Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Race Review -Spartan Racers Dominate Alpha Warrior!!! - Written by guest blogger Jeff Bent

As the sport of obstacle course racing (OCR) evolves, new & unique races continue to emerge. Each new race brings a great excitement to those of us who are fueled by this extreme sport.

This past weekend, an inaugural race took place in San Antonio, Texas. The "Alpha Warrior" was assembled in the parking lot at Retama Park Racetrack.  Unlike any OCR to date, "Alpha Warrior" is an extremely obstacle heavy course with twenty challenging & unique obstacles spread evenly throughout a half mile course.

I caught up with Spartan racing friends Corrine Kohlen & Marko Vennerholm. We arrived early, had a few minutes to view the course, and were in awe of it & its obstacles. With a childlike excitement we began assembling for the 8am elite heat. Approximately 75 in all signed up to toe the line for the elite heat. With some brief instructions we were off -  released every 60 seconds in heats of 3 with Corinne in the 2nd heat and Marko & I in the 3rd.

Obstacles included:  3 consecutive giant carpeted rollers, a side-ways traverse of a cargo net, a long ring traverse, several horizontal bar traverses, a hanging vertical bars traverse, a vertical ropes traverse, a low ladder traverse, slack line traverses, trampolines, and the home stretch included a large structure referred to as "Alcatraz". Alcatraz included cargo crawls, 2 different & unique forms of monkey bars, long jumps to carpeted boxes, a long descent of a loose cargo net, then a high jump down to a padded landing. Several obstacles are difficult to explain without going into great detail but all-in-all an über fun & challenging course! 19 minutes total for me, placing almost 6 minutes behind the winner :( Corinne took home the ladies title by more than 10 minutes with a 22 minute course domination!

Corinne, Marko & myself spent the morning in the race area which was well laid out to be extremely spectator friendly! Being with the ladies winner we were given "special" treatment. Lol. We shared time with the owners, co owners, Alpha Warrior staff & their ambassador "American Ninja Warrior" finalist Brent Steffensen which O-btw are all super cool people. And all whom have the same OCR thought process as us, more obstacles-less running :)

The festival area had a pull-up bar with some unique hand grips & several barbells for doing clean & jerks or presses I suppose. The meal tent had a good menu including several half way healthy chooses such as fruit bowls and quinao salad. They also had various sponsors assembled with tables/tents as well.

The finishers medal is as cool a medal I've received at any OCR, the shirt although solid black is made of nicer material & the "No Mud, no miles, no mercy" motto on the back is über cool! They also gave us a energy bar, I believe they are selling, as well when we crossed the finish that was yummy!

If it didn't come across thus far, I loved this race! I can't wait to do it again! I feel the experience I have from my first race gives me a chance to make top 3 at my next. I plan to do as many of these as possible the remained of this year. Hope to have ya-all join me :) Namaste.

- Jeff Bent

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Gear Review - Solomon Speed Cross Shoes

Its been a while since I have done a gear review and it is much overdue.  Since I have started Obstacle Racing in May 2011 I have been through 3 brands/styles of shoes and I have finally found one that works really well for me: The Solomon Speed Cross (non gortex version). I have worn them at my last 3 ReebokSpartan Races, for  70K Fuego y Agua race, and the San Luis Obispo Marathon last weekend.

What I like about this shoe:

  • It is lightweight but not as light as a minimalist shoe so offers additional support.
  • It is made of fabric and not mesh - this helps a lot with preventing dust and small rocks from getting in.  The "body" of the shoe is really solid and doesn't have many seams for brush or stickers to get stuck in.
  • This shoe has non traditional - draw string type laces.  I really like this.  After triple or quadruple tying my shoes in many races I have found they still come un-done.  With the draw string lace I have never had this problem and they are easy to put on and take off.  I have had to use my teeth to untie traditional knots after a weekend of mud and racing.
  • The tread is really good for mud, rocks, and trail running.
  • They dry relatively quickly and are not horribly heavy when wet.
  • They come in many bright colors.
Downfalls to this shoe
  • The shoe is relatively expensive - I got my first pair on sale at running warehouse. Also looking for last years model can save a bit of money.
  • The tread (rubber) is soft and wears down easily - especially if you use them to run on the road.  
If you get a chance to try a pair out I highly recommend them (I am not endorsed by Solomon in any way, just love their shoes)


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Will you still like me if I’m 22nd place?

