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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Consistency

Consistency
“You’re still caught somewhere between your plans and your dreams so that neither end up turning out right.” – Dawes
I hate to admit it, but I’ve been having a hard time lately. I’ve been in one of those moods where you question every thing; you question its validity and purpose in your life. You question if your hard work is worth it or if it will even make any difference. I’ve been sort of stuck lately, kind of in limbo between who I was and who I want to be.
I’ve had some success recently in a few of my races, but overall I’m not even close to where I want to be. I’m not even on track with the conservative schedule I had laid out for myself; I’m rapidly falling behind. When I get to go for a run it brings down my spirits that I have a hard time with it when just a few weeks ago I could do the same run faster and more effortlessly. I’m still having some issues with my old recurring injuries. My weight loss has pretty much stalled. The few workouts I’ve managed have been a struggle to finish when they were recently much easier. I haven’t been getting great sleep and the sleep I’m getting isn’t enough. I’m starting to wear out at work and my motivation to be productive is hanging on by a thread.
These are the times where someone’s life can fall apart. These are the moments that ruin even the best laid plans. When all of life’s stressors come bearing down on you at once some days it’s hard to even get out of bed. When you are in this situation how could you expect yourself to say no to that donut? How can you expect to give it your all in a high intensity workout?  Well, the answer is that you can’t. No matter how hard you’ve worked to get to where you are it can all fall apart in an instant. The alcoholic tells himself that it’s just one little drink; you quit before you’re strong enough to do it again, right? The gambler sits down for just a couple of hands at the card table, just a little distraction from everything that’s been going on, “I’ve earned this”, she thinks. This is where you have that one little cheat meal, or you skip that extra-hard workout. But it doesn’t stay as ‘just one cheat meal’, does it? One cheat meal turns into an extra snack the next day, which turns into another cheat meal and before you know it you’re not cheating anymore, you’re just right back where you started. Skipping the workouts results in the only reps you do that day are pressing the snooze button.
Even the strongest of us have days where no matter how hard you want something or how hard you try, you just won’t have the strength to make it through. That’s a discouraging thought for many people. Feelings of regrets begin to seep in. You feel disappointed in yourself. These feelings of self-loathing can lead to more cracks, until there are so many cracks that everything you’ve built comes tumbling down. Will power is a muscle. You can work it out by pushing yourself, and it’ll get stronger. So strong that you can feel invincible. But just like any other muscle a workout wears it down. If you keep pushing your physical muscles eventually they are going to start hurting. Your body is letting you know you’ve gone too far; it needs time to recover. But your mind tells you that you have to keep going, you can’t lose all that progress. You keep pushing until one day something breaks. You tear your muscle or connective tissue. Now your working out days are over for a long time. Your will power is no different. And when it crashes it crashes hard.
That’s where I am finding myself these days. I thought I could just keep hammering away, full steam, and I’d break through any walls that got in my way. Well, I was proven completely wrong. I’ve barely been managing a workout a week. Maybe one short, slow run. I’m eating all kinds of things I shouldn’t. I’m eating later and earlier than I should. Nothing seems to be going right lately. And here’s the important part: it’s all my fault. If I had spent a little more time taking care of myself and really giving myself the attention I deserved none of this would have happened. Rather than beat myself up about it I think it’s more important to use this lesson to better myself. And I think this is an important lesson to learn: You have to take care of your self. And when I say that, I mean your ‘self’ not yourself. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, if not more so. Take your time. Slow down once in awhile. Give yourself the break you deserve from all of that hard work.
So how can you do it? How can you survive getting in shape while eating right and balancing your work and family life? How can you go all out in life to get the most out of it without crashing and burning? If you take it too easy you fall off the wagon, too hard and you won’t be able to sustain it. Where is the middle-ground? The middle-ground is consistency. The key to making all of this work is being consistent. It sounds easier than it is, but if you can build consistency into your life then it is no longer a chore to meet your goals. Be consistent with your workouts. For me, that’s getting out of bed on time so that I can get my workout in before I start my day. Be consistent with your diet. For me, that would be staying in ketosis so I will have to pass on the free bagels in the break room. If you can be consistent it’s not a ‘diet’ anymore, It’s a way of life. You don’t question that you have to get dressed before you leave the house, do you? That’s just something you have to do. We are used to it, so it is what it is. You get dressed and you don’t spend any time fretting over the fact that you have to get dressed.
How does one become consistent without burning out? This is the part where you have to listen to yourself and know what’s right and what’s wrong for you at that moment. In the example above, some days you might feel great and you spend an hour in the mirror getting ready, and you look fabulous. Some days you just don’t have the energy and you throw on an old hoodie and some sweatpants (and you still look fabulous by the way!). The fact of the matter is you still got dressed. Some days will be better than others, but you still did it. The same mindset can be applied to anything. Not feeling like you can smash your marathon PR today? Don’t! Go for a nice slow jog around the neighborhood or even a long walk with a friend or loved one. Really having a hard day with food cravings? Get online and look up healthier alternatives to the foods you crave. Or better yet go out and get a healthy treat from the store or a restaurant. Just because it’s a hard day for you doesn’t give you an excuse to give up. Just like you have to get dressed you have to stay on track with what you want in life. You must be consistent.
You don’t have to be perfect everyday. You don’t have to be perfect any day. Just be your best and do your best. The fact of the matter is you are strong enough to overcome whatever it is you are fighting in your life. But it doesn’t have to be an uphill battle. Level the battlefield and take the ‘work’ part out. Make your healthy, happy life a habit. Make it so that it’s second nature. Make it your life. It’ll take some time and energy to get there, but once you do you will be free to take on whatever the world tries to throw at you. It was a hard lesson learned for me recently, but it’s an invaluable one. Today is a great day to start. Tomorrow is a great day to keep going. Hold your head up, you’ve got this!!

