Spartan Central Florida Beast 2019

Central Florida Beast

 

December 7th 2019 in Mulberry, Florida

Venue: Sunshine and Quick Times

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

Flat and Fast

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

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

Course Layout

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

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

Multi-rig

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

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

 

Twister

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

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

Stairway to Sparta

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

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

Olympus

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

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

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

Final Obstacles (Carries, Spear, and a Jump)

 

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

Spectator Area

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

Festival Area

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

Now for the Negatives

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

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

Add Some Incentive

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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Spartan North American Championships – West Virginia Beast 2019

Obstacle-Gauntlet-in-West-Virginia

If there’s anything Spartan Race does well, it’s finding one of a kind locations for their races. Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia proved to be the perfect place to not only put on a Trifecta weekend, but host the 2019 North American Championship race. 

The Venue

Summit Bechtel Reserve is absolutely perfect to host an event like this. Those unfamiliar with West Virginia’s terrain were greeted with numerous climbs that ended with gorgeous views. Elite and Age Group racers had to qualify to take part in Saturday’s Beast, while everyone else could run in the Open waves. In total, the Beast ran about 14.4 miles with close to 2,900 feet of ascent. Anyone unfamiliar with West Virginia’s terrain were greeted with numerous climbs that ended with gorgeous views. 

Climbing-the-Mountain-in-West-Virginia

This was only my second Beast ever and happened to be the last piece to complete my second Trifecta ever. My first Beast was the 2018 Ohio Beast held at the Southington Off-Road Park. That venue was very flat with altering terrains, while West Virginia is mostly trail but a good variation of climbs and descents. 

 

The West Virginia race was definitely more difficult, but if I was left with a choice between the two, it’s an absolute no brainer. No matter what distance you want to do, West Virginia is a must race. 

Spartan-Trifecta-Weekend-in-West-Virginia

Why A Beast?

Maybe you’ve only ever run Sprints because 5 miles seems like enough. Or you’ve done a Super and are wondering if you should take the next step up. So, before we get into the specifics of the course and the obstacles, let’s talk about why a Spartan Beast at all.

 

I would recommend everyone set out for a Trifecta at least one time. If you would rather stick to shorter races, great! But there’s something special about running over a half-marathon with obstacles. 

 

On top of that, the open waves are more spread out than the shorter races. This is great for people who want to get in some running between obstacles. Granted, the climbs and some obstacles do still get jammed up some in open heats. Despite that, even some of the more narrow trails had space between runners. 

The-Views-at-the-North-American-Championship

Oh, The Obstacles!

Outside of what I needed to get a Trifecta in 2018 and 2019, I usually stick Sprints and the occasional Stadion (Stadium). But the way Spartan has moved over the last year or two, you see a lot of the same obstacles. So at that point, the more Sprints you run, the more you’re just looking at the venue itself and the course design. Don’t get me wrong, I love the short distance of a Sprint, but I also love obstacles!

 

If you really want to be exposed to Spartan’s full gauntlet of obstacles, you absolutely positively must run a Beast. This year’s West Virginia Beast had 38 obstacles, many of them I haven’t seen since last year’s Beast in Ohio. Though I didn’t run the Sprint and Super on Sunday, they each had 20 and 31 respectively. 

 

There’s really no room to complain about what obstacles Spartan had because, well, they pretty much had them all (Though I wish they included that Twister/Monkey Bar combo this year). The Beast threw at you everything from the Yokohama Tire Flip to Helix to Tyrolean Traverse and even a Spartan helmet-shaped Bucket Brigade course. The Beast even included a nice little swim late in the race. 

Ryan-Woods-finishing-Helix

Quite A Warm-up

If I had one complaint about the race, it’s that parking was incredibly far away from the festival. Our heat wasn’t until around noon, so 10:30 am seemed like a good time to arrive. But we still ended up on the outskirts of parking. I’m not sure exactly how far of a walk it was to the festival from our car, but I would guess it took around 10-15 minutes. That’s a great way to warm-up for the race, but made the walk back pretty daunting. 

