Epic Series LA

Epic Series OCR made their way back to Los Angeles, California on May 6 for their second event at the Los Angeles Police Academy. For those of you not familiar with Epic Series let me give you a little background.

Epic is a Southern California based race series that’s focused primarily on functional movements with a few OCR type obstacles thrown in. They currently don’t venture outside of the SoCal area very often due to the high cost of transporting all their heavy equipment, so you may not have yet heard about them but listen up!

The formula for Epic’s success is pretty simple, but highly addictive. They pack as many obstacles as they can inside a course about the size of a standard 400-meter track. No miles upon miles of endless running here as most of their events have a total distance of between a mile to a mile and a half. The use of the track format breaks up the lines of functional exercises located inside of the track area and allows Epic to put on their events at venues with limited space quite well.

The Epic race format breaks down like this. Run a lap, usually with something awkward and heavy, then perform a series of functional movements with a few OCR type obstacles thrown in before running another lap. There are three different levels of difficulty at most of these stations throughout the race. Competitive men, competitive women, and open with weights and reps adjusted accordingly. I’ll break down the race in a lap by lap format, so it’ll be easy to follow.

Lap 1. All athletes start out the race by running their first lap carrying an Epic Series flag. Epic appropriately calls this the “flag lap” and once the lap is completed flags are dropped off at the starting line and its then time to get physical with the first series of functional movements starting off with the overhead squat for reps.

Athletes are required to pick up a weighted bar for touch and go squats while standing over a bucket. Volunteers are located at every station giving instructions, directions and occasionally calling out athletes for improper form or to repeat a rep. After completing the overhead squats Epic lined up their ladder wall and tri-wall, which each need to be traversed before continuing.

Lap 2. Athletes now were required picked up a medicine ball to carry around the track for their second lap leading up to the Atlas Stones. Atlas Stones of varying weights needed to be picked up and dropped over the shoulder onto a mat. Miss the mat and the rep doesn’t count so be precise! This took a lot of energy leaving athletes very winded, which made the next balance obstacle even harder.

The Epic balance beam was next in line and is truly unique as it’s built with pegs attached to a series of 4×4 boards suspended above the ground. This thing wobbles all over and usually causes me to fall at least once per event.

Lap 3. This is where the going starts to get tough as athletes are required to run this lap with a tough to balance slosh pipe. Immediately upon completion of this lap, it’s time for another Epic Series favorite, the squat wall. Pick a spot on the wall and assume the wall sit position while holding an hourglass with your arms straight out in front of you while you beg for the sand to fall faster! This obstacle is made even more fun as a volunteer constantly yells at you to keep your arms straight or they’ll make you start over.

Now normally this is where Epic sets up their lumberjack station which requires athletes to pick up a metal post on a hinge and flip it to the other side, but because this obstacle rips up the grass in a major way Epic had to substitute an inflatable bouncy house type thing as a replacement. Not nearly as much fun, but still a cardio crusher nonetheless.

The rope climb with a bell tap at the top was the next up in this long line of obstacles followed by the plank station. Another hourglass was used here as you sat in the plank position and watched those small grains of sand moving ever so slowly down. Continuing the fun on this lap was a keg hoist for reps followed by another crossing over a ladder wall.

Burpee box jumps for reps followed with an inverted wall immediately after leading to the last obstacle on this lap, the archer. Bow and arrows tipped with a rubber stopper were shot at a tiny target set up on a net and if you have never done this before it could take you forever. Luckily for me, I am a former bow hunter, so I nailed that sucker on the first try!

Lap 4. The carries started getting harder here as athletes now grabbed two jerry cans for the farmers carry lap testing out that grip strength to the max. After setting the jugs down it was time to get low for a cargo net crawl followed up by another tri-wall traverse. The band challenge was the last obstacle on this lap and it required athletes to put a thick rubber band around their ankles and hop for a set distance.

Lap 5. For the next lap Epic kept it simple, just sprint as fast as you can. Finishing up led you to another inverted wall to traverse before climbing up and over Barnaby’s Beast. This was a vertical rock wall where the hand holds became more spaced out the more with the higher difficulty level that you signed up for.

All of this led up to one final lap which proved to be a make or break lap for most people. The final lap required carrying a keg around the course! Now, these were filled to different levels depending on if you ran competitive or open, but I swear mine was filled with lead!

