SoCal Spartan: Surprises for 2019

It’s the first Spartan race of the year and there are a lot of exciting new obstacles, as well as the 2019 medals and shirts. Oh yes…..and make sure to read to end because I’ll share a surprise announcement that I love love love!

NEW HEADBANDS:
It’s Saturday, January 26. I’m so excited to get to the first race of the year in Southern California. The venue is Prada Regional Park in Chino. It’s sunny but very windy, similar to last year. The course is relatively flat and open, with really beautiful territorial views. I picked up my packet and the first change for 2019 is right inside. Elite and Age group racers will now wear a red headband instead of a wrist band. I love the idea of one less thing to wear on my wrist.

NEW OBSTACLES:
Once we got underway we came across familiar obstacles such as the Overwalls, 6′ and 7′ walls, and Bender. Then we made it to the new obstacles. One of the most challenging for me was Beater. There are three sections before you hit the bell. Each section contains a rotating spindle with four bars attached and a fixed bar in between that is placed quite high. Momentum is extremely helpful in completing this obstacle. I did see one person skip the top fixed bars completely by swinging and catching the next rotating section….very impressive!

Next, was Olympus with a twist! They added balls to the chains (that’s exactly what I thought when I approached it….the ole ball and chain). I thought the balls would make it harder so I didn’t use them and ended up falling off. Burpee time. After the race, I talked with several people who used them and they said it was easier for them. I’m definitely trying them next time.

The 8-foot box may be a replacement for the 8-foot wall, but I haven’t confirmed that. This one is going to take some figuring out for me. I did see a few people get up and over by running and scurrying up to the top, but there were also several people in the burpee pit, including me. One person had success by using two ropes and catching their heel at the top. Something that adds a little more difficulty, is it doesn’t have a hold at the top like a regular wall. There is a metal bar that sits back several inches but you are practically up there by the time you can grab it and it definitely makes it a challenge!

Now this one is for me! I’m a shorty, so I was very excited to see the tubes. I was able to bear crawl through them quickly. These aren’t meant to be difficult, but to slow you down. Finding the quickest way through is key.

Helix has been one of the most talked about new obstacles on social media. I was nervous about this one and didn’t know what to expect but, with patience and careful foot placement, I made it across just fine and really enjoyed it. You can’t touch the top or place your feet on the ground but you can hold the sides or anything in between. There are bars that go across as well as up and down; however, there are plexiglass panes in some of the sections which prevent you from getting a good foothold or handhold.

The last change was the spear throw. Instead of hay bales, they have what appears to be styrofoam bodies. They seemed to be holding up well and the view was spectacular with the lake in the background. The wind had really picked up but it was behind us here which I was very thankful for.

NOT NEW BUT EPIC:
I had to add the mud mounds because they were the tallest ones I’ve seen. They were definitely a challenge, but so much fun. Several of us would get halfway up and slide back down, over and over. Finally made it, but that was one doozie of a mud mound/dunk wall. I will have to say there was a semi-new part to it. The actual dunk wall was inflated instead of wood. It’s wider on the bottom so you have to push through a little more, but nothing too different.

SPECIAL MENTION:
One last bit of obstacle information regards the atlas ball. I wasn’t sure if I was tired or the ball got heavier, but the staff member on site said it is definitely heavier this year. No confirmation of the weight but I could feel the difference. Time to go to the beach and start picking up rocks.

NEW SHIRTS AND MEDALS:
The shirts and medals are similar to last year but have some changes that make them unique to 2019. The medals have color sections which indicate the type of race such as Sprint, Super, or Beast. The shirts are made from the same technical material but the wording is laid out differently and the sponsor, Rakuten, is displayed.

SURPRISE ANNOUNCEMENT?????:
I mentioned at the beginning there was one super cool new item I would share. I’m so excited about this one ***drum roll***

There are now porta-potties at the water stations! Hallelujah!!! It’s always been a fine line between staying hydrated and being able to burn off the water intake during the race. This is a very very welcome addition. Thank you, Spartan for hearing and delivering!!!

