Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Spartan Beast Obstacle Race

Eat. Drink. Keep Moving. Ask For Help. FINISH.

These were my rules/goals for the day. I had never done an obstacle race before so I just came prepared to be out on the trails for 8-9 hours. For those who don't know me, my strengths for this race would be the hiking/climbing up the mountain and the trail running. I had my Camelback, food, beanie hat and polypro shirt (in case it was cold at the summit of Killington Mountain) and I was ready. And, I was all by myself.

About 3 weeks ago, Spartan Co-Founder (and friend), Andy Weinberg emailed me and said "you should do the Beast."
me: "What? I have never done an obstacle course race before and this is the hardest one of the year! The Championship for the season! And, I have never really done burpees!"
Andy: "You know you can run/hike the 13+ miles, so you have that covered. If you can't do an obstacle, do the burpees and move on. You can do it."
me: "Ok. Sign me up."

It really was that simple.

And, there. I was signed up and ready to try something huge that I had no idea about. In years past, I would never have signed up for something that I knew nothing about. Uncertainty and the unknown have always scared me. But, I don't think that way anymore. 2012 is a big year for me. I turned 40 and all of a sudden, life feels short. Sort of like a midlife crisis. Time to try things and who cares how hard they are. Just be smart, take your time, have fun doing it.

I started doing burpees to get ready. I had been in good running shape from the races that I did this summer so I was confident about that. But the upper body strength is not necessarily there. Oh well! I had three weeks to get in burpee shape!

All of a sudden, it was Friday and I headed to Killington to pick up my race bib, timing chip, etc. I got to Outback Pizza around 5pm to a packed parking lot of excited racers getting there stuff, meeting each other, etc. Since I was by myself, I went in, got my information, said some hellos to Margaret Schlachter and Chris Davis and quietly left. Big crowds are not my thing! And, I was going to run in a race of thousands of people the next day! Ha!  But, I learned the day of the race that those crowds were the nicest people on earth and willing to help anyone!

Pre-race packet pick up at Outback Pizza

I went to a pasta dinner per invitation of Matt Davis at Junyong Pak's (who ended up coming in second...crazy athlete) rental house after the bib pick up and met so many nice racers! Death Racers and some top athletes in the racing scene. And, me who has never done a Spartan Race! Hilarious.

I headed back to my friend's house in Bethel to stay the night. I woke up and left Bethel by 5:45am so I could be back in Killington by 6:30am. I wanted to be there to see the scene unfold. I tell you, Spartan Race is a well oiled machine. Amazing to see Killington Mountain transformed into carnival-like atmosphere.

I saw Andy and Margaret briefly and just mulled around, observing people's pre-race rituals, warm ups, watched how nervous or confident people were appearing. I saw all types of people, fit, your average Joe like myself, happy, intense, families, spouses, kids. People were ready!

Andy and Margaret
Pre-race, looking pretty clean!
cool tattoo guy!
Pre-race rituals
I checked in my bag, got my number (70729!!) written on my legs and arms and went to the starting line to watch the Elites start their race at 8:30am. I can't even list all of the awesome athletes that were in that line.

Elite racers lined up and ready to explode

Elites are off! The top racers would finish a little less than 3 hours.
So, I had an hour to kill before my heat. And, then BOOM! Team Death Race members Don Devaney, Johnny Waite and Ray Morvan were at the climbing wall! They had started the course at 4am with two 70 pound sandbags that they had to take with them through the entire course. I jumped the fence and ran over and gave big hugs to them all, excited to finally meet Johnny and Ray! I had met Don at the Moosalamoo Ultra a month earlier. These guys are great and I got to see them a couple more times on during the race! Such inspiration. I have followed their successes via the Spartan Death Race Facebook Page for over a year and saw them compete this summer at the Summer Death Race. So meeting them and seeing them during the day was a highlight for sure.

Team Death Racers Don, Ray and Johnny
Johnny Waite with 70 pound sandbag
Ray and Don
Before I knew it, it was 9:30am and I was in line waiting and BOOM we were off! The weather was gorgeous, slightly chilly and the leaves were starting to change so it was spectacular on the trails. Some people were starting off too quickly and were off on the side of the trail puking within the first mile or so. I just kept on trucking, sipping water, running on the flats, stopping at the obstacles to check them out before I launched into them so I would not hurt myself. I asked for help. Dudes totally like to help chicks. If you are wondering if you should do the race yourself, just do it. The people in this race were so nice and everyone wants everyone to achieve their goal and be safe. I loved that.

Here is the Vermont Spartan Beast obstacle list (in order). Holy shit, there were 35 obstacles!?!??!?!!??! The penalty for not completing an obstacle was 30 Burpees. And, keep in mind while these obstacles are happening, we are going up and down Killington Mountain several times. In the end I heard it was 14+ miles with 6000 ft elevation.

