Finding Your True Self Through OCR

Background

Brittney Bagley grew up in a genetically blessed family on a ranch in Florida and had an active lifestyle running track, dancing, and playing soccer and volleyball. But when she was forced to quit the Air Force ROTC in her junior year of college due to health issues, her poster-worthy lifestyle started on a downward spiral of making poor decisions. She started embracing a college life of drinking heavily and eating poorly, which made her reassess where she wanted to be.

“I’m one of four children in my family, one of whom is a twin sister to me. Being so close in age and appearance to my sisters, I’ve always found it hard to find my own identity. That, combined with a string of very unfortunate losses, made me venture out to see what the rest of the world offered,” Brittney shared.

College-Brittney

Brittney’s Travels

At 22 years old, and in her last semester of college, she moved to Alaska for a summer job working at a rafting company. For the next few years, she focused all of her time on traveling and jumping from seasonal job to seasonal job. This lifestyle laid claim to residencies in Alaska, Utah, Colorado, Florida, and even Nicaragua for a short time.

“I remember the first time I ever heard of or saw an obstacle course race was while working a promotion at a Tough Mudder in Colorado. I fell in love instantly but never would have imagined I’d be participating myself one day,” she said.

Heading back to Florida in 2014, she realized that she still wasn’t in a place she wanted to be, and hit rock-bottom finding herself in a destructive relationship and a desk-job she didn’t enjoy.

Her Turning Point

Brittney said, “When I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize the person looking back at me, I knew it was time to make a change. I had become this lazy person who made excuses, and I had always hated that person. I was known for seeking adventure and tackling seemingly impossible challenges, but I had somehow become this watered-down version of myself. All of my decisions were made based on someone else, and their happiness, and I knew it was time to seek my own happiness”.

She started out with a goal to complete a few 5km races and then was looking for something more to challenge herself. Tough Mudder was coming to her area for the first time so Brittney signed up and convinced a few of her friends to join her. She started running every day after work and even bought lights to put on her sneakers so she couldn’t use the dark as an excuse. In March of 2015, she ran and finished her first Tough Mudder, with her brother and dad watching on.

Brittney’s OCR Experience

“The race was hard on me and I just barely stumbled across that finish line, but it was a starting point for a whole new addiction. In 2016 I moved to Virginia and signed up for another Tough Mudder and shortly after was introduced to my first Spartan Race, and haven’t stopped running since.”

She now has a partner to train with, having met a man a year ago whom she quickly introduced to the OCR life and he found himself addicted alongside her. Together they set out and obtained a few sponsors. They have since signed up for 5 OCRs and 3 runs this season and will be celebrating their anniversary while crossing the finish line and earning their first Spartan Race trifecta in Fayetteville on September 23.

Brittney says some of her favorite things about OCR are watching weeks or months of preparation pay off and each race becoming slightly easier. But her biggest obstacle is without-a-doubt her grip strength in her left hand, having lost the use of her pinky finger 5 years ago playing on a recreation kickball league.

“The camaraderie and teamwork you find in OCRs are things that make the experience even more indescribable because everyone is there supporting one other while also working on their own obstacles.”

“I never want to be the person who wakes up and lives the same day repeatedly, hating every second of it. I always want to be better than I was the day before and I want to spend every second I’m given making memories I can be proud of,” she says.

Brittney-and-Clay

Photos: Brittney Bagley and Tough Mudder
Follow Brittney’s blog at https://thewatercolorwanderer.wordpress.com/

Muddy Warrior 2017 Review

Muddy Warrior Start line

Muddy Warrior

Muddy Warrior 2017 is here! At Obstacle Racing Media, we feel it is just important to support the smaller, first time efforts as it is to support the larger races annnd….. Since I live pretty close, I thought I would go and check out this local race.

Muddy Warrior is a brand new, small scale mud run organized by a small group of OCR enthusiasts and supporters in Cardston, Southern Alberta Canada.  It’s early days for this race company so it’s fun to see the genesis of these smaller events. Even the bigger races started out small.

Check in

On the day, the weather was a little cool, which may have hindered spectator turnout a little, but parking was easy enough and we didn’t have a long way to walk to get in or a long time to get cold. The venue featured a live DJ/MC and a kids playground very closeby to keep the little ones entertained enough. There was a bag check, and race photography available on site. A food truck also showed up. For spectators, there was a bouncy castle and inflatable zorb type things you could bounce around in. Not bad for a first event!

Zob
Muddy Warrior bouncy

Check in was simple and the course used an effective timing chip system and racing bib numbers. The event was attended by a relatively small number of participants but those who attended seemed to all have a good time at the race. Remember. Small beginnings.

The Course

The course distance was 5 kilometers in a river valley, starting from the athletic fields and working its way out and back at a turnaround point with a water station near the halfway mark which could be accessed from either direction.

I logged about 100m of elevation gain and loss over the distance, which is quite manageable for experienced athletes but the hills may pose a good challenge for first-time racers or other casual muddy warriors. In all though, I would say the terrain itself wasn’t too challenging. Almost everyone could do this race quite happily without too much hardship.

