Category Archives: garmin

2016 Spartan World Championship Recap

Let me take a deep breath. I’m actually drinking a glass of wine as I sit down to write this post.  I underestimated Spartan on this one.  I am pretty tough.  I fight very hard on the course.  I will be the first to admit, I was not prepared for what happened on Saturday, October 1st at Squaw Valley and because of that I am still feeling extremely exhausted both physically and mentally from the entire event.  When Joe Desena, the CEO and co-founder of Spartan, said this was going to be hard (it’s world championships), I figured it would be comparable to Asheville.  That was hard and also part of the US Championship Series at over 10 miles with over 3,000 feet of elevation gain.

FullSizeRender-68

You see that’s the Spartan way.  You know.  STFU (Spartan The F* Up). Have you ever read the Spartan words to live by?

  • Spartans push their minds and bodies to their limits.
  • Spartans master their emotions.
  • Spartans learn continuously.
  • Spartans give generously.
  • Spartans lead.
  • Spartans stand up for their beliefs, no matter the cost.
  • Spartans know their flaws as well as their strengths.
  • Spartans prove themselves through actions, not words.
  • Spartans live every day as if it were their last.

I should have known better.  I mean read the last bullet point.  Leaders own their shit.  Spartan is certainly not afraid to do that.  They essentially push you to your breaking point so that when you cross the finish line you have a renewed sense of purpose.   It’s actually pretty overwhelming.  This was an emotional race to say the least for me.

img_2092

Let me start from square 1.  I’m a full time mom.  A beast is really not up my alley.  I don’t have time to invest 3-4 hours a day to training.  At best, 2 hours.  I am already at a disadvantage.  When I stepped on to the starting line at the Asheville Super (just 8 weeks ago), I had no intention of doing the Lake Tahoe Beast.   In fact, it wasn’t until a fellow racer informed me that I earned a coin at Asheville that I even had a thought about going.

img_2114

To earn a coin, you have to finish top 5 in the elite field at any given race.  That top 5 is rolling.  If 1-5 already have a coin, then the next best 5 who don’t have a coin, get one.  Yes.  I came in 34th at Asheville.  That many people in front of me already had coins.  That’s how competitive that race was.  It was through this same fellow racer that I learned I had earned a coin the year before (but was never told by Spartan).  Either way, I reached out to customer service to confirm that I had in fact earned a coin and inquired about having this piece of hardware sent to me.  I still wasn’t sure if I would go.

14089144_10104614176185793_4224350375907967880_n

I went on vacation to New York.  I thought about it a lot.  I didn’t really train much.  I ate a lot.  I took a break.  It was during that break that I decided I would go for it.  It couldn’t be that bad, right?  I signed up!  I trained specific skills for the next 6 weeks.  With only a few weeks out there wasn’t much else I could do about my endurance level.  I was just going to have to gut out the distance.

img_2027

We flew in Friday. That was our first mistake.  I underestimated the altitude  effect on my body.  We went to Squaw Valley directly from the airport.  I wanted to pick up my bib and scout out the festival area obstacles before heading to the cabin that we were staying in.  Spartan has gotten into a habit of posting course maps the day before a race.  The maps typically have a few “Classified” obstacles. If I can check out the course, I try to figure out what some of these are to aid me in determining my race plan.

img_2051

Yes, I said race plan.  Over the longer races, these maps provide insight into when it is best to fuel and how hard I want to go out.  As the race increases in length a strategy can help you survive.  I typically share tips pre-race with anyone on my team based on what I see.

img_2111

This race was no exception.  I used the back of my airline ticket to jot down notes based on the elevation profile, mileage and obstacles that I knew were missing.  Visualizing the race is my way of meditating.  Picturing myself completing the race.  Relieving my anxiety.  It was through this process that I determined my fuel for the race and leading up to the race would be as follows:

  • 400 calorie breakfast by 5:45 AM – whole wheat bagel with peanut butter
  • Balance Bar for ride to venue (approximately 6:15 AM)
  • RSP Fast Fuel with 16 oz of water 30 minutes prior to race
  • My hydration pack had a powder BCAA mix with water (approximately 50 oz of water)
  • Drink at least 1 cup of water at all water stations
  • Three Gu Packs walking through water stations – mile 4, mile 7, mile 11 (I packed one extra just in case)

We left the venue just shy of 3:00 PM Pacific Time – 6:00 PM Eastern time.  We were hungry.  We decided to grab an early dinner at a local restaurant  a few miles south of Tahoe City.  Since we were still on east coast time, eating dinner so early and didn’t eat much of a lunch, I went big.  I ordered the chicken parmesan.

img_2052

I ate every last bite of that bowl along with two or three slices of garlic bread.  Our plan was to stay on east coast time as best we could.  At that rate, my bed time would be 7 PM and I would get up around 3:30 AM.  We also ordered a pizza to take back to our cabin so that we could have a “snack” before we went to bed.  There was no way I was going to make this race off of a dinner that I ate so early the day before.

img_2054

Don’t judge.  I have issues with my digestive system.  I have to be very careful with what I eat the night before and morning of a long distance race.  Calories and carbs are an important part of preventing me from needing to find a bathroom.

img_2115

We took some time to review the course map yet again before heading to bed around 7 PM. I had trouble sleeping.  I was already dreading a slew of new obstacles that Spartan had announced in the 24 hours leading up to the race.  I was also dabbling in the idea that I might DNF (Did Not Finish) because of the swim.  The weather in Lake Tahoe was high thirties with strong winds due to a snow storm that was headed our way.

img_2091

img_2097

I woke up at 2:40 AM Pacific time.  That’s 5:40 AM Eastern time.  Pretty consistent with my normal routine.  There was nothing to do and I didn’t want to eat breakfast until it got closer to race time.  We settled on watching Saved By The Bell for almost an hour and a half  before we both took showers and started to get dressed.

img_2096

Aside from the course, Squaw Valley has almost a dozen trails that were open on the day of the race.  In a last minute effort to get into the elite heat, my husband found out there were no more spots until the afternoon session.  He didn’t want to go all the way out there to not do anything while everyone was racing.  That said, he plotted out a trail run that would essentially drop him in on the top of the mountain where a majority of the obstacles were (so he could watch me) before descending and meeting me at the finish line.  He was essentially dressed for race day as well.

