Hyrox Dallas 2020

Hyrox Dallas 2020

A New Type of Fitness Competition

Hyrox is the new hotness of the fitness world in the United States. Though it may be new to us, the team behind Hyrox certainly has a lot of experience behind it. The popularity of the event overseas is quite high. After my experience in Dallas, it’s easy to understand why.

“What is Hyrox?” you may ask? Hyrox is a fitness competition involving a mix of running and functional workouts. This competition is always held indoors, at the same distance, with the same workouts, in the same order. Divisions are split into open men, open women, doubles women, doubles men, mixed doubles, pro women, and pro men.

The differences between these divisions being that, in doubles, teams are allowed to split the workouts as they please, but must run together. Otherwise, weights and or reps simply increase depending on which division a participant chooses. The order of the event is always as follows:

1km run

1000m ski erg

1km run

50m sled push

1km run

50m sled pull

1km run

80m burpee broad jump

1km run

1000m row

1km run

200m Kettle bell Farmers Carry

1km run

100m Sandbag Lunges

1km run

75 (women excluding pro)/100 wall balls

Finish

Organization

At first glance, the maze of barricades, rigs, and stations can seem to be chaotic. Countless thoughts run through your head. How will we know where to go? Where do we run? Will enough stations be open? As for Dallas, Hyrox was a graceful ballet of controlled chaos and every staff member and volunteer seemed to be on their A-game.

From the briefing to wave send off, to on course aid. Hyrox staff seemed to always know what their purpose was and how to most quickly and efficiently relay that information. This is key to running a good event. No matter how much stuff you have, no matter what great venue you have, if you do not run a tight ship it can all far apart and leave a sour taste in the mouths of participants.

Is Hyrox Really for Everyone?

Is Hyrox for OCR athletes? Maybe it for Crossfitters? Can everyone really complete a Hyrox event? The answer to all of these questions is: yes. Just like any other fitness endeavor, training is necessary if you would like to perform decently. It will push you to limits and test your grit. This is the reason that people participate in such events.

However, claims such as Hyrox being for everyone have no ground if the staff does not treat everyone equally and hold them to the same standards. From the beginning of the day with the open waves to the end of the day with the last pro waves, volunteers and coaches motivated every single participant in the same manner.

Establishing a Sense of Accomplishment

Everyone should have left feeling as if they accomplished something great. That is the core of what these type of events are about. The goal is to change people’s lives. It does not matter if you are Hunter McIntyre finishing the pro wave in 58 minutes and some change or if you are an open lady competing in your very first competition. The goal is to make you want to keep coming back and to keep improving! Is Hyrox for everyone? No. Can anyone do Hyrox? Yes.

Hyrox brings together a blend of spectacle, personality, and difficulty to create an empowering experience for each participant. It is quite obvious that they have planned and they have had plenty of practice. If any athlete had questions during the powerpoint briefing on their heat, they were quickly answered and explained. There was no “oh wait I don’t know let me see.” Of course, the fact that the event is the same every time attributes to this efficiency. This is often a gateway to success for many: pick a focus and execute it really well.

How Can it Work?

The Hyrox staff has developed quite the efficient technique of calculating exactly how many participants can be released in each wave to ensure that there is no backing up at workout stations. Though things can get slightly hectic in the running loop, the “fast” and “slow” lane separation helps. Ideally, faster runners hug the inside lane allowing them to pass slower runners on the right.

Of course, after all of the brutal workouts the occasional runner would be straggling in the middle of the lane, but skirting around them was never a huge issue. I did not see many runners get hung up even during the doubles waves.

Will I get Lost?

What if I forget where to go? I will fully admit it was completely possible to forget which workout you were on when your brain starts to shut down and you are just trying to keep moving. Hyrox takes every possible measure to ensure that racers stay on track though. Every workout station is manned by a knowledgeable volunteer. Every workout station has a giant blowup gateway with a readout of what number the workout is as well as the name of the workout, i.e. “ 08 Wall Balls 08”.

A large screen on the running course displays the names of participants as they cross a timing mat.  This screen displays what run lap you are on or what workout you should enter the “in” section of the course and complete before moving on. MANY times I was scatterbrained and not sure of what to do, but this screen and volunteers kept me on track. Is it possible to run an extra lap? Absolutely. Is it possible to skip a workout? Absolutely. However, Hyrox cares enough to take as many measures as possible to keep everyone on track.

Aid Station

There was only one aid station and it was the only one truly necessary. It was well manned and well serviced. This station was stocked with both water and the event sponsor: Refix (basically water and sea salt, doesn’t sound tasty, but when you’ve wept yourself dry of all electrolytes it’s pretty nice.) It was located at the “out” section of the workout area so that runners could fuel up before their running loops.

