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The Spartan Season is in full swing… with a race discount!

The Spartan Season is in full swing… with a race discount!

Now is the perfect time to get out and SPARTAN UP!  Yep… it’s me again.  It’s been awhile since I wrote on this blog about the Spartan racing series, but the time is here.  I hear it all the time, “when are you doing another mud run?”.  Well, the truth of the matter is a mud run is a warmup to this type of event, or OCR (obstacle course race).  A mud run is usually put together by people that want to raise money for a charity (which is awesome) or a dirty Saturday run instead of the traditional road race.

Spartan is one of the most demanding and rewarding experiences most people will ever face in their lifetime.. and those that do usually come back for more.  Sure, there are other races out there where you can “experience” obstacles put in front of you to test your ability in cold, wet or ‘electrical’ situations.  Spartan races are geared for you to test YOUR limits and push yourself forward as you have never done before.

Log3

That’s me… carrying a log up the ski slopes of Wintergreen resort in Virginia. This was about 2/3 of the way through the Super

I’ve always looked at ways to “get better” at something.  Right now it is Olympic Lifting.  The snatch is my GOAT – it kills me to get my mind around it but I am working at it… including spending a weekend with Coach Mike Burgener to help me see it from another perspective.  Yep, the perspective of a World-Class coach!

I don’t skydive because it’s not something you can get better at… of course, you can accrue jumps and become a master at the drop, but in reality if you make it to the ground in one piece you have won!

Back to Spartan… not only can you experience the race by dipping your foot in the water with a Sprint level race (3-4 miles) but you can go further with the Super (8-10 miles) and then the Beast (13+ miles).  There is something for everyone… even the kids!  My son ran the Spartan Kids race in Atlanta and loved it.  He was under age for the full mile race but chose to ‘scale up’ and run with the older kids.  Again, he decided to push himself past where he thought he could go.

For those that have run a Spartan race there is a sense of accomplishment.  Sure, I could sit in an ice bath or shock myself… but how am I going to get better at something?  How am I going to push myself to the limit to make myself ready for the world?

You make it on your own in this world.  You will never know what you can accomplish until you break yourself down in an unknown environment and push yourself through it.  And just like life, there are penalties… Spartan has them – make it through the best you can to avoid these penalties (30 burpees for each failed obstacle, in case you were wondering).

And if you make it through all three levels in a 12-month period you will become a member of the exclusive Trifecta Tribe!  You get to wear the medal, the shirt and have your name etched in Spartan lore…

Run all three and you can be a part of the Trifecta Tribe

Run all three and you can be a part of the Trifecta Tribe

Spartan is gearing up races all across the US and into parts of Europe and Mexico.  Check out the Spartan Race Finder page to see what is coming up in your area!  And if you are ready to jump in and test the waters… here is a code for 10% off any race (open heat) in the US:  SPARTANBLOGGER

Check through my other posts where I break down the different Spartan races and obstacles…

If you want a little more motivation, either before or after getting dirty in a Spartan race, check out founder Joe De Sena’s book Spartan Up!

And no… I am not a paid endorser of Spartan or any of it’s races.  I believe in it and have written about it on several occasions on this blog and elsewhere!

… now – SPARTAN UP and make it happen!

Ask me questions in the comments section or leave your Spartan race thoughts.

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Posted by on April 27, 2015 in Motivation, Running

 

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So you’re running a mud run? Not exactly…

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Yes, there is a mud in the photo above… lots of it, in fact.  When I tell people that I am running a Spartan Race or, in this case, the Warrior Dash, a lot of them say it’s a mud run.  There are a lot of misconceptions between mud runs and OCR (obstacle course racing).  I will do my best to define the two and maybe help some of you differentiate them.

A mud run is typically set up by a group as a fundraiser or another type of run instead of the traditional 5k or 10k road race.  Mud runs may or may not contain obstacles, because the events tend to focus more on muddiness. These events also tend to be less competitive. It’s more of the ‘weekend warrior’ type event where the participants are having a good time getting dirty – usually taking a clean before and a dirty after picture to commemorate the run.  Many times, OCR competitors use mud runs as a training run for more competitive events as the mud runs are closer to home in many cases.

Obstacle course races are different because they are usually set up as timed events with a strict performance standard for the obstacles. In addition, at some races there are penalties when an obstacle is skipped or not completed to standard.  Obstacle races will have tougher obstacles than a typical mud run, such as rope climbs, stone carries or water traverses.  These obstacles require more physically fit competitors.

Mud runs and obstacle course races are fun for those that are tired of the one foot in front of the other road races that have been around for ages.  These runs take participants off the beaten path (literally) and out of the person’s normal comfort zone.

