Toughest Mudder Philly 2017

Basano-2017 toughestPrior to May 20, 2017 I had completed races longer than 30 miles. I had done races with more than 60 obstacles. I had spent over 13 hours climbing up and down mountains, at some points even carrying heavy buckets of rocks or sand bags. I had raced in weather where it was below zero degrees. I swam in a lake when the temperature outside was only 32 degrees and I was in just Under Armor Cold Gear. I had almost been pulled off a course for being borderline hypothermia but was able to find a way to warm up enough just to stay in the event. I have fallen off of ropes from ¾ of the way up into muddy water and have been electrocuted/shocked a few times. I’ve ripped my hands open bloody several times on obstacles over the years and continued on. I have crossed the finish line at races that the pain in my knee was so bad I couldn’t even walk or bend it for days afterwards. With all of these things I had already overcome, why was doing the Toughest Mudder on May 21st making me feel more nervous than I have been in years and making me have doubt about my ability to finish this event?

It came down to really one thing, my autoimmune disorder. I suffer from both Psoriatic Arthritis and Reynaud’s, both of which can be painful at times, but when you are an avid obstacle course racer and you lose feeling in your hands and feet when the temperatures are below 55 degrees it can be quite difficult. Add in the obstacle Arctic Enema in the dark where there is no sun to warm you up, especially after you have been in this obstacle 3 times previously in the daylight and it almost took you out way before your Reynaud’s has worsened, you start to question if your body can handle these conditions. This fact coupled with overnight temperatures so low you can see your breath and several reports of hypothermia in other similar events and the strong urge from others to wear a wet-suit had me very concerned. How does one do obstacles in a wet-suit? What do I wear on my hands/feet? How will it feel submerged in freezing cold water with no sun to warm me up? All of these questions were looming and no one I knew had ever done an event like this before so I basically feared the unknown.

I decided to purchase a heavier wet-suit and read up on some athletes that I followed that competed at  World’s Toughest Mudder. One that stood out to me was Deanna Blegg because at one point she was the Female World’s Toughest  Mudder and also suffered from Reynaud’s. She also invented Bleggmitts, which are neoprene mittens that can easily transition to bare hands, which I highly recommend and several of us had these on out there on the course that night. Based on her recommendation, I also ordered a thin pair of neoprene based socks that I ended up wearing over my wool compression socks. Not only did these help keep my feet dry, but they helped me get my wet-suit on a little easier. I also packed my Frogskins, Under Armor Cold Gear, ski gloves, hand warmers and basically any other article of clothing I had that might help me stay or get warm.

Before the Toughest at night, I did the NY Warrior Dash earlier that day with a team for fun. It was a great race and the temperatures were not much warmer than they would be overnight according to the Weather Channel. After the race was completed, I was covered in mud so I headed down the hill to the showers and hosed off in the mildly warm water but then when I had to walk back up the hill I got a terrible chill and lost the feeling in both of my hands from my mid palm to my fingertips. It was so painful and the use of my hands was very limited. I struggled to change out of my wet clothes and this panicked me. How was I going to be able to get through tonight when it would be colder, longer and have so much more water on the course with so many much more difficult obstacles?

I headed home, showered and tried to sleep before I had to leave for the event, but my anxiety would not allow more than 45 minutes of sleep. I just laid there tossing and turning thinking how this might be the race I receive my first DNF/DQ (Did Not Finish/Disqualified).  It was 6:45pm and it was time for me to pick up my pit crew and head out the Coatsville, PA which was about 3 hours away. I decided to drive because I was restless and needed to stay awake at this point. We arrived at the event, parked and headed up to the festival area where I checked in and received my timing chip and bib. We then headed over to the pit area, which was already packed. This was probably my one and only complaint about this event.  We were told we would have a designated space, but people were spreading their stuff out all over and there was no room and there were many people coming in after me. We found a little spot open at the end of the table and decided to set up there.

I decided to take my chances on the first lap without wearing my wetsuit because it was said that the first lap many of the obstacles would remain closed and would begin to open gradually.  So dressed in my Frogskin top, Bleggmitts, Under Armor Cold Gear compression pants, wool socks & my Camelback filled with a little water and fuel but mostly hand warmers, a heat sheet and extra gloves I headed over to the start line. We were lined up at 11:30 and they gave a series of speeches including rules and spoke about a fellow Mudder that was injured in a car accident on his way home from TM earlier that day. His words were moving asking us why we were here and what did we expect out there. After taking a knee, the national anthem and a whole bunch of Hooyah’s at the stroke of midnight we were released on to the course.

Toughest-9I had gotten to the start line early so I was a little closer to the front of the line and it was so cool to see the lights of fellow Mudders in front of you. What was even better is when I looked back and saw the long stream of white headlamps from about 600+ racers behind me. It was truly a remarkable sight! The first lap we would run past most of the major obstacles. Even though they had volunteers and were illuminated, we were told to go on and they would see us soon. Some Toughest-11minor obstacles, like water crossings or low hurdles, were on the course so it wasn’t completely without obstacles, just not the 17 major ones listed on the map. I was running a decent pace and actually felt very hot, almost like I was going to overheat.  By the time I reached Pitfall it was open. This one would get me wet and muddy up to my ribcage.  Once wet I was afraid I would get cold, but miraculously I wasn’t and was actually quite comfortable temperature wise.  After lap one was complete I headed into the pit to fuel and debated if I should put on my wetsuit or brave another lap as I was.

In the pit I fueled up as I had felt not eating since hours earlier. I kept questioning what to do about the wetsuit. I decided to keep on what I had and headed back towards the start line.  About halfway down I caught a chill and heard them announce “Arctic Enema is now open” and I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach so I turned to my pit crew and said “I’m going back to get on my wet-suit”.  In the pit area we didn’t have much room but I started to change and since I was muddy and wet it would be quite the comedy show me trying to get out of my wet clothes and into my thick wet-suit that only had a small opening in the chest to fit my whole body. After struggling to get it on, both my pit assistance and another person in the pit area came over to help me. One was pulling my sleeves up while the other was literally picking me up and trying to shake me into it. It was really quite comical. After finally getting it on and putting my bib back on, I headed back outside. I didn’t feel like I had enough on, so I headed back in the pit area, added a shirt under my wet-suit and over then put my bib back on. By the time I headed back to the start line for lap 2 I had spent approximately 55 minutes in the pit area. This indecisiveness and panic would ultimately cost me enough time for another lap in the end.

By the time I started lap 2 every obstacle was now open. In previous Toughest Mudders there were 2 course loops and only half of the obstacles were open but this time it was a single loop and all 17 were opened up pretty much within minutes of each other.  My headlamp kept slipping off of my head so I ended up tucking it under the strap of my Camelback and held it to light the pathway.  Mud Mile was obstacle 1/17 on the map and my short height made it impossible to complete on my own. I recruited a few that helped me over and I returned the favor as we went over mound by mound.  Covered in thick mud I approached obstacle 2/17, Skidmarked, which was basically a very high inverted wall that I couldn’t even reach the top of so again I had to enlist the help of strangers to give me a boost to so I could reach the top. Once I did I was able to pull myself over but it was already pretty slick. Next up 3/17 was the Blockness Monster. This was one where you really needed teamwork to turn the heavy block and we took turns grabbing it and sliding over. Once you got it moving it would become easy to get over with teamwork but when I would arrive at this obstacle on lap 3 I couldn’t move it on my own so I would have to stand in the water and wait for enough of us to get it going. The Pyramid Scheme (4/17) was next, which was basically the equivalent of a Spartan Slip Wall, however, the rope was so short and the board so slippery I was jumping up and belly flopping and still not even close to the ropes. A guy came up and offered me his knee to stand on to get up and I gladly accepted. Once I was able to grab the rope I climbed up relatively easily.

Toughest-7I ran for a little while then made it to Everest 2.0 (5/17). At this obstacle I had to throw up a rope to catch in-between these wooden triangle structures and then pull myself up on this VERY slippery quarter pipe. I climbed to the top and my hand became wedged between the rope and the pipe and was crushing it because all of my body weight was on the rope. I was finally able to free my hand and a guy that had just made it to the top came over to give me a hand up. After thinking about what I could do better next lap, on round 3 I got up the rope all by Toughest-10myself with zero assistance! Next up came Hang Time (6/17). This was very high up and you just had to leap out and hope you grabbed the trapeze style bar. Once on the bar, it would swing you to the cargo net, which the first time I made it to but wasn’t as lucky on lap 3. After grabbing on to the cargo net you had to climb over another rope then shimmy down that rope. I made it ¾ of the way on the cargo net but then slipped off right into the water below. After swimming to the other side I was told to take the penalty lap for failing the obstacle.

Toughest-6After the lap I arrived at the Ladder to Hell (7/17). This one was high but I have been on obstacles like this before so I did this one fairly with ease.  We would then run for a little while before heading to obstacle 8/17, Augustus Gloop. At this obstacle you went into the water and then had to climb to the top of the pipe while water poured down on you.  After this obstacle there was a nice stretch of running and then there it was, the dreaded Arctic Enema the Rebirth (9/17)! As I approached this obstacle my stomach started hurting. My hands started shaking. My mind started racing. Should I put on my neoprene cap or take my chances as is?  After standing there for a few minutes I decided not to wear the cap. I headed up, covered my hands with the Bleggmitts and headed down the tube into the freezing cold water. Once in the water I had a low cargo net over me and had to go under a piece of wood and completely submerge myself under the cold water once again. I hit my head (both lap 2 & 3) on the wood and when I got out of the water I was cold, but surprisingly with my gear I didn’t feel like I had feared. I began to run immediately to generate heat but I felt relieved…I did Arctic Enema and it didn’t take me out! After completing Arctic Enema obstacle I felt a sudden burst of energy, like I totally can do this again!

Next up would be Funky Monkey the Revolution (10/17). This obstacle was a set of monkey bars that went up, which normally I can do but these were super slippery. I made it almost to the top where I would have to transition to the moving pipes, but I fell into the water, which after Arctic Enema actually warmed me up. When arriving to Stage 5 Clinger (11/17) I had to watch other athletes complete it before coming up with a plan on how I was going to do it. It was very slick and covered with mud and pretty high up.  After letting a few people go ahead of me, I attempted it and succeeded (both laps 2 & 3). When I arrived at Balls to the Wall (12/17) it was extremely muddy and the ropes were very slippery so it was not as easy as I thought it would be, but luckily I was able to conquer it both laps 2 & 3.

