Warrior Dash – Maryland 8/5/17

Warrior Dash – Maryland 8/5/17

Continuing my goal of running every OCR event that comes my way this year, I completed my first Warrior Dash. I’m really enjoying checking out all of these different events and seeing how they all operate. Warrior Dash felt pretty familiar, it definitely gave me more of a Spartan Race feel than some of the other events, but lacked some of the production value. Sort of a Spartan-lite, if you will.

This event was held at Budd’s Creek Motocross Track. I don’t know if it’s part of the same property or not, but this race is literally adjacent to the other spaces where they have held the D.C. Spartan Sprint races. It felt good to be home! The D.C. Spartan Sprint was the first OCR race I ever completed and what started this whole crazy journey, so I liked revisiting this area, especially in a new setting.

Parking was good, I got there early so I had no issues getting a spot. I also really like the idea of adding the parking charge to the ticket price, so you don’t need to worry about paying that day. They have that right and I hope the other races follow in their footsteps! The parking area was a good hike away from the start of the event though. I heard quite a few people complaining about this, even people who were racing that day.  I just can’t really understand why you would pay money to run an OCR and then complain that you have to walk a little way to get there! I think that this might be the different crowd that an event like this will draw. Sure, I saw plenty of really fit people and people sporting Spartan finisher shirts, but there were also a lot more of us “normal” looking people; people with some extra weight and less chiseled muscles. I’m going to use this moment to get on my soap box, and I am sorry if I offend anyone, I am, but it’s for your own good. If you signing up for races or even any event that will test your fitness please quit smoking. I have seen this a few times; people having a cigarette at the end of a Spartan Race in the parking area, but I saw quite a few people smoking this time. Even if you don’t have any aspirations of being a great runner, it’s just not good for you. And if you need to continue your habit, please be mindful of those around you that might not enjoy inhaling so much second hand smoke. End rant.

The festival area was familiar, it was very Spartan-esque, but it was a little empty. There was only one food vendor and they only had two sponsors with tents there (minus St. Jude). The bag check is free, which is nice, but it’s also unmonitored. I know most people aren’t there to steal other people’s stuff, but I think I’d rather pay a couple of bucks to limit the people with access to my bag. Interestingly, you can get your shirt and fuzzy hat prior to finishing the race. I thought that was really different. Sure, you paid for the race, but it seems strange to wear a finisher shirt if you didn’t finish. Another interesting aspect that was different from other races is that this event is Check/Credit card only! No Cash! Which is actually really nice, I never carry cash and it’s always a hassle to be sure I have cash ready for my races.

The start of the race is a little standard. The announcer at the start line did a good job engaging the crowd, but it didn’t have nearly the energy you see in a Savage Race or the Rugged Maniac, the most comparable race to this one. It definitely didn’t have the serious overtones of the Spartan Races. It was much more of a casual, have fun atmosphere. I did like the fire bursts that are let out when the wave starts though, that was unexpected and it was a nice touch.

Overall, I think the race was really well laid out and there was plenty of room for everything, except right at the beginning, there was a huge bottleneck. It was actually pretty funny, when I was leaving the casual racer waves were in full swing and there was what looked like a queue there at that bottleneck; people just standing there, in line, waiting to go. They should have anticipated that and tried to widen the trail a bit. After that portion though things went pretty smoothly.

The course was actually much harder than I was expecting! Like the Rugged Maniac, I underestimated the course; I suppose I figured that the less serious races wouldn’t take as much time to make a challenging course. Well, I’ve been proven wrong twice! The first half of this race was almost nothing but up and down hills. It really wore out your quads. By the time I got half way and things flattened out a bit my legs were pretty tired and I was having trouble jogging along the trail. I actually really liked this! While it was hard and it slowed me down a lot, it felt a lot more like the older Spartan Races, really tough terrain, with no apologies. You definitely had to put in some work on this course. The hills came back at the end, when you made it to the formal motocross track, but it was a little less intense than the first portion of the race.

The obstacles were a little underwhelming. I wouldn’t even call most of them obstacles, more like “things to slow you down”. I can’t think of anyway that anyone could fail any of the obstacles, with the exception of the Goliath, and even then the only way would be if you’re afraid of heights and/or water slides. They were fun, it’s always nice to try new things, but there wasn’t anything in there that really tested, or pushed you. I was a little upset when I got to the first couple of obstacles though, because they were not in the order that they claimed they would be on the website. I studied it pretty well, to form a strategy on how I was going to attack the course to get the best time possible. Well, that all went out the window the moment I stepped foot on that course. This isn’t too big of a deal, but I do like being able to see the course map ahead of time.

I feel like I gave this race a good effort. After my last race I was feeling a little lost and disheartened. But I used those lessons to improve and I was determined to make this a better race. The Warrior Dash is not a timed event, so they only track the top ten racers in each gender. I was really hoping to make the top 10, but I didn’t. I feel like I wasn’t that far behind the leaders though. I finished in around 45 minutes and as I was approaching the last section of the race I heard the announcer say they had the first racers reaching the finish line. At that point I would say I was within 10 minutes of the top ten, which is pretty good for me. My race was good enough that I would have been the fourth place female racer, were I in that gender. That’s pretty exciting! While I didn’t finish where I wanted to the fact that I finished among some of the top people is a good feeling.