Muddy Warrior wedgie maker

Obstacles

The obstacle course included a slip n’ slide (AKA the wedgie maker), a tire drag, tire flip, tire hops, hurdles, an 8 ft wall, a large hay-bale stack, two mud pits covered with string netting, a traverse wall including a rope traverse, a pair of old cars, over/under/through walls, a pyramid wall with ropes, 4 angled ninja platforms, a Zig-Zag balance beam, spider web sections and a great riverbed running section.

Muddy Warrior through

Muddy Warrior Crawl

RESULTS….

I finished in second place. Yeah, sometimes I podium. Someone faster always tends to show up when you need to be humbled. Today was such a day.

This was a first-time race from the course organizers so naturally there are a few things to tweak here and there. I’ll start with the issues I had on course, and then talk about the great stuff that worked really well.

Muddy Warrior Skip

Things to learn from

  1. Double check the course marking. This is easy to correct for next time by just adding in a few more arrows on the ground or on trees between breaks in the course marking tape. Some obstacles were too easily missed.
  2. There were no instructions on some of the obstacles that were unmanned.
  3. Some of the volunteers needed better instruction. 
  4. Many of the obstacles were not visible to the spectators, which meant that it was hard to get spectator participation or interest.
  5. I couldn’t find the defining signature of this race. More on that later and why that is important. That will happen as it develops.

The good stuff.

You can’t ever beat running over the top of cars. It’s just great fun and it makes you feel like you’re in an action movie.

Muddy Warrior Car

I also really enjoyed the massively tall slip and slide because of the speed and opportunity to catch my breath after the hill that led to it. The hay bale mountain was a really tough challenge and I would have welcomed more of those mountains in a row!

The Z wall/rope traverse was great. It was a really fun obstacle that offered enough challenge without being impossible – it wasn’t too short, but I would love to have another section to complete, making that into a uniquely challenging keystone obstacle of the race.

Muddy Warrior traverse

Running down the river-bed at high speed was probably my favourite part of the whole thing – the battle for first place took place along the riverbed and that added drama and a dynamic challenge underfoot.

Muddy Warrior River runners

Final Thoughts – Developing Identity

Many of the elements were superb and the setup is to be applauded. I loved the fact that this was a smaller local race. The course was laid out with optimism and a clear love of obstacle racing. people were having a great time. The formula is good, but with a few small adjustments to the layout and obstacles, this will continue to develop into really cool things for Cardston and Muddy Warrior.

Tips:

Showcase the awesome – Placing a few more of the key obstacles within the race-ground arena to allow participants to enjoy more interaction with the spectators during the event would be cool. Stimulate competition by letting the battles for position take place in the arena. The obstacles were awesome. Showcase that more!

Muddy Warrior Tire

Make it tough – make people carry heavy stuff up and down the hills during OCR. They like it – they showed up to go to the crazy zone. Honestly, they do – they come back next year for the unique challenge they struggled on. Bring in the heavy stuff. People will not be put off.

Muddy Warrior climb

Define yourself – Find a keystone/defining obstacle, moment or set of obstacle movements that become and define the identity of the race. Whether it’s three walls in a row, catching a chicken, or doing a Z wall with a blindfold, I don’t care. Make people change levels or positions most often.  Throw in more crawls, more cars to climb over, more heavy carries or water based obstacles than any other race, or even a pile of horse dung at the end – identify yourself as the race with the thing-a-ma-bob that makes Muddy Warrior what it is.

FINAL THANKS!

I’ll be back next year to see how things develop! Thanks for the great day and for being so accommodating Muddy Warrior.

 

Muddy Warrior River

Muddy Warrior Balance

Glenn runnin

 

 

TM Long Island 2017 Review & Team Spotlight: MUDCRO!

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MUDCRO

Running a world renowned badass race with one of the most badass teams on the planet, Sons of Mudarchy, or MUDCRO, for my first Tough Mudder ever was truly a one of a kind experience. Damn it feels good to be a gangst..errrr I mean mud runna. They also happen to be one of Tough Mudder’s favorite teams and the feeling is mutual. “Bleed orange” is a motto that many members of the Sons of Mudarchy like to say, and of course that means, “Run a Tough Mudder! It’s not as scary as you may think, especially with a team!”

The Sons of Mudarchy (MUDCRO) was born out of the love of the TV series, “Sons of Anarchy.” Edward Buonocore who is better known as “Papa Smurf” due to his patient demeanor, positive attitude, and his wickedly awesome Poseidon beard. His right-hand man and 2nd in command Gene Johnson and Matt Blakely first wore, “The Reaper” at a Tough Mudder event in Western NY in July of 2014.

This is where the similarities to the show end. There is no gun running (say yes to fun running instead kids!), drug dealing, pimping, murdering, or any other sketchiness going on. I make it sound awful but it truly is a riveting show, but I digress. MUDCRO is just a great bunch of mud running hooligans that want to squeeze every drop of happiness that life has to offer with no regrets and no what ifs.

