Category Archives: Obstacle Course Racing

OCR Report: Royal Mudman: Race (semi-)Local

Yesterday was my second OCR of the year, and it kind of snuck up on me. I did the Royal Mudman 5K in Charlottesville, Indiana, about an hour and a half from where I now live.

You almost undoubtedly haven’t heard of it. It’s not part of a race series; it’s put on as a fundraiser for the Eastern Hancock Education Foundation, which provides grants to teachers in Hancock County. I don’t have any personal connection to said county, but I’m fundamentally glad that that happens.

Home of the Royals sign.

OK, one connection. The OCR took place at a high school, whose mascot is the Royals, which was also my high school’s mascot, even though I never felt like Queen Elizabeth II was particularly fierce or good at football.

I honestly haven’t been hunting for races, what with the move and such. (That excuse, still!) But I found out about the race because of the move. When I was driving to Ohio before moving to arrange housing, I saw a billboard for the race. It remains the only thing (with the possible exception of Wall Drug) that I’ve ever chosen to take part in because I saw a billboard for it.

About the race itself: I really enjoyed it. As you might expect, the scale of the race was fairly small. That means that there were only a handful of waves—start times spread over only maybe an hour and a half or two hours. Getting in and out was easy, with parking on-site at the high school and no lines at check-in or the bag check. Plus, no lines at obstacles.

Obviously, a local race isn’t going to compete on “epic” obstacles. (A concept that OCR people give way too much play to—but that’s another subject.) There were three up-and-over vertical climbs: One cargo net, one bank of tires (stacked vertically on top of each other so it looks like a bunch of big 8s), and one wooden ladder thing. Also notable was a rope swing over a mud pit and a water-and-soap slip-and-slide (curiously placed as the first obstacle, in case you aren’t fresh and clean before running). The course also made excellent use of a local creek, with one fairly long trip wading through it for some distance and several other times crossing it. (As we’ve had a lot of rain lately, the creek was often about waist-high—probably higher than anticipated.)

The other obstacles had a lot of what you could call clambering. Things like crawling over a series of large logs, through the crotch of a large tree, under a set of giant tires embedded in the ground, or through a mud pit under some wire. Also, due to the rain, the running path was muddy and uneven—though certainly not to the extent of a typical Spartan with miles of single-track muck that is impossible to run through.

Fire jump being constructed.

And a fire jump, because it’s an OCR.

None of the obstacles were extraordinarily difficult. And yet (to get back to the whole “epicness” flaw) I was still pretty exhausted after it. That’s because I was able to run the whole thing, and at a decent clip, even. The race wasn’t officially timed outside of the competitive heats, but there was a clock with a running event time at the start/finish line. If I remembered the start time correctly, and I did the math right, I did the course in about 44 minutes. Physically I was quite pleased with how I ran it.

To sum up: It was a really lovely day—or half-day, really, since I was home by about 1 p.m. It’s not going to compete on having obstacles on a grand scale or that require extraordinary strength. But it’s a great option if you’re in the region and looking for a casual OCR experience or an OCR where you can push the running pace.

Plus, the race had what I’m calling an official cow.

cow

The official cow of the Royal Mudman OCR?

 

Race shirt and medal

One more photo, for the swag hags.

 

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OCR Report: 2017 Citi Field Sprint

Last weekend was my annual pilgrimage to New York for a family visit and Spartan Citi Field Sprint run.

The race really isn’t wildly different from year-to-year, so I’ll save my words for things that are actually notable.

First off, the weather. I’ve historically not had great luck with Spartan weather; almost every race has either had rain during the event or enough beforehand to make the mud dramatic. There was no mud for this one, obviously, but there was moderately heavy rain throughout. It was bad enough that the spear literally slipped out of my hand in the spear throw. I mean, the throw looked pathetic—it went maybe halfway to the target.

The race had far less Sisyphian climbing of the stands than last year, which was very nice. I think the race was shorter and easier overall, which was nice, as my brother was dealing with some shoulder issues.

We were hoping that my nephew would be able to do the kid’s race this year. Unfortunately, that didn’t pan out—officially, due to the weather, but as a practical matter due to logistics. (The family had been having varying levels of illness in the week leading up to the race, and getting the kid out to the race while simultaneously caring for the other kid who’s still too young for the race and having care for him in place before and after his race while his dad and me were running turned out to not be feasible. He wound up going to his ninja class instead, which was some consolation.)