Now, if you ran Open your day was done. Collect your medal and bad ass Clinch Gear shirt and enjoy a Body Armour drink. But if you ran in the Competitive class you could sign up for the Epic Elite short course.

For a few dollars, more men and women could choose from either the Strength or Endurance challenge course for a chance to win even more bling! This course was a great mixture of obstacles, Crossfit, and strength and drew some great crowds to watch the athletes grunt and throw heavy shit around. The list of exercises was the same for both classes with only the weight and reps changing, plus the Endurance class had an added 5 burpees between each station.

  1. Truck pull for distance
  2. Deadlift for reps
  3. Clean and Press for reps.
  4. Atlas Stone up and over a wall for reps
  5. Atlas Stone shrugs for reps
  6. Farmer Carry
  7. Kettlebell step ups
  8. Weighted Lunge
  9. Tire flip for reps
  10. Sprint to the finish.

 

 

Now there were a few obstacles that happened to be missing from this event that are normally present at every Epic Series due to lack of space on the Police Academy grounds.

The Russian twists and the over under a suspended piece of tubing for a million reps each were gone but not missed by me personally! I found Epic to be an excellent test of one’s overall fitness and that the event offered something for everyone from a fitness newbie to a king of CrossFit.

A kid’s race was also located on-site making this a family-friendly event. Parking and photos were free as was the awesome Southern California scenery. I personally love this series and try to make it out West whenever I can, so maybe it’s time for you to do the same? It’ll be worth the trip I guarantee it and with future events in August in Huntington Beach and a September event in San Diego you still have time to test out how fit you are!

 

Green Beret Challenge Operator’s Course Atlanta 2018

I usually stick with Spartan, simply because the obstacles have the  “burpee-if-incomplete” option. I’ve noticed I have been becoming too reliant on it, so I have decided to start looking at more race options. More specifically, trying to work on completing events that scare the absolute shit out of me. So, naturally, when my friend suggested I join her for the Green Beret Challenge in Atlanta, I registered immediately. What doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger, right?

For reference, I am five feet tall, weighing in at a pretty gnarly 105 pounds. I’m not great at heavy carries; not because I’m not strong enough, but some of the carries…well, they’re pretty much the same size as I am. Knowing that the GBC is comprised of primarily heavy carries, I went in thinking that I wouldn’t do well. It didn’t matter though. I was still proud of myself for registering in the first place.

One of the first things that caught my attention was the address of the venue. Or, rather, the lack thereof. There was no address. In fact, the address that they provided, was actually the address to the building NEXT DOOR. This venue was literally in the middle of nowhere.

When my friends and I pulled up, what we saw was the most gorgeous house. Which was…well, very different from any venue I’ve seen. The venue was actually BEHIND this house. Parking was easy, check-in was easy…actually, everything was easy. There was no long walk to the venue, pretty much you parked and it was on course. And of course, the very first thing you could see, was Mark f***ing Ballas, standing up, proud, riding on his four-wheeler. I was intimidated but very excited.

I had jumped into the 8:00 heat; the first wave of the competitive division. Standing next to me at the line was none other than Rachel Watters. She was awesome to talk to, and I was very impressed by her modesty. The men and women ran the competitive wave at the same time, which personally, I am a fan of. For me, it seems much more fun with mixed gender seems more fun and laid-back.

Also at the start line, was none other than Mr. Ballas himself. Accompanying him was a man, whose name is currently escaping me (editor’s note: it is none other than Jarian Rich, Mr. Inspiration), covered in glitter. He had an immense amount of glitter in his beard, and gold glitter covering his arms. He wore a shirt that said “no frown zone,” and with that, he wore one of the biggest smiles I’d ever seen. Even though this event is known as being one of the toughest obstacle races in the series, it’s very evident that every person there is excited about it.

When it was time to run, we started running in a flat field. We had been running for maybe two minutes before we hit the first obstacle–that darn yoke carry. I’ve never completed a yoke carry before this, and boy was it humbling. I’m a runner by nature and was one of the first women to the yokes.

Granted, after this obstacle started, I never saw Rachel Watters again. I grabbed one of the first in the line, as the volunteer manning the obstacle suggested. Once I put that thing on my back, I knew that it absolutely could not touch the ground until I was done, no matter how much it hurt. Immediately I was wobbling side to side from the weight. I was getting passed left and right, by men and women alike.

