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.

Bag Check? Great. What do you take?

 

It didn’t take me long to realize what I needed and what I didn’t need in the bag I take to obstacle course races. All races offer a bag check, while some offer it for free (smaller races), others charge $5-$10. Going Lone Wolf, I don’t have someone to hold my keys, phone, dry clothes or paperwork for me, so I always take extra cash with me, to utilize the bag checks.

I use an Adidas top loading backpack. It has plenty of pockets, room, durable and most importantly, can be laundered. I fill that thing with antibiotic spray, ointment, gauze, Goat Tape & medical tape, band aids of all sizes, scissors, flip flops, change of clothes and towels. I also stash my cash, ID, keys and cell phone deep into the backpack. I decide last minute if I plan to take my gloves on the course or not. Less is more, in most cases.

I don’t pack snacks in the bag that gets checked. Mostly because, the heat, and placement of some of these bag checks are right out in the sun. I take a credit card  and only small bills with me, obviously, for safety purposes. Although I’m sure my cell phone or keys would be the better grab, if that were to happen.  Up until the end of 2018 Spartan Race season, bag checks were being ran by employees or volunteers. But I am guessing with the blasts of racers coming off the course for retrieving the bags, has forced a different approach. You, the racer, are allowed in the bag storage area, and then one or two attendants at the exit of bag storage confirm your wrist band and bag band match numbers. While it did seem to help the wait time, I feel they need to polish it up a little better, it gets quite hectic still. Missing bands, unreadable bands, distractions, etc could allow someone with the right mindset, to steal your things!

Regardless, take some good, quick and easy to use medical supplies. Think open cuts and nasty water/mud. Take an extra set of clothes, and have easy slip on sandals to slide on after taking your muddy shoes off. Rinse stations aren’t spa showers. They run out of gas in the generator running the pump, that is pumping from a pond, they have little pressure because 20 hoses are being used at once and the constant water usage makes a sloppy mess at the rinse off station. Most places say NO SOAP, to please the environmentalists. Some, if they have traveled far, stop at a truck stop like Flying J, Pilot or Love’s who offers showers for a fee on their way home. Either way, a few huge towels on hand is nice, and if you are changing in the car, its nice to have enough to sit on! I have brought gallon jugs of water with me, to leave in the vehicle to “warm up” while I race, in order to help clean up. Works great, but don’t leave those jugs in your vehicle for long, science kicks in and they start to leak with the heat the summer day in Florida can generate inside a vehicle.

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.

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