After an action filled year of triathlons, duathlons, running races, turning from pro duathlete to pro triathlete, and having a baby, I somehow found time to try my hand in the new craze of adventure racing. It's a perfect way to escape the seriousness of road racing and get some good cross training in but most of all, it's a lot of fun!
I first competed in a couple of local events, the Braveheart challenge and the Emerald Coast Adventure race. I won both races and had a blast. Next I headed a little further north to Jackson, MS to race in the Warrior Dash. The first thing that amazed me was the amount of people that come to these events. There was a whopping 10,000 entrants and a very party-like atmosphere. I was surprised to see a few familiar faces from the triathlon community, which made me get in the competitive frame of mind.
From the start line, I took off hard to stretch out a lead. I had a smile on my face the whole way as I felt like I was doing all the things my mum told me I wasn't aloud to do as a kid-crawling in the mud, jumping over walls, diving head first into swamps! I crossed the line with a good lead over the next guy in my wave. I instantly went to check where that put me in the overall standings. I was pleased to see I was leading by a healthy 4 minutes. There was still another 8,000 people yet to race so I knew I could still be beaten. We went away, got showered and returned in the evening for the awards. I was pleased to see that I had taken the overall win and was presented with a full size iron warrior helmet! It was quite different from the very sensible looking plaques and trophies I was used to getting in road races.
The Warrior Dash was fun, but I'd heard that the Spartan race was much tougher, so I made it next on my list. It was a stroke of luck when I discovered there was a Spartan Race coming to the Gulf Coast. The competition in Spartan racing is pretty hardcore, and there's big prize money for the championship contenders, which attracts a whole range of athletes that follow the race calender around the country and even the world! I looked up past races and saw a regular Spartan winner, Hobie Call was capable of running a 2.10 marathon and has the upper body strength of an ox.... I knew this wouldn't be an easy guy to beat! Unfortunately, he wasn't at the Gulf Coast Spartan race, but I knew there were more of his caliber that could be. The point is I had to take the race just as seriously as I would a major triathlon. This meant getting on my pre-race nutrition plan.
Whether I'm racing or not, I take Wobenzym to control inflammation, Minami Platinum to support cardio health, and Raw One for Men for my all around vitamin and mineral supply. I also love to make smoothies as my sweet fix for the day. I mostly have them for breakfast, but leading up to a race, I make sure I'm getting at least two a day and definitely one on race morning. My magic ingredients are: 1 scoop Raw Protein, 1 scoop Perfect Food, 5 big strawberries, a handful of blueberries, half a banana, mixed with coconut milk and almond milk. I feel amazing when I make this a regular part of my diet. I don't eat in the hour before a race so it's a perfect time to take a couple of Wobenzym tablets.
I lined up on the start line for the elite wave. I had a good friend, who is an awesome triathlete, start right next to me so I was pumped up to race hard. When the gun went off, it was a sprint to the first obstacle, which was a line of fire that we had to jump only to find a huge water filled pit the other side. I was not too sure how to take the jump, which didn't work out well for me. I landed on my knees on the other side of the pit as I felt someone's knee land on my right calf. I got to my feet and moved into a steady run and the pain seemed to fade.
We ran into some sandy craters which jacked my heart rate as I ran out on the soft sand. After my little incident on the first obstacle I was in about tenth position. By the time I had climbed out of the craters I was in third and quickly moved into second. We then came to a series of low walls that I watched the guy in front hurdle so I followed suit. Once we'd cleared those I saw he was tiring, so I turned on the heat and ran past him into the lead. From there I didn't see anyone again so just got my head down and enjoyed the many challenging obstacles-crawling under barbed wire (which I collected some nice scars from), swimming across rivers, carrying a 70 lb bucket of sand through thick woodland for 1/4 mile, rope climbing and plenty more.
In a Spartan Race, if you fail at any obstacle, there is a 30 burpie penalty, and that is pretty severe, so I really didn't want it to happen. I was pretty confident that I could manage any strength and fitness obstacle thrown at me, but it was a simple spear throw that caught me out. We had to hit a target with a wooden spear, but as I threw my spear, it glided at an angle. It hit the target dead on, but the angle meant it didn't stick. A burpie is a tough exercise that consists of a push up on the ground, then a jump up onto your feet and into the air all in one movement. 30 of them in the middle of a race is tough! I got them done all in one go and took off still in the lead. The course was only 4 1/2 miles, but the obstacles are very tiring, so by the time I saw the finish line, it couldn't come any sooner.
The cruelest part of the race was thinking I was done, only to be told that everyone must complete 30 more burpies to finish. The thought of almost being done was enough motivation for me to knock them out fast and in one go. Covered in mud and blood, I crossed the line with a 3 minute lead.
I loved every minute of the race, but if you're injury prone it's definitely not the safest event you can do. By the end of the day, here were three broken legs and one dislocated ankle. One person broke their leg in 3 places requiring surgery and the use of metal pins. My next event is the Tampa, FL Tough Mudder, which is a 12 mile obstacle course that has some seemingly crazy elements to it, so I'm looking forward to that one. Once that race is done, I'll be back in base training for the 2013 tri season. I have a busy season coming up with possibly 8 sprint tris, 5 half Ironmans and 2 full Ironmans.
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