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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The “Beast of the East”…Take 5!

Every year I set goals and sometimes, like in 2016, they can change from the original plan due to several circumstances.  In April 2016 I completed the Spartan NJ Ultra Beast, a race that I never thought I would even attempt which made me contemplate actually attempting the 2016 VT Ultra Beast.  Unfortunately due to injury and my decision to focus on competing in the OCRWC, I decided not to and just stick with the regular Beast and I am glad that I did. According to post race reports, only 28% of those attempting the 2016 VT UB would actually complete it. During the race, up until mile 10 (mile 12 according my TomTom GPS and almost everyone else I asked) I felt pretty good and was starting to regret not going for it. That was until that awful “death march”.

This was my 5th year at Killington and definitely the best year yet, but I didn’t feel that way out there on that brutal course.  Before I even crossed the start line we had to hop over a wall into the starting corral and I landed on my left foot that I am currently suffering with some pretty painful plantar fasciitis and tendonitis so I limped across the start line. Not the way I wanted to start the race! The first high wall was 6’ and when I swung my leg around to get over it, I hit the wall with my left foot and pain began shooting up my leg immediately. We hadn’t even gone two miles and I was wondering if I was going to be able to make it to the finish.

I took my time going uphill and I ran when I could, but a few areas I would normally run on were uneven or very rocky and would hurt my foot.  I just kept going, one mile at a time. When I arrived at the Hercules Hoist, I saw a friend that was attempting the Ultra Beast in the penalty box doing burpees. After I completed the Hoist successfully, we started walking together talking about our race experiences so far. A little while later, I took off running and was starting to feel pretty good about this race and my performance.

vt2016-2A few more obstacles and miles later, I arrived at the swim which basically you had to swim out about 200 or so meters to a ladder hanging off of a bridge, then complete the Tarzan swings then back into the water for about another 100 meters. I fell off the 4th Tarzan rope, which after I climbed the ladder that one was missing a knot, so it was 30 burpees for me.  When I got out of the water to do my burpees, I got my first and only cramp for the day. I ate a mustard packet and then we had to go back into the water for who really knows how long and really be careful that you didn’t take your knee or foot out on the huge boulders you couldn’t see in the water.vt2016-8

I was making great time and although I had to walk much more than I would have liked due to the foot issues, I was on target to meet the cut off times that the UB racers would have, 7 hours to complete the first lap so for a brief moment I regretted not doing the UB after all. At the top of the mountain around mile 8-9 (10 according to my GPS), I ran into a few friends that were volunteering at the water station. We chatted a bit, took a picture, and then I was off for what I thought was my last time down. I was sadly mistaken. At the bottom of the hill was the rope climb and then as I turned the corner, there it was…the dreaded “death march”.

vt2016-1I headed up the steep mountain, one foot in front of the other and never stopped even once. When I got to the top of the mountain, there was the log farmers carry and as soon as I completed that, I felt something in my foot that just didn’t feel right. As I began to descend from 4,128 ft. of elevation that I had just climbed, I realized that I could no longer run without unbearable pain.  My left knee began to become very sore and my right quadriceps began to shake from overcompensation. My right toe, which no longer has any joint spacing in thanks to jamming it on rocks as I trail run, was becoming extremely sore and blistered.

As I came down the steep mountain, I had no choice but to let so many racers pass me and with each one, I knew I was getting further and further behind. I had my GPS watch set on average pace and I watched it go from 22 minutes per mile slowly to 23, 24, 25… And then it happened. I became completely discouraged and angry with myself for not being able to keep up with the pace I had set. The ironic part is I went into this race knowing I had to take it easy so I didn’t hurt myself more before the OCRWC. So why was I letting this get to me? Why was I about to let this mountain break me???

At the bottom of the hill, there was the dreaded spear throw, which of course I missed! The official came over and said “elite, I need your bib number…ok, now go enjoy your 30 burpees! I am going to enjoy watching you do them”. Those words angered me! As I counted out my burpees one at a time, I felt my energy levels getting zapped. I felt my feet screaming for me to stop already, 15 miles is more than they were able to bear in their condition. After I left the penalty zone, there was the log carry…uphill of course. I grabbed the log and headed up the mountain for what would be the last time and normally I don’t stop, but it happened…I began to break. I put the log down on the side and just sat there on it, feeling so angry with my body. I was angry that I was letting this all get to me. I was angry that I could see the finish line and I would not get there under 7 hours now.

So, I thought about what I would say to someone I was training when they were feeling this way. I gave myself a pep talk and told my quad to stop shaking so much that we have a race to finish. I told my heart not to give up, you are no quitter. I told my body to stop telling my mind that it was too weak to go on because I am so much stronger than that! About 5-6 minutes went by and I stood up, picked up my log and finished the rest of the carry. Then it was on to the inverted wall and immediately following that was the atlas carry. I didn’t even take off my Camelback to do my 5 required burpees so it was hitting me in the back of the head!

Next up was the rig. I knew that if I could get passed those 2 baseballs I could complete it, but as I transitioned from ball #2 I hit the floor, landing on my left foot, which almost immediately brought tears to my eyes from the pain.  I headed to the penalty box and after 10 burpees I just stopped and stood there, gathering up whatever I had left in me to finish the next 20. Then I hear a familiar voice “Go Melissa!” from a friend who was spectating and that was exactly what I needed. I quickly banged out 20 more burpees, climbed the slip wall, then the A-frame cargo net, then over the fire and then crossed the finish line with a time of 7 hours and 5 minutes. vt2016-10

What I realized later, after beating myself up out on that course, was this was the first time I had ever done this race for me. All previous years were done as a team or with someone else. I entered this race as an elite athlete, although my injuries had be questioning days before if I should to switch to open heat so I didn’t push myself too much and risk further injury.  But I decided to go out there and do what I could that day and while I was nowhere near any top rankings, I still managed to finish 10th in my age, 19th overall masters and basically middle of the pack of all female elite racers who train hard for these events.  Not too bad for an injured girl on a course that was very tough and it ended up being my best time at Killington yet! In my opinion, this course was more difficult than 2015 and that took me 7 hours and 30 minutes, so as I step back and reflect I am pretty proud of how well I did, especially since approximately 40% of all of the people that attempted the VT Beast did not finish. I am also pretty happy I didn’t sign up to do that course twice, because I honestly don’t think I would have successfully completed it. This race marked my 2nd Spartan Race Trifecta of 2016, my 7th overall. vt2016-4

