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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!

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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!

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

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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:

 

 

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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.

DFW Mudrun – Spring Race Recap 2011

Ft. Worth, Texas – April 9, 2011

Well, this is my second effort at the DFW Mudrun along the Trinity River in Fort Worth, Texas.  Last year I lead a team of five (5), well I followed actually, but none the less, competed in last years race.  We finished 21st out of 128 teams with a time of 1:40:49.  Not bad for our first ever mudrun and a 10k at that!

This year with only 2-original members returning (due to injuries and lack of training) we once again set out to compete in the DFW MUDRUN.  I re-booted the team and the Mud Junkies were once again ready to run this 10k course full of mud! The team consisted of my new found group of friends in the “DFW Mud Crew” and consisted of Mike Shanks, Gustavo Arteaga (original member), Kelly Fristoe, Lauren Zotz & myself.  This year we were able to secure a whole media team of photographers and video techs.  We were sure to capture the awesomeness of this race.  So we strapped on our boots, put on our BDU’s & our orange Mud Junkies shirts and started the race.

Normally when I review the races, I go over each obstacle and give my critique of each one.  But this race has actually too many to list.  So I decided to just tell you about my favorites. My first favorite was the RIVER CROSSThis was not your typical water crossing, we actually had to swim across the river.  Luckily they had two ropes we could use to help cross with, funny thing was that most of the people didn’t use them right.  I basically used a swimming technique head down and went hand over hand.  I only almost drowned once, due to looking back over my shoulder to make sure my partners were doing okay. But I was able to get back into a groove and make it across.

My second favorite obstacle was the GORILLA ROPE MONKEY BARSI am sure many found this hard, as I just watch most of my team members just jump in the mud pit after I failed. But, I thought it was awesome, it was hard and I was just 2-rungs shy of completing it! Great obstacle. (One of the only obstacles the photography crew couldn’t get to)

My third favorite obstacle was the PLATFORM JUMP, we had to climb up onto a platform and jump about 15-feet down into a mud pit.  Being the group that we were, we all jumped at the same time. Nothing to hard, but a fun jump and crawling out was a blast.

My last top obstacle was the ROPE CROSSINGwhere you have to cross a good size mud pit by walking over a rope and using a top rope to guide you for balance.  This is the only mudrun I have competed in that has an obstacle like this. One of my most favorites!

The race didn’t seem that difficult this year even though it ended up being 6.6 miles total distance.  We were able to keep a decent pace, even though one member ended up pulling a hammy and slowed up towards the end.  But since we had to finish as a group, we left no man behind. Our official finish time was 1:51:09 which was good for an 8th place finish in our co-ed group.  I added in the uniform services and Corp. team groups and we ended up in 13th place out of 51 teams. I think we could have given them a run for their money, the top teams finished a good 20 min ahead of us, but we ran slow towards the end.

Enjoy my video of our awesome Mud Junkies team!

Spartan Race – Texas 2011 (Smithville)

March 26, 2010 – Smithville, Texas

2011 is soon going to be a year to remember! My first race of the season and I traveled all the way down to Smithville, Texas.  The home of where Hope Floats was filmed (or at least that is what they claim).  I wanted to do the Spartan Race this year, well simply because it looked fun! So here is my review of the Spartan Race.

The draw to the Spartan Race was that everyone was dressed like a Spartan.  Since I had just finished watching the season of Spartacus on Starz, I couldn’t resist the temptation to dress up for this run.  I normally do not wear costumes but I figured what the heck. So I went out and got my Spartan uniform and went to Smithville!

I have to say that unlike some of the other races (Warrior Dash) there were not many crazy costumes.  I was expecting a ton of Spartans, sadly, while I was there, there were not many.  A little over 1500 people ran the race, I happened to be at the 12pm wave (see what procrastination gets you) and I mostly saw a huge population of military guys with no shirts on.  I have to say that while some of the other venue’s keep tweeting about a 58% female sign up, there were only 30% females at this race.  I think there were more employees in costume than runners.  But I donned my gear, I wore a Spartan helmet, shin guards, forearm guards and a Spartan skirt. Sadly, I did not run in the helmet, I ditched it right after the start; it was too light and would not stay on. I am so glad I did, because I was sure I would not have survived the course with that thing on. Okay, so here is my review for the Spartan Race!

