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Tyler Caldwell shaking hands with a legit Spartan.

Greece was absolutely amazing!

Just got back late last night and now playing a lot of catch up, so sharing this “brief” update (brief at least relative to how I could go on and on and on about this experience)…

In 2016, I ran my first Spartan Sprint 5K, but at that time didn’t realize this was a “thing”.

Tyler Caldwell running the Spartan Trifecta World Championship in Greece, 2022.

In 2019, I completed my first Spartan Trifecta (running at least 1 Sprint 5K, 1 Super 10K, and 1 Beast 21K in a calendar year), qualifying for the 2020 Trifecta World Championships.

Spartan was forced to pause the Trifecta World Championships for several years due to the pandemic.

This past weekend, those years in the making finally arrived and culminated with me competing in the 2022 Trifecta World Championships. This pinnacle event was limited to 2,000 racers from 78 countries converging upon Sparta, Greece. Day 1 was the Spartan Sprint 5K (actually 4.7 miles), Day 2 was the Spartan Super 10K (actually 8.1 miles), Day 3 was the Spartan Beast 21K (actually 16.3 miles). The final rankings were determined by combining the athletes’ times across all 3 races. After 3 days of racing, I finished 16th overall out of the 545 athletes in my category (the other 1,400+ athletes were in 2 other categories).

I said I’d keep this relatively brief, so a couple of final highlights:

  • My dad got to give me my medal after one of my races

  • My mom got to hold up the finish line banner for the 1st Place Male & Female Elite athletes

Tyler Caldwell being medaled by a Spartan after the race.

Tyler Caldwell's Spartan medals from Greece.

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Brian Darnell at Bobcat 25k Palmer Park 2022

Summary

The Bobcat 25k (15.5 mi, I ran 15.3 mi) was held at Palmer Park. The start time was at sunrise (0700) and the 25k runners took off at the same time as the 50k runners. The 50k runners would run two loops. There was one aid station that you would end up passing twice (5mi and 11 mi). Elevation gain was supposed to be 1919 feet with a loss of 1916 feet, the elevation gain I ran registered at 1558 feet. Although this trail run did not have a trail rating, I think based on previous trail runs this very easily could have been rated at 3-4 technical rating.


Leading up to the Bobcat 25k

It was a regular workout week, (swim over 2 hr; bike over 2.5 hr; run 1 hr; strength training 40 min). The day prior to the Bobcat 25k I only swam for 45 min and didn’t do my strength training so I didn’t do a rest day/s prior to the run.


Pre-race

I got up about 0330 because my body woke up. I finally got up about 0400 ate some oatmeal and two cups of coffee. I left the house about 0515 getting to Palmer Park around 0545 then picked up my bib at 0600.


Run

I knew the run was a single loop and had elevation what I wasn’t expecting was the technical trails we’d be running on. Most of the trail was single track with some areas opening up to a double track. Several of the areas on the trail had long boulder climbing areas (both incline and decline) as well as rock stairs which constantly put a pounding on my knees. The technicality of the trail definitely slowed my pace down. By the end of the run when there were parts to speed up the pace, my run was more of shuffle, my knees were done. At the 5 mile aid station I didn’t stop. By the time I hit the 11 mi aid station (same station) I used the porta-john and also refilled both of my 500ml hydro flasks. The last four miles of the run took me close to an hour to complete and by the time I finished I was pretty much out of water.


Gear Used

Visor: BOCO; L/S Jackroo Tee; USWE Pace 2 Trail Running Vest; KT tape both knees; ProCompression calf sleeves; HOKA One One Stinson ATR; Overall nutrition was 2000ml of fluids (1000ml of Tailwind, 500ml Gatorade (aid station), and 500ml water)


Overall thoughts

Palmer Park is absolutely gorgeous and the views looking down into Colorado Springs with all the fall colors were amazing. There also wasn’t a cloud in the sky so Pikes Peak looked majestic as always. The trail itself is challenging and not for the faint at heart. Mad Moose Events did a great job of marking the trail and made the run very enjoyable from that perspective.

