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Making Natasha a Spartan

Austin, Texas 5/16/2015 – Spartan Sprint

quote“There is more in us than we know. If we can be made to see it, perhaps, for the rest of our lives, we will be unwilling to settle for less.”

~Kurt Hahn

Every once in a great while, you get an opportunity to change someone’s life.  I find most of the time I have no idea if something I did or said has made any impact on anyone’s lives. Sometimes I get emails from people who tell me I did, but I don’t go out trying to be a difference maker, I live my life and if I can be an example then I am happy to hear how I have inspired you in some way.

Last December my friend Natasha was in the ICU unit and posted on facebook she would love some company or someone to visit her and bring movies.  So of course I grabbed some DVD’s and went right up there.  I still get confused as to her illness (I’ll explain in a minute) but I gladly went up to visit. Unfortunately at the time she was under some heavy sedation so we did get a chance to talk in between her naps. I watched her sleep and chilled for a few hours. I don’t know if she really remembers everything, but I am sure she was grateful I was there if just for a short time.

I monitor her status from time to time and she has been living in the hospital basically for the last few years. Well this past week she commented on one of my pictures at how great I was doing at my runs. I privately asked her how she was doing and she said she had been out of the hospital for the past 3 weeks and was feeling great. In jest I mentioned if she ever wanted to run a race I would make her a spartan. Well she took me up on the offer! She decided on a Friday afternoon to up and participate in the Reebok Spartan Race Sprint in Austin, Texas the next day.

 Natasha’s Illness

So what I found out is that Natasha actually suffers from Eosinophilic Disease. What is an Eosinophil? An evil white blood cell that is a type of B cell. It has one job: attack parasites in the body. In her case these cells went rogue. Two (2) in every million people have  EGPA. In her case the Eosinophils are attacking multiple organs. EOS diseases have NO cure & NO FDA approved treatment. Let that sink in. We fight a losing battle daily with band-aid medications that rarely work.

She is currently in Stage 3, this is the last stage of her illness, and the cause of her recently mild heart attack. Yes you read this correct, she had a heart attack in March 2015 and is also on the transplant list for a new heart. Oh yeah and she also undergoes up to 5-hours of experimental Chemotherapy to fight this.

In September of 2014, she received her “death sentence” as she calls it, they told her she had give or take 5-years to live. As she told me “I no longer consider my illness a death sentence because I keep fighting through the tough times. Like I’ve said before, I’m Chronically Fabulous!” These are words of a true fighter.

The Race

Most of what I actually knew of her illness I learned during our race. I had no idea of some of these things when I asked her to do this, like the heart attack or that her cardiologist was probably going to hunt me down and shoot me because she has a strict no exercise policy or lifting anything over 5lbs.

But we started our adventure on the course at her insistence, she told me her illness was not going to determine how she lives her life and jokingly stated this could kill her today but it would be fun.  I guess it is a good thing she signed the Spartan “death waiver” then huh? So she tells me YOLO and off we go towards the start line.

Seriously I am a little worried at this point, but she is all smiles and doesn’t have a care in the world. We are in the starting coral and yelling AROO, AROO, AROO and now I can see it all sinking in, this is about to get real.

Just to review:

  • Heart attack in March (2-months ago)
  • On the heart transplant list
  • No exercise or lifting over 5lbs
  • She forgot her inhaler
  • 6-days post race she goes in for 5-hours of chemo

So armed with her feeding tube (yes still in), oh yeah she can’ eat real food either, her chemo port and the biggest smile ever, we took off on our Reebok Spartan Race adventure.

So off we go, walking our way to glory.

Mile 1

As we start off we instantly start talking about the past 6-months or so. Sometimes I am amazed at how fast time flies by. This is where I learn of her disease in depth, all the restrictions and how we shouldn’t even be walking. But she won’t quit so we keep going. She went up and over the saw horse looking things and then the 6-foot wall, at first it was intimidating, then she went for it and made it!

We hit the 1-mile marker and and she asked me if it was really a mile. Then it gets silent for a second and I can see something going on in there and she tells me, if you had asked her if she would have ever done this, she would have said no. I could tell she was proud of herself and she was ready to keep going.

Miles 2, 3, 4

It seems I did most of the talking, (I know imagine that!) but it was okay because we were working on her breathing and keeping her heart rate low. So I talked and talked and talked some more. I had plenty to say, it has been a busy 6-months!

As we approached the obstacles, she did just about all of them. I stuck the spear throw for her and then let her try, she had obviously never done that before and it did go straight, just not enough arm.  I asked her if she played softball as I was showing her how I throw it and the response was “No, I was a cheerleader!” okay then, cheer for me!

I did the rig pipe thingy because they would not allow me to assist her in any way to even try and she could not hold herself up there, so no big deal I knocked that out.

I carried her sandbag and mine too, can’t break the lifting restrictions and the water was a refreshing break.  This  is where we almost called it a day. You could say she was a bit stubborn and refused to let her illness stop her from at least trying the things that were doable. But her heart rate was going off the charts and we ended up sitting down at the water station to rest.

She wanted the medic and then didn’t want the medic so we sat and we talked and I tried to crack tasteless jokes to lighten the mood. Then I told her about my Houston Battlefrog DNF and how my motto for the Dallas Battlefrog was “Not Today.” So I told her that was her new motto to, not today. You are not dying or quitting this race today. Tomorrow you can, but not today! Then we looked around and I pointed out all of the other people just sitting around, taking breaks, goofing off, not doing anything. You see she felt bad she had to stop and was mad that she couldn’t lower her heart rate a tad. Then I calmly stated the obvious…what was their excuse? They were all healthy people, granted maybe out of shape, but they don’t have a death sentence or chemo therapy this week or a heart attack a couple months back. At this point it was like I turned on a light switch, she looked at me and said “yeah, what is their excuse?” she looked around and mumbled you are all healthy people just sitting around, then she stood up and off we went.

I also ended up doing the sled pull for obvious reasons, but she did do the Z-wall, even after much discussion on if should could, well she could and she did! She also did her own barbwire crawl and did the tunnel crawl.

