Train Like a Pro: Rea Kolbl

Rea-Kolbl-Bucket-Carry-MontereyIf you haven’t heard the name Rea Kolbl before, there’s a good chance that will change soon. One of the newest members of the Spartan Pro team, Kolbl has excelled in the early stages of her career.

Because she mostly ran local Spartan races, Kolbl was a virtual unknown at last year’s Golden State Classic in Monterey, one of the five Spartan U.S. Championship races on NBC. So much so, that one of the race referees had asked her to spell her name while she was finishing burpees. Kolbl went on to finish 4th, under a minute from hitting top three in what was her first ever elite race.

Despite being caught off guard by the cold (like many were) at the 2016 Spartan World Championship in Lake Tahoe and having to complete 150 burpees, she still managed a 7th place finish at the site of the 1960 Olympic Games. That included an untimely fall on the descent, one of her typical strengths. “Usually I’m pretty fast on the downhill because trail running is what I do, but I was so cold that I was shivering and couldn’t see the ground at all,” Kolbl recalls.

Rea-Kolbl-Snowy-Mountain Climb

Originally from Slovenia, Kolbl came to the United States almost seven years ago to attend U.C. Berkeley before moving to Stanford, where she is currently a full-time grad student.

Like many other athletes on the team, she’s had to find a healthy balance of work, training and personal time: Working full-time, this means a morning run, a full day of work, then getting in a second training session with her husband, Bunsak. Kolbl attributes him for most of her ability to keep up with training. “He does all the cooking beforehand and all the cleaning and shopping,” she says. “I do dishes to do my part, but I’m definitely lucky from that perspective.”

Having a full schedule is nothing new to her, however. “Being on the gymnastics team when I was younger,” she recounts, “I had like seven hours of practice (every day)…and I still did school full time so there was always a balancing of the two.”

Rea-Kolbl-Fire-Jump-SoCal

This year, keep an eye out for this up and comer as she takes on more of the Spartan U.S. Championship Series races and looks to improve on her finish (and burpee count) at Tahoe. She’s already started 2017 with a bang, winning both the Sprint and Super races at the SoCal event in January.

Below is one of Kolbl’s favorite training sessions. She generally performs it the day after a rowing session, and follows it up with a low impact cardio day. As you’ll see below, the Stairmaster is one of Kolbl’s favorite forms of low-impact cardio. “It really pumps my heartbeat, but it doesn’t really work hard on my knees or ankles,” she explains. The rest of her week includes some training on a track, trail/mountain running and another HIIT session.

Rea-Kolbl-Spartan-SoCal-Sprint-2017

MORNING

RUN
This part should always be done in the morning. Go for a nine-mile run at an increasing pace. The second half of the run should be at maximum sustainable effort. For Kolbl, this consists of a sub-7 minute per mile average pace on a loop that has almost 800 feet of elevation gain.

Rea-Kolbl-Monterey-Sand-Bag

AFTERNOON

PART ONE
20-MINUTE STAIRMASTER CARDIO
Begin at 96 steps per minute. This is usually level eleven. Incrementally increase each level at the following times:

  • 2 Minutes – Increase to 103 steps per minute
  • 5 Minutes – Increase to 110 steps per minute
  • 8 Minutes – Increase to 117 steps per minute
  • 11 Minutes – Increase to 126 steps per minute
  • 14 Minutes – Increase to 133 steps per minute
  • 17 Minutes – Increase to 140 steps per minute

Pro Tip: If a Stairmaster is unavailable, substitute 20 minutes on a rowing machine or exercise bike. Any form of low impact cardio will work.

Rea-Kolbl-Beach-Swing

PART TWO

TABATA
Perform each set of two exercises in alternating fashion, executing 20 seconds of work with 10 seconds of rest. Complete each one four total times so that each set ends up being four minutes long. Rest 30 seconds between each set. Kolbl usually does this part with an elevation mask set at 12,000 feet.