 

Spartan could add a few shuttle stations throughout the parking area. This would allow small shuttles to take racers to the festival entrance. Though parking and bag check were both free this year, so the there would probably be some trade off. 

North-American-Championship-Spartan-Medal

Ya’ll Come Back Now, Ya Hear?

The venue is great. The area around the venue is gorgeous. Southern hospitality is a real thing. Biscuits and gravy are everywhere. There’s a lot to love about going to West Virginia for a couple days. Not to mention the North American Championship Beast medal all Saturday finishers walk away with. 

 

I told myself after this year I would stick to short races and not need more Trifectas in the future. But as long as Spartan keeps coming back to Summit Bechtel Reserve, I have a feeling that so will I.

 

Photo Credit: Spartan Race

emPowered OCR – Lancaster’s First Stadium-Style Obstacle Race

emPowered-OCR-at-Clipper-Magazine-Stadium

 

A well-run local obstacle race is a great find. A well-run local obstacle race that’s for a good cause is a gem

 

emPower Training Systems and The Mighty Mehal Foundation teamed up to bring Lancaster, PA its first ever stadium-style obstacle race. The 3.25-mile course took place in and around Clipper Magazine Stadium, home to the Lancaster Barnstormers. 

 

A lot of local “obstacle” races I’ve experienced tend to be more of a glorified mud run than obstacle race. emPowered OCR was a true obstacle race that challenged competitive athletes while ensuring new racers would have a blast. There were even family waves so parents could run the course with their kids instead of watching them run a smaller course from the sidelines.

 

Inside-Clipper-Magazine-Stadium

For A Cause

A lot of people use obstacle racing as an escape from the ordinary day to day. But some people use it to get through their own personal obstacles. emPowered OCR was created to help those people, with all proceeds benefiting The Mighty Mehal Foundation.

 

The foundation was created in honor of Shaun “Mighty” Mehal and provides scholarships to qualified applicants who are entering a recovery house in Lancaster County. 

 

Free Free Free

We all know how most of the larger races go. Need to park? That’ll be $10.00. Might even have to take a shuttle. Want to bring your grandma so she can cheer you on? Open up that wallet. 

 

Pretty much the only thing you needed to pay for at emPowered OCR was your registration and bag check, if you needed it. Parking was provided in the stadium lot and spectators were free of charge. There were even plenty of free samples from local and national vendors. 

 

As with the larger events, each registration included a tech shirt, finisher medal and a free beer for anyone over 21 years old. 

emPowered-OCR-course-map

Course Design

The course was designed by the co-owner of emPower Training Systems and personal trainer, Josh March. The distance came in right around 3.25 miles and featured 23 obstacles. Clipper Magazine isn’t as big as a major league stadium so, unlike those, it wasn’t all stairs. Most of the course took place just outside the stadium, with the last quarter-mile or so being inside. 

 

In the competitive waves, the majority of the obstacles were mandatory completion. Racers were given an extra band at registration and had to take it off if they were unable to complete an obstacle. Two obstacles did have a penalty loop, in addition to mandatory completion and one had a burpee penalty. 

 

For the “Strike Zone Challenge,” If you missed the strike zone net, you were required to do 15 burpees. Unfortunately for competitive racers who missed, the burpee obstacle was shortly after, which added another 15 reps in the hot sun (I speak from experience).

 

There were two carries out on the course, bucket and sandbag, which surprisingly had the same weight for men and women. It felt like the weight would be a little light compared to other men’s carries and a little heavy for women. The bucket carry was about a quarter-mile, while the sandbag weaved up and down the stadium steps. 

