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/

Update on The Tahoe OCR/Crossfit Event – It’s Called “The Faceoff”

Last week we learned of a new hybrid event that Spartan Race was presenting this weekend in Tahoe. We called it the OCR/Crossfit Tahoe Throwdown Challenge. It’s actual name is “The Faceoff presented by FitAid”, which also happens to be the name of one of my favorite Nicolas Cage movies.

Tahoe Face Off

We learned last week the premise: 4 Crossfit Athletes will face off against 4 OCR athletes over the course of an afternoon on Saturday, September 28, 2019.

Today, we learned more about how all of this will go down. David Magida and Yancy Culp have been tasked with creating the programming for the day. Yancy will also serve as head referee for the event, while David will handle host and MC duties.

They both emphasized that everything currently listed is flexible, as areas they may have space limitations on the day, and/or other factors.

Event #1 – The Championship Beast Course

• The 8 competitors compete against each other in the Saturday Beast.

• Chip timing will be used, but catching/being caught counts for extra points.

• CrossFit Athletes Will Start Race 30 Minutes Before Spartan Athletes.

Additional Spartan Beast Scoring/Penalty Rules

1. CrossFit Athletes will start with 30min advantage on Spartan Beast Course.

2. If Male CrossFit athletes are caught by any Spartan competitor, they will be penalized -1 point. This includes if they are caught by a female. This penalty can only be assessed once, per CrossFit Athlete.

3. If Male Spartan Athlete catches All 3 Male CrossFit Athletes, Spartan Athlete will receive +1 bonus point.

4. If Female CrossFit Athlete is caught by Female Spartan Athlete, they will be penalized -1pt, but no bonus point will be assessed.

5. Female Crossfit Athletes are only penalized if caught by another female

6. If Female CrossFit Athlete is not caught on course, she will receive +1 bonus point.

7. If an athlete is beat by more than 1 hour by any racer (on chip time), they lose an additional -1pt

8. Failure to complete Spartan Beast = Disqualification from competition.

WODs 

  • Approximate start time 2:00pm local time
  • Failure to complete any event will result in a -1 Point Penalty

Event #2: The Throw Down

4 Rounds

– 12x RAM Thruster (55lbs/33lbs)

– 20m RAM Overhead Lunge

– 2x Deadball Over the shoulder (150lbs/100lbs)

– 2x Deadball Over the Wall

– 4 ft wall

– 6 foot wall

– Run back and Repeat

Event #3: Hell’s Hill

4 Rounds

– 5x Deadball Ground to Overhead (GTO) 100lbs/70lbs

– Double Sandbag Carry – 60lbs/40lbs

*Carries (and Run To Sandbags) increase in distance each round- 25m, 50m, 75m, 100m

Spartan Faceoff Deadlift

Event #4: The Lumberjack

3 Rounds

–        30Deadlifts (-10x Each Round) – Men’s 225lbs, Women 155lbs

–        4x Log Flip – Men’s 400lbs, Women’s 280lbs

–        10x Log Jump Overs

Event #5: Spartan RAMpage

5 Rounds

– 16x Spartan RAM Burpee (-2x Each Round)

– Run and low crawl with Spartan RAM

– 2x Plate drag

Scoring System

Point Allocation Per Event: 

Mens:                              Womens:

Place Points Place Points
1st Place 5 points 1st Place 1 points
2nd Place 4 points 2nd Place 0 points
3rd Place 3 points
4th Place 2 points
5th Place 1 point
6th Place 0 points

There will be a male and female Champion plus a team award for who got the better of whom, with Crossfit versus OCR.

Watch Facebook Livestreams for this event here!

Deadlift photo by Armen Hammer.

OCRCrossfit Tahoe Throwdown Challenge 2019

Watch Facebook Livestreams for this event here!

From the mind of Hunter McIntyre, something very special is taking place in two weeks in Tahoe.

As most of you know, OCR’s Hunter took on The Crossfit Games back in August as a wildcard entry. While mixing it up with the best of the world in Crossfit, he asked some of them to meet him on his turf at this year’s Spartan Tahoe Beast.

