Friday, December 27, 2013

2013 - a year of accomplishments

WOW!  That pretty much sums it up.  What an incredible year for team Crazy Mudder Muckers, the world of OCR and me personally.

Let's start off with the world of OCR.  2013 saw the demise of many individual events as well as many event companies.  From cancellation after cancellation to the bilking of the registrants for several Superhero events to the folding of Hero Rush and Run For Your Lives.   2013 was a roller coaster ride for the industry that ended with the announcement of the inaugural Obstacle Course Racing World Championships.  You can read about some of these things in my other blogs; My opinion on the current state of the OCR world and My opinion on the current state of the OCR world - Part 2.  Like it or not, I predict 2014 will continue the Wild Ride so keep your legs and arms inside the vehicle at all times.

For the Crazy Mudder Muckers, I don't know the exact number but we started the year with only a couple hundred members and close 2013 with over 600 strong.  The last big event for CMM was the second installment of Mud, Guts & Glory on November 2nd where we cleaned up the podium from all sides, including largest and fastest team.  The event map that I created and maintain had around 2000 hits at the beginning of the year and closes 2013 with over 23,000.  This is clearly being used by many people and I hope it continues to help people get to more events.  I'm very proud of the Crazy Mudder Muckers and all of the other groups of OCR crazies out there and am excited to see what the future holds.  I have met many incredible people through these groups and OCR and have made many great friendships.

For me personally, 2013 was a year of many changes and adventures.  I started 2013 with my cholesterol and triglycerides at an all-time high, and that was with medication.  I completed 6 events in 2012 and certainly exercised on a regular basis but never really changed my eating habits.  Starting the first of February I completely changed my eating habits and within 8 weeks reduced my body fat by 27%, 26 to 19.  Within 12 weeks I had lowered my cholesterol and triglycerides by 30% to levels that I haven't seen since high school and I continue to maintain those levels.  My goal for 2014 is to convince the doctor that I no longer need to be on a Statin.

I have to say that, at the age of 45, I could not be more proud of myself for the personal accomplishments that 2013 brought and not without challenges.  My race goals for 2013 were to do as many different events as I possibly could, to feed the addiction.  That goal eventually turned into achieving the Spartan trifecta.  By running in as many different events as I possibly could, I was conditioning myself to be prepared for anything that any event could dish out.  By the time I had reached my Spartan Super in Virginia, I started to wonder if I could even complete the miles of terrain required for a Beast.  I had to change up my training so I would be better prepared physically for the challenges that lay ahead.  In November, I completed my first half marathon and 6 days later travelled to South Carolina to conquer the Spartan Beast and earn my trifecta.  This was a great end to an incredible year and no better way to sum up this year than having that sexy tri-colored medal hanging from my medal rack.  2013 also brought me the opportunity to help design and organize an OCR event, the Mud Gauntlet.  This was a lot of fun and I think the reviews were decent.  I look forward to what the future brings for this event.  I also started this blog in May of this year and am happy to say that it has been read over 4,760 times from people in 10 different countries.  Thank you everyone for joining me in my journey.

Something I had always hoped for since starting this crazy journey in 2012 was to inspire my sons, young men now, to exercise and try to live a healthier lifestyle.  2 things happened this year that I could not have been more proud.  In July at the Mud Ninja, my sons let me sacrifice them to the Ninja as volunteers in the pouring down rain all morning.  They were miserable but made the best of it.  When their shift was over, my youngest (14) came to me and said "I want one of those medals" to which I responded "there's only one way to get it".  He said OK and I went around with him for a second lap of the Mud Ninja.  For those of you that have been fortunate enough to experience the Mud Ninja, you know that this is one of the most difficult courses in the industry.  He completed it, after working all morning, and when he got the medal at the end the look of pride on his face was priceless.  In September at the Mud Gauntlet, my oldest son (17) had agreed to be the DJ for the event all day.  He had a lot of fun with this but when I went to look for him after the last wave had gone, he was nowhere to be found.  His friend said he went to run the course.  I later learned that he didn't even go with the last wave, he went on his own, after all waves had gone, just because he wanted to run this great course.  No words, just changed his shoes and went.  THAT's what I'm talking about!  This was a tie to his completing the Indiana Spartan Sprint with me and seeing the huge sense of accomplishment on his face afterward.  These moments are priceless and I wouldn't trade them for anything.

Following is the complete list of my racing statistics for 2013:
  • completed a total of 37 events
    • 22 Obstacle Course Races (a few were covered multiple times)
    • 11 'other' events including trail runs and my first half marathon
    • 4 virtual 5k's
    • Actually won money as part of the 2nd place team at the TQL Urban OCR
  • over 193 miles ran in all of the events (not including training runs)
  • over 3,350 miles driven to events
  • 10 states travelled
  • Following is the list of 2013 events that I completed
    • 2/17 Fight For Air Climb - Cincinnati
    • 2/23 Sand Mine Challenge - Missouri
    • 3/2 Survival Race - Columbus
    • 3/9 Gladiator Mud Run - Missouri
    • 4/27 Spartan Sprint - Indiana
    • 5/5 Amazing Race
    • 5/11 Mud-Stash 5k - competitive
    • 5/11 Mud-Stash 5k - group
    • 5/12 Morgan's Extreme Trail Run
    • 6/1 Warrior Dash - Ohio 1
    • 6/9 Military Fitness Challenge
    • 6/15 T.A.C. Force Challenge
    • 6/15 T.A.C. Force round 2
    • 6/22 Waterfront Challenge - Louisville
    • 6/29 Mud-Stash
    • 7/20 Color Me Rad
    • 7/27 Mud Ninja
    • 7/27 Mud Ninja round 2
    • 8/3 Cincy Nation Mud Run
    • 8/3 Cincy Nation Mud Run round 2
    • 8/3 Cincy Nation Mud Run round 3
    • 8/3 Cincy Nation Mud Run round 4
    • 8/10 Mudathlon - Ohio
    • 8/10 Mudathlon round 2
    • 8/10 Mudathlon round 3
    • 8/11 The Great Mason Chase
    • 8/24 Spartan Mid - Atlantic Super - Virginia
    • 8/31 Mud Guts & Glory
    • 9/7 Mud-Stash - 5k
    • 9/7 Mud-Stash - 10k
    • 9/15 Mud Gauntlet
    • 9/21 Harvest Dash
    • 9/28 Mudocalypse
    • 10/5 Springboro Rock N Run
    • 10/12 TQL Urban Obstacle Race
    • 10/26 Great Pumpkin Run - 10k with Tough Pumpkin
    • 11/2 Mud Guts & Glory
    • 11/3 Mason Half Marathon
    • 11/9 Spartan Beast - Carolina
    • 11/28 Lifetime Turkey Day Race
    • 12/7 Artic Dash
    • 12/28 Topo Trail Series #2