Endurance Event #2: Palmerton Super followed by a Hurricane Heat

When I first began to do obstacle course races, especially Spartan Races, it seemed like a different time. There were no course maps released prior to the event or many standard obstacles and the number of water stations was always limited to very few. The unknown added a sense of fear, but in a good way if that makes sense. You knew you had to train, but not sure exactly how. You knew there would be obstacles, but not sure what they would be. You knew there would be an estimated number of miles, but the course was not marked so you had no idea where you were or how far you still had to go. You knew that if you failed an obstacle you would be doing 30 burpees and were going to do ALL of them. You knew that the only way to earn a trifecta was to travel because there were not nearly as many races so to have completed one trifecta was a huge accomplishment.

Now, fast forward to 2016 where there are so many locations and is fairly easy to earn more than one trifecta. Most races contain almost all standard obstacles and now the course map is released before the event. There are mile markers throughout the course and several water stations just a few short miles apart. And if you are not in elite or competitive heats, there are way too many people do not do all of their burpees or barely filling up their buckets with rocks but still boasting about their rankings or placement in age which is ridiculous in my opinion. Spartan race has a 30 burpee penalty and obstacle completion guidelines so if you are physically able to do them (yes, I know there are some that are unable to due to handicap or other reasons, this is not referring to them as I doubt they are bragging about their time and ranking on social media) you should be running the prescribed race including the torture carrying rocks up to the holes at the bucket brigade and all 30 burpees!

That being said, I do love that there are so many people now getting off their couches and falling in love with obstacle course racing and I am so fortunate that I am able to train others to now complete these as well and that is very rewarding to see them achieve their goals. But that leads me to why I am writing this blog post, because while I love these races I do miss the sense of the unknown and the sense of doing something different that many others have not done before.  When I originally set my goals for 2016 I had no intention of focusing on endurance events, but when Spartan announced they were adding an Ultra Beast in NJ in April, suddenly I started thinking that this was going to be very difficult and not many people would be crazy enough to do it. The typical rate of completion for an UB was not very high so there was a good chance I may not finish, but I decided to do it anyway and in April 2016 after covering approximately 32 grueling miles I became an Ultra Beast finisher, one of only 79 females that completed the race.

This sense of accomplishment had me looking now more towards endurance type events and so I decided that on Saturday July 23, 2016 I would not only run in the elite heat of the Palmerton Spartan Super but I would also do my very first Hurricane Heat later that evening. This was a whole different type of endurance event for me, first because Palmerton is considered one of the toughest Supers on the circuit and then a few hours later to do a “3-4 hour” endurance event that I didn’t know too much about. I knew it was a team based event that was made to push your limits and why the HH was created but not much more than that. There was not course map. No water stations. No idea of what I was going to be asked to do out there. I only had a few people I met at races that had done one before but no one I personally knew that could give me any training tips so I prepared for the unknown with the limited information I had.

About 2 weeks before the event I broke my second toe (right next to the already sprained big toe from the NY Sprint) and was unable to run and had to modify my workouts significantly. Then, the night before the race I was up very late celebrating my daughter’s birthday and since I didn’t want a race to take away from her big day I was still packing my gear close to midnight. Then I kept tossing and turning and worried I would miss my alarm that could hardly sleep. When my alarm went off at 3:45 am, I had maybe gotten a total of an hour of sleep and had a very long ride to Palmerton ahead of me and felt a flood of emotions and completely exhausted.

PA super16-1We arrived just over an hour before my race time and had to park what felt like miles away since I was so tired and I thought to myself,” how am I going to be able to get through this day?” After checking in, gearing up, and checking my bag I was off to the start line and I just kept repeating to myself that today was a day about endurance and not my time so I needed to pace myself and remember that running downhill and certain obstacles would be difficult with a broken and sprained toe right next to each other and I would certainly feel fatigued on the course with lack of sleep, especially in the heat. As I hopped over the wall and listened to the rules, I heard that on this day elites would have to carry 2 sandbags and immediately I wanted to breakdown and cry just thinking about that.

Soon we were off and as I was going up the first hill, I could feel the exhaustion and heat affect me but I was pacing myself pretty well overall until the bucket carry. Normally I don’t put the bucket down, however, I found myself place it down a total of 3 times and while they were not long periods of time, it mentally started to affect my mind. I just had no energy and the race just started! I got a second wind and my toes seemed to feel ok at this point so I decided to try and make up some time running. That worked out well, until I reached that awful sandbag carry. It wasn’t so much carrying 2, it was the fact that they were not easy to grip with sweaty hands and climbing back up that steep ski slope in the heat really took a lot of energy, which I already was lacking.

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After completing the sandbag carry, again I made up some time running until I reached the 8’ wall. As I approached the wall, I leaped and grabbed the top of the wall, but then my hands slipped and I fell right off. I proceeded to attempt this wall again, this time smashing my two injured toes into the wall, which was very painful. I attempted to get over this wall 4 more times, but the fear of the pain was in my head and I kept pulling back and was unable to make the leap  to grab the top. I then made a sad attempt to lead with the other side that was my uninjured foot and that didn’t go well and I literally hit the wall and got a bad cramp. After wasting about 10 minutes on this wall I ended up having to do 30 burpees, which was really upsetting to me. Immediately following this obstacle was O-U-T, a simple obstacle, but as I was going “under” my leg cramped again and it was so very painful I knew I needed to slow down or I would never make it through HH later that day.

Running down the final mountain was very painful for my toes and I kept feeling the cramp not matterHH-092-8 how much I hydrated, fueled, and stretched. Exhaustion was definitely taking over at this point. As I approached the new obstacle I asked someone for the time and they said it was around 10:50 which made me think if I could suck up the pain and just push through, I could actually see my team head out in the 11:30 wave so I just kept thinking of them and pushed along and crossed the finish line at 11:12. I rushed to find my team to wish them well before they began their race and after they started their race I went to change and try to rest up and eat before my next event.  I headed back to the car and ate my lunch and headed back to the venue with my bucket and Camelback to find a spot to relax and hydrate before the Hurricane Heat.