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Garden to Peak

I think it'd be fair to say my entire summer was building to this point. Ever since Brian first introduced me to the Garden to Peak Challenge, I knew this was the next step I wanted to take as I continue to strive to push my limits. Having tag-teamed with Brian the Garden of the Gods Ten Mile in June and the Barr Trail Mountain Race in July, I was now standing alone looking up the mountain to cap off this epic summer. To be clear, while I may have been on my own at the base of Pikes Peak, I knew that when I reached 14,115' I'd be embraced by Brian and awarded my finisher's medal, as he chose to stand at elevation for 6+ hours volunteering in part to be there to see me through the finish (for those combined factors, I stand by my belief that he had it worse that morning than I did, since I was moving, didn't have windchill, and could focus on my suffering...not that his view was bad!!!).

Tyler Caldwell at Pike Peak, CO

The Start

Brian and I had scheduled an early departure Saturday morning (4:00am) in order to get him to his volunteer station in time, with me set to hunker down for more resting and stretching at the race site until my start time (7:10am). Unfortunately, that early wake up call was even earlier, as I woke up seemingly every hour the night before, until I decided enough was enough shortly after 3:00am. Once we got to Manitou Springs and Brian had left for his volunteer station, not only did I benefit from the several hours for resting and stretching, I also had the opportunity to put in the earbuds and amp up to my Pikes Peak Playlist, which I had naively created for the race prior to learning no earbuds were allowed on the course (I timed this perfectly so I walked out to the start line as my final song, You Want A Battle Here's A War, came to a close).


Tyler Caldwell's, Pikes Peak Garmin tracker info.

The Grind

In all honesty, I felt the first 1-2 miles were by far the most challenging...true, the incline was gradual at best, far less than what I'd run into later up the course, but it took a while to get my lungs firing fully, even after extensive training with the elevation mask set at 18,000' and having gotten into Colorado Springs a couple of days early and having raced other races in Colorado recently...hammers home the point that nothing is the same as being at altitude consistently.


The Cruise Control

By the time I reached the base of Barr Trail, my body was warmed up and activated, so miles 2-8 were fairly straightforward, even with the single tracks and inclines and switchbacks. More than anything, I thrived off the familiarity of this section of the course being identical to what I had recently run for the Barr Trail Mountain Race, allowing my mind and body to shut off and just enjoy the beautiful morning and beautiful people sharing this experience with.


The Experience

I came into this race with two time goals. My worst case scenario time goal was 4:28:00, as this represented an average 20:00 / mile, plus I appreciated the subtlety of 4/28 for my birthday. My more ambitious / flying blind time goal was 3:50:00, which I only came up with hours before my race, as I knew my start time was 7:10am and Brian's volunteer shift ended at 11:00am, so I relished the challenge of reaching the top before he was officially done volunteering (even though he could stay up there as long as he wished). This meant I would need to maintain an average pace of roughly 17:18 / mile. Through mile 9, my average pace was comfortably at 17:03 / mile. Then, at mile 9, while casually talking with another racer as we both were on our merry ways, we seemed to hit it off, to the point that I made the conscious decision to scale slightly back and enjoy this part of the experience rather than remain laser focused on the objective (she had run this race the year prior anyways, posting a 4:30:00 finishing time, so I also knew she was moving at a somewhat similar pace as me). For the rest of the race, we carrot-and-sticked it, sharing in the suffering as well as the stunning sights of Colorado once we cleared the tree line.

Tyler Caldwell and Brian Darnell at Pike Peak, CO

The Peak

The final 1-2 miles were brutal, although in a way altogether different from the first 1-2 miles. Yes, I was now 8,000' higher, but my lungs (and body) genuinely felt surprisingly strong. No, what was brutal was the single track switchbacks and, when you mistakenly looked up at the so close yet so far summit, it truly did feel and look like Mordor, just ready to fall into a bottomless pit of fire. When it was all said and done though, I finished in 4:27:41, just under my conservative goal, fully recognizing I could have shaved off more time had I chosen objective over experience. Better yet was the feeling of seeing Brian at the top and earning that medal. We stuck around for pictures, just long enough to begin to feel the full effects of the cold wind, before we headed back down the mountain (by van and bus!) to slowly make our way back home.



The Descent

Even as I neared the finish line (earlier in the race if I'm being completely honest) I already felt convicted in one thing - I will come back at some point to run up and back down the mountain...the full Pikes Peak Marathon!

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