Their primary goal was to run OCR events and have as much fun as possible. Along with the fun never stopping, MUDCRO has continued to grow here in the United States with chapters in NJ, Texas, Arizona, and the Badlands of SD. They also have a global reach with chapters in the U.K., Australia, Denmark, Germany, and Spain. The Sons have raised money and awareness for Cystic Fibrosis, our military, and T1D. They say that when you join MUDCRO you’re not just joining a team, you’re becoming part of a family.

Their teamwork and love show not only on the courses they grace with their presence but off the course as well. MUDCRO hosts and takes part in many other charitable events all throughout the year as one big happy family. It’s not all about racing or being a badass, a wannabe badass, weekend warriors, fun runners, and whatever else you may think about MUDCRO.

MUDCRO truly is what they affectionately call a “framily.” A cute mix of friend + family. Can’t choose your family? Now you can with a ‘framily.’

“So what does MUDCRO have to do with Tough Mudder, besides running the races?”

HISTORY OF SONS OF MUDARCHY

S.O.M was started when a couple of guys were looking for an identity for a team. While the T.V. show, “Sons of Anarchy” gave them the look and the value of brother and sisterhood, Tough Mudder provided the format and the spark for MUDCRO. They like to keep the core values of teamwork, camaraderie and the “no one left behind” mentality. To always have fun, remember to thank your volunteers, and to remember at one time we were those people on the course needing help and encouragement!

I’m sure some of you reading this have been helped by a MUDCRO team member when they were volunteering or racing at an event. On the course MUDCRO will help anyone who needs it. I have seen, and been a part of, Papa Smurf and the rest of what I like to call his “dysfunctionally functional village” as we helped each other over obstacles, while shouting words of encouragement and gratitude to the volunteers who sat or stood in the hot baking sun for hours in order for this event to happen. A heartfelt thank you goes out to all of the obstacle course racing volunteers worldwide. These events would probably be triple the price or they wouldn’t happen at all without you bunch, and we love and appreciate you for it.

Since 2014 MUDCRO has grown across the US, Europe, and Australia with each chapter keeping to those strong core values that have many racers wanting to don “The Reaper” on the course as well.  The founders just can’t help but smile when they think about doing their first Tough Mudder, to where the group known as the Sons of Mudarchy/MUDCRO is today.

While there are many teams, they just want to be the “Best Team on the Planet” by putting their money where their mouths are, the same motto as the Tough Mudder volunteers. Without Tough Mudder there might not have been a MUDCRO and that’s a sad thought to this racer and fellow MUDCRO member. I’m very proud to call myself a member of MUDCRO because of these wonderful people. Before experiencing running with MUDCRO firsthand, my husband and I just wanted to run our own race, be lone wolves together (I don’t know how that works either) and make a few friends along the way.

What a difference a great team can make to the mud running experience however, and I can see why Tough Mudder is a good training ground for those wanting to branch out a bit from other races that they like the most, such as another well-known race with never ending death marches, heavy carries like orange buckets full of rocks instead of Orange Kool-Aid, and insane terrain.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words and in this case, Tough Mudder’s obstacle named “Pyramid Scheme” which is the infamous slip wall where you need a team or to have another team temporarily adopt you (it is totally possible to run Tough Mudder alone or with a smaller group) is where MUDCRO’s teamwork really shined. Let’s just say that if we were on the NBC Spartan show, we would have won the slip wall. The camaraderie everyone from those that were anchors to those that were grabbers went off without a hitch. Beautiful job team MUDCRO, and this is truly an amazing team building obstacle.

There were a few obstacles that were, “lone wolf friendly” but to truly experience a Tough Mudder, bring your friends. As a matter of fact bring your friends to all of your races… because if you’re fun-running, it’s much more fun with a team. A true team, not just drive there together and ditch them on the course. That’s no fun.

One of the scariest obstacles that day was Kong, coming at you with a 15 feet high drop if you failed, no teammate can help you here and with rings not being my strong point at all. Let’s just say that you do get the wind knocked out of you when you hit the giant air mattress below. Tough Mudder still has not replied to me regarding why it wasn’t placed over the traditional water pit, but I do believe it’s due to New York state or venue restrictions about digging too deep. It’s probably the same reason that one of their signature obstacles called, “King of the Swingers” wasn’t at the Long Island venue. Falling into a giant air mattress is no fun so I need to work more on rings.

ToughMudderLongIsland2017Kong

A few people did say to me that running the Long Island course is like a Tough Mudder lite. For those that are going, “How can a TM be lite? Looks pretty scary to me.”

Yes, there were definitely some scary obstacles such as Kong, or torture obstacles like Electro shock, but other than that you had your slip walls, 2 of them including Everest 2.0 which now has the fitness option of a rope, much like Savage race’s Colossus. I truly appreciated this because I am not good at running up slip walls unless it involves a rope. The thought of bashing my head into the lip of the wall isn’t really appealing, and having teammates push you up is not the same. That kind of defeats the purpose of the slip wall in my opinion, so the addition of the rope is a great touch.