HH-092-3As I roasted in the hot sun, I couldn’t get much rest sitting so I found a spot that some other people were laying at by a shed that gave off some shade. After chatting with people around for a little while, I used my Camelback for a pillow and just rested until about 3:15 which is when I went to get my compression socks and other sneakers on. We were expected to check in for our Hurricane Heat at 3:45 and were warned that if we were late, there would be consequences.  We congregated in the designated area and just after 4:00 we were called to line up in our lines that we would have to remain in for a good portion of the event. Soon after we were led into the festival area, buckets in hand, and were told that we were to operate as a team. We were not to socialize with the others in the festival area and were reminded that we were there for the mission and had to place the mission first or we would be dismissed.

This event was more about what you did and how you accomplished it and understood what you wereHH-092-6 going through versus the actual tasks that you did. You had to be self-supported with fuel and water. There were burpees, bear crawls, push-ups, flutter kicks, squats, lunges, and many physical challenges as well. We performed tasks like carry heavy tractor tires, ran in and out of the lake several times, did parts of the course such as the dunk wall and barbed wire but with a twist, and had to incorporate our buckets for many of these tasks.  It was about teamwork and doing your best because others were counting on you. It was tough, but it was awesome!

As the night fell and we cracked out glow sticks and turned on our headlamps and I figured we were almost done. It had been about 4 hours at this point (which the event page said 3-4 hours) but that was not the case. We carried out buckets, filled with water this time, up the mountain to re-stack all of the logs from the log carry for the Sprint the next day and then it we headed down towards the festival area, which was closed at this time and only a few spectators remained. We chanted our warrior ethos, emptied out HH-092-1buckets, and were reminded of our “why”. I am not going to share more than that, as this experience reaffirmed for me that being ready for the unknown can be scary, but so rewarding.  By 10:30 I had finally received my dog tags, finisher shirt, and had a sandwich and beer that my friends bought for me me a few hours early before the festival area closed. While the sandwich was soggy and the beer was flat by the time they were able to give it to me, I was so thankful they did that for me as I was starving and so grateful that they were there supporting me!2016 trifecta

The Palmerton Super completed my first Spartan trifecta of 2016 and HH-092 provided me with the 2nd piece of my endurance trifecta. Next up in my endurance trifecta quest will be at the NJ Super on Saturday October 22nd followed by the HH12HR the next day! Prior to this, I do have quite a few mini-endurance challenges lined up in an effort to prepare for this event, which at this point will mark the end of my 2016 OCR season.

Savage Race PA

Every year since I have become an OCR Junkie there are several races that I do every year and then I decide to try at least 2 different racing series that I have not yet done before. This year the first new one that I tried was the Savage Race and I will say that I will definitely do this race again! The venue I chose was held in Albrightsville, PA which was approximately 90 minutes away. Since I had not tried this one before, I decided to run this one as a team and not focus on time but rather enjoying some new obstacles that were different that ones I had tried before.  A few days prior to the race, I checked the event website and they listed all of the obstacles and course map and even had a few informative videos about some of their signature obstacles that were fun to watch.

On race day, I met up with my team and we headed to the event. Our start time was 9:20 and we arrived early since we were not sure what to expect from this venue. Upon arrival parking and check in were rather simple and easy to find and get through. Once in the festival area we stopped at one of the many picnic tables out to put on our bibs, sunblock, drink my Beetelite and take a few pre-race photos. After that, we went to check our bags, only a few feet away and soon we were off to the starting corral.

savage-backgroundThe very first obstacle was an entry wall that you climbed over before entering the starting corral. Once in there, the announcers did a great job of getting the racers pumped up, had us lock arms and jump up and down, meet racers around us, and even had someone body surf through the crowd. We took a knee and after a few words were said, we were standing, chanting, and on our way through the thick blue smoke over the starting line. The next obstacle was barn doors and shortly after that was one of their signature obstacles, Shriveled Richard which is a dumpster full of ice water that you have to jump in and go underwater and out the other side. I have done a similar obstacle a few times, Arctic Enema at Tough Mudder but because the temperature was not freezing, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, but it was still freezing!

savage2A few more obstacles later we arrived at another one of their signature obstacles, Sawtooth.  This one is a series of monkey bars that go up and down and up and down with one really high bar that most people that fail this obstacle do so at this point according to the website. It definitely was quite tricky, but I successfully completed this obstacle.  Next it was on to one of the new obstacles for 2016, On the Fence, where you had to climb a series of fence sections laterally over water.  After successfully completing that obstacle we went through a series of barbed wire, crawls, climbs, and even a high cliff type jump at Davy Jones’ Locker into some pretty cold water followed by an inverted wall.

savage6Next signature obstacle up was the SavageRig, a series of rings, ropes, and metal poles that you had to hand and climb across without touching the floor until you reached the bell at the end. I successfully made it across all components but when I stopped on the pole to take a photo, I slid a little down the metal pole and it became a real challenge to reach the bell aftersavage8 that.  Immediately following was a really fun obstacle, the Teeter Tuber. This was a corrugated black pipe that you climbed up, then halfway it slammed down to the ground, just like if someone jumped off the other side of a teeter totter and you just slid down the tube. I came out hysterical laughing as I slid out right onto the grass.

savage4Two obstacles later was the new Pole Cat and that was a little nerve wracking as you felt like you were going to face plant into the pole or fall if you made one false move. After that was Lumberjack Lane where you grabbed a piece of wood and savage9carried it around a small area, up some stairs and back down again. Next was the Great Wall and Wheel World, which on the video looked like something that would be on American Ninja Warrior and pretty difficult. These wheels moved so not only did you have to hold on and climb across, but you had to find a way to swing around so you can get in a position to grab the next one and so on until you reached the other side. I was so happy when I completed this obstacle and really enjoyed this one.

savage11The last two obstacles were Blazed, the fire jump, and Colossus, which was a high quarter pipe that had ropes you could grab onto and help climb up and then once on the platform, you climbed up a ladder to the top of a slide. The slide was so much fun going down, but unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of me coming down that one to share. After that it was a short sprint to the finish line where we received our medals and finisher shirts.

