Obstacle Racing Addiction

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Tougher in Texas

Texas Spartan Beast Season Finale Race

Just finished this Texas Spartan Beast today in Glen Rose, Texas, and had the best obstacle race experience since I’ve started running them; and instead of just rattling off a blow-by-blow of tough obstacles, I’m just gonna share my personal stoke.

Maybe, just maybe, if you haven’t done one yet, you’ll get stoked enough to join me on one of these – and if you are a regular “obstaholic”, connect, and share your race perspective in the comments below.

Matt B. Davis Runs

Matt is a new friend, but we’ve bonded rather quickly. He’s known for a very popular obstacle racing podcast in the race scene, and we’ve traveled to a few races together.

Now, he’s taken on the role as U.S. Editor in Chief for Obstacle Racing Magazine, so he’s all about doing interviews with elite front-runners and interesting characters in the sport – which is what he did last night (Friday) before the race.

Photo: some of the Spartan Elite hamming it up at the hotel.

I tagged along, took some photos for him, met some of the chill elites and Spartan race personnel, and while all that media-kinda-stuff is not really “my bag”, I dug it and learned a few things about what influential people are thinking regarding the future of obstacle racing, Spartan Races and managing the incredibly growth of both.

Race Morning

I had a rough night sleeping. Bronchitis was still in full effect, and I coughed all night long (poor Matt)…

Photo: Matt and I (Christian) ready to hit the 13.5 mile “Beast” course.

but once we checked in, met up with Texas Friends Josue and Paula Stephens (RDs for Fuego Y Agua and Copper Canyons), I pepped right up and got ready to race.

The Texas Spartan Beast Course

I’m not going to run a play-by-play, but I’ll talk about some of the unique experiences out there, and how they contributed to just a kick-ass time …getting ass-kicked.

First, the terrain – Texas prairie desert with a lot of cactus with two-inch long spikes all over the ground. Lots of bush-wacking, with wonky footing. Trail-running experience came in very handy, with lots of short, steep climbs that anyone with hill training could manage easily, …but without hill training …well,  saw some people suffer very early on.

We had over 30 obstacles, but I had a good day and managed to only fail one – a stupid stump crossing at that – for 30 burpees. The hard obstacles for me this time were:

  1. The sandbag carry. Heavy, soaked sandbags that we carried up a VERY steep and long climb with horrible footing, loose dirt and pebble-rocks. I fell a few times and got taken out by a dude who fell and slid down the climb right into me. Tough, taxing obstacle early into the race.
  2. The 100-yard swim in 54 degree water. The water pressure made it difficult for me to breathe with my paralyzed diaphragm and now-added bronchitis. I really panic’d here. Must learn to control anxiety ‘cuz it makes my situation worse.
  3. The tyrolean traverse. (upside down horizontal rope climb across a pond) I failed this is SC, but I made it this time. I got really fatigued and my forearms almost ripped outta my arms, but I hit that bell and dropped into the water with a big ol’ grin.
  4. The stone pulley setup. This strong man movement was a piece of cake in SC, but in Texas it was much harder. The rope was muddy, and lifting the concrete block was much more difficult with the pulley system the organizers implemented. I guess they wanted to make it harder. They succeeded.
  5. My second rope climb. I’m pretty good on the 20 foot rope climbs now, but I chose the wrong rope in front of the crowds, and found myself frozen at the top of the climb, unable to reach the bell to signal completion, and also starting to slip down. Luckily, one last swipe of the hand got it done, I dropped two knots instantly, barely catching myself and lowering slowly again. Phew!

Climbing the rope at the Texas Spartan Beast

Photo: Paula Stephens happened to be in the crowd and caught me ‘frozen’ at the top.

Other than that, many things I’ve had trouble with in the past, like the traverse wall, came really easy to me this time, and the other 25 obstacles posed no real threat to my overall race.

I ended up only doing 30 burpees at the first set of stumps (dumb), and the mandatory 10 burpees after each atlas carry.

Seeing, and Making, mo’ Friends

A major race highlight was spending time with my Texas friends Josue and Paula Stephens, Matt Willis, of Texas Parkour, and John Taylor, a new friend I stumble into at Spartan Races and someone who is running Josue’s Fuego Y Agua Survival run in Nicaragua this year.

Even ran a few steps at the end with “ol’ man Blenis”, a really cool Georgian runner, and father of 6th place obstacle racing phenom, Alec Blenis.

Like trail running and ultrarunning, there is a very friendly vibe at obstacle racing events. A certain brotherhood develops among those who know what it takes to get through a Spartan Beast well, and the conversations seemingly go one endlessly – and I love that.

This is a really fun time in my athletic life. I’m having a blast!

How It All Shook Out

Among the elites, I was 13th AG, 109 overall. The competition was really big here being the season finale event, but I’ll take cracking the top 50% of the elite heat, and let’s face it, it will take a miracle in healing for me to ever crack the top 25 overall – but I’m going to try.

I ran a 3:15 which is 20:00 faster than I ran in SC, and Texas was a much more challenging course. As long as I can keep improving, getting stronger, continue having fun, and keep it all in perspective and balance, I’m on the right path.