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“Challenge” Review: Tough Mudder Miami

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Tough Mudder has been taking lots of heat and deservedly so for changing the date of the Boston event.  Even more criticism has come their way by scheduling the New England Mudder on the same weekend as the Spartan Sprint at Amesbury.  Add their high prices paired with bully behavior and many Spahtens have written off Tough Mudder for 2013 and beyond.  In my opinion, that could be a mistake.

Here’s what you see and experience at a Tough Mudder:

  • Money spent on the festival area and the course
  • A lengthy 10-12 mile course that is pure fun other than electrocution
  • Take a break from burpee penalties
  • Mandatory assistance to/from fellow mudders
  • Excellent spectator access to obstacles at many parts of the course
  • A large variety of obstacles, with new and unique additions built for 2013 (see pics)
  • Humerous and motivational signage throughout the course
  • The best pre-race starting line pep talk
  • Very well supported courses with water, bananas, oranges, energy gel chews (6 stations in Miami, only 2 had just water)
  • Protein bars, bananas, beer, and water at the finish line
  • Schwag bag with tech shirt, protein bars and energy gels courtesy of CLIFF
  • Foil blankets (race temps were in the 50s, which is freezing for South Florida)

The Miami event took place on March 3rd & 4th at the Homestead Miami Speedway.  One week’s time made a huge difference in weather.  It was cold, cloudy and windy, the exact opposite of the Spartan super a week earlier.  Despite that, TM made good use of the venue both inside and outside the racetrack.  Athletes ran on the racetrack, pit stop areas, burm top, and the surrounding fields.  The festival area, start and finish were located inside the track.  Although there were no trails, the 11+ miles were extremely fun and loaded with approximately 25 obstacles that were a refreshing change to my recent Spartan runs.

My only negative issue was the two obstacles that provided electric shocks.  The crawling “Electric Eel” zapped me 6-10 times and the “Electroshock Therapy” took out my buddy.  The shocks appeared to be much stronger and more  frequent than my last TM.

I too was disappointed that the 5/11 Boston event was moved to another date.  I negotiated pre-approval with my wife and I was ready to book travel pending the venue announcement.  I’m not a competitive runner, so the TM suits me well.  You get a solid distance to thoroughly enjoy conversation-paced jogging with your crew and fellow mudders.  The TM is a great event to share with friends, teammates, and comrades over a few hours.  My advice:  Do a TM when it makes financial sense and never regret the decision.  You will have a fantastic time with your mates.  I look forward to seeing many of you at the Ruckus!

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Miami Spartan Super 2/23/2013

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The second Spartan Super of 2013 arrived in North Miami this weekend. 80+ degree temps, high humidity, ample sunshine, and a powerful  UV index were in abundance.  This event holds unique importance to me because it marks the one year anniversary of my introduction to obstacle course running.  I didn’t participate in Miami Spartan 2012, but some friends did.  Their pictures ignited an obstacle race Google search and I quickly went from beginner to enthusiast.  Now, a year later, I was eager to meet a handful of robust fellow enthusiasts representing the NE Spahtens who made the journey seeking tropical spartan glory.

Oleta River State Park requires a 5-10 minute shuttle from a separate parking location just like Amesbury. The shuttle bus actually drove under a cargo net bridge created by the stacks of two by two cargo containers. Athletes were rolling over the top of the net as shuttles passed through underneath.  The festival area seemed tight and chaotic at times, but any tent/service I needed was utilized in a timely manner. Free samples of coconut water, protein bars/drinks, etc. we’re notably absent or were hidden.

The 8.3 mile course highlighted the South Florida inshore ecosystem of bays, estuaries, mangroves, seagrapes, pine, bamboo, and limestone. Several miles of mountain bike trails meandered through the forest. Here’s the list of obstacles in order thanks to a spectator map:

  • Under over under over walls
  • Water crossing via bay
  • Over under through walls
  • Monkey Bars
  • Water crossing with buoy line
  • 7 foot walls
  • 6 foot walls
  • Rolling mud (trenches)
  • Tractor Pull
  • Sandbag carry
  • Cargo net bridge
  • Atlas lift (lift large chuck of concrete, walk, 5 burpees, lift and return)
  • 8 foot walls
  • Tire flip (three over and three back)
  • Hercules hoist
  • Bucket hoist (repel down embankment, fill three homer buckets, spill H2O, climb back up)
  • Rope climb
  • Traverse wall
  • Mud crawl under barbed-wire
  • Slippery wall
  • Gladiator pit

Spectators had excellent access to the final five obstacles as well as a walking trail to view others.  I was pleased to complete all of the obstacles with zero penalty burpees.  I did complete 30 “team” burpees for the two locals I ran with.  I also learned a valuable lesson:  Don’t make Spartan races any harder than necessary.  For example, I chose the one XL tire because I was impatient.  The body strain nearly left me with a soprano voice and sent me to the OR to repair soft tissue tears.

