Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Miami Hurricane Heat, Super Spartan Race

My Hurricane Heat group!!

I climbed walls for the first time!
I climbed a rope for the first time!
I worked with a team for 4 hours, moving through obstacles and running over 8 miles together!
I ran a solo race after the team race to add another 20 obstacles and 8 miles to the day!

My last minute trip to Miami in the middle of winter proved to be one of the most wonderful racing experiences yet! After training in sub zero to 20 degrees for the past 4 months in the snow, I was ready for a race in summer temperatures. I watched the car temperature gauge creep from 10 degrees Thursday afternoon In Vermont to finally 85 degrees 30 hours later. Palm trees, green grass, warm breezes, the ocean....I was in heaven!

Here's a recap!

Hold on, before I recap the race, I need to explain how I got the opportunity to head to Miami. All I have heard is "you are heading to MIAMI? That is not a "Jane Place." Meaning, why the hell is this mountain girl heading to southern Florida? Good question. A couple weeks ago, my friend, Todd said he was heading down there for work. Todd is the Hurricane Heat instructor and recently hired to be a race director for select Spartan Races around the country.  So, I was offered a ride down and I jumped at the opportunity! I thought it would be a great way to get into the racing season, go somewhere warm in February, and get one more race completed as part of the Spartan Trifecta. I completed the Vermont Beast in September, now if I finished the Spartan Super in Miami, all I would have to finish would be the Spartan Sprint in Amesbury, MA this summer. Alright, let's go! Seth and Aida were supportive of my decision to head down there for 5 days. Thank you to my family!

The ride down was SUPER LONG.....30 hours with stops. We only stopped for about 3 hours of sleep on the side of the highway in the car. Todd drove the whole time (how the hell did he do that?!!! Dude is a machine). AND, for people that know Todd, he talked the whole 30 hours. It felt like I had read the entire Wikipedia website by the time we arrived in Miami...he knows something about EVERYTHING. Ask a question, you get an answer. Or just sit there and you will have your head filled with some fact in about 10 seconds. So, the ride down was completely entertaining! Great music and so much laughter, too! Perfect road trip companion for those who are heading to Spartan Races!

We got to Miami at around 8pm and went directly to the Spartan Race venue at Oleta State Park and gathered Todd's business stuff and checked out where we would be meeting up in the morning for the Hurricane Heat which Todd would be instructing/leading. We headed out to get some food and realized, "we don't have a place to stay." Ok, we started calling hotels and everyone was booked! Miami is a big place with a zillion hotels, we will find one. NOPE. Thankful, Matt B. Davis (of Obstacle Racing Magazine) came to the rescue and we all shared his hotel room. Thanks, Bro! You saved the day for two people who had just drive 30 hours practically nonstop and who had to get up by 4:30am to be at the Hurricane Heat by 5:30! Let the sleep deprived racing weekend continue!

Hurricane Heat

After getting only a few hours of sleep from Thursday morning until Saturday morning (about 4 hours of sleep in 48 hours), we arrived at 5:30am at the Florida State University which was a couple miles from Oleta State Park where the Spartan Super was being held.  It was time for the Hurricane Heat! I did not know much about the HH except that it was a team building exercise. Since Todd is the instructor, I asked a few questions about the event but I did not want to know details because what fun would that be? So, there I was in the parking lot of the college with 62 other racers; there were about 15 women of all ages. It was still dark out but it was 75 degrees and breezy and you could smell the ocean. I was not nervous at all, just observing the other racers and introducing myself to everyone. I was witnessing a variety of emotions of the racers: intensity, those who were amped up and nervous, those just going along for the ride like myself, ready to embrace what was coming. It felt great not to be nervous at a new event. Todd was leading the Hurricane Heat like he does at every race and was in Sergeant Sedlak mode, full off demands and inspirational speeches. People loved him! He is really good at what he does and people respond to his enthusiasm. Basically, he is perfect for the job.

So, Todd had us split up into 5 groups, we assigned a team leader, choose a name and lined up to do a role call. Then he asked one person from my team to move so I volunteered and immediately got a smartass remark from Todd "what, your team does not want you already, Jane?" Laughter. Oh, here we go. I am going to be the one Todd picks on the whole time. Bring it! :) So, I moved over to Team Nasty. Great name and super great bunch of folks. Two other women were on my team and a Death Racer named Joe Falcone. Yes!  A Death Racer! We stuck together the whole time and talked all things Death Race, about how he finished last year (awesome! he is a very humble person and was a joy to talk with) and how he will be at the Summer Death Race and the Team Death Race in September this year, two events that I will also be participating in. Joe and I agreed our perspective of the Hurricane Heat would be different, not in a "look we are better than you" but we have participated in/or witnessed a death race(s) and what the challenges and mental game can be so we discussed what was happening around us, such as some of the racers getting really worked up about the tasks and how much energy that takes to be that intense . So, it was fun to just sit back and go with it. We were on the same page and it was fun to discuss along the way. 

