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Playing in the Mud – Be a Champion

Let’s be blunt here. I am not a great obstacle course racer. I know what my many limitations are and they are numerous. I cannot do a rig, or rings, or get over walls 9 feet or more, I have hit a spear throw once in my life and I believe I have completed two monkey bars ever. I had to put a rope in my backyard to learn to climb it and have completed it on a wet course once.

What does this mean? This means that my jealous side hates most of you that can all of those things. Also, because of some restrictions in my life’s schedule I know I can never go to the US OCR Championships or the OCR World Championships. I can barely get to most races in the New York area where I live. I guess that makes it good that I will never qualify for the “World’s,” so I don’t feel too bad about myself. Oh, don’t tell me that I can go as a Journeyman. I know that, but I am talking getting that email that all of you post on Facebook saying “QUALIFIER”. (The following statement is mine only and should apply to anyone else) In my head, going to the World’s as a Journeyman instead of qualifying is like saying that you “ended” up at Denny’s as opposed to “going” to Denny’s. (For those not in the United States, do a Google search for Denny’s and you’ll understand). It is also like being that guy who gets into the Baseball Hall of Fame because you had a long career and not because he did deserve it. Maybe because I am sloth-like and I cannot complete obstacles, I feel this way. I want to go. I wish I could go. Even if I could just feel the camaraderie and atmosphere, I know it would be worth it. I could tell everyone about OCR Buddy. I could hang out. I can make new friends. I heard how amazing it is and although I wish I could go and I continue to hate all of you for going,

So, I have this defense mechanism so it never truly bothers me. It slides away and falls into the back of my brain like those dreams of winning the lottery.

It doesn’t really bother me because I know my limits and abilities. Races such as a Tough Mudder or a Spartan Beast are my World’s. Everyone needs to your own goals and aim for them. Just because you are not on a pro team, on television, at the World’s or on a podium you are no less of a person or a racer. I think it takes someone special to do the things that are hard as opposed to easy. What is hard to you? Finishing on the podium? Qualifying? Finishing at all? Whatever is hard to you will make each and every event worth it to YOU!

I see people post photos of their medals and I look at the few that I get every year and realize that I did accomplish a lot for my abilities. I am a 46-year-old, former 300 pounder, twenty-two years removed form heart surgery, with a bad back (multiple herniated discs) and a shoulder that I pray survives every workout. Awesome, huh? I get out there and I treat each and every race like my World’s, whether it is an inflatable race, a 5k, a 10 mile or a 17-mile race on a mountain in Vermont.

So tomorrow I will train in my way, alone with my iPod playing my KISS songs and other rock that has inspired me. I know that no matter what I do, I will see my friends in Killington and I will attack the Spartan Beast and know after I finish that race, that I am a champion.

I hope my thoughts haven’t offended anyone. Just know that my hate for you is just jealousy because I wish I could accomplish what you can. I wish I could run the races that you run. I wish I could have the physical abilities that you have. Instead, I am a Ginger, I can steal your soul if I please and I am damn proud of the person I am.

My hope for all of you reading this is that you realize that you are a champion no matter what course you attempt because you are a champion of life. You have accomplished amazing things. Your life and your story is epic and no matter what you do from here through eternity…you ARE A CHAMPION to me.

Ask yourself, am I a champion? If the answer is not yes, make a plan, attack it and train for it. Life will give you it’s own version of monkey bars, walls, spear throws and rigs and you will face these obstacles like you do the ones on a race course. The only difference is that once you succeed in life, there is no obstacle that can ever stop you or slow you down. Be a champion. Stay a champion. Qualify for your “World’s” and do not ever let anyone push you down, keep you down or get in your way.

 

Until we meet again, be epic and as always, keep playing in the mud.

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NJ Beast – Are you worried?

spartan-beast-awardSome do’s and don’ts for the upcoming NJ Beast!

Do check the weather a few days before to start planning.
Don’t obsess over the weather.

Do wear technical gear: wool, synthetic, cold-gear, wicking, whatever works for you in winter.No-Cotton-long-underwear
Don’t wear cotton.

