Double Trifecta…Complete!

Central Florida Spartan Beast did not disappoint! This race was extra special, not just because I was getting a nifty 2x Trifecta medal along with my Spartan Beast medal, but because my best friend traveled from Maryland to do this race with 20171209_132552me, and get her first ever, Trifecta!

Mulberry, Florida in December, shouldn’t be as cold and miserable as it was this past Saturday. A cold front came through our sunny state, blowing “polar air” and rain, right at us. I swear, the rain never stopped completely, from leaving our house at 5am, thru the 2.5 hour drive to the venue, during the race, and the ride back. This was the coldest and wettest race in my 2017 Spartan Race Season. This season definitely closed with a soaking wet, shiver!

We were lucky that the dunk wall was late in the race, right about at the 11-12 mile marker, but those last few miles after, COLD! In the Spartanburg, SC Beast, the dunk wall was early in the race, and I can say I was miserable, but no where near as cold as I was

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in Florida! The steady misting of rain to a steady drizzle made a lot of the grip obstacles more challenging than usual, monkey bars, twister and the rings were very slippery. Although the weather wasn’t the greatest, I enjoyed the venue. While Florida is known to be flat, don’t think its an “even” flat. Between the cow paths, low spots and vegetation, Florida terrain can be a challenging trail run. The course was fast, too, you could easily pass other racers and get those miles done and over with, quicker! We ran the majority of each mile of the 13, as I shared my mantra with my bestie, “The faster we Run, the Quicker its Over With!”

My MudGear compression socks worked their magic this race. While others were complaining of calf cramps, I was feeling very light footed, still late in the race. Not only did they keep the cramps away, they also helped my technique on the Tyro Traverse and shielded my legs from limbs and briers on the trails. As usual, about at the 10-11 mile marker, I felt the “zone” kick in. I’m not sure how to explain it, but its something about double digit mileage races that mentally and physically change you right then. It’s not bad, as long as it doesn’t make you feel ill, get you injured or make you cry, ha, but your body & mind just disconnect from each other. Your brain stops telling your muscles you can’t, and your muscles just go into auto-pilot.

While we really wanted to cruise the merchandise tents, relax and get thoroughly cleaned up, after crossing that finish line, we were too cold, and darted to our vehicle. We sat in the truck for about a half hour, thawing out and changing into dry clothes. Laughing about our hangriness, crippling cramps, dementia and shivers. We hit a Pilot for coffee, 5 guys for burgers and headed home. BEST DAY EVER.

Lone Wolf Racers are never alone on the Course…

I very rarely race with a “team”, and when I do, its only when my best friend from many miles away,  can come visit. While there is no better entertainment than you and your best friend crawling through mud, throwing each other over walls, and  saying “WTF?” about every little hiccup in the race, I do not mind going “Lone Wolf”, either…good thing, because travelling from Maryland to Florida or Florida to Maryland can get pricey.

I never have had problems doing things alone, maybe its because I’m an only child, or so introverted that I may be classified as “anti-social” at times, or maybe its due to being put in crappy school work groups, where one kid in the group never pulled their weight? Ha. Who knows. But one thing is for sure when it comes to racing,  its not because I think someone would slow me down, or I couldn’t keep up with them. As mentioned before, my first OCR, I had a team. With all of us being newbies to the scene, we found many fellow racers helping us throughout the race.  This was an introduction of how it goes out there, and it has continued throughout my journeys and races.

That’s what is hard to explain to others when you tell them you did the Spartan Beast iFB_IMG_1507725003020n Spartanburg, SC, by yourself. I am never alone when running an OCR. The community within obstacle course racing is huge, and full of wonderful people. For example, from personal experience, I have had random racers come up to me and help me put my timing bracelet on before the race (which is hard to do without help!), I am always offered assistance at obstacles that I take a moment to analyze, and if you stumble, or begin to slow down, another racer is always asking if you are ok and yelling motivational  lines like “You got this!” or “You’re almost there! Keep going!”

