Greek Peak Winter Spartan

The first ever Winter Spartan Race on U.S. soil was held March 4th at the Greek Peak Ski Lodge in Cortland, New York. The logistics of the race with start time temperatures around 10 degrees and the wind chill just below zero with light snow were extremely difficult. Registration computers outside were frozen up, literally, and the whole registration process was brought inside causing the whole race to be an hour behind schedule. Spartan told me after the race that they asked the resort numerous times to hold registration inside but were continually told no until there was no other choice. This also caused numerous slight bottlenecks along the race due to people jumping the gate and overcrowding waves. The 3.45-mile course climbed up just under a thousand feet and wound through the ski runs and surrounding forest in typical Spartan fashion. Volunteers were just as frozen as the water at the aid stations and the footing was treacherous at best making this the longest quick sprint I’ve ever raced.

At 9:30am, the first wave of the day finally started off with a dash up one of the ski slopes that had the effect of immediately thinning out the herd of racers before making a right turn away from the festival area and into the surrounding forest. A single lane path of ice led racers down the distance we just raced up until we were presented with our first “hurdle”. Yes, the Spartan 5 foot hurdles were our first obstacle to navigate over before being presented with our first wall to climb. Once up and over, a short jog took us to a short barbed wire crawl on a sheet of ice where the wind was blowing chunks of snow and ice chips right into our faces. Now back on the icy trail, Spartan led us through another short jog through the woods and another wall climb leading up to the Spartan Rig. This was the basic ring only rig and we all were happy about that as the brutal temps had our hands frozen and stiff. The more difficult multi-rig would have been brutal to traverse under these conditions, and I feel Spartan made the right choice only using the rings.

Spartan now led us away from the festival area and ski slopes to more moderate pasture type terrain where the sled drag and carry was located along with the Atlas Stone. The Atlas Stone ended up being one of the tougher obstacles on the day because they were all covered in ice! It was truly humbling trying to get a grip on that sucker. A frozen creek crossing was next up on our way to the bucket brigade along a single path through the prairie type terrain. After dumping our buckets, we were on our way back towards the festival area where the vertical cargo net and rope climb sapped our strength before hitting the Herc Hoist. The frozen ropes seriously tested a racer climbing skills and grip strength. Ice on the rope with frozen hands made this way tougher than usual. The spear throw was next up after a short jog and the strong winds really played tricks with the spear’s accuracy. Now Spartan led us back towards the festival area for an inverted wall climb and then back up the ski slope where the A-Frame cargo climb was set up.

Now climbing our way up the slope, once again Spartan created a unique snow quarter pipe with ropes anchored from the top to help an athlete get to the top. Now athletes were led through the forest where the frozen sandbag carry was located. Up the slope through the woods along a single path filled with ice and downed trees along the way made the climb a tough one. The way descent back down the slope with the sandbag was almost as bad as going up because the footing was so slippery! Now, finally on our way back down towards the festival and the finish Spartan placed a series of icy snow mounds for athletes to climb over before a steep, speedy, and slippery decent down to a very slick slip wall. The normal dunk wall was replaced with a wall over a dugout snow pit where the hardest part was trying to climb out before finally getting to the fire jump and finish where, once I crossed, I promptly slipped and fell on my rear end. First time ever I received my medal while seated.

I consider the first Winter Spartan to be a huge success. After the initial delay described above, I found the course and conditions to be plenty tough. The weather really made the normal Spartan obstacles much more challenging. All the racers I spoke to afterwards agreed that they all had a great time and really enjoyed the course. Hopefully this success will lead to more winter OCR events around the country. My personal view is that OCR is tough, and that’s why we do it. But OCR below zero really will test what you’re made of!