Hope you enjoyed the preview of what the year has in store. Have a great race season everyone and let me know what you think about the new obstacles. 365 new days…..365 new opportunities to shine! Go get it!

Photo Credit: Rage Strader, Kim Collings

29029 Everesting Review (Vermont 2018)

29029 Review Mountain

“If it’s easy, go a little faster! If it’s easy, stay out one loop longer!” These words were preached to us by Jesse Itzler as he stood on top of a short ladder at 5:55 am on Friday. 175 additional participants have gathered around as we were about to begin 29029 – Vermont 2018, a bit nervous, a little cold, and very excited.

I remember those words very clearly now as I watch the post-race video and attempt to relive the feelings of that morning. Could I have gone faster? Could I have gone one loop longer?

Jesse

Jesse Itzler has a track record of making things that people really want before they know they want it. In his twenties, he wrote rap songs, then sold them to the NBA. He famously started one of the first jet rental companies. Think Uber for the sky, but before Uber, then sold that to Berkshire Hathaway Next he helped jump-start Zico Water as coconut water became “a thing” before selling that to Coca Cola. Through coaching and speaking gigs, he often talks about “the life resume”. As in, who cares that you’ve worked for “such and such company”, or snagged “this many degrees” from this university. His coaching website asks “What if we could land our dream job or get that promotion we always wanted because of our experiences? What if we felt more alive working and with our family because of HOW we lived our daily lives?”

This is not an uncommon thought. In the last 10 years, there have been countless reports that consumers value “experiences over things”. Events like Burning Man and EDM concerts, 50-100 mile ultra marathons, and 10-12 mile, mud, fire, and barbed wire filled obstacle races have all seen worldwide participation increase.

Jesse and his business partner Marc Hodulich created 29029 to be one of these life resume building experiences. 29029 is the vertical feet of Mount Everest. Mount Everest has been a bucket list item for thousands of people for the last 20-30 years. Cost estimates range from $30-45 thousand dollars to complete the expedition. It will also take you around 60 days to complete the mission.

You may have guessed, once again, people want something Jesse has the vision for.

29029 Tents

So What If We Brought The Mountain To You?

Jesse and his team rent a mountain, provide entrants with glamping style yurts, and all the meals and aid station food they need. Then open, that mountain for 36 hours and invite participants to climb up, take the gondola down, and repeat until they hit 29029 (which is 17 laps).

The price tag, starting at 4 grand to share a 3 person tent is 10 times less than going to the actual Everest. Plus guests don’t have to deal with all of that silly altitude sickness or worry about falling to their death.

The entry fee on face still gives sticker shock to many, but when we take a deep dive into total costs and overall “value”, compared to events like Iron Man it levels the field some.

Other than food and shelter, the add-on assets are of massive value. There’s coaching available through an online trainer, plus a Facebook group, which includes current and past participants happy to help you with questions and advice. The next benefit provided is the Thursday night speakers. The 29029 team brings in top-level presenters who spoke Ted-style for 15 minutes each. For this trip, the speakers included Olympian Joe Malloy, mountain climber/explorer Colin O’Brady, endurance expert Alex Hutchinson, Wim-Hof instructor, Dr. Trish Smith, and of course, Jesse himself.

29029 Everesting Talks

You are not only learning from these people, but you are also getting a chance to complete the event with them. Over the course of the weekend, I was able to chat with all of the speakers at least once while climbing. You aren’t going to leave a TedX talk and go run a marathon with the person you just watched on stage the day before.

On a gondola ride down the mountain after a lap with Colin, he told me why he returned for a 2nd time to this event. “I’ve never seen such a level of camaraderie and grace that happens out here. It brings all sorts of people out. I walked away from the last one with at least 10 friendships”.

Friday Morning

29029 Review Friday Morning

Jesse is ending his speech “we keep going until there’s one left, and we enjoy it cause we earned it! Let’s have a great day”. I turn to the stranger next to me, and as his headlamps shone into my eye, I gave him a fist bump and we were off.

