The HYROX World Championships was not on my radar at all at the start of the year. However, after I ran an unexpected qualifying time of 1h 4m at HYROX Glasgow (previous blog post), I decided to pivot my plan for the first half of the year and commit to training purely for this.
Queue the Rocky training music...
My running was in good shape at the start of the year, but I was a bit worried about the heavier Pro weights. In particular the thought of the 200kg sled push (instead of 150kg) kept me up at night haha.
To combat this, I put together a plan for the lead up and periodized my training into 1 month strength building, 1 month strength endurance, then 1 month sharpening + race specific workouts.
At the time I felt this worked really well. Coming into the race I was squatting heavier and for more reps than I have for years, I could push and pull 230kg on the sled in my garage, and I ran a 5km PB of 16m 46s one week out so hadn't lost any running ability.
I even managed to somehow dodge catching the bad cold that my wife and daughters had!
So when it finally came time for the World Champs weekend, I felt good and was well prepared. Or so I thought...
Friday night hosted the Elite 15 races - the fastest 15 men and 15 women battling out for the overall World Championship title. Both races were really exciting to watch and the atmosphere and crowd were amazing.
Seeing the some of the fittest people in the world do their thing was definitely motivating and got you pumped for your own race.
However, my race wave time wasn't until 3:10pm on the Saturday! A long time to sit about and wait to say the least. I even had to leave the venue for a walk a couple times on the Saturday just to get some air and away from the music and crowds for a bit.
(Unfortunately you don't get told your race time until a few days beforehand. If I knew plenty time in advance I could've saved money on a hotel and driven down on the day. Oh well...)
The athlete warm-up area was pretty cool. A lot bigger than normal and with the addition of some treadmills as well. So I got in a good warm-up 30mins before my race. No excuses there.
Moving into the main hall for some final strides/run warm-up, I very quickly started to feel like I was overheating. The building is a pretty cool converted train station, but the main hall has so many windows it basically acts like a giant greenhouse! Especially on an unexpected very sunny 24C day in Manchester.
So I took the decision to go "taps aff" just before my race started. Not something I had planned to do, and not really my scene to be honest. In hindsight, I'm not sure it helped. Yes, I didn't feel quite as hot, but then I didn't have anything on to soak up any of the sweat (which posed an issue later on).
Things started off well with the first run complete in 3:13. The first run was only 2.75 laps (instead of 3) due to the position of the start tunnel, so was always going to be a significantly faster time. In any case, I was on good pace and felt in control which was the main thing.
The first exercise station (1000m ski-erg) also went pretty well. It's not something I've practiced much at all due to availability of the equipment, and the fact that the difference between a great time and an average time is less than 20-30s.
I was happy to knock out a ski-erg PB (4:03) and not lose any ground to the others in my wave.
The next run also went ok with the longer 3 laps complete in 3:57. I thought I was running faster than this but it later turned out wasn't entirely my fault...
I use a Stryd footpod for accurate pacing indoors and, unbeknown to me at the time, this had somehow came off my foot by this point. So my watch pace was fluctuating a lot, which I remember being confused about, but just put it down to all the corners and the heat making me run slower.
Not ideal obviously, especially when I didn't realise that my reported running pace was now basically nonsense.
The sled push was one of the exercises I was worried about. The “normal” open men weight of 150kg feels horrible enough, so the thought of 200kg definitely scared me a little bit.
I had trained a lot for this and it paid off, with me having a decent sled time of 3:22; not far off my average time for the lighter weight sled push!
I did have to adjust my technique slightly. During training on my own carpet, I could almost lift or lean the sled slightly which reduces ground contact/friction making it marginally easier to move.
This didn’t work at all with the loose HYROX carpets lol. The front of the sled just dug in and wrinkled up the carpet even more.
It was the next exercise, the Sled pull, where things started to unravel. I had trained pulling 230kg, so thought that 150kg would be pretty straight forward. (The Pro weight for the sled pull is 150kg, compared to 100kg usually for the Open men).
However, the rope was so so sweaty (and I was sweating a lot myself as well). I struggled to keep a grip of the rope when pulling it and walking backwards.
