F.I.T. Challenge-July 2019

Introduction

Often times when we look at races, we are too busy looking to make judgments about the race rather than appreciating all of the work and effort that goes into each event. We see names for race directors, and there are many names that can be recognized immediately like Trail Master Hammond or Mark Ballas, but more often than not, the name is just a name, or even, not noticed at all. Being a race director is a lot of work, and to be honest, like many of you reading this article, I don’t really know how much works goes into being a race director. When Robb McCoy of F.I.T. Challenge asked me to come up and see part of the action, I did not think twice before accepting the invitation.

Background Information

Robb McCoy-Race Director and Owner

Before I had the opportunity to meet Robb and the gang, I had reached out to him with questions. F.I.T. Challenge is known for winning the title of “Best Small Race Series” by MudRun Guide, but unlike many other races, F.I.T. Challenge does not plan to travel in the near future.

When I originally started talking to Robb, I asked him if he would ever consider expanding his series to some of the southern states. His answer was clear-not anytime soon, because when balancing being a father, and a full-time teacher, it would simply be too much to have the race travel.

As a teacher myself, I immediately became intrigued by the process of this race. I honestly couldn’t imagine balancing creating this race as well as managing a classroom and a family. Not only hosting a race but one that continues to win awards and have its own following that is more passionate than the following of larger series.

Robb informed me that he started his athletic career with football many years ago after his dad had bought season tickets to watch the Patriots, whose stadium was very close to where he grew up. After watching many games, he had been inspired to take on the sport himself, and that’s when a life-long passion ignited. He played through high school and in college, and he continues to pursue that passion through coaching varsity football at the school he teaches at. While he was teaching, he got his first-hand look at OCRs with Spartan and Tough Mudder and decided that he would attempt to create his own race in the area.

Additionally to teaching, coaching, and parenting, Robb works many other jobs as well. McCoy F.I.T. is the name of his company, which is the technical owner of F.I.T. Challenge, and they serve as business consultants to other brands that are popularly known in the OCR Community. Have you ever heard of Wreck Bag or Fierce Gear? Both of those companies are partners with McCoy F.I.T and have worked closely with him to gain success.

Robb claims to have never only worked exclusively as a teacher. He has also coached kickboxing at gyms, taught Wreck Bag exclusive classes at gyms, and been the general manager of an Olympic Weightlifting Gym. So, after teaching a full day each day, he would go over to the gym and work in a management position. He credits much of his success as a small business owner to the experience of managing this gym, as he claims that his boss gave him as much control as he wanted, and he was able to get a feel for which systems work for him, and which ones are flops.

Now when he is not teaching, coaching, or fathering his two children, he is seen around the community doing regular, everyday things. Mostly he is working to benefit others and his community, and of course, I doubt he will ever be able to live down modeling Wreck Bags for the local YMCA.

Aaron Farb-The Everything Guy

Farb, who is almost exclusively referred to by his last name, is known for having many different titles around the F.I.T. Community. When I asked him what his official title was, he laughed. The other members of the crew made other references, such as “The Everything Guy,” and “The One Who Does Everything.” Robb refers to Farb as his right-hand man. Regardless of what his title is or isn’t, Farb plays an extremely important role in F.I.T.

Farb completed the first F.I.T. Challenge back in 2013, and once it was over, he offered to volunteer. After that Farb attended just about every F.I.T Challenge and has offered to volunteer extensively for each one. Eventually, he just became a hard-working part of the team. Now his roles vary, but he is extremely hands-on with the experience. He is part of the building team, will mark the course, check on obstacles, and run whatever other errands he needs to in order to get things done.

When he is not working on things for F.I.T, he is a pharmacist. Additionally, he is in school for nursing, and engaged and busy with wedding planning.

Larry and Ginger Cooper-Full Potential Obstacles

Larry and Ginger Cooper own their own brand, called Full Potential Obstacles. If you’ve raced in the northern part of the country, you have probably seen them traveling at races like City Challenge, Indian Mud Run, and they have previously made appearances at OCRWC. They are most known for their obstacles like the “Destroyer,” a staple for F.I.T Challenge since 2015. Larry and Ginger are from New Jersey and drive with their truck and supplies to come build for races. In this instance, Larry and Ginger drove 6 hours to come build for F.I.T., and they came immediately to the race location to build for several more hours.

Larry does not consider his business a job, but a hobby that he does for enjoyment. When he is not traveling for races, he works in Commercial HVAC. He told me that he loves the job because ever since he has been a kid, he has found much pleasure in taking things apart and fixing them to be better. Larry says he was once offered an office job in his position but turned in down because he did not like the idea of being inside.

Ginger also keeps busy with work when she is not pairing with Larry on building obstacles. She works as a dental hygienist and a personal trainer. She loves both of her jobs, stating that she has some of the best bosses she could ask for. Ginger is almost always smiling, and when she comes to F.I.T. Challenge, she takes on many different roles such as registration, check-in, and selling merchandise, just to name a few.

Out of curiosity, I asked the couple how they got into OCR. Ginger used to play soccer in school, and then afterward began training for half marathons and full ones as well. She fell in love with running. When she met Larry, he absolutely hated running. Because of his love of rock climbing, being hands-on, and being outside, the two agreed that OCR would be a hobby to collaborate their passions, and they have not looked back since.

Jen Lee-Everything Else

In addition to asking Farb what his title was, I asked Jen as well. She also laughed when I asked her, and said: “I pretty much do whatever needs to be done.” Jen has been with F.I.T. for many races now, but mostly takes on roles such as registration, selling merchandise, among others. Also, Jen is part of the build team, and very proud of the fact that F.I.T. presents a female build team along with Full Potential Obstacles. Jen is often the one who puts her foot down in the group to people who are trying to take advantage of Robb’s generosity.

In addition to working with the F.I.T. franchise, Jen is a personal trainer and a single mom of three daughters. Each morning before school, after she drops her oldest daughter off at the high school, she takes her younger daughters to run at a local park. Now, her daughters have built a love for running, and even her 11-year-old daughter has completed 8 laps at the F.I.T. Ultra for the last two years. When she’s not working as a mom, she is caught working twelve-hour workdays every day as a personal trainer/physical therapist at a nearby facility.

Scott-Volunteer Coordinator

I did not have the opportunity to meet Scott during the span of this race. I don’t know much about him other than he is the manager of volunteers, he helps in the building process, and is a member of the team at Bonefrog.

Challenge Preparations

Although I had the opportunity to work with the F.I.T. crew for many days, I had not seen all that went into building this course. I arrived on Wednesday, which was 3 days before the race was to be held.