With the pre-race photo’s out of the way, it was time to get my game face on, no one could really see my game face because I was in full Spartan mode! I had my helmet on, although I never intended to run in it, it kept coming off and I was afraid of losing it (I want it for future races!).  So having stretched out, ran in place, jumping jacks, I was ready! The gun went off and here we go, I was close to the front, but behind the Cedar Park football team, I figured I would let them go first and I would catch them later. We received our instructions on the race, our “How to” on the burpees (up/down/pushup/up jump) which we were required to do if we could not complete an obstacle. The smoke started, the cannon blew and we were off! My first issue with the race begins here…the chip timing company, I was not happy that our official time started when the gun went off and not when we cross the start line.  So I lost like 15 seconds getting to the line. Grrr…

Right away we hit OBSTACLE 1, the fire jump and mud pit – interesting obstacle, you jump over the fire grate and you are instantly hit with the fire hose! Good thing the pressure was not that high! Once you ran through the hose, you were greeted with a shin deep mud pit.  I was able to run through this without many problems, just deep enough to get a little wet, mostly your shoes.

So from here you run and run and run. I was very thankful we went through some water right off the bat, made our shoes and socks nice and heavy for the mile plus run until OBSTACLE 2. This was the fun one, we had to go over a 6 Ft. wall, then an identical wall was behind it except the bottom board was missing, we had to crawl under it.  After that was the car tires hanging in mid air you had to go through. Rinse and repeat and you were off to running.  I kind of felt bad for some of the bigger contestants; they obviously were not fitting through the tire or crawling under the wall.  I made it through the first set no problem, the second set I got caught in the tire, had to turn around and back out.  I also lost my first shin guard here.  One of the straps broke when it got caught on the tire.  I ripped it off and donated it near the pile of race bibs that were collecting due to the tires ripping them off. Back to trail running!

Now we entered into the hardest part of the course, the hills.  There were three or four of them, I can’t remember for sure but they were steep and full of fist sized rocks (loose) that made it difficult to run up.  Needless to say, I needed to have trained for hills, since I did not, my legs felt real heavy and I was sucking wind half way up the first one.  Then i took my Que from the rest of the group…walking up the hills is easier.  Trotting down the back side and walking up the hills. Mentally I was pissed at myself for walking, but what could I do? I was sucking air bad and the hills were tough to walk up much less run (did I mention first run of the year and not in shape yet?)

Coming out of the hills, we ran some more and then came upon OBSTACLE 3– the balance beam.  Good job here SR, the 2×4 layout of L shaped forms was tough.  Even more tough since I was breathing hard, it made concentrating and going slow difficult.  I made it to the first intersection (barely) way out of control; I tried to catch my breath, but not having much luck at that.  Continuing on to the second intersection, getting better at balancing, about half way there and boom, fell off…rushing and losing my mental control.  Time for my burpees 1-30 .  Nice hard gravel to do pushups on, that was a great touch.   Oh yeah, the lady counting the burpees, trying to be funny by telling me I lost a shin guard…not so much! I ripped off the other one and donated it to SR.

OBSTACLE 4 – Immediately after the burpees, was to drag this cement ball attached to a large rope, go down and back.  I optioned for a fast walk on this versus running, not hard, but not a piece of cake either.

So we are back off to running through the woods.  I encountered a guy with no shoes, he told me he lost them at the first mud pit, wow I thought, the rocks must have hurt!  So we come upon OBSTACLE 5 – the barbwire crawl.  I was surprised that they actually had real barbed wire and it was real low. I wouldn’t be surprised if some people couldn’t make it under and had to do the burpees.  I saw the first photographer here, go a good picture crawling! By the way the ground here was extremely hard, no mud, just hard rock-like dirt!  Off to running again!

So coming out of the woods we encounter OBSTACLE 6 a cargo net. Followed by OBSTACLE 7 which was this mini lake had to wade through it to the other side and then crawl up a muddy hill inside a tunnel.  Then off to OBSTACLE 8 which was an 8 ft wall. I really had no problem here even though my hands were full of mud, up and over!