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Speaking of fitness options, this is where Tough Mudder is great regarding obstacles. There are signs and lines for Tough Mudder Legionnaires at various obstacles, and a line for first timers where the obstacles were very challenging but nowhere as hard as the one on the Legionnaire line. No, you don’t have to be a Legionnaire to be in that line. They are just the same obstacle as the first timer side just modified to be harder. For example monkey bars instead of an inverted wall and then a climb up to a high platform on an obstacle called, “Reach around”.

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What is a Tough Mudder Legionnaire? It’s when you run 2 Tough Mudders within 1 calendar year. Click here for information on Tough Mudder’s Legionnaire program.
The Funky monkey may be one of the most fun and rewarding obstacles that I have seen outside of American Ninja warrior. Watching people beast this obstacle is so satisfying!

As for Arctic Enema, we went out at with a later wave so it was mercifully not ice cold because they do stop pouring ice in at a certain time or if they run out. So it was not bad at all. I’ll probably hate it when it’s full of ice because not only do you slide down a tube into some chilly ass water, you have a second to catch your breath before having to go under fencing where you are boxed in with no room to stand, and then finishing by going under a tire wall. I can definitely see why this would suck if it were colder.

Tough-Mudder-Long-Island-2017-Arctic-Enema

Electro Shock therapy. FUCK THAT SHIT, I skipped it big time and I regret nothing. Another popular race series that is known for being, “Navy SEAL tough” issued a statement on their page last year on why they do not use electrocution obstacles on a course. They stated, and I don’t quote verbatim that, “Electrocution obstacles serves no purpose aside from humiliation” and I agree with that sentiment.

As for Tough Mudder racers not caring if you skip an obstacle. Yes, they do care. Other Mudders will side-eye you (aka give you dirty looks) for skipping electro-shock therapy. Ask me if I give a shit though. Actually, don’t because you already know that answer. I walked by that obstacle like, “Yeah, go ahead and try and make me fuckers.” Bad attitude I know, but seriously fuck Electro Shock therapy.

Tough-Mudder-Long-Island-2017-Electroshock

You see this? Yeah! FUCK THAT!

Let’s get to my personal favorite Tough Mudder Long Island obstacles.

The Blockness Monster. You’ve seen it in ads, pictures, and you’ve seen it on TV, yes it is as fun as it looks. No, you do not have to be a good swimmer to do this, the water is not that deep, 5 feet at the deepest point I believe the lifeguard said. Yes, I could stay in there all day.

The block itself is just that, a huge rectangular clock that forms an upside down V hump mimicking pics (real or fake) of good old Nessie the Lochness Monster. It’s like jumping onto a 4-foot platform, turning around and then grabbing the platform as you come down keeping a constant rotation of the block going. Some of the most fun was pulling the block down for people on the other side, and then try and get out of the way before they slid into you. Lots of fun, this one definitely lives up to the hype.

Tough-Mudder-Long-Island-2017-Blockness-Monster

Augustus Gloop aka the Snot rocket. This one is a lot of fun. Have you ever wanted to climb out of a sewer like a Teenage Mutant Ninja turtle while water poured down on your head? Me neither, but this obstacle was surprisingly a really good time. There were two fitness options there so I took the first-timer one since it was my first Tough Mudder ever.

It’s a tall straight tube (about 15-20 feet up?) with a clear plastic window that is just there for lighting, you can’t see much with the water pouring down on your head anyway. You basically wedge yourself into the side of the tube and there were little side grips in which to pull yourself up and out with. I have no idea what the Legionnaire side was like. It probably was missing the side grip holes, please post in comments if you feel like schooling me on the Legionnaire side of Augustus Gloop.

Tough-Mudder-Long-Island-Augustus-Gloop

The heroes carry, I only liked this one because I hate heavy carries and I make no secret of this. As a matter of fact I, do believe I complain about heavy carries in every article, but with the encouragement of my MUDCRO teammate, I carried my 160-pound husband piggy back style with great success and ease. This is the only reason I am putting it at number 3 because I was afraid of not being able to find a partner that I could carry. The thought of dropping someone and potentially hurting them was definitely on the forefront of my mind, and not only overcoming this fear but finding out that I’m way stronger physically than I give myself credit for felt really good. People over buckets? Not up and down a ski slope though.

THE CONS

Hey you, an article with no bitching? Did Tough Mudder do that great of a job with everything? The answer is, “NO!”

Let’s start the bitching off lightly. They had plenty of port-o-potties on and off the course and yes, they were clean. There were water stations galore. The water stations were awesome, some even had sports drinks and water, others were just water, some were food and water like bananas and protein bars. People, including myself, were joking about how this race has more aid stations than they do obstacles.

I’m kinda annoyed with that. The long boring stretches of road and trail are boring, very boring. This is why you need a team as well, you want people to talk to in between what seemed like miles of no obstacles. Good thing there were actual trail snacks on the course.

Yes, Tough Mudder Long Island had legitimate trail snacks. Not the kind that comes in a bag with granolas and carob chips. There were wild berry bushes and peach trees dotted all along the course. Between the aid stations, the wild berries and the peaches… I think this might be the only race where I ingested more calories than I burned.