Here came my second most dreaded obstacle, Operation (13/17). This evil obstacle is like the old game by Hasbro Operation and was the same concept, only for this one you took a metal rod and as you stood in water tried to get it through an electrically charged hole without touching it as you hooked a ring onto the end of your metal rod and had to bring the volunteer the ring. If you touch the hole, you were shocked. As I was doing it the girl next to me got shocked so bad she literally flew out of the water and on to the ground. That was my tip to ease the pole back towards me and just take my penalty lap! Lap 3 honestly I didn’t even try it, just took the penalty. I we shocked pretty badly in the water at Electric Eel back in TM 2012 and didn’t want to feel that again.  After my long penalty lap I arrived at another muddy water obstacle called Quagmire (14/17) and made it in & out relatively easily.  The Black Hole/Birth Canal (15/17) was a series of tarps you had to climb under that were full of heavy water so I had to do a soldier crawl through it. Then it was back into Pitfall (16/17) so I actually did this obstacle all 3 laps. Next up was the final obstacle, Kong (17/17)!

18581898_10155519660573296_3371631399472657974_nWhen I arrived at Kong there was my support crew cheering me on! I climbed up the muddy and slippery ladder to the top and the rings were so high up and full of mud. I grabbed on, swung and fell straight into the huge pillow below, which left me laughing hysterical. It was actually fun. I got off the pillow and a sand bag carry would be my penalty for failing this one. After the carry was complete I headed over to the finish line. After lap 2 I would enter the pit area once again, fuel up and headed back out within about 15 minutes. After lap 3 I realized that I had wasted too much time previously in the pit and based on how long it would approximately take to complete lap 4, I realized that I would have to have a better time than lap 2 & 3 and I felt like my body was telling me enough is enough. Toughest-5At this point the sun was up and I was struggling to stay awake. It was all finally catching up to me so I decided that 3 laps would be how I finished but in order to be a finisher I had to remain in the area until 8 am, which I did. I changed out of my wet clothes and wet suit (which was also pretty comical) and headed to the pit area one last time to fuel up, clean up and await the final step to achieving this tough but awesome accomplishment. I headed over to the finisher line and received my very first black headband and I am now officially a Toughest Mudder!

They say this course to date was the hardest one, and I believe them. Not just because I felt it was, but it is a new series and they really took a look at the previous ones and figured out how to make it harder. There were more participants at Philly, but there were less people that made that 25+ mile mark. It was a tough course, but fun too. I really enjoyed many of the obstacles they had and while my ending mileage was 15 miles (penalty mileage is not included in this number) and I wanted to complete that 4th lap, I am very proud of my performance and how well my body held up in the chilly night conditions while I was soaking wet and muddy basically the entire time. If the others were a little closer I would have definitely done another one and perhaps next year my ultimate goal will be to compete in World’s Toughest Mudder. I guess you’ll have to wait and see 😉

toughest-4

 

Beauty and the Beast Weekend

On March 26th the owner of my current CKO location, Warwick, reached out to me with an exciting offer and asked if I wanted to take part in a Transformation Division at the WBFF Fitness Atlantic Competition on Saturday April 29th. My immediate reaction was no for two reasons…I had already planned on doing the Spartan Ultra Beast that same day and while I have lost over 60 pounds and am in the best shape of my life, I have body image issues and am very self-conscious about my loose skin and stretch marks on my stomach after having twins.  When I spoke to my husband about it, his first response to me was “you don’t even like being on a beach with us in a bikini and now you are going to get on stage in one?” He was right. I was very uncomfortable in a bikini especially one where my stretch marks and skin would be very apparent so how was I going to be able to get out on that stage and do this?

For two days I kept thinking about this opportunity and how honored I was that CKO had asked me to be a part of this pilot program and were willing to sponsor me. I thought to myself how much this place had changed me and how getting up on that stage would be something that is definitely way out of my comfort zone but a way to share my story and hopefully inspire others to do the same.  On March 28th I submitted my actual application and began to plan my strategy for the next 4 weeks. Up to this point, all of my training efforts were geared towards obstacle course racing, not my figure. At this point there would be no time to increase muscle mass, lose much fat or change my body significantly in any way so I had to just focus on my diet and my goal not to appear “fluffy” on stage.

With only 4 weeks to prepare, I turned to a friend that had been involved in beauty pageants and she was so helpful with tips from hair to shoes and everything else in between. She met me at the mall one afternoon and helped me find a bathing suit that that flattered my body. She also has a background in running a salon and invited me over to her home to highlight and cut/style my hair. She made me feel so comfortable and beautiful and really helped me build up my confidence with her pep talks and support.

I had asked my close friend if she would join me on this next adventure and thankfully she agreed. Originally she was registered for the Spartan Beast and was doing it with her two daughters who were doing it for the very first time to complete their trifecta. Since she graciously offered to help me I offered to turn this into a Beauty and the Beast weekend and promised her that since she did this for me, I would change my registration to Sunday and run it with her and her girls. I knew that running a 14 mile race the next day after what I was going to have to do to prepare for the stage was not going to be easy, especially since I was going to have to dehydrate my body for Saturday and then find a way to rehydrate it enough not to cramp Sunday, but I am always up for a challenge!

Over the next few weeks I ate super clean and just followed the basic principles I used and teach when I coach people on our CKO 10 week nutritional program. Most meals consisted of only lean protein and vegetables and my carbohydrate sources were limited to yams, vegetables such as spaghetti squash and quinoa. I added an additional protein shake to keep my protein intake high and increased my water gradually to well over a gallon daily. On the final week I averaged 2 gallons of water daily. I slightly changed my workouts to include more heavy weight with fewer reps and tweaked my cardio and actually decreased it slightly overall and incorporated more HIIT type workouts to prevent muscle shredding. During this 4 weeks I also had a birthday, Easter and a pretty challenging race that I actually qualified for the 2017 OCRWC at so I really needed to not only fight temptations of cake, alcohol and chocolate but also still eat enough to get through races and my daily vigorous activities.

tan prepAbout one week out I had to start prepping for my spray tan, which was actually very nerve wracking for me because I didn’t want to streak or look ridiculous on stage. The prep email that I received had me stop using many of the products I currently use, like Dove soap, and use special cleansers and exfoliate, which I almost admittedly never do but should. As mentioned I had to increase my water intake significantly, which made my skin and overall body feel amazing except for the extra bathroom trips. I also ordered hair extensions as my natural hair doesn’t hold curls well so I had to learn how to put those in. Thank goodness my friend that was going with me has a daughter that graduated beauty school so she did a trial run on my head and wrote directions down for the day of so we could put them all in. I ordered my shoes and they came in so late that I didn’t have time to really break them in, but I did practice walking around in other 4” heels that I had, often while doing light dumbbell arm exercises or grip strength training.

Finally it was Friday and time to head up to Mohegan Sun in Connecticut and get my spray tan by Get Glowing Tan. We ended up arriving slightly before the CEO of CKO to check in so we got on line and he arrived right as we were next in line, but our rooms were not ready so I had to find a place to prepare my last step before my spray tan that was in less than 20 minutes. We found where the spray tanning was happening at the event and my friend helped me with the prep gel and I purchased the recommended robe to use while I continued to dry afterwards. It was my turn and I was so nervous! You had to be completelyafter tan naked and were in these little tents as the technician airbrushed you. She was amazing and made me feel so comfortable. I made a comment to her about my stretch marks and her response to me was that she has seen much worse than mine and complimented my abs, which made me feel pretty good since that was one area I have constantly been self-conscious about.  After my tan, my room was ready so we headed to the room and settled in. We decided to walk around and check out the place and it was awesome!

athlete prep nightAt 7:00 pm I had to attend a competitor briefing and when I first arrived my friend waited outside and I didn’t see anyone else from CKO so I sat down in a room of these beautiful ladies who many of them had teams they were with. They were all dressed up and had on full make-up and their hair done like they were going out on the town so I felt completely out of place and under dressed since I had no make-up on, a pony tail in my hair, a sundress and flip flops because I was so afraid to mess up my spray tan.  As I was sitting by myself another competitor sat next to me and we began chatting. This was her second one and it was great listening to her and sharing how nervous we both were. My team came in, including my friend, so I moved to go sit with them. It was definitely nice to have a team with you. I had never met most of these people, but they were all so supportive and genuinely awesome!

After the meeting we headed back to the main area and looked for food. What I could eat was very limited so we ended up at a restaurant where I ordered a salad and one glass of red wine. I couldn’t drink water at this point, but sipping on the wine gave me a little moisture in my mouth and red wine helps to dehydrate the body, which is why I was not drinking water. I knew I couldn’t get my body to total dehydration, especially with the race on Sunday. Normally before a race I am eating carb heavy and hydrating and here I was doing the complete opposite.  After dinner we headed back to the room and prepared to sleep.

I had a terrible night’s sleep. I was afraid to mess up my spray tan. I was nervous about going in front of judges. I was afraid I would trip and fall on stage.  I was obsessing if I gave myself enough time after setting my alarm to get everything I needed to do before I had to check in and get my make-up done.  When I finally woke up, my bed looked like a mess as some of the color rubbed off on the sheets. My color darkened and I could see marks where my flip-flop straps were so I had to go down to the tanning area for a touch up. Then I returned to the room and it was time to do my hair. It took a little longer than expected so I was getting a little nervous, but my friend did a great job not only getting my hair done, but not falling apart as I stressed out! I then headed to check-in and was briefed on what we would be doing on stage. Then I headed back stage where my team found us a spot to put our stuff and stay together.

rice cakesAt 9:40 I headed to make-up, where it took forever to get my make-up done because they were running behind and were taking people based on their stage time, which I understand but my appointment was 9:45 and I didn’t even sit in the chair until 10:50. While I was waiting I was getting so hungry, I asked my friend to bring me some rice cakes and fruit spread before I got too hangry and I sipped on very little water to wash it down. While in make-up I ran into the girl I had been chatting with the night before at the briefing and we had some encouraging words for each other. I also was with one of my team mates and we shared our stories about our journey and how nervous we both were to get on that stage in less than an hour!

