Saturday, June 24, 2017

2017 GORUCK Navigator Core Gore VA AAR

I attended GORUCK Navigator Core in Gore VA in June.  Here is my AAR (After Action Report).
I spent the night before in Winchester VA, it was only about a half hour from the event.  It was nice to wake up in the morning, get breakfast, and head out to the event.

It was held at the Cove Campground in Gore, VA.  This was a great location for Core, because the camp ground is on 3,000 acres of wooded and hilly terrain.

I arrived at the camp ground around 7:30 am, the original start time was 9:00 am.  After arriving at the camp site we found out that that the cadres would be an hour late due to travel delays.

Jedburgh was starting from the same location, so the Jedburgh cadre invited us to listen in on the beginning of Jedburgh.  We had a chance to see a lot of the Jedburgh members as we wondered throughout the woods the rest of the weekend.

Around 10 am our cadre showed up, both Chris Way and Cadre Brett.  After they arrived they split up into two groups, the members that signed up for Navigator Core and the Navigator Z members.

Navigator Core was instructed to setup up camp and Navigator Z was told to dump all of their water.  After this we only saw the Navigator Z members occasionally as we were in and out of camp.

Here was my home for the night even though I didn't spend much time in it.  It worked great.  I had just purchased it on Amazon, and it was the best single person tent I could find for the money.  Here is a link

After setting up camp we were instructed to remove anything from our ruck that we didn't need for treking through the woods.  The campsite and home base location was next to our vehicles so anything we needed we could always stop and get it out of our vehicles.

Next we received our maps and Chris started to go through the basics of the map and using our compasses.  We were also each given a Spot Tracker.  This way if we got lost we could be found, and this would allow the Cadre to see how we did at hitting our points.

After going through the basics we worked on getting our pace count down.  Then we did a few simple drills to test our ability and get comfortable with the compass and our pace counts.  Luckily before going I made up a set of ranger beads out of some 550 cord and a few beads my daughter had in her craft materials.  This was very helpful keeping track of my pace.

We were given 4 points to hit in any order we would like, that were spread out across the camp grounds.  The woods throughout the camp grounds were very dense and even in the more open areas with less ground cover the trees were still pretty thick.  This made finding a point far away to walk towards very difficult.  I found my self jumping from tree to tree and not covering very much distance between rechecking my compass and looking for a new point to walk toward.  This made progress very slow trying to get through the brush, especially using the dead reckoning method; following an azimuth directly and pacing it out.  This picture was of one of the more open areas.

After everybody made it back to the camp site we went over terrain features and how the map translated to real terrain.  While Chris was going over this with us he was working on carving a bow out of a stick for the Navigator Z team.

Next we were given a location about 1.5 miles away and were instructed to follow the terrain and compare it to the map as we traveled it.  Up until this point we were doing everything individually, but this task was done as a group.  It was nice to have someone to talk to as we walked through the woods, and because we were following the ridge as one of our terrain features we had some nice views.

After returning to camp it was time to go out and find a few more points we were given.  We were back to being on our own again, but occasionally you would find somebody headed to the same point or cross paths with someone.  Shortly after leaving the camp site it began to get dark.  At this point we were able to use any method for finding our points, including roads, terrain features, or dead reckoning.  We found out earlier in the day that the roads/trails on the map were not very reliable, seeing as the map was from 1988.  Quickly I found out that navigating through the dark was a much slower process and the terrain could be misleading when you could only see a short distance with a headlamp.

We were out through the night, basically they said that we could stay out as long as we would like.  I was determined to find all my points so I finished up around midnight.

After that I came back to the camp site to get in a few hours of sleep.

The next morning we were instructed to get up around 7 am and get something to eat.

In the morning we were given our final task.  There were about 25 points, and we were told to hit as many as possible in about 2.5 hours.

I was able to get through about 7 points, and I had a pretty good pace.  So getting all of them would have been impossible, even if running.  After finishing the first 6 I ended back at camp, so I rushed out for one final point.

I am very happy I did because the view was awesome, a great way to finish up.  

After we all returned to camp, we met with the cadres, and were instructed to go to one final point to meetup with the Z group.

They were doing their final challenge.  We saw the end of it, they had to get their gear across the lake while keeping it dry, start a fire and boil water.

After they finished up, we all lined up and got our patches.  This is our Core class.

This is both the Core and Z class.

In conclusion I am very surprised that more people are not taking these classes.  I have done a number of GORUCK events now and this was one of the best.  This is different from many of the events I have done.  The challenges will teach you a lot about working as a team, but the Navigator classes are all the learning without the beat down.  I would highly recommend any of these classes.