Equipment and Warm-up Area

Though the warm-up area was just a tad small, it was a far better warm-up area than I have seen at most CrossFit competitions. The area had every implement that would be used in competition. It was well stocked with plates and two sleds to practice the dreaded push and pull complete with a strip of that devil carpet. The warm-up area also contained: bike ergs, ski ergs, self-propelled treadmills, concept 2 rowers, kettlebells, mats, and wall balls. Each of these pieces of equipment was in tip-top shape, and a water station was in the warm-up area as well. Chalk was also readily available at each and every workout station.

If anything used by Hyrox is really going to incite participants’ frustration, it is going to be the carpet. Sled pushes and pulls are bad. Sled pushes and pulls on turf are bad, but sled pushes and pulls on this carpet are a step into hell forcing you to summon your own inner demons to escape its momentum breaking wrath. While the carpet never bunched on me, I could see it being a possibility. The carpet adds an element of difficulty which some may like or dislike.

The “Festival” Area

The stage was clearly visible and offered a seating area for awards. Vendors were set up nicely along with a cool little Michelob Ultra booth. The Puma store was nice and sales went through without a hitch. The workout zone for those spectators interested in learning how to prepare for Hyrox was a very nice touch that I wish other races and CrossFit competitions would incorporate more often. The goal is to get more people involved in these events and Hyrox seems to do a very good job of keeping that in mind.

So It Isn’t Perfect

The set up does have some drawbacks. Crosswalks over the running track were the only way in or out of the arena housing the event as well as the only avenue to the restroom. This caused security to have to perform the task of super decisive crossing guard especially as the faster runners got onto the course. Although this simple act of having to wait to cross was not a big deal for me, I could certainly see it getting stuck in the craw of some spectators.

Hyrox is not the perfect fitness event. It may not be up the alley of some athletes. It may deter strict endurance athletes. Is it the “World Series of Fitness” as its branding claims? Well, that depends on your personal definition of fitness. What Hyrox is, is a great bridge between the gap of CrossFit, OCR, and other realms of athletic performance. What is most important is that Hyrox does what they claim to do and they do it very well (or at least did in Dallas this February).

They treat every competitor exactly the same and they motivate each and every person to be their best. Hyrox does not just claim to be what will force you to dig deep. Hyrox does not drop you off in the well and leave you to find your own inner strength. It provides you with the tools to do so, and they jump in the well with you holding a light and saying “come on, you’ve got this.” If they stick to this type of passion and attention to detail in each and every event, Hyrox will become a much bigger attraction in the United States next year.

https://obstacleracingmedia.com/podcast/hyrox-explained-with-christian-toetzke-and-mintra-mattison/

https://obstacleracingmedia.com/podcast/hyrox-miami-2019-corrina-coffin-and-matt-kempson/

Valentine’s Day Massacre

We all compete in OCR because of the obstacles, right? If not, we’d all be signing up for road races. What if you learned there was a race out there where 50 obstacles were packed into a 2-mile course? Did I manage to get your attention? What if I also told you that this race would take place in the Midwest in the middle of February basically guaranteeing a frozen track? Well, Team Hydra and the Hazelwood MO. Park District pulled off such an event this past February 15th and I was lucky enough to take part in the brutality. This was year two of the St. Louis area event, and I felt honored to have covered both. This gave me the opportunity to see how the team drastically upped their game from year one to year two. There is a certain down-home hospitality feeling that you’ll notice at any event run by Team Hydra, the community really seems to get behind them. They actually had a volunteer at each and every obstacle giving instruction and praise along the way which is unheard of. Photographers were all over the place taking action shots and the concession stands were opened up offering anything a racer or spectator needed. Oh, and the shot shack! Yep, this event offered free shots to all racers post-race! This perk was an awesome idea as that Fireball shot I took after the race helped warm me back up quickly!

The race itself started at 10;30 a.m. by releasing the elite waves first, three racers at a time, three minutes apart. This proved to be a great way of keeping racers separated along the course while getting everyone out onto the course quickly. Athletes started out by racing out of the parking lot at the Hazelwood Sports Complex, crawling over a few picnic tables, and climbing under low crawl tubes.  Wooden pallets served as your ladder leading racers up to the top of the baseball dugouts, the landing pad for your descent was borrowed from the high jump pit. The baseball field backstop was also well utilized and brought into play as another climbing obstacle. Large plastic tubes were buried in the ground and provided the next “hurdle” along the course, followed up by the semi tire drag. Bucket carry, yup, placed right here. Team Hydra built some unique mid-sized walls and topped them with a 55-gallon plastic barrel that spun, they set two of these along the course and required athletes to haul a car tire with them as they traversed the obstacle.  Atlas Stones on a rope provided the resistance during the farmer carry while a short distance away heavy tractor tires were stationed for multiple flips. The last challenge on this third of the course was the triple rope climb. The three ropes were separated by two high jump style landing pads requiring an athlete to hop up onto and over a pad between rope one and two adding to the difficulty.