I had a good time at this race. It maybe isn’t my favorite race so far, but if I have the chance to run it again I would definitely take it. They may not have aspirations to be a huge company like Spartan or Tough Mudder, but this is a solid event and with a little more investment I really think this could one of the better races on the market. I only have BoneFrog and Terrain Race left before I finish out the major, multi-state races. Those are coming the next few weeks and I am excited to run them!

As always, pics below.

 

 

 

 

Spartan Race: Nationals Park Stadium Sprint 7/22/17

Spartan Race: Nationals Park Stadium Sprint 7/22/17

I was super excited when Spartan Race announced that they were throwing a stadium race in Washington D.C.. It’s not too far of a drive from me and I’ve always wanted to run one. This was the perfect opportunity and I signed up right away. I had been looking forward to this race for some time and set my ambitions high.

The summer of 2017 will be a memorable one, especially those folk around the mid-Atlantic area, as it has been a very hot one. We had a heat wave that lasted for several weeks where it was close to or over 100 degrees (F) everyday. Combine high temps with the humidity in the area and you’ve got a recipe for some very uncomfortable days. Race day was no exception. Strangely enough, it was only around 86 when I crossed the finish line, but it felt so much hotter. They were reporting the heat index was going to be as high as 110 that day, and I believe it. Even sitting in the shade left you sweating heavily. It was definitely a good day to do a race that was mostly shady and had parts that were climate controlled!

As with anything, your first experience with an event is going to be parking, which was a breeze. It’s a stadium so they have parking in the area to accommodate the crowds. The parking deck was open and easily accessible. When I left the stadium, however, there was quite a line backed up to get in, so I am glad I got there early. It was a quick walk to the registration tents from the parking deck and that lead you right into the festival area. The festival area wrapped around the stadium, so it had a little bit of a different feel than most Spartan Race festival areas. Being that it was much longer and much more narrow it got pretty crowded in there. Add in the body heat and sweat and it wasn’t a place you really wanted to hang out for too long.

They have a different start method for the stadium races than they do for the normal races. You still crowd into the corral like normal, 4ft wall and everything, but you all don’t start at the same time. I suppose this is prevent too much of a bunch up through the narrow passage ways you have to traverse as you make your way through the course. Instead, they gathered 15 Spartans and released them, gathering up the next 15, and so on. There was a spread of around 30 second between each wave. It seemed pretty effective, as I don’t recall there being too many crowded spots. But unless you get into the corral early you aren’t *really* starting at your start time; it’ll be a few minutes after.

The Stadium Sprint is a little shorter than a traditional Sprint, this one coming in at 3.5 miles, so just over a 5k distance. Because of this they obstacles were a little more bunched up which added another level of difficulty you don’t get with a traditional race. They hit you with the “barbed wire crawl” right away. Since it’s a stadium with no mud, rather than use real barbed wire they strung up bungee cords that you had to get under. There were a little higher than normal and let you bear crawl under them. This was good because crawling on your hands and knees on the hard surfaces is pretty uncomfortable. Not only were you bear crawling, but they did it up a ramp. Actually, up several ramps. My best guess had us going up six 100 foot long ramps. It was agonizing. My quads were shot by the end. I tried rolling like you would in a traditional crawl, and it worked, but going uphill was really taxing and I had to go back to crawling.

After this, as you can imagine it was a lot of flat running, a lot of running up the stairs, running through the seats, and running down stairs. Most of your traditional obstacles were there, like the over walls and the Z-Wall (which is missing the middle portion, which was interesting). Since they are missing water obstacles and have space limitations they incorporate some variations of traditional obstacles or new obstacles all together. For example, the Atlas Carry wasn’t a sphere, but more of a block and the Farmer’s Carry was done with Jerry Cans, which are 55lbs or 25kg jugs of water. Some of the new obstacles were things like The Rolling Epic, which had your feet on a little square board with 4 wheels. Then you had to use your hands to pull yourself a specified distance, your feet rolling on the board. They also had a Battle Rope jump rope obstacle and a section with pushups. They had a rig, which was mostly rings, but at the end there were two baseball grips you had to grab to get to the bell. I thought that little homage to the venue was a nice touch.

I really liked this event. I thought I would enjoy this race just as much as a trail race, but for different reasons. Because you don’t get wet or muddy and because, while there is a lot of up and down, there is also a lot of firm, flat ground you’re running on. That combined that with the shorter distance made finishing times a little faster than you’d get in a traditional race. I am a little better at running stairs than I am hills for some reason, and in particular I feel like I can descend stairs quite quickly. I was really hyped up and excited for my finish in this race. It’s for that reason I was so crushed when I crossed that finish line. I didn’t even come close to my goal time. I really thought I could easily finish in an hour and my stretch goal was 45 minutes. I ended up finishing in 1:20…

I think that I was my own worst enemy in this race. First was the heat. I don’t do well in the heat and I think that I let it get in my head that it was “too hot” before the race even started. Next were those dang bear crawls. I knew I had a lot of race left since these guys were right in the beginning of the race. I knew that most of this race was going to be going up and down the stairs, so I didn’t want to burn my quads out too early, so I ended up being in a situation where I lost a lot of time in the crawls, my quads were tired, and then I took the stairs way too easy, because I was trying to pace myself. I think that pacing is important, but when you pace yourself the entire race you’re really just holding yourself back. I have been really wanting to nail the spear throw and the rope climb. These are two obstacles I haven’t ever conquered and I am tired of doing burpees! It’s not even the effort I mind, but burpees slow me down so much. So I’ve been working on these two in my free time. I still don’t feel great about either, but I am making progress. I was really thinking I was going to get the spear throw this time. When I missed the spear throw (just barely!) I was crushed. The tone of my race was completely different after that. I begrudgingly did my burpees and trudged on over the couple of short walls and took my time doing the box jumps. I didn’t have it in me anymore, I lost the spark of competition and the rest of my race suffered because of it.