  • Set 1
    • Burpees: If you’re an avid OCR fan, chances are you know what a burpee is. Just in case: Begin in a standing position with your feet together. Touch your hands to the floor and kick your legs back so that you are in a push-up position. Perform a push-up, then bring your feet back up in between your hands and jump straight into the air.
    • Star Jumps: Stand with your feet slightly spread apart and arms at your sides. Bend at the knees and explode up, spreading your arms and legs out. Your body will create a star shape. As you land, bring your arms and legs back in. It’s similar to a jumping jack, except you aren’t landing on the jump out.
  • Set 2 
    • Squat Jumps: Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Squat down and jump up in the air. Land softly.
    • Lunge Jumps/Split-Squat Jumps: Get into a lunge position. Jump up into the air while simultaneously switching legs. You should land so that your front leg is now your back, and back is now front.
      • Writer’s Tip: This one is not fun. If you run out of gas, rather than stopping, modify if you need to. Instead of jumping straight up in the air, bring your back foot up with your front, sending the previously front foot back almost instantly. If you can, still try to ensure each foot is off the ground at the same time (at least a little) during the switch.
  • Set 3 
    • High Knees: Run in place, but make sure you are bringing your knees to at least a 90-degree angle when it leaves the ground.
    • Mountain Climbers: Get into a push-up position. Bring one knee towards your chest and tap your toe on the ground. As that foot returns to its original position, bring the opposite foot up and tap that toe. Be sure your butt does not stick up. Your body should form a straight line from head to toe.
  • Set 4 
    • Back and Forth Frog Jumps: Squat down and bring your hands to the ground in front of you. Jump forward, briefly bringing your hands above your head. Then do the same, but backward.
    • Kettlebell Swings: With a 25-pound dumbbell or kettlebell, stand with your feet at least shoulder width apart. With a slight bend in the knees, hinge at your waist so that your back is parallel to the ground and the weight is between your legs. As you transition into the standing position, thrust your hips forward so your body forms a straight line. Simultaneously swing the weight in front of your chest, while keeping your arms straight.
  • Set 5 
    • Push-ups: Your hands should be at least a little wider than shoulder width and your back should remain straight through the each repetition.
      • Writer’s Tip: If doing a push-up normally hurts your wrists, grab a pair of dumbbells that won’t roll (hex-shaped or adjustable normally).
    • Elbow Plank with Knee to Elbow: Get in a plank position with your elbows touching the ground. Your first set, bring your left leg up to your elbow and back. Alternate to your right on the second set, so that you are doing two total sets per leg
  • Set 6 
    • Russian Twists: Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet touching the ground in front of you. Lean your torso back, while keeping your back straight. It should be roughly 45-degrees off the ground. Straighten your arms and clasp your hands together. Rotate your arms to the right, pause, then back in front of you and to the left.
    • Sit-ups: Lay on the ground with your knees bent and feet touching the ground in front of you. With either your hands across your chest, or touching the side of your head, use your core to lift your torso up to your knees. Return to the starting position.

Rea-Kolbl-Monkey-Bars-Monterey

PART THREE

GRIP STRENGTH
Perform one minute of jump rope. Once finished, immediately dead hang from a bar for one minute. Repeat this five times with no rest, totaling ten minutes of work.

Writer’s Tip: As odd as it sounds, jumping rope may be a bit difficult if you aren’t used to it. If you can’t quite get the hang of it, just keep going. You’ll find that you’re rope jumping will improve each round!

Writer’s Note: Thank you to Rea for sharing her favorite workout. You can follow her on Instagram and catch her training at King’s Camps and Fitness.

Photo Credit: Rea Kolbl, Spartan Race

Check out past Train Like a Pro articles:

Train Like a Pro: Beni Gifford

Beni-Gifford-NBC-Spartan-Ultimate-Team-Challenge

If the name Beni Gifford sounds familiar, it should. Gifford led his team (The Comeback Kids) to victory on NBC’s premiere season of Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge. He was also the captain of Team Dallas on Battlefrog’s League Championship, which aired on ESPN. And if that wasn’t enough, you’ll now be able to watch him on CMT as he competes on Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge.

Beni-Gifford-Terrain-Racing-Finish-in-Flagstaff

Off the small screen, Gifford has won fourteen races, with twenty-one podium finishes overall in just two years. That includes an undefeated record when competing in the Terrain Racing series.

Below you’ll find a workout that Gifford uses to train his body and mind to continue to perform, even after fatigue sets in and his muscles become tired. It helps with situations where your heart rate is high or your legs become heavy.

Beni-Gifford-Running

PART ONE
2-MINUTE RUN / 1-MINUTE SLED DRAG INTERVALS

Run for two minutes at an aerobic base effort. You should be able to carry on a conversation at this pace. Once the two minutes is up, do a one-minute sled drag at the same effort level. Alternate between the two until you reach thirty minutes. Once complete, perform an aerobic pace run for up to thirty minutes. You can adjust the time based on your level of fitness, but aim to hit at least ten minutes.

Pro Note: Part one is about getting your legs pumped and strained (sled pull) and going right back into a run. This teaches you to run with heavy legs.

Writer’s Tip: If you don’t have a sled to drag, go to your local hardware store and buy several feet of rope that is at least ¾”-1” thick (usually about $1-2 per foot). Then punch holes in a flattened cardboard box and thread the rope through. Stack as much weight as you can handle onto the cardboard box for your own homemade sled. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look pretty. It’s more about function over aesthetics, here.