3 days before the race (Wednesday)

Upon my arrival, after meeting with Mr. McCoy at the airport, we went straight to meet with Robb’s supplier for medals, obstacle mats, shirts, and other gear. His name is Mark, pronounced “Maaaahk” with GO EAST. Mark seemed to have a very “open door” policy with his clients, especially Robb. The two have been a pair since 2014, working on many races together. Maahk walked us around his office, which contained a warehouse with everything that he makes in it as well. Many people don’t know that the F.I.T Challenge uses the same supplier as Spartan Race. Not only that, but this pair works really well together. Robb will just walk in, pitch an idea, and they go from there. There is a laid-back relationship there that is still very professional, but because it is friendly, things end up getting done more quickly.

In this instance, Maahk walked us around his facility and showed us several of the products used to design what is used in F.I.T. and other races. Because Maahk and Robb have such a close relationship, Maahk is willing to work with Robb on providing additional gear that may be unused from other events. Rather than throw it out, it is recycled and used at F.I.T. For instance, the tape that is used to mark the course is a printed green that Spartan Race decided not to use.

FIT Challenge

Another supplier that works with F.I.T. Challenge is Wreck Bag. As previously mentioned, Robb had been a business advisor to them in the past. We originally went in to grab a truckload of wreck bags to use for Saturday’s race, but we stopped in to talk with the owners as well. They laughed and joked very casually, and told me stories of how they have been working with Robb for a long time, which led to both bad and good, but all very funny, stories of their past. The team mentioned that they are very thankful for Robb and how he has helped jump-start their business, and they are proud supporters of F.I.T. They mentioned that they are working on a new product, which may be released later this year, and if it is, the next F.I.T. Challenges may be one of the first, if not the first, OCR to get their hands on this new product. They wanted to speak with Robb and show Robb designs of their new product, and while they did so, I had to step out of the room (sorry guys!).

After loading an F150 truck bed entirely of wreck bags, weighing 25 lbs each, we were off to the racecourse. We emptied the pile of wreck bags onto the course, where they would be used that weekend. Then, it was time for the first adventure of marking the course.

We loaded up backpacks with arrow signs, and a few rolls of green tape to tag the trees with. Then, it was time to trudge on. We got into the field at Diamond Hill Park, and then we trudged up the hill. “Oh, so the first climb is right away?” I asked.

“Yep!” He said, excitedly.

We made our way over and up the hill, and as soon as we made it to the hill, it started storming. We pressed on anyway because regardless of Wednesday’s weather, the race would still be on for Saturday.

He assured me not to be shy about using packing tape because he does not like to worry about people getting lost on the course. He assured me no matter how much you mark a course, we could pretty much count that someone would manage to get lost. By the time we had gotten there, only a few obstacles of the course had been up. They had set up the Gibbons Experience much earlier in the week with the intention to allow people to attempt (see photo below). The first obstacle of the day was going to be the low crawl, which had already been set up with a bungee-type cord strung around trees going down a hill.

Gibbons at FIT

When we made our way down the hill, we talked about the layout of the course. The first climb had been pretty rough, the descend down the backside equally as difficult, and he informed me that there would be at least two more big climbs in the 3-mile course. He said he enjoyed having the layout set up that way because it makes the run more interesting.

Roughly an hour later, and 2/3 of the course had been marked. It was time to call it a day.

We went back to Robb’s house and attempted to eat dinner. It was difficult to hold a conversation with Robb, not because of his mannerisms, but his phone was buzzing constantly with e-mails and social media messages related to Saturday’s challenge. Most of the messages made the same comments: “Are you sure you want to have the race go on even though it’s going to be hot?” and “I can’t make the race now because it’s going to be hot, can I defer my race entry to April?”

F.I.T. has a transfer policy of transferring your race entry to another as long as it is at least ten days out, so to cancel 3 days out did not go over well. Many people asked if the day was going to be transferred to a different date–sadly, what can be difficult to recognize is that having a race costs money, the venue costs, to build obstacle costs, so it is not so easily pushed to another date. So although many of us look at upcoming races and think that it’s easy to transfer, we have to remember that it is not always so easy, and they may not be able to book the same venue.

In addition to receiving numerous calls from race day participants regarding their registration, Robb was also busy answering calls from companies for the race. He had received calls from the city government asking him to renew his entertainment license, which he completed earlier in the month. He had worked out arrangements with companies to deliver ice, as well as an ice bathtub for the athletes. He had arranged for Emergency Medical Treatment certified staff would be on-site to assist in injured athletes. These were just a few of the accommodations that were provided for his athletes. He had spent days prior working endlessly to build relationships from these companies, and have more than enough ice and water supply to last even the 12-hour runners. They also provided lots of baby pools, completely filled with ice, on multiple areas of the course and festival throughout.

Water at FIT

Earlier in the day, he had posted a message on Facebook informing participants of all of the measures that F.I.T. was taking to arrange for help regarding heat earlier in the day. Many of the people who responded to that message were very thankful that those accommodations had been made.

2 days before the race (Thursday)

We began our day by visiting Rev’d, a local spin class that Robb visits prior to work in the day, and it served as another reminder of how at the end of the day, Robb is just another normal person. The gym is located near the Patriots Stadium, where he reminisced on old football-related memories.

By 6:30, it was already back to work. His kids were dropped off, and even though the kids were there, he still had to review the names and bib numbers and get ready to send out the race day informational e-mail. Then, it was back to the race day location to build more obstacles.

FIT McCoy

When we arrived, Larry, Ginger, Jen, Farb, and a few volunteers were there to help build the obstacles. Larry and Ginger keep the same building equipment for the Destroyers and Devil’s Playground each time, so all there was was to be patient and listen to Larry’s instructions. Others went off to build some of the obstacles that are not completed by Full Potential, such as the floating walls. Once all of the obstacles were just about complete, it was time to go back out and complete the final portions of the course marking.

Destroyer Build 1Destroyer Build 2

One thing that I appreciate about Robb is that whenever a group of people gets together to work with him, he is very accommodating. He let everyone who stayed to work on the course stay with him, and he feeds his volunteers who work on build days. Additionally, volunteers who work on build days are provided with race-day vouchers to compete.

By the end of this day, the course had been pretty much set up with the exception of last-minute course markings. On this day, many more people were sending e-mails and messages regarding having their race entry deferred. I asked Robb if he was unsure whether or not people would drop from Saturday, and he said that he felt confident that the usual no-show rate would remain the same.

On the way home, Robb pointed out his first venue to me. The first F.I.T. Challenge took place on a smaller, flat field. Participants circled and winded through a flat field, ran through trees, and in the back, many of the original obstacles were provided by a local CrossFit gym. The original F.I.T. Challenge had roughly 1,300 participants, due to advertising on Groupon.

One day before the race (Friday)

By the time I had arrived on Friday, the festival area had been mostly set up. Robb and Jen both brought their children to help fold the finisher t-shirts and help out where they can.