One of the best racer humanity moments I witnessed, was a terrible clothing malfunction no where near the end of a race. A fellow Spartan chick ripped the seat of her pants, from top to bottom on a climbing obstacle. You know, if you are out there on the course, there isn’t an easy way to deal with a full moon situation. While her bestie was lying to her, telling her  “it’s ok, its not THAT bad,” and attempting to magically put seams back together, a random guy came up to them. He was shirtless, and had basketball shorts on. He said a few things to them, and before you knew it, he stripped down, giving the girl his shorts, and continued on the race in his compression boxer briefs. She strapped those shorts on, pulled the drawstrings tight, and yelled, “how will I get these back to you?” and he responded, “I’ll see you at the finish line,” and disappeared into the crowded trail path.  It was honestly bad enough, I questioned if I could go on, if the same thing happened to me. My guess is NO, and I don’t think she would have either, unless that fellow racer offered his shorts.

I am definitely not the only LonFB_IMG_1499550299622e Wolf Racer out there, either. But it surely isn’t for everyone, especially if you start to get emotionally/mentally tired. I tend to shut the brain down when I feel that coming on, it seems to help.  Sometimes, during race chit chat, some will say their friends stood them up, or no one else could get off work. I always say, its really something I love to do and will do what it takes to get here, if someone wants to do it with me, they are more than welcome, but if not, its ok, I will still do it.

Gear. Keep it Simple.

Unlike many sports, obstacle course racing is 95% your body. You obviously don’t need shoulder pads, a Louisville slugger, golf balls, a bicycle or a paddle of some sorts.

That other missing 5%, is a damn good trail running shoe, compression/anything BUT cotton clothing and possibly gloves.  Depending on the condition of my hands at the time of a race, is how I judge if I need my gloves or not. I currently use WarriorPak (for cold and/or wetter conditions) or the UA F5 Receiver Gloves, super sticky, but not when wet! I also recommend NOT using the receiver gloves on rope climbs. It is safer to be bare handed with those heights and the rope fibers somehow take away the “stickiness”.

IMG_20170801_082944_400I have tried other gloves, like the ones Spartan sells, FitFour. No matter what, they were so slippery. So,  I only use them now, in training if I have a ripped grip for protection only. I refuse to get behind anyone on the rigs who wear them, as they retain water like a sponge and wet down bars, rings, grips, TERRIBLY.

I began my racing in Salomon X-Mission Trail Running shoes. While they had great grip on rough terrain, rigid soles for rope climbing, they did not drain water quickly. After a lot of research and review readings, I found Merrell All Out Crush Light Trail Running shoes. They were affordable, and when I tried them on, it was like they were already broke in. Let’s face it, I did not want to break in a pair at a race, nor did I want to pay over $100 for shoes to get muddy & torn up. Plus, they can be thrown in the washing machine and come out looking brand new, every time! The downside of these shoes…the super light design means minimalist. The soles, while they offer just the right amount of  traction, are super bendy and not as tough-in turn, I can feel sharp stumps, roots and rocks. I now keep these for shorter distances and certain less technical terrain. I have found with the longer races, tougher terrain, Salomon Speedcross 4‘s and, believe it or not, Nike Air Zoom WildHorse 4 give me the sole protection some terrain requires, while staying light enough, draining quickly enough and gripping just enough. Warning on those Speedcross’s though, they are not meant for walking on pavement, concrete, etc…if those rugged grips catch, it can be a good face plant. Ha!

Living in Florida, working outside in Florida, I learned quickly, cotton feels like fleece in the summer humidity, and you need moisture wicking clothing to stay half way comfortable. Same goes for racing. You get sweaty, wet, and then dry out and the cycle happens again. I have at least 2 articles of clothing from every big name to no name brand out there, and guess what, they all work. I wear the compression or fitted versions of it all. It helps protect me, lessens my recovery time and doesn’t weigh me down or get snagged on anything because its secure against me.  In the cooler temps (like below 70s, haha) I wear long sleeves, and shorts. In the warmest temps, sports bra and shorts-BUT, be careful, I am NOT allergic to poison ivy, oak or anything for that matter, so if you are allergic to anything that might be out there in the jungles & forests, cover up! Too many horror stories of poison out there.