I think it was boredom eating though, because yes Tough Mudder your obstacles are awesome, but why are you so cheap with the amount of them on the course? What was it, 9 miles and 18 obstacles? That’s 1 obstacle every 1/2 mile. Seriously fellow runners, bring your friends or join a team if you are running Tough Mudder. I can’t recommend that enough. It helps with the no obstacle for miles blues. I almost wished for an orange bucket of rocks even with a team. Almost, I didn’t say I actually wanted one.

Tough-Mudder-Long-Island-2017-trail

Nothing for miles! This looks like a half assed death march to me.

Parking

Their parking situation was ridiculous according to my friend who took their shuttle. The parking lot for this event was a 20 minute ride down the highway, quite a few towns away from the event. So for this venue the lot is extremely far, it’s still $10+ to park, but the shuttles are plenty and they run regularly. Just get there earlier than planned for a long ride, and hope that your shuttle doesn’t hit NY leisure traffic.

Bag check is not secure. It’s walk in and walk out with your own bag situation. No kind volunteers and security staff members babysitting your bags and only allowing entry to authorized persons. Tough Mudder just lets you walk right in, and walk right out. Sure they check your bib number to the number on the bag, but nothing is stopping anybody from rifling through your bags while in a crowded tent with other racers and 2 people at the entrance and exit. They charge $10 for this! Weaksauce Tough Mudder, really weak. That’s easily fixable though with a more secure bag check program like the other brands.

On the brighter side, Tough Mudder does not serve race piss, aka Coors Light, anymore. It is now a Guinness Blonde, much to the delight of many racers.

Other than the miles of no obstacles, bag check being lax and expensive to boot, along with parking and shuttles being too far from the venue, the obstacles are definitely worth a try. Did I mention to bring a posse? Like these guys. They look like a lot of fun to run with too.

Photo credits: Louis Liquori, Poly Poli, Tough Mudder

What I love about (S)Crewing

First of all – the disclaimer: the title of this article is intentionally misleading; the article itself has nothing to do with screwing.

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Teasing my friends on the WTM group page. I’m not afraid of reveling in the suffering of my closest friends; especially when I have front row seats.

I had this moment the week leading up to WTM, while I was instigating my friends and acquaintances that would be running Worlds Toughest Mudder; teasing them with a group post about the misery and suffering they would endure while I played the chipper support crew on the sidelines, push them into another pain filled lap.

The personal relief I felt knowing that I would not be a party to that level of misery was quickly replaced by a tinge of shame. No, not shame. More of a sissy factor. Like I’m a chickenshit for not being as bad ass as my friends by undertaking the enormous feat of participating in an endurance event of this kind and rather to opt out and sit on the sidelines. (I think there are others who understand that feeling, right?).

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Crewing? Screwing? It’s all the same, right?

So as I wandered the aisles of the local Winco that morning I thought about why I had chosen to opt out of WTM and crew instead. That time of reflection afforded me a greater understanding of being an athlete in this particular sport of racing. It was then that I had the idea that I would write up an article about crewing. I sent Phoebe a message about my brilliant plan which, (as you can see included here), thanks to auto dictate the play on words for the title of this article was created. (It was definitely a good laugh.)

So If you were looking for a deviant behaviors article, this may not be what you are looking for. (You are still welcome to read it though, I won’t judge you…who am I kidding, I would totally judge you.) But if you want some insight regarding the growth opportunity you’ll be afforded as a racer by being a support crew member, then you should enjoy this article. Or some of you will likely think everything I am saying is something you can’t relate to, in which case, please post nice things anyways; I’m delicate.

Regardless, here is a short bit about crewing for someone during an extreme endurance challenge, why myself and others like to do it, and why you should do it as well.

Favorite thing about crewing #1: THE SHIT SHOW
One of my favorite parts is what I like to call the Shit Show. Roll back to my first crewing experience, the 2014 Death Race. During  DR2014 I remember the shock I received every time I would catch up, wake up, or show up to whatever part of the action was going on. Like time trials, cement bag carries, 20-mile hikes with logs strapped to participants backs. Every time I turned around I saw people breaking over seemingly mundane issues, their snapping points. The complete breakdown of the human mind long before the body gave out. Multiple days of sleeplessness will do crazy things; people become focused or they lost their shit over next to nothing. They just wanted it to end. I couldn’t believe what I saw; I thought there couldn’t be anything worse.

Fast forward to World’s Toughest Mudder 2014 six months later and well, game on. That shining sun and those happy spirits faded at night fall when a very typical desert wind storm appeared out of nowhere, and took the whole race, including staff, to its knees.

Obstacles were knocked over with what looked like 90% of the tents and pop-ups ending up in Lake Las Vegas, hypothermic nonsense spewing from racers (you know who you are, part of getting you to behave has become the highlight of your crews post race stories; heart.), and just the complete breakdown of civilized codes of conduct (I spent an hour in a portapotty with one guy because he was too afraid he’d be pulled from the race if he went to the first aid tent so we just huddled under an emergency blanket to get him warmed up).