Many people grabbed the string that held their sandbags to keep them from moving, and I wanted to, but I was afraid to let go of my grip from the log. A minute went by and I had already been drenched in sweat. I was starting to get nervous about how my grip would maintain throughout this new adventure but remembered–you know what, Sarah, be proud of yourself for being here, this will make for a cool picture later, and trudged on.

The carry itself felt like at least 300-400 meters, but I confess that my depth perception is not great, and I may be mistaken. Either way, you get the point. It was long. It looped into a square back to the yoke drop-off point. I saw it from a distance and had to keep my eyes on it for the remainder of the carry. My arms were shaking, but eventually, I made it.

After I put the yoke down, there was a short run until the next obstacle, which was a wall. Walls don’t scare me much anymore, but this one made me a little nervous. I jumped to get a grip on the top and struggled to pull myself up. I hardly ever struggle with pull-ups. The yoke had taken its toll; hopefully, some of the runs later could relax my upper body. I will say, even though this wall was hand-made, it did not budge one bit. Mark Ballas does a great job building obstacles.

Following almost immediately was a balance obstacle. Walk up a plank of wood to the top of a hay bale. Next: another carry, but, it was a sled drag. It wasn’t particularly heavy, but it was long. From there, we saw a couple of standard obstacles: inverted wall, barbed wire crawl into a questionable substance, and trail run on a single-track trail.

I was really surprised by the next obstacle. I’m fairly certain it doesn’t have a name, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw it again. Two wooden beams, where, you have to climb over the top one, anyway how. There was a rope there to aid in the transition, and being the short person that I am, was very thankful for the rope.

Although this obstacle wasn’t too intimidating, the number of failures that came with it was a little terrifying. The ropes were completely covered in that questionable substance that we just trudged through, which was leading to many people slipping and swearing. When I approached the obstacle, I was really proud of the support from both the competitors and volunteers. The people who had failed moved over to allow others the opportunity to attempt. Finally, it was my turn…I was slow, EXTREMELY slow on the obstacle. Nobody cared. Everyone who was there cheered. I thought to myself, this, right here, is EXACTLY what OCR is all about.

(sandbag and questionable “mud.” Image by Green Beret Challenge)

After a few more carries and some walls, we were approaching the finish line. I approached a creek, which we were instructed to jump into. I was NOT expecting a swim at all, but it made for such a nice touch. The water was nice and cool, plus, the unexpectedness of the swim made for a fun and unique challenge. The end was approaching. I picked up the pace, and then one of the volunteers shouted at me: “HEY! YOU’RE SECOND PLACE FEMALE RIGHT NOW.” I freaked out. I ran as fast as I could with my final sandbag on my shoulder, not going to adjust it once. I’ve never placed that high before..and I was excited.

I was so excited that it caused me to make some really poor choices. I hit the most intense obstacle of the day: the Happy Ending. It was most certainly not a happy ending. Happy Ending consisted of a low rig, a cargo net, and some ropes to Tarzan your way through before hitting a bell. Easy. Or, it should have been.

I normally take a breather before rigs to let my heart rate calm down. I didn’t this time, so naturally, I failed. Then I failed again. Then I failed again. And then you know what happened? I failed again. And with all of those failures, I became frustrated. I lost my joyful, cool composure that I had carried with me the entire way, and I couldn’t picture myself finishing the obstacle. I made a stupid, stupid choice to give up my band. Again, stupid. But, I managed to complete it and was greeted instantly by friends and the man who was covered in glitter (he called me nick-names the entire time; fun ones like “Tiny Trap Master” and “Mighty Mouse”).

(“Happy Ending” picture by Green Beret Challenge)

After races, I typically grab my stuff from gear drop-offs and then leave. This race was different. In the end, everyone jumped back into the water to wash off, and then everyone just sat in lawn chairs, drinking and having a great time. Nobody there was a stranger. Even Mark Ballas and his lady joined in. I was amazed at how well this event brought people together, even though it was considered individual.