The Z-wall made an appearance, which was the first time I’ve seen it at a stadium race. I made a significant goof in that obstacle by not checking it out beforehand. As a result, I didn’t realize that the foothold around the blind corner, was also really, really far. So when I was on the obstacle, I really had no idea where that foothold was.

In better news: I did the rope climb for the first time in a race. Given the rain, that was a big surprise; I think the rope was thicker this year, since I was able to get some grip on my feet.

I’m feeling extremely sore today in weird ways. That’s less due to the race and more due to the fact that yesterday I drove about 800 miles from Long Island to Ohio. Yep, I’m a car owner again, for the first time in 14 years, because I bought my sister-in-law’s old car. I am not in driving shape, apparently, because my gas pedal shin is throbbin’.

 

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Fat Boy Big Wall, Juvenile Offender

One not-terribly-interesting change that I’ve experienced since moving to Ohio involves recycling.

In Chicago, recycling bins were always pretty readily accessible, even though the buildings where I lived didn’t always provide them. Here, they are less so.

However, there is a recycling center that’s not too inconvenient: It’s basically down the street from the good grocery store (there’s another one that’s very close to where I live, but it’s a bit sketchy, and it makes pretty clear that produce is not its jam) so I’m in the area at least once a week.

I went there for the first time last weekend, and it went… well…

It’s the weather’s fault, really. I decided to walk there, rather than bike, because it had been raining all morning and wet roads will get you nicely moist, even if it’s not raining.

There is an attendant at the recycling center, and going there on foot really, really, really messed with his head.

He was obviously suspicious when I came in. That really kicked up when I was finished dropping off my stuff, which is slightly my fault. I had another errand to run, which was across the street from the grocery store. So instead of walking out the typical entrance and exit, I tried to go through the back of the recycling center. I didn’t, as there was both a rather rusty fence blocking the path (which could have been jumped) and a more-significant-than-I-realized highway with no good crossing, except the main one that I already knew about (which led me to turn back.)

This unauthorized exploration was simply too much for the attendant, and he had to confront me.

I explained my slight awkwardness, that I was new in the area and had never been there and wanted to see if it was possible to cut across to the bank (which was my other errand, even though I neglected to mention it earlier. My apologies).

“You can’t go through that way,” he informed me quite needlessly.

“I see that now,” I said.

“You just get out of jail?” he demanded.

Wait, what?

One more bit of local geography you’ll need to fully understand the story: Across the street from the recycling center in the other direction from the bank is the local juvenile detention center.

So, the attendant was very confident that I just gotten out of there. No, not “gotten out of there.” The tone of voice which which he asked if I had just gotten out of jail suggested he thought that I had escaped, and that he was about to score himself a bounty.

Because the first thing a 41-year-old does upon escaping from juvie is take some recycling in.

(Also, to keep it OCR related: I happened to be wearing a Spartan finisher t-shirt from last year’s Citi Field sprint at the time. Perhaps those are as readily available at juvenile hall as they are at Citi Field, which raises some questions about Mets fans that I’m sure Phillies fans would be happy to exploit, if they knew how to read.)

I assured him that I was not actually a criminal, but he wasn’t going to give up on his opportunity for Justice™ that easily. “Then why are you on foot?”

“Because I walked here” was my fairly obvious response. Looking back, I think his inquiry was more high-minded and philosophical—as in, “Why didn’t you drive?” As in, “driving is the only possible way to move between two points.”

Which suggests pretty strongly that, despite working at a recycling center, he hadn’t quite considered the implications of his work in the broader environmentalist context.

He demanded to know where I had walked from. I told him, and he informed me that it wasn’t possible to do so. I reminded him about the off-road trail that brought me nearly halfway, and the ample sidewalks on the other half of the trip.

The attendant did not believe me. But he also wasn’t accustomed to having someone respond to him as if they were saying logical things. It threw him, and he couldn’t come up with any more lines of inquisition, and I was free to go. I mean, that’s what he was thinking, even though we both knew that he had no authority to hold me there, and I was only staying around because it amused me. He didn’t say anything to me, but just sort of shook his head and backed away murmuring about how confusing the whole situation was.

