Sunday, October 26, 2014

OCR World Championships

What an honor to be a part of this race.  Hands down one of the most difficult and rewarding obstacle course races I have done.  I say rewarding because that's how it felt completing some of these insanely challenging obstacles.  Most I have never even seen before, but its what I would expect for a World Championship event.  Finished with a time of 2:16 but wasn't able to complete two obstacles so was slapped with 8 min of time penalties.  I believe I finished 42nd in the elite male category, but because of the time penalties was not ranked in the final standings.  Only those who completed all obstacles were listed in the final results.  The winning time was an amazing 1:21 by Jon Albon of England.

Finishers medal, "bling"!

Many athletes from many different countries were on hand to determine who really is the  #1 obstacle course racer.  Some of the pre-race favorites were from Jon Albon (England), Ryan Atkins (Canada) and Hobie Call (USA).

The race was held in Oregonia, OH, in between Cincinnati and Columbus.  It was located at the Kings Domain park (site of the Mud Guts and Glory obstacle course race series) which was pretty damn cool.  They designed the course so that it was very spectator friendly for the beginning and end of the race.  A large grassy area that included about 15 of the 50+ obstacles was on display for spectators to watch and cheer on athletes.  Made it feel almost like an arena.

Starting area.  Lots of obstacles were located to the left

My dad flew out from Arizona to join me, and this was his first obstacle course race experience.  We drove out to the course on Friday morning to check out some of the obstacles.  I don't think my dad had any idea what to expect and after checking out the first couple obstacles he was pretty impressed that I would be doing this.  With my best "poker face", I said "I got this", but to myself I was saying "holy shit this is gonna hurt".

Inverted Monkey Bars...brutal

Friday night they held a dinner ceremony for Hobie Call, arguably the most feared and humble obstacle course racer.  Still remember a few years ago Spartan Race puttin' out a bounty on him as they offered $10,000 to anyone who could beat him; he had won every race in their series.  I don't believe anyone beat him the next race, but he did eventually get beat.  Well the dude is still fast as hell and he finished 3rd overall today.

Unique to this race only, instead of having us do burpees or any other exercise for not being able to complete an obstacle, a time penalty was incurred instead.  Most time penalties were to be 4 min. and the weaver obstacle (google it) held a 6 min penalty.  Also, if you were unable to complete an obstacle you had your wristband (given to us at the start) cut and you would not be eligible for the cash prizes.  You could, however, try several times to complete one, if needed.  I struggled a few times and was slapped with three 4 min penalties.  The first was the Platinum Rig (google it - 80% of elite field failed it), the second was two rope traverses.  This was the most frustrating because I attempted it twice and fell short about 3-4 feet both times.  Both times my grip completely gave out and couldn't hold.on to the rope.  This was another obstacle I have not done, so maybe my technique could have been better.  The other obstacle was near the finish and it was two walls that you had to traverse laterally.  The first wall had hanging chains that you had to grasp and move laterally.  I wasn't able to get any grip on the wall with my shoes and my grip strength was toast as well, so I had to swallow another 4 min. penalty.

Platinum Rig

The obstacle I feared most was the inverted monkey bar obstacle.  First you had to climb up tires (that were all attached an didn't move), then descend 10 monkey bars and then immediately ascend 10 more monkey bars.  I got about 1/2 way up on the ascend part and felt my grip going.  Fortunately, I was able to loo my leg around the bars to take some of the weight off my arms.  The final 5 bars seemed to take forever.

video compliments of Obstacle Racing Media
The course terrain was very difficult due to the constant steep up and downs and off-camber sections.  The course was dry yet there were still many creek bed runs (flooded with rocks and wet leaves).  Some of the steep up hills even had ropes  that were attached at the top that were needed to help get up.

One of the more relaxing obstacles was the 200 ft waterslide.  These are starting to become more popular in obstacle races as it is very spectator friendly and of course gets you completely soaked. But who doesn't like a fast waterslide?

Very impressed with the venue, and how well organized everything was.  This is only the atart of something very special.

Didn't stick around for the Team Race on Sunday, which consisted of team of 4; either all men, all women, or coed.  Two people from each team had to complete a full lap of the course, the the other two members headed out to complete their lap.  The fastest total combined time declared the winner.  Sounds like it would have been fun, but I'm not sure I would have been able to move the next day.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Warrior Dash World Championships

Back home and wanted to give an update from this past weekends Warrior Dash World Championship obstacle course race.  The event was held in northern California in the most discrete location, Esparto, CA.  I'm not sure how they chose this location for he event, but it is literally in the middle of nowhere.  Surrounded by farmland, it's about an hour northwest of Sacramento.

Warrior Dash events are traditionally not as difficult in terms of obstacles as many of the other races, Instead Warrior Dash events are more of a running races with a few non-challenging obstacles thrown in along the way.

For the World Championships they kept to their tradition and the course was identical to the one myself and many others competed in to earn our qualifying entry.  They used 12 of their most commonly used obstacles, and none of them were difficult.  However, what the race lacked in in terms of obstacles, the terrain made up for.

