Wednesday, May 31, 2017

2017 Spartan Ohio Beast Race Report

Two weeks after running the half marathon, I decided to take on the Spartan Ohio Beast OCR.  (because, why not?)  I ran the course last year after running a full marathon, so I thought I would be ok.  The race was held at The Wilds in Cumberland, OH.  It's a wild life animal park.  However, I believe the race is set up on their property, but not actually in the park itself.

I ran with a friend so we had no specific plans.  We just wanted to cruise through the course and do our best without pushing ourselves too much, having just recovered from the half.  We jumped in the corral for our heat that started at 8:45.  We chose to run competitive, because we like the challenge of doing the 30 burpees at each failed obstacle (it's what makes us a real Spartan).  We don't LIKE to do them, but we do them!


We heard the typical Spartan speech where everyone chants "I am Spartan" and "AROO, AROO, AROO!"  Then we took off.  We started out running up a small hill and through some tall grass.  The course was already pretty muddy, even in the grass.  Our first obstacle was a wall.  A few obstacles in was Over-Under-Through, which was really very muddy.  Crawling under pretty much covered my entire front with mud.  

We next hit a few of the typical Spartan obstacles like barbed wire crawl (twice), the 8' wall, and plate drag.  The crawls were a decent length, not as long as some I've experienced, but there were 2 of them.  The 8' wall is the exactly as it sounds.  Run and jump and grab the top to pull yourself over.  The plate drag was a metal sled attached to a rope that you pull towards the stake in the ground at your feet.  It was a relatively easy obstacle.  

A "classified" obstacle was the Bender (which I had never seen before, it's new for this season).  It was actually really cool I thought.  It looks almost like someone took a wide metal ladder and bent it 45 degrees.  You had to climb up the one side and down over the other.  It was wet and muddy and a little tricky, but once you got on it, you had to figure out how to get OVER the top.  I saw lots of people freak out on this one.  I thought it was awesome!

As we made our way about half way through the course we were smacked with 4 upper body obstacles in a row.  All of the mud and running that we did the first 3 miles was slowing down.  It was time to hit us with some tough obstacles.  First was tyrolean traverse.  This is a long rope that you traverse upside down hanging by your feet and hands until you reach the bell at the end.  My arms were getting tired towards the end, and slamming the back of knees down on the rope was tearing up my legs.  I couldn't wait to be done.  I made it through and rung the bell.  Next up was the rope climb.  It was literally right next to the traverse.  The ropes were a little wet and muddy from the previous participants trying to climb them.  I managed to use the over/under foot hold approach that makes it much easier to attack this obstacle.  I went up and hit that bell too!   Right around the corner the sandbag carry was waiting for us.  They had new bags this time.  They usually have the sandbag "patty" type bags.  These bags were long and looked similar to a "Wreck" bag.  It was actually nicer as far as comfort goes.  The trek was short, down and up a small hill.  I couldn't believe it was over!  We ran a little past the bags and were on to the herc hoist.  I usually do ok with this obstacle, but last year at the Beast I failed it.  I had no strength left in me at the end of the race, which is where they put it.  This time, I had no problems at all.  As a matter of fact, my friend and I overhead a conversation between a competitor and the staff.  He was using the women's hoist (which is lighter) and he was told he wasn't allowed.  He said that he couldn't lift the men's, it was too heavy, so he wanted to use the women's.  They told him he would have to do take the 30 burpee penalty if he couldn't hoist the men's bag up.  He was not happy!  It just cracks me up, people that are running the competitive heat and they want a modification because they can't do something.  DO THE BURPEES!  (like the rest of us!)

After completing taxing our upper body with several obstacles within in walking distance of each other, we starting back into the woods for some trail running!  This was the muddiest Spartan Race that I think I have every ran.  We passed through bucket brigade, spear throw and atlas carry.  Bucket brigade was short and not steep at all.  It was definitely one of the easiest I've done.  Spear throw is my nemesis and I'm 50/50 for getting it at races.  This time it couldn't have been more perfect!  I nailed it!  I was so happy, I jumped in the air and swore like a sailor!  We ran up a ways and completed the atlas carry, 5 burpees and carried it back to the starting position. 

One of the "classified" obstacles was the new Twister obstacle.  It's a rotating metal hand hold that moves as you grab the next handle.  I made it through the entire first section and fell 3 hand holds in on the second section.  It was really tough.

After more running in the woods, on slick mud, rocks and roots we came up the the inverted walls and the dunk wall.  The inverted wall is just and angled wall that you have to jump and grab and pull yourself up.  Obviously the difficulty is that it's angled so it's a bit more difficult that the traditional walls.  At this point, we came across the dunk wall.  The wall was really deep in the water, so you had to REALLY dunk under to get to the other side.  