Spartan Race: Charlotte Sprint 4/8/17

Spartan Race: Charlotte Sprint 4/8/17

My first OCR race and first Spartan of the year was the Spartan Sprint in Charlotte, NC. It’s a bit of driving for me to get there, but one must make sacrifices on the quest for glory! I’ll tell you upfront that I had a great time and why I loved this race, but first I’ll give you a breakdown of the race itself.

Just outside of the city the race is held at Porter Farms. It is privately owned, which is kind of nice. I think they were able to do some cool things since you weren’t confined to a specific “venue”. For example, this is the closest I’ve ever been able to park to a festival area; I literally parked a stone’s throw away from the finish line! The course itself was pretty interesting because there are a lot of open fields as well as wooded areas which helped make the course design simple, but still allowed them to send you through different terrain.

Charlotte Sprint 2017
A nice, simple course design. I found it interesting that they started included the carrys in the map. 

Overall the course was pretty flat and fast. Not a whole lot of technical terrain, but there was enough to keep it interesting. The first leg of the race was in the fields. While the ground was technically flat it was quite hard to run on. I think years of tire depressions, farm equipment, and animal hooves made the ground extremely uneven. Every step was different and if you went too fast you would be sure you’d roll an ankle. This uncertainty was compounded by the knee high grasses covering the course. I am sure the thousands of Spartans stomping through there helped resolve both of those issues as the day progressed, but I ran early and missed out on that advantage. The most fun part of the race was dodging all of the cow pies! I feel like every few steps you had to adjust left or right to avoid landing in one. I had more than a few near misses! There’s nothing like dropping down for a burpee to realize your face is mere inches from a big ol’ poo!
The obstacles started early and we’re really well spaced apart. It warmed you up with the hurdles followed by a couple short walls and the over-under-through walls. Despite the uneven terrain the first half of the course was very fast; No significant elevation changes and no burpees to slow you down. Once you got into the woods it got a little more interesting. It was here that you had the most elevation change, still not a lot, but there were a few good hills thrown in from time to time. There was a good amount of climbing/jumping over fallen trees and logs. This course wasn’t too rocky, which is a change from most of the races I’ve done, but it was nice because it allows you to go a little bit faster. I think the most notable terrain component for this race was definitely the amount of water! I was just thinking last year how Spartan Race has really been getting away from the mud lately and we didn’t really get that wet or dirty anymore. Well this race definitely changed that! There were a few really good sections of mud that you had to run through, even some of that deeper mud that tends to steal shoes. There were also a couple of parts where you had to run through a small creek. None of the water was above knee height, but there was enough of it that you couldn’t avoid getting wet and dirty.