I found it difficult to  partition my time among several local factions, the traveling Spahtens, and my family.  I look forward to seeing new and familiar Spahtens as we travel around the globe seeking new challenges.  Thank you to Keith (solid man), Nele (Naila-friendly beast), Corrine (sweet soul), Tom (proud dad), Ellen (cat who swallowed canary smile), Betty (saw her for a second), and Yvette (self-proclaimed bag crasher).  I’ll see you at the Ruckus!

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Arizona Spartan Sprint Review 2/9/2013

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The second Spartan race of 2013 was held this weekend at the McDowell Mountain Park in Fountain Hills, AZ.  Spartan HQ changed the venue just a few weeks prior to the event for a “more challenging course”.  As a result, logistics also became more challenging due to a 30 mile ride to parking, a 25 minute bus ride (each way) to the venue, and a 45 minute wait to board a return bus.  It was time to STFU!
The 4.7 miles sprint meandered through single-file trails littered with loose rocks of all sizes. Flat ground was rare and there were two steep hill climbs both up and down. My knee-high socks protected my shins from the desert scrub brush and the brutally sharp gravel I encountered on the crawls. The 47 degree temperature chilled my FL bones once I became water-logged during the last mile.

Obstacles:

  • Under/Over
  • Over Under Through
  • Concrete carry with 5 burpees (new to me)
  • Walls of 6′, 7′ & 8′
  • Log Hop (obstacle formerly known as Stump Traverse)
  • Monkey Bars
  • Pancake/Sandbag Carry (appeared shorter than expected)
  • Wall Traverse
  • Tractor Pull
  • Spear Throw (my only failed obstacle)
  • Rope Climb
  • Mud Mounds & Water Trenches
  • Cargo Net
  • Mud Crawl under barbed-wire (long on a bed of super sharp gravel)
  • Slippery Wall (no running start due to mud/water trench)
  • Fire Jump
  • Gladiators

I thoroughly enjoyed the desert terrain and panoramic views from the hilltops.  Cloudy skies and the cold temperatures were not ideal, but it’s part of the adventure.  Many obstacles had improved signage with descriptions.  The Reebok name was ubiquitous and omnipresent.  The festival area seemed a little tight and chaotic, but all the usual tents/booths were represented.  Bag check was a total mess.  It was drastically understaffed and many Spartans including me were permitted to retrieve their own.  Growing pains with volunteers at new venues are to be expected.

I’m looking forward to meeting NE Spahtens at the Miami Super, only 13 days away and 30 degrees warmer!

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Superhero Scramble Race Review #Miami January 12, 2013

The Superhero Scramble set up camp at Amelia Earhart Park in Hialeah, FL, which I consider to be the Amesbury of Miami.  It has become the venue of choice for the 3-6 mile obstacle course events.  There’s onsite parking ($10) just off the entrance, which provides a very short walk to the festival area with car access if you need it.  The various lakes, open fields, and extensive mountain bike trails provide the necessary terrain for quality runs.

Registration and bag check ($5) appeared smooth for those who used them.  I took advantage of offsite packet pickup, which always speeds up race day.

The festival area included sponsor tents, merchandise, a live band, and access to the final handful of obstacles.  I did not take advantage of the bevy of local food trucks, but was impressed with their menus.  Grass-fed beef & bison burgers and other gourmet fare were available.  The large shade tents provided for spectators were both smart and effective.

The Superhero Scramble did not disappoint those who came to see costumes.  They were ample.  My kids liked Gumby most and everyone from the Hall of Justice was represented.  There were also a few villains and many teams in non-hero themed matching outfits.

