Virtual Events (Yes, you actually have to run/walk/crawl/ruck)

 

Virtual events are a hot new trend in the racing world. I wholeheartedly support it and look forward to its continued growth.

So, what is this whole concept?

You sign up (shockingly, online) and are e-mailed or mailed a bib and whatever other goodies the race offers. (Some send the medals ahead of time, others only when you report your time).

You are given a start and end date to run your chosen distance. You then run it however you want during that time. Most of the longer races let you decide of you want to break up the race or not. The shorter races (5ks) typically say all mileage in one shot.

Again, I wholeheartedly support them for several reasons: It’s a fun event to get people out there working the pavement (or the treadmill, trail, etc). It’s also great for people who are frankly nervous about running/walking in an in-person race. You compete with who you want, even if it’s only yourself and I think that can really help people who don’t have the racing bug to find it.

I personally run them for several reasons: 1) motivation…. it gets my butt off the couch! 2) raise money for a cause 3) FLEXIBLE fun. My schedule is nutty so participating in a virtual race gives me some flexibility.

I’ve heard people gripe that it’s bad that it’s on the honor system, etc. but if you cheat, you’re really only cheating yourself. If you’re the guy whose buying medals instead of earning them (seriously?!?), you’re the one who has to live with that.

My one piece of advice is to look for the races that require some form of reporting-portals, mapmyrun, photos, etc. I think those types add a level of accountability and motivation.

Feel free to ask me any questions and I’d love to hear your impressions of the concept.

 

Frozen Fox Review

Frozen Fox Invitational 001:  EPIC EVENT….here is why:

If I were to write the ad copy for this event, it would go something like this:  A 36 hour GeoCaching event…..designed by Satan himself.  Bear with me, this is a compliment.

This was, hands down, the best event I have ever taken a part of.  ***Please note, I paid for this race and am no way affiliated with any sponsor or organizer other than participating in this event.  I am writing this review out of my own free will and with no compensation (well other than I hope I get invited to take part in more events 😉

So how did I find out about this event?  It was not a corporate or highly publicized thing.  In fact, I sort of stumbled on it by accident. I was sitting in some foreign airport about a month ago, looking at local facebook groups, drooling over all the stuff I wanted to do when I got home from deployment.  Something caught my eye in a rucking group – Grant Shymske had a few spots left in some event called the Frozen Fox and it was taking place at a time I knew I’d be home by and it was in the Carolinas.  Hmmmmm, I thought…..I have no idea what this is about, but let’s do it (I was under the influence of severe ruck/race/event withdrawal)!   I messaged Grant on Facebook, who got back to me ASAP, and woo hoo, he had one spot left.  I paypaled him the moola, was added to the private group page and we were off!

I knew I was going to like this event right out of the gate – I started to browse the site and look at the rules…..(probably should have done this WAY before I signed up….but that’s not really my style).  This was a no BS, big boy rules, type event.  No silly bring a pocket knife and barbie doll type packing list.  It was this simple:  You’re going to be outside for 36 hours.  Bring whatever you think you’ll need.  Oh, and no GPS.  This is real land nav.  (This is where I started saying crap, crap, crap…..I am an LT in the Navy….land nav….not my strong suit).

I was also introduced to my team via facebook.  I had met one of the them at an event last year, but that was it.  They took their new 6th member under their wing instantly.  I chatted with my team quite often in the days leading up to the event.  I started packing about two days before.  My living room looked like a survivalist exploded.  Weather forecast had us around 15 degrees the first night.  Um, sweet? I packed, well, everything.

We mustered at the meeting location at 2200 (Ten PM for you non military types) on Friday night.  There were five teams of six people a team.  The teams had people ranging from Cross Fit gurus, RuckMainacs, Military Types, and a crazy OCR person scattered here and there.  A cursory, make sure you have enough to not die, gear check was performed, team numbers were assigned, maps handed out, and we were off.  We all started from the same point.  Task one – find your teams real start point using your map and compass…..in the dark.  It was about midnight at this point and it was freaking cold.  Task one took us about four hours.  Four hours of getting to know my team, making bad jokes, and trying to keep warm.  When you hit your start point, you were able to look at your list of the 35 ‘checkpoints’.  The goal was to find as many of these points before the all stop at 1000 on Sunday morning.  Keep in mind, we were working with a land mass of about 25 miles and terrain that ranged from dirt roads to bamboo fields to swamps (swamps like to hide under bamboo fields, by the way).  There were also three challenges.  This is where all the teams had to meet a certain checkpoint and do physical challenges.  You got bonus points for doing well in these challenges.  This is all I am going to say about the actual goals of the event.  I don’t want to ruin it for future events…..just say it was intense….AWESOME intense.

This is me having fun....no, really.
This is me having fun….no, really.

So why did I love this so much?