We aren’t sure exactly what is happening as of this printing, but we are going to go ahead and call it the OCRCrossfit Tahoe Throwdown Challenge 2019.  Update 8:47am – **This just in. Spartan is officially calling this event – King Of The Mountain. (I prefer our original title)

Here is what we do know:

3 OCR Athletes and 3 Crossfit Athletes will take on The Spartan Beast course in the morning. That’s 13 miles plus 30 obstacles at elevation. Then in the early evening, the men will compete in a WOD style workout. At the end of the day, we add up some form of scoring from the 4 workouts plus the Beast and crown a winner.

On the OCR side we will have:

Hunter – The Bulk Pony Himself. Is there anything else we need to say?

Bulk Pony

 

 

 

 

 

Isaiah Vidal – The Slightly Bulkier Pony. Bit of a tornado that has scrapes with Hunter, Atkins, and AirForce Ken over the years. With over 80 OCR podiums, he has more than any other American.

Isaiah Vidal

Matt Kempson – Another bulky little meatball. – Recently won the Epicly Epic Alex/Cassidy Cash Showdown at NorAm. Also recently known as the inventor of the Kempson Obstacle.

Matt Kempson

On the Crossfit Side:

Chandler Smith – Former wrestler at West Point. 15th in this year’s Crossfit Games.

Chandler Smith

 

Sean Sweeney – Known as The Crossfit Cowboy (do Crossfit stars have names like Ninjas?) – Can deadlift 565 pounds.

Sean Sweeney Crossfit Cowboy

Jacob Heppner – Makes videos with his dog. 2nd to Hunter in 2018 Tough Mudder X. 3rd in the world in The 2019 Crossfit Open. Multiple top 10 finishes at The Crossfit Games.

Jacob Heppner

 

September 16, 2019 Update: 

2 females have been added to the mix.

Corinna Coffin –  Corinna won Tough Mudder’s TMX in 2017 and was the runner up in 2018. She was a Crossfit Games Team athlete 2018. This year, she came back to race Spartan Stadion Series and finished 2, 1, 1 in consecutive performances.

Emma Chapman – Her team, Central Beasts, won the Strength In Depth competition, then placed 5th at the 2019 Crossfit Games. She also won the Tough Mudder TMX in 2018 and appeared on Million Dollar Mile earlier this year.

Along with the individual scores, we are being told there will be some form of team scoring tallied, with the 4 CrossFit athletes versus the 4 “Spartans”.

We posted a conversation with Hunter last week to explain more about this concept.

 

Armen Hammer – The Man Almost Probably 100% Responsible For Getting Hunter To The Games


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The man, the myth, the mullet, Armen Hammer, comes back on the show to discuss:

  • How he got Hunter McIntyre to the Games
  • His take on Brent Fikowski’s take on Hunter
  • What the F is Crossfit/Greg Glassman up to.
  • How is Gregg Glassman like/unlike Desena
  • So much more.

Todays Podcast is sponsored by:

Show Notes:

Glassman’s new healthcare initiatives

Armen and Glassman on Grandma’s couch/loveseat

Hunter McIntyre vs. Brent Fikowski

Support Us On Patreon

Listen using the player below or the iTunes/Stitcher links at the top of this page. 

Spartan World Championship Results 2016 (Men)

2016-spartan-championship

Hobie Call surprised the OCR world by winning the 2016 Spartan World Championship in Lake Tahoe Saturday morning. Call stayed mostly quiet for the bulk of the season, then showed up yesterday and beat out a stellar field.

In 2016, 39 year old Hobie did participate in (and win) 2 BoneFrogs, the Utah BattleFrog, and The Utah Spartan Super. The last being his ticket, er coin, to Tahoe. This, however, is a far cry from the 20 plus races a year he used to do show up and dominate, prior to his first (sort of) retirement.

Not many expected Call to be victorious after he stayed mostly quiet and did not participate in the 5 race US Spartan Points Series. The 3 men who battled it out all year for that series were Ryan Atkins, last year’s Spartan Champ Robert Killian, and Hunter McIntyre (who has yet to win the big Spartan dance). They finished 2nd, 3rd, and 6th respectively.