But after the tunnel she saw the hill. She became petrified she would not make it up such a steep incline. She asked the volunteer to call for a medic just in case she died on the way up, no lie her words. The volunteer walked with us, we went slow and steady, up and over the big rocks and when she got to the top, out came a big “I did it!” and a huge smile and a high five! She truly has no idea how inspiring this is right now that she is just beasting this course. I mean, she isn’t even supposed to be walking to the mailbox! I told her the hard stuff is over, we are almost there. Then we took a selfie! 🙂

mountain selfie

Mile 4 Mile Marker was another milestone for us. When she saw the sign, knowing we had roughly a mile left she got really excited and of course we took the gratuitous picture. With her heart racing and struggling to get her breathing under control she looked at me and said “well crap, I’ve come this far, I can’t quit now with a mile left”…no, no you can not, not today.

Mile 4Continuing on we just keep going, I scale the 10-foot wall and then we approach the floating bridge. Without hesitation she gets up on it and starts across. On the last one she jumps off and immediately her arms shoot over her head and starts jumping up and down in the water. What a sight to see, such a huge smile on her face. When I get over to her, she is out of the water and on the shore and crying. I instantly think something is wrong and I ask if she is okay and needs a medic and you know what? It was a happy cry, she got so emotional completing that obstacle she broke down. I told her not to waste her tears on this one, you save them for when you leap over the fire and get that medal!

On we go, walking to the bucket carry she was having issues and we stopped and again I was about to get the medic. But she no, and just said when she got so excited it took its toll. Actually the whole day had now taken its toll on her and every step was a milestone. She marched on to the bucket carry and got some water and rested while I completed it with no problem.

The Last March

You can hear the festival area, I kept telling her we were so close, but the walking was really starting to break her down. I offered to piggy back ride her, but no that was not an option. It took a while but we made it to the slip wall, I knocked it out. I did the Herc hoist, Tarzan swing and I kicked the bell for her on the rope climb. Then we marched to the dunk wall. I could see the terrified look on her face. I told her not to get in but she did, then she started to hyperventilate of the thought of holding her breath and going under. In the end she did it, like a champ! Nothing but smiles as we get out and look to the fire.

The fire took awhile for her to go, but at this point we were not in a rush. I know her breathing was an issue and I think the thought of jumping over fire and into a water pit may have also been somewhat intimidating. She looked like a lioness actually, she was staring it down, pacing back and forth looking at it as if where to attack it. I am just standing off to the side waiting, my plan was to go with her and jump together and get it all on video from the side view. She walked up to me as if to talk to me and then she just took off.

I am so happy she went, but it was the funniest moment of my day. I wasn’t expecting it, I was a step behind trying to catch up to video and she also kinda blocked me and went to the far right. I was behind and now worried about landing on her, but I just pulled up and went in right behind her. Then I heard it. That laugh. That happy laugh I had heard all day every time she accomplished something.  We climbed out of the pit and marched to the finish and she got her medal.

It was hard to not break down. While her little heart was bursting from over use and stress, my was the complete opposite, sure I was getting choked up but my heart was full. I made her a Spartan and now I know no matter what life throws at her, she will always have this moment to reflect on. I hope this makes her stronger when she gets sick again and we end up watching movies together. I guess the next time I can take 300 and the sequel and we can yell our AROO AROO AROO down the ICU hall! Hopefully I don’t have to do that for awhile. For now, I will visit on chemo day and we can laugh about our adventure.

Natasha we may not get 5-years more with you, but I hope we get more. You have a fragile heart, but it is a heart of a warrior and you have one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know. Thank you for allowing me to bring you this special moment. I look forward to more adventures in the future! I am so very proud of you for this accomplishment.

Here is our video of the EPIC day.

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Battlefrog Redemption

By: Travis E. Blythe

The Ultimate Transformation Tuesday!

I started writing a blog a couple weeks back about my first experience with Battlefrog and how it “took my soul” away from me at the Houston race.  But now fast forward a couple of week and and instead of reviewing the Dallas race, I thought I would just write down how I felt I transformed myself after both of these races. There really are no before and after pictures or some incredible physical change that took place, no this rather is a transformation of my mind, will and determination.

Houston

So a quick overview of the Houston race, I think I was just a little to over confident. I went into that race thinking I was ready to run in the “elite” wave, even in the Masters division. Competing against the 40 and over crowd seemed doable. I was so sure I was going to get at least 3rd place. I mean I have been training hard, I have been running well at other events and I was all about “chasing the money”.  Then the race started, the most brutal ORC/mudrun I have ever attempted in my life. I know I have done some hard Spartan Races, but the fact we had to do 2-4.8 mile laps with roughly 68 obstacles, was just exhausting.

But this is also a mental game as much as a physical one. Case in point, I lost my bracelet pretty early on (10th obstacle) and after that, I was mentally defeated. I let that defeat creep into my mind and even though I finished my 2-laps and I attempted all of the obstacles, my head was not in it. I barely attempted things and used the I am so tired excuse, but in reality looking back I wanted to finish, get my two laps in and just be done. So It did.

The Takeaway

So what did I learn? I definitely learned a few things about myself, preparing correctly and race strategy. I talked to a lot of the true “elites” in the sport and picked their brains, how they did things, technique and I learned a ton about what I did wrong. I think the biggest mistake was just being to much in “Race mode” and trying to hurry through the obstacles instead of taking my time and doing it right. So I left Houston knowing my deficiencies and what I needed to work on.

The Plan

So if you are running a battlefrog and you want to know what you should spend some extra time training on? Then my answer to you is grip strength! The jerry can carry is no joke and having to do it twice is a beating. So I bought 2 cans, I filled them with water and I weighed them and they are 55lbs each. I simulated the distance of the Houston race and practiced carrying them. I would even do it twice sandwiched between a 4 mile run. Started running with the wreck bag and playing on more monkey bars. I have to admit I was lacking on that. I also put my gripmaster in the car and I drive around all day squeezing it!

The second phase for me was to attack the course very methodically. I was really nervous about several of the obstacles, but I knew if I took my time and did not rush I could be okay. Knowing the location of the Dallas race, I knew it wasn’t too hilly, so I figured I could make up time on the running after a slow obstacle. The object was just to finish anyway. No stress on trying to get on the podium or win the race, I just wanted to finish with bracelet.