IMG_1141

If you remember my post about the Asheville Super, I essentially started as close to the front as I could with the intent to push as hard and as long as I could.  My plan for this race was quite the opposite.  As my anxiety level rose during the days leading up to the race, I had to keep reminding myself that I was invited to compete in the Championship heat.  However, I’m not going to lie, the venue and the women that were there intimidated me.  My ultimate goal was to do me.  In other words, start at a steady pace towards the back, do my best not to worry about everyone around me, and essentially finish.

img_2049

When I stepped up to the start line, I began to see familiar faces.  My friends.  Someone even yelled out, “Hey, you’re FlyJenDuf!” I began talking to the women around me.  I found out where they were from.  I found out how they qualified.  I began to realize that they had the same insecurities about this race as I did.  I began to do what I do best.  Coach.

img_2144

img_2095

If you check out the course map, there were essentially two mountains to crest.  I will walk you through the obstacles and my journey as best I can based on this.  Mile 1 was essentially a blur.  It wasn’t until I watched my husband’s video of the start that I realized how far back I actually was.  Definitely the last 25%.  I wore my watch for the first time in a race.  That would later go on to help me again with figuring out fueling and when to expect obstacles.

Obstacle 1 – Over, Under, Through – After a short run through the ski village, we hopped a parking barrier and went over a short wall, under a wall, and through a wall.  Easy stuff.

Obstacle 2 – “Classified” – Moats – I should have walked over to see what this classified obstacles was the day before, but I didn’t.  Leave it to Spartan to throw you in the water less than a mile into the race. It was here that shit got real.  No longer could I feel my feet. I heard women around me shout, “I don’t think I can do the swim if it’s this cold”.  I sucked it up and moved on.

Obstacle 3 – Over Walls – We again had to jump over several short walls before beginning our climb up the first peak.

img_2129

Thank goodness for this peak.  Everyone immediately slowed down.  I am a climber.  I hustled.  I knew there were a lot of good descenders in this group.  My heart rate climbed as I climbed, allowing my feet to warm back up again.  It was during this climb that I encouraged those around me.  We actually talked.  Every 20 or so steps I would run 20 or so steps but for the most part I did my best to conserve energy for the rest of the race.

Obstacle 4 – 6 Foot Wall – Couldn’t have been easier.  Lots of jumping walls on the first mountain and steep climbs. My tip – Instead of stopping to rest, turn around and walk backwards ten steps.  This will keep you moving while taking the weight off your quads.  When you turn around, you will feel golden. Aside from heavy carries, I did not stop one time on a hill to rest.

Obstacle 5 – Monkey Bars – The start of Mile 2  – essentially the top of the first mountain!  I was a little nervous going into this.  I failed at Asheville due to wet equipment from early morning fog and bad storms.  There were at least 10 people in the burpee zone when I got there and people failing all around me.  Well, I crushed the monkey bars.  I kicked the shit out of that bell.

Obstacle 6 – Hurdles (2) – I say two, because we saw hurdles later in the race and a lot more of them.  I couldn’t get over all of the women having trouble with the hurdles.  I jumped over the first one so excited and full of energy that I yelled, “I’m just so excited I didn’t have to do burpees for the monkey bars!”

We were down hill from there.  My weakness.  I ran slower down hill.  All of the people I had passed in the burpee zone and the steady climb came running down on me.  That’s okay.  Again, I’m doing my race.  I let them pass along the narrow switchback trails.

Obstacle 7/8 – one was the 7 Foot Wall, one was the “Dip Walk” – I didn’t see the Dip Walk.  Or I blacked out.  The next thing I knew I was at the bottom of the mountain in the spectator zone.

Already at 4 miles, I looked at my watch and realized I was coming in at just under 50 minutes.  I was actually coasting this course with so much speed that I knew I would miss my husband through this round of obstacles.  I had anticipated it might take me 90 minutes to get this far.  Festival zone obstacles were short.

img_2145

Obstacle 9 – Thighmaster – One of 5 new obstacles released in this race.  Over a rig system, 5 punching bags were lined in a row, in which you had to wrap your legs around each bag while holding the top of the bag to maneuver down the line.  I was worried about this obstacle.  Surprisingly, I had not problem.  Too bad my husband wasn’t there to see that. I rang the bell and proceeded to the next obstacle.

Obstacle 10 – Inverted Wall – Old school obstacle. No problem.  Done and done.  As I headed back up the mountain, I took my first gu pack, drank out of my hydration pack and gave myself a pat on the back for making it through the first third of obstacles with no penalty.

And so began the trek to the next peak.  I knew I wouldn’t get to the top until mile 9.  That’s right, about 3-4 miles of straight climbing.  The only advantage was that for the most part the terrain was pretty even.  We weren’t “bushwhacking” like we were in Asheville.