Again the carnage seen at these events are better than any Griswold family nightmare you could come up with. I specifically upgraded my phone just before the race so that I would have plenty of video capacity to capture this year’s favorite moments (of which there were many.)

Favorite thing about crewing #2: Figuring out the type of athlete YOU are. (This should actually be # 1.)
Another element of crewing that I think should be noted and, more importantly respected, is a person’s desire to not race but still want to be a part of the event, to watch their friends, and help the sport(s) in a volunteer capacity.

Example: I don’t race well in the cold. It hurts, brutally hurts. I can work in certain short-term exposure, and if it’s a cheap race and travel is easy, I will show up and suffer with my friends because, hey, I like my people. But you would have never seen me run a New Jersey WTM in November or a Winter Death Race because surviving the cold is not what I consider, FOR ME, a physical challenge that I can test the limits of my strength. I can’t beast out on the things I’ve trained for when the hypothermic fog hits.

Also WTM Las Vegas? I live in Vegas. Being a runner here is rough. I run on that shitty, fossilized ground every. single. weekend. My hips, ankles, feet, back, knees,..all of it suffers from the effects of running on some of the toughest ground in the northern hemisphere. I don’t need to find out if I can race on that for 24 hours at a cost of $600.00. But after crewing for Death Race, when the chance for a Death Race entry came up it barely took a nudge before I committed. And races that have the participants on their toes, figuring things out, with minimal help? Apparently that my bag because I have a DR skull and I just bought my ticket to Nicaragua for Fuego y Agua. So see, watching these races helps a racer pick their races wisely.

Favorite thing about crewing #3: THE L-O-V-E.
Being part of the OCR community makes us a family, we’re a team. A community team. I know there is a misconception of racers being tough, badasses, and competitive among our preferred race brand, but really it’s the most closely knitted, heart touching, groups of ‘shirt off their backs’ types of people I’ve ever met. Every race I’ve done this past year I can remember at least one instance where some small gesture touched me. We support each other in whatever capacity to help the other avoid a DNF. Hot hands, duct tape, trash bag jackets, a leg up; whatever it takes to help you finish; if you need a hand, you’d be hard pressed to find another racer in a matter of minutes who wouldn’t pause their race to make sure you’re gonna be ok. Even our competitiveness is good natured; we train, travel, hang out with our fellow athletes. We love our racing family.

One of my favorites stories is from WTM14 when I dragged my friend Daniel out to help crew for the Women’s SWARM team. The team disbanded once the bad weather hit and we ended up assisting various racers as they came through.

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Amelia Boone, all crazy haired and fat check’d out. Champ, you make endurance racing look easy!! Photo courtesy of Tough Mudder

One of those racers happened to be Amelia Boone, who is the David Bowie of OCR racing; a living legend. (She’s still a total icon, but over the year I have had the pleasure of seeing her personal side, a genuinely authentic, wonderful woman.) Anyways, during the shit show sand storm Daniel hears a rustling sound outside our descended pop up and looks outside to find Amelia digging around for M&M’s or Poptarts or something and then heading to her tent. This is well after midnight and what was evident was that the stoic, rock solid unbreakable reputation had a very human side to it because outside our pop up was a cold and miserable racer; struggling with a windbreaker’s zipper. Daniel leaps from the tent as she cries out in fear that the zipper is broken, runs over and tells her it will be fine, re-situates the zipper, and zips it up. She thanks him as he sends her back out with some generic words of encouragement.

Hours later she’s in her black down jacket, holding a fat check and wearing her infamous grin. She won, and in some small way, that momentary interaction between them was a part of that. He cherishes it, and I cherish that I was the one that dragged him out there.

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My road dog, my partner in crime; Daniel Villarruel, just finishing 50 miles with minutes to spare. A pit crew’s ultimate job is to make sure their racer finishes, no matter what! no matter what! no matter what!

And now this year I pitted for him and I can’t help but believe part of it is because he saw and felt so much camaraderie during last year’s event. So those moments of service, I know what it means when I give them but I also know what it means in that moment to receive them from others.

Even during my own race, DR2015, I remember the rain coming down that last night in a complete mess of a storm. The directors were so concerned for the safety of the racers that they messaged all of the friends and family of the racers’ who had come with them to the event and offered them the option to finally come crew, but only if those that came agreed to help every racer, not just their own.

I didn’t know this until afterwards but all of the people that would check on me, whenever I came down from a time trial lap; I can’t remember faces or words, I just know that when they asked me what they could do for me I felt like they genuinely knew that I was suffering out there. I was able to pull it all back into focus when someone was there; I was able to remember what my purpose was. Their words would bring me back to focus on what I’m doing, which is finishing.

It’s an authentic human connection; when somebody recognizes that you hurt but believes you can push through to meet your goals. So when you crew, whether it’s for a complete stranger, a racing icon, or that friend you’d suffer through a rain or sand storm for, you love somebody and somebody loves you back.