  • No frills, no BS, no babysitting.  You want bag check?  Need a shower other than in a swamp?  You’re hungry and you didn’t bring enough food?  WRONG EVENT FOR YOU.
  • This was real world, can you survive stuff.  Yes, I know that we could have been bailed out at any moment, but if you were staying focused, it was a really good test of what you do and do not know about basics like keeping warm, eating to sustain, and navigating.  There were no silly stunts.  It was streamlined and challenging.
  • It was a full body challenge – mind and muscles.  You had to be able to carry a heavy ruck, walk a ton (I think we ended up at about 25 miles), find checkpoints hidden in some random places (think about some of the hardest to find GeoCaches), swallow your fear and tramp through a dark Blair Witch barn basement, and get along with people who were as wet, cold, and tired as you.  You had to have strength, intelligence, endurance, and skill to do well in this event.
  • Environmentally Friendly – The impact on the environment was minimal.  We were ordered to not leave any crap outside or face the ultimate wrath and we actually got bonus points for collecting trash during our travels.  We were told in advance that if we wanted to eat at the after party, we were to bring our own dishes.  I’ve never seen so many variations on outdoor dish wear.  🙂
  • TEAM WORK.  We had so much fun.  We are some very very different people and while we weren’t hugging it out the whole time, we worked really well.
  • Grant and his team was awesome.  They weren’t there to hold your hand, but they were there to offer any assistance if you really needed it.  They were also hilarious. Moment of digression –  I must apologize to the wonderful medic who saw me caring for my feet (I have the feet of an infant….my heels will fall off at a moments notice) Saturday.  I was bleeding, cold, tired, and a little pissy at this point.  He walked up and asked if he could help and I think I gave him the beatchist look I’ve ever given.  SORRY!   I didn’t mean it 🙂 
  • EVERYONE who was there was awesome.  The other teams were a blast as well.  We generally did not see them on the course (avoidance was a boost in this event) but when we came together for challenges, we all had fun.  I fell on my face during the final challenge (Me = graceful as a drunk giraffe), pretty much losing the challenge for my team (GO LT!).  My team and the other people could have ripped me a new one….instead they laughed, helped me up, and made me feel less stupid. We are all STILL posting in the Facebook page.
  • The after party was a blast.  There was a group rally, patches were handed out (EPIC, see below), and then we had food.  And real food – amazing home made chili and Buffalo Trace Bourbon.  Yes, Bourbon. You all know that made me very happy.  It was laid back, fun, and delicious.
  • Awesome Sponsors – There were sponsors, but they were low key and very applicable.  Thank you to Buffalo Trace, Rouge Dynamics, and Med Training Group for keeping us alive out there and making great patches.
  • Group Dynamic – This group knows what is important.  We earned patches only if we found enough checkpoints.  The rocker was dedicated to a fallen comrade.  This was about work, dedication, and challenge.  I love that.

The Patch(es)

One of the coolest finishers award I've ever gotten.  All the feels!
One of the coolest finishers “awards” I’ve ever gotten. All the feels!

In summary, this event was brutal in the best ways possible.  It was a legitimate challenge in areas I feel no other event has challenged me before.  I was very, very impressed, from start to finish, with everything and everyone that was a part of this event.  If you ever want me to join in an event in the future, just say the magic words “Grant has something to do with this” and I am in.

For some more information, see the public page:  https://www.facebook.com/frozenfoxinvitationalupdates

A big thank you to my favorite fuel, Island Boost – I got a huge energy boost between my meals.  I was burning calories like it was going out of style and it was perfect fuel that didn’t mess with my stomach.

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Arm Pit Bruises – Why I Keep Running Spartan Races

Slippery Wall: A OCR obstacle in which you climb up an inclined wall, using a rope. Normally you are covered in mud and very wet while trying to accomplish this.

Google “Spartan Slippery Wall”, watch the YouTube videos, chuckle.

A brief history of my experience with the slippery wall:

Indiana 2013: burpeed out of the slippery wall because I was a big pansy.

PACNW 2013: fell off the slippery wall. Three times. Secretly cried a little.

Wintergreen 2013: It’s a blur. Think I did the slippery wall.

Tampa 2014: had to be pushed and pulled over the slippery wall.

Charlotte 2014: got my squirley butt over the slippery wall all by myself and I have the armpit bruise to show it.

See:

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Sexy, huh?

I jest. But in reality, the armpit bruise really does sum up why I keep doing one brand of OCR, Spartan Race, over and over. I am a huge fan of any physical event that encourages people to get up and do things, and I run every OCR/Mud Run I can. But I keep coming back to Spartan Race. While I don’t review Spartan races individually, (frankly, in most cases, you’ve read one review, you’ve read them all) I realized that I keep coming back to Spartan for several reasons….all of them summed up with my armpit bruise.

That bruise represents my experience with Spartan Race – the uniqueness of every race experience, the connection of Spartan Racers, and the sense of accomplishment that every race brings.

Raise Your Hand if You’ve Ever Had an Armpit Bruise

I’m guessing that not a lot of you raised your hands. I’ve been racing for a year and I’d never had one. While bruises are standard fare for most racers, where you have them and how you got them are never the same from race to race.