Beni-Gifford-Savage-Rig-Dallas

PART TWO
BURPEES – 10/100 SUPERSET

Do a set of ten burpees at 90% effort, followed by 10/100 pull up/dead hang. Complete six total rounds. To perform the 10/100, start a timer and, with palms facing forward, immediately do one pull up. Then lower yourself into a dead hang. After ten seconds of dead hang, do another pull up. Repeat this until you hit 10 pull ups and 100 seconds or failure, whichever comes first. You must remain on the bar the entire time. The 10/100 is considered by OCR coach, Yancy Culp, as the Gold Standard for grip endurance and strength.

Pro Tip: Keep your transitions as short as possible from the burpees into the 10/100. This will help with your ability to tackle obstacles successfully without having to spend valuable seconds slowing your heart rate down before attacking.  If you can’t meet the Gold Standard at first, don’t worry. You now have an easy goal to track so you can match the best in OCR.

Writer’s Tip: For the 10/100, use an interval timer app so you don’t have to keep your eyes on a stopwatch. These apps allow you to customize so that an alarm sounds every ten seconds, giving you the signal to do apull-upp.

Writer’s Note: Thanks to Beni for providing this workout. You can follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

Photo Credit: NBC, Terrain Racing, Beni Gifford and Savage Race

Check out past Train Like a Pro articles:

Savage Race Maryland- Got Grip?

Anytime you go to a race you leave thinking one of two things. Either how great of a time you had and how much you enjoyed the race. Or something turned you off, be it a bad showing on your part….bad weather .. lines at obstacles ..your favorite pants ripped… forgot where you parked leaving you to walk for 20 minutes with your hand above your head, holding your keys trying to decipher if that’s your car horn or someone else’s. Rarely does someone walk away from a race, driving home and think to themselves… “Wow, that course layout and obstacle placement really elevated that race to another level”. Well today was that day…getting savage at Savage Race.

Savage-MD-Finish-Line

We all know by now what to expect from a Savage Race. They’ve set themselves to a high standard that’s known by many from experiencing an event first hand, hearing someone rave in a social media setting, or reading a previous review. They’ve accepted the challenge of doing what needs to be done to exceed the standard they’ve set for themselves by adding fresh, innovative obstacles each year. They’ve also instituted an award program(Syndicate) to incentivize repeat registrations with a medal that appeals to the medal whore in all of us and providing world class customer service with a personable feel.

So going into this event, I knew what obstacles to expect. I was aware of the medal I was receiving. I wanted more, as we all, of course, want more than expected to be satisfied. To accomplish that, I opted for the Savage Pro wave. I didn’t care about my time. To be honest, I wanted the cool blue Savage Race wristband that was given to Pro Wave participants to determine 100% obstacle completion. Complete all the obstacles and keep the band. Fail an obstacle after unlimited attempts and surrender the band.

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The course map was released a week prior to the event, so on this rare occasion I took a look at it. Immediately I noticed the obstacle placement was arranged to raise the level of difficulty. I also noticed a 30% chance of rain at the time of Pro Wave, with the likelihood of rain increasing throughout the day. Savage loves grip strength based obstacles.. Which I’m all about, you can keep your heavy shit, that doesn’t appeal to me. But with their array of grip based challenges(ascending/descending monkey bars over water, hanging horizontal cage traverse over water, rotating wheel traverse over water, rig) any additional moisture would certainly increase the level of difficulty.

Fortunately the weather held off for the first wave but as I previously mentioned, obstacle placement would play a huge factor in the outcome of this race(and ultimately if I kept my cool blue wristband…because that’s what’s truly matters). For example Davey Jones Locker(15ft. Jump into 15ft. deep water) was located just before Sawtooth(hardest monkey bars in OCR IMO). So, jump in water.. Soaking wet.. Now climb monkey bars=increased difficulty.
Savage-MD-Richard
Shriveled Richard,(ice bath) my personal favorite, is usually found at the very beginning of the course as the first obstacle. Some have complained that this setup causes backups as you sprint off the start line, only to come to an obstacle with very limited flow through that only 4 competitors can attempt at a time. Not to mention hesitation by many from nerves of jumping into a dumpster of ice water causes longer wait times and ultimately wait lines. I have only ever seen this obstacle located anywhere other than the beginning on a Garfield Griffiths course design in Pennsylvania the previous year. This was a welcomed alteration but again, interesting placement. Shortly after exiting the ice bath, when your grip is compromised from the cold, you come upon Wheel World(series of 5 consecutive rotating wheels positioned over water). Another new obstacle that isn’t overly difficult but the placement ups the ante.