 

emPowered-Peak-Obstacle

No Easy Task

For anyone looking to challenge their grip and coordination, that was well taken care of. Several obstacles required bell ringing. “Because I Was Inverted” required traversing upside down across a steel beam from one end to the other. The “Y-Wall” was a fun mix of relatively easy rock holds out to a pair of hanging metal tubes. 

 

“emPowered Peak” almost seemed similar to Spartan’s Olympus due to the requirement to go from side to side on an angle. Unlike Olympus, though, there wasn’t much to grab. The obstacle was made up of vertical 2x4s that required careful transitions and shoes with some grip. 

 

Perhaps the toughest obstacle of the day, though, was the Barnstormers Rig. According to March, it turned out to be a band killer among competitive racers. It required transitioning between rings, baseballs and even a baseball bat in order to ring the bell at the end. And because it was late in the race, many of the athletes already had fatigued grip. 

 

A-look-at-emPowered-OCR-rig

What’s Next?

According to March, the race was a great success and they’re already in the works for a 2020 race and potentially a second event. With around 450 total participants, emPowered OCR definitely has the potential to become an annual event, with some expansion.

They do plan to keep the competitive waves mainly mandatory completion, which personally I love. There were a few hiccups with the registration process, but plans are already underway to improve the process for next year. They’re also looking into a more OCR-equipped timing system as this year’s timing was not set up to show 100% completion and non-completion among competitive racers. Instead bands had to be manually checked among the top finishers. 

emPowered-OCR-top-finishers

emPowered OCR was a fantastic race and the team did a really great job running the event. At no point did I feel like this was a first-year race. It’s definitely one that will be on my calendar for 2020 and beyond!

 

Photo Credit: emPower Training Systems, Jesse Keim, Kevin Peragine Photography, Lindsey Makuvek

Born Primitive: X-Factor Sports Bra

Born Primitive is an athlete favorite brand for most gym workouts. They typically make gear for CrossFit gyms, but, their clothes are generally sturdy enough for tough OCR-based workouts. I’ve noticed that their clothes don’t stretch, and colors stay nice and vibrant, even through most washes. Not only that, but BP fans can get a kick out of a multitude of variety in their selection, which is arguably some of the sexiest apparel that is also completely functional.

One thing that I appreciate about the brand is that they keep us pretty in-the-know when it comes to releasing new products. One of their more recent products is listed in the title: the x-factor sports bra.

As soon as I saw it, I thought that it looked perfect for what I needed. It almost has a similar build to the new Human Octane “superhero” series bra. The Born Primitive sports bra itself focuses on a more supportive build, with a longer band and thicker straps. The backing also has many straps so you can ensure that everything is going to stay in place. When I noticed that the website advertised it as something that also can be doubled as swimwear, I thought it would be fantastic for staying in place in the dunk wall.

Product Features

 

The X-Factor sports bra is 87% nylon and 13% lycra for a lightweight and comfortable feel. The edges of the back (not where the “x” is formed) is made out of a mesh material; between that and the open back look, the sports bra is really breathable, even given it’s thicker material. The length is longer and the straps are thicker to provide more coverage.

This Sportsbra also features a slight v-neck, and there are removable pads for those who prefer to have even more support in the sports bra. Because this sports bra provides an emphasis on support, if you are not expecting it, it may feel a little tight around the waistband. I like to save this sports bra for wearing to a race or during intense workouts, but maybe less for lazing around in big t-shirts.

I was a little concerned with my original thought of it being doubled as a swimsuit, I was thinking it was going to be more of a dry-fit material (never-mind that the website clearly has the other material listed, I just wasn’t paying attention!). This sports bra held up very well in the dunk wall, mud, and whatever else I threw at it in the Spartan Race.

Product Usage

I first wore this sports bra to a few workouts. I like to use Yancy Camp to train, which can combine many vigorous exercises into one beautiful, terrible, monstrosity. A lot of times with cheaper, or less specialized sports bras, when you hit a certain level of sweatiness, you feel like your sweat is bleeding through. I did not feel this way about the Born Primitive X-Factor; I felt dry and supported throughout the entire workout.