The race kicked off a midst a green smoke grenade.  Here were the obstacles I conquered:

  • Barbed wire crawl
  • Pile of tires to traverse
  • Water crossing via tunnel
  • Leap of Faith jump into lake
  • Water crossing via wire balance
  • Rock climbing walls 10′ or 5′
  • Net climb up a trail hill
  • Pair of 8′ walls
  • Over under through walls
  • 5 gallon bucket of water carry
  • Rope climb with thick rope and generous knots between a pair of double stacked shipping containers
  • US Marines section with 10 burpees, low crawl, baby crawl & 15 reps of ammo box press
  • Cargo net suspended by a pair of double stacked shipping containers
  • “Hell Freezes Over” small fire jump immediately followed by a low crawl through freezing water
  • Steep angled wall climb with knotted and unknotted rope (your choice)
  • Water slide into green slime with questionable viscosity
  • Mud crawl under very low barbed wire
  • Run into a US Marine holding kickboxing pad

I had a wonderful time running with an unofficial team of veteran runners and first timers.  The Superhero Scramble course was not outside the box, but was loads of fun.  I strongly recommend you add the Superhero Scramble to calendar in 2013.  They look like they are gaining traction in the OCR world.  Go experience the scramble for yourself June 8th in Amesbury.

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Balloons: Holding firm and letting go.

Hey All.  Its been a long while since I have posted.  I have missed writing a great deal but since October I have had a lot on my hands.

When I woke this morning I had the image of a bunch of balloons in my head.  An odd thing to be thinking of when you wake up for sure.  Taking my littlest one in hand.  And then releasing the boy from his self inflicted prison of a crib, a prison he is fully capable of entering and escaping on his own.  I descended to the living room to feed and entertain my charges, leaving mom to catch up on some much needed sleep.   While descending the stairs the image of balloons returned, this time with some balloons escaping my grasp with each step down I took.

Parents aren’t given an awful lot of time to ponder anything in the first years of Parenthood.  Our children are our only prevailing responsibility.  Everything needs to be done secondary to our children’s needs and they need everything.  I don’t think you can truly say you are an adult until you try to raise a child.

With all this running through my mind, finding “one Thomas!” on the TV, and soothing the baby I was still pondering the balloons.  It occurred to me that the balloons were bright in color and seemed to radiate in the sun.  They were all different shapes and sizes.  But they are fragile. You need to be careful with them.  They are filled with gas causing them to rise and lift you up.  But if there are too many and you aren’t careful you will lose contact with the ground.

And thats when I got it.  The balloons are the contacts, relationships, commitments, friendships, responsibilities, goals, and aspirations in my life. They are everything I have done and hope to do.  Things I want to maintain and build.  Each one represents a little portion of my life.  Full of the elation to lift me up.  Bright, shiny and colorful.  But each with its own tiny string attached.  A little umbilicus tying me to it.  I’ve gripped so tightly to those strings over the past year that they are starting to separate me from the ground.  If I continue to go up too high, that ground won’t be solid enough to withstand me crashing back into it when I finally let go.  So the only thing left to do is loosen my grip on a few balloons.

I can’t just let go because those balloons represent everything, or nothing.  Some balloons are small but combined with 1 million other small balloons take up a lot of space and create terrible lift.  Some balloons are very large and will always provide the lift I need. The large cumbersome ones need to be held on to tight enough to be secure but not so tight that they would pop.

So where does this leave me and why did I blog this.  Well its really all right there.  I haven’t posted on fb for a while.  Haven’t been doing many of the training sessions that are going around like VD.  Haven’t been at many race’s and worst of all, on the personal level, I haven’t been training.  Its all about the balloons you see.

I went around this last year collecting balloons and making a nice big bunch.  All sorts of colors and shapes.  I attached a weight of worth to them.  Mostly that worth was attached to a medal or tee-shirt of some sort.  Some were weighted just by a day or an event.  The value I was assigning some balloons was not as much as I should have been assigning others.  The bigger and not so colorful balloons.  Balloons that were hugely inflated, more thin skinned, and required much more care than the smaller half filled balloons.

Obviously this problem has been wondering through my mind longer than today.  Longer than a single image of a bunch of balloons.  I suppose in the last 2 months or so I have subconsciously been doing exactly what I have been needing to do without an imagery concept.  I needed a metaphor, balloons and strings finally popped into my head and I finally knew what had to be done or more astutely what I was doing.  I had started to loosen my grip on smaller, brighter balloons.  I have seen friends give huge flowery  goodbyes on social networks.  Send cards, emails and texts of how they just need to escape and focus on the “important things”.  I didn’t do all that.  I just loosened my grip.  As much as I love following the trials and tribulations, highs and lows of so many people, love to give encouragement and inspiration, and most of all be part of a team which does that; I needed to and need to let a few balloons go.