A negative attitude and an OCR event don’t mix well. After that I was even more angry when I struggled a little with the 8 foot wall, I was mad when my 45 minute time ticked by and even more mad when I was doing burpees after the rig and the hour mark passed. I might as well have walked in the rest of the race; I had no motivation left to push myself. I then failed the rope climb. I did get on the rope, and stayed there for a moment, but didn’t feel I had the energy to do it and just took my burpees.

I finished the race upset, disappointed, angry, foolish, and bitter. I wasn’t even sore the next day. That’s a clear indication that I held back way too much in the race. It took me a couple of days to get over it and clear my head, but I decided, rather than let it get me down, that I’d use it as motivation to kick my training up a notch. I learned a lot about myself and about racing that day and while I didn’t do as well as I had hoped I am grateful for it, because I won’t have another performance like that again. We are all going to have bad days and bad races, but it’s critical to not let ourselves get defined by those moments. This whole race was an obstacle for me, and it wasn’t pretty, but I completed it. I am stronger and better for it and I can’t wait to do it again!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tough Mudder: Virginia 6/10/17

Tough Mudder: Virginia 6/10/17

You can’t talk about obstacle course racing without talking about Tough Mudder. Tough Mudder is really the event that brought OCR to the mainstream. Sure, some other events, like Spartan Race might have cultivated and developed the sport, but there is no denying the impact Tough Mudder has had on the evolution of the sport.

Tough Mudder is not a race, but a challenge. The event is around 10 miles long and features many different obstacles. Rather than timing the event to promote competitiveness they encourage teamwork and camaraderie to complete the challenge. In fact, several of their obstacles are designed so that they would be very difficult or impossible to complete without the help of a fellow mudder. While I have seen plenty of teamwork in the other races, I think that this element does create an interesting dynamic for the event and it definitely had a different feel than some of the other races.

This was my first time participating in a Tough Mudder. It was a long time coming. I had heard of them long before I heard of Spartan Race. I watched videos and saw articles online about it. It seemed too hard for me and it was a little intimidating. My first OCR event was a Spartan Race, and I’m not sure why that is. Perhaps I was too scared of the Tough Mudder and thought the shorter Spartan Sprint was more my speed. I do remember feeling a little bit guilty though, Tough Mudder was the first major OCR event here in the U.S. and I felt like I should have run that one first. And even more bizarre is how long it took me to actually sign up for one once I started racing in OCR! I think the major reason I didn’t run them was that they weren’t timed and I really like knowing how well I did. I also fell in love with Spartan Race and didn’t have that strong of a desire to do much else, at first. Not only is my OCR honeymoon phase over, but I also am beginning to have some concerns with my first love and I wanted to play the field a bit and see what else was out there!

2017 marks the start of a new era for Tough Mudder! They have done a great job keeping up with the competition over the past couple of years and are, I feel,  leading the way in innovation. Part of this is understanding what your customers want and so they introduced a new feature to the event: Timing chips! That’s right, for the first time you can pay a small extra fee (around $20) to run in the first wave of the day and get your results timed and ranked against your competition. This was huge for me and I jumped at the opportunity. They have named this option: Tougher Mudder. So it’s the same course, it’s not actually any harder, but since it is competitive I suppose you could say that makes it a little tougher.

The Virginia race had the largest Tougher Mudder wave of all of their races this season; there was around 150 entrants. Of these entrants three of them were none other than Hunter McIntyre, Ryan Atkins, and Lindsay Webster! While they all smoked me on the course, it was kind of cool to say I ran with them. It was also a cool feeling to be given a bib like the kind they wear in the World’s Toughest Mudder or the new Toughest Mudder races. While it doesn’t really mean anything it makes you feel special, like you are part of something grand, and I really like that they did that. Maybe it’s silly and it’s a small thing, but for someone who has been out of shape for so long and has been working so hard for this, it really felt amazing to feel like I belonged there, running with the elites, even if it was mostly symbolic.

Anyway, on to the race itself! It was a nice day for a race, early June is a good time in Virginia, not yet too hot or humid. It took place at Meadow Event Park. I’ve never been there before but I know they do a lot events with horses. I think it was for this reason the course was mostly flat. This was a huge departure from most of the OCR events I’ve done. While some of the Spartans lately have been getting a little more flat, this was probably the flattest course I’ve ever run. Which is, in a way, kind of nice. It was fun to just go out run, talk to the people, focus on the obstacles, see a new place I haven’t ever seen before. There’s nothing wrong with taking it down a notch once in awhile.