A strong suggestion for this event is to have hiking poles. I am not an experienced climber, but I had convinced myself I would not need the poles until at least the 2nd lap, and maybe the third. I mean we’re just walking up a mountain right? Halfway up the first climb, my heart rate was through the roof, and my legs were burning.

This was lap 1. How in the hell can I do this 16 more times?

And so it begins. The first of somewhere between 1,000 an 100,000 times, “The Committee” from inside the mind says

“Why are you still walking? Many things are sore or hurt. Doesn’t a warm bed sound nice?” “Let’s stop completely when we finish this next one”

The Committee is quiet at first, but they tend to get angrier and louder the longer you stick in the race.

To complete an event like this, you must out vote, outwit and outlast The Committee. You can do this any number of ways. For me, I just do my best bring myself back to right now. So when They say “16 more”. I say “Just take another step” When the committee says “This is going to take forever!” I say “Look around, take in all this beauty, isn’t this awesome. We are so lucky to be here!”.

It’s a discipline that must be repeated over and over throughout the journey. There will be times The Committee has gone silent and I think I have an event licked, only to have them return again hours later.

Another tool I use is connecting. The Committee wants you to stop and be alone. They can be really really loud when you are by yourself, especially in the darkest hours. So the best thing I have found to do is connect with other people. You can do this directly by seeing a participant and saying “Hey, I am really checking out here, can we talk and walk for a while”. Or, if this is not your style, ask a person how they are doing. Often times, they will come back and tell you that they needed someone to reach out at that moment to get them back in the game.

29029 Recap Day One

To Plan Or Not To Plan

The biggest question asked amongst participants is “What’s your plan?” as in “Do you plan on going straight through the night” or rather “Sleep some and do the rest tomorrow? Jesse implored us not to make a plan until we have done 2-3 loops and get a sense of how long each lap is taking. Information emailed before the event told us that “average person” does a lap in one hour, plus the 15 minute ride down. This, of course, does not account for clothing changes, bathroom breaks, etc.

There is plenty of aid station food along the way plus full meals served inside from Noon to 2 pm and from 6 pm to 8 pm. My goal was not to take a “real break” until at least the 6 pm “dinner break”, then adjust from there. The afternoon break was easy to skip, I was knocking out laps under the 75-minute average, enjoying myself, making friends, and easily digesting various aid station foods of bars, pretzels. and gu packets. Somewhere around 2 or 3 pm, my legs were starting to really hurt. Someone suggested I go inside and get a massage and/or use the Normatec leg stations provided. After telling my ego it did not make me a lesser man to do so, I went inside, had someone help me get inside the legs, and turned them on for 30 minutes. I also drifted off to sleep for a few as I in prone position what I would call a Normatec barc-a-lounger. I got out, put on some pants, changed my drenched buff, and felt like a new man

Nightfall

I was done with Lap 10 shortly after 7 pm and feeling pretty good. It was now dark, the temperatures were dropping and those still on the mountain were now facing that “What’s your plan “question square in the face.

Plan A: Call it quits, get rest and start fresh tomorrow. On its own, this plan sounds great. However, we all felt fortunate not to have any rain and the temps stayed above freezing. Anyone who is from those parts of Vermont can tell you that mountains tend to have their own weather system. Less than 24 hours before, the area had torrential rain and it threatened to return at any time. Reports were showing that Saturday would certainly have rain and cooler temperatures.

Plan B: Staying out all night, which carries its own risks. What if I push too hard, pull or tweak something so badly that it takes me out for the rest of the weekend. Also, certain parts of the climb were very muddy. With only a headlamp guiding my way, what if I took a tumble that did some damage, ending my quest for 17 laps?

I decided that finishing 12 was the magic number of hikes for me for day one. I reached the top of my 12th lap shortly after 10 pm. I had been awake for 17.5 hours and climbing for the better part of 15 hours. On the gondola ride down, I met Ray, a real estate developer from Alabama. We talked about how the event had surprisingly surpassed all his expectations. He said the quality of the production, the camaraderie he was finding, and the challenge itself was giving him way than his money’s worth.

