The Fab Five Females Of OCR

In OCR’s relatively short history, we have not seen intense competition from this many rivals near the top from either gender.

If you have viewed the Spartan on NBC series in recent years, you may have watched Amelia versus Rose, Hunter battle Hobie, or even Atkins and Woodsy go back and forth for the top spot, but we never have we seen anything like this.

5 women, vying for 3 spots on the podium. Any one of which can win on any given day.

All 5 are around the same age, so all 5 of them can still get stronger (and maybe even faster), and all have plenty of races left in them.

Nicole Mericle – Boulder, CO – 30 years old

Nicole Mericle

Background: Collegiate cross country and track runner, rock climbing enthusiast

First OCR: May 2016 Fort Carson Spartan Super  –  (She placed 3rd to KK and Faye)

Stats: 38 races. 27 podiums. 11 firsts.

Titles: 3K OCR World Champion 2017, Tougher Mudder World Champion 2017, USA OCR 3K and 15K Champion 2017

Strengths: Running fast on flat and uphill terrain, grip and pull up strength obstacles, (and apparently slip walls with short ropes). Despite being the shortest of the Fab 5, I have some jumping, explosive power.

Weaknesses: Carrying heavy things

Give us one word to describe the following women:

Faye – Passionate
Rea – Adventurous
Nicole – Spirited
Lindsay – Champion
Alyssa – Lionhearted

Who out of these women is your toughest competitor?  Lindsay has her training and lifestyle so dialed in. I know she’s always going to be prepared, she knows how to race smart and she’s a fighter when it comes down to it. That’s a hard combination to beat and it’s why Lindsay is oftentimes unbeatable. In order to beat Lindsay I have to be firing at 100%, nothing can go wrong for me and usually something has to go wrong for her.

What else did we not ask you, that you want the world to know? I will not lead the race at the start in Tahoe.

Faye Stenning – Manhattan, New York – 28 years old

Background: Track and Cross Country

First OCR date: 2013

Stats: 69 races to date. 56 podiums. 33 firsts.

Titles: 2nd place at 2016 and 2018 USA Spartan Championship Series , 3rd at Spartan World Championships 2016

Strengths: Speed and endurance

Weaknesses: Technical descents (and the slip wall apparently)

Give us one word to describe the following women:

Faye- Work horse
Rea- Passionate
Nicole-Sassy and speedy
Lindsay- Gold Standard
Alyssa- Down to Earth

Who out of these women is your toughest competitor:

All of the above, depends on the day and the race conditions.

Lindsay Webster – Caledon, Ontario – 28 years old

Background:  Cross country skiing and mountain biking

First OCR date: Spartan World Championships in 2014 at Killington, VT (4th place)

Stats: 80 races, 70 podiums, 40 firsts.

Titles: OCR World Champion 2015, OCR World Champion short course 2016, OCR World Champion long course 2016, 1st place Spartan US Championship Series 2016, OCR World Champion short course 2017, OCR World Champion long course 2017, 1st place Spartan US Championship Series 2017, 1st place Spartan World Championships 2017, 1st place Spartan North American Championship 2018, 1st place OCR North American Championship 2018 long course, 1st place OCR North American Championship 2018 short course, 1st place Spartan US Championship Series 2018. 2018 Tougher Mudder Champion

Strengths: Technical running, descending, hills.

Weaknesses: Flat running, sometimes long carries depending on the day.

Give us one word to describe the following women:

Faye-  Driven. This girl works hard and races harder. She always gives 100% and you can tell if you’ve ever heard her breathing during a race lol.
Rea – Mountain Goat
Nicole – Speedster
Lindsay – Chameleon 😉 Because if you saw me off the race course I think I’m fairly unassuming haha.
Alyssa- Strong. Both physically and mentally.

Who out of these women is your toughest competitor: I’d say Rea or Nicole, depending on the race course.

What else did you not ask you that the world should know:
Rebecca Hammond! Watch for that girl 😉 She’ll be giving me a run for my money next year, I’d bet on it haha. She’s smart… she both races and trains smart, and doesn’t get flustered when something goes wrong in a race. She just figured it out and keeps moving, which is a seriously desirable quality in OCR.

