With all the craziness with school this semester, I forgot to write up race reports for my last two races but luckily, both are very easy and short.

2013 Ga Spartan Sprint. Lots of fun, they changed the course around a little bit this year — we actually ran half of last year’s course in reverse. But all of that is irrelevant and this is why.

2013 Ga Spartan Sprint finish line

2013 Ga Spartan Sprint finish line

My mother, who will be 69 years old this year, completed the 4.6 mile course. Freezing temperatures and her fake hip aside, she was balls out determined. Time was irrelevant, obstacles were irrelevant — though, she climbed every wall, hit every mud pit, crawled the full 100+ yard barbed wire mud crawl, everything — all she wanted to do was finish! The worst part? Now she’s got the OCR bug! She’s waiting for me to plan her next race down here in FL this year, oh boy! Anyway, it was a ton of fun and we’re doing it again next year.

Then there was The Challenge, which was billed as being a tough-as-nails race with “unheard of” obstacles and all sorts of things that aren’t in normal races. This will be a very short review, trust me. It was billed as a 5 mile race, turned out to be slightly over 3. Took me 2 hours 8 minutes to finish. Why? Because the “unheard of” obstacle was at the end which was nothing more than a giant jungle gym of obstacles crammed into one giant one — rope climb (~5ft), log crossing, rope swing, cargo net climb 2x, one water pit (where you stood for about 15 minutes), and that’s it. This was all in the space of about 300 feet. Now, it looked impressive but it was terrible. How terrible? So terrible I don’t actually have to comment at all about the race itself, their Facebook page full of complaints does it for me. Yep, it was that bad. And that was just the race! Parking and packet pick-up took about 2 hours as well, no joke. Seriously, just go read their Facebook page, I can’t do it justice how bad this race was.

At the end of February, I ran in the 2013 FL Super Spartan Miami down in Oleta State Park, my second Super Spartan. After last year’s race, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to run this one because it kicked my ass pretty hard, despite the fact that I was in much better shape then! The RD and Spartan Race set up a slightly different, albeit slightly easier course this year, they didn’t take us through the entire bike trail with the 15 million switchbacks, which was a welcome change. I also ended up finishing 15 minutes faster this year over last year, even though I ended up walking about 5 or 6 miles in total this year due to shoe problems. I think the time difference was due to better wave timing and a whole lot less congestion at obstacles compared to last year, there was almost no waiting at anything except for wall climbs.

The worst part for me was the shoe issues with my Inov-8 Trailrock 235s. Not only did they constantly fill up with sand and grit, I ended up leaving out my insoles by mistake and came home with half a dozen blisters — my first ever in a race! — some of which were pretty gnarly blood blisters and took about two weeks to heal, which made limping around so much more fun :(. This was my second real race in the Inov-8s and I’ve determined that I can no longer wear them due to continued patellar issues. I’m not sure what it is about the shoes but anything over a mile or two and my right knee starts hurting like crazy and it only happens in these shoes. It never happened in my now retired VFF KomodoSport LS or Trail Gloves. This same thing happened at the Carolinas Spartan Beast but I thought it was due to the crazy ass terrain, but no, it’s the shoes. Which stinks because they’re great shoes but not so great when they’re causing so much pain. Time to look for replacements!

Overall, I thought this year’s race was much better than last year’s, even though they had to re-route the course mid-race because of a fire that accidentally got started…during a drought. Nope, not kidding, Miami Fire made them re-route a few obstacles and a leg of the course, crazy! Looking forward to next year when they also add another Spartan Sprint down here in South Florida!

On the 12th of this month, I ran my third SuperHERO Scramble, my second one in Miami and my first in Amelia Earhart Park. This year, Sean and team have introduced a race series akin to that of the Spartan Race, races of three increasing distances and difficulties. This race was the first in the new series, entitled the Charger (followed by the Intimidator and Villain). They basically just took their original race and tacked on 3 or so miles and borrowed obstacle ideas from other races, so while it was a “new” race, it really wasn’t. The longer distance was fun as I noticed that between my last Scramble and this one, the distance increased but my two times were not that far apart. I managed to finish this race in 1 hour, 34 minutes (last year was 1 hour 17 minutes), finishing slightly slower than last year even though the distance roughly doubled, because there was not a humongous freaking swim involved! When the race was in Oleta State Park, there was a massive swim involved and the swim this year was much, much shorter, perhaps only 200 or 300 feet, if that.