Favorite thing about crewing #4: IT’S A PARTY!
Everyone knows this. Just because you can’t race, or don’t want to, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t show up. I spent the better part of this years race season out with various injuries from over training, but I had plane tickets and sleeping arrangements already paid for. I’m a good time kind of girl; I like to have fun. So there’s no way that I was going to eat all that money just to sit home, eating my feelings and being lonely while I watched my friends have fun on Facebook. Did it suck watching my friends at that starting line without me? You betcha. But the feeling last momentarily; then you see them out there looking miserable and think ‘thank god I’m not in that much suffering!’, and you’re there at the finish line, handing them all medals and making plans for food and festivities afterward. So if a race is close by, stop by and say hi.

Better yet, be out there on the course as a volunteer, encourage your friends as go through, cheer on random strangers, help make somebody’s race more amazing; that goes back to the L-O-V-E thing. And since you’re there helping out in the festival area, volunteering helps you make friends with the race staff, who always appreciate happy people who understand the in’s and out’s of the race. And you’ll make new friends because there is always some other racer on the sidelines helping out, saving it for the Sunday race or injured too. Bonus: when you’re hanging around the race site during the race you get some chat time with the other personalities in our little world. (You know you’ve been on the sidelines more than a couple times when Tim Sinnett and Matty Gregg greet you with a hug. Love those guys). Being on the sidelines is full of jokes, fun, good vibes, and minimal physical misery.


So that’s my perspective on being a support/pit crew for racers. If you want to race, race. But if you can’t, crew. Show up, help out. Be of service. Encourage, support. It doesn’t matter if it’s your spouse or random stranger, they appreciate that you were a rock to steady them when the world was spinning. You’ll feel good about yourself, better understand how and why these races are run, and hopefully understand more about yourself as a racer too.

By the way, I have to dedicate this article: it was written with my first crewing experience in mind. Death Race 2014, four of us, three crew and one racer, showed up. We made amazing friends, helped out, learned a lot, and took the next steps in our athletic roles as a direct result of our experience at that hot mess. So this is for my girls: Vox, Eagle, and Rickshaw. One crazy leap can change everything.

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Me and the girls: Death Race 2014. The planning adventures alone were some of my most treasured memories and I realize now that, because of this experience, I started to embrace the adventure side of life. Photo courtesy of Doug Kline

Microsoft Band 2 Review

Microsoft Band 2
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I came across the Microsoft Band 2 after news that my Nike+ Fuel Band SE was no longer being supported, and I said the same thing most people probably do when they hear about it; “Microsoft has a fitness device?!” I had tried the first iteration of the Microsoft Band, which was met with disappointing results. This was only shortly before I heard of the next iteration, which seemed to solve all previous concerns. I was eager to try it. I went out and bought it on November 7th, the day of release.

Also, you may not have heard that Microsoft released it’s first fitness wearable in October of 2014. More than likely you probably had no idea they released an updated version, just a few weeks ago, either. In the ever-expanding world of fitness wearables and smart watches, Microsoft isn’t exactly a name at the top of the list, but they’re changing minds with their newest entry into the market, the Microsoft Band 2.

The fitness wearable market has exploded in the last 18 to 24 months, but the common theme I have found is that a lot of devices are great at doing one thing well, but there is no device that does everything to my satisfaction. Each device I have tried, required me to compromise in one way or another. Garmin does GPS great, but lacks quality integration with your mobile device. The Apple Watch integrates perfectly with your iPhone, but can’t do GPS without being tethered to your phone. Pebble, FitBit, JawBone.. the list goes on and on, and as such, so does my hunt for the “perfect” fitness wearable.

Microsoft Band 2 Features

The Microsoft Band 2 is the most feature rich wearable I have come across however, taking advantage of all those feature, especially at one time, say during a 10K or Stadium Series Spartan Race, battery life can suffer mightily.

Battery Life – I got a little over 2 hours while tracking my Spartan Race time, distance, and GPS, but while wearing in a day to day scenario, I get two days of usage before charging is necessary. The charge time from 0%  to full comes in at only about 90 minutes, which makes it easy to fill up while I get ready for work in the morning.

Gorilla Glass – Now with the display of the Band intended to be worn on the inside of the wrist, my main concern was scratching the display. After a month of usage, with no real specific care to avoid banging it around while at the office, the display is still gleaming.

Heart Rate Monitor – The heart rate monitor tracks, in real time, your heart rate whether you’re in the middle of a run, or workout session, but it also tracks resting heart rate during the day as well. To add to that it even keeps track while you sleep, noting what your highs and lows were during each activity.

App Home Screen – Microsoft’s Health App is quite simple to use and navigate. So simple it almost seems like it should have more features built into it, but when you dive into each individual tile (all of which are able to be re-organized by the end user), you find great statistics and details just a touch or two away. For those who want even further detail, their web portal offers even more detail, including comparison amongst other users, friends or demographic based.