2014 promises to be another exciting year.  I don't plan on running as many events in 2014 but will focus on getting to specific events and maybe even a multiple trifecta.  With the announcement of the Obstacle Course Racing World Championships to be held at the home course of the Crazy Mudder Muckers, Mud, Guts & Glory, my main goal for 2014 is to qualify for and ultimately run in the first ever ORCWC.  2014 is going to be a glorious year.
Happy New Year everyone!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Spartan Beast - South Carolina 2013

Carolina Adventure World, Winnsboro, South Carolina - Saturday, November 9, 2013

When I registered for my first Spartan last winter, the Indiana Sprint to be held at the end of April, I remember saying 'There's no way I can do the distance of a Super and certainly no way I could do a Beast and get my trifecta.'  I don't exactly remember where I changed my mind but somewhere I decided that this would be my major goal for 2013.  I chose the Virginia Super when it was still located at a 'flatter' location and the Illinois Super was in October.  Then Spartan relocated the Virginia Super to a ski mountain and changed the Illinois Super to July.  If you haven't read my blog on the Virginia Super, you can read it here, but I'm not sure what would have been worse, the incredible slopes of the course or the Spartan Herpes of Illinois.  I somehow survived the Super but came away wondering if I was just not physically capable of handling the extremes of a Beast.  I immediately started researching what the problem was with my knees and learned that it was more IT Band related.  I set a routine to work and stretch my IT Bands and strengthen my knees for the next 2 months.  A couple weeks before the Beast I met with the running coach at my gym.  His knowledge was invaluable.  He interviewed me and analyzed my gate and told me several things that I was doing wrong.  Using his advice, I hit the Mud, Guts & Glory course for training 2 weekends prior to the November 2 Mud, Guts & Glory event.  Constantly paying attention to my running, particularly with the ascents and descents, and using the advice from the running coach, my knee pain was gone.  I was incredibly happy.  As I mentioned, the week before the Carolina Beast was the fall Mud, Guts & Glory event.  Five miles with 2,200 feet of elevation change and incredible obstacles.  The week before this, I decided to run my first half marathon on Sunday, November 3 with fellow Crazy Dewaynne Tackett.  Yes!  A 5 mile extreme OCR on Saturday and a half marathon the next day, all one week before the Beast.  This was the only way I would feel confident that I could slay the Beast.  The longest distance I had ever continuously ran before was a 10k.  At MGG I concentrated on my off-road skills and keeping my knees and IT Bands in one piece.  At the half marathon I concentrated on pace.  We made it through both without stopping, except for the 5 second water stations and one potty break.  

Coming out of the half marathon I have never felt so confident and ready.  I knew I was going to slay this Beast and the only unknown was the elevation changes and how long my knees would last.

For a few weeks before the Beast I asked questions and paid attention to the posts of the veterans of the Corn Fed Spartans with regards to hydration and fuel.  Our wave time was to be 10:00 so a big breakfast was out of the question and it went through lunch time.  I have a couple hydration packs but they have little storage in them for things like fuel so I started leaning towards my CamelBak Mil Tac H.A.W.G. with lots of storage space.  I decided to remove the hydration bladder and just take a couple of bottles but I had all kinds of room for fuel.  I looked into 'fuel' and everything out there is nothing but simple carb based sugar boosters and my body does not deal with sugar overload well.  In a book I recently purchased called Superfood Smoothies, there was mention of Chia Gel.  I did some investigation into this and the calories in Chia are incredible.  Basically you place Chia seeds in a liquid and they absorb the liquid.  I chose to use 100% Apple Cider so that I did get some carbs.  I found a squeeze bottle at the Eddie Bauer booth at MGG the weekend before and it was perfect.  The substance tasted like applesauce and had about the same consistency.  Total calories in the squeeze bottle was about 1000.  It was incredible and kept me going much longer and better than any carb-only substance would.  For additional carbs I had some Island Boost given to me from Jascia Redwine to test.  It was good but again just straight simple carbs.  Here is a quick and dirty calorie breakdown on the substance.  

I registered for the Carolina Beast because because I had NO intention of going to Vermont or Texas, so this was my only option to complete the trifecta.  Up to 4 weeks prior I still wasn't sure how I was getting to South Carolina or where I would be staying.  Devon Brown hit me up and we decided to drive down together.  I heard there was onsite camping available so I called Carolina Adventure World and all they had left was RV sites.  $63 for the whole weekend was a great deal and it was ONSITE.  There was room for 4 or 5 tents on the site so I let it out that I had room and was able to sublet space to Mark McKennett from Maryland and Jeff Hoskins of South Carolina.  You've heard me mention before how much I love the camaraderie of this sport.  I love it!  Devon and I left early Friday morning.  I set my GPS, not paying enough attention, to the last place in the Carolina's that I searched for, which happened to be the National Whitewater Center in Charlotte where they have held past Spartan's.  We were almost there before I realized we were going to the wrong place.  The good news is we were only an hour off course.  We arrived around 4:30, quickly setup camp and then we were off to dinner with all of the Corn Fed clan.

The forecast for that night was to be cold and we were sleeping in a tent.  When I camp, I do it in style with cots and all.  I stopped and bought a space heater for $25 because I knew we were on an RV site with electricity.  Plugged it in before we left for dinner and it was like sleeping in the tropics all night.  There really was no better way to prepare for this race than to be in a comfy cot at 10:00 p.m. the night before and so warm that you kick the covers off.  We slept a solid 8 hours that night.  We dreaded leaving the tent in the morning because it was 28 degrees but the view of the sunrise over the venue was incredible and required some contemplation.

We walked over to the festival area about 7:00 a.m. and started to gather at the venue.  We got checked in and I watched Devon and others take off in the Elite Heat.  I was extremely disappointed and saddened by the actions of the so-called 'Elite' runners as half of them actually skipped and ran past the first set of obstacles.  They should all have their points taken away from this race.  At 8:30 I watched the ever-inspiring Operation Enduring Warrior group with their grand entrance.  Before you knew it, it was 9:45 and time to make our way to the Start Line so I found my Spartan running partner and pace-setter Kaitlin Stein (who almost didn't make it to the event) and we headed to the Start.  If it weren't for the accomplishments of the weekend before, I would have been extremely nervous.