14589647_10154100073847568_7853485345434800678_o.jpg

Obstacle 11 – “Classified” – A-Frame Cargo Net – Just before we hit mile 6, we ran into this obstacle.  Pretty simple.  The catch was, we had a clear view of the bucket carry, which we wouldn’t encounter until mile 13 (see picture above).  We will talk about that more later. It was empty at the time. The World Championship males had not made it there yet. It was intimidating to say the least.

I continued my walk up the mountain.  I continued to pass and make gains on people.  It was during this time that I came up on a girl from Texas. I can’t remember her name, but she asked who I was.  She was wearing a tank top and shorts.  She explained to me that she blacked out during the first 2 miles.  She also told me several times that she was just so mad because she knew she was in shape and she didn’t feel like she was doing well.  I reminded her the same things I reminded myself.  One, she was invited to be here, so she should remember that.  Two, she could do it.  Finally, I offered her the one extra Gu pack I had in my pack.  I told her my husband would be waiting on the top of the mountain for me.  I told her to let us help if we could.  Note, I went on without her before seeing her pass me again well into the race.  I may never see her or talk to her again, but I will remember this moment for a life time.  She probably will too.  That’s the OCR way. I know several of you reading this can relate.

Obstacle 12 – Vertical Cargo – The volunteer was singing the “Hokey Pokey” when I got there. I should have known that was a good sign.  I told her, “I’m a Hokie, I can dig that”.  She probably didn’t understand.  The wind was so strong, I thought the whole thing was going to blow over.  Either way, I did the obstacle and kept climbing.

Obstacle 13 – “Classified” – Spear Throw – Just before hitting mile 7, we got to the spear throw.  With ridiculous wind gusts, rarely was someone making this.  I threw it underhand for the first time ever in competition. I barely missed and with that I failed my first obstacle.  I was in the burpee zone.  I guess I still had a chance of winning money because they asked my bib number to count my burpees.

img_2079

I took my second Gu pouch as I crossed mile 7 and ran into my husband sitting on the side of the mountain.  He didn’t recognize me at first. I yelled “Jeff!” several times before I got his attention.  I couldn’t wait to tell him that I had made it this far in the race and only failed one obstacle – I have to admit, after seeing all of the new obstacles and failing 5 obstacles in Asheville, my goal was to fail 7 or less.  I was on track.

The top of the mountain was where it was at.  My husband was able to see me complete at least 12 obstacles. Too bad it was too cold for many people to get up there.  I was told they actually closed the top of the mountain the next day because the wind was so strong they were afraid the obstacles might fall down.  Here we go though.

Obstacle 14 – Olympus – Yet Another “New” obstacle. There was NO Z-Wall at the race, but there was the Olympus.  Essentially an inverted Z-wall that you had to use varying hand grips to traverse across.  I actually loved it.  I hope they throw the Z-wall out and use this going forward.

fullsizerendersparta

Obstacle 15 – Plate Drag – Just steps away was the plate drag.  For those of you unfamiliar with the race, you pull a weighted plate towards you over several yards before pulling it back to start.

img_2106

Obstacle 16 – “Classified” – Atlas Stone – Again, just steps away.  Women and men carry varying weights of sphere shaped stones back and forth while doing 5 burpees in between. See the flags going straight out.  There was a constant strong wind.  Sorry for the clarity of the images.  You get the picture.

img_2102

Obstacle 17 – Spartan Ladder – NEW – Athletes were required to climb up the inside of a pyramid structure before descending on the other side.  Bells had to be rung with hands.  My time spent rock climbing helped here.  I found this obstacle very easy while people around me were yelling expletives and asking to “burpee out”.

img_2103

Obstacle 18 – Tyrolean Traverse – This obstacle just requires patience.  Again, my husband was there to coach me through this.  I had done this before.  The wind was a brand new factor.  I pretty much competed these obstacles with a girl named “Faye”.  Her friend was cheering her on at the top of the mountain.  I remembered her name because one of the top female OCR athletes is Faye Stenning.

Obstacle 19/20 – “Classified” – Barbwire Crawl – Back to back.  I have never done a barb wire crawl with a camelbak on.  I tried to crawl under at first.  I took my pack off and tried to pull it.  Eventually, I slid through like a sideways crab walk.  The wind was ridiculous.  Dirt kept getting in my eyes.  Let’s just face it. I am not good at this obstacle.

img_2083

Obstacle 21 – Ape Hanger – (see video on Instagram) Oh the Ape Hanger.  I never thought I would see this in Tahoe.  This was a new obstacle introduced at Palmerton this year.  It is a permanent structure there. I never thought Spartan would try to recreate it somewhere else.  Well, they did.  It was my understanding prior to starting that I would not have to get wet if I made it all the way across.  WRONG.  I surprised myself when I was able to maneuver all the way across without falling.  I was even more surprised when the official told me to drop into the water.  EXCUSE ME?  I hung for at least 30 seconds arguing with him about how I didn’t want to get wet.  Shouldn’t you get rewarded for completing?  It was game over when I hit that water.  I had tucked my gloves (and hand warmers) into my pants waist band through these obstacles.  When I hit the water, my gloves, pants, shoes and socks were soaked.  And I was now freezing.

img_2081

Obstacle 22 – Log Carry – My husband ran with me to the log carry.  I began shaking.  My saturated hand warmers were garbage.  At this point, some of the elite guys that had started in the wave behind me were catching up to me.  My husband watched as I picked up a log and began my descent/ascent with my log.  I walked the loop with a man from San Francisco.  He was able to slowly carry his log all the way around without putting it down.  Essentially, I would power several steps ahead, put mine down while he caught up and repeat.  He told me how this was his first trifecta.  His first beast.  I told him the same.  We stuck together for the next few obstacles.  We watched as someone dropped their log just before reaching the finish.  The log rolled fast down the hill as athletes screamed for people to get out of the way.  Kind of like when someone hits a golf ball towards someone by accident.