After running for about an hour around campus, moving cement blocks, climbing up and down cargo nets, running for a few miles in "the jungle" (it was a jungle for me, anyway), carrying each other (thanks for carrying me, Joe!), carrying a log, sandbag carry, atlas carry, tractor tire challenge, burpees, wall climbs, more running and finally running as a team back to the finish line of the Spartan Race arena. Todd stopped us first, put us in a plank and told us that our final task would be the hardest but would not tell what it was and that we would have to work as a team to complete it and no one would be finished until we all completed the task. So, as a team, we ran back to the venue and we met up at the rope climb. I had only tried to climb a rope one other time at the Vermont Spartan Beast with no success so I was not sure how I was going to do, but I was amped up with the team energy and we all just jumped up on a rope and went up! I had someone hold the rope for me and never doubted I could do it. I blasted up the rope, hit the bell as hard as I could because I was so psyched I did it and slid back down and watched the other racers do it. One woman kept trying and trying, even fell off the rope but we had to make sure she got up the rope, so lots of guys, including Todd, helped get her up by making fists and having her climb on them or pushing her up or having her stand on shoulders and she eventually rang that bell! She was so proud and got many hugs and huge cheers from the crowd that was watching us. Amazing moment for her and our team. We then moved on to the barbed wire muddy crawl (my legs are a bruised, scratched  mess!) then up the slippery wall, through the the gladiators and across the finish line! Big hugs from other racers and we then followed Todd over to where he gave each of us a Hurricane Heat dog tag with the warrior ethos on the back and a HH tshirt. Pictures were taken and tears were shed by those that were moved by their experience. I know how that feels because I have cried at endurance events. I know that feeling of accomplishment and confidence and pride. I took a quick break, about 40 minutes to change my socks and sneakers, fill up my camelback, ate a snack and got in line for the Super Spartan race!

Hurricane Heat done!! Got my dog tags!!

Hurricane Heat Stats/Summary:
1. 13 obstacles
2. 4.5 hours and 8.3 miles covered
3. several motivational speeches from Todd
4. 62 inspired individuals with a new sense of confidence
5. Received my first dog tag medal! Very cool!
6. After volunteering for 2 death racers and attending 2 death race camps, this event was not mentally draining or difficult but it was fun to observe others who were trying something like this for the first time and how it can impact their lives. I get that. It is life changing and I feel like this changed people's lives.

Spartan Super Race

After refueling, I headed over to the starting line for the 10:30am Super Spartan heat. Other Hurricane Heat racers were going to do the Super as well but I went out on my own. It was starting to get hot so I was careful to stay hydrated. I would say 90% of the racers did not have water with them. I am soooooo glad I had the water and electrolytes because I watched racer after racer complain of cramping legs. So, we headed out on to the bike path and ran in the sun for a couple miles but then all of a sudden we were at the ocean!! The obstacle was that we had to walk through the ocean bay. The water was a dream! I walked through the water nice and slow and up to my waist or higher and i think it took about 10 minutes. I was in HEAVEN since I had not rinsed off the mud from the barb wire crawl. I was in no hurry and enjoying the cool temperature of the water. We got to the beach and then headed out on the bike path and at some point we came to another water crossing and then out into the woods where there were eventually some wall climbs. We also got to the dreaded monkey bars! My short arms could not even reach in between each bar so I fell immediately and joined all the other women on the sideline who also could not reach the bars do their burpees. I could not do these at the Beast race last September either. Is there some special technique for shorties? Would love to know it. I know I would be strong enough to get across but I can't swing myself to reach them. Looking for help if someone knows!