For more information about these races, click one of the links below or Google the terms ‘mud run’ or ‘obstacle course race’ with your state or area to see what is available for you.

Spartan Race – several levels of competition.  Some courses have a Biggest Loser heat…

Tough Mudder – check out the Arctic Enema.  Not for the feint of heart.

Warrior Dash – good entry level racing.  Climbing and mud obstacles on the courses.

Zombie Run – you can run as the survivor or the zombie.  Includes night racing opportunities.

Ultimate Challenge Mud Run – a South Carolina run that has grown from a mud run to a full-fledged OCR event.

GoRuck Challenge – one of the ultimate tests of your fitness… you never know what you’ll get!

There are tons more of these races popping up around the country.  A quick Google search will give you a list of them in your area, state or other parts of the world.  My biggest piece of advice – TRAIN.  Many of the series have emailed workouts where you can get yourself into race-ready shape.  Advice part #2 – eat right.  Nutrition is key to completing the race – you are using your entire body instead of just the movements involved with road racing.  Advice part #3 – hydrate.  Water is your friend and you will see a lot of racers using hydration packs (Geigerrig or Camelbak) on the longer runs.

Enjoy the races… get out of your comfort zone and enjoy the world around you.  Even if you have to get dirty to do it!

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2014 in Writing

 

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Spartan Race vs Warrior Dash

Spartan Race vs Warrior Dash

Yesterday, my wife and I ran the Warrior Dash in Huntersville, North Carolina. The reason? I needed something to train for and it was a good entry-level race that she could run… it would be her first run of any kind off-road since cross country in high school (she’s likes to run on the road).  We registered and ran the race… had fun doing so… and will definitely do it again in the future.

Now, you may be wondering why I titled this post as I did.

Well, I am a veteran Spartan racer with four races under my belt including the 2013 Trifecta. For the trifecta I ran the Sprint in Atlanta, the Super in Virginia and the Beast in my home state of South Carolina. In total, for non-Spartan fans, I ran around 24+ miles of obstacle courses in three states.

Websites for reference: Spartan Race Warrior Dash

Now, the comparisons/differences:

Length: about the same. The Warrior Dash was 3.08 miles and the Sprint-level Spartan is 3-4.

Registration: about the same. Warrior is now utilizing iPad checkins and, in the future, will allow you to sign liability waivers on the iPad.

Timing: Spartan is ahead here… you get the timing chip to attach to your shoe. Warrior does not – they have clocks at the start and at various points along the trail (about every mile). The clocks are actual clocks noting the time of day – not elapsed time. Bring a watch (they tell you to do so on their website).

Obstacles: easier on Warrior Dash. For starters, Warrior tells you all of the obstacles in advance (not that you can really train for them). You can view videos and photos of each obstacle so you know what you will encounter in advance. Spartan, on the other hand, does not. After the Spartan pledge and three loud AROOs, you’re off. Literally.

(One note: since Reebok has begun sponsoring the Spartan races, I have noticed there are mile markers on the course. Prior to this the volunteers at water stations couldn’t accurately tell you where you were.)

Level of fitness required for Warrior:  Warrior is entry-level plus (you can get by with a minimal level of fitness – many of the participants were walking from the start). Most of the obstacles were climbing-oriented… walls with boards to assist, inclines with ropes, cargo nets. I didn’t see any real strength obstacles that had to be mastered.  You do need to be able to climb and crawl on your hands and knees, at times.  The course in North Carolina was rolling but there were some places where you had to traverse the wooded areas (with mud).

Level of fitness required for Spartan:  Spartan takes a little more training. In this series you have penalties when you do not complete an obstacle or choose not to attempt one (30 burpees per obstacle). In addition, you may be required to carry objects (atlas stones, logs, sand bags), flip articles (logs, tires), pull objects behind you (concrete blocks on chains), pull objects up (5 gallon bucket of concrete) and climb a 20-30 foot knotted rope.

(side note – on some Spartan Races there is a Biggest Loser heat where anyone of any fitness level can run a shortened version of the race.  No burpee penalties if you decide to skip an obstacle as well).

I will definitely run the Warrior Dash again. We had a blast running the race and actually running a race together! I would like to give you some advice – raise money for St Jude Children’s Research Hospital (information is on the Warrior Dash site)… if you raise the minimum amount you get a hot shower, food, drinks and a separate area to leave your goods during the race! The alternative is the hose… sticking out of a water truck… spraying everyone underneath!

Based on my personality, the Spartan race fits my profile… I really don’t want to know what is next.  I want to know that I have to come up with the ways to make it happen – whether that is me climbing a wall on my own or working with others to build a base for each of us to us as we make the ascent.  I feel Spartan models the challenges we face in life.

