There's no doubt that the primary inspirations behind starting this journey almost a year ago were watching my great-grandmother and my grandmother battle, and ultimately succumb to, Alzheimer's Disease. I've said in numerous interviews that it is in their honor and in the honor of the millions who have lived with, died from, and are currently living with the disease that have kept me going. I've said it's the memory of the emotional pain that I felt and that I know my family felt as we watched our loved ones suffer from the disease, and that same pain I know others are currently going through that made any sort of pain or exhaustion I've felt over the last 80+ races pale in comparison. However, it was after a more recent interview that gave me a new perspective and yet another reason of why this journey has been so important, and why continued advocacy to find a cure, a preventative measure, or even a step to slow the progression is so important.
For the first time in an interview, the interviewer asked me: "If your grandmother were alive today, how do you think she would feel about what you're doing?" (Because the article hasn't come out yet, I won't give away my answer, however, it was this question that caused me to completely lose it...even the thought has my eyes watering again).
As I've thought back to that question, and I've had a lot of time to think while traveling and out racing, it's caused me to think more in-depth about why and what I've been running for. This past Sunday (Easter), as my family was gathered and I was holding my now 3-month old nephew, it hit me like a ton of bricks (or the cinder block I train with) - I've been running for the little guy asleep on my chest. I've been running for my mom and my aunt who were there every day for their mother helping her cope with the disease. I've been running for my dad who helped provide strength and support. I've been running for my sister and my cousins who experienced the same emotional pain I had of watching a loved one robbed from us because of this disease. I've been running because one day I hope to be fortunate enough to have at least one child of my own (assuming I can find a woman willing to put up with me lol) and I don't want them to live in a world where Alzheimer's exists. I've been running because many of us sitting there that day and our extended family across the country related to my great-grandma and grandma all have a greater susceptibility to also being afflicted with Alzheimer's because of a potential genetic predisposition. I've been running to prevent history from repeating itself.
As much as the past 10 months the focus has been about my running the races in honor of my great-grandma and grandma, it's with greater realization as I near the finish line that while this has been about honoring their memory, more importantly it has been about bringing greater awareness of the disease, it's prevalence and devastation, in hopes to find a cure for those still living.
And that's exactly the way my grandma would have wanted it.
On Thanksgiving Day I ran my 50th and 51st race since starting my mission to complete 100 races in 52 weeks on June 15th. It wasn't until October that I realized based on race cancellations, changes, and additions that I would hit the halfway milestone on Thanksgiving. Not only was it the opportunity to reach the halfway point on a great holiday for which I have so much to be thankful for or to reach and surpass halfway a few weeks prior to 6 months in, but it was much more than that.
For those that haven't heard the story, Thanksgiving of 2004 marked one of the most significant events in my grandmother's battle with Alzheimer's Disease. Every Thanksgiving for as long as I could remember, even when she was no longer was able to cook all of Thanksgiving dinner as she had done for most of my childhood, she always made her famous stuffing. Seriously, it was the best stuffing ever (of course, I may be biased). That Thanksgiving was no different.
Shortly before my grandfather passed away that same summer, they had moved next to my parents. The morning of Thanksgiving my mom and I picked my grandma up and took her to church. Shortly after we returned and dropped her off, the doorbell rang. When my mom opened the door, there was my grandma crying hysterically. When my grandpa had passed away, we sent our family dog, Michael, to live with her and keep her company. He was about 14 years old by that time, so I thought sure he may have passed away while we were at church. However, in between the tears, my grandma started to say "My house is on fire! My house is on fire!"
Both my mom and I were confused and quickly ran over to her house. I reached her house before my mom and upon opening the door was met with black smoke billowing out of the house. Her house was, in fact, on fire. My mom ran back to their house to call 911 as I attempted to keep my grandma away from entering the house. I can still hear her saying "Michael's in there. Brad get Michael out!" For the next 5-10 minutes I crawled in and out of the house, attempting to find our dog, while coming out of the house to get the chance to breathe and keep my grandma away. Eventually, I couldn't take the smoke and heat anymore and walked my grandma back to our house. For the next 10-20 minutes, I did everything I could to comfort her as she cried about her home, our dog, and how upset my grandpa must be with her even though he had passed away. After some time, I had to ask my mom to take my place because I simply wasn't strong enough to sit there and see my grandma in such a state.