Speaking of getting wet and dirty, this course had one of the longest barbwire crawls I’ve had the pleasure of suffering through. I don’t know for sure how long it was, but I heard someone in the festival area say it was the length of a football field (100 yards), and I believe it. Not only was it long but the wire was super low! (It looks like the raised it some for Sunday’s race). And if that weren’t enough almost the entire length of the barbwire crawl was very wet and muddy. And this isn’t that loose, watery mud; This was well churned, thick, clay mud. This is the kind of mud that sticks to you and you end up weighing a few extra pounds when you finally stand back up. This crawl was followed up right away by the atlas carry. The extra mud added a component to this obstacle I hadn’t faced before. Those cement balls are much harder to hold onto when they are covered in thick mud. Dealing with the mud was a trend for the rest of the race. Most of the obstacles after that were muddy and therefore harder to complete. Most notably the Herc hoist, rope climb and monkey bars. The monkey bars were actually the last obstacle and were maybe 100 feet from the finish line. It was heartbreaking seeing so many people having to do burpees right at the end like that. It was even more heartbreaking to join them! I was disappointed to fall off the moneky bars as I have completed them in the past, but on the fourth rung I hit a really slick spot I wasn’t expecting and just couldn’t hang on. I cranked out those burpees, but I know it added a couple of minutes to my time.

I can’t say enough about how fun this race was. It was nice to be able to go out and just run for a bit, enjoying the nature. It wasn’t nearly as punishing as some of the other Spartan races and it didn’t feel like something that needed to be conquered. It would be a great introductory race for anyone that might be interested in doing a Spartan Race but that might be intimidated by it. I think I’m going to go again next year, and I might bring some newbies along with me!

As for my performance in the race I have to say I am, overall, very pleased with it! I finished in a time of 1:40:49. My next fastest sprint was at Ft. Bragg last year and my time was 2:19:14. The Ft. Bragg race was really hot, but the course was super flat and easy. After that my next fastest sprint was my first DC Sprint. My time there was 2:32:14. My time for this race, as you can see, is significantly better than my previous races! I know it’s hard to compare any two races, even at the same venue, but the distances are close enough that a 40 minute improvement isn’t just something that ‘happens’. What’s more is that I know I could have done even better! I didn’t deliberately hold back during the event, but this was my first one, and I’ve had a few injuries, and since I’ve never run the course before I decided to take it cautiously. I spent most of the race pushing myself, but not too hard; most of the time I was out there I was comfortable. If I had really gone for it I think I could have easily shaved a few more minutes off that time. I’m trying not to get too big-headed by my improvements, but I am starting to feel really good about this race season.

I am very proud of myself that I was able to run most of the event. Being that I didn’t want to burn out and/or hurt anything I took the typical strategy of walking the uphills and running the flats and downhills. I was happy to find that I was actually able to stick to this for almost the entire races. I did very little walking at all. I also convinced myself that I needed to be quicker with obstacles. In the past I’d take breathers before and after some obstacles, sometimes even sitting on the ground. I didn’t sit at all this race and I was able to push through all of the obstacles with little delay. I think these two things probably account for my improved finishing time.

As far as the obstacles are concerned I did really well on *most* of them. I was happy that I was able to get over all of the walls without any assistance. I think the tallest was only 7 feet, but I’ve had trouble with those in the past. The bucket brigade and the sandbag carry were non-issues. This is actually the first time I haven’t had to stop to put down my bucket and take a breather, which makes me very happy! I did manage to complete the rig too, though it was only rings, and it was a little short. My left hand was giving out on this one and my foot did hit the ground twice during the transitions. I never let got and I didn’t stand on it, it was more of a graze. I felt like I probably should have done burpees for it, but I did get to the end and ring the bell, so I just kept on going.