Will you still like me if I’m 22nd place?

With Vegas just around the corner and the publication of the Vegas race preview I have to admit my skin is boiling…..

I won’t say I’m nervous because I really do know the outcome.  I will go, I will race my ass off, I will finish, I will see friends, I will have fun, I will get muddy, and I will drive home.    Simple. 
But complicated.  This race has become a tiny bit emotional for me.  I am now two years into this sport and it has really taken over my life.  I love it.  I miss it when it’s gone.  I crave it.  I’m decent at it….but I’m not the best.  As the sport has evolved and become more and more popular the competition has gotten stiffer.  There is now money and titles on the line.  There is sponsorship, magazines, radio, and television coverage….all things unknown to obstacle racing in May of 2011. 
The surge in popularity and media attention has attracted money and talent to obstacle racing.  Great you say.....But where do I fit in???
This question has been playing over in my mind as I have entered the 2013 racing season and get ready for Vegas.  The best of the best ladies are going to be in Vegas.  Woman who are not only strong at the obstacles but run miles 2-4 minutes faster than me.  Woman who are personal trainers, or “professional athletes”, woman who do this for a living and are truly gifted.
How can I compete with them??? Knowing what I know about who is going to be there, should I even show up?  If I race against only my “known” competition I will be lucky to get a top 15 finish.  When you throw in the wild cards…I’d honestly be happy with a top 25 finish.  If I end up 25th place it will be my worst (placing) at a race ever.  But will I be ashamed or will I be proud?  I am struggling with this dilemma. 
I know to be the best you have to compete against the best.  In 2012 I was fortunate to place 1st, 2nd, 4th, 6th, and 7th at different races.  I felt like a contender.  I felt like competition.  I was one of the best… but only since so many had not discovered the sport.

Since South Carolina in December I have placed 19th, 16th, 15th, 14th, 6th, and 4th .   I have to be honest but with the races I have run this year I have not felt like a contender for the podium.  It’s just not realistic with these fast girls out there. 
So what do I do?  I write to get my feelings out.  I write to let you know that getting 16th place doesn’t give me the same feeling as getting 1st or 2nd or 4th.  I write to let you know that I DO care but I DON’T care!!!!!
I write because I still love this sport!  I love every mud pit, every wall, every rope, every barbwire scar, every ripped shirt, every Spartan.  I love my friends I have met through this sport.  I love my new love of running and training and trying new things.  I love traveling across the US and spending my life savings to roll in the mud or run 3 miles.  I love the relationships I have made and the people who have inspired me.  I love that this race challenges me physically and mentally.  It is a challenge to no longer be a contender.  It is a challenge to come in 16th place and be proud…. But in a way it’s not. 

Winning is great yes.  I love to win.  BUT….. THERE IS NO LOOSING IN THIS SPORT!!!.  Whether you come in 1st, or 16th, or 190th or 1000th… did you have fun – yes, did you get a workout – yes, did you meet cool beautiful people – yes, did you inspire others – yes, were others inspired by you- yes, will you do it again – YES! 
For better or for worse I am married to you Spartan race.  I will keep coming back no matter what place I get.  I will keep coming back no matter how much my knees bleed or my muscles ache.  I will show up to a race that I cannot podium at.  I will walk away with my 4th or 15th or 25th place and be proud.  I will give you 100% of what I have every time.  That is all I can give.  I will try to measure myself against myself and not against others.  I will race a good race for me.  Vegas here I come….let me have it J