Race report: DC Spartan Sprint

After the Ragnar Trail Relay, I thought I really knew my mud.  I was so very wrong!

My team of my favorite crazy people (trust me, it takes one to know one!) is taking on the Spartan Trifecta this year. The plan is DC Sprint, VA Super, Carolinas Beast.

Before the mayhem!
Before the mayhem!

They did the Spartan Super in Virginia last year and two did a Sprint in the Carolinas earlier this year but I was a Spartan virgin.  I was also still a bit “rope shy” after my incident at my last obstacle race**.  My plantar fasciitis was causing major heel and ankle problems and one of our team mates was still recovering from the affects of Whooping Cough. A third had just moved cross-county and came back just for the race, and the fourth – was okay! In other words, we were in our typical racing form 🙂

Taping can't hurt, right?
Taping can’t hurt, right?

The drive to southern Maryland was very easy and the parking and shuttle process was very smooth.  We went through the waiver signing, packet pick up, body marking, going back to find the strap I dropped for the timing chip, bag drop, etc. in fairly record time.  Before we knew it, we were waiting for our 10:45 start!  Oh, but first — we had to climb a wall! Oh, Spartan, I hate/love you already!

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First of many!

I honestly don’t remember the order or number of the obstacles and the course was in a clover leaf so I felt like we were going in circles all morning.  There were a lot of technical trails – and I managed to have my first major trail fall there, complete with bruised butt – with a river from the shower stations adding to the fun for the last half mile or so. There were many huge, sticky mud pits to crawl through.  And just when you thought that part was done, you’d exit to find another one!  By the end of the last one, I was pretty done with the mud. 

Don't let the smile fool you!
Don’t let the smile fool you!
Okay, maybe I liked it...
Okay, maybe I liked it…

One of the toughest obstacle for me, mentally, were the four pits with very steep, muddy sides.  You had to slide down into waist-deep water and then climb out the other side.  You cannot do it on your own, you need someone to help pull you up.  As someone who is constantly concerned with being “too heavy”, I despise anything where someone has to help bear my weight but it was that or be stuck in the pits forever (and we know how well that worked for the dinosaurs!)

I failed four obstacles – a reverse incline wall (I fell from the top because I could not swing myself over the top), the spear throw, the rope climb, and the traverse wall.  Technically, I also failed the Herc pull but I helped my team mates with theirs (the ropes were crazy muddy) so I don’t count that.

Pull!
Pull!

I loved the sandbag carry (down and up a hill with a sandbell on your shoulder), the “hunk of concrete” pull where we pulled a concrete donut up and down a couple of hills on a chain, and the tire carry/pull (huh, notice a theme?)

I did okay on the walls but needed quite a bit of help on the incline wall. I seriously had flash backs to last time but two of my team mates helped pull me up and I knew I was okay once I got my boobs over the top 🙂

I apparently tried to break down the walls rather than go over them!
I apparently tried to break down the walls rather than go over them! Both arms are like this, plus my left calf – and my butt!

It took us about 2 1/2 hours for an almost 5 mile course.  Granted, we stopped to help quite a few people, especially at the 4 “pits of despair”, but that is still slow.  Thank goodness is was overcast for most of the day! 

I had a Huma gel right before I started and drank two glasses of water at every station but I was feeling very rough by the time we finished.  One of the ladies in the food line looked at me and said “oh, you need TWO bananas!”.  I quickly ate one, drank a Muscle Milk, and ate a protein bar of some sort.  The pictures look like I’m about ready to faint/hurl but I was just worried about having black teeth from the chocolate mint power bar 🙂

Okay, maybe I do feel pukey
Okay, maybe I do feel pukey

After quickly cleaning up, I hot footed it out so I could get back home in a timely manner.  It looked like there was a decent finish festival but I didn’t check it out. 

Overall, this was a great experience!  Very organized and a lot of “fun”.  I am simultaneously looking forward to and dreading the Super next month!

My first fire jump!
My first fire jump!
I'm a Spartan!
I’m a Spartan!

Pros

Very organized finish area

Spartan people at most of the obstacles

3 water stations

Plenty of shuttle buses to and from the start area

Plenty of portapotties

Cons

I can’t think of any!

**I thought I had blogged about it but, apparently, I didn’t! At the last obstacle race that I did last year, the first obstacle was a very, very high incline wall with a rope.  I was all the way at the top and my foot slipped. I knew if I let go, I would break something (it was that high!) so I held onto the rope to slow my descent and tore up my hands in the worst way.  Seriously, it was horrific.  I finished the race but I was in a world of hurt for quite a while after that.