Spartan Race is a lot like that. If you’ve run any of their races before, you have a general idea of what the obstacles are going to be, but you can never be quite sure how and where they will appear.  Some people have asked me how I keep from being bored running the same race over and over.  It’s NOT the same race, no matter how many times you’ve run it.  This means you have an odd combination of comfort of the familiar and terror of the unknown.

You know you’re going to have bruises – your’re just not sure where they will come from or where they will end up.

How do you treat an armpit bruise?

I have found that Spartans have a strange bond.  We share information and hold each other to standards I just haven’t experienced in many other environments.  We help each other.

There is a level of camaraderie that is prevalent throughout the community, both on and off the course. Need pushed over a wall? A true Spartan will be there to for you. Need a ride to the venue? Just post on Facebook and people you’ve never met will roger up. Not sure how to treat an armpit bruise? Ask around. Someone will offer up helpful advice.

Spartan Race is so established that we have come to learn that we can lean on our fellow Spartans.  We trust and like each other for many reasons, not the least of which is because if you dare call yourself a Spartan, you will be expected to live up to the name.

Does Your Best Friend have an Armpit Bruise?

More importantly, does your best friend appreciate your armpit bruise?

All OCR competitors probably appreciate the idea of the armpit bruise, but the Spartan community takes it even further. We are like those guys who drive the same kind of car…..you give a little nod in respect when someone in a Spartan shirt walks by.

Spartans love our marks earned on and off the course.  From tattoos to bruises to my favorite, here is where the barbed wire got me (inside right elbow, Indiana Sprint 2013), Spartans are joined by a shared experience.  This is because it is so established that we can understand, emphasize and live vicariously through other racers, even if we weren’t with them on that particular course.

When you brag about an armpit bruise, Spartan Racers will high five you and say “let me see!” (I am betting most of my Non OCR friends will scrunch their nose and cock their heads in a questioning look.)

Armpit Bruise: A Badge of Honor

This armpit bruise represents the best things about Spartan Race – Conquering things I have failed at before.  Like I said, I love doing small and unique OCR’s but one great thing about Spartan is that I am able to re-do and grow on obstacles that I have been unable to conquer before.  I’ve never had an armpit bruise before because this was the first time I’ve thrown my own body up and and over that wall, unassisted (My calves are a hilarious mess too).  I conquered something that I was intimidated by and that I had failed, multiple times.

I run Spartan Races because it gives me a tangible goal each race I run.  I can’t get bored with the race because not only is the terrain different each time, I always have an obstacle to slay.  The feeling I feel less than one year after my first Spartan Race is indescribable.  I failed over half the obstacles my first race.  Hated almost every minute of the darn thing.  Now, failure of an obstacle is getting more and more rare.  And now I love every minutes of the darn thing. Ok, ok, ALMOST every minute of the darn thing.

Next up – the rope climb……I wonder where that bruise is going to be?

 

The Huff 50K

On December 28th, 2013 I completed the Huff 50K trail run in Albion, Indiana.  Here is how my adventure went.

A few months back I had a bright idea. Ok, a Corn Fed Spartan friend of mine actually had the bright idea…..he sent me a Facebook event invite to the Huff 50K trail run. (Side note, you ever want me to do something, Facebook invite is the fastest way to get my attention….I’m a sucker for the Facebook event invite.)

I have never run anything longer then a Spartan Beast (about 14 miles).  So when I saw it was 31 miles and that friends of mine would be doing it, my reaction was the equivalent of the “Ooooooh…..shiny” response.  I’d never done anything like this so I, of course, had to try it.  Thus began one of the most absurd undertakings I’ve engaged in, well, ever.

I would love to say that I spent the next month and a half training very hard, but that would be a big fat lie.  I ran here and there.  Did some strength training.  Took bubble baths.  It was grueling.  Before I knew it, it was December 27th and I had to start getting ready.  Sometime during the course of this day, I also decided that I would carry a ruck with a few bricks in it.  I packed up all my gear and went to bed early, knowing that my 430am rise and shine time was going to come early.

I arrived at the venue (Chain O’ Lakes Park) about forty five minutes before the published start time.  Parking was ample but the directions were a little lacking.  There were no signs directing you to where to go after parking, but there were plenty of friendly fellow racers to point you in the right direction.

After a short jump to the start area, you arrived at a wonderfully set up venue.  Made up of a HUGE collection of heated tents, there was plenty of waiting room, along with beverages and snacks.  Packet pick up had been available the night before so even if you had to pick up day of, it was smooth and efficient.  A t-shirt, lunch bag, cool key chain, timer bib, and course map were nicely packaged for you.

Bag check was free and was in the same tent area.  You zip tied your claim check (From the bottom of your bib) to your bag and gave it to the volunteer.  This is also where you could leave any drop gear or supplies as this tent also served as the half way mark of the race.

The race got started a tad bit later then scheduled, but it was no big deal.  The race had several options for completing it, including a relay, a 10K loop and the main show, the 50K.  They sent off the relay and the 10K first and then the party started for us 50K’ers.

The course was two loops of a little over 15.5 each loop.  It was mostly trail with a few areas where you ran on the road.  There were a few minor hills and only one water crossing which was easily crossed over by leaping rocks – no wet feet required.