The race was just over 10 miles long with around 21 obstacles. The obstacles were pretty evenly spaced apart and spread throughout the course. Though spectators are allowed on the course, Spartan seems to like to keep them close to the festival and they put as many obstacles there as possible. The Savage Race in Maryland didn’t seem to try to do that, but there were a lot of obstacles there were just a short walk away, so you saw a lot more spectators on the course. This Tough Mudder was a whole other story. I think there were only about 3 or 4 obstacles you could see from the festival area. The rest were all on the course and required some walking to get to. They did realize this though and provided a “spectator route” which was sort of a short cut to see a good number of other obstacles, but it did require some walking. I liked this idea at first, since it opened up some possibilities, until I was on the course and realize that the spectator lanes (and the only path to get to and from parking) cut directly through the race course. There were two spot in particular that it was almost a sea of people and it was a little disorienting. It was also a little weird to be covered in mud and running through hundreds of normal, casually dressed people. I thought this was confusing and I was having to actually go around and dodge some people, which I didn’t think I should have to do.

In that same vein the course markings were sort of confusing sometimes. The course winded in upon itself many times and there were a few spots where it was difficult to know where to go. They had tape up in most of these ‘tricky’ spots, but there was often either not enough or too much. As I was finishing, about to go through Electroshock Therapy, a group of three people asked me how to get to the Snot Rocket/Augustus Gloop obstacle. I told them after they got through Pyramid Scheme they just went a short distance down the hill, but they didn’t know how to get to Pyramid Scheme either! I had to point out where they had gone off course and they had to backtrack to get back to the course to finish the race. So I’m not the only one who was confused by some of the markers.

I thought the race was pretty solid. I did have those few minor issues with parts of the design of the course, but the race itself was actually very well put together. I had a good time and I really liked trying out some new obstacles and seeing a new venue. I may have overdone it a little in this race though. Being that it was timed, I wanted to do well. I had done two race in the preceding 3 weeks, one race was around 9 miles, the other around 13. And I had run a little on my own. My knees were starting to give out one me. I actually could have done much better in this event, I think, if I were fresh. There were parts that I just had to walk because I was worried about seriously hurting my knees. And even when I was running, I was taking it slow. I’m again glad it wasn’t a hilly course or it could have been bad for me. I have since been taking it easy on my legs, giving them a chance to heal. Doing everything I can to not get hurt. It’s been a bummer to not be able to train my legs, but I’m trying to do the smart thing. Though, I can’t wait too long. In 17 days I have my next Spartan race, it is only a Sprint, but I want to be ready for it. So the training resumes this week! Hopefully I can strengthen up my legs enough to stay in the game.

One last thing, and this has nothing to do with the race itself, but I had an issue with my regular OCR shoes so I was in the process of exchanging them when this race happened. Because of this I was forced to run this race in a pair of normal running shoes. I never could have imagined the difference this makes! Until this year all of my races were done in regular running shoes. I definitely liked the OCR style shoes when I got them, but until I went back to regular shoes I had no idea how much they helped. They help with everything from weight, to water retention, to grip. If you haven’t invested in a good pair of OCR specific shoes yet it is definitely worth the money! Check back as I’ll be reviewing my shoes after I put a few more miles on them!

Despite my problems on the course I finished 72/158, which isn’t too bad. It’s top 50% and for me, that’s pretty good. I’ve come a long way from being in the bottom 10%. It feels good knowing that a bad day still lands me ahead of more people than were in front of me. It gives a lot of hope that one day I’ll even be in the top 10%. I just have to keep going and not quit. I’m excited and nervous about the next 3 months; I have 9 races, which doesn’t allow for a lot of down time. It’s time to get serious about my training and recovery protocols. Here are few pictures from the event!

Spartan Race: Virginia Super 6/3/17

Spartan Race: Virginia Super 6/3/17

Two weeks after finishing my Spartan Beast in Ohio I had the Super in Virginia. It was at a new venue this year, which presented a whole new experience. But was it a good one? Read on to find out!

To the best of my knowledge, as long as the Virginia Super has existed it was held at Wintergreen Ski resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Having a race at a ski resort presents all sorts of interesting elevation challenges. The first race I did there in 2014 was without a doubt the hardest thing I have ever done physically. I had a hard time even walking for almost a week after that race. It took me over 7 hours to complete and my entire body was trashed at the end. No joke; I was so tired at the end of the race I couldn’t even do the fire jump. I actually had to step right into the fire to finish the race. I have a photo to prove it! This race became one of the more legendary races in the circuit. In fact, the race was so tough that the most common thing I heard in my three races on that mountain was “I’m never doing this again!!”. And I think those people meant it. I feel like every year there were less and less participants. This might just be my observation, but if you look at the finisher data, the total number of finishers goes down every year. I think that from a business standpoint Spartan couldn’t have that race anymore as they were losing repeat business.

It’s a real shame. I loved that course. While it was long and grueling it was also a blast and it was something you always felt proud about when you went home, no matter how well you did, you finished it, and that’s enough! Being that I am finally doing something about my fitness I was eager to take on that course again and do better than ever before. My fastest time was a little over 7 hours, but my slowest was over 9. I had something to prove to that course and, sadly, it looks like I won’t get the chance to do it.

Even so, it’s always nice to try new things and to see new places. The new venue for the Virginia Super is Infinity Downs in Arrington Virginia. Not far from Wintergreen this farm provided plenty of space to run around and get muddy. The one thing it did not have was elevation change. This was a very flat and fast course. Which made it a lot more fun than Wintergreen, but it was much easier.