We weren't 100 yards into the course and there was the first obstacles, a series of ditches at least 6' wide, 4' deep and full of cold water.  Remember, it was 28 degrees at 6:00 a.m. so it may have been 45 by now.  From there it was the standard Over/Under/Through and Walls but for the most part the course was a lot of trail running and the elevation changes and slopes were relatively easy.  I concentrated constantly on my running form to prevent any knee issues.  I have to say that the Spartan obstacles on this course were the most difficult I have encountered yet for a Spartan.  The obstacles at Virginia were lame compared to most of these, but it was the Beast so you have to expect that.  As we approached the half way point, 6 miles, and back to the festival area, there was a small pond that is used by the off-road vehicles for mud-bogging.  The water was nearly waste deep and super cold so we were trying to get through it as quickly as possible when all of the sudden my legs ran into a boulder under the surface of the water that was the size of a small car.  I had been trying to protect my knees up to this point, just to smash them on a boulder that couldn't be seen.  I limped out of the pond with my left knee starting to swell and right shin with an abrasion.  Damn it!  I was feeling great up to this point because I was not having any knee issues and by mile 4 at the Virginia Super I was shot.
Come along little doggy !
Next up, the dreaded Traverse Wall.  I have never been able to complete this and was looking for redemption after Virginia.  I carefully studied every wall and every little board to determine which was the least muddy.  My hands were still wet and muddy from the climb up a small hill to the festival area so I found the only clean spot I could to clean them off, the back of Kaitlin's shirt.  I started my trek across the wall, hold by hold, feeling good and steady.  DING !!!  That bitch was mine and I felt great about it.  Immediately after was the standard burpee station with an option-out if you throw a spear and make it stick in a hay bale.  I nailed this one for the first time in Virginia but missed it this time.  I was ok with this since I was burpee penalty free up to this point in the race.  Next, the rope climb.  The Indiana Sprint rope climb started on muddy ground.  The Virginia Super was over a water pit that was about waste deep.  This one was over water but when I got in, it was chest deep.  WOW!  I had been practicing this one on other courses and made my way up and rang that little bell like I owned it.  We took some time to hydrate and fuel up and then it was time to move on to the back half of the course.  Immediately after the festival area was a series of mud moguls and pits that were just a sloppy mess and then you were off into the woods to run.  We were freezing at this point after having been in so much mud and water and really needed to keep moving.

The second half of the course entailed a lot of trail running with obstacles strewn throughout until just past mile 11 where we came upon the Tyrolean Traverse.  We were just a little past 3-1/2 hours into the race and feeling good about our time as our goal was to finish around 4 hours.  The Tyrolean Traverse had about 10 ropes going across a pond that you had to cross the rope about 40' and ring the bell.  At every rope there was a line of at least 20 people waiting and the people 'attempting' the crossing were taking forever.  I really like these obstacles and find them easy but after watching everyone else, I'm the minority.  After 20 or 30 minutes of waiting in line, it was finally my turn.  I went first so Kaitlin and the others could watch and learn, up and over in about 15 seconds to ring the bell.  To keep the line moving I dropped into the water instead of going all the way across and that was a mistake as I sank in muck up to my knees.  We had considered just doing burpees instead of waiting on this one because of the line and the lack of desire to get wet again but chose to STFU.  Kaitlin started her crossing and made it about half way before she fell in.  Now she was wet, cold and having to do burpees anyway and really hating life.  The good news is we're very close to the finish line.  Just before the Traverse is when I started to feel that familiar pain in my knees bringing back terrible memories of Virginia.  It was funny how throughout the entire course, all we heard was "this is nothing like Virginia" or "Virginia sucked way worse than this".  After the Traverse was the sandbag carry which I'm fine with but had to start going backwards on the downhill or I wasn't going to make it.  After the sandbag carry was an uphill climb to the Log Jump.  The lame part about this was they were allowing you to help each other across this by holding hands.  At this point, we had no intention of doing burpees and were glad to take this opportunity so we helped several people and then went ourselves.  Back into the woods on some gnarly uphill and downhill terrain until we came back out of the woods to the bucket carry.  I've not experienced this one yet but you basically take a 10 gallon bucket, fill it with gravel and carry it up and down a hill.  I carried it on one shoulder going up the hill and switched to the other shoulder on the way down as i gingerly went backwards.  After this was a standard 8' which I can usually handle easily on my own but we were so exhausted that we all worked the buddy system this time.  Then we we see a small little hill with some barbed-wire.  I was thinking "this doesn't look bad", I had heard bad things about last years crawl.  We started up the hill and as you crest this 'little' hill under the barbed-wire then you can see the next 40 yards of the nastiest looking barbed-wire crawl you have ever seen.  It looked like a war zone and the only thing missing was bullets flying over your head.  What looked like mud and muck was really sharp little shards of jagged gravel covered with mud and muck.  This is where all the planking, yoga and mountain climbers pay off but nothing can prepare you for the absolute shredding that my legs got from all the rock in the mud.  Glad to be out of that, but now there was a muddy water pit with a wall across it that you had to go under.

I'm not sure what they call the next obstacle but it's basically a high ladder climb and then you cross a horizontal cargo net that's about 20' up and then back down the other side.  Not good for those with a fear of heights.  I could almost see the Finish Line.  The Fire Jump and Gladiators were the only things standing between me, that pretty green medal and that even prettier tri-colored trifecta medal.


Aside from being near hypothermic, I felt great.  This marked the end of a very long year with enormous strides in my physical health and endurance and I have never felt better.  Now to set next years goals.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Mud, Guts & Glory #2 - 2013

King's Domain, Oregonia, Ohio - November 2, 2013

The great folks at King's Domain held their second ever Mud, Guts & Glory event at their location in Oregonia, Ohio on November 2 and they managed to outdo themselves from the incredible first event.  They listened to the elites and experts from the first event and made several changes in just 2 short months.  

First, they moved the start line to be closer to the finish line and the crowd.  One of the really nice things about this was that you didn't have to start running up that first hill.  It was only 30 seconds before you got to it, and it was still a tough first hill but it was nice to not start off staring up it.  

For the large Monkey Bars, the last event people started going over the top of the bars because they are just so intense.  To prevent that from happening this time, they simply put sheets of plastic over the top.  It was great to see more people attempting and completing the Monkey Bars.  This is one of my favorite obstacles.  As I started to climb the tires to the top platform of the Monkey Bars, a little boy came scampering up my left side.  Somebody asked him his age and he said "10".  With that, he reached out to one of the 20" sections of Monkey Bars and started making his way down, across the bottom and all the way up.  This little guy was a beast with his father doing everything he could to keep up behind him.  With it being the first weekend in November and not know what the weather would be like, they opted to not fill the pool under the bars with water and filled it with hay for a 'not-so-hard' landing if you fell off the bars.  Just after the Monkey Bars in the Gauntlet area, they didn't add any water but it rained all week and the mud in the Over/Under section was so thick it would suck off your shoes.  Good stuff!

There were two new obstacles added in the last 2 months and they were thoughtfully placed out on the course in the woods.  The first is a set of three menacing walls.  The first wall is about 6' tall but then you are immediately hit with a wall that is every bit of ten to eleven feet tall and absolutely no way to 'cheat' over it.  I have seen two people scale this wall by themselves and they were able to use the rocks placed at the bottom of the wall to 'spring' off and grab the top.  A short 'old' guy like myself has a little difficulty with this and needed to find a tall buddy to give me a boost.  Even with a boost, reaching the top was very difficult but I did finally make it.  The third wall is between six and seven feet but still quite a challenge.  Be careful off the backsides of these walls and make sure you land well.