FIT Festival

All that was left to do was organize merchandise, hang up signs and flags, and get ready for race day registration. Calls were still coming in regarding trading out registrations, and the answer was still no. Some fitness groups came to sign their teams up, and a few more came to register and collect their gear. Every single runner received a mug, a head buff, a tech shirt, and each runner was supposed to receive a collapsible cup that was going to take the place of having cups at water stations. The problem was, although the cups had been ordered three months in advance, they had not been shipped on time. Robb received an email at roughly 2:30 in the afternoon saying that they were finally shipped in, but they could not be sent out for delivery, and someone needed to go pick them up. We were able to go get them and they were ready on time, but it was a close call!

At registration, a few people showed up to get their gear ready for the next day. Most of the runners who came were ultra runners, who were starting early in the morning. If ultra runners completed the ultra in both April and in this race, they received a plaque for being an “ultra-ultra” runner.

Ultra Ultra FIT

Another unique piece of F.I.T. that i have not previously mentioned is that anyone is able to run. There are no kids races at F.I.T. In hte past they offered kids races, but there were not enough participants to justify continuing to offer the,. Instead, there is not an age requirement to run. That’s right–that means if you’re a parent of a kid who wants to run adult courses, F.I.T. is a good option for you.

The day of F.I.T. Challenge

On the day of the race, Robb was difficult to locate because he had been trying to meet as many of his participants as he could. He found me, I asked him if he was nervous, and he said “Nope. If you do things right, there’s nothing to worry about on race day. It’s just a waiting game.”

One thing that is interesting about Robb as opposed to things I’ve seen in other races. I have seen many people hang out with race directors after races, drink, and be friendly, but not quite like the way that people try to be friendly with Robb. Robb is very nice, and unfortunately, many of his participants try to squeeze out opportunities to take advantage of him, without recognizing the difference between that and being taken care of. The first example is from the people who stayed at his house and dipped as soon as they completed their lap. It’s not fair to him, and I don’t think that is going to stop until he puts down and tells people no.

The second case of people trying to take advantage of Robb was, and Jen, who worked parking in the morning, knew ahead of time that people would do this, was with parking. Parking at the venue was $10. However, people would pull up to Jen, and say “I know Robb,” expecting to get out of paying. Jen’s response back was hysterical and simple: “I know Robb, too. That will be $10!” It is frustrating that people at this race feel like simply saying that is going to provide them with a discount, or something for free. Additionally, it is good that Jen was working parking, because someone from another OCR media organization came without alerting F.I.T. ahead of time, with a homemade name badge declaring he needed to be allowed in for free due to his position. He paid the $10.

The main F.I.T. crew had gone to their stations. The startline announcer “Blaze,” was ready to go. Jen and their friend Adam were at parking, Robb was circulating, Larry was at his obstacle “The Devil’s Playground,” , Ginger was working merchandise, and Farb was circulating, checking for safety and to help the runners. The volunteer coordinators were nowhere to be seen. Somehow, the volunteers made it to their stations. I actually think it was Farb who told them where to go.

The beginning of the race meant Robb was explaining rules to the ultra runners himself. At one point there were some technical difficulties with the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner, and Robb immediately came up with the solution of a moment of silence, but the team was able to get the problem fixed right away. When the elite runners were up in the minutes following, Robb made the announcements for them, and then went immediately to the Gibbons obstacle.

The Course

FIT Start

The start line was placed on the bottom of a discrete hill, that led right away into a sharp curve on a flatter surface. Some volunteers were sitting at a picnic table,  giving words of encouragement before the first climb was coming. After you made your second turn, roughly 300 meters into the race (by my calculation, which is not an exact measurement in the slightest), it was alright time to ascend the first climb of the day.

The first ascend, although rocky, isn’t a terribly long one. As long as you can keep your feet moving, you’ll be up in no time. At the top of the hill, the course veers to the left, to reach a rockier peak. While Robb and I marked the course several days prior, he showed me part of the mountain that was not on the course. Although the course veers left, to the right, there is quite a view. F.I.T Challenge is held at Diamond Hill Park, and the first climb is, well, Diamond Hill. The top of the hill contains a marvelous view. This section of the park had previously been a part of the course, but after receiving some feedback on the descent, that portion had been removed.

After you continue going up the hill and through some rocky areas, you eventually hit a downhill. The downhill is also home to the first obstacle: the low crawl.

Low crawls can be interesting because there are a lot of different ways that crawls can be established in a course. The F.I.T. Challenge team chose to take a bungee-like material and wrap it around the surrounding trees. Although the bungee material was strapped on fairly low to the ground, the give of the cord made the obstacle doable for athletes of all sizes.

FIT Low Crawl

Following the downhill was a nice, flat run. Initially, the terrain was slightly rocky, with a two to three-person width. Then there was a simple cargo net climb that was fairly sturdy. Greeting runners afterward was an overgrown single person track. The ground here split in certain areas, adding some tricky footing on a trail that otherwise would have been relatively simple. Coming up soon were the first looks at the major obstacles.

Once you came out of the woods, there was an inverted ladder-type wall. There was a volunteer when I ran through, and I imagine she was there the majority of the run as well. Following that was the opportunity to run through a circle of trees, right into the rope climb. It was a short rope with several knots in it, making it a less than difficult rope. Underneath the rope was squishy, F.I.T. branded safety pads. Once you turned around, it was right to the pegboards. The pegboards slightly varied in height, and athletes were allowed to choose whichever one fit their comfort accordingly. Robb informed me a few days prior that athletes are allowed to wrap their legs around the tree for support.

FIT Pegs

A few more steps in the woods led athletes to the monkey cargo net. I had never seen one of these before coming to F.I.T. Many athletes began their attempt through this obstacle using an inverted-crawl-type method, while others attempted to monkey through. However, to monkey through was slow and taxing on grip, so many who began using that method did not follow through for the duration of the obstacle. Next up was the Gibbons Rig.

FIT Monkey Cargo

 

FIT Monkey Cargo 2

The Gibbons Rig contained a few different elements. The first one obviously, the Gibbons’ brackets. On the far right lanes, there were 6 brackets, separated by 3 feet each. The middle lanes contained 9 gibbons brackets, each 2 feet apart. The final lane on the left was just monkey bars. Following the gibbons (or monkey bars, depending on what you chose), there was another monkey bar, and then a cargo net to go up and over.

FIT Gibbons

Originally, when the rules were set, the elites were required to complete the side on the far right. Then, the rules changed so that the elite women could choose which lane they wanted to complete. And then the rules changed again, saying that both male and females could choose whichever Gibbons lane they wanted to complete. Robb was mandating the obstacle and made those calls based on feedback he received from athletes. The issue with this was that the volunteer coordinators failed to relay the message to their volunteers as well, so when the volunteers who were present were asked what to do, the information was not consistent.