Do wear shoes with tread.
Don’t duct tape your shoes.

Do keep moving.
Don’t stop for long.

Do fuel and hydrate before and on course.
Don’t ignore the signs of the wall or bonking*.

Do have fun.
Don’t give up.

Do carry out all trash, there are trash cans at the aid stations to deposit.
Do not litter; you can carry the fuel on course, you can carry the trash.

jumping

Check out Jessica Wohlen’s post: So You’re Running the Super (and/or Beast)…

* ~ Definitions courtesy of Heather Gannoe over at Relentless Forward Commotion.
The Wall:  A not so magical place that typically exists between mile 19 and 26 of a marathon.  You’ll be running along, feeling on top of the world, when BAM! a switch is thrown and everything hurts, you feel physically and emotionally drained, and for a few minutes, wonder why on earth you decided running a marathon would be a good idea.   There might even be tears. You have hit “the wall”.

Bonk:  Similar to “The Wall” (see above) but a “bonk” can happen at any time, during any race.  When an athlete goes from seemingly strong and well trained to a an utter, exhausted, mess, they have “bonked”.  A bonk is often related to poor nutrition and low blood sugar, and can often be overcome mid race with the right snacks and a second wind.

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The most important Beast or Ultra Beast blog post you will ever read

The Beast is coming (or the Ultra Beast for many). Next weekend, folks!

dont-panic-thumb

 

And thats it. Thats your advice.

The weather may be hot, or cold. Sunny, or snowing. The mountains will be steep and seemingly endless, and the obstacles will be cruel and punishing.

You haven’t trained enough – no one has, even the elites – and regardless of what you pack, you will forget something you need.

When you get on the mountain, you’ll have over dressed – unless you have under dressed. Regardless, you won’t have enough clothes, or you have too many.

You may not be able to swim, or the walls will be too tall, and your feet will probably cramp at some point.

You may wrench an ankle, or wrench an IT band (or break your hand *Jess*), or get a blister.

A million and one things may go wrong – and a million and two things will be guessed at, speculated upon and simply made up. Facebook is not your friend this week, and don’t believe anything you read when it comes from a Spartan employee – especially that wily, pesky Don fella. Would you believe, they *want* you to panic?

Oh, and there may be bears.

Despite all this – all the things that *might* go wrong and *could* happen there is only one thing that is for certain – you will finish.

You’re crossing that finish line and earning that medal. Only ONE person can take that away from you – and thats you.

So – Don’t Panic. Bring a towel. Towels are important.

 

… a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: nonhitchhiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, washcloth, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet-weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitchhiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitchhiker might accidentally have “lost”. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

— Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

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So You’re Running the Super (and/or Beast)…

In the next week or 3 there are a couple of big races coming up, in case you hadn’t heard.

NJ Super – this coming weekend
VT Beast – 2 weeks later

Paul did a great series of blog posts for the Sprint (Here, Here, and Here).  All of which are still super applicable here.  Some points to remember (for the newbies, especially):
1) Cotton is NOT your friend
2) Start hydrating
3) Dress for the weather, and your ability to stay warm/cold.  Also keep track of weather reports.
4) Eat a good meal hours before you are taking to the course.

The Super (and the Beast) will likely be supported races (meaning there will be water stops along the way).  Last year, initially, the Beast was not going to be supported.  I had already run the NJ Super (aka Mini Beast) and had an idea of what worked for me, and what my Battle Group encountered on the course.  I used this knowledge to prepare my pack for the Beast – and some extra.  This is my take on the subject of packing for these races.

I highly recommend planning as though there won’t be any stops along the way and you are self supportive.  Granted, if you are planning to be running with the elite folks, you may not need to worry quite so much, so use these tips as needed.  Some people will take a few hours.  Some people will take longer.  Some people may lose the trail for a bit – Sorry Team Lost 🙂
Last year the NJ Super took me about 5 hours to complete and the VT Beast took me about 10 hours to complete.  I had ITB issues in both races which led to a slower pace, but I was trucking along nonetheless.  If you feel you fall in the middle of bell curve (like me) or on lower end of the bell curve (a slower, and yet still awesome pace!) you’ll want to pay attention to the information I have to share.  Keep in mind, on these types of courses, you obviously need to look out for your own needs first.  It is always mindful to consider you may run into another athlete in need as well, and it would be best to have some extra stuff “just in case.”  Also, in the event you have some sort of issue that slows you down, you’ll be happy to have prepared for the extra time by having extra stuff.

