Awkward and Heavy Shit – Part 3 (at last!)

Alright…so, I am a little behind in my postings regarding my training and races.  Writing a blog takes some discipline but, to be fair, I haven’t exactly been sitting around on my ass! Humping sandbags and tires up and down mountains takes time and effort.  But no excuses!  So, for the sake of catching up I’m going to recap the last month or so in one epic exercise of keyboard tapping.  I’ll spare some of the detail and hope the pictures I include will speak volumes for the words I leave out.   Ok…ready…set…go!

Super Spartan

Super Spartan- Lake Vail, CA

The last weekend in January I traveled down to Temecula for the first of my many planned Spartan races this year.  The Death Race is the premier race and, undoubtedly, the most brutal (what can you say about a race in which only about 20 to 30 racers out of about 250 even FINISH this epically sadistic endurance pain fest?!) The Super Spartan is one of three Spartan Races in its obstacle course series:  Spartan Sprint (the shortest race at 3+ miles and 10 or more obstacles – finishers receive a cool looking medal with a red ribbon); Super Spartan (8+ miles of running, hills, mud and 15 or more obstacles – finishers receive the medal with a blue ribbon);  Spartan Beast (10-12 miles and a whole mess of obstacles await you on this one – finishers receive a green-ribbon medal).  The Beast so far only has 4 races scheduled this year – one in a different region of the country.  I am planning on attacking The Beast in Utah or Texas and achieve a trifecta of medals after taking on the Malibu Spartan Sprint in November (or maybe another Sprint somewhere else).   These are tough, fun races!

Alright…so I headed out to Temecula the night before the race.  In addition to the regular race I had also signed up for the Hurricane Heat.  This is a special event held early in the morning before the official festivities begin at about 8am.  The Hurricane Heat grew out of need, desire and circumstances after a hurricane forced the cancellation of a Spartan race last year and racers asked to run the course on a different day without volunteer support.  Some last minute planning and email blasts drew about 150 Spartans early on a Saturday morning to tackle the course with founder Joe Desena and Spartan staffers.  Many fun surprises awaited the brave Spartans and their teamwork and camaraderie have set the standard for future Hurricane Heats.

I pulled into the Lake Vail parking lot at about 5:30am with minutes to spare.  I grabbed my gear and ran up the road to meet the rest of my 100 or so fellow Spartans who were already grouped into teams.  I latched onto the first team I came across and we were off! Joe Desena and Joe Decker (two-time Death race winner…remember him?) were our fearless leaders putting us through a mini boot camp in teamwork for the next 3 hours.  Let’s just say that a metal crowd barrier became our team weight and was never allowed to touch the ground.For three hours we clambered up the sides of mountains, into deep mud pits, and over rocky terrain…carrying that damn barrier. Decker and Desena kept us moving and motivated.  It was cold but not so cold that a swim in Lake Vail was out of the question.  I volunteered to take the 200 yard swim fully clothed!  It was awesome!!!  The cold water did not bother me!  Yes, my hands were stinging with pain from the cold as they defrosted but that was a minor inconvenience compared to the thrill of jumping into the water and having every inch of my body completely activated.

Our Hurricane Heat finished near the start line and we were told to finish by running the entire course ahead of the elite wave starting a short while later.  By this time the sun was out and the any cold quickly vanished.  As we climbed higher and higher on the course we were able to get an amazing panorama of the lake and its surroundings.  Magnificent does not do justice to the beauty of the shimmering lake nestled among the rolling hills.  It is these moments that remind me why I love these races.  I stopped on more than one occasion over the next several hours to absorb the scenery.

The obstacles were good but the real centerpiece of this race was the course itself.  It was one brutally steep hill after another.  Just when I thought there couldn’t possibly be another hill…another one would pop up!  We were running on single track and off-trail for much of the race with very few water stations and very little support between them.  Many parts of the latter half of the course were somewhat remote and a broken ankle here would make for a very challenging rescue effort.  Joe Desena likes to bring a little taste of the Death race to the more user-friendly obstacle races.My right hip flexor bothered me the whole length of the race and I was forced to run a very slow race.  My Goruck buddy, Brad, stayed with me and we finished in about 4 hours.  It didn’t matter.  I planned to run a second heat that day but decided to save my strength…for the next day!  Yup, I came back on Sunday with my friends Will and Sara to volunteer on the course for a few hours in exchange for a free race.  I stretched like a madman prior to the race and my hip flexor did not act up.  I was able to run a strong race…but those damn hills still killed me!  I collected my second blue-ribbon medal of the weekend.  Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention…I ran Sunday’s race with a full load of beer in my Goruck GR1 pack!  PBR, baby!  I tried to share but ended up drinking most of them on my own.  I finished the course with beers in hand and had the most awesome photo taken of me by the event photographers.  Can you guess which of the photos below is my favorite picture of all time?