 

The second section of the course started out rather tame, as a few wall climbs and an empty 55 gallon barrel roll were all that were required. But this is where things turned nasty. After scooting up a warped wall a 50-foot rig traverse was looking you right in the eye. Now this was no ordinary rig, there were ropes suspended down, a wall of skulls to cross, rings, a low hanging wooden suspension bridge, AND to finish it off a series of the ever-popular Gibbons. Now, I don’t know if anyone actually finished this rig or not, but it was the toughest rig configuration I’ve seen in over 100 races, and there was a 40 burpee penalty for those who didn’t finish. If you managed to have any grip strength left or gas in your tank after all those burpees you were going to need it as a four-section of floating wall was the next obstacle up. Team Hydra did nobody a favor by moving the grips and footings closer together than in their previous races, making finishing it much harder. A 20 burpee penalty was the failure requirement here. A sandbag weighted Herc Hoist led racers away from the floating walls along a track featuring a series of 4-foot walls. Team Hydra then lined up some functional tests for athletes starting out with the yoke carry. The yoke consisted of a wooden plank with sandbags suspended off each side. Now, this wasn’t a very heavy carry, but it did take quite a bit of core strength to balance it out as you walked the required distance. A car tire and sledgehammer were waiting for you next, an athlete used the sledge to smash the car tire a short distance before moving on to an Atlas Stone carry.

 

A spear throw started off the third and final section of the course, multiple attempts were allowed here thank goodness! A Spartan Race style Olympus traverse followed leading to a cargo net low crawl. One last rig and a fire jump were all that now stood between you and that precious medal! But once again the rig was no joke, consisting of ropes, bungee cords, and a section of twister with a 20 burpee failure penalty. This led to many a racer doing burpees just a few yards from the finish. I found the Valentine’s Day Massacre to be a truly badass event, although it was geared a little more towards the competitive level racer. Team Hydra used everything at the park to their advantage giving racers a ton of bang for their buck. The race swag was great and who wouldn’t love free shots at the end of a race? The Hazelwood community did a great job supporting the event, everyone was cheerful and helpful despite wind chills in the 20’s.My final word on the event is if you like racing during the winter months than you must leave the middle of February open for the next Valentine’s Day Massacre.

Spartan Central Florida Beast 2019

Central Florida Beast

 

December 7th 2019 in Mulberry, Florida

Venue: Sunshine and Quick Times

The repeat venue of the Mims Co. Ranch in Mulberry, Florida was shined upon by the ideal weather for a Spartan Race of any kind. With a low in the mid fifties increasing to the low seventies by mid day Spartans could not have asked for better weather, aside from some dry air. The easily accessible ranch made for close parking to the festival area and though parking was a bit bumpy it was definitely sufficient. The course layout was a simple reverse of last years which did not seem to cause much of a problem.

Flat and Fast

The Ranch was flat for the majority of the Beast. Spartan did a good job of utilizing some rolling hills on a power line in the beginning of the course to slow down many who barreled out of the starting gate. They also used one very steep cliff on the ranch for a couple of short climbs and steep descents.

This broke up the consistent running through the ankle sprain mine field that was the Mims Ranch. The terrain was fairly technical considering the many divots and uneven ground throughout with many crawls under fences throughout. Tall saw grass and some toe catching tufts of tough dry pasture grass were also the culprits of a few bruised egos along the course. As always, the South Florida Beast gives out some of the best Beast completion times considering the landscape.

Course Layout

Aside from the main obstacles in the festival area, only as few were sprinkled throughout the backside of the course. This makes sense if you consider the great additions it made to the festival and spectator area. Many had gripes about the large gaps of simply flat running along fence lines. I agree with this. I feel that the running portions could have possibly been spiced up more, but it is really had to say considering we are not aware of what Spartan was allowed to clear out as far as trail.

The fact also remains that the majority of the land was flat and grassy regardless. Running along fence borders could have also been a good method of preventing racers from going off course. To my knowledge, the course markings worked quite well and there were not many who veered off course.