The second new obstacle is a traverse very similar to the Tyrolean Traverse but there was no body of water to run ropes across so they placed this on the top of a hill and call it the Polish Traverse.  They took 4 long 'utility-like' poles, laid them horizontal and elevated them about five feet off the ground.  These poles are tapered so one end may have a diameter of eight inches while the other may have a diameter of twelve inches and they are about twenty-five feet long.  The goal is to 'mount' the pole on one end, traverse the pole and dismount the other end without touching the ground underneath.  The difficulty is that you don't have anything to hold on to, you have to wrap your arms and legs around the pole and traverse while holding on.  I found the dismount without touching the ground to be the most difficult part.

Another great change to this event was the addition of physical penalties to certain obstacles.  The Elite wave was given 30 burpees upon failure of the Monkey Bars, Walls, Polish Traverse and others.

The course this time was very different from the first in the fact that the first event had super dry weather leading up to it and it was in the summer.  This time, it had rained the week leading up to the event and the trails were covered with leaves from the trees.  This made the trails very slippery and covered every little stump, root and rock along the way making it very treacherous.

The weather on event day started off chilly but it was sunny and it warmed up nicely.  They had a huge bonfire going in the middle of the festival area that everyone congregated around making for a great social atmosphere.  

They had an ancillary contest going on in the festival area that was sponsored by the great folks at OCR Gear, a Tug-Of-War.  I hesitated on this but then went and signed up myself and another 'oldey' teammate, Dewaynne Tackett.  Together we had a combined age of almost 100 at 96.  I'm fairly certain the other two-man teams could barely hit 60.  I had already changed out of my muddy OCR shoes before we started off our first battle and that was a mistake.  I slipped and slipped and we quickly lost.  With the contest being double-elimination, and me not being able to accept defeat, I quickly put my Inov8 212's back on and readied for battle again.  This time we handled the opposition quickly and continued to advance ourselves back into the ranks.  We were 2 rounds out from the top and our opponents were two young muscle-bound guys.  We dug in started to pull.  Back and forth, back and forth, at one point we were within a foot of winning when Dewaynne started to slip.  I had already expended so much energy, I just couldn't hold it any longer and we lost.  What a great time this was for a post race activity.

The day went well for Team Crazy Mudder Muckers.  MGG added a 'team' category this time around.  We won first place for the largest team and first place for the fastest team.  They took the top 4 fastest runners of each team and averaged the times for this.  For individual teammates; Nicki Green took second place overall women's and Ulrike Rosser took first place overall women's.  Sam Mincey took third place overall men's.  Crazy Mudder Muckers teammates also took first place men's and first place women's Tug-Of-War.  As a result of all of this awesomeness, the challenge has been thrown out there for any team to come and steal our thunder at the next Mud, Gut's & Glory event, sometime in 2014.  We will be back and we will be even stronger.

There's a local photographer, David Long, that has been popping up at some local events and his work is incredible.  Check out his video of pictures from the event.  There are some really great people in this.  Both course photographers that day have some great shots, please check them out. - 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Mudocalypse - Indiana 2013

Blue River Farm, Greenfield, Indiana - September 28, 2013

When the guys at Mudocalypse announced another new OCR event, I was hoping that this would not be just some other group trying to jump on the bandwagon.  I also was very lucky and won a contest on Twitter for a free entry.  I was excited that it would be at Haspin Acres where the Indiana Spartan Sprint has been held for the last 2 years and then 1 month before the event they announced a venue change.  It was now going to be another hour away on the same land that Rebel Race was held last year.  We won't talk about the quality of Rebel Race.  As the concepts of the event were released, I was intrigued.  At obstacle points along the way, you would be required to make decisions to go left or right.  One way may be shorter and the other may be longer.  One direction may have less obstacles while the other may have more.  This concept is very unique and I was excited to see what it would be like.  

Parking was pretty standard, in a corn field and had to pay the farmer $10.  Check in was very organized and quick and the amount of swag in the goodie bag was great.

Before the race, we were told that the longest possible route was around 8 miles and the shortest around 3.  We watched the competitive wave leave and it was exactly 16 minutes and 31 seconds later that the first competitor crossed the finish line.  This guy obviously chose the shortest route possible and it was not 3 miles.  We decided that we would do everything we could to take the longest route possible.  The very first obstacle was this incredibly tight, low-crawl.  There was little to no room to move on this one as it was covered with solid wood, not wire or anything like that.  This made all that core work necessary.  At the end, there was 2 exit spots, depending on which exit you took, you were going to the right or to the left, and the game was on.  We all chose left since it was towards the outside of the course, assuming to the right and inside of the course would be shorter.  For most of the run the terrain was well used and thank goodness finally for a flat event.  The many creeks around this property made for some great water running.  The construction of the obstacles was high quality.  For the many 7' walls, and there were many, instead of a true 'wall' with a top that you could jump and grab, these were made of huge, heavy duty crates stacked on top of each other.  The top was a flat 3' deep surface making it very difficult to run and jump.  They had 2 reverse walls, one shorter than the other, several hurdles and a few regular climbing walls.  Overall, the obstacles were plentiful and of sound quality.  Every time we came to a decision making point, we would ask the volunteer working there if they knew which path was the longer one and would always take that.  One thing I really enjoyed was when we emerged from woods and one of the creek runs, we came out into an open field that was maybe 50 acres.  The volunteer there told us that the longer route was to the left.  As we made our way around the perimeter of field, we could see several other people at different points throughout the field, taking different routes and going over different obstacles.  This would be the coolest site ever if there were 1000 participants in that field.

I have to give these guys BIG props.  In an industry that is struggling to find it's happy medium, especially in this part of the country, these guys pressed on to get this event off the ground.  With only a little over 100 registrants, any other event organizer would have cancelled, It's been happening all too much lately, but these guys are committed enough to put this event on for the people that did register and get the first event under their belt.  I'm very interested in what the next event has to offer and would recommend everyone give it a try.

The event organizers are all ex-military and the events serve the charity Wish For Our Heroes.  

Friday, September 27, 2013

My opinion on the current state of the OCR world - Part 2

Hopefully you have read Part 1 of my opinion on the current state of the OCR world.  If not, please do; My opinion on the current state of the OCR world.

I wrote my first editorial opinion on this subject not even 2 months ago.  Since then, much has happened on this roller coaster ride that continues to prove my opinion that the market is still trying to figure itself out.  The laws of supply and demand have not yet settled into a smooth running market.  Greedy wanna-be's continue to plague the market and stiff the consumer.  In addition to the prerequisite reading of Part 1, I also suggest you read the following related articles from the great thinkers at Obstacle Racing Media: Superhero Scramble UnmaskedNo Refund For You! and Great American Mud Run Cancels All Future Events.