My overall thoughts on this race? It was an amazing experience. It pushed me past my comfort zone, but, it made me realize why I love racing. Although it’s individual, I have never seen so much love and teamwork on a course–not even during endurance events. The volunteers were extremely excited to be there…I feel like very often, people only volunteer in order to get free race codes, but this certainly was not the case.

This event was intended to push your mind, and although I was frustrated at the last obstacle, I smiled the entire time. It made me realize that when you get your mind right, you really can accomplish anything. Mark Ballas is an incredible race director. I loved the small, intimate feel and of course, the obstacles were sturdy and challenging. The “fuck Ballas” attire was a nice little touch as well!

I will definitely be doing this event again, and I hope to see you there with me.

(Mr. Inspiration, Jarian Rich, and me)

 

Fun for the Entire Family: Kids Obstacle Challenge

This was my first foray into a child-centric OCR. I am used to attending OCRs with kids, but they were all adult courses. Kids Obstacle Challenge was going to be a good test of OCRs geared towards young children. The best part of the race is that a parent can run with each child for free! I’ve run relatively easy OCRs (Warrior Dash) and difficult ones (Spartan). I attended the event with three OCR newbies.

Location:

The event was held at Lake Lanier (Buford), GA. This is in Northeast Georgia. It is little over an hour from Metro Atlanta. This is the same location of the October 2017 Spartan Super/Sprint weekend. The course and the venue are absolutely beautiful. There are great views of the lake along with a challenging terrain. The course has steep hills as well as flat fields. I was a bit concerned as I struggled with those same hills during that weekend. I surely thought that we would be on the flat portion of the course. More on that later.

The weather was a perfect 77 degrees. The cloud cover and breeze from the lake made the whole event that much more fun for everyone.

Kids Obstacle Challenge got early kudos as there was free parking! That is relatively unheard of in OCR world. The parking lot was about an eighth of a mile from the starting line. It was an easy walk.

Registration/Festival:

We were late for our 11:30 am heat and I was not sure how it would be handled. The registration table was well staffed and went quite smoothly. We were promptly put into the noon heat with a smile and “good luck.” I attended the event with my partner as well as our kids, ages 10 and seven, respectively. They were excited to get on the course ASAP. One thing that I noticed that it was a pretty large area.

There was a large water station that was constantly being refilled with cold, fresh water. There were several vendors that sold everything from icees, freshly pressed juices, and Clif bars. The company also had a large information tent that was always staffed with volunteers. I did not see any food vendors, but it wasn’t an issue. The festival booths were pretty spread out. There were no chairs or tents available, but it did not matter.

One side of the festival had the obligatory sponsor backdrop for pictures. It was large enough for several people to take pics and not be squashed in. There was also a cute mural with a bunch of markers for people to write messages on.

The Starting Line was at the end of the festival area. We had a good warm up of squats and jumping jacks to get ready for the race. There was also a nice spray from a few super soakers to keep us cool. It was energetic and fun.

One thing I noticed here and throughout the course was the fact that the festival and course did not seem overcrowded. That was a huge plus when you are navigating with children.


 

Course and Obstacles:

This course was well designed and spread out. It consisted of 15 obstacles within two miles. And yes, we did experience some significant hills. Both kids had no problems with running up the hills as they went from obstacle to obstacle. I had flashbacks to the Spartan Super and took my time. Each obstacle was well manned with a volunteer, sometimes two. They were energetic and also helped kids over the obstacles. There was one water station on the course that provided plenty of water. There were inspirational messages peppered throughout the course to keep everyone energized.

These obstacles were relatively easy for an experienced runner. The obstacles were created with a kid in mind. The footholds and grips were sized for smaller children. That sizing me struggle a little, but not enough to not try the obstacle. This was my partner’s first OCR and he enjoyed it. He was able to maneuver easily.

My son (10) loved climbing the obstacles. He was able to finish each obstacle with minimal help. He excelled at the Clif climb and scurried across with no problem. My daughter (7) was a bit cautious but was able to try at least 12 obstacles. Her favorite was the ball pit because there was a fair amount of water. There were several obstacles that we were able to try several times before going to the next. The obstacles were challenging for kids, but not to the point where they couldn’t try them. The course did not seem like it was 2 miles and that was a good thing. The terrain kept it interesting and had a great flow.

