Spartan Race – Citi Field Stadium Sprint 2017

Saturday, May 13th, the sun rose… we think. Queens was experiencing a Nor’Easter so we don’t actually know; but when Spartan has a date on their calendar, you’d better expect that race to be held no matter what the weather does.

With stadium races lacking mud, the rain actually provided a nice substitute for the 2017 Spartan Race Citi Field Stadium Sprint. It added an additional challenge for racers, not only on outdoor obstacles such as the monkey bars and rope climb, but also with every step they took throughout the wet stadium steps. While I have completed many Spartan Races, it was my first stadium race, and I had a blast! I don’t know what took me so long to do one, but I already can’t wait to do another.

Unfortunately, stadium parking was $12, but that’s really my only complaint about this race.

The Course
Racers were released in heats of 15 every minute. The course was well marked with tape completely blocking off any possible wrong turns, as well as volunteers directing racers around sharp turns. As to be expected, the course included a ton of stair climbs and dizzying zig-zags throughout the benches. With the start line in the stadium, the finish line on the field, and the course everywhere in between, you could almost always hear music playing. If you’re like me and used to only hearing music as you approached the festival grounds, you were probably pleasantly surprised.

The Obstacles
There was no multi-rig! There were monkey bars, however, strategically placed in the rain. Between that and the spear throw, I did more burpees than expected.

Spartan Race Citi Field Sprint 2017 - Monkey Bars

If you failed the monkey bars or the Z-Wall, both of which were outside, you had to do your burpees on the pavement in the rain. It wasn’t really that big of a deal, especially if you’re used to doing burpees in mud and on rocks, but it was pretty comical. All racers had to do at least 5 like that, even if they completed those obstacles, since the atlas carry was also outside.

Spartan Race Citi Field Sprint 2017 - Atlas Burpees

As per usual for this race, one obstacle was 25 hand-release push-ups. I didn’t know that going into it and found it pretty cool that we were in the Mets locker room! I also wasn’t expecting the four over walls to be inside the stadium.

Spartan Race Citi Field Sprint 2017 - Over Walls

Another obstacle that took me by surprise was 20 skips with the most massive jump rope I’ve ever picked up. I was not alone as the rope crashed into the back of my head or fell out of my hands numerous times before I completed the obstacle.

The main challenge at the sandbag carry was maintaining your footing, just like the rest of the race, as you tried to move quickly since it wasn’t particularly heavy.

Spartan Race Citi Field Sprint 2017 - Cassidy Watton Sandbag Carry

“”Sandbag carry” in a stadium is really a sandbag sprint. I wish they’d put a real heavy carry in a stadium.. or a heavy sled pull or push? Anyway, given the super cute look on my face, this still hurt bad.” -Cassidy Watton

To finish it off, the last three obstacles were about 100 meters from the finish line: 30 box jumps, the wet rope clime, and the CKO punching bags. After all those stairs, I don’t think anyone enjoyed the box jumps; but knowing how close we were to the finish, it was hard not to go fast.

The Finish Line
Across the finish line, we received our stadium specific medals and upon return into the stadium, we got our Clif Builder’s Bars and bananas. I’m not quite sure why there were no FitAIDs being given out, but it was definitely missed. On our way back out to the parking lot, we picked up our 2017 Sprint Finisher shirts.

I think the main reason I enjoyed this race so much was because I was able to operate at max effort the entire time. Unlike the longer Spartan Races, there is no pacing involved. I was breathing heavy the entire time and I was always trying to catch the girl, or even the guy, in front of me. There’s no doubt that it’s fun to go fast.

The Training
A lot of people ask me what my training looks like. The answer is a lot of things… especially since I wasn’t even training for this particular event. I run an exorbitant amount of miles, do CrossFit and yoga, cycle, and ruck. But if you want to know some specific things that might help you in this kind of race, here they are: running and sprinting, stair climbs, lunges, box step-ups and jumps, burpees, hand-release push-ups, pull-ups, monkey bars, rope climbs, and sled pulls. A little bit of all of that will surely help you tackle your next Spartan Race stadium sprint!

Photo Credit: Citi Field, Spartan Race, Kirin Hartstrong, Emilie Jones

Shadey’s Rugged Run 2017 Review – Lancaster, PA

Shadey's-Rugged-Run-2017

For the past several years, a class of senior sport management students at Lancaster Bible College has put on an obstacle race. This race not only ensures you need a clean change of clothes, but gives back to the community. This year’s class was no different. The proceeds from this weekend’s event were split between the school’s athletic department and the Penn State Hershey Children’s Miracle Network. As a part of the latter, each wave was introduced to a brave little girl named Madeline. Hearing her story and the obstacles she’s overcome in the just over two years of her life, helped put into perspective the real reason everyone was there to race.