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An extra muddy Herc Hoist. 

I missed the spear throw and the rope climb. I had it in my mind I’d give the rope climb a solid try and I did, I just don’t have the coordination to use my feet on it (I need to get a rope and practice) and I don’t have the grip/upper body strength to just use my hands. Also, because of all the mud the ropes were very slippery. A lot of people were failing this one. The mud also made the herc hoist a lot tougher. At my first race I failed the herc hoist because the rope was so muddy. I was determined to not fail again, so I wrapped the rope two times around my arm and used my body weight to get the bag up. After that it was a cinch. I didn’t manage to get my first attempt at Mt. Olympus. That obstacle is a lot harder than it looks. I got maybe a quarter of the way before I slipped off. Our shoes were really wet from the dew on the grass which made the board really slick. Also, I feel like being taller hurts me on this obstacle as my center of gravity is much further away from my feet. No excuses though, I just need to figure out how to do it! As mentioned I failed the monkey bars. We were all pretty wet and muddy still and I was trying to move too quickly. I think if I had take my time on it and I had been more confident I could have finished it. Lesson learned.

I think this is a great start to my race season. I didn’t do so well in my 5k, but my 10k and my first Sprint have really given me a huge confidence boost. Now I just need to get back on and stay on my training so I don’t lose this progress. I also discovered some weaknesses that I need to work on during this Sprint, like my overall grip strength, but especially my left hand. I’ve got two weeks until my first Savage Race and I am really excited about it! It’s so difficult to go back to work after a race. I am a total addict and I can’t wait for my next race. When I think I have to wait two more weeks I get super bummed out. We will see if I still feel that way at the end of the race season!

