by Carrie Adams

Corinne in the PacNW, Second place finish

It’s been an epic year for Spartan women and we’ve had some regular faces on the scene.  One such face is Corinee Kohlen.  Like so many of our Spartan women, Kohlen is strong and determined.  The 30 year old from Visalia, CA made her first appearance in SoCal in January and in the Pacific Northwest she took home second place and $750 courtesy of Navy Federal Credit Union, who is generously providing cash prizes at select Spartan Race events.  Check out Corinne’s impressive stats and hear her Spartan story and how she keeps learning and growing in the emerging sport of Obstacle Racing.  

Corinne Kohlen 6 F 30-34 19 5 3 10,932
SoCal Super Spartan Race 2:35:31 167 17 9 0
SoCal Super Spartan Race 2:14:40 89 7 3 491
Arizona Super Spartan Race 1:35:18 69 7 4 493
Colorado Military Sprint Spartan Race 2012 1:18:15 57 4 3 4947
Colorado Military Sprint Spartan Race 2012 1:08:50 10 1 1 5001
Pacific NW Sprint Spartan Race 45:02 23 2 1 0
Utah Spartan Race – 2012 2:36:42 143 22 9 6109

My first Spartan race was the super Spartan in Temecula, CA in January.  I had done other obstacle races before but was new to Spartan racing and was encouraged to try it out by a few friends.  In Temecula I decided to race both days since I would have to travel about six hours to get there I wanted to maximize my experience.  Saturday  I lined up to the starting line feeling pretty confident and thinking how experienced I was and how prepared I was and that I had the race “in the bag”.  My Saturday race didn’t quite pan out how I had hoped though…

It was hot, I was overdressed, it was hilly, I was doing burpees which to be honest, I had never done before, I was playing mind games and getting really discouraged as I saw competitors pass me.  I was overheating and dehydrating and miserable that I was not winning.  I finished the race thanks to encouragement from a fellow competitor (Sue Luck) whom  I didn’t even know but have since become friends with and she has been a huge inspiration to me.   After hours on the grass recovering from the race in fetal position, I went back to my hotel, bruised, depressed, nauseated, and discouraged.  That night the results of the race were posted online and as I compared my race times to other peoples I started thinking – I should have done better than that, I can do better than that,  I will do better than that!

I went back Sunday and although I was scratched up, sore, and sun burnt I was much more prepared mentally and had the spark in me!  Sunday I finished the course almost 20 minutes faster than my Saturday time and improved my placement a lot.  From that moment on I was hooked on the energy, challenge, and competitiveness of Spartan racing.

Since Temecula I have competed in the Arizona Super, both days of the Colorado Military Sprint, and just last weekend in the Pacific Northwest Sprint.  I have become a member of the “Spartan Chicked” facebook group and the women of that group have given me immeasurable amounts of support, encouragement, and training tips.  I am inspired by the stories I am able to share with my fellow Spartan chicks and love the camaraderie between the ladies.  I have met some great women and we have shared hotels, dinners, and travel to races together and I am so happy that among these girls I “fit in”.

So onto the PNW race.  I originally was not planning to travel to this race but when I read the description on the Spartan website I knew I had to go.  Spartan Race promised that PNW would have some extreme and long sections of the bob wire crawl and this is my absolute favorite obstacle, and one that I am pretty fast at.  I was going to be in San Francisco area anyways that weekend so the flight was not ridiculously expensive and I was really hoping to place and be able to at least break even budget wise.   When I got to Washington I had heard that the course was short but that the first mile or so was all uphill, and that the bob wire was also uphill.  I immediately panicked.  Hills are my biggest weakness and I was worried that if I could not run fast enough on the first mile of hills I would be passed my many people, then end up getting behind on the obstacles.  Also, an uphill mud crawl meant rolling would be nearly impossible.   I was nervous and this race meant a lot to me.  When I got to the race site I was met by a few familiar faces and many new ones.  I tried to size up who might be my competition and one woman stood out instantly.  She was petite but strong, looked very athletic, and was wearing a pearl izumi workout suit and shoes.  She was warming up, checking out the obstacles, stretching, talking to people.  I was thinking that she was probably a sponsored runner and would be fast on the run.  I was hoping that running would be the only thing she was good at but I was so wrong!   As it got closer to our heat time she changed into running attire and we began to line up at the start.  We were given red wristbands to identify that we were in the competitive heat and in hopes that we would be able to avoid waits at obstacles.  I dumped half a gallon of water on my head because to me it was on already hot, and before I knew it – we were off.

