OCR Transformation- Dawn Stowers

ORM presents the series of stories on OCR Transformations. Runners and athletes whose mind body, and spirit have been altered through obstacle racing.

 

 

 

 

Dawn Stowers is a 45 year old mother of two who enjoys Obstacle Course Racing, CrossFit and auto racing of all sorts. When she turned 40, she weighed 182.6 pounds and was miserable. Performing the basic tasks in life were difficult for her. She was like most other mom’s with tweens, always running around errands with her girls. She would eat the worst possible take out and generally putting her health and happiness on the back burner.

Before Dawn’s 40th birthday, her father passed away unexpectedly and meanwhile her and Dawn and husband were at odds over her increasing weight gain. Her husband lost some weight few out of spite, and she was determined to do the same. Dawn had half-heartedly tried so many things over the years, but eventually realized that the only thing that stood between her and her weight loss goal was self-control. That is when she finally decided to commit to changing her health for the better. Over the next few months, she found a program that worked work for her. Dawn significantly changed her diet and began to eat cleaner than ever before. She also found a support group of others looking to be a better version of themselves and together they persevered.

Dawn began to realize that she was capable of so much more than she ever thought possible. She eventually got all the way down to an unhealthy 112 pounds as she became obsessed with watching the scale go down further and further; to the point that she became sad on the days it didn’t move. At that point, Dawn decided getting stronger and healthier should be her goal. This quest soon became her focus and she found a Boot Camp that she enjoyed, it became her home away from home. She went religiously, rain or shine, sickness or in health and enjoyed the feeling of becoming better. Dawn feels that the gym is one of the few places on earth where everyone has only one focus; to be the best version of them possible.

Eventually, she heard about the Spartan Sprint in Charlotte and decided to sign up: ALONE. She knew that it would be the ultimate test of her physical and mental abilities but it was something she says, “I HAD to do it for ME.” Another one of her boot camp friends eventually signed up with her and together they set out on a quest to jump the fire. It was sleeting as they stood at the starting line shivering, wondering what was to come next and then AROO! AROO! AROO! They were off! It took a long time and Dawn failed many of the obstacles, but she exclaimed “who doesn’t love burpees!?!” Dawn believes that jumping the fire was one of the most satisfying things she has ever done.

She wore her medal most of the day and had to figure out how to get that feeling again and again! She joined several Spartan Facebook Groups and realized that her Boot Camp wasn’t going to get her the training she would need to be more successful in her Spartan Trifecta quest. As a result, she searched for a new gym and found CrossFit 77 where she works out 4-5 times a week. OCR has become a big part of Dawn’s life and helps defines who she is as a person. Her running partner is her youngest daughter, Ashley, who is a sophomore in college. For Dawn and Ashley, OCR is the perfect Mommy/Daughter Weekend getaway activity. They try to run at least one OCR a month together which gives them an excuse to see each other and to keep training hard.

Dawn is now beginning her 4th year of completing double Spartan Trifecta’s. She doesn’t limit her runs to strictly Spartan’s, as she has enjoyed many other OCR’s: ie BattleFrog, BoneFrog, Warrior Dash, Dirty Girl, etc. Dawn and her daughter Ashley just recently completed 8 hours at Toughest Mudder Atlanta. However, Spartan is by far her favorite race. The Spartan Festival Area is our Narnia! She says, “everyone there is happy, working to be the best version of them, encouraging, helpful and generally pumped up!” The OCR Community is all about the build-up and never the tear-down; it truly is a FAMILY. Dawn wants everyone to know that it doesn’t matter how old you are or where you start; ONLY where you want to go. Age is only a number. Find your passion! Leave your comfort zone and find the new best version of you! NEVER SETTLE! AROO!

OCR Transformation- Wes Blake

ORM presents the series of stories on OCR Transformations. Runners and athletes whose mind body, and spirit have been altered through obstacle racing.
 

As a kid growing up Wes was always overweight. It had a tremendous impact on his life and made things hard for him. Making friends was difficult and the friends that he did have would still pick on him because he was the “fat” kid. For many years after high school Wes tried all the different diets out there. Atkins, weight watchers, nutrisystem, you name it he tried it in an effort to lose weight. He never really had a friend that would take him under their wing and show him the way to be healthy.