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HESCO Bone Frog: Orlando

The BoneFrog Series OCR got it’s 2017 racing season started off February 25 th in Sorrento Florida. Being owned and operated by former Navy Seals instantly gave this race series credibility in my eyes so I left chilly Illinois and flew down to sunny Florida to check things out. The first thing I found out is that BoneFrog offers three different distance levels for racers to choose from at each event. The 3-5-mile sprint course, the 8-10-mile Challenge course, and their signature Tier 1 distance at 13 plus miles. All three of these options could be ran at the Elite or Open level. I found having the convenience of three different distances all in one location an awesome way to offer many varieties to the masses. Something for everyone is a great idea! For the remainder of this article I will be describing the middle level Challenge distance run at the Elite level because this was the one I picked to run.

The Elite racers of each distance started off first thing in the morning all together with our bright green bands on our wrist. BoneFrog chose to use the “fail an obstacle, lose your band” method of keeping track of Elite racers progress and overall I found that the volunteers really made sure the Elites did indeed finish each obstacle. A timing chip with a built-in wrap around the ankle Velcro enclosure might have been the best and quickest way to put on a chip eve and was a great idea. I’m going to cover the first half of the 8.8-mile Challenge race quickly here because it was basically just running along a sandy trail where an occasional low crawl or 6-8-foot wall could be found. The Spider Wall was just some tape placed between 2 trees and the low crawl was just some wire, tape and in one case palm fond placed close to the ground as a couple of examples.

It was on the back half of the course where BoneFrog brought out all their cool stuff and really picked up the difficulty! Starting off with a semi tire drag and pull we were led to the first of the many body weight overhead grip obstacles. On Get a Grip an athlete needed to traverse a series of moving rings from one side to the other. If you like rig work BoneFrog offered many different variations throughout the course to test you. Next up was the Brute Force Carry which required athletes to throw a sandbag on their shoulders for a sandy jog around some of the trees and vegetation and back before setting off back down the trail to Rolling Thunder. This obstacle gave most shorter racers fits. This obstacle consisted of a horizontal chest high pole covered with different sized tires that would spin. I personally saw many people jump up only to get spun back to the ground. Another of the signature BoneFrog obstacles, Hell’s Gate, was a short distance away and proved to be tough. Hell’s Gate was a series gradual ascending and descending walls all spaced about four feet apart.  The wall sizes were 4 foot, 6 foot, 9 foot, and back down to 6 and then 4 feet. Now feeling very winded BoneFrog set up along the trail the Dirty Name, or sternum checker as most racers have come to know it.

 

Grip strength was a major obstacle focus on the last quarter of the course starting with the Drunken Monkey. This was an overhead peg traverse set into 2 by 12 posts and was suspended maybe 15 feet above the ground. Along the way back to the festival area a unique obstacle called 31 Hero’s gassed out racers in a major way. Names of fallen soldiers were to be called off with a burpee done between each name was how it was completed and let to my personal nemesis Swingers Club. This was a nun chuck style rig traverse that cost me a few tries and a few blisters! Now back near the festival area we had a completely vertical net climb to further sap our grip strength followed up by a rope swing suspended over a pool of water. The last obstacles all situated in a row were a rope climb, dead man’s carry {wreck bag on a pully}, and the Black Ops apparatus. This was a rope climb into a monkey bar traverse and then down into a muddy low crawl before crossing the finish line. The Black Ops obstacle provided the best photo op area because there was a huge American flag behind the monkey bars and looked awesome.

My basic overview of the course was the first half was more like a trail race and the back half was more like a bad ass Seal course. Perhaps better obstacle placement would make this feel more like a complete course, or maybe BoneFrog just wanted to lull you into a false sense of difficulty. Either way, I would certainly do another event, maybe Tier 1 next time! The medals were nice and the BoneFrog apparel tent offered plenty of cool stuff to purchase. Parking was the standard 10 bucks and was located a quarter mile away from the festival area. Photos were free and spectators were free to walk around and see you race at most locations. My conclusion is that Bonefrog is defiantly worth doing, but might be needing a little better management. If you want to catch their next event it’s March 25th at Talladega Speedway in Alabama!