As for the name, it’s not called Shadey because there are lots of trees providing shade, or because they’re dishonest (quite the opposite). It would have to be spelled shady, anyway, for those keeping score at home. Shadey is short for Ebenshade. J. Martin Ebenshade and his wife were local farmers who eventually donated their land, which is where the school is currently located. So, sticking to the school’s roots, the course navigates through the old and current farm land, and is named Shadey’s Rugged Run.

Shadey's-Rugged-Run-Festival-Area-2017

Parking for the event was $10 per car, which is pretty standard across obstacle races. What isn’t always standard, however, was that spectators were totally FREE. Registration included the race, a tech shirt (100% polyester), a drawstring bag, and a handful of coupons for local retailers. Additionally, several vendors offering free samples were set up in the small festival area. This included organic tea, milk, nearby OCR training, a bounce house for children and even ice cream. A local Greek food truck was also there for anyone who wanted to grab a meal. Registration was simple and quick, with little to no line throughout the day.

The event had an optional dry bag check. Luckily, the parking area was close. So, as long as you could protect your car keys from the mud and water, this may not have been needed. During online registration, racers had an option to rent a shower for $5.00. If declined, but you changed your mind on race day, you could still purchase it the day of the race for a slightly higher $7.00. Everyone had access to a fire hose that allowed for quick clean off, and both a men’s and women’s changing tent.

Shadey's-Rugged-Run-Post-Race-Shot

The day began with a timed competitive wave at 8:00 a.m., with non-timed waves running every 20 minutes from there. This helped prevent bottle-necking at obstacles. Speaking of obstacles, there were 17 total obstacles and just over 3 miles of terrain. Like many other well-designed courses, the first few obstacles were well spread out, which also helps with obstacle congestion. Of the 17 obstacles, over a third of them were in the last mile or so.

Shadey's-Rugged-Run-Mystery-Obstacle-2017

The course map had been available on the event’s website (www.shadeysruggedrun.com) weeks in advance of the race and was almost completely accurate. The only two minor differences were the tire carry (listed as a log carry) and the location of the mystery obstacle. The mystery obstacle turned out to be a rope traverse over water. Competitors had to grab a rope above them, stand on another below them, and make their way across. Though some of the low ropes lost a little tension at times, this obstacle proved to be a terrific addition to the course.

Shadey's-Rugged-Run-Leap-of-Faith-2017

Some obstacles were designed to create a bit of a challenge. This includes the previously mentioned tire carry, plus a steep hill climb, cargo net and a tire wall. Others were designed to get you plain old dirty or wet, like a dumpster dive into water, mud pit crawl, and giant mud holes. There was even a giant downhill tarp slide slicked with water and soap (added slip for extra speed) to give the course an extra element of fun. “Leap of Faith,” a fan favorite, consists of climbing up onto one of two platforms and plunging into a pool of water.

Shadey's-Rugged-Run-Fire-Jump-and-Finish-2017

Overall, the course had been extremely well marked, with a string of ropes on each side running almost the entirety of the race. This should not be understated, as most of the time, events benefit from well-marked trails. As this race took you through fields and farms, marking can be difficult There was a little confusion in the competitive wave with course direction, which is not uncommon at races. Unfortunately, one racer made a slight wrong turn and most of those behind followed. In this case, that wrong turn would have been somewhat difficult to prevent. The only negative would be on some of the volunteers, who did not seem to know the correct direction racers should have been going.

Luckily, this issue was quickly fixed by the crew and the following waves seemed to run smoothly. Additionally, the staff and volunteers were extremely apologetic and offered all those affected to jump in any upcoming wave to run the course again. This is an excellent quality to see in an event. Issues are going to happen, that’s racing. But it’s how an event, and its crew, responds to those issues that determine how well-run it is.

Shadey’s Rugged Run is a great race for the OCR newcomer, or a veteran looking for a weekend race. The competitive wave provides an option for anyone that wants to test their skills against other racers, while the open heats are a great introduction into the world of obstacle racing and mud runs.

Photo Credit: Shadey’s Rugged Run and the author

How your Toughest Mudder goes in the crapper!