With the largest cash prize being offered for a 5k running event, $!00,000, their were many of the sports' top athletes on hand vying for a shot at the top prize, $30,000.  Because of the nature of the course, the clear favorites would include, Max King, Hobie Call, and Cody Moat.  All three are extremely talented trail runners and each have earned numerous victories across the world.  Other top guys included John Yastko, Hunter McIntyre, Ryan Atkins and Brakken Kraker.   For me, I was hoping for a Top 20 finish.

post-race game face...exhaustion

I drove down Thursday morning and stayed with my friends Jason and AJ Snovel who live in Sacramento.  On Friday we went to the venue to pick up my race packet and attend the course briefing and walk through.  This was our opportunity to see the course and the obstacle locations.  We were not allowed to touch any of the obstacles, but could ask questions about any of them.   Jason and I walked most of the course and I knew the hills were going to be tough.

We left and went back home, chilled out on the porch drinking coffee and then Jason's girlfriend, Mary, made us an amazing chicken quinoa, rice, taco/burrito dinner.  I hit the sack around 9:45pm because I was getting up early the next morning.

Alarm went off at 4:50am.  Took a warm shower to warm up, ate breakfast with coffee, then left the house around 6am.  Arrived at the parking lot at about 7am, which we then were shuttled to the start/finish area.  Everyone as dressed in warm clothes as the temps were in the low 50's.  As the sun began to rise so did the temps, and after warming up I knew I wouldn't need to wear much clothing other than my Anytime Fitness shorts during the race.

It's funny to watch everyone warm up a slightly different way.  Each has it's routine, and all serve the same purpose; to warm up the body temp, loosen up the hips, and create some elasticity in the muscles.

At 7:50am were were instructed to go to the "corral" to get the final briefing, listen to the National Anthem and prepare for the start.  They put us in a large open field and we were able to line up side by side so there would be no disadvantage to positioning.  It was pretty cool to see 150 guys lined up preparing to do battle.  At exactly 8am the gun went off and so were we.

We sprinted across the field for about 200 yards to an open gate that led us up the brutally steep first hill.  This quickly split the field and set the tone for what was to come.  I paced myself up the hill trying not to let the adrenaline get the best of me and burn up all my matches in the first mile.  The lead guys were flying up this hill making it look easy, although I'm sure it didn't feel any easier to them.

After a short traverse, we quickly descended a steep hill on loose gravel before reaching the first obstacle, "Storming Normandy"; crawling or rolling under netting for 10 yards.  We continued to descend and reached the "Road Rage" obstacle; climbing up and over several junk cars and then run through several tires.  This was kind of fun but I could already feel the legs beginning to get heavy.  More steep descending on a gravel road and then we reached the "wall", a straight up hill with tons of ruts.  I, nor anyone around me, was able to run this, and I would love to know if any of the top guys could run it.  It was probably 100 yards, but it was so steep it was like doing the Versa Climber machine.

Next up was the "Vicious Valleys" obstacle which consists of having to jump over 5 ft gap ditches.  Each one is filled with water and is made of soft mud on each end.  Normally I have no problem jumping over each of these, but this time, I couldn't quite make the final two.  My shoes were now covered with mud, and it sure felt like the heavy kind, if there is such a thing.  Each leg now felt like a 100 lbs and lifting my feet wasn't easy.

After a few more obstacles, I reached the half way point on the course and it was all downhill from here.  As with most Warrior Dash events, they position almost half of their obstacles near the finish, so even though I was close I knew I still had lots to cover.  Their infamous obstacle, "Goliath" was near the finish.  Its a giant obstacle to look at.  It consists of a cargo net climb, to a stair climb, to walking across a balance beam high above water (a loose rope on each side to hold onto), followed by a 20 ft. water slide into a pool of water.

playin' in the mud

is that a Lochness Monster

The final two obstacles included lots of mud, "Mud Mounds" and "Mud".  By the time I crossed the finish line I was all mud.  Check out the video...

Max King, also from Bend, posted the fastest time of just over 22 minutes to win not only the race but $30,000.  Also making the podium were Hobie Call (2nd place), and John Yastko (3rd place), Cody Moat (4th place) and Brakken Kraker (5th place).  I finished 34th overall.  There were a total of 143 racers that competed in the race.  Click here for complete results

It was great to be part of something special and now I am already looking forward to this weekend's race, the OCR World Championships in Oregonia, Ohio.  With 9 miles to cover and nearly 30 obstacles it will be a completely different race than the Warrior Dash event.  The obstacles in the OCR W.C race will require much more strength and if one cannot be completed a time penalty will be assessed.  This will most likely be the toughest event of the season for most of us.

Stay Tuned!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Calm before the storm/s...Obstacle Course Race World Championships

In less than 4 days I will embark on the first of two obstacle course race World Championships (Warrior Dash World Championship, and OCR World Championship).   Although I am both excited and nervous, I don't feel as though I have anything to lose.  I certainly don't consider myself one of the favorites (think Hobie Call or Cody Moat), nor do I consider myself an elite runner.