Wes was bullied alot because of his weight and the fact that he would not fight back. He would just shut down and take the bullying. Wes was always told that he wasn’t good enough, he was too fat, or too slow to do anything. This caused him to not want to tryout for anything, even if he was really good at it. Shopping for clothes was even worse because he always had to shop in the big mens store and he couldn’t wear the trendy fashions that his friends were all wearing because of his size.

Wes says that, “people would laugh at me and it was extremely hard to approach any girls because I wasn’t part of the cool crowd.” In turn he kept to himself and found other ways to spend his time. Wes can’t really limit this to one specific event. There were multiple events leading back to childhood that forced him to make the change and to start his journey to a new and improved, and healthier Wes.

One day about 4 years ago he woke up in the middle of the night by what he thought was gas. Turned out that Wes had Gallstones and his blood pressure was through the roof. They removed his gall bladder and he made a promise to himself that he was going to get healthier. Not only for himself, but for his family as well.

Back in 2014 after having multiple health issues and just not leading an overall healthy lifestyle, he decided to make a change. He had constant high blood pressure even with medications, which were being increased every appointment because he couldn’t get it under control. He was smoking at least a pack of cigarettes a day, drinking and eating completely unhealthy. It was at this time that he looked at his 4 grandchildren and decided to make a change to be around for them and his family.

He started hanging out with friends that had a like mindset and were working towards their own weight loss goals. They taught him how and what to eat and how to exercise properly. He used to laugh because he was never known as a runner and he turned to them to help him with any advice they may have since they had worked hard and were attaining their goals.

In 2014, he had just started running and began getting serious about his health. His friends in turn challenged him to do a Rugged Maniac that August. He had heard about the OCR community from them and had already met alot of great people who welcomed him with open arms. They showed Wes that getting in shape didn’t have to be work and that it could be alot of fun. They accepted him for who he was and they liked him as Wes. Not one time did they pass judgement because he was overweight, or because he couldn’t do what they could do.

In August of 2014, Wes ran his first race a Rugged Maniac. His friends David Yates and Richard Estep challenged him to sign up and race with them. He knew he would never be able to keep up with them, but he decided to do it anyway. He signed up and they helped him train. David and Richard helped him prepare for the toughest challenge of his life.

Wes worked for 7 months to get ready for the race. When the race started his friends got well ahead of him. He did a majority of the race by himself. As he approached about a mile to the finish, he look up and there was David and Richard. They were coming back out to the course to finish the race with him. After that race Wes had a fire lit under him that he never had before. He was already looking forward to doing his next race, which was the “Down and Dirty” that October. He wasn’t as prepared as he wanted to be, but he went out and gave 100% and completed the race. That was the end of his first race season, but he was determined to make the 2015 season even better and he trained to do so. He started going to more events to learn different techiques and ways to make himself better. There were alot of people that were willing to help him attain his goals and they are still in his life today.

March of 2015, Wes ran his first ever Spartan race in Conyers, Ga. He didn’t know anyone there and ran with a stranger that later became a friend, Marcus Conyers. Marcus offered to go with him and help him along the course. They started the Sprint and along the way he severely sprained his ankle. It hurt him to walk, but Marcus would not let him quit. They stayed together the entire time with Marcus helping him through the obstacles. It was at this time he knew that he had to get serious about training, he didn’t want to have to rely on others to get through a course again. He wanted to be able to do it himself. When Wes crossed the finish line that day, he was met by lots of cheers and hugs from everyone. They told him how proud they were that he didn’t give up and kept fighting through the course with an injury.

Wes contributes his success to his friends David Yates and Richard Estep. They believed in him and cheered him on to complete his first OCR. They helped him to succeed by pushing him to his limits and beyond. He appreciates his GORMR (Georgia Obstacle Racers and Mud Runners) teammates for always giving encouragement and letting him know how strong he can be. He is also successful due to his family’s love and support. He says, they “have been ther since day one, with the traveling and putting up with a hectic race schedule.” Most of all his parents, they have always believed in him since he was a child. They always taught him to go out and prove to himself and not others that he can do accomplish what he sets his mind to. There is a host of people Wes would like to thank and the list could go on and on but he had to keep it short.

Currently, you can find Wes spending 3 to 4 days in the gym working on everything from cardio to strength. Two times a week he tries to get out to a local trail working on building distance and cardio in order to be prepared for the next event.

