#powerup, A-roo, awesome, barefoot, brutal, Central Texas, Dan Clark, fitness, Five Fingers, friends, fun, Gladiator, healthy-living, Lone Star Spartans, lss, Miles of mud, motocross cycle ranch, mud run, muddy, muddyj, Obstacle Course, Obstacle Course Racing, Obstacle Race, OCR, OCR Training, power park fitness, ppf, review, running, San Antonio, San Antonio Obstacle Course Racing, San Antonio Road Runners, San Antonio Spartan Racers, Spartan Race, Spartan Sprint, Spider's Web, Stairway to Heaven, texas, The Beast, trail run, training, Vibram
- Quick Glance:
- Host: Gladiator Rock’n Run
- Shoes: hahahahahahaha yeah right: Barefoot
- Venue:One of the best ever, so glad they returned here! Cycle Ranch Motocross Park
- Would I Run It Again: EVERY SINGLE TIME IT COMES TO TOWN BRO!
- Muddy Toes Rating: 10 out of 10!
It has taken me a really long time to wrap my head around what I accomplished at this race, and yes I am going to brag…I earned it.
Click here to see the results and then I will explain.
|Bib||race_group||First Name||Last Name||age||sex||Avg pace||distance|
|Leg 1||Leg 2||Leg 3||Leg 4||Leg 5||Leg 6||Finish|
A week or so before the race, I sent this email to Dan “Nitro” Clark:
—————————————————————————————————“I want to set a record on the Gladiator Rock ‘N Run San Antonio course: First Marathon distance OCR run in Texas. Period. End of Story. I can’t find any record anywhere of anyone doing this as of yet? With your blessing, my plan is to run laps of your course (timed if possible would be best… keeping the same timing chip would be awesome!) starting with the first wave and continuing on until I have done a minimum of 9 to make the distance…. if possible, I would even prefer to pull 10 and make it an even 50k first Ultra-distance ocr run in Texas. Each lap would see me complete each and every obstacle, or perform penalty burpees.What do you say brother? Wanna make a little Texas/Obstacle Course Racing history? Judging from my previous times taking down these distances…. I should be able to complete this within the times the course is open and has participants on it.” —————————————————————————————————–
So there it was, and just like that, I received the green light to attempt an OCR marathon…
…and, of course, you know I was gonna do it all BAREFOOT….
Race morning came two days later as scheduled, and I left the house early, having barely slept the night before, I opted for a Protein Shake for breakfast while on the road. I found the venue easily, having been there before and I parked with ease.
Since I had arrived so early, I beat many of the other competitors and participants to the event, and I had run of the place for a few minutes to survey the situation. The Finish line was 2/10ths of a mile away from the starting line where I could get back on the course, and I tried to figure out the best route to make it from the finish back to the start.
I met up with Dan Clark, and numerous friends from both the Lone Star Spartans and the San Antonio Spartan Racers. This was starting to shape up to be awesome…
Sooner than later, it was time to get into the starting chute. I had boasted about what I was about to try, and I wasn’t in the kind of company that was in disbelief. New and old friends alike wished me luck as I took on the course for a minimum of six, but hopefully 10 laps…
Dan “Nitro” Clark took to the stage, gave us all a “You are the super bad-ass elite guys” speech (because the first wave was the competitive heat) we counted down… and off we went.
I got caught up in the initial fervor and sprinted all out down the course, knowing that I would need the energy I was blowing through right now for later, but somewhat unable to keep a lid on myself. About 100 meters from the start was a low cement wall, which we all hurdled up and continued on.
The track took some sweeping turns, and it was soon apparent that though this may be a re-visit to this venue, they had created a far different course.
I was running with the wolves, keeping in stride with the elite head leaders as we all plowed through the first true obstacle, “Tired Out”… a series of tires laid out on the incline of a hill. The point was clear… haul ass through them while running uphill and don’t trip. Unlike the last time I met this particular obstacle at a Gladiator Rock’n Run, I stayed upright and burst through… barely breaking stride as a few folks around me stumbled. Almost a 1/4 mile in, and I was still keeping stride with the leaders.
Next came “Hell’s Hills”: a series of about 8-9 Five foot tall hills, with mud and water filled depressions between them all. I leaped off of each hill, barely breaking stride as I sank hip deep into the water, only to scramble up and leap off the next. And amazingly, I was still sticking to the leaders…and feeling good.
The 8 Foot tall “Wall of Fame” came up after a short distance, and was quickly followed by “Buddha’s Burden”;essentially a fancy name for a sandbag carry. I dispatched each with no trouble, I even recalled how the GRNR’s wall was too thick at the top to grab as I had in previous races.
After these, the course opened up for some running up to the “Dumpster Dive”, which I again made it in and out of with no real break in my stride, and a quick stop at the water point a few meters beyond for a quick swallow of water.
Cinder Block Burpees REALLY SUCK.