You spend countless hours on the trails and in the gym crushing yourself so that you can go out and get your maximum mileage at Toughest Mudder only to end up losing priceless minutes staring at the back of an outhouse door. How in the world could this happen? Poor planning that’s how!!! Its ok, don’t beat yourself up too much; we are all new to this “starting the race at midnight” jazz. This issue has actually proved to be a real problem at Toughest Mudder races; heck even the great Ryan Atkins failed to properly map out his eating for the inaugural Toughest and it almost cost him the race. Ryan Woods had issues at that race as well. However, these two athletes learned from their mistakes and made changes in their race prep for the second Toughest and both crushed it finishing 1st and 2nd respectively.  Fortunately for you I set out to tackle probably the oddest subject-matter for an article that I have ever written. Hopefully after travelling on this journey with me we can keep you out on the course rather than wondering why TMHQ didn’t leave any reading material in the Port-a-Potty!


The Problem

This race starts at midnight! This means we have to go through an entire day immediately prior to racing. This isn’t normal for anyone. Our usual final race prep begins with a pre-race meal the evening before the event followed by a good night’s sleep. Then we wake up, eat our usual race breakfast, maybe do our pre-race business and we are off and running by 8am…Maybe it’s a little later but you get the idea. With Toughest you have to make it through the day before this 8 hour Ultra event and try not to screw anything up! Evan Perperis, author of Strength & Speed’s Guide to Elite Obstacle Racing, believes, “not having that eight hour fast immediately prior to the race is huge!” You literally have to plan your meal content, timing, amount, throw in a nap and basically take it easy for an entire day which is not easy to do when you are amping yourself up for a race like this. In my article, The Complete Guide to Toughest Mudder, I review nearly everything you need to do to prepare for the event but I only touch on the nutrition portion. In the paragraphs below I will give you the skinny from some of the top athletes in our sport as well as my own two cents on the subject. Understand that you need to find what works for you but this information is a great place to start.
What not to do

You don’t want to load up on the food on the Saturday of the race. In fact, it’s best to eat light. It’s a good idea to plan on eating small meals/snacks especially after lunch. The last thing you want to do is to carb load for dinner the evening of the race. Prior to the Toughest Mudder in LA, Ryan Atkins said “a bunch of us went out for an Italian dinner and I ate too much. This forced me to have to relieve myself four times during the early part of the race and cost me a lot of time.” Ryan Woods had similar issues and had to stop twice. Nancy Clark, author of the Sports Nutrition Guidebook says “I’d say the runners want to eat a heartily on Friday (if the race is on Sunday at 12am) to allow time for the food to get evacuated, and then eat low-fiber (non-irritating) foods the day of the race, with the biggest meals being breakfast and lunch.”

In addition, it’s a good idea to limit your fat and protein intake in each meal on the day of the event because these will slow the absorption of your meal. The goal is basically to make digestion easy on Saturday because the more food in your intestines the more stops you will have to make during the race. You see your body is pretty smart, it knows that you need to fuel your muscles to keep moving so it starts shunting blood to the digestive tract. The fact you are moving, however, keeps the food moving though your system. This partially digested food can lead to GI distress and cause your stool to be loose. This is what runners colorfully term “the trots.” Just remember that it takes 4-6 hours for food to exit your stomach so any food you eat after 6pmon Saturday could still be in the stomach at race start. Your body will quickly move this through the intestines so it could become an issue. Anything eaten prior to 6pm on race day will likely send you to the restroom either immediately before the event or during the early hours of the race. Atkins actually told me he feels you should plan on having to stop once during the race and there is nothing wrong with that.

2016 World’s Toughest Mudder Champion, Trevor Cichiosz, admitted “I think I over ate because I felt stuffed at the starting line of Toughest Mudder South. Next time I’ll hit the starting line a little hungry.” He actually ate the bulk of his food after 6pm on Saturday and it cost him. He said he had to hit the head four times during the race and three times during lap 2 alone!!! FYI, Trevor we thank you for making those stops this time!

Developing a plan

When you are developing your nutritional strategy for a Toughest Mudder event you actually need to begin about 30 hours prior to the event at what is still your true pre-race dinner. In fact, I recommend that you eat pretty similar to what you might have for a normal supper. This is going to be your last larger sized meal until after your race just don’t get too crazy. You also want to make sure that you properly hydrate to ensure that you are ready to go in this area as well. I think it’s probably a good idea to stay up a little later and sleep in a bit on Saturday. This will allow you to have less waking hours on Saturday and therefore ease some of the transition into race night.

