steep stream with lots of lose stones, a very exciting and challenging path.
Once I got of the forest at the bottom of the stream, marshals were waiting for me at Atlas Carry. Perfect, I was on the right path! Back and forth with the Atlas Stone broken up by 5 Burpees halfway – what’s another 5 burpees on top of 60 😉
A quick meet with Triceps Bar, also known as Dip Walk, before the route went straight ahead to leave the forest and enter the open field going down to the event area.
It was an awesome feeling coming out of the forest into the sun, seeing the last gauntlet of obstacles to the finish and just blasting downhill with a huge smile on my face!
Inverted Wall, A-frame Cargo Net, Olympus, Twister, Tire Flip, Hercules Hoist and a 7ft wall to the finish, all within 500 meters. Just the way I love it! 😀
The cramps luckily wasn’t an issue at the last obstacles and I made it across the finish line in 2nd having run my own race, never being affected by my competition and doing the best I could on the hills with what I had left in my legs. I couldn’t be dissatisfied with my placing as I wasn’t even close to Eszter who finished in first, nailing all the obstacles. She really killed the course!

 

Beast
Distance: 21,7 km (measured 23 km)
Elevation: 1659 m
Obstacles: 33

After running two races on Saturday accumulating 22 km and 1700 vertical meters, I was both nervous and excited for one more day of racing, this time the longest course with the most vertical. It really plays with your mind, when you have the longest race ahead and you have no idea how many times you’ll be going up and down the ski slope, having been at the very top during the Super (the course maps weren’t released until after the events). Two of the guys from Denmark who was signed up for all 3 races like me decided to skip the Beast altogether based on how their bodies felt coming out of the Sprint and the Super. Our whole apartment were thrilled they didn’t have to drag their bodies up those steep hills for another day. Meanwhile I was getting ready for that exactly. It was tough having to face the longest and hardest race as the last one, but I knew I would regret it if I robbed myself of the experience.

The race started at 8:15 as with the Sprint the day before, and I was at the venue early to get my body moving and loose before the start. Warming up I felt a bit tired, but it wasn’t as bad as I could’ve feared. The goal remained the same; Focus on your own race and give everything you have on the day.
A few new girls showed up at the start line for the Beast, and I noticed almost everyone was wearing hydration packs for this one. I’ve run Beast in Tirol twice, never wearing a pack, so I figured I’d be fine without it, and also I’d feel less restricted. The gun went off, and I let what I already knew what was going to happen play out; half of the field of girls blasted out from the start, racing each other through the first set of obstacles up the first small incline.
I sat back, keeping my own pace, and after 500 meters I was up in front, not changing anything.
The beginning of the course was the same as the day before and I was in second going down to the Sandbags and A-monkeybar, the girl in front was the winner of the Super the day prior. Two other girls were right by my side, one was the winner of the Sprint who took 3rd at the Super.
Everyone seemed to be pushing it a bit, even though the race hadn’t even really started yet with so many kilometers to go.
After completing the diagonal monkeybar the route took a new turn, and we were lead into a different part of the forest area. A Cargo Net and a Barbed Wire Crawl in deep mud was completed before we were lead down into a long stream with lots of loose different sized rocks at the bottom. I was thrilled! I love technical and challenging trails, and in this stream, I felt like a kid jumping fearlessly around on the lose rocks. I never felt insecure, as I really trust the grip on my VJ Irock, and me having fun in the water played to my advantage, as I knew this would be a part many runners would chose to walk in fear of slipping and falling. We ran in the stream for more than 2,5 kilometers and I passed many guys from the men’s elite heat on the way. I really felt like flying through that rocky water section.

After leaving the stream we turned to run upwards in the forest on single trail. It was a long gradual ascent up the mountain and to my own surprise my legs felt quite good and I was able to run all the way up. The next 5 km of the route was primarily trail running on unmarked path through the forest. While running this section on my own I looked around and took everything about the experience in. I felt so grateful being able to run up these mountains, and I was reminded how much I love this sport and what I do. I love pushing the boundaries to what I can do, meet myself in moments like this, feeling the most alive. I love the challenge, the endurance, the resilience, the experience and adventure. For me, I get to feel more alive on the longer runs only focusing on your own journey. I never looked over my shoulder to check for my competition, and when I passed a group of guys who told me the leader was way ahead I just smiled and replied how awesome the girl in front was and that I was having so much fun.
I even enjoyed the taxing 150m bunny hops down and up the ski hill that did a good job of bringing acid to the calves for the following ascent. I made sure to stay on top of my nutrition too, taking in gels before I needed it and at the few hydration stations I poured water over me to cool myself off.
At the very top of the hill the Slack Line was waiting for me again, and I took a long break to get my heartrate down before I started. Just as the day before there was a crowd of volunteers and spectators on top to cheer you on, which was so awesome. Despite the cheering I fell down close to the end again and faced my 30 burpees. No one was on my heels at this point, but I still had a goal in mind of running downhill better today, and luckily I hadn’t had any signs of cramps yet, which allowed me to push the pace when the descent started.