Here is a map of where the obstacles were on the course:

Map of the zones of obstacles. NUTSO.

Ditch jumps or Moats-Mud

Over unders- don't remember this one.

Dirt mounds w/ water pits- Mud

Vertical cargo- needed help on this one. One of the guys held the cargo net still for me and then talked me through it. It was high and I had no idea what I was doing but I did it thanks to his help!

Barbed wire high crawl- 4 foot (?) high barbed wire to walk under. Easy since I am wicked short.

Double 7 foot walls- "Can I help you?" Sure! thanks, dude! 

Barbed wire crawl #1- suck ass!!!! There were tons of small rocks and mud and a fire hose was pointed on us and it was freezing and my legs and arms are bruised and scraped up wicked. 

2 short walls- Literally 2 short walls to get over.

Monkey bars- first 30 Burpees set of the day. Those bars were so far apart! And, I have not done monkey bars since I was 10 years old. So, burpee on! This was at the top so the views were pretty and it was no big deal.

Trench crawl- MUD.

Traverse wall- Smoked this thing. Years of rock climbing and bouldering paid off!

Rope climb #1- ZOINKS. 30 Burpee set number two. No way I could climb that sucker. And I got muddy up to my knees trying. 

40° water swim- ZOINKS. 30 Burpess set number three. This was insane and I wanted to conserve myself. This was only at 3 miles or so and still had 12 to go! People were shivering so bad and I said fuck it. 

Tarzan swing-   Not sure what this was. Part of the Water swim. You had to swim out to a bridge, climb the rope ladder, swing out to ropes, etc. 

Water station (4.5 miles)- water refill. 

Memorization poster- "Take the final two digits of your number and find that on the large board and then memorize the phrase for later in the race. Luckily, someone had a Sharpee pen and I wrote it on my arm. GOLF 615-4635.

Herculean hoist-  Piece of cake. Pull a rope that is tied to a heavy weight until it hits the top. 

Water station #2 (6 miles)

Atlas carry (concrete bucket thing)- these were wicked heavy. I had a hard time getting them off the ground and some kick ass woman helped me. Had to carry one a distance, drop it, pick up another and bring that one back.

Barbed wire crawl #2- Excuse me while I swear, "MOTHER FUCKING BARBED WIRE CRAWLS!!!" This one was uphill but it was more muddy and with hay so it was much softer. Still sucked. And, when I got to the end, a woman, sliced open her leg and was screaming. I went over and held her arm while she was shaking and a big racer dude came over and said "I am a medic." He pulled out his supplies and helped her out and I was on my way.

Double 7 foot wall #2- Big dude helped again.

Wall climbs w/rope- these were on the snowboarding slopes. There were easy.

Tractor pull- I think this was the one where you had to haul a heavy piece of concrete that was hooked to a chain up a hill and back down. Had to watch it barreling back down at you on the way down so your ankles did not get pegged. Ouch.

Sandbag carry-  Carry a 20 pound (?) sandbag a good distance up a ski slope and come back down.

Memorization test- GOLF 615-4635!!! We had to tell the volunteer this before the sled pull.

Sled pull- Excuse me while I swear "MUTHER FUCKING TRACTOR PULL!" This was hard. Not sure what the weight was but it a bunch of rocks or sand in a box attached to skis. It had a long rope attached and you had to pull it a distance on big gravel while hay bales were burning all around you. Smoked out....ugh.

Water station #3 (10 miles)

Tyrolean traverse- Big cable hanging above water you had to cross. 30 Burpee set number 4. Skipped that one.

Giant dirt mounds with water- More mud!

Spectacular bushwack up Bear Mountain- this was not an official obstacle but it was a huge one for all of us. We were single file for an hour or more (?) before we hit the top of the mountain. It was so hard but this is hiking and I enjoyed it!  I saw some other death racers and chatted with them. They were doing great!

Rope climb #2- 30 Burpees set number 5!

Log Hop- Somehow I did his without falling off. Bonus!

Vertical cargo net #2- no problems

Double 8 or 9 foot wall #3- 30 Burpees set number 6! Fuck that! I did not want to break my ankles coming down the other side. So, I saw Don, Johnny and Ray, hugged them and continued down the mountain after the burpees. This slope was so steep many were on their butts sliding down. Check in about how I was feeling at this point in the race, I think about mile 12 or 13: I was feeling great!!!! I started running down as I could when it was not so steep. And, then we went back into the woods and it was slow going with all the people again. It was fun though...got to chat it up with many awesome folks!