It was getting hot so I am not sure what was next but I remember running around back in the jungle part for quite a while and was GLAD to! It was so nicely shaded in there and peaceful. I just got in a groove and ran the flat course which we had covered in the morning during the Hurricane Heat. People were cramping up and I offered Gu and water to those that looked pretty bad. We got to the big mud pits again and loved being emersed in the muddy water. It was pretty hot out and I asked the young volunteer to point the fire hose at me as I climbed up out of the second mud pit. AHHHHH, super nice cool down. I continued through the other mud pits and then we headed over to the cargo nets we had done in the morning, then to atlas carry and the sand bag carry. We ran a bunch more along the bike path, climbed over the 8 foot walls (which I can now do!!! I was so psyched to know my zillion body weight exercises I had done since November worked!) and at some point headed back to the finish line where the rope climb was. I tried to climb up but I failed this time. I was pretty tired; 30 burpees in the sun. HOT. So, I moved on to the traverse wall which I smoked easily. I love the traverse wall! I used my legs and just cruise across. I rang the bell and jumped off and headed back over to the barbed wire crawl. My legs were pretty scratched up from the first time so I jumped back under and grit my teeth and cruised on through. I rolled a few times to protect my knees and elbows but it made my too dizzy so I just pushed on through. It seemed more muddy than in the morning which was fun! I got through, got to the top of the slippery wall and slipped back down and scraped my ass pretty badly...the scrape was full of mud and dirt...ouch....30 more burpees. Finished those and ran through the gladiators and I was done the race. I was ready to be finished, not horribly tired but the heat was intensifying so I was ready to cool down. I got my medal and went back to Todd's tent where he was working and said hi to everyone. Joe was there and looked really clean and I asked where he had rinsed off and he suggested I go to the ocean like he did since the lines and water pressure at the hoses/showers were annoying. So, I walked down the bike path to the oceanfront and walked right in. The water was so warm and I just sat in there for 20 minutes or so. What a way to finish a race!

Super Spartan Stats/Summary:

1. 20 obstacles I think.
2. Finished in 2 hours and 37 minutes.
3. It was pretty damn hot, so I walked a bunch when I was in the sun and conserved it for the "the jungle" part. I loved it in there!
3. This was a very different crowd than the Vermont Beast, perhaps because it was more of a runner's course and people were moving fast and no one had the time to stop and chit chat or help. I prefer a more friendly crowd :).
4. I still had some great energy left and felt that all the training I had done for the past 4-5 months since the Vermont Beast made me so strong! I knew it had but this really proved it, being back on the same obstacles and how I could easily do them. Burpees got my ass in shape, people!

16+ miles, 2 races and 35 obstacles later, I am done!
Time to head to the ocean to wash off!

The three medals I earned: Hurricane Heat dog tags,
Spartan Super medal and custom made dog tags
in memory of Faye

There were several people who had come down from Boston/New England for the race. Here are some pics of them!

Me being embraced by New England Spahtans 

Keith and I at the kids' race

Kids' Race!
What a crew! Some of us here will be participating in the 
Peaks Snowshoe Race this coming weekend!
This AMAZING family of young men and their father did the
Hurricane Heat with me. I spoke with them at length at the end of the day.
Those boys were very close in age and loved each other so much. I feel blessed to have
spoken with their father about their life and how rich it is and how tight they all are...such a
strong family unit. I got wonderful hugs from them before they left the race.
They made an impact on me and won't forget them.

do I really have to leave this beautiful weather?!?!?

Todd and I stayed for the Sunday race day, too, as Todd needed to work. We left Miami around 4pm and decided to make a "side trip" to Tampa to visit a very close mentor and friend of Todd's from when he was in the Army. We were blessed to drive across the Everglades to get there.

The rest of the trip was LONG. We were very tired from no sleep on the way down, barely any sleep while in Miami, racing two races and now driving 30 hours back with no sleep. I arrived at my house at 4:30am, got one hour of sleep and then Aida woke up and spent the rest of the day with her. I finally crashed for a full 12 hours of sleep last night. If anything, my sleep deprivation training for the Death Race is going well. :)

Here's to seizing this opportunity to race, meet new friends, and keep pushing myself to get out there and make it happen, as well as witnessing the gift of friendship and how the paths we cross with each other can enrich our lives.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Winter Death Race Insanity

Winter Death Race finishers! 37 hours later. 6am, -something degrees out.

Ok, I love people WAY TOO MUCH.

Here I am again, volunteering for a Death Race and I all I want to do is help EVERYONE. Yes, these elite athletes paid BIG BUCKS to come here and suffer. They are asking for it...every last bit of cold weather, cold water, sleep deprivation, hypothermia, hunger, dehydration, pulled muscles, etc. But, I could not just sit there and laugh, make them do shitty things...I had to help them stay in the game or at least let them know someone was around to help if needed. I don't desire to be a hero, just a compassionate human being. And, this race brings it out in me. See my Myers Briggs profile of an ESFJ. The Caregiver. Yup. That's who I am to the core.