At the time Wes started his journey he weighed close to 440lbs. He smoked cigarettes and ate very unhealthy. He was on blood pressure medication and was also a chronic sufferer of gout.Currently, he is down to 275 lbs! He has not smoked since he began his journey in 2014. He has now adopted a cleaner and healthier eating lifestyle that he incorporates everyday. He admits the temptaions are there, but that is where his new found will power comes in.

OCR Transformations-Bill Pollackov

ORM presents the series of stories on OCR Transformations. Runners and athletes whose mind body, and spirit have been altered through obstacle racing.

When Bill was young, really for as long as he can remember, he was always a competitive athlete. From swimming to football and wrestling, Bill seemed to always be either practicing or competing. When he got to college, he joined the fire service and served as a firefighter/EMT for 9 years. Food was his escape. Anytime something was stressful, going wrong, or even good, eating helped him get through it. Sweets and ice cream were his go to. For many years this didn’t manifest as he was burning many of those calories.

Bill and his wife Tracy 2013

When Bill got married to his wife in 1995 they moved to Syracuse, NY. They moved so his wife could go through graduate school. It was there that his activity levels began to decrease, and his food intake didn’t change. By the time they moved to North Carolina in 1998, Bill had added about 50 lbs to his frame. “I was never a small guy, so even 50 lbs was manageable”. When he left the fire service is when the weight really began to hit him.

By 2013, Bill’s weight was over 450 lbs and it consumed his life. At that time he says fast food was about, 45-50 percent of his diet he was drinking between 2 and 2 ½ gallons of diet coke a day. One of the biggest shockers for Bill was when he went clothes shopping.  He was trying on shorts and surpassed the size 60 mark.

When Bills’ father passed away at age 59 in 2001 of a weight related disease, he was wearing a size 64 pants. “I remember cleaning out his closet and promising myself, I would never get to that size.” Bill describes that the feeling that came over him walking out of that store with a size 60 pair of shorts was overwhelming. He knew something had to change but was paralyzed with fear. He had tried with family to work out and exercise, but was constantly getting injured. He could not run or jog, and all movements caused him pain.

The motivation to change came from two really good friends that asked to meet with him one day. That morning was the day that reshaped his outlook on a lot of things. These men spoke to some of the areas that he was neglecting in his life including his; ministry, work, and family. It was not until then he realized that he was in a complete depression and was in the process of eating himself to death. He stepped on the scale that day and weighed right at 460 lbs. Something finally clicked for Bill. He had no idea what to do or how to do it, but something had to change.

Bill decided to meet with a surgeon to speak about bariatric surgery as an aid. This is what he now determines to be a turning point in his life. The doctor told Bill that this surgery, if he had it, was only a tool. Surgery would not solve his problems unless he dedicated himself to changing his diet and started exercising more. He was sold on this idea.

Bill’s surgery was on April 27, 2015. By surgery date he had already lost 55 lbs. He had completely abandoned fast food and his last diet coke was on January 3, 2015. There were some complications with his surgery as they had to remove his gallbladder as well, because it was basically one huge stone. In his follow up appointment is where the OCR seed was planted. Dr. Rao told him … “Here is your plan. In 2017 I want you to run the Gate River Run (15k) and in 2018 I want you to do a Tough Mudder or Spartan Race, deal?” He said he was definitely up for the challenge!

About 2 months after Bill’s surgery, he stepped back into the Gym. He walked in that morning very hesitant, not sure what to expect. In December 2015, he went to another gym to welcome a friend who was trying it out. He was very excited till he saw the workout….There in the middle of it was running….a full mile.

“I remember feeling my heart sink and I immediately accepted failure as my Goliath stood looming over me”. But he did his best, completed a full mile and was able to complete the rest of the workout as well. He shared that day with the group this was the first mile he had run since 1997.

The next morning, he went for a run on his own and completed a whole 5k. Over the next few weeks he pushed himself as far as 5 miles and felt good about it. He realized that something had really changed in himself. He was over 150 lbs down, and he felt great. Bill decided that he wanted to finish every distance of a running race that year. 5k, 10k, 15k and half marathon. Done, done, and done. On Thanksgiving day, with his friend Jim running by his side and his family cheering like crazy, he completed a half marathon. Bill ran the entire 13.1 miles with an 11 min pace….but his focus was 2 weeks away….SPARTAN.

