Monday, September 24, 2012

Race Review: Warrior Dash September 15th 2012

Warrior Dash September 15th 2012 

An obstacle race at a ski resort…I guess I should have figured on some elevation gain, huh?
Well, elevation gain I wanted, elevation gain I got. And most of that was in the mile and a half before the first obstacle.

You could tell lining up in the starter corral that there was a nasty hill first thing. What you could not tell, however, was that the hill kept going…and going…and going…and going.

So when the flames shot over the top of the corral and we started uphill, I was figuring it’d be piece of cake.(And I really enjoy cake.) Because I’ve been running Wintastaquit so often lately, I am afraid of no mountain. But man…this just kept on going!! Fortunately the course’s terrain wasn’t too bad. Nice enough grass, no mud, no slippery slope, just up. Some pretty steep parts, but nothing requiring a scramble.

First obstacle is a barbed wire crawl. Nothing too nasty here. The ground wasn’t beaten to a pulp, so no major dirt. The wire wasn’t set so low that I had to crawl like a snake. Under the wire I go, thru a net and on to the next. (Pictures are mostly of my girl)

The second obstacle was a real fun Over\Under thing. Over a waist high wall, then under a beam. I gotta tell you, this would have been super fun if I wasn’t carrying the camera. Trying to clear these walls quickly with a camera in your hand is a pain. Doing them slowly however, is easy. And that’s what I did. You could get into a nice rhythm on this obstacle. Jump and duck, jump and duck…
Downhill run. Down a skis slope run in fact. The terrain here still not too bad. It’s a bit slippery just from the grass itself, and a bit steep in places, but not horrible if you’ve been running trails.

Obstacle 3! A kick ass dirt crawl, under barbed wire. Through a rough trench with barbed wire overhead. I half expected to see tracers…. No mud in the trench, but some good sized rocks to beat up your hands and knees a bit.

Some more running, then Obstacle 4, a really cool balance board type object. This would have been quite treacherous if we were muddy or wet, but hitting it dry wasn’t too awful. The planks to the top had nice rungs on them for secure footing, but the top center beams were smooth.

The views from Gunstock are striking. My camera cannot do them justice so I won’t post pictures.

Uphill again, this time on a beat up fire road, to Obstacle 5. I really liked 5. It was interesting to see people second guessing themselves on this one. Grab the knotted rope and scale the wall. Coming down the other side was a basic ladder descent. Pretty fun stuff! The whole time I couldn’t help but wonder how cool it would be if this obstacle was surrounded by flames…I know, logistical nightmare. But the thought entertained me for a bit.

Obstacle Six, after some more fire road, is a really cool net obstacle. You first climb up a bit, onto a net, then you must traverse the net across, oh I don’t know, maybe 20ft? Then climb down the other side. I did see a hero or two start to run across the net. Hell, they probably could have made it if it were clear of other competitors.

A short run takes us to Ob #7 (I don’t feel like typing Obstacle anymore so I’m going to abbrev.)

Ob7 is this cool Up and Over kinda thing. The way up was a sloped ladder climb, but once you got a leg over the top, there was one step about a quarter of the way down, then a drop to the ground. I’d guess 12-15 feet maybe total height, So maybe a ten foot drop?
Some more down hill. And no here’s the pisser about my day…I’d been cruising thru this. I’m out here to just take pictures for the girly, I’m not racing, I’m strolling most of the stuff and breezing the obstacles because I’m not winded. I’m having a grand ol’ tyme! Until….and Heather even heard it…until…POP! I roll my damn ankle. Yep, I’m walking down a grassy slope. WALKING!! And I roll an ankle. Sheeeeet. Thank god, no pain, just that sudden nausea that you get cause you know your out of the game for a while…and you know it’s gonna hurt later…

So Ob Eight is a fun kind of slide doo-dad. A big black tarp with a snowmaker blowing water onto it. There are trenches under the tarp big enough for set of buttocks to slide down. There’s also a pretty rainbow from the sno-gun. I cant slide down this. I have no idea why. I tried a few times but instead stood up and hobbled my way down.