When we kicked off the race, it was chilly.  High 20’s.  It warmed up to about 45 degrees during the day.  This meant during my first loop the ground was frozen solid and on the second loop it was a muddy mess.  Lots of people played slip and slide on the course.  Almost all of the course was under the cover of trees.

About every four miles they had the most wonderful aid stations that I have ever experienced.  I am talking hamburgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, chocolate turtles, coffee, soda (pop), the list just goes on and on and on.  The volunteers manning the station were wonderful.  They were so friendly and attentive.  These aid stations made the registration fee worth every penny.  A runner could have run completely unsupported and probably still have been OK with the help of these stations.  I should also note that I took a LOOOOONNNNNGGGG time on this course.  I was in the last 15-20 people to finish the course.  Even on my second loop, there was  plenty of food and supplies.

Possibly the best food item I've ever eaten.
Possibly the best food item I’ve ever eaten.

Now on to my performance.  As previously mentioned, for some reason I thought “I am going to carry a bag of bricks on my back.”  DUMB!!!!  By mile twelve I wanted to curl up on the ground and cry.  I went slow.  Very very slow.  I stuck with friends for some of the time but I was going so slow that I did most of the course by myself.  I officially knew I was going slow when I was lapped by the winners of the race.  Lap one took me almost four and a half hours.

When I hit the half way point, I left that God forsaken ruck at bag check.  Things got much better from there.  Without all the weight on my back I moved much faster.  I ended up jogging a good part of lap two, stopping only because my back and feet were still groaning from lap one.   I was able to catch up with a number of my friends and spent much more time on lap two in the company of other human beings.  Yeah!  About a mile from the finish I decided that I wanted to finish strong.  I tipped my hat to the company I was keeping (in case you are reading this Lacey – that’s is NOT what she said) and took off.  The sun was starting it’s descent and it was quiet and peaceful.  As I rounded the final quarter mile, I heard some of my already finished team mates cheering me on (which was AWESOME) and I did my aching leg version of a sprint across the finish line.

Volunteers were there cheering and holding out the mana of the finish line – bananas and water.  One person gingerly walked up to me with an expression on his face that lead me to believe that I was about to be told that I was disqualified, or worse, had to go run another lap.  Turns out it was just to tell me they were out of finishers medals.  I think he thought I was going to yell.  Little did he know that I really didn’t care at that moment, I was trying my damnedest to not cry…..I could not believe that I had finished.  He took my name and address and promised a medal would be shipped to me.  He then thanked me for not yelling and congratulated me on finishing.  By that time several of my teammates had wandered over and one let me borrow a medal to take the classic finish line photo. The medals are awesome gold belt bucklets.  Sooooo sweet!

I hobbled into the finishers tent and ate some delicious soup.  I then hobbled back out to cheer on the remaining members of my teams as they crossed the finish line.  I vaguely remember hobbling towards my car, being picked up by the Legend Borne team and driven the rest of the way to my car.  (Thanks guys!!!).  I then drove home, hobbled up the two flights of stairs and passed out on the lazy boy.  Yes – in all my race gear.  I am gross.

The Huff was amazing.  Beautiful course and top notch organization.  I would recommend it to ANYONE interested in doing an ultra marathon.  I would also recommend that you train more then I did.  (You know, like train.  Period.)  Lesson learned.

What made this race special though were two things: 1) I got to be out there with my friends and team mates (one in the same).  I got to meet new people.  A loved one that couldn’t be there with me sent encouraging messages during the whole day and without even knowing it kept me from quitting even when I was feeling like a run over squirrel.  People are why I race.  This race captured this beautifully.  2) I did something I never ever thought I could do.  I accomplished something new and different and crazy and it was awesome.  The feeling is indescribable and wonderful.  I challenged myself and I succeed.  It was slow, it was ugly, but it got done.  

The Huff will long serve as a reminder that I can do anything I set my mind to. I am going to go ice my feet now.

Zombie Race: Ohio

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On September 29, 2013 I ran in the Zombie Race 5K in Holland Ohio. The race came to my attention when a friend of mine, who wanted to try an OCR, sent me a Groupon deal for this race. I had never done Groupon before, but I thought I’d give it a try. I am very glad I did. This turned out to be a great beginners race, with just enough challenge to make it fun for someone who is claiming to be a OCR veteran.

Parking:  I can’t believe I continue to pay $10 to park in a muddy field, but we did.  That being said, there was plenty of parking and it was well controlled.

Registration: Registration was quick and easy. For some reason, they didn’t have me and the little girl I was running with on the registration list. I simply pulled out my phone and showed them the registration e-mails and they checked me in with no problems. We got a cute little drawstring bag and T-shirt. You also got free gear check and one free beer!

Atmosphere:  I can’t emphasize enough that they had the atmosphere down to a T! It was fun was from the very moment you pulled up into the parking area.  You started seeing zombies immediately (including smoking zombies and banana eating zombies, which cracked us up). The volunteers were super friendly and everything seemed very well organized.   The DJ was fun, the announcer was hilarious, and everyone was openly having a great time. As we started to walk into the holding pen, you could tell everyone was getting excited and a little race jittery, but still looking to have a ton of fun.

