Gollnick reaches goal at Spartan World Championship, brings home women’s title in Elite Masters division
October 13, 2016
Steamboat Springs — Heather Gollnick traveled to Lake Tahoe earlier this month hoping to make a statement and, more importantly, bring home the women's elite masters title in the Spartan World Championships, the biggest obstacle course race of the year.
"It was awesome,” Gollnick said of the Oct. 1 race. "It was a difficult course on terrain that makes our mountains look like hills."
Headed into the race, Gollnick knew she would have to overcome more than the obstacles on the course to win the title; she would have to beat another top endurance athlete Jenny Tobin, of Boise Idaho, if she wanted the title. Tobin beat Gollnick in a race in Breckenridge earlier this summer
Gollnick, an endurance athlete who also competes in triathlons, was in top shape, but the course at Lake Tahoe was built to challenge the competitors and included six obstacles none of them had ever seen before.
One obstacle included six punching bags in a row. The athletes were tasked with getting from bag-to-bag holding on with their arms and legs. If an athlete fell before making it across the obstacle, he or she was penalized with 30 burpees that had to be completed before heading to the next challenge.
Gollnick fell behind early, and halfway through, she trailed Tobin by four minutes.
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But Gollnick had come too far to give up. At that moment, she said, she made a mental choice to go all in, even if it meant not having the stamina to complete the longer Ultra Beast race she planned to compete in the following day. That longer course was part of a weekend of Spartan Racing but did not reward racers with a national championship.
"I was a ways behind Jenny at that point," Gollnick recalled. "So, while I was out there on the course, I decided this race was the reason I came, and I told myself that If I could win the race, then I would not do the Ultra Beast the next day."
That decision made a huge difference in her mental outlook, she said, and gave her a clear reason to race even harder. The newfound energy gave her the drive not only to catch the woman who was leading her division, but also to out pace her to the finish line.
Gollnick said the turning point was an obstacle in which athletes carried heavy bags of sand 400 feet up a steep hill. As Gollnick headed up, she saw Tobin heading back down, which, she added, inspired her to push even harder in the final stretch of the race.
"I think at that point, I was running up the course at full speed with a bag in each hand," Gollnick said. "I felt like I could catch her, and nothing was going to stop me."
Gollnick caught Tobin a few obstacles later and finished the race at the top of the women's master's elite division. She took 15th place, overall, in her first Spartan World Championship race.
"I was very, very pleased with 15th, overall," Gollnick said. "I reached my goal, and the race was very rewarding. But it took everything I had in me to get there."
Gollnick said she plans to take a short break and let her body recover. However, she plans to begin training agains soon, and when the Spartan racing season opens in January, she said she plans to be there.