Hobie hop- easy. wrap a band around your ankles and hop over logs.

Spear throw- we are at the finish line now with 5 obstacles to finish within feet of the finish! I here Margaret say "Hey Jane!" and she is just coming in from finishing her second loop....28miles and all of the above obstacles in the same amount of time that I did one lap!!! She is amazing. She came in 4th place for women. Oh, I had never thrown a spear and totally missed the hay bale. 30 Burpee set number 7!!!!

Barbed wire crawl #3- Bitch ass barbed wire. This was short though.

Slippery wall- Easy. Slippery 90 degree wall and you had to pull yourself over with the rope.

Fire jump-  the famous jump over the fire ring at the end.

Gladiators-  Run passed the gladiators and BOOM done!!!!!

14+ miles
6,000 elevation
210 Burpees
No blisters!  My feet were soaking wet the entire time. Brooks Cascadia 7 sneakers and Darn Tough socks do the job again.
My shitty green hiking shirt that has endured years of hiking and an ultramarathon is being officially retired. Mud ain't coming out of that thing.
A few quarts of water. Nuun in one bladder full of water, plain water the rest of the day.
3 Clif Block packages
Cliff Bar
Cliff Pro Bar (2?)

I crossed the finish line 8:28 hours later. I did it! I heard 2500 people out of 6500 finished the race. I feel so proud I was one of them. My expectations going into this race was not to be fast but to finish! And, I met my goal. I felt so good crossing, too. I still had plenty of energy and felt as though if needed, I could have kept going. Not so sure about doing the Ultra Beast which is two of those laps but I felt pretty awesome. There was no one there to say "awesome job!" since I was there by myself so I got my medal got my pack, talked to a couple people and had someone take my picture and headed to my car. I decided that I was so disgusting from all the mud that I would go home instead of going to the Death Race to volunteer. I had no idea where anyone was anyway. Were the teams still on the mountain? What was Andy telling them to do now? So, I stopped at the Pittsfield General Store, got a burger and chatted with another guy who had just finished the Beast and then headed home. It took me so long to get the mud off!


Those are some clean feet that were in wet sneaks all day.

What is next?

Maybe another trail race if I can find one for this fall. But, the next thing I am signed up for is the Peak Races half marathon snowshoe race in February. Then the Peaks 50 miler in June.

And perhaps.........The Death Race next June. All I could think about when doing the Beast was the friggin' Death Race. I have a feeling I will be signing up for that sucker soon. Andy said I would quit but he is supposed to say that.  :) Who knows maybe I would quit, but I can toe the line and give it a shot!

Life is short, people!


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Owls Head Mountain 4000 Footer Backpacking Trip

Yay! Seth and I got to go backpacking!

It had been two years since we last went, and we decided to head back into the Pemigewasset Wilderness in the White Mountains. I had to get one more 4,000 footer in that wilderness and it was time. Owls Head Peak, here we come!

pre-hike pic :) Get me in the woods!

Owls Head!
My good friend, Jill, came from Maine to watch Aida and Cinny for the weekend. (Thank you!) Seth and I left at 6am on Saturday morning and got the Lincoln Woods trail head by 8:30, hiking by 8:45. It felt so good to have a backpack on again! The 8+miles out to the beginning of the Owls Head Path were pretty much flat, with slight uphills now and again. It took us about 3.5 hours to get to the base of Owls Head. The temperatures had been in the 50s with some clouds, some sun. We had been hiking in a narrow slot the whole way so it was shaded and cool. We were in heaven. No more hot and humid weather like the entire summer. We had seen many people who were making a long day hike to get the peak as well. It would be a long day hike of about 18 miles so Seth and I decided to do 15 miles that first day, get the peak, and then hike 3.5 miles to Thirteen Falls Tent Site to overnight.

breaking off from the Franconia Brook Trail onto the Lincoln Brook Trail

We got to the base of the mountain and saw a bunch of backpackers and hikers who had dropped off or were dropping off there packs and heading up the mountain. Seth and chose to keep our packs with us for a few reasons:

1.) Bears. We did not want come back down to shredded packs.
2.) Safety. It is about 3 miles of hiking without any food, water, layers. Dumb if you ask me. As we were hiking down, it started to rain a bit. Glad I had my stuff with me.
3.) It would be good strength and confidence training for me to carry a full overnight pack straight up the mountain in preparation for the Spartan Beast race this coming weekend.

And, let me tell you, that was STRAIGHT UP the mountain. Up a rock slide. It was unbelievable. And, it was fun! The sun was not blaring on us, it was not humid and hot, it had not started raining, and we passed lots of people! "Excuse me, pardon me." They thought we were nutso for hauling a full pack up. Guess what, people? It was rewarding!