It was finally here…show time! As they lined us up in the hallway by our numbers my body began to shake and I felt nauseous yet excited. We were not only expected to walk on stage in front of the judges, but we had to line up and stand on stage until all 35 contestants had their stories read and their posing done. We had to smile the entire time and keep good posture and form as the judges not only judged our turn, but how we were on stage in the lineup. The first time I went out I was so nervous I could barely even hear what they announcer was saying and it was my story that I submitted as my before photo was displayed on the big screen behind me. I even started walking off stage a bit early but realized he wasn’t done. I felt like I was out there forever, but it was probably no more than one minute.  Once all contestants were done with individual poses, we were broken into two groups and asked to step forward to be compared to each other. We posed front and back and then exited the stage. Round 1 complete!

After a break, we headed back to the room and I had my hair touched up then my make-up. I met up with my support crew, the owner of CKO Warwick and my friend, and we hung out and took pictures and I shared some of my experience so far. Then it was time to head back to the main room for rehearsal for Round 2. This one was more of a show so the lighting was very different and we had an actual opening number we had to prepare for. After a few practice runs we returned to the dressing room and waited for our time. When they lined us back stage, I could see the figure competition open and masters on the screen and thought to myself for the first time, maybe I could do that one day. This was a defining moment because I realized they had stretch marks. They had bodies similar to mine. They had confident smiles and for the very first time, I felt completely confident in my body. I got on that stage this round much less nervous that the preliminary round and decided just to embrace the experience and smile. Get out there and be proud of all I have accomplished. Show other women out there than stretch marks are not ugly; they are a symbol of your journey!

cko awardsThe judges pick their top 5 transformations and while I was not a part of those chosen in the top 5, the 6 of us that stepped on that stage and represented CKO were also presented with individual awards for our amazing transformations. We were then called to the front of the stage along with the owner of the CKO franchise for honorary mentions and photos. Then after round 2 CKO had arranged for us to have a professional photo shoot where we took group photos as well as individual photos. I was able to take pictures with the Owner of the CKO Corporation, my support team and my beautiful teammates.

After the event, a few of us met up for dinner to celebrate together. I was so happy to get food and the pulled pork nachos and Coors light tasted so amazing. By the time we finished dinner and headed back to the room it was after midnight. It was time to remove the hair extensions and make-up and try to rest before waking up at 4:00 am and heading back to New Jersey for the Spartan Beast.  During the night, I was woken up by a party a few rooms down so basically I only got 3 hours sleep. This was going to be a very interesting day ahead. In the car on the ride, I was drinking a lot of water. I took Endurolytes and we stopped along the way to get a bagel, which I never typically eat before a race but I needed the quick carbs for fuel.

With a brief stop at my house to pick up my racing gear, we then headed to my friend’s house to pick up her two daughters and headed over to the venue. We checked in, took a few pictures, headed to bag check then made our way to the starting line. At 10:15 we left the starting corral and were headed out on what would be a beautiful day for racing. With temperatures in the mid 60’s it was perfect racing weather. Throughout the course I helped my team, saw a few familiar faces and just had fun out there.

2017 Beast-9A couple of miles in my friend had begun to cramp pretty bad. Around mile 4 she fell and rolled her ankle so bad I almost called medics to pull her, but she was determined to get up and finish this race with her daughters. She got up and used a walking stick for a little while, the like a true Spartan she put the stick down and at times even started running. We walked and rested when she needed to and ran when she could. After 14 miles, it was time to cross that finish line.

This race was symbolic to all of us for different reasons. For my friend, this will have been her last Spartan Beast she will be doing. For her daughters, it was their first Spartan Beast completed. For me, it was crossing that finish line with a lot of energy and feeling fantastic. This course was fun and in my opinion the easiest Beast I personally have done (not saying it was easy, I have just completed some truly grueling courses before). The weather was perfect. There were lots of trails and streams and no parts of the course that zapped me. I did enjoy the 3 new obstacles and to cross that finish line cramp free was a big accomplishment after what I had put my body through the week leading up to this event. Overall it was amazing to officially complete my goal of my Beauty and the Beast weekend!

medals

Greek Peak – The First Spartan Winter Race

After almost being pulled from the course in October for presenting early signs of hypothermia at HH12HR-024 I seriously considered giving up doing any obstacle course races that took place where the weather was colder than 40 degrees. My autoimmune condition has worsened over the years regardless of anything I have tried and losing feeling in my feet and hands has become the hardest obstacle for me to overcome under these conditions. However, Spartan Race announced they would be hosting their first ever winter race, and well basically I am a sucker for trying new things so of course regardless of my condition, I signed up!

In the days leading up to the event, the temperatures were as high as in the 70’s and as low as the teens so I was completely confused on how to feel about this race. I have done a race in the snow before (only natural obstacles) but the temperature was in the 40’s. What to wear was concerning to me because I knew if it was cold, I would have to layer but if they had water then you don’t want too many layers because it holds in the cold and not to mention adds a challenge completing obstacles. I normally never carry a Camelback for a sprint, yet I figured I would need to use on for this race simply to hold hand warmers and extra gloves just in case I got wet or needed extra layers. I also knew that my hands would most likely fail once they touched the ice cold bars on obstacles like monkey bars; especially since lately my hands have been cramping just holding the metal dumbbells when it is cold, so I was preparing myself how to deal with and overcome that scenario.

I decided to run later in the day knowing that if I ran elite it would be nothing but miserable and frustrating for me. The morning of the race I had a group of clients to train and then I met my team mate and we began our trek up to Cortland, NY about 8:45 am to make our 12:45 start time.  On the ride we joked about how crazy this idea was, after all the high for the day (without the wind chill) was supposed to be 11 degrees! When we stopped to get gas I was in 2 of my layers so we didn’t overheat on the ride up, and as I stood outside trying to get the pump to work it started snowing, the wind picked up and my hands went completely numb! Not a good sign when you lose all feeling in your hands just trying to pump gas so I was starting to get really concerned how this day was going to go.

Greek Peak-7We arrived at the parking lot and it was full so they directed us 7 miles ahead. At first we were like “UGH, now it will take us longer to get there” only it led us to the actual venue so that was a bonus! We parked the car and put on the rest of our layers and headed over to the registration, which was inside so we were melting waiting for our bib numbers but it sure did beat waiting outside in the cold in my opinion! We checked in, checked our bags and headed over to the start line.

They were running about 30 minutes late so we had to stand there and wait before we could actually head out. Normally that would only be annoying, but for me within 5 minutes of just standing there my feet went numb and the feeling of pins and needles was becoming worse (almost like walking barefoot on glass) so I tried moving around by doing low/high knees, imaginary jump rope, etc. Finally at 1:10 the let us enter the starting corral and by 1:15 we were off! We jogged lightly up the first hill and started to get pretty warm, but my face part that was exposed was very cold. As we turned the first corner, I realized that these trails were frozen and we had to be extra careful because we were slipping and sliding all over and as others are falling around you, you have to be careful not to run or slide into them.

Greek Peak-6The first obstacles were the hurdles, which I typically hop over with ease. While I got over them on the first try, I realized that all of these extra layers and clothing, like a jacket, added an extra challenge to get over these obstacles as my range of motion was minimized. Next up was the 6’ wall and when I approached it I removed my gloves for the first time and had them hang from my wrists, which presented a slight challenge, but over the wall I went fairly easy. Next up was the barbed wire crawl and I really didn’t want to rip my jacket so I was very careful going under and then I hear, “help me, I’m stuck” and as I look over there is a guy stuck to the barbed wire with feathers pouring out of his coat! I was a little sad there was no photographer at the barbed wire, so we used the water camera we brought to take our own version! Then, when I tried to take a sip of my water, it was completely frozen. We had not even reached mile 1 and I now my camelback was basically an ice block, good thing I don’t typically drink much at a Sprint.

Greek Peak-3Next was the 7’ wall followed by the multi-rig. Here I feared my hands would lock up, however, the fact that Spartan did not use metal (thank you) and used plastic rings instead it was so much kinder to my hands. Yes, they were pretty cold and cramped and I ended up falling off at ring 5, but the pain in my hands was minimal compared to what I anticipated. 30 burpees heated me up and then I grabbed some water at the water station and continued on to the obstacle I was dreading most, the “deep freeze”. Because of the brutal temperatures the race director had planks of wood added to the obstacle to minimize or eliminate the amount of water you had to actually put your feet into and for that I was pretty thankful!

Greek Peak-1Next up was the Atlas Carry, Plate Drag, O-U-T and then the bucket brigade, which for some reason actually seemed somewhat enjoyable. The area for this obstacle was in a sunny area and it was very slippery and muddy, but quite bearable compared to several of the ones I have done before.  When I got to the rope climb, although I typically make it to the top, I was thoroughly expecting to fail today because of my lack of grip in the cold, however, I climbed to the top and rang the bell like usual so I was starting to feel really confident at this point and while my hands were cold, after putting them back in my gloves they actually felt somewhat ok considering the conditions.

After that came the vertical cargo, Hercules hoist and the dreaded Spearman. I decided that I hardly ever nail the spear so I wasn’t about to take my gloves off so I just picked it up, tossed it and ironically it almost hit the target, but it was just shy of it. Next came the inverted wall and after I hopped over it I came back around to help my team mate over, but then she got a terrible cramp in her leg and had to come down and try to get it out. While she was doing that, I decided to help this one girl that I heard say “I can’t do this, there is no way”. I turned to her and said “Yes, you CAN do it” and told her I would help her. She was probably about a foot taller than me and was not very petite so as I was holding her up, I needed a little help so her friends came over and tried to help also. This girl was petrified and you could tell she was giving it everything she had. She was almost over the wall and all of a sudden she started coming down and I feared she was going to fall on me. I didn’t want her to fall and get hurt, so I held on as long as I could to her and down she came with 2 hay bales breaking her fall. While she may have not made it to the other side of that wall, she gave it everything she hand and that is a true Spartan in my opinion!