Rea Kolbl – Boulder, CO – 27 years old

 

Background: Slovenian National Team member gymnastics, pole vaulting, trail running

First OCR date: One open heat 2013, Elite heats began in 2016

Stats: 53 races, 47 podiums, 26 firsts

Titles:  World’s Toughest Mudder 2017 champion, 2017 Spartan World Elite Series Champion & Spartan US Elite Series Champion

Strengths: Long climbs, steep ascents

Weaknesses: Technical downhills

Give us one word to describe the following women:

Faye -Fierce all around
Rea -Hill climbing queen
Nicole -Running rabbit
Lindsay -Technical descents magician
Alyssa – Heavy carry and muddy course monster

Who out of these women is your toughest competitor:
Each venue is different enough that any of them could be my toughest competitor. Course with lots of technical descents makes Lindsay tough to beat, and a race like Seattle with lots of mud puts Alyssa on top. You can bet that Nicole will take it away on a course with lots of flat, runnable terrain, and Faye can bring out her redlining abilities on any course. But make it super hilly without any significant bushwacking on the course, I think my chances of doing well are pretty high.

What else did we not ask you, that you want the world to know?
While all of these ladies are my competitors, each and every one of them is an amazing human being and I’m honored every time to share a course and a weekend of racing with such an incredible group.

 Alyssa Hawley – Spokane, WA – Age 28

 

Background:  OCR Division 1 College Softball

First OCR date: May 2015

Stats: 40 podiums with 19 overall wins.

Name of titles: 3rd place Spartan World Champion 2017

Strengths: Heavy carries, technical and muddy courses

Weaknesses: Flat and fast courses

One word to describe the following women :

Faye – Gritty

Rea – Mountain Goat

Nicole – Speedy

Lindsay – Unstoppable

Alyssa-  Hard worker

Who out of these women is your toughest competitor:

Lindsay. She doesn’t seem to have any weaknesses.

Related : How will all the top women fair in Tahoe for the 2018 Spartan World Championship.

 

 

Train Like a Pro: Rea Kolbl

Rea-Kolbl-Bucket-Carry-MontereyIf you haven’t heard the name Rea Kolbl before, there’s a good chance that will change soon. One of the newest members of the Spartan Pro team, Kolbl has excelled in the early stages of her career.

Because she mostly ran local Spartan races, Kolbl was a virtual unknown at last year’s Golden State Classic in Monterey, one of the five Spartan U.S. Championship races on NBC. So much so, that one of the race referees had asked her to spell her name while she was finishing burpees. Kolbl went on to finish 4th, under a minute from hitting top three in what was her first ever elite race.

Despite being caught off guard by the cold (like many were) at the 2016 Spartan World Championship in Lake Tahoe and having to complete 150 burpees, she still managed a 7th place finish at the site of the 1960 Olympic Games. That included an untimely fall on the descent, one of her typical strengths. “Usually I’m pretty fast on the downhill because trail running is what I do, but I was so cold that I was shivering and couldn’t see the ground at all,” Kolbl recalls.

Rea-Kolbl-Snowy-Mountain Climb

Originally from Slovenia, Kolbl came to the United States almost seven years ago to attend U.C. Berkeley before moving to Stanford, where she is currently a full-time grad student.

Like many other athletes on the team, she’s had to find a healthy balance of work, training and personal time: Working full-time, this means a morning run, a full day of work, then getting in a second training session with her husband, Bunsak. Kolbl attributes him for most of her ability to keep up with training. “He does all the cooking beforehand and all the cleaning and shopping,” she says. “I do dishes to do my part, but I’m definitely lucky from that perspective.”

Having a full schedule is nothing new to her, however. “Being on the gymnastics team when I was younger,” she recounts, “I had like seven hours of practice (every day)…and I still did school full time so there was always a balancing of the two.”

Rea-Kolbl-Fire-Jump-SoCal

This year, keep an eye out for this up and comer as she takes on more of the Spartan U.S. Championship Series races and looks to improve on her finish (and burpee count) at Tahoe. She’s already started 2017 with a bang, winning both the Sprint and Super races at the SoCal event in January.

Below is one of Kolbl’s favorite training sessions. She generally performs it the day after a rowing session, and follows it up with a low impact cardio day. As you’ll see below, the Stairmaster is one of Kolbl’s favorite forms of low-impact cardio. “It really pumps my heartbeat, but it doesn’t really work hard on my knees or ankles,” she explains. The rest of her week includes some training on a track, trail/mountain running and another HIIT session.

Rea-Kolbl-Spartan-SoCal-Sprint-2017

MORNING

RUN
This part should always be done in the morning. Go for a nine-mile run at an increasing pace. The second half of the run should be at maximum sustainable effort. For Kolbl, this consists of a sub-7 minute per mile average pace on a loop that has almost 800 feet of elevation gain.