Events and organizations like Hero Rush, Great American Mud Run and Superhero Scramble are destroying all of the good that this great industry has accomplished and making it increasingly more difficult for the remaining events, especially the great ones, to be successful.  Whether these organizations are collapsing due to greed or because of mismanagement, the end effect is the same.  Events in the midwest are being cancelled and people are being left without refunds and bad opinions of the OCR industry.  I hate to say it but as much as I dislike the 'Groupon' approach, it seems to be the best recourse for these folks to be getting refunds.  The result is leaving the greatest percentage of the population, which is the 80% of the people that go to these events, with such a distrust that they will never attempt to do one of these events again.  If you are reading this, you are most likely one of the serious enthusiasts, like me, of the OCR world and either have a personal story of the positive impact this sport has had on your life and health or you know many people that have a great story to tell.  There are many people in this country that truly need the inspiration of completing one of these events to turn their lives around and with these events folding, they will never get that chance.  Following are 2 local media stories regarding the cancellation of the Great American Mud Run and the impact it had on 2 completely different women;  Mud run canceled, local woman wants refund and Mud Run participants left with nowhere to run This has been happening for some time now and not just in the Midwest; Mud run cancellation leaves many without promised refunds.  As mentioned in all of these, regular people take these events on as part of their 'bucket list' and train for months.  These are life impacting and life changing events in peoples lives and they are being taken advantage of by greedy people that have no idea what they are doing.  

Case in point are the not-so-super 'actions' of Superhero Scramble.  Superhero Scramble was to hold an event this past summer in Ohio and cancelled only a few weeks before the event.  Their claim was that they had suffered great losses to equipment from storms at their Carolina event.  Fortunately, this time they did offer refunds or you could transfer your registration to the 2014 Ohio event.  Seeing the writing on the wall, I chose the refund.  I'm going to go out on a limb and call 'bullshit' and believe that the cancellation was due to low registration.  Superhero was to also have their first Super Villain event in July at the same location in Illinois as the Spartan Super.  Many of you will remember this location as the start of the infamous Spartan Rash.  Superhero postponed this event with the excuse that the health risks were too great and they wanted to ensure the area or possible infestation was cleaned up before they exposed anyone to it again.  Once again, I call bullshit and believe this was just a convenient excuse to give them more time to increase registration numbers.  Just this past weekend, while everyone was enjoying a good ass-whooping from a quality organization on Mt. Killington, Superhero announced the cancellation of the Illinois Super Villain and that they were not giving full refunds.  This time they made 2 claims, that the local Board Of Health had not yet cleared the site and that their insurance company was not going to underwrite the event due to the potential health hazards of poison ivy.  The announcement can be read here.  Once again I call bullshit, as does the vast majority of the population, and firmly believe this is a result of low registrations.  Quoted from the Lasalle County Public Health Dept. "Individuals from the state health department visited the site on two occasions to investigate possible causes of the rash. During the onsite visit, initial assessment did not reveal evidence of large numbers of chiggers or conditions that support the presence of Cercariae that causes “swimmer’s itch”."   "On August 27, 2013 IDPH sent out two Environmental Health Specialists.  They were focusing on the presence of chiggers. They did not find any chigger activity from their two testing sites."  They went on to state that there were no further reports of new poison ivy outbreaks since the Spartan incident. The area is known to have large areas that are covered with poison ivy, but sprays such as that used by Dirt Runner control the weeds effectively.  In addition, Dirt Runner has held several events since the Spartan Super without incident or report of any further outbreaks.  

An executive of K2 Insurance, not the insurer of Superhero but an insurer of many other OCR's, stated the following "It would not be uncommon for an underwriter to deny coverage for an event knowing that there has been prior issues regarding the venue location.

It is possible the same company that writes Spartan, also writes Super Hero Scramble. Without the specific declination from the underwriter we can only speculate. The potential exposure to poison ivy would be an “expected hazard,” so it generally would not warrant a declination in and of itself. Knowing that the venue has produced a publicized “outbreak” is enough to make some underwriters uncomfortable enough to just issue a declination. Waivers offer a good deterrent; however, people will still have the right to sue for recovery.

I use several carriers for this type of event. If one says “no” we go to another however, the pricing increase may be significant. Mr. O’Conner may have combined this with other factors to determine it was not worth the potential exposure and harm to his brand.

So IF the insurance company that writes SHS did issue a declination, then SHS has a valid argument. However, it seems like there are plenty of other options that could have been available - e.g. using a different insurance carrier or finding a different venue. I discovered myself that the venue used by Tough Mudder (the hunt club in Seneca) is open for use on Oct 5th as no other events are being held there that day. That could have been a viable option. But regardless, this comes down to the cost/benefit of finding an insurance company that would sponsor this event on grounds that had a known outbreak of poison ivy, and whether the cost of the coverage was too exorbitant to make the race profitable (because we all know that the race needs to make money to continue to survive)."

Sean 'Ace' O'Connor (Founder & CEO of Superhero Scramble) claims "we immediately searched for an alternate venue, however we were not able to find anything suitable" yet many people have stated that the location of the Tough Mudder in Seneca is completely open and available.  By the way, never trust anyone that refers to himself as 'Ace'.  On the Chicago Spartans Facebook page, Mr. O'Connor recently posted this:

Mr. O'Connor, every individual that you have screwed out of their hard-earned money knows exactly what is lost to them and they wish you knew that.  My reply to Mr. O'Connor:

He replied with the following:

The only immediate reply that came to mind was:

The fact still remains that this is a very young industry and the dust is still settling however the standard rules of economics and supply and demand are not being adhered to.  The 'suppliers' are clearly destroying things quickly.  These guys are the first ones to bad mouth having to use Groupon and such just to get people to their events.  The clear message from all of these companies is that they do not have the funds or capacity up front to hold these events and that they are using the cash from registrants to front the event.  They are using the public as unwilling investors.  It would be like going to an amusement park, paying to get in and having the park take your money and try to build the rides ahead of you.  If not enough people show up that day, you don't get to ride anything and have nothing to show for your 'investment'.  These organizations just need to come clean with the truth and be properly prepared to take on these ventures without expecting the public to front the cash for their failures.  Things like this will quickly turn this great, life-changing sport into a fad that will be all but gone just as quickly as it came to be.  I hope for the sake of the health and well-being of this great nation that they do not win and the demand will continue with as much force as it has had.

For those of you that are left out on October 5th, Dirt Runner, the location that was to be the Super Villain, will accommodate any and all individuals (for a nominal fee) that were left out by Superhero and have lots of great OCR adventures.  Go here for details.  I predict this will happen without incident or rash.  I also predict Superhero Scramble to be the next failure in the industry.  If they owe you money, do whatever it takes to get it while you can and be very cautious about registering for one of their events.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Mud, Guts & Glory - 2013

King's Domain, Oregonia, Ohio - August 31, 2013

I first heard of this event in January of 2013.  They first advertised it as 7 miles and the date was July 6.  I was already registered for something else on the same day and wasn't really sure if I was ready for the distance.  Even though it's only 25 minutes from my house, I decided to not register.  Months went by and they postponed the event.  With the way the rest of the OCR industry was going (read here), I was glad I wasn't registered.  The new date was August 31 and they started changing the distance with a variance of 5 to 7 miles.  On the outside, this had all the appearances of another failed attempt to get into an already saturated market.