Savage-MD-WW

In previous years, Savage Race would close out your day with Colossus(warped wall followed by 24ft of a near vertical drop on a water slide). They felt compelled to mix it up this year placing a rig with varying holds and grips, just after colossus… But wait … There’s more … they added another challenge to go along with the rig. Savages newest obstacle “Tree Hugger”. A rotating series of wooden and metal poles that you’re required to traverse through without letting your feet touch the ground or the plastic bases of the wooden poles. The word I got from previous events was that this obstacle had 12 lanes, that followed a sequence of metal/wood/metal/wood/metal/wood poles to traverse. It seems they switched it up this event by making it 6 total lanes with 12 poles to traverse(6 wood/6 metal).

Savage-MD-Tree-Hugger

So now, in order to cross that finish line, you must make your way through a rig that consisted of, in order, 2 ropes, 2 close handed grips, one horizontal straight bar and bell for completion. Followed by a long lane of metal and wooden pole traverses. While still dripping wet from the water slide. Stand alone, these obstacles are doable, yet challenging for many. Add in the placement factor and decreased grip strength from water obstacles and you’re in store for a challenge.

Savage-MD-Rig

More so than anything this was just the tweak I was hoping for, but not expecting when I had originally registered. A great course design is just another way Savage can keep you on your toes and not grow complacent with the high standard of execution we’ve all come to expect from the brand.

P.S. It began to rain shortly after the first couple waves making some obstacles near impossible.

P.S.S. Matty T killed it at the start line as usual.

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P.S.S.S…. Excellent Portashitter to registrant ratio. Clean, well maintained, and solid TP supply.
4💩💩💩💩 out of 5💩💩💩💩💩 rating

P.S.S.S….S? ….. Mission accomplished … See… Cool blue

Savage-Bracelet

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Savage Race Maryland – Fall 2016

Back in 2014, I, like many who want to give OCR a try, ran a Warrior Dash. Once I crossed the finish line, I knew I had to kick it up a notch. After taking 2015 to adjust to life with our son, I was ready to take the next step in 2016. Not only did I run my first Spartan (Palmerton), but also my first BattleFrog. I had planned to do another BattleFrog this season but, as we all know, they are no more. Luckily after doing some research, I found that Savage Race had an event on the same day I planned to run the BattleFrog. After scoping out their website and seeing the obstacles, I knew I had to try it. I was not disappointed.

I had received several emails leading up to the race with my bib number, wave confirmation, course map and waivers. Because of this, check-in was pretty quick. I didn’t notice much of a line for the later heats either. The festival area was on the smaller side, consisting of a merchandise tent, a stage, photo area, food and porta potties. The hoses and changing tents were actually outside the festival area near the general parking area. Because of this, I didn’t see a need to use the bag check, so that saved me $5.00. 

Savage-Race-Maryland-Starting-Line

The SavagePRO heat, which is their competitive heat, began at 9:00 a.m. Since the course was just over two hours away, I was glad to hear I didn’t have to get there by 7:30 a.m. like a few other races do. About fifteen minutes before the start, the corral was open for racers to enter. Five or ten minutes before, we got a run down of the rules. Savage has an entire page on their website with the competitive rules, but the pre-race meeting cleared a few more things up. After some pre-race chants, the National Anthem, and a bit of blue smoke, we were off.

This was the first I had ever run in a competitive heat, so I was excited to get first crack at the obstacles. The course map Savage sent out was very accurate. The only obstacle I don’t remember seeing was Barn Doors. I did see a video with it, though, so maybe I’m just forgetting. Like many other races, the first couple miles had few obstacles. I always like this because it gives the quicker runners a chance to spread out a little. And most of the first few obstacles consisted of either going under or over something.

Savage-Race-Maryland-course-map

The first challenge came around the end of mile two, when one of Savage’s new obstacles came into view: On The Fence. I thought I knew what to expect when trying to conquer this unique obstacle, but after the first couple miles my shoes were already a bit muddy, so I couldn’t always get a good footing on the fence. That made it more taxing on my grip. After finishing the obstacle, I decided to file it under the “harder than it looks” category. On I went.

After Squeeze Play, which had racers crawl through mud under large barrels, I came upon Savage’s only weighted carry, Lumberjack Lane. As I approached, several racers in front of me were carrying two pieces of wood. The volunteers made it clear that only one was needed, but I let my ego get the best of me and picked up two anyway. I remember regretting that decision afterwards.

As I completed mile three, one of Savage’s featured obstacles was next: Davy Jones’ Locker. The course designers were nice enough to put this right before Sawtooth, another featured obstacle. Sawtooth is one of the most unique monkey bar obstacles in OCR so I wanted to make sure my hands were dry. After a little grass-rubbing, I climbed up and down with little issue. This was a confidence booster.