The course itself wasn’t overly demanding, but most of the trails you were running on were blazed just for this race, which means that there were a LOT of 1-2 inch tall sapling stumps in the fallen leaves. A lot of the trail running was very difficult for this reason and if you didn’t have strong ankles you were sure to roll your ankle at some point. Actually, this is the first time I’ve ever tripped and fallen to the ground in the 12 Spartan Races I’ve competed in. A witness declared that it was a graceful fall and she gave me a 10/10 on it, which made me feel much better about it! I liked that it had this extra challenge because it helped keep it more interesting since there wasn’t much elevation change.

I really liked the layout of this race. There were plenty of obstacles nicely spread out over the first few miles. Then it went to mostly trail running for the majority of the rest of the race. The last few miles had another good collection of obstacles in rapid succession. I don’t know why I didn’t find them quite as exhausting as I typically do, but I think it might have had something to do with the layout and arrangement of the obstacles. They did put the rope climb, Olympus, and the spear throw within sight of each other, which is pretty cruel. Luckily, I only failed two of those three and I completed Olympus for the first time! In fact, I only failed three obstacles this race, which means only 90 burpees. Until now 120 burpees was the lowest number I’ve had to complete in a race, so I’d say that’s some progress!

I guess I can’t get into failed obstacles without talking about Twister. They put this guy right before the slip wall and the fire jump, so the finish line is literally a stone’s throw away. I haven’t ever completed Twister before, but I was feeling good about defeating Olympus and the multi-rig (I have done this one before, once, but my feet did hit the ground a little and while I didn’t stand I still kinda felt guilty about it). So I decided it’s right at the end I’m going to give it my all and finish strong! Much to my amazement I was doing really well on it! It was three lengths long, which meant two transition areas. The first leg was no problem really. The second leg went pretty smoothly. I lost a little time as I was awkwardly grasping the supports on the transition to the third section. This made me a little nervous and may have contributed to what happened next. I was about 3 rungs away from the bell. One more rung I and I think I could have reached out and smacked that bell victorious! My grip was failing, but I felt I had it in me. As I reached out for that last rung with my right hand my left hand gave out, the callus right below my ring finger tore off and it caused my hand to slip. I was devastated. I was so close, I was right there! Anyway, it was 30 burpees for me, right at the end of the race. Such a disappointment! Even though I failed it, I did really well, which means I know I can complete it next time! I put a pic of my injured hand below, don’t scroll all the way down if blood makes you queasy. The ladies at the medical tent said I was about the 10th person they had come in with the same injury from the same obstacle, so at least I wasn’t alone in my condition.

Spartan did a really good job with this race. Everything was well spaced, including the water stations. I really think it was a pretty great race overall, though It’s hard to think about it without comparing it to Wintergreen. It was a different race for sure, but it was a lot of fun, so I won’t complain. I hope one day they bring Wintergreen back so I can give it one more shot. But if not I will enjoy racing this venue again in the future. I am still missing the FitAid at the end of the races though. Spartan places the blame on FitAid for not showing up, but it doesn’t matter whose fault it is, they need something at the end. A banana and a dixie cup of water are not enough after an event like that. They had protein drinks before they had FitAid, now it’s just water. Whatever it is, I think they need to step it up a little. I get better goodies at the end of a 5k than I do at Spartan Races now, and that is disappointing.

My third Spartan is in the books and I have first Trifecta of the year! After running these races I am getting a little more confident overall, but it is also starting to make me worry about the West Virginia Trifecta weekend coming up in August. My body is starting to break down around mile 7-8. If you see my post about the Ohio Beast you’ll see I had some fatigue and cramping issues. Those same issues popped up in the same spot this race. Which, in a way, is good. I know what’s weak and I can work on it. But it’s making the threat of this race real. If I really want to attempt to do this event I’m going to need to fully commit to it. It’s going to take everything I’ve got. Especially since it’s a championship race and it’s in the mountains. It’s going to be a killer, one that will be talked about in the future, I am willing to bet. I want to be able to have a good story to tell when I talk about it. Here are a few pictures from the race!

Spartan Race: Ohio Beast 5/20/17

Spartan Race: Ohio Beast 5/20/17

This post is long overdue. In fact, me posting anything is long overdue. You know how sometimes life just gets crazy and things start falling off of your radar. Regardless of whether or not I forgot to write this post, I haven’t forgotten what the post is about! I did my first Spartan Beast of the year in Chandlersville, Ohio on 5/20/2017! The race is set on a wildlife refuge called The Wilds. The course was great, but unfortunately I didn’t encounter any exotic wildlife while running. That would make this a different race entirely!

The weather was calling for a hot Saturday afternoon. Luckily, I was running in the competitive wave and got started while it was still cool. It had recently rained and it was foggy, misty, and relatively mild; A great setting for a race, in my opinion. Once I got going on the course I realized it was a bit more humid than I initially gave it credit for, but it wasn’t terrible. If you’ve ever lived through a Virginia summer you’re no stranger to humidity. Also, there was a fair amount of trail running through the forest, which helped keep it cool and the humidity down. In fact, if you look at the map almost all of the green Beast route was in the trees. Personally, I love running in the woods, so I felt right at home.

