Anyone who is familiar with historical Spartans (or even the pop culture spartans of recent movies like 300) knows that they were considered some of the toughest folks around.
Although you might not know it when you first meet her, there is no better example of Spartan toughness than professional Spartan Racer Rose Wetzel. She possesses an energy that is both perpetual and contagious. But don’t let her bubbly personality fool you, she’s the fiercest of competitors.
Rose and I first met in 2010 as teammates and competitors at the USATF National Club Championships in San Francisco, CA. At the time we were both competing for Club Northwest, a local Seattle running club. Rose went on to win both the 1,500m and 5,000m races at that meet, as well as placing 2nd and 3rd as a member of the Sprint Medley and Distance Medley relays, respectively.
Just over a year ago Rose made the transition from the track to the obstacle course, racing professionally on the Spartan Race circuit. In a short period she has become one of the world’s premier obstacle racers. At the time of this article she is the 2nd ranked female Spartan Racer and ranked 5th overall. Her newfound talents have landed her on the covers of magazines and as the focus of TV interviews.
Between training, competing, giving interviews and maintaining her business as a personal trainer in Seattle, WA, it goes without saying that Rose is rather busy these days. I had the good fortune of pinning her down on a recent visit to the InHealth office before the big race in Vermont to learn more about her transition into the relatively new sport of obstacle racing.
InHealth: What I’m most curious about is this big pivot you’ve made from running to obstacle racing. How did that happen?
Rose Wetzel: I’ve been focused on running for 16-17 years and absolutely love it. Then a buddy of mine on my running team–Chad Trammell from Club Northwest actually–told me, “Hey, you should try obstacle racing. It’s really fun and I think you’d be good at it.” I was like, “What is that? Jumping over fire? Sure, sign me up!”.
After track season last year I thought I’d try something new, and I jumped in a race in early August and it was just a whole other experience. It was really difficult to learn how to pace myself and know that my body’s going to get exhausted in a whole different level; in a different way than it’s use to in both upper and lower body.
IH: I know that there are two different lengths: the sprint which is a shorter forty-five to sixty minutes and a longer race that runs about ninety minutes–
RW: There are three actually. There’s the Sprint which is three to five miles which takes about forty-five minutes to an hour. Then there’s the Super, or Super Sprint, which is six to ten miles in that range and the Beast which is more like ten to fourteen or fifteen miles. The race that is coming up in Vermont is a Beast and it’s the World Championship. It’s an epic Beast that’s about fourteen plus miles, so they could make it 16 or more. [Laughter] “Oh hi, not done yet!” They like to keep it unpredictable.
It’ll take over 4 hours, so think about a half marathon that takes almost three or four times longer than just running on a flat surface. It’s on such a steep black diamond slope; you’re just going up-down up-down. You’re carrying a sixty-five pound sandbag up and down super steep for a mile and you’re carrying a big old bucket full of rocks. It’s backbreaking and really crazy. But YAY! I’m excited!
IH: Have you done one of the Beasts before?
RW: I’ve only done one before and it lasted 2 hours so. They’re all difficult, but it will be nothing like this race coming up. I really have no idea what to expect in a way. Very sadly, the reigning champion from last year who I have been duking it out with in all these last races just tore her meniscus today.
IH: Now that’s a bummer!
RW: Yeah. There will still be plenty of really good competition from Australia, from Canada but it’s kind of crazy. She was definitely the favorite to win; most people would agree.
IH: Now is this the woman who is ranked number one overall? RW: Oh yeah, she’s the reigning world champion and the course is so suited for her. She’s not as much a runner like I am. She loves power hiking and lifting heavy stuff up mountains and I’m more “Can we just run and do strength to bodyweight stuff?” I’m not super big–I’ve gained some muscle mass and I’m trying to get stronger–but it’s a whole other world out there when you’re going against people who are ex-military or own crossfit gyms. It’s just a whole other level.
IH: Is this the end of your season or do you have other races
RW: It’s actually the beginning of the championship season believe it or not. The World Championship is first but then we have a couple fun races like the team world championship where 4 people from Hungary, 4 people from Australia and England come and battle which is really cool. There is an age group one as well; one for the east coast and one for the west coast. All these other championships are great but this one [in Vermont] is the main one so it’s nice to be in your peak and the mindset racing hard but be in the freshest for the first, most important race.
IH: The sport of obstacle racing is gaining a lot of attention lately; from grassroots growth to the national level. You’ve had the opportunity to be on NBC and ESPN– RW: I haven’t been on ESPN but on NBC Sports.The last one actually, in Vermont, will be on NBC. So not NBC Sports but the real deal. I just got my itinerary for the different interviews I’ll be doing. Good thing I like this stuff. I’m not camera shy or anything–
IH: No, not at all.
RW: I know. [Laughs] “Wait, you want to talk to me? What? Oh Hi! OK!” When you’re the eighth of nine kids you don’t necessarily get oodles and oodles of attention so later on I can be like “Oh, you actually think I have something important to say? OK, Great!” I appreciate it even more, we’ll just put it that way.
IH: How has it been, this transition from the track and field world–which isn’t necessarily as high profile–to now doing magazines, interviews and TV spots?
RW: It’s been fun because it’s just something that I enjoy and I can feed off the energy of other people. The Facebook likes and the comments. I have this very extroverted side that really soaks it in and I feel like I really do appreciate more. Not that I didn’t get attention as a child because I was plenty loved as a kid, no doubt, but it’s just a little different and when there’s that many kids you can get lost in the crowd. Later on you can rise out and feel special due to this one talent – not that I really only have one talent – It’s just been such a great adventure and great ride and I feel really grateful to everyone who’s contributed to coaching me and supporting me to get to where I am now. I feel like it’s been a great way to say thanks to just do well. You guys [at InHealth] have done so much for me; I’ve stayed injury free – knock on wood of course, because it could all just go out the window – I’ve stayed injury free for a couple years now and that never was happening before. The ability to train consistently is key.