It hurts a little to do this.  But my reality, my ground, needs a lot more from me than all my little balloons.  Nothing bad will happen to my balloons if I let a few go here and there.  They will just end up in someone else’s sky. They might become larger and more important.  They might even become attached to a child of their own.  And learn, like I have, that they too have balloons to let slip away.  There will always be a string attached to my balloons.  And if necessary and if time allows maybe I can go find some new shiny balloons or go looking for some that I have let go.  For a wonderful time however I enjoyed holding on to all the balloons I could.  But now I just need to hold on to a few precious few, and maybe borrow an old or new one  from time to time

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Tough Mudder Review: Tampa, FL

The first aspect of the Tough Mudder worth mentioning is that it’s a challenge not a race, so Mudders are not timed.  Many time themselves and peg the benchmark at 3 hours for the 10-12 mile challenge with 20+ obstacles.  I ran with a buddy who suffered a minor bone contusion and we finished around 2:50.  I would categorize our speed as comfortable and conversation-paced  jogging between obstacles and occasional walking around the 5 aid stations.  All aid stations had ample water and a few had bananas, one had Sharkies energy gummy sharks (yum).  Some of my favorite obstacles were:

  • Arctic Enema:  Ice plunge with ample cubes
  • Cliffhanger:  Large mound of slipper mud
  • Berlin Walls:  8 feet plus, some required Mudder comradery
  • Hold Your Wood:  1/4 Log or large wood block carry
  • Funkey Monkey:  Monkey bars
  • Everest:  1/4 pipe charge
  • Trench Warfare:  Trench crawl with partial blackness
  • Walk the Plank:  15′ jump into water
  • Mud Mile:  There were several, but only one had lots of fun mud
  • Electricshock Therapy:  One of two that shock you.  High voltage, but low amperage prevents electrocution.

I experienced no wait at any obstacle and thoroughly enjoyed my experience during the 11+ mile challenge.  The difficulty level was low to moderate.  There were no penalties for failed obstacles, but the distance could wear on those who didn’t train for high mileage courses.  The Tough Mudder should be on everyone’s To Do list for 2013.  The 2013 schedule can be found here:  Tough Mudder 2013

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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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Team Gear: A review.

First off, it must be said.  The team Jersey:  WOW!!!  I am so freaking impressed by the color blended logo and personalization.   The logo, it goes without saying, is a home run out of any park.  Including Yellowstone.  Mike MacKenzie’s design is so tight, so professional it really just sets the tone and pace for everything to come.

Personally I’m about 5’9″ and about 190 lbs.  I fall more on getting fit than actually fit but still I opted for a medium Jersey.  Its a four way stretch material, supple and very comfortable.  True flat seams and ample neck room add to the comfort of the wear.  For my size I found the medium a little snug but not constricting.  Although I might have opted for a large I don’t know that it would make a huge difference.  The shirts design appears to intend for a snug fit.  The shirt is an interesting and purposeful cut.  Broader at the shoulder, trim through the torso/midsection, and a slight flare at the bottom.  I have read reviews about how the material is a much heavier weave than Under Armor.  This is true however I think much heavier is a bit of a reach.  It is heavier but only because it is intended as outer wear and not “under” wear.  I can’t wait to get a race under my belt in it.  This is a great shirt, and even though it looks like a show piece shirt it certainly begs to get muddy and wet.

Tech shirt, T-shirt, and Hoodie.  I had used someone’s suggestion to go a size down.  I don’t think this was a wise decision.  I typically wear a large.  On some specific Tech and T-shirts I can get away with a medium but not on a sweatshirt. For the Team Gear I would say order your regular size.  The Sweat shirt is nice.  A good weight for post race.  Not terribly heavy.  I have washed everything once.  I dared not dry the cotton sweatshirt and t-shirt for fear of shrinkage.  The embroidery is spot on!  It showcases very well and is very discernible as the team logo.  I might have liked to see it a little larger, or the Akuma logo a bit smaller.  I don’t have any issue with the Akuma logo on it.  I’ve seen enough real Football to understand sponsor saturation on a shirt.