Halfway down the mountain we faced the gauntlet of Spear Throw, Multirig and Bender. I really wanted to hit that spear, and I’d been pretty close at the Super the day before. I took my time, breathed, balanced the spear in my hand, moved a bit more to the left than yesterday, threw, followed the curve, aaaand… The spear hit! … The haybale in front of the target on the ground, a spare haybale. Burpees coming right up!

As I was doing my 30 burpees I saw a girl running down the mountain approaching the Spear. Fuck. Even though I never looked back intentionally, I had a feeling I had an okay lead over the next girls, but I figured my mess up on the Slack Line had cost me some precious time. We had to go up the hill again for the next obstacles, and I pushed myself as hard as I could going up. When going over the Bender my eyed glanced down the hill, and to my luck the next girl had missed her spear too and wasn’t done with her burpees yet.

Even though I had a goal of focusing on myself through the whole weekend, this got a little too exciting, and with a 3rd second place finish within reach, my only thought was

“You can’t afford to slow down now”.

I blasted downhill as fast as I possibly could, throwing my arms out to the sides, trusting my legs to survive the intense pounding, loose rocks and slippery ground. I cleared the next gauntlet of obstacles out on the open field before heading into the forest on the challenging single trail from the day before. During the Super I fell two times and cramped up once on this technical narrow section, but all I thought about now was how I couldn’t allow my legs to slow down. I literally threw my feet out in front of me, tried to look ahead and find the best places to land with every step, moving so fast I was risking a lot. It was both fun and scary at the same time, I felt like a gazelle running for its life and the adrenalin rush was real. When we hit the narrow steep stream I knew I was close to the bottom of the mountain, and I didn’t intent on slowing down despite this section being even trickier. I saw a guy in front of me still being able to run on the way down this mini waterfall, and I tried to copy his moves, jumping from side to side, bending in the knees to keep a low center of gravity. It worked out pretty well, and I’ve gotta admit I felt like a badass daredevil!

I completed the Atlas Carry and Triceps Bar down at the bottom of the stream, and now I was sure I knew where the route was headed: Straight forward following a wide path out the forest and out on the big field towards the finish. I couldn’t have been more wrong. 50 meters after the Triceps Bar, the route marking took a sharp turn left, and all I could see was a very steep climb UP. The ground underneath me was so lose it was hard to get footing, and I had to crawl some of the way until we hit an old set of stone stairs. It was so steep, I tried to run on the stairs, but they were just large enough for me not to be able to lift my feet that high safely. It was a tough last push going up after running 21 km and trying to still keep the pace and not slow down.
In moments like this I always tell myself stuff like “What goes up must go down”, “the fastest way to get to the finish is by running”, “Your body can do so much more than you think, you just gotta let it”. Then I focus on my running form, there’s always something to improve, whether it’s pulling a bit more with your arms, learning into your run, the bounce in your steps, relaxing your upper body, breathing. The biggest energy booster though is smiling and enjoying the moment.

Once I hit the big open field again I let go of my legs downhill, pushing all the way to the finish with a huge smile. I never celebrate early, so I focused on a clean completion of the last gauntlet of obstacles, but I was so happy for what my legs had just accomplished over the last two days. They did an awesome job and I was so proud of them for holding up despite not having any mountains or a single hill to even come close to this terrain in flat Denmark 😉

I ended at the same spot on the podium running both the Sprint, Super and Beast and I reached my goals for the weekend: I gave it my all during all three races and I ran my own race, focused on myself and had fun doing it! Only at the end of the Beast I got a little stressed by the lady in 3rd and raced to the finish with my head under my arm, but it was fun to push it to the limit and take chances I maybe wouldn’t have taken on the technical sections, if I hadn’t felt chased. 😉

 

  I really enjoyed the course Spartan Romania put together, especially the Beast running in the rocky stream in the beginning and the technical trail towards the end – not to forget the amazing view on top of the ski slope!

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