This was purchased the for race day specifically. I don’t know about you, but once I establish some kind of “race day” outfit, it gets me in the zone. The black X-factor sports bra looks pretty intense, so I got my hands on that one. I put it on and instantly felt ready to take on the day. The first race to which I wore this was the Spartan race in Virginia. First of all, the way it makes me feel is awesome. It looks really cool being paired with even more black.. but that’s just me.

One of the first obstacles that we encountered was the dunk wall. This was the one that I was the most nervous about. I jumped in and, other than the fact that the water was seriously cold, I felt great. Actually, the thicker band made me feel a little bit warmer than I could have otherwise.

Another obstacle that I noticed a difference on throughout this obstacle was surprisingly the bucket brigade. I’m one of those women who usually wear sports bras as my top if the weather allows. On the bucket brigade, I like to hold the bucket close to my torso. This is usually helpful for my grip, but it pulls at my sports bra. Maybe that’s just me. Because the X-Factor has a slight v-neck to it, the bucket did not pull on it at all! I thought that was really awesome.

Lastly, the X-Factor just looks cool. I got several compliments on it, especially for the way that the back of the sports bra looks. If Born Primitive knows how to do anything, it’s making cool-looking sports bras.

Pros

  • Cool looking back design that features a big cross and meshing
  • Longer band for more coverage
  • Small v-cut in the front that prevents slipping on that dang bucket carry
  • Very supportive design
  • Durable; can maintain shape and structure throughout long races and difficult workouts
  • Comes in multiple colors.

Cons

  • Not necessarily dry-fit material
  • Thicker; although great for colder races, may not be the best if you are looking for something lightweight
  • Can’t buy in stores; if you’re interested, you have to buy online. So, you would not be able to try it on before you buy it.

Conclusion

Born Primitive’s X-Factor Sportsbra is fantastic for high-intensity workouts. It has really high support with a longer band for durability, and an open back that includes a mesh detail for breathability. I would not wear this if you were doing something more relaxed, or just around the house. I wouldn’t want to wear this with a lot of layers, because the long line would be uncomfortable. But, for wearing this as a top for an OCR, the X-Factor has shown what it takes to compete in an Obstacle Course Race.

Buy one here

 

I Miss The Good Ole Days Of Obstacle Racing

The 2019 Obstacle Racing season is well underway, and from what we’ve seen so far, both participation rates and TV viewing numbers are at record highs. Well, that’s just peachy, I guess.

I should congratulate Spartan. They’ve done the unthinkable: taken a cheesy fad and made it mainstream, leaving opposing companies face-down along the road in their wake like Battlefrog competitors during a double sandbag carry. Joe and company have even persuaded huge mainstream sponsors to buy in and Olympic dreams to swell…but listen, I can’t do this. I’ve made my name as a straight shooter, so I need to be honest with you: not everyone is happy with the progress the major obstacle racing series is making, yours truly included. I’m sure many of you loyal ORM readers feel similar. Progress has occurred at the expense of the community. Do you also remember (and miss) the good old days? Let’s get into it.


Obstacle Racing Media was given an exclusive look at early injury numbers (measured via medic reports submitted at venue) during 2018. These usually cover anything from cramps and IV’s to serious injuries and on-course fatalities. And guess what? They’ve dropped massively in every category this past year, continuing a three-year downward trend.

Roots-Stretcher

Back when racing was hardcore

But to be clear, this isn’t just about injuries. I hope you don’t think we’re that obtuse. What this IS about is how soft, how white-washed this sport has become. This is what happens when companies sell out. I know I’m not alone in thinking that by fixating on moonshot Olympic dreams and Yelp reviews, Spartan has left many of its core members in the dust, and in doing so has lost some of the draws it once had. Some industry experts I’ve spoken with agree and worry that Spartan Race is losing its edge. This can be attributed at least partly to recent changes focusing on safety that has sullied the race experience and proven divisive at best.