Shale Hill Polar Bear 8 Hour Challenge

OCR season is beginning all over the nation again, and although other races may have been run prior, the Northeast OCR season doesn’t truly begin to me until the 8 hour Polar Bear Challenge at Shale Hill. Shale Hill is consistently ranked as the best permanent obstacle facility in the United States, and it has attracted international OCR attention in years past and with sponsors. Title sponsor IceBug and new sponsor Bleggmitt helped to bring one of the most memorable events of the year back to the frigid town of Benson, Vermont.

On the nearly 6 hour drive to the rolling hills of Shale Hill Adventure, I had a lot of time to consider the rough time leading up to this week. Besides the hours of driving, a 70 hour work week and stress about several personal issues certainly aren’t a perfect lead-up to any event, but I felt confident regardless. I was determined to improve upon my 6th place performance from the year before.IMG_3200

Arriving the night before and grabbing my packet, I was happy to see that Jill and Rob Butler were still just as efficient as ever with their operations. The staff was kind enough to let me grab bib #19 (my number from The Selection) when I saw that the next bib on top was 14, and that made my weekend right there. The bibs were a new type and material, almost plastic with the back made of a tape like adhesive. Also new this year was a system of identifying what type of racer everyone ones by red, blue, and green fabric bands tied around onto the person. Red were for elite, and I am uncertain the rest of the colors. With good vibes and spirits, I drove over an hour back to where I was crashing for the night and headed right to bed.

4:30 a.m. came too soon, but the excitement made it easy to get up and hit the road at 5. Conditions: about 0 degrees Fahrenheit upon departure, and I was wearing flip flops. Delays on the road took away the time that I had planned to change into proper race and footwear before the racer’s meeting at 6:30 a.m., so I ran the quarter mile from parking to the barn in flip flops and a light jacket, drawing a myriad of confused looks. Even more looks came on the way back, and I brought my race box to the designation space indoors and changed into my Newbsanity top, cold gear, and lined up at the start on the hill.

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For those who are unfamiliar with Shale Hill, it is a roughly 6.5 mile loop that packs a whopping 75+ obstacles per lap. The course record in the summertime for this course is still approaching 70 minutes, so for their endurance events like this, it is wise to plan carefully which penalties you can afford to take, and which obstacles you should make sure you complete. Some of the more unique and challenging obstacles on the course, just to give you an idea of what the level of difficulty here is, include rope traverse over a frozen lake, two sternum checkers, Larry Cooper’s full version “Destroyer”, and that’s all within a half mile of each other! Further on in the course is a five stage traverse wall, 45 degree uphill, spinning monkey bars, a rig, a weaver, a warped wall ninja style, and Tarzan ropes. New this year was a take on devil’s stairs/stairway to heaven, with the stairs much steeper and more narrow than I have been used to before (think skipping a stair between layers at the OCRWC), and a heavy carry that was a 45 pound plate and cement block attached to a homemade wheelbarrow like contraption with fat pole handles.

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The first lap started much fast than I remembered, although maybe it was subconscious to try to keep warm in the 8 degree morning. Everything was going to plan, except for breaking my vest and water bottles on the first sternum checker, leaving me a little cold, wet, and dehydrated. I felt confident and pretty good early, taking penalties only at the balance gauntlet (which I will every time), the last few walls of the traverse, the stairs, and the uphill monkey bars. I also failed the Tarzan ropes one too many times for me to feel that retrying was worth it. I could have completed the obstacle, but I didn’t want to waste any more time as I was cutting it awful close to my 1:50 minute goal per lap. I finished the lap in 5th place, with a steady pace and only minutes out of higher places. The second lap however, I finally felt the results of all of the adversity of the past few weeks.