I only found out what Ray did for a living as the ride ended as I questioned him for the purposes of this article. It wasn’t until I politely asked several additional questions, that I found out about his financial status. It turns out Ray is very successful, as in flew to the event in a private plane, successful. Several at the event, did the same.

Leave your judgment at home

When I first came upon the website for 29029, I had looked at the promise of fancy tents, curated food, and a big price tag and that pervasive word “privilege” came to mind. Many who saw my post online announcing my attempt at this event, had shared similar thoughts.

As a society, we are often told not to judge a book by its cover. Most of the time, we take that to mean don’t think less of a person because they may come from poverty or are a different color. I can’t remember the last time someone pointed out to me (or anyone) that those that have attained some wealth deserve the same amount of empathy and compassion.

My own pre-conceived notions of “rich white people” were smashed this weekend. It occurred to me that nothing was “privileged” about them. They aren’t lottery winners nor are they descendants of kings and queens. They’ve worked their asses off for what they have, and want the same health, happiness, and success that any of us “common folk” want for ourselves and our families.

As I looked back up at the mountain one more time before going to bed for the night, I saw the glow from the chain of tiny headlamps slowly going up the 1.3 miles and 1750 vertical feet of Stratton Mountain. I challenge anyone to guess the bank balances connected to those lights.

Saturday Morning

I snoozed the heck out of my phone alarm when it went off and left my tent later than I planned. I did not find myself leaving the breakfast table until about 7:30 am. This gave me a little less than 10 hours to do 5 climbs, but I did not want to be anywhere near the time cutoff. My goal was to knock out the last laps out one after another. No gear changes and no leg compression breaks.

As I began my first climb, I ran across Colin, the real -life mountain climber that I heard on Thursday night and asked if I could hike with him. This meant going slightly faster than my normal pace, but I knew it would be worth it As we passed the halfway point, we were hiking in snowfall. I stopped to take some photos and to enjoy the beauty of where I was. Every lap on day two was a joy.

Every step is a step closer to finishing. The Committee is near silent because I’d pushed through to get ahead of the curve the day before. I even started something I called “reverse ninja math” on The Committee which made the climbs go by even faster. As I started lap 12, I said to myself. “Only 5 to go, which is really only 4 to go”. Next lap up I said to myself “4 more to go, but I’m already on this one, so it’s only 3 more to go!”

The mood on the mountain that day can only be described as awesome. The volunteers and staff, who have been cheering everyone on since the event started, are sharing in the excitement as participants get closer and closer to completing the challenge. The last lap is truly a celebration.

When participants begin the 17th lap, they receive a special red bib. The bib announces that you are going up that one last time. I high fived many wearing their red bib that I passed or that passed me that morning on their way to 17. When they put my red bib on me at around 12:30 pm, I swear to God I felt lighter. The electric warm fuzzies are at an all-time high as I stopped to hug almost every person I came in contact with during that last lap. As I approached the last 250 feet, tears began to well up in my eyes. I was confident when I began that I would reach my goal of 17 laps, but that doesn’t make the finish any less sweet.

After one of the longest, hottest showers of my life, the rest of the day and night are a blur of hugs and war stories. At the final dinner, there’s a nice speech by Jesse and a medal ceremony where each participant gets a medal for the number of laps completed. The medal is nice, but we were already given a giant wooden plaque that we got to brand with a hot iron. The medal will go in a box somewhere, the plaque will hang in my office.

Back at home, I watched that post-race video again. What if I had gone one loop longer? My first reaction is to say yes. I could have gone 18 or even 19 laps, but the longer I look, that is ego looking for “most laps glory”. This event is not about who can do the most laps or who can be the last man standing. It’s about chipping away at a goal that seems insurmountable at first. It’s about commitment, which my dad defines as “doing what you said you would, long after the mood you said it in, has left.”

All Photos Courtesy: 29029. Additional photos located here.

*A video will be posted here soon with day of arrival swag, plus finisher bling.