As I had been warned, the first part of the race was all uphill.  I was passed by almost all the guys and about six girls.  Being passed so early and by so many people never feels great but I have learned to get used to it, and for this race I had mentally prepared myself to understand that this would happen.  I am not a fast runner, and to keep moving forward up that first hill I was expending serious amounts of energy.  I began breathing very hard, which is actually normal for me, but seemed to worry other competitors.  Multiple guys asked if I was OK and one very sternly warned me to “control your breathing”.  Was it really that bad I wondered?  It didn’t matter.  I knew I had to keep pushing to the top because I knew this was a short race and if I didn’t give this hill 100% I had no chance of finishing in the front.  I knew within an hour my race would be over so I was going to spend that hour pushing as hard as I could.

When we reached some “top” of a hill the trail began to mellow out a bit and became more rolling and even downhill at times.  This was my first chance to shine.  I love the downhill and began passing people, catching up to my original place at the starting line.  I passed all of the woman I could remember except that one – the one I had been worried about.  She was no where in site and I hadn’t seen her for a while.  I can’t really remember the order of the obstacles but was relieved by the waterslide that launched me into some super cool water.  I was so excited to cool down I slid down before the volunteer wanted me too and got yelled at –sorry volunteer, I was already sliding by the time you yelled at me.  A bit after that there was the sandbag carry – still no girl, and then the first mud crawl.  This was tricky because it was over motorcross  bumps  with very thin mud and sharp rocks pointing up from the dirt – AND the volunteers would not let us roll!  What!??? No rolling???  So I crawled, slid and wiggled as fast as I possibly could, slicing my knees up with every movement.  It was not as fast as a roll but I was still passing men when a volunteer yelled at me: “The first girl is still in the mud, you can catch her”.  My knees went into overdrive and I crawled faster than ever before but still no sight of her.  More obstacles followed the traverse wall which I love, the rope climb, the spear throw – automatic 30 burpees for me, still no sight of the girl.  Time passed and it seemed like the race must be at least halfway over and I came to the chain pull.  It was here that I finally saw my competition – the first time since we had been at the starting line together.  As I was going to head up the hill, she was heading down.  Was it possible?  Could I catch her?  No, not yet.  The chain pull is hard for me, and again she disappeared.

Now the uphill bob wire crawl.  This was so steep Spartan added ropes.

The top finishers from PacNW

It was steep, my knees were bleeding, people were complaining and moving like slugs but I loved it.  I made good time up the crawl and moved on to the monkeybars where I saw her – girl number one doing burpees.  I was so surprised that she had fallen and again, thought this may be my opportunity.  I cruised through the monkey bars right when she finished her burpees but she quickly sprinted up a mini hill and I followed at least 100 feet behind.  This was it.  It was now or never.  We ran, her much quicker than me.  I could see the finish line and see her in front of me.  She was going to win I thought, and I was OK with this but I was still going all out.  She made it over the slanted rope all and I followed very close behind her.  About 50 feet from the gladiators and finish line was the last obstacle.  The balancing stepping log obstacle.  I couldn’t believe what I saw – she had fallen and was doing burpees, just feet from the finish line.  I had never fallen at this obstacle before and thought at this moment I might just have it.  I tried to choose my line wisely and made it about 5 steps, then the last log I moved to wiggled just enough to make me lose my balance and fall!  I was heartbroken, and joined her doing burpees.  She finished hers when I still had about 10 left, and I knew I came in second place.  I was bummed that it was so close and felt like I let it slip away but still really happy to come in 2nd.  It would be my best Saturday finish to date.  As I finished my burpees I ran through the gladiators and one gave me a high 5 instead of hitting me.  This brought a huge smile to my face and I crossed the finish line, proud and exhausted.  I told “the girl” congratulations and told her how fast she was and how I tried to catch her then asked her name.  Jenny.  Jenny Tobin?   The girl with the braids upside down on the traverse rope who won the Spartan Championship last year?  The girl who beat some really great competitors to win $10,000.  Yes, Jenny Tobin.  I felt honored to come in second place to her, and relieved that it was “her” who beat me.  I was a happy girl.  Less than a minute later another woman I had met at the start finished in third place and I realized she must have been on my tail, as I was on Jenny’s, and I was thankful I had given every part of that race everything I had and never given up.  I hadn’t realized I was being chased!

I will forever look upon my PNW with a smile.  It was a fun race, I really worked hard on keeping my attitude positive and optimistic during the race, and I never gave up.  Thank you to Spartan Race for putting on yet another great race, thank you to Navy Federal Credit Union – because of you I can afford my next race, and thank you to all my new friends I have met racing, and the support of the Spartan chicked community.



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2 Responses

  1. avatar

    Love this report! Very proud of you. Keep it up!

  2. avatar

    Congrats Corinne! Dang that was a close one. You’ll get her next time. I’m the volunteer from the first mud crawl, the one who told you you could catch the gal in front of you. Thanks for the shout-out in your article and way to go. I ran in the afternoon and loved every bit of the course. I can’t wait until next year!

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