The combination of excessive work hours, lack of sleep, and mental/emotional stress was first noticed on lap two when I got to the first wall obstacle, “pick your poison”. As I went to roll over the wall, I realized that unlike most races where my grip or legs would tire out first, my biceps and back were completely devoid of all strength. It was very abnormal, and as I wound through the woods I realized something else bizarre for myself; I was shivering. The second lap slowed significantly, and my penalties went up dramatically. The lap left me walking to the finish, well off of my goal pace, looking forward to my penalties to get warm again. I finished my penalties and the lap after over 2.5 hours, and in bad shape. I headed into the barn to try to save my day. IMG_2777

Shivering and exhausted, I knew calories and trapping some body heat was a must. I had the old windbreaker I used at WTM 2017, and after I threw it on, I switched my hat to a dry one, and force a blueberry bagel (my race favorite) into my system before packing some caffeinated Clif Bloks for the final lap. Time-wise, my last lap was slower than my second, but I actually took the same number of penalties, and felt much better. My heart rate and body temperature began to return to appropriate levels halfway into the lap, and my body felt nice from the calories of the bagel. At this point however, I had given up on catching anyone in front of me, and without knowing where the 6th place male was, my goal became to not get passed. I managed to do this successfully until the very end of the lap, where male winner Vincent Larochelle finished his fourth lap at essentially the same time I finished my third (and he was the only 4 lap finisher of the event for the second year in a row). 5th place overall for myself this year.

Rounding out the podium for the males were twins Travis and Jared Rawson, and for the females it was Marcia Coelho, followed by Danielle Ryzer and Kristen Mann. The race had some great competition, but one of the best things about this event is that it isn’t just about the race at the front, but the challenge all the way through. Shale Hill draws numerous individuals to all of their events, because the entire thing top to bottom is spectacular. From Rob and Jill, to the location, the obstacles, and the atmosphere, and especially that all day warm food buffet and that amazing local chocolate milk, the day is about as pleasant of an experience as you can have with hundreds of strangers in sub-freezing temperatures. With the conclusion of the 5th annual Polar bear, OCR has now arrived for 2017 in the Northeast, and if the events continue in this fashion it will be a great year! Next year I will give this event more focus, and better prep leading into it for sure. Third time’s the charm! 5/5

All photo credit belongs to VT Grit and Grace as found at https://vtgraceandgrit.smugmug.com/Shale-Hill-Adventure-Farm/PolarBear2017/

Epic Series Race San Diego 2017 – Be Epic.

Epic Series Women's Strength

With an event that coincided with the arrival of Pacific Storm Lucifer, the Epic Series race held in San Diego California lived up to its name and more.  The first Epic Series race of the year was held in the parking lot of the artists formerly known as the San Diego Chargers (too soon Chargers fans?).  This race truly had something for everyone, not only capable of challenging elite athletes, but able to provide a fantastic first race for those new to the world of Obstacle Course Racing.  You may be asking yourself what about this race allows it to appeal to such a wide audience.  Read on to find out.

The race was held on Saturday February 18th, a day which started overcast, but warmed up as the day progressed with a good amount of sunshine for all those attending to appreciate.  Though the course was somewhat wet due to the massive amounts of rain which fell the night before, it dried up throughout the day.  The weather and some technical difficulty with electric generators caused the race to be delayed by about 45 minutes with the first scheduled heat taking off at about 0845 as opposed to 0800.  This didn’t seem to cause any issues as the music was blasting and multiple vendors were set up peddling their wares and enticing the crowds.  Though the race had a cut off time to register on their website, onsite registration was available for those interested.

The Epic Series race is broken up into two separate events.  The first, the Epic race, is open to everyone.  Both Elites and those running the Open waves run the Epic race.  The second part of the race is the Elites course and as you could probably guess, is open only to those in the Elite heats.  The Elite heats are released every five minutes during the first hour of the race.  More on the Elite course later.  Epic Series races bill themselves as being obstacle heavy with short race courses and no mud.  The race states that weather may cause mud at a race depending on the Venue, but the race will never intentionally create mud.  In this case they delivered as promised.  Being that the course was on asphalt, mud was not an issue.  In total the distance run on the course came in at about 1.75 miles, approximately half the distance of a normal Obstacle Course 5K.

What makes the Epic Series race so good for athletes of any ability is the unique design of their obstacles.  The obstacles are color coded, green for beginner, blue for intermediate, and black for advanced and are designed with differing degrees of difficulty.  For the Elites, women must complete at least the intermediate obstacles while men must complete the advanced.  Failure to do so will result in disqualification from competition, though the racer is encouraged to continue the race.