Multi-rig

The Spartan multi-rig was the typical Beast format of: rings, pipe, some other holds. Interestingly, rather than a ball or Force 5 grip of any kind spartan implemented two slick black ropes as the last two holds on the rig. This led to MANY failures throughout the day. Though it was early on in the course, staying high on those ropes proved to be difficult. Staying high was definitely a necessity because they placed the bells REALLY high on the rig.

Aside from increasing difficulty, I am sure this was meant to reduce the probability of the bell wrapping onto the top of the rig. Sadly, it did not, but more on that later. Spartans rigs usually aren’t very special, but this one offered a different challenge than most of the Beast rigs I have encountered.

 

Twister

With many open lanes and no grips on any of them, Twister seemed to go quicker than I have personally seen in other Spartans. The fact that I came off of it with silver paint on my hands makes me wonder if it had been freshly painted the night before, but it worked just as it should have. It was a long twister with three separate turning portions separated by trusts.

Some may consider this a negative and some a positive. Rather than a burpee pit, a penalty lap was offered for twister. The rub here being that the loop was only a quick quarter mile detour off of the race course. There was no elevation. There was no barbed wire crawl. This offered the potential to go a few rungs on twister, drop, and save grip while utilizing running speed to compensate. I’ll allow the reader to make their own judgment on whether or not that is “fair.”

Stairway to Sparta

Though it was much more difficult for many racers, I really enjoyed the adjust Stairway to Sparta. Stairway to Sparta is essentially just a large wooden A-frame with a difficult initial ascent placed at the bottom. For years, this was just a steep slip wall with a large board at the top racers could jump or climb to. The stairway now has a portion of planks which is rounded outward, towards the racer as they approach the stairway.

These planks do not continue on to the ground, but leave the bottom half open (i.e. no foot placement). On these planks are rock climbing grips. In order to ascend the stair way racers must utilize grip, core, and body awareness. They must pull themselves up using the grips until they can manage to sweep a leg and get a toe hold on one of the climbing grips. I found this a fun and welcome adjustment to an otherwise dull obstacle. Major kudos to Spartan on this design.

Olympus

The adjustments made to Olympus have certainly upped the difficulty. Course designers made the clever/sadistic decision to put racers through the sloppiest mud pit that they could find in Florida before forcing them to tackle the new, steeper, and slipperier Olympus. For those of you who have yet to encounter it, Olympus still consists of the same mix of chain holds with a ball grip, holes, and rock climbing grips.

However, rather than being made completely of plywood the bottom portion is now covered with the same slick high durability vinyl like covering as “The Box.” The angle of Olympus is also a good bit steeper. The combination of these two factors along with wet shoes eliminates the technique I’ll admit I always utilized. I used it because it was fast. I strictly used chains and my leverage to always keep my feet under me I could make large strides across Olympus and get it done quickly which saved my grip.

Spartan must have caught on to many utilizing this and made the necessary adjustments. I’m completely okay with that. I discovered a hole in my game and I am going to fill it. That’s what new or adjusted obstacles are supposed to do.

Final Obstacles (Carries, Spear, and a Jump)

 

After the infamous box, racers faced: another wall, a short sandbag carry which required sinking into a pit of mud both on the way in and out, the vertical cargo (with killer Irish table), the spear throw, Atlas, the A- frame cargo, and a fire jump. This portion of the race was very spectator friendly all the way to the finish. I found many spectators enjoying themselves which is becoming a more frequent sight at Spartan Races. The exclusion of burpees on Atlas is a welcome change. It causes much less back up at the obstacle. The only draw back here was a lack of volunteers at the sandbag carry and vertical cargo.

Spectator Area

The spectators were able to view a slew of obstacles from start to finish along easily accessible routes. The rope climb, the rig, herc-hoist, spear throw, sandbag carry, vertical cargo, the a-frame, Atlas, the fire jump, and one of the walls were all easily visible and not far from the festival itself. The box was only a short walk for spectators. The spectator route was one of the better ones I have seen at any Spartan.

Festival Area

The festival area featured much more to do than I have seen at previous races. Body buff had a free massage tent set up which was nice. There were quite a few vendors and contests. Alcohol and food tents seemed to be getting a lot of business. However, if you ask me, seven dollars for one beer is outrageous even for Spartan. All in all the festival areas have seemed to continue to improve which I greatly appreciate. There were many great areas for Spartans to get their much desired photo ops. All big teams were well represented. This was one of the better festival areas I have personally seen at a Spartan which was not a Stadion.