OBSTACLE 9 – Another lake, this time we had our Lowe’s 5-gallon buckets and had to keep those horizontal as we walked a circle around the perimeter then walk up hill on wet tires.  Not as hard as some people make it out to be, if you walked on the tires, it was easy, if you tried to step in the middle, it was slippery and muddy.

Coming out of that was a short run to OBSTACLE 10 – another cargo net.  Easy peasy. Even when I am dog tired these obstacles are still pretty easy. A short jaunt and I reached the wall.  They created a 10 ft or so wall with blocks on them simulating a rock climbing wall, only you went sideways. OBSTACLE 11 – The wall was not as hard as you would think by looking at it, as a matter of fact, if you go slow and take your time, it was easy.  I just happened to look away to see where my photography crew was and my foot slipped off and I touched the ground on the last block! Just so happened to be right in front of the obstacle official…burpees 31-60! Grrr…these were not easy and I was already sucking wind.

A short walk later (yes I was done running) was OBSTACLE 12 – The spear throw.  I lost precious time here because they were backed up on all three lanes at first. As usual I always pick the slow line.  After changing lines a few times I get one where there is no one throwing and the obstacle ref decides to walk down the firing line picking up spears, knowing I am not very accurate I was waiting on him to move…which he took his sweet ass time.  So I moved lanes again and threw. My spear hit the bale of hay and didn’t stick…Burpees 61-90! Arrrggghhh, I am starting to hate these things!

Exhausted from burpees I lingered over to the last OBSTACLE 13 – the incline wall, with a giant rope to pull yourself up.  Oh yeah they are pouring water down the wall just for fun.  This was actually pretty easy, except I about fell off the top going over the wall, yes I went to grab the ledge and missed and started falling, but I was on the edge so this giant pole caught me long enough to stand back up and climb down.

Off to the finish, and dead tired, this course definitely took a lot out of me. So approaching the FINISH LINE, there are these two guys with pugil sticks.  Watching them earlier they were kicking the crap out of people and making them flip and crash all over.  So I decided to take the fight to them and I was going to knock them down.  So I went towards the little one! I ran right into him, pushed off, did a spin move and they never hit me! I finished! Yay me!

So my stats for this race were not great in my opinion, although the total miles were close to 3.8 my overall time was 56:02.  Here is the breakdown:

58th out of 198 for Wave 7

77th out of 285 – Men 30-39

427th out of 1,548 Spartan Runners

Warrior Dash 2010 – Race Recap

Forney, TX – When I set my bucket list of to-do’s this year the first thing I did was find my Komen 5k’s and add them to my calendar. Then I had heard about this thing called the DFW Mudrun. It looked challenging and I signed up. Then I found the Warrior Dash. I instantly fell in love with the Warrior Dash. You see I am a huge medieval time period buff and when I saw that we could dress however we wanted, it really peaked my interest. Then, when I saw we got these cool buffalo hats (think grand pooh-bah from the Flintstones), t-shirts and medals, I instantly signed up. I was so stoked for this one, it looked cool and a ton of fun.

What I took from this race is that it really is about the party. It reminded me a little of the festivals you go to where you take a blanket, listen to bands, eat and drink beer! Oh yeah, and have a little race around all of that.

I was signed up for the 4pm start on day two and yes I was worried that the course was going to be nothing but a mud pit and all of the obstacles would be really tough after so many people went through them. I made my way to the START line and waited, I wanted to get up front and not have to try and get around all of the slower people. Here are the obstacles they felt were to challenge us:

Texas Tornado – 20 mph wind generated by an air boat that blew at you for about 5 seconds. The sound kind of made me worry as I didn’t know what the heck it was, then I see the boat, of course I am on the left hand side of the trail…I took the wind head on, it almost stopped me for a second, but then it was over.

Mud Pit #1 – Ankle deep mud just enough to get your clean clothes dirty, but nothing major. Although the mud outside the pit was more like slime, tough footing.

Walk the Plank – This was a 1-ft wide board over a small ditch about 5-ft wide…I could have driven my Harley over this board, it was so wide.

