About two weeks ago I was gearing up for the 5k Foam Fest in Miami and I’m just now getting around to the race reports, whoops! Busy, busy times.

First things first. I managed to get not one but two! friends to run with me, my long-time concert photography buddy Chris and his girlfriend. This was his second obstacle course race and her first, though she wasn’t sure what she was getting herself into and was visibly worried before the race started. This was an untimed race, so there are no official results but we finished in 1 hour, 24 minutes, not all of that was due running/walking, more on that later. Here’s a nice post-race shot.

But now to the race itself. The course was easy and quick, we just ran the SuperHERO Scramble Charger course in reverse, so Chris and I were already familiar with it. As I said with the Scramble, I like running in Amelia Earhart Park, it’s relatively flat, quick, doesn’t have a lot of nasty coral rock everywhere (like Oleta!) and it has about 1,000 switchbacks on the bike trails. The concept of the race — lots of foam, rather than mud — was a fun one and it made some of the obstacles that much more enjoyable. However, that’s pretty much where the love story ends. First things first, full disclosure. I was provided with two entry passes for the race in exchange for this review and race feedback. I am greatly appreciative of Chandler and Emily of Round House Racing for their hospitality at the race.

As I understand it, this is a very young race series, only in its second year, so there’s always some kinks to work out. Unfortunately, there were a lot of kinks going on here. As soon as I got there, the people manning the registration tables not only seemed unbelievably confused by what they were doing, they looked as bored as humanly possible. My line had three girls in it handing out race packets. One asked my name and marked it off, told the next one to look for my bib, while the third one actually gave me my bib and get my paperwork. Not sure three were needed but they definitely needed an energy shot or something. Past that, the rest of the volunteers looked about as bored as the registration girls, all except those officially affiliated with Roundhouse Racing, who put on the race. All those bored faces don’t exactly get you jazzed up to go run around on bounce houses.

Out on the course, things did not fare much better, actually. All of the big, signature obstacles were well-staffed with volunteers, some of whom enjoyed what was going on, most who didn’t. It was a really mixed bag of emotions out there, unlike the Spartan Race or Scramble where pretty much everyone is amped up to see people scale walls and slide through endless amounts of mud. The three girls volunteering at the first set of foam slides were very excited to see racers and who wouldn’t be? These were MASSIVE foam slides! Those were a lot of fun too, I can’t wait to see my GoPro shots from it. The people manning the first bounce house — the first obstacle we got to — were equally as geared up to watch us fly around in foam as we were about doing it. At the mud crawl near the end of the race, there was a small crowd gathered to cheer and talk smack. The volunteers were happy to be there, mostly because they got to laugh at everyone getting zapped on the back by the (mildly) electric wire we crawled under. That was…a surprise, I didn’t expect that! Downside to this: the mud smelled, quite literally, of a festering porta-potty. I’m not sure if this was by design or chance, but it definitely made you hurry the hell up.

But that’s about all the fun stuff. The only other happy volunteers were those at the end of the race and at the huge Death’s Drop tower slides — totally awesome by the way. Although, they were very lax about letting people cut in line at the slide and when you’re waiting 20 minutes to scale a 4 story slide, no one likes jackasses going to the front, even less of volunteers that let them cut, willingly. The time we spent at the Death Drop isn’t an exaggeration, I timed it. Big, big signature obstacles like these always have long lines typically for safety reasons and this was no different, but about 6 guys got to cut in front of the 20 people in front of me before the volunteer turned the rest of their friends — all two of them — back. But only after a bunch of other people complained, rightly. However, this was how most obstacles ran, unfortunately. On one of the bounce houses, a guy behind me twisted his ankle but there was no volunteer tending to him to make sure he was OK or calling for the Miami-Dade paramedics to come check him out. They were just making sure people weren’t crashing through the bounce house which was hiding a floor with holes it in (by design!) so you could bounce around and fall down to the ground — fun but dangerous. Many other obstacles — wall climbs, mud pits — had no volunteers at all. We didn’t get to do all of the obstacles listed on the Fest’s home page either, which was kind of a bummer, I was looking forward to the lilypad crossing.