The race starts out with a full lap around the course with an Epic flag in hand.  After the initial lap the racer comes to the first obstacle, a wall jump.  Three walls, all color coded, are available to jump over all based on the level of difficulty you choose.  After the wall jump comes a quick net crawl, and then on to the atlas stones.  The atlas stones are also color coded, with the advanced stones being heaviest.  After 10 Atlas Stone over the shoulders, it’s on too burpee box jumps.  The height of your box is dependent on the level of difficulty you choose.  After burpee box jumps, it’s on to the ladder wall, which is basically a regular wall with cut outs.  You then move on to overunders.  This was one of the few obstacles I took issue with not because of the obstacle itself, but because there were only two ropes set up.  This meant that even if you shared and alternated only four people at a time could use the obstacle.  A few more ropes set up would have been nice.

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From the overunders, it was on to a balance beam.  After the balance beam was the first of four laps of the course, not including the initial lap.  Three of these laps involved carrying something.  This first lap was the slosh pipe, which was weighted and sized based on difficulty level.  After the lap you went straight into overhead squats using a weighted PVC pipe.  Next was Russian twists using a weighted ball, then another ladder wall followed by the first inverted wall.  After the inverted wall was the inflatable obstacle, which due to the aforementioned generator issues was not working.  After a quick detour around the inflatable you arrived at the rope climb rig.  What I really liked about this rig was the way they set up the levels of advancement.  2 rope climbs for advanced, one for intermediate, and a cargo net climb for beginner.  Epic Race did a good job at providing obstacles of varying levels so that anyone truly could participate in the course.  After the rope climb came a timed plank using an hour glass.  I don’t know what the time was for the advanced hourglass but I would estimate it at sometime between 2 minutes and eternity.  After the plank it was a quick unweighted sprint around the course to the other side of the rope climb rig which had a keg hoist.

After the keg hoist, came the lumberjack.  For those who haven’t seen the lumberjack before, myself included up till this race, it’s a heavy weighted bar on a pivot which must be lifted up and pushed until it falls down on the other side.  After that came an exercise using strength bands (see giant rubber bands).  After shimmying into a band you were required to do a set distance there and back of side steps, bunny hops, and a run/hobble.  From this it was on to the squat wall.  You placed your back up against the wall, got into the squat position, and keeping your arms extended, held another hourglass to time yourself.  The same 2 minute to eternity hourglass was employed for this exercise.  After the squat, I was more than happy to get moving into the gas can carry lap, which involved carrying a gas can in each hand.  After this lap came a fun obstacle, the bow and arrow, Epic Series spear throw if you will.  A regular re-curve bow was the weapon of choice.  You had 5 chances to hit an approximately 1ft by 1ft metal plate roughly 10 feet away.  Luckily the arrows were tipped with giant balls of foam to avoid any serious injuries.

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After the fun came a tire drag and then another round of atlas stone over the shoulders.  This was followed by the second inverted wall, and then another regular wall.  After the regular wall it was a set of box jump chest to ground.  This was followed by the largest wall on the course.  Depending on the difficulty, the climber was given less or more hand and footholds to ascend the wall.  After this wall was the final lap, carrying a keg.  With the last lap completed and the keg dropped off, it was a short sprint to the finish where your bib number was recorded for your time and you received your medal and a bottle of water.  Quick side note here, shirts are also included as part of the race but are picked up at check in.  With that there is nothing left to do but give yourself a pat on the back and enjoy the good vibes.  That is unless you were running in the elite class, in which case it’s on to the elite’s course.

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This is another thing that sets Epic apart.  The race itself is no longer considered to be enough.  The Elite course truly separated the wheat from the chaff and was a difficult course all its own.  The Elite course itself is further broken down into the strength versus endurance course.  Strength obstacles are higher weight but less reps.  Endurance obstacles are lower weight but more reps.  I opted for the Endurance course and was glad I did, as it was difficult enough as it was.