As you can see, it was really muddy.  I don't recall dunking in water that dark before!

Somewhere along the line we climbed the cargo net, A-frame, stairway, z-wall, and had to repeat the memory test.  I liked all of these.  I slipped on the z-wall and had to burpee, so I was mad about that.  I'm 50/50 with that obstacle too.  I need to work on grip strength.  I say it every time!

The last obstacles were the hardest.  We came up over the hill to the Multil Rig.  I have made this on several occasions and once I saw the layout, I was pretty confident this time too.  I reached out to grab the first ring and it was covered in mud and water.  I swung and was able to make it to the third ring and then I slipped. 

Burpees for me!!!  (I think my husband loved getting these pictures)

The new Olympus wall was angled and had you had the option of chains, round cut out holes or rock climbing type grips to get across it.  I didn't even make it half way.  It was really long too.  My friend did really well, but didn't make it either.  Burpees again!

You can see where I started to lose my grip.  My hand slipped out of the round hole and that was it!

After my burbees I prepared myself for my fire jump, because really, that's the best part!  It's over and the fire jump pictures are usually pretty epic!

Well, it was over.  All in all, I didn't feel too bad.  I thought the terrain wasn't bad, just really muddy.  Compared to the 2016 Beast, it seemed flatter, but way muddier.  The total distance was right around 13 miles.  The obstacles were harder this year than the terrain.  I managed to have a lot of fun running it!

BEAST DONE!!  4 hours and 11 minutes.  

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

2017 Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend Race Report

The Pittsburgh marathon was held on May 7, 2017.  This year I chose to run the 5k on Saturday and the half marathon on Sunday.  I like the challenge of pushing a littler harder Saturday and seeing what I have left in me for Sunday's half.  Plus you get a 3rd medal because you ran both back to back.  That's enough convincing for me!

The first thing we did was stop by the marathon expo on Friday night to pick up our packets for both races.  You needed to have your bib # and license to get your packet.  I was picking up for a friend too and I just needed a form filled out by her and to show MY license.  The process was actually pretty simple.  We got our shirts and goodie bags and went on our way.  We walked around the expo and checked out the vendors.  Friday night I had my gait analysis done by Brooks and it was pretty cool.  They attached sensors to your knee, calf and heel and had me run on the treadmill.  (Brian and my friend had it done the next day) 


We walked A LOT at the expo.  I found my name on the wall of runners which is always cool to see.  I was listed twice since I was running both races.  There were lots of things to see at the expo.

This year I was chosen by UPMC Healthplan for a campaign called "What a Runner looks like."  A collection of pictures of the 30 featured runners were on a wall outside the expo.  It was pretty cool to be a part of this campaign.

Just remember you will be doing a lot of walking at the expo, so if you want fresh legs for the race, maybe only go for a little bit.

The next morning was the 5k and the Kids Marathon.  We walked out of our hotel and around the back by PNC Park for the start of the 5k.  The weather was not our friend this day.  It was cold, raining, and windy out.  I knew it wasn't going to be my best race, but I told myself to just do my best.  We lined up with the pacer that we wanted to follow, sang the national anthem, and then we were off!  The 5k course isn't too bad.  It's mostly flat, except for a small incline near the end of the race.  The windy was whipping and I almost lost my hat several times, but I crossed the finish line, got my medal, and cooled down.  I checked my official time, only to find out it was the exact same time that I had gotten the year before!!  Way to be consistent I guess!  

We walked back to the same start for the kids marathon and my husband and daughter got in line for their heat to start.  We waved them off and then ran over to the finish line almost a mile away.  It was pretty cool because the kids got to finish the same place that we did for the 5k and marathon.  My daughter run somewhere between an 11 and 12 minute mile, which I thought was pretty good!

Once both races were over we went to eat lunch, then back to the hotel to rest.  (well Emma wanted to swim at the hotel)  Then we went back to the expo to look around again and meet up with some of our friends.  Another day of walking and walking and more walking, but we had fun!
The next morning we woke up around 4:45 so I would have time to eat my prerun bagel and tea before we had to head over to the corrals.  We stayed in the North Shore right by PNC Park, so we had almost a mile walk to the start line.  (which was a nice warm up for us)  It was pretty chilly out, but at least it wasn't raining.  After we waited in a long line to use the port-a-johns near the start, we got into our corral.  I found the rest of my group and we stood there, anxious as can be, waiting for the gun to go off.  