img_2128

img_2127

Obstacle 23 – “Classified” – Double Sandbag Carry – My husband encouraged me as I finished the log carry and proceeded through mile 9 onto the next obstacle.  A heavy carry yet again.  Yes, that says “Double”.  I could see the swim as I grabbed my bags.  It didn’t even register to me how heavy they were.  Carrying the bags was like carrying my kids around.  Since it was an out and back obstacle, I had a chance to see who was behind me.  My fellow North Carolina racers came up the hill as I went down.  We smiled, we laughed, we said good job.  While my gloves were on, I still couldn’t feel my hands.

img_2076

Obstacle 24 – Cormax Flip – At the Sandbag drop off was yet one more obstacle before the swim.  This was dumb.  I’m all for Spartan, but this obstacle was a disaster.  There were cylinder type weights that were supposed to resemble a tire flip.  You had to flip them twice down and twice back.  The issue was, since they were rounded, they were rolling all over.  I stayed out of people’s way and grabbed a “Cormax” on the end.

img_2104

Obstacle 25 – Swim – Wow.  This I will never forget.  I had a plan going into the swim to take my shirt and gloves off and put them in a ziplock in my camelbak.  My husband watched as I stripped down and struggled to even zip up the bag because my body was already shaking so much.  I asked if I could leave my pack on the side of the water and the official said only if it couldn’t fit under my life jacket.  Well hell.  I’m a small person.  I was stuck taking my pack.  I couldn’t find a way to get my stuff in and zip my bag all the way up.  As I type this, I feel a pit in my throat.  This swim.  While the pictures look beautiful.  It was cold.  I watched as others dove in around me.   I looked at the Starbucks on the top of the mountain and thought about calling it.  I repeated, “You can do this.” I got in.

img_2082

I started to panic.  I swam breaststroke without putting my head under around two buoys.  When I got around the second buoy I stated to hyperventilate.  I was out of breath and I was freezing.  I remembered my friend Shane saying, “You can swim on your side”.  I rolled on to one side.  I switched sides.  I got out of the water trembling.  I could see my husband was scared for me.  I pulled my shirt out of my bag with my teeth chattering.  I literally could not get it on.  I took deep gasping breaths as I said to my husband, “I can do this”.  He told me he couldn’t help me (since I was in the World Championship heat), but if I wanted to drop out to do it.  I’m still not sure how I made myself move.  My mind will be forever changed in this moment.  I still kind of wonder if something is wrong with me to ask my body to keep going after this.

img_2107

Obstacle 26 – 8 Foot Wall – We were on our descent at this point.  My husband ran to the 8 foot wall with me before looking at me and asking if I would be okay if he left me.  He was no longer allowed to continue on the course as we hit narrow trails to the bottom.  He was genuinely concerned for me.  I told him to go.  He didn’t see me attempt the 8 foot wall. Had he seen me, I might not have finished.  I failed.  Over and over and over.  I went to the burpee zone.  I have never failed this obstacle but in this moment, my shaking hands could not grasp the top of the wall.  I probably needed those burpees to warm me up.  I watched my North Carolina girls pass me as I counted out my burpees.  Remember, this was my race.  I just had to finish.

img_2129

Obstacle 27 – Modified Stairway to Sparta –  The wheels started falling off the bus on the descent.  My body  was well aware that I had not trained to be moving this hard for over 4 hours.  I struggled between walking because my knees hurt so bad on the descent and continuing to run to fight hypothermia.  At mile 11, we ran into the Stairway to Sparta.  I say modified because they have changed this obstacle in that you must use a rope to climb up a wall to get to the ladder to the top.  I actually got my first cramp ever in a race as I stepped over the top of the obstacle.  Lucky for me, the calf cramp subsided quickly.

Obstacle 28 – Bucket Carry – We crossed mile 12 before hitting the bucket carry.  People can talk all day about how this was the longest and hardest bucket carry in Spartan history.  I can tell you right now, this carry gave me life. It was a protected carry.  As such, there was sunshine and no wind.  It was the first time that I wasn’t shaking in almost one hour.  I took my time.  Hell, I put that bucket down several times.  I listened to the open people play their music as they climbed the A-frame.  Remember, I said you could see it earlier in the race?  A little Macarena, some Rockey theme music.  I saw my friend Faye from the top of the mountain.  I saw my North Carolina girls.  I reminded myself that I would simile through this.  The picture below is what the carry looked like on Sunday.

fullsizerender-70

Obstacle 29 – Hurdles (6) – The last obstacle before the spectator zone.  We are now past mile 13.  Hurdles again.  Six of them.  This was no joke.  Up and over.  Up and over.  Up and over.

Obstacle 30 – Balance Beam – This was a piece of the memorization test only required for “open” athletes.  I was allowed to pass.

Obstacle 31 – Hercules Hoist – We hit mile 14 as we passed through the last few obstacles.  At this point I had only failed two obstacles.  High five!  I got to the hercules hoist and gave it my best effort.  I got it about half way up before my hands started to slide and I gave up.  I was warm again.  I was almost done.  I went to the burpee zone.  My husband watched me in disappointment.

img_2135-1

Obstacle 32 – Dunk Wall – My cockiness for being warm was short-lived.  We waded back into a second pool of water before we submerged underwater for the dunk wall.  Now my clothes were soaked.   

fullsizerender-73

Obstacle 33 – Slip Wall – The slip wall was not so slippery.  In fact, most of the water obstacles had protected sheeting between the water and ground which prevented things from getting super muddy.  Not sure why that was.