Dallas

One of the greatest parts of being in the sport is that all of the people you meet are really some amazing people. I meet new people every week it seems and my core group of friends are some of the most supportive I have ever met. So here we are at the starting line and it is like the who’s who of racing toeing the line. I always think “what on earth am I doing here?”, but not today, because I am only racing the Masters division, the 40+ guys. I know I belong, I am only getting better with every race, I have a plan.

Lap one

20150415215845The race starts and off we go, with every obstacle my confidence is growing. The wreck bag carries seem so easy now, I run with that 50lb bag like it is nothing. My first major test was the “Bridge over River Cry”, I couldn’t get this one in Houston, but it was real early in the race, so I still had a ton of grip strength. As I approach, I see that Isaiah Vidal failed once and was still in line waiting to go again. No worries though..I got this. Three rings from the top I look away from the task at hand to see where the pole was and I missed grabbing a rung and I slipped and fell. All I could think was, oh hell here we go again. But I got out, got back in line and kept telling myself to be patient and calm. Nailed it on the second attempt!

Then my friend Melissa who was volunteering gave me the mantra of the day “Not Today!” Not today was my new theme, not today will they be taking my bracelet, not today will I fail, not today will this course beat me!

The rest of the obstacles were just flying by, one after another I was pushing through them without any difficulty. Even the dreaded jerry can carry. I stuck to my slow and steady plan, don’t burn out the arms was all I could think of. Then before I knew it I was at 5 miles, I came up on the rope climb, nerves setting in because this is my worst obstacle, nailed it. At this point I am like wow, I can see the finish area, two major obstacles left before lap two. Confidence is growing. I dominated the “Tip of the Spear” and rolled through the “Monkey Bars” on my first try. I think I let out a slight yell and a fist pump as I ran on to the next lap. I am thinking holy shit, I just did the lap and I have my bracelet.

Lap one: 1:18:38

Lap Two

I think the endorphins of doing so well on the first lap were at an all time high and I think it helped me on lap two. I set a goal, just duplicate lap one and I would be happy with that. I knew the course now, where the flat parts were, where I could rest my strength and where I could run just a bit faster. Most of lap two was a blur, I was smoking the course, “Bridge over River Cry” one shot and over! I saw Melissa immediately after and I ran over and gave her a big hug, kissed her cheek and I said “Not Today!” I showed her I still had the bracelet and I ran off!

I was so ecstatic after that, I remember feeling like superman, because I was just crushing these obstacles, one by one, I was 5 min ahead of the first lap when I got to the jerry cans for the second lap. Stick to the plan, don’t get too far ahead of yourself, save your strength.

I was closing in on the end of the race, I was running great, faster on lap two, then the wheels fell off.  I came upon the rope climb. The ropes were horrible, muddy, wet and a ton of people around trying and not succeeding. I ran in to one of my friends who was still on her first lap, had been stuck there for an hour already. Another was on lap two, was in 4th place in the female elite race and she got stuck.  In the end I spent close to an hour trying to climb up the ropes. Panic started to set in, several people started piling up, several elites just looking exhausted and defeated. More kept coming, some made it up real easy and that just made me feel worse. I finally rallied one last time, not today. I got up that rope and punched the bell as I let out a primal scream, jumped down and took off for the finish.

Okay, so I just lost an hour or so, its okay, we are going to finish, there is literally nothing left I can’t do. I am still finishing! I blasted through “tip of the spear” again and headed to the monkey bars.

When people talk about gut checks and never giving up, survival instincts, I am sure mots of us roll our eyes and just say whatever. Well I spent close to 3 hours trying the monkey bars. I suffered through the cold water, shaking uncontrollably until the sun came out and warmed me up. My first run I was 2 bars from the end and I just lost my momentum and just stopped, then I was dead and I fell.  So close, I wouldn’t get that close again for hours. I remember trying to keep calm. Don’t rush it, so I waited 10 min, then 15 min intervals, then 20, then 30. I must have tried easily over 10 times. My last three attempts I gained a blister on my right hand. Worse than a blister, I had the skin ripped off and I was bleeding. My hands would not close, I had no grip strength. I was actually contemplating quitting. One by one my friends would come over and offer support, pep talks, instructions on how to defeat this. They were giving those of us left a time limit and we would be pulled off. I had the mentality that I was going to be pulled off the course before I quit.

Finally I waited 45 min before my next run. I thought my hands had one last attempt. So I went for it and it had to be possibly the ugliest crossing of monkey bars ever attempted. I wish someone would have gotten video of it. After the transition I went from straight on to sideways to backwards and pretty much back around again. I thought I was going to fall, the bar twisted and I started losing my grip, I basically did a pull up to get closer to the bars and just kept moving, Don’t stop, please don’t stop. Well I made it. I will never tell you what I was thinking about that really got me over, my motivation to make someone extremely proud, not fail can be a strong motivator when you are whupped.

I made it, “Tsunami” was a piece of cake, I finished the mud crawl and the rest is kind of a blur. I remember dancing and screaming and jumping up and down. My friend Melissa was the first person there with my medal. I got my medal and a huge hug. There were more friends there clapping and cheering and it made it all that more worth while!

Lap two: 6:04:00

Yes that is correct, over 6-hours on the second lap. I thought I would finish around 2:40:00 which would have been a podium finish and 3rd place, had I been able to get through it and not wait those couple of times. My official time was 7:22:38, that is right over 7-hours to run a 11 mile race and complete every obstacle without failing.

The Takeaway

20150415220048I bet you might be wondering WTF is with this guy and why would anyone care that I just wrote this blog. Well honestly, I find it a huge accomplishment for me. I’m a 43 year old guy who is not elite by any means, but I am not the open weekend warrior either. I am somewhere in between. I love the challenge this gave me. How it crushed my soul in Houston and I had sweet redemption in Dallas. Now I can see where I can improve. I can continue to get better and stronger by working on the things I already was working on as well as learning the techniques which would have given me a higher finish.

I can find solace in knowing that I still have a long way to go and that honestly drives me to get better. Who knew at my age I would feel this alive doing something so brutal but yet so much fun!

I found I have some of the best friends ever, we share a bond, even if we just met to days before, have been Facebook friends and never met until we spoke on the course or have bled together the last year to be better. The comradery  I have with these people is truly amazing. I can’t mention everyone who I bonded with this day, but if you helped me, I thank you. If I somehow gave you motivation to keep going, then you are welcome, but that is me, I will always be a coach at heart and a motivator.

