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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane Valley Spartan racer braced for second championship

Alyssa Hawley likes trudging up hills carrying 50-pound buckets of gravel, or with heavy sandbags slung across her shoulders.

She’s less fond of an obstacle known as the Twister – a pole with monkey-bar grips protruding from it in a spiral pattern, which spins each time an athlete shifts weight from one hand to another.

Those are just a few of the challenges Hawley will face this weekend during her second appearance in the Reebok Spartan Race World Championship in Squaw Valley, northwest of Lake Tahoe, California.

Spartan races are grueling athletic events involving miles of rugged running trails and many daunting performance obstacles, including tires to flip, mud pits to wade through, walls to climb over and barbed wire to crawl under.

The races, which began in 2010, are split into four categories – Sprint, Super, Beast and Ultra Beast – that vary in length and difficulty. The Sprint is the shortest, with a maximum of 5 miles and at least 15 obstacles to conquer along the way. The Ultra Beast has at least 26 miles and 60 obstacles.

Among the fiercest competitors is Hawley, a 27-year-old Spokane Valley native who completed her first Spartan race in May 2015. She came in fourth among women at last year’s world championship in Lake Tahoe.

This weekend she’ll compete individually in the Beast category, and alongside two men in the first-ever Spartan championship team event.

Hawley has been in Tahoe for about a week and a half, focusing on her sleep, training and nutrition and getting accustomed to the thin mountain air. She’ll get a map and a briefing on the race courses, but doesn’t like to immerse herself in the details.

“You really just got to be prepared for anything,” she said in a phone call Thursday. “It’s hard to have a game plan because it can really just go out the window at any second. You just kind of mentally prepare by knowing that you’ve done it before.”

Hawley has completed 10 Spartan races this year, most recently in late August in West Virginia, finishing the Beast course in just 2 hours 29 minutes. An ankle injury stopped her from competing in Seattle earlier this month, but she shrugged it off and feels ready for the championship.

“I just was like, ‘Screw it. I’m going to take ibuprofen and run through it,’ and I’m actually good to go,” she said.

Hawley played softball at University High School and played center field for Stony Brook University during her last two years as a student there. She did her first Spartan race in New York before moving back home, and she was hooked.

Last year she switched up her workout plan, running more mountain trails, doing less strength training and eating a vegetarian diet to shed unneeded muscle weight.

“I was never a runner, and I really love all the strength stuff,” she said. “Nobody really knows exactly how to train for this sport quite yet, just because it is so new and so different.”

Hawley said she didn’t enter last year’s championship with the best mindset, but this weekend she plans to bring the full force of her competitive spirit.

“This is what I’ve trained for. This is what I’ve worked on for months,” she said. “I’m just ready to go let it out there, and trust that my training has been enough.”

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