So like I said, it’s a young series but there’s still a lot of room for improvement. Obstacles were spaced too far apart and for a race with eighteen different obstacles, I should have been hitting an obstacle every one-fifth of a mile or so, I think mile 2 had three of four obstacles total (if all obstacles are on the course, there’d be about 6 per mile in a 5k). They need a faster volunteer rotation too, all those long faces are anathema to a racer’s energy. I had a lot of fun during the race, thanks to the bounce houses and my friends, but I came out of this race the same way I came out of the Warrior Dash: it was a whole bunch of “meh”. Of course, this is just my observation, I saw a TON of people seriously enjoying themselves, my teammates included — Chris’s girlfriend ended up having a great time even though the cargo net about gave her a heart attack. Without them, I would have been pretty bored throughout the entire race.

In the end, will I check it out again next year? Eh, I’m not sure. On the one hand, I won’t because much of this race felt like it was run on a shoestring budget and didn’t have much pizzazz to it (contrasted, the first SuperHERO Scramble was a giant blowout fun party and it was Sean’s first race he ever put together). I don’t need a party atmosphere, a boisterous DJ, tons of vendors, or anything like that to have fun, just give me a fun course, inventive obstacles and we’ll probably be OK. Even though I received media entry passes for the race, running it this year didn’t really convince me to run it next year. The guys and gals at RHR would have to change quite a few things to convince me otherwise and just adding more foam or bouncy obstacles won’t be enough. Overall, it felt like a mixed bag of a day. I had fun, but it wasn’t solely due to the race. I’m hoping the race does improve. With so few untimed obstacle course races out there, everyone’s gunning to finish fast and not enjoy the race, but even without the specter of a fast time breathing down my neck, I didn’t have much reason to enjoy the course.

Disclosure: Race entry was provided by Round House Racing, who organized the race, in exchange for a race report. I would have written this review even if I had paid for the race, but I am very grateful to the guys at RHR for covering entry.

So a few months ago on a Facebook group for mud/obstacle course races, someone asked about races where you don’t have to get all muddy and dirty. To this day, I’m still trying to wrap my mind around that one, but whatever, I find the mud absolutely fun; my mother still tells me stories about when I was a kid, how I absolutely hated getting dirty and would change clothes frequently during the day — for the record, I remember going to my dad’s house and spending hours playing in the mud! I had mostly forgotten about the subject until I checked the group again recently and scrolled down to find the post again and saw someone had mentioned an upcoming foam run-type course coming up. Sounded intriguing, since it sounded like it might be the opposite of most races: foamy and fun versus dirty and (potentially) grueling.

I finally decided to check it out and didn’t realize it was so soon, 2 Feb 2013! But once I took a look at their obstacles, I had to sign up, some of these look way too fun. A 30 foot slip-n-slide? Yes, please. A bounce house full of foam? Um, yes! What really sealed the deal was the Death Drop obstacle. Seriously, this looks like so much fun.

5k Foam Fest Death Drop

5k Foam Fest Death Drop

You can’t deny that looks fun as hell. Now I’m just looking for someone to run it with me, so if you want to get all filthy dirty then spend a few minutes on monster-sized slip-n-slides (are you an adult? do you like to have fun? duh, of course), sign up for the Miami race on their site, I’m looking at the 10:30AM wave. Not too early, not too late, and no one is going to look at us weird when we’re chugging post-race beers!

Saturday, 3 Dec 2011 is the South Florida leg of the Warrior Dash 2011 series. It will also be my last race of the year. I am totally looking forward to this race since it is the last one I will be doing but also because I am running basically the same trail as the SUPERHERO Scramble a few weeks ago, so I am at least somewhat familiar with the trail. I am also excited because this leads me into the extended second phase third phase of my overall health transformation cycle: implementing crosstraining. While I have already done some moderate TRX crosstraining this fall, after Saturday I will not be running any races (or at all) until mid-January. This is intended to give my IT band some time to heal while facilitating some core and pelvic girdle strengthening. Plus, I am leaving the country for two weeks and I do not plan on buying a lot of cold weather running gear to go run in another country, so that sort of necessitates me not running for at least two weeks.