Here are the rest of today’s top male finishers:

2016-world-champion-hobie-call

 

 

1 Hobie Call 2:25:33
2 Ryan Atkins 2:25:59
3 Robert Killian 2:28:10
4 Jon Albon 2:29:30
5 Cody Moat 2:32:30
6 Hunter McIntyre 2:33:09
7 Peter Ziska 2:33:53
8 Chad Trammell 2:37:22
9 Isaiah Vidal 2:37:33
10 Glen Racz 2:38:36

 

 

 

 

Spartan World Champions History

Year          Venue                           Winner                         2nd                              3rd

2011         Glen Rose TX            Hobie Call              Josiah Middaugh        Junyong Pak

2012        Killington, VT            Cody Moat              Hobie Call                    Brakken Kraker

2013        Killington, VT            Hobie Call               Matt Murphy              Hunter McIntyre

2014        Killington, VT            Jon Albon              Ryan Atkins                  Cody Moat

2015       Squaw Valley, CA       Robert Killian       Ryan Atkins                  Cody Moat

2016      Squaw Valley, CA        Hobie Call              Ryan Atkins                  Robert Killian

 

Survival Race: Hunter Gatherer Review

Survival Race: Hunter Gatherer race report and review

Sitting in a rooftop jacuzzi, at the plush Mokara Hotel in downtown San Antonio, with Survival Race winner Shane McKay, soothing my aching muscles, bruised feet, and lacerated body, felt strangely foreign to me.

Twenty-four hours previously, I was navigating my way through ridiculously rocky terrain, in the dark, with bleeding feet, oozing cuts, and an overwhelming feeling of fatigue. I was 17 hours and 30 miles into the race, and my footwear had become pretty much nonexistent. When I could run, I looked more like an extra for the Walking Dead, stumbling after warm blood, than I did an endurance athlete.

During these low points in races, I used to ask myself why I do these things.

Am I just trying to look tough, or perhaps trying to convince myself that I am tough? What draws me to self-induced suffering?

But now I’m pretty clear what’s going on. I make myself suffer because I learn more about me, the real me, and how I handle adverse conditions. I’m on a quest to be the strongest man that I can possibly be – physically, mentally, emotionally – and every episode of weakness is frustrating failure.

Survival Race: Hunter Gatherer was yet another test in this quest. This race was much more than I ever expected. The course was gnarlier than I could have ever imagined. The challenges were more dramatic, more physically demanding, and many times took every ounce of my strength and determination just to get through them.

I hope you enjoy learning about the experience as much as I am going to enjoy reliving it.

Unlike Any Packet Pickup You’ve Ever Seen

At 5:00 p.m., the night be fore the race, Race Director [RD] Josue Stephens began blurting out some basic rules and instructions for us, but I don’t think I heard any of it. I was way too concerned with what we were going to have to do for ‘packet pickup’.

“There are stacks of logs behind me,” and I woke up. “…if you are over 160 lbs, you will choose a log from the far stack.”

ok, ok, ok, I get this.

“Then, you will carry your log, to the top of that hill, off in the distance.” He continued, “then, at the top of mountain, you will drop the log, carve your number into it, and run down the other side, cross the river, and run back to camp.”

Oh shi…

I raced over to get a log, but chose the wrong way around the pavilion, and by the time I got to the stack there were only 3 logs left, and they all looked fat, covered in bark, and hella’ heavy. I power-cleaned a log to my right shoulder, and started out, leaving the camp with John Taylor and Tyler Tomasello, destined to just take it slow.

Christian Griffith carrying his log to packet pickup to get his race number at Survival Race

Carrying the 95 lb log just to get my number

This was merely a preliminary challenge to get my race number – not the actual race – and with no time limit, I tried to force myself to not get caught up with everyone else.

Yea, right. Like my ego can manage such responsibility. Of course, I went out waaay too fast and way too hard.

The “trail” was really just a punishing, steep climb on a giant bed of large, loose rocks. You could hear logs falling all over the place as athletes were dropping them in an effort to rest; but like CrossFit WODS, this can actually work against you because of the energy needed to again power-clean the log back up to your shoulders every time you set it down.

By the time I got to the top, I was trashed.

Race Director says my log was ~95 lbs, and that we carried them 2.3 miles up that “little mountain”. I’m glad I found that out afterwards, because had I known how heavy, and how far, I had to go with it when I picked it up, I may have just quit right then and there.