My Packing List:
3L  Hydration Pack – 50/50 mix of unflavored Pedialyte (or generic brand) and water
2-3 Powerbar Energy Gels (I’ll use at least one at the midway point)
2-3 GU Chomps/Clif Bloks
2-3 Pkg Snap Supercandy
2-3 Bars (My current bar of choice is Garuka Bars, but Clif/Luna/whatever)
2-3 Salt or Mustard Packets (You, or someone you encounter, may have some serious cramping – this will help!)
1 pair of dry socks

Pack Supplies

*I purchased some small dry bags to put all of this stuff in.  There’s nothing worse than consuming half a package of Chomps or SportsBeans and then discovering they were submersed in water along the way and now are useless.
** The socks will be stored in a different dry bag.  Obviously they are more useful when dry.

I’m not saying they’ll be needed, because I don’t know what is being thrown at us, but here are a few other things worth possibly throwing in your bag:
Sharpie
Bug Repellant
Sun Block
Goggles (I’m giving these a shot this year, as I wear contacts!)
Headlamp (For the NJ Super -If you are still on the course and hit the cutoff at 7pm, you will need this to continue!)

Above and beyond the lists above, use your best judgement.  I like to prepare for the unexpected on some level.  If this is your first distance over a Sprint (and TM doesn’t count because they are HEAVILY supported, usually), you’ll probably want to bring a little more than you expect to use and learn from your personal experience.

I hope this answers some questions for those of you who are trying to figure out what to bring along!

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Miami Spartan Super 2/23/2013

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t05AD8C9KVY&feature=share&list=UUkYqSTqRQtgd-DTsiNw5zMg]

Read the team reviews!

The second Spartan Super of 2013 arrived in North Miami this weekend. 80+ degree temps, high humidity, ample sunshine, and a powerful  UV index were in abundance.  This event holds unique importance to me because it marks the one year anniversary of my introduction to obstacle course running.  I didn’t participate in Miami Spartan 2012, but some friends did.  Their pictures ignited an obstacle race Google search and I quickly went from beginner to enthusiast.  Now, a year later, I was eager to meet a handful of robust fellow enthusiasts representing the NE Spahtens who made the journey seeking tropical spartan glory.

Oleta River State Park requires a 5-10 minute shuttle from a separate parking location just like Amesbury. The shuttle bus actually drove under a cargo net bridge created by the stacks of two by two cargo containers. Athletes were rolling over the top of the net as shuttles passed through underneath.  The festival area seemed tight and chaotic at times, but any tent/service I needed was utilized in a timely manner. Free samples of coconut water, protein bars/drinks, etc. we’re notably absent or were hidden.

The 8.3 mile course highlighted the South Florida inshore ecosystem of bays, estuaries, mangroves, seagrapes, pine, bamboo, and limestone. Several miles of mountain bike trails meandered through the forest. Here’s the list of obstacles in order thanks to a spectator map:

  • Under over under over walls
  • Water crossing via bay
  • Over under through walls
  • Monkey Bars
  • Water crossing with buoy line
  • 7 foot walls
  • 6 foot walls
  • Rolling mud (trenches)
  • Tractor Pull
  • Sandbag carry
  • Cargo net bridge
  • Atlas lift (lift large chuck of concrete, walk, 5 burpees, lift and return)
  • 8 foot walls
  • Tire flip (three over and three back)
  • Hercules hoist
  • Bucket hoist (repel down embankment, fill three homer buckets, spill H2O, climb back up)
  • Rope climb
  • Traverse wall
  • Mud crawl under barbed-wire
  • Slippery wall
  • Gladiator pit

Spectators had excellent access to the final five obstacles as well as a walking trail to view others.  I was pleased to complete all of the obstacles with zero penalty burpees.  I did complete 30 “team” burpees for the two locals I ran with.  I also learned a valuable lesson:  Don’t make Spartan races any harder than necessary.  For example, I chose the one XL tire because I was impatient.  The body strain nearly left me with a soprano voice and sent me to the OR to repair soft tissue tears.

