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Ruckus Sports – Fearless Fall 5k Race Review

Ruckus Fearless Fall 5k – November 3, 2012

This wasn’t my first Ruckus, but it was my first Fall Ruckus.  Ruckus is what got me into Obstacle Course Racing back in June 2011, so it holds a special place in my heart.  I keep going back because the organizers always do such a great job with this event!

Several Spahtens were in attendance.  I believe we numbered 18 in total.  I bumped into some Spahtens who were running earlier heats as well as the motley crew that was running at 11 – myself included.

If you’ve not run a Ruckus before (first of all, why not?  DO IT! Sign up for the Spring one in Boston like…now!), there isn’t a whole lot of production before your heat takes off.  You are called to the corral about 10 minutes before your heat and then a simple air horn blow sends you on your way.   We were off and it wasn’t long before we were given some obstacles to break up the crowd.  Here’s how it went down (I know a couple of things are missing).

1 – Short Walls.  I literally just had to lift my leg over it and that was about it.  I’m 5’10”- don’t hate.

2 – Normandy Walls.  Nobody does this obstacle correctly.  I wish there was a volunteer here to explain.  The idea is to step in the middle of the cross beam and go over.  Ideally you have your hands behind your head when doing so, but I usually don’t just in case I trip or something and need to break my fall.  You do not just hop over the whole thing folks – remember this for next time J

3 (and 4) – 4 foot Walls.  You have to hop up and swing a leg (at least that’s how I do it!) then over the other side.

5 – Normandy Walls

6 – Short Walls
After this series of obstacles the crowds thinned out.  And we headed towards the woods for a little quality time amongst the leaves, rocks, and roots.  It was mostly flat, but with a few hills to climb and descend.  Then more obstacles:

7 – Down and Outs. Climb a large mound of dirt and go down the other side into some lovely muddy water, repeat 3 times or so.  The water might have been a little chilly too, but my feet warmed up in no time as we hit the trail again for a bit.

8 – Water crossing.  There were some “holes” to avoid but we all made it across unscathed.

9 – Muddy Trail Pits.  I always think of The Princess Bride and the Fire Swamp when I hit this section of any OCR.  Thankfully this one wasn’t as bad as some others I’ve experienced and I didn’t witness anyone lose a shoe or anything.  The trail happened to be lined by thorn adorned plants so staying toward the edges was not the best solution.

10 – Cargo Net Bear Crawl.  We left the woods again and had to bear crawl under a cargo net.  This was a bit of a bottleneck – I’m not really sure why – but I waited my turn and scooted through.

11 – Reverse Slant Walls.  Jump up and climb on top, then slide down the other side.  A plank is conveniently placed high enough so you can utilize it, but you have to jump to get there.  Even with a bum hand, this one wasn’t so bad.  I do like that the plank was upgraded from the lower cross beam support from 2 seasons ago.  It adds to the challenge!

12 – Mini Cargo Climb.  A cargo net hung about 3 feet off the ground by a wire strung between two trees.  Traverse the net and get to the other side.  This was a new obstacle.  It was a little tricky, but not tough, and it was a nice preview to what was in store.

13 – Lobster Traps.  A tunnel of sorts which require crawling through.  You can’t avoid getting on your knees and then always end up at a mud pit!  I like these ones.

14 – Sand Dunes.  Run through a sand pile complete with paths.

15 – Bear Climb.  A wooden structure you essentially bear crawl over the top of and then down the other side.  I haven’t mastered the transition from going over the top to going down the far side.  A lot of people just walk over the top, but the volunteer told us to crawl.

16 – Tire Pile.  Climb over the pile of tires.  It’s about foot placement and balance.  I actually saw someone skip this and internally (ok, and maybe verbally too!)  I was like “WHY!?”

17 – Cargo Net.  This is always my favorite obstacle.  I love the climb, the going over the top, and the decent.  There’s something empowering about getting yourself to the top of a tall place and then back down again.  This net is tighter strung than some other races I have done and I’m totally ok with that.  Also the tower is constructed from big thick wooden posts rather than metal tubing.

18 – Tall Walls.  These walls had rope with knots and foot holds about halfway up the wall.  Waiting on the other side is a platform so you don’t break an ankle or anything hopping down.

19 – Tire Pile (inside a container).  Same idea as before, just you have more to hold on to allowing for more steadying as you make your way through.

20 – Tall Walls.  Same as before.

21 – Ranger Bars.  Scoot up to one platform and then across the end.  I saw this for the first time back in Spring and had to skip it this time as I’m still nursing a broken hand and it wouldn’t have been in my best interest.  Pretty simple idea, not always simple to execute!