Overall Race:  There was an almost perfect mix of open track for running and obstacles. They were spaced very well and with one exception, the rope bridge, there were zero backups on the obstacles. The run took place through a small wooded area, so it was all trail based running. There were sand hills, short walls (very short), low crawls, and most of the typical obstacles that we are getting used to see an obstacle course races. My personal favorite was a tall slanted wall where you could either climb with a rope or with rock climbing brackets.  The obstacles were top notch! Whoever built them knew what they were doing. Even on my largest nemesis, things that go high, I never felt unsafe.  The cargo nets were sturdy, the tall wall was un-movable and everything just seemed very well put together.

The zombies were exquisite. The makeup was great, their attitude was fun, and they offered a challenge without being overly aggressive. My personal favorite part was that they let the little girl that I ran with finish the race with one flag. I know it may sound silly, but to a 12-year-old who is running her first race, finishing with one flag was the highlight of her day.  It was also just plain smart….make the kid happy and you make the grown ups happy.  

Cardio:  Cardio fitness required was minimal. We had to sprint between the zombies but you could complete the course with a decent jog the whole way.  There was also room to sprint it out whenever the mood caught you.

Strength:  Strength requirements were average. There was a sandbag carry which required upper body strength and you had to go up-and-down some sand hills, pulling in some lower body strength.

Technical:  Technical skills required was minimal. Any first timer could complete at least 90% of the obstacles. Hell, I still can’t complete a rope climb *Insert shame here.

This was not a timed race, so there really wasn’t much pressure. ***Side note, There was a 15 K option as well. I didn’t look too much into it so I’m not sure if they just lapped the course three times or if they had a separate section.

 

Mud: You got mildly dirty for the first 99% of the race.  Then came the final obstacle, the mud pit.  Darn straight you got muddy.  It was awesome.

Photos:  There were at least three photographers on the course and at least 4 to 5 meandering around the crowds before and after. The photos were handled by http://www.teamphotonetwork.com.  They turned out great but, as typical in “pay for your photos” races, ridiculously expensive.  

Spectators:  One additional highlight, which I thought the race did particularly well, was how they handled spectators.  They were free (come on races who charge for Spectators – stupid move).  They also provided some very motivating spectator areas. At each spectator area there were at least 10 spectators, carrying on in a way that every racer had their own personal cheer squad.  I heard at least a handful of spectators discussing how fun it looked and how they were going to try the next race.  It was also fun for the runners.

At the end of the race you were greeted with the banana, a cup of water, a zombie race wristband and your medal. If I were to complain about anything, it would be the medal. It was dog tag style but it had survival race on it.  There was nothing to do with the zombie concept. This focus on survival race seemed to permeate the whole race. Even in the merchandise tent 99% of the gear said survival race on it. There were no T-shirts or anything besides a towel for sale that said zombie race. It was a shame, because I would’ve totally bought a tank top with zombie logos on it.

Clean Up:  The showers were your typical hoses, which actually had pretty decent water pressure. They had a very nice changing tent for both men and women so you could have a little bit of privacy why you were shaking the mud out of your clothes.

Refreshments:  They had a local brewery on site that handled the beer. You got to pick from three of their microbrews. That was kind of nice, as usually races have the watered-down swill for free beer. They also had food for sale; Hamburgers, hot dogs, pulled pork. It wasn’t too expensive and it was really good!

I used this race to introduce two new women to the sport of OCR. They had a blast and so did I.  I’m beginning to truly believe that that is the sign of a good 5K obstacle course race; it should be challenging and fun for a veteran but should still entice a newbie to want to try more. Zombie Race nailed that idea.

This race impressed me. It makes me want to try one of their other branded races. Top-notch for newbies, still fun for a veteran, and very well organized.

Perspective Shift/Pretty Muddy Review

The following blog is part race review (Pretty Muddy), part description of a perspective shift I’ve had. Lets start with some back ground.

While I am female, I’ve never been a member of the “sisters unite” mentality. Honestly, I’ve had a habit of judging other women very harshly. Part nature, part nurture, (I’m in the service and I’m a criminal defense attorney. Anyone who says those are not male dominated worlds is deluded.) I have long been guilty of looking at the female sex as generally emotionally squishy and annoying. Phrases I’ve uttered include “there’s no crying in [insert any public situation] and “a hello kitty lunchbox, really?” (Now mind you, that was carried by a uniformed service member into our all hands meeting – I stand by that one….I just probably shouldn’t be SO annoyed by it.)

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(Yeah, I think I’m a bada@@)

So there’s my starting point.

Then a while back my life fell apart (or what felt like it). Though I had very few of them, my female friends were unquestionably there for me, but I still didn’t get it. I still had a very sexist view of my own sex.

To help with said bitch smack from life, I started racing. Then I started obstacle course racing. I LOVE OBSTACLE COURSE RACING. I’m pretty much obsessed. I started meeting some of the coolest people I’ve ever met….including some of the coolest damn women in the world. Alas, I still didn’t get it. I looked at these cool women as anomalies.