Most of the obstacles were the same as before as well as they’re kind of Sean’s trademark torture style. However, this race included some new ones such as the 5 gallon bucket carry (à la the 5 gallon bucket fill at last year’s Super Spartan in Oleta State Park mixed with the pancake carry of the Spartan Beast in South Carolina) and the new “Hell Freezes Over” which was a 10-15 foot submerged belly crawl through a muddy trough of absolutely freezing cold water (à la Tough Mudder’s Arctic Enema). I knew the water was going to be cold but I did not know how cold it was going to be! Let’s just say that my GoPro failed to function for about 5 minutes after I trudged through Hell Freezes Over, it froze up immediately due to the extreme temperature change. Another new one was a replacement for their old slime slip-n-slide, they replaced it with an absolutely MASSIVE! slide, it must have been about 40 feet tall and was fun as all hell (it was also preceded by a brand new 20 foot ascension wall of approximately 75 degrees almost-straight up, that was fun!). The newest obstacle that I absolutely hated was the new gymnastics ring over a pit of water obstacle. Rings and monkey bars aren’t that tough, even when paired with a refreshing dunk, but these rings ascended in height as you progressed and seemed to get a little farther away from each other as well. If the first ring had a length of six feet to its line, the last one ended up about four feet higher. That was tough to navigate because unless you’re very tall, you get stuck somewhere in the middle, as I noticed most participants did — many got stuck right in the middle (as I did) or the very next ring (which was second to last). I believe this was because of the decreased ring height coupled with a loss of wing momentum. It was a fun obstacle but put my hands through the ringer.

I really, REALLY enjoyed this race, nearly as much as the previous two I’d done. I liked the new distance — I HATE ALL THE BIKE TRAILS! — and the new obstacles, all topped off with a redesigned finisher’s medal, complete with year and race designation (Charger [2013]). I’m glad to see they’re greatly expanding the race and turning it into a series, I’m ready to conquer the Intimidator and Villain!

Now that I’m (mostly) recovered and rested from the Carolinas Spartan Beast on 13 Oct 2012, I guess it’s time to write about it. For me, the race was all about completion, I wasn’t looking to finish quickly, just finish. In doing so, I also completed my side mission: join the Spartan Trifecta Tribe. Doing so requires a racer to complete all three distance races in a calendar year. Well…

Spartan medal party

Spartan medal party

I did that too! I finished the race in 5 hours 47 minutes, although I had expected to originally finish in under 5 hours based on previous race times. As I figured, it was a half marathon distance race, although the exact distance is between 13 and 14 miles total. My Timex Run Trainer reads 13.13 miles (with spotty GPS coverage) and my FitBit read about 14 miles before it finally died in the last mud pit. While my TrainingPeaks data reads about 1340 feet of elevation and descent, the TRT actually listed almost 2500 feet up and down. A whole freaking mile! That elevation was my downfall, in the end.

This race was my first real run in my Inov-8 Trailroc 235s and they performed splendidly. I experience zero slippage on the trail, even when the shoes were covered in thick Carolina clay. They drained extremely quickly as well throughout all of the water obstacles, although the downside is that my shoes were also FULL of river sediment for a few miles, so much so that I actually had to remove my socks in a creek and wash them off, along with a thorough rinsing out of my shoes. That was dreadful because the water in the creek must have been around 30-35F, my feet were absolutely frozen the rest of the race — this was about halfway through too. In all honesty, the obstacles weren’t the hard part, it was really more of the same: rope climbs (two), sandbag carries (including a 1000 foot ascent carrying one), cargo net climbs (two), obscene amounts of barbed wire mud crawls (including one up a rock and mud covered hill — approximate distance of 600 feet — while being pelted with freezing water from a firehose), about 25 wall climbs, and the obligatory slogging up a wall covered in mud. They did throw some new ones in though: two Atlas stone carries (approximate weight: 55lbs), log walking, log hopping, and I’m sure I’m forgetting something. Overall, it was a very well executed race, all of the race volunteers were extremely helpful — except for the two prissy girls at the first Atlas stone carry who wanted nothing more than to be somewhere else entirely — and offered as much water and help as they could. I also took along my GEIGERRIG hydration pack which also performed splendidly, although it’s now an odd mix of clay brown and citreon green. The only problem I had with it was that the hydration tube quick connects kept leaking; these weren’t manufacturer defects, they were actually installed in the wrong position.