Overall I really enjoyed this race. The obstacles were a great balance of challenging and fun. You definitely needed a little more upper body strength for this one, which I enjoyed because I have been working hard on building my upper body strength up. Unfortunately I do have one issue with this race; the water stations had full 16 oz. bottles of Poland Spring water that they were handing out. At a finish line I can completely understand handing out full water bottles, but I just felt that at a water station where you only need a little water, this was overall wasteful both in water and created so much extra plastic waste.  One good thing was the volunteers offered to give you the cap if you wanted to carry it, but then I thought of the inconsiderate people that would grow tired carrying it and liter on the grounds. I did not see too many bottles, but I was an early wave so I hope that most people did not dump the empty bottles anywhere else but in the waste cans.  My only other suggestion would be for them to carry some stock of XS attire as the small shirt is pretty big on me.savage finish

Hard Cider Run 2016 5K

hard cider-logoRunning a 5K used to be a big deal for me. I would always get nervous the days leading up to the race and would actually feel nauseous at the start line because I really was not a runner and it was very scary for me to get out there and run for 3.1 miles. In the beginning, my goal was to just be able to “run” the whole thing without stopping to walk and once I achieved that, I would set time goals to try to improve upon. Most of weekend runs these days are 4-6 miles so I often don’t run very many 5K’s these days, however, on Saturday May 7, 2016 I gathered a team together to do the 2016 Hard Cider Run 5K at Warwick Valley Winery and I have to say I am so glad I did! So much fun, and awesome swag too!

For this run, the team consisted of some seasoned racers as well as first timers and every level in-between. Leading up to the race I would host short 20-30 minute runs weekly geared towards the newer runners although all were welcome. I also would talk about proper running form, technique, and breathing with participants of these training runs. Due to weather we were unable to get as many training runs as I would have liked, but regardless they all went out there and did fantastic.

cider run-swagMost 5K races you pay a fee between $25-$40 and typically only get a cotton t-shirt and a bib with a timing chip. Some have bags filled with stuff from local vendors, especially if there is a particular event that the race supports. For the Hard Cider Run the cost of the event, based on when you signed up, was $35-$40 and such a great value considering all of the cool swag you received. All participants received a nice moisture-wicking t-shirt, chip timing with a commemorative bib, hard cider served to all finishers in a commemorative glass that you were able to keep, free parking, and a custom finisher medal. You also had the option to add on, for an extra fee, receiving a donut at each mile and then an additional medal at the finish line that was distinguished by a unique bib worn by these racers that chose the add on.

You were able to do packet pickup the evening before the race, which I took advantage of, but even that morning they had a really good flow in the tent where you received your packet, shirt, and bib. The team gathered just outside of the tent where you picked up the bibs and the weather was dreary, but at least the rain finally stopped. At 9:20 after my team gathered and we took some group pictures, we headed over to the starting line. At 9:30 we were off and racing!

The run was through the orchard and surrounding fields. It was pretty muddy because of the rain the weekcider run-group before, which they had warned racer prior to the event, so I decided to wear my cleated OCR sneakers to help with the grip on the muddy fields. The beginning of the course was a zig-zag through the trees and very congested but i was able to run ahead and get some space and then just run at a happy pace. This course had more hills than I expected but overall was a good course. As we came out of the small patch of woods and then it was another round of zig-zagging through the trees ultimately reaching the finish line.

cider run-soloWe all waited for each racer on our team that started with us to cross the finish line and cheered them on as they did. After everyone crossed it was time for a finisher picture and then off to get our free cider. There were two places to get your cider, one inside and one outside. It moved pretty fast and seemed well organized as we just had to go to the bar area, hand in our ticket and the cider was already on the bar in the glass you just had to decide which one you wanted, they had 2 varieties to choose from. I chose the lighter one and it was delicious. After our cider, we walked back to our car, which was not parked very far away, and headed out. This was a well organized event in my opinion and I would definitely recommend it, but runners that this is not the course to look to PR on.

2016 NJ Ultra Beast

I have been training for months for what I said in 2012 during my very first Beast in VT, “why would anyone in their right mind want to do this twice?” as Ultra Beast runners passed us. Fast forward to April 30, 2016 and I have successfully become an Ultra Beast finisher. I am so proud of this accomplishment and it was definitely not easy.  There were over 800 Ultra Beast racers (open and elite waves combined) that crossed the starting line, but only 544 of them actually finished and only 79 of them were female.  I am told the total elevation gain was around 11,000 ft. and the mileage was just under 32 miles total for this race.

The training for this race was not easy, especially since I had to be careful not to burn out because as a full time trainer now, I am very active in many of my classes that I instruct. Rest is crucial so timing of my workouts was very important as was tailoring a plan around what classes I am active in and fine tuning my nutrition to fuel all of this working out. I also needed to run on tired legs and while I never focused on speed drills for running, I did incorporate specific strength training exercises to compliment my workouts to help keep my pace where I decided I needed it to be. Nutrition was a struggle for a little while as I had to really increase my calories (good ones of course) but with my busy schedule finding time to actually eat was the challenge even though I would meal plan and prep.

Three weeks before race day, I had to have oral surgery and have a wisdom tooth removed. I figured it was a tooth, no big deal a day or so and I’ll be back to normal. I was so wrong! It took 2 full weeks before I could stop taking all pain medication and really workout the way I needed to be. Then one week before the race, I needed to taper so I had to revise my plan and hope for the best. I then hurt my left foot and twisted my right ankle so I was starting to second guess if this was something that I would actually be able to accomplish, but there was no turning back. It was time to push myself way out of my comfort zone like never before.