FullSizeRender-66

Obstacle 34 – Spartan Bridge – My Spartan Bridge obstacle from Asheville was god awful.  As I peaked to the top, I saw the cameraman, I looked right at him and I said, “I’m going to smile through this.”  I feel so lucky to be a part of such a cool event.  Regardless of how I finished, I want others to know how happy I am to be here.  Such an honor.

img_2141

img_2094

Obstacle 35 – Rope Climb – Piece of cake.  This is one obstacle that I look forward to.

Obstacle 36 – Multi-Rig – My hands were still wet from the slip wall when I reached the multi-rig.  I heard my husband yell, “Just like the garage”.  I tried to wipe my wet hands off on the dirt which just made it worse.  I slipped on the first set of rings.  Someone behind my husband said, “I guess that isn’t like the garage.”  He laughed.  I talked to a fellow racer, who I would later find out finished in 100th as we completed our burpees and crossed the finish.

image1-2

fullsizerender-71

With that, I had finished.  101st overall.  28th in my age group.  4 failures.  4 hours and 44 minutes.  I was nearly brought to tears.  As I sit and write this post, I have so many thoughts running through my mind.  I guess the strongest emotion that I have is how incredible this ride as been.  My transition to “coach” has opened so many doors for me to see the potential in others.  The fact that I can inspire someone to do something good for themselves is a gift that is irreplaceable.  Having my husband turn around as we walked to the car in the airport and say, “I’m proud of you” is everything to me.  Taking a step back and smiling as I crossed the finish line instead of being so serious is turning a new leaf for me.  In fact, it’s just the start of something even better.  You are truly never too old to set a new goal or dream even bigger.

img_2088

 

Asheville Super Spartan Race Recap 2016

Let me take a deep breath.  I haven’t posted in awhile.  For various reasons. The summer has been busy.  I haven’t really had much to say.  To be honest, I wasn’t sure if anyone cared to hear what I was saying.  Clearly these are excuses.  In the moments leading up to and following last weekend’s Spartan Race in Asheville, NC, I felt so much support.  While I will likely never find myself on the podium in the elite section of a Spartan Race, I am not ashamed to put myself in contention with some of the best athletes in the world (and let the public see it).

IMG_1131

I had done several obstacle races before I actually began my Spartan journey in 2015.  The transition from full time, corporate America to a mom of two girls was very hard for me.  I spent all of college and my first few years in Charlotte building self efficacy through climbing up the corporate ladder and traveling all over the United States.  After the birth of my second child and when I ultimately left work full time, I almost had to find myself again.  I had to find a way to get a piece of me back from before I had kids.  That came in the spirit of competition through obstacle racing.

This year’s Asheville Super was and will be one of the hardest and most competitive races of the 2016 race series.  After competing in last year’s event, I thought I had my hands around any and everything that the course director might throw at us.  Boy was I wrong.  Last year’s course consisted of 8 miles over an 1,800 foot elevation climb.  I finished it in a mere 2 hours and 5 minutes.  This year’s course on the other hand was over 10 miles over a 3,000 foot elevation climb.  It took me exactly 3 hours.  Plenty of racers have gone on to to post images of the differences in elevation and difficulty year over year and it really is mind blowing.

IMG_1125
IMG_1106

A lot of things have changed since last year.  The biggest being that Spartan will post the course map with obstacles prior to racers arriving on site the day of the race.  It’s interesting to me.  Last year we showed up the day of the race and crowded around the race map trying to see what was in store for us.  This year, Spartan posted the course map the day before the race giving us a chance to set a race plan over night.

IMG_1084

When I say set a race plan, I had time to determine where I would take fuel (as it relates to water stations), how fast I wanted to get out depending on the terrain and how I would tackle the ridiculous clumps of obstacles scattered around the start/finish line.

IMG_1085

Before heading out from Charlotte, we hit our favorite pre-race dinner spot, Roasting Company.  See picture above -pulled chicken with rice, squash casserole and stewed okra.  I eat a lot the night before a long race because I do not eat a lot before the actual race.

IMG_1087

Rather than stay at a ridiculously priced hotel (or even motel) in downtown Asheville, we found a bed and breakfast just outside of the town  and rented a room.  I used to have thousands of hotel and airline points, which made trips like this easy.  The transition to finding more creative places to stay has been interesting.  Needless to say, I absolutely loved The North Lodge on Oakland.  I enjoyed coffee in my room with a cookie before going to bed.  We didn’t hear a thing all night, and we both woke up feeling like we had slept in our own bed.  We will be back.  Next time for fun, not a race.

IMG_1124

We woke up Saturday at 5:00 AM.  I had a Luna Bar, a bite of bagel and a cup of water.  We were at the race location by 6:15 AM.  We checked in, warmed up and grabbed everything we needed to start.  Since it was an NBC sanctioned race, things moved a little slower loading the elites into the starting corral.  The top 10 elite racers were announced and allowed to run to the front of the line.

IMG_1141

After pre-race instructions and some “AROO’s” we were off.  We were fast.  I had no doubt that it would be that way.  After a short trail run, we hit the first obstacle.

Obstacle 1 – Over Walls – Jump over 2 four foot walls.  Easy.

After that, we found ourselves in the creek.  Everyone still had that beginning of race anxiety.  There were people literally flailing trying to find their footing and still move as fast as possible (including myself).

FullSizeRender-67

After hitting mile 1, we made our way out of the creek only to hit obstacle number 2.

