Monthly Archives: May 2015

How My OCR Gear Worked

In preparation for the Indianapolis Sprint, I upgraded my gear from “the T-shirt and shorts I wear every day” to “stuff that might not suck.”

While I’m not qualified to review gear, I can share my experiences with how it all worked, now that I’ve washed them all (several times, including once in Lake Michigan, which brought the presence of police, but no action on their part). So how did it all work? Well…

Shoes
Salomon Speedcross 3, post-cleaningMy shoes were the Salomon Speedcross 3. The good news is, the grip was excellent. I slipped a bit on the extreme mud, but given that the hills were basically liquid, that is forgivable. I seemed to be far more surely footed than other people who were running. I don’t think I fell more than once or twice, and those were both at the end when I was pretty thoroughly exhausted and dehydrated and underfed and not in a good state. Also, as promised, they drained well—the water flowed out of them pretty easily.

The bad news: The shoelaces. These shoes don’t have normal bunny ears round the tree laces you tie—they’ve got this little plastic doohickey that lets you pull the laces tight, and then the whole thing goes into a little plastic pocket in the shoe. Unfortunately, while I was out on the course I got some rocks in my shoes, and it got bad enough that I pulled to the side to remove them.

When I did that, I found that the little plastic doohickey had completely clogged up. I wound up kind of wriggling my foot out of the shoe to try to loosen the laces with the shoe off my foot. It eventually worked, but it was not easy. It took several washes before the laces became free-flowing (sort of) again.

Also that little flap that should be connected to the tongue ripped off during the race. That didn’t have any impact on performance, but it’s a bit worrying.

Socks, post race, with new socks for comparison

It’s hard to see in the photo, but the used socks (right) are significantly dingier than the new ones on the left.

Socks
I can’t say that I really noticed any impact from the REI store-brand moisture-wicking socks. Washing them, however, was notably unsuccessful. I mean, look at that dinge! Which is after a pair of washings by hand in water, and a machine wash.

Compression top
This was pretty successful, I think. It didn’t seem particularly heavy while I was running. There’s really not much to say about it.

Compression shorts
I chose the 3/4 length, which may not have been the right idea. They were pretty successful for most of the race, but by the end, they were starting to sag, whether from the mud or all the sliding. Happily, though, the sliding didn’t wear a hole in the ass, which I was definitely concerned about.

Also of note, these shorts did clean up good. When I took them off, the insides were absolutely filthy. (From mud, not poo.) It took a while, but after three washings, the inner liner is just about as white as it was originally.

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#WhyIRace

So, the #WhyIRace hashtag is a thing, promoted by Spartan race to build user engagement or some such marketing purpose. My reasons are myriad, including fitness, fun, and to have an excuse to periodically not stare at my computer. And, of course, these:

$75 beers are the best beers

Especially when the beer is mud-infused.

I didn't like those shoes

Chow down, muddy earth god! Creative Commons image by Brad Armentor, https://www.flickr.com/photos/barmentor/9052892575/

My mom still does my laundry... and I hate her.

This isn’t true. My mom doesn’t do my laundry. My dad does. Creative Commons image by Rahzel, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obstacle_racing#/media/File:Obstacle_race_1.jpg

I will NEVER stop seething.

You know it’s serious—I put “Gate” on the end of a thing.

Waterborne parasites keep me thin.

The museum I volunteer at once had an exhibit on parasites. Horribly, but appropriately, it included a series of videos to guide people through the exhibit… hosted by Carrot Top. Creative Commons image by Debivort, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mud_pit_and_sulphur_vents,_Hverir.jpg

Think these are bad? There were a couple that didn’t make the cut. One was about “helping” people over obstacles that got way too creepy (it was a bit too stranger’s ass-centric), and one was about nipples and capes that got awfully body-shamy. But if you’ve got better funny reasons #WhyYouRace, share them in the comments.

Or on Facebook… you can get to Fat Boy Big Wall on Facebook too. So do that.

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X Most Blank Lists: A Cautionary Tale for the OCR World

As you may be aware, Ekaterina Solovieva has created a list of the most inspirational women in obstacle racing.

Before the cautionary tale bit, which is funny and kind of shocking and actually true (rather than many of the things that I post), let me give you a few quick thoughts about the list.