Many of us miss the good old days before Spartan sold its soul in exchange for TV money and hastened to rid itself of everything that made it great in the first place. First to appear was Reebok- the soulless, trend-hopping, neglected cousin of Nike. Desperate to capitalize on the sport of functional fitness, the brand peppered overpriced gear with our hallowed logo and treated OCR shoes like iPhones, releasing a new, mildly disappointing update each year, with grip one can only assume was directly inspired by a banana peel that had been soaked in warm coconut oil.

Then the gladiators disappeared- which, as many of you remember, led to a nation-wide boycott of races by the cosplayer community. But it’s not just people who like to play dress-up who have been hurt by policy changes.

To have a sweat-soaked, muscular, cape-wearing hunk take you down and dominate you at your most vulnerable…I still get chills just thinking about it. In fact, that rush alone was excuse enough for a season pass for many of us. But sadly, those days are gone.

Chuck Whipley, head of Kermit the Flog, a BDSM club based out of Atlanta, echoed this sentiment during a recent FB messenger conversation.Part of the allure of Spartan used to be the idea that you were paying not just to race, but to be publicly humiliated, both physically and emotionally, and if lucky, sometimes in front of large crowds.” Whipley continued, “I know [fellow club member and OCR industry insider] Matt Davis feels similar, and he’s the guy you should get in touch with.” Through a spokesman, Matt declined to discuss the matter but did deny ever meeting or communicating with Chuck.

And the courses? They used to be TOUGH. In the past, racers were guaranteed at minimum several ravine tumbles, a rolled ankle, and maybe even a few deep slashes across the back, courtesy of barb wire. These days you’re lucky to experience one of the aforementioned if at all, and rumor has it barbed wire is next to go.

Come Monday I used to show up to work an absolute wreck. Mornings were spent limping around the office, regaling anyone within the distance of the tribulations I had undergone while they had spent a lazy Saturday sipping breve lattes or comparing paint finishes at Home Depot. I know they were impressed with me, maybe even a little jealous, even if they didn’t show it. How could they not be? My body was hardened by burpees, my confidence sky-high. Cracked scabs oozed puss through my dress shirt as I bent to fill a mug with my signature brew (bulletproof coffee mixed with one-and-a-half sticks of butter). It was clear I had returned from the edge, from something extreme, having stepped beyond what was normal or expected of a man and emerged better for it. Chafed nipples leaked tiny droplets of blood onto my pastel-striped Brooks Brothers shirt, like Rorshach tests that served to inform my coworkers of their own daintiness. I imagined David Goggins looking proudly down from Heaven, a single tear rolling down his stern face. Editors note: David Goggins is alive and well. I was Ed Norton in Fight Club; bruised and battered, but free, and completely numb to the corporate BS. The opposite of present-day Spartan.

Gone are the threats of sepsis and paralysis, replaced by participation medals and special interest stories on NBC. We ran to honor the flag; now people run for Instagram likes. Which makes me wonder what will happen to participation rates if Instagram actually deletes ‘like’ tallies from photos.

Roots-Stretcher                                Why race when you can purchase the experience from your couch?

I’m sure I sound bitter, but this is just the truth.

Google trends confirmed my suspicions. As of this writing, searches for “How to get feces out of barb wire cut” were at a 4-month low, while queries for “Frostbite on wiener, how to tell?” had grown flaccid at best.

Also gone these days, the ability to utilize the spear throw area to literally gun down competitors. For several years now the spear has been tied via rope to the fence, eliminating the once-fan favorite game of Frogger that would occur while volunteers rushed into the line of fire to retrieve spears from the target.


A higher-up with Spartan who wished to remain unnamed acknowledged my concerns. “We’ve seen some of these early 2018 figures, and yes, we’re a little concerned over the perceived sell-out status of our brand. But in the long run, we believe fans will understand the changes we have made,” he said.