The night before the race, we had to drop off our gear bins at the race site, but there was a bear den near itpacket pick up so we had to remove all nutrition and bring it back in the morning, which was frustrating but totally understandable. The day I had to pick up my bib and drop off my bin it was cold and damp and a bit rainy so of course I grew concerned that race day would be cold and wet.  I brought my son with me and that was great because he got to see a little of the course and share this experience with me which meant a lot, especially since these are long events so my kids do not ever attend them with me (well except for meeting me at the finish line in Wintergreen). That evening nerves set it. I had not felt anxiety like that since my very first Beast in VT in 2012 when I had no idea what I got myself into. With my nerves acting up, I could hardly sleep and 4:30 am came very quickly.

When my alarm went off, I was already laying in my bed awake telling myself that I can do this. You tell everyone else that you have to believe in yourself and get that darn word “can’t” out of you head! So I got up, got dressed, fueled up and it was off to the race! They had issued Ultra Beast participants VIP parking passes since the shuttles would not be running that early so it was nice to not have to worry about that part of the process and since I picked up my packet the night before, I already was wearing my timing chip and required bands to race. All I needed to do was bag check and put my nutrition back in my drop bin, which was up a hill so that was a nice way to warm up.

ultra 2016-4Due to a delay in the race start, my 6:15 wave was not able to start until 6:50 and with that extra time my anxiety really started to kick in. Finally, first wave elites went off and next up I hopped over the wall and entered the starting corral with my nerves in full force. As they started describing the course, warned of the bears, and then made their famous speech to which you respond “I am a Spartan” my heart began to pound and I suddenly felt a calm take over me.  For the first time in weeks I believed that I was going to finish this race. I wore my Garmin GPS watch and after seeing the final course distance knew that I would need to finish lap 1 in under 6 hours if I wanted to give myself enough time to meet all of the cutoffs since I knew that for lap 2 I would have to slow down as I would be running with many more people on the course during open heat.

The first 2.5 miles I felt like I was scaling a mountain forever with a short break here and there. By mile 2 I knew that this course was going to be harder than the 2015 NJ Beast, and I was correct. Even with the steep inclines, I paced exactly where I needed to in order to make my goal for lap 1. With each mile I just kept looking right in front of me, watched my footing, and just kept a very positive attitude. I ran when I could and I hiked/walked when I had to. I started off successfully with most of the obstacles and then came the dreaded rig where I couldn’t reach the ring after the bar so I fell and it was my first 30 burpees.  Immediately following that was the rope climb with no knots, which I did successfully and continued on my way up the mountain.

I fueled timely and drank my water with electrolytes and was feeling great, but starting to get a few cramps around mile 5. I quickly had a mustard packet and took 2 Endurolyte tabs and shortly after I felt good again. When I arrived at the bucket carry (mile 8) the volunteer there said I was the 20th female to reach that obstacle for the day, which made me feel pretty good that I was keeping up my good pace. I loaded up my bucket with rocks and only took one break on the way up then I came right down, dumped the rocks and proceeded back up the hill. When I hit a water obstacle, I looked at it as a chance for my legs to have some cold water and make them feel better. When I was in mud, I laughed with other racers as we slid along the banks. When I got to water stations I thanked the volunteers and smiled and tried to keep a positive attitude the entire time.

UB2016 mapMile by mile I was able to keep close to my desired pace and was feeling pretty confident now in my ability to finish lap 1 where I needed to be. Now came the dreaded spear throw. At home my practice rounds were up to making 9 out of every 10 I did, however, I just missed it and it was off to burpees. Ugh! As I walked over to do my 30 burpee penalty, I heard them radio down that the 2nd place elite female just left the spear throw which for some reason really excited me.

After burpees, I breezed through the monkey bars and ran down the hill to the Hercules Hoist, which I usually always make, I suddenly I got my first cramp as I began pulling that much heavier than usual bag up the pulley. I got it to the top and then as it was on the way down, my cramp worsened and as I loosened my grip and then I felt burning on my hand and there went the bag crashing to the ground, giving me rope burn on both hands and then I hear “burpees”, ugh!  After I finished my 30 burpees it was off to the A-Cargo frame then up the hill, where right before the dunk wall and fire jump I was instructed to go left, up a steep hill that was muddy and the last part so steep you needed to use a rope to get up there and my cramp worsened on the way up. As I approached the gear drop area, I stopped my watch at exactly 11:58 am, which meant it took me 5 hours and 8 minutes to complete lap 1. Goal achieved!

gear dropWhile in the gear drop area I debated if I should change, but decided to just take my shoes off and clean out all of the mud and rocks that gathered in my shoes. I really don’t think that I could have even gotten my compression socks back on after taking them off, so I decided to stick with the ones I was already wearing and continue since my legs felt good.  I also decided not to change and leave my long sleeve shirt on, which one girl commented I was going to melt by not taking it off but knowing my body with my Reynauds it proved to be a smart decision as the cooler temperatures rolled in later on. As I ate my sandwich and drank my chocolate milk and aminos I thought about how I was worried I would not want to get back out there, but I actually was excited too. I thought about how I stressed about how I would feel while at that point and honestly, I felt fantastic! At 12:22 it was time off to start lap 2!

During the second lap my goal was now just to make cut off times. Since my watch died periodically I would ask other racers for the time so that I could keep an estimate on how my pace was going. During the race, I met some truly amazing people. I would keep seeing some of the same faces often throughout the course and at times we would stick together. Towards the middle of the second lap another female and I got to talking and ended up finishing the race together. We took our time, just keeping an eye on the time so we would make all cut off points. We encouraged each other and shared our racing experiences and the time seemed to go by pretty quickly. We even took breaks to eat and rest, much different than my first lap where I was running as I was eating.

It was kind of crazy how I ran through the course the first time so fast I didn’t even remember some of itultra 2016-2 the second time. What was great about this race was it was like the best of both worlds for me. Many people know I love both challenging myself and just taking time to enjoy the course so this was basically that, lap 1 for me and lap 2 enjoying the course.  It is hard to even fathom that I could enjoy it after already doing 15 miles, but I truly did. I thought knowing what was to come would be stressful or I would dread it, but it was actually nice to know that if my legs hurt, a water obstacle was coming up so my legs could enjoy the cold water or to start putting on my gloves to carry that dreaded bucket of rocks up the mountain again without having to stop.