  • First off, it’s a reaction to another list, Mud and Adventure’s 50 most influential people in obstacle course racing. And more specifically, it’s a reaction to the fact that there were only 6 women on that list. To which I say, very good. Not the small number of women on the first list, I mean. I mean good that Solo’s reaction was to rectify what she saw as the shortcomings of the list, rather than to go nutso about how offensive it is that the original list wasn’t more balanced and how the author of the original list obviously hates women and how now women’s suffrage is threatened and all sorts of other fake outrage that the internet does so well and that does so much bad for humanity. Doing is a far greater act than complaining about what other people have done, so good on her.
  • This type of list is completely meaningless. It’s based on the quantification of an inherently nonquantifyable thing (there is no “inspirationalness score”) and based on a single person’s opinion. So really, you should ignore it.
  • Unless you like reading that kind of thing, in which case you shouldn’t ignore it and instead should read and enjoy it. If it don’t actually hurt me or anyone else, then it ain’t a bad thing.
  • And I guess if you’re featured in this list, it does seem a genuine compliment. I guess compliments have meaning. And even if they didn’t, there’s not enough nice in this world.
  • Of course, this kind of list is a tried-and-true way for publications to make content when they don’t have any. Lists like this are hugely popular and attention-getting, and they don’t require having much to say to make them. They usually generate more good will than ill, with no reaction harsher than “I can’t believe you left off Z!” (but see below), so they’re pretty safe bets from a publisher’s standpoint.
  • Whether you enjoy this kind of list or not, if you read it, you encourage more of the same. Online, publishers can react to what readers do, rather than what they say they do. So keep that in mind.
  • I’m totally going to make up my own lists very soon.

Now, the cautionary tale. In a previous job, the magazine I was working for published an end-of-year “Leaders we Lost” feature—an obituary spectacular a review of I think 10 industry leaders who had died that year. The fact that we got complaints about it was nothing—our readers complained about everything. But one of the complaints stands out for its absurdity (and yes, that is saying something): the complainant was angry that her father had not been included in this feature, despite the fact that a) he had not provided any type of national leadership to the industry, and, b and much worse) he was not dead.

I really hope OCR people are better than that.

(“Obituary spectacular” is a phrase that’s not used a lot. Neither is “spectacular obituary,” like the one I had to write for the lady who got killed by a pack of wild dogs. Also a true story.)

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Spartan Citi Field Photos

I’ve finally found my pictures from Citi Field, and they are… well… take a look.

Me on cargo net at 2015 Spartan Citi Field

Here I am, looking like an aerobics instructor from the 1980s. A sarcastic aerobics instructor from the 1980s. Good neck veins, though. Not sure why they’re popping on the cargo net, but I’ll take what I can get.

Sandbag carry at 2015 Spartan Citi Field

Armpits are an underutilized framing device in modern photography, don’t you think?

Sandbag carry at 2015 Spartan Sprint

Who, me? A serial killer? Why, that’s the funniest thing I’ve ever heard! I would need a specialized cloak with room for a collection of fifteen to eighteen stabbing knives! (Unrelated: the neck game is a lot more problematic here than on the cargo net.)

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Chris Peak is Fart-Riddled and His Friends Can Only Tolerate Him for Short Periods

My garters are in a bunch because I have never been so ENRAGED!

Someone on the internet—on the Huffington Post, even!—said some mean things about obstacle course racing. I’d link to the article, but I’ve tried eight times, and it keeps redirecting to farmersonly.com. That’s how mad I am!

Chris peak, the supposed "author" of a mean thing about OCR on the internet.

See! He’s just a guy with boogers coming out his nose and a huge red ear and weird orange eyebrows and green splotchy things on his neck that he should have looked at and a poo on his shoulder.

This guy, this Chris Peak (who I bet isn’t even a real mountain!), saw a picture of a guy jumping over fire in an obstacle course race and he thinks that our lives are so bad that we choose to light ourselves on fire.

Obstacle course runners don’t set ourselves on fire, Chris Peak. We come close to setting ourselves on fire but jump at the last minute. And some people do flips over the fire because they are our betters. And they are your betters too.