Another couple months went by and my good buddy Matt Davis of Obstacle Racing Media sent me a message and asked if I was registered since he knew I probably lived close to the venue.  I replied no, I was already overbooked for the season and it just wasn't in my OCR budget.  He quickly responded with something like "forget that!!  You're doing it!!" and just like that, I was registered in the Elite wave with Matt Davis.  Soon after, the media push started on this event and it was huge.  Dhani Jones, former linebacker of the Cincinnati Bengals, was involved with this event and was bringing his film crews from Playbook 360 on Spike TV to film the event.  MGG decided to get as many top names in the OCR world as they could get to come run this course.  People like Amelia Boone, Jeff Cain, Dan Krueger, Heather Gannoe, Holly Berkey, Brad Kloha, Rob Butler, Matt Davis and last minute entry Junyong Pak.  This just became the playground of champions.

I need to get this out there, I was wrong!  King's Domain is where the newest permanent obstacle course in the country is located and it's first event was titled Mud, Guts & Glory.  King's Domain is a camp/retreat located in Oregonia, Ohio about 1 hour from Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus (depending on what side of town you are on).  This amazing organization is dedicated to providing opportunities and help to 'at-risk' inner-city children and families.  The obstacle course was designed and constructed with many purposes; a place to help train people to overcome 'obstacles' either as an individual or as a team, to help with team-building exercises and also to help provide a revenue stream to assist the fundamental purpose of King's Domain.  It's not often you find such a committed group of individuals all out for the same purpose.  This event was not like most of the groups out there that are trying desperately to tap into a new market and make as much money as they can, this course was developed with a purpose.  When you see the time and effort that was put into this course you understand the conviction to the cause.

To help get this event off right, we got the word out to the Crazy Mudder Muckers and Cornfed Spartans to come give this event a try and we ended up with around 20 participants.  I knew MGG was bragging about the hills and total elevation change on this course but nothing could top the Virginia Spartan Super the week before.  I just wanted my knees to hold out.  We were given the chance to preview the course Friday night with the aforementioned elites.  The first thing you see when you arrive is the 'gauntlet' of obstacles toward the end of Stage 1 and you are instantly full of mixed emotions; fear, intimidation, awe and excitement among others.  The monkey bars were freaking me out and just before that was a mud crawl with electric shock.  Of all the events I have participated in, none of them have had electric shock and I was nervous.  My goals for this course were to survive without getting shocked, falling from the monkey bars and with my knees fully intact.  The course was designed with so much forethought, they incorporated the 5 miles of the course into stages that are approximately 1 mile each and the difficulty increases with each stage.  The end of each stage has an optional exit so the runner can choose to end the course early.  This is for many reasons; in just a training run you may want to only concentrate on a certain set of obstacles or maybe you aren't up to 5 miles yet or during a race you may find you need to exit early.  The current course is about 5.2 miles with 33 advertised obstacles with the intention of getting it up to 7 miles and more obstacles in the near future.

Saturday morning comes around and we make our way to the Start line, something I did not see Friday evening.  It was straight uphill from the start.  I really despise when races do this but this course was all about terrain.  The MC was working crowd and the Spike TV crews were everywhere.  The buzz in the air was electric and everybody was pumped to get this party started.  "Mud", "Guts", "Glory", "GO!!" and we were off!!  Up the hill, winding through the woods, over rocks and logs, a swinging bridge, a 'normal' monkey bars and eventually back to the parade field and the gauntlet.  I could hear the 'ZAP' of the electric shocking people as I neared.  I remembered all of my core training with planks and everything we love/hate and crawled my way through the mud, under the bug-zapper and made it through without getting zapped.  I was safe!  Then a short wall and up the tires to Monkey Madness.  The bars were such a mess, I was really afraid of falling from the highest point so I chose to use my feet also.  There was lots of confusion around what was legal with this one and most people chose to go across the top.  I made it down and back up the other side, down the tires, over another wall and then there are these massive logs that you must go over and under.  After that comes the Castle Wall, a massive ladder-like structure stretching 27 feet into the sky that you must climb up, over and down the other side.  Heights don't bother me but there were many people that opted out of this one.  From there it was through a culvert, up a creek (which unfortunately was dry this time) and up the next hill side.  This was also the end of stage 1 if we wanted out but I wasn't about to not complete this course.

Stage 2 was lots hills and trails with a couple natural obstacles like logs and such but this is where the Sternum Checker was which was very interesting.  I almost fell off this thing because I didn't leap far enough but I did make it.  Back down the hill we went to a very long, rocky creek run and up another hill to stage 3.  At some point I caught up with my new friend Heather Gannoe and we ran together for quite some time.  If you're stuck walking up hills, it's nice to be able to carry on a good conversation with someone.  For some reason most races include some sort of 'fun' obstacle but I never like these.  Spartan Race has the spear throw which I think should be called 'burpee station with an option out'.  MGG has 'David & Goliath'.  The participant must hit Goliath, a large painting on boards about 25 feet away, between the eyes with a paintball using a slingshot and you get 3 tries.  The closest I got was his chin and the only failed obstacle of the event.  Next up was a very long log carry and running more hills until we come upon a rope climb.  Similar to the Spartan rope climb only you didn't start in a water/mud pit but you had to climb the 20' rope up and ring the bell.  After that, more hills but one of the steepest yet, Mt. Kill-A-Man.  I must interject that shoes make all the difference in the world in these events.  At some point we ran past the exit of Stage 3.  Stage 4 was mostly hills and trails and at some point ended up all the way at the top of King's Domain where the cabins and cottages are.  This is where they had you pull a log, tied to a rope, down a dirt road and back for a total of about 3/10 of a mile and then back down the hill you go.  By this time you've pretty much figured out that you will most likely be running back up this hill at some point and are sure it will never end.  I think stage 4 is where the Weaver obstacle was.  I've never seen anything like this and was difficult and time consuming to do.  Stage 5: again, mostly hills and trails but at some point you end up looking down a very steep hillside with ropes leading down.  This hill is too steep to run down without using the ropes so you either slide down on your backside or rappel down, which is why they call this one Rope Burn Hill.  Finally at the bottom, you turn and run 100 feet to your right and realize you have to turn and go right back up that same hill, just a little further downstream.  This climb is so much higher than the downside that there are 3 sets of ropes to get you up to the top.  My guess is about 120' of elevation change on this one.  The hillside is so steep and nothing but sand that it's very difficult to climb.  By the time you get to the top, you're exhausted.

