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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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Chicago Super Spartan / Hurricane Heat

In the world of Spartan Race, there are a several different racing distances that you may compete in, each with their own color to represent them on the event schedule. Generally speaking, Sprints (red) are 3-5 miles, Supers (blue) are 6-9 miles, and Beasts (green) are 10-13 miles, but there have been plenty of races that exceed those guidelines. If you finish one race in each distance category within a calendar year, you will have successfully completed what is referred to as the Trifecta, earning you a shiny new medal that encompasses all three colors.

After conquering two sprints (PA and MA) and the Beast (VT), I needed to get a Super in before the end of 2012. Since there is no Super in the New England area as of yet, I had only three options: VA, NJ, or IL. I happened to be away during the weekends of the first two, so if I was going to complete this Trifecta as I was determined to do, I would have to travel to the latter. Flying was not in my budget, which meant that a crazy road trip was the only chance I had. Fortunately, the Spartan community is full of like-minded individuals, so after some asking around, I found eight others who were willing to join in on the journey. I had only met a few of them in person before, but what better way to become friends than to spend more than 48 hours, over 2,200 miles of highway, in cramped quarters? We met up in Boston on Thursday night, hopped in a twelve passenger van, and made the seventeen hour drive toward the Midwest, with a goal of making it there with enough time to participate in the Hurricane Heat (HH-019) at 6pm SHARP.

We arrived in plenty of time to have a real lunch at an establishment where we were the only patrons under the age of forty and to allow some of us to take quick cat naps. I opted to shower the road grease off before heading out for the HH, which probably was not a fabulous idea due to the wet hair plus cold weather combination, but obviously my brain was not functioning properly. It was dark and it was cold, so the five of us made sure to don as many warm layers as possible before making our way to the race location. Cue 87 Hurricane Heaters meeting and exchanging “hellos” and “nice to meet yous” as we awaited our instructions from Tommy Mac. I’m still trying to process everything that happened, but I will try to recall as much as possible.

Our first task from Tommy was to run from the festival area down to the street and back. Total distance was maybe a half mile, if that. When we returned, we were asked to gather into five groups and complete thirty burpees. Then, we began “Operation Keep Spartans Warm.” This consisted of constructing five separate fire pits, which needed several different supplies to create: gravel, firewood, and concrete blocks. The gravel, which was retrieved via plastic buckets, was hauled from the registration area and placed in the center of the fire pit. The concrete blocks came from a huge pile of debris that we had to sift through. A circle of concrete surrounded the gravel in the middle with a square of concrete around that, a slight distance away to be used as seats. Enough firewood to start a fire was placed on top of the gravel and the rest had to be stacked neatly next to the fire pit. The crew crowned the best fire pit of the bunch then asked us to deconstruct one that was too close to another and reconstruct it in another location. After that, we assembled into a large circle where James (one of NE Spahten’s own) was asked to recite the Warrior Ethos. We then counted off before heading into the woods.

A good chunk of our group struggled to keep up with our walking pace, which resulted in lots of angry comments between members and lots of penalty burpees for being last. The trails were very wet with thick mud and the strewn leaves made traction a little tricky in some areas. The first mission we encountered was a grueling one! We were asked to go through a section of deep trenches, with two (or three, I forget) of our men not touching the ground. The trenches seemed endless and it took a decent amount of time to finish. Once we were allowed to have everyone on the ground, a hundred penalty burpees were issued, which equated to our team of eighteen doing six each. From there, it’s a blur of trail running madness, but we did complete a couple parts of the course during the few hours we were out there. There were some bunny hops and jump lunges mixed in there as well, but the best stuff came towards the end of the event.