Now for the Negatives

The largest shadow cast over this sunshine was a problem that Spartan seems to have been dealing with all year- a lack of volunteers. I will give them credit. They were up front about it when the heats began. However, when I hang on the last rope of a rig asking for acknowledgment that my bell is wrapped on TOP of the rig and there is no way for me to hit it I would prefer an official be present. I dropped and did my burpees. It is what it is.

There were recurring issues such as racers continuously dropping bags at the herc-hoist only to be told to do burpees after the fact. That is a problem. There were no volunteers in sight at Armer which could have been easily ran past, racers could easily shorten the carry. That is a big problem. There were only a couple of volunteers at the vertical cargo (mostly after the Elite and Age group heats) who aren’t making it a point to tell racers not to use the pipes on which the Irish tables are mounted to climb- that is a big problem. Female racers wer not told IMMEDIATELY what sandbags to grab at a carry. That is a major issue.

Add Some Incentive

To my knowledge, Spartan values integrity. Spartan wants to remain top of the game. Spartan wants to become a globally recognized and televised sport. If all of these notions are true please show me how much you guys care about the integrity of your product. Offer better incentives to your volunteers. Pay some judges. The regulation Spartan upholds, when done correctly, is one reason that many die hard competitive athletes stay in the Spartan game.

Do not tell me all about how you are going to video my form on burpees ensuring I get full extension if you cannot first make sure that I properly have the ability to complete my obstacle avoiding them. Also please ensure that volunteers are at EVERY OBSTACLE. I had never seen Armer. Had I not asked before the race, I would have had no idea what to do. There were no lines. I saw only the giant Armer balls all in a row. My point is: Volunteers at a Spartan Race probably work harder and longer than at any other OCR. Give them reason to do so. Care about your people. Do not go the cheap corporate route or you lose the core values of Spartan as a brand.

Final Thoughts

Tweaks could have been made to the course, but all in all the Florida Beast was a pretty good experience. It was a good way to end my race season and I enjoyed it. I was happy with the course. I was happy with the obstacle quality for the most part. I was happy with what Spartan did do in order to spice up a otherwise bland chunk of terrain. If my schedule allows it, I will return next year. I would recommend this beast to anyone in the south who is close. However, if you aren’t there are many better options unless you just really want to run a flat, warm Beast, but who doesn’t want to do that?

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Epic Series Phoenix

OCR and Crossfit, Crossfit and OCR. The two seem to go hand in hand as many OCR types train in Crossfit gyms and many Crossfitters can be seen running on the obstacle course race circuit. So how does a hybrid event combining the two sound to you? Well, to me it sounds pretty damn interesting and apparently it does to the folks who run Epic Series OCR as well. Now, there are plenty of hybrid events popping up all over the country but Epic is specifically designed for the OCR enthusiast. Based out of Southern California, Epic has recently branched out to states in the North and East. I happened to be lucky enough to compete in their inaugural Phoenix event on December 14th, located on the grounds of the spring training complex of the Chicago Cubs. If you’ve never heard of Epic Series let me briefly break down their course model before I get into the nitty gritty of the actual event. Epic contains their entire course in an area the size of a standard Olympic 400 meter track, so they can set one up virtually anywhere. All of the obstacles\functional movements are set up in a series of rows inside this small area. The only running that takes place is around the rows of obstacles/functional movements when a row is completed, and Epic usually has competitors pick up something awkward to run such laps. In each row there are separate workstations which have 3 separate intensity\weight levels for racers to choose from. Open class, Women’s class Elite, and Men’s class Elite with the movement\weight made harder from Open through Men’s and color coded for easy picking. In the Elite wave athletes must pick the corresponding weight\rep scheme for their division.

 

Epic starts every race with their “flag lap.” Contestants grab a large flag with “Epic Series” printed on it and run their first circle around the event area. I believe this mainly serves as a way to spread racers out and keep the first obstacle from becoming jammed with occupants. The first actual obstacle along the Phoenix course was called the over\under. Epic set up a metal pole suspended horizontally about 18 inches off the ground. 20 repetitions were required here, dropping to the ground, rolling under the bar, then standing back up and hopping over the bar was considered one rep. Once complete an athlete then picked up a slosh pipe for their second lap around the work area. The next two obstacles in lane 1 consisted of jumping over a few low hurdles and picking your way through a spider web of ropes intertwined together. Epic then sent racers out for another lap; this time farmer carry style with a set of jerry cans that weighed approximately 10-20 pounds. Your grip then got a quick reprieve, but not your legs so much as burpee box jumps for reps was next up followed by overhead squats. The weight for the overhead squats wasn’t much more than a broomstick, but after the burpee box jumps the movement was still quite taxing. Did your grip recover? Hope so, because one more lap around the event area was now required, this time carrying a beer keg. The keg varied in weight as some were empty and others were full making the full lap taxing.  I witnessed many competitors lugging the keg in front of them or setting it down to rest midway. The last movement performed in Lane 1 was the Russian twist with a medicine ball for 20 reps.