Epic Series race winners are determined based on the Epic race run time combined with their Elite course time.  Competitors run the course one at a time, with someone going every fifteen minutes.  Each competitor has a judge who goes with them throughout the entire course.  Special shout out to my judge Moe Bautista for motivating me the entire way through.  Each competitor gets 15 minutes to complete the 10 obstacles with mandatory obstacle completion for everything but the first obstacle.  The first obstacle, which is a truck pull, has a time limit of 90 seconds.  Failure to complete the truck pull results in a two minute and thirty second penalty assessment added on to a racers final competitive time.  Any other obstacle not completed also incurs the 2:30 time penalty.  With mandatory obstacle completion for all but the first obstacle, this means failure to complete the second obstacle would add thirty seven minutes and thirty seconds onto a racers final time.

As stated, the first obstacle was a truck pull, a newer year model Chevy Colorado quad cab to be exact.  The racer used an over the shoulder harness to pull the vehicle.  This obstacle was made slightly more difficult because it was on asphalt which remained somewhat slick due to rain from the night before.  The next obstacle was the overhead barbell press.  You were required to get it up from the ground and then press it for reps.  This exercise did quite a few people in and I saw people struggling all day with this particular obstacle.  I believe this was due to the fact you had to lift the bar into position instead of getting it from a racked position.  From the press it was on to deadlifts.  After deadlifts was an atlas stone lift over the wall.  After lifting the stone over the wall you were required to yourself jump over the wall.  Next was a farmer’s carry, followed by a tire flip.  After the tire flip were kettlebell box step ups followed by sandbag lunges.  Then it was a simple sprint to the finish.  Normally the sprint would have instead consisted of a rope climb.  Epic Series announced on its various social media pages the night before the race that the rope climb would be cancelled to due high winds that day, up to 60 mph gusts, which did not allow for safe set up of the obstacle.  Good on Epic Series for watching out for the safety of both its racers and set up personnel on that one.

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Overall, I would say the Epic Series race truly lives up to its name.  With something for everyone, from competitive athletes to those new to the sport of OCR, Epic Series allows you to challenge yourself at whatever level you’re currently at.  I liked that instead of simply not doing an obstacle or taking the penalty, you were given a choice based on your comfort level and ability.  Epic Series is currently only based in the Southern California area but is well worth the trip if you’re considering going.  For those interested, the next race is currently scheduled for April the 23rd, at the LAPD police academy.

Photo Credit: CSDC Photography

Machete Recon XII Seattle – 12 Hour Overnight Endurance Event

Machete Recon XII was held at Golden Gardens/Shilshole Beach in Seattle, WA on February 18-19 from 8pm to 8am. The Machete team drove all the way from Southern California to put on this event. Some of the members of the local “Beasts OCR” team assisted as well.

Going into this was exciting, but made me nervous at the same time. I’ve completed shorter endurance events, and knew what to expect for the most part, but never one that lasted 12 hours, let alone overnight. Here it was…..Go Time! There were so many thoughts running through my head. Can I last that long? Will I get too cold (it was 40 degrees and predicted to go to 35 overnight)? Am I packing enough or too much? Will I be able to stay awake? I was about to find out!

We met in a parking lot and proceeded down a dark forested trail to the beach. We brought headlamps but only used the red lights when there were stairs or other obstacles. We were given a sand bag and instructed to write our names on it and NOT lose it no matter what. A 5 gallon bucket with no handle was on our gear list. These two items would be used throughout the night for our black ops style missions.

We were divided into two teams. One of our first missions was to run down the beach and find one of the leaders. The sand was loose and half ways down the beach it got very rocky. I’m not sure which was harder to run in. We reached the leader and did some PT and then filled our sandbags. Half way for women and full for men. Then we raced back with our sandbags to the start.

The Puget Sound waters are about 45 degrees year around. Hypothermia can set in in as little as 12 minutes. I’m mentioning this because we had various options and missions to complete in order to stay out of the water; however, there were a couple of times we did go in. Once was carrying a very heavy log into the water about knee deep. As a team, we pressed it overhead until we had hardly anything left to give.