Finally, our corral is heading to the start.  We move up and once the gun fires we are off!  Of course just like any race it's a bit congested for the first mile at least.  This year I ran with a first timer so we planned to stay together during the run, so we weren't in a big hurry.  We ran and talked for most of our run.  Of course we laughed at some of the hilarious signs that the crowd had.  Pittsburgh is known for their phenomenal crowd support at this race, and they didn't let us down!  
This year they advertised the half as being a "flatter" course.  The beginning was not bad, it was pretty flat.  We cruised through mile 5 in the North Shore, where my husband and daughter were waiting to cheer us on.  

The West End Bridge always seems to drag on for me, so at mile 7 I was getting a little bored.  By mile 10 my legs started to feel tired, but the crowd was pumped up, so I tried to use that energy to keep me going.  When I got to mile 11 over the Birmingham Bridge, I thought "Why didn't they cut THIS part of the course."  Haha.  It was the same long incline they have had each year.  Ugh.  Once I saw mile marker 12 I knew I only had a little over a mile to go.  I pushed a little again in mile 13 and I helped get my friend to the finish line.  She was happy and overwhelmed and I was so glad that she pushed through, even when her brain told her otherwise.  (Way to go, Liz!!)

I finished my half in 2:01 this year, which was 26 minutes faster than I ran it 2 years ago.  I was pretty happy with my time and I felt great after running it too.  I totally forgot to ring the Geico PR bell though.  Oh well, next time!  I stopped by the Runner of Steel tent and picked up my Runner of Steel medal.  If you ran the 5k and the half or full the next day, you got a 3rd medal.  Yes!!  My weekend was over.  It was fun and exciting and I'm glad that I did it! 

See More at: Fit N Fun.Life

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

2017 New Jersey Spartan Ultra Beast Race Report

Spartan Ultra Beast Logo

The 2017 Spartan New Jersey Ultra Beast was held at Mountain Creek in Vernon New Jersey.  This was my first Spartan Ultra Beast.  We are from outside of Pittsburgh, PA so we decided to get a hotel for the night.  (By the way Super 8 is extremely nice for the price.)
I signed up for the competitive wave, which was scheduled to start at 6:15 AM.  So we arrived at the venue at 5:15 AM.  My wife and her friend were volunteering so we decided to pay the $30 for VIP parking so we could have access to our vehicle, to avoid the 20 minute bus ride.

First I went to check in and it was changed a little this year.  No need to find your bib number any more, just print out your page with the bar-code on it.  I think this will make the check-in process a little quicker.  Now the volunteers don't have to dig through packets to find your name and number.  They gave me my packet which included my band that had my time on, a green band, beer band, and my Green sweat band that signified I was running the Ultra.  This made it easy for volunteers to know who was running which race. (Beast participants had a blue band)

New Jersey Spartan Ultra Beast Transition Area

After check-in I headed over to the drop bin area and dropped off my bucket.  For my bucket I used a 5 gallon bucket that I put some stickers on and some bright duct tape. 
I am happy I did this because there was a lot of drop bins in the area.  This did make it easier to find between laps.
Next I headed off to the start area.  The start area was part way up a ski slope.  On my way up to the start my Garmin watch beeped, informing me that I had reached my floors climbed goal for the day.  Ha!  At this point I realized that we may see a few hills in our future.  My start time was 6:15 AM, and I climbed the wall to enter the start area around 6:10 AM.  They were running a little behind because they had an issue with a bus that they were hauling volunteers to their stations at the different obstacles.  We ended up starting around 6:30 AM.
Shortly after leaving the start we encountered our first obstacle, the Hay Wall, which wasn't much of a wall, just 5 or 6 round bales laying on their side.  Then we started the climb.  The first climb went on for awhile, I am not sure about the distance but there was not much running for quite some time.  Finally we got to the top of the first hill where there was a 6 ft Wall.  After getting over this wall on the second lap there was a Memory Test station. I didn't recall seeing it on the first lap, I guess they didn't have it up or my memory was really bad.  Regardless, runners doing the Ultra were exempt from the memory test.
Then we started down hill for a little, most of the trails were single track, and just newly marked.  The first lap through they would have been difficult to follow many of them if they were not marked by white ribbons.  By the second lap they were much easier to see and a lot more worn down, especially anywhere there was a little water.  The first lap it was like I got my shoe a little wet, the second I had to hope my shoe stayed on.