The course was intense, and the obstacles were fun (although I did wish there had been more water obstacles), but volunteering was a unique experience.  Sure, I just handed out H2O at a water station but it was inspiring to see the effort made by so many people at different levels of fitness…the elite athletes pushing through the course with amazing speed and agility, the weekend warriors racing in teams and having a great time, and the folks who were not necessarily in the best shape (and you could even say were in awful shape) but who were out there getting it done and not sitting at home.  These guys are the true Spartans.  I saw one guy, heavy by all standards, who told me he had lost 100lbs and was finally able to do his first obstacle race.  Awesome.  Getting it done.  One step at a time.

The SUCK: Mountain Phase – Part 2

I took the first weekend in February off from major training after a full January.  Don’t get me wrong…I still went running with heavy shit (i.e. bricks) but it was just me and the trail.  No other racers.   No group training.  I also did crossfit WODs and sprint running up hills with no weight.  The uphill wind sprints are an amazing workout and really beneficial.  I read about it somewhere and after incorporating it into my training have noticed a difference especially in my uphill stamina.

So, I was back at it the following weekend with Joe Decker and his Gut Check Fitness crew.  I already posted about this group training in an earlier post.  Check it out.  Your body will hurt just from reading the details of our self-imposed punishment.   I can’t say enough of the training experience Decker provides and the motley assembly of crazies that gather on a Friday night to challenge their bodies and their minds for 13-15 hours.  The men and women include Gut Check Fitness regulars, past and future Death Racers from the LA area (like me), obstacle and adventure racers, ultra runners, fitness trainers (one from Las Vegas who makes the trek from Sin City for each of these overnight adventures) and a few others from lands far and near.  It is an excellent group led by excellent people.

So, read the earlier post because we’re off to the next adventure!

SISU Boot Camp

“Pain is temporary.  Pride is forever.”

Daren DeHeras is a Death Racer from Monrovia who is an all-around beast of an athlete.  Like many I have met in the world of obstacle and endurance racing, he is also a cool dude with a positive attitude and a generous spirit.  To that end he has organized a monthly group training session – SISU Boot Camp – designed for people of various levels and interests (Death Racers, cross-fitters, obstacle runners).  These are not at the same brutal level as Joe Decker’s overnight excursions but they are challenging and provide a different kind of training.  Let me be clear…these are no walks in the park!  They are hard but they are fun…and they are during daylight hours.  Ha!


Ultimate determination, Fortitude and Persistence – Carried to an Unfathomable Level

For this SISU training we met at Santa Fe Damn Recreation Area at about 9am on a Saturday morning and for the next 8 hours about 20 bad asses ran (with rocks – not so much for weight but for discomfort…the Death Race is all about discomfort), biked, ran drills, biked some more, did more drills, biked yet again and finally went on a great trail run.  Exact locations evade me but we covered a good portion of the San Gabriel Valley throughout the day.

In the middle of it we were treated to a mental challenge at the REI store in Arcadia followed by rock climbing at the indoor walls of Arcadia Rock Climbing.

My legs were sore for days from the biking.  I must make a bigger effort to bike to work more often!

 Tough Mudder – Socal

This is one helluva obstacle mud race!  I did my first Tough Mudder last July in Snow Valley (up near Lake Arrowhead) and was so pleased at myself for finishing despite my agonizingly painful knee tendonitis (which I have since taken care of and continue to do maintenance on) that I got a Tough Mudder tattoo on my left shoulder blade.  Say what you will but there’s a guy named Ray Upshaw who has the whole Tough Mudder pledge tatted on his back!