I hope he’s happy… he single-handedly put another junior felon back on the streets

 

 

 

 

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The Lowest-Earning OCR Athletes

So, yesterday ORM published an article about the top-earning athletes in OCR. Cool and all, if you’re into that. But what if you’re more into the everyday racers—the mid-packers, the ones who stay anonymous, the ones whose struggles won’t be elevated to the status of “inspirational story” easily packaged, shared and liked on Facebook?

You’re in luck! In this post, I can offer you a highly exclusive list of the lowest-earning OCR athletes. Read and be inspired. Or not. I’m not your boss.

Female speaker (Actually Dr. Brene Brown)

5. Jordan Alexandrescu: This hard-working mother of two from Cleveland learned that if you put your mind to it, you can overcome any obstacle, and became a motivational speaker to profit off of this realization. Earnings: $600. Unfortunately, she failed to put her mind to the obstacle of learning directions to her first gig, and the route was not marked to her satisfaction, so she arrived 45 minutes late. She managed to get them to pay half of the original price, but word got around, and she never got another motivational speaking gig again.

4. Urd Bruhn: This professional teenybopper from Tulsa sold a finisher medal and shirt on Ebay. Earnings: $79.99, less shipping.

3. Johnathan Albion: This quinoa farmer from Pensacola was offered a gig as a celebrity impersonator thanks to a couple of typos and a mediocre app that finds anyone’s celebrity twin. See, Mosi Murdock was having a party, and being a huge Matlock fan, he wanted an Andy Griffith impersonator. When the app decided that Jonathon Albon is Andy Griffith’s celebrity twin, Mosi tried to Google his number, made a few typos, and didn’t realize his mistake until too late. Earnings: Mosi still gave Johnathan $50 plus a slice of birthday cake for his time. (Not one with the icing rose, of course.)

2. Adella Bryan: She “won” the OCR set up in the backyard by her mom, beating out nobody, because she has no friends. Earnings: One shiny quarter.

1. Ryder Bass: This home economics teacher from Eugene, Oregon, picked up a discarded aluminum can on the course and returned it to a store for the deposit. Earnings: 5 cents (although it would have been 10 in Michigan.) Also, he was able to post about all the garbage on OCR courses and how terrible it is that nobody cares about litter to twelve different OCR Facebook groups, which earned him a total of 374 likes and 51 comments of agreement, forestalling the time when he had to gaze into the empty blackness of his own soul for a full 31 hours.

(Credits: Most names generated randomly at Behind The Name. Photo is actually Dr. Brené Brown; Photo by Dell Inc., licensed under CC BY 2.0 via https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dr._Brene_Brown_at_Texas_Conference_for_Women_(cropped).jpg)

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Semi-Back

“Mourning” is a melodramatic way to describe the reason for my recent blogging absence, but it’s not entirely incorrect.

There’s good news that I’ve been pursuing for a long time. Periodically, it comes closer, which both builds hope (Yay!) and requires extra investment of time and often money (Boo!). None of these periodical closer-comings have resulted in the good news actually happening, which is a bit soul-eating. My absences was prompted by a pair of closer-comings, one of which required a spectacular time investment and the other of which was the closest of all the closer-comings, and the duo—combined with the net effect of years of close-comings-but-not-arrivings—broke me.

This isn’t, of course, related to obstacle course racing. But, well, the OCR world can be awful when you’re down. I don’t need other people to tell me how epic they are, and I don’t to be told how I need to work just a little bit more in order to be a real person—I need the work that I’ve done to actually pay off.

Inspiration is useless when what you actually need is for someone to get the fucking boot off your throat.

So I got out. And now, I’ve sort of put myself back together, and I’m sort of functioning again, and I’m sort of back.

I have a feeling I’m going to be focusing more on the intersection between generalized fitness and comedy than OCR—not that I’m abandoning the OCR world, but there are a lot of ways in which it’s not healthy for me.

We shall see.

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Photos: DRX-Games

I’m later with these than I’d intended (major freelance gig distraction) but as is my habit I’d like to share photos from the DRX-Games. They had some official photography going on, and one of the nice things about the relatively small event is that there are a lot of photos of everyone.