I found it difficult to  partition my time among several local factions, the traveling Spahtens, and my family.  I look forward to seeing new and familiar Spahtens as we travel around the globe seeking new challenges.  Thank you to Keith (solid man), Nele (Naila-friendly beast), Corrine (sweet soul), Tom (proud dad), Ellen (cat who swallowed canary smile), Betty (saw her for a second), and Yvette (self-proclaimed bag crasher).  I’ll see you at the Ruckus!

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Balloons: Holding firm and letting go.

Hey All.  Its been a long while since I have posted.  I have missed writing a great deal but since October I have had a lot on my hands.

When I woke this morning I had the image of a bunch of balloons in my head.  An odd thing to be thinking of when you wake up for sure.  Taking my littlest one in hand.  And then releasing the boy from his self inflicted prison of a crib, a prison he is fully capable of entering and escaping on his own.  I descended to the living room to feed and entertain my charges, leaving mom to catch up on some much needed sleep.   While descending the stairs the image of balloons returned, this time with some balloons escaping my grasp with each step down I took.

Parents aren’t given an awful lot of time to ponder anything in the first years of Parenthood.  Our children are our only prevailing responsibility.  Everything needs to be done secondary to our children’s needs and they need everything.  I don’t think you can truly say you are an adult until you try to raise a child.

With all this running through my mind, finding “one Thomas!” on the TV, and soothing the baby I was still pondering the balloons.  It occurred to me that the balloons were bright in color and seemed to radiate in the sun.  They were all different shapes and sizes.  But they are fragile. You need to be careful with them.  They are filled with gas causing them to rise and lift you up.  But if there are too many and you aren’t careful you will lose contact with the ground.

And thats when I got it.  The balloons are the contacts, relationships, commitments, friendships, responsibilities, goals, and aspirations in my life. They are everything I have done and hope to do.  Things I want to maintain and build.  Each one represents a little portion of my life.  Full of the elation to lift me up.  Bright, shiny and colorful.  But each with its own tiny string attached.  A little umbilicus tying me to it.  I’ve gripped so tightly to those strings over the past year that they are starting to separate me from the ground.  If I continue to go up too high, that ground won’t be solid enough to withstand me crashing back into it when I finally let go.  So the only thing left to do is loosen my grip on a few balloons.

I can’t just let go because those balloons represent everything, or nothing.  Some balloons are small but combined with 1 million other small balloons take up a lot of space and create terrible lift.  Some balloons are very large and will always provide the lift I need. The large cumbersome ones need to be held on to tight enough to be secure but not so tight that they would pop.

So where does this leave me and why did I blog this.  Well its really all right there.  I haven’t posted on fb for a while.  Haven’t been doing many of the training sessions that are going around like VD.  Haven’t been at many race’s and worst of all, on the personal level, I haven’t been training.  Its all about the balloons you see.

I went around this last year collecting balloons and making a nice big bunch.  All sorts of colors and shapes.  I attached a weight of worth to them.  Mostly that worth was attached to a medal or tee-shirt of some sort.  Some were weighted just by a day or an event.  The value I was assigning some balloons was not as much as I should have been assigning others.  The bigger and not so colorful balloons.  Balloons that were hugely inflated, more thin skinned, and required much more care than the smaller half filled balloons.

Obviously this problem has been wondering through my mind longer than today.  Longer than a single image of a bunch of balloons.  I suppose in the last 2 months or so I have subconsciously been doing exactly what I have been needing to do without an imagery concept.  I needed a metaphor, balloons and strings finally popped into my head and I finally knew what had to be done or more astutely what I was doing.  I had started to loosen my grip on smaller, brighter balloons.  I have seen friends give huge flowery  goodbyes on social networks.  Send cards, emails and texts of how they just need to escape and focus on the “important things”.  I didn’t do all that.  I just loosened my grip.  As much as I love following the trials and tribulations, highs and lows of so many people, love to give encouragement and inspiration, and most of all be part of a team which does that; I needed to and need to let a few balloons go.