When Bill decided to do the Spartan Race, he had about 5 months to train. Completing the Spartan however, has really kept him going! That was his first and only OCR. (That will drastically change this year) He says, “I can remember approaching the inverted wall and being terrified. I almost just went around and did the burpees. But my team was there, I jumped on, and zipped straight over. I was on top of the world…..I truly felt like a Spartan”.

Bill killing the obstacles at his first Spartan

Bill gives thanks first and foremost to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for guiding him through this gauntlet. Without his salvation, he says he would not have been able to endure this test.

Family 5k

His amazing wife, Tracey of 21 years and his kids Luke (16) and Chloe (13) are his greatest fans and partners.  They completed a 5k as a family this year, and he can see his influence in all of their training as Luke aspires to play college football one day and Chloe cheerleads and enjoys basketball and volleyball.

First Spartan finish with friends Anthony and Denea

Anthony and Denea Widener will always be credited with being the largest catalyst in showing Bill his true value and assisting him in achieving his goals and dreams. Jason Palmisano and his family for bravely following their dream of Trinity Fitness and spreading the gospel and wellness to all.

Bill trains 3 times a week in the morning at TF. Those workouts are all metabolic conditioning so they change up daily. No matter what the workout at the very end he adds in an extra ½ mile run. He also adds other runs usually once or twice a week. Sometimes it will be 3-5 miles running, other times it will be about 3 miles with breaks every ¼ mile for some type of bodyweight exercise (burpees, push ups, sit ups, ect…).

December 2014 – resting heart rate 97. BP 135/90. Weight 460 lbs
January 2017 – resting heart rate 61. BP 118/78. Weight 225 lbs.

OCR Transformations- Frannie Steele

ORM presents the series of stories on OCR Transformations. Runners and athletes whose mind body, and spirit have been altered through obstacle racing.
“I have grown so much not only physically and athletically, but mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.”

Frannie Steele grew up in Holland, Michigan up until her college years moving to the east side of the state in metro Detroit and Ann Arbor. She spent her childhood running around on a farm and taking care of horses up until her parents divorced. She believes that was the turning point for her unhealthy lifestyle. Between puberty, peer pressure, bullies, and depression she had gained enough weight to launch her over 200lbs by the age of 15. It wasn’t until she got a puppy that really started her long journey to health. That puppy needed to be walked, and walking turned into running, and she hasn’t stopped accomplishing the goals she set for herself.

Frannie’s first OCR was the 2013 Indianapolis Sprint. At that race she slipped on the Slip Wall (ironically, she admits) and upon impact her knee hit one of the knots in the rope. She limped across the finish and after letting medical do what they could. She rode 4.5 hours back home straight to the hospital. After medical staff found no cartilage to be in her knee with the IT Band under the patella, they told her she would “probably never be able to run again.” But giving up running wasn’t really a choice for Frannie. After about a year in physical therapy she had started to train and condition the IT Band. So re-injury to her knee would be less likely to happen again. It was a hard time for her and there was plenty of pain. But, she says that first mile back running “never felt so good.” Every day she has to deal with her knee injury and some pain but the stronger she has gotten the easier it’s gotten.

Then in late 2015, Frannie saw an ad for Spartan Race again and thought, “you know what, I’m going to do this again and finish the way I should have finished.” Only this time she ran a Spartan Super instead of the Spartan Sprint. It was very difficult for her, but Frannie ended up doing much better than she expected. A few weeks after completing the Spartan Super she thought, “you know what, I’m going to go for the trifecta.” And that’s exactly what she did, which fueled the start of her 2016 racing.

There’s one event that Frannie states has greatly impacted her OCR and running lifestyle, which  was the overnight 2016 Chicago HH12HR. She doesn’t believe her mindset really changed until after completing her first endurance event.  Frannie didn’t even know what it was that she signed up for, she was just participating because a friend talked her into it. There she was introduced to something she didn’t even know what to expect. What they say about the hurricane heats, and the endurance events that Spartan puts on is that you can’t train for them. You can never know what to expect and she admits that it is 100% true.

Frannie believes she was better off not knowing a single thing about it starting out for her first one. She was forced to pull things from nowhere, from deep inside herself, and use knowledge she didn’t know she had. She pushed herself past the physical limits she had previously known that she was capable of and found something within herself that sparked a fire. From that day on it she says “it has been a nonstop grind to see what I’m capable of and the dedication and passion to push myself to accomplish my goals. I have grown so much not only physically and athletically, but mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.”