I knew I had to be near the end of the course and it appeared to be all downhill.  I just realized my knees weren't hurting me on these hills.  But these weren't anything like the mountainsides in Virginia.  I took off running down the hill and across the ridge line to the top of the slide.  This is one of the longest slides I've seen on any course and it was smooth and fun.  At the bottom, I sprinted my big finish to the finish line and some very cool bling.

This course was incredible and I will definitely be back there.  Everyone needs to run this course.  It's permanent and hope to hold periodic training events for beginners to advanced runners in addition to the 3 to 4 events per year they plan to hold there.  Everything about this course and event is right; it 100% supports a great cause, the heart and soul gone into the development really shows, the volunteers working the event were the best ever and it's only 25 minutes from my house.  From this moment on, I shall consider this my home court ;)  A lot of thought and consideration has gone into MGG including the festival area and Glory Village located in the gauntlet area and lots of shaded picnic area for post-race libation.  The only down-side was off-site parking.  It was another great day with many great friends and many more new ones.  I have to say that Spartan has nothing on MGG.  The finish line?  For MGG you'll know at the Start line.

Something I forgot to mention is the incredible Family course and/or children's course.  It's every bit as incredible as the big kids but only 1 mile long and they offer some sort of child care so mom's and dad's can go run the big course together without having to split up.

Congratulations to Crazy Mudder Muckers Nicki Green and Ulrike Rosser for taking 2nd and 3rd place in the Female Elite division behind none other than Amelia Boone.  CMM ladies rock !!!  They had cash prizes for top 3 male and female finishers of $250, $500 and $1000 that they paid out on the day of the event, unlike many other races out there (read here).

Watch Spike TV on September 18, 2013 for all the action.

Other reviews of this course can be found here:

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Editorial opinion on the Spartan Super - Virginia 2013

Disclaimer!!  This is an opinion on the event as a whole.  My own personal experience can be read about here.  I truly enjoyed the experience and the challenge.  It was one of the greatest physical and mental challenges I have ever experienced and at some points was very spiritual.

Has Spartan Race gone too far?  The recent Spartan Super in Virginia, in my opinion, did just that.  The definition of the Spartan Super according to is as follows: "The Super Spartan obstacle race provides an 8+ MILES / 20+ OBSTACLES battlefield of insane mud running with 15 or more obstacles to test your physical strength and mental resolve. This mud fest of a race will have many trials to push you to your limits that any man or woman with resolve can complete! This endurance race conists of mud runs, trails, and both mental and physical obstacles and challenges."  Yes, there was 8 miles with obstacles but 'running'?  I'm pretty sure the greater percentage of us did not do much 'running'.  Yes, the course most definitely consisted of 'both mental and physical obstacles and challenges' but the course was not necessarily designed that way.  The course was not designed to be a challenge but to be an elimination.  The ego's of the race director's and course designers have gotten out of control.  They have reached the point of constantly trying to 'out-do' each other that they crossed the line.  This course was designed solely with the elite in mind as if Norm Koch was preparing everyone for the Ultra Beast or the The Death Race.  This particular course quickly became not fun, yes we enjoy these things and think they are fun, and turned into survival and an extreme desire to finish or be finished.

Look at it from a business standpoint.  For generalization let's say that 90% of the Spartan Sprint registrants are out to enjoy a challenge, have fun with friends and get a good Facebook picture.  The other 10% are the Elite out to win money and many of them are probably running for free.  By that reasoning, it would be sound to expect that 80% of the Spartan Super participants would be the same people out to enjoy a challenge with friends and get a good Facebook picture.  Obviously the percentage of the hardcore and the Elite would increase with the level of complexity.  By this same line of reasoning an even smaller percentage of the participants of a Spartan Beast would be just out for fun and a challenge.  So, using these hypothesized numbers, your largest customer base and the people providing you with the bulk of your income are not out to be eliminated but have paid damned good money for a challenge that will put them just outside their comfort zone.  If they don't get there, then they will be hooked to pursue the next level and, guess what, pay more money.  However, if they do not enjoy themselves or possibly do not finish, which happened a lot on this course, they will never come back and they will tell everyone they know what a bad time they had.  Businesses rely on repeat customers and new customers from testimonials.  The sport of OCR is new and growing but it definitely has a finite customer base.  Just as people are being turned away from the sport and pastime as a result of the many cancellations and non-refunds that have happened this year, they will also be turned by having too much thrown at them.  This is where the local 'mom and pop' mud runs will continue to thrive.  Joe Desena constantly talks about how he wants to get people "off the couch" and Spartan Race has done just that but if the level of difficulty continues with this current rate of ascent, they will be putting people back on couches, in hospital beds or possibly in graves.  Course designs like this one are counter-productive to that base goal of 'getting people off the couch'.

As I mentioned in a previous blog over the current state of the OCR world, this is all about the law of supply and demand.  There is a certain demand for Sprints, Supers, Beasts, etc .. and this is what people expect and pay for.  If you do not supply to the demand, the demand will diminish and not require the supply.

A word of advice to Spartan Race; get your organization under control if you want to continue with the great level of success that you have had and continue to provide us with the most awesome events that has gotten this country moving again.  No American TV network or Global shoe manufacturer is going to want to have their name associated to an event that intentionally tries to throw people off a mountain.

Just my thoughts and my opinion .. it's like an a$$hole, everybody has one.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Spartan Super - Virginia 2013

Wintergreen Resort, Virginia - August 24, 2013

"Your body will stop when it falls over.  Until then, the only thing stopping you is your mind."  many people have heard me say this over the last 1-1/2 years and I try hard live by this.  It's gotten me to where I am today.  The Virginia Super Spartan of 2013, held at the Wintergreen Ski Resort mountain, nearly broke this credo for me .. several times.  This was an incredible and very long experience for me so I will apologize ahead of time for this lengthy piece, please enjoy.

The terrain and scenery from the venue was incredible, beautiful, awesome and intimidating.  These weren't hills, these were mountains with black diamond rated ski slopes and some sadistic person (Norm Koch) decided that we shall run (not hardly) up and down these slopes, not once or twice, but several times with Spartan obstacles strewn throughout.  The course was 8 miles with 3,874 ft. of elevation gain and 3,794 ft. of loss.  Minimum elevation was 2,465 ft. above sea level and the peak was 3,498.