Following the Gibbons Rig was an extremely dry slip wall. I wore my VJ shoes and was able to run all the way up easily. The slip wall originally had crooked steps on the back, but the day before the race, it drove the build team so crazy that they re-did it. (F.I.T. crew please forgive me for using this picture…I did not take another one after it was adjusted! ) Immediately after that was a tunnel crawl.

FIT Slip

Twisted tape made you think that the Destroyer  2.0 was coming up next, but it was actually a series of over/under/through walls. Following was another shorter ascend into the woods.

Running through some rocky terrain led athletes into their next obstacle: the first ladder wall. It was built very sturdily into the trees and did not seem to cause athletes many issues. Follow the downhill and you will reach the second ladder wall as well as a two-sided vertical cargo net. A series of volunteers waited at this area to greet athletes. Following that and you met face to face with a relatively tall Irish table.

After working through several more areas where you could actually run, you finally winded your way back to the Destroyer 2.0. Many of the elite runners had a difficult time, not with the “destroyer” portion of the obstacle, but the tires at the end. The tires were still a little slick from the morning dew. Following the destroyer was a run up a hill, with wreck bags at the bottom. Both men and women were expected to carry the 25 lb bag. People could grab a second bag if they didn’t feel like 25 lbs was heavy enough.

The interesting piece of the wreck bag carry was that, not only did you have to carry it up a hill (because let’s face it, usually when we see wreck bags, we can expect to see hills), but you had to carry it over F.I.T.’s teeter-totter obstacle as well. Elite athletes had to carry it with them over the obstacle. Open wavers, Ultras, and Multi-lappers did not. Then, it was up the hill, down the hill, a turn to the right, and already time to put the bag back in the pile.

Then, it was time to go over two tire hurdles (also seen in other races as Rolling Thunder) and on to the floating walls. The floating walls that were in the woods here were the shorter walls, with the back facing toward the runners. People could climb the ladder on the back of the wall to scale the obstacle. But, when athletes made it to the top and were turning their way down the other side, the wall turned horizontally with them. Very scary, but a unique and exciting take on a standard wall.

FIT Rolling Thunder

Then it was time for more running in the woods. This new trail looped you to the backside of where the herd of volunteers was located earlier, and runners were greeted with another tilting floating wall. This time, the wall was taller (I’m short and my perception of height isn’t always perfect,) and if I had to guess, I would assume it was 7 feet. Unlike the other floating wall, this one had the wall side facing you, so unless you were confident in your jump, it was more difficult to get to the other side.

More running later, and there was a cargo net climb. The net on this cargo shifted with movement, so competitors going through this obstacle had to slow it down to ensure safety. Luckily, the camaraderie of this race is outstanding, and many of the contestants were willing to hold it still for the next person.

Many more rocks later, and you came across the “OS” hill. Unlike the other climbs of the day, this hill was going down. The dirt on this hill, with the mixture of its trees and rocks descending down, will make you realize why people call it the “OS hill” really quickly! There was a sharp turn at the bottom and a little bit more running until the trail opened up and you could see the last two obstacles.

Next up: the Devil’s Playground. Man, this is one that I had been thrilled to try for ages. Although it looks like a shorter version of the Stairway to Heaven from Conquer the Gauntlet, this Full Potential Obstacles creation certainly is not. What makes this obstacle difficult is one, you have to start from almost sitting, and also, in between using the planks to grab, you have to alternate your hands onto the bar that is holding the plank as well. It is an extremely difficult obstacle, but one that will certainly keep your training on your toes…and completely humble you if you haven’t.

FIT Devil

The Devil’s Playground was the appetizer for Full Potential’s first award-winning obstacle, the Destroyer, and then it was on to the finish.

FIT Destroyer

Breakdown/Other Race Day Shenanigans

Afterward, I noticed how everyone on the crew was kind of scattered. I didn’t see many of anyone else until it was time to come to other obstacles. The only person I had seen during that time was Larry posted at Devil’s Playground, eagerly waiting to tell people that they could not use their feet while climbing up. Once the top finishers came, Robb and Farb were waiting at the finish line to distribute medals.

At the end of the day, there were several different media sources who were there looking to get attention. Unfortunately, some of the people who were there were looking to cause some trouble. At one point I saw Robb being interviewed by someone and the interviewer said while recording Robb’s response, “a lot of people didn’t like the layout of the course, because they said the trees made it feel like heat was being trapped, what do you have to say to that?” Let me tell you, I was on that course. I was on site all day, and I spoke with many participants and volunteers. Not a single person actually said that. It was just an instance of someone trying to cause problems.

The breakdown began that afternoon, and ultra lapping competitors were told that they were then having to do obstacle-free laps at 2:30. But, there was another problem. Originally, the ultras were told they were not going to have to start obstacle-free laps until 3:00. During the race, some people went around told athletes obstacle-free laps started at 2:00. Someone else said that the obstacle-free laps started at 2:30. Regardless of who said what, nobody said anything to the volunteers about what time the obstacle-free laps started. So, when runners came through and started asking whether or not they needed to complete obstacles, they weren’t sure.

I notified Robb right away, and he let the substitute volunteer coordinator know so the message could be passed on. But then, another problem came. Some of the volunteers were told to take down some of the course markings. They started taking down ALL of the course markings…even though there were runners still on course. Luckily, at this point, the runners who were on course had been on course for 8 hours and were relatively familiar with where they needed to go. Some were not. A few runners claimed to have gone off course. Some used that in order to cut the course significantly.

The breakdown of many of the other obstacles was fantastic. A group of recruits from a local army base came and were incredibly willing to help. Many of the volunteers who had signed up to help with breakdown left early on in the day, and never came to work their volunteer shift. After Jen’s suggestions, the volunteers who did not show up for their volunteer shift were sent a bill for their race.

The breakdown of obstacles with Larry was excellent. If I could recommend to a race company to use Full Potential Obstacles, I would not just on the fact that his obstacles are great, but the breakdown of those obstacles is quick and painless as well. He and Ginger have a system that is unbeatable.

Lessons Learned

From working with Robb for the last several days, I learned a lot about putting on a race.

One, I learned how important it is to have built connections in your area. Robb had made connections with local printing companies, the parks, and rec department, and gyms in the area, just to name a few. I don’t think that Robb would have the success that did if he had not built connections. The connections he built are important also because they are a reflection of the job that he has put in. I know that those connections would not be as strong if he was not a strong leader.

Two, I learned it is important to have a strong team. I know that F.I.T. is often identified as Robb’s creation, and although it is primarily Robb’s, Farb, Jen, and the Coopers are phenomenal at filling in the pieces and putting it all together. Not only that, but there are people there who celebrate the victories with you, and can help bring you back up when you feel like things aren’t going the way you imagined they would. Also, I know that the un-successes could have been prevented with a stronger volunteer coordinator, and I am looking forward to more F.I.T. adventures where the entire team will be together.