"Michelle, can I get you food at the General Store?"
"Norwich students, can I hold your frozen feet against my body to warm them up as you are in a hypothermic state?" (this was quite hilarious as these three guys endured cougar jokes from me and Laura for a couple hours as we helped warm them up).
"Daren and Yesel, I am going to run to the store and get more water for you. Here is my water bottle, take it". Their camel back tubes froze up.
"Amelia, how are your feet? Let me help warm them."
"Carmen, let me help you get out of your soaked clothes. You are shivering and hypothermic. Where are your extra clothes? Here is my down coat. Drink the warm drink."
"Can I help you get your stuff back to your car?" to those who DNF'd.

I can't even count how many frozen bare feet I held in my hands to help warm up. Feet that had been in boots and sweaty socks and the river for 20+ hours. Yeah, I did not care. The feet needed help! :)

This is what I did for hours. I started volunteering around 5pm on Friday night and did not finish until Sunday morning at 6am. I LOVED EVERYONE OF THOSE RACERS. They inspire me and make me want to push myself. Whatever I gave them, I got back 100 fold in what I witnessed that weekend.

I will just post pictures of these amazing athletes and not ramble too much about it because I can't really explain all I witnessed. If you want to see people push themselves to their limits and beyond, sign up and volunteer. There is nothing more inspiring.

I will give you a quick list of what they had to endure (I probably left some stuff out...can't remember everything):

1. 3-4 hours of bodywork exercises at Joe's barn: squats, planks, jump squats, sit ups, etc.
2. Pass a real, froze beaver around as they stood in a circle.
3. Move two of those HUGE hay bales that you see in farm fields that are all wrapped up...move them to the sheep barn which was not close to where they were being stored. They had two boards and webbing to move it and could not drag it.
4. Hike up Joe's mountain with each team of 15(?) holding on to a rope with no food or water... a couple hour hike?
5. Move and chop wood.
6. Burpees.....hundreds and hundreds.
7. Hike up Joe's Mountain again and again.
8. Dredge out an Ibeam in the river and pull it out. They did this successfully but several dropped because of hypothermia and frozen feet. They were in and out of the river for hours.
9. Hike up Joe's Mountain 3 times during the night with a new log each time.
10. Hike a few miles on the way to Bloodroot Mountain.

54ish started, 11 finished. Every single racer did their best under the brutal conditions. The temperatures were 15 degrees during the day, if that, and 0 to -digits at night. It snowed. They were cold THE ENTIRE TIME. They endured.

Here are some pictures:

Norm and Andy "Time to go for a 20  mile run." I believe they ended up
going up Joe's Mountain instead.

The green house at Amee Farm....home base.

 Andy (gray coat) and Jack Cary, 4 time DR finisher and DR Summer Race Director
"graciously" came to volunteer and torture the racers.

Amelia Boone. So glad to finally meet her. An huge inspiration as a woman athlete.
Here is her blog if you would like to check out her adventures 

Nele and Keith, who I got to spend the Death Race Camp with a few weeks earlier.
Great people!

Carrying 80 pound blocks to the river to start on the bridge stuff. Actually,
there were screwdrivers attached to this. The only thing they needed, but the directors
decided to attach them to the 80 pound blocks. How nice.

chopping wood to make a big fire since everyone would be starting to
get hypothermic SOON.

Time to undress and get in the water to get the Ibeam out of the bottom of the river
and onto the bank.

Joe Desena...loving every minute.

first hypothermic racer being carried in by stretcher.

Michelle crossing the bridge. That thing scared the shit out of me.

warming up the Norwich students! So many cougar  jokes. 

Joe and Peter "Strict cutoff time! You were not here at 2:30. You are DONE."
There were so  many pissed off racers. Some kept going anyway.

I am sure something evil is going on here if Joe is laughing. ;)
Finisher skulls! I was lucky enough to get a ride to the place where they were
finishing so I could see their beautiful faces as they were
told they had finished the race!

Don and Dan! Congrats, Dan!

Andy and Mark. Mark was AMAZING. He stood in that river for hours.

Josh and Nele. Josh tied for first with Olof and Nele was the first female.
Congrats, guys!

Melody, second place female. Congrats!


Peter St. John fell to the ground in gratitude. Amazing athlete! Congrats!

Finishers with Don Devaney. Don barked orders at them the whole weekend.
No wonder he is wiped out!  :)

I get my turn of this hell in June. Can't wait. :)