29029 Review

Valentines Day Massacre

I love when new OCRs invite me to cover their inaugural event as I get to see first hand the innovative ideas that new race directors come up with. The Valentines Day Massacre, held February 16th in St. Louis, didn’t disappoint. This area of the country was lacking an event since The Battlegrounds sold out to Tough Mudder the previous year and tapping into the expanding winter OCR scene was a great way to bring back the fun! Now, VDM didn’t just throw a fire jump and low crawl into a trail race and call it an OCR, and while those two fan favorites were included VDM added some functional fitness elements that included tasks that tested a racers overall strength and fitness level along a course that lasted just 2 miles. Held outdoors at the Hazlewood Sports Complex, VDM tucked all their obstacles along and through the athletic fields on site in an action-packed, and fan friendly way. The weather actually added to the difficulty as 2 inches of fresh snow had fallen the night before and the race time wind chill was around 10 degrees making the grip-related obstacles just that much tougher.

VDM started out with the day with their elite waves beginning at 9 in the morning, but in a unique way as groups of three were released every three minutes. I found this to be a great way to stagger heats as I saw no lines at any obstacle anywhere on the course. The race itself started off much the way any other race would but sending athletes on a bit of a run to separate the participants. From there things got hot and heavy, well, actually just heavy as racers were required to squat down and pick up a snow-covered Atlas Stone for a short carry. Do you like heavy carries? Great cause VDM loaded up this section of the race with them as an ice bucket carry was also situated here along with the most unique carry test I’ve ever experienced.  VDM stuck sandbags into each leg of a pair of pants, then left them outside overnight to freeze.

If you thought taking a Wreckbag up and over walls during the summer was tough you hadn’t seen anything yet as this proved to be the most exhausting task of the day. An A-frame needed to be traversed with this “death bag” along with several walls topped with large plastic barrels that spun making this a supreme test of overall strength and left athletes winded to the max.

I was wondering if Wile E. Coyote would be joining me on the next obstacle as VDM used an anvil for drag and carry, no Road Runner or Acme rocket was seen though. You really got into the swing of things on the last obstacle in this section of the course as a dual Tarzan swing was next up. High jump landing pads were spaced a good 20 feet apart for each of these swings making it the longest swing on an OCR course that I’ve ever witnessed. That was followed up with a rope climb before sending racers through the dugouts on the baseball fields which had caution tape strung through them acting as a type of low crawl.

After a brief foray between the baseball diamonds, VDM set two 9-foot walls in a racers path. This led to a 14-foot rope aided warped wall climb with an interesting twist as a rig was set up underneath, and this rig was a killer. Monkey bars suspended by chains led to a series of 3 vertical ropes. Tough but doable right? That was only the halfway point though as a set of horizontal rock climbing holds led to a series of rings for the finish.

Now, VDM was nice during this event because it was cold out and placed a hay bale to stand on between each section, but I was told once it warms up for their next event the hay would be removed. Hope you saved some grip strength as a four section floating wall was next up with the handholds consisting of various rock climbing holds along with chains and balls. 4-foot hurdles were set along the trail leading to a cargo net low crawl set so low to the ground it pulled my stocking hat off. Lifting heavy shit again came into play with a 10 rep tire flip, and I have it on good authority that the men’s tractor tire weighed north of 350 pounds. Trying to get a grip on the snow-covered ground was next to impossible. Not quite as heavy, but way more awkward VDM set out a yoke carry made with a wooden beam balancing a frozen sandbag on each side. Let me tell you that when those sandbags got swinging back and forth it took all you had to right them.

After dumping that impossible load off your shoulders, a racer faced a series of three hoists which again utilized sandbags and got progressively heavier as you went down the line. One last 5-foot wall led athletes back towards the festival area, but not before climbing over a series of tractor tires stacked up on the ground and the obligatory fire jump. This race was perfect for those of us who are tired of races consisting of endless miles of running. OCR has expanded recently into events containing heavy movements to draw in the Crossfit crowd and I’m glad they brought this to the Midwest. Although lightly attended racers that did brave the weather felt like they got their money’s worth. Parking and pic were free, and VDM posted shots from the race on their Facebook page as the race was going on. What a revolutionary idea! No more waiting around to see your epic adventure! Everyone was extremely friendly, and the volunteers were all well drilled on the requirements of the obstacle they were marshaling. So, in a nutshell, short course packed with very challenging obstacles. I’ll be back, will I see you for their next event in May?