The combination of these longer races with the Sprints is making for a really interesting race dynamic. If you check out the map almost all of the obstacles are either upfront or at the end. It means you have short periods of high intensity, and then long periods of cardio. It sort of changes how you have to approach the race and you have to know what’s coming up so you can save enough in the tank for the gauntlet at the end. I liked this race setup though. It was a good batch up front, then a lot of running, another pop of obstacles in the middle, more running, then it finished strong. There were also plenty of obstacles around the festival area so everyone got a good view of the runners they were there to support.

Overall I think the event was really well done. I loved the course. The course was just over 13 miles and it had a decent amount of elevation change, around 2000 feet total. So it wasn’t as brutal as some of the mountain races, but had enough to be a challenge. There was plenty of varied terrain and different sections of the race presented different terrain, which helped keep it interesting. The course was pretty technical at times, but the entire course wasn’t super technical. There was a decent amount of mud, especially in the second half of the Sprint course. That section was probably the muddiest part of the entire race. As mentioned, I think they did a great job surrounding the festival area with the course to give everyone a good vantage point of many of the obstacles.

If your grip strength needs work (like mine does) the last part of the course was a little bit awful. While I hated doing all the burpees, especially at the end of the race, I liked the challenge it presented. They put the multi-rig and the new obstacle Olympus right at the end, back to back, both within eye shot of the finish line (see pics below). I have been pretty successful on the rigs lately (at least the easier ones with mostly just rings), but the fatigue I was feeling and the damp, slippery rings were too much for me and I fell off on the second ring. After those burpees were done I went to Olympus, which was the first obstacle I failed in Charlotte. Being that I had failed it once and this was literally 50 feet from the finish line I really wanted to finish it. I heard that this obstacle was having a very high failure rate, due to the wet and muddy conditions. A lovely, wonderful volunteer was offering her sleeves for racers to wipe their hands on. After thanking her for her assistance I tried my absolute best, and I got about halfway when I lost my grip. 30 more burpees. At least I tried though, and I learned a few things about the obstacle, so it wasn’t a complete loss.

Since I’ve started talking about my performance in the race I suppose I’ll go ahead and talk about how I personally reacted to the race. Overall, things went great! The first 7 or so miles were actually a breeze. It helps that the course wasn’t crazy difficult, but I felt like I was breezing through most of  it. By this point in the race I had run most of the miles and had only failed one obstacle so far, the rope climb. No surprise there. The sandbag carry was the last obstacle around the festival area before the Sprint course took you back out into the wilderness. It was my first time with the new, wreck bag style sandbags. I’m not sure how I feel about them yet. I feel like they might be easier to carry than the pancake, and I don’t do these things for them to be easy. Anyway, right after the sandbag carry I started getting some pretty wicked calf cramps. This is the first time I’ve ever really had a cramp in a race. I’ve had some mild hamstring cramps before, but they’re gone as quick as they come usually and haven’t held me back at all. These cramps were different. I can now sympathize with those people I see sitting on the ground in pain as I run past. I attribute these cramps to running this race while ketogenic, it’s the only thing I’ve done differently. I admit, I had eaten some carbs before the race, but it was by no means carb-loading. While it was unfortunate to get them, I did learn something about my body that’s come in handy in subsequent races.

I would also like to add here that I saw more people having cramps in this race than I have seen in any of the other 10 Spartan races I’ve done. I don’t know if it had something to do with terrain or maybe the extra sweat from the higher humidity, but people were falling out left and right near the end. So that made me feel better!

The cramping did hold me back for those last 5 miles. I ran when I could, but I could feel them sneaking up from time to time. I got a nasty one that paralyzed almost my whole leg when I was going over the 8 foot wall. I had to step aside and let that calm down before I tried it again, using the other leg for support instead. But I did get over it!! Which, everyone, is a huge deal. Having to ask for help on any wall over 6 feet was always super embarrassing. The fact that I can clear an 8 foot wall now with relative ease is HUGE for me!

So, other than the cramps around mile 7 or 8 I started noticing my back hamstring on my right leg was feeling funny. Not like a cramp and not like I was injured, just more like it was tired. By the end of the race it was affecting pretty much my entire knee. A little painful, but mostly just fatigue, I think. I haven’t quite ever felt that before. This combined with the cramps made those last few miles a good bit slower than I would have liked. But I was still able to trot around from time to time and I was able to finish the other obstacles, other than those grip strength ones at the end.

Overall, I had great race! Maybe even my best race to date. Through the whole race I actually maintained a better pace than I did in my recent Spartan Sprint! I was holding back a little on that one because it was the first one of the year and I wasn’t sure what kind of shape I was actually in and I didn’t want to overdo it. My obstacle completion is getting better all the time and I am running more and running faster! I am very excited for the rest of this season! Here are some photos of the race.

 

Rugged Maniac – Virginia (Spring) 2017

Rugged Maniac  – Virginia (Spring) 2017

Another OCR race on the books! This was my first time running this race or any other Rugged Maniac for that matter. So, that is two new races to me in two weeks! (See my Savage Race post for last week’s race). I’m a little banged up and stiff but the race went off pretty well and I had a great time!