Many thanks to one of my team mate’s awesome husband who always takes the best race pictures!  Seriously, my only good pictures have come from him!

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Lessons Learned

I had my second mud/obstacle race this past weekend (full report pending).  I had a lot of fun, more so than the first one, but I think a lot of it had to do with my awesome team.  While it wasn’t perfect, I did some things better this time and learned even more for next.

What I Did Well

Instead of using my sports glasses, which distorted my vision last time and made it difficult for me to track quick movements, I used  a Croakies retainer on my regular workout glasses.  My glasses didn’t budge once and I didn’t have any problems on the multi-level terrain.

I relaxed and had fun, even when I blew the first obstacle and tore up my hands (which made some of the wall obstacles impossible).  I didn’t beat myself up too much – okay, I did cry for a minute after it happened but I moved on and didn’t let it ruin the race.

I pushed as hard as I could.  There was one obstacle called the Spider Wall which was a multi-level climbing wall over a pit of water (unknown depth).  I was able to complete it even though it hurt like crazy and, apparently, I’m a touch afraid of heights.  I had to really push myself to move my hands down from the higher hand holds so I could move my feet to descend on the other side of the water hazard.  It was a mental and physical challenge for me and I’m proud to say I did it.

Spider Wall - I had to cross towards the camera and the last handhold almost did me in
Spider Wall – I had to cross towards the camera and the last handhold almost did me in

What I Need to Improve

Core, balance, arm strength.  Man, even though I’ve been working on these areas, it is very clear that I have a LONG way to go.  Our team wants to do the Spartan Trifecta next year so I really need to step up my game!

Hydration.  I drank at the aid stations on the course but I didn’t have my water bottle with me at the finish and there was no water to be found.  I did have a (large) beer but I was definitely a bit dehydrated.  I downed a large glass of apple juice as soon as I could but it was too little, too late.  I should never assume that there will be water at the finish.  I should also keep a throw-away bottle with me at the start.  It’s not a good thing to feel thirsty at the start.

Post-race nutrition.  I attended a birthday party with Little Runner and then a neighborhood movie party that afternoon and evening and I ate items that were very much off my plan (plus, had another drink and a jell-o shot).  I paid DEARLY for it the next day.  Between my hands, my head, and my stomach, my long run for Sunday did not happen.  I now need to play catch-up on my miles.

This was my last organized obstacle event for this year and that’s probably a good thing.  I would like to continue my training on the local course since it’s great cross-training but I don’t want to tempt the fate of a broken something or other this close to GO time.  46 days…

There’s No Crying on the Obstacle Course!

Or on the OC!

Except when there is…

This has been a rough week for me.  I missed both of my midweek runs because I was so stinking tired, I could barely move. I was also letting my worry about Saturday’s 16 miles drain too much of my mental energy.  Thankfully, Saturday’s run passed without incident and Sunday had me scheduled to do some work at the obstacle course. Since I was short on miles for the week, and I want to work on my endurance for the obstacle races, I decided to add in 3 miles before the course.  A friend offered to join me and we clocked a relatively speedy three miles (serious, 10:02, 10:04, 10:20).  Then we hit the course.

Two new people were joining us and I selfishly thought to myself that it will be nice to not be the one struggling the most for a change. Yeah, they both nailed every single obstacle.  Don’t get me wrong, I was very happy to see how well they were doing and that they were having fun.  They’re great people and I really look forward to working with them again. But, I wasn’t happy that I seemed to be stuck at the same level as last time.  I was still flailing about and repeatedly throwing myself at the freaking high horse, to no avail.  When I slipped on my 6th pass at the wall (which I can normally do) and jarred myself quite nicely, the next thing I knew I was blubbering like a fool.  Of course, my friend was worried I had hurt myself but I couldn’t even trust myself to talk because I knew the dam would just break.

I was so incredibly frustrated!  I was feeling like I wasn’t making any progress and that I was constantly holding everyone up.  I know I should only compare myself to me but it’s hard when you hang out with amazingly athletic people.  I hate being last. I hate needing the help. I hate feeling that I would be better if my stomach wasn’t in the way or if I was lighter or stronger or if I just tried harder.  I hate that my body can’t keep up with what I want to do.  I know I have made a lot of progress in the past year – heck, last year I was sweating running 6 miles and couldn’t do even one real pushup or a plank – but I still see such a long journey ahead of me.