Abominable Snow Race 2019

Can you imagine building an OCR event where the temperatures rarely reached -10 degrees and the windchill touched -55? Most of us don’t even leave the house under those conditions but this is just what Bill Wolfe and his badass crew had to deal with in the week leading up to the fourth annual Abominable Snow Race.

With a couple rounds of snow sandwiched between the historic lows, these hearty troopers built obstacles and marked trails for a 4-mile race with an option for an extra 2.6-mile loop for the really demented racer, during conditions that caused school for my children to be closed the entire week. Not to mention the fact that the race moved from Lake Geneva, Wisconsin to Devil’s Head Ski Resort, Wisconsin, meaning that prep would take that much longer on the virgin location. This marked the third venue change in the four years of the event as ASR constantly looks to upgrade the location to bring out the best of the winter racing experience. Devil’s Head boasted some awesome scenery including a frozen waterfall along a course with over 3,000 feet of elevation change. Now, you might not have noticed all the majestic views as 6 inches of fresh powder made racers to pay close attention to their footing, and the snow covered up all the tree roots and rocks underneath and fog added an extra layer of mystery as race time temps rose up to the balmy high 20’s. But all things considered, how could you miss the best winter OCR in the nation?

 

The start of the ASR caused a lump to form in the throat of most racers. After Coach Pain gave his iconic pep talk the race began with racers running straight up the ski slope into the fog, which caused you not to be able to see where the climb actually ended. Foreboding, ominous, and lurking right there in front of you. The initial ascent was going to be draining and you knew you were going to be in for a long day. As you made your way up and the top finally came into view you felt a wave of relief, but that was short lived as the trail flattened out for all of 20 yards and then continued going up at a less steep angle through what became a one-lane track through the wooded landscape. Along this trail transition, I noticed my first set of racers sitting off to the side as the initial climb had just taken too much out of them.

The footing here, and all throughout the course, was treacherous, making the sledding tough. Pardon the pun, I simply had to work that in. The obstacles started coming into play near the top of the initial climb, the first being an inverted wall climb followed up by a set of high hurdles. Also tucked into this section of the race was the ASR Apex obstacle. This was the toughest challenge on the course judging by the number of elite bands sitting on the ground. Apex required an athlete to traverse across three steep sections of A-frames separated by about a foot. An athlete had to cross using only the thin ropes suspended from the top and whatever stability their feet on the severely angled wood provided. This was a grip strength killer and I found trying to keep your snow packed shoes on the boards almost impossible.

 

Racers now faced a tough section of trail running as the course made its way slightly down the mountain and through the forest. The over, under, and through walls were tucked in along this section of the course that managed to be wider than 2 feet. A low crawl through the fresh powder froze racers to the core and I personally never felt warm again that day until I changed clothes afterward in my Jeep.

More seemingly endless trekking through deep snow followed that up as the constant climbs and descents started taking a toll on a racer’s legs. This led to a 9-foot wall which also marked the point where the short and long course separated. I picked the longer section as I promised ASR bossman Bill Wolfe a comprehensive race recap and immediately regretted it as I started running along another long stretch of deep ass snow. This section of the trail turned out to be a little flatter than before which was most welcome, but you still couldn’t open up and run do to the deep snow pack. A short Wreckbag carry was situated here along with a bucket carry filled with ice. This bucket carry was much shorter than the previous years carry which seemed to last forever. One last 4-foot wall led into the last low crawl of the race on our way down to the festival area. I looked at my watch watching the distance go by slowly as I entered basecamp. If you had picked the short course then your race was almost over, and I seriously considered just ending it right there as my legs were toast. But I summoned up some internal strength and hit the Z wall which led athletes back out onto the final loop. There I found myself on another steep climb almost immediately. Cursing myself about the choice I just made I found myself trekking up and down steep ravines, as the pace became little more than a walk. Luckily this was the section of the course that held the best views, the frozen waterfall being the sight most racers talked about after the race. This was also perhaps, the most physically draining as the climbs were steep and the footholds small. ASR was nice enough to throw a cargo net down for the last climb up though, that is if you wanted to stick your already frozen hands down into the snow to grab the net.