Rugged Maniac is a little different than the other OCR offerings in that it seems to cater to a wider audience than some of the others. OCR has kind of developed a masochistic reputation for what they put you through. While this course definitely had its challenges, it was a race that was completable by anyone. First of all, it’s a 5k rather than some of the longer 4-13 mile races. This by itself makes the race seem a lot less intimidating. I know, personally, that I have some weak spots in my knees that start giving out on around mile 7-9 on the longer races. With the shorter distance you don’t have to worry about that as much.

The obstacles, for the most part, were pretty fun, but few presented any real challenge. I only failed one obstacle, “The Ringer”, which is basically just gymnastic rings suspended over water. I have become pretty comfortable doing some of these hanging obstacles, but the rings were really wet and muddy, and I didn’t quite have the grip strength to complete it.  I can see how some people who have certain  phobias like a fear of heights, water, darkness, or fire could have been intimidated by some of the obstacles, but for the most part they weren’t too daunting. Despite the obstacles not being physically demanding they were fun to do. A lot of them were standard lifting things and climbing over or under things, so I felt pretty at home with most of it.

The course itself was awesome. While there weren’t any long climbs there were a good number of hills and some of them were pretty steep. The course had you going through quite a bit of water and was it muddy! This is probably the muddiest event I’ve ever done. Luckily, all that water helped to wash it off, so you weren’t carrying it around too much. The mud we were running through was pretty uneven and kept you guessing as to how each footfall would go. I rolled both my ankles more than once. Always warm-up your ankles! People forget about that, but it saved me from an injury today.

There was a lot of crawling in this race, which I haven’t trained for that much. I am used to one decent barbwire crawl per race, but this race had a lot of crawling. My knees are pretty raw and cut up at that moment. I have been meaning to incorporate more bear crawls into my workouts, but haven’t yet done it. I definitely regret that now! Not only are they a great full body calisthenic workout, but you never know when that extra muscle and coordination can come in handy. Being a bit taller some of those low crawls are bit more difficult for me because I can’t go on my hands and knees.

The festival area for this race was pretty huge but they didn’t have too many vendors. The vendors they did have were super nice though and were giving out free stuff, so you can’t beat that! Coming fresh off running the Savage Race I was left wanting with the pre-race speech the announcer was giving. It was pretty standard, and I felt that way for most of the festival area. There wasn’t anything wrong with it, but there wasn’t anything amazing about it either. One things that I was very impressed with was their VIP program. Basically for $39 (in addition to your registration fees) you get all sorts of bonuses. As a VIP I got free VIP parking, Free VIP bag check, I got $20 in free Merch (I got two shirts and a sticker!), I got an extra beer ticket, and I got a free meal from any of the onsite food vendors. Really, if you plan on signing up for a Rugged Maniac that is the way to go! Since the regular race registration is already cheaper than the other races adding that extra forty dollars is well worth it!

The only real disappointing aspect is that they have removed all timing chips from the race. I understand their position that not enough people seemed interested (as most of the people there were for fun and don’t care about their time), but it’s a shame for us competitive types. They only track the time for the top 10 racers for each gender and for the 50+ age group. While this is a  shame, it doesn’t really take away from the experience, which is really what you are there for.

Overall, it’s a great race and I had a really good time running it. I am excited to do another one. They said the Virginia race has become one of their more popular races, which is great because it’s an awesome course and it’s close to home. It would be a shame to miss out on this one in the coming years. I took a few pictures of some of the obstacles and added them below.

Savage Race – Maryland

Savage Race – Maryland

This weekend I completed my first Savage race in Kennedyville, Maryland. Before running this race I figured most OCR events were probably pretty similar, and in a lot of ways this one similar to other races I’ve done, but there are a lot of things that set it apart as well. The race itself wasn’t drastically different from what I am used to, but the overall feel for the event was much different. From the moment I walked in I got a much more light-hearted and fun vibe than I have experienced in the Spartan Races. I feel like that same energy permeated through the entire event.

My first impression of the festival area was how small it was. I am used to the large and sometimes labyrinthine festival areas that Spartan Race tends to create. This one was simple and didn’t have too much in it that could get you turned around, which was nice. I was a bit concerned that the area wouldn’t be able to accommodate all of the racers (according to the announcer there were around 4000 people signed up), but even when I had finished the race I didn’t feel like the area was ever too crowded, so I guess they knew what they were doing. The announcer they had on the stage had a good amount of energy and was doing a great job keeping the crowd engaged. I appreciated how many racers they called onto the stage that were repeat racers, or had birthdays, or had other interesting stories. There was a lot more crowd participation than I’ve seen before.

The first heat, the Pro heat, ran at 9 and my heat was set to run 20 minutes later. I thought it interesting that they ran in 20 minute heats rather than the 15 minute heats they have in Spartan. I assume they do this to try to prevent obstacle jam ups. If that is the goal then they need to figure out another method, but more on that later. I hung around the start line because I wanted to see the Pro racers start. Once they were off I went to warm up: A quick run around the festival and parking area followed by some stretching and dynamic warm ups. I made my way to the start line around 9:15. I noticed a large crowd of people at the entrance to the corral and the gates were shut. I also noticed the corral was only about half full, so I went to talk to the man controlling the gate. I told him that I was in the 9:20 wave and he informed me that everyone on my side of the gate was for the same heat, but they had to cut off the number of people going in. So basically they refused to let me run in the heat I signed up and paid for. Had the corral been completely full I might have been more understanding, but that wasn’t the case. And I shouldn’t be punished because they overbooked it. It was at this point that I realized there was no verification for your start time at all. Spartan gives you wristbands with your time so that you are sure to get into your wave. There is no verification at all, so to best of my knowledge half the people that ran in the 9:20 wave were running in the wrong heat. So I then had to stand and wait for 20 more minutes to get to the start line. Since I had just warmed up and was ready to go I was a little upset. Not that I am elite racer or anything, but I do take this stuff seriously. If I left the start area to try to keep warm I would have likely missed the next heat as well. So I had to stand there trying to jump in place and do what stretching I could in the crowded area by the gate. This was a really bad start to the event in my opinion. I know most people are just there for fun and probably don’t care too much, but I was really disappointed by it all.