I know I will get there.  I won’t stop and I won’t give up.  But I might cry a bit.

Race Report: Merrill Down and Dirty

Or, Check Your Ego at the Door Mud Run.

After much anticipation, I was finally able to participate in an obstacle course/mud run.  I was supposed to do one a few weeks ago but SOMEONE *cough cough* (Rogue Runner) can’t get their act together and keeps rescheduling.  I thought DnD would be my second so I chose the 10K length when I created our team.  There was a point in the corn fields when I was regretting that choice but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Registration, Packet Pickup, SWAG

Everything was super easy.  We picked up our packets on the morning of the race and I was a little worried about massive lines but it took all of 10 minutes to do mine and Little Runner’s – he was doing the 100 yd dash.  We received nice shirts (mine technical, his cotton), some Paul Mitchell stuff, Lara bars, and Merrill convertible bandana thingies (long tubes that you can wear in different ways).  Little Runner also received a Matchbox car since Matchbox sponsored the kids’ races.

Look how nice and clean we are!
Look how nice and clean we are!

Start, Course, Obstacles

At 7:45, we self-seeded ourselves in corrals for the start.  It was a worthless exercise, I think, as many don’t know their race pace much less their obstacle pace!  We were in corral 4 but finished in the bottom 1/4 so…. The corrals began every minute or so.  It was a well organized start.  We had a little jaunt through the woods, with the typical pack problems of any race, before we hit the first obstacle.  I am not sure how many obstacles there were per mile (map) but they seemed a bit spread out.

These were the obstacles (description from the Merrell website):

Low Crawl  – The Low Crawl obstacle requires athletes to get low and crawl on the stomachs under a cargo net 18″ off the ground. Athletes will also have to crawl through a pool of water the length of the obstacle.
Ladder Wall – The Ladder Wall is 10′ tall and requires racers to go up and over the top before continuing on the course.
Water Crossing – Plunge into waist deep water and wade through the water crossing. Although participants do not have to swim you will have to get wet!!
Hill Climb – Racers will have to pull themselves up the steep hill holding onto rope while still be soaking we from the water crossing.
Mud Pit – The Mud Pit obstacle requires athletes to get on their stomachs and crawl through mud the length of the obstacle. Now athletes are wet and MUDDY!
Log Leap – The Log Leap is a 5′ tall inflatable log athletes will have to run and jump over.
Inflatables – Look out for these 20′ tall inflatables. Athletes will have to climb up cargo net and then slide down the back side.
Push Ups – Drop and give us 10!
Marine Hurdles – The Marine Hurdles are three logs 5′ off the ground athletes will have to run a jump over.
5′ Walls – Athletes will have to run and jump over the series of 5′ walls.
Monkey Cross – Athletes will have to balance themselves on 2″ straps while holding onto 1″ thick rope overhead.
High Walls – Athletes will have to climb to the top of the 10′ High Wall hanging onto the rock wall holds.
Tunnels & Low Walls – Before heading to the main site athletes will have to crawl on their hands and knees through 27′ of tunnels and then up and over the 4′ tall Low Walls.
Sand Bag Carry – Athletes will have to carry a 40lb sand bag around the barn and back before continuing on the course.
Balance Beams – Athletes will have to walk across the 4″ wide beams while standing 2′, 3′, and 2′ off the ground.
Tires – Racers will have to navigate their way through 100 tires in a 10×10 box. Get your knees up before getting stuck on the double high stacked tires.
Cargo Climb – The Cargo Climb is an 8′ tall structure where athletes will have to climb to the top and back down the other side.
Trailer Cargo Climb – Get ready climb! Athletes will have to climb a 8′ tall cargo net, walk across another 8′, climb up another 7′, walk 10′ on cargo net and repeat on the other side.
Slippery Mountain – Racers have to pull themselves up using only their hands on this angled mountain. No cheating and using your feet!
Mud Pit – One last chance to get down and dirty. Racers will have to crawl through the 60′ mud pit before hitting the finish line.

Swamp People!
Swamp People!