He said that obstacle course races have dumb names, which is also really not true. I am a Spartan and that is my official title and you will respect that! It’s on my Facebook profile, and on the bumper sticker on my Trek bike, and my underwear, and my LinkedIn page, and the tattoo on my butt.

And who is this Don from Accounts Receivable guy he talks about? I don’t know anyone named Don, and if I did, I’d stop knowing him unless he agreed to call himself Beast Mode.

So this is an open letter to you, Chris Peak, because I know that you are reading this. I am better than you because I am able to overcome any obstacle, and if there’s an obstacle that I come across that I can’t overcome I can do burpees as a penalty. Just like in real life. So I challenge you to an obstacle course race-off. We’ll run head to head, and if I win, I get to slap you silly, and if you win, I’ll slap you silly anyhow.

And by the way, I love tea. And vacuuming. I sometimes vacuum the tea just to speed up the process.

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OCR Report: 2015 Indianapolis (and Citi Field) Spartan Sprint, Part III: The Funny Stuff

This last post wrapping up the Citi Field and Indianapolis Sprints will just share the funny stuff that happened at these races (and the times immediately before and after).

Farts are Never Not Funny
The absolute highlight of the Citi Field sprint for me was the ab wheel-turned-crab walk obstacle. Which had nothing to do with the obstacle itself and everything to do with… well, halfway down, my brother unleashed the biggest fart in the world. Like, I’m shocked the foundations of the stadium didn’t snap in half. My brother literally went airborne and flew maybe five feet. And as for the volunteer who was working that obstacle—well, we owe him several apologies. It couldn’t have been pleasant for him.

Wet Floor

On the way to Indianapolis, I stopped for lunch at Arby’s. Obviously, that was a mistake, but here’s another indicator:

Permanent Wet Floor sign.

This floor is perma-moist.

That’s not a temporary “Wet Floor” sign. That’s permanently affixed to the door. And it was justified—the floor in that ‘restaurant’ was moist and slick in a way that I have never experienced before. I nearly wiped out several times, which would have totally wrecked the curly fry situation.

Music Choices
En route to Indianapolis, the radio offerings were interesting. I did stumble on to a couple of things I really enjoyed, though. One was a show of classic rock—never a failure. The other, a bit weirder, was a sportscast of college softball. But what made it absolutely incredible was the sportscasters: They really, really, really, really, really didn’t want to be there. Their lack of interest or understanding of the game or awareness of the players or teams were glorious. Unfortunately, the classic rock ended after not too long, and the softball game got postponed due to rain in the 2nd inning. And here’s the weird thing: Both times when the show I wanted to listen to ended, they were replaced by jazz.

Benefits for AARP Members
This happened picking up the rental car for my Indianapolis trip. AARP members get exciting benefits when renting cars. For example, at Avis, they can get a special rate on a Garmin GPS. At Budget, on the other hand, AARP members can get a special rate on a Gramin GPS.

Avis AARP benefits

Avis’s Garmin GPS benefit

Budget AARP benefits

Budget’s Gramin GPS benefits

Ikea Meatballs: The Best Food Ever

After the Citi Field Sprint, my brother and I went to Ikea for lunch. The Swedish Meatballs there were the best things ever. Seriously, they were scary good. Like they have crack in them. Even vegans would love them. Even though the layout of the Ikea was such that it took us about 20 minutes of wandering around the store before we finally hit the meatball stand.

Have You Accepted Jesus as Your Personal Savior?

These were in the lobby of my Indy hotel. That bodes well, right?

Religious Pamphlets in Hotel Lobby.

Yay Jesus!

Racism, 1990s Style

And lastly: Do you still care about Ebonics? Because the fellow who shared my seat on the shuttle bus from the race to the parking lot sure did. The driver of the bus was black, and she was talking to another person who was black, and the guy next to me was horrified. “Do you understand Ebonics?” he demanded. Apparently the driver’s attempt to figure out which of the two lots she was supposed to be driving to was extremely confusing and angering to him. Because, you know, Ebonics.

(Yo! Like Fat Boy Big Wall on Facebook!)

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OCR Report: 2015 Indianapolis Spartan Sprint, Part 2: Personal stuff

See Part I here.