Three, I learned just how important it is to build a community involving your event. 100s of people were asked during this event what their favorite part about the race is, and the first thing that all of them said was that it was because the community was so kind and loving. You are not going to have the same feel at large races. Even though the course is exceedingly challenging, people find a way to bond over this event time after time… to the point where they feel as though they all have very personal relationships with Robb.

I learned how important it is to have good volunteers. Because a community like this is so in love with the event, there were several good volunteers who were excited to be a part of the event. Seeing how helpful the Army Recruits were was really encouraging. Additionally, because they were so thrilled to bring such a large group and get to be helpful. The participants in that event are going to have really strong leadership skills from continuing to come and give up their time to be a part of a community event so willingly.

Lastly, I confirmed my belief that directing a race, while working full-time is really challenging. All of the people who put on F.I.T. are those who give up so much of their time so that they can build something that unites a group of people while giving them an experience they’ll never forget. The fact that these people can do so much and still be able to unite a group the way that they do is pretty damn inspiring.

So, if you have heard about F.I.T. Challenge and you’re not sure if it lives up to the hype, take my word for it, it does. It pairs unique obstacles with interesting terrain, and to add a cherry on top, a supportive community. It is definitely one to mark off on your bucket list!

FIT Podium

Top finishers of single-lap elite wave:

Men:

1st-Jarrett Newby

2nd-Jeremy Goncalves

3rd- Javier Gutierrez

Women:

1st-Cassandra Ohman

2nd-Jennifer Dowd

3rd-Kristen Cincotti

 

Green Beret Challenge: Atlanta XII

Background

The Green Beret Challenge is a unique OCR experience because it offers three main types: The Operator, The Commando, and the XII. While most race series offer multiple race distances, which may also include additional obstacles and miles on the trails, each GBC experience is completely different. The operator is a standard OCR, which includes trail running, heavy carries, and other type of obstacles. The Commando is a four-manned team race, where your team will be assigned certain challenges to accomplish together. Lastly, the XII is a twelve hour, multi-phase endurance challenge which combines both the Operator and Commando challenges, plus whatever craziness Mark Ballas feels like adding.

I will tell you, this article is related to a twelve hour endurance event, so, I have a lot to say. If you aren’t particularly excited about reading a lot of information, go ahead and skip to the “overview” portion at the bottom.

Pre-Event

One thing that I greatly appreciated was the communication. It started with a gear list, which was sent out about a week ahead of time, which allowed us all ample time to supply ourselves for the feat ahead. In addition he sent us the address, which was the same location as the Atlanta Operator, so most of us felt as least a little comfortable with location. We also were assigned a team leader, Lara Baker, who was in charge of making sure that everyone was good to go. Additionally, we were given lines from the Ranger Code, and split into groups where we had to memorize portions of the code. We were not told what we were going to be doing ahead of time, we just knew that it was going to last from 7 pm until 7 am the following morning.

Arrival

The only GBC that I had completed before this time was the Atlanta Operators back in May. The arrival for the operators was a little intimidating; the event took place on someone’s land, but the area itself didn’t have it’s own address, and we had to use the large GBC signs for navigation. Since there were only 13 people registered for this event, the signs and posters were not there. I actually ended up calling Mark Ballas to ask him if I could come in since I was three hours early). He made an effort to stop what he was doing to personally greet me and talk to me about the event. This event felt much different from the Operators. There was no DJ. No port-o-Johns. No swarms of people. Just silence. You could listen to the bugs chirping and relax by the water, but, it was silent and almost eerie. I suppose it was meant to be a foreshadow of what was coming.

Phase One

Before we got started, our team leader, Lara Baker (if you race in the South East you probably know her, she is a tough cookie who always wears her hair in blonde pigtail braids), gave us our roster numbers and lined us up with our Rucks. We were lined up by a post that had on it a “missile,” an Army uniform, and an American Flag. We knew right away that these three things were going to be carried with us throughout the night.

A few minutes later, Mark comes out. He gives us our introductory speech, talks about his extensive experience with Green Berets, and informs us that there is going to be some swimming throughout the event. So, to get started, we have to get started with a water confidence test. Weaker swimmers were instructed to grab life vests.

We head over to the dock, one by one we climb the stairs to the second level.  He tells us that we are going to stand at the edge, and he’s going to push us in one by one. Granted, the fall wasn’t huge: probably less than ten feet. He only pushed each person a little bit, so it would be more of a jump. Every person was able to land feet first, and again, the weaker swimmers were allowed to wear life vests. But, the scary thing was standing so close to Mark, paying attention to what he was saying, and knowing that the fall was coming. Luckily the water was warm, and Mark provided a rope to guide us back to the shore.

When we get out of the water, we all line up by our rucks again. Mark explains to us that phase one is going to be similar to the Operators course, only it is not a race. Rather, we have a period of time where we are going to complete this two-mile course, and we will try to complete multiple laps. He has us split into three different groups so that we can be more spread out, as some of the obstacles were built for only one at a time.

Before we were off, he informs us that many volunteers backed out last minute, which was not ideal for some night obstacles, specifically, the cargo net. He was more concerned about safety than difficulty, and let us know that if we were not comfortable completing the obstacle, he would rather skip it than risk falling.

We get going, at a reasonable pace because again, we were informed that it was not a race and we were going to be running for a certain period of time. It wasn’t until I hit the first obstacle where I realized that Mark definitely did not tell us how long that period of time would be. Sigh.

The first obstacle was one that we had seen before: the sled pull. The only difference this time is that the sled either felt heavier, or I have gotten a lot weaker. The grass was longer. But overall, not difficult, I was just slow.

(Photo from GreenBeret Challenge: Atlanta Operators)

The next portion included a short run to a creek where we had to crawl underneath some wire. In between the two, there was some wire out that could have (and did) trip some people in transit. By the second round, all of the wire had been covered. The next piece was a trail run up a pretty rocky hill, and then, the worst f***king yoke carry I’ve ever seen. That yoke was absolutely terrible. The beam of the yoke was a bar rather than the standard wood beam. The bags were really far apart and low to the ground. You may laugh at this, but I’d be lying if I told you that my bags didn’t drag on the ground. Not only that, but it was around a dirt biking course. Which can only mean one thing: lots of little hills. Man, it was tough. I turn around and I see Lara Baker again, and she is just FLYING by on the obstacle, and she confesses that she was able to move her bags in a little bit closer, which helps a TON.

Almost immediately after was the cargo net. During the day, the volunteer moved in between the yoke and the cargo net. At night, he stationed himself and a few lights on the obstacle. I don’t think anyone opted out of completing it. It was very sturdy.