A short run to the next obstacle, which is actually being broadcast live to a monster TV down in the festival area. Neat idea! Very spectator friendly.

Number Niner is a standard Cargo Net up and over. No biggy, although I did feel a little bad when I got on the net next to Heather and the net started bending to my weight…fat Geoffrey…

Ten is a Fire jump. Over some burning wood, in fact I think this was Dura-Flame brand wood. Was there 4? Four fire jumps I think.

MUD! The first mud in the race in fact! Under barbed wire thru nasty mud. It almost seemed like thin concrete mix. It was a very interesting color and nice smooth consistency. I mean, I wouldn’t wanna eat it, but it was smooth.

I have not done any other Warrior Dash events, but I feel pretty strong that this particular one would have been a great first time OCR for anyone not sure about OCRing. Although the hill climbs were challenging, if you can walk, you can make it up a hill, and with only 11 obstacles… Not being soaked to the bone for an entire race also has a nice beginner appeal too.

All of the obstacles were very well built. Solid frames on the wooden obstacles etc. The addition of the snowmaker on Ob8 was pretty cool. All the fun signs on the course were great motivators. The mud at the end was great for the spectators.
We did get some cool swag from the event. The free Tshirt is of very nice quality. The finisher medal is pretty cool. The funny little hat makes a very nice addition to any Hash. (See other posts if you aren’t familiar with Hashing)
 I was also able to buy a fun little Kilt Beer Cozy thingy and a bottle opener.
I look forward to trying another Warrior Dash to compare the Gunstock event to rumors of other Dashes I have heard of.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Race Review: Hero Rush September 8th 2012

I am new to Obstacle Course Racing. I have raced and competed in many different sports, Cycling, Karate, Adventure Racing, Running and Tri.

But this past weekend I did my 2nd OCR (that’s what the veterans call Obstacle Course Racing) and I’m hooked. 100% hooked in fact.

Heather ( and I drove 2hrs thru lovely Bennington VT and eastern New York to Ellms Family Farm in Ballston Spas NY for the Hero Rush OCR.  And man, it was more than worth getting up at 5am for.

First thing, Hero Rush is not a “Mud Run” and, here’s the best part, it is geared towards and from Firefighters. The obstacles, the awareness, the participants and a portion the proceeds go towards firefighting charities. Solid. There’s a reason it’s called “Hero Rush”. Every damn firefighter you know is a Hero. Period.

“Geared towards and from firefighters” means exactly what you think. The obstacles are toned down versions of some of the physical tests that firefighters go through when performing their jobs. From smashing thru doorways and jumping thru windows to clawing your way through smoke filled crawlspaces, this race makes you appreciate these guys even more. I would have to guess 90% of the teams there were firefighters from various Fire Stations from around the area. Big Kudos to them for coming out and throwing down with us civilians!!

The race…fun. That really is the best single word for it, simple and effective. The race was FUN!

OCR’s are obviously meant to be fun, but something about this race felt truer to that goal. There was a lot of running on our New York course. The total distance was 3.8 miles, and the obstacles very different from a Mud Run.
You should def check out Hero Rush’s site for better pics and deets but I shall throw in my 3 cents here (and check!!!). Some of the obstacle names I forget, so I just describe, others are Hero Rush names.
Firepole start! Killer. Although technically the race isn’t started, the first obstacle is a stair climb to a fire pole descent. Then you’re off running. The terrain was a bit tricky. It looked predictable, but was not. For the most part it wasn’t ankle rolling dangerous, but it was enough to destroy the stride I’ve been working so hard to perfect.
Jump through a window, push your way through some doors and try not to get slammed by the door closing back on you! Run!

Tire Field with swinging tires trying to knock you over. A bit tricky if you’ve been sprinting till now. Run!

CPR. Def a Hero Rush staple. Stop and do 30 true compressions on a CPR dummy. Unfortunately there was no volunteer at this station and I saw more than one competitor just blow through this.  Run!!