It hurts a little to do this.  But my reality, my ground, needs a lot more from me than all my little balloons.  Nothing bad will happen to my balloons if I let a few go here and there.  They will just end up in someone else’s sky. They might become larger and more important.  They might even become attached to a child of their own.  And learn, like I have, that they too have balloons to let slip away.  There will always be a string attached to my balloons.  And if necessary and if time allows maybe I can go find some new shiny balloons or go looking for some that I have let go.  For a wonderful time however I enjoyed holding on to all the balloons I could.  But now I just need to hold on to a few precious few, and maybe borrow an old or new one  from time to time

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Team Gear: A review.

First off, it must be said.  The team Jersey:  WOW!!!  I am so freaking impressed by the color blended logo and personalization.   The logo, it goes without saying, is a home run out of any park.  Including Yellowstone.  Mike MacKenzie’s design is so tight, so professional it really just sets the tone and pace for everything to come.

Personally I’m about 5’9″ and about 190 lbs.  I fall more on getting fit than actually fit but still I opted for a medium Jersey.  Its a four way stretch material, supple and very comfortable.  True flat seams and ample neck room add to the comfort of the wear.  For my size I found the medium a little snug but not constricting.  Although I might have opted for a large I don’t know that it would make a huge difference.  The shirts design appears to intend for a snug fit.  The shirt is an interesting and purposeful cut.  Broader at the shoulder, trim through the torso/midsection, and a slight flare at the bottom.  I have read reviews about how the material is a much heavier weave than Under Armor.  This is true however I think much heavier is a bit of a reach.  It is heavier but only because it is intended as outer wear and not “under” wear.  I can’t wait to get a race under my belt in it.  This is a great shirt, and even though it looks like a show piece shirt it certainly begs to get muddy and wet.

Tech shirt, T-shirt, and Hoodie.  I had used someone’s suggestion to go a size down.  I don’t think this was a wise decision.  I typically wear a large.  On some specific Tech and T-shirts I can get away with a medium but not on a sweatshirt. For the Team Gear I would say order your regular size.  The Sweat shirt is nice.  A good weight for post race.  Not terribly heavy.  I have washed everything once.  I dared not dry the cotton sweatshirt and t-shirt for fear of shrinkage.  The embroidery is spot on!  It showcases very well and is very discernible as the team logo.  I might have liked to see it a little larger, or the Akuma logo a bit smaller.  I don’t have any issue with the Akuma logo on it.  I’ve seen enough real Football to understand sponsor saturation on a shirt.

The tech shirt was my only disappointment.  I loved the subtle mock collar instead of a a standard crew neck.  The color panels were excellent.  Again I might have liked blue with red panels instead of gray just to keep with the Team Jersey color scheme.  The shirt is only a two way stretch. So its more snug than I would like for the cut of the shirt. Had I purchased a large instead of a medium this wouldn’t even be an issue. I think the Tech top is an excellent all around athletic shirt and top notch for racing.

The t-shirt is a t-shirt.  I didn’t find the quality excellent but its fair.  The embroidery again, excellent.  And again my poor choice in sizing makes it a little more snug than I would prefer.  In the future I would like to see the Sweatshirt and T-shirt with a silk screened logo as opposed to embroidery but that is a personal style preference and nothing against the products.

I’m very interested to see how these shirts hold up over time, washing, shrinking, and racing.   Im quite confident that the Jersey will stand up.  Im positive the rest will too.  In the future I hope some personalization can be done to the Sweats, Tees and Techs.  Maybe even in time some Polos and trainer pants and racing shorts.

A huge thank you to Jessica for making this happen.  To Mike for the unbelievable designs, in marketing its all visuals and branding these are the strongest images I’ve seen.  If I were at a race and saw this shirt I’d buy one for sure.  To Paul for pushing and pushing.  And to Michael for his input and effort with Akuma.  Great things come from small beginnings.  Heres to great racing, great representing and building the best OCR team in the Northeast.