22 – Lower Mount Ruckmore.  Jump up on a giant tire and up on the platform, then traverse the horizontal cargo net, and go down the other side.  Nothing tricky about this.  The horizontal cargo net is tricky for some, it is all about technique and I’m not giving out my secrets J

23 – Mount Ruckmore! It starts with a Tall Wall with 2 footholds, so it’s a little taller  than what was previously done.  You arrive at the platform and then are greeted with another cargo net climb.  Once at the top, you have another horizontal cargo net to traverse.  Slide to the hay and book it to the finish line!

There were no Gorilla Bars this time around, or Air Loops.  I was a little sad and yet relieved, since I knew it wouldn’t be smart for me to attempt either of them.  I think a lot of people were glad to see there wasn’t a lot of uncomfortable muddiness at the end as it was a bit chilly and windy for this race.

Bag Check was a little interesting.  It was a leave at your own risk situation.  This was great because you could just get at your stuff if you needed to, but it also was a little worrisome being that I had money, a cell phone, and car keys in my bag.  I really didn’t have another option – as I had nowhere to put my keys otherwise – so I opted to have some trust for the multitude of strangers that were around.

The options for food were limited, but good.  B.Good was there with veggie burgers and all-beef burgers.  I had a burger, and it was delicious!

The festival area is always improving and it is totally spectator friendly.  We were constantly going in and out of being really close to the festival area while on the course.  There were at least 6 obstacles where spectators had an awesome view – Ranger Bars, Cargo Net Climb, Mount Ruckmore!

I’m definitely excited to see what the race in June will throw at us.

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Chicago Super Spartan / Hurricane Heat

In the world of Spartan Race, there are a several different racing distances that you may compete in, each with their own color to represent them on the event schedule. Generally speaking, Sprints (red) are 3-5 miles, Supers (blue) are 6-9 miles, and Beasts (green) are 10-13 miles, but there have been plenty of races that exceed those guidelines. If you finish one race in each distance category within a calendar year, you will have successfully completed what is referred to as the Trifecta, earning you a shiny new medal that encompasses all three colors.

After conquering two sprints (PA and MA) and the Beast (VT), I needed to get a Super in before the end of 2012. Since there is no Super in the New England area as of yet, I had only three options: VA, NJ, or IL. I happened to be away during the weekends of the first two, so if I was going to complete this Trifecta as I was determined to do, I would have to travel to the latter. Flying was not in my budget, which meant that a crazy road trip was the only chance I had. Fortunately, the Spartan community is full of like-minded individuals, so after some asking around, I found eight others who were willing to join in on the journey. I had only met a few of them in person before, but what better way to become friends than to spend more than 48 hours, over 2,200 miles of highway, in cramped quarters? We met up in Boston on Thursday night, hopped in a twelve passenger van, and made the seventeen hour drive toward the Midwest, with a goal of making it there with enough time to participate in the Hurricane Heat (HH-019) at 6pm SHARP.

We arrived in plenty of time to have a real lunch at an establishment where we were the only patrons under the age of forty and to allow some of us to take quick cat naps. I opted to shower the road grease off before heading out for the HH, which probably was not a fabulous idea due to the wet hair plus cold weather combination, but obviously my brain was not functioning properly. It was dark and it was cold, so the five of us made sure to don as many warm layers as possible before making our way to the race location. Cue 87 Hurricane Heaters meeting and exchanging “hellos” and “nice to meet yous” as we awaited our instructions from Tommy Mac. I’m still trying to process everything that happened, but I will try to recall as much as possible.

Our first task from Tommy was to run from the festival area down to the street and back. Total distance was maybe a half mile, if that. When we returned, we were asked to gather into five groups and complete thirty burpees. Then, we began “Operation Keep Spartans Warm.” This consisted of constructing five separate fire pits, which needed several different supplies to create: gravel, firewood, and concrete blocks. The gravel, which was retrieved via plastic buckets, was hauled from the registration area and placed in the center of the fire pit. The concrete blocks came from a huge pile of debris that we had to sift through. A circle of concrete surrounded the gravel in the middle with a square of concrete around that, a slight distance away to be used as seats. Enough firewood to start a fire was placed on top of the gravel and the rest had to be stacked neatly next to the fire pit. The crew crowned the best fire pit of the bunch then asked us to deconstruct one that was too close to another and reconstruct it in another location. After that, we assembled into a large circle where James (one of NE Spahten’s own) was asked to recite the Warrior Ethos. We then counted off before heading into the woods.

A good chunk of our group struggled to keep up with our walking pace, which resulted in lots of angry comments between members and lots of penalty burpees for being last. The trails were very wet with thick mud and the strewn leaves made traction a little tricky in some areas. The first mission we encountered was a grueling one! We were asked to go through a section of deep trenches, with two (or three, I forget) of our men not touching the ground. The trenches seemed endless and it took a decent amount of time to finish. Once we were allowed to have everyone on the ground, a hundred penalty burpees were issued, which equated to our team of eighteen doing six each. From there, it’s a blur of trail running madness, but we did complete a couple parts of the course during the few hours we were out there. There were some bunny hops and jump lunges mixed in there as well, but the best stuff came towards the end of the event.

Two of the founding members of the Storm Chasers, Jennifer and Danny, eloped over the summer. Recently, at the Carolina Beast, they were able to tell their families the news. We had a mock wedding for them in the middle of the Hurricane Heat! We were asked to assemble into rows of five on either side of the “aisle” and even had someone to officiate. Jennifer’s Dad was participating in the HH and he was finally able to walk his daughter down the aisle! To congratulate them, we each did fifteen burpees for the happy couple. More trail running ensued before we finally came back toward the festival area, with the Storm Chasers team somehow in the lead. We scaled the horizontal cargo net and were rewarded for being the first team back by getting to do frog jumps for what seemed like an eternity. Following that, they instructed us to do bear crawls to the port-a-potties with each group to line up in front of one. Once all the groups had arrived, they asked for the lightest person on each of the first three teams to come forward. I was about to offer myself before Chris, one of my road mates who is a Spartan employee, looked at me and shook his head, but it was too late for one of my other road mates, Shaun. We had to carry the port-a-potties, which were as clean as they would ever be, over to another spot in the festival area with poor Shaun inside of it. Then, each team needed to set up two picnic tables. Sounds easy enough, but the catch was that our two heaviest men had to be atop them. Twenty-five burpees were issued and then we were free to warm up by the fire and collect our HH gear! My hands were numb and my back/thighs were frozen due to a leaking Camelbak, so we took our t-shirt and dog tags before making our way to the van as soon as possible. Fortunately, our roommates that had stayed behind were nice enough to order pizza and wings for us, so we were able to satiate our hunger once we returned to the room.

The next morning, a few of our group were running in the elite heat, so we all hauled ourselves out of bed early to get ready to head over to the site. It was a very chilly morning and lots of layers were needed again. I could not get myself warm, no matter what I did, so after we got our bibs, I attempted to roast myself in front of one of the fires we had so kindly built the night before. At one point, I looked over and my favorite elite racer, Ella Kociuba, was standing right next to me, trying to warm up before the first heat of the day. I was kind of star struck, but I somehow mustered enough courage to say “hello” to her, to which she responded with an “Are you Kay?” and a giant bear hug. Totally made my day that she recognized me, even though it may possibly mean I stalk her too much! I have yet to meet an elite racer that didn’t seem completely down-to-earth. We wished our elite racing road mates well and watched them head out on the course.

I will start by saying that Clifs Insane Terrain Park, where the race was held, has its own obstacles already set up, which Spartan definitely utilized. The course wasn’t very hilly, but you had to trudge through streams and basins that were loaded with mud and leaves, so it was slow going for me. I can’t remember the order of these obstacles and I’m sure I’m missing some, but I will present them in true Kay fashion with bullets and my accompanying notes.

  • Rappel – Use a rope to descend a steep hill and then use a rope on the other bank to get up the next hill. There was a long line for this and it ate up a good amount of time.
  • Monkey bars – One side rotated and the other side was fixed. I chose the stable side and made it across.
  • Pair of eight foot walls – ‘Nuff said
  • Two barbed wire sections – One was in the beginning of the race, not too rocky. I lost my gloves during this and didn’t it realize it until after, so I was a little bummed. The other one was at the very tail end of the race. It was longer and full of soupy, thick clay mud. Definitely the muddiest Spartan I’ve been to.
  • Over-under-throughs
  • Log over-unders – The overs were really high. Didn’t see many people making it over these without some kind of assistance.
  • Rope climb – First time I’ve failed this one, but it was at the end of the course and suspended over water that was freezing and up to my neck, which zapped all of my energy.
  • Traverse wall – First time failing this one since my first race. I was two blocks away from the end.
  • Spear throw – Still have yet to stick a spear!
  • Log ascent – Right after the wicked muddy barbed wire section. Looked a little too precarious for me and there was a super long line, so I took the burpee penalty.
  • Tractor pull – Longest line I’ve seen other than at the sled pull in Vermont, so I did burpees instead of waiting.
  • Balance beam – I scooted on my butt, which tore a nice hole in my pants, but it was suspended over water and I did not want to take a dip.
  • Sandbag carry- Wicked long, but not straight uphill. The route was more along the lines of a motocross track with small hills.
  • Log cross over – Water obstacle with logs suspended horizontally, varying distances apart. You had to move from each log without touching the water. I opted out.
  • Triple balance beam – Three balance beams, which were not fixed in place, of varying heights. I scooted again, but made it through.
  • Water filled trenches – They made you go through these and the water was very, very cold!
  • Log jump – Preexisting obstacle where the logs were in water. I made it to the third to last and couldn’t reach so burpees for me.
  • Fire jump – Easy, peasy.
  • Gladiators – One pushed me into the hay bales, but they’re always gentle with me.
  • Trench jumps – Kind of self explanatory. Jump across the trench to the next bank.
  • Rope traverse – One rope overhead, one under your feet and you cross the water. I really had to overreach on this one as I’m not the tallest chick on the planet, but I made it across.

