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!

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!

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!