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DNF: Ultra Aftermath.

I originally pictured the finish line as a goal.  But the real finish is so much further than the finish line.  Its at the Pickle Barrel for the after party.  Its Sunday when those racers take the field.  Its next month when people are still asking “Well how bad was it?  Really.”  Its next year at the Amesbury Sprint.  The NJ Super and at the Death Race.  The finish will be every single day after the race, whether its training for another race or just having a run.  It will be that sense of pride when I talk with these other crazy Spartans and we smile at the word “Crazy”.  The finish line is so much more than an inflated arch.  Its that accomplishment of completing the task, what ever the task maybe.”

The danger of writing something down is reflection.  I may or may not have created my own destiny.  Made a self-fulfilling prophesy, or simply slapped that bitch Karma one to many times on her ass.  For what ever reason I played till the chips were down, the house wasn’t dealing anymore cards, and they were calling in their marker.  They say you have to know when to hold ’em, fold ’em, walk away or run.  Well I didn’t hold, fold or walk.  They just wouldn’t let me run any more.  The Ugly lights got turned on and the race director Mike Morris said “Sorry folks the parks closed.  The Moose at the front should have told you

But the end never reflects the effort.  Even now in my head my mind is still running that course.  My body is in a battered state, yet I know if I could just throw on a pair of shoes I could drag myself back into a moving state. So where am I, what has happened, where to I go now.  Well the smart man goes to Google.  A smart woman taught me that.

Here’s what I found:  Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.  These are the 5 accepted stages of grief and loss.  “Although presented in a set order, they are not necessarily experienced in that order. In addition, most people cycle through each stage multiple times.”  

Denial even my own initial reaction of telling myself “I am not denying this, I accept that I didn’t finish” is in fact the denial.  Its denying myself the pain of the not finishing, to try to jump over to acceptance and move on.  There’s nothing healthy about that.

Anger is easy I am full of it!  But what I am not full of is blame.  There is only one person responsible for me not finishing:  ME.  Not the course, I had the endurance to continue, even on a faster pace than my first lap.  Not Spartan Race;  they had a rule they enforced it, I fell on the wrong side of it.  I do not blame my friends who I freely chose to stay with, staying with them may have been the reason I had that second wind and the energy to go on.  No, blame is a selfish emotion, it finds fault in others and absolves the self of wrong.

Bargaining, I’ll be going through this little hell for a while.  Oddly enough not on the course.  When I started that second lap I damn well knew it was a “suicide run”  I had no idea how long I was going to be able to go, but I had a pretty good idea they weren’t going to let me get far.  I went anyway because that is what I came to do.

Depression.  Do I really need to delve into this one?  If your not up to speed on my thoughts on this by now read on it becomes self apparent.

Acceptance.  I accepted this long before I should have and this why I am writing.  I have accepted my DNF graciously.  And that is not the right way.  I do not and will not accept this as a defeat, as quitting, or as failing.  I simply ran but oddly enough ran out of time.

I was accepted to undertake a great challenge.  An experience for a life time.  In an activity that I truly love, I, me, the little runner that couldn’t was given the opportunity to bite off as much as I could, and choke on my own hubris.  The names I was set next to.  Athletes of the highest caliber.  Training regimes which rival Olympic athletes, even Olympic Athletes!  And me.  Chugga chugga pokey pokey 30 minute 5k. What the hell was I thinking.  26 miles over a mountain!  I really thought I could do it.  I prepared a little, had some quality equipment and my little bucket of round 2 items.