The other water mission was challenging as well. We took our buckets and dug a trench about 2.5 feet wide, a foot and a half deep, and 30 feet long. We were all sent to the water to fill our 5 gallon buckets completely full and transfer it to the trench. Bucket after bucket came and the trench filled with very cold water. Team 1 army crawled through it, then team 2. We then laid diagonally in the trench and the other team ran back and forth with more icy buckets of water and proceeded to pour them on us. After both teams enjoyed this refreshing adventure, we ended up burying team 2 as a penalty from earlier. Some of the buriers got creative with the buryees.

There were several team challenges including a two mile run over rocks and pavement and a two-mile sandbag run. The team who came in last had to complete a “penalty lap”. The lap included a rock staircase going uphill through the forest until you met a trail (still uphill) and came down some cobblestone style rock staircases. It was a good distance, about 200 feet of elevation gain, and tiring. We would end up completing this many times before the night was over.

Several hours into recon, we were heading down the beach again. We were requested to pick up firewood along the way in the pits the locals make beach fires in. We reached one of the pits, when the leader said we had 5 minutes to make a sustainable fire or we were going in the water! We saw an ember in the pit and worked fast and furious to build it up. Some of the team went to look for twigs to use as kindling, one pulled out a piece of paper we could use, and I did 10 burpees to earn some kleenex for tinder. With just a little time to spare our teamwork paid off and we got it going and it turned into a beautiful blazing fire! We all took a little break at this point and circled around the fire and told our story. One by one we learned about each other’s struggles, dreams, and goals. A group of individuals became a team of brothers and sisters.

There were so many challenges and PT opportunities that I can’t put them all down, but we ended with a big one. With about an hour left, we ceremoniously cut our sandbags and emptied them back onto the beach. I felt like yelling and cheering as loud as I could, but figured that might put the team “in the water”…noooooo! We disposed of the empty bags and were instructed to tape our buckets to our backs. The sun was beginning to rise which seemed to give everyone a boost.

We went to the start of the “penalty lap” and bear crawled our way up. Once we were past the rocks, where the trail started, we received new orders which included walking lunges and inch worms with a pushup. That made for a long long long trail, especially because we could see our cars in the parking lot. We were so close, yet so far. Once we reached the top we still had 30 minutes to go. We finished with tabata style PT. Burpees, pushups, jumping jacks, high knees, it felt like it would never end.

Then, we were told to stop. We had successfully completed our mission and we did it with all of our team members in tact. Every single one of us persevered, gritted it out, and achieved something together that we will never forget. Our names were called one by one and we received a shirt, patch, and wrist band. Items that have so much meaning behind them. We gathered for one final photo, our group picture.

MACHETE RECON XII….WHAT IS YOUR PROFESSION!!!!

I wore my shirt the next day and felt such a sense of accomplishment. It’s not just a shirt, but a symbol of what we earned and the amazing memories we will all have of Recon XII. I will wear it with pride every time I put it on! Thank you to the Machete team for making the trip to Seattle, the Beasts OCR members who assisted, and all of the others who helped to make this event a huge success. Aroo! Aroo! Aroo!

Photo credit: Machete Madness, Dustin Garrett, Adam Birgenheier, Kim Collings

Abominable Snow Race 2017

Abominable Snow Race - And They're Off!So, you think you’re tough right? You can fly up a rope or smoke a 5k on the treadmill? Indoors, in your climate controlled gym, with your water bottle next to you, and your music pumping in your headphones? Well the winter OCR season is here and gaining popularity. You can crush a course when it’s 80 degrees but how about when the wind chill is barely in the teens? The Abominable Snow Race held at the Grand Geneva Ski Resort in Wisconsin on January 28th  offered just this challenge. Nearly 2,500 athletes ventured to the snow-covered resort to test themselves against the hills, well-placed obstacles, and the climate.