Until the next event! See you on the flip side!

Best Kept Secret in Texas – The Patriot Games

Patriot Games – Oklahoma 2014

The Patriot Games have been at this OCR/mudrun world for 4 years now.  This being their 4th year, they usually put on one event a year. 2014 has definitely started off right for them. Usually putting on runs in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, they have changed locations twice in the past couple years. But 2014 appears to already to be another new year and plenty of changes are in store. Already boasting two events for 2014, The Patriot Games or PG as they are known around here expanded into Oklahoma, just over the Texas/Oklahoma state line and the Red River.

For the last few years the owner of PG has been working with the guys over at Reebok Spartan Race building their courses. Last years run definitely showed and the obstacles for the event were excellent. This year was no exception, what appeared to be mostly all newly built obstacles, this was definitely a mini-me version of the Spartan. I definitely do not want to take anything away from PG and demean them by calling them a mini-me, they only seem to be smaller in terms of production and festival.

So what about this race? I will be the first to admit, the first couple of races were nothing to write home about, but this one puts them back in the hunt for the best race in DFW outside of a national company. Many of them don’t exactly blow this away either. This course had to be the best course in this area in a long time. Instead of going over every obstacle in detail, lets just go with some of the basics in the likes and dislikes.

What I liked:

  1. The terrain. This course was excellent! Like I said, the only course I have been on that was more challenging was Reebok Spartan in Austin in 2013 and the Glen Rose Beast.  PG had a better terrain than 2013 Savage Race, Run the Jailbreak, Gladiator Rock-N-Run and Merrill Down and Dirty. Why I liked it so much was the elevation. The first 1/2 mile was brutal up and down switchbacks and we constantly weaved in and out and up and down in the ravines. I ran this course twice and it measured 4.38 & 4.40 on my Garmin. So is it was an excellent length also.
  2. The Obstacles. A majority of them were complete Reebok Spartan Race copies, but that is okay, they really didn’t have many of the harder ones so the mix was perfect for both the competitive runners and the fun runners.  The ending with the 1/2 pipe wall was awesome! This is the now the PG staple which I have only seen at a couple of national races and some local Florida races. The obstacles are my favorite part, so when I get to climb over, swim across or jump off, I am in heaven. They had plenty of water/mud obstacles to crawl through so it wasn’t just a dry run.
  3. Registration. I know right! But I have to say that compared to last year at the Irving event, they had a better handle on the process of getting your bib. I never saw long lines and I didn’t have to wait, so all is good!
  4. Festival Area/Spectators. There was a great way to get around the festival area and watch your favorite runners as they weaved in and out of the course that went through this spot. Numerous obstacles to get photos on.
  5. Course Markings. We all learn from our previous races and this course was marked very well. Even in the “we just decided to run this way” part of the course, nice having arrows to follow.

What I disliked:

  1. The Start. Nothing to bad here, I just think that there is a better way to start a race other than, ready, set, go! I mean they own a timing company for crying out loud so an air horn is not even too far-fetched. Personally, going with the theme of the race, I would have air cannons or a real cannon blasting every wave!
  2. Water. They only had two water stations on the course which for a 5k would probably not be an issue, but this was 4.5 miles. The water stations were at 1.5 Miles and 2.6 miles and obviously at the finish line. I personally didn’t have any issues as I don’t really drink water during a run, but I did hear it afterwards with some of the other runners.
  3. Timing. Only because the timing results were somewhat confusing to read once they came out. Still not sure where I finished because everyone was mixed in so if you sorted by time, you would have to go through each one to see if they were in the competitive wave or not. I think I was top 10 for overall males.
  4. Race Photos. I don’t think they took bad photos, in fact I was pleasantly surprised with how many were taken and the quality. My only complaint is that I can’t afford to buy them! With so many races opting for free race photos, I hope more events adopt this avenue. Because $80 for 10 digital downloads is a bit extreme.
  5. Medals. Bummed I didn’t my hands on the new bigger medal. Instead I have another blue one, all three look the same. But maybe at the next one!

So I just have to wrap up by saying I loved the event, I hope they add some more new and different obstacles at the next race. I think PG might just surpass the local giant Jailbreak as the best homegrown race in 2014. We shall see, that run is in September!

Things I Think Thursday – Go Pound Gravel

Stop Drinking the Spartan Kool-aid!

I was going to let this go, just sit here with my thoughts and let the Spartan Cult spew on each other how much they love their almost but not yet an Olympic sport.  Which is kind of funny within itself, because if it ever does, which I seriously doubt, all of the people who commented on that post, will be watching from the sidelines, with the ability to say “That’s so cool, I can tell my friends I kind of did an Olympic sport!”

I don’t want to hijack another blog or draw more attention to it, but here is the ORM Post – “Go Pound Gravel”  Below is the infamous picture which drew all of the slander and ire from the Spartan faithful.

 

spartan-cheater-2014I know speaking my mind on this will only make you cult members dislike me, it will hurt my business, but that is okay, really. Every once and a while a person needs to be able to speak their mind right? I mean all of you Kool-aid drinkers did, so why can’t I?

Don’t get me wrong, I like Spartan Race as much as the next guy, in fact I have run all of the Texas races over the last 3 years except one. But guys come on; there are other races/runs whatever you want to call them other than Spartan. So I am going to defend this guy, I’ll play our devil’s advocate and you should all be ashamed of yourself for the harsh statements you have been saying about these people.

Fault one:

Bucket dumping. You say this guy is dumping his bucket, how do you know that from one picture? He could have been carrying it on his shoulder and adjusting it and it fell. That happened to me last year at the Glen Rose beast, except I was carrying it in the correct position and it slipped as I was adjusting my grip and fell over. I had to pick up my gravel, when returned my bucket, it was full of grass and sticks and crap. How do we know that this man did not? No one has mentioned it that I have seen. Maybe he did have some integrity and put it back and finished.  Now as for the girl with the empty bucket, yeah I am assuming she was happy just to finish.