After completion of each of the three lanes Epic required a pass through their “obstacle lane”. This lane consisted of having racers climb over a series of walls. A 6 foot wall, ladder wall, and inverted wall all needed to be scaled before climbing through a bouncy house and continuing to the next lane. Yes, I said bouncy house. At first, I thought it was kind of a joke, but after climbing through and over it numerous times during the day I found it to be no joke as you just never seemed to be able to stand up in the damn thing! The bounce house also seemed to tear off racing bibs as competitors dove through it, but it was a fun addition with the slide.

 

Lane 2 started by having athletes climb up and over a wall using only small rock climbing holds. This was followed up by my nemesis, the Epic balance beam. These balance beams are made up of 5 sections of horizontal planks, each topped with a series of pegs spaced a couple of feet apart. This thing gets me at least once every time I try it. It wobbles all over, the pegs are small, and it’s long. Any time I see someone fly across them I silently curse them. Once you finally got across the beams a set of battle ropes awaited you for a quick 15 reps. The Atlas Stone over the shoulder for 10 reps really got your blood pumping before moving on to the squat wall. What’s a squat wall you might ask? Well, wall sit is another name for it, and at Epic they’re timed by having the athlete hold an hourglass filled with sand out in front of them while sitting in the squat position against the wall. Male competitive time, which is the longest, is 3 minutes and not many racers make it through the entire time unbroken.  Blah and double yuck. From here you duck walked over to the last obstacle in lane 2, the keg hoist, which was like the Spartan Herc Hoist, only Epic used a beer keg. You had to hoist the keg up twice to complete Lane 2 and move onward with a second pass through the obstacle lane.

Are you into archery? Ever wanted to give the bow and arrow a try? Because the first obstacle in Lane 3 required an athlete to shoot a rubber tipped arrow at a target hung in netting. Striking the target was required before strapping an elastic band around your ankles for a short bunny hop. Kick off that annoying elastic band and you were almost finished! A quick duck and roll under one incredibly low cargo net, a plank hold for time, and last but not least, a rope climb. One last pass over the walls in the obstacle lane, through the bounce house, and a slide into the finish was all that separated you from that unique and very “Epic” medal!  The medal even has a nifty bottle opener on the back so it’s functional!

Now, you remember back at the beginning of my article when I talked about OCR and Crossfit going hand in hand? Well, if you signed up for the competitive waves you also got a chance to try your hand at the Epic WOD, where the female and male winners received a WWE style winners’ belt! Normally Epic offers an Endurance Elite option and a Strength Elite option with winners both getting belts. But due to the fact that they shipped everything from So Cal to Phoenix they just offered one hybrid course and I’ll now explain the setup. First off, all the exercises and reps were the same for male and female, only the weights were changed and there was a judge who followed you through the whole course. The WOD started off by strapping an athlete into a harness for a Nissan Titan truck pull. This was followed by picking up a long sandbag and tossing it over a 5-foot wall. The racer then followed the sandbag by jumping over the wall themselves, this was done for 5 reps. The same sandbag was then picked up and carried for a lunge for distance. The bag was then ditched in favor of a barbell for 10 reps of a clean and press. Kettlebells were then utilized for a 10 rep step up walking between 2 boxes. Your next movement again required a sandbag, this time heavier, circular version, for 10 reps of an over the shoulder toss. A true outdoor WOD wouldn’t be complete without a tire flip, right? You got it! 10 flips of the tire got you moving on to last movement, the deadlift. All it took you was 10 more reps here before crossing one more balance beam which led to the finish.

To add to the enjoyment of the day, Coach Pain lent his iconic voice as the emcee reminding everyone to Conduct Your Business! I’ve always found the Epic Series to be extremely challenging, yet fun. If you’re a Crossfitter curious about OCR, or an OCR racer who’s tired of the endless running then this series is for you! I’d also like to give a shout out to local resident Jamie Hines for bringing his supreme photography skills to the event. Jamie, it’s always so nice to see you and your lovely wife filming while I’m on the course!  Now get out there an BE EPIC!