Greek Peak-8After my teammates cramp subsided enough for us to continue, it was up and over the cargo net, then the snow quarter pipe and the most fun sandbag carry I have EVER done.  The sandbag was frozen and the trails were so slippery. If I wasn’t slipping, the people all around me were. You had to watch out for people, sandbags and icy spots. When we arrived at the top, you had to head down and it was just as slippery, if not more so, so on the way down so you basically had to go down on your butt. After contemplating how to get down, a bunch of us sat on our sandbags or kept them with us and slid down the big hill on our butts. We were going so fast we had to watch we didn’t crash into the people ahead of us. I haven’t gone sleigh riding in like 20 years and this reminded me of when I used to go. So much fun!  We stopped to take pictures then it was off to the woods to slip and slide on more trails. Thank goodness for trees to catch when I would go flying and it seemed my only use for my Camelback this day was to break my fall when I slipped and landed flat on my back (which was hysterical).

Greek Peak-4The next few obstacles were probably the best ever at a Spartan Race. These were the same obstacles I have done over and over, but they were different because they were full of snow and iced over. The rolling snow I slid down on my butt with my hand in the air yelling “wee” like I was a kid again. Then there was this long hill down that was basically ice, so people were sliding on their bellies and butts all around us and we were hysterical laughing trying not to let them catch our feet and take us down.  Then we got to the snow pit (aka dunk wall) and I slid down it so fast I seriously think I bruised my booty.  Next came the slip wall and I waited for my team mate to come down and we crossed that finish line together completing the first ever Spartan Winter Race without frostbite and smiling like two little girls who just came in from playing in the snow.

Greek Peak-5Once we crossed the finish line we got our awesome medals and finisher shirts then headed over to bag check. We decided to change clothes and head to the car before getting our free beer.  I have to say that was the worst part! Just walking to the car in way less layers that we were in just a few minutes prior I was freezing! I had to stop walking and get out something to cover my head because my ears felt like they were going to shatter and fall off of my head! It was so cold! We sat in the car a little to warm up then headed back to the festival area. It was so cold that while drinking my beer, in an enclosed tent, under a heater my hands were shaking so bad my beer was spilling all over. It was time to head back to NJ and get some food along the way and warm up! So that is exactly what we did.

Overall I am so glad I did this race, not only for the cool medal and unique shirt, but because while this was only a sprint, these conditions are not favorable for someone like me with my autoimmune disorders. There will come a day when the cold will win and break me, but not today! Congratulations to all of the warriors that braved the cold out there with me and thank you to all of the Spartan team for putting on a great race! Loved the Greek Peak venue and would consider going back to check out that indoor water park and other amenities with the family. AROO!medals

Healthy Egg Muffins

This healthy option is great for on the go snacking or a quick breakfast option. You can make it with almost any filling and can even make multiple types in one batch.

Healthy Egg Muffins
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
1 dozen 5 minutes
Cook Time
15 minutes
Servings Prep Time
1 dozen 5 minutes
Cook Time
15 minutes
Healthy Egg Muffins
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
1 dozen 5 minutes
Cook Time
15 minutes
Servings Prep Time
1 dozen 5 minutes
Cook Time
15 minutes
Ingredients
  • 8 whole Eggs May substitute 12 egg whites instead
  • 1/2 cup low fat milk
Servings: dozen
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl whisk eggs and milk together and set aside. Spray a 12 sectioned muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray. Place chopped vegetables, meat and/or cheese in bottom of each section to at least cover the entire bottom of the tin. Pour 1/12 of egg mixture in each section, gently stir and put in the oven. Bake in oven preheated to 350' for 15-18 minutes, just until golden. Remove from pan and place on cooling rack.
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NJ Super/HH12HR Weekend

My final OCR events for 2016 occurred at Mountain Creek in Vernon, NJ over two days (October 22 & 23). I had registered for the NJ Super early on in the year as I have done this race every year since 2012, only this time it was in October instead of September. As the year progressed, I shifted some of my focus to more endurance type events and in order to complete my first ever Spartan Endurance Trifecta, I would still need to successfully complete the Spartan HH12HR, a 12 hour endurance event that consisted of both team and individual challenges that was happening the next day and this was the only event I like this I could attend before the end of the season. The other events included in this Endurance Trifecta that I had already completed were the NJ Ultra Beast in April and the Palmerton Hurricane Heat in July so if I didn’t make it, then I would not have achieved my goal.

With an injury to both my hands and my knee at the OCRWC, the bitter cold/windy forecast, mommy duty, and HH12HR becoming my main focus, I initially decided not to do the Super on Saturday since I had already completed my double trifecta and had no intention to do a third. While I never officially transferred the race prior to that day, I knew that I would be credited by Spartan if I didn’t actually show up so I just kept my registration in case I changed my mind. The actual date of the Super was my friends birthday and she was doing this race as a team that included some friends and her family so I didn’t feel too bad not doing it with them, although I did struggle with the thought of not doing this particular race when I had done it every year and it was so close to home.

As the time grew closer to the race, more of the team decided not to run and ultimately it was just going to be my friend and her family. After thinking about what to do, on Friday, October 21st I decided that she has done so much to support me that I wanted to be there for her on that course on her special day. Just before 10:00 pm I texted her to tell her that I would be running with her, but because my son had a baseball game and my husband had to leave for work I would need to arrive at the field in town by 2:00 so I let her know that I may need to run ahead since our start time was 9:45. Then it was time to get everything ready for the race the next day, but luckily I keep most of my OCR items packed so this wasn’t too time consuming.  Then I set my alarm and was off to bed.

nj-super-16When I woke up the next morning, since I was not running elite and the venue is about 5 minutes from my house I had a chance to sleep in a little bit. I bundled up by wearing my Under Armor Cold Gear, Frogskin top, and brought gloves (which I typically don’t wear gloves). I knew that during this race I was going to take it easy and run it “open” and ask for assistance if I felt like I needed it in order to reserve my energy and not aggravate my knee any more than it was or risk hurting my hands. I met my friend and her family at the venue entrance and we took some pictures, checked our bags and headed to the start line. When waiting in the corral, they played Dropkick Murphy’s “Shipping Up to Boston”, which they have not done in a very long time. That song used to play at the beginning of all of the Spartan races I did early on and it always gets me pumped up for a race. With a speech and AROO, AROO, AROO! We were off!

spartan-super-nj-3While running on the course “open” I enjoyed helping others and even ran into a few more familiar faces out there. I walked some parts and waited at others, helped some that were cramping, cheered on my team as well as complete strangers, and just had fun out there! The “Ball Shrinker” was so cold but I knew I couldn’t skip it and just hoped that I wouldn’t freeze too badly. After the sandbag carry I looked at my watch and realized that it was about 6.3 miles and it was 1:00, which meant that I had only one hour to run the remaining 3.7 miles, gather my bags, head back to my car and get to my sons game so I gave out hugs to my team and took off.

spartan-super-nj-4As I ran through the woods, I tried not to overdo it as I did have a very big event the next day, but I was running out of time. It was very cold, raining on and off, and slippery. As I approached the bucket carry I seriously contemplated not doing it because it would take too long, but I couldn’t not do an obstacle no matter what heat I was in so I filled my bucket to cover the holes, ran up the hill and then back down, dumped the rocks and raced to the monkey bars.  I hopped up and grabbed the first bar and then swung to the second, then the third, and then my hands felt like they were on fire and since the bars were wet it made it difficult as is to hold on, so I dropped and headed over to do my 30 burpees.

spartan-super-nj-2Next was the rope climb and with sore hands I was worried I would fail this one too, but I didn’t. I breezed up the rope, hit the bell, then descended back down, ran to the dunk wall, jumped the fire and received my medal.  After that I took a quick finisher photo, raced to get my bag from bag check, then over to the tent to get my finisher shirt, ran to the hoses and rinsed my legs, ran to the shuttle bus (muddy and soaked) and then hopped in my car and headed home because I received a text that my son’s game was cancelled. I arrived at my house by 2:10! I showered and made sure everything was ready for my big event the next day.

For the HH12HR there is a required gear list. Forget something on that list and you will not be well liked by the other participants as everyone will have to suffer. I checked my list over and over again and made sure I had exactly what I needed. Some of what I was required to bring was a rucksack with a specific amount of weight in it that I will be expected to carry with me most of the 12 hours. I needed standard items for all events like this such as chem lights, fuel, and a headlamp to name just a few.  About a week prior to the event you are also sent a video with specific gear items, for our class of HH12HR-024 we were required to also bring with us a pumpkin of a specific minimum weight.  We were told to arrive by 5:55 am and be prepared to get warmed up and started immediately.

hh12hr-2It was so cold that morning. On my way to the event, there was a pole down and so I had to go a completely different way to the venue and I was a little nervous I would be late, but I made it in time. So far I was not feeling very confident about this even, but I pushed those feeling aside, parked my car and headed over to where I saw others that appeared to be participating in this event. Introduced myself to some of the other participants and saw a friend of mine that was volunteering at registration and said hello. After freezing for about 30 minutes, the Krypteia came over and it was time to begin. We started by taking roll call to see who was still missing. There were 78 names on that list and 41 of us showed up that morning.

hh12hr-7After warming up, we headed over to the main festival area, headed up the mountain and set up our base camp, where we had to empty our rucks and show we had everything required. Any fuel and any items not instructed to go in our rucks were to be left behind in the box. We were given instructions and then headed up the mountain to our next point in the event. Here we did a series of exercises while wearing our weighted rucks, such as planks and push-ups, and other exercises with our rucks and pumpkins, such as squats and static holds.

Next up it was time to head to our next destination, the beach. The sand was cold and the water was colder. Here we had to do a series of exercises that included items like 8-count body builders, skull crawls, and rolling downwards toward the water just to name a few.  Next we were instructed to get into the water in a line of locking arms and squat. We also had to lie on the sand on our backs and do flutter kicks which splashed the water all around. After being in the water for what felt like forever, were we came back on the sand and lined up into teams. My feet were so cold I felt like I was walking on broken glass!hh12hr-22

While standing in these lines my body began to shiver so much. The pain in my feet and hands was growing unbearable. My hands were white and blue and I could hardly move my fingers. The wind would pick up and my body would start to shake uncontrollably.  When they announced it was time to go pumpkin dunking I literally had tears in my eyes thinking if I had to go back in that water I would definitely become full blown hypothermia. My mind was breaking. I was freezing. In my mind I kept hearing voices telling me to quit, that this isn’t worth it. You have Reynaud’s and your body can not function in this cold. The words “I quit” were on the tip of my tongue, which I shared with the man standing in front of me but he reminded me that I was not a quitter and to hold on, we will be moving shortly.

hh12hr-15When Krypteia tea asked for 4 volunteers, my team luckily had 6 and they decided to keep me out of the water and the man in front of me started to rub my arms to help generate some heat and one of the volunteers came over and asked if I wanted medic. I paused and then said “no, I want to stop freezing” and smiled. She stood next to me and they both helped block the wind as we cheered on our teammates.  Shortly afterwards we took a photo, lined up and tethered ourselves to our teammates and then headed to our next location.