• Run through the Black Forest – Nothing hard here, except when you are tall you are constantly ducking the trees limbs the whole time!

• Mud Slide – finally got dirty, sat down and slide into the creek. The guy in front of me just stopped when got to the bottom, yeah I took him out. Sorry dude.

• Slippery Riverbed Run – Walked through most of this as the water levels kept changing from mid-shin to mid chest. I think I fell down once as the drop-off just comes from nowhere (actually just sat on my butt)

• Mud Climb – This was not hard at all, everyone was getting stuck and I was looking at them like they were idiots. If you find the footholds, you go right up. I thought this would be bad since I was there late on day two, but the hardest part was running again at the top. Again the slime mud factor kept you to a walk until the ground hardened up

• Mud Pit #2 – Again the hardest part was coming out of it onto the slime. Although I sit do the sit thing again as I first went in.

• Cargo Climb – You can see this baby from a distance and all I thought was really? It looked like they put the cargo rope over a set of bleachers. Three steps up and three steps down and back to running…not hard at all.

• Log Roll – BEST part of the whole course. We entered the lake/pond and the water level on me was mid chest to up to my neck on the last one. The logs actually floated and spun on a wire. It was funny watching people not get over these…they were the easiest part. I spun the log forward and then jumped up and when my belly hit it, the log would roll me over and into the water. I think I passed about 20 people. I caught the “Runners” of the pack that was pulling away from me on the run here. Of course they blew away when we got back on land.

• Splintering Spools – Not as tough as I first thought. These were wooden spools, ranging from small to large, positioned across the course. The big ones were in the middle and I was going to go for those until a guy in front of me tried it and fell backwards. So, I took the next medium size one and I hit it at a full sprint. I used my hands to grab the top bound right over it like a gymnast does the pommel horse. I scared the camera guy sitting there, he almost dropped his camera as I flew over the spool.

• Hay Bale Wall – This was nothing but a stack of hay bales maybe 4 high. Another joke of an obstacle, I kept my running pace and jumped up the first one and then the second and jumped down, moving on.

• Wall of Fire – I had been thinking of what to do all day when jumping this as I had my camera woman positioned there waiting for me to jump through. Funny thing is that I was running too fast and I had to slow down. I was about to be passed by a girl (actually she did pass me) she had been breathing behind me for sometime and then she ran by. So, I picked up the pace and we were side by side going into the fire. I ended up jumping the first one normal and on the second one I jumped and did my best flex in the air. I think my sock caught on fire too.

• Muddy Mayhem & Barbwire – So, the finish line is just ahead and I knew this was the last obstacle before the finish line. I was somewhat damp but totally clean, so following suit of some of the people I saw earlier, I dove headfirst into the mud. Yes I dove, to the chants and applause of the crowd. I couldn’t see when I came up, I wiped my eyes and I could only get one open enough to crawl through as I was caked in mud. I was on all fours trying to get through the mud pit with mud dripping in my good eye, burning like a mother and the other eye basically sealed shut by the slime mud…good times I tell ya!

All in all the race was pretty easy, the obstacles were really not that hard. I was expecting it to be worse. I really had no preconceived ideas of being all that competitive, I just wanted to run a good race, not kill myself and have fun. I actually surprised myself, when I thought I would be around 45-50 minutes I was shocked to find out I finished at 27:08.55. I didn’t feel like I was pushing myself that much, in fact I thought I was a little slow due to being sick earlier that week.
In the end there were 6,998 Warriors on Sunday and 6,658 Warriors on Saturday. Because I am a results junkie and very competitive I thought I would share some stats with you because I am impressed with myself. I finished 754th out of 6,998 contestants on Sunday and I ranked 81st in my age group of 35-39 out of 645 male Warriors. If you combine both days totals, I finished 1,644th out of 13,656 Warriors. I finished 193rd out of 1,300 male Warriors in my age group of 35-39. I now have a goal to beat for next year!

Now I play the waiting game as the next few races are not until September and November. Look for me to go after this new run called the “Jailbreak”and then Mudrun II and lastly the Tough Mudder and if we are lucky The Spartan Race is trying to get an October date! This is truly the year of the mud!

My Name is Travis and I talk to strangers!