Saturday, April 13, 2013


Today, I took part in an epic challenge -- my first obstacle course race (OCR), Fitathlon. I had signed up for Fitathlon a few months ago after receiving a Groupon that my boss forwarded to me. The race was a 5K OCR, and I thought it would be a good prep race when I was planning to do the Tough Mudder (before their customer service pissed me off too much).

Fast forward a few months to two days ago when I started to remember that I had signed up for this race and that, other than doing my normal twice a day exercise (once at the gym and once with Les Mills Combat after work), I hadn't really prepared. Regardless, I was undeterred.

I had signed up for the 2:30 p.m. Challengers group. Fitathlon divides participants into four groups: Newbies, Beginners, Challengers, and Competitors. Based on the group you're in, you might have to do more reps of an exercise or go farther or longer. I had chosen the Challengers group basically based on the time of day it started. It was at 2:30 p.m., and I was attending my step-mom's birthday party at 4:00 p.m. Since the Fitathlon was at Rentschler Field, about a ten minute drive from my Dad's house, this was perfect.

We arrived at Rentschler Field about an hour early and went for check in. Everything was organized very nicely. I quickly and easily got my blue bib (identifying me as a Challenger), and we were free to walk around. There were a few booths as well as a live band of average quality playing covers of pop songs -- everything from Journey to Kelly Clarkson.

The weather, which was supposed to be sunny and almost 60 degrees, ended up being very cool and windy while we waited. I kept my hoodie on as long as possible. At around 2:15 p.m., right before my heat was scheduled to start, we finally got a bit of sun peaking out. I took off my hoodie, downed three Clif Shot Blocks that I have received in my Kona Kase, and lined up on the starting line. Soon, we headed off for the first of eighteen events over the 3 mile course. 

I'll also be using the general write-ups that the race organizers sent me to introduce each obstacle. I'll then follow along with my comments. For the final (and best) piece, we're going to be joined by awesome vlogger + husband, Seth, who videoed the entire race.

1. Calisthenics - Squats, push-ups, crunches & burpees
a. Newbies - 20 of each
b. Beginners - 30 of each
c. Challengers - 40 of each
d. Competitors - ...50 of each

We kicked off the race at 2:41 p.m. (a few minutes after the expected 2:30 p.m. start time). We began by doing some calisthenics. I honestly wish I had started faster with my 40 squats. People flew through this, and I realized, a little bit later, I could be going more quickly. I cranked it up for the push-ups (which I did on my knees) and crunches. We did half-burpees, the kind without the push-up. This was definitely the hardest part of the opening calisthenics. 40 burpees is a killer amount of burpees. After this segment, I was pretty well warmed up and ready to jog over for obstacle two.

 2. Lunge lap - The distance varies by level. Guaranteed to make your legs burn. Take a rest if needed but you can only lunge - no walking. Competitors you're going over a ¼ mile with your hands behind your head.

We jogged from the field where we did our first obstacle over to a section of parking lot in back of the stadium. Here was the lunge lap, definitely the hardest part of Fitathlon. We were forced to lunge all around the approximately 1/4 mile parking lot. Wow! My legs were spent. 

I was definitely, definitely grateful to Les Mills Combat's HIIT workout while doing this obstacle. Their HIIT workouts feature a lot of lunges and plyo lunges. I don't usually do a ton of lunges, so it was great that I've doing Les Mills Combat. It was great preparation for Fitathlon. 

 3. Long run - Not to long, only ¾ -1 mile of road running. Your legs will be so tired it'll feel like the last mile of the ½ marathon.

I had started the Fitathlon kind of in the back of the pack because of my slow squats, but here is where I caught up. A lot. My legs were tired after the lunges, but all the running I do gave me the ability to power through that and make this run count. Most people in my group were walking during this run, but I actually found that a quick jog felt great. I moved my way towards some fields in back of stadium where the bulk of the event was to take place.

 4. Transverse Wall - Not your typical wall. We gotta see you move in different planes. Hope you've tried rock climbing. Climb from one side to the other. The wall is angled not straight. Competitors if you fall off you must go back to the beginning.

What excellent fun! This obstacle was basically a rock wall that you tackled horizontally instead of climbing up. Not too tricky, but I was glad I'd semi-recently done some rock climbing at the Smith gym. The foot holds were a little slippery from the muddy ground but nothing unmanageable. 

 5. Tire Flip - 200lb+ tires. You have to flip it 4-10 times depending on your level. The tires are different sizes but pretty much weigh the same amount. You can do it solo or with help. It doesn't matter unless you're a competitor. Competitors must flip the tires solo.

This was the event I was most scared for, but it was okay. I had to flip the tire eight times. I flipped it solo the first and last time and the other six times with a partner. Good choice. They had tires of various sizes, and I don't think the one I had was quite at the 200 pound mark. It felt awesome to flip the tire myself that last time.

 6. Balance Beams - 4 inches wide and 8 feet long, simple except you have to carry a slosh pipe overhead. And you have to do it again and again and again. And then turn around and come back! Can you say core and balance? BTW your shoulders will be on FIRE. Competitors must keep the pipe up the entire time.

Okay, so this was hard. We had to go over four balance beams out and back with the slosh pipe overhead. The pipe was half-filled with water and probably weighted around 15 pounds. The hardest part was definitely not my shoulders; it was keeping my balance with the water sloshing around in the pipe and throwing me off balance. At the start of each beam, I'd try to get my balance and them move as quickly as possible before I could lose it again. 