I completely blew out my arms and had to take multiple rests to shake them out before having another attempt at pulling in the sled a little more. It was a bit of a disaster and I ended up taking literally twice as long as I should have (6:18 instead of about 3mins).
So turns out that pulling a 230kg sled with a dry 5ft rope in training is very easy compared to only a 150kg sled but with a very sweaty slightly elasticated 15ft rope *facepalm*. Lesson learned.
My run after the sled pull was ok not great (4:14). However, I knew I had messed things up so lost the fire to fully push myself. Obviously I never gave up, but there is definitely a difference between "push at all costs" race mode and "push hard but survive" mode.
I was fairly happy with my burpee broad jumps and my 1000m rower times (3:30 and 4:23 respectively). My broad jumps being around about the time I normally do, and the rower being a PB by 10s.
I had spent quite a bit of time researching and honing my rowing technique ahead of the event, so was pretty pleased that this went well.
Even though it's a very small component of the race, and only worth 20-30s, it's definitely nicer recovering slightly on the rower while hitting a reasonably comfortable 1:45-1:50 / 500m pace, instead of an exhausting 2:00/500m pace due to terrible technique.
Sweaty Farmers Carry
My run times had dropped off quite a bit towards the tail end at this point. I fell into the trap of starting to use them for recovery, instead of continuing to push, and my times jumped to over 4:30 as a result.
Thought I could maybe make up some time coming into the 2 x 34kg farmers carry. In training, I could move with the heavier 34kg kettlebells for about 1m 45s before I had to put them down. Which I reckoned would just about get you to the end of the 200m distance.
So on the day, with the added adrenaline, potentially the ability to go unbroken. What I didn't account for, again, was how sweaty the kettlebells were.
I chalked up my hands before picking them up, but the chalk had sweated off by the 2nd turn. This was also a particularly long farmers carry (time-wise) due to their being 6 shorter lengths (5 turns) instead of the usual 4 longer lengths (3 turns). Turning with the heavy kettlebells definitely adds on some time.
The final two lengths I had to put the kettlebells down a LOT. The handles were slick and just kept sliding out my hands.
Resulting in a pretty disappointing farmers carry time of 2:47, where it's usually one of my better stations and I'm close to 1:30!
The 100m sandbag lunges (penultimate exercise) still went ok. I had been practicing with a 25kg bag, so the 30kg on the day didn't feel too much different.
Wasn't breaking any records here by any means, just a steady comfortable pace knocking out the distance in 4:52. Again it was a bit of a slower station that normal with there being 4 lengths (3 turns) instead of 2 lengths (1 turn).
Coming into the wall balls, I felt relieved it was almost over rather than any drive to go fast and push for a quicker time.
The wall balls, especially with the heavier 9kg ball, is horrible anyway you look at it haha. I had trained a lot for this, at times doing 100 wall balls every single day, and had worked out the best strategy for me was to do 5 x 20 reps with a short pause between.
The plan being to do 20 reps in 40-45s, then rest for the remainder of the minute, then repeat. If you can stick to this, then you'll have a time under 5mins (which is a very good time for the 9kg ball).
This plan initially played out nicely, with me doing 3 x 20 reps as above. Then 13 reps into the next stint, the ball slipped out my hands (that's right, due to sweat lol), hit off me and then on to the floor. I lost all momentum and rhythm, and ended up finishing something like 7, 10, 10 reps, for a disappointing wall ball time of over 6mins.
Across the finish line in a final time of 1h 15m, which was good enough for 267th out of 451 overall (52nd in age group).
With all the targeted training I was aiming for close to my previous Open men race time, maybe slightly slower somewhere in the 1h 5m range. So I definitely under-performed.
I naively thought there was an outside possibility of an age group podium based on previous world champs times. In reality, even if things had went perfectly, there was no chance of this! haha.
The top 5 in my AG were all in the 1h - 1h 3m range! Very impressive times, especially given it was a slow course with the 3 run laps and more turns than normal for several of the exercises.
Although it wasn't the performance I had trained and aimed for, it was still a brilliant experience. The venue, atmosphere, organisation all top notch as always at HYROX.
Think that's me done with HYROX for this year. I'll likely return to it in Feb 2024 if it comes back to Glasgow. Until then, normal service will resume and I'll get back to trail running and obstacle course racing!