Of course, my race number was #5, which is probably one of the hardest numbers to carve into a fat, bark-covered log, especially fatigued, but I did a half-ass job, got my race number from the RD, and headed back down the mountain, crossed the river, and eventually ran back to the camp. {after getting lost because of beer-swilling John Sharp purposely ‘redirecting’ us}

Race number in hand, I sat around with the other runners cussing the log, John Sharp, and trying to figure out why we had to carve our numbers in it, and if that meant we’d be seeing that log again.

Naturally, we would.

Sleep is Overrated

I got zero sleep the night before.

I was in a ‘dorm’ with bunk beds, and the mattresses were plastic. We were supposed to bring our own bedding, but I missed that memo, so my sticky, sweaty body stuck to the mattress and made tons of noises as I flip-flopped to find some kind of comfort. Add in some snoring from peeps around me, and a race volunteer emergency rukus, and I heard alarms going off without getting a wink of sleep.

One runner noticed that everyone had that “1000 yard stare”, and we did. All of us anxious to get started, buzzing around checking our gear, sipping on water and coffee, and getting ready to make our running sandals and gear packs.

@4:30 a.m., the RD said go, and racers hurried to begin shoe construction.

Building sandals for Survival Race

Shoe cobbler, I am not. Clearly the worst sandals ever. Sorry Luna…

Clearly, as you will see, I am the self-proclaimed WORST shoe cobbler ever born. When I practiced this in Atlanta, I broke the shoes every time. Now, I was just trying to not break them, AND get finished relatively quickly so I could get started moving along. Nervously, I watched runner after runner finish their shoes, make their packs out of t-shirts, and head out towards the “little” mountain, all while I was still struggling with trying to poke holes and lace my silly sandals.

My finished Luna Sandal product

Can you imagine running huge miles in these? on rocks and cactus and in water?

This stressed me out, and instead of taking my time, I “rednecked” the process, making the most ridiculous looking running sandals known to man.

I finally got a version of sandal put together, and went straight to making my backpack. For my pack, I used an old, but quality, Across the Years long-sleeved technical shirt, tied off the bottom with paracord, put all of my supplies down the neck of the shirt, and tied the arms off with more paracord and used them as the shoulder straps. This actually worked out really well.

Lastly, I made a quick belt for my 6-inch SOG knife and sheath, out of plain old paracord, and then dashed out of the pavilion, headed back up to the top of the “little” mountain in the pitch black Texas night.

My race was on!

Slow Your Roll, Sparky

But, no more than 100 yards into my start, my sandal ties came undone, my shoes started flapping, and I realized I was in for a VERY long day. I stopped every 200 yards, all the way up the rocky mountain, just to fix and re-tie my ridiculous sandals.

At the top of the mountain we were told to find our log with our number on it, and carry it down the other side, eventually to the river.

This was an incredible challenge, much more so than the day before, because:

  • It’s only 4:45 a.m.
  • A pitch black sky (other than my headlamp)
  • With the log being 95 lbs, this made me 300 lbs of mass, going downhill
  • Add in the sandals, and poor ones at that, and my balance was awful
  • Plus, the nasty, round, rolling rocks that would slide out from underneath
  • And the lovely prickly pear cactus punishing you for miscalculated foot placement
  • And the shoulder skin is already sensitive from previously carrying them up

Other than all that, it wasn’t too bad {wink}.

A Swim in the High Grass?

At the bottom, near the river, volunteers were checking us in, and I was elated because I would finally be rid of this stupid log.

Nope.

Pointing to a stack of PFDs (personal flotation devices), the volunteers instructed us to wrap a PFD around our log, and get in the river, following the river until told to do otherwise.

Now remember, its still dark outside, and we really have no idea how far we have to go, or for how long. We are simply told to swim down the river with our log and whatever comes next is a complete mystery.

Swimming through the tall grass

The creepy swim. All 1.2 miles of it.

Some people really had a rough time with this and I applaud those athletes who conquered that fear. The water started out knee-deep, but after 100 yards or so, we were swimming, and not just swimming, but trudging through really thick, high grass. This is where people became really uncomfortable because the thick marsh grass would wrap around your legs, arms, and anything hanging off of you, and many times gave you the sensation that it might pull you underwater – all this while swimming with that damn log.