30 Cinder Block Burpees with a broken half of a cinder block in each hand REALLY REALLY REALLY SUCK..…especially when you’re actually doing a complete burpee with a jump, get to 26 and hear Nitro say “J….MuddyJ…. dude… you don’t have to jump, just press them above your head….”
I was sucking wind and feeling the burn after knocking out 30 of those wondrous and simple exercise repititions, and the course wound around a horse shoe bend smack dab into… a PHOTOGRAPHER… I decided that each lap, I would hold up “x” fingers (with “x” being the lap number, obviously)
First photo encounter accomplished, I continued on… the leaders had dropped me at the burpees, and I contented on settling into a maintainable pace and continued running …up and down hills, then up a hill under the spraying nozzle of a fire hose, and then up and down more hills….Did I happen to mention there were a LOT of Hills?!!!!!!
The following two obstacles were fairly simple: The “Spider’s Web” was a 10 meter or so crawl under a netting strung across the course, and then came “Stairway to Heaven”…
Despite it’s name, The Stairway to Heaven was about as diabolical as a simple obstacle could be made. It was a 30 foot tall pile of rubble that went pretty much STRAIGHT UP…. and this wasn’t hard packed stuff, it was loose… if you didn’t wait for the runners ahead of you to clear the top, you ran a pretty substancial risk of catching a few stones in the face as they broke loose under the feet of those further up the hill… I paused at the bottom to survey the hill, booked around the runner in front of me and took off up the hill, hoping momentum would carry me upwards.
I caught traction with my bare toes and fingers as I started sliding backwards, and made it up with only a few stones in the face, and seeing the exact same thing on the downward sloping side, I crab walked down the leeward face-a trick I learned on some of the more unforgiving muddy hills I have run in other races.
I made it down safely, and charged into the water crossing in front of me, staying low to let the water chill me a bit and resting slightly as I let it take most of my bodyweight. It wasn’t quite deep or long enough to settle into a swim, but it was refreshing!
Emerging on the other side, I realized I had managed to catch up to some of those in front of me, and I was again tempted to open up the throttle and charge forward. I caught myself though, and instead settled back into an easily maintainable stride…after all, I had at least 5 more laps of this course to go if I was going to make a marathon distance, and it wouldn’t do to push myself too hard in the opening lap.
This was just round one of a very loooooooooong fight.
The next obstacle was the buddy carry, which we, the elite wave had been instructed to bypass. That ended at another low water crossing, and I again got low in the water and crawled forward using quadrupedal movement in the near weightlessness.
Ducking under a Giant Tube embedded in the next hill, I followed the now craggy course around a few curves and gentle slopes and met the next killer obstacle:
“River Walk”; River walk consisted of a set of balance beams spanning about 20 feet across a catch pond, and seemed simple enough. The beams were made of 2×12’s that had been sandwiched together, and we were walking on the thin side. For those who don’t know, any lumber that’s billed as a 2″ by (whatever) is actually (usually) only about an inch and a half thick…so two of those is only 3 inches across. The distance they spanned left them extremely wibbly wobbly. Let’s recap: A 3 inch wide balance beam with about 18 inches of sway in EITHER DIRECTION in the middle over a big puddle. I took a deep breath, focused my attention and moved very deliberately across; successfully completing it for the first time of the day, avoiding the burpee penalty and charging onward down (and Up) the course to the next water point and set of hills. and the next set of hills was made up of some BIG-ASS HILLS..
Up and down and around we all went, pausing briefly to tackle the 20 foot tall a-frame styled cargo net climb, and past the pole carry, a team-based obstacle that consisted of carrying a TELEPHONE POLE – not joking or exxagerating there- around a short looping course. As the buddy carry before it, this was not in service for the elite wave…but I would have the fun of joining others to carry it later on.
Finishing the short loop I charged up the next few hills and straight towards the premeire obstacle of the event, The GIANT WATER SLIDE (of doom)
I charged past the volunteer at the top and dove head first down the slide…rolling onto my back just as I hit the pool at the bottom..but the pictures tell a better story:
Two more water crossings and another GIANT HILL climb came next. This hill was tough, probably climbing a few hundred feet in elevation over the span of a quarter mile before plateauing at its summit….and what goes up, must come down.
The opposite side of the hill was a different story from the rest of this course altogether. While most of the course was well groomed and smooth, this hill was full of loose stones and pitted with a criss-crossing battlefield of foot deep valleys down its length. I tried to lean back into my stride to scrub some of my speed, but a few loose stones made that seem like a worse idea then sprinting down the hill full bore and praying….I think I may have shouted “hallelujah” at the very bottom…
Thinking to way back when, I recalled a time, (at my first GRNR) that the rope climb had bested me…. since that fateful day, it has never done so again. Each time have I met with it since, I have killed it… and today was no exception. Up I went, flipping upside down at the top to kick the bell before descending and charging into the final two obstacles… the mud crawl… and the BEAST…
The Beast is 12 feet of sheer unadulterated hell. It’s leaning back slightly …and by slightly I mean it might as well be completely vertical…and it is always positioned with a mud pit at the bottom. The ropes hanging from it’s top are a mere 1 inch thick. This obstacle requires muscle, incredible grip, technique, and a little bit of luck…. Thankfully I have all that was required to get over it, as well as my toes…
Yep… my toes… I can actually grab the rope at this particular obstacle with my toes for a little extra push!