This confidence helped me get through the next couple obstacles, Big Cheese and Venus Guy Trap, pretty quickly. Savage makes sure your confidence doesn’t last long, though, because then I reached Kiss My Walls. Fitting name, as it consists of small climbing holds across a long wall. I had done some traverse obstacles similar to this, so I didn’t think much of it as I approached. After falling off about halfway through my first attempt, I had another member of the “harder than it looks” club.

Remember that ego I had mentioned before? Well, it wasn’t letting me give up that little blue band that SavagePRO racers lose if they don’t complete an obstacle. Finally, on the third attempt I rang the bell and moved on.

After finishing mile four, I had to deal with Great Wall, an eight-foot wall, and Slippery Incline, which was surprisingly dry. I have a feeling this changed as rain moved in later in the day and more racers traipsed their muddy shoes up the obstacle. Next up was another new one for 2016, Pole Cat. This time, racers must navigate sideways along two parallel bars, one higher than the other. At the halfway point, you switch so that if your hands were higher, they’re now lower and visa versa. This one wasn’t too difficult and the damp bar actually made sliding my feet easier.

Savage-Race-Maryland-Pole-Cat

The final mile began with a wake up call. Shriveled Richard requires racers to submerge in, what I can only assume is the coldest water ever recorded on the planet. As I continued on, trying to shake out my arms and keep the legs churning so nothing cramped, I was met with a Big Ass Cargo Net, then Back Scratcher. The first is pretty self-explanatory, while the second consisted of going over a shorter wall, then under some barbed wire.

Grip strength then became a common theme. Another one of Savage’s unique obstacles is Wheel World. It requires racers to navigate across water by grabbing five rotating wheels above them. I had watched Savage’s video breakdown of the obstacle, along with their Facebook Live videos of past SavagePRO racers conquering it so I came prepared. I would definitely recommend watching those videos if you want to get across quickly.

Savage-Race-Maryland-Wheel-World

In between Wedgie, a twist on the incline wall, and Blaze, Savage’s fire obstacle, was one of their biggest hits: Colossus. I heard as the rain rolled in later in the day, this one became ridiculously difficult. Luckily I avoided the rain, but still needed a couple knots of the rope to make it up this giant warped wall. The slide back down was a nice flashback to childhood. As I climbed out of the water, I realized my hands were now wet again as I approached more grip tests. Thanks again course designer.

Just before the finish line was the Savage Rig followed immediately by Tree Hugger. The rig, like Kiss My Walls, took me until my third try. Good old ego wasn’t giving up that band, so I was prepared to try thirty if I had to. Rigs are always tough, so there was a sizable group of SavagePRO runners giving it multiple attempts. Unlike a couple other obstacles, the rig looked difficult and I knew it would, so it’s not a member of that club.

Savage-Race-Maryland-Savage-Rig

Tree Hugger, on the other hand, is the VP of Operations in the “harder than it looks” club. I could be wrong, but it looked twice as long as Tree Hugger at other races I’ve seen. Maybe it just felt that way because of how taxing it is on your body. Luckily I made it through on the first try. If I didn’t I would’ve needed a few minutes to rest before giving it another go.

Side Note: The second place female would’ve finished first, but she forgot to ring the bell at the end of Tree Hugger, so if you’re in the competitive heat, pay attention to all obstacle instructions!

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Overall, the fall Savage Race in Maryland was very well managed and provided, like they say, the best obstacles and the perfect distance (6 miles / 25 obstacles). The rain held out for most of the SavagePRO heat, but later heats got some extra water for their race! Savage is a great way to take the next step in OCR if you’re looking for a challenge. I definitely plan on racing again when they come to my area in Pennsylvania in June of 2017!

Photo Credit: Savage Race and the author

Savage Race Dallas

Since my first OCR four years ago, I have completed over 75 obstacle races, faced about 1500 obstacles, and covered around 560 miles (900km) of terrain. I’ve done everything from the Spartan Ultra Beast, to small 5km mud runs in my hometown of Perth, Western Australia, and everything else in between. But there was one race that was still top of my list of races to try – Savage Race.

I’d heard only positive stories about Savage and the promise of the best obstacles and the perfect distance certainly had me interested. A quick look at the Savage website cemented my decision to try the race as I laughed at the list of what was included:

  • 25 OBSTACLES
  • A BEER
  • T-SHIRT
  • SHINY MEDAL
  • CHIP TIMING
  • FREE DECAL
  • ACTION PHOTOS
  • MUD IN YOUR UNDERWEAR

Any race that promises mud in your undies is a race that I can support! So I checked my calendar, penciled in the Dallas race, booked a plane ticket from LA and before long, I was on my way.