The next obstacle was a rig that was extremely well lit and attached to some trees on the side of the course. It was a little difficult to see initially, but it was very fun. I actually ran right by it the first time.

Following the obstacle was a short trail run, and then back into the water where we were initially pushed. The followed the rope back to the dock. Once we got to the dock, we were greeted by Mark Ballas.

And then, we had to turn around and do it all again.

After about three laps, it was time to be done. Some of us were sitting down, when Mark informed us that we weren’t done. It was time to go back to the dock.

Remember how earlier I said that we had to remember lines from the Ranger Code? Now was time to show our stuff. We got back onto the dock, and stood on the edge like we had when Mark pushed us in. He asked us which portion we had to memorize, and if you got it wrong, well, you can guess what happened.

Once that was done, it was time for phase 2.

Phase Two

It was time to move on to the next portion. Now that we had completed the Operators portion, it was time to move on to the Commando.

 (Photo from Green Beret Challenge Instagram)

 

We started with the rucks, and we gathered the flag, the uniform, and the Maverick Missile. First task: follow Mark. Easy enough, right? Wrong. That man can move. Some of us had to jog in order to keep up with him. Our friends with the maverick missile fell back quickly. Then it was on to our next task, where we met back up at the same bags.

One of our group members was assigned a team lead. Our next team lead was given instruction to lead a task. After Mark was done talking with him, he turned around, so that the new group lead could take command. We were instructed to take the sandbags from the sled carry earlier, put three in a bag, and put the bag on a different sled that we had to tie up. Here was where we had to use the first tool in our rucks: rope. Most of us used rope to keep the sled tied together. Then, it was time to carry the sled underneath the wire that we had to crawl under in the creek, and up the hills. This took maybe two hours, and was very challenging.

The next event was a lot of fun. Mark picked a new team lead (surprise: it was me), to lead the next event: the Bunker Build-Off. This may have been my favorite part of the entire event. I had to split up the entire group into two different teams. The task was simple: use the resources around you to build a better bunker than the opposing team. Mark Ballas and I then judged each of the bunkers. It was awesome.

Following immediately after this was another task that you may have been somewhat familiar with if you follow @greenberetchallenge on instagram. Mark had chosen another person to be the team lead, and we met by the edge of the pond where we were greeted with barrels of “goo” and logs. The mission? Create a raft that can transport your barrel. Then get in the water with the raft and move it on down to the other end

.

 (Photo from Green Beret Challenge on Instagram)

Now, I will say, Mark puts a lot of emphasis on safety. I feel like several endurance challenges are just like “whoa, look at how tough I am, I’m going to see how many people quit muahahaha” while Mark actually puts thought into what he does and makes it fun and safe at the same time. Yes, we were swimming in the dark. Yes, we were swimming with this big old raft. But every single person had to rock a life-vest with a fat glow stick attached to make sure all of our heads were above water. Mark was also in the water, making sure to swim around in order to maintain a visual on all athletes. I wasn’t worried for my safety for one second.

Granted, our raft fell apart, and we were stuck in that damn pond for what felt like forever. But. I’m here to tell the tale.

Once we were done we had time to reflect, and then it was time for the next challenge.

If you did the Alabama Commando, you’re probably familiar with this one. Create an apparatus to move said barrel using your rope and the bars from the yoke carry. Easy enough right? Except you’re wearing your rucks the entire time.

This was painful. So so painful. Probably my least favorite part of the entire night. The worst piece of it, was that I am so small, that it was extremely difficult for my team to transport it. I felt weak, and a little embarrassed. But everyone else killed it. I was so proud of how willing people were to work with people who they have not met before. It honestly felt like our group became a family. We walked them over to base camp, and at this point, we knew the sun was going to rise soon.

Phase Three

This phase was supposed to be super short and fun, but this honestly felt like it was the longest event that we did. With one hour remaining and sunrise on its way, knowing the end is near, makes it feel so much further.

Mark called my friend Jennie and I to let us know we were selected to be team captains for a relay race. The task: farmers carry down a portion of a dirt bike course and back. Each person goes. This was then followed by bringing down one of the longer sleds with two sandbags in it. Easy enough right? Well, for added difficulty, he turned the sprinklers on.

 

 (Photo taken of relay race terrain during daytime)

 

Now I know what you’re thinking: so what? Didn’t you spend a fair portion of the night swimming? The answer to that is yes, but the way this dirt was made it so slick. Almost everyone fell, and people were coming off looking like they just completed a GoodWill MudRun.

This was a lot more difficult than anticipated. The hardest part of this, in my opinion, was waiting for your turn. Now the sun was really coming up, and we all just realized we’ve been awake for freaking ever. The realization for me was difficult, and I caught myself closing my eyes in between sets. Both teams finished, with only a few minutes to spare. Everyone cheered for each other, whether they were on their team or not, and then Mark lined us up. He came around and individually shook each of our hands, placing a coin in them. And just like that, it was over.

Overview/Final Thoughts

Going into this event, I was terrified. Not because of the event itself, but because I am not a creature of the night. I was worried that the sheer thought of being out so late was going to completely destroy my spirits, and make it difficult to function for several days afterwards. Much to my surprise, I really enjoyed the fact that it was at night. Sure, there were times that I fell on my face when maybe I shouldn’t have, and I freaked out because I assumed that every stick in the creek was a snake about to eat my brains. The thing about it being at night rather than in the day, yes it’s not as hot, but you don’t have to watch the day proceed without you. Because the sky didn’t change once it got dark, you didn’t think about time. It made it easier just to focus on the task at hand. It was enjoyable. Another really great thing about being at night, and in the middle of nowhere, was that if you were in pain, you could just look up at the stars. I live in a city, and so this is something that I don’t get to see very often. It really makes you think about how lucky each of us are to be on this planet.

One of the lessons that OCR and endurance events have taught me is that the things that scare the total shit out of you tend to be the ones that leave the biggest impression. Mark Ballas has grown really great at this. I will probably end every GBC review I do with some kind of blurb of my appreciate for Mark. He has created an event that, well, is scary. Twelve hours is an extremely long time. But, in those twelve hours, he does a good job of making everyone there feel like someone. So much of his heart and passion are being shown right in front of your very own eyes, and you get to experience his world first-hand. He puts so much thought and effort into every single event that he hosts, that you can’t help but feel a little giddy when you know one is coming up. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to participate in this event. Through his leadership and passion, twelve hours isn’t much time at all, even if it’s at night and carrying big rucks. He smiles (sometimes maniacally) and makes an effort to get to know people’s names. You definitely won’t see this from every OCR CEO.

