Abu Dhabi Doo at the Spartan World Championship 2022
Last weekend I got to visit Abu Dhabi to take part in the Spartan World Championship Age Group Race.
This was a 21k race in the Al Wathba Desert, about 45 minutes outside Abu Dhabi itself. So, basically running through and over Sand dunes and just dessert with the odd obstacle thrown in for fun.
This was something I qualified for a while back in May and thought what a challenge, this will certainly push me out of my comfort zone.
The distance is not an issue, the obstacles well, they can be hit or miss depending on the day, but this what I do for fun, this is what I train for.
So, leading up to it, I didn’t have a great European Championships, I was carrying an injury and limped round the course but got round, since then training has been on point, strength work going well, and the run plan written up by Karen at Elite Conditioning really got me feeling good for the trip.
Nothing was going wrong.
I flew out and landed there Friday morning with the race being Saturday. Not getting any sleep or very little on the plane and then trying to stay awake until Friday evening was fun.
Saturday getting up and heading out to the desert.
I couldn’t knock anything about how it was set up out there, plenty of hydration points on the course and the village was small enough that you could find things easily.
Not feeling brilliant, hydration levels were great but still you know when you just have a feeling that is lying underneath, well that was one of those days.
Heading out into the Desert was tougher than expected, I mean I knew it would be tough, but you really struggled get into any sort of flow, trying to keep my splits for each km around the same knowing it would then give me a finish time of around 4-4.20 hrs.
The obstacles were going well and the water stations along the course were well stocked and regular which is what you needed to see.
Then it all went to shit.
Came of one of the obstacles and the world just started spinning, had to sit down before moving forward and from that point, it just didn’t get any better.
It got to a point where moving up and down the dunes I was going more sideways than forward and then it started to get dark and my legs gave way.
I couldn’t move and when I could get up it was like I was absolutely pissed.
The world just spinning and knowing this wasn’t great and not being able to move forward I slowly worked my way back to the previous obstacle, where I was picked up and taken but to the medical tent.
Heatstroke, fantastic, ice packs under the arms and water being poured over my head to bring my temp down meant the day was over.
I really couldn’t focus on anything; the world didn’t stop rocking from side to side and I felt completely stoned.
Very spaced out, very annoyed, and upset, you see to get out there I had raised the money by doing a raffle with members of The Den and a super Saturday, and I felt like it had all gone to shit. That all this work was for fuck all and I had let everyone down after all their support.
The journey back to the hotel that day I asked myself a fair few times, could I of carried on and realistically the answer was no, if I had god knows what would of happened, I may still be there wandering around.
That evening was one that played around with my head, I couldn’t come out here and do nothing, the desert cannot win the war.
I needed to prove to myself I could do it.
That all this work wasn’t for nothing.
Next morning, I got up and headed back out and the original plan was to do both races on the Sunday but I was toying with the idea about just doing the shorted one in the afternoon, but heh if you know me that wasn’t going to realistically happen.
Refuelled and hydrated, the aim was to get round, 11.5k in total and I got round finishing 15th in my age group, but as before there was no way of getting into the flow of things and as it got on the head was heading into a dark place, the body wasn’t fully recovered and it was a struggle, it was about just getting round and completing it.
Doesn’t help when the second from last obstacle is a 50ft A frame cargo net, I fucking hate heights and with the head being the way it was, I think it took me longer to get over that than it did the previous 1k.
But I did it and that feeling when I crossed the line wasn’t so much elation but more fuck you desert, you may of won yesterday but today I took it back.
Finishing up though, sent my head back into the same sort of response as the previous day, spinning, spaced out etc and I knew there was no way I should be going back out.
So, I have unfinished business back in the desert and I will get back out there to beat it.
Throughout the weekend I had great support from Sally back home who helped get me through the weekend and the support from the folks at The Fox Den was superb.
What did I learn from all this, well get out to a place like this a couple of days earlier so you can catch up on sleep before heading out into what is an environment that doesn’t take prisoners, it will eat you up and spit you out.
Also, for something like this you need to have that resilience, the ability to dust yourself off, literally and get back out.
In the past, something like this may have finished me off and stopped me moving forward or I would just brood over it for too long and allow it to get into my head and really affect me for a while.
However, this time.
I wasn’t coming home without something, was it what I wanted of course not but it is a start.
In the words of Mick Jagger,
You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometime, you'll find
You get what you need
Maybe, this is what I needed right now, but I will be back to finish this, I don’t like leaving it the way it is, it maybe a while before it happens but it will happen.
Just remember, if you have a dream or a goal, just keep chipping away at it and you will get there, sometimes you will take a kick in the bollocks but take a few deep breathes and get back on it and move forward.
You will get there.
So, for me now, it’s onto next year and the Spartan World Trifecta Championships in Greece in Nov.
For now, it’s about stepping back from that and training differently, doing something else for a bit and making myself stronger than I am both physically and mentally.