The festival area was ready for the 2000 participants, and the music was pumping as OCR fanatics got ready to race, and their friends looked around nervously as they wondered what they were getting themselves into.  There were no fancy speeches at the start line, just Emcee Matty T encouraging everyone to jump, yell and crowd surf. He yelled ‘SAVAGE’, we yelled ‘RACE’ and as the blue smoke was let off, we started to run.

Savage-Race-Dallas-Start

The first section included tried and tested OCR obstacles – barbed wire crawl, ladder wall, 7’ wall, slant wall and a muddy swamp walk. The first proper water-based obstacle was Thor’s Grundle which resulted in some hilarious faces as people realised what they smelt like after immersing themselves in the brown water.

After meandering through the sunflower fields, we were met with Slippery Incline (incline wall) which is another OCR staple, except this one was damp from the previous night’s rainfall, which actually made it a challenge.

Next up was one of Savage Race’s featured obstacles – Sawtooth. Take your normal monkey bars, put them on an upwards and downwards incline, then chuck in a few different height bars in the middle and you’ve got Sawtooth. It proved to be challenging with many falling at the peak of the obstacle, but it seemed to be one of people’s favourites.

Savage-Race-Dallas-Sawtooth

Pole Cat is a new obstacle for 2016 and involves walking your hands and feet across parallel bars whilst holding a downward dog yoga position. Normally in OCR being tall can be disadvantageous, but in this instance, height was a major advantage.

There were more walls (5’ and 8’) and a traverse wall with rock climbing grips, before grip was put to the test at Wheel World. It’s good to see OCRs like Savage Race are taking a leaf out of American Ninja Warrior’s book and creating some awesome new obstacles. Here they’ve taken monkey bars, but put them into 5 spinning pentagons, and called it Wheel World. It’s designed to test grip strength and body control as you try and make your way across the bars without spinning uncontrollably in the wrong direction. The failure rate was high but everyone had a smile on their faces whilst attempting it.

There were more OCR staples including a log carry, muddy crawl, and the coldest ice bath ever – Shrivelled Richard. To anyone who has been in an ice bath and thought it was cold, I dare you to try Shrivelled Richard! I don’t know what would have been warmer – jumping into that ice bath or going swimming in Antarctica. There was also a short but sweet mudslide that helped us get mud in our undies!

Savage-Race-Dallas-Mudslide

Davey Jones’ Locker made even the bravest go weak at the knees as they were faced with a 15’ drop into the water below. Some people did flips, whilst others simply shook their heads and walked past it. It may not be a physically challenging obstacle, but for some it was a mentally challenging one.

Savage-Race-Dallas-Davy-Jones-Locker

Everyone turned into inch worms at the Teeter Tuber, which required you to enter a diagonal tube and climb upwards until you hit the tipping point and then slide out the other side. It was much more fun than just crawling through a horizontal tube, but anyone with claustrophobia may disagree.

After another wall called the Big Cheese (it’s a wall that looks like a huge block of holey cheese) came Savage Race’s most famous obstacle – Colossus. This thing was like a quarter pipe on steroids! The people at the top were cheering and waiting to hoist others up and over the edge. All you needed to do was to get a good run up and then trust a stranger to help pull you over the ledge. The reward? A huge waterslide! It’s obstacles like this where you see the true spirit of OCR come to life.

Two new obstacles were then put to the test towards the end. On The Fence saw people attempt to scale a fence sideways and really tested grip strength, whilst Tree Hugger allowed people to accidentally practice their pole dancing skills. I saw some people spinning uncontrollably around the poles while others tried to move forward without realising that there was a pole in their way. The key is to get your body on one side of all the poles in order to avoid crashing straight into a pole! Both were awesome and innovative obstacles and ones that I’d be keen to do again.

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Last but not least was the Savage Race Multi-Rig. Those who still had grip strength left got through, whilst everyone else tried their best.

The festival area was still pumping as they handed out awards to the top three male and female finishers in each age category and to the biggest three teams.

I have to take my hat off to Savage Race. Their signature obstacles are innovative and challenging, and they squeezed in 25 obstacles over a 6-mile course. They certainly lived up to their tagline of ‘The Best Obstacles. The Perfect Distance’! I will definitely return to do a Savage Race in the future, and would encourage anyone looking for a great challenge to sign up and experience it for themselves!

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Savage Race: I was a pussy, and I’m okay with that

It was my first Savage Race, so I decided to rest  two days before so I would be able to do my best. We got a sitter which was novel idea. I insisted on just doing the race with my husband Matt and no kids. Taking your kids to a race seems like a good idea, but so does having kids.