Fault Two:

So you Kool-aid drinkers really do crack me up. Who really cares? You have made such a big deal out of doing an obstacle right, doing the burpees, etc., etc. Except for the elite runners in the first wave, no one else is running for time. If you are and if you are actually worried that this guy is going to finish ahead of you and steal your precious Spartan points, then you are a sad, sad person. I mean, come on really? This guy is not going to beat anyone, if you are all that and a bag of chips, then you certainly do not have to worry about this guy, more than likely at this point in the race you are way ahead of him. If Spartan really cared about the general population completing obstacles and doing burpees, then they would hire course officials to marshal this activity and not have volunteers at the obstacles. People skipping obstacles and not doing burpees would have their bib numbers written down and be accessed a timed penalty at the end of the race. Spartan does not care!

Most of you people commenting on this are volunteers and you just want your free race anyway. You can’t enforce this or make them do this, hell Spartan can’t even decide from race to race what their own “Elite” rules are because someone is always trying to get an edge and doing an obstacle in a “different” way than you and I perceive it. Ever listen in on a pre-race discussion on the “proper” technique to complete an obstacle by these elites with Spartan HQ…it is kind of hilarious.

I won’t call anyone out, but I do know of several people in these “Spartan” groups who are so AROO AROO into Spartan and yet at Glen Rose Beast last year, while I am struggling to stay warm, doing my burpees for falling off the Tyrolean traverse rope, just skipped the obstacle, skipped burpees. Some didn’t even try. Some tried, failed, and moved on or did a token 5-10 burpees and moved on. Do I care? Yes and no. At the end of the day, people who skip and don’t do it have their own moral dilemma. I am not going to judge. They tried, failed and felt satisfied to move on. They paid their money, so I don’t think it is fair for you to be the judge, jury and executioner on these people. At the end of the day don’t we just want people out being active and enjoying life? I know what you must think, “But Travis you hypocrite! You totally skipped obstacles at Savage Race in Dallas last year!!” Hell yes I did, I even wrote a blog about how I am not proud of it, but I refused to quit so I just kept running, 32 degrees and hands going numb means I’m not getting in the water, it was about my health. So judge me if you want, but I will pick my life and health over your stupid judgments.

Fault Three:

Let’s face it, there is no OCR world. Oh Snap! Yes I said it. Other than Spartan who does not want to be called a mudrun, there really are no other events that are labeling themselves OCR. Oh wait there is Extreme Nation, but didn’t that have an epic fail because they only wanted elite runners instead of everyone? Why would anyone else choose that label? A mudrun is what attracts the people. You elite runners make up 10% if that of the registration. The general couch surfer is who is buying and paying for these events. Hell, I am pretty sure every RD will back me up, but 60% of all these runs are females. These females are usually first timers who gather up the girls, put on an outfit and go “do it”.  Once you digest and understand that, you kool-aid drinkers, then you will know why the races don’t care if you complete an obstacle or not. Everyone gets a participation medal whether earned or not. Spartan Race just happens to be one of the better companies out there branding their race. So everyone wants to do it once. It is sad to say, but I will assume in that picture above, those people had no idea what they were getting into. Maybe they did do a Warrior Dash or another local event and figured this was the same thing. Who knows, I certainly don’t care and I doubt that Spartan does, they got their money. They don’t care if you run or no show.

In Conclusion:

I can’t resist, I love debate, so here are my thoughts on this wrap up from another blog:

A simple concept:

It makes me crazy that this is such a difficult concept for some in our community to grasp, and especially when you consider the roots of OCR, and the strong influence of police, fire and military conduct. The roots of OCR? Are you talking Spartan? Because I tend to think that the majority of the RD’s who put on these events have nothing to do with Military, Police or Fire. I am pretty sure that 3/4 OCR’s or Mudruns are actually put on by people not in the military. If you mean the participants, then you need to do more research, because again 60% women 25-35. Even in your precious Spartan Elite, I would think very few of them fall into this category.

Do the task or stay home. Why do you care? They are paying for this event, they want the experience, and theirs is going to be different than yours. Let them take home whatever sense of pride and accomplishment they want from the event. If you specifically mean Spartan, then why not ask Spartan to let the people know what obstacles they will have to do? Why does it have to be such a big secret? You know why, 1/2 of the people can’t do them; it would kill registration if they told you how hard it really was going to be.

Can’t do the task? Do your burpees. Take your lumps. Go home, learn the task, and come back to fight another day. Really dude? Learn the task and comeback? Most of these people barely run much less want to go home and start carrying buckets around. Be realistic. These guys are not elite athletes, they are weekend warriors at best. Why are you all comparing this guy to you? If you run for time and are trying to win prize money, then critique some of your elite buddies, not the average Joe.

It’s that simple.

That’s not just a lesson in OCR, that’s the basic premise of living a successful life. I thought it was okay to fail? Don’t you elite guys all have a motto of what doesn’t kill you… or failure is the way to be a champion? I would venture many of these people are successful just not very athletic.

Cheating is universally unacceptable in sport. Finally something we agree on, but is this really cheating? I don’t see a rulebook anywhere; I don’t see any enforcement going on to hold everyone accountable equally. Hold on, I have some pine tar on my neck.

OCR should be no different. I still raise the question, what is this OCR you speak of? What makes up this world of OCR? Is it just Spartan Race and Extreme Nation? I know everyone wants Obstacle Course Racing to be something, but for the most part isn’t it just really a mudrun world we live in that is made to be easy for people to have fun?

Okay so all in all, did this really cheat anyone or just himself? How does this really affect all of the Spartan elites who seemed to get so upset over this? Let it go already, you people are making yourselves look bad. Who are you to really call anyone out? Would you like it if we pulled a picture of you and made a fuss over your technique? People are human not superhuman. If this guy in the photo ever wants to run another race, I will run with him. Hell I know a whole group of people who will also. Doesn’t have to be Spartan, but it can be, or it can be a Superhero, Savage, Armageddon, Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash (you get the idea) and I can get a group of people to run/walk, stop pose for pictures do whatever, because that is the beautiful thing about this sport, we can go as fast as we want.

My name is Travis and I talk to strangers.

Twas the Night before the BEAST…

by: Travis “Blydawg” Blythe

Spartan Beast

…and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even my spouse.
My bag was packed, by the door with care.
Filled with gels & protein bars, in hopes that the BEAST would soon be here.

The Family was sleeping all snuggled in their beds,
Dreading the alarm I’m sure, it was said.
I lay here awake, in thought of what to come,
Was I ready?, was I prepared?, could I make this run?