I recommend this event for people who are looking to challenge themselves, but want to do endurance events that have a purpose. Through this event I had an opportunity to learn more about the Green Beret and Army Rangers. Mark Ballas explains how what you are doing is relevant to those special forces. Some of the other endurance events I have done have come off as very “do this because I told you to,” but that isn’t the case for this event at all. Every movement has a purpose. People don’t get cut for the sake of getting cut. Again, everyone who is there is seen as someone, and that’s extremely important. Just make sure that you are fueling properly and stay confident.

I know I wasn’t the strongest person out there, but I definitely plan on completing more events with the Green Beret Challenge. I hope to see you there too.

RANGERS LEAD THE WAY!

OCR Athlete Nicole Mericle Backed by Sur AltRed for 2018

Press Release

OCR fan favorite and OCR Worlds Champion, Nicole Mericle packs a new sponsor in her run belt: Sur AltRed, a Beetroot supplement reputed to improve recovery time after muscle training and fatigue. Sur is not saying that AltRed will make you an OCRWC champion, but they’re also not not saying it either…

Sur PhytoPerformance™, creator of AltRed™, a groundbreaking phytonutrient supplement that unleashes the unique athletic performance and recovery benefits of betalain phytonutrients, has partnered with the Timex Multisport Team as well as professional ultrarunner Cat Bradley and professional Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) competitor Nicole Mericle for the 2018 season.  Sur will support the esteemed athletes throughout the year and will provide them with AltRed for all of their training, racing and recovery needs.

Launched in July 2017, AltRed came to the market as a new paradigm in plant-based performance and recovery supplementation. Betalain, a phytonutrient naturally found in beets, is the active ingredient in AltRed. It has been scientifically proven in studies conducted by the Sports Performance Laboratory at the University of California Davis to improve oxygen delivery, mitigate lactic acid, and protect muscles from damage during activity. Sur’s commitment to athletes extends beyond the efficacy of performance, having AltRed third-party certified through both Informed-Choice Trusted by Sport™ and NSF™.

The Timex Multisport Team consists of 50 triathletes ranging in backgrounds and abilities from full-time, professional athletes to elite age groupers and influential triathlon figures. In 2018, the team will be racing at nearly 500 races worldwide across triathlon disciplines, with the season culminating at the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. As a part of the sponsorship, Sur will supply team members with AltRed for their triathlon pursuits and the Timex Multisport Team will be prominently displaying the Sur and AltRed logos on their racing kits.

“We are really excited to be working with Sur PhytoPerformance this year,” said Tristan Brown, Timex Multisport Team Manager. “It is our mission to find partners that provide our athletes not only with beneficial product and equipment but with event support as well. Their presence at triathlon races across the country provides an extra level of encouragement when it is needed most for our athletes.”

Cat Bradley, a professional trail and ultra runner of Boulder, Colorado, has become an emerging young force after a breakthrough year of victories and podium finishes. In late 2016 she set the course record at the Rio Del Lago 100 Miler, and in 2017 took wins at the Canyons Endurance Run 100K and the Western States 100 Endurance Run. She also set the Fastest Known Time for the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim.

“I am excited to add another tool to my training and racing toolbox this season,” added Bradley. “AltRed has been really beneficial to my performance and recovery and I am happy to represent the product and the Sur brand this year.”

Nicole Mericle, residing in Boulder, Colorado, began her athletic career as an NCAA D1 runner at Rice University. After college, she started competing at OCR and has risen to the top of the sport as a multiple event World Champion. She closed out the 2017 season with multiple podium finishes on the Spartan World Championship Series, first place at the Tough Mudder World Championships as well as first place finishes in both the 3K and 15K races at the OCR World Championships.

“Adding AltRed to my daily routine has made a noticeable difference in my training and racing,” shared Mericle. “I appreciate the brand’s commitment to clean sport, passion to excel, and willingness to encourage and uplift others. These values align well with my own and I look forward to sharing AltRed with the trail running and obstacle course racing communities this season.”

“We are honored to be able to help support the Timex Multisport Team, Cat and Nicole this year,” shared Travis Johnson, Sur’s Product Manager. “We are privileged to power each and every one of these athletes who push and exceed their limits and that are all true role models for sport.”

This group of elite and professional athletes joins the AltRed PhytoRebel ambassador community of over 100 athletes who share the core principles of training and competing with plant-based supplements that are scientifically proven to improve athletic performance. The AltRed team will be hitting the road in their Airstream trailer starting this winter and will be activating at endurance events across the country throughout the year. AltRed is available for purchase at Sur.co and is sold in 30 capsule bottles for $50.00.

 ABOUT SUR  

Sur PhytoPerformance creates clean, powerful plant-based supplements that improve athletic performance. Sur is built on the experience of seven generations of farmers who have grown with the food, organic food, and dietary supplement industry. AltRed, a groundbreaking phytonutrient supplement that unleashes the athletic performance and recovery benefits of betalains, is the first product released by Sur. To learn more visit Sur.co.

 

ABOUT THE TIMEX MULTISPORT TEAM

Established in 2001, the Timex Multisport Team helped shape what the modern-day triathlon team looks like. Focused on supporting a range of athletes from full-time professionals, to elite age groupers, and consumer influencers, the Timex Multisport Team provides specific tools and management so athletes achieve the Team’s performance and marketing goals. Now in it’s 17th year, the Timex Multisport Team is the longest running triathlon program in the world. Learn more at timexteam.com

A Day at the Ball Park – Spartan Stadium Series AT&T Park Sprint Review

Take Me Out to the Ball Park


AT&T-Stadium-Sprint-Stadium-View

Home of Major League Baseball’s San Francisco Giants, AT&T Park is situated in downtown San Francisco right on the San Francisco Bay with a beautiful view overlooking the water. This view was highlighted from the top of the rope climb; located in the stands above right field which overlooks McCovey Cove. Fun fact: home runs hit into “The Cove” are known, unsurprisingly, as “splash hits.”

AT&T-Stadium-Sprint-Rope-Climb

This was my first Spartan Stadium Race, but I had done my research beforehand as well as watched the Spartan live stream that morning. I felt prepared and honestly, most of the reviews that I had read of the Spartan Stadium Race Series indicated that they were the easiest of all Spartan race types.

This was an interesting race for me. It was the first race where going as fast as I could wasn’t my goal. My ultimate goal was to help a first time Spartan, and good friend, not only complete the course but actually enjoy himself. Running with my friend allowed me to really take in the venue and focus on how this race was laid out. This gave me a unique perspective on the course design.

Batting OrderAT&T-Stadium-Sprint-Obstacle-List

From my perspective, I thought it was a fast and furious course with few potential hang-ups. Once the Spearman was completed it was essentially a time trial for the rest of the course.

