Warrior Dash World Championship

Not my best race… but far from the worst.

It was very much a runners course and I began to realize the caliber of runners that showed up long before the gun went off while they were warming up. After watching a bunch of sleek muscular girls sprinting back and forth between zero-gravity, zero-bounce drills I gave up any hope for a top ten spot today.

Top twenty in this crowd would be A-OK for a slow-twitch loper like myself.

I think the three or four fast twitch muscles in my body were freaking out at this point. “Lady, we have not got this.”

That first mile-long grinder wasn’t half as bad as I’d imagined. I ended up getting a little left behind on that first flat since many of the ladies absolutely ripped out of the gate and then died with the same curt enthusiasm.

1 mile
The first mile sign

To my surprise, I was passing like crazy on the hills, which are usually not my strength.

That next knocker was pretty much just straight up a gnarly slope. The elite males charged up it but everyone within my site was power hiking with their hands on their knees – or crawling.

steep hill
This is at the course walk the day before. I did not actually race with my three-year-old and in flip flops

The first obstacle was a barb wire pit on a downhill without any internal obstacles like bales or ruts. This made for a perfect speed roll – and phenomenal dizziness – and a great difficulty running straight for at least 200m. I’d volunteer at that pit any time. Probably just to raze everyone with drunk jokes.

rolling
Mud mounds

After the incline-rope-wall there was a bunch of cars you had to climb over and and a bunch of tires you had to run through. Running on the rims is super easy if you step on two tires at once and look for the beefier ones. I accidentally stepped on the flipped up glove box door thinking it was sturdier plastic. It wasn’t terrible but it sure shot my heart rate up a few notches.

After a steep drop came the first set of mud mounds, I jumped as far as I could and muscled up on each and that strategy seemed to pay out much better than running through the whole thing and then hopelessly clawing at the slippery edge like a rat in a water pail.

Next up was a wall, into tubes, to a bigger wall. The toe kicks were super big so you could even scamper up by clutching on. This also came at 2 miles which was a happy moment for me.

After the gully and up the hill to the latter wall, and cresting… the finish area came into sight. Of course, there were a pile of obstacles in the way: a tube made out of netting, a traverse wall with a toe kick on the bottom and a rope on the top, a wall with climbing holds, a mud pit trench, cargo netted A frame.

top wall
Latter wall

traverse
Traverse wall

holds
Wall with climbing holds

cargo
A-frame cargo net

trench
Trench – barbed wire later added

Goliath was the last of the non-mud obstacles. You climb a cargo net, walk across a balance beam high in the air whilst getting blasted in the eyes with water and then bomb down a slide into a mud pit. You’d think the balance beam with it’s very real danger would have been an issue. Nope. I hesitated for moment and then flung myself down the slide. Which terrified me beyond all terror. I had spent the morning trying not to look at it on my warmup jog so as not to totally freak myself out before the race and had to miss the male elites coming in.

goliath
Goliath.

And it wasn’t so bad. I think the slide at the Spartan Pacific NW scarred me a little on the inside. Phew no panic attacks this time ’round.

At this point, I was starting to give up an settle into a somewhere-in-the-top-twenty spot. This running 5k thing hurts.

And then things got interesting.

I worked out a solid strategy that involved leaping as far as I could just before sliding into the pit. I didn’t get the whole way… but I had to only take one step before muscling up and out of the pit which gave me more energy to scramble up and over the pile.

rolling mud
Rolling mud pits with Coach Ama advising at the Course Walk

When I came up to the last pit before the finish, it was like a scene from the Walking Dead. There were a handful of girls lodged in the mud on the right-side of the pit. And I do mean lodged. I took the left-side. It was so deep I had to swim but I feel like I had it easy.

I passed the an amazing athlete (who placed second at the Spartan World Championship.) She was one of the very lodged. I urged her on – but truthfully, I’m sure it was me passing her as she fought her way out of the mud that spurred her forward. We got out at more or less the same time. I had sandy mud in my eyes so I couldn’t really open them. I had to sprint to the finish line covered in heavy mud – and blind. Luckily it was a narrow shoot. That and the fact that my shirt had ballooned up with mud… must have added to the spectator entertainment for the day. I’ve never had that happen before, it was like happens in a hot tub only heavy mud. I guess that speaks to the level of mud in that pit. Can’t wait to see those finish line picks.

I can’t say much about how I feel about the race. I was two minutes or so from a top 5 finish but I held my own at a distance that I am neither bred or trained for. I can be OK with that.

cried
I didn’t cry. For the record.

One thing’s for sure, Warrior Dash did a great job on this one.

My only suggestions would be to have a loud speaker announcing top finishers and times – and to have a few porta-potties at the start. That and post live results already. 50 person charity races have been doing it for ten years.

How to carry a sandbag

You might think this post is akin to a “Learn to Walk” program. As in: obvious.