Microsoft Health iOS App Main Screen

Microsoft Health iOS App Main Screen

Sensors – For me, this is where the Microsoft Band 2 really excels. Again, there’s a bunch of fitness devices that focus on doing one or two of these really well, but I’ve been very impressed by the level of tech packed into this tiny shell. You’ve got a gyrometer, accelerometer, and barometer, to track movement. Galvanic skin response sensors, and UV sensors to measure perspiration and how quickly my pasty white self will need to reapply sun screen. Also, for the 1.7% of people out there that have a Microsoft Phone, there’s a James Bond style microphone built in, to sync with Cortana. I would love it if they extended this outside the Windows 10 type integration.

Extra Features – Unrelated to the world of OCR, I love that this device has integration with TaylorMade’s home grown golf GPS database. Simply choose the course you’re playing at, and the Band will automatically start tracking your shots as you navigate the course, giving you real time updates on distance to the pin, elevation, etc. The open source nature of the software as well allows people to develop their own apps and tiles for the Band. We’re starting to see some of these come out with each update. Notification for your specific sports teams, Tech news from Engadget, and more have all been released in just the last month.

Microsoft Band 2 Durability

Where the Band falls short, especially for this audience, is it’s sensitivity to water, mud, dirt and dust. It’s listed as “water-resistant”, but not for extended periods of submersion. The casing also is subject to scuffing and scratching. The Fenway Spartan Sprint left a few battle scars on my device only a few days into the usage. The folks at the Microsoft Store shared stories with me of customers returning their old bands that “looked like that had been through a cement mixer” because of the soft shell exterior and Gorilla Glass display.

Microsoft Band 2 Usage

A little background, my fitness lifestyle consists primarily of obstacle course races (Spartan, BattleFrog, Bone Frog, etc) along with events like Ragnar, road racing, and regular trips to the gym. This should give you a little bit of my desired features: Heart rate tracking, real-time GPS, workout tracking, etc.

The Microsoft Band 2 will seem bulky to some. It’s large clasp will see odd at first. It’s one of the only fitness bands that makes more sense to have the display on the inside of your wrist, but that’s the only way that seems right, to me. What it may lack in aesthetics, it makes up for in over 10 different sensors packed into a small shell. Those include: an Optical Heart-Rate Sensor, Galvanic skin response sensor, UV sensor, standalone GPS, Barometer, and more.

Microsoft Band

The Microsoft Band 2, unclasped

The Microsoft Band 2 integrates with some of the most popular fitness platforms out there, including Strava, MyFitnessPal, RunKeeper, Strava, and even a TaylorMade golf GPS app as well as support for payment at your local Starbucks. Microsoft also has it’s own proprietary health database, Microsoft HealthVault, which can help you keep track of everything the Band can do: Tracking your sleep quality, weight lifting programs, yoga, running, and more. Being able to integrate into all of these databases ensures that you see the data in the manner in which you want to see it, instead of having to use a proprietary app, a huge plus in my book.

 

 

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On screen activity history & recaps

Microsoft Band 2 Pros And Cons

Pros:

  • Simple to use interface & AMOLED Display
  • 11 sensors, including heart-rate, accelerometer, and a standalone GPS
  • Email and text notifications, including quick-reply options
  • Microsoft Health database integration

Cons:

  • Slightly clunky design, subject to scuffing/scratching
  • Battery life can struggle while using common features
  • Water “resistant” but not water/dirt/mud-proof

Microsoft Band 2 Competition

Microsoft Band 2Microsoft BandGarmin 225TomTom Cardio
Battery Life2 days without GPS, 2-3 Hours with GPS2 days without GPS usage4 weeks as watch, 10 hours with GPS8 Hours
GPSYesYesYesYes
Heart Rate MonitorOpticalOpticalOpticalOptical
Waterproof Water-resistant IPX7, Up to 1 MeterSplash Resistant5 ATM (50 Meters)5 ATM (50 Meters)
Weight2.1 oz.2.12 oz1.91 oz2.22 oz
Phone CompatibilityAndroid, iOS, WindowsAndroid, iOS, WindowsAndroid, iOSAndroid, iOS
Price249.99$199.99 - $249.99$239.99$99.99
ORM ReviewYesNoYesYes
BuyAmazonAmazon Amazon Amazon

 

Microsoft Band 2 Verdict

Overall, the pros of the Microsoft Band 2 far outweigh the cons for everyday usage. Don’t let the stigma of the Microsoft name, prevent your from taking a long hard look at what should be a very strong competitor in the fitness wearable market during this holiday season. It’s got a great feature set, and more sensors that any other fitness device on the market, making it a feature rich juggernaut. The lack of true water/dust/mud-proofing is what really will make it difficult to commit to for the true OCR enthusiast, especially with a price tag of $249. Buy this for everyday working out and tech integration but if you need a watch for OCR usage, look to the guys at Garmin or Suunto.

 

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Natalie Dau

CEO & Founder at The Daily Escape
Having lived in Asia for 15 years working in the corporate world, I followed my passion in health and fitness and founded The Daily Escape & Urban Remedy, a highly successful digital platform focusing on health & fitness across Asia.

I am a Reebok sponsored athlete, and one of Asia's top Obstacle Course racers, an avid runner, personal trainer and an Asian CrossFit champion in my age group.
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