A few items that I used.

These worked great, much better than the dehydrated camping meals I saw a few others using.  Mainly because you didn't need to boil water to eat them.

Suunto A-10 Compass
The compass worked great, but if I did it again I would probably get one with a mirror.  I think it would have helped a little with accuracy.

1:24,000 Credit card UTM Tool
This worked Great for distance, but it didn't have the angles to find the azimuths.

This is my go to for any event.

See More at: Fit N Fun.Life

Monday, June 19, 2017

2017 Virginia Spartan Super Race Report

On June 2nd my husband, daughter, a friend and myself headed 4 1/2 hours to Infinity Downs in Arrington, VA for the Spartan Super.  We stayed at a hotel about 40 minutes away, so we got up pretty early Saturday morning to be there for our 8:30 competitive heat.  Usually I run in the competitive wave because, well, I'm competitive.  This time, I was hoping to get done early and be on my way.  Afterall, it was my daughter's 7th birthday the day of the race.

I was a little nervous about this Super, since it was not far from Wintergreen, which is a tough race.  I was afraid that I would struggle with the terrain if it was anything like the Wintergreen Super.  We entered the Infinity Downs parking lot and were pleasantly surprised that we could park right outside of the venue.  It was $10 and it was fantastic!  It was so close, that we could easily run out to our vehicle if necessary.

So we headed over the to the start once we got our band and jumped over the wall like we always do.

And we are off!

We started out up a slight hill and boom, there was our first obstacle.  They were the largest hay bales I had ever seen.  They were 3 across and covered in plastic.  I watched many people take a run at them and simple slide off the plastic on the the ground.  There was no real place to grip onto them and they were easily over 5 feet tall.  It took me 2 tries, but I made it over.  Not far from there was the diamond shaped rib crusher.  I'm pretty sure there is a technical name for it, but that's what I'm calling it.  There were 2 of them in a row.  It was a long diamond shaped log that was about 5 feet from the ground and you had to jump over it.  The first one I went over felt like it knocked the wind out of me.  The 2nd time I tried to keep my ribs from hitting the log.
Next up was several 6 foot walls in a row, followed by Over-Under-Through.  They don't require much work.  Then we had some serious running; low grass, high grass, open fields, and in the woods.  The terrain was beautiful.  A few times my friend and I just stopped to take in the scenery.  I couldn't believe how flat this course was!  I was dreading the terrain, just based on what I had heard about Wintergreen, but this was nothing like that.  It was awesome.  It was definitely a runners' course.  Normally, I would be excited about that, but I had just found out 3 days before that I had walking pneumonia, so I struggled with the running part.

We had a few more typical Spartan obstacles, one including 3 barbed wire crawls in a row.  They were each pretty long too.  Next was the herc hoist (hoist a sandbag up using a pulley, touch the top and slowly lower it down).  That was easy as usual.  Next up was the atlas stone carry, where you carry a large atlas stone about 20 feet, drop it, do 5 burpees and carry it back.  Then we had the plate drag.  You basically just pull a weighted plate attached to a rope up a slight incline until it touches the metal stake in the ground, then you drag it back down with your hands to return it to the bottom.

Between miles 3 and 4 we ran in and out of the woods, up some small hills here and there, but no major elevation was seen.  We tackled the inverted wall, the z-wall.  The inverted wall is just as it sounds, a large wall that is angled about 75 degrees and you climb up from the side that is angled.  There are small 2x4's for you to put your legs on once you get ahold of the top to pull yourself over.  The Z-wall is another animal and takes out many Spartan racers.  Imagine three 6 foot walls about 7 feet in length screwed together to make the "Z" shape.  You step up to get on the wall with little wooden planks about an inch wide and 8" long that are screwed into the wall for footholds.  They have hand and foot holds stretched throughout each wall that you must hang on to get to the next wall.  Once you get the first wall you turn a blind corner trying to find the hand and foot holds to the next wall.  Then you make that wall, only to figure out how to make the corner (at top of the Z) without falling off.  Then you get to the end of the 3rd wall and you ring the bell.  I use to fail this obstacle when I first started doing Spartan races 2 years ago, but now I got it down.  The key is to keep your pelvis tight to the wall and maintain hand grip strength.  It also helped that this course was dry, so it was much easier to hang on!