In Spartan’s defense, there are signs it has turned from its foolhardy ways and has even begun to show some common sense by returning back to its roots and core community.

As many of you know, back in 2016 Spartan was forced to indefinitely postpone their second annual cruise after the ship was quarantined following a post-trip coast guard inspection of its pool and hot tub. However –and this will probably be news to most of  ORM’s readers– this August the arduous two-year disinfection of the Royal Princess is slated for completion. Finally!  The official Spartan release stated as much: “We can announce with pride that the hot tubs will officially open again. Spartan and hedonism will once again be synonymous as Spartan and the (recently-unstickied) Royal Princess will return to Stirrup Cay, Bahamas in 2020. Bring your swimsuits…or don’t- anything goes.”

Our sources within the industry echoed that all is not lost, adding that they’ve seen a solid uptick in ACL tears, compound fractures, and rolled ankles over the past 18 months, most of which the industry can thank the Tough Mudder X series for.

Finally, while Warrior Dash’s recent demise has certainly shocked the industry, grassroots races are quickly popping up in its wake and just might sway hoards of disinterested racers into getting back on the course. The front-runners to fill Warrior Dash’s hole include Florida’s Co-ed-Croc race, in which competitors are teamed up with an alligator over a 6+ mile course, and the Black-and-Blue race, a 24 hr enduro event during which racers are tasked with completing as many laps as possible around the Roswell, Georgia police station while donning Collin Kaepernick jerseys.

Do you also miss the good old days of the sport? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Toughest Mudder Central Review

It all started in 2011 when I was provoked by a Facebook challenge: “Are you tough enough?” I clicked the link and found an advertisement for Tough Mudder, a 10-12 mile race with military-style obstacles. Crawling under barbed wire, sloshing through mud pits, traversing monkey bars, this was the coolest thing I had seen in years!  I immediately signed up and brought new life into my training regimen. I had a goal, to crush Tough Mudder. That Mudder taught me many lessons and I have made many changes and corrections to both my training and pre-race prep. Recently came a new challenge, Toughest Mudder. A 12 hour, overnight race complete with obstacles… I had to get in! This would be the next step on the way to World’s Toughest Mudder, which I have not been able to get into yet, but has been on my bucket list for several years.

I wasn’t completely prepared. I hadn’t trained the way I wanted to, my toddler and busy schedule made sure of that. I would like to have gotten a lot more miles in to prep my ligaments, but that didn’t happen. I was able to maintain basic muscle strength at the gym with my two workouts a week. Would that be enough? I have mental grit, it would have to be. 

In the days leading up to the event, I tried to keep everything perfect. Getting good rest (toddler didn’t understand that and continued to wake us up in the middle of the night), taking it light in the gym and eating appropriately. Well, 2 out of 3 is good! I was very careful not to get any stupid injuries like slicing a finger cutting veggies or getting sick by touching anything in son’s daycare center. Success, I found myself at the airport ready to go with 2 days until the race. I would get 2 nights of good rest because my boy was staying home for this one! These 2 days were spent with my Dad who lives in Minnesota; relaxing, and getting the final items for the race. I found out at the last minute that you need to have a flashing strobe light or glow stick in addition to the headlamp to be allowed on the course after dark. I had electrolytes, Strawberry Fig Newtons (my go-to between each lap), Bob’s Red Mill Peanut Butter Coconut bars, oranges, bananas and some secret sauce (NOS energy drink) to give me a kicker for the final hours. I tried the NOS toward the end of the first Gauntlet event and discovered its power! On the way to the event, I realized I had left the electrolytes at my dad’s place so we stopped and picked up a couple of bottles of Pedialyte. They worked like a charm! I had two goals for this event: 1. Consume the nutrition properly to fuel me the entire 12 hours maintaining consistent energy levels 2. Reach 40 miles and earn contender status for World’s Toughest Mudder in November. Around 6 PM I had arrived at Wild Wings Oneka, the hunting preserve in Hugo Minnesota where the Central Division Toughest Mudder was about to commence. 