Ukrop’s Monument Ave 10k – My Experience

Ukrop’s Monument Ave 10k – My Experience
I am pleased to report that this weekend I ran the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k. This was the 18th annual running of this event and it has become quite a phenomenon in our city. Despite it only being a 10k (instead of offering multiple race distances in one event) it tends to draw around 30,000 participants year after year. All sorts of runners from beginner to pro show up. People even travel from out of state to run this 10k.
I feel like such an iconic race demands my participation. I’ve lived here for over ten years but this is only the second time I’ve been brave enough to sign up. I was excited to run this one not only to see how I would do, but to also see how much of a difference I could make over my performance in the last race.
The race itself isn’t too demanding. It really only has three turns, otherwise it’s a straight shot up Monument Ave and back. Monument Ave, for those that aren’t aware is a very wide road here in Richmond that features several statues of historical figures relevant to the area. It’s a beautiful road, featuring a big median with a lot of open grass areas as well as pretty fall/ spring trees. A fun fact, a portion of the road itself is actually registered as a national historical landmark. The course is very flat with only a few feet of vertical change, and like I said it’s very straight. It’s an easy course and it’s a nice place to run, so it makes sense it draws such a big crowd. There is no shortage of live bands playing and spectators with funny signs cheering you on. For an uninitiated runner it’s a good race to run as it could really get someone excited about running more races!
The race had a few ups and downs for me. The start was really slow. With so many racers present it took a long time for my wave to start. Next year I need to select an earlier wave; we ended up standing around for almost an hour waiting to run the race. By that time most of my warm ups had worn off and I was jumping in place and doing mini-stretches to try to stay limber and warm. Once we finally got to the start I was trapped behind a bunch of other runners. I spent the first half mile trying to maneuver around them. It wasn’t until the first mile was done that the pack started to thin out. After that I didn’t have too many issues getting around the other runners.
Despite having to dance around a lot of people the first mile was surprisingly easy! Sure, it was a little slower than normal with all the foot traffic, but I barely even felt like I had been running by the first mile marker. The second mile came and went almost as easily. It wasn’t until around the end of the third mile that it really started hitting me. When I reached the halfway/5k mark I was breathing pretty heavily. I had made it into fatigue territory. I was really surprised and pleased to find that even though I was feeling tired I wasn’t having that much of a problem pushing forward. My pace hadn’t really slowed that much and despite me feeling tired I wasn’t getting a bunch of panic signals from my brain to stop running. It was just after mile 4 when things started to go downhill.
There was a water station shortly after the 4 mile mark. I took this opportunity to slow down quite a bit and drink some water. I think maybe I slowed down too much or for too long but once I started trying to run full force again my body started fighting me. My pace had slowed considerably and I felt bad for the first time during the race. Around mile 4.5 I started getting a pain in my right quad. Not really a cramp, but a tightness and a burning sensation. By this point I had got my pace going a little better and decided to try to fight through the pain. Luckily it was a good decision and in a few minutes the pain diminished and I was running at a pretty good pace again. The remainder of the race was pretty smooth. I was definitely breathing hard and I was hurting but my body kept up and didn’t let me down. Normally I shine at the end of a run and I can manage to dig deep and pull from some hidden reservoir of energy. Unfortunately, on this day that well was looking pretty dry. I wanted to beat my minimum time goal so around the 6 mile mark I checked my watch and found I was way too close for comfort. I scraped the bottom of the barrel that held my will power and demanded my legs move faster. I knew when I crossed the finish line if I didn’t make my time I’d spend days Beating myself up that I didn’t push hard enough at the end. I settled into a difficult, but sustainable pace. As I got closer to the finish line I tried to give it a little more gas, but I was pretty much giving it everything I had already. When I crossed the finish line I was quite tired but also very proud.
My total time was 59:25. No, it’s not the time I wanted but I told myself my minimum goal was under an hour and I did it. Not only did I beat my goal time, but this was also a PR for me. Running the same course previously my best time was 1:08. That’s almost 9 minutes off my PR! In addition to that, I am happy to report that I was able to run the entire race; I didn’t have to stop or walk even once. I wasn’t sure I was in shape enough to do that, but I did it! I am also thrilled that my pacing was amazing. I have always gone out too fast in the beginning and I die at the end. This is something I’ve struggled with since I was a teenager. With the exception of mile 2 (which I ran in 9:03) all of my miles were between 9:23 and 9:49. For me to be able to maintain my pace like that is really exciting! So I ran the entire race, I PR’d, made my time due to good pacing, but maybe most importantly, I did all of that and ended the race injury free! I was terrified that running that much without proper distance training was going to make all of my weak spots flare up. I made a conscious effort during the race to focus on my form and to quit worrying about the clock so much. Proper form will increase speed naturally, so get the basics right first. I think making sure I was in good form was critical to the overall success of the race and the fact that I could walk away from the race uninjured. I do need to work on maintaining my form as I get tired. I got a couple of pictures near the end of the race and my shoulders are hunched and my left foot is severely crooked. Even so, I’m making progress and that is all that matters!
Overall the event was a huge success and I had a great time. I learned a lot out there about myself and about my running. I’m going to take those lessons and apply them to my life to make me a better and healthier person. I had a blast and am so excited for the rest of race season. I don’t care how fit you are, if you aren’t signed up for a race yet, go do it right now, before the next price increase!

A 5k To Kick Off The 2017 Race Season

My first race of 2017, appropriately, was a 5k. I have been searching my memories and I really think this is the first 5k I’ve run since I was in high school. Since then I have run lots of other races: A 4-miler, 8k, 10k, Spartan’s Sprint, Super and, Beast races (The Beast is usually around 11-13 miles). But this is the first 5k. While I’m not 100% happy with the results, I think I learned a lot in this race.

It was on a cool and cloudy Saturday morning, really a great day for a race. It was in the mid-40s (~8 C) so some complained of it being a little chilly, but once I get going I prefer it to be cold over hot. It was a small event held at a local shopping center; the race is a nice tour of all their shops. I actually used to work in this shopping center so it was fun to come back and visit it. The course itself is mostly flat though there is a gradual quarter mile incline in the first mile.