Then I ran Pretty Muddy. This is a women’s only 5k mud race. It is designed to be great for first timers with some physical challenge. I agreed to run it when one of above mentioned cool chicks asked myself and another two of the above mentioned cool chicks to spread our teams reputation.

I was skeptical. I was expecting to be annoyed. I was wrong. Once again OCRs brought major change to my life.

My group had twelve ladies in it, about half of whom had never done an OCR. We agreed to complete this together…..start to finish. (The only way Corn Fed Spartans run group heats, and one of the major reasons I run with these crazy people, BTW) As we were waiting for start time we had several conversations about things 1) I’ve had to deal with and 2) never thought to discuss because I confine myself to the company of men. [yes, boys we discussed our periods and how many bras to wear to hide your nipples in a cold race]

Then we did the race. The course was fun and doable. For someone who does this a lot it was not physically hard but for a newbie it was just enough to give you a good taste and show you where to focus on your next race. Obstacles included a foam chute, high cargo nets, and wall climbs with supports. The only complaint I had was the mud sucked. It was wet and goopy (awesome) but what was with the rocks? It was FULL of pebbles. Get rid of the rocks in the mud and we’re cool. The volunteers rocked, the atmosphere was a blast, and even the changing areas were top notch. I will note that having signs on the course mentioning hot showers and then only having cold hoses was a big tease. 😉 This was a fun, relaxed race that I would recommend to any rookie or vet looking for some fun. I will do it again, no question. Oh! Almost forgot. This year we got bling. Nice. Though next year, t shirts would be good – for us and Pretty Muddy. It’s one way we spread the word!

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So I loved the course and I had fun. Both good things. But the best part was my perspective shift. There were stages of the race that found me singing “I feel pretty”, skipping, or talking about wedgies. There were also times where I was challenged, by another female, to carry more then required, yelled at to climb stuff that scared me, and group hugging a gal when she got herself over an obstacle she never thought she could do. Let me take this time to give a shout out to those eleven women – bet you didn’t know you were going to cause an ephiany. You all are awesome!

Women rock. We are different for a reason. And while you’re never going to catch me singing “Hear me Roar”, Pretty Muddy finally got something through to me – We do not have to be masculine or hide our feminine side. Women are tough, beautiful and a crap ton of fun. I am thrilled that I get to race next to them and blessed that I’m finally smart enough to see that I’m blessed to have many women I can call friends.

Just don’t carry a Hello Kitty lunch box while in uniform.

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Mud Ninja Review

On July 27, 2013, I participated in the Mud Ninja Extreme Challenge at The J.L. Parker Farm in South Salem, OH. I was challenged to attempt this course by Kevin Jones of the Crazy Mudder Muckers. In short, freaking awesome experience.  DO THIS RACE!!!

Race day proved to be a damp one. I arrived on site about an hour before my heat time.

I easily located the volunteer check in tent where I as handed a shirt and bandanna and sent on my way.  The bandanna was used instead of race bib so volunteers could run whenever they wanted.  My crew (The CornFed Spartans and Crazy Mudder Muckers) were at their tents in the team section.  (Yeah! I love the team tent section).

We headed to the starting gate as a group and after a little pumping up by the MC, we were sent on our way.  Over the next few hours I experienced some of the most challenging obstacles, insane terrain, and best showing of camaraderie and friendship that I’ve seen at a race.  It was a GREAT race and I will be back next year.

Here’s why:

Cardio Fitness Required:  Yes.  YES.  Yes.  Even if you walked the course, you better not be a couch to Mud Ninja participant or things will hurt.

Brute strength required: You needed some good old fashioned brute strength on this one.  You needed this strength for yourself and your teammates.  Many of the obstacles were simply impossible without the help of a team mate (or five).

Technical skill required:  There were some great technical obstacles.  Balancing, climbing, and rope work were all incorporated nicely.

Mud Factor:  Holy Cow MUDDY!!!!! There was a point where I was peeling layers of just starting to dry mud off of myself.

Course Officials:  At most obstacles there were great course officials and they were super helpful and friendly.  There were a few areas of the course (top of the widow maker!) that an official would have helped with safety.

Actual Course: The terrain was wonderful.  Rocky, muddy, up and down hills and a beautiful view.   There was nice spacing between most of the obstacles.  The single most difficult obstacle I’ve ever completed was on this course – the widow maker. I know this sounds like a “the fish was THIS big” story, but this hill was nuts.  Straight up with ropes only at the very top.  In fact, half way through day one they shut this path down due to some extreme pain and no gain.

Parking: Parking was $10 but free for volunteers. Parking was quick and easy.

Take Homes:  I signed up online forever ago and as I typically do, I took the volunteer route and it only cost me ten dollars (yes, I like seeing how the sausage is made) so my take homes were a bandanna and a t-shirt.  I saw that fully paid participants got a beer and a T.  The finishers medals are EPIC.  Big, Heavy, Ninja Stars.  So full of awesome.