 

As a mom, I appreciated that the mud was towards the end of the course. The kids asked throughout the course “Where is the mud?” “When are we getting muddy?” That made me a bit nervous because I was afraid it would have been mud city towards the end. They did get the mud that they asked for. The mud slide was a big hit for my son. Both kids loved the mud pit. It was a crawl through a fair amount of mud.

You can also gauge a race by their volunteers. The volunteers were encouraging and had fun with us. They also helped kids, and adults, on obstacles. We encountered two race photographers on the course and they made sure they got great shots of each family. They made the course that much more fun.

Merchandise

One difference with this race was that there wasn’t the obligatory t-shirt provided at the end of the race. They were sold in the merch tent. There wasn’t a lot of merchandise to purchase. The merch consisted of t-shirts, water bottles, and blackout for your face. At the finish line, the kids received their obligatory medal and banana. As a medal lover, I didn’t get one, which bummed me out a bit. I think it would be wrong if I stole the kid’s medal.

One difference was that you were able to “build” your own goodie bag. The kids got a vinyl backpack and load it with several items. They could choose a nut butter Clif bar, a Luna Bar, stickers, temporary tattoos, a race flyer and coupon for Razor products (the race sponsor).

Rinse off:

This is a bone of contention for me at most races. Either it is a few hoses with weak water pressure or in an area way off from the festival. The rinse-off section was not far from the finish line. It was off to the side and had over 10 hoses. All had great pressure and the area was never crowded.

Conclusion:

My family and I loved the race. The kids were challenged but also had a lot of fun. I think that Kids Obstacle Race is a good OCR for both newbies and experienced OCR runners alike. What makes this race attractive is the price point, the ability for parents to race for free, good obstacles/distance, and free parking. My only qualm is the lack of finisher t-shirts. But that is not enough for me to not run this again. I cannot wait to attend next year.

 

Warrior Dash Gulf Coast 2018

 

Larry

Larry Jumonville happy with his performance

Warrior Dash Gulf Coast 2018

Race Start

From parking to packet pick up the Warrior Dash Gulf Coast venue ran far more smoothly than last years.  Everything was simple and easy.  The fact that parking and bag check are included is a nice convenience. Parking was extremely close to the venue and everything from t-shirt pick up to the starting gate were very easy to find and access.   Volunteers were friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable and there were no shortage of them.  The staff also performed extremely well.

Warrior Dash also did a great job at making spectators and competitors alike feel as if they were indeed walking into a muddy fun zone.  The Warrior Dash sign near the entrance was a symbol of fun about to be had.  Volunteers manned sponsor tents well.  One even presented competitors with a nice warm-up area.  As long as Warrior Dash has been in the game they have begun to excel at race and wave starts.

 

 

The Festival

The festival is the area in which Warrior Dash seems to shine most.  It had everything OCR newcomers and veterans could enjoy.  There was beer, food, a rig to play on, kettlebells, a cargo net, corn hole, lots of opportunities for picture taking, kids play course, great shower stations, and even a hand washing station outside of the port-o-potties.  Warrior Dash also utilized their many different contests to keep festival-goers entertained.  Though the stein holding contest didn’t seem to happen (at least while I was there) the added plank challenge was a nice addition.   There were far more participants in this newer contest as well as the staple push up and tug-of-war contests.  Everyone seemed to be having a really great time and no one seemed bored.

The Course

Designers laid out the course better than last year.  Though many of the obstacles and routes were similar, Warrior Dash made enough changes to make the course feel fresh.   What was not so fresh were the abundance of A-Frames and other climbs.  I understand that this is one of the most basic obstacles that newcomers can conquer. This is Warrior Dash’s bread and butter.  However, the repetitiveness may dissuade some newcomers.

The small slip walls bookending a small barbed wire crawl designed by Grunt Style was a nice beginning.  Upslide down, a favorite of many was a nice break up of running through fields.  Super Soaker gave us an added twist this year by inserting a slip wall bridged with two by fours in the middle of the balance beams making it both more and less challenging at the same time.  I am sure this made the obstacle more enjoyable to those not balance adept.

The Course Second Half

A new obstacle, Rockslide, was a great new addition which added some grip elements.  Though rock climbing grips were the key focus of the obstacle, a toe board underneath allowed competitors to support their weight and shimmy across while gripping.  This allowed the obstacle to be less overbearing for beginners.  Builders suspended each lane allowing them to swing with the competitors’ weight and movement.  This made the obstacle much more fun.  This was much more fun than a stabilized version would have been and brought joy to many racers.