Two of the founding members of the Storm Chasers, Jennifer and Danny, eloped over the summer. Recently, at the Carolina Beast, they were able to tell their families the news. We had a mock wedding for them in the middle of the Hurricane Heat! We were asked to assemble into rows of five on either side of the “aisle” and even had someone to officiate. Jennifer’s Dad was participating in the HH and he was finally able to walk his daughter down the aisle! To congratulate them, we each did fifteen burpees for the happy couple. More trail running ensued before we finally came back toward the festival area, with the Storm Chasers team somehow in the lead. We scaled the horizontal cargo net and were rewarded for being the first team back by getting to do frog jumps for what seemed like an eternity. Following that, they instructed us to do bear crawls to the port-a-potties with each group to line up in front of one. Once all the groups had arrived, they asked for the lightest person on each of the first three teams to come forward. I was about to offer myself before Chris, one of my road mates who is a Spartan employee, looked at me and shook his head, but it was too late for one of my other road mates, Shaun. We had to carry the port-a-potties, which were as clean as they would ever be, over to another spot in the festival area with poor Shaun inside of it. Then, each team needed to set up two picnic tables. Sounds easy enough, but the catch was that our two heaviest men had to be atop them. Twenty-five burpees were issued and then we were free to warm up by the fire and collect our HH gear! My hands were numb and my back/thighs were frozen due to a leaking Camelbak, so we took our t-shirt and dog tags before making our way to the van as soon as possible. Fortunately, our roommates that had stayed behind were nice enough to order pizza and wings for us, so we were able to satiate our hunger once we returned to the room.

The next morning, a few of our group were running in the elite heat, so we all hauled ourselves out of bed early to get ready to head over to the site. It was a very chilly morning and lots of layers were needed again. I could not get myself warm, no matter what I did, so after we got our bibs, I attempted to roast myself in front of one of the fires we had so kindly built the night before. At one point, I looked over and my favorite elite racer, Ella Kociuba, was standing right next to me, trying to warm up before the first heat of the day. I was kind of star struck, but I somehow mustered enough courage to say “hello” to her, to which she responded with an “Are you Kay?” and a giant bear hug. Totally made my day that she recognized me, even though it may possibly mean I stalk her too much! I have yet to meet an elite racer that didn’t seem completely down-to-earth. We wished our elite racing road mates well and watched them head out on the course.

I will start by saying that Clifs Insane Terrain Park, where the race was held, has its own obstacles already set up, which Spartan definitely utilized. The course wasn’t very hilly, but you had to trudge through streams and basins that were loaded with mud and leaves, so it was slow going for me. I can’t remember the order of these obstacles and I’m sure I’m missing some, but I will present them in true Kay fashion with bullets and my accompanying notes.

  • Rappel – Use a rope to descend a steep hill and then use a rope on the other bank to get up the next hill. There was a long line for this and it ate up a good amount of time.
  • Monkey bars – One side rotated and the other side was fixed. I chose the stable side and made it across.
  • Pair of eight foot walls – ‘Nuff said
  • Two barbed wire sections – One was in the beginning of the race, not too rocky. I lost my gloves during this and didn’t it realize it until after, so I was a little bummed. The other one was at the very tail end of the race. It was longer and full of soupy, thick clay mud. Definitely the muddiest Spartan I’ve been to.
  • Over-under-throughs
  • Log over-unders – The overs were really high. Didn’t see many people making it over these without some kind of assistance.
  • Rope climb – First time I’ve failed this one, but it was at the end of the course and suspended over water that was freezing and up to my neck, which zapped all of my energy.
  • Traverse wall – First time failing this one since my first race. I was two blocks away from the end.
  • Spear throw – Still have yet to stick a spear!
  • Log ascent – Right after the wicked muddy barbed wire section. Looked a little too precarious for me and there was a super long line, so I took the burpee penalty.
  • Tractor pull – Longest line I’ve seen other than at the sled pull in Vermont, so I did burpees instead of waiting.
  • Balance beam – I scooted on my butt, which tore a nice hole in my pants, but it was suspended over water and I did not want to take a dip.
  • Sandbag carry- Wicked long, but not straight uphill. The route was more along the lines of a motocross track with small hills.
  • Log cross over – Water obstacle with logs suspended horizontally, varying distances apart. You had to move from each log without touching the water. I opted out.
  • Triple balance beam – Three balance beams, which were not fixed in place, of varying heights. I scooted again, but made it through.
  • Water filled trenches – They made you go through these and the water was very, very cold!
  • Log jump – Preexisting obstacle where the logs were in water. I made it to the third to last and couldn’t reach so burpees for me.
  • Fire jump – Easy, peasy.
  • Gladiators – One pushed me into the hay bales, but they’re always gentle with me.
  • Trench jumps – Kind of self explanatory. Jump across the trench to the next bank.
  • Rope traverse – One rope overhead, one under your feet and you cross the water. I really had to overreach on this one as I’m not the tallest chick on the planet, but I made it across.