The tech shirt was my only disappointment.  I loved the subtle mock collar instead of a a standard crew neck.  The color panels were excellent.  Again I might have liked blue with red panels instead of gray just to keep with the Team Jersey color scheme.  The shirt is only a two way stretch. So its more snug than I would like for the cut of the shirt. Had I purchased a large instead of a medium this wouldn’t even be an issue. I think the Tech top is an excellent all around athletic shirt and top notch for racing.

The t-shirt is a t-shirt.  I didn’t find the quality excellent but its fair.  The embroidery again, excellent.  And again my poor choice in sizing makes it a little more snug than I would prefer.  In the future I would like to see the Sweatshirt and T-shirt with a silk screened logo as opposed to embroidery but that is a personal style preference and nothing against the products.

I’m very interested to see how these shirts hold up over time, washing, shrinking, and racing.   Im quite confident that the Jersey will stand up.  Im positive the rest will too.  In the future I hope some personalization can be done to the Sweats, Tees and Techs.  Maybe even in time some Polos and trainer pants and racing shorts.

A huge thank you to Jessica for making this happen.  To Mike for the unbelievable designs, in marketing its all visuals and branding these are the strongest images I’ve seen.  If I were at a race and saw this shirt I’d buy one for sure.  To Paul for pushing and pushing.  And to Michael for his input and effort with Akuma.  Great things come from small beginnings.  Heres to great racing, great representing and building the best OCR team in the Northeast.

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DNF: Ultra Aftermath.

I originally pictured the finish line as a goal.  But the real finish is so much further than the finish line.  Its at the Pickle Barrel for the after party.  Its Sunday when those racers take the field.  Its next month when people are still asking “Well how bad was it?  Really.”  Its next year at the Amesbury Sprint.  The NJ Super and at the Death Race.  The finish will be every single day after the race, whether its training for another race or just having a run.  It will be that sense of pride when I talk with these other crazy Spartans and we smile at the word “Crazy”.  The finish line is so much more than an inflated arch.  Its that accomplishment of completing the task, what ever the task maybe.”

The danger of writing something down is reflection.  I may or may not have created my own destiny.  Made a self-fulfilling prophesy, or simply slapped that bitch Karma one to many times on her ass.  For what ever reason I played till the chips were down, the house wasn’t dealing anymore cards, and they were calling in their marker.  They say you have to know when to hold ’em, fold ’em, walk away or run.  Well I didn’t hold, fold or walk.  They just wouldn’t let me run any more.  The Ugly lights got turned on and the race director Mike Morris said “Sorry folks the parks closed.  The Moose at the front should have told you

But the end never reflects the effort.  Even now in my head my mind is still running that course.  My body is in a battered state, yet I know if I could just throw on a pair of shoes I could drag myself back into a moving state. So where am I, what has happened, where to I go now.  Well the smart man goes to Google.  A smart woman taught me that.

Here’s what I found:  Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.  These are the 5 accepted stages of grief and loss.  “Although presented in a set order, they are not necessarily experienced in that order. In addition, most people cycle through each stage multiple times.”  

Denial even my own initial reaction of telling myself “I am not denying this, I accept that I didn’t finish” is in fact the denial.  Its denying myself the pain of the not finishing, to try to jump over to acceptance and move on.  There’s nothing healthy about that.

Anger is easy I am full of it!  But what I am not full of is blame.  There is only one person responsible for me not finishing:  ME.  Not the course, I had the endurance to continue, even on a faster pace than my first lap.  Not Spartan Race;  they had a rule they enforced it, I fell on the wrong side of it.  I do not blame my friends who I freely chose to stay with, staying with them may have been the reason I had that second wind and the energy to go on.  No, blame is a selfish emotion, it finds fault in others and absolves the self of wrong.

Bargaining, I’ll be going through this little hell for a while.  Oddly enough not on the course.  When I started that second lap I damn well knew it was a “suicide run”  I had no idea how long I was going to be able to go, but I had a pretty good idea they weren’t going to let me get far.  I went anyway because that is what I came to do.

Depression.  Do I really need to delve into this one?  If your not up to speed on my thoughts on this by now read on it becomes self apparent.

Acceptance.  I accepted this long before I should have and this why I am writing.  I have accepted my DNF graciously.  And that is not the right way.  I do not and will not accept this as a defeat, as quitting, or as failing.  I simply ran but oddly enough ran out of time.