The BEAST it is said, is one bad mother,
It claims to be TOUGHER than that other mudder,
I survived the Super Spartan, in 2011,
Barely at that, I only finished on adrenaline.

But 2012 will be different I’m sure,
For this is why I trained consistently all year.
I met the Spartan Elite, who reside only in Dallas,
They trained me, prepared me, now is up to Travis.

As I prepare for the grueling run ahead,
I know I can do it, so let it be said,
My goal is 2 1/2 hours to finish this Beast,
My body is rested, now it’s up to my heart and my feet.

So on Feiock, on Mauk, on Vennerholm, Taylor and Luck,
For I will be following you through the mud and muck.
This is the BEAST and you I will chase,
The Lord knows I can’t run at your pace.

But watch out Call, Moat, Rutz and McKay,
You are now in Texas, which is the home in which we play.
Everything is bigger, and badder, and money is at stake,
Don’t Mess with TEXAS! The Lonestar State!

So come on BEAST give us your all,
We are Texans and will answer the call,
When we finish, we will thank the heavens,
and they will songs about us and we will be legends!

Good luck to everyone running in the 2012 Spartan Beast!

Run the Jailbreak Austin – 2011 – Race Recap

Burnet, TX – May 7, 2011

I have to say that it is a bit difficult remaining objective when you actually have friends that organize the race and you also work with/for the same race on a business level. Trying to leave the favoritism behind, we (DFW Mudcrew) traveled down to Burnet, TX to tackle the “Run the Jailbreak” breakin free hill country escape. This was already nothing like any of the previous races I had attended, which included The Spartan Sprint, DFW Mudrun, The Survival Race and Warrior Dash.

Yes it is true, this was better than Warrior Dash! Granted, lets keep it in context, while WD has close to 15k people attend, there were no where near that many, I think the approximate head count was close to 3000, it was the setting at Reveille Peak Ranch that made the difference. The setting was amazing, the pavilion overlooking the lake was perfect. When we arrived, it looked as if I was walking into the “Buffalo Chip” campgrounds (biker reference, if you don’t know look it up) and there was obviously a nice party the night before. I am guessing the camping was a hit!

DFW Mud Crew

So here we are, out in the middle of Nowhere, Texas and it appears as though this has a lot of potential. The band starts playing, the food is being served, corn-hole boards are ready to go (bean bag toss), the vendors are lined up, Monster Energy drinks in hand, this is going to be a great day. One of the perks of working with the event organizers is the ability to volunteer (free run!). So I did, and I was lucky to handle the fire hose with the Directors son. Together our job was to hose down the runners right after the start. All I can say, is yes I reverted to the 13 year old kid like my compadre in crime. While I was trying to be nice, my counter part was going for head shots on everyone, I went for the ground, then tried to move them into the slippery slope section. The best part…if you fell down, you were done, we totally kept the hose on…unti you got up and ran away. Every half hour a new batch arrived and the footing just got worse every time!

I know you are waiting for my review, well I can say that this was an AWESOME course. It had monster hills, challenging terrain, a cool slide and some great obstacles. The only draw back was that they didn’t have it chip timed, so trying to remember or find your time was difficult if that matters to you. I finished 3rd in my heat with a time of 32:02 with it being right around 2.86 miles according to my buddies GPS.

Course: This Course was way more than I expected, the big hill alone was a killer, but I can’t say enough how great this course was. I thought the Spartan course in Smithville was hard because of the three consecutive hills, but this was a little bit more challenging, because most of the front of the course was uphill at a slow incline. Not until you really went down the long water slide did you come back down. I loved it so much, I actually ran it twice. The second time, the last wave of the day, I ran with a friends son, my 13 year old buddy, who was no slouch finishing in 38 minutes. We ran the entire course together, at his pace and it was awesome!

Registration: Despite the small area near the entrance, they had the packet pickup pretty much under control and we were in and out without any hiccups. I was even able to snag one of the “white” shirts!

Atmosphere: Beside the run, the location was phenomenal, no wonder Spartan Race snatched up this location for its 2012 Sprint race location. The lodge are overlooking the lake is awesome, enough shade for everyone, we played corn-hole, jammed out to some awesome tunes and it wasn’t a beating like at Warrior Dash with a million people. One of the obstacles the A-frame was right in front so people were cheering others over the obstacle. By far the best after party of the year. I hated that we had to leave and drive back to Dallas!

If Jailbreak 2012 can live up to the 2011 race, then they definitely have a fan in me, it is going to be hard to get over that already established bar, but I think they can do it, I have faith! If you want a code to get a discount, here is your discount code!

Jailbreak Austin 2011

First Run

Time: 32:00

Distance: 3.36

Finish: 3rd in wave

Second Run:

Time: 38:03

Distance: 3.36

Finish: no clue

Run The Jailbreak DFW 2011 – Race Recap

Roanoke, Texas  – September 18, 2011

During the course of writing the reviews for the races I participate in, I have definitely changed the way I write them up, some have been what is going through my mind obstacle by obstacle, some have been a detailed review of the race, and still others just a brief overview of the event. This being my third Run the Jailbreak event, all I can say is that they are slowing becoming a better and better event to participate in.  Each one out does the other and depending on what you are looking for, they pretty much have it for you.

The Mud Crew I run with often, has a lot of competitive people, so some will disagree with my thoughts, but hey that is why I am entitled to my opinion right? While I am more on the competitive side, meaning I like to run for time, how fast I can get through the course, how fast over the obstacles, and what place I can finish in.  It is just my competitive nature. But the reason I like the Jailbreak events is not because of the difficulty of the race, but the whole experience.  This is a 5k run, it is not the competitive Spartan Series or Tough Mudder type of event.  While they have obstacles which are challenging, the focus on this race is to break free.  That is their motto, “breaking free” it means different things for different people, from what is holding you down, what is binding you, to what is troubling you.  Some people strive to just complete the event, some want to just have fun with a group of friends and others want to prove to themselves that they can just do it.