OCR – obstacle course racing – is taking off and more and more groups are getting in on the action. I was at Dick’s Sporting Goods and saw where Under Armour is sponsoring Tough Mudder races. I REALLY hope people are not buying new clothes to run these races! There is advice part 2 – where old, comfortable shoes. You get a chance to donate them at the end of the run!

Whatever you do, get out there and get out of your comfort zone! It is no fun being normal.

For those of you that have run OCR, add your thoughts below…

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2014 in Motivation, Running, Writing

 

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The Spartan Beast – part 1

You’ve asked about it, so I am writing a two-part blog series on the Spartan Race. This post is a little background on the Beast event I ran a few weeks back.

The Finisher's Medal

Spartan Beast Finisher Medal

A little background on the event… the Spartan Race series has three levels: Sprint, Super Spartan and Beast. I’m not even getting into the Death Race format – I’m NOT doing it, so there is no need to cover it. If you want information on it just click the link I added. The Sprint level is 3+ miles, the Super level is 8+ miles and the Beast is 12+ miles (although these are just for conversation purposes…). I ran the Sprint in Charlotte, NC in March 2012 and it wound up near the four mile mark, however the Beast I ran ended up closer to 13.5 miles. Again, the numbers are just to “class” the races.

The Beast was held at Carolina Adventure World, a place I have no idea even existed. Pretty cool area, though, with ATV trails, hiking areas, mud bog areas and a lot of beautiful South Carolina wilderness. I believe I saw the majority of it either ON the trail or at areas where I could look out across the expanse. Winnsboro, SC is the address for the spot and it is approximately 20-30 minutes from Columbia.

I was clean at this point

For the full 411, visit the Spartan Race website for upcoming dates, photos, etcetera.

More background on the Spartan Series… think the movie 300, Gladiator TV series on Starz or even the Russell Crowe movie Gladiator. The series is centered around that period in history – all the way down to the Spartan creed, the Spartan mascot and the screams of AROO! AROO! AROO! that replace the starting gun you hear at most races. Many of the racers choose Spartan attire with men in shorts and shoes only and women, many times, in sports bra, shorts and shoes. I chose to cover up a little more with a sleeveless shirt, shorts, soccer socks and trail shoes… I learned a little from my Sprint experience in March! It really doesn’t matter what you wear and you want to trash it when you are done anyhow. SIDE NOTE: the Spartan organizers allow you to dump your shoes at the end and they will clean and donate them to third-world countries. I did not do this at the Sprint but did at the Beast.

So on to the starting line we go for the 9:00 am heat… Myself and about 200 other racers ready to tackle the – at the time – 12-mile course. We hear the Spartan creed, vow to help our fellow Spartans return and shout AROO! as we run through the smoke field. I’ll do my best to remember all of the obstacles, but I can guarantee you they will not be in order. Here is a sampling:

1. Over, under, through – a staple of Spartan races where you go, you guessed it, over, under and through a wall. The wall is approximately 4 feet tall and you either jump over it, crawl under it (a 12-18″ area) or pull yourself through the opening in the center.

2. Under the net – I’m sure there is another name, but this one is a low crawl under a bar with a netting material on one side… we did two of these in succession.

3. Walls – 4, 5, 6 and 8 foot walls. These are spaced throughout the course – many are easy to bound over but some require the use of a partner or two people – which IS allowed to complete the obstacle.

4. Over-the-log – again, this is my name for this obstacle. Logs are placed five feet off the ground and you have to bound – or climb – over five of them in succession.

5. Tractor pull – a concrete stone is attached to a chain and you must drag it down, around and back up a course approximately 100′ in length. I am not sure of the weight of the stone but I would estimate it at 45-50 pounds.

6. Atlas Stones – pick up the stone for your sex (men and women have different weights), carry to one side. Drop the stone, lift again and return to the starting point. I would estimate the men’s stone was 75 pounds. We had this obstacle twice on the course.

7. Tire flip – grab the tire and flip it five times forward and five times back.

8. Cargo net – climb the cargo net and return down the other side.

9. Large cargo net on A frame – climb the cargo net and return down the other side,

10. Rope climb – a knotted rope climb. Two of these on the course.

11. Barbed wire mud low-crawl – the first one was on a semi rise… with a fire hose spraying water on everyone. The second one was on a hill approximately 60-degrees going UP. Yep, with another fire hose spraying the course.

12. Tyrolean traverse – ropes pulled across the lake… you warp your ankles over the rope and pull yourself to the other side. Ropes are about 6′ off the water at the highest point.

13. Sandbag carry – grab a Spartan pancake and carry it up the hill and back down. Length of course is approximately 150-yards total.

14. Concrete pull – a 50-75 pound concrete block is pulled up a rope to a height of approximately 15′ and then slowly lowered back to the ground.