The festival area was quiet with the final Mudders clearing out from the day’s normal events. The registration desk went smooth and I went to the pit area to set up. I brought a backpack, small cooler and plastic bin with food, dry goods, and extra clothes. There were rows of tents, canopies, and coolers spread throughout the pit area with contestants making their final preparation.  I put on a cool dry-fit lycra shirt, Athletics 8 compression pants, non-cotton socks, and Saucony Excursion TR12 trail shoes. These shoes were a great option at for under $80!

Things were calm, too calm, like the calm before the storm and we all knew what laid ahead. With the 8 PM start time approaching, Sean Corvelle got on the mic to rev up the crowd. We all took a knee and listened to his words of inspiration. We recited the Tough Mudder oath and waited for the start gun. He offered the “Mental Grit Award” which was $20 to the last Mudder to enter the course prior to the 7:15 AM cutoff and not stopping all night long. Soon enough we were off on the “Sprint Lap”.  On this first lap, all of the obstacles were closed and the first person to finish would be awarded a free entry to The World’s Toughest. I knew I wasn’t the fastest and I had a long night ahead so I took it easy observing each of the 20 obstacles as I passed. I was excited to get in there and try them out, my anticipation building but I knew that this lap would allow me to conserve energy and get ahead on time. 

There was a planned rolling opening of the obstacles starting at 9:30 and I made it through the first lap quickly. I was pleased to be able to skip by electroshock therapy without penalty! The second lap allowed for time to be made up in advance as I passed closed obstacles wondering which would be the first. I got past the newly created Gauntlet, Funky Monkey, Augustus Gloop, and many others. The one that finally got me turned out to be Block Ness Monster, close to the end of the lap. The guys in front of us passed on by as three of us were flagged into the now open obstacle. We jumped in the water happy to finally cool off and struggled to make it over the first monstrous rotating block. They were waterlogged and it took everything we had to get it to flip with a guy hanging on. I was able to get over the blocks on my own and we all decided that was the best way forward. The next obstacle – the dreaded Electroshock Therapy. I was all too happy to avoid the dangling wires by taking the penalty lap, a short run out of the way and back. After that, we encountered the new obstacle Mudderhorn which was a huge (seemed like 50 feet tall) a frame cargo net with an outer cargo netting layer. It was easy to get caught up in all that netting and proved to be an obstacle to slow you down, pull your headlamp off and tangle up anything hanging or dangling from your body.

By the next lap, most of the obstacles had opened and we were all in full swing of the Toughest Mudder. We climbed the inverted wall at Skidmarked, carried logs, traversed slacklines in Black Widow and Spread Eagle, Crawled through the Devil’s beard, dipped in and out of mud pits in the mud mile, climbed up the ladders in the water-spewing tubes of Augustus Gloop, and confronted one of the new 2019 obstacles; The Gauntlet. This started as a 2X4 balance beam to a plank position crossing about 10 feet long to swinging rings to the final segment which was a horizontal piece of wood big enough to get your fingertips on which you worked your way across to a doorknob, followed by a piece of wood handle, another doorknob, another wood handle, another doorknob and another fingertip crossing to the end. This obstacle could be attempted 4 times, each failure incurring a penalty lap on a short loop nearby. 