I was at the venue around 7:00 a.m. and watched the most incredible sunrise over the Blue Ridge Mountains.  As the sun rose, the slope of the course came into view and I was suddenly concerned.  I watched the elite groups take off and then went to watch the EnduringWarrior group make their entrance.  (pics here)  I’ve never seen these guys in person and it was awe inspiring.  After that they opened the chair lift and I was able to go down the slopes to see more of the course.  I went from concerned to totally worried.  To look up and down these slopes and see people trudging this mountain side was incredible.  I was fortunate enough to see Hobie Call and Matt Novakovich come over one of the walls and do the log carry.  They were together when they disappeared up the next hill but when they emerged, only Matt was visible.  I watched him finish first and then Hobie came along several minutes behind and I was fearful once again.  11:00 rolled around and I lined up with my brethren from the Corn Fed Spartans and we were off to the inevitable.  I typically like to set my own pace and maintain that throughout an event.  This usually means that nobody will be with you all the time.  The main group of Corn Fed stayed together and were falling behind my pace.  I found that new Corn Fed member Kaitlin Stein and I were maintaining about the same pace so we pulled ahead of the group.  I started out thinking I could do this in 3 to 4 hours but after the second swing back up the mountainside and we still weren’t at mile 1, I started to worry a little more.  The obstacles were the typical Spartan obstacles with walls to climb over, go under and go through followed by muddy moguls and mud pits.  The 3 I failed in the Indiana Sprint were the Rope Climb, Spear Throw and Traverse Wall and I was determined to be burpee free this day.  As we made it to the first water station at mile 2 and officially 25% complete, I was feeling really good and the confidence was up there but these hills were made for goats, not people, and we still had a long way to go.  Somewhere about 3-1/2 miles in and going down one of the many treacherous, rocky, wooded hillsides that were more like glacial runoffs, my left knee decided to start to hurt and it wasn’t long before it just locked up.  The pain was incredible and I have no idea what was causing it but I knew that the downhill slopes is when it hurt, I was fine going uphill.  Kaitlin was kind enough to slow down while I tried to nurse my knee back.  We made it to mile 4 and the halfway point in 1 hour and 30 minutes.  Without knowing the rest of the course, and disregarding my knee, we were on track to finish in 3 to 4 hours and we were feeling pretty good about it.  Right after the mile 4 water station was the spear throw.  I personally don’t like ‘challenges’ like this because they are not really obstacles or anything you can really train for.  They should just call them burpee stations with an option to throw a spear.  I came into this with a plan of attack and a goal of no burpees.  I grabbed the spear, backed up, took a couple steps and threw it like a javelin – nailed it!  Fortunately for me, I got to rest my knee a bit as I waited for Kaitlin to complete her burpees.  After this was another downhill to the monkey bars, I could barely make it down there.  I finally got to the bottom and crossed the bars with ease.  Kaitlin asked if I minded if she went on and I knew I was slowing her down with this knee issue.  Of course I didn’t mind and it was me against these mountains.  The monkey bars were located right next to the operating chair lift and I was in so much pain, this was the first time I actually considered quitting.  I sat for about 10 minutes to give my knee a break but it didn’t help much, so I embraced the suck and trekked on.  Not far after this I was going down through the woods on all those treacherous wet rocks and came upon the Enduring Warrior group.  This is where it became emotional for me.  I’m about 5 miles into the course and approaching the lowest elevation of the course, in so much pain that I can barely walk and suddenly in front of me are a group of men that wish they had a knee to hurt.  I suddenly wasn’t thinking about my problems and my pain and was thinking about how brave, courageous and inspiring this incredible group is.  This was the second time I was choking back tears on this course.  I still am not sure if I wanted to cry from sadness, gladness or embarrassment.  I looked at these guys taking on the most incredible challenge I have ever personally taken and it’s probably just another day to them yet they do it without complaint.  I took the time to tell a few of them how inspiring they were to me and shook their hands.  I feel this pain because I can and I am alive.  One day, I won’t be able to enjoy this feeling.  The vision of these incredible individuals kept me going for the next 4 hours and replaced my thoughts every time I started to think about my knees or quitting.  They don’t know this, but that entire group of extraordinary people got me through this course and I am grateful.  Then I pulled up my big girl panties and trekked on.

The obstacles on the course became more of just a place to relax along the way.  With the exception of a couple, none of them are very difficult.  One difficult task was the log carry.  On a good day this is not so bad but this time we had to carry the logs back down the hillside about 130 yards and back up again.  I had to do this walking backwards down the hill because my knees were about to explode.  What made this worse was the occasional person dropping their log on the hillside above me and having it roll down the hill catching everyone like bowling pins.  Not easy in my current physical condition.

The uphill portion between mile 5 to 6 was ridiculous.  I heard it was a solid 1-1/2 mile uphill climb but it was a little more than 1000 feet of ascent.  The day and the challenge passed fun, exciting and challenging a long way back and was now just about survival and getting the hell off this mountain.  The only thing I could think about the whole way up was that I would eventually have to go downhill, and my knees hurt just thinking about it.  I got to the peak, turned around, sat down and looked in awe out over God's incredible world.  These pesky little manmade tasks called obstacles were nothing compared to His obstacles.  

Up and down, up and down, up and down, the repetition was monotonous and every so often there would be an obstacle.  I was getting tired of going down hills backwards or crawling but eventually, I could see on the horizon the rope climb.  I was both elated and concerned at the same time.  No burpees!!!  I was convinced I was going to nail this but I was completely exhausted and running on fumes.  I approached the structure and decided to take a break and contemplate before taking this on.  I gingerly lowered myself into the mud pit, making sure to not get my hands wet or muddy, and carefully selected my rope.  Up, up, up, slip, up, up, break, up, almost there, RING that damn bell!!  Nailed it!!  Still burpee free!!  After the day I had been having, this single ringing of a bell gave me the biggest sense of accomplishment yet.  There was only a little more of a climb to go to my next challenge and then on to the finish line.  Next up, the Traverse Wall, again I carefully selected a wall that looked to be the least muddy.  Board by board, careful to keep 3 points of contact at all times, onward, one more board to go and I get to hear another bell, reaching and my left foot slips off and I fall to the ground.  DAMN!!!!!!  I know that echoed across those mountain tops.  5 hours of pure hell and all I wanted to do was no burpees.  Oh well, I was feeling good at this point and could see the finish line, I just needed to do my penance (burpees), cross the Slippery Wall and jump that fire to the finish.  Those were honestly the easiest burpees I have ever done.  The Slippery Wall wasn’t so slippery, up and over.  I took the moment to stop look up and enjoy the view.  I mustered through the pain and took off running, leaped that fire, through the Gladiators and give me that DAMNED Blue Medal!!  5 hours and 25 minutes after I set out, it was over and the greatest sense of physical accomplishment I have ever felt in my life.

One word best describes this day, this course, this event and even me doing it – STUPID.  I have always told people that anybody can do these, the only thing that matters is that you cross the finish line.  You can walk the entire course if you have to, but challenge and push yourself to do it.  After the 2013 Spartan Super in Virginia, I retract that statement.  I would not take just anyone on that particular course and would definitely tell people (in their best interest) they shouldn’t do it.  There is a point where we can push ourselves too far, beyond necessity or reason, and Spartan created the perfect storm for just such a point.  They admitted that this event was the single most difficult event they have created to date, short of the Ultra Beast.  To them I say … AROO!!!  One more Spartan event, the Carolina Beast, and I shall have that trifecta.

Course overview -