Abominable Snow Race - Traversing

With the temperature’s in the low 20’s and the wind chill around 12 degrees ASR started off their second annual race at 8 am with Coach Pain behind the microphone doing his best to keep a lively, but cold crowd pumped up. The lone elite wave was packed with athletes from all over wanting to test their mental and physical toughness!

Starting off with a snow packed run up and around one of the ski slopes, ASR led athletes through a series of low crawls and over-under-throughs to thin out racers before setting off along the 4.4 miles of wooded trails of the Grand Geneva Resort. The constant elevation change along the very technical trails certainly was a test of an athlete’s trail running ability. The first of ASR’s signature obstacles was up next: The Alaskan Oil Rigs.  This consists of a vertical climb up a man-made rig to a bell ring at the top, providing a unique climbing challenge. Back on the frozen trails racers came up to a tractor tire flip, 3 times down and back. This proved to be a slight bottleneck with racers waiting 3 deep for an opportunity to complete this challenge. An extra tire or two will easily solve this problem in the future, but it did provide racers with a small breather. Now back on the trail, we circled around back in the direction of the resort where the ASR version of the Bucket Brigade waited. ASR chose to use packed snow as the filler in their buckets. If you carried the bucket on your shoulder and spilled some you got a chilly wake up call.

Now back on the trail, we circled around back in the direction of the resort where the ASR version of the Bucket Brigade waited. ASR chose to use packed snow as the filler in their buckets. If you carried the bucket on your shoulder and spilled some you got a chilly wake-up call.  A series of climbing barricades was the next obstacle up for racers as ASR brought us up to another one of their signature obstacles; The Cliffhanger. The Cliffhanger is a traverse wall separated by a 12-foot suspended section of wood that an athlete had to cross to get to the rest of the traverse wall. It was a great way to change up the normal wall traverse!

Abominable Snow Race - Slant WallNow back to the ski slope, ASR challenged racers with a slippery log carry around the hill, and then it was on to a bit of fun. Racers had to grab an innertube and climb up to the top of the ski hill for a thrilling high-speed slide down. After dropping off our tubes we were back into the woods and trails which again led us away from the resort. Three sets of 5-foot-high hurdles were placed in our path leading up to a balance beam walk with log in hand. A 20-burpee penalty was in effect for any elite racer who failed any obstacle, and there were plenty of burpees being done here. A 9-foot inverted wall traverse tested your grip and climbing skills before heading for a run through the winding forest trails. Another one of ASR’s unique challenges now put before us was a sling shot type event. Targets were placed a short distance away and racers had to grab a sponge ball, load in into a large sling shot and fire away. It was a “luck” obstacle, almost like the Spartan spear throw.

Abominable Snow Race - Cargo Climb

Now curling back on our final trip back to the ski lodge, ASR placed the Rocky Sled Pull. Sleds needed to be loaded with sandbags and dragged along a course around the forest and back to the start where the next racer could use them. After another series of trails, we came back to the largest ski slope where ASR really tested racers. Enjoy a climb up snow-packed, steep hills? Great! Two sets of steep climbs, the second leading up to an additional A-frame cargo climb on top, exhausted your legs and back. Once complete, a racer had to navigate back down the steep slope and up to the final ASR obstacle. A slip wall was all that was left between a racer and the finish. But the steep incline of the wall, along with the constant blowing snow on the wall made this wall a brutal climb!Abominable Snow Race - Low in the snow

A location change to this year’s event to the Grand Geneva Resort was an awesome idea from race CEO Bill Wolfe. The elevation changes really made the event tougher and more exciting. Parking and pics were free at the event and their race swag was on point.  At the merchandise tent, ASR sold flex fit hats, custom ASR compression gear, and many more awesome items. The festival area was loaded with vendors and was packed with racers and their families. A kids Yeti course was offered and warm locker rooms provided. I found the ASR to be a must-do race in the Midwest. It is super challenging with some fun things thrown in. I would even recommend traveling in from far away for this OCR. For those who really want to test themselves in the winter elements, this is the one to do.

Photo Credit: Scott Brackemeyer