Hammer Race 2018 – Spring – Do I bring a Hammer or Snow Shovel?

Hammer Race Spring 2018 Swag

Location:

Bluff Valley Campground-Zumbro Falls, Minnesota

Race Conditions:

One of my love/hate relationships with OCR is the unpredictability of the weather.  As Hammer Race states, “There Must Be Tests”, and for the 2018 Spring race, this was no exception. The days leading up to the event I was expecting to get an email stating the event was canceled but instead was re-assured by Event Staff that it would not.  As the impending record-setting snowstorm approached; the Staff continued to update racers via social media of the current course conditions, and how they planned to still put on the event; while also taking into the consideration of racer and volunteer’s commute and safety.

Hammer Race Spring 2018 Weather_Update

Any racer that did not show up to the 2018 Spring Hammer Race due to the weather would be allowed to transfer to the fall race.  For a small local event, allowing transfers really highlights the passion and respect the hammer race event team has for its small, but loyal group of race followers.

The Event:

Last year the start line was filled with people in shorts and summer clothing.  The grass was green, it was Spring!   This year, Spring didn’t show up.  The 20-40MPH winds, temperatures in the 20’s, and snowfall upwards of 1” per hour had the race starting indoors with slight course modifications (a bit shorter, and a few less obstacles).  Wave 1 consisted of elite individuals and teams; while wave 2 was the rest of the brave souls who decided to venture into unknown OCR meets blizzard territory.  Donning an 8-10lb sledgehammer in hand, each wave charged out of the building and into the great white wilderness.  I’m glad the Elites stayed on course and blazed a trail through the snow; as I started in the second heat and was happy to have footprints to follow.

Hammer-Race-Spring-2018-Snow.jpg

A fair amount of the event is bushwhacked through unforgiving hilly terrain that the area is known for.  This terrain is what I feel makes the Hammer Race such a special event.  It’s tough running even if dry.  The technical, rocky, steep terrain had you crawling and scraping on hands, knees, and hammer to the top of some climbs; just to send you sprawling down the hill on the backside grabbing for branches and small trees to control your descent.  These conditions made it challenging even for the most seasoned of runners.  The course was just shy of 10 K in distance, similar, but different routing than previous events and slightly shortened due to the weather conditions.

Hammer-Race-Spring-2018-Hill.jpg

Want to make running more challenging?  Carry a Hammer!  That’s not enough?  Add technical terrain.  Still want more?  Here’s a snow storm! Did I mention lots of wind?  How about some sleet to the face? I for one enjoy a suffer fest.  For this, the conditions were epic.

Hammer Race Spring 2018 Finish Approch

The Obstacles:

Hammer Race Spring2018 Crawl

Hammer Race Spring 2018 Roadkill

Hammer-Race-Spring-2018-Final-Wall.jpg

Obstacles generally consisted of the following:  Climbing over, climbing under, carrying, dragging or hitting.  I hope Hammer Race continues to innovate new obstacles that involve the use of a hammer for future races to keep it fresh.

Conclusion:

The way the race directors use the Zumbro Falls terrain may be one of the crown jewels of Hammer Race.  In the case of this past weekend, most events (regardless of type) would have been canceled.  I’m glad Hammer Race was not.  The long relentless Minnesota winter made the race one to remember, and I’m happy I made the drive to experience it.  Until next fall, Hammer’s Up!

If you came to this article to find out ‘What is the Hammer Race?’ (Which I did not explain)  See the link below:  http://obstacleracingmedia.com/race/hammer-race-2017-spring-hammers/

 

Hammer Race Spring 2018 Shovel_or_Hammer

Toughest Mudder South – A first-time Pit Crewing Experience

PREFACE:

When I decided to visit Atlanta, the idea spawned from the fact that I had a Season pass, and enough frequent flyer miles for a free flight.  Once realizing my Friends Chris and Dan were going to be running Toughest Mudder, and wanted a pit crew; I immediately volunteered since I wasn’t running.  They were some of the easiest racers to take care of.  With their directions, it was easy to understand what was needed from me to keep them going each lap; within a few laps I felt like a pro.