The last OCR I did was the Spartan about two and a half years ago. My son was 6 months old and I was still nursing. Needless to say – it was awful. I hated it. I hated it A LOT. I also don’t like to do stuff I’m not good at with lots of people watching. At Spartan, I failed almost every obstacle. I was too afraid to even jump over the fire.

For the record, I don’t like barbed wire, and I don’t like mud. I don’t think getting muddy is fun, or cool,  and I am a clean freak. I am also terrified of heights. Jesus I’m neurotic, this is supposed to be a race review. I do love running, I love challenges and I love lifting heavy things. And I love doing stuff with my husband without our kids so I was fully looking forward to Savage.

Matt is very crafty. He knows me very well, and he just kind of doesn’t “mention” certain things when we do adventures together. What can I say, opposites attract, and I do love an adventure.

So almost 3 years later, after many days of lifting and general training, I was confident I’d do better this time. The race grounds were swarming with people, loud music, bare chests and lots of round butts in black short shorts. There was a lot to look at,  lots of blue and black bling. Loud music, and yelling with glee, but more like cavemen. Is that what “Let’s get Savage ” means? I wondered.

We forged towards our wave.  There were a lot of people, I don’t really like crowds, especially because I’m never as “excited” as everyone else, and I know Matt will rip a huge fart at the worst possible moment.

Then the whole group participation thing started and I’m kind of a closed off person so I don’t like group stuff at all. It makes me feel like I’m twelve again, and I need a drink to loosen up.  The crowd was pretty hyper and most of the men were shirtless, acting like tribal animals. I’m more of a no-nonsense, boring person who just wants to start the race. I could’ve done  without  all the grunting, face paint, and chanting.

savage-start-line

Matt laughed and side-eyed me at the countdown, and we were off.  I loved the trail. I loved trying to run ahead of the crowd. It was a nice first mile, the weather was perfect, the trail smelled earthy, and it was green and beautiful. I was really excited. Not the kind of excited where I grunt and yell things, just in quiet, steady anticipation.

I was also scared. I had the flashing thought : 25 obstacles is a lot . I turned to Matt “25 obstacles is a lot.”  He smiled, ” Just one obstacle at a time.”  I love running races with Matt.

As we kept running and knocking our feet against the roots and rocks, I nearly stepped in a HUGE pile of horse shit. I guess the “moonlight” in Stables  made me forget about the shit that horses make. Other racers were laughing and warning the others, “watch out for horse shit!”  I thought , now this is truly an obstacle race. A place where OCR people can be half naked, race, get muddy and wet AND possibly step in horse shit.  I was tempted to create a new hashtag.

The first few obstacles were cool. There was a wall and something else, but it wasn’t too bad. Then came the fucking barbed wire crawl with mud. Did I mention I hate mud. I don’t hate mud on its own. I hate the feeling of it in my fingers and how it oozes through my index finger to my middle finger. Then my knees slide and I hook myself on the damn barbed wire. Matt was ahead. ” I don’t like this part either,” he yelled back at me. I felt a warm slosh go up my shorts as I slid through the brown, slippery slush.

Seriously, there was way more of that. The worst was the one where it was muddy water and I had to go IN IT. LIKE I HAD TO DUNK MY HEAD UNDER the water filled with silt, mud, bacteria and possible small leeches. I screamed like a 13-year-old girl.  I don’t need to toughen up, that shit is fucking uncalled for, Ok? Why was a small part of me having fun?  Really it was a mystery to me. That while I worried I may contract some disease from water that looked like diarrhea, I was still half laughing. I also wonder if anyone from the CDC has ever done a Savage Race.

savage-muddier-dunk

That “On the Fence” obstacle was fun and just the right amount of hard. I was able to do it; so I felt like a bad ass – especially because I had been such a pussy about the contaminated water. I was mostly crusty by then, mud crust just became part of my skin. My hands were light brown, and I had particles of sand and dirt in my mouth. My teeth felt dirty and coated with small bugs. I had to occasionally tell myself this is only temporary, because I had small panic moments of just needing to take a shower in that red hot minute.

I had pulled a muscle prior to the race, and it started to hurt. I wrestled with the decision but ended up foregoing the monkey bars. That sucked, but I didn’t want to tear my muscle more.

That ice bath was fucking insane. It felt so horribly horrible, awful and horribly freezing. It took my breath away. I too had no idea I would have to immerse my head in that fucking ice water. That was cruel.   Following the brain freeze, it felt great.  I was somewhat cleaned off, but how is that really possible when the ice bath was brown?  Just like any other thing in life, everything is relative.  I started to lose some judgements for the racers who wore no clothes, because damn that wet shirt was a pain in the ass to run in.