I am looking forward to this as the work with my ART specialist/chiropractor/sports physician has been paying off big time. When I first started seeing the guys over at Health-Fit Chiro, I could barely run 1.5 miles because of my hip and now my weekly runs are at least 5k distance or slightly more — I am edging closer to 4 miles in my Vibrams. But the physical therapy exercises they are having me perform makes me realize I need to get stronger overall, so I will be doing at least one TRX session and one kettlebell session per week until January rolls around. That should give me at least 6 weeks to train back up for the upcoming Super Spartan Race in Miami in February while giving me a sound base for the Spartan Sprint in GA in March.

I am giving kettlebells a try since I already bought some and I have the room to workout on my patio, same place I will be doing my TRX workout. I already did some swing exercises last night and they kicked my butt. For doing little else other than popping your hips, I was winded! Anyways, it should all be fun and games as long as I can stay healthy and get that girdle tightened up.

Now, I think I am going to go out and do what will probably be my last training run of 2011.

Last Saturday, 12 Nov 2011, was the first SUPERHERO Scramble at Quiet Waters Park in Deerfield Beach, FL. I finished in 1:04:02, placing 84th in my age group and 205th overall. It was my first obstacle race, the first of many I have lined up. First of all, I want to say it was crazy fun. It was a roughly 3.5 mile course with 18 obstacles that really put me through the ringer, especially the first two obstacles which were water-based obstacles. I say roughly because somehow I hit the STOP button my new Timex Run Trainer and so 12 minutes of the course were not recorded and I do not have an exact distance. I have no idea how I stopped recording but I suspect it was done around the same time as the sandbag carry. This is another minor annoyance with this watch that I have: those super squishy buttons are apparently easy to press on accident and there’s no way to lock the display (which there is on the Timex Global Trainer).

Over the months, I have heard these obstacle course races were tough and truth be told, they are what spurred me on to start running, I just wanted to participate in something really fun but challenging but not necessarily sadistically grueling (triathlon, anybody?). And that is exactly what I experienced at the SUPERHERO Scramble. The run was cake, it was not the tough part — except for all those damned switchbacks we ran, there must have been 12 of them. But the obstacles whipped my butt and they were totally fun! Skipping the first two water obstacles which killed me, the rest were not terribly troubling. There were wall jumps and climbs, ammo can shoulder presses, tire runs/jumps, and even a childhood favorite: sack race! And the organizers through in some slimy goop on two obstacles for extra grossness and/or fun. I have no idea what that junk was but it felt completely hydrophobic and felt so gross against my skin that was covered in dirt, mud, and gobs of sweat. It reminded me of the gelled fat in a can of Spam, if that gives you any idea. As for the course itself at Quiet Waters Park, it was pretty nice. The dreaded switchbacks were the existing mountain bike trails and ran along the rim of much of the park’s lakes, which was awesome. That always gave me a good view to keep me moving forward. It was covered in loose chunky coral rock which sucked, I saw a few people roll their ankles pretty hard and I even did once. I finally got to use my Merrell Trail Gloves on their intended trail terrain and for the most part, they worked pretty well. There were some times where the traction did not hold but that was probably due to the loose dirt and not a total failure of the Vibram rubber. When I got home after the race, I immediately washed them, they were absolutely gross.

After I plowed through the final obstacle — a giant slip-n-slide — and I finally showered off, I noticed that I had lost one of my earrings (how?!) and I ended up losing my RoadID bracelet too. The bracelet popped off on the 3rd water obstacle, probably after latching onto a rope. That sucked but it happens. The best news of the day was the fact that my TRT held up excellently except for the accidental problem with stopping the track recording. I was more worried about the slime penetrating the internals but I have seen no such evidence so far, it had no issues with the water of course. My race data is missing most of the heart rate data since the ANT+ straps aren’t exactly waterproof and they are not exactly meant to be used in water. From what I could tell and observe, I stayed in the 150s for the most part. I will try to replicate this next month at the Warrior Dash which is also at Quiet Waters Park but is a shorter race so hopefully, I can bump my time to sub-1 hour (there’s no swimming!).