I ended up swimming 1.2 miles with that log, crossing two dams, and finally getting to the very end of it just as the sun was coming up.

First reward collected.

A Symphony of Shoelaces

Ok, so that subtitle is a stretch, but it makes me feel like a real writer, so just go with it, please.

Seriously, though, I spent the next ~3 miles stopping and re-tying my shoes over and over and over again. The swimming left me slipping and sliding around the footbed, on already loose and goofy sandals anyway, and I was getting really frustrated. I watched a lot of people run by – all with nicely cobbled sandals, I might add, and I felt dumb.

The Bat Caves

Somehow, I finagled a way to keep the sandals tighter on my feet, and although my heels were still hanging out the back, at least I was not flapping, and could kinda-sorta run.

I ran up on a really cool dude from Las Cruces, New Mexico, and together we rolled up on the next challenge – the cave crawl – which clearly demonstrated that the course designers did not expect any athletes over 200 lbs.

Volunteers pointed to 2-foot diameter hole in the rock, and told us to “drop into that hole.”

Survival Race caves

We have to go down THERE???

Once in the “cave”, if you went to the right, you were forced to squeeze between this very tight slit between two rock beds, and drop yet deeper into the caves; and once down that deep, I was forced to slither, like a snake, because many times the vertical space was as tight as 12 inches. This was really freaky and if you were claustrophobic, you would not have passed this challenge. You would not even have dropped into that hole.

Some of the sections were so tight for me, that I had to wedge myself in between two rocks, with my arms out-stretched in front of me, expelling all of the air I had in my lungs and flattening my body as much as I could. I’d then reach for some rock, and pull myself through. I got stuck once, had to back-out of the crevice, re-evaluate, find some loose rock section, and dig a bigger hole for me to squeeze through.

cave entrance

It’s a tight fit for a lean dude, so you can imagine what it was like for a 205 lb chiller.

I gotta be the only runner who has belly-button scabs from Survival Race.

Inside the caves, we were expected to find six petroglyphs, memorize them, and point them out for the volunteers once we got out.

Naturally, it’s me, remember? So, I somehow misunderstood this, only found four of the petroglyphs, and upon failure in front of the volunteers once I finally crawled out, was told I’d have to go back down, find the other two, and come back repeating all six.

I cannot express to you how bummed I was, and there is probably only one person who really knows just how upset I was… that cool volunteer, who kept repeating, “I don’t know how you made it through there.”

But I did it. Sucked it up, put on my big boy panties, and dove back down in the hole.

I think some other athletes down there felt bad for me and started giving me hints where to find the other two so that I wasn’t stuck down there another long time, navigating multiple tight squeezes over and over and over again.

Thanks dudes.

I came back out, pointed out all six, and got my first amulet; but the mental damage had been done. I was freaked out, wobbling down the rocky terrain, headed to who in the Hell knows where… I just knew wherever it was, it was 4.8 miles away.

A New Definition of Bushwhacking

Bushwhacking in SW Texas

The Texas Hill Country terrain is gnarly. Period.

Bushwhacking on the Appalachian Trail, or even in the wildernesses of Washington, Tennessee or California, is one thing, but bushwhacking in Southwestern Texas is a whole ‘nother ballgame. The course was flagged right up the gut of a series of climbs that pretty much went like this:

  1. climb steeply up very rocky, cactus-filled terrain
  2. get about 3/4 of the way up, then traverse a ridge-less ridge
  3. go back down to the very bottom
  4. stumble a few hundred yards in a rocky, dried creek bed
  5. repeat #1

But what made this series of never-ending climbing and descending so maddening and slow was the millions of stabbings one must avoid throughout the process. If you looked down the whole time to avoid the loose rocks and cactus, you got stabbed in the face by hundreds of packed-in-tight dry branches, which by the way, were also so brittle, they’d break in your hand if used to catch yourself during one of the thousands of stumbles.

Yet, if you looked out for all the branches, trying to somehow navigate without getting lacerated, you’d lose sight of footing and end up with prickly pear cactus spikes in your heels.