Socks. I am a climber, and it only took about one time descending from a rope with ankle socks, for me to get a traumatizing rope burn on my ankle. From then on, I wear tight, over the calf socks. Sometimes, MudGear compression socks, sometimes Stance socks,race_3364_photo_56489170.jpg

because I love their style. Either way, if you plan on running through any jungles in shorts, you need to protect your legs from briers, poison, sticks, etc…and of course, avoid those tender calf muscles the day after!

As for hydration packs, I have been very fortunate to have attended races that always had water check points strategically placed throughout the course. However, with the longer length races, I found that I needed a place to keep my Clif Bloks, maybe a mustard packet or two, and gloves.

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I researched like crazy. First of all, I did not want any that were so bulky and heavy, and not placed well on the back. I needed something tight, that would keep from bouncing (have you seen the rub marks a shoulder strap of any kind can do after 13 miles of bouncing?!). I also wanted something HIGH on my back. I located my dream hydration pack from Orange Mud.

Sunglasses. The obvious: Don’t wear your Oakley, Costa, Ray-Bans. I purchase cheap knock offs at the local flea market, polarized lenses, but cheapos. So when they are lost, broken or packed with mud, no harm no foul.

Must…Love…Mud…

I have become a Mud Connoisseur of sorts these past few months. Mostly because my Double Trifecta journey has made me travel from Florida to Georgia, South & North Carolina. A Trifecta is a Spartan Race Series, of 3 races. They involve a Sprint, Super & a Beast. The medals to these races, form a larger medal, once all races are complete. I wanted to do it twice, so I had to travel a bit.   Oh, and these races have to be done all in one year.

It is blacker than the night. It has an odor close to sewer gas. While it won’t necessarily steal your shoe, it may let you sink up to your butt in it. If you are experiencing this type of mud, its either Florida Swamp Mud or Florida Farm Mud. I have been blessed with the opportunity to wade through snakey Florida Swamp Mud as well as roll and crawl in Florida Farm Mud, with black Angus cows looking on, in the next field over.  At a race in St. Cloud, FL, put on by the local police department, called Robo Mud Run (which was awesome), there were true snake/gator warning signs in the swamp areas. I later realized, after climbing a seemingly large hill for the state of Florida, that it was a retired landfill hill. Priceless.

It will steal your shoe, without warning. If any odor, it smells like clay molding day in elementary school Art class. You may be crawling up an embankment with what you thought was a good grip, and slide right back down–way race_3364_photo_56542080-1 (1)faster than you went up it. It will cake to your shoes, and make your feet feel like they are concrete blocks. It is red…Wet or dry, its red. But it will not stain you. This is the Georgia Red Mud. At a Rugged Maniac race in Conyers, GA, which was my first race experience in Georgia, I experienced chlorinated mud/water pits. Yes. You heard that correctly. Due to threats of water borne viruses and bacteria (whole other blog post discussion), Rugged used pool chlorine, like you would buy at your local pool supply store, in all their water obstacles. It was mind boggling, approaching a pit that looked like the chocolate milk but smelled like the public pool. Never have I felt so dirty and clean at the same time!

While its color is nothing to write home about, its nothing but good ol’ brown mud. Its consistency is perfect for making a mud pie. It washes off when its wet almost with a mist, but it definitely is gritty. Let it dry, and you feel like a stone statue cracking during an earthquake. You typically don’t risk shoe loss in it, but smear this mud on a slip wall obstacle, and you’ve got yourself slippin’ and slidin’, and hopin’ and prayin’ you make it to the grip ledge. North Carolina Mud. I’ve been to two Spartan races in North Carolina, one which was on a farm in Fayetteville (Fort Bragg area, is what it is known for) and Asheville, at a rock quarry. I can’t say much for Asheville mud, because of the intense, not so Floridian friendly inclines, but I can tell you, the Slip Wall at that race, was like

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they greased it with Crisco! The mud in Fayetteville dried on me, and when it came to getting it out my hair, it took about 45 minutes of shampoo, condition & repeats.