From the other perspective, and the focus of this article, I saw a course designed to exhaust untrained/new racers. Having the Spearman (the most failed obstacle) as the 2nd obstacle on the course, it was almost guaranteed that anyone who was not prepared for this race was going to be pumping out 30 burpees early on. Shortly after the Spearman, there were multiple low crawls up an incline and then the Z-Wall. For someone unpracticed in grip strength and balance, the Z-Wall can be a difficult obstacle. For these people, they are looking at 60 potential burpees within the first 5 obstacles.

The Z-Wall was followed by more stairs and then 20 slam balls before you could move on. While the slam balls aren’t difficult from a technique perspective, it really ramps up the heart rate. Moving on from the slam balls there were more low crawls followed by low crawls, and once again… Low crawls. It seriously felt as if we were going to low crawl from the very bottom of the stadium to the top (and we may have). Once we made it through all the low crawls we just had to clear the 8-foot wall before the sandbag carry.

Foul Ball 

In my opinion, the sandbag carry, which was really a Spartan pancake, was by far the most difficult obstacle in this race. Not because of weight or distance or any actual factor relating to the obstacle, but because of the DISGUSTING stench of the sandbags. These things smelt rancid. Even as I approached the sandbag carry I could smell them from a good ten yards away. At first, I thought I had come upon a group of Spartans that did not believe in personal hygiene, but I could not have been more wrong. The carry was only a short route and yet nobody wanted those things anywhere close to their body. That scent attached itself to any body part or piece of clothing that it came in contact with. I do not know what Spartan did to make them smell so terrible, but there were people at the end of this struggle that were on the verge of vomiting.

Once everyone’s stomach settled from the smell of the sandbags, we did some more stairs and approached the box jump obstacle. This was another obstacle that wasn’t necessarily difficult in terms of strategy, but rather conditioning. My one issue with this obstacle was the lack of coordination between volunteers. Some volunteers would tell Spartans to stand straight up after jumping on the box while other volunteers just let people do it however they wanted.

Seventh Inning Stretch 

Up and down some more stairs (it’s a Stadium Sprint – shocker, right?) and there was the rope climb. Really the only reason to discuss this obstacle was the view. I finished my rope climb quickly, but my friend was unable to make it to the top and had to do his burpees. Being the good friend that I am, I enjoyed the view while he did all his burpees. I actually did offer to do some for him, but he wanted to do it all on his own no matter how long it took, which definitely earned him added respect from me.

AT&T-Stadium-Sprint-Assault-Bike

After a couple of staple Spartan obstacles – the Atlas carry and Herc hoist – there was a brand new obstacle: the assault bike. This was another take your heart rate through the roof type of obstacle. Burn 10 calories and then move on. Simple enough, but being so close to the end of the course, a lot of people were already exhausted. Right around the corner from the assault bike was the jump rope. 20 revolutions to advance. The only caveat being that you had to have an exercise band wrapped around your ankles. This was more of a nuisance than any real added difficulty.

AT&T-Stadium-Sprint-Multi-Rig

The Multi Rig was next and turned out to be a tricky obstacle due to the fact that the rings/baseballs were hanging precariously low to the padding. Being 6’2” myself and my friend being 6’3”, this made things more difficult for us and it was crucial to keep our knees up and arms bent in order to complete this obstacle.

Sliding Into Home Plate

There were only a few more obstacles left to finish the race: the A-frame cargo, some military hurdles, a couple walls and then the gladiator. I have only been doing Spartan races for a couple of years now, but I have read that they used to have actually “gladiators” at the end of a race that you had to get past. Unfortunately, now they just have some punching bags hanging from a structure that you need to run through.

AT&T-Stadium-Sprint-Hurdles

Going back to my perspective, I found the course to really be too easy. I completed the race burpee free, and I didn’t feel like there were any true challenges. With that being said, I did enjoy it and would love to do another Spartan Stadium Race. Plus, the medals are really cool.

I did regret not being able to run the course as fast as I could. In hindsight, I could have run it earlier in the day and then run again with my friend. More importantl, though, I was able to introduce another person to Spartan races and he is already talking about signing up for his next race! No matter what time I could have run on my own, I consider this a far better result.

AT&T-Stadium-Sprint-Medals

Seattle Spartan Beast and Sprint Weekend

The Seattle Spartan Beast and Sprint weekend brought about the close of an unusually dry summer and the beginning of some new and modified obstacles. Rose Wetzel also made her return, after bringing her new little super hero, Taylor, into the world just 7 weeks prior.

Seattle had a record dry spell of 55 consecutive days without rain. This caused the course, which is usually mired in mud, to be extremely dry and dusty. We ran on a parched creek bed which was once a water bog up to our thighs. It was interesting to see all of the logs and debris we tripped over when they were covered in water. The trails in the woods always had extremely slick mud. It was like a skating rink going up and down the hills. This time it was a layer of very thick loose dirt.  It was almost eerie, like a ghost town or as if something was missing. It did make for a much faster course though, which was great!

The obstacle layout was a bit unusual. There was a water crawl towards the beginning and a dunkwall shortly after. We had a bit of a run and then approached the monkey bars…..with wet hands. I didn’t survive and fell at the second rung. The water from my sleeves kept running down my hands and they didn’t dry out for some time. I made it to the twister but my hands were still wet which brought more burpees. Note to self…..practice monkey bars in the rain!

The Tyro was great to see as it’s always been one of my favorites. It was like an old friend and I was able to traverse it fast. I met up with a friend at this obstacle and she rocked it.

I can’t even describe how much another friend of mine impressed me on the rope climb. She made it for the first time, in a race, and was so excited! She was in tears and her heart was full. She wanted to do it in honor of 9-11. That is what Spartan races are all about to me, seeing people reach for something, accomplishing it, and sharing their joy.

I came across a few familiar obstacles with a twist. The cargo net had a “table” in front of it you had to climb before continuing. I was staring it down because it was eye height on me which made it tough to scramble up! Once reaching the top, it was a quick climb up and over the net.

The rig started out pretty standard with a straight bar, rings, baseball, and more rings, but it ended with a wall you had to swing to and climb up. It was much harder than you would think. There were a lot of burpees here.

There was one obstacle which was new to me, the Ladder Climb. It was so tall! I was told the trick was to have your hands on the opposite side of the ladder to keep it a bit more stable and keep it from swinging out from your feet.

A wonderful surprise at the race was Rose Wetzel! She ran the Sprint on Sunday in the Elite heat. Rose and Ashley Heller were battling it out for 2nd and 3rd place and with only 5 seconds between them, Ashley finished 2nd and Rose 3rd. Lauren Taksa rounded out the podium with first place! Rose’s sweet baby and husband were there to cheer her on.

 

This completed the first of three trifectas I have planned this year and several of my BeastsOCR teammates completed their trifectas this weekend as well. My team is like family and I’m so thankful to share these experiences with such wonderful people! Aroo!!

Photo credit: Kim Collings, Tim Sinnett, Miriam McCormick