This is no exaggeration. I’ve done a loop of Barkley, and I’ve crawled through the jungles of Nicaragua, both of which are known for being flat-out gnarly and bushwhacky – and aside from the briars in the “Rat Jaw” section of Barkley, SW Texas is by far the worst. And I’m 100% convinced my race brethren and sisters are nodding and laughing as they read this right now.

After two hours of this mess, I felt I was probably getting close, and knowing I needed a pad of prickly pear cactus for the next checkpoint, I cut one off in the woods, rubbed all the spears off of it with a rock, and stuck it in my pack.

By this point my shoes were floppin’ around again, and my bare feet were taking a beating, but I just didn’t care anymore.

Only 10 Miles In?

The next challenge was somewhere around the 10-mile mark and I had already been going for hours and hours. The early afternoon sun was overhead now, strong and bright, and the temps were pretty much what you’d expect in southwest Texas.

At the checkpoint, we had to pull out our prickly pear pad, do all the necessary things for making a cup out of it, fill it with water, and drink. Then, we had to take a short quiz on the some of the edible plants indigenous to the area, before finally throwing a spear at some targets. I found a decent stick, but I was too tired to carve the stick, or practice my throws. You were allowed 7 throws, having to hit the target 3 times. I hit it twice, so I didn’t get that reward …but I did get a bead for passing the quiz and creating a very sexy cactus cup.

Hanging my head in failure at the spear throw, I was told to carry my spear another 5 miles to the next checkpoint – Fire-making.

And off I went, again, through another ridiculous series of miles and miles of steep bushwacking and dried, rocky riverbed traversing.

I was so shot-out by this point, I just didn’t know how a finish was even possible.

Fire For Hours

After what felt like nine years, I rolled into the fire checkpoint to see a whole handful of athletes that had been waaaay ahead of  me, and they were all struggling with making fire.

I gathered all the necessary materials, made my bow, my spindle, all out of soltol plant wood, and gathered my nest, hoping to get really lucky and nail my fire. I stayed there for close to an hour – no fire.

Some people stayed for as long as 3 or 4 hours, and some finally got it after such perseverance, but not me.

I realized by not getting fire, I was now putting myself in that lonely hole of “sure, you can finish, but you will still be a failure.” But, truth be told, I expected that coming into this race, so I was OK with it. To add insult to injury, we also had another spear throw challenge here and again I came up ONE short. Dammit!

I would keep fighting until I was told otherwise.

A Conference with the Race Directors

Sad and dejected and frustrated with yet another ridiculous, technical descent, I found myself just kinda standing on a grassy jeep road as a white Subaru approached. It was RDs Brad Quinn, and Josue & Paula Stephens, as well as an athlete or two who dropped at the fire checkpoint.

I tried to complain, but they didn’t show much mercy, and the vehicle was full, so all I got was a, “just get to prospector’s and you’ll be fine,” and away they drove. My first chance to easily give up, gone, in a puff of kicked-up Texas dirt.

I didn’t even know what “prospector’s” meant, but I had a really gnarly, steep climb ahead of me to find out.

Cool Dude in a Cabin

We actually got to do a small bit of easy rock climbing to actually get to the cabin, also referred to as “prospector’s”, and I really enjoyed that little tidbit of upper body and balance testing.

Sitting on the porch of the cabin was a funny, interesting guy who seemed to know everything about everything , and by the time I was getting to him, he had his script down:

“You are going to take a test on the local plants and their uses. Then, you will make some cordage out of wheat grass. And last, you will make a bow that you need to carry with you 6 miles to the next checkpoint.

By the way, nice shoes.” {smart ass}

This was all fine and dandy, but all I wanted to do was drink some water and sit down for a second, …or an hour; but, I took my test, and passed it proudly with a 9/10.

I, then, made some poor attempt at cordage which got a huge laugh from my new friend. He showed me how to first crush the plant, tear it into tiny fibers, and then braid it into cordage.

I did it. Kind of… but I got my bead anyway.

I then got busy on my bow. I could picture badasses like Shane McKay or John Taylor, sitting here for hours, whittling away on the perfect bow, but me? Oh hell no. I grabbed a stick, tied some cord to it, filled up my water bottles, and left the cabin humming weird show tunes. I actually found myself doing the Laverne and Shirley, up the hill, leading away from the cabin.

