Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Best of the Pack

The Back Best of the Pack

The majority of the OCR (Obstacle Course Race) events I've done have been in the competitive (sometimes called elite) division. And let me be perfectly clear-- the only qualification to enter an elite heat is to cough up an extra fee (I've seen everything from $10-$30). 

My decision to run in the competitive waves came after my first Spartan. I ran with a team in an open heat and encountered some back ups on obstacles. I just wanted to find out fast I could go in a race without having to wait in line. And so began serious training for OCRs and focused races. They've been fun and difficult and rewarding and frustrating at times. I've broken into the top 10 in some big races and reached the podium in some of the smaller races. 

But this weekend I discovered the joy that I've been missing all this time racing for the podium. I discovered the thrill of racing selflessly. 

I registered for the competitive wave of the Miami Terminator 2.0 produced by the Trojan Race Series on October 24, 2015. It was going to be my annual birthday race and would be good obstacle practice for World's Toughest Mudder. I planned to race the first lap and then continue to do multiple laps. 

The obstacles (40 total) were much tougher than I expected. In attempting the first of 3 steeply sloped walls, I failed twice and humbly did my 20 burpee penalty. At that point, I knew I was out of the race. The course was packed with walls-- shorter ones that were fairly easily hopped over, and much taller ones, including about 4- 12 footers. Grip was tested by rings, monkey bars, sawtooth-type monkey bars, a rock wall climb and a lateral traverse with pegs and rock wall hand holds. This course was easily the most impressive small local race course that I've done. 

I crossed the finish line in 11th place, really gassed and not sure that I wanted to go back out. But I grabbed my Camelback, ate half of a Kind bar and headed back to the course. I jumped on the course about 100 yards in because the wave had already been released and there were no runners in sight. I caught up to the crowd at the first sloped wall. Somehow, the same wall I'd failed on my first time through proved fairly easy, and I was up and over without burpees. 

When I caught up with the back of the pack, I had a blast! We encouraged each other over obstacles, and offered to boost each other physically. Two ladies and their trainer really made my day. It was their first race. The women were quite uncertain about their ability to complete the obstacles. But they had a lot of heart. When I met them, the man was completing the wall, helping one of the ladies over, while the other one waited, and then coming back around to help the second lady over. I offered to give a boost and the four of us made a great team. We chatted and high-fived through the last mile and a half of the course. I'm not sure I've ever had more fun during a race.

And I realized all that I've missed in the races I've done. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Goliath Gauntlet 2015 Race Review

My race bib pretty much tells the story. Yes, that wrinkly, dirty, beat-up paper is my bib. Last year I won this race-- my first ever win, which you can read about here. So this year, I felt a little pressure to perform well in the competitive wave. Plus there was a nice little pay out of $150 cash and $50 Dick's Sporting Goods cash for first place.

The Course-- pretty much the same as last year, but with the addition of 2 obstacles that proved to be game changers for me. It was 3.5 miles of cargo net walls, a tunnel crawl through sand, a giant vat of ice, fences to scale, a wall of tires, a few A-frame walls, regular walls in a series of over-unders,  a barbed wire crawl through mud, 3 water crossings (one of which was "walking on water" a lily pad style obstacle), monkey bar style rings, a rolling log, ... a total of 22 obstacles in all, but unlike some races, they didn't count each individual wall as an obstacle, they counted the series as one.

The Experience-- this race is not put on by a company looking to get rich quick or become the next Spartan. Sheridan House Family Ministries holds this race as a fundraiser to benefit needy families in South Florida. For that reason, everyone from the staff to volunteers to racers seem to catch the charitable vibe. I saw so many smiles, so many families and friends out on the course having a great time, helping each other conquer a challenging course for a good cause.

My Race-- for the competitive wave this year, in order to win the 1st or 2nd place prize money, competitors had to complete every obstacle. I was worried from the moment I heard about the "Walking on Water" obstacle-- floating pallets, turned upside down and linked with two ropes. I had done a similar obstacle in another race and hadn't made it through. I'd been told that the secret to beating it was to run fast. I went to the starting line knowing that I could only do my best. There were  only 4 females (why don't more people run competitively?) in the heat packed with men.

I went out hard, but not too fast. After the first few obstacles, we hit an area of about a mile trail run. I took the lead and was able to pull away slightly and continued to hold the lead until I reached the that nemesis of mine-- those darn floating pallets! I got around halfway in and found myself sinking on the pallets. I tried to keep moving forward, but at that point I was too slow and pretty much was sinking. Ignoring the yells of "Jump off and swim!" I hopped, crawled and fought my way forward until I lost my balance completely and slipped into the water and out of the competition. I could only watch the second place female run successfully across the pallets. Frustrated, I swam to shore, knowing I was not longer in the running to officially win, but I still wanted to finish first. I took back the lead for the remainder of the race, until the grand finale-- Jericho, the warped wall. Females in the competitive wave had to scale the 11 foot wall with no help. My first attempt was not successful, and once again I found myself watching #2 race up the wall ahead of me to the finish line. I made my second attempt and finished not far behind her.

I was frustrated to an extent, but satisfied that I gave 100%. I was happy for the first place finisher-- she legitimately finished ahead of me. And I didn't have time to worry about how I placed. It was time to go back to work.

WTM Training-- so everything in my training (and to some extent my life) is focused on World's Toughest Mudder right now. So, for me, the Goliath Gauntlet was an opportunity to have an obstacle course to train on for WTM. After crossing the finish line, I grabbed a water, ditched my timing chip,  ate a packet of Justin's Honey Almond butter, strapped on my Camelback and jumped in the 9:20am wave. All was well until I hit the tires-- I misstepped on the last tire and rolled my left ankle. For a moment, I thought my day of multiple laps was finished, but I tested the ankle and it just seemed a little sore. I failed AGAIN at the water walk (but I suppose I might have been more upset if I had nailed it when it didn't count). And then skipped the final warped wall, not wanting to wait in the long line.

I jogged back around for lap 3, this time joined by a former student (who had come in first in his earlier heat!). My pace had slowed considerably at this point. We opted for the push ups instead of the "Frost Bite" obstacle. And we ran around the lake and did push ups instead of the water walk. My hands were pretty much toast, and I wasn't sure I would be able to keep my grip at the monkey rings, but I surprised myself. About halfway through, we were joined by another student who finished the race strong with us.

By the start of lap 4, my right hamstring was starting to feel pretty fatigued. But so far-- no cramping whatsoever! A complete first for me. I can attribute that to the amount of running I have been doing. I'm far better trained now than I've ever been. This time I ate a Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter packet-- pretty delicious. As I neared the giant pool of ice, I found myself caught up with the crowd and heading up the steps. I jumped in and was unpleasantly greeted with so much more ice than I had seen in the other waves. I attempted the water walk for the 3rd time and for the 3rd time, I failed. The swim of shame was good training. By the time I got back around to the finish, the start line had been packed up, and I did as well.

Overall, I logged about 14 miles and 3.5 hours of time on the course. And I had so MUCH FUN! I enjoyed meeting people, sharing my knowledge of obstacles and encouraging (and receiving encouragement) out on the course.

Find out more about The Goliath Gauntlet-- http://www.goliathgauntlet.com/
Find our more about Sheridan House-- http://www.sheridanhouse.org/web/