Last, but definitely not least. Blood red in color. Kind of smelled like blo

od, now that I think back, ha. Tasted terrible, too. Not that I wanted to taste it, but sometimes, shit happens. While it had all the above features the other state’s mud h

 

ad, it also STAINED. I typically wear Under Armour Heat Gear tops, and Xrace Wear shorts, and never encounter damaged clothing due to any mud runs. But this mud, put a red tint on everything I wore that day. Being somewhat of a lighter skin tone,

and being an “enhanced blonde”, ha, the clothes were the least of my worries. I felt so terribly sorry for the red stained wash clothes and towels I left for the hotel staff, along with a hastily cleaned shower. At first entry of the shower, water and mud splattered the tile walls and shower curtain, and it looked just like a full color scene from Hitchcock’s PSYCHO. My hair, even after 10 plus shampoos, could not shake the red tint. Sooooo, my hair went short. Real short. Then, even though I thought I was clean, my white pillowcase had an orange tint where my neck and shoulders rubbed on it the night after the race.

Overall, though, you gotta be ok with mud…Hell, I love it. I mean, you are paying to be dunked in it, roll in it, run in it, accidentally get some in your mouth.  The time in between the start line and finish line, getting muddy, climbing things, seeing beautiful landscapes, makes me feel like a kid again, when I had no worries, and life was so simple.

 

Why I will always support Bonefrog Races

I pondered the Atlanta Bonefrog for days before clicking “register.” You see, Atlanta and it’s surrounding areas are NOT close to me in Florida. The traffic within 60 miles of that city can be quite unforgiving, stressful and exhausting. The kicker for this race, there was no other way  that GPS could find for me, without adding hours to the commute, than going straight through downtown Atlanta, with its 10 lanes of non-stop traffic. Now, while I’m a seasoned driver, Atlanta traffic is a whole other level of crazy. Going lone wolf, 6 and half hours one way, seemed like a terrible idea, and it was…Until I reached the venue.

The date of this race was during a real shit show of politics, professional athletes kneeling during the National Anthem and just overall lack of patriotism. In my opinion, the  disrespect shown to our flag, soldiers and country was super charged. Social media was filled with Anti-somethings, hateful memes and illogical points. I hated to scroll on Facebook or watch tv.  When I rolled up into the backwoods of a Northwest Georgia motocross park, I forgot all about it.

Seeing as that Bonefrog is owned and operated by our very own Navy Seals, this race, you could say, got me by : “curiosity killed the cat.” I wanted to see these obstacles that were fashioned from their training camp..I wanted a Navy Seal to hand me a medal. I wanted to be around humans who loved this country so much, they signed up to protect it.

Not only were their obstacles awesome, challenging and one I actually decided to NOT attempt (rib cracker, sternum checker-Hell, I don’t know, but if you look it up, you’ll see why being lone wolf, that far from home, would make me chicken out) but I saw red, white and blue everywhere. American flags, shirts and everything else.  There were Seals at the start line, with red, white & blue glittered beards, at obstacles motivating you on, Jr ROTC volunteers, and Seals at the finish line telling you great job and handing you an awesome medal.  To be honest, that was the most red, white and blue I had seen in a very long time.

The soldiers and Jr ROTC volunteers were so sweet. I’m sure getting a good laugh from watching us pitiful civilians attempt VERY scaled obstacles they had to do everyday, without sleep, injured and in worse conditions. During the race, I couldn’t help but notice they were all smiling, laughing at themselves (and us) and goofing off. I couldn’t help but to think what these men have seen, been through and/or will go through. In a time when many showed lack of respect to our soldiers and country, they showed such class and happiness.

I was repeatedly thanked for signing up, hugged and offered help at every obstacle that I may have looked at/studied, too long. I recommend everyone to do one of these a year, at least. Like I mentioned, the Bonefrog is tough/challenging. Upper body strength is needed. Heads Up-If you can’t complete an obstacle, some times you have to do penalty push ups or squats.

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