I think I did fairly well on the obstacles.  I loved the water crossing (though there was a HUGE hidden rock at the exit and I almost went down).   I about broke my butt on the inflatable.  It was an inflatable slide with a cargo net climb up one side and a steep slide down the other.  I was still wet from the first mud pit so I went zipping down the slide and right off the end!  I’m very thankful I didn’t break something.  I also did not nail the Marine hurdles, even though I had been practicing them at our training.  I couldn’t do the high one, got the second but slammed my ribs doing it, failed the third.  I was a bit grumpy after that.  I also didn’t realize (until just now) that you weren’t supposed to use your feet on the Slippery Mountain.  I couldn’t hear the instructions so I just got myself up as quickly as possible.

I had two other “obstacles” working against me on the course.  The sun was the worst.  I would say about half of the course was in the shade but a lot was in the sun (including some jaunts through cornfields). I was feeling pretty sick on the last trip though the corn – that’s where I was cursing myself for choosing the 10K – and was very glad for the last mile in the woods, even it was a hillier trail.  My second “obstacle” was my sports glasses.  I hadn’t used them before and didn’t realize how much they would distort my vision when I looked directly down.  I had to fight quite a bit of nausea due to them and I had to really concentrate on where I was going since I had to look further ahead for tripping hazards.  I felt bad that I couldn’t interact with my team more but I really did have to focus and I couldn’t move my head too quickly.  The glasses also made the balance beams and tiered cargo climb extra interesting.

On Course Support

There were four water stops but I think there should have been more, with the heat.  Also, the water was very warm.  At least there was plenty of it!  There were crew members at all of the obstacles to tell you what to do and help if you needed it.  They guys at the Monkey Cross were a bit too helpful, though.  They kept trying to pull the rope down for me and I had to yell at them 🙂

Finish

After a final slosh through the mud pit, we were awarded our finisher medal and a bottle of water.  Of course, we were so muddy, opening the water was a challenge!  There was food at the athletes table, oranges and cookies, and Lara Bar and Naked fruit juice were handing out samples.

Kids’ Dash

Little Runner did his dash at 10:45 – about an hour after we finished.  It was hot and there was little shade except in the deep grass so he as a bit cranky.  They started the kids in waves with the older ones going earlier and that worked okay.  They had the parents run with the kids so the course was a bit crowded.  I think they needed to leave more time between waves.  His obstacles were to go under a lower wall, across a balance beam laying on the ground, over a wall, and through the big mud pit.

Up and Over!
Up and Over!

I had to hustle keep up with him, especially in the crowd.  I was glad that my friend was also doing it with us so she helped keep him in sight.  He was not a fan of the mud experience!  He made it through but the first thing he wanted to do when he finished was get his shirt OFF!

We are SO DONE!
We are SO DONE!

Even with the mud, he wants to do the 1 mile next year – you have to be 7 or older, much to his chagrin.

We went through the inflatable wash tent that looked liked a car wash/mister and then hit the hoses to try to get as much mud off as possible.  It was very crowded and I was less than successful with my own rinse since I was also trying to wrangle LR, as the bra full of mud I discovered later confirmed.  There were single sex changing tents for us to use so we grabbed a corner and tried to get us changed as discretely as possible.  A kids changing tent would have been awesome! I will say, the big blue IKEA bags are great for holding wet, muddy gear!  No fuss, no muss.

Overall

Pro:

Very organized

The crowds weren’t too difficult to navigate and no wait at the portapotties

Some interesting obstacles

Nice shirt and goodies

Hose stations and changing tents

Cons:

No shade for the waiting families

Some not-so-interesting obstacles

The medal is a bit boring (I think the road racing metals have spoiled me!)

Women who were washing their freaking hair at the hose stations! With shampoo! Rinse and move on, sister!

Overall: A-  I think this was a fun first foray into the world of mud.  I would not be against doing it again next year and I have learned some things for my next mud run.

I wore a long sleeve tech shirt that I didn’t like, sleeves removed, and painted with our team name, Champion spandex shorts, Champion socks that I didn’t mind losing, and my second to oldest pair of Sauconys.  I also made sure to use a ton of Body Glide on my feet since I wasn’t wearing wool.  A rinse with the hose and three trips through the washer was able to salvage most of it.

Oh, and since Sunday is my long run, I went home and pounded out six more miles on the treadmill 🙂

Weekend Update

The Bangles may know a catchy tune but they don’t know jack about marathon training. Sunday is definitely not my “I don’t have to run day”! But, let me back up…

I was really nervous about my training this weekend.  I had several hard, and multiple!, sessions planned and I didn’t know how I would manage it all.  Friday I had five miles, Saturday was 5 plus bootcamp, and Sunday was scheduled for 12 plus obstacle course training!  Who made this insane schedule?? Oh…

Friday was rainy and steamy but I hit the road after dinner and completed all five.  Nothing like running in the rain to make you feel hardcore!  Honestly, the way I sweat, I hardly noticed it was raining!