When you arise from your slumber on Saturday the real “science” of your plan goes into effect and will actually take you all the way through to post race on Sunday morning. A lot of racers don’t put this much thought into how they are going to prepare even for an event such as World’s Toughest Mudder (WTM). I actually feel that due to the hours racers start and finish the Toughest Mudder events the nutrition planning might actually be MORE difficult for these races than for WTM. I have included below an example plan of eating from 6pm on the Friday before through to the initial post race meal on Sunday. This is not only a collection something that I might do but also a compilation of strategies that I obtained from the individuals mentioned previously in this article so you get a true menu from the “elites” rather just my take on this prep.

Menu

-Dinner Friday (6pm-8pm): This is your “carb load meal. Don’t go crazy with the fats here but do include pasta, rice, potatoes, maybe a little dessert. Eat hearty here! You will need those calories and all that stored glycogen. This is also time to get a little roughage because there won’t be much of that on Saturday nor during the event. Whatever you prefer to dinner make sure you have plenty of it.

-Breakfast Saturday (8am-10am): Think like the French on this. Have a bagel or baguette. Maybe an egg sandwich or a few small pancakes or waffles. Fruit and yogurt is also good. Remember to hydrate. Coffee and warm liquids are good to because they get the GI moving and will start to clear your gut.

Lunch (12-2pm): I chose to have this meal be the same as my normal pre-race meal when my Battle Corps teammates and I traditionally have sushi. Ryan Woods chose pizza, and Atkins started eating “light” from here on. Whatever you chose make sure it’s easy to digest because this will be passing through your GI early in the race. Just play it safe. Choose foods that are familiar to you.

Dinner Time Saturday (5-8pm): This is where you should make sure to limit your intake to snacking. I had a banana and little oatmeal (my usual prerace breakfast), had some Hot Tamales candy and some Gatorade. I also have coffee on my way to the event to help “clean me out.” Trevor Cichiosz opted for some Ramen noodles which is good because they have carbs, sodium, and are warm but make sure you limit your portion size.

Pre-Race (10pm-11pm): Have a snack to keep you from getting too hungry early in the race. I had a Cliff Bar. Evan Perperis had a Gel pack and some Hammer Nutrition Heed.

During the event: Nancy Clark recommends shooting for 200-350 Calories per hour depending on your individual tolerance. Lindsay Webster said she tries for about 150-200 calories/ hour while Ryan Atkins’ goal is closer to 300 calories/ hour. Whatever works for you just try to keep it constant and try to prevent dehydration because this can lead to among other things GI distress and diarrhea. Things that are common among those I interviewed are Cliff Shot Blocks rather than Gel which seems to cause some people issues, rice balls, a little pizza here and there to slow absorption when you stomach may be getting a little upset. Electrolyte drinks like Tailwind or diluted Gatorade even Pedialyte.

Remember these few points as well from the text Sports and Exercise Nutrition (McArdle, Katch & Katch). Increased stomach volume increases emptying rate while increased caloric amounts decrease emptying so keep taking in small amounts of food and decent amount water through the race. Also exercising at an intensity above 75% of your aerobic maximum will decrease you body’s ability to absorb the calories you intake and increases Gastric distress. Considering this equates to an exercising heart rate greater than 135 beats per minute for the majority of racers this is definitely something to consider.

The Wrap Up

If you gather nothing else from this article, remember these few things as you prepare your nutrition plan for Toughest Mudder:

*Eat light on the day of the event.

*Snacks are better than larger meals because that volume in your GI is going to work its way through your system early in the race. Nancy Clark mentioned how your normal eating rhythms decrease your hunger at night so you probably won’t be starving during the race anyway.

*It’s also a good idea to choose foods that are limited in fat and no roughage to ensure that they are easy to digest both Saturday during the day as well as during the race.

*In the end, shit happens!

If you take all of the “poop talk” seriously then maybe it won’t be a problem for you. The alternative is to hope that TMHQ had staffers check to see that the “Shitters aren’t full” and they the toilet paper is stocked after the events earlier in the day… but I definitely don’t want to leave those to chance! Happy trails!

Savage Race Maryland 2017 – You Can Be Whoever You Want To Be Today

Each year I task myself with the challenge of taking a new approach to race reviews to keep them fresh and new. I grow tired of reading straight up recaps and you probably do too. If you want to know how awesome parking, registration and other things were, Mike Natale probably already published one of those.  If not, you can check out these older gems: Savage PA 2015 Savage MD 2016  Savage Florida Sharkbait

If you, like the late great Tony Soprano, believe that “remember when is the lowest form of conversation” then don’t give Matt B. Davis and crew any more clicks on old shit and keep reading this bad girl right here. *

I’ve been running Savage Race since 2013 and EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I have a blast. My wife has a blast, my friends have a blast, the people around me have a blast, and people that use oxford commas have a blast.** It gets repetitive writing about having fun and how Savage Race does things right. Even when they get something wrong, like the Yuri situation in Georgia, they end up getting it right when they take responsibility for their decisions. They are the anti BattleFrog but with way better obstacles than people who pine for BattleFrog care to admit.