It was not my best performance, by far. I ended with 180 burpees, 90 due to failure and 90 due to opting out of long lines or potential injuries. It took me just over three and a half hours to complete, which was under my goal of four hours, but a bit shy of where I truly hoped I would be. I had to do a lot of walking as my shins are still not back to 100% from killing them at the Beast last month, but I was probably better off that way since the course was so muddy. Since its Breast Cancer Awareness month, the ribbon on the blue Super medal was pink. Although pink is my least favorite color, it’s unique and I like that! Also, I’m pretty sure I was borderline hypothermic at the finish, so I made it a point to try to get warm…just as soon I had my Trifecta medal around my neck! Off to the Merch booth I went to get it before heading in the direction of the showers, which thankfully were equipped with warm water. Some of my road mates had gone back to the hotel to shower and change, so I was stranded without my change of clothes until they returned, but luckily, the changing rooms are heated so I hung out there until Gaby found me and we could leave. We all showered and changed before shipping back up to Boston, but not without first stopping at Buffalo Wild Wings! All in all, it was a great weekend with great friends and I look forward to the next time I can join them for a Spartan trip!

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What’s Going On This Weekend

I am not racing this weekend. This Spahten Chick (see what I did there?) is still healing up for Fenway, which is only a few weeks away!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or you are just new around here, you are fully aware this weekend is the Chicago Super. A number of our friends, and fellow Spahtens, are heading west to participate! For some, this is just a Super, but for others, this is a Trifecta! Having earned my first Trifecta just under 5 weeks ago, that feeling of honor and satisfaction still hangs with me. Good Luck friends! Stay warm and have a freaking blast!

Are there any races happening this weekend nearby? Comment below!

Also, if you are anywhere in the neighborhood, there is a Flash WOD scheduled for tomorrow. Check in with Mercedes and Keith for all the details or just show up at Quincy Market around 11 – look for a mass of people wearing SR swag. (I think they will easily be found!)

Whatever you choose to do this weekend, enjoy the fall weather and make it count!

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No free Super for you!

At the 2012 New Jersey Super – there was a bit of a rain storm. Well, more like a tornado warning that shut the course down for some time. I was there, it was more than a little epic, and Spartan Race was forced to pull all volunteers off the mountain and herd any athlete they could into a safe and secure building until it passed.

Not everyone was so lucky, of course – being an 11 mile event, there were athletes strung out all over the place with no way to know what was going on (other than the sky went black, the rains came and the winds tried to blow them off) – and many found obstacles with no volunteers to tell them to stop and wait. As a result, a whole pile of folks were effectively caught crossing the finish lines with no timing mats, or bussed off the mountain when they hit aid stops, because it was too dangerous to continue.

A lot of folks didn’t finish, through no fault of their own.

Spartan did right by them, and offered them a free Hurricane Heat that night, a free race the next day, *and* a free entry to the 2013 event.

The coupon for this free 2013 event got circulated, and the internet being the internet, it’s original intent and intention was lost, and far more folks made use of it than Spartan intended, resulting in a huge number of free 2013 NJ Super signups – and Spartan issuing an announcement that they would fix things.

They did – all entries that used the coupon have been revoked. I can’t be mad about it (yes, I used it too) – while I was at the event, I wasn’t impacted too severely by it, and I did finish – so now it’s on me to figure out my Super for next years trifecta medal.

So, what are your options?

Buy a registration (if you click on a banner on this site, we’ll get some kick back), or throw one of many coupon codes in (EXTOLE15 is a good one)

Wait for a groupon / living social or other discount (these tend to happen closer to the event date, and are used to drum up inerest in quiet heats or days)

Volunteer (most volunteer spots are rewarded with a free race entry – they’ll happily let you volunteer for a minimum amount of time, then pay you in a free race in the volunteer heat)

I’ve not decided how I’ll handle my own registration yet – but one thing is sure, I’ll see you there!