 

The festival area itself presented some interesting new challenges, as after athletes climbed over a slip wall ASR had built a cargo crossing over the starting corral. This led to my favorite obstacle of the day. The ASR build crew constructed a long wooden traverse suspended about 7-feet off the ground and covered it with long sections of cargo net. The object being an athlete had to traverse this expanse by crawling upside down using only the net to hold on to. Athletes finally got to get up to speed during the last obstacle of the day. After picking up an inflated inner tube, racers made one final climb up a hill, hopped on their tube and flew back down the hill to the finish line! Now, there were things missing from the race that were either included on the race map or had been included in previous races. The sled pull, tire drag, monkey bars, and winter weaver to name a few but considering the unprecedented weather leading up to the race, I think a round of applause are in order.

Never before in OCR has a crew had to set up a race in these conditions. Personally, I felt the terrain alone made this race extremely tough, so missing a few obstacles didn’t bother me at all. The only concern I heard from people completing the race was the lack of water along the route, I sucked down 3 bottles of water myself upon completion of the race. I don’t feel it would have been possible to add water stations to the course due to the temperatures as almost every water delivery system would have been frozen solid. Besides, veteran racers should have already known to bring hydration… cough… cough… I forgot.

The mountain ski patrol was situated around the course at various locations to ensure the safety of racers along with a few members of the ASR staff who zipped around on snowmobiles. I offer a question to you as my final thought on the race. You’ve become pretty good at climbing over walls and carrying heavy things around when the temperature is 80 degrees, but have you tested yourself when the thermometer dips below freezing? If not, what’s keeping you from joining Yeti Nation?

Was it as cold as Iceland?

Fun runners take on first time in Spartan World Ultra Championship in Iceland.

There are quite a few holy grails for anyone who does OCR, what first time gets booked as once a lifetime thing? – World Toughest Mudder, World OCR Championships, One of three Spartan World Championships. 

The Hype.

Every year there is massive hype about the WTM and its brutality, how it destroys and pushes everyone involved. But this year it has been overtaken by Spartan World Ultra Championship in Iceland with the possible 1 million dollar payout. It was an insane amount for the insane challenge, but many in the OCR community believed that we had the very man for the job – Jonathan Albon.
 
In short, the Spartan race put down the ultimate Trifecta with a payout of 1 million dollars – paid to any one person winning all 3 its World Championships. Jonathan Albon was two down and only Iceland to go. SO close, just 100 miles. If you haven’t heard about the story, like The Telegraph calling him the unknown runner
 
Most of us laughed calling multiple World Champion unknown? But in the age of Kardashians and breaking internet with selfies, what did you expect? Obstacle racing is still obscure and an unknown sport for the majority of people. Maybe your Facebook consist of thousands of friends and acquaintances you found through OCR but how many people you met in everyday life where they first time heard about it from you? 
 
A lot of people dismissed the 1 million Spartan as just PR stunt, but it isn’t any different from Tough Mudder giving the 100 mile World Toughest Mudder challenge years before. It moved our beloved sport on to TV and more out there!  Its been long going and besides the hype and spotlight on Jonathan Albon, there was the age-old accountability question what still makes OCR not a real sport like triathlon or park runs.

Accountability and OCR.

Spartans have worked hard on accountability and to show the world that OCR is a real sport, adding referees, filming and analysing burpees for the elites and age groups. It gives the sport a real future to be taken seriously, not just be weekend warriors with a very expensive hobby.
 
In Iceland Ultra this accountability was taken a step further by adding age group and giving it the same standards as elites. What did it mean apart from a lot of people dropping out of the age group? 
 