Once we finally were allowed to line up on the start line I was getting over the whole start time debacle; I didn’t want something simple and silly like that to ruin the whole race, so I was doing my best to stay calm and let it go. At the end of the day it wasn’t that big of an inconvenience, so I am ok with what happened, but they do need to think of a better system for their start lines. Anyway, the start line area was a lot more fun than at the Spartan Races. The announcer was much more energetic and it had a much more fun and laid back tone than the Spartan speeches. There was crowd surfing, jumping, hollering, kneeling and grunting to get everyone hyped up for the start. I have to admit it was a good way to start a race.

The race itself was pretty awesome. It was 6.1 miles or just under 10k. I would say that the course was a little more flat than a lot of the Spartan Races I’ve done, but they had a decent amount of elevation change; There were a few really good hills in there. There was also a good amount of muddy areas and water you had to walk through. The terrain was, overall, a little less technical than what Spartan offers, but I feel like they sent us through the wet areas a little more often than I’ve been seeing in the Spartans lately. I also noticed the had a ton of signage on the course. There was definitely no way you were going to get lost on this course. I have ventured off course at a Spartan Race a couple of times. They made sure there was no way that was happening here, which was actually pretty nice.

I really liked the way they chose to do their obstacles as well. They seemed pretty well spaced out over the course. It wasn’t like a Spartan where they tend to all be crammed up by the festival area. But the course was designed in such a way that it was easy to walk to a lot of them from the festival area, so if you wanted to watch people do the obstacles you easily could. They do seem to like to give you several obstacles back to back though, but it was actually kind of fun. I didn’t feel there were too many parts of the race where you were just running for a long time. There was always an obstacle on the horizon for you look forward to. The obstacles themselves were pretty awesome. I feel like most of them were designed for people to complete them, rather than to wear you out. A lot of them were really challenging, but not so hard that most people couldn’t finish them. I feel like there are a few small tweaks they could make to make some of them a lot more difficult, but I don’t think that’s goal of the company. They were looking to put on a tough, but fun race, and they did just that.

I really liked trying my hand at some of these new obstacles. Some of them tested me in ways the other races haven’t and I was definitely feeling it the next day! It was really fun to try something I’ve never tried before to see if I could complete it. I think that’s what drew me into this sport in the first place; the thrill of the unknown! I was really surprised at how well I did on some of the obstacles that I just didn’t think I was going to complete. Most of obstacles I was worried about are the ones that require good grip strength, like Wheel World or Sawtooth. I have been working on my grip strength a lot and it’s really starting to pay off! I wasn’t able to complete every obstacle on the course, but those that I failed I did try again to see if I could complete them. Some I was successful on the second attempt and some I was not.

I was a little disappointed by some of the traffic jams at some of the obstacles though. Some of them weren’t the fault of the race, some people were just intimidated by the obstacle or were taking a break, but there was more than one occasion where I would have to stand for a couple of minutes to get to an obstacle. The worst was probably Davy Jones’ Locker. It’s a 15 foot climb and then jump into a pool of water below. Understandably, there are a lot of safety concerns with this so they only allowed 3-4 racers to jump at a time and the previous racers had to be clear of the pool before the next group could go. It’s a fun obstacle, so I won’t complain, and the Pros wouldn’t have had to worry about that, but the slowdown was unfortunate. I’ve seen worse jam-ups in other races, but I feel like OCR has been around long enough now that they should be able to get some of these kinks pretty much worked out by now.

I’m not sure how or why, but there was actually not a crowd at the showers though! You could walk right up and get cleaned off. That was a welcome change. The only odd part was that they put the showers on the opposite side of the parking area from the festival area. So you had to walk past all of the parked cars to get there. I don’t know if this was done to help keep the crowds down in the festival area or to try to make it easier for people when they are leaving. Maybe it was even that there was a small body of water nearby that the shower water would drain into. Whatever the reason it was odd, but the shower situation was nice. And what was also nice was the changing tent! It was a little smaller than the Spartan tents, but they had a huge table inside which was amazing. Spartan gives you a folding chair or two, and they are hotly contested. This table allowed everyone to get dried off and changed without much hassle at all. Two thumbs up for that addition!

Overall this was a great event! I had heard everyone talking about how much they enjoyed the Savage Races, but was a little skeptical. I was pleasantly surprised. This is definitely a race I will be looking forward to completing again as soon as I can! As for my performance, I finished in the top 10% of the open racers. This is very encouraging news! Now I only wish I had kept up my training this whole time. Who knows where I would have ended up!  But that is some really good motivation to get back on my regiment! I’m excited for what is to come!