The great wall was not great at all.  I was scared to try it because even super fit strong men were slipping and falling. The rope was like the rope in Indiana Jones but completely saturated in mud and water. I ran with focus to try to grab it and slid immediately back. There was one guy focusing like he was in the Olympics; he just kept trying and slipping. The starting line started to crowd with people because no one could get up the  wall.  A few lucky he-men hung on the other side holding their iron hands down to help people over. At that point, Matt and Obs were yelling to me to use their bodies to get up the wall. ” Use your bodies?” I yelled in a question. Then Obs started yelling at me like I was in the army, “USE ME ! USE ME!” This made me feel very panicky and neurotic. Would I hurt them? The army commands continued as if she had a whistle. “COME ON STACIE!” “CLIMB ON HIM, JUST GO!” So I did. I climbed on Matt’s shoulders and laid on Obs and got myself up far enough to grab the iron hands. “I got ya, I got ya,” I heard the nice muddy guys say in very southern accents. Jesus christ I thought to myself, that was kinda crazy. I jumped down. The girls next to me admitted they just couldn’t do that shit. I looked them in the eyes and said, “I understand.” It was five minutes, but time stopped and I thought of nothing, I just focused on getting over that wall. That’s when I started to understand the experience I was having. I was about half-way through the race, and I was thinking of nothing. I was just doing the next thing there was to do. And because most of it involved some shit that was going to be cold or muddy as hell if I fell, I tried my best to do it without fail.

There were so many obstacles, I certainly can’t bore you with every one and what it was like, but I liked a lot of them. Carrying the wood was pretty easy, but that Tree Hugger thing kind of felt like they were calling our bluffs. Like – You all think you’re so strong and fit?  Yeah well, you’re not. And fuck that one with the barrel that you have to go under. Yet another opportunity to contract some mud infested creepy virus. Apparently, Matt said I had to use my shoulders to get under it but that showed he had practiced that shit.

I know it has a Savage Race name but that pea shooter thing was fun. Okay, it was like a black scrunchy looking tunnel. I loved sliding in that thing and it had no mud in it ! I shot pretty far out of that thing and screamed again like a 13-year-old.

I had to pee, don’t ask me why. Holy hell, I thought I was going to have an OCD attack when I pulled down my shorts and saw how much mud was everywhere. I had never seen so much mud and yuck before in my life. I mean could I justify an ER visit just to use their industrial water apparatuses? I had to literally unglue my shorts off and paste them back on my skin.

Then, I took a deep breath. We were almost there. I was almost to the dreaded height obstacle I had been fearing.

People were smiling and jumping. I was not smiling. I had lots of questions and Matt’s reply to most of them was, ” You just have to do it honey. You just have to do it.” “I don’t want to do it,” I said in a terrified murmur. I looked down, to my chagrin it was muddy son of a bitchin’ water . I thought, at least if it was clear I could’ve pretended cleanliness could be a reward at the end. Okay, we held hands. The guy on the side counted, “1…..2…..3…” I froze. “I can’t do it!” I turned and walked away and Matt stayed with me, assuring me I could do it. I had a huge lump in my throat; I wanted to cry. I was scared shitless and mad that people were seeing me this way. I mean way to blow my own cover and be an enormous pussy at my first Savage. So in that moment, Tyra said, ” I was so scared too, just don’t look down, just go.” So I did. I held Matt’s hand and on the count of 3 I went. My stomach lining fell into my legs. It was a long jump. I screamed so loud. It felt great, that I did it, I was so scared and I did it. I can’t say I’ll do that again, but it was cool.

So just to totally call myself out on what a chicken shit I am, I’ll admit the slide also made me shit my pants a little. I know, a slide with water should be fun. My 7-year-old son did it!!!! Oh and Matt reminded me of that when I began to panic and said I don’t want to do that. I know he was just trying to help, but I had already been “pussified” so many times.  It was the lip of that slide. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. It seemed so high, like if I let go I would get swallowed by something. Swallowed by something? Seriously this is getting embarrassing.  I did the same thing. I just held Matt’s hand and that guy counted, and we went. WOW, that was a fast slide, and I was alive by the end. It was maybe 3 minutes we were there, but time stopped. I only thought about that slide and getting down it. I didn’t think about anything else.

I realized I hadn’t thought about anything during the race but the race. The trail engulfed us while we ran or walked or climbed up hills. We made jokes and just went on to the next thing. We just kept going; even when things sucked, we knew we’d be onto the next thing. No one had a phone, no one had anything with them, just us. Whether I hated the mud or not, it was an unforgettable experience. I think you live a little more when you do an obstacle course race. The extreme conditions force you to be human with other humans. There is nothing to hide behind, and I liked that part. I guess I’m okay with looking like a pussy, and there were some pretty cool people watching.

savage-finish


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