These are the things that pushed her to participate in the China Agoge. Frannie was medically removed from this race resulting in DNF. Even though she didn’t finish the race…she still left the Great Wall with things no material possession can replace. The things she learned and experienced she says she will have for a lifetime. The people she was with are people she will forever share a bond with. She believes by testing her mental fortitude with endurance events, she is able to physically push herself to the limits.

Endurance events teach you most importantly that you must work together as well as individually in order to complete a task, or reach a goal. The same is true for all things in life.”

Those who contribute to success are her family. Her family shows a huge support for her and her active lifestyle, knowing how much she has struggled with her weight. She is also thankful to Team Warrior State of Mind and Mark Petersen who supported her and had faith in her. Without Team WSOM she wouldn’t have been able to attend the AGOGE 003 in China. But more importantly she wouldn’t have met Mark, whom she says is a role model to her in every possible way.

Currently, Frannie Steele is training for a few things. For 2017, she has decided to switch gears from mainly running OCR to mainly running Ultras and endurance events. She is also gearing up to accomplish the Spartan AGOGE 006 UK at the Isle of Skye. Not far behind that goal is a 100 mile race, a handful of HH12HR, Ironman 70.3, and the Killington Ultrabeast.

For training she currently bikes 3 times a week, runs 5-7 times a week, and swims 1-2 times a week. Weight training is 2-3 times a week following a run usually to build endurance in strength. She also recently started yoga and meditation to satisfy the mind as well in a different way studying doesn’t quite cover.

From 219lbs at her heaviest to 141lbs now, Frannie Steele has changed herself not only physically, but mentally and hopes to inspire others to challenge themselves and to change their lives by being active. You can follow her on Instagram www.instagram.com/fmsteele1

How to Prepare for an Endurance Event

I’m not going to claim to be an expert, however I have participated in plenty of endurance events such as multiple BFX events, Spartan Hurricane Heat, Spartan Agoge Class 002, multiple road races and an ultramarathon. If you are interested in testing the waters or pushing your mind and body to the limits, you want to be as prepared as you possibly can for anything that might happen. Here are a few of my basic tips on how to prepare for an endurance event:

  1. Always follow the gear list. Then double check it. It may sound stupid, and you may think “I don’t need that item,” but you will. For instance, on my most recent Spartan Race HH12HR event, some of my gear list required 3 balls any size, a condom, a sharpie, a bucket with no handle, a headlamp, 1 gallon of water and a bag/ruck sack with 20lbs for females and 30lbs for males. If you don’t have everything you need, you may not finish. You have no idea what the item will be used for. You may or may not use all the required items during the event, but at least you will be prepared. Also always have duct tape, even if it’s not on the list. You can use duct tape to strap on all kinds of things to your bag or body to keep your hands free. Trust me, duct tape is a life saver.
    HH12 gear list
  2. Create a mantra. Ok, I know this sounds corny, but when you are exhausted and think you can’t continue another step it comes in handy. Being mentally strong is a big part of the battle during endurance events. You will be physically exhausted, but more times than not, it’s not the physical exhaustion that causes people to quit or DNF. It is the negativity that creeps into your mind that will make you feel like you can’t continue another step. Just know that whatever pain you are in, it’s only temporary and you can do it. I personally keep it simple. I just keep repeating to myself, “Don’t stop. Don’t quit. Just keep moving.”
  3. Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. If I have an event on Saturday, I start hydrating on Monday or Wednesday at the latest. Cut back on caffeine, because it is a diuretic. My 7 hour drive to Nashville from South Carolina took 9 hours, because I stopped every hour on the hour to pee. Peeing every 10 seconds like a 9 month pregnant chick sucks on a long drive, but, if I hadn’t been hydrated I may have not finished. That wasn’t fun, but I was adequately hydrated for my event the next day. Not drinking enough fluid before a race, can lead to fatigue and muscle cramps. I personally experienced this a few weeks ago at the Asheville Spartan Super, I was so dehydrated that my run turned into a crawl. Fatigue from dehydration is no joke. For reference, if your urine is clear or pale you are well hydrated for race day. For you beer lovers this means, if your urine looks like a pale ale or IPA, you need to drink more water.