15. Rolling mud – three-part mud pit/hill climb. Cross the mud pit and then scamper up the muddy hill to the next pit. The entire obstacle is around 50′ long. There are two of these obstacles on the course.

16. Band hop – place ankles through a small rubber band – approximately 12″ in diameter. Hop across a set of tires four rows deep, then hop over two logs and return to starting position.

17. Pit jump – either jump the 6′ pit or wade through it… three in a row.

18. Javelin throw – toss a javelin into the straw bale and make it stick

19. Horizontal wall – cross the wall with only your fingertips and edges of shoes on the small pieces of 2×4 boards… the boards are canted at all angles.

20. Mid pit and slippery wall – cross the mud pit – under barb wire – and then grab the rope to pull yourself up the slippery wall. At the top, climb down the ladder wall on opposite side.

21. Tall ladder over the road – climb up and down the other side of the containers.

22. Fire pit – get a good running start so you don’t burn the hair off your legs!

… and always the last obstacle in the Spartan Race…

23. Gladiator pit – get a good running start and be prepared for a gut punch from the pugile sticks!

I left out the obstacle runs… these are runs through the woods, up trails, on switchbacks, through the river beds, over beaver dams and all kinds of other places the organizers decide to make you run!

After the Spartan Beast

After the Beast

So ends part one of the race updates… In the next post I will talk about the actual running of the race and preparations I did prior to running.

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2012 in Just Me, Running

 

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Out of my “Comfort Zone”

Those that truly know me know that I cannot stand being comfortable.

A tough statement, I know.  Of course, on a physical level, I like cool air on a hot day and a warm house on a cold day.  I’m not talking about that kind of comfortable.  I guess I am pointing this toward – stagnation – a failure to progress, develop or advance.  When people get comfortable, they stop DOING.  This can be in a job, with your family or just in life itself.

The Dirt Spot analogy:  Picture a pond.  Water flows into the pond.  Stirring oxygen.  Providing for the living things inside.  Then, for some reason, the water stops flowing into the pond… the oxygen begins to deplete and the water becomes stagnant.  As the water becomes stagnant, life dies.  The water starts to evaporate away and the depth goes away… the pool becomes shallow.  Then, at some terminal point, the pond is gone and all that is left is a dirt spot marking the area that once held vibrant life.

It is a dismal picture and one that happens day in and day out in PEOPLE.  For some reason the water stops flowing in to spur the oxygen and the life is drained from the body.  People get comfortable.  They think the water of life will always flow in to keep the motor running.  And then… nothing.

I cannot stand being comfortable.  Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.”  I call it switching seats on the Titanic – it doesn’t matter where you sit, the ship is still going down.

So, to combat this, I do something every so often to restart the life flow into my body… I’ve changed jobs.  I’ve rappelled upside-down off a waterfall.  I’ve run races of varying lengths – 5k, 10k and three 13.1 mile half marathons.  Stood in front of an audience of 2600 people to raise money for various charities… all to keep life alive within myself!

Sure – the stagnant ones around me all say, “You’re crazy” or “How do you do it all?” or simply, “WHY?”.  The simple answer – God gave me a body and I am going to make use of it.  I feel it is a sin to waste away.

So my latest endeavor?  The Spartan Sprint in Charlotte, NC.  A four-mile obstacle/mud run built to take you completely out of any comfort zone you have ever had…

Just a few of the obstacles… 4′, 6′ and 8′ climbing walls, stone pull, hoist a 5 gallon bucket of concrete up 25′, climb a steep incline with only a rope, traverse the edge of a river for approximately 1/4 mile (in the water), throw a spear, jump a fire pit… all while running on a muddy trail through the ups and downs of the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte.

Correct… a four mile run WITH obstacles! Exactly what I needed to strip my comfort level back to zero.  Now, of course, you could say this would raise my comfort level.  Sure.  I can see that as a positive result of the experience as well.

Up next… the Spartan Beast in October.  I’ll be comfortable again by then.  Medical condition?  Psychosis?  Mid-life crisis?  Eh, whatever.  Figure out what you need to reenergize your life and GO FOR IT!

Here’s a little something to get you on the right track… enjoy!  (By the way, I turn 40 on April 10th… it’s not a mid-life crisis… I’ve only lived 1/3 of my life!)

The Rocky Balboa Speech to his son:

It was great just watchin’ you, every day was like a privilege. Then the time come for you to be your own man and take on the world, and you did. But somewhere along the line, you changed. You stopped being you. You let people stick a finger in your face and tell you you’re no good. And when things got hard, you started lookin’ for something to blame, like a big shadow.

Let me tell you something you already know.The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!

Now if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth! But you gotta be willing to take the hits. And not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that!

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2012 in Just Me, Motivation, Running, Travel

 

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