Entrapment. Crawl through a drainage pipe that has been interlaced randomly with climbing ropes and 2x4s, thankfully there is light at the end of this particular tunnel. I actually was able to rest a bit on this obstacle as you had to crawl and slowly pick your way through. Run!

My favorite obstacle…The Towering Inferno I think they called it… Jump into the pool of water and crawl UP a sewer pipe with water dumping  down on you, not quite blinding you, but pretty un-cumf all the same. It’s quite slippery in here, a fall, even into the pool, would probably hurt. When you get to the top it’s a fun and all too quick trip down a tarp slide butt first in to another big pool of water. In hindsight, I should have just done this obstacle a few times in a row. Run!
Hazmat Pool.  I have no idea what was in here with the water…Jello? But regardless, jump in, dive under the barrels, emerge on the other side covered in goop. Run!

Ugh…the crawlspace sim. You’re on all fours crawling through a smoke filled box. No light at the end of the tunnel! Better hope your eyes adjust quickly or you may go head first into a wall (hahaha Heather!)

RUN!! This is the only true mud on the course. It’s not Spartan mud, but it is treacherous! It’s also a good place to step off trail and water the trees, if you know what I mean.

The first required team obstacle. Let me digress a bit here. I do not like Team stuff. I work better alone. But I do also understand the nature of this kind of racing, so I’m good. Even though I lost minutes and a placing waiting for the next competitor  to assist…. So, grab the simulated victim (2 tires sewn together),place on a stretcher then bring the whole thing over 2 walls, under barbed wire and through a drainage pipe. Then just for fun, back underneath the barbed wire. All this with a partner who is spent compared to me who got a nice little break while waiting for him J. Run!!!

Foam Pipes. Crawl through pipes filled with foam. Man, don’t inhale this stuff. I did, hell, I swallowed a bunch too and almost yacked when I exited and started running again. This obstacle did need some more attention. The single volunteer didn’t tell us exactly what was going on and I ended up just going thru as quickly as made sense, which ironically was not the real idea…in fact I’m still not quite sure what I was supposed to do….Run!!!!

Basement Entanglement. FUNFUNFUN!! I like rope climbs. This was actually a fire hose climb with knots tied in it. Fire hose is way gentler on the hands than rope. Climb up a story then, crap…figure out how to get down this contraption…One hose for your feet, one hose for each hand, set up in some kind of suspension bridge contraption.  You really need to see pics to appreciate this obstacle. Run!

Hoarders Hell. I did hear that my neighbor, Willy Nelson, is a hoarder.  Up a ladder into a shipping container filled with smoke. Dodge the haybale obstacles, don’t smack your head on the overhangs and descend a ladder on the other side. Run!

I loved the Dummy Drag. Simulated victim of two tires sewn together, no stretcher, no team-mate. Get them over, under and through. Thank god they were fine with me brutally tossing the tires over the wall, I think if it were a real victim that may have been a faux pas. And I may have inadvertently pulled off a victims arm too….Runnnn!!!
Bystander Blast! Your final soaking. Jump into the pool while bystanders soak any part of you that may have dried. This was a favorite of the little kids and families spectating. Run!

Fearless Finish of fire jumping. 4 lines of fire and a ton of smoke. I wish I had gotten some better pictures of this obstacle. Man, it was smoky. One of the very coolest things about this fire obstacle…if you did catch on fire or trip or whatever, there were literally hundreds of firefighters and EMTs all over the place.  (In fact, if at any time during the race you got hurt , you knew there were responders nearby.)

If you’ve done other OCRs or Mud Runs, def check out Hero Rush. You can’t beat the cause and you won’t find any participants truer to that cause. If you haven’t done other OCR’s, you will not be disappointed by having this be your first.

Heather and I did the Elite Wave at 9am, Heather nabbing 2nd and I landed 5th, first wave on the course. Any pictures taken by us were taken the 2nd time we ran with the 10:30 wave.


 I am very sorry to say that Hero Rush is no longer doing races. This race had some really great potential.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Gym vs Home Workouts

Gym vs home workout, thoughts from a Has-Been.