Ok, so Savage is great. Get it? Got it? Good.

Now, Matty T said something that stuck with me at the start line last week. He said, “You can be whoever you want to be today.” It got me thinking while I was in the tub (sans Matt B. Davis) that Savage Race truly offers everything to everyone. Seriously, think about it:

Do you want to take a large group of friends to their first event? I’ve done this.
Do you want to help your friend face her fears and show her she can do anything? I’ve done this too.
Do you want to qualify for the Obstacle Course Racing World Championships? Check.
Do you want to meet a complete stranger on course and help them face their fears? It happens every time.
Do you want to win money? If you’ve got the stones, have at it Cowboy!

You can do ALL of these things. You can be WHOEVER you want to be today. Race for money. Race for fun. Race yourself. It’s your call.

At this point you may be asking yourself, “Does this guy work for Savage? He keeps saying how great they are and has given literally no insight as to why they are great or what made last weekend in Maryland so fucking great?” No, I do not, but if Sam and Lloyd want the most epic team up of dude’s who love 90’s hip hop and the Wu Tang Clan then I will certainly accept a position working with Matty T. Ok, I should probably say something about the race, but instead of just telling you we will play that silly 10 bands thing from facebook and apply it to Savage Race.

Here are 10 things Savage Race does to make the life of every Obstacle Racing Company Harder. 9 are True and 1 is False:

  1. They added 3 different colored Buffs to the merch table.
  2. They have a secret stash of Ecto Cooler and have a secret obstacle where you drink Ecto Cooler and watch all of the Ghostbusters movies.
  3. They added “Twirly Bird” to an already upper body heavy obstacle list
  4. The owner personally responded on my friend’s post when they handled a customer service complaint incorrectly.
  5. They had the stones to upgrade Sawtooth to metal and increase the pipe diameter to 2 inches in the tooth sections even though they probably knew people would miss the original look. #changeishard
  6. They added “Hangarang” as a kind of newer version of a balance beam while shouting out to Rufio and the Lost Boys. It also didn’t have the lines that balance beams get.
  7. The addition of “Mad Ladders”. Are they angry ladders? A lot of ladders? Are we talking in real words or slang? I don’t know, but “Mad Ladders” are fun.
  8. “Twin Peaks” is ANOTHER new obstacle. 4 new obstacles.
  9. The new shirt design is awesome and they upgraded the Syndicate Medal for year 2!
  10. That’s 9 new obstacles in 2 years and they already had great obstacles. You’ve got to spend money to make money, folks! #cantstopwontstopdontstop


 

That’s all I’ve got and I am dangerously close to my word limit. Holler at me in the comments if you have any questions. Seacrest out!

*I’m pretty sure I already used this quote in another review but I’m too lazy to go back and check. Consistency is key.

**Eat shit, Brilliant.

 

Toughest Mudder South Race Review

In today’s OCR landscape, there is a plethora of events featuring numerous different course lengths and difficulties to suit every taste.  However, the more hardcore crowd who enjoys pushing themselves for multiple hours through endless obstacles was dealt a tough blow last year when BattleFrog shuttered operations.  Their BattleFrog Extreme (BFX) option allowed racers to complete as many laps of the standard 5 mile circuit from 8 am to 3 pm and were a favorite among the ultra OCR enthusiast crowd.  Tough Mudder clearly saw this opportunity to seize that market segment and announced the first ever Toughest Mudder Series.  These events would be 8 hours taking place from 12-8 am, competitive with prize money, broadcast on CBS, and feature a 2 course layout with unique obstacles.  The inaugural event in Los Angeles last month was hailed a smashing success by competitors and media alike.  Therefore, I was keen to check out if Tough Mudder Head Quarters (TMHQ) could duplicate the same triumph at the second stop in Atlanta – let’s hope for Godfather Part 2 and not 2 Fast 2 Furious.