As has been documented, I prefer to share the bad ones. Plus, I have this condition called ugliness that causes the light that bounces off my body to twist into a grotesque form as it approaches an observer or a camera. So these shouldn’t be considered a reflection on the photographer; I’m just not a fair subject.

Let’s start with what I call the constipated hippo pose:

Me on the DRX-Games Cargo net

Nearly as elegant is the immediate precursor to this shot, where I’m roughly impersonating that “Hang in there” cat, although less convincingly.

DRX Dash cargo net

Seriously, that cat’s dead now.

The tire flip was one of my better events, but I have to take issue with my form. Shouldn’t I be squatting a lot more thoroughly? Although that’s not quite fair, because if I were squatting well I’d be all, “Here’s me in the ‘slightly dim ostrich who doesn’t realize his egg is actually a big rock pose’ so maybe I should be easier on myself.”

Me in the DRX-Games Tire Flip

I like this one because of what’s probably an optical illusion. How did the spear get all the way up there when my hand is all the way down there? Probably the shot is after my follow-through and the spear is from someone behind me, but I prefer to simply call myself a wizard.

Spear Throw at the DRX-Games

This was actually a race. Doesn’t it show? The intensity on my face, the determination in my gait? I mean, I’ve nearly caught up to that inanimate tire!

Tire drag at the DRX-Games

From the same event: How does this face happen? It’s like I’m trying to smile but I’ve never seen a smile, only a description of a smile from someone else who also has never seen one.

DRX-Games Tire Drag

This one’s an ego boost, since I’m quite literally the only person in the world. So the problems in the face are okay because there’s no one with a better face to compare them to.

Farmer Walk at DRX-Games

This one you can smell the grunting. This wasn’t even the heaviest of the Atlas Balls, so I’m pretty sure I’m grandstanding a bit.

Atlas Carry from the DRX-Games

There are a bunch more (as I said, their photography game was on point and there are way more albums than that on their FB page), but the ones where I don’t look mental… well, why bother?

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OCR (sort of) Report: DRX-Games: I Suck at Liveblogging

Well, so much for the attempt to liveblog. And it’s completely my bad; I had enough reception, but I didn’t have the mental fortitude to keep my phone with me during the events, let alone writing during them. Which is pathetic—one of the people I was with did a fantastic job of taking pictures. Oh well.

My gym group at the DRX-Games

She didn’t actually take this one, but it was her phone and she arranged for someone to take it.

A rough outline of the event:

The DRX-Games aren’t exactly an OCR. They’re more Crossfitty, in that it consists of a series of six events that are scored and combined. Although the challenges are fairly OCR-adjacent.

It was a small event, compared to a usual OCR. There were, maybe, 50 or so people competing. I’m pretty sure that’s by design—I think they capped the number of entries at 60 anyhow, probably to keep it manageable to operate with a pretty limited staff. It produced a pretty friendly, close-knit sort of event.

The group was big enough to split into two. My group started at the Hercules Tire Flip. As I expected, this was a pretty standard tire flip; down and back a path, as many times as possible in a minute. The tire wasn’t all that big—maybe semi-truck sized rather than tractor-sized. Definitely lighter than the ones my gym has, which were a bit lighter than the ones at last week’s Spartan Race. It wasn’t light, but for me the challenge was more in controlling the tire than in actually flipping the thing. Up to five people went at a time, but I was lucky that my heat only had three, because I’m pretty sure I went off-center at some point.

My next event was the Amazonian Tire Pull and Drag. I think these used the same type of tire as the flip, but friction can be a harsh mistress. The event involved sitting down and pulling a tire attached to a rope uphill over a lengthy course—maybe 50 feet, though I’m not good at estimating distances like that. Then, we got up, dragged the tire back to its starting point with the rope outstretched, ran back, and did the whole course again. This was probably my best event; as one onlooker observed, it was pretty similar to rowing, which is probably the (athletic) thing I’m best at.

Event 3 was a quickie: the Ares Spear Throw. Three shots, three points per stick, with a bonus point if we get all three. We had a bit of chance to practice before the event started, and I missed every single one, shattering the fragile confidence I had built at the Spartan last week. In the event, however, I hit one out of three.

Number 4 was the Dirty Bucket List. This was a race, but kind of a two-parter: we started with a farmer’s walk, hauling two buckets (with handles) around a loop. Then we dropped one of the buckets at the starting line, and did a second loop carrying it bucket-brigade style.