Overall, this race was like the last two with one exception: it was mapped out to brutalize you. Whereas the Super Spartan in Miami was dreadfully hot and the Georgia Spartan Sprint was little more than a slog through a backwoods’ creek all day, this was different. Sure, I waded through about 2 miles of freezing cold South Carolina creek and saw an amazingly beautiful park — thanks for hosting, Carolina Adventure World! — I was so ill-prepared for climbing a mountain that I considered dropping out of the race about halfway through. That was the most brutal part of the race, the endless up and down and up and down. The hard-packed clay and endless array of ankle-twisting rocks on the course took me out early, I stopped running entirely after mile 4 or 5, I don’t really know which. After having listened to Ultrarunner Podcast/URP for the last year, I knew it was stupid to run up hills and to be careful on a descent — quick or not. I don’t know what happened but early on, I developed a seriously excruciating pain on the outside of my left knee, the same one that has plagued me for the last year. But this was the worst it’s ever been, there were times were I was barely able to bend my leg, which further complicated all the hills. I don’t know what happened or how, but it was god awful. I’m starting to think it may be time for yet another shoe change, potentially to something a bit more motion controlling, even though I’ve yet to find any minimalist shoe that fits the bill and comes in wide widths. For now, it’s mostly healed up but still hurts from time to time if I sit in the wrong position for too long.

Honestly, this race was absolute hell. I was totally unprepared for it. I thought all the weight training would have significantly strengthened my knee but it hasn’t. Having never been out on a course for 5 hours took its toll as well, I was mentally drained well before the race was over and I was an absolute asshole to my girlfriend and family once it was over, just because I was exhausted and seriously low on energy reserves. I don’t know how the guy who won the whole race did it in under 2 hours but he must have been in beast mode the whole time. It took me two hours just to finish the back leg of the course! However, now that I’ve done the Trifecta and have done a Beast-length race, I will never do that one again. I may do other Beasts in the future but I won’t ever be going back to Carolina Adventure World, unless I want to be carted off on a stretcher. I’m so happy that I finished and my family was there to experience it with me but wow, I seriously underestimated the race.

It beat my ass into the ground.

Last week was the second SuperHERO Scramble held in Oleta River State Park, the same place as the grueling 2012 FL Super Spartan. The first race from back in November was a ton of fun, so I’ve been looking forward to this race for months now. Well. Sean and the rest of the team did it again, this race was more fun with great obstacles. We even had the legend himself Hobie Call join our race…and dominate it, predictably. This race completes my spring race season, so now I’m just training up for Tough Owl and fall races.

The race was pegged right at 4 miles and my Timex clocked 3.98, no doubt due to dropping GPS signal in the nice swim we had to take. Since I was coming off a few other races and a blistering workout from last week, I was definitely curious how I would fare on a course that, for the most part, I’d run a month earlier and I did much better than I had anticipated. I finished with a time of 1:17:34 to snag 406th overall and 71st in my AG, and my Athlinks profile has more details on other stats and stuff. I was proud to finish so quickly, but I was even happier to cross the line smiling, unlike at the Spartan where I thought I was about to pass out and/or vomit, haha.

Overall, the course itself was not much different from the Super Spartan. The first two miles or so mirrored the Spartan’s race course fairly closely, only deviating a few meters to take us from one singletrack to another. We even got to take the same long ass swim too! The only difference was this time, rather than leisurely wading into the water, we got to take a trip off the 25ft+ tall Leap of Faith obstacle and then swim over to the lagoon’s designated boundary line, which added a good 40 or 50 ft to the swim overall. I was fortunate enough to get through the massive 100+ person queue rather quickly but then once I jumped, I spent another 5 minutes looking for my now-sinking-to-the-bottom GoPro. I have no idea how I found it since it doesn’t float but somehow, I managed to kick it underwater and swam down to find it. I forgot how much salt water in your eyes hurts. Bad. Now I need to get a floating back for my camera housing, I’m not doing that crap again. The race director managed to have us do three water crossings in total, but only the first one was long and arduous, the others were less than 50 yards and could be crossed without swimming, for the most part.