I dropped down the other side, and just like that..there was the finish line
I was done…
…with my first lap….
I ran straight past the volunteers who were passing out medals and cutting off timing chips, past the pavillion were the next waves of runners were gathering, (at which point an unidentified friend slapped my back and yelled “good job!” ( I later discovered who it was…BRITNEY….)
I charged back down to the starting area, hurdling the course marking tape and charging headlong into lap #2.
I’ll spare you, my faithful reader, the minutae of each subsequent lap, but each did have its very own highlights and challenges…the race course evolved into a series of different challenges as the day wore on.
So here’s the highlights and changes:
The course wasn’t much different this time. Instead of 30 cinderblock burpees, runners only performed ten. I passed a lot of runners during this wave and completed each and every obstacle…and yes I “hobie kicked” the rope climb again…and every time after that. I was feeling great and mostly maintained the pace I had run in my first lap….I did complete the buddy carry and pole carry with some others on this lap. The Beast was already harder because of mud, and choke points were starting to form at River Walk, Stairway to Heaven, and The Water Slide. The Water Slide had knocked the air from my lungs the first time, so I went down feet first the second time.
The second obstacle, Hells Hills, was becoming more difficult. More people had slogged through it, and the face of each hill you climbed up had become a near impossible slippery mess. I made it through this with much greater difficulty and effort than I had in the previous two laps.
The back-ups that had started forming at Stairway, River Walk, and the Slide had grown… but were manageable. The Mud pit had become an icky-sticky concrete like substance, and you could no longer stand on the far side, having to crawl out and slide down the opposite end. The Backup at the Beast was getting longer at this point.
Finishing this lap, my friend King Leonidas trotted alongside me as I made my way from the finish to the start to inform me I had taken a very respectable Age Group second place in the elite heat!
By now the sun was getting higher and the heat started to get to me. Hell’s Hills were nearly impossible, and the wait times at the choke points were long. I still completed every obstacle on this lap. At River Walk, I got a little fed up with the “one at a time” approach and headed out on the beam on the heels of the racer in front of me. When he fell, he didn’t just fall down/ he tried to launch himself to the safety of the opposite bank, but came up short. I don’t know how I did it, but I recovered, all ninja-like on one leg, and finished the obstacle. This time, the slide had been shut down, possibly due to a mechanical failure. Running down the hill next to the slide was actually tougher than sliding down it.
This is the only lap in which I took the burpee penalty instead of waiting for each obstacle. I would have preferred to conquer each and every obstacle… but the wait times were getting too long… and I was honestly slightly scared that waiting around would let me realize how tired I was actually getting.
This lap was hell.
The sun had risen to it’s highest point, and I was baking me alive. The track had become a ghost town, with the final wave having left about 30 minutes ahead of me.
The ground was miserably hot, threatening to cause blisters on the bottoms of my bare feet, and I found myself at the very edge of my endurance for the first time. Instead of quitting, I coaxed myself to carry on towards each water crossing, and I ran as fast as my legs would carry me over the sun-scorched earth of the motocross track. The soft clay of the track held heat, and I decided that this would be my final lap. I had given my all in my attempt, and I was ok with coming up a few miles short….I stopped at the first water point and one of the Rock’n Run course builders asked me if I was going to continue…
I shook my head no, and he nodded… then gave me some really good news:
The course was actually 4.2 miles long….
and with the 2/10ths of a mile from the finish back to the course …well here’s the equation:
(6 x 4.2) + (5 x .2)= 26.2
All I had to do was finish this lap, and I would have made my goal for the day of a barefoot marathon OCR.
My sense of purpose renewed, I took off as fast as I could, knocking out my cinderblock burpees, and defeating the Stairway To Heaven. I looked off in the distance on my final descent of the stairway, and was convinced I was hallucinating.
…and I slid down the slide a final time….even though it wasn’t running….
A figure at the fence looked distinctly like my wife, so I tried a wave…and got a wave back! IT WAS MY WIFE…she had showed up to see how I was doing and cheer me on! …and she brought a camera!
I ran on… the promise of my wife at the finish line renewing my purpose, and I passed the few runners still left on the course from the final wave. I conquered the Beast, and that was that.
I was done…utterly and thoroughly spent and completely exhausted.
I had planned on collecting only one medal, but the timing lady instructed the volunteer to hang one around my neck for each lap I had completed:
The Gladiator Rock’n Run is already scheduled to return to San Antonio, and at the SAME VENUE…
Saturday, May 2nd 2015…
Guess who’s already signed up?
Stay Muddy My Friends!