Another exciting new obstacle was the leap of faith. You had to jump out 5 feet over water to grab vertical cargo net.  You climbed the net to a pole which you shimmied down to dry land on the other side. This was fairly simple and lots of fun! ‘

Another new obstacle was Hydrophobia which was crawling through a small tube submerged in water. I was happy to see Funky Monkey which was an inverted monkey bar to a horizontal wheel which rotated you around to a large vertical wheel which spun you to a smaller vertical wheel which whipped you to a pole you would work down to the other side. Certainly a grip zapper! I found the cage crawl to be relaxing. There were long trenches filled with water and topped with cage sections which you pulled yourself through on your back keeping only your mouth and nose above water. This was very peaceful as your ears were underwater and you could only hear the sounds your breath as you worked your way through. Of course, we endured Berlin Walls – 8 ft walls to overcome, Everest 2.0 with some guys who selflessly spent much time at the top helping everyone through. Pyramid Scheme, which had a rope to help out when you were solo. You still had to get up a slippery surface to get to the rope as it only reaches a short distance down from the top. Nobody’s favorite Arctic Enema was included (construction container full of ice water) and some used the 4th lap wristband to be excluded from the torture. 

At the end of the 4th and every subsequent lap, we were given a blue wristband which could be used to surpass any obstacle without penalty. They were often given up at The Gauntlet and Funky Monkey and Electroshock Therapy.

My third lap went without fail, all obstacles completed but I started feeling tightness in the ligaments behind my left knee. I knew this was going to be a problem the rest of the night and would have to dig deep to beat it or drop out of the race early to avoid injury. I wasn’t born to be a quitter so I pressed on. I earned my 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th lap bracelets which I used for the Gauntlet and Funky Monkey in laps 6 and 7. I had not failed any obstacle at that point (I did take the penalty lap at electroshock each time) and using those wristbands saved me time. One thing I noticed around 2 AM was that there was a lack of volunteers at most of the obstacles. There was one at Gauntlet, Funky Monkey, Electroshock Therapy, Blockness Monster, and Mudderhorn but most of the rest had nobody. It was concerning at the least to think that it would be easy for some to pass the obstacles and the penalty lap without retribution. Also concerning was the fact that if there was a serious injury, who would know? Volunteers often bring energy to the races and encourage you to keep going, but this lack of their presence really made this event quiet. You would feel the energy every time you got back to the finish line/pit area as there were plenty of people around.

When I was in my sixth lap I knew I had to dig deep if I were to complete two more laps to achieve my 40-mile goal. Each lap was 5 miles with 20 obstacles. I completed the seventh lap, swung by the pit to quickly refuel and get back on the course by 7 AM beating the cutoff. I knew I didn’t have enough time to finish the eighth, but I wasn’t going to quit without trying.  I got 4 miles before I heard the finishing bell which rang promptly at 8 AM. It was a bittersweet sound as the race was over and I had my results – 39 miles. Just one short of my goal. I managed my disappointment by reminding myself that I didn’t really deserve the contender’s bib because I hadn’t put in the necessary time training, I was winging it. Something that my ligaments were reminding me with every step I took. When I got back to the festival area I was greeted by fellow Mudders who had endured the night and waited excitedly for the awards ceremony. First, Second and Third place awards were given to top males and females in age groups as well as winners of 2 person teams and 4 person teams. 

I hobbled around the festival area which was starting to wake up in anticipation of Sunday’s events. I Tried out some products like Tin Cup whiskey, Every Man Jack Beard Butter and Endoca CBD oil. I was impressed with all of these products and found relief for my aching muscles immediately upon applying the lotion! New Mudders and the energy of a new day filled the area as I reviewed my accomplishments and failures in my mind. I had made it through the night with excellent nutrition, was full of energy and even won the mental grit award (yes, I made Sean give me the $20).

I reminisced the sun going down as we started the race and the mosquitos coming out. You put on Deet at each pit stop which was washed off at the first water obstacle. We were serenaded by a chorus of bullfrogs and I even heard a few coyotes around midnight. There were crickets and owls and some rumbling things in the bushes that couldn’t be identified. I remembered when the morning sun brought new energy (and deerflies) and the chance to remove the headlamp and run in the light. I reveled in how myself and over 350 other Mudders did what many think is crazy and impossible. I reminded myself this was just the warm-up. The next big thing happens over 24 hours in November.