I talked to so many people that day and it was amazing how when we got to the tryolene traverse I heard the volunteer say “Ultra Beast racers, let them through” and was pleasantly surprised when they all cheered for us instead of complaining that we were allowed to head to the front of the line. Everyone seem so supportive out there on that brutal course. I was feeling amazing, until about mile 28, then the tiredness and tenderness of my knees began to set in so I walked more than I wanted and took more breaks than I anticipated, but the goal was to finish and barring injury I was going to with time to spare.

As we came out of the woods to the final descend, it was time for the monkey bars. The first round I flew through them, but this time I was a little tired so rather than swing and get the momentum, I would put both hands on each bar and that cost me not only valuable energy, but I ripped my hand open two bars before the end and as my bloody hand reached for the bar, down to the ground I went. I had to stop and put my gloves on before I did my burpees so my open wound would have some protection. After burpees, it was time to head down the hill and take on the last few obstacles before crossing that finish line.

received_10206000362637777-1As I came down the mountain I hear my name being called by my team that had raced the Beast earlier that day and were waiting for me. I swelled with emotion and suddenly got a burst of energy. After completing the last few obstacles there it was, the dunk wall and fire jump. At 8:20 I jumped over that fire and crossed the finish line and achieved my goal by completing my first Spartan Ultra Beast with a final time of 13 hours and 30 minutes.  What an amazing feeling to have endured this long journey and to have been successful in reaching my goal.ultra 2016-3

I am proud of myself because I did this 100% on my own. I had no one to guide me on how to train or how to prepare, I just used my knowledge gained from previous races, my personal training knowledge, and I read a lot of material to come up with a solid plan that proved to be successful. It was hours of grueling training, months of preparation and it took nerve and guts to get out there but I did it! Thank you to everyone that supported me to achieve this, I couldn’t have done it without your encouragement and faith in me.

ultra 2016-1

The End of 40…Bring on 41!

CaptureToday is my last day of 40 so I decided to take a look back at the past year and assess how I feel and who I am at this point in my life, no worries I will spare some of the boring details. When I turned 40 last year, it was a significant milestone and I had the opportunity to celebrate it with some very special people in my life, most of which only came into my life a few short years ago. It was a bit of a reality for me, that some of the people I cared for and have done so much for didn’t do anything other than your typical Facebook “happy birthday” post but what can you do, people are who they are.  This year became a year of forgiveness, a year of maturity, a year of personal growth and achievement, and a year of letting some things go.

I learned that holding hate in your heart only hurts you, not the people that wronged you.  I learned that how you see yourself is never how others see you. I learned that no matter what you do for some people, it will never be enough. And sadly I learned that you can never truly be happy unless you accept yourself for who YOU are. I learned to be proud of my accomplishments, but have tried to remain humble. I learned to pick and choose my battles carefully and I learned that sometimes quitting is ok because sometimes it is about loving yourself enough to finally let go of what isn’t good for you anymore.

This may sound like a negative post, but I assure you it is quite the opposite. While still a learning process, I have begun to let the negativity and resentment go. I have haters and people that don’t like me because of my successes however, that is a reflection of them and not me. I am more confident in my abilities now than ever. I have been blessed to help transform lives into healthier ones and help people achieve goals they never dreamed they could.  I am fortunate to be a part of so many lives as they go through their fitness journey. And most of all, I am so honored when someone tells me that I have inspired them.

As far as goals, I made fitness my full time job and have achieved several fitness certifications over the past year. I have trained hard and seen so much improvement and am now in the best physical shape of my life.  While I have not “won” any races, to me the improvements I have made over the past few years and my constant focus on pushing myself out of my comfort zone have me feeling like a winner. Each year I have set some pretty big goals for myself and this year was no different and the next year will push me harder and farther past my comfort zone than ever before.

To all of my supporters, THANK YOU!!! You have no idea how many of you inspire me every day. And to all of my haters, well sit back and watch because I have so much more for you to be mad at…

Wrapping Up 2015

As 2015 has recently come to a close, I am reflecting on what my goals were I set this time last year and how I measured up to them as well as working on what I would like to achieve in 2016. When setting my goals I focus on 3 factors, fitness, financial, and personal goals I want to achieve. Here are the goals I set for 2015:

  1. Complete another half marathon and improve my current PR time
  2. 2016Run a race as an individual
  3. Do a fun run with my kids
  4. Try two new OCR series
  5. Run a race in “Elite” heat
  6. Finish a Spartan Race in the top 10 of my age group
  7. Finish the VT Spartan Beast in less than 8 hours
  8. Double Spartan Trifecta
  9. Qualify for the OCR World Championships
  10. Perform 6 consecutive strict pull ups
  11. Go parasailing
  12. Obtain an additional fitness certification
  13. Complete a 5K in under 26 minutes
  14. Run 1008 miles in 2015 (my half of the 2015 mile challenge)
  15. Take 5 CKO classes in one day

So how did I measure up to reaching my goals?