For 6 years I worked in gym. As a Personal Trainer, a Weight Training Instructor and general desk jockey. You may not be able to tell now (curse you atrophy!!) but I’ve got a decent idea what I’m talking about. Decent mind you, I am far from a professional coach, but Ive been around a bit. (snicker,snicker)

I have been temporarily cursed with a life of poverty and no longer work in a gym, in fact its been months since I have been able to afford a bloody gym membership. For some reason this stupid berg thinks it can charge San Francisco prices for our ghetto gyms… So I have been forced to exercise in ways foreign to me. I liked being a meathead. So this is odd….

My girl Heather ( ) has been training (forcing) me into some different concepts.

I’ve been doing Ranger Runs. Spartan Race training if you will. We go run and every half mile stop and do plyos of some kind. The other day we climbed Harris Hill twice then did 20min worth of plyos, then climbed the damn stairs again. It hurts us. But I can feel it. I’ve been running for a few years now, but never really bothered mixing a Ranger Run into my training.

Ooooh! Ride like Wind Chris Cross!! Nice! Hey! That’s Michael McDonald doing backup!!!!  Once again I digest…

Now, do I want to train like this all the time…the obvious answer is…Hell no. Why Geoff, why don’t you want to train like this all the time? Well, this brings me up to my title. KInda…

I like weights. “Lift big to get big” is an easy and reasonably fundamental philosophy.  Yes, you need to eat big too, but if you don’t lift big, you won’t get big.

Its hard to lift big at home. A few reasons:           
A) who can afford the weights?                                                               
3) SAFETY!!                                                                                          
&) Motivation                                                                

So maybe we don't all want to get big, and thats fine but those arguements still stand.

Even the smallest will gym will offer more equipment than most of us can keep in our home. Gym equipment will (should!) be safe and well kept, making safety and spotting less of an issue. More equipment equals more diverse workouts equals less banality. You don’t want banality do you? Of course you don’t.

Now topic L). Distractions….many people are leery of exercising in public. Whether that’s due to modesty, being reserved, or what have you, the gym is distracting.  BUT ITS GOOD! You can see what other exercisers are doing, you can talk with fellow members and increase your own repertoire of exercises. Nobody likes to hear that power lifting grunting like he’s about to shit himself, but that is a way better distraction than the doorbell, the dishes, the fire alarm or just about any distraction found at home.


Now, if one is determined not to go to the gym. One wants to get fit to one of the myriad fitness DVDs out there. Party On I say!  But….clear a space and make it yours. That space MUST be yours. Get rid of any kid or cat toys. Don’t have a drying rack in there. Clean your space and keep it clean! And, you must also do this with….your time! Yep. If you wanna work out at home, and you live with anyone or have pets or other responsibilities, there are going to be distractions and you do not want that!! Make sure your are not going to kick, punch, fall, twist or otherwise damage yourself on any furniture.

What kind of equipment you using? None? Well…forget getting big. But you can get fit and buff. And that’s excellent.  You have some rubber bands? Make sure to clean them now and then, check them for damage. You don’t want to lose an eye. Yoga mat? Wash that nasty thing sometimes. Gross. Do you have a small set of dumbbells? Make sure you aren’t doing any boxing movements too close to that TV or a window. If you’re using a stability ball, take it slow. Even experienced guys fall off those and break their left pinky finger.

My final advice though is….get a gym membership for a month or so. Check it out. Talk to the staff, talk to the members and see if you can make it work. If it’s not for you, then by all means work out at home.

Regardless of the way you choose to train, just make sure to get outside and some cardio now and then. Even if you’re sweating like a pig to your DVD, get some fresh air. Your lungs will thank you for it.


Friday, August 24, 2012

Kankles, Horse Pucky, AC and People That Look Like Their Dogs.