Event 5 was the Atlas Titan Stone Relay Carry. We had to do three laps down and back around a flag, carrying a different heavy stone each time. Men-folk had stones that were about 40, 70, and 120 pounds; ladies had a 40 and two 70s. The 120 was really heavy; rolling was permitted, but the event was scored such that the fastest rollers were put below the slowest carriers. I managed to carry it, although it took a couple tries to get it situated.

Me hauling a 120-pound Atlas Stone.

Yep, I brought the Fez of Inspiration.

The final event was the DRX Dash—which was an actual OCR. It was a sprint, though, only about 300 yards, with 20 or so obstacles. The obstacles included a bunch of things that we’d already done, including tire flips, spear throws, atlas stone carries, and a bucket carry, but also crawling through tunnels, a log carry through a pond, barbed wire crawls, a pair of inverted walls and a pair of diagonal ladder-kind-of-thing climbs, a really effing huge slip wall, and a cool (though not spectacularly difficult) climb up a bunch of logs sticking perpendicularly out of a hill.

Overall Thoughts about the Event

First off, I was there with a few other people from my gym—Chantelle, Hayden, and Jay. That’s the first true group experience I’ve had at an event like this, and I really enjoyed it—it’s awfully nice to have people photographing, and sharing bananas and giving tips and cheering and sharing sunscreen and so on and so forth. Big thanks to them for organizing and for being there.

Second, the overall vibe was really nice—chill and relaxed and friendly, but also just a group of people coming together to do something cool, more than a heavily sponsored, very for-profit, “hey-Olympics-look-this-way!” Not that there is anything wrong with that (really, I swear!) but I have a lot of respect for little guys who do things too.

Third, the event was held at the Dirt Runner facility, which also contains a 4-mile OCR course and a Ninja Warrior-style speed/balance/power hybrid course. I think we had the opportunity to try the other stuff, although I was pretty cashed out afterword and didn’t. (Although before I tried the Ninja pegboard and its Z-wall, which wasn’t really a Z because it had four legs rather than three.)

Fourth, the small-scale nature of the event did have a bit of a downside in the form of some logistical glitches. I think the group was quite a bit larger than at the first one, so crowd control wasn’t always dead-on. There were also some logistical issues within the events themselves. For example, in the tire flip they used people competing but not in that specific heat to count, and in the first heat one person got counted twice while another person didn’t have anyone counting. In my heat of the tire drag, I’m told the timing got messed up so I’m not sure if I got an official time or what. In the Atlas Stone Carry a couple of people complained when they were assessed penalties because they dropped the stones in an out-of-control way and they kept rolling. (In a way, a valid complaint, since it hadn’t been explicitly explained. In another way, you shouldn’t need to be explicitly told that rolling a 120-pound, or even 40-pound ball, through a crowd of people is a Bad Thing To Do.) The bucket carry probably would have been more fair as a series of straight lanes rather than a loop, since people on the outside of the loop had to carry their buckets farther than people on the inside.

I’m not terribly bothered by these issues. Obviously you want to avoid them, but most of us viewed it as a fun event—the grown-up equivalent of a field day—rather than a hard-core competition, which I think is the right approach.

Fifth, I’m not a swag hag, and I wouldn’t do any event for the medals, but this is cool.

DRX-Games MedalI heard that it’s hand-made, and I believe it (you can see a few scratches and cracks that a computer probably wouldn’t have left), which is awesome. Also, heavy. If you had to, you could use this as a mace.

Personal performance

My stated goal was to finish not-last in something, and I’m pretty confident I did that. I don’t know details (they’ll post results on their website, but they’re not up yet) but I know I was second out of five in my heat of the tire drag, second out of four in my bucket carry heat, and second out of three in my Atlas stone heat. I’m really happy with how I did in the first five events.

And then the sixth was absolute crap.

My climbing is getting worse, and now there’s a mental component to the problem. Fear of falling, combined with the very real slickness from muddy hands and arms and equipment, and my own physical shortcomings have created a serious block, and I’m not sure how to deal with it. I’d like to figure out a place that’s feasible to get to where I can actually work on it—for me, familiarity breeds success—but I’m not sure where in Chicago that’s possible.

If you’ve got any ideas, let me know.

 

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