With the win at the 2019 World Championships, the spotlight for the $1 million prize shifts to Mericle and Robert Killian, the men’s reigning world champion.
A graduate from the prestigious Rice University in 2011 and native of Houston, Texas; Nicole Mericle has been a rising force in the past few years within the Spartan circuit. Recently, she has become one of the most feared names in the women's field. A year ago, she left her job as an EMT to pursue a full-time career in obstacle course racing, and it’s paying off. Just in the last two weeks she has won the Spartan World Championship in Lake Tahoe as well as the three-kilometer OCR World Championships in England. Adding to a list of stellar accomplishments for Mericle who was second in the North American Championships in West Virginia as well as runner-up in the U.S National Series, only to great friend and rival Lindsay Webster.
“Most of the top women in the field were full-time racers, and I felt as though my body was being overworked especially, while being in an environment dealing with sick patients. It was difficult to keep my body healthy through both working and racing,” said Mericle.
Although she just recently began racing as a full-time job, Mericle has been dominating races for over a decade now. As a decorated runner for the Owls of Rice University, she set a blazing personal record of 16:39 in the five-kilometer run and 4:28.68 in the 1500-meter run and her accomplishments include a sixth place finish in the 1500-meter at the Conference USA Outdoor Championships in 2011.
For Mericle, a runner that also was enjoying rock climbing, Spartan would seem to be a no-brainer for her, but it wasn’t until 2016 where she found her first Spartan Race in Colorado, when a friend had recommended the race series after Mericle had been dealing with a nagging hip injury that prevented her from running on the road as often as she would like. Her first race she claimed third in a deep field that included a fellow 2019 Spartan Pro, Faye Stenning.
Although as many people who have raced know, obstacle course racing is not just about running. Obstacles have been increasing in difficulty; carries have been getting heavier, and the field is getting deeper. However, Mericle has continued rock-climbing workouts and added strength training into her routine to maintain her position among the top of the expanding field.
“When I first started, I struggled with the heavy carries, with my rock-climbing background and running being a huge asset for me in the other segments of the race, said Mericle. But recently in the last year I’ve seen improvement in the heavy carries since I’ve added sandbag specific training, like single arm kettlebell swings and doing carries as part of my workout. Only lifting barbells wasn’t doing it for me.”
With the win at the 2019 World Championships, the spotlight for the $1 million prize shifts to Mericle and Robert Killian, the men’s reigning world champion. While, Mericle does plan to race in Greece and act as a support crew for Rea Kolbl and Aaron Newell, it is a different story for the ultra this year in Sweden. At this time, she has not done an ultra this year and ultra-training hasn’t been part of her season this year. Additionally, the race in Sweden requires a podium finish in a 2019 ultra to qualify for the elite category, leading to Mericle’s inability to compete.
“While I won’t be racing in Sweden, I’m excited to be supporting Rea [Kolbl] and Aaron [Newell,] then we will be headed to the Canary Islands for some great trails to run and for Aaron [Newell] to relax after his 24-hour effort.”
Greece and Sweden are a small part of her international travels that will stretch throughout the rest of the year. Upon her return to Boulder, Colorado, her current home, she’ll be gearing up for the 2020 U.S. National Series that is fast approaching. While the schedule still has not been released, the series will likely start in late February or early March.
“Last year I was able to keep a consistent training base throughout the fall and winter and I look forward to keep that up overseas,” said Mericle. “I’m excited for the rest of the year and heading into next year for my second season as a full-time athlete.”
Mericle won the first two races in the U.S National Series last year and will be a heavy favorite to win the series in 2020.