Walking helped me warm up a bit, but I was still cold and unsure I could make it since we were only a few hours into the event. It was so cold and windy and my wet clothes were making it worse. When we arrived at the next task, we were told that we had to do the sandbag carry, tethered, holding our pumpkins too the entire time. The most difficult part of that was climbing up some of the rock areas being tethered to the person in front of you with no use of y our hands because one had a pumpkin, one had a sandbag and on your back you have a weighted rucksack! It was difficult but I WILL ALWAYS PLACE THE MISSION FIRST!

My heart was beginning to sink because I was still thinking how in the world am I going to make it the rest of the day, I am freezing!  Then, I hear a voice call my name and it was a girl that I train at the gym. She looked at me and could tell I was freezing and we exchanged words of encouragement and kept going. A few minutes later, I heard another friendly voice and it was a friend of mine cheering me on, saying “go girl, you got this!” I started thinking to myself “You can’t quit, you are not a quitter! What kind of example are you setting to these people if you quit?” With this going on in my head as I try to climb a rock while tethered to 5 people in front of me I almost dropped my pumpkin and fell and pulled my whole team down. After successfully completing the task, as I waited for all other teams to finish the task, I heard another familiar voice cheer me on. At that moment I knew that if I was not going to finish this event, it was because medics pulled me off, NOT because I quit. I am NOT a quitter, even if my body was borderline hypothermia! I WILL NEVER QUIT!

hh12hr-23Shortly after this task, we were headed back into water. Now I began to panic because I had finally stopped shaking and now I was going to have to go in water all over again. How was I going to be able to get wet and recover again? As we stood at the bank of what looked like a swamp, we headed in one by one, around the set of rocks, then back to shore and had to run up and around our volunteer and back down. My feet were in so much pain running, like I was running on broken glass again. This time, the temperature had risen and the wind began to die down and I was only wet from my chest down so I didn’t feel as cold as before.  Once we began moving again, I was able to warm up and so thankful that I decided not to give up! I WILL NEVER ACCEPT DEFEAT!

hh12hr-16After a few more tasks we headed back up to base camp to fuel up. We didn’t know how much time we would have to eat, so we just ate what we could as fast as we could. It was crucial to pick the right food as this was probably the last time I would get a chance to eat anything until the race was over. After eating we headed down the mountain for towards the festival area where we were to perform with our gear and pumpkins in front of everyone. I was able to see another one of my friends and she got a video of me dancing with my pumpkin to “Hip Hop Hooray”. We were laughing and having fun and at that point I forgot just how cold I was earlier. We headed up to a hill close to the rope climb and monkey bars and chanted the Warriors Ethos. Then it was time to head up to START line of the Super and we would begin our individual challenge.

hh12hr-25We were told we had to run up the mountain with our ruck and pumpkin through a set of trails, then run down the mountain and pass the rig and return to the START. We had to roll a die and that would determine how many burpees we would have to do times 5, with our weighted ruck on.  We had no idea how long the loop was or how many laps we had to do or the time we had to complete this task in. We just had to get out there and go until we were told to stop. This portion took place approximately 9 hours in.

After 3 laps and completing my last set of burpees I was told to take a seat until further instruction. I had no idea at that point if I had made the cut off or not I just took advantage of being able to sit down and rest. A few minutes later we were informed that everyone sitting in that area made it and were allowed to head back to base camp. As we came up the mountain, we saw others still running the laps not knowing that they had not made it but we still cheered them on. Some were cramping and limping. Out of 39 people that made it to the individual challenge portion, only 23 had met the time cutoff. Those that didn’t make it were sent up to gather their belongings and leave. To see these people push so hard and to be such great teammates have to leave because they didn’t make the time cut was very emotional.

It was time to move on and we were given a team challenge that had us running a portion of the Super course. During this challenge, two teammates were injured and so we took turns helping them. Some of the guys took turns carrying not only their weighted rucksacks, but the injured teammates as well on the front of them. Some of us took turns carrying the pumpkins, which I carried both his pumpkin and mine for quite a long time. We stuck together as a team, even when we were told if we didn’t make a time cut off all of us would receive DNF’s but we knew that I WILL NEVER LEAVE A FALLEN COMRADE!

hh12hr-18As the sun began to set, it was time to put on our headlamps and crack the chem lights. We headed up the mountain for one last time to the Stairway to Sparta obstacle, only we had to climb up through the mountain and not necessarily on trails. When we arrived at the top, it was pitch black at this point in time. Here we were given one more task and once we finished that we would have successfully completed HH12HR-024. We took one final group photo and headed down the mountain.

hh12hr-26As we made our way into the festival area for the last time, I had a few friends that waited for me to finish. None of them raced that day; they all came just to see me achieve MY goal. I was so overwhelmed with emotions, not only to have completed my first ever Endurance Trifecta, but that part of my amazing support system was there waiting for me cheering me on! We headed to the Spartan trucks to receive our pie pieces and HH12HR patches and I felt very proud of myself at that moment, especially since I had to fight so hard through the pain my body was feeling. And while looking back I am mad at myself for even having the thought of quitting in my head, it really taught me how strong I really am. I WILL NEVER QUIT!

endurance-trifecta

OCRWC 2016: Part 3 – The Main Event (15K)

ocrwc-15k-bandIt is the day of the big event. I was able to sleep in because my age group wave was not until 1:20 which meant I did not have to be at athlete briefing until 1:00. I ate breakfast and spent the morning with my support crew (aka my friend and my kids) and they made cards for me and ensured my day was off to an extra special start for me.  After I got dressed, I wanted to head over to the venue and see some of the waves before me go off so we walked out of our hotel room and were right there.  Listening to Coach Pain give his motivational speech before each wave went off was so inspirational, and was different for each one. Soon it was time for me to head over to athlete briefing so I handed my ID badge over to my friend, kissed my kids, had a great big group hug and entered the briefing area. Soon after briefing I headed to the starting corral where they handed us our bands.

ocrwc-15k-opening-runThe women that surrounded me, my competitors, were all so supportive and we were giving high-5’s and wishing each other good luck. It didn’t matter what country you were from, we were all there for one reason…we earned it!  As Coach Pain gave us our speech and reminded us of our journey. There was one particular phrase that still sticks with me and it was geared to the younger people that think we are “old”. He said “I am not old, I have been your age.  You have to get to be mine”. It reminded me once more that life is a journey and is full of twists and turns. This race was more than a race for me; it was an accomplishment that I had worked so hard for. I had turned myself from a slow runner that failed so many obstacles at my first few races to a true competitor with some amazing athletes from around the world! Then I heard him say “ladies, conduct your business” and we were off!

ocrwc-15k-mapAs we raced up the first incline in a much larger group than the previous day, the hurdles were once again the first obstacle. This time I wasn’t able to go as fast over them because of the crowd so not tripping this time. Then came the first quarter pipe and it was already beginning to back up. As I waited my turn to take my first attempt at this obstacle, I was perplexed when I see a girl that didn’t even attempt the obstacle walk over and had the official cut her band. I really didn’t understand why so early on without even attempting the obstacle she would make such a decision, but it was hers to make so I just focused on me making it up the obstacle.  After came the first barbed wire crawl of 2 followed by and a series of walls which included ramp and inverted styles and a 6’ wall before reaching Savage Race’s Pipe Dreams, all of which I completed on my first attempt.

Next up was this high slanted but still vertical type wall and on the first attempt you were unable to use the ropes but were allowed on the re-try lanes. I failed the first attempt but succeeded my first re-try using the ropes.  Next was Traction and Q-Steps which I breezed through. Then it was time to do Toughest’s Dragon’s Back once again, only now it was covered in so much more mud than the previous day which made me a little nervous I would slip. I climbed up the wall and made it to the top and the girl next to me didn’t make it and at first I thought she hit her face as she fell to the ground, but she said she was ok and got up and tried it again. Of course witnessing this made me a little nervous, so I just took a deep breath and leaped and made it. Then without hesitation I did it again and completed the obstacle.

ocrwc-rigAs I ran down the hill, I honestly dreaded the Samurai Rig as I could still feel the pain in my right knee from hurting it on that exact obstacle the day before. When I approached it, it was roped off and I can’t say I was sad not to have to attempt it again. After passing a few walls, I ran down the hill into the main festival area where the first Platinum Rig was located and noticed that they had changed the configuration from the race the day before. I took some time to watch how others were doing it before I took my first attempt. I made it halfway through, but the thick metal lateral pole was not easy to grab, so I fell then headed to the retry lane. My second attempt I made it so close to the end, but fell just before completing it so I headed back to the retry lane and tried it for a third time. This time I didn’t make it very far at all before falling off. My grip was starting to fail me, my shoulder was starting to hurt and my hands were becoming very tender. I made a fourth attempt and when I fell at the exact same point as my third attempt, I decided to have the officials cut my band and continue on.

ocrwc-15k-gondolaUp the rock wall I climbed and onto the Wreck Bag Carry. I grabbed my 50 pound sandbag, frustrated that I had my band cut, and really pushed up the mountain passing several people around me. I went over the Wreck Bag Steps, around the rest of the marked out area, back over the steps, then ran down the hill with the bag on my back the entire time. After putting the Wreck Bag back into the pile, I ran around the corner, over the 8’ wall with ease, flew through the tube crossing, ran up and conquered the Warrior Dash Pipeline on my first attempt, hopped over another 8’ wall and while I was running under the gondola, I heard “Go Mommy! Go Melissa!” It was my friend and children in the gondola and they passed right over me. I stopped and waved to them, blew kisses, and kept running. Seeing them made me feel so wonderful inside!