As a Tough Mudder I pledge that…

  • I understand that Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge.
  • I put teamwork and camaraderie before my course time.
  • I do not whine – kids whine.
  • I help my fellow Mudders complete the course.
  • I overcome all fears.

THAT is some fucking bad-ass shit!  He has a blog also.  I’ll post a link later on or get on it and research that shit yourself!  You can’t always have your hand held!

Walking the Plank...and jumping!

Speaking of Upshaw, I read something he wrote on why he does obstacles mud races like Tough Mudder and how he approaches them.  I’m gonna steal something he said and say that I see these events as training and not races.  Sure, sometimes I run them for time.  Why not? I want to test myself physically.  How hard can I push?  How much endurance and stamina do I have over the course of 8 to 12 miles?  Sometimes, I want to challenge myself mentally.  Can I take the cold water or is it gonna mind-fuck me?  How long do I take before I jump off the 20-foot high plank into a pool of cold water?  Why does it look like 100 feet from up there?And, sometimes, I just want to have an effing good time…which was exactly my intention for this Tough Mudder and why I joined up with a couple of other Goruck Toughs from LA and Virginia (Jonathan and Robin).  We ran the course Goruck style…with full loads of beer in our rucks!  And, oh, what fun we had!

The venue was Lake Vail, the same as Super Spartan – but the course was different and the obstacles were more interesting.  Whereas Super Spartan pummeled us with hill after steep hill, Tough Mudder brought the pain in distance and numerous cold water obstacles.   11-12 miles of rocky terrain.  Numerous dunks into cold water including “Chernobyl” – a full immersion into ice-filled green water.

We drank lots of beer and we shared lots of beers with other racers on the course.   And towards the end I picked up a nice looking log and carried it for the last mile or so. I even managed to get it up and over the Everest obstacle with help from my fellow Tough Mudders.

Me, a PBR in my hand, and a coupon on my shoulder!

And then there was Shock Therapy – the final obstacle before the finish line and our prized orange Tough Mudder finisher headband – 12,000 volts of electricity waiting to zap you as you make your way through the tangle of hanging charged wires.

And, let me say, this is no little 9-volt battery shock we are talking about here.  This shit can hurt!  I made my way across and was shocked the entire length of the obstacle only falling to my knee and elbow as I cleared the last curtain of wires.


The beer was not spilled and the log remained on my shoulder!  Huzzah!

Now the Ides of March Approach…

The ladies of SISU!

March brought another SISU Boot Camp training this time down in Murietta, CA with another excellent group of people.  Some new faces, some familiar faces. Lots of running – I think we did 12 to 13 miles of trail running – and physical challenges.  It was a warm day but the scenery was beautiful and the training was solid!

The tools of the trade.

We split wood for several hours and we ended with a massive haul up a steep hill with tires in tow.  The hill sits behind the local fire station and is used by the fire fighter for training and drills.  It was a great way to finish the day!

SISU getting it done!

The hill we climbed with our tires.

Two Edgars!

Goruck Beached

The following morning I headed out to Long Beach for the first of my open water swims in preparation for Goruck Beached in May down in the Florida Keys.  My Goruck buddy, Chris, showed me some finning and snorkeling techniques and we covered may a half mile of swimming.  Short but sweet and very informative.  Can’t wait to get out there again.  I’ll post more about Goruck Beached in another post.  This is going to be one awesome adventure AND I get to support a fine cause by raising money for the Green Beret Foundation as part of my commitment to register for the event.

Okay…almost caught up!  Apologies for the quick overviews but needed to push through it.  One more event to cover….The SUCK: Woodline – Phase 3!  Look for it in my next post where I will also go into detail about Goruck Beached and how YOU can help me support the Green Beret Foundation.

Til then…

Ruck On.  Stay Muddy.


4 thoughts on “Awkward and Heavy Shit – Part 3 (at last!)

  1. A great read, a little long though lol you should keep it up and do shorter ones!

    Anyway, really inspiring, i’m from England and have lost about 77lbs and am doing the Spartan Beast in November, started a new blog today actually if you wanna check it out – just about my training plan for the next 8 months! I’ve done a ‘Guts & Glory 5k’ and am doing ‘The Gauntlet 5k’ soon and love the whole obstacle course thing…


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