We got to the top to the ridge and took a left to the summit. I think it was about .5 miles from there and it is a trailess peak but so many people have done it over the years that it was easy to find. We had a quick snack and headed back to the rock slide to make our way back down. We took our time and only slid a few times (phew!) and we passed some people who were still trying to get up the slide and eventually they decided to go back down.

Summit! With eyes closed, damnit

Heading down the mountain
Views of Liberty and Flume
When we got back down to the base, we pumped some water and headed the final 3.5 miles to the tent site. This 3.5 miles was one of the most beautiful pieces of wilderness that we have hiked in. Wow. Quiet, no people, tons of wetlands and we were hiking in the basin of the 4,000 footers above us so we saw towering mountains everywhere. The trail was narrow and perfect. We did not see any wildlife but I bet there were moose and bear everywhere in that basin.

We finally got to the tent site around 5pm. Set up camp, made some dinner and I was asleep by 7:45. A chilly night but it was so comfy in the tent. We heard it had snowed on Mt. Washington that night. Fall is here!

We headed out the next day at 9 am for the final 8.5ish miles. Perfect sunny day walking by more wetlands and ponds.

I could have kept walking forever.

Home sweet home!

Bear box at the campsite. See the scratch marks? Lock food up!

Scratches and dents from Bear!

Nice chilly morning to head back

we crossed some many large brooks and streams all weekend

Only nine 4,000 footers left! This has been an amazing journey.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Trapp Cabin 10K Trail Race

I actually ran fast!

At least, I thought I did pretty well!

The 3 races I have done have all been 10-32 miles, so I ran those conservatively so I had enough energy to finish. But, I ran my first 10K today (6.4 miles)...what a difference! I signed up for the Trapp Cabin 10K put on by the Friends of Stowe Adaptive Sports, "a Vermont-based non-profit founded in 2010 on the belief that access to sports and recreational programs are a powerful means for people with disabilities to develop independence as well as physical and mental well-being." Good cause and an opportunity for me to try a new course and length of race. Another selling point was that it was only a half hour from my house and it started at 10am. Ok, I am there! All good reasons to give it a shot!

I headed over for day-of registration at 8:30am at Trapp Family Lodge. What a beautiful day! It was nice and cool out, definitely a fall morning. Super sunny. A breeze. Perfect running weather and a gift after the humidity we had been experiencing all summer. I have skied at Trapps several times but this would be a first to run cross country ski trails. People were slowly arriving. But, the crowd was small. Definitely some fit people for sure! I thought "here we go, I will be at the back of the pack again. Where the hell are all of the other average runners in the world?" And, I am the only grub with a ripped hiking shirt that has been through years of hiking and an ultra marathon. I was not sporting flashy running wear. It made me laugh. SCRUBNUT...that is what I am.  :)

So, we lined up and were off! Not too far in we started heading up to the Trapp Cabin. I stopped running and speed-hiked to the top. There was a woman in front of me the whole time who I wanted to catch and pass. She was not far up ahead and was speed-hiking as well. So, I thought, when we get to the cabin, I will buzz past her on the downhill back to the start. I put on the turbo boosters! It felt so good to just run fast and  cruise! I love downhills and I have always just conserved energy, so I let it go! I tried and tried to catch her but I just couldn't. I felt like I was flying, though, and it was so fun! What a feeling. I got to the finish line at 1 hour 10 minutes which is fast for me! I am usually a 3.5 miler per hour trail runner so doing 6.4 miles in that time made me feel good. Of course the fastest runners of the day did, like, 40 minutes or something, but I had fun and was proud of myself. The woman who I was trying to catch came up to me after I finished and thanked me for pushing and motivating her! She said me being on her tail made her run faster. I told her the same, that I was trying my hardest to catch her the whole time! We laughed and took a couple pictures. 

We headed to food table to get some oranges and, Cynthia, the race director announced the winners and handed out the awards. I ended up getting a nice ISIS fleece beanie. 

A fun day!

Here are some pictures. I only got a couple while running. The wide, soft cross country ski trails were  dream to run on.

View of the Mountains/Long Trail from the starting line

Fancy yurt where registration was set up

my race number


gardens on the campus

Starting line....some of the runners....not many at this race!

took my camera out quickly as I was cruising back to the starting line

almost back!

done! happy with my run! proudly wore my Peak Races hat  :)
(grubby hiking/trail shirt AGAIN)

Amber and I at the finish. I chased her the whole time!

Next up: Vermont Spartan Beast on 9/22. What the hell am I thinking? I have never run an obstacle course and this is the hardest one of the year put on by Spartan. Andy Weinberg said I should do it. I will give it a shot! New experiences and challenges are fun!