ocrwc-15k-skull-valleyAs I started running up the hill, there was the second barbed wire crawl and net crawl and I could hear support system at the top of the mountain cheering for me. I flew those obstacles and when I got to the top, I gave my kids kisses and headed to Skull Valley. When I saw this obstacle the day before, I realized how far apart the skulls were and wondered how, with my short wing span, was I going to make this obstacle? As I climbed up the first ring and tried to reach the first skull, I was nowhere near close enough to reach it. Then the volunteer told me to get down and try taking a big swing and grabbing on, so I did and was able to reach it (barely) so I had to readjust my grip as I was hanging there. Then I began to swing, one skull to the next. I could feel my hands burning but I kept going and made it to the rope section. I took a short break on the first rope and strategized how to make it across the other ones. One by one I conquered the ropes section. Hearing my support system cheering for me I knew I had to push and not let go. Then it was time to go back to swinging on the skulls, on this time they were on opposite sides of the board and further apart. I climbed up the rope as high as I could and grabbed the first skull and as I went to swing to the next one, I realized that I was nowhere near able to reach the next skull. Trying not to fall and perhaps head back to the rope I just came from to try it again, suddenly I fell to the ground feeling this intense burning on my right hand and when I looked at my hand I realized it was bleeding a lot.

ocrwc-15k-injury-medicI was trying not to show that I was in pain in front of my kids, especially when they were saying “Mommy, you are bleeding so much you don’t have to go on”.  The volunteer came over and told me that I needed to step to the side and they were going to call the medics.  Afraid that they were going to pull me, I begged him not to call them, just find something I could stop the bleeding. He said that when medics got there, they would assess my injury and because it was “minor” if I showed signs of being able to continue, they would llow me to go ahead. It took medics over 15 minutes to come because they were busy and I was not considered an emergency.  I took the time to hang out with my friend and children and tried to stop the bleeding myself, but couldn’t. The medic came, cleaned the wound (which burned really bad) and then he used gauze bandage to wrap my hand and asked me a few questions, then let me continue. At this point, another 15 minutes had gone by and I knew I needed to make up some time and the line for the Platinum Rig 2 was so long and my hand was throbbing, so I took my penalty and headed off and continued the race.

ocr-warped-2The next obstacle I encountered was the weaver, which is where you have to go over one set of 2×4 planks and then under the next set and so on as they went up to a peak, then do the same back down. There was quite a significant back up at this obstacle so I was able to watch some others as they successfully completed it. When it was my turn, immediately after my first “under” portion I realized that this was going to pull on my knee and not be easy, but I continued up and over and completed it on the first attempt. Next up were some Over-Unders and they came the Dead End Race Warped Wall. This was a very high quarter pipe with a little metal rope type part to grab on and pull yourself up and over the wall portion. I attempted this obstacle three times and all three times I grabbed the pole, but would slide off because of the gauze on my hand. My final attempt I tried to grab it with my left hand, but my knee buckled backwards and I fell from the top down the wall and decided to take my penalty and move on. At that point I realized just how difficult the rest of the obstacles were going to be without the use of my right hand and began to get down on myself.

Next up was the Big Wall and the second quarter pipe, which I was able to get over successfully the first time so that made me feel a little better. That was until I got to the Stairway to Heaven. I would make it up the one side and had to hold on with basically my right fingertips so my forearms were burning, but when I would attempt the transition to the other side to make my way down; I would slip and fall off. I was regretting not bringing gloves as I was unable to remove the gauze, nor could I grip anything with my right hand. I was growing very frustrated at this point and wondered how I was going to even be able to do the obstacles towards the end that were difficult enough the day before with two good hands.

Then next few obstacles were somewhat easy for me and we did a lot of trail running, which included parts of the mountain biking section so there were these wood plank areas that were raised and we had to run up, over, and some were sideways. The trails were beautiful and I was starting to feel a little better having made the next 6 obstacles, including the slip wall and rope climb. After some more trail running, it was time to head back down to the main area where I knew that most of the obstacles were required the use of my upper body and both hands, so I grew nervous thinking about how I was going to complete them.

ocrwc-15k-dead-end-race-monkey-barsWhen I arrived at the Dead End Race Monkey Bars, which I had done with ease the day before, I completed the monkey bar portion relatively easily but my hand was definitely hurting a lot at this point and I could see the blood coming through the gauze. When I arrived at the second portion, the lateral poles, I made it to the end, but slipped off before my feet touch the end plank so I had to repeat the obstacle. I slipped off at the exact same point the second time. On my third attempt, I tapped my foot on the board on the way down and the official counted it as completion. My right hand was now throbbing and so unbelievably sore and now my left hand was getting very tender.  Next up was the Irish Table, which I breezed over the day before but today that was not the case. I had zero grip and my frustration was starting to take over. I tried over and over to get my body up over the obstacle but it seemed that no matter how much I tried, I just couldn’t. I took a break and let others go ahead of me. My kids and friend were telling me to just go on, but I was being stubborn and I would not quit. I felt tears coming and my mind was telling me “you can’t do this; you are failing in front of your kids”. I actually said “I can’t do this out loud” and my friend yelled at me, “You would never accept that word from us now get that word out of your head and do this!” I tried one more time and fell on my back, knocking the wind out of me. I got up, took my penalties and headed on to the floating walls.

ocrwc-15k-floating-wallsThe floating walls was one of my favorite obstacles from the day before and I went through them relatively quickly, however today was much different. I would make it to the third wall on the highest point and I fell right on my back narrowly missing hitting my head. I heard my kids gasp and my friend asked if I was ok. I brushed myself off, got up and tried it again and fell in the exact same spot, only this time I tried to hold on so tight so I didn’t fall and fail again in front of my kids that not only did I fall on my back and hurt it, but I ripped my left hand now too. The blood started pouring out of my hand and I heard the volunteer tell me that I needed to go to the side and wait for medic.  I was officially crushed. I knew that if I waited for medic I would just either be pulled off or waste another 30 minutes and knowing exactly what obstacles were next, I asked my friend for a tissue and she had a paper towel so I covered the blood so it didn’t get on the obstacles and continued on knowing the end was near.

With tears in my eyes and my children telling me they were proud of me and to not get upset, I just walked ahead taking the next 2 penalties in a row because I knew there was no way with no grip left and bloody hands I could complete the Skyline or the Urban Sky. I choked back tears as I approached the final obstacle, the Finish Ramp Wall. I ran, grabbed the rope with my gauzed hand and then quickly grabbed the rope with my hand that had the paper towel on it and just kept climbing. What is usually so easy with no grip was so hard. I kept slipping back, but as much as it hurt I refused to fail one more time. I HAD to get over this wall and finish. I swung my leg up and latched my foot at the top of the wall and somehow pulled myself over.

ocrwc-15k-finish-lineAs I climbed down and headed towards the finish line, I could hear strangers chanting “Go USA!!!” and heard the announcer say “here comes USA, all bloody and wrapped up but she is going to finish” and I hear my kids yelling “Go Mommy!!!” and my friend yelling “Come on Melissa, you got this!” And with all of those encouraging words, I choked back the tears as much as I could, crossed the finish line, accepted my medal, then found my support team and broke down. I started crying and repeating how I had failed in front of my children but my kids insisted that they saw me in pain and trying my best and I they didn’t see me as failing obstacles, they saw me as fighting through pain and not giving up until I knew it was needed to be done.  They reminded me how they wanted me to stop when I got hurt the first time but I refused to give up.

While I may have failed more obstacles than I hoped and I didn’t finish with my band, I know I gave that course EVERYTHING I had to give that day. When I look back and reminisce about that race while I am of course frustrated that I failed some obstacles and didn’t keep my band, I have no doubt that I pushed myself as hard as I could. If I had use of my hands, perhaps the outcome would be different, but as I type this post my hands are still healing almost 3 weeks later and my knee is still hurting.

After the race, my hotel room was just a short walk away so I cleaned up and we headed out to celebrate. We chose to eat in one of the many restaurants the village had to offer and it was a great evening. We got a bottle of wine at one of the bars in the village and took it back to the room so we could all relax and get ready for our long ride home the next day. Soon after it was off to sleep and our journey home would begin.

ocrwc-15k-watkins-glenWe ended up leaving the resort later than we originally planned and it was raining. On our way home we made a few pit stops including stopping at Watkins Glens. It was amazing. We arrived there around 5:30 and in Canada the night before it didn’t get dark until 7, but it seemed like when we got to the end of the trail it was getting dark and it was 6:30. Since the shuttle to our parking lot stopped running at 6:00, we had to walk back. Rather than risk taking the same trail and slipping on the rocks, we found the “Indian Trail” and decided to try that one. We walked at a pretty brisk pace and came to a fork in the trail and thank goodness decided to keep right (which was the right way to go) since it was closest to the water. We passed a very old cemetery and the sun was going down fast. By the time we reached the end of the trail, it was pitch black! We headed back in the car and it started raining again. We made one last stop to eat at Friendly’s on the way home and arrived home at almost midnight.

Looking back, everything about this experience was amazing. From the support I received in the months leading up to the race, to the road trip leading up the race.  From having my close friend and children there, to having strangers cheer you on and say “Go USA!” I truly feel blessed and fortunate to have had this experience. It is hard to explain, but in a way it changed me. It made me look at things a little differently now in some ways. It made me so utterly proud to have represented my and reminded me of the wonderful journey it has taken to achieve my qualifying spot.

I have such an incredible support system. THANK YOU to everyone that supported me along the way. I would have never dreamed that this would have been possible a few years ago. I share my stories with you all because I know that it is not easy. It takes had work. It takes sacrifice. It takes support, which sometimes does not come from where we hope. It comes from consistency and persistence. But most of all, it comes from the fire within that burns that reminds us that we have one life to live and why not make it a great life by balancing it out with achieving your goals and dreams.

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” – Norman Vincent Peale

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OCRWC 2016: Part 2 – The Short Course (3K)

ocrwc-3k-start1As I headed to the starting corral, the short race went off in waves. Each of us had our own starting corral. Coach Pain was there delivering the pre-race speech and he has such an amazing way with words, the just hit you. It is hard to explain, but the emotions I felt at that exact moment in time as my children and friend watched me standing there, ready to take on this course was so surreal. My heartbeat was fast. My adrenaline was pumping. My nerves were a mess. My mind was racing. And then there it was…”Ladies conduct your business!” and we were off!