As with any great sequel, the setting is critical and Bouckaert Farms seemed to fit the bill.  This 8,000 acre equestrian park is teeming with gentle pastures, lakes, and woodlands along a 12 mile stretch of the Chattahoochee River.  The road leading up to the event site was well marked and an electronic road construction sign was placed at the site entrance.  Two options were offered for parking – premium for $30 (could only be purchased in advance) right beside Mudder village and standard for $20 ($10 in advance).  Standard parking required a decent 15 minute walk which was quite a task when toting all the gear and nutrition needed for an 8 hour event.  Mudder Village was set up inside the equestrian competition venue with registration setup at the main gate.  Drop zones for pit stops left a lot to be desired though as they were located inside the equestrian horse stalls.   While TMHQ did make good on their promise to provide a 2 by 4 foot covered area, these stalls were narrow and had a very tight entrance.  Undeterred, participants eventually crowded into the starting corral to receive their final briefing.

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TMHQ officials covered primary rules and course specifics before handing over the mic to their hype man, Sean Corvelle.  The Tough Mudder pledge was recited, a few chants were uttered, and the official start was issued promptly at 12:00 am.  Channeling the spirits of the thoroughbreds which normally graced the grounds, participants charged out of the corral onto the first loop.  The first lap is described as a “Sprint Lap” with only some of the 12 obstacles being open.  This allows the field to thin and prevent back logging on obstacles.  There is also a standalone award for the first male and female to complete the first lap.  However, it seemed a large portion of the field went out at a pace more suited for a 2 hour race and would come to regret that decision later in the night.

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The first mile of loop number one led away from Mudder Village and directly into the surrounding forest for a nice technical section of trail running.  Nestled amidst the Georgia pines was the first obstacle, Berlin Walls, which would showcase a devious twist from the race directors – a double obstacle.  There are normally two flat 8 foot walls participants must scale, but the course was doubled back after successful completion to conquer two more (total of 4 walls).  Even better still, the second set had an added horizontal shelf at the top which made that set much more difficult and strength intensive.  Little did we know, TMHQ would utilize this sneaky technique on other upcoming obstacles throughout the event.

After some more trail running, the forest opened up to Pyramid Scheme which was tweaked for this individual event into a slippery (water pit at the base), slanted wall with a rope assist.  Shortly after, mudders encountered the first decent hill at 1.5 miles into the course that gained approximately 100 feet at a 20% incline.  The path turned at the summit and would meander along the river front for the next 2.5 miles.  Along the way, some of the more mundane obstacles would be met including Devil’s Beard (cargo net crawl), Hold Your Wood (log carry), Lumberjacked (horizontal logs to jump over), and Bale Bonds (hay bale climb).  The relaxing jaunt through the foggy meadow abruptly came to an end with the emergence of a beast, the Block Ness Monster!  Teamwork was a necessity because these slick, rotating barriers were heavy and situated in deep water.

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With heart rates raised and muscles pumped, the path would only get harder from here.  Skidmarked, an 8 foot slanted wall (towards athlete), was hiding only a few hundred yards around the corner.  This lead directly into Kiss the Mud 2.0 (barb wire crawl) and Mud Mile 2.0.  Muddy mounds are not normally an obstacle people fear with most barely remembering them post race, but this is Toughest Mudder!  Mud Mile 2.0 was by far the hardest and most energy consuming obstacle on loop one.  These mounds were tall with no hand / foot holds and the water pits were deep with no ability to launch upwards.  Competitors united to push and pull each other over the 10 slick mounds at a brutally sluggish rate.  The hard work was rewarded with two additional obstacles before the finish – Pitfall (variable depth water crossing) and Everest 2.0 (half pipe with rope assist).

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Challengers would complete this same course as many times as they could until between 3:45 – 4:00 am when TMHQ would begin routing people to the second loop for the remaining 4 hours.  Obstacles on the first loop all closed around 3:30 am to usher all runners to the second loop as quickly as possible.  Loop one could definitely be summarized as teamwork based with no single obstacle causing a high rate of failure and was aimed at sapping leg strength.  Loop two, on the other hand, would be much more individual focused and require upper body / grip strength plus obstacle proficiency.

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Waiting conveniently atop the first hill was Balls to the Wall, the 16 foot vertical wall with a rope attached at its peak.  No time to rest though because down the other side of the hill ran you into Augustus Gloop.  This was comprised of wading thru a water pit and directly up a vertical tube as more water rushed in from above.  After being thoroughly soaked, TMHQ decided to be funny and place the shockingly (pun intended) tricky Operation.  Similar to the children’s game of old, a metal pole had to be placed thru an electrified opening to grab a small ring hanging flush against a backstop.  Successful completion moved you directly into another double obstacle section, Stage 5 Clinger and Reach Around.  If you were not feeling the burn by now, a modified King of Swingers (no bell, replaced with cargo net to Tyrolean traverse over the water pit) was a short distance away to push your muscles to the limit.  All of this came before the 2 mile mark of loop two!