The course ended nearly identically to last year with a fire jump, followed by pallet jacked, and muddy mayhem.  Muddy mayhem was much more fun and muddy this year.  Pallet Jacked offered four separate lanes – two difficult and two easier lanes.  The less difficult pallets were connected with chains allowing less movement from the pallets.  However, I preferred the difficult lane as it allowed me to utilize gymnastic skills gripping the straps and leapfrogging from pallet to pallet.  The volunteers on course did a superb job of cheering on competitors especially at the end through the muddy mayhem.  A good time was had by all both on and off of the course.

Terrain

Once again the flat region of the Mississippi Coast doesn’t offer much in the way of elevation or tough terrain, but Warrior Dash utilized what they were provided in a great way.  The field allowed a bit of difficulty in the softness of the ground and occasional ruts and mud to run through.  There were also a few trails with the occasional slight elevation to push competitors just a tad harder.  All in all, a very good venue for beginners to test themselves on and learn how to handle the basics of trail running.

Ceremony

The awards ceremony also went very well.  Officials presented competitors with shirts and certificates. They announced each competitor’s time and presented them with an entry to the OCR national championships.   The crowd gave winners their due admiration.  In the spirit of Warrior Dash, all competitors were humble and knew that what was most important was the fun they had out on the course.

2018 Spartan US Championship Series Kicks Off in San Jose

The first race of the 2018 Spartan U.S. National Championship Series was held on March 24, just outside of San Jose, CA, in Diablo Grande. The hills provided a leg burning challenge with very few breaks and the obstacles included all of my favorite classics.

I jumped into the corral for the 8:30 a.m. heat. The sun was barely over the ridge and just beginning to warm the air, which was most welcome. We were off and headed to the first obstacle, the over walls. This was followed by “Mud Misery” and a shallow water crossing. My frozen toes thawed quickly as we ascended the first of many hills. Just when we thought we had reached the top, there was another hill to climb…and another. When we finally did reach the top, we found the monkey bars perched all alone, with the most amazing view.

I met a couple of people I had been pacing with, John and Karen. It was her first Spartan Race and she crossed the monkey bars the first time! I was so impressed! I made it across as well, enjoying the scenery as I hit the bell.

The hills continued and I found that going down was just about as challenging as up. It was so steep that it made it very difficult to run a large portion of it. We came to the Sandbag Carry and it was definitely a challenge. It was long, slow, and steep. I was very thankful that it didn’t start raining yet because the downhill portion of the carry would have been brutal if it was muddy.

The Bucket Carry 2.0 had sealed lids so you didn’t have to fill them. I really like this version as it saves time and there’s no way to spill the gravel. The route didn’t look as bad as I was expecting, which seemed a little odd for Spartan. Sure enough…once we rounded a corner there was a little hill of doom staring back at us! It was short and super steep and definitely provided a challenge. Next, was a 6-foot wall and, finally, a nice long gradual downhill portion that took us back into the festival area. This is where it gets fun…..it was jam-packed with obstacle after obstacle: the Tire Flip, Sled Drag, Atlas Carry, Olympus, Herc Hoist, and Spear Throw. Not only was this fun for the racers, but it was really nice having a viewing are for the spectators which included so many obstacles.

Next was the back half of the course. Last year this section was somewhat forgiving, with rolling hills and obstacles, but this year they surprised us with several hills and one very special one towards the end (I think I may have heard a bad word or two here). It was probably the steepest hill we had during the entire race. We trudged up, putting one foot slowly in front of the other, until we finally reached the top. The rain had started and it made it very slippery coming back down.

As we continued, we came to a second barbed wire crawl that went uphill. It was built pretty high so we were able to make quick work of it with a bear crawl. The final few obstacles seemed to be set up in an odd order. We reached the Dunk Wall, which had very steep mud mounds, proceeded to the Slip Wall, and then the Inverted Wall and the Rig. The Rig was going to be hard with wet hands. There was a cute little gal on the sidelines sharing her towel and cheering us on. I dried them the best I could but still dropped off the rig. She blew me a kiss as I thanked her and ran towards the finish line….so sweet! I “fire jumped” over the finish mat and the San Jose Spartan Super was in the books!