The most important part of the race for me was that my ITB issues were mostly not to be found. There were times later in the race where my form was suffering and I could feel my hip starting to hurt but on the whole, I walked out of the race with no ITB pain at all, no pain on Sunday either. I did hurt my right shoulder on some obstacle, that still hurts. I heard one guy actually separated his shoulder in the middle of the race. I have absolutely no idea what obstacle that could have happened on unless it was the cargo net climb. I could not imagine how the guy would have even done this at all unless he was in the special Scramble Gamble wave at the end of the day that was a wave competition for money. If I knew there was probably $500+ on the line, I would go HAM too. I wonder if it was one of the juiceheads I saw getting hyped up before the wave who looked like they were prepping for an MMA match and not a 3 mile run. One dude was even warming up for his wave (2PM) when I got there at 10AM, which is just absolutely bonkers.

Overall, I am pretty sure this was a success for the company behind the SUPERHERO Scramble and I know they are already planning the next race on March 24, 2012. I have already registered but I am also trying to get some friends to run with me, it would be much more fun with a team. In fact, the next three or four races I have on my schedule are all obstacle course races and they should all be a blast!

These last two weeks since my last post have been filled with football, school business, and my on again/off again love affair with ITB pain. It’s been mostly football and stuff at school since we’ve passed our midterms time and are plodding right into presentations and papers that need to be written. In the time off from that, there’s been a lot of fun stuff we’ve been doing in the Owl Photography Club with workshops and I even gave a 101 presentation on the basics of controlling exposure in your photos. I am trying to plan the next workshop but have not come up with a good topic just yet, I think I have about two weeks before I need to be ready, so I hope the presentation gnomes visit me in my sleep to plant ideas. Last week’s Owls game versus Middle Tennessee State was much better than our home opener even though we lost again. The Owls managed to rack up perhaps three times as many total yards against MTSU than they did against Western Kentucky, so things should be even better in our remaining home games.

Yesterday (Sunday) was my first official 5k in six weeks since the Freedom 5k last month. It was overcast — it has been raining for four days straight with most of South Florida flash flooding on Friday night — so the temperatures were excellent for a great run. How great? So great that I PR’ed the race at 30:15.6, a 5k PR I am definitely proud of. That is 61 seconds faster than last month and over two minutes faster than my race in July. But it gets better! How? Thanks to now being 30, I snagged 5th in my age group! I even managed to best my old coworker Pepe by over a minute even though his group of four served as my pacers for over half the race. I ended up pulling away from them at about the 2.3 mile mark, at which point I also pulled my shoes off. I am not sure how I did it but I managed to hold their roughly 9:45 pace the whole time I was running. Frankly, I am not sure how I even held that pace the whole race! Even when training, I rarely hit splits close to the 10:00 mark, let alone running an entire race fifteen seconds faster than that. I am super excited about this new time since I am seeing time improvements despite only running once a week on average since the race last month, even with the ITB injury.

Coming up this weekend is the Champions Mud Bash, a race I have been anticipating since May or June. It will be my first mud run/obstacle run so it should be a ton of fun based on materials I have seen from other, similar runs. By the way things are looking, I am going to be running at least one of these a month until next summer although I may be doing two this month if I am up to doing the Superhero SCRAMBLE in Deerfield Beach next week. This also happens to be the site of December’s Warrior Dash, so it would basically be a warm-up for that race. My only worry now is that I will be getting my only pair of shoes super dirty here pretty soon and since my recent barefootin’ has only resulted in more hip pain, I need to get some new shoes STAT! I would like to try out some Brancas but I also want to try out the new Merrell Road Gloves from their 2012 collection but they are not being released for another few weeks. I may even finally try out some monkey toe shoes from Vibram or even those weird Adidas Adipure Trainers. I have eyed Vibrams for years and have never taken the plunge but I finally have a reason to, plus I could use another pair of shoes any way, I am already wearing through the flip flops I bought two or three months ago.

While not running related, as I was writing this, I took my niacin supplement and it just kicked in. I truly hate taking this stuff but my doctor seems to think it will help with my overall cholesterol numbers. This stuff sucks terribly. For those of you who have never had the displeasure of taking it, it flushes your skin after you take it. It does this by rapidly expanding your blood vessels and rushing blood to your skin. What does this feel like? Well, the first time I ever took it, I felt like I was going to vomit and my skin was on fire. I was very nauseous and I really felt like I was on fire, my skin was incredibly hot to the touch. Now that I have been taking it and my body is used to it, the flush is not as bad as it used to be but it still feels awful. Think about the last time you went to the beach and got sunburned, that’s how I feel right now. This stuff is awful. I want off this crap as soon as possible.