I’m not in the mood for writing a recap.  I will say when we started I felt like ass.  And I knew the initial accent would be tough.  I didn’t speculate that it would be as tough as it was.  But that first glorious down hill portion set the pace in my mind.  I was going to finish!  My character had other plans.  I fell back onto my personal training and habits, which is to place others first and myself second.  It wasn’t until it was too late did I make the hard choice to leave. It was personally my lowest moment.  After that I made a unbelievable accent to the summit, across it and then flew like a damn dive bombing eagle down the back side.  People complained how bad it was but I couldn’t tell you,   For myself I never saw it.  I looked at the ground for milliseconds at a time: Enough to decide if the foot hold would support 50% of my weight or less.  Yes Jesus walked on water but I was doing my damnedest to run over mud and stay clean.  My shoe and shirts swap at the Start/Finish zone ate some time, and I ate too.  Everything that was left in my pack and more.  I washed it down with warm PBR.  I looked on stunned at other runners who pulled the plug.  And I saw one undefeated soul.  We knew it was hopeless but out we went.  What took me hours earlier took less than 2 on my second lap.  We could have gone faster still but had linked up with yet another forlorn group.  It was all for not however.  Arguing with rules is not my style.  Being pulled was not a surprise or anything, we knew there would be time hacks.  That’s life.  Shit happens.

I only want one thing and one thing only.  Another shot at it.  In my personal life this is going to be twice as hard.  But I am a blessed man.  I am thankful for all that is set before me.  Challenges and rewards alike.  I just want a chance to fix my choices and be able to put the 100% at it again.  If I get some flak about that.  Than I might enter back into Anger.

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Ultra Beast: A few final thoughts before the Ultra.

I thought I wanted to blog about this coming weekend.  But couldn’t muster the energy.  I searched inspirational quotes.  Went over some old blogs.  Looked at other peoples blogs.  I noticed that a melancholy sense of apathy has set in.  My bin is packed.  Bags are packed.  Everything is prepped and waiting.  GPS is set.  Time to leave is set.  Emergency numbers and contact numbers programed.  Fridays events lined up.  Alarm set for Saturday.  Last “training” run has been done.  Rest period is in motion.  1 year of preparation, anticipation and aggravation is done.

At this time tomorrow I plan on sitting on my tail gate in the parking lot above the course, just like I did last year.  The Start and Finish line at the bottom of a very steep hill, will lay in front of me.  There will be an air of frantic energy as people put the final touches on the race.  The trick will be to not buy into that frenetic chaos. Later on at the Outback, there will be an all to familiar fraternity of racers boasting and retelling stories.  It will be wonderful. Hurricane Heaters, Trifecta Tribe members, those looking to complete the Trifecta, Beast Veterans and first timers.

On Saturday morning I will take my usual position at the back of the heat.  In front of me will be Championship racers and Ultra Beast Individual runners.  Behind me Team Ultra Beast Members will be waiting to fill that stockyard like pen behind the starting arch.  Every race is different.  Every race is the same.  Forward until its over.  This one will be holding the unique challenge of ending; only to start again and do it twice.  I have never done any race like this before.  I have never run this distance before.  I have however faced many challenges that will be replicated in this race.  I haven’t quit on them and have no plans to quit on Saturday.  If for nothing else to say yes, I did do that.

I originally pictured the finish line as a goal.  But the real finish is so much further than the finish line.  Its at the Pickle Barrel for the after party.  Its Sunday when those racers take the field.  Its next month when people are still asking “Well how bad was it?  Really.”  Its next year at the Amesbury Sprint.  The NJ Super and at the Death Race.  The finish will be every single day after the race, whether its training for another race or just having a run.  It will be that sense of pride when I talk with these other crazy Spartans and we smile at the word “Crazy”.  The finish line is so much more than an inflated arch.  Its that accomplishment of completing the task, what ever the task maybe.

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Dispatches from the Storm Front: HH-016 Amesbury, MA.

Zero dark thirty.  A parking lot somewhere or nowhere.  The air is damp.  Remnants of the previous evenings deluge still hangs off tree and person alike.  A black technical (thats a pickup truck for you non-military types) marks the make shift rally point.  Tommy Mac and his staff greet each HH’er collecting waivers and directing them to put excess gear into the back of the Technical.  This is the Hurricane Heat.  A team oriented pre-race heat for Spartan racers who need an extra adrenaline push before they start their race day.