 

 

 

 

Montane’s Cheviot Goat – England’s Loneliest Winter Ultra

In most races we do, our friends and family offer encouragement and say things like “good on ya” for trying.  The Cheviot Goat Ultra is not one of those races.  In the lead up to this event, the few times I’d honestly explain what the Cheviot entailed I’d watch facial expressions turn from curiosity to horror.  Then I’d get the exasperated follow up: “why would you do that to yourself?”

 

Well, the Cheviot Goat is billed as England’s Loneliest Winter Ultra.  As the crow flys, it’s an unmarked course that traverses 54 miles along the hills and bogs near Scotland.  By most standards, the individual mountains are fairly small but they collectively manage to gain 9,800 feet.  The weather’s cold, the winds are strong, and the “Bogs of Eternal Misery” are truly awful. The exposure is so real that runners are required to carry a survival bag and GPS tracker with an SOS button.  If people quit anywhere past the halfway point they’ll likely need both to make it long enough for Mountain Rescue to extract them.

 

After reading about this last year, I was so turned on that I flew in from Alaska to join 278 like-minded runners from across the globe last Saturday for the 2019 Cheviot.  Despite jet lag, pre-race insomnia and daily panic attacks leading up to race, when the 3-2-1 start happened all the nerves went to zero.  In almost all of the N+1 challenges I’ve done, once the safety of the starting corral is gone and the body has no other choice but to continue forward the near crippling anxiety and self-doubt invariably stops.

Shortly after the Start

Despite a bazillion false summits, the first five miles of climbing were amazing.  The initial course was muddy and truly sucked (literally and figuratively), but the steady stream of headlamps snaking through the respective elevations was surreal.  When the sun finally started to rise, the early morning lit up the multi-color hills so vividly that it felt like we were running within a work of art.  I lost several places stopping to take in the morning vistas, but didn’t regret the decision one bit.

Views that Validate Months of Training

The first genuine ordeal along the course was navigating the fabled Bogs of Eternal Misery.  They’re hilly and go on for miles!  I’d only read about these bogs, but the descriptions usually involved expletives and fear.  I can testify: the stories are true.  Bogs are crap things to “run” through.  There’s no straight path between them, they can be quite large and it’s anyone’s guess how deep you’ll sink if you fall into their water.  They’re a simple but terrifying thing to negotiate: line up from a tenuous position on one side to a landing spot on the other side you hope is stable enough to support your weight, then jump across several feet of water with the aid of prayer or trekking poles and hope you won’t fall into something that swallows you whole.  Screw it up and you’ll sink to your knees or worse.

The reward for graduating the bogs was climbing to the courses’s highest summit and namesake: The Cheviot. Since there were 80 MPH winds forecast for the evening, the race directors had us run the course in reverse so we’d hit this highest and most exposed peak early in the day.  It was a smart call.  Near the summit, the course marshals were supporting us in truly awful conditions.  The tents they had for shelter were being blown around like rag dolls, it was misty and cold!  I can’t adequately express how much I appreciate them for being out there in that weather to keep us safe.

 

From the start line to the Cheviot Summit, through to the halfway point at Barrowburn, navigation wasn’t really an issue.  The terrain often sucked, but finding the right path was manageable.  There were the treacherous stone slabs along the Pennine Way to guide us or clusters of people to follow.  But once we reunited with our drop bag at the halfway point and night fell, it became a different race altogether.

Luckily for me, I started the back half with a fighting chance because I’d made a friend.  Somewhere around mile 20, a group of us guys stopped to pee (#hydrateordie) and when we started running again I found myself pacing with a cool guy named Tim from Newcastle.  We’d both watched beaucoup navigation tutorials on YouTube, but if our lives came down to orienteering via compass we were as good as dead.  Continuing on like we did at night might have been more an act of faith than smart racing, but sometimes the dice are what you’ve got… At the very least, we felt safe having company.  We went off course a lot, but somehow always managed to find our way back and avoided dying.

 

Once it got colder and dark, it also started to rain and my glasses (which I really, really need to see) became useless for several hours.  The 80 MPH winds showed up a bit later and amplified the rain’s suck factor by a lot.  I was able to follow Tim’s feet and check my GPS for bearings when need be, but only briefly.  At its peak, the wind was so strong it ripped the glasses off my face so many times I had to secure them in my pack.  If it hadn’t have been for Tim’s help here (and elsewhere), I would not have finished this race.  Functional blindness wasn’t a contingency I’d planned for.  Friends matter.