Next up was the bender.  It's a newer obstacle.  I think it's pretty cool.  It's looks like a really wide set of monkey bars that go straight up in the air.  You need to be able to get on them to climb to the top, to go over the other side.  The difficulty lies in two places, getting on it to start, and transitioning at the top to climb over the other side to get down.  I succeeded.  The We climbed an 8' wall in mile 5 and then we came to the monkey bars.  They were the metal monkey bars we usual see at a Spartan race.  I zipped through those and then came upon THE MUDDIEST rolling hills of mud I had ever seen at a Spartan race.  They were so wet and so slick that people were just sliding all over the place.  I would watch someone attempt to climb up and immediately come sliding back down into the muddy water.  There wasn't a good place to get a hand or foot hold at all.  My friend and I kept sliding and I said to her that I better not have to burpee in the mud pit!  We ended finding a small spot off to the side that allowed for a little more traction.  It was the only way we were completing that obstacle!  We got to the end and there was the dunk wall.  Ugh.

These are never very flattering! (why not make them fun?)

As we heading towards mile 7, we climbed the A-frame cargo net and of course completed the bucket brigade.  The climb really wasn't bad at all.  There weren't any terrible hills and it wasn't super long either.

As you can see we walked through some pretty tall grass.

We made it to mile 7 and still no major hills.  There were a handful of steep climbs, but nothing that I would say was terribly taxing.  We walked up over a hill to see the multi-rig.  This is usually 80/20 for me.  It just depends how difficult it is.  This time it was ALL rings.  WHAAATTT!!  I was so happy.  I KNEW I could do that.


I was 7 miles into this race and I had yet to fail an obstacle.  Here I thought today was going to be awful and it turned out pretty good.

Next up was the Olympus.  It's a fairly new obstacle and I had only seen it once before in OH and I had failed it.  It's 4 longer walls all together at an angle.  You step up and need to grip either the circle shaped cut outs, the chains, or the grips on the wall.  It's important to keep your legs up and tucked in as much as possible to avoid sliding down the wall.  This time I decided to use just the circle cut outs and move as fast I possibly could.  Each wall that I made it, I couldn't believe it.  It feels like it goes on forever, even though only a few minutes go by.  I made it!  Ringing that bell felt sooo good.  I was feeling good and I made it down over the hill and there was the rope climb.  I've only ever failed this once, and I was on such a roll that I told myself I wasn't failing it today.  And I didn't!  8 miles in and I knew it was over soon.

THEN comes my arch nemesis, the spear throw!!!  I had just nailed it 2 weeks earlier in OH, so I felt pretty good.  Instead of taking my time to set up and prepare I just through it kind of haphazardly and of course I missed it!!   I was so mad.  I had made it so far without failing an obstacle, that was it was a bit hard to swallow this failure.  But I sucked it up and did my 30 burpees as fast as humanly possible.

We were almost at the end.  Only a half of a mile to go.  A little more running in the fields and woods and we were heading into the festival area for the last 3 obstacles.  At this point I see my husband and daughter as I make my way to the dreaded Twister.  This is a new obstacle and I've seen sooo many fail it so many times.  I made it a little more than a 1/4 of the way through this one at OH, so I was hoping to get further this time.

This obstacle is a long, and I mean long, metal bar with square handles that go around the bar as you rotate it.  Meaning, every time you move to the next handle, the entire bar makes a small rotation as you are moving.  The challenge is that it's moving and there are also 3 transition points where you go from a rotating bar to a solid support beam with no handles.  Then more handles.  I worked tirelessly trying to complete this obstacle.

  So close!!
I needed just one more handle to be able to reach out and touch that bell.  I was just a couple from the end.  I was frustrated, but I was off to do my 30 burpees.

My husband is usually pretty good at capturing these for me!  Thanks Brian!

I realized when I started doing my burpees that I had torn the calluses from both hands doing the twister obstacle.  I was bleeding and it the skin was hanging from my hand.  At this point, I still have the slip wall to complete right after my burpees.  Each time I went to the ground, I would bleed a little more.  The grass was sticking to my hands and boy did they hurt.  Too bad!  I had to grab the rope to climb up the slip wall now.  I sucked it up because I knew it was almost over.

Down the other side and to the fire jump!

I was happy it was over, but I was also excited to have ran it.  (even not being able to breathe)
It was a lot of fun and the terrain was relatively easy for a Spartan race, especially a Super.  I would absolutely do this one again.  We had a blast!

Time to clean off and go home.  (except for a quick stop by the medic tent to bandage those hands)

Until next time, Spartan!