With my new realization that I must be an amazing pit crew, it was time to expand upon my new skill.  I walked over to the Goat Tough area where Gina Estrada was kicking ass pitting for some of the biggest competitive racing profiles in the OCR circuit including Adkins, Webster, Cichosz, Fischer and others.  She was busy and seemed stressed, so I figured I would offer my services as a form of an assist.  After impressing her with my ability to open a bottle of caffeine pills (skillz), I knew I could pit for anyone!

A few laps later, Matt B. Davis from ORM realized that the Second Place Male Ryan Woods’ pit breaks included running the 50 yards back to bag drop, whereas most people in the chase of Adkins had their pit within yards of the course entrance.  We moved Woods’ pit items and nutrition near the rest of the lead competitors, giving him a better chance to quickly get back out on the course.

2 Hours Remaining: How NOT to Pit for a Toughest Mudder Contender

With 2 Hours left, it was announced by TMHQ for the top 5 males and female pit staff to move to the ‘quick pit’ corrals adjacent to the course.  Adkins thought it was a good idea, as it would make him pit even more quickly.  I assisted in moving Adkins and Webster’s items down to their respective corrals.  Next is where things got awkward.

NOOB Mistake #1
I took the announcement that moving pit nutrition was required by TMHQ, so I started moving Ryan Woods items down to his corral.  After moving about 5 large containers of water and nutrition, I hear he is entering the pit and headed for the old location!  As a scramble as fast as my Clydesdale booty could muster, I grapple up all 5 containers and proceeded to sprint, leap, and bound back to the table where his items were stored.  Bashfully, apologetic and out of breath, I passed off all of his nutrition.  It probably only cost him a handful of seconds, but those seconds lost were caused by my ignorance.  In high spirits, he got right back out on the course.  Other than an evil glare and a few wise words from Mr. ORM himself, the crisis was averted.

NOOB Redemption #1
Next, comes Lindsay Webster; knowing she wasn’t aware that her nutrition was relocated, we start yelling her name (and I mean yelling at the top of our lungs).  As much as we yelled, we could not out voice the finish line announcer.    I’m pretty sure this person was hired by TMHQ to butcher racer names and torture pit crew ears.  Anyways, again I was off!  Sprinting through the edge of the pit like a cheetah after Lindsay.  Success!  I caught her; she turned around back to her quick pit station.  2nd crisis averted.

NOOB Mistake #2
As Ryan Woods enters the pit in 2nd place with 1 more lap to go, he asks the simple question, “How far back is 3rd?”  After a glance at the screen and sleepy math, it was determined he had around a 15-minute lead.  He was ecstatic and relieved.   I pass off the energy gummies I hunted down by bugging people in the pit earlier and wish him luck on his last lap. Next, to my surprise less than three minutes later, the 3rd place racer, Luck “Skyrunner” Bosek, enters the pit, takes a very short fuel break, and takes off!  Me in a panic, staring at the timing TV cannot figure out how this 12-minute mistake was made !?!? (TMHQ…. A simple formula for +/- times based on average lap pace on the timing screen would go a long way to help; it’s possible as I’ve played Mario Cart.)  I take off, running the yellow spectator route looking for Woods to warn him of the timing indiscretions….. But he was nowhere to be found; I had lost him.  As I slowly walked back to the pit feeling dejected, I couldn’t even fathom watching the finish line.  This would be up to Woods to pull out a victory ahead of an unexpectedly close racer.

 

 

In Conclusion
Woods did it; he came in 2nd and battled it out with Bosek on the course.  They did meet up that last lap, and it was up to the racer who dug the deepest.  This time, it was Woods.  I walked over after he scraped himself off the ground from exhaustion, and apologized.  He wasn’t even remotely mad; he was actually just thankful for the extra gummies.  I probably shouldn’t have been trying to help, since I had very little idea on what to do as a pit person for a contending Athlete. My first time pitting was definitely a jump into the deep end of the pool.  One thing is for certain, I will never forget how valuable a pit crew can be because they can make or break your race without even realizing it.  I will also value my pit crew even more now, knowing how difficult it can be.  As for Toughest……next time I’ll be on the course, it’s probably safer for all that way. Congratulations to all of the top finishers, your performances were amazing.

Photo Credit: Tough Mudder, the author, and ORM