Step 1: Pick it up
Step 2: Carry it

As those of us who raced in the 2014 Vermont Spartan World Championship Beast realized, there’s a little more to it. If you are in the OCR community, you probably saw your Facebook feed blow up with horror stories about just how terrible this obstacle was. Indeed, it really “made” the race. Elite women had to carry one 60 or so pound sandbag up, elite men had to carry TWO. Yeah. That crazy course designer Norm, and his crazy ideas.

Number one, I suggest you carry big old sandbags up and down mountains in training. But here are a few tips to help you make carrying the least effort (and back ache possible).

1. Practice proper sandbag clean form. If you only have one to carry, you’ll want to balance it on one or both shoulders. Of course, to carry it on your shoulders, you’ll need to get to your shoulders from the ground. Often easier said than done. In the video below, you’ll notice that I “lap” it or put it on my lap before throwing it up and getting under it on my shoulder. You’ll also notice that I throw it too far back and almost over my shoulder. You want it to land balanced so you don’t need to readjust. Good bad example hey?

2. Once it’s up there, do not set it down unless you have to. The hardest part (and biggest risk) comes from setting it down and cleaning it back up. On that note, before you pick it up or set it down, get as tight in your core and keep your spine neutral (do not hunch your back to lift or drop it). That being said, there are no penalties (outside of extra time) from setting the bag down. You are also permitted to drag it or carry it in your arms (which has been done successfully). You are not, however, allowed to let it roll downhill.

3. Keep your back flat as you walk with your abs in and try not to side bend excessively. You’re hoping someone could see you from far away and not see that your carrying a frick load of sand in a giant bag.

4. Step carefully if the bag is heavy. You might get away running downhill with the pancake sandbags but you’re not doing that with a big bad heavy-weight on your neck. On that note, keep a brisk steady pace… the sooner you’re done, the sooner you’re done!

5. Balance the bag but move it a bit. Little adjustments go a long way. I put it on one shoulder, then both (you have to look down to make this position comfortable), then a little more on the other. You get the picture. Just don’t make big adjustments that are likely to throw you off or ones that require you to grip the bag. You want it to rest on your shoulders. Even if your grip doesn’t feel tired at the time, you’ll want to save it for the obstacles to come (like rope climbs and monkey bars.)

6. When you’re racing, pick a good bag… even if it takes an extra second. The ones at the top of the pile will be easier to get but if it’s been raining out, they will probably have picked up some water weight. And if you’re wondering why there are two styles of bags, there will probably be ladies bags and mens bags so ask the volunteers if you’re unsure. Some times they’re pink… which makes things easy.

7. In Spartan Races, you cannot choose penalty burpees. You must complete this obstacle to finish. So get it done and get a move on.

Sandbag carry training:

Some more tips from a heaving sweaty person on a mountain:

Is OCR what Marathon running was in the good old days?

mr

Years ago runners were considered masocistic lunatics who put themselves through senseless torture for reasons the mainstream simply could not understand.

Sound familiar?

I think obstacle course racing now occupies that realm… ad well, let’s just call it misunderstood.

In the 70s, all runners were hardcore. They ran through otherwise quiet, normal neighbourhoods in very short shorts doing something most people had never seen: running for the sake of it. It just wasn’t something people did. No one’s boss ran 10k for charity, no kids held signs for their moms tenth marathon finish. Nobody jogged to loose that last ten pounds.

And of course, no one really even knew how to train to run long distances… they were just out there gutting it out day after day. Every run.

Flash forward to the era of OCR. “You what? Electrocute yourself? Dive into icy water? Crawl in the mud and rocks under barb wire?”

Let’s face it. No one would do it for fitness or camaraderie alone. There is something else in us. Something most people don’t understand. The same thing those pioneer runners had in their blood: love of a kick-ass challenge and a unwavering desire to push their minds and body through hell.

Most elite races could easily be likened to a modern day Frank Shorter or Bill Rogers. I’m sure most of our neighbors have said similar things (or at very least given similar looks) about our training-induced behaviour… like running around the block at 5 am dragging a tire in very tight shorts.

And just like running in the 70s, there’s no “one” training plan. Mostly, we’re not even sure what we’re training for. Nowadays you can google a training plan to run 100 miles. You’ll get some variety, but the same guts in terms of periodized well-tested training.

Most OCR training plans involve bear crawls, pull-ups, burpees and other general strength exercises. But we also know strength alone isn’t going to cut it when it comes to making it over Everest alone, crossing Funky Monkey sans ice bath or traversing a balance beam without a burpee chaser. So we end up doing wacky arse stuff. And usually in the streets… in plain site of awestruck onlookers. Just like the good ol’ days of marathoning, eh?

I love being involved in a sport growing so strongly on the fringes of what people assumed humans were capable of. I have to say, when I first heard about this crazy new sport, my initial reaction was typical.

Is that even legal?