I ran the Sprint the next day and ended up pacing with John and Karen again! What are the odds of running into them with all of the other racers? The hills didn’t seem quite as bad and the company made it a lot of fun. Two successful races, a beautiful venue, and terrific people….who could ask for more?! Definitely, give this venue a try if you have the opportunity.

Here’s a little trivia to wrap things up:

  1. According to SpartanRace.com, the fastest time for completing the San Jose Super prior to this race was 80 minutes (2018 results were not official at the time of writing this review). 1
  2. “Mount Diablo is sacred to many California Native American peoples; according to Miwok mythology and Ohlone mythology, it was the point of creation”. 2
  3. “What animated film boasts a San Jose State University Spartans scoreboard in the background of a track race scene? If you answered “The Incredibles,” then you’re correct! Animation/illustration alum Doug Nichols showed his Spartan Pride”! 3

Stay tuned for the remaining U.S. National Championship Series races:

4/14   Seattle
5/19   SoCal
6/23  Chicago
7/28   Utah

Live strong, be kind, play hard… Aroo!

Photo credit: Kim Collings, Spartan Race, Mike Suelzle

______________

References:
1 Spartan Race Results: http://www.spartanrace.com.au/en/race/detail/3154/results
2 Mt. Diablo Point of Creation: https://www.spartan.com/en/race/detail/3154/overview
3 San Jose State Spartans Scoreboard: https://www.facebook.com/search/SJSU Scoreboard

The Crucible – A True OCR Challenge

 The Crucible: Difficulty is key in this short-distance sufferfest

It may seem hard to believe.  On March 31st, 2018 in Clinton, Mississippi  I found a menagerie of soul-crushing obstacles deep in the heart of the sometimes ho-hum state of Mississippi.  However, that is exactly what The Crucible is.  A once a year event not for the easily defeated, The Crucible offers a great challenge to OCR elites as well as suffer fest diehards. Proof that people who are indeed serious about OCR and about pushing themselves to the brink even in Mississippi, The Crucible will tear racers down and subsequently build them back up into a stronger person by the end of the 4.8-mile sufferfest.

Josh Reed conquers the high wall

Methodical Mania in Mississippi

Just over four miles can seem like much further when it’s jam-packed full of forty obstacles.  The Crucible challenges racers with unique unorthodox challenges that they may not be used to. What seemed to be a large, low incline A-frame was actually a hanging over-under.  The concept is hard to grasp without optical aid. Imagine weaving your body in and out of two by fours all while trying to hold your body weight up.  The unknown can be daunting.  Discovering a technique that gets you through a new obstacle is part of the fun.

Katie on challenging Monkey Bars

Katie Windham making her way across the elevating monkey bars

Coaching at its finest

Monkey Swing

Innovation for the OCR Nation

This OCR introduced new, challenging obstacles.  It also made many OCR staples more challenging and threw a new twist on them.  We’ve all done a log carry. How about a DOUBLE fence post carry around a berm and down and up a hill?  Rope climbs are nothing new to the OCR world. A thirty-foot rope climb out of water is no easy task.  Bucket Carry? No, participants had to complete a double tire carry instead.  I commend and respect the race director on his barefaced approach.  The Crucible presented competitors with a great physical and mental challenge designed to unleash the animal of survival from within.

Sweet Victory

Working out the Kinks

The only qualm I have with The Crucible is expected with smaller, newer races.  Volunteers were either not placed at some obstacles early on, or they did not know how to properly give instruction.  This is vastly important when elite waves come through, especially when cash prizes are being awarded. Early on there were no instructions and no volunteers to give direction.  Many newcomer elites had to repeat obstacles, in turn, forcing them to be behind other competitors on an obstacle losing valuable time.

There were also a few bad choke points that just didn’t flow well for an elite event.  Hanging in the air because someone is in front of you and hasn’t yet figured out their technique isn’t fun.  However, these small detriments did not severely detract from the overall experience of The Crucible.  I feel that the small race can improve on these factors creating a tough challenge that also flows.  I am happy to get the word out about what The Crucible is and can be.  I invite many of you from surrounding states to come and try it out! It’s one of the few events that I personally can say makes a trip to my home state worth it!