Here is a list of the obstacles as I remember them, I think I got most of them in order.
Monkey Bars:  Offset bars that you see at most spartan races.  They were a little slippy and wet the first lap.
Dunk Wall:  The normal dunk in the water under the wall.  This was very early in the race for this obstacle, normally it is closer to the end. 
Slip Wall:  The wall was very wet because it was right after coming out of the Dunk Wall.
Log Carry:  This was a up and back on a decent sized hill.
7 ft Wall:  Standard Wall, sturdy as always at Spartan
A-Frame:  Standard Spartan Net covered A-Frame
Water Crossing:  This was through the edge of a pond.  Near the edge it was between my knees and waist, but as you got closer to the marker I could barely touch in some areas.
Invert Wall:  Standard Spartan Inverted Wall.
Tyrolean Traverse:  Hang from the rope and pull yourself across until you can ring the bell.
Plate Drag:  Standard Metal pan with sand bags in and a rope attached tied to a stake.  You pull the plate with the rope until it hits the stake then drag it back until the rope is stretched back out.
Over Walls:  Two smaller walls
Multi Rig:  First a Pole, a ring or two, base ball, a short rope, ring, baseball, and two rings before the bell (or something close to that)
Olympus:  This was new this year and my first time seeing it.  The first loop I tried to use the Red climbing grips and slipped on the 4th or 5th one.  They were very slick and wet in the morning.
Spear Throw:  I am about 50/50 with the spear.  I got it the first time.
Barbed Wire Crawl:  Not super long, but there was plenty of logs and other items to crawl over and around.
8 ft Wall: Standard Wall
Hurdles:  2 4x4 shaped beams about 4 ft. in the air you had to go over.
Vertical Cargo Net:  Cargo net over an aluminum structure that you climb up and over.
Herc Hoist:  Sand bag tied to a rope through a pulley, that you pull the rope down until the knot above the sand bag hits the pulley.  Make sure you let it down easy so you don't hurt the baby.  I don't know I heard one of the volunteers keep saying it.
Sand Bag Carry:  This was not the most difficult sand bag carry I have done at a Spartan, there was no real elavation change, just some zig zagging through the woods.
Memory Test:  This is where you have to repeat your letter and number combo.  (Not required for the Ultra participants)
Z Wall:  Climb around the Z shaped wall without touching the top of the wall on blocks of 2x4s to hold onto.
Bender:  This was a new obstacle for me this year.  It looks kind of like a bent latter that was missing the lower steps.  It was also bent so it was inverted.  So one of the hardest parts was getting over the top similar to the inverted wall.
Stairway To Sparta:  Standard Spartan obstacle, a large A-frame with a wall at the bottom.
Atlas Lift:  Carry the Atlas Stone across to the other flag, do 5 burpees, and then carry it back to the start location.

New Jersey Spartan Ultra Beast Bucket Brigade

Bucket Brigade:  This was a standard bucket carry, guys had black buckets, girls had red buckets.  Fill it up to cover the holes and march the course.  This was definitely the toughest bucket carry I have done at a Spartan Race.  It was up a pretty steep hill then around the turn at the top and head back down.  By far the toughest carry of the race.  I also heard a few people that said they had to redo it because there bucket was not full enough when they got to the bottom.

New Jersey Spartan Ultra Beast Twister

Twister:  This was another new obstacle for this year and this was my first experience with it.  It kicked my butt.  I usually do fairly well with these type of obstacles but I just couldn't get it.  I am not sure if it was because the bucket carry burned out my grip or if I just didn't have a good technique with it.  It got me both laps. (Burpees)
Rope Climb:  Same as last year up the rope and ring the bell but this year they had thick mats at the bottom.

New Jersey Spartan Ultra Beast Transition Area

Next it was back to the gear drop area, where I filled my water bladder, had a salt tab and Clif bar, and headed back out for my second lap.  There was a small uphill on a single track that lead us back to the trail right after the start gate.
Next we simply had to do everything again, (well maybe not simply), it took me a little longer to get around the second lap.  The course was a good bit more crowded.  But the staff and volunteers were great at getting the Ultra participates to the front of the line for the obstacles.

New Jersey Spartan Ultra Beast Finisher Medal

I did get my second chance at Olympus and made it across with no problem using the chains.  After getting around the second lap you get to pass the bag drop area, do the Fire Jump, and cross the finish line.  After crossing the finish line you don't get your Ultra Beast medal.  You then have to go to a tent where they verify that you finished both laps and crossed all the check points.  My wife got this picture at the end I think I was a little dehydrated and trying to decide if I wanted to get pizza or icecream.  Don't worry I got both to be safe.  As I said this was my first Ultra Beast and it was a great experience and a great challenge.  My Garmin showed a final mileage of 25.82 miles and 8,471 feet of elevation change. 

See More at: Fit N Fun.Life