Jim Delorie, right, of Oakland, placed second in the 35-39 age group at the Spartan Race World Championships last weekend in Squaw Valley Resort in California. Submitted photo

Jim Delorie reaches under his desk and pulls up a huge bucket full of sand like he’s picking up a pen. He places it on his desk and invites you to lift it. You feel your bicep and tendons working as you pull the bucket a few inches off the desk. Setting it down, you ask, how much does that weigh?

“I don’t know. Fifty or 60 pounds,” Delorie says. “At Tahoe they had a double sand bag carry, and a sand bag was, I think, 55 pounds. And it crushed me. It just crushed me.”

Assistant Dean of Student Engagement at Thomas College, Delorie keeps this feat of strength under his desk at Harold Alfond Athletic Center so he can take it down the hall and hold it as we walks on one of the treadmills. Carrying sandbags is one of the obstacles in Spartan racing, and Delorie is one of the top Spartan racers in the country.

Last weekend, Delorie, 38, competed in the Spartan World Championship at Squaw Valley Resort in Lake Tahoe, California. He placed second in his 35-39 age group, running the 14-mile obstacle course in 3 hours and 1 minute.

To put it simply, a Spartan race is a cross country run in which competitors must complete a series of obstacles along the way. They’ll carry heavy sand bags, or crawl under barbed wire, or climb a wall, or throw a spear, or grip rings to cross a water hazard. Anything short of wrestling a grizzly bear for 10-pounds of salmon.

Five years ago, Delorie watched videos of Spartan races on YouTube, and he became smitten. Finally, his wife Amanda told him to shut off the laptop.

“She said, just go do it. If you love it so much, just go try it,” Delorie said.

Delorie’s first race was in Amesbury, Massachusetts. It was 90 degrees and he was crawling under barbed wire and, with a quarter mile to go, wanted to quit.

“Then 100 yards later I finished, and I was like, where do I sign up again?” he said.

In the five years since, Delorie improved as he began taking on tougher competition at the elite level.  A Norridgewock native who now lives in Oakland with his family, Delorie played college football, as a wide receiver at Nichols College. Distance running wasn’t his thing, though. He’s still not crazy about it. If you go to the Quarry Road trails in Waterville, you might see Delorie training, sometimes running up to two hours at a time. The only way to improve is to do it. It’s about managing his heart rate. Heart rate is the engine of running, Delorie said. Your heart rate is going to go before your legs get tired.

“Running is the No. 1 obstacle. If you’re not a fast runner, it doesn’t matter how quick you are on the 20 obstacles. It was probably my weakest piece,” Delorie said.

But he always loved climbing stuff. As a kid, Delorie was the one who always had a bloody nose and was climbing a tree. He would climb birches and make them sway so much he could touch the ground with his feet. He would climb backstops at basefall fields. There wasn’t a bridge Delorie wouldn’t jump from.

“Now, I hope my son never does this (climbing things),” Delorie said.

Delorie and 7-year old Cooper work out together at home on obstacles Delorie made to simulate what he’ll see in a race. Cooper competes in children’s races, and is excited to race at Fenway Park again.

There’s a stadium series of races, and those are where Delorie has enjoyed some of his greatest success. At Fenway, competitors run all over the ballpark, from the Green Monster to the dugouts. AT&T Stadium in Dallas, home of the Cowboys, was a fun race, Delorie said. Oracle Park, the home of the San Francisco Giants, was a blast. For that, Delorie flew cross-country for a 26 minute race, then flew home.

When Delorie began competing with the elites, it was just to test himself. He didn’t think he could actually make the podium. The challenge was the motivation he wanted. Delorie got a sponsorship from the Maine Dairy Council, and that paid for his flight to Tahoe.

On World Championships race day in Tahoe last weekend, it was 25 degrees. Two inches of snow had fallen overnight. Usually, Delorie runs shirtless to avoid getting snagged on barbed wire. With an obstacle that required spending time on 40 degree water, shirtless wasn’t an option. Delorie wore a long-sleeved compression shirt and a windbreaker. When he got out of the water, Delorie ditched his life jacket and sprinted.

“The faster I move, the faster I’ll get warm,” he said.

Delorie knew he wouldn’t catch the leader, but with a mile and a half left, he was challenged by a competitor who may or may not have been in his age group. Delorie asked, and when the guy responded in French (“I don’t speak French”), Delorie held up three fingers, then five, to see if the guy was in the 35-39 age group. Turns out he was.

At the top of the last climb, Delorie’s competitive nature took over. All the climbing as a boy, the javelin throwing in his driveway in Oakland, the 60-pound bucket of sand tucked under his desk at Thomas College, it was all for right now.

“At the top of that last climb, I just said, this is going to hurt for a while, but I have to run hard,” Deloire said.

Near the finish, Delorie aced the tire flip that he’d struggled with earlier, and held on to second place. Delorie estimated he spent eight months training for last weekend’s three hour race.

Now, it’s on to the next one.

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