 

The back half took so long that I stopped looking a my watch.  There were bogs, hills, bogs on hills, more bogs and more hills (with bogs). I got depressed, sleepy and started to hallucinate somewhere around mile 45.  Coming down from a hill (through more bogs), there was an unusual amount of glistening green grass that was covering grave markers spaced out through the mud.  I couldn’t figure out why they’d route us through a cemetery until I realized the gravestones I was seeing weren’t real.  Apparently, the 12 hours of sleep (total) in the days leading up to the Cheviot was enough to induce my first ever race day hallucination.  Despite this epiphany, the gravestones wouldn’t go away! For about another mile, I continued watching one gravestone after another pass underfoot without saying a word.

 

When I finally mentioned how sleepy I was feeling, one of the runners (aka Guardian Angel) pulled out a thermos of coffee and Tim handed me a caffeinated gel.  Literally within minutes, I got my mind right.  Over the remaining hours we’d get lost again, climb a bit more and muddle through more bogs, but after 19 hours and 21 minutes we finally ran through to the finish line.  At the close, the staff and race director were waiting to shake our hands, pass out medals and make sure everyone got a finisher pic.

Technically and physically, the course was brutal.  Including screw ups, our route spanned roughly 57 miles with 11,500 feet of gain. It also entailed a lot of time stopping to ask “where the hell are we?” and trying to find our way back to where we were supposed be.  Of the 279 people that started, 237 finished.  One of those finishers was John Kelly (last person to finish the Barkley Marathon) – who finished about 9 hours before we did.  The others?  I’m not sure what the profile was of a representative runner, but at my pace I was chatting with some fairly experienced people with big races under their belt like the Dragon’s Back.  It was a super welcoming crowd, but definitely not the place to make a run at your first ultra distance.

I’m incredibly grateful to the race staff at Cold Brew Events and the North of Tyne Mountain Rescue Team for hosting a truly epic event.  This thing was intense, but the objective dangers were managed so well that I had zero doubt if I needed to push my SOS button someone would have been there to save me.  Happily that wasn’t needed.  If you’re considering a race-cation like this or want to get in on the action for the challenge’s sake, I’d recommend not putting it off.  This was year number 3 for their series and it sold out. My hunch is that it’ll become an increasingly popular event and progressively harder to get into as the years go by – rightly so.

Safety doesn’t Just Happen – They Worked Hard to Make Sure we were Okay

If you’re so inclined, I posted roughly 3 minutes of live footage from the event set to holiday music (from one of America’s great treasures) to my YouTube Channel.

 

Photo Credit: Mari-Ann Secker, Cold Brew Events, Course Marshals

Ottawa City Chase Rush

City Chase is a Canadian urban adventure race, taking teams of two+ to various checkpoints by-way-of a scavenger hunt throughout the city. While the traditional City Chase distance of events past was longer, this past weekend’s Ottawa City Chase Rush offered participants a more condensed version. It comprised of a map including twelve clues, which teams used to navigate around Ottawa’s Downtown, Centretown, Byward Market and Sandy Hill neighbourhoods. Participants had three hours (10am – 1pm) to find and complete 8 of the twelve checkpoint challenges, three of which were mandatory. City Chase always had a huge charity component. Three local community organizations that support children and their families who are faced with the diagnosis of a serious illness benefited from Ottawa City Chase Rush. These include: Kids Kicking Cancer Canada’s Heroes Circle Program, Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation and CHEO Foundation.

The race began at the Startline located at the Royal Oak at 180 Kent Street in Downtown Ottawa just after 10am, with chasers locating the course map on the other side of the building. Chasers then proceeded to decode the checkpoint challenge clues and strategize as to their route of choice, or simply run to the first checkpoint they recognized. City Chase is truly a “choose your own adventure” type race, as not all checkpoints are mandatory. Although there are always a few overachievers who attempt and even complete ALL checkpoint challenges. My team located and completed the following checkpoint challenges in order:

 

  1. Money, Money, Money (a scavenger hunt at the Bank of Canada Museum
  2. Let’s dive in (Locating the hockey puck at the bottom of a pool with a number that corresponded with the rubber ducky you selected)
  3. Power, Peace, Purpose (Karate instructed by Kids Kicking Cancer Blackbelt Volunteers)
  4. Tug-o Truck (a firetruck pull)
  5. Can you find him? (Finding Waldo at Bayward Market)
  6. Tasty Treats (Fish heads, dog biscuits, hot peppers, M&Ms, gummy worms)
  7. Stretch it out (Bunny Yoga!)
  8. The Yard (a scooter and hopscotch obstacle course)

City Chasers were to locate all checkpoints by foot. This resulted in a total of 14kms (8.7 miles) ran by my team. This was excessive due to critical errors. The atmosphere is cooperative with an emphasis on fun and charity over the competition.