Monday, June 13, 2016

Samurai Sprint Mud Run

2015 was the year where I tried Obstacle Course Racing to see if I could actually do it. The answer to that question was a definite yes, and my season reached its peak with The Killington Beast in September.

2016 was supposed to build upon 2015, and be the year where I improved on everything. I would take on even more Obstacle Course Races, and try a variety of them to see which kind of races I enjoyed the most, thereby defining what direction my racing would take.

2016 has not turned out as I planned however. Sickness in the family has caused me to miss three races so far this year. Due to work, family commitments, family illnesses, and attempting to keep my sanity I've been unable to train essentially at all. My race performance has suffered considerably, and I find myself at a low point. I need to turn myself around, but there never seems to be enough hours in the day to take care of myself. The Samurai Sprint Mud Run, a low key and theoretically "easy" race, was a wake up call that I need to stop and re-evaluate this.

The Samurai Sprint Mud Run is a small local race, and I had resolved to support many such races this year to get a sampling of what they are like. It is held at the Westport Rivers Vineyard and Winery, and the course is about three miles in a large loop around the vineyards.

I arrived at the venue on time, and the parking lot was very close to the race, so no problems there.  It had the small race vibe that both F.I.T. Challenge and the BoldrDash Winter Race have, but it felt smaller than either of those. No big inflatable "Start Line," but just the timing mats and a digital clock. I hung out with the Spahtens, and saw a lot of familiar faces, but as usual, I kept to myself. Despite being with the team for nearly two years, it's still hard to just introduce myself to people. Seeing as I'm so damn slow, I always find myself alone on the course, bringing up the rear.  No "battle-buddy" for me as no one else is as slow as me. My drill shirt says "Glacier" for a reason.

Relatively soon the race started and we were off. The first part of the race was a jog, and the group quickly spread out, and as always I found myself towards the end of the pack. The first "obstacle", if it even was intended to be one, was a small mud pit. Most of the racers just went around it.
The first 100 yards of the course...I'm still in the middle of the pack, but everyone is passing me.
The first "real" obstacle were some Over-Under walls, which were pretty basic, and everyone zipped right through them. Next was the Monkey Bars, which I am getting better at. These were pretty standard, so I managed them just fine.

Next was a Tire Flip, the first half of which I powered through pretty fast, the second half I slowed down as all those squat lifts were taking their toll on my legs. There was a small back up here, so I caught back up to the crowd, but it wasn't long and soon we were off again. Next was a 8' Wall. The left hand side had some steps and a rope assist, and a line had formed there, so I went for the right side, which had no assists. On my first leap I got the top, but I wasn't quite able to pull myself over. On my second attempt I got closer but still couldn't quite make it, so I got a boost from another racer to get over the top. My arms were getting pretty sore from the exertion already. By this time I was so slow that a group from the next heat caught up, and by the time I got to the next obstacle, everyone had passed me again.

More walking and then a Trapeze/Rig. You had to swing on a trapeze to a horizontal bar, and then work your way along the bar, all over a small muddy pool. I swung on the trapeze and grabbed the bar, but I failed to complete the transition and fell into the water. I tried it one more time, grabbed onto the bar with one hand, and found myself hanging again. Then I heard both my shoulders crunch as they popped out of their sockets (this is a common occurrence for my hypermobile shoulders).  While I still had grip, I couldn't move my arms. With no where to go, I dropped into the water again. My arms were messed up, and they would only get worse as the race continued.

Next was a set of staggered Angled Walls:  you jumped on one, used your momentum to hop to the next using the other foot, and back a few times. I was tired but I managed this OK. After this was a Reverse Staircase, which is a similar to a set of inclined monkey bars but with planks instead of bars. The planks had grooves in them to improve grip.  However, as my arms were already sore, this one proved impossible without an assist, so I boosted myself on a support beam to get me up and down. Following this was a tall staircase Box Jump that you had to box jump about five times to get to the top--my legs were still functioning, so this wasn't too hard.

After this was the Horizontal Traverse Wall. I failed this in my first Spartan Race and it has been difficult ever since, but this time I managed to complete it, although it finished whatever grip I had left. Very tired and very sore, I kept going.

Next was a Water Slide down a hill--it was a massive tarp with multiple sprinklers to keep it slick. I watched the two guys ahead of me slide down on their backs. This was the "fun" obstacle, so I decided to take the plunge and went down head first.

At the bottom was the Rope Climb. I failed this obstacle at my first Spartan Sprint two years ago. Since then I have succeeded some times, and not others, but I recognized that this was one obstacle I needed to work on. I have a rope hanging from a tree in my front yard now, and I practice on it every so often. I feel like I have the technique down. But this time when I saw it, I dreaded it--my arms, shoulders, and hands were shot, and I found as soon as I touched the rope I knew I had no chance. The rope was wet and slippery, and I couldn't even get on the rope. Acknowledging defeat, I moved on.

Next was a Inclined Wall with a Rope Assist, which is relatively easy, and then, the Tyrolean Traverse. As at all Tyrolean Traverses I've seen, there was a line. By now I felt beaten, and I knew that there was no way I was going to make it, so I skipped it and moved on to the Wreck Bag Carry.
I'm smiling because the photographer told me to. I was feeling anything but happy here.
The bag was only 25 lbs., so I slung it over my shoulders and trudged up the hill and back. The finish line was in sight.  Next was a Tire Agility obstacle, which I managed just fine, and then a Low Crawl under some netting. My arms were hurting so bad I was contemplating rolling uphill because I thought a crawl on my hands and knees would hurt too much. But I sucked it up and did it, and then, all the obstacles completed, I headed toward the finish, jogging the last 50 yards.

Final stats: 3.10 miles in 1:09:33.  Last place in my age group (26th), and 188th place out of 198 men. And this is even though I skipped two obstacles.

I finished, and I got my medal, but I feel thoroughly disappointed in myself. The race should not have been as hard as it was. As a race itself it was fine, and it had some obstacles I had never done before, like the Water Slide, Trapeze/Rig, Reverse Staircase, Box Jump, etc. But I felt tired right away, and despite the training I had managed to do, mainly grip strength and rope climbing practice, everything was much harder than it should have been.

I had another race scheduled for this weekend, a Tough Mudder, that I have been looking forward to ever since last year. I've postponed it to a future event. Now my next race is Battlefrog on July 23. That gives me almost six weeks to prepare, and hopefully I will use the time wisely, train properly, and maybe even try to eat better.

We'll see how it goes.

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