 7. Wheel Barrel (sic) Push - It sorta looks like a wheel barrel. It's our version. Push it through grass for the designated distance and turn around and come back.

This wasn't that bad. The wheelbarrow was basically a plank of wood with weights and one wheel. It was a little tricky to balance but nothing terrible, plus it wasn't that heavy, and we didn't have to go that far. This was one of the less interesting obstacles, and I quickly checked it off the list.

 8. Trail Run- I guess you can call it a trail. You make your own way until you find the paved path. It's maybe a ¼ mile but.... You have to take your 25 lb ruck sack with you. I hope you've been training with a weight vest!

Most people seemed to walk through this event as well. I shuffled. Honestly, it was the fastest I could go. 25 pounds on your back is pretty heavy, especially for someone was small as me. We took a little loop through a wooded area with the backpacks on. I definitely had to watch my shuffling feet and side-step some debris in trail running style. Unlike most trail running, things were pretty flat, which was a big help.

 9. Speed and Agility Run - Tires, tires, tires. Add some cones, hurdles, hay and ladders. Let's see how mobile and agile you are.

I killed at this event! Thank you Shaun T for all the agility work you had me do in Asylum 1 and 2. The tires went great, so did hurdling the hay. I was cruising!

 10. Monkey Bars - Yup, time for some upper body work. Do your best. It's probably been a while. Competitors must go all the way through without falling.

Sad times. This event was canceled because the structure was kind of falling apart. Bummer. 

 11. Walls - The short ones - 5 feet. There will be help for everyone but the competitors. Everyone has 4 to climb.

I'm five feet fall, so the idea of scaling a wall five feet tall seemed a challenging proposition. Fortunately, there was a small foot step up on each wall. I used this to help get myself started and then pulled myself up and over. Getting my legs over the top of the wall was a bit of an ungainly mess, but I made it. 

 12. Chain Pull - 30lbs, 100 yards. You must pull it while backpedaling. Your hams and glutes will be on fire.

What a curious event. I wasn't coordinated enough to do this running backwards and couldn't manage to hold the chain in more than one hand most of the time. I power walked out and back. 

 13. Tunnels - 24 inches, 18 inches, and even 12 inches! Get in there. You might get a little dirty on this one. After crawling through you have to get up run/walk over a hurdle and do it again and again and again.

Here is where the finally got dirty. Quite dirty. The tunnels were rectangular rather than round (more like three-sided boxes resting on the ground). They didn't feel claustrophobic (which is not something I'm really scared of anyway), but I did have to shimmy along the ground to get through them. I did this by using somewhat of a frog-kick motion with my legs, dragging myself on my forearms. 

 14. Ropes - 40ft, 2inches. Slam it as hard and as fast as you can for the allotted time. Competitors if you bonk you get a 15 or 30 sec. penalty.

For this event we actually ended up doing 15 slams of the rope with each arm. I was terrible at this. The ropes were huge, I had never done anything like this before, and I was almost too small to manage. I tried my best. While I was slamming the ropes, a larger gentleman came up and did the event with me. He was awesome -- he showed me how it should really have been done. 

 15. Cargo Net - Balance, core and upper body strength will be on display in this obstacle. It's a simple 8 foot climb across the net. Again and again. With some jumping in between.

Another very fun event. We had to climb across a couple of nets suspended only a few feet above the ground. No athletic ability required here -- it was a blast. 

 16. Wall Climb - Big walls. 8 ft high. No worries you have rope to help you. You gotta do it twice.

I found this to be a fantastic obstacle as well. I actually though that this was going to be a bit harder than it was. I was able to use the rope to climb my feet up the wall with no trouble. The only hard part was re-positioning myself when I got to the top of the wall so that I could launch myself over the other side. I slipped the first time and had to do a pull-up move to get myself re-organized.

 17. Over/Unders - 100 yards of leaping and ducking. Over 2 foot hurdles, Under 3 foot hurdles. 48 hurdles in all!

I was starting to get tired from all the craziness by the time I got to this obstacle, but it was the second to last one, so I tried to power through. I definitely started off with a bang, but kind of faded a little bit mid-way. At that point, I reminded myself I was close to the end. 

My strategy for this obstacle was to quickly bend under the three feet hurdles and then vault myself, using hands over the two feet hurdles. This seemed to work fairly well. 

 18. Farmers Walk - 100-300 yards of an unbalanced walk. Ladies 25lbs., Men 45lbs. Bound to fire up your core.

Excited to be close to the finish, I quickly grabbed a 25 pound weight and got moving. The catch... you could only hold the weight plate in one hand. I was ready to be done, so I hustled my way along with as fast of a jog as I could manage (not that quick since I had this weight). Soon the finish line was in sight. 

I dropped my weight off and ran the rest of the way. Success!

I checked my time. I had finished in 53 minutes. Under an hour! I felt fantastic. My first OCR, and I finished in way less than the 90 minutes that race directors said the race was estimated to take. 

Fitathlon was great fun, and a wonderful introduction to the world of OCR. The race was challenging, but at no point was there anything I felt like I really couldn't do. Everyone was very friendly, there was an upbeat atmosphere, and all the people participating were very supportive. I loved the variety that OCR provides, and am 100% sure I want to do more of these kinds of events. I can't wait for the Superhero Scramble in June!

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