    IMG_0893 (1) My 7th pee stop on a 7 hour drive :/

  4. Switch up your training. I’m guilty of gravitating towards the weight section of the gym way too much. I’m not claiming to be a great endurance athlete, but I do know plenty of them. They alternate weights, with trail/hill running, HIIT (high intensity interval training), plyometrics and more. They don’t focus on one type of training, because in endurance events you can be doing anything from heavy carries up hills, sprints to regular PT (i.e. burpees, bear crawls and squats). Endurance athletes must be well rounded. And if it’s a Spartan endurance event, absolutely be prepared to go for long distances under heavy loads.
  5. Eat healthy for you. Now, I’m not going to say carbs are bad or good, or that you should only do a certain type of diet. We all can’t be amazing #wafflehouseelite athletes. Different diets work for different people, but you should try to eat foods in moderation. A well balanced diet that includes protein and carbohydrates to replace the glucose that is burned during  activity is important. Try to eat more natural foods versus processed foods. You can’t out train a bad diet. So eating pizzas, cake, and cheeseburgers aren’t going to make you feel that  amazing while running 10 miles. Common sense people.

    mind over matter

  6. Train your brain. This may go hand in hand with mantras, but honestly endurance events are just as mentally challenging as they are physical. Train your mind to avoid the negative. When you start to think negative thoughts like, “I can’t do this anymore” or “I’m too tired to go on” you need to change your thoughts. Focus on one thing at a time. Focus on that one task or obstacle, not how much more you have to do because it will overwhelm you. Think about how much you have already completed versus how much time you have left. Why quit when you have finished 10 out of 12 hours? 2 hours is nothing compared to all the hard things you already put yourself through! When times are really rough, vision yourself at the finish line getting your finishers medal or patch. Visualization is one of the best techniques that even Olympians have used to help them focus. Finally, just believe in yourself. If you had the guts to sign up for an endurance event in the first place, you must have had some faith in yourself that you could finish. So take that faith, work hard and make it happen.

Good luck and I hope to see you at a future endurance event! Next stop for me is the Spartan Agoge in China!!

HH12 Nashville

Spartan Race: Atlanta Sprint Weekend 2016 Review

Spartan Race - Atlanta - Team ORM

If you have any kind of social media account then I’m sure you know that this past weekend was the Spartan Race Atlanta Sprint Weekend. You’ve been bombarded with pictures of dirty people grinning ear to ear while holding a cool medal with a red ribbon on it. If you haven’t, well the Atlanta Sprint was held 3/5/16 and 3/6/17 at the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers, Georgia.

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This is the 6th year that Spartan Race has come to Atlanta to put on its unique obstacle course race. The first Georgia Spartan Race in 2011 was definitely different than the Spartan Race we saw this past weekend. Although we don’t have to battle Spartan warriors to cross the finish line anymore, it does seem that Spartan has made many improvements with better constructed and more difficult obstacles.

Driving up to the venue, later than normal,  I was surprised there wasn’t a long line for parking. It was quick and easy to pay for a parking spot and start walking towards the sound of loud country music (what did you expect: you’re in the south y’all). Clearly marked tents, made it easy for first time racers to know where to go.

Festival area photo by Joseph Mathieux

The festival area was bigger this year, with a bigger Spartan race Merchandise truck, food trucks, pull-up competitions, biggest team tent and even paid sponsor tents. Having food vendors at the race makes it easier on those with little Spartans running around waiting on Mom or Dad…that is not something they used to do. Plus, who isn’t starving after running 5 miles? A big old cheeseburger and beer are fantastic after working hard at killing the spear throw, right?

As for the race itself, it couldn’t have been a nicer day out. A tad nipply maybe, but it was really nice running weather until you hit the water obstacles. Thankfully, those weren’t at the beginning of the race. Once you were ready to hit the dirt running, you headed over to the first wall of the day, jump it and then wait for the Spartan announcer to give a speech and everyone say their “Aroo’s” then off you go. The motivational Spartan speech wasn’t nearly as amazing as it usually is because Dustin Dorough and his tiny short-shorts and memorized speech for “300” wasn’t present…that guy knows how to pump up a crowd. But nonetheless, we said our “Aroo’s” and took off.