I’ve got to say, I wish Oleta was closer, it’s a beautiful place to go run. During one set of wall climbs, I overlooked an area that was recently planted with some new saw palms but was also very obviously recently fire-cleared to plant those palms. The trees were so out of place in this section of forest that was so dry and desolate, almost post-apocalyptic. Some places of the park are also pretty gross, like two creek crossings we did. The RD was nice enough to make us have to go down and through two stagnant water pools, back-to-back. I’m not sure how long it has been since the water in those sections had moved or been rained on but both pits smelled like dead animals and mold. It was horrible. Nice of them to make us run for another two miles smelling like death.

I loved some of the new obstacles they threw at us, such as the almost-vertical wall and a rope swing over a mud pit. The wall was near the end and was, from what I can gather, the obstacle almost everyone hated. Here’s why.

While slightly distorted from the fisheye lens, it’s almost a perfect picture of the wall. It was approximately 20 to 25 feet tall and at least a 75 degree angle, nearly straight-up. If I thought the mud-covered walls from the Spartan Races were tough, I was seriously wrong. Sure, a 20 foot slog up a 35-40 degree graded wall is tough, but when met with a nearly vertical wall of equal length, you realize how puny those other walls were. Of course, the trick to doing any of these wall climbs is to get a low center of gravity while still allowing for adequate forward movement; needless to say, most people were almost standing up and wondered why they’d get five or 6 feet up and slip off. I got all the way to the top but managed to slip at the rope-to-wall hand transition, I haven’t reviewed my race video but I suspect that I ended up standing up a bit for leverage and that’s how I slipped. That was definitely a fun obstacle, it required a little planning, something antithetical to my course ideology: don’t think, just do it. 90% of the time, that’ll get you over or through nearly any obstacle. The rope swing was fun as well, I know this is a staple at other obstacle course runs. I just wish it had been BIGGER. Overall, it was probably an 8 foot swing over a tub full of grimy green water.

Sean and the rest of the SuperHERO Scramble team put together a course that was not only just as fun as the first race back in November, but threw enough wrenches into your game plan to give it a good challenge. I’d love to see the taller Leap of Faith, the Vertical Wall, and tougher USMC obstacles at their other races in the future, they’re definitely the equalizers in the course. While I do think that some obstacles either need to be made larger or the obstacle volunteers need to be given better instructions on what to do with people who are holding up the other races. Case in point: Leap of Faith. Even before I got to the platform, there were perhaps 100 people in line waiting to jump, despite the fact that the platform itself was large enough to hold about 6 to 8 people comfortably at a time. The problem wasn’t the number of people, it was the people standing on the platform that were hesitating to jump, for whatever reason. I suggest that they allow for no more than 15 to 20 seconds on the platform before you jump (i.e. you have to wait for people to swim out of the way or lifeguard clearance, for safety reasons) or they make you get down, go around, and do your penalty exercise. That would clear up major hold-ups at most of these obstacles. Of course, there are others where this is not feasible (cargo net climb, up-and-over cargo container climb) but for the most part, the queues would go much faster.

Other than that nitpick, I think the race was fantastic. It was a quick 4 mile run with three adequately stocked water stations, excellent trail selection for both technical and non-technical runners, and a good variety of obstacles. I managed to cross the finish line with a huge smile on my face, tired but not exhausted, and I had one hell of a time, it was so much fun. I hope Sean & co. come back to Oleta River State Park next year and expand the course to include a few more upper body-centric obstacles and incorporate some of the infinite switchbacks that I experienced at the Super Spartan. From the looks of it, their future course offerings include their first night race in Waldo, FL in July and the possibility of a longer race, probably to keep up with the likes of the Super Spartan and Tough Mudder, although I do not think it’d be as long as the typically 11+ mile Tough Mudder races.

And now, let’s see some shots!

Just came off the 30ft tall cargo net climb

Just came off the 30ft tall cargo net climb

I told you I was smiling!

I told you I was smiling!