HH-016 was special.  It marked the 1st anniversary of the original HH brought on by Hurricane Irene.  Where hearty souls took up Joe D’s challenge to run into the storm.  So successful was that first HH in 2011 that Spartan Race has run 16 more.  Yet again setting a standard for separating themselves from their competition.  By listening to their racers their Spartans most importantly their family.  All Spartan Racers are family.  HH’ers are like that awe inspiring Aunt or Uncle.  The one that shows up at birthday parties and holidays with strange gifts and stories from exotic places.  Their stories seep into your imagination until one day you decide you too need to go on an adventure too.  HH-016 was just that adventure for so, so many.

When Spartan Race says 0530 sharp with a start time of 0600 they mean it.  I learned on my first HH, HH-007, that you do not want to be late!  Not wanting to be that guy, I also learned being early is no prize.  Now I have just given in to the fact that early or late your going to be doing burpees, lots of burpees.

Along the dirt trail which makes up a nice piece of downhill on the course HHer’s were assembling. Breaking off into groups.  Strangers, pairs, small groups, Spartan veterans and previous HH’ers.  For me it was an internet reunion.  I couldn’t turn around without seeing someone I have ran with at a Spartan Race, HH, met at training camps, volunteered with at the DR, handed out flyers at an expo with, or met in Spartan FB pages.  Former co-workers, Fire Academy graduates.  This was like a small version of “This is your life 2011-2012”  Yeah I was more than happy.

Typical of every HH the forming of groups is paramount.  And staying with that group is the goal.  To work together.  Out of the 22 persons on team “Lost” I knew 4 prior to starting.  Because I am terrible with names I tend to characterize by apparel.  And Spartan did a great job of killing that for me by making everyone wear black.  I know now Dom was wearing his signature Orange hat.  Keith a blue back pack,  the 2 wonderful ladies from Canada who did not speak to much english, which didn’t slow team “Lost” in anyway, and Mikel who translated.  Sandy protected the eggs, Brig had a k-9 eaten Tough Mudder shirt, someone had a pack with the Zelda logo on it, Devin more hair on his face than on his head.  Steve all the way in from AZ who I was with at HH-007.  Our Team Captain with the epic left arm sleeve tattoo.  Lisa another DR racer, over coming injury to run.  Some other heavily accented Gents who could scale walls like Spiderman.  This partial list is brought to you by Aricept.  For those I can’t immediately recall my most sincere apologies.  Because Team LOST was, to date, my favorite team to have been a part of.  Micha Arnoulds team in AZ was hard to beat.  And Storm Chasers IN was a classy group.

Team Lost immediately grasped the concepts of team work and accountability.  Together we pushed, pulled, carried and motivated each other.  This is what the HH is all about.  Whether carrying a tire over water pits, assisting each other over walls or up ropes. Team Lost always put the mission first, never accepted defeat, never quit and never a left a fallen comrade.  I have read posts from those on Team Warrior, Team Ninja and The Storm Chasers.  The Warrior Ethos was plainly in use on every team.  Even “bleedover” teams were people got confused, and lost their original team.  They were quickly absorbed into another.  This is how the HH works because in the end we are all one team.

There are many exhaustive recaps of HH-016 online.  Very excellent recaps that cover each and every nuance of the course.  I love those recaps.  Mainly because I’m lucky if I can remember what I had for breakfast, so in reading their work I can relive moments which blew by me in a blur.  Those who can recall each obstacle and challenge certainly have superior memories to mine.  I don’t remember each challenge individually because my HH’s start the moment I try to sleep the night before, through the groggy sleep deprived drive to the Heat and then the awesomeness of the Heat itself.  I don’t take stock of the how many walls, pits, hills, ropes of burpees I did.  Much like a boxer doesn’t take inventory of the punches he threw or the hits he took.  He just keeps going till the bell rings or his gets bell rung.

Its time for you who have not done an HH to get off the fence.  There were so many first time Spartan first time HH’ers at HH-016.  You can do it.  I believe in you.  More than 150 people who turned out on Saturday believe in you.  You will never reach your limits if you don’t find out where they are.  To go further than you ever have you must first go to where you have never been.  Take the challenge run the Hurricane Heat.