Some years ago, when I was still working in this shopping center I, on a random whim, decided to run this race. Since I hadn’t pre-registered I woke up a little early and drove over to do the day-of registration. Once I got there I started feeling really anxious. I hadn’t been working out and I hadn’t run in ages. I was pretty fat and didn’t feel at all comfortable being there. There was that runner inside of me somewhere telling me to do it, but my conscious mind was freaking out. To do day-of registration you needed cash, which I didn’t have, though there was a bank with an ATM in the shopping center. I was seriously looking for any excuse to not run this race. After hanging out for around 15 minutes I shamefully trudged back to my car, got in, and drove off.

Being able to run this race had a certain amount of significance; proof to myself that I not only could do it, but that I did belong there. I was, however, a little nervous about the race still. I’ve been battling some potential injuries lately and I wasn’t sure how I was going to hold up. I’ve had a little pain in both of my Achilles tendons and both of my knees have been acting a little funny. These problems are both more pronounced on my left side. I’ve taken a couple of weeks off from running and really doing any leg exercises. I’ve been doing a lot of stretching and foam rolling to attempt to resolve these issues and I’ve actually been seeing a lot of good success. Nothing was hurting while I was at the starting line, so that was a relief, but I was worried somewhere on the course something was going to flare up.

The race itself was pretty easy, as far as the course was concerned. I was hoping that since it wasn’t a challenging course that I’d have a pretty easy time of beating my goal time of 27 minutes. Most of my training runs have had me at or better than that pace without even really trying. I was also hoping that the time off would have given my muscles enough time to heal that I could maybe even surprise myself with an even better time. Sadly, I think it had the opposite effect. Once the race started I realized right away that I was not performing very well. Despite all the stretching I felt pretty tight and clumsy. Even though it has only been a couple of weeks I could definitely tell I hadn’t been running; this didn’t feel at all like my training runs. Even so, I wanted to do my best so I tried to not let it get to me too much. At this point my real goal was finishing the race without getting hurt.

The first mile, while not fast, didn’t feel too bad. About halfway through the second mile I was really feeling it though. It took a good amount of mental strength to keep myself moving during that second mile. I hate to admit it, but the thought to stop and walk did pop into my mind once. I quickly dismissed it, kept running, and didn’t look back. Mile 3 wasn’t as bad as mile 2 even though I was definitely getting fatigued. I know that I can usually finish a race pretty strong and I should have studied the end of the race a little better. I spent the mile desperately trying to figure out when I should pick up my pace. Well, I think that lack of focus on my running ended up doing more harm than good. And even with all that extra work I still misjudged the distance and started picking it up too early and got tired and had to slow back down. Once I made the last turn and started on the straight shot to the finish line I did pick it up though and sprinted what was probably the last .1 of the 3.1 mile race.

I finished the race in 27:37.13. This result is 37.14 seconds slower than I wanted to finish. I was really bummed out with that time. So close to my goal, but still missing it. I had all sorts of negative emotions when I first crossed the finish. You know the ones: the thoughts that you could have trained better/more, that you could have run faster at the end of the race, but you played it safe, etc. I was blaming my injuries and the time off from running for my poor results. I think that’s natural; it’s always difficult to fall short of a goal. As time passed and I had more time to think about it I became a lot more comfortable with it. I’m still mad I couldn’t beat my goal, but I should be proud of myself for doing as well I did. When I first started this I could event run more than one mile straight without stopping: this weekend I ran 3.1 (and could have run more). When I first started, the fastest mile I could run was a 9:45: I just ran three consecutive miles, all under 9:10. There is no denying I’m making progress and that should be celebrated.

Overall, I would say the race was a success. I might not have met my goal, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t get anything out of it. I think I did learn some things about myself not only as a person, but a runner. It also injected a nice dose of humility. Some of my more successful training runs had inflated my ego a bit, and it’s good to be reminded that you’re still human and you’ll have better and worse days. It’s important to not get bogged down by the details. I not only finished it, but I finished it injury free. I am pleased with my progress on resolving my injuries and I am encouraged to get back out and to start running again this week. My races really start to pick up next weekend. After this race, I’m not expecting to pull off anything impressive, but if I can continue to show improvements and I can perform better than I have in the past I will consider myself successful.