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Fortunately, the obstacle density was scaled back after this point with longer running sections.  Arctic Enema the Rebirth would be next up after a half mile jog to cool any burning forearms and really shock the system.  Another half mile stretch was waiting to warm participants’ core temperature just in time for another log carry, Hold Your Wood Dos, and Funky Monkey the Revolution.  The first half was the same upward sloping monkey bars as previous years, but the remainder had been revamped to include a series of revolving wheels.  Thick fog from the humid Southern air provided a nice coating of dew for added enjoyment.  The remaining two miles of the course was fairly subdued with a 200 foot hill climb, Ladder to Hell (simple up and over), Quagmire (thick mud pit), double obstacle – Birth Canal and Black Hole (low crawls under fluid filled canvas), and lastly Kong (5 gym rings suspended 30 feet in the air).

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No new laps could be started after 7:45 am and a 30 minute grace period was provided to finish any current lap.  Any athletes still not finished at 8:30 am were pulled from the course and transported back to Mudder Village.  This would not count as a DNF, just no partial credit would be given for that last lap.  When it was all said and done, your top men were Ryan Atkins (1st – 50 miles), Ryan Woods (2nd – 45 miles), and Luke Bosek (3rd – 45 miles).  On the women’s side, the top performers were Lindsay Webster (1st – 45 miles), Allison Tai (2nd – 40 miles), and Alex Roudayna (3rd – 35 miles).  Currently in the lead for annual mileage are Ryan Atkins (100 miles) and Lindsay Webster (85 miles).  The next stop for Toughest will be across the pond in the United Kingdom.

So did Tough Mudder successfully pull off their Godfather sequel?  Based off the 500 maniacs (this author included) who paid hard earned money to torture themselves for 8 hours, it would seem TMHQ made us an offer we couldn’t refuse.  The courses were comprised of technical running with enough hills to keep it interesting, but not daunting.  Obstacles were well placed, challenging, and contained surprising alterations like doubled versions.  It was a very polished event as one would expect from one of the most well established OCR companies.  Perhaps the only unanswered question will be how these events translate into the CBS broadcast later this summer.  To paraphrase Michael Corleone, “We know it’s you, Tough Mudder.  So don’t break our hearts!”

Spartan Race New Jersey Ultra Beast 2017

The Reebok Spartan Race returns to New Jersey. Also known as the Tri-State Beast & Ultra weekend at Mountain Creek Resort in Vernon is one of the most anticipated races each year by ocr and endurance enthusiasts. The sister races, the Tri-State Sprints at Tuxedo Ridge in NY occuring back-to-back the first two weekends in June and the Tri-State Super returning to Mountain Creek the first weekend of November, are among the most popular in ocr. With three great weekends spread throughout the year, the Tri-State area provides an easy opportunity for racers to get their trifectas.

After committing to the Ultra Beast in November of last year, and convincing several other “crazy” people to join me, I began researching and finding literature on training and fueling for endurance races. I created a training plan and set it to start with the new year. On January 1st, Ultra Beast training officially began for my fiancé Fontaine, brother Josh, and myself. We pushed the training to a point well beyond anything we had done before, in order to prepare for something we had never done before. Finally, it was race weekend, and we drove to a house in NY where we stayed with a group of 11 people who were from all over the US and Canada but came together to run the Ultra Beast.

We spent Friday morning packing our bins, trading our favorite fuel sources as well as suggestions on what to pack and what might not be needed. An important thing was to have some “just in case” or “worst case scenario” items so that we were adequately prepared to tackle both laps on the course. In the afternoon we dropped off our bins at the transition zone, prepared a good meal for dinner, and got to bed early.

So that brings me to the course. The green line representing the Beast course, and showing the Ultra Beast transition zone coming after obstacle 31 and having racers head back into the woods landing back on the course just ahead of the starting line to begin their second lap. In total it came to 26.4 miles covered and 59 obstacles completed for the Ultra Beasters.
Course-Map

The race started about a half hour late due to a bus breaking down with some of the elite heat racers on it, but around 6:30 or so we were finally charging out the start gate and up the mountain. After a short ascent, we came to some round hay bale “walls” and up a little further was a 6-ft wall. Heading back down was the monkey bars, wet with morning dew, if you went into it overconfident and lacking focus, you were sure to fly off, right before racers returned to the festival area to go under the dunk wall and up the slip wall.