With all that being said, and writing this post well after the 2011 race year is complete, this was by far the best race I competed in all year. Not only was the whole experience just plain awesome, the run was perfect. With Texas being in a drought for the entire summer, many other mudruns were canceling the races because the lands they selected had no water and they couldn’t get water to make the mud.  Luckily the DFW Adventure Park has it’s own well system and plenty of water.  The day before the event is was like the mudrun Gods knew how to ensure the success of this event, they opened up the skies and we had a whole day of Texas sized rain.  In one day the dry creek bed turned into waist to chest deep water, the whole trail was a mud clump and my shoes never felt so heavy. If you didn’t find mud on this run, you didn’t run it.

With sunny skies the day of the event, this turned out to be an awesome run.  I also have to give a big Kudos to a new friend of mine Mac.  Mac a friend of Jailbreak, and he is on a quest to lose weight. When he started his journey he weighted close to 400 lbs. He has been slowly shedding weight and has lost a whole person to date.  He still has a goal and pounds to lose, but I was inspired by him.  You see, Mac ran the Jailbreak and he finished. He completed the course, completed the obstacles and is looking forward to more. My hat is off to you Mac, job well done.

Course: They ran the course in reverse of the previous year, and since Warrior Dash also used this location this year, they had to change up some things.  Even though the course is relatively flat, they did a great job of using the creeks and ravines, creating obstacles to challenge and the mouse like maze at the finish with an uphill finish line was great.  I think the fact that the ground was 2 inches of mud during the entire race definitely made it more challenging.

Registration: As any event grows, so does the packet pickup pains.  But the day before pickup was ran pretty smoothly and the day of was laid out very easy and I didn’t notice much waiting.

Atmosphere: I really enjoyed the after party, the bands they had along with the jumbo-tron TV screen made the infield a cool place to sit on your blanket and relax.  The food was decent and the beer was cold!

I am definetly looking forward to 2012, not only are they returning to DFW & Austin, but they added Houston and South Padre Island.  South Padre Island is going to be a beach race, meaning sand! Should be interesting running in sand and going over obstacles.  Should make for a great road trip! Oh yeah, and if you want a code to use on registration for the races. HERE IS YOUR STUPID CODE!

Rick and I

Results:

Time: 33:02

Distance: 3.1

Finish – 31 of 5241

The Survival Race – Race Recap 2011

Forney, TX – April 30, 2011

This was an interesting race.  Added to the schedule because I basically wanted to run every race in DFW, I was excited that this one was at the same place as Warrior Dash 2010. As the mud run phenomenon continues to grow, everyone is putting on a run it seems.  The guys who let WD come in and use their property last year obviously saw the close to 15k people come and decided there was some money to be made so they created their own race: The Survival Race.

I am pretty sure this was the first ever race organized by these guys and it showed.  At the time of the run, they appeared to have several more events planned in other parts of the country later in the year. But this was definitely the first.

Okay to the nitty gritty, my review. I ran the first wave as our DFW Mud Crew pledged we would do from now on, so being in the first wave, 8:00 am, it always comes with its consequences I have learned. The biggest being that no one was even on the course. My big critiques are, there was no one manning the obstacles for safety, the water stations were not ready when we came through (if we wanted water we had to stop and get it ourselves) and the professional photographers were not on the course except for the finish line.  For this race I think I will just go through some of the basics as compared to some of the other events.

Mud Crawling!

Course: I was expecting an awesome course since they were basically copy catting the WD, but to no avail. Some of the course was not marked or mowed down and I think we actually ran through some poison ivy, there was barely any mud, and I think except for the water crossing and the finish, barely any mud.  To me this was just a cross-country track meet with a few cheaply designed obstacles thrown in. At one point we actually had to run single file through two lines of oil drums in an S-pattern. Course was really easy.

Registration: I expect some hiccups due to the fact that it was the first race or them, but they told us to arrive an hour before hand for packet pickup, and they were not even set up. Since I was early, it was no big deal, but for those of you who were late, people missed the first wave due to standing in long lines waiting to pick up their packets.

Atmosphere: The after run event was okay, they played some music and had food, but the setting was not in the open field like WD and I think because of the rain, it put a damper on hanging out too long.  I stayed only a short time after to catch up with some of the crew from other waves.

So my overall impression of the Survival Race? It needs a lot of work, it wasn’t very difficult and the obstacles were nothing to write home about. It will be interesting to see if they improve on the other races or become a fly by night one and done event. Hopefully year two will come with improvements because the property itself is awesome!

Here are my results:

The Finish!
 
 ~

Time: 26:14    

Distance: 2.96    

Finish: 19th of 741

~

 
 
 
 

Catch you down the road ~ Blydawg

Warrior Dash – Race Recap 2011

Warrior Dash 2011, another year, new location…

Last year I traveled down to Forney, TX for my first ever Warrior Dash. You can read about that race here.  This year, after meeting a new group of fellow mud junkies, we call ourselves the DFW Mudcrew I was once again ready for the Warrior Dash. This year the race was being held at the DFW Adventure Park, the same exact place as where Run the Jailbreak held it’s fall DFW run.  So this was going to be interesting to see how they would modify the course, or just use the same one.

Two things I have learned about the WD, a lot of people show up (14k) and the atmosphere afterwards is a big ole party.

This year I am not going to go through each obstacle and rate it or tell you about it. Because in reality, they were all really easy.  The course was less than a 5k, only about 2.78 miles.  The most difficult part of the race was actually the Cargo Net and only because we caught up to the group from the previous wave (this was the last time we ran in the middle of day, first waves only from here on out).

So here are a list of the obstacles I remember being in the race, they may not be in true order, but they are pretty close.

  1. Lake crossing
  2. Trailer
  3. Tires and cars
  4. High wall low wall
  5. Rope wall
  6. Balance beam
  7. Tangled wires
  8. Tunnel crawl
  9. Rope roll
  10. Hay bales
  11. Cargo net
  12. Water log roll
  13. Fire
  14. Mud pit

So my thoughts on the WD – this is a great race if you are a beginner to the world of mud runs or you are looking to just have a good time.  The course is relatively easy, most of the running is done on the 4-wheeler trails and the obstacles are in the middle of the trail. I was surprised at how fast the course was and how they used the same basic layout as Jailbreak. There really was not much mud, just crossed one pond, the log rolls and the mud pit at the end.  The other fun part is this is one of the few races that as a group, we actually all dressed up in costumes.  Our group all wore Tutu’s!