As I began to run up the hill and reminded myself that this race was about me doing my best and not getting hurt as the big race was tomorrow. The first obstacle was hurdles, which while they weren’t high, I am short and my foot hit the top of one of them and I almost face planted, but thankfully I didn’t. There were some obstacles, such as the Q-Steps, that I have seen before and was able to breeze through. When I arrived at Toughest’s Dragons Back, this was one obstacle that really scared the crap out of me! You had to climb up the muddy wall and then not once, but twice leap from one surface to the other grabbing onto the pole in front of you and hoping you were able to leap far enough and grip the bar before face planting or falling directly to the ground below. As someone that is barely 5’3” this leap and height that I would fall felt like 10 feet, although it was probably closer to 6’. I stood on the edge and took a leap and made it! Then I did it again! All I could think of was “wow, I just rocked that obstacle and kept my band!”

ocrwc-samaraiShortly after that I arrived at the Samurai Rig. I had never had the opportunity to do this obstacle before so I had to watch others maneuver it before I tried to attempt it. My first try, I made it almost to the end, falling off at the very last log. So I waited and tried it again, but this time I didn’t make it as far before sliding down. So I waited and tried it again, but this time I only made it to the first log and as I made the transition to the second log, I felt a sharp and weird pain in my right knee. I dropped and waited for a few minutes, then made the heartbreaking decision to have my band cut and continue. I didn’t want to risk hurting my knee any more than I already did before tomorrow’s race.  On a side note, my knee is still not 100% recovered as of this post.

ocrwc-3k-platnum-rigAfter my band was cut, suddenly it was like my nerves settled and I just was going to enjoy the course.  Next up was the Platinum Rig and the configuration of this one was not made for someone like me with a short arm span! I tried to cross the rig 4 times and each time no matter how much I swung my body to reach the lateral rectangular bars I could not even get more than just my fingertips to touch the bar. After feeling my shoulder pull, I decided to take the penalty and move on.  After the rig was a rock wall we climbed up and shortly afterwards the Wreck Bag Carry. There was no difference between the male and female weight, all bags were 50 lbs. I took my bag and proceeded up the mountain, over the wooden steps, then ran with the bag back down the mountain.

When I arrived at the 8 foot wall, I just took a minute to assess the wall and made it on my first attempt. In many of my previous races, I have continually struggled to get over the 8 foot wall because of my height it is difficult to jump up and grasp the top of the wall well enough to pull my body up and usually takes me a few tries. The best part was when I got to the top of the wall, the volunteer made a comment that I had made that look effortless, which really made me feel good.  My continuous training efforts had paid off!

ocrwc-3k-kiss-julieAfter I did the wall, the Dead End Race Monkey Bars were next and I breezed through them. This obstacle was a combination of ladder-style even monkey bars followed by long suspended poles. After completing this obstacle I arrived at the Irish Table (which replaced the Sternum Checker thank goodness as that was the obstacle that I cracked my ribs on last year and was completely dreading). I ran & hopped over the Irish Table with ease and shortly after heard my children calling me. It was an awesome feeling hearing the cheering for me.  I ran to the side and gave them all kisses and continued to the Skyline. This obstacle was tougher than it looked and I ended up falling on my back twice when I attempted it because you have to slide down, you literally get stuck and then have to find a way to jump while you are suspended to ocrwc-3k-skylineget the handles over the bump without falling so you can slide o the next bump and do the same. After the third bump, you must ring the bell. I fell off of this one twice and then there were some issues with the handles going off track so the retry lanes were backing up quite a bit. I decided since I fell twice and didn’t have my band I would just take the penalty and continue on.

ocrwc-3k-floating-wallsNext up was the Suspended Walls. This was definitely one of the obstacles that I was nervous about after seeing it in the OCRWC sneak peeks of the obstacles but it turned out to be one of my favorite obstacles of the day! I ended up completing this one on my first try and it was so amazing hearing my children cheer me on saying “Go Mommy! You got this!!!”

Urban Sky was next and this one gave me quite a bit of trouble. It reminded me of Savage Races Wheel World, only they were turning all different ways. You had to make the first set of wheels, climb over some poles, then onto the rings that turned as you moved. This required you to be able to swing fast and grasp each one at a precise time or you would turn too much and burn out your grip and arms. I struggled with the final transition of the big rings section and failed in the same spot three times! It was so frustrating but after feeling my shoulder pull and knowing I had a big race that I would have to do it again tomorrow, I decided to take the penalty and move on.  The final obstacle was the Finish Ramp Wall and then it was a straight run to the finish line.

ocrwc-3k-mapI decided to run the short course only after they closed registration and then re-opened it and I am so happy I did. It was honestly one of my favorite OCR’s to date.  While only 3K in length, it had a little bit of everything, including fun! After crossing that finish line I was even more excited and looking forward to the big event the next day! My only gripe of the day was after the race I waited on a very long line for some OCRWC apparel and people were cutting in line and I was not very happy no one on the staff was addressing this.

ocrwc-hike2After I cleaned up, we headed to one of the restaurants in the village to eat and then we headed out to see what the mountain had in store for me the next day. We were able to ride the gondola for free with my athlete pass so we took that to the top and saw them constructing some of the obstacles for the 15K the next day, like Skull Valley and the Platinum Rig 2. We took a long hike all around the mountain enjoying the beauty of it all. The views were breathtaking. The weather was perfect! We were able to see many of the obstacles set up for the next day, such as the Warped Wall, Quarter Pipe, Stairway to Heaven, Barbed Wire Crawl, etc. We hiked so far on the trails we ended up by the Scenic Caves so we decided to explore them.

We walked through the trails and through the caves and then I let the kids play in the park for a little while before we decided to head back to the room. We decided to make dinner in so I could rest up before the race tomorrow so I asked the front desk where the closest store to buy food was and she directed me to a store in the village. This was fantastic…I didn’t have to even leave the village to buy food to cook. We bought pasta and chicken fingers for dinner along with salad and just relaxed that night in the room. My legs were a little tired from the race and all of the hiking/exploring we did so it was time to ice the foot, foam roll the body, and rest up for the big event the next day.

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OCRWC 2016: Part 1 – The Road to Canada


It has been a little over a week since my trip to Ontario, Canada to participate in the 2016 OCRWC and I definitely still in awe of just how amazing this journey was. In late 2015, when the venue was announced to be Blue Mountain Resort in Ontario Canada, I thought to myself that there is no way that with my autoimmune disorder (Reynaud’s) that I could handle the cold in October in Canada, especially since I heard stories of frostbite and extreme cold temperatures in Ohio where the OCRWC was held in 2015 & 2014. In early 2016 with the announcement of the NJ Ultra Beast in April, I began to focus my training on endurance events and decided to race at least half of my races “elite” or “competitive” so I needed to improve on my techniques to complete various obstacles spanning numerous OCR circuits.

In April I ran the Spartan Citifield stadium sprint elite and placed 6th masters and shortly after that I completed the NJ Ultra Beast in the “open” division placing 20th out of all females (4th in my age). Then on May 21, 2016 I decided to run the NY Warrior Dash both competitive and then again with my team. That race I was the 5th female to cross the finish line, which by OCRWC guidelines qualified me not only for my age division, but for the Pro Wave. For some reason this sparked a fire in me that perhaps I should go out and compete with athletes from all around the world, but this was going to cost a lot of money and take a lot of training to compete successfully.

new-ocrwc-bannerOn July 7, 2016 I officially signed up and submitted my application to be verified as an OCRWC competitor but decided that it was more realistic to be within my age group vs. the Pro Wave. On July 10th I received my official verification letter and was an actual competitor! It was time to step up the training and start trying to raise some money to help offset the costs of the entry fees, attire, hotel, and travel fees. I had contemplated a variety of ideas but did not want to ask anyone for help so a friend of mine, unbeknownst to me, set up a GoFundMe account to help raise money to offset the costs. I was beyond grateful and couldn’t believe the amount of support I was receiving from my friends. Knowing that they had contributed to my journey, I knew I had to work even harder and make them proud!

There were days that I was so physically exhausted, but I knew I had to train if I wanted to improve. There were days that I was in pain, but I knew that I had to just push through it and modify as needed. There were days I felt amazing and beyond blessed and proud of just how far I had come with my training. It has been a roller coaster of emotions through these past 3 months, but that is all why this journey was so unbelievably amazing for me.  The support I was receiving fueled me and when my children expressed that they wanted to go with me to see me compete, it became so much more than just another race, it became the opportunity to inspire others…my friends, my family, and my children!

When I ordered my custom LegendBorne USA jersey, I was like a kid at Christmas awaiting its arrival and the minute I opened it I had to put it on. I was not only representing myself in this race, but the USA! I felt like I was not only racing for me, but for everyone that believed in me and supported me. I felt like I was going to the Olympics and as someone that is not a natural born athlete, I cannot even describe how amazing I felt to have this opportunity.

ocrwc-welcome-to-canadaAs the time grew closer, I had asked a close friend of mine, the same one that started the GoFundMe, to join me on my journey and she graciously said yes. She took time away from her family to help me with mine and be there supporting me 100% of the time! I decided to make this not just about the race, but a journey and decided to leave the Wednesday preceding the race and stop at Niagara Falls and spend one evening there. Shortly afterocrwc-falls-at-night crossing the border we arrived and checked in to our hotel we ate at an Outback about a block away from our hotel then we headed over to the falls to watch the fireworks and see them all lit up. It was breathtaking! We spent the next couple of hours walking around and taking photos and enjoying the beauty of the area.

ocrwc-falls-at-dayThe next morning we woke up, ate breakfast in our hotel which had an amazing view overlooking the falls and headed out to see the area in the daylight. We decided to take the boat tour of the falls, the Hornblower, and also did the Journey Behind the Falls walking tour. We headed around town and stopped off at a local brewery to sample a few local beers. Next up, my kids wanted to head to Ripley’s Believe it or Not, so we did that as well. We walked all over the city and even hopped on and off the WeGo buses a few times. It was a great day but it was time to move on to our next location so we headed back to the car and were off to Blue Mountain.