12496342_10153306372276861_5491725660674464254_o After a short trail run, the first obstacle we came to was the hurdles, which are wooden beams you had to climb over. The second obstacle was stacks of hay you had to climb over; if you are vertically challenged, I recommend go to one of the outer ends where the hay isn’t so tall. A little more trail running, and then we came to our first official wall of the course – a 6ft’er – then on to a vertical net hung between trees, don’t be fooled – it’s easy to get knocked off when you’re climbing over the top and people are shaking the bottom.

Next was the inverted wall. This is always a challenging obstacle, but I was still surprised to see people taking the penalty rather than completing this obstacle. After the inverted wall, you came to the over-under-through (OUT) obstacle, which is always fun to complete. It’s like you’re a kid on the playground again, just a fun obstacle.

So far every obstacle was really well spaced, the trail running was fun, and it was just a great day to be running a Spartan Race. The hills weren’t crazy hard like Vermont or Wintergreen; they seemed to be gentle rolling hills. It was the perfect terrain for a newbie obstacle course racer! Next was the A-frame cargo net, then the monkey bars. The monkey bars seemed to be a little different this time. The bars were closer together, but they varied in height, so you would have to swing up or down as well as forward making it more of a challenge. After doing burpees, if you didn’t make the monkey bars, was the 8ft wall. Don’t be shy, get a little booty boost up the wall from a fellow Spartan. It’s better than doing burpees! The plate drag was up next. It’s where you pull a rope with a sled filled with weight, and then drag it back to the start.

After the plate drag was the Z-wall. Back in the olden days it was just 1 wall with hand and feet grips you scale across to ring a bell. Now it’s even harder with 3 walls making the shape of a Z. Grip strength and keeping your body close to the wall is the key to overcoming this obstacle. Then you were back to the trail.

After a little walk or run in the woods, you come to a really big hill. It was more of a wall than a hill, covered with a cargo net to climb up it. If you’re scared of heights this was not the obstacle for you, but if you’re a badass Spartan then you did it! Aroo! Then to one of the original burpee makers… the dreaded spear throw obstacle. If you don’t know how to do this, ORM has a tutorial you can watch. It just may save you from doing the 30 burpees, check it out.

The next obstacle is where it got freezing! The rolling mud with dunk wall was ice cold. It’s basically several hills of mud, then waist deep pools of muddy water you had to slide into, then a final wall you had to go under and get completely wet. There was a photographer waiting on the other side, waiting to get all those shocked face reactions on candid camera. I can’t wait to see my Jabba the Hut muddy face in my picture.  The 15th obstacle was the bucket brigade. In 2011, this was a pile of Georgia dirt you filled the bucket and went for a short walk. Now they use rocks. Fill your bucket to the line with rocks, and carry it without spilling. This wasn’t the hardest bucket brigade due to lack of a major hill, but it was still a challenge.

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Almost to the festival area, you can feel the end of the race getting near. The atlas carry was next. It may be just me, but I felt like the girls weight was the lightest it’s ever been. I’m not complaining though. Next was the rope climb. Spartan isn’t putting the ropes over water anymore making it easier for more people to complete the rope climb. There weren’t any knots in the rope, but a dry rope is easier than a wet one! It was nice to see that it seemed like a lot more racers were able to complete the rope climb this year.

barbed wire crawl

Of course it’s not a Spartan Race without a barbed wire crawl in some thick Georgia clay mud. Soon after the low crawl was the slip wall. Between the slip wall and the next obstacle the sandbag carry was where the terrain got a little fun. They had us dredge through a new area that they haven’t in past races, wading through knee-deep water and going through tunnels. It was a nice change of scenery.

Finish line photo taken by Jonathan Mathieu

The finish was near with only a few obstacles left, we left the woods and made our way back to the festival area for all the spectators to watch. There was a great viewing area for the spectators, they were able to see the Hercules hoist, the multi-rig, the 2nd barbed wire and of course the fire jump.

Overall, this was a great race. It was a beautiful venue; Spartan Race did a great job of spreading out the obstacles and used the terrain wisely. Packet pick-up was a breeze and the wait for a parking spot was minimal. Friends and family had great views of racers completing obstacle or doing their burpee penalties. With the rate that OCR is growing and all the new racers that join each year, I can’t wait to see what Spartan Race will bring to Atlanta next year.

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