The house was a total loss and they eventually found our dog lying behind my grandpa's chair - the same place he would go whenever he was afraid. He was untouched by the flames and the fire chief told us he wouldn't have suffered because the smoke was so toxic he would have passed quickly, even greater proof we were lucky no one was inside. The fire had originated in the kitchen, where my grandma had started to boil water to cook stuffing for Thanksgiving dinner, but forgot about the pot on the stove before leaving for church.
It was that day that we realized the day had come that our family had tried to prepare for, but was never really ready for; it was the day we realized my grandma's battle with Alzheimer's had progressed to the point where she could no longer live on her own. Not only that, but it was just the beginning of days that would be harder and harder until she passed in 2011.
I started this entire mission out of hope instead of the helplessness I felt during that day and my grandma's entire battle. Hope to honor my grandma, hope to find a cure, and hope that someday families watching loved ones battle the disease might not experience the emotional pain of watching their loved ones suffer through this disease. Reaching the halfway point, and surpassing it, on a day that only a few years ago was one of the toughest days on my family felt like a huge victory for me and only strengthened my resolve to push on through the next 49 races.
Here's to hope
This past weekend I had the chance to return to King's Domain in Oregonia, OH for the second Mud, Guts, & Glory
race. Their first race was an incredible experience, so I was excited to return. You can read about the course and that first experience here on Travlete.com
. Part of that excitement was due to the incredible people and to see some of the changes they made to the course. It was great to see some of the suggestions the first group of us to run the course had made put into action and the creativity of the MGG team as they developed their new obstacles and their own penalties for non-completion of obstacles. I said it before, and I'll say it again, if you're interested in obstacle racing, you need to check out this race the next time they hold an event because they do it right and only get better each time they hold an event. Since it's a permanent course, they also offer training opportunities that you can take advantage of - which again, I would highly recommend.
Since I reviewed the course the last time, I really want to focus on the overall experience and environment of this race. Unfortunately, not everyone from the first event was able to join us for a second round, but it was great to reunite with the superhuman, obstacle racing machine that is Junyong Pak, Jeff Cain of onmywaytosparta.com,
and meet for the first time Adrian Bijanada of OCRGear.com
. Any chance you get to spend some time with people like that with such a passion for the sport, you already have a pretty great weekend on your hands.
Not all organizers understand that putting on an obstacle race isn't about necessarily putting on the most challenging event possible or tailoring to the most elite athlete. Now granted, there are a good number of people (myself included) who will seek out the most challenging event possible, but for the vast majority of obstacle racers that want to get out, be challenged, and have a great time, likely with a group of friends. It's a delicate balance that not many races have successfully found, but Mud, Guts, and Glory has managed to do just that. Not only do they run a successful race, but they do it with passion - for the race and for the athletes - which puts them in any even more select category of event organizers. It's not often that the primary organizers of the race spend all day out at the event congratulating finishers and talking to as many athletes as possible, assuring that they had the best experience possible.
Another true testament to the folks behind MGG are their volunteers. The first event, all of us there remarked how incredible the volunteers were and that continued to be the case here at their second event. At the fourth water station, I actually took some extra time to talk to the couple volunteering there. Ultimately, yes, I stopped in the middle of a race, but I'm glad I did. They had run the first race, but due to an injury couldn't run this time. They enjoyed the experience so much that they still wanted to come out an be involved in any way they could. After leaving them and finishing the race, I spent some time talking to other racers and spectators. Many of the spectators had similar stories as the couple who volunteered - even though they weren't able to race, they simply wanted to be around the event. I think that tells you right there that MGG has done something special.
I left Mud, Guts, and Glory extremely grateful for another great race, an exceptional experience with great people, and had the chance to continue to talk with people about Alzheimer's disease and my ultimate mission. I'd say that's the definition of glory.
I've struggled to find the words to describe the experience at this past Saturday's Spartan World Championship Beast. I've read several other blogs from people who ran as well, and it seems I'm not the only one. For everything that happened out there on Mount Killington, books could probably be written. In fact, this may not be my only post on this race. No one expected this race to be easy, this was the Spartan World Championship after all, but I don't know that any of us expected it to prove as difficult as it was.
I've been talking about this weekend for quite some time as Run to Remember has evolved - Complete not only the Spartan Beast in Vermont on Saturday, but then the Ultra Beast on Sunday. That was my plan, but ultimately that's not what happened. The Spartan Beast on Saturday proved so physically and mentally taxing for me, that even at Mile 7, I already knew that the Ultra Beast would not be an option. I pulled a groin muscle and gluteus maximus muscle just before Mile 3, so I knew I would not physically make it through what the Ultra Beast would require. My only focus after Mile 7 quickly became getting through the final 6 or 7 miles of the Beast and crossing that finish line...and it would take everything I knew to be inside me, and more, to do so.