Given the incredible hardness of the Indy Sprint, one might suspect that my personal performance was less than good, but that’s about a quarter-truth.

It’s kind of tough to truly gauge the course. Going to Indianapolis was my third trip of the week, including another race, and several nights with interrupted sleep, so I was coming in pretty tired already. The night before Indy I slept terribly (the hotel bed was legendarily uncomfortable), and I woke up with a fairly upset stomach. As a result, I also didn’t eat much for breakfast—it would have been fine in a normal race, but after 4 hours I was feeling really unwell.

Hercules Hoist at 2015 Indianapolis Spartan Sprint

Hercules Hoist? Schmercules Hoist! (Not really.)

The first half or so of the race gave me a lot to feel good about. As I mentioned in part 1, the inverted wall was kind of a great obstacle. Hard, but I was able to get over it unaided on my second try, which is a great feeling. The Hercules hoist weirdly felt a bit easier than at other venues—at least, it was the first time I completed it standing up rather than sitting down. The height-based obstacles—the A-Frame cargo net and the vertical cargo net climb—were no problem for me, and they have induced a bit of panic in the past. (Vision may be the reason. I wear glasses, but glasses don’t work terribly well with mud pits, so I didn’t wear them on the course, which may have minimized the impact of being way high up.) The A-Frame cargo climb went over the course’s initial running section, which may not be a radical course design technique, but it’s a neat one. (It also let me get a nice laugh by shouting “Sorry ’bout the kilt’ as a wave was running underneath.”)

Other obstacles—particularly the ones late in the course—were more disastrous. I couldn’t even get on the Z-wall, although I don’t think I saw anyone who could unaided. I was looking forward to the Spartan Rig, but I was hopeless on it; I’m pretty sure that was the result of exhaustion. The atlas stones were huge, and I only managed it by sharing it with a neighbor. I’m intrigued about whether I could do them under better conditions—hauling heavy shit is as close to a wheelhouse as I’ve got, so it would be pretty demoralizing if I can’t manage them at all. The other heavy hauls—the sandbag carry and the bucket brigade—were both miserable: both really long loops and both extremely slick. I missed the spear throw badly, not because I went off-target but because I was well short.

scratch on hand

Only one battle scar, a little scratch on my hand. I’m claiming it was from the Shuriken Scramble.

And then the real problems started. By the end—3 and a half hours of climb-trudging in—I was done with the obstacles altogether. I think I skipped three, the Spartan Steps (I think that’s the name—consisting of an 8-or-so-foot wall up to a set of wooden rungs extending maybe 12 feet beyond, all of which had to be climbed), the really really long barbed wire crawl with dirt mounds throughout, and the rope swing. I should feel bad about that, but I absolutely don’t. Falling from the steps was almost an inevitability in my condition, as was puking through the barbed wire crawl and missing the mud pit under the rope swing entirely. (That last one, by the way, happened to the guy who was immediately in front of me, which sealed the deal.)

This may become a huge scandal—maybe as big as a shirt or a Huffington Post story—but I’m okay with that.

Race Logistics

I really don’t have any complaints about the production of the race itself. Parking was off-site, which was a bit of a pain, but unavoidable, and I didn’t have to wait for a shuttle bus either going to or from the race. (Plus I met a spectacularly racist spectator on the way back, which I’ll describe in Part 3.) The festival area seemed a bit more festive than other races I’ve been at, maybe since the field allows things to be more centralized than a stadium does. There seemed to be a few more activities than usual, including a rope climb, slosh pipe, and tire flip station. There was a lengthy line at the shower station after the race, which was annoying, but again I’m not sure if it was avoidable given how much mud there was and how extended the race times got.

Wall with fatboybigwall.com ad.

The festival area included a wall where you could write why you race, which weirdly coincides with part of Spartan’s marketing campaign. I contributed illicit marketing of my own.

As I mentioned in Part 1, I’m not thrilled about the race venue itself, or at least not the combination of muddy hill running and torrential downpours the night before making running impossible. But happily, the operation of the race seemed to be pretty good. Stay tuned for Part 3, which will have miscellaneous mirth from both Indy and Citi Field.

(Also, have you liked Fat Boy Big Wall on Facebook yet? You should do that!)

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