Tag Archives: trail running

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

 

 

 

A Fitness, Food and Family Filled Weekend

I don’t even know where to start.  The past few days had been filled with serious outdoor activity and fueled by some delicious local eats.  With little on our calendar Thursday, I packed my little peanuts up for a stroll to a nearby park.  We are fortunate that a fully fenced in play area is within a mile of our house.  I have no excuse for not packing up the double jogger first thing in the morning and starting the trek.  Experience has given me the advantage of being prepared – bottles, an extra diaper, snacks and toys for the sandbox.  Don’t forget the waters (and coffee).10986499_10103579960397523_2788049507124834895_nBy the time that we are done at the park, at least one of the girls is either tired or hungry.  This oftentimes leaves me feeling like I need to run home.  Dying.  More power to the women who push a double jogger for more than a few miles with bigger kids.  I struggle!  With the weather being so hot, the mornings are really the only time that we can play outside for more than an hour at a time.  We have to get creative in the afternoon.

IMG_5809The four o’clock hour is now reserved for music.  No TV.  Group singing and dancing required.  Surprisingly, both girls are willing to oblige.  Before I know it, the hour is over and we are ready to start making dinner in anticipation of dad’s arrival.

IMG_5812For the first time EVER, I let my toddler get hands on with the cooking this week.  Pizza, nonetheless.  She helped spread the sauce, place turkey pepperonis, and sprinkle cheese.  No lie, it was a mess.  However, it was worth it.  The mess was cleaned up before the pizza was out of the oven.  More importantly, my daughter was SO proud of herself.  It warmed my heart.  She is growing up so fast.  Challenging her in the kitchen is such a great way to build her motor skills and have fun at the same time.

IMG_5813My carb filled meal fueled my Friday morning workout.  After a short Spartan workout in the garage, I put in a solid 5k around the neighborhood.  First mile was slow, but I pulled it together to finish at an average 8:00 pace.  I am happy with this considering the heat and humidity that we have been dealing with.

11659464_10103582722886473_3500544449387306695_nPost-workout, I finalized plans to team up with Denise Duffy at SmartCore Fitness to run a bootcamp Saturday, July 11th at 10:30AM.  I am so excited about this.  I was a pole vaulter in college.  My training included running workouts with the sprinters, time in the gymnastic and strength and conditioning rooms and, most importantly, endless hours on a short runway going upside down over a bar.  I love high intensity variations of training.  I love seeing people push their threshold.  Bootcamps are my wheelhouse.  Limited space is available.  I would love to discuss details with you.  If interested, please reach out to Denise or I.  The plan is to make this a weekly recurring bootcamp throughout the summer.

11665761_10103583192051263_1673943133253623851_nFollowing the exciting news, we headed out for a casual family dinner at the Roasting Company for dinner and a drink.  The restaurant was redone over a year ago and now includes remodeled seating and a sit down bar.  I love this collage that sits proudly on a back walk.  North Carolina is quickly becoming one of the elite locations to get a great craft beer.

IMG_5819Eats can be healthy at this restaurant.  I ordered the chicken with rice, sauce on the side, with green beens and sweet potato fries.  I had to.  These fries are incredible.  Lucky for me, my husband and daughter split them with me.  I would have finished them all. It is important for me to reiterate balance here.  I exercise quite a bit.  One of the main reasons that I do is so that I can eat more flexibly on my cheat days.  Cheating is SO important.  Deprivation often leads to failure.  You can still be fit and eat french fries.  It’s all about moderation.

IMG_5832I taught one class Saturday morning at Flywheel before heading out to lunch with my parents, kids and husband.  Dare I say that we hadn’t tried Mr. K’s soft ice cream until this past weekend?  Recognize the sign?

FullSizeRender-31Yes, you have probably driven past it hundreds of times and not really paid attention to it.  Mr. K’s sits right beside Chipotle, across the street from Atherton Mill on South Blvd.  So close to uptown!  I know I spoke of moderation.  This weekend was a bad one.  However, our activity level was high, which afforded us the luxury of eating a little more (and worse) than usual.

IMG_5831 IMG_5834 IMG_5840The food was fine, but the ice cream was the hit.  We enjoyed lunch on the outdoor picnic tables in the shade.  I was truly supporting local business this weekend.  I can totally see us taking the girls here for ice cream as long as it stays open.   Why did we ever think Dairy Queen in the small cafeteria near Southpark was a great place to get a treat?  Mr. K’s has character (and an item on the menu that mimics a blizzard).  This is the type of place that I LOVED when I was a kid.  This is the type of place that reminds my husband and I of home.  It’s the small stuff.

IMG_5842After lunch, my parents offered to watch the girls so my husband and I could go out on a date night.  After pondering which restaurant that we wanted to go to, we decided that we should just throw on some workout clothes, head to the whitewater center, go for a run (if weather permitted) and have dinner there.  For a fit couple, this was perfect.  It rained (hard) on our way there.  The place had cleared out.  As we pulled in, we were surprised to see the trails were still open.  Heck, let’s go for it.

IMG_5845We set out on the slick trails at a super slow pace as thunder lingered in the background.  We both almost bit it several times.  We both were running on the edges of the worn trails to gain traction from sticks and leaves.   As we came across obstacles, we stopped to try a few.  That rope climb?  SO much harder than you would expect.  We are currently both preparing for a Spartan Super race in August.  This was perfect training.  As we maneuvered our way to a break in the trail, we came up on a flag that indicated that the trails were now closed.  That would explain why we did not see one other runner or biker the entire time.

IMG_5847There is some solitude in running with your spouse on a quiet trail in the woods with no interference.  You are literally focused on each other.  No distractions.  It was such a great way to get out and do something different.  As we finished, the rain started.  Really HARD.  We made a break to the Biergarten.  We sat under the covered area while enjoying a drink and eating some dinner.   Burgers and fries again.  Wow, what a day of eating.   Two workouts, two big meals.  I can’t complain. I squeezed a lot into a truly fun day.  No regrets.  We are amping up our Spartan training during the month of July.  I look forward to sharing with you some creative ways that we will mimic several obstacles.  In the meantime, enjoy this crazy summer.  Try something different.  Have fun.