But I can tell you that it was during this race that a switch turned on inside of me and I decided to take training for these to the next level. I totally want to win, win my heats, win my age groups and not be so tired.  I spent the whole race trying to catch Mr. Shanks (but to no avail). So here is how I finished up this years WD:

 

 

~

Time: 27:09

Distance: 2.79

Finish: 413 of 14,195

~

 
 

So if you are just looking to have a good time afterwards, see outrageous costumes, drink a lot of beer and listen to good music, then this is definitely the event for you.  I plan on doing it again just for the entertainment factor alone!

Catch you on the flip side ~ Blydawg

Hurricane Heat – Spartan Race Texas 2011

Glen Rose, TX – December 2, 2011

I was a very last minute replacement for this event (Super Spartan), as I originally thought I was going to have to eat my entrance fee due to a business trip which took priority (sucks owning your own company!) I have a group of friends who call ourselves the DFW Mudcrew, our group has evolved this year into a group of people who travel from mudrun to mudrun in an attempt to find the perfect one! So one of our members was getting a group together to participate in the Hurricane Heat and had an opening, of course I would do it, I love this stuff.  So I start out looking up the information online and here is the official paragraph:

The Hurricane Heat (a.k.a. HH) is a special Spartan Fun Run opportunity with Spartan Founders that we offer at some of our events throughout the season.  The Hurricane Heat gives runners the chance to meet and run with the Founders and staff of Spartan Race in a unique and memorable way. Held sometimes early Saturday morning or Friday night (Head lamps and glow sticks required!)  it will take you through the course in groups with the goal of just finishing the course. No chips, no clock, just a fun run Spartan-style that represents what our company and our athletes are about… getting up when you’re knocked down and finishing what you start.

Imagine my excitement to know I am going to be running with the founders and staff of Spartan! Well, this event fell short, actually way short of all expectations from the moment I arrived until after midnight when I left.  Here are my thoughts on the 2011 Texas HH.

FAIL #1 – No founders or staff of Spartan to be found other than those yelling at us.  I didn’t meet any founders and no one introduced themselves except for one or two who were talking on the mega phone.

With an odd list of required items to bring including, glow sticks, a bandana, a brick, lighter, green apple, banana, and an 8” piece of rope (what can you do with only 8”?) I was really looking forward to this event.  I really didn’t mind that I had to drive almost 2-hours from Dallas to get to the event, no worries I like driving, but I also like events to start on time. (We used none of these items and I later asked the Goruck guy why we needed them, and his response was, “I have no idea, we never asked you to bring those items”)

FAIL #2Failure to start on time. With an expected time of 5:15pm to start our adventure, and being that it was 50* and raining, starting over an hour later was not my idea of fun. I also get the whole Spartan philosophy of the “Burpee” but making us to them just because you are waiting for an organizer to get there is just ridiculous.

FAIL #3Failure of defined leadership and direction. While standing in the rain waiting to find out what the heck is going on, the so called leaders huddle up to discuss a plan.  Then after 15 minutes ten people stand up and start yelling email addresses at the same time.  Really? Do you really think 120 people can hear ten people all yelling at the same time? I think the worst part was they didn’t have names, they were yelling off email addresses!  Then the Goruck yells as us and says we are wasting time by not getting in our groups fast enough.  So the second part of this failure is our so called “Team Leader” who was basically an empty shirt, had no clue what he was doing and didn’t know how to operate the GPS, handed it off to another person. So off we went with no idea what we were doing just following the GPS.

I was determined to not let this cluster beginning ruin my time, I was ready to see what this was all about.  I wondered in the beginning why everyone else was walking down the road and we decided to walk in the field, the wet field.  I still can’t figure out why 12 people also cannot walk together.  This is a mystery to me, we are a team, a group but yet we can’t walk at the same pace?  Yes I said walking, not jogging, running or skipping, we were walking and could not stay together and had to continuously stop and wait.

Fast forward two-hours. We walked in circles up hills, down hills, over three barbed wire fences and faithfully followed our GPS reader for two wet hours. We were completely lost and ready to give up. Now we had two other teams not only following us because they claimed their GPS was not working, but our fearless leader thought it would be a good idea to merge the three teams into one team and then he conceited his leadership role. This soon became a session of who is Alpha.

I will be honest; I couldn’t take the incompetence any longer.  I tried to be a follower, but that is just not my nature I can’t watch inferior people attempt to lead and not do it correctly.  As a former law enforcement officer, I could never be second fiddle, I was always the leader.  So I took over, I taught myself to read the GPS (which at this point was deemed broken) and started following the path it set. With the 40 people just standing around and complaining on what to do next, I attempted to tell them my GPS was in fact working and I found the trail and in the end, I led them to the fire (yes the GPS worked fine).  But I was met with resistance, which I thought was funny, the guys drinking beer the whole time and who wanted to take us all back to the beginning (claiming to want to start over) so he could quit. I couldn’t quit.

We reached the check point, the bon fire and right there we had several quit. No worries for me I was all ready for my first mission.  It was funny that one of the teams who claimed the GPS was not working, had it looked at and it worked fine…again I think operator error.

We get our first mission and I was asked to lead us, so I took the GPS and led us straight to the point, found our object and back again. Our group had turned into 21 people at this point since we merged groups and once again I am amazed at the lack of enthusiasm by the participants. It is cold and rainy, no one wants to jog to get the blood pumping, no one wants to do anything other than bitch about how cold and wet they are.  Did we carry the big rock we were asked to get? No, no we broke it into a very small rock which had enough red paint on it to verify it was once the correct rock.

After completing the first mission, we were asked to wait, which we did for 45 minutes, they say so that the other teams could come back, well they never did, they quit and went to the lodge. The event was then cancelled and we were given our medals and t-shirts. They then had the gall to ask us to carry wood for them, break down the tent, pick up trash and take it all back to the lodge.  So I rounded up my faithful mud crew members that stayed with me and we headed back, so much for a three hour tour (where have I heard that before?)

I got to my car after midnight, by the time I got to my hotel, showered and got in bed it was after 1:00am. I was tired, hungry and exhausted; I imagine we walked for a good 8 miles or so. All I had to eat was subway at 2:00pm, I went to bed hungry.  I set my wake up call for 5:30am; I have the Super Spartan the 8am wave by the way.