Food/Beverage: Lots of water stations on the course (I think 4 for a 5K, which is pretty good).  I saw lots of food trucks and people selling candy, but I did not partake.  There did not seem to be “recovery” snacks anywhere.

Photos:  I can’t wait to see these photos.  They are going to be so fun!

Summary:  An amazing and fun race.  I am biased because I got to run it with an amazing group of people, but this was truly a wonderfully run and organized event.  As I said before – DO THIS RACE!!!

***Editor’s note – I plan on updating this entry when the photos come in.  The muddy, muddy photos.

The Patriot Challenge Review

We are one good looking group!
We are one good looking group!

On July 6th, 2013, I participated in The Patriot Challenge at the Lucas Oil Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana.  I signed up after some facebook prodding by fellow Corn Fed Spartans.  The price was reasonable and I really liked the uniqueness of running on a race track.

The course started on the speedway and the first half involved lots of just running, including up and down the bleachers.  About half way through we got the mud and some fun obstacles.  I really had a good time – the course was pretty average, nothing crazy challenging, but I knew that going in.  I ran with some new found Corn Fed friends and spent the morning having good old fashioned fun.

Here is the breakdown of my experience:

Cardio Fitness Required: LOTS of flat out running, especially in the first half.

Brute strength required: Only one or two obstacles required brute strength.

Technical skill required: A few obstacles required OCR skills such as monkey bars and fence climbing. I was uncomfortable with two things. 1) Some of the fences/obstacles were fixtures at the track. They were pointy and rusty and you can’t help but scratch yourself. I am glad my tetanus shot is up to date. 2) The pit at the bottom of the slide was WAY to shallow (barely calve deep). I skipped the slide due to visions of broken ankles and shattered tailbones. Overall, the obstacles were fun but not very challenging.

Mud Factor: The first heat barely got muddy. I was the third heat and looked like I engaged in a full-body make out session with a mud pit. The mud obstacles were my favorite parts of the race.

I really enjoyed my mud pit session.

Course officials: Awesome, but could have used more (the nature of the beast). The kid at the rope swing was the best! I hope they invest in microphones or some system to announce things better. Heat times weren’t announced and instructions at the start were just yelled.

Actual Course: As I said before, the first part was slow but improved dramatically as time went on.  You could either run the “elite” race or the normal race.  I took the elite (and I kept thinking that if I claimed to be elite on the Spartan course, a podium-placer would eat me alive) and handled it just fine.  Direction/marking needs some improvement.  There were parts of the course that simply were not marked.  My running buddy and I had to back track at least twice because the path was not very well marked.  Sections of the course weaved in and out of each other so it was easy to go the wrong way if a fellow racer didn’t warn you.  So, we probably added a half mile to our race, but hey, why not!  I was participating in the timed concept of the race, but I pretty much chalked that up to a loss when I got, well, lost.  At the time I am writing this, official times have not been released.

Parking: No issues at all. Blacktop parking. Plenty of parking and it was free. (I had heard it was ten dollars, but no one I knew saw anyone to pay. Possibly a benefit of getting there VERY early?)

Take Homes: Standard cotton T came with registration. You could upgrade to tech but I’m not sure of the cost. Sam Adams was there with good beer (one free). The medal is not so great. Cheap looking and small. There were several vendors there giving out free stuff and providing entertainment.

Why yes, I like Hershey Nuggets.
Why yes, I like Hershey Nuggets.

Food/Beverage: Bottled water was ready and waiting at the end of the course. The Bakers Knot was on hand at the main area with yummy baked goods and bananas.

The Baker’s Knot Information

Photos:  There were people out there taking photos.  I look forward to seeing them.

Summary: The course got better (more fun) as the course went on. Most definitely a FUN run.  I REALLY enjoyed myself.  While the challenge factor wasn’t high, I had some of the most fun I’ve ever had at a race.

My Race Timeline

I have run enough races at this point that I have realized I have a distinct, if not always planned, pattern. This is how I go about running races:

The night before, approximately 5pm – Eat anything I want because, heck, I’m racing tomorrow. Vaguely recall this being a bad idea. Ignore recollection.

One hour later – regret stuffing myself and mentally note, again, not to do this the next race.

The night before, approximately 10pm – Go to bed.

The night before, approximately midnight – Get up and make sure all the gear is ready.

Next five hours – remain wide awake, alternating between staring at the dark ceiling and pacing around the house.

Ten minutes before I HAVE to get up – fall into a deep sleep.

Time to get up – have a minor heart attack when alarm clock goes off.

Next hour – get dressed, make creative breakfast shake, head out door, drive at least ten minutes before realizing some essential item has been forgotten. Go get item. Start drive over.

Miss at least one turn or exit.

Get to site at least 45 minutes later then planned.

Check in/register. Explain how to pronounce my last name.

30 minutes before gun time – drink whatever pre-workout concoction
I learned about last week. Vaguely recall this being a bad idea. Ignore recollection.

25 minutes before gun time – start to “warm up”, notice my face is tingling.