Obstacle 2 – Hurdles – These are beams suspended about 4 feet off the ground.  This obstacle is more difficult for shorter people like myself.  Two in a row and we were off into the woods.

Thick woods.  Hilly woods.  Extremely steep woods.  At one point they even had a rope suspended off the side of a steep cliff to guide individuals safely down.  I literally bear crawled on my hands and my knees up the steep ridges.  The terrain was rough and everyone was forced to slow down.  See picture below.

Obstacle 3 – 6 Foot Wall – As the name implies jump over a 6 foot wall.  These are easy at this point for me.  After jumping the wall, we proceeded through more thick terrain and mile marker two.

IMG_1128

Obstacle 4- Plate Drag – In the midst of the thick woods, was the plate drag (along with a water station).  Participants were asked to drag a weighted sled about 10 yards across a muddy path.  You then had to drag it back to start.  No problems here.

We ran quite a ways on more even and open terrain before we arrived at the next obstacle.

Obstacle 5 – Barbed Wire Crawl – This was much easier than prior races I have done.  The wire was higher than usual.  I could crawl without rolling.  The biggest issue was how ROCKY it was.  I think the majority of the cuts and bruises on my knees came from this obstacle. What looked like smooth mud was actually mirky water covering sharp rocks.  I was passed by two women here.

Obstacle 6 – Atlas Carry – Things were quite wet here.  I was smart about which line I chose to carry my atlas.  Racers are asked to pick up a stone that weighs over 50 pounds, carry it about 15 feet, put it down, do 5 burpees, pick it up and walk it back to start.  The last thing I wanted to do was drop my atlas into a muddy hole making it more difficult to pick back up.  I did my first set of burpees here – the 5 that are required to complete the obstacle.

From there we took another open terrain path back to the festival area where we hit several difficult obstacles in a row.

Obstacle 7 – 7 Foot Wall – This obstacle typically gives me no trouble.  That said, I ran at the wall on my first try only to miss and land back on my feet.  I got a great reaction from spectators.  My second try I used the kicker that the women are allowed to use and had no problem hoisting myself over.

Obstacle 8 – Z- Walls – This is one of my least favorite obstacles.  I just can’t figure it out. I looked at several different paths I could take before I opted on the first wall facing the crowd.  I made it half way across before I fell off trying to reach around the corner of a wall.  This was my first failed obstacle. Burpee count = 30.

IMG_1096

Obstacle 9 – Dunk Wall/Rolling Mud – I hope you aren’t afraid to get dirty.  Just a few yards away from completing my burpees, I dove right into the muddy water only to submerge my face under a wall and go through a series of muddy pits.

Obstacle 10 – Rope Climb – Wow.  All I can say is wow.  This obstacle singlehandly threw off the entire race for many elite runners.  The ropes were ridiculously slick because of the rain and mud from the night before.  Women were given two tries to get up while men only had one chance.  Good thing because my hands slid right down the first rope I tried before I moved to another rope with no problem.

I went on to learn that two top 10 finishers for the men were disqualified here for doing the same thing I did and not completing burpees.  That is huge for point standings and money.  As the day went on, this obstacle cleared up.

IMG_1095

Obstacle 11 – Spear Throw – Another one of my worst obstacles.  I have been practicing.  I wound up only to have the right distance and miss merely to the left.  Fail.  Burpee count – 60.

In a matter of a few feet, I had now done 60 burpees.  I was feeling gassed.  However, I had made up time on several women with my speed in burpees.  I was headed back into the woods feeling good about things.

Obstacle 12 – Memory Chart (omitted) – Elite are not required to perform this obstacle. 

We began our trek up the mountain on a gravel road.  The grade was not as steep as we had already seen.  I opted to follow a pattern of run 20 steps, walk 10 steps so that I would not wear myself out too soon.  It was during this time that I went back and forth with several women. One of whom actually offered me fuel as she consumed it up the hill.  Really, a very generous offer given the circumstances.

Obstacle 13 – 8 Foot Wall – At the clearing of the top of the hill was the tallest wall we would encounter the entire race.  I definitely had help from the kicker here.  We were off into the woods yet again from there.

IMG_1127

Yet another clearing and we were at Mile 4.  What?  We weren’t even half way and I felt like I had been put through the ringer already.

Obstacle 14 – A-Frame Cargo – At the quarry clearing was the A-Frame Cargo net.  I am definitely more cautious on this than most elite athletes. Take the path up the sides of the middle where it is tightest to the bar.  I made my way over before taking my only other fuel for the rest of the race as we hit the water station.

IMG_1126

Obstacle 15 – Bucket Carry – SUPRISE!  This was a “classified” on the obstacle map.  We had no idea what to expect.  What came next was one of the hardest parts of the entire race.  The fog covered the side of the mountain as we approached the start (and finish of the bucket carry).  Go ahead.  Load it up to the designated line.  Carry it up very muddy 45 degree incline hill.  Walk back down. Then walk back up without the bucket.  I NEVER put my bucket down.  I did several times in this instance.  I could barely take 10 steps without feeling like I needed to rest.  As I walked down the hill, I saw my husband for the first time.  I yelled at him.  SERIOUSLY?  He had already caught up to me even with a 15 minute head start?

IMG_1158

The picture below so accurately depicts the feeling that I experienced as I made my way back up that hill without the bucket.  It was BRUTAL.

IMG_1114

What came next was just plain mean.  We ran a little bit more.  I couldn’t tell you how much, but it wasn’t long.  Then I saw the monkey bars.  Soaking wet.  My forearms were still quivering from the carry and I literally looked at the guy beside and said, “Of course they would do the monkey bars after a heavy forearm carry.”