Dunk-Wall

Classified obstacle #9 was the new Olympus obstacle and I saw very few people using the chains. The technique that seemed to work best was to push off the wall with your feet, or rest your hips on it with your knees tucked. Lead with your dominant hand reaching as far as you could and then bring your opposite hand to the hole or grip behind it and repeat until you could ring the bell. After some single lane trail hiking and climbing to the peak of the mountain, the morning air and light breeze felt great, and the water crossing was absolutely refreshing. After the Tyrolean Traverse on the other side, racers had their first break between obstacles and a chance to build some speed on a few downhill sections.

Water-Crossing

Mile 7, and obstacle 17…Spear Throw. I noticed a few spears that looked like they were bent, but for the most part, it looked like they were in good condition, and the hay bales were packed nice and tight in their stands. Shortly after was the Herc Hoist, attached to the cables of a chair lift, the extra bounce typically makes this obstacle more difficult, but the bags seemed lighter. Maybe Spartan was trying to counter the bounce of the cables, or there were less rainwater and mud soaked into the bags, I am not sure but I know most racers will not complain as those who weigh under 140 lbs usually struggle as the bag actually pulls them into the air!

After the Sandbag Carry, racers had their second chance to catch a break between obstacles. It was at this point that the male elite Beast leaders were beginning to pass us as they chased down that podium spot, and after the Atlas Carry and a quick ascent, we were back at the top of the mountain.

Mile 11, and obstacle 28, the new Bender obstacle, with the use of hands and legs it proved very similar to, and could just be considered, a metal version of the inverted wall. The third and final long running portion brought racers back to the bottom. While heading down you got to see others going back up, with what is being called a “soul crushing” bucket carry, and as you passed them you could simply feel their pain as they were hunched over or sitting on their buckets crying. The sheer angle of the ascent and distance of the carry was enough to leave your back screaming and your arms shaking. This was definitely not a carry you would ever want to do twice, or in the case of my friend Leo who had a rock shift at the last second and the volunteer could see a hole in his bucket, telling him to repeat the carry, and only on his first lap he would have to do this obstacle a total of three times.

If your arms were not destroyed enough, the Twister was next. The twisting bars really were not too hard, but the distance traversed and total time spent hanging proved too much for the grip strength of many. After the Rope Climb, it was time to replace the empty wrappers of my Camelbak with fresh bars, eat some protein pancakes, drink some fluids, and get back to it. I wanted to spend as little time in the transition zone as possible to prevent cramping in the muscles, and the desire to just cross the finish began to set in. Before getting out of the transition zone the first place female elite Beast came through to the finish.

As in any good Spartan Ra, e there were plenty of creek crossings and muddy ankle-to-knee deep trudges that only got better the second lap due to the number of people who had trampled their way through! Despite being unseasonably warm there was good cloud cover on the first lap, and a breeze throughout the whole race that keep you cool. I wore a long sleeve shirt, and compression pants that got soaked at the dunk wall and retained water until 10 miles into each lap. The long layers also helped to prevensunburnrn which can increase your chances of heat stroke. Due to the heat Spartan up’d the number of water stations from 5 to 8, with number 4 being a hydration pack refill station, and there was still plenty of water for me to refill mine on the second lap.

Soaked

A huge shoutout to open heat Beasters who were positive, motivating, and a great crowd of people. There were times when Fontaine and I would say “ultra on your left” and someone who was pacing with us would say “regular on you left” and everyone would get a good kick out of it. As we were more than 20 miles into the race and our backs, knees, ankles, and toes hurt, but we kept running, and there would be words of how impressed perople were, which motivated us not to slow down. If they saw a green wristband on our arms they insisted that we complete an obstacle before them because we were an Ultra Beaster.

All in all, we finished the 26.4 miles and 59 obstacles in 11 hours putting us back at the venue around 5:30. All 11 of us, beaten, bruised, and tired, but not broken, conquered the mountain and claimed our buckles. Feeling accomplished and proud of everything we achieved, we returned home to devour a meal and get some much-needed sleep. Some stories were shared over dinner, but most could wait till morning, and many more will continue to come, as the memories we made will be shared for the rest of our lives.

Laughing

Back Row: @highexistence_training @kaufmanncommander
Middle Row: @adambelieve @leo_vitelli @spartan_champagne17 @captainkaufmann
Front Row: @worlds_toughest_morgan @ocr_jen14 @ocr_fm @plant_powered_anna @spar_taine
Photo Credits: Spartan Race and @captdavy25