See More at: Fit N Fun.Life 

Friday, June 16, 2017

2017 Idlewild Park 5k Race Report

The 20 year anniversary of the Idlewild Park 5k was on  Memorial Day.  This was my first time running this race.  I heard that it was a fun race that took you through the part, but I also heard that it was more parking lot than park.  The race was presented by Gingerbread Man Running Company.  This was their first time hosting this race.  My husband volunteered to help mark the course, so he was there at 5:00 a.m. to mark the ground with white arrows and tape off the course.  I may be a little biased, but I think it was marked well!!  

The start line was on the road going into the park.

We gathered at the start, and waited for the race director (her first event) to send us off.  A man dressed in a Civil War themed attire lit a canon in place of the "gun" which was pretty cool.  

My daughter Emma decided to run the 5k too.  She ran with my husband, who had just gotten back from marking the course not long before the race started.  He didn't even have time to change his pants, so he improvised and rolled them up.  Once we started, I knew I wasn't going to be able to maintain my pace for very long.  I was short of breath.  I was not able to get a full breath the entire race.  I knew something wasn't right.  (2 days later I found out I had walking pneumonia)

With the heavy breathing aside, we headed down Castle Drive, which had a little bit of a hill to it, then into the employee and guest parking lots.  

We entered the park at Old Idlewild, ran past Soak Zone, over the slick bridge (since it had poured down rain the night before) into Raccoon Lagoon, and then a small piece back in the main parking lot.  Then it was past Hootin' Hollar and finishing outside of Storybook Forest. 


(Abe Lincoln looks on as racers cross the finish line.)

I made it to the finish and had to lean against a tree to catch my breath.  This was the first time I wanted to quit, but I didn't.
Awards were handed out, even to the kids who ran the 5k.  The top 3 in each age group in walking and running received a medal.  It was fun to watch and be a part of.  I'm glad this race continues and that Gingerbread decided to host it.    
This was a fun race to run, especially with family and friends.  For this being Sarah's first race as race director, I thought she did a really great job.  I'm sure I'll do it again next year.  And with a 4th place finish in my age group, so I'm hopeful that I'll do better next year.  

See More at: Fit N Fun.Life 

Monday, June 5, 2017

2017 May Open Streets Pittsburgh Report

On Sunday May 28th, a group of us met up in Market Square to "Ruck" the open streets.  This was our first time participating in Open Streets.  You can find out more about it here
If you don't know what "Rucking" is, you can learn more about that here

We decided since they were shutting down the streets for a few hours, it would be pretty cool to ruck it.  We grabbed a few friends, our rucks, some weight, and water and hit the streets.  We met up in Market Square, where the event started.  There was a zumba, yoga, and dancing on the main stage, with lots of people partaking the festivities.  There were vendors set up in market square and all along the streets.  There was face painting for kids and other family friendly activities too.

We headed down the first street.  There were many bikers, runners, and walkers everywhere.  We even saw a uni-cyclist.  Some people brought their dogs, some brought their kids and extended family.  There were people of all ages.  It was pretty awesome to see.  At the intersections were volunteers with grass skirts and flower leis giving out information and cheering on the participants.    

Before heading into (yes, into) the Armstrong Tunnel we stopped and had a sample mocktail courtesy of Elhurst Nut Milk.  Delicious!

We saw bootcamps being taught, a zumba class on the bridge, lots of vendors and giveaways, and music everywhere.  

As we made our way down Carson St. we stopped by the Ascend Pittsburgh table and talked with them about rock climbing, enjoyed a cupcake (Sophie is checking out Emma's below), watched some kids try out a mock bike course with ramps and other obstacles, sampled some beverages at Starbucks, and stopped by Uber and REI for some goodies.

We even saw Batman in a dunk tank get wet a few times!

As we turned left on to the Birmingham Bridge (which haunts me, since finishing the half marathon a few weeks prior) a young girl doing acrobatics, a girl performing aerial silk demonstrations by Iron City Circus Arts and a boot camp class.

As we finished up our 5 plus mile ruck, we saw some cool stuff and some odd things; like a graffiti painted house and a guy driving a tiny car down the street.  At least we were entertained!

We returned back to where we started and my GPS watched showed that we walked 5.91 total miles.  It felt like an easy 6 miles if you ask me.  There was so much to see and do on the streets that time went by faster than I thought it would.  

I will definitely being doing this again in June for the next Open Streets.  I'm not sure if we'll walk it, run it, or bike, but I'm looking forward to it!

See More at: Fit N Fun.Life