  1. On May 16, 2015 I ran the Superhero Half Marathon and my goal was to not only beat my time from the previous year on this course of 2:18 but my overall PR achieved at the NJ Haunted Half which was 2:10. As I was running, I felt really good, but my training had decreased significantly so I really doubted I would be able to beat these times. About mile 10 miraculously I still felt really good as did I when I was at mile 11, which by this time I am usually really getting frustrated and ready to just finish. As I approached the final stretch, I looked at my watch and realized that I just may reach my goal, so I gave it all I had and crossed the finish line with at final time of 2:07 beating both times and achieving my goal.
  2. On Saturday May 31, 2015 I instructed class at CKO Franklin and then headed to Tuxedo, NY to do my first race as an individual. The morning was very hot and sunny, but unfortunately by the time I was able to make the venue, the storm clouds began to roll in. I would make it to the starting corral but no further as the race was called due to torrential downpour and vicious thunder and lightning. As I waited in the parking lot hoping for the storm to pass, once I realized that wasn’t a possibility I headed over to have my timing chip cut and had to walk through water up to my knees. I was only in the car for less than an hour and that much rain fell. I would begin to feel defeated, like I was not going to be able to reach this goal but I didn’t let this get me down. I was issued a free race to use at another time so on July 12th I headed to Blue Ridge, PA and at this race not only would I run my first race alone and pushing myself, but I would finish this race 6th in my age group and in the top 7% of all females.
  3. On June 27, 2015 I took my twin boys and daughter along with some friends to do the Color Vibe 5K run. This run is one where as you run, they shower you with color powder along the course. I really wasn’t sure what to expect, both from this kind of a race and how my kids would do because my first 5K experience with my boys (the American Cancer Society Breast Cancer Walk) and my previous one with my daughter (the Spirit 5K in Sparta) both ended with me carrying my children along a majority of the course. Well, this race would be no different as I carried one of them on my back pretty much the entire time. They said “mommy, but you have races to train for” and they were right. Although I lugged an extra 40-60 pounds on my back throughout the course, we had a really good time and my kids would actually like to do another one in the future.
  4. On June 30, 2015 I completed my first OCR of the Battlefrog series in Englishtown, NJ. I had become a field team member a few months prior and become quite intrigued about how this series would measure up to the Spartan series. Between the time I signed up for the race (it was a 15K when I signed up) they had some restructuring and took the course down to an 8K distance but those who were already registered had the option of running the 2 laps just as the elite heat would. Although I cracked a rib on one of the obstacles in this race, it was really a great race. I enjoyed it so much, a few weeks later on July 25th I drove up to Barre, MA to do the Battlefrog NE race. While it wasn’t as good as the one in NJ in my opinion, I still really enjoyed this race. My second series to try would be the Bonefrog, also held in Englishtown, NJ on October 24th and would be my coldest OCR of the season. Both courses although at the same venue were very different and both challenging. While Bonefrog and Battlefrog are both military based, Bonefrog is actually owned and operated by Navy Seals.
  5. On August 22, 2015 I set out to Nellysford, VA to run my very first elite heat. I had heard the stories of how grueling this mountain was and I was very nervous, but regardless I set out early that morning to take it on and 4 hours and 21 minutes later I would cross that finish line and see my family cheering me on. This race was one that was very emotional as not only was it my first elite race, but the first one to have my family there and I really pushed myself through it, cramping pretty badly the entire last 2 miles. Crossing this finish line would also represent my first of two trifectas earned in 2015. This race would have me finishing 12th among all Female Masters, a ranking that I am very proud of.
  6. As previously mentioned I placed 6th in my age group for the PA Spartan Sprint which allowed me to reach my goal of a top 10 age finish.
  7. The VT Beast has kicked my ass since 2012. My first race there I finished in just over 8 hours feeling broken and sore as I injured my knee halfway through the race. When I came back feeling stronger in 2013 and sure I would beat the 8 hours, the course became harder and so it defeated me again as I was not able to beat that 8 hour mark. Then came 2014, which I thought would be my last year on this mountain for a while, so I didn’t go for time I just wanted to enjoy every experience this mountain had to offer. 11+ hours later I would finish in the dark and while that was a great experience, when I decided to return in 2015 I had my eyes set on that sub 8 hour goal. Well this year we would start as a team but slowly break off and run our own race and 7 hours and 30 minutes later I would cross that finish line, beating my 8 hour goal and earning my second 2015 trifecta.
  8. Earning my 4th & 5th trifectas in 2015 were not just doing 3 more races (sprint, super & beast) but one of these trifectas ended up being a #normfecta because the moist sadistic course creator out there, Norm Kotch, would have planned out the PA Sprint, VA Super, and NJ Beast. He definitely made us earn those medals!
  9. With a 6th place finish at Blue Ridge PA Sprint I would qualify for the OCR World Championships. In addition to this race, I would also qualify by finishing 3rd in my age for the Battlefrog NJ, 12th in the VA Female Masters, and 10th at the NJ Super. Although I had planned on attending the OCRWC, due to a change in my financial status I would have to forgo this event, but just the fact that I qualified four times made me truly proud of how far I have come since my first race in 2012.
  10. To perform 6 strict pull-ups was a goal in 2014 but unfortunately due to a shoulder injury I was not able to complete it, but in 2015 I was finally able to check this one off my list!
  11. While not very physical, I wanted to always go parasailing but I had a fear of the heights and being over the water so the fact that I did it and even had the opportunity to do it with my daughter made achieving this goal even more special to me.
  12. I set a goal to obtain an additional certification in 2015 but I had no idea when I set that goal that this would go from my part time job to my full time job. In April, I got re-certified to instruct spin classes.
  13. On December 19, 2015 I set out to do a fun run all dressed in a Santa t-shirt complete with a Santa hat and crazy socks. Because I don’t really run many 5K races anymore, this was my one chance to achieve my goal of a sub 26 minute 5K. This fun run would not only be one that I achieve my goal, but I would cross the finish line with a time of 22:30 and would place 3rd overall in the Female Masters division and 2nd in my age division.
  14. In January I was asked to do a “2015 miles in 2015” challenge, which basically meant that you would run/jog/hike/walk 2015 miles between everyone on your team. My team consisted of 2 of us so I would have to commit to doing 1008 miles as an individual to hold up my end of the challenge. After logging all miles for 2015 my final mile count was 1,603.
  15. My final goal would be to take 5 CKO classes in one day. Little did I know when I set this goal that I would be in fitness full time, I thought a day off to do an endurance event like this would be cool. Well I never actually made it to take all 5 classes at CKO, however, there are MANY days that I physically workout well over 5 hours. One occasion I can recall doing a cardio kickboxing class (no bags but not the dance type), then doing a pound class followed by a 1:00 CKO class and then later taking a 5:00 CKO class, instructing the 6:15 (which I still work out quite a lot in), and finishing it off with taking the 7:45 CKO hybrid class that same evening. Well, I survived and while 2 of these classes were not CKO and one I instructed being active in 6 classes at this intensity in one day was quite enough for me to say this one got checked off the list.