You get a burpee passport – 6 obstacles have burpee penalties (Olympus, Tyro, Multi-rig, Twister, Spear Throw, Herc Hoist) you get a punch for each complete obstacle and at the end of the lap you hand in the passport and do your burpees in front of the camera. You could get up to 180 burpees per lap if you get unlucky enough. Thankfully, they were halved to 15 burpees per obstacle after midnight.
 
Straightforward, but for every missed burpee you get a minute. It also could mean DQ if the added time to the course time took you over the dreaded 24 hours. I’m still not sure if I did 90 burpees first time around, you make mistakes you learn. Tip of the day – use stones to keep a track where you are.
 
The main thing what made it true 24-hour race is you not only needed to do 4 laps but also needed to be out on course for 15 hours to claim your 24-hour medal. 15 hours was average time what racers spent last year on course, what no doubt will change. Also spending more than an hour in the pit would mean you need to go out complete another lap. Simple, accountable and you get an extra medal. The best and worst thing about pit – it was heated dome, what even had beds if you wanted to have a nap.

Black ice and pits of sadness.

The race itself was brutal. Ryan Atkins said it and I won’t disagree on that. When you are there you understand why Iceland has been chosen, it literally will take your breath away. With each lap it feels like the race is growing, the carries feel longer and heavier, the mountain steeper and the black ice slicker. 
 
If you haven’t experienced breathing in such wind and cold, it takes you by surprise and ruins your best laid out plans. You could have the best training, the best gear but after racing in sunshine all year nothing can prepare the airways and lungs. One of the most common problems for most racers that night. Did I mention the being ping-pong ball between trees on black ice? Or black ice and sandbags? Or sandbags and the knee-deep pit of sadness?
 
As every race is different the expectations are different but without experiencing them we can’t learn. Failing to prepare for the unknown is a lesson, not a failure.  I could go on about the black ice and how cold it was but at the end of the day, I am grateful to be part of all this. 
 
The same can be said for any of the big races, you need to be there to understand it as it doesn’t compare to anything else. The only negative side is that the only Northern Light I saw didn’t look like Northern light at all. It would have been the cherry on top of the painful and suffering cake that was the race. Was it colder than Atlanta? I don’t care, we all ran our own races and for different reasons. 

World’s Toughest Mudder – An Ode to Pissing in My Wetsuit

When I think about the world’s toughest race
A mudder that put me in my place
The memory that I cannot replace
Is pissing in my wetsuit

I registered in the previous year
My training plan became more clear
A piece of training I never went near
Was pissing in my wetsuit

The forecast was cold for our race day
The five-mile course ahead of us lay
Nolan and Eli never bothered to say
We’d be pissing in our wetsuits

Worlds Toughest Mudder GirlThis competitor probably pissed in her wetsuit

The first couple laps were warm and free
The sun was out, everyone could see
I figured no other runner would be
Pissing in their wetsuit

The sun went down and it turned cold
The time had come for me to be bold
And deliver a liquid colored gold
By pissing in my wetsuit

The first couple times were totally weird
Being seen by others is what I feared
But eventually I became less skeered
Of pissing in my wetsuit

Worlds Toughest Mudder PondThe pond was the perfect place for pissing in your wetsuit

Turning laps, my heart would pound
My friends and family I couldn’t let down
I mastered the art of walking around
Just pissing in my wetsuit

As grass and obstacles turned to ice
The liquid warmth was really nice
Some laps I would even go twice
By pissing in my wetsuit

When the race was over my body was toast
My pit crew wouldn’t even come close
The smell of ammonia was super gross
From pissing in my wetsuit

Worlds Toughest Mudder WoodsTwo Ryans – Possibly Pissed in their Wetsuits

When I got home and cleaned my stuff
A simple scrub was not enough
Removing the smell was really tough
From pissing in my wetsuit

I watched the special on TV
They didn’t mention, I didn’t see
That Rea and Kris, I guarantee
Were pissing in their wetsuits

The moral of this story is
If during the race you have to wizz
The only acceptable answer is
Pissing in your wetsuit

Worlds Toughest Mudder Mendoza

I guarantee these guys pissed in their wetsuits

All Photo Credit Goes to OCR Nation