It was not my best performance, by far. I ended with 180 burpees, 90 due to failure and 90 due to opting out of long lines or potential injuries. It took me just over three and a half hours to complete, which was under my goal of four hours, but a bit shy of where I truly hoped I would be. I had to do a lot of walking as my shins are still not back to 100% from killing them at the Beast last month, but I was probably better off that way since the course was so muddy. Since its Breast Cancer Awareness month, the ribbon on the blue Super medal was pink. Although pink is my least favorite color, it’s unique and I like that! Also, I’m pretty sure I was borderline hypothermic at the finish, so I made it a point to try to get warm…just as soon I had my Trifecta medal around my neck! Off to the Merch booth I went to get it before heading in the direction of the showers, which thankfully were equipped with warm water. Some of my road mates had gone back to the hotel to shower and change, so I was stranded without my change of clothes until they returned, but luckily, the changing rooms are heated so I hung out there until Gaby found me and we could leave. We all showered and changed before shipping back up to Boston, but not without first stopping at Buffalo Wild Wings! All in all, it was a great weekend with great friends and I look forward to the next time I can join them for a Spartan trip!

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Savage Race Review

Central Florida based Savage Race ran their flagship event at a gorgeous ranch in Dade City, FL on October 20, 2012.  It appears to be their third event since inception.  I arrived at the Little Steeplechase ranch after a four hour drive from my home in Boca Raton.  One of the many aspects of obstacle course racing I enjoy is traveling to new places to see the local terrain, flora and fauna.  I was pleased to see sprawling green grounds dotted with live oaks and cypress trees draped in moss.  The sky was blue and my respiratory system welcomed the arrival of fall in Florida with warm dry air.   After five oppressive months, humidity was nowhere to be found.  Onsite parking was $10 and very smooth, however there was no re-entry into the festival area, which limited the convenience of vehicle access.

Check in was fast and simple.  The festival area was rather typical for obstacle course races, gear check ($5), food & beverages, merchandise, sponsor tents, and a bank of vile porta potties scented with human waste were all represented.  I completed my final pre-race prep of hydration, trademark eye black and stretching routine, then headed to the starting line.

The Savage Rave claims that they need no more than 5-6 miles to kick your ass as well as more obstacles per mile with less jogging than comparable events.  Approximately two dozen obstacles were peppered throughout the very fun and occasionally challenging six mile course.  Three water stations were on the course and finishers were greeted with a medal, t-shirt and a bottle of water.   Here are some of the obstacle highlights:

The ice bath plunge called “Shriveled Richard” was very early in the course and literally took my breath away, but required no special skills.   Significant shrinkage was unavoidable.  The monkey bars were terrific.  In a saw tooth profile, Savages climbed up, then down, then back up, and finally down again to complete the bars.  Grip and concentration were critical for success.

In addition, there was plenty of crawling, lots  mud, diversified terrain, various walls to conquer, giant mud hills to navigate, a balance beam, several water crossings, log carry, “shocking” wire crawl, giant hay mountain, and a floppy cargo net.  I’ve never run a Tough Mudder (registered 12/1/2012 Sarasota FL), but having researched TM, the Savage Race felt like a half of a TM.  The obstacles were not only similar, they were nearly identical.  However, I could care less.  I’m there to challenge myself with a fun and dirty adventure.  The companies can duke it out in the legal system.

There was only one negative aspect of my experience, which was a rather lengthy wait at two obstacles.  A ten minute wait preceded the balance beam and a 30 minute wait was experienced prior to the “Colossus Wall”.   The wall was a large 1/4 pipe in which you had to run up the pipe, grab a dangling rope and pull yourself to the top.  Savage staff assisted participants when necessary.  It took me 2:05 to finish the course including the 40 minutes of idle time.

In conclusion, the event was well run with ample and friendly staff.  Savages were clearly having a rad time throughout the course.   The obstacles were plentiful and some required impressive construction.  Furthermore, spectators were allowed to walk the course, which was very cool in my opinion.  I thoroughly enjoyed the Savage Race and would recommend fellow obstacle course race enthusiasts to indulge in the Savage Race experience.  Your ass may not be kicked as promised,  but you’ll have a great time doing what we love in a burpree-free filthy fit environment.  In 2013 the Savage Race will be coming to Dallas, Atlanta, Ohio, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Florida, and North Carolina.  The official schedule can be found at www.savagerace.com