In regards to my financial goals and personal goals, I did reach many of these as well and will still continue to focus on them in 2016. Just to name a few, I paid off 2 more credit cards even though in January 2015 I gave up working full time in the Accounting field after 20+ years  and still became even closer to becoming debt free. Although this was a year of big changes for me in many ways, I still managed to do some really rewarding projects in the community, such as collecting food donations and clothes to charity. I increased my family by rescuing an 18 month old Pitbull named Lexi. As I look at what I have set out to do in 2016, I have set some even bigger goals for myself and am very excited, and even somewhat terrified for the challenges that lie ahead. But as I always say…”if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you!”

For a full description of many of these races above, please check out my blog posts about them in the “my adventures” section. Some are separate posts, such as “A Race of Firsts” and others are compiled events, such as “Tough Mudder x3”. Thank you for supporting me and reading about my crazy adventures on my blog.  I look forward to sharing more with you in 2016!

Tough Mudder x3

TM1My very first race I ever signed up for (not completed) was Tough Mudder Tri-State 2012. I can remember signing my first death waver like it was yesterday and after hitting “submit” to purchase the ticket, I felt sheer panic come over me! By the time November came for me to do this race, I had already completed a Warrior Dash, Spartan Super, and Spartan Beast so I didn’t feel very nervous the day of this race, but I hurt my knee pretty bad at the Beast so just how much pain I could stand would be the true question. Also, I am not one for cold, having Reynauds makes it often challenging to keep grip or just to keep from shaking uncontrollably from the cold and wet conditions that are sure to be at an obstacle course race/mud run in the fall. After completing the 2012 Tough Mudder race, I was in so much pain I could hardly bend my knee, but I finished.

The next year I decided to do this race again after healing and training harder for the 2013 season. The race was once again at Raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ but it was laid out a little differently than the previous year. Even with some of the same obstacles that are staples to Tough Mudder, like the Funky Monkey, Arctic Enema, & Electroshock Therapy it still felt like a different course than in the previous year. I definitely felt stronger at this race and had no knee issues this year but the Arctic Enema literally took my breath away and it was not easy to snap back after it, but thankfully I did. Toward the end of this race I split my pants on the quarter pipe and there I learned never again to go commando at a race! While trying to not flash all of the runners behind me, I ran through electroshock therapy holding my shirt down in the back and trying to maneuver mud mounds while being electrocuted. Not fun at the time but looking back now it really was hysterical!

In 2014 I was asked by some friends to do this race again, but it was at Englishtown again and by this point I had done so many races at that site I just didn’t feel like spending the high fee Tough Mudder charges to do it. Even with a Living Social/Groupon deal they were offering at the time, I would have had to miss work unpaid so I decided to skip that year and focus my energy on other racing circuits stating that if it were at a different venue in the future, I might consider. When the 2015 location was announced, I realized that this may not be a typical Tough Mudder since there probably wouldn’t be too much mud and no fire because it is a state park, but I figured it was worth doing so the team was formed and I was going for Tough Mudder #3!
TM statue of libertyThe day had come and the temperature was not a typical November day, it was in the 60’s with overcast but there was no need for cold gear. The team all met up at a central location and headed down to Liberty State Park on this beautiful day. When we pulled into the venue, the views of the Freedom Tower and the Statue of Liberty in the back drop of the event were amazing. We spent time taking pictures and the checked in with registration. New for me (started last year) was the Mudder Legion, so those of us that were already Mudders were given a special wrist band so we could do the special Mudder Legion only obstacle at the end of the race and then earn a different color headband to show our accomplishment.

It was time to head to the starting line but first you had to wait to go into the “warm-up” corral. Then after the warm up, we headed to the start line where we were told about the course, obstacles, and pumped up. The guy that was speaking was very motivating and asked us to take a knee. A few things that he said really stood out to me. He said to do something new every week. To always live to pay respect to all of those that have lost their lives fighting for us, to never stop living because all of our days are numbered. I have heard those sayings before, but they really hit home with me that day and as we rose up and the Star Spangled Banner began to play as we turned and faced the flag, I felt a warm and emotional wave come over me and knew today would be a great and special day I would always remember.

TM2015-1As expected, the course was flat and there was not a lot of mud overall and no fire. Most of the beginning of the race was running and a few obstacles like hay bales and walls to break it up.  There were really only 2 obstacles that I can recall that even had mud. The first was a boa constrictor type obstacle that you ended up face first in water but it wasn’t deep and a barbed wire crawl.  This at least made obstacles like the Funky Monkey a little more manageable because you weren’t dripping mud and not only did your hands have some grip but the bars weren’t as muddy and slippery either.  I almost made it to the end of the Funky Monkey for the first time ever, but right at the very end I hit my hand on a pole and down into the water I went!

Not too much longer after that is my least favorite obstacle ever, Arctic Enema! This year it was a slide and then a hop over a wall vs. going underneath it. At first, since I had begun to shake uncontrollably and lost the feeling in my hands, I seriously considered skipping this obstacle for the first time ever. All but one of my team mates did it and as we started to walk away, I just knew I couldn’t skip it so I told them I was going to go back and do it. My team was so awesome that they said they would go back and do it again to support me, which really meant a lot to me that they would endure something like that again.

A few more obstacles we had along the course that were fun were the quarter pipe where I got up first and then along with the kind help of strangers, helped my team mates get up it as well. A fall on to air mats from high up, an inverted wall with ropes that were muddy that you had to use to get across it and while trying to get momentum I swung over the start of the wall. There was an inflatable whale and this was hilarious and I laughed so hard as we all tried to get over it. There was a fireman’s carry where we had to carry a team mate over your shoulder and a pipe carry that you had to team up and carry the pipe over/under/through walls together.
TM3I was a little disappointed at the finish there was no photographer, so we got our bags and our own cameras to take some post-race pictures. The festival area was nice and the changing accommodations were the best I can recall for a Tough Mudder, typically I ended up changing in a gross porta-potty. After changing we headed to get our free Shock Top and then tried the Chipotle wheel to win free burritos, but all of us failed at it because it was definitely much harder than it looked.

While there were some things that were definitely missing from a traditional Tough Mudder, I look at this race series as one that is built on teamwork and comradery and that is exactly what I experienced.  I laughed a lot that day and overall had a great day with some awesome people with some spectacular views! This race was so much more than just a race it was a totally awesome experience!

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