Rea-Kolbl-Monterey-Sand-Bag

AFTERNOON

PART ONE
20-MINUTE STAIRMASTER CARDIO
Begin at 96 steps per minute. This is usually level eleven. Incrementally increase each level at the following times:

  • 2 Minutes – Increase to 103 steps per minute
  • 5 Minutes – Increase to 110 steps per minute
  • 8 Minutes – Increase to 117 steps per minute
  • 11 Minutes – Increase to 126 steps per minute
  • 14 Minutes – Increase to 133 steps per minute
  • 17 Minutes – Increase to 140 steps per minute

Pro Tip: If a Stairmaster is unavailable, substitute 20 minutes on a rowing machine or exercise bike. Any form of low impact cardio will work.

Rea-Kolbl-Beach-Swing

PART TWO

TABATA
Perform each set of two exercises in alternating fashion, executing 20 seconds of work with 10 seconds of rest. Complete each one four total times so that each set ends up being four minutes long. Rest 30 seconds between each set. Kolbl usually does this part with an elevation mask set at 12,000 feet.

  • Set 1
    • Burpees: If you’re an avid OCR fan, chances are you know what a burpee is. Just in case: Begin in a standing position with your feet together. Touch your hands to the floor and kick your legs back so that you are in a push-up position. Perform a push-up, then bring your feet back up in between your hands and jump straight into the air.
    • Star Jumps: Stand with your feet slightly spread apart and arms at your sides. Bend at the knees and explode up, spreading your arms and legs out. Your body will create a star shape. As you land, bring your arms and legs back in. It’s similar to a jumping jack, except you aren’t landing on the jump out.
  • Set 2 
    • Squat Jumps: Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Squat down and jump up in the air. Land softly.
    • Lunge Jumps/Split-Squat Jumps: Get into a lunge position. Jump up into the air while simultaneously switching legs. You should land so that your front leg is now your back, and back is now front.
      • Writer’s Tip: This one is not fun. If you run out of gas, rather than stopping, modify if you need to. Instead of jumping straight up in the air, bring your back foot up with your front, sending the previously front foot back almost instantly. If you can, still try to ensure each foot is off the ground at the same time (at least a little) during the switch.
  • Set 3 
    • High Knees: Run in place, but make sure you are bringing your knees to at least a 90-degree angle when it leaves the ground.
    • Mountain Climbers: Get into a push-up position. Bring one knee towards your chest and tap your toe on the ground. As that foot returns to its original position, bring the opposite foot up and tap that toe. Be sure your butt does not stick up. Your body should form a straight line from head to toe.
  • Set 4 
    • Back and Forth Frog Jumps: Squat down and bring your hands to the ground in front of you. Jump forward, briefly bringing your hands above your head. Then do the same, but backward.
    • Kettlebell Swings: With a 25-pound dumbbell or kettlebell, stand with your feet at least shoulder width apart. With a slight bend in the knees, hinge at your waist so that your back is parallel to the ground and the weight is between your legs. As you transition into the standing position, thrust your hips forward so your body forms a straight line. Simultaneously swing the weight in front of your chest, while keeping your arms straight.
  • Set 5 
    • Push-ups: Your hands should be at least a little wider than shoulder width and your back should remain straight through the each repetition.
      • Writer’s Tip: If doing a push-up normally hurts your wrists, grab a pair of dumbbells that won’t roll (hex-shaped or adjustable normally).
    • Elbow Plank with Knee to Elbow: Get in a plank position with your elbows touching the ground. Your first set, bring your left leg up to your elbow and back. Alternate to your right on the second set, so that you are doing two total sets per leg
  • Set 6 
    • Russian Twists: Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet touching the ground in front of you. Lean your torso back, while keeping your back straight. It should be roughly 45-degrees off the ground. Straighten your arms and clasp your hands together. Rotate your arms to the right, pause, then back in front of you and to the left.
    • Sit-ups: Lay on the ground with your knees bent and feet touching the ground in front of you. With either your hands across your chest, or touching the side of your head, use your core to lift your torso up to your knees. Return to the starting position.

Rea-Kolbl-Monkey-Bars-Monterey

PART THREE

GRIP STRENGTH
Perform one minute of jump rope. Once finished, immediately dead hang from a bar for one minute. Repeat this five times with no rest, totaling ten minutes of work.

Writer’s Tip: As odd as it sounds, jumping rope may be a bit difficult if you aren’t used to it. If you can’t quite get the hang of it, just keep going. You’ll find that you’re rope jumping will improve each round!

Writer’s Note: Thank you to Rea for sharing her favorite workout. You can follow her on Instagram and catch her training at King’s Camps and Fitness.

Photo Credit: Rea Kolbl, Spartan Race

Check out past Train Like a Pro articles: