What can I say about CMC Virginia? It was EPIC! But how can you put into words the Pit, followed by nearly 7 miles of sloppy soggy course, lots of water, and “a small hill”? That’s what I’m going to attempt to do here.
As I’ve posted before (https://www.newenglandspahtens.com/featured-review-civilian-military-combine-cmc/) and as Paul has posted previously (https://www.newenglandspahtens.com/featured-review-cmc-urban-assault-2013/) Civilian Military Combine is one of our favorite race series. I really love the fact that this challenges you both from a strength perspective as well as endurance. I wanted to do this race, but at the time no one else was signed up from the team so I put it on the back shelf. Imagine my surprise when the race organizers extended an invite to the team to race! How could we say no to that? A small but mighty group of us drove down, braving rain, floods, and sinkholes on the highway to Bryce Resorts. I have to say the rain played a major factor on the course. More on that later, though.
As usual, parking was a breeze, and from what I could tell was free. Registration was smooth and very efficient. We were all checked in in a matter of minutes. Bag check was also well organized, and was the normal going rate of $5.
We arrived a bit later than we anticipated so straight to the warm up staging area we went. I warmed up a bit and within seconds it was go time.
As with Amesbury and Brooklyn, the Pit was a 7 minute AMRAP of burpee box jumps over a 20″ box, push presses (75lbs for men and 45lbs for women) and American Style kettle bell swings with a 44lbs kettle bell for men and a 26lbs one for women.. CMC once again offered up a Scaled Pit option which was box jumps or step ups on the 20″ box, push presses at 45lbs for men and 26lbs for women and Russian style kettle bell swings with the same weight as the regular Pit. There was also an option to simply run the course and skip the Pit all together. I competed in the Scaled Pit. And as usual, it kicked my tail. Then we recovered for 2 minutes, then off onto the course we went.
One thing I want to note here. In other events, we knew who the Pit Judges were. They were usually all from a local Crossfit Affiliate, and the CMC guys went and trained with them and worked with them to ensure excellence in judging. This time, I’m not sure where the Pit Judges hailed from. Also from discussions with other people, the judges seemed a bit inconsistent. For example, the Motivator (the guy who talks to everyone about the Pit and gets us all fired up) gave a tip on how to do the burpee box jumps faster. One of our team was told it was illegal and she could not do them that way. Personally I had a fantastic judge. It was just a bit of a different feel that I got versus previous events.
This course was a bit different. For one, it was their longest course to date, almost seven miles.
I am still attempting to wrap my brain and emotions around the course.
I honestly can’t remember the entire course (there was some variation from the map above) , so this is going to be the highlights and ones that stood out, in order to the best of my memory. We started immediately with the sandbag carry. Literally it was mere feet from the start line! Right after that was the balance logs. They were stripped of bark to make them more challenging. I seem to recall a wall in there and then the first of several water crossings. I am not sure whether to call it a tyrolian traverse or simply a rope traverse. It had rained several days prior to the event and during the event, so the water was higher than usual I think. The crossing consisted of pulling yourself along the rope to the other side, then looping around the tree to take a second rope and go back over to the original embankment. From there, a culvert tunnel crawl awaited. This was the tunnel under a road that they turned into part of the course. The glow sticks in the tunnels was a fun touch. There was one unexpected obstacle – the dodging of golf carts and golfers who were out braving the elements at the driving range. We came up on our first set of walls. They always have several of the metal hurtles back to back. I admit after the first couple sets, I start to view the wall/ hurtle placement as just sarcastic, as they seem to never end! For those that love walls, this was a wall climber’s delight.
Another neat use of the terrain was the tunnel obstacle. They dug out three tunnels all with some sort of curve in them. They were pitch black, but a lot of fun. A very funny incident was where a racer was yelling at his team (and anyone else there) to get through the tunnels like ground beavers. Apparently this what groundhogs are called in Virginia. This was a source of amusement for Sean Gifford and I and it became a battle cry throughout the rest of the course.
At some point in here, the swinging ladder obstacle appeared. This is one of my favorite ones and I really wish they had more than just the one there. Then the next water obstacle came up – the log crossing. This was a log attached between two giant buoys. There were about 7 of them or so in a row with ropes on either side to pull yourself along (if you needed it) to get to the log to go over it. (I suppose you could have gone under but most folks went over). Where the first log was the water was a bit deep, but the water got progressively shallower. This had potential to bottleneck but I didn’t see any issues there. From here there was more trails, more sarcastic walls and hurtles, then we got to a neat water crossing. We went over a metal ladder then into a stream where we got to go under a bridge and upstream for bit. There were racers who were coming back around, so we knew we were going in a loop, but no idea how big the loop would be.