How does that happen? Are people naturally drawn to dogs that look like themselves or do they grow into one another? I’m a cat guy. If I look like Sarge or Donut, I’m good with that.
“Time Passages” by Al Stewart is actually an incredible song.
But I digest, this is supposed to be a blog about my last couple adventures running up Wintastiquet Mountain, aka Winny (ya, I know Winstrol…).
I work at New Chapter on Technology drive in Brattleboro, so I run to Winny from there. Its not a difficult run at all, crossing Putney Road is a bit Frogger-esk, but once past the rotary and over the bridge it’s rather nice…for a while.
So, running in the summer is always a trip for me. I know we all try to run with our eyes open, but I need to comment on what I saw these past few runs.
I run into work down Putney Road. I run on the sidewalk on the left hand side, it’s the safest for the most part. Tuesday, as I was about to head into the little valley at the Marina, I see a kind of disturbing sight…a 20 something male, walking his bike up the side walk, with…Kankles. WTF! How the hell did this dude get kankles? I mean, you could see them POW! Even before you noticed his atrocious fashion sense, you could see his kankles. Man, when I was in my 20s I was working 2 jobs and training for Triathlon.
After my day at work, I run to Winny. My route takes me past the local package store where I get to see some of the gems that make the people of New England sparkle…This particular gem comes to mind: A 300lb man sitting in his spotless F350 with the engine running so he can have the AC on while he’s on his cell phone. I’m guessing that talking probably makes him sweat. Thus the sitting in a running F350 on a beautiful August day?
When I finally get to the trailhead, unscathed, there’s horse shit all over the place. WTF? Horses themselves don’t bother me. People that own them, on the other hand, have always had a little place in my colon. Why the hell do they think its fine to leave 25lbs of shit in the middle of the damn trail? What if I did that? What if I come to your house and drop a dookey right on your walkway? Would you like that? Huh? Would you? 
Trails are common use. I pack out what I pack in. Or bury it. Stupid horses…Ya, and whats up with me having to yield to horses on single track? Why is that? I’m training you cowboy git. Get your fat ass off your horse and get some real exercise. And try not to dump on the trail.

Geez…so the run itself.

There is nothing fun about Winny. Its ugly. Its painful. The terrain is terrible. There’s bugs and humidity. But…it is a climb. And a reasonably relentless one. There are maybe 2 spots on the way up where you get a quick chance to get your breath back. The rest is just up. Up crappy trail. Nasty double track with sharp pointy nasty rocks just waiting to come loose under your feet, then slice you when you eat it. But it is a climb…so I run it.
Tuesday I ran it in my Vibrams with my CamelBack Octane pack. The Octane has seen me thru a couple of ARs and many a mountain bike. It’s not ideal for strict running, but does the trick.  My god “Fire and Rain”  by James Taylor has got to be the saddest song ever. My vibrams rule for trail running.  But my feet definitely took a serious pounding. The rocks on Winny are NO JOKE! Descending WInny in the 5fingers was a bit tricky. Mine are a few seasons old and have stretched a good bit. The soles felt awesome, sticking to everything, but I just couldn’t get the shoe to feel right due to the stretching.
Today I ran it in my Nikes with a fancy schmancy CamelBack Ultra LR. Same route, different experience. First thing, wearing shoes sucks!!! All my shoes are trashed, and the Nikes are no exception. I think one of the cats peed in ‘em too. God, the stink is un-human. Climbing in regular shoes again just makes my feet feel rather cumbersome….like I have soggy loaves of bread on my feet. Stinky, soggy bread with a swoosh on ‘em. Descending in them was much cushier (obviously) and faster. Then the pack…well, there are a couple of adjustments that I need to tweak. All and all I think the pack is too large for both my frame (6ft,185lbs) and too large for my current needs. BUT! When I finally get my sorry arse ready for another ultra…..this thing will do the trick for those stupid long unsupported training runs. Plenty of easily accessible pockets, good water capacity,etc. But it just feels too big.
At the summit today I stopped and listened to my Pandora. “Just like living in Paradise” by David Lee Roth was playing. Kind of fitting here. A) Dave is one of the coolest futhermuckers on Earth and 3) I love what I do, even though it sucks. It may not be paradise to everyone, but it’s what I have now, and I’ll take it.