Saturday I ran 5 miles and then hustled to bootcamp.  It was a good session!  The trainer had me doing sprints with someone holding a resistance band. It was fun, even when he decided I wasn’t working hard enough and held the band himself!  Oof!  Yes, I did let loose some audible swear words at that one! I even squeezed in a couple of laps in the pool.

Sunday was the big kahuna!  I had planned to get up early, run part of the miles, go to the obstacle course, and run the rest in the afternoon.  Well, it didn’t quite go as planned.  I woke up late so I couldn’t run at home but I decided to head to the course early and run 3 miles there before OCR work.  That worked quite well!  If I do it again, I will try for 5 miles before the course.  My legs always feel dead for the first 3 miles and they continued to feel pretty sluggish on the course.  Last time I was able to jump the lower saw horses but this time I had to sit and swing over.

The obstacles there are: ropes, low horses to jump, mid-height horses to stand and pull yourself over, a high horse that needs a running start, a 7 (?) foot wall, various pull up stations and bars to shimmy along, small tires to leap frog, and two bolted tractor tires to flip.  On my first visit to the course, I couldn’t do the mid- or high- horses, the wall, very little on the bars, and about an inch up the rope.  Yesterday I nailed the mid-horses, shimmied along 3/4 of one bar, and made it a foot or so up the rope.  Next week, I plan on conquering the high-horse, the full length of one bar, and another section up the rope.

Here are a few pictures from the course:

After the course and after some family obligations (and a short nap), I attempted to complete my miles.  It didn’t happen.  I made it five and had to call it quits.  My hip was having none of it!  I know I worked hard on the OC but I really wish I had been able to stick with my prescribed run.  Next week I will move it to Friday so I just have five to do around the OC.  I look at it as building endurance.

I’m not quite as sore as last time (we supposedly didn’t do as many passes but I don’t believe it!) but I do have fresh bruises in exactly the same places!  It is definitely challenging and there is no room for hurt pride but it is extremely rewarding when you make some progress.  I can’t wait for my next crazy week!

Would you train on an obstacle course? There are videos of how to train for obstacle runs using playgrounds.  Would you do that or would you feel weird being out there with the kids?

Up and Over

This weekend was jammed packed with all sorts of running and cross training fun!  I decided to join my moms running group for a 4 1/2 mile run around one of the local lakes.  I had boot camp scheduled at 8 but we were supposed to start our run at 6:30 so plenty of time!  Uh, not so much.  Several were running late and then we needed to take pictures so it was almost 7 by the time we started.  I was worried about the time so I told my running partner that I needed to turn back and get to boot camp when we were about twenty minutes into the run (I wasn’t sure how much further we had to go because my Garmin couldn’t pick up a signal).  While I was trying to find the entrance off the trail to the parking lot, I ran into my running partner again, coming from the other direction!  I was only 5 minutes late to boot camp and I made very good time on my run – win, win!

On Sunday, I had my “long” run waiting for me and I was not loving the idea.  I was having some stomach issues and my head hurt from an incoming front.  I slogged out the majority of it but I did not set any land speed records.  I then went down to Quantico where I met a friend for my first crack at obstacle course training.  I didn’t realize the course was on the base and, of course, the guys at the gate decided it would be funny to mess with me a bit (“Do you have a bike? No? We don’t allow running on base, Ma’am”  What??  “Just kidding, Ma’am, have a nice day”).  I attempted the course 4 times.  A lot of lower logs to jump, a wall to climb – doesn’t work well with trail shoes, by the way – high logs to hoist yourself over, pull up bars, ropes to climb, double bolted tractor tires to flip, and regular tires to frog hop.  Considering this was my first time, I think I did … okay.  I couldn’t make it over the wall or the high logs without a boost – though I did come close on the last log – and forget about the pull ups!  This was a specular display of my lack of upper body strength.  I was a little frustrated by my inability to do more but  I did give it my all, as the bruises all over my abdomen and arms can confirm!   We will hopefully be able to hit the course 2 more times before our first obstacle course race.  I look forward to the day that I can nail all of the obstacles!

My reminder for the day.