I was accepted to undertake a great challenge.  An experience for a life time.  In an activity that I truly love, I, me, the little runner that couldn’t was given the opportunity to bite off as much as I could, and choke on my own hubris.  The names I was set next to.  Athletes of the highest caliber.  Training regimes which rival Olympic athletes, even Olympic Athletes!  And me.  Chugga chugga pokey pokey 30 minute 5k. What the hell was I thinking.  26 miles over a mountain!  I really thought I could do it.  I prepared a little, had some quality equipment and my little bucket of round 2 items.

I’m not in the mood for writing a recap.  I will say when we started I felt like ass.  And I knew the initial accent would be tough.  I didn’t speculate that it would be as tough as it was.  But that first glorious down hill portion set the pace in my mind.  I was going to finish!  My character had other plans.  I fell back onto my personal training and habits, which is to place others first and myself second.  It wasn’t until it was too late did I make the hard choice to leave. It was personally my lowest moment.  After that I made a unbelievable accent to the summit, across it and then flew like a damn dive bombing eagle down the back side.  People complained how bad it was but I couldn’t tell you,   For myself I never saw it.  I looked at the ground for milliseconds at a time: Enough to decide if the foot hold would support 50% of my weight or less.  Yes Jesus walked on water but I was doing my damnedest to run over mud and stay clean.  My shoe and shirts swap at the Start/Finish zone ate some time, and I ate too.  Everything that was left in my pack and more.  I washed it down with warm PBR.  I looked on stunned at other runners who pulled the plug.  And I saw one undefeated soul.  We knew it was hopeless but out we went.  What took me hours earlier took less than 2 on my second lap.  We could have gone faster still but had linked up with yet another forlorn group.  It was all for not however.  Arguing with rules is not my style.  Being pulled was not a surprise or anything, we knew there would be time hacks.  That’s life.  Shit happens.

I only want one thing and one thing only.  Another shot at it.  In my personal life this is going to be twice as hard.  But I am a blessed man.  I am thankful for all that is set before me.  Challenges and rewards alike.  I just want a chance to fix my choices and be able to put the 100% at it again.  If I get some flak about that.  Than I might enter back into Anger.

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Ultra Beast: A few final thoughts before the Ultra.

I thought I wanted to blog about this coming weekend.  But couldn’t muster the energy.  I searched inspirational quotes.  Went over some old blogs.  Looked at other peoples blogs.  I noticed that a melancholy sense of apathy has set in.  My bin is packed.  Bags are packed.  Everything is prepped and waiting.  GPS is set.  Time to leave is set.  Emergency numbers and contact numbers programed.  Fridays events lined up.  Alarm set for Saturday.  Last “training” run has been done.  Rest period is in motion.  1 year of preparation, anticipation and aggravation is done.

At this time tomorrow I plan on sitting on my tail gate in the parking lot above the course, just like I did last year.  The Start and Finish line at the bottom of a very steep hill, will lay in front of me.  There will be an air of frantic energy as people put the final touches on the race.  The trick will be to not buy into that frenetic chaos. Later on at the Outback, there will be an all to familiar fraternity of racers boasting and retelling stories.  It will be wonderful. Hurricane Heaters, Trifecta Tribe members, those looking to complete the Trifecta, Beast Veterans and first timers.

On Saturday morning I will take my usual position at the back of the heat.  In front of me will be Championship racers and Ultra Beast Individual runners.  Behind me Team Ultra Beast Members will be waiting to fill that stockyard like pen behind the starting arch.  Every race is different.  Every race is the same.  Forward until its over.  This one will be holding the unique challenge of ending; only to start again and do it twice.  I have never done any race like this before.  I have never run this distance before.  I have however faced many challenges that will be replicated in this race.  I haven’t quit on them and have no plans to quit on Saturday.  If for nothing else to say yes, I did do that.

I originally pictured the finish line as a goal.  But the real finish is so much further than the finish line.  Its at the Pickle Barrel for the after party.  Its Sunday when those racers take the field.  Its next month when people are still asking “Well how bad was it?  Really.”  Its next year at the Amesbury Sprint.  The NJ Super and at the Death Race.  The finish will be every single day after the race, whether its training for another race or just having a run.  It will be that sense of pride when I talk with these other crazy Spartans and we smile at the word “Crazy”.  The finish line is so much more than an inflated arch.  Its that accomplishment of completing the task, what ever the task maybe.