20 minutes before gun time – make mental note, again, to stop trying new supplements on race day. Begin jumping up and down, walking in circles….nerves or supplement rush?

15 minutes before gun time – stuff into starting area. Still jumping.

10 minutes before gun time – feel extremely badarse. KNOW I am going to conquer!

2 minutes before gun time – panic. Start to recall every reason I shouldn’t be doing this – I’m not fast enough, strong enough, look how big her muscles are, I used to be FAT! Ahhhhhhhh.

Gun time – Forget every excuse I was just panicking over and remember that I’m badarse at my own level. Mentally scream Hoo Yah and start running!

First distance marker – feel amazing…..FULL of awesomeness.

Half way point – doubt my very existence. Wonder what the hell I was thinking. Start audibly whining that I’m never doing this crap again.

30 seconds later – mentally kick myself for being a pansy. Take a deep breath. Resume attempts at arsekickery.

Upon sight of finish line – find energy not normally known and sprint!

Cross finish line – grab one of every item of food handed out.

30 seconds after – find private spot to fold over and try not to puke. Look at food in hand with disgust.

5 minutes later – Inhale previously mentioned food.

5 minutes after that – drink beer while reaching for my toes….have to at least look like I’m stretching. Vaguely think about how I really need to stretch better. Something about always regretting it later. Ignore this recollection.

Eventually – “wash” off with whatever passes for a shower/hose/fire truck/bird bath.

Dry off: Cold weather- shiver until dry. Hot weather – lay on grass until dry.

Next – Wander around for changing tent….find none, so I engage my suriptious changing skills behind my car door. Flash neighboring car ONLY once or twice.

Start drive home.

15 minutes into drive – realize that my beer drinking “stretching”, once again, wasn’t effective. This realization occurs when every muscle tenses in unison.

Get home – FALL out of car and hobble into house….straight to the refrigerator.

Next ten minutes – eat until no more food can fit in my gullet.

***Post race amendment – Shower. Marvel at how many cuts and scrapes I have. None of which I could see or feel prior to scraping the mud off and rubbing soap over them. I am sure that anyone listening would hear alternating sounds of curse words and hissing.

Grab laptop, collapse onto couch, sign up for every future race I can find (that I’m not already signed up for).

Repeat every two-three weeks.

ColorBlaze Lima, Ohio Review

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On June 1st, 2013 in Lima, Ohio, I ran the ColorBlaze 5K. It took place at the Allen County Fairgrounds. Overall, a fun but unchallenging race. I am glad I did it, but won’t do this one again.

Registration: I decided to run this at 7pm on the Friday (the day) before the race. Registration was through Active.com and I was able to register in plenty of time for the ‘discount’ rate of $35. There was also day of registration for $45.00.

Parking: PLENTY of parking with not much of a walk to the main area. They had guides during incoming but none during outgoing which made a MESS! It was a horrible situation trying to leave. It took about 30 minutes to get out of the log.

Check In: The race was scheduled to start at 11 and they said to get there at 8 to pick up your packet or register. They were NOT kidding. I got there at 930 and got checked in with no problem. Those that waited until the last minute had a bad day. The line was really, really long. No ID was needed (which always makes me a little wary in active.com events….everyone can see who registers if you take the public option). You signed a waiver, got your bag o’ stuff and you were good to go.

They had a zumba class going on before the race, which was  a hoot!

Stuff: 100% cotton t-shirt with the company’s logo, race bib (still don’t get this one – they didn’t have professional photographers and it wasn’t timed) one bag of color powder, coupons, and small samples of drug store type items.

Bag Check: None. This wasn’t important at this race because 1) you didn’t get all nasty to the point you needed to change and 2) the car was a hop, skip and a jump away.

Restrooms: Plenty of access to the fairground facilities (no port-a-potties) but they had no paper towels, the hand driers were either broken or shut off, and they were out of TP by the end of my heat (I was about the fourth heat of about 10).

Actual Race: It was a flat track race with a brief run on a slightly muddy (due to recent rain) track. It was NOT a 5k. My GPS clocked it at about 2.5 miles and facebook posts of others confirmed that. I don’t know why, but this annoyed me beyond all belief. I wanted my 3.1 miles and I felt cheated. I also thought it was doing a BIG disservice to beginning runners. They now have a skewed sense of the 5K.  Also, the end of the race was a hot mess.  It just sort of stopped….I wandered around for a while, confused because I didn’t see a finish line and my GPS hadn’t hit 3 miles.  I heard rumors that there was a water and snack station with fruit, but it was no where near the finish.

The fun factor was high though.  There were three color stations on the course and people running around spraying you with color.  That was really cool.  There was one water station on the course.

Photographs: No company was there taking pictures.  It was a have your family take pictures type situation.

Fitness Requirements: Flat track, no obstacles, and decent weather all meant that you needed cardio fitness (I will note that at least 75% of the people there were walking the whole thing) and zero non-running muscle strength.  This was about as beginner as you can get.

Bottom Line:  I am glad I did it.  It was a fun experience. But, it was way to beginner for me, WAY to unorganized for me and I probably won’t be doing another ColorBlaze.