At some point in the course there were two old style army trucks parked side by side with about a 10 foot gap between them. It was the old “pick up truck” style, with the open back. The idea was you climbed up one of the back wheels, into the bed, then back down again, then back up into the second truck and out again onto a huge dirt pile. This was a really random obstacle. Not particularly challenging, but just a bit of fun and definitely gave a nod to the military feel of the event.
I did like instead of the usual mound of tires, they again went with the terrain and piled up a bunch of boulders and rocks for us to climb over. This made it a bit more of a challenge, given the rain/mud factor. Due to race brain, I can’t remember all of the obstacles at this stretch, but I know there were tons of tall walls both in and out of the streams that we weaved in and out of, more of climbing ladders (love!), and trail running. It was in here where we found a broken wall. The rain probably softened the wood slightly. A side support was separating from the boards, making the top board very wobbly. To their credit, they responded very quickly to try to fix it. I do remember the mud bog, as it was one where you could pick how muddy you wanted to get, then climbed up a rope to the top of an embankment. At some point we looped back under the bridge (in the water crossing). There was a second rope climb after another water crossing (just a small wading stream crossing) up a very steep embankment. They had two volunteers there on climbing harnesses to help you out if you had any trouble. This was challenging, but extremely doable and felt completely safe to do. Once we got to the top however, there was kind of a “WTH?” obstacle – a random black pipe that was laying across the path. There just didn’t seem to be any reason for it. It wasn’t secured in any way, it was just… there, almost like it was accidental. We went over the top of it anyway, and carried on.
This was where the volunteers told us we just had a “small hill” to go up. Um, yeah, a black diamond hill. The trail was a bit gnarly given the amount of rain, but there were trees and roots to get up. There were these weird bridge type obstacles that I can’t pinpoint why they were there. I couldn’t tell if they were part of the resort or built for the course. They had a slatted angled wall to get up to the bridge part. Once at the top of the trail, we looped around and came down the ski slope itself. This was a pretty easy descent. This was where I saw another lame duck obstacle. I think it was supposed to be a water slide. You had to climb up some hay bales then there was some tarp down and a small puddle at the bottom, then hay bales to come out of the pool back onto the trail. The tarp had been covered with hay and was not wet in the slightest. The pool at the bottom was roughly mid calf deep at best. I’m guessing there’s a story behind this, but it seemed a bit lame at that point. Personally, I think it would’ve been better to remove it in my opinion rather than leave it there. From there we went through more stream beds, to a metal ladder climb, then on to one of their main signature obstacles – The Brooklyn Bridge. This is the two cargo containers where you climb up one container, them up the second, go across a cable traverse then down one container to the swinging fire poles. This is still one of the scariest, but exhilarating obstacles they have. It’s always slightly different, and with the metal being wet, the poles were much faster to slide down to the fluffy pile of hay. On to the second signature obstacle, the horizontal cargo net, to the end.
Full disclosure – this course kicked me in the head. I can make excuses, but I simply wasn’t prepared for the terrain, and the mental obstacles I had to overcome here. I have an enormous phobia of water, so the water crossings made for some serious mental challenges.I went into what I called “Death Race brain” where your body simply takes whatever its last instructions were and continues to perform them. In this case, it was to simply keep going. The only thing that would snap me back was seeing an injured person and stopping to help them. When I crossed that finish line, I felt a rush of emotion and just cried. I needed a few moments alone to compose myself. This race was far more epic, taxing, and brutal than any race I did this year, or any race to date for that matter. And I LOVED it. I cannot wait to go back next year and revisit this terrain and really go for it. I seriously am looking at how I can hit all the CMC events next year.
I will say the rain played havoc with the metal obstacles and made the terrain really treacherous in some places, particularly on some of the really steep trails, and the one traverse we did on the side of a hill. If it was dry, I think that bit of the trail would’ve been far easier than it was. As it was, we simply went down to a “”ledge” where they had cleared the trail , and went across the hill there. On the metal ladders, I do wish they had some grip tape on there to make the footing a bit more secure. Yes the rain made them slick, but given the amount of water crossings I think they would’ve been wet anyway.
The after party and vendor area here was small but again seriously fun. The CMC guys really want to fire up people and keep them engaged. The DJ was awesome. I always love the DJ they hire. Not one has disappointed. I do wish they would have a choice of cider or beer for those of us who don’t/can’t drink beer. Frankly most races could take a tip here!! It would make it feel more inclusive for all racers, so that we can ALL celebrate, rather than having to wait until later. Once again, Sean Rogers put the MASTER in Master of Ceremony. CMC really couldn’t have hired a better person that is so involved and has such an ability to fire up the racers and the spectators. Always a pleasure to hear him behind the mic.
I need to give a special should out to the course volunteers here. The volunteers were phenomenal!! They were so engaged and involved and were really enthusiastic. They really seemed to care about the race and were out there cheering us on like there was no tomorrow. CMC always have such great volunteers. This is definitely a plus. It’s not a bunch of kids playing on their cell phones, they are people who really are there for the racers.