Obstacle 16 – Monkey Bars – I couldn’t find a path that wasn’t wet.  There were at least 15 people in the burpee zone already.  I went for it.  Again, an obstacle I never fail.  I made it three quarters of the way and fell.  I yelled an explicit word. I went to the burpee zone.  Burpee count = 90.

Obstacle 17 – Stairway to Sparta – Let’s climb/walk/jog.  I was exhausted going into the woods for the start of the climb up the backside of the mountain.  The Stairway of Sparta was fun last year because it was at the top of the mountain.  You grab the top of a 5 foot wall then climb up the 2×4’s of an A-frame.

Obstacle 18 – Sandbag Carry – When I got to the sandbag carry the bags were saturated and filled with wet sand.  They were heavier than usual.  They pointed us in the direction that we were to follow.  It was ridiculously steep and again muddy.  One girl ran by me and I never saw her again.  More power to her.  I set my bag down over and over and walked the entire way.  Going back up that hill, I didn’t know if I would make it. Every time I set my bag down and heaved it over my back I wished away the leaking sand that was falling out of the bag.

As I placed my bag down to finish the carry, I asked the volunteer if we were close to the top and she kind of laughed, kind of joked, then said we had another 1.7 miles to the top.  WHAT. I started walking.

I walked sideways 10 steps, switched sides, 50 steps forward, turned around.  Rested 10 seconds.  Passed a bunch of people.  Talked to a girl who was on the Spartan TV show.  I thought a lot about Flywheel. The people I train.  My husband.  I saw these mushrooms on the ground.  My one year old loves to try to pick mushrooms.  Every time I saw one, I thought of her.  Then I kept walking.  I had a lot of time to think as I walked by myself.

We reached a clearing that seemed like a down hill before we were forced back up hill.  I broke.  I bent over and I couldn’t breathe.  As I stood hunched over on the side of the mountain, my husband found me.  He inspired me.  He got me going.  It was in this moment that this race became more about us doing something together than me trying to beat the person in front of me.

Obstacle 19 – Vertical Cargo – We finally hit the downhill.  I’m talking a 1,000 foot drop over 1 mile.  He stayed with me.  He had decided to do the race because of me. He wasn’t really happy with where he was at.  He wanted to push me.  That he did. He helped me manage obstacles and terrain the rest of the way.  We cleared the vertical cargo no problem.

Obstacle 20 – I have no idea.  I still can’t figure it out.

Upon hitting the final clearing of the woods before the final set of obstacles, we were forced back in the creek.  My husband took the lead.  As I followed, in what seemed like slow motion, he slipped on a rock and landed flat on his back.  I thought it was all over. He told me to press on but how could I?  I stopped.  We slowed. We let people pass us.  We would finish this together.

Obstacle 21 – Barb Wire – Another easy obstacle.

Obstacle 22 – Slip Wall – As I approached the slip wall I told my husband I felt delirious, I felt weak.  He helped me figure out the best route to take up the wall.  We cleared it no problem.

IMG_1100

Obstacle 23 – Tyrolean Traverse – My first time.  LOVED it!  My husband went first and fast.  He prepped me up and yelled at me the entire way.  I opted to hand upside down and walk my opposite hand with opposite foot until I hit the bell.

IMG_1130

Obstacle 24 – Hercules Hoist – I feel ill saying this, but I FAILED.  My first time ever failing this obstacle.  I had literally given everything I had to this race.  When I went to pick the bag up I pulled it down and just had nothing left.  I went to the burpee zone.  Burpee count = 120.

Obstacle 25 – Bridge – Seriously?  Can I just be done.  Climb up a ladder, walk over, climb back down.  I am going through the motions at this point.  My husband, who finished the hercules hoist, went on to run through the finish line only to circle back up with me at the bottom of the bridge.

This picture.  Terrible.  I look awful.  I am sharing it because I feel it really shows what I felt in this moment.  Terrible.  Awful.  I am covered in grass.  Ashamed from the burpees I had just put myself through.  Over it.

FullSizeRender-66

Obstacle 26 – Rig – Within 200 yards we were doing obstacle after obstacle after obstacle. The rig.  You know that circus looking thing.  Within 50 feet of the finish. I made it half way across.  I fell.  I failed.  My husband watched in shock as I walked to the burpee zone and did 30 more.  Burpee count = 150.

Obstacle 27 – Fire Jump – I had nothing left.  Maybe Spartan knew that.  They didn’t take my fire jump picture.  Thanks.  I’m sure it was awful too.  Thankfully, I have the one below.

Defeated. Yet not broken.  As we sped down the mountain together, we talked terribly about how hard this course was and how we would never do it again. Spartan had gone too far this time.  It is in the moments after that you truly appreciate what the human body is capable of. Regardless of what a picture looks like or what size you are, you feel incredibly satisfied with yourself.  You feel strong.  You feel confident.

FullSizeRender-68

I had a team this year in the mountain with me.  I thought about them a lot.  I worried for them.  I felt their strength.  I am more proud of them than ever.  I underestimate their strength, and I am so proud that each and every one of them walked across the finish line. They are why I love doing what I do.

IMG_1112

 

 

 

What Do You Get Out of F3/FiA?

Happy Wednesday! The baby kept the whole house up for several hours last night, but that didn’t stop me from dragging myself out of bed at 4:50AM to arrive promptly at the FiA Metropolitan bootcamp workout this morning. If you haven’t heard, FiA (better known as Females in Action) is expanding BIG time. As part of the growth, the group has rolled out a new website. There is some great information out there, including easy to follow tabs that let you know how to begin interacting with the group through social media and workouts.

Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 5.06.04 PM I have talked a lot about why I like FiA, and last night when I opened up the new website, I read a blog post on what FiA has meant to another fellow metro member (Guinevere). There aren’t a lot of pretty pictures in the post, but the entire message is totally relatable and very well thought out. How are the relationships formed at FiA any different than those formed at a local boutique fitness studio or at the YMCA? Through this great peer-led organization, leadership skills are being bred in a supportive environment that ultimately carries over to other aspects of our life. Practicing these skills (and getting feedback) will ultimately give one the confidence that he or she needs to speak up and become a leader in other aspects of their lives. Anyone can “Q” (lead) a workout after meeting certain requirements. This is a great opportunity for women. In fact, it has inspired me to consider leading a workout.

photo 2-79

Something about this candid picture screams strength and confidence.

After reading that post, I was excited about the workout this morning. To my surprise, Guinevere was there, along with approximately 15 other women. Today’s workout was a lot less mileage and a lot more core exercises. Just what I needed. We warmed up running four tenths a mile to a parking deck. In between a series of runs up and down the stairs, we completed several of the following exercises:

  • Supermans
  • Bent Knee Hip Raise
  • Planks
  • Side Planks
  • Cheetah Hold
  • Frog Sit ups (holding feet off the ground)
  • Scissor Kicks
  • Single Leg Leg Raise (alternating sides)
  • Reverse Plank

photo 1-80

At the 30 minute mark, we ran to the bottom of a short hill, where we ended with a variation of an AMRAP (As Many Reps as Possible) circuit. Starting at the bottom of the hill do 10 squats. Run to the top of the hill and back to start. Do 15 squats (you can vary the type of squat). Run to the top of the hill and back to start. Now do 20 squats. You get where I am going. Each time you come back down the hill add 5 squats. Keep going until time is called.  This is harder than you think. After several repeats, we ran back to the start parking lot and circled up. Total mileage close to 1.25 miles (my GPS would cut out here and there in the parking deck).

photo 4-46

I want to end this post by saying that waking up early to do something like this is easier than you think if you have the support to be there. Charlotte is a lucky place, because this type of workout group is not common. And it’s not going anywhere. Almost weekly, I see an update about even more expansion. If you have time this week, take a second to read Guinevere’s post on what FiA has meant to her. If you are a FiA veteran think about sharing what it has meant to you. If you have never been to FiA, think about experiencing it.

The Condo Dweller (FiA) Bootcamp + National Running Day

Happy Wednesday! Today is National Running Day. Every year on the first Wednesday in June, runners everywhere are asked to declare their passion for running. I chose to spend this important day for the sport with the ladies of FiA (Females in Action). If you haven’t read about my experience with this great group, check out the Product/Studio Review section of the blog. Each week, a designated “Q” is assigned to lead a workout at a specific location. The workout that I completed today was at Metropolitan, and was led by a “Q” that I have not worked out with before. She ROCKED!

photo 4-34

Happy National Running Day!

I included “Condo Dweller” in the title of this blog, because the entire workout was done in the parking deck at the Metropolitan mixed use development complex. I actually used to own a condo in this area, so my husband and I would use the ramps of the parking deck to get a workout in (especially when it was raining and we wanted to be covered). Uptown/city dwellers, you are in luck! There is an advantage to living in a building with a parking deck.

photo 3-48

I will be the first to say that I prefer to get in some mileage when I do a bootcamp workout. I realize it is difficult to keep a group with varying speeds together, but today’s workout did just that. There were 20 people, so we split up into two groups of 10.

Warm up – Run from the silver ball at the greenway to the top of the Target parking deck (this was a slow pace). If you aren’t familiar with the layout, take about 5 minutes to jog at the location that you are working out. At the top of the parking deck, we completed some plyometric drills. Think high knees, butt kicks, faster paced jogs down and back.

Workout – With exactly 10 people in each group, one group was running while the other group was exercising. By running, I mean, run down the steps of the parking deck to the first level. Run back up the parking deck on the ramps. Yes, it is longer running up, than running down. In a parking deck, the ramp is your time to accelerate and really focus on form. You can recover when it flattens out on each level. Push through the short hill.

Each group went up and down the parking deck 4 times (there are also 4 levels). As I mentioned above, each group switched between running and doing an exercise. Here is the rotation of exercises completed at the top of the deck in between runs:

  • 1st round – Crab walk x 10. In the same crab walk position, reach one hand to the shin of your opposite leg. Do 10 on each side. Repeat this sequence until the other group is done running. If you are alone, do each exercise two times.
  • 2nd round – Plank walks (10 each side). Holding the plank, tap your left shoulder with your right hand. Alternate sides. 10 each side, alternating. Again, repeat this sequence until the other group is done running or do each exercise two times (I think you get the drift! Same for rounds three and four).
  • 3rd round – 30 bicycle abs, followed by 10 pushups.
  • 4th round – Hip thrusters (10 each leg), followed by V-sit hold 15 seconds.

photo-21

Unfortunately, the biggest disadvantage of this workout is that in the middle of the deck, my GPS watch loses satellite. The mileage on my GPS is not indicative of the actual mileage that we put in doing this workout. I was yet again surprised with how high I got my heart rate pushing up the inclines. After 4 rounds of this, we ended the workout with a stationary core sequence, jog back to start and prayer.

photo 2-61I want to give another huge shout out to the ladies that competed in the Ramblin Rose last weekend! I feel very fortunate to train with such a diverse group of athletes on a regular basis. As someone who was introduced to exercise through running, National Running Day is a day that we will celebrate in my household. Make sure you share the love today!