When we arrived at the resort, it was huge! It was dark so it wasn’t easy to see everything this amazing place had to offer. We checked into our room, I parked my car, and it was time to unwind and get ready for race day #1, the 3K short course. The weather was much warmer that I had anticipated, which I am definitely not complaining about, so I took out my racing gear for the next morning, set my alarm and headed to sleep. In the morning I had to head over to sign in and pick up my bibs for both upcoming races and for the 3K course I was racing masters, which meant I had a very early start time.

ocrwc-packet-pick-upThe next morning I literally walked out of my room, outside, and made a left to the venue. I couldn’t believe how close I was. Immediately when I saw the OCRWC starting arch, nerves began to settle in. It was a chilly morning so I was a little worried because I didn’t know how much water or mud I would encounter that morning. I entered the room where e had to pick up our racing packets and we were also given athlete badges, membership cards to the International OCR Union, and our finisher shirts. The athlete badges gave us special access to areas, such as free gondola rides for anyone that was with us. I have to say, those badges were awesome and made you really feel like you were kind of a big deal lol. After getting my packet I headed back to my room, woke up everyone else and prepared for the 3K race. ocrwc-swag

When I arrived at the venue, I became extremely nervous. I had no idea what to expect out there. I knew there were going to be so many obstacles I had never even seen before and had no idea how to tackle them. Just walking on that course gave me such a sense of WOW! As I headed to the starting corral, the short race went off in waves. Each of us had our own starting corral. Coach Pain was there delivering the pre-race speech and he has such an amazing way with words, the just hit you. It is hard to explain, but the emotions I felt at that exact moment in time as my children and friend watched me standing there, ready to take on this course was so surreal. My heartbeat was fast. My adrenaline was pumping. My nerves were a mess. My mind was racing. And then there it was…”Ladies conduct your business!” and we were off!

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Why I Race…

At a time where I am preparing to run the biggest race of my life in, I am asked the question often why do I race? The answer to this question can vary from person to person. For some, it is a bucket list item. For some it is a team building event. For some it is a way to test your limits. For some it is to have fun with friends. For me, it is all of these thing as well as because I want to inspire others and show them that they can achieve results if you work hard enough and if you equip yourself with the right tools. I want to help others achieve their goals as well, so I am a firm believer that you need to practice what you preach and have knowledge and experience before you try to help others. For example, I wouldn’t go to a doctor or dentist with someone that wasn’t trained, certified and/or properly educated in their profession, would you?

599873_10150980992258416_701946735_nWhen I signed up for my very first race, the 2012 Tough Mudder, I did it as sort of a “bucket list” item. I had lost a considerable amount of weight and had been kickboxing for a few years and felt like I wanted to challenge myself. A friend of mine did it and said that I would be able to do it, but deep inside I really wasn’t sure I believed her but I felt like why not step up to the challenge.  After signing up, I decided it would probably be a good idea to try a smaller venue first, so I signed up for the Pennsylvania Warrior Dash and we created a team at the CKO gym I work at. We created circuits and special training classes to help our team get prepared for the big race. I was in a boot for tendinitis for weeks before the big race, but I decided to do it anyway and fell in love with OCR’s immediately, even though I couldn’t see the finish line because I had mud in my eyes.

Looking back I had no idea what I should wear and definitely missed the mark on that. I wore a cotton tank top that when wet stretched down to my knees and was so heavy. I wore running shorts with the built in underwear that was a great mud storage compartment. I wore low cut socks and my legs were so scraped. I wore old sneakers with not much tread so I didn’t ruin my good sneakers.  However, my training that I had put had me feeling great on that course and as nervous as I was, there were friends and members looking to me to help them so I never once showed fear on the course, like when I was covered in slippery mud on the top of pipes sliding as I was helping other come over the top trying not to fall off myself. At that moment, helping them meant more to me than my time finishing strong.

564597_283313035114626_716775323_nAfter that, I heard of this new race that was coming to town, it was a Spartan Super. I never heard of them before, so I looked up the race and saw there was a 30 burpee penalty for failing obstacles. I didn’t even know what a burpee was, so of course I had to look it up and start incorporating them in my workouts. Boy did they suck…and 30??? UGH! The day came and that race was called the mini-beast because it was almost as long as a Beast and we even had tornado warnings so the end of the race was pretty scary. With such a big team, we broke up into smaller groups as it was so hard to keep everyone together. Because of the tornado warnings, some of us crossed the finish line while others were pulled off or taken to nearby sheds for shelter.

I crossed the finish line, but the timing mats were off, however, my timing chip was recovered at the finish line corral so I was granted my medal and shirt as a finisher and they offered a free race to do it again the next day, only I could barely walk after this race so there was no way I was going to be able to do it the next day too!! To make things right, we were given free entry to the VT Beast.  At the VT Beast my knee blew out and I couldn’t bend it from about mile 7 (this is a 12+ mile race). The pain at times was unbearable and my team all ended up running ahead of me, but I learned something very valuable that day about me. Then it clicked…I was so much stronger than I ever gave myself credit for. I wanted to quit and the pain was becoming unbearable, but I didn’t.  And I finished that race!!!

tm-2012I went on to do Tough Mudder, which was so cold and muddy and painful as I could still barely walk on it and jogging was excruciating! But I kept on that course as cold and miserable as I was. After the race people would ask me, why do I keep doing these if I am hurt? Why don’t I rest? Why don’t I quit? At the time I really didn’t know, but looking back my heart knew all along. Racing wasn’t about the race. It wasn’t about the obstacles. It was about finding me. It was about learning my limits and pushing past them. It was about fighting through something that was so tough and not giving up. It was about helping others, regardless of how much pain I was in. It was about learning how to create yourself in a way that gives you confidence inside you didn’t know you had after being broken down by life.

photo taken at 11:58:47 by www.nuvisionactionimage.com

That year I ended up heading to Fenway Park and participated in the first ever Spartan Stadium race and it was such a great experience for me in many ways. That race earned me my very first Trifecta, a special medal that signified that you were one of only a few hundred to achieve 3 different level races in a year. Races were not easy to come by back then so not too many people had that medal so it was very special to achieve that. The obstacles were not exactly the safest back then and I was totally freaking out at the end if the gladiators were going to beat me to a pulp, but I can’t even describe how amazing it felt to be one of those few hundred to achieve this goal.

After my knee healed, I decided the following year, I would try to improve. I still raced most of my races as a team, but often we would break up in to smaller “buddies” as there were so many varying fitness levels out there. I was not fast. I was not good at obstacles. I was not a quitter and if I failed and obstacle at a Spartan Race, you bet I did ALL 30 burpees! To me if I cheated on my burpees, the medal didn’t mean the same.  I focused more on running and even started planning to run my very first half marathon, which a few years earlier I would have never even imagined doing as 5K’s were a huge goal for me to actually not walk most of them.

Over the years I have increased my mileage, speed, and learned how to not only succeed at many obstacles I once failed repeatedly, but I learned how to break what I learned down to train others how to do them successfully as well.  When I ran my very first race on my own on June 7th 2014 in open heat I finished 15th in my age out of 302 and for the first time I started to feel more like an athlete and wanted to push myself even harder.  I focused on training for more obstacle course related goals, like pull ups and better techniques. I invested in equipment and gear. I became a true OCR junkie!

rugged-maniac2This season I divided my races. Some were done as competitive/elite and others were done as a team because another reason I love to race is not just to push myself and improve my time and my performance, but to witness people I help train achieve their goals. I do love racing as a team. I enjoy the camaraderie and helping them push beyond their limits and they help me push mine out there too! There are times, such as the Palmerton Super, that all I could focus on even though I was exhaustedwd-19 and in pain was finishing the races so I could at least see my team off at the start, which I did. At races like Warrior Dash I ran one lap of the race competitive and then a second lap with the team. Races like Savage Race and Rugged Maniac our team stayed together the entire time.  This season I even completed a race with my daughter, the NJ Terrain Race 5K course, after running the 10K course solo first. Each race experience is different and rewarding in a different way.

For me racing is so much more than just my time or how I performed, it is about the people out on that course. If you are afraid to run a race and be “left alone” my advice…do it anyway! There are so many people on that course that will help you if you do find yourself on your own. Strangers can actually become friends that you bond with. I know I have met some amazing people out on those courses over the years as well as strengthened friendships. When you are tired, in pain, and want to give up you start to see people’s true colors. Some are beautiful and sadly some are ugly, but no matter what I promise you that if you do an OCR, you will feel such a sense of accomplishment.  I race because it reminds me who I am, a strong woman that will not quit!terrain-race

The Road to the OCRWC 2016

ocr-usa-competitor-logoIn 20 days I will be embarking on an adventure that I could have never dreamed of doing a few years ago. I will be representing the USA at the 3rd OCRWC (Obstacle Course Racing World Championship) in Ontario Canada. USA will be one of thirty five countries represented and this is no ordinary race, this is a race where athletes from all over the world will be competing against each other in various divisions. While I did qualify for the PRO wave by placing 5th female overall at the NY Warrior Dash, I have decided to represent my age group (40-44) for which I have qualified this year in 5 of my 6 2016 Spartan Races (one of those Spartan races was done as a team).

jersey-imageThis race will be one where there is not penalty for not completing or failing an obstacle it is mandatory obstacle completion if you want to remain in the competition. If you give up trying to successfully complete it for whatever reason, there are no burpees or penalties and then you move on, you remove your band and you are no longer a competitor but you can still finish the race…that is as long as you meet the time cut-offs that are set which is 5 hours for 9 miles (15K). Athletes will have to check in at least 24 hours prior to the start of the race for briefing on rules and there will be random drug/substance testing performed. I will be wearing my custom team USA jersey and hoping to make everyone that has supported me proud!

As I look back to where I was just 5 years ago, a girl that could barely run a 5K in under 45 minutes or was petrified to even attempt a Warrior Dash, I am pretty proud of how far I have come. It has not come easy for me at all. I am not a natural athlete and have had my share of ripped hands, cracked ribs, tendinitis, knee issues, bruises, etc. but I haven’t given up. The failures have fueled me. They have driven me to not only successfully complete many obstacles I once couldn’t, but how to effectively break it down to train others how to do so as well. When you want to succeed at something, you put your heart and soul into it and while sometimes you fall short and you are crushed, sometimes you would be pleasantly surprised what you are capable of!

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