Yes, I’m that lame when I’m completely exhausted.

Really? A Trail?

Shockingly, two miles after leaving the cabin, and descending more terrain that had me cussing Josue’s name (and his mama’s name), we were actually dumped onto a real trail. Honest. No kidding. A real, honest-to-goodness, blazed trail.

I was so surprised that my first reaction was to NOT believe it.

“This is a trick, and I ain’t fallin’ for it”

The arrow pointed down the trail, and there weren’t any flags anywhere else, but I found myself asking myself, “self, why would Josue put us on this perfectly good trail when he could take us down this ravine and into another one of those gnarly dried creek beds?”

To make matters worse, I ran down the trail tentatively, and there were no markers. Up until now, the race was marked really well, but had to be because we were always bushwhacking.

I was tired, confused and cussing Josue again (but this time left Ms. Stephens out of it), and ran back to the arrow TWICE out of fear that I was going the wrong way.

I finally committed, kept on going down the trail, eventually found a marker, got passed by Gabi and Isiah, and after moving past the creepy cross, found myself at the “shooting range” just as it got dark.

I didn’t climb the tree and retrieve arrows for my bow.

I didn’t shoot my bow.

I didn’t make a travois.

Instead, I accepted that my bow was crap, and when they said we’d have to carry the travois 2.5 miles, mostly uphill, I collapsed internally. I barely had the strength left to complete the loop, let alone build a travois and pull it 2.5 miles.

This is a travois.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one.

As I made my way to the last checkpoint, it looked like a travois graveyard – everyone ditched their travois somewhere close to leaving the checkpoint, including the winner; BUT, as I shuffled down the trail with a cool dude named Paul, we rolled up Corinne Kohlen. If you are in the Obstacle Racing community, ’nuff said, but if not, Corinne is a true elite athlete in the sport and one I admire greatly. While the rest of us “studs” ditched the whole travois idea, Corinne was busy struggling with hers, having pulled it well over 1/2 mile.

I felt lame.

But, I was stoked for her, and amazed at her tenacity and grit. I’m a fan for life.

An Evil RD, or The Finish That Never Comes

True to character, the race director ran us right up close to camp, but still with 3 miles to go. You could hear and smell the finish, but all you could do was catch a glimpse of lights through the trees before the arrows pointed you back uphill again, away from camp, and seemingly back into the dark, nighttime wilderness.

And not once, but again, and again, and again …until I found myself telling anyone who’d listen (I think is was Scott from Luna Sandals who was now the lucky victim of my whining) that Josue was a mean, evil, RD who wanted nothing more than to make things so hard that no one could really ever finish.

Either Scott got sick of listening to me, or he smelled the barn, or both, but before I could finish my whine-fest, he took off down a rocky hill at full speed.

I followed, …minus the whole “take-off” part.

More of a controlled stumble.

And like that, I heard the cheering of friends, crossed the finish line, stopped and pointed at my shoes, and endured 15 minutes of laughing, jokes, photographs, and the constant, “you ran all the way in those?”

I still don't know how I was able to go this far in these monsters.

Yup, I did.

And while none of us completed the race exactly as Josue had designed it, Shane McKay, a rancher from Canada, nailed all the challenges, and was considered the much-deserved victor.

The rest of us were just glad we “survived”.

You have to be a special kind of knucklehead to want to train and race this kind of stuff. It’s designed for you to fail. Josue is not in this to coddle runners. He doesn’t care if anyone finishes his race. He is a race director who wants to challenge athletes beyond anything they have ever experienced, or could even imagine experiencing.

Lastly, one cannot express the joy and satisfaction from these kind of events without a nod to the other athletes, and volunteers. Whether it was your day or not. Whether you dropped at 10 miles or 5 miles from the finish line, it doesn’t matter, because there’s a brotherhood that develops, between all of us, male and female, that lasts long, long after the event is over.

I feel part of an extended family that knows me. Knows how I think. Knows what drives me, excites me, and challenges me.

I live a fantastic life and I’m thankful beyond words.

That’s all. Thank you for reading.

sr-amulet