It has become apparent that if you want to be at the top of this sport you must be able to run sub 5 min pace miles.  Insane as that sounds, several of the top OCR athletes are doing so.  Many come from a background of running track in college or from a trail running background.  Many of them have run sub 2:30 marathons as well.  Crazy!

I can only keep my head up knowing that I won't be "running with the bulls", but rather hopefully staying close and making up time on the more strength based obstacles.

As Hunter McIntyre says, "biceps win races".  Although that may sound ridiculous, the guy can also hang with the best runners, hence why he is one of the best in the game.  If you can possess exceptional speed and still be able to carry your weight (literally) you will have a very good chance of excelling in this sport.

I've always been one to want to compete against the best in whichever sport I am competing in. These two upcoming events will give me a good idea of where I stand in this sport.  Considering I have only competed in 8 races, I would still look at myself as a rookie.  I've heard some of the top guys have already done over 20-30 races.

I'm hoping for strong finishes in both races (top 20) and to be able to work on improving my running efficiency as well as building a few obstacles to regularly practice on for next season.

My strength has always been my endurance, so the longer the race is the better I usually do.  The Warrior Dash W.C is only 3 miles with 12 obstacles, so needless to say it will be over in less than 30 minutes.  The OCR W.C is 8.8 miles and will include over 25 obstacles so that will play more to my strength.  Anything is possible and you always have to be prepared for the unexpected.  That's the beauty of sport and why we actually play the "game".  Nothing is a sure thing.

Good luck to all those athletes who will be competing this weekend and next weekend.  Hope to meet some of you at each event.

Stay tuned for race reports and photos

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Uphill training preparation for Warrior Dash and OCR World Championships

I am nearing the final preparations of my training for the Warrior Dash World Championships (Oct 18th) and OCR World Championships (Oct 25th).  Due to both course designs having lots of climbing, needless to say I have been trying to improve my climbing (running uphill) skills.  Some make it look so damn easy, think Matt Novakovich or Max King, while others like me seem to struggle with it.  

Running at an incline does require some specific running technique.  I have slowly been improving on some of these.  If you are curious about learning how to improve your uphill running skills, check out this for running uphill, or this link...efficient uphill running.

During a few of my recent workouts I focused on hill repeats and tempo runs. I added in some extra fun to increase the level  of difficulty and to help me become more comfortable feeling uncomfortable.  I dragged (well not really he offered to come along) my friend Ben Fong along for both workouts.  He is a young guy who has a tremendous amount of strength and is preparing to head off to the Navy.

The hill repeat workout took place near Shevlin Park on a steep gravel road (10-15% gradient).  After a good warm up of some jogging and light stretching, we did 8 hill repeats at a tempo pace of about 200m.  Each interval was followed immediately by 5 pushups at the top.  A light jog down the hill and a 30 sec rest between each interval.  To keep things fun, every third hill we ran over to a nearby pond and walked in p to our waists and then continued up the hill for more repeats.  The addition of extra weight from the water adds a tremendous amount of strength to the equation.  Ben found this out very quickly.  

When we finished the hill repeats, we took a 5 minute rest and then started the 2nd part of the workout.  This time we did 6 sets of 150m up the hill carrying a 45lb bucket filled with gravel.  I also chose to wear my 20lb weight vest.  I tried to jog with the bucket both up and down the hill, and was able to do so on most of them.  The twist on this workout was that every time we got back to the bottom of the hill we did 10 burpees followed by a 30 sec rest.  Good times.

The final part to this workout was doing 6 "scrambles" up a very steep and loose (sandy) hill that was covered with rocks and logs.  Running up this hill is the true example of a Mtn Climber.  I kept my vest on for this too which added an even more challenge for the stability factor.  Each repeat on this hill lasted about 200m.  Running down was just as difficult as there was no sure-footed traction.  

The entire workout took us just over 1 hour and left us both feeling ready to get some food.

The following week Ben and I did a similar challenging workout but without the hill repeats.   This time we started with a series of 400m of burpee broad jumps.  These are exactly like they sound, you perform a burpee (squat down, jump both legs back into a plank position, perform a pushup, jump both legs forward, stand up and jump) and then instead of jumping straight up you jump as far forward as you can.  This is a great combination of strength and power, not to mentioned incredibly challenging on the cardiovascular system.

These took longer than I was anticipating, 20 minutes for me and 24 minutes for Ben.  I'm not sure of the total burpee count, but I would guess we both did over 100 total burpees and jumps.

After catching our breath we jogged for 5 minutes before beginning our tempo run.  12 sets of 2 min hard followed by 1 min easy.  We ran these on a trail that was mostly flat and without too many tight switchbacks.  The goal was to put in a good solid effort for each 2 min interval.  

Most of the workout was in a steady rain with temps in the 60's.  It was a perfect fall day for working out.  So far Ben seems to be "enjoying" the workouts.   One more week of hard training and then I am going to taper the final 2 weeks leading up to the Warrior Dash event on the 18th.  I will be doing mostly recovering and resting in between each event since I will get home from Warrior Dash on Monday and then head out to OH on Thursday.