I'll write about a few of the obstacles we were met with here, but there's a great video that someone captured of each of the obstacles that I'll place at the end of this post. In addition to some of the standard obstacles typical to a Spartan Race, there were new twists to some that I believe could take even a seasoned Spartan Racer (I still don't consider myself in that category) out of their comfort zone. This included:
- Aside from the traditional sandbag carry (which we still did as the second to last obstacle - 40lbs for men, 20lbs for women), about mile 3 or 4 we were met with a sandbag carry that could break your spirit, and possibly some backs, as we carried a 60-70lb sandbag (depending on who you talk to) reportedly a half-mile up a steep slope and then a half-mile back down. After most of the elites had passed this point, the staff member started to tell the open racers they could cross at the halfway mark and go back down. I got to this point just as we were given that instruction, disregarded it and continued to make my way all the way to the top, as did many other racers out there. We signed up to do the Beast, not cut parts out because we weren't the Elite racers...even if it hurt. This is also where I stepped into a hole on the way down, slicing my leg and hitting my head on the ground as I fell forward.
- Swimming out into the cold waters of the lake not once, but twice, for a rope climb, and the second time for a rope or ladder climb to a series ropes called the Tarzan swing to ring the a bell...an obstacle that few would successfully complete. This was about Mile 7 where the shoreline was scattered with racers with looks of pure exhaustion, some wrapped in heating blankets, and doing a plethora of burpee penalties.
- A bucket carry full of gravel, once again up part of the mountain and down. I've seen this before at other races, but at that point in the race (I'd say somewhere around mile 10...I really don't know because by that point I had lost all sense of distance and time) it was particularly soul crushing and seemed like the most taxing single obstacle I had ever done.
What videos don't show and pictures don't do complete justice is the sheer amount of time we spent climbing up the mountain. I even remember at one point, my dad pointed to the top of one of the mountains where a ski lift ended and he said, "They didn't make you climb that high did they?" Oh yeah, they definitely did...multiple times. Going down the mountain wasn't always easy either, as it often meant navigating through the woods, littered with rocks, fallen trees, and roots just waiting to claim an ankle or knee. I always have known running on mountain courses have been a major weakness for me and this course exploited that weakness to its fullest extent.
Yet as painful, exhausting, and taxing as the race proved to be, and even though it took me 7 hours and 30 minutes to finally cross the finish line, I look back at the race with nothing but exhilaration and a huge sense of accomplishment. No, I didn't meet my goal to complete both the Beast and Ultra Beast, but the Beast had pushed me to limits I've never pushed myself to before. When it pushed me to those limits, I was able to dig deeper inside for strength I didn't know was there. I made the comments earlier that this weekend would be "the time for me to see what I'm made of" and it truly did. There were points where my mind and body told me to quit, just as I'm sure many racers out there experienced and few would have blamed us if we did, but I know I would have looked back with regret. My drop bin for the Ultra Beast still sits unpacked in my living room as a reminder of what I wasn't able to start the following day. While I know it was the right decision not to attempt it on Sunday, as my greater goal of completing the 100 races is far more important than that one race, I will be back next year to take on the Ultra (though this time I'll probably skip the Beast beforehand).
There's something else that can't be seen from the pictures and videos from the course...the camaraderie among each of the racers. While ultimately this is a race, the vast majority of us out there are not the Elite racers with a chance at winning $15,000 (congrats to Amelia Boone and Hobie Call for claiming the championship titles on Saturday). For most of us out there, the mere act of finishing is a true victory. Though I was out on the course on my own, I never felt alone. Throughout the race, racers offered each other encouragement, commiserated together and cursed the diabolical minds that designed the course, and pushed each other to keep going.
Inspiration and triumph of the human spirit was all around. I watched as member of Operation Enduring Warrior (www.enduringwarrior.org) with a prosthetic leg and a chain wrapped around his torso bear-crawled up a mountain. Just a few yards ahead, another member of Operation Enduring Warrior made her way up the mountain on crutches and prosthetics. Participants in the Biggest Loser Challenge fought to change their lives and battled some of the same mountains we did. Men and women of all ages, each with their own story and their own reason for being out there took on the mountain and obstacles together, whether physically as a team or not. It's one of the things that I love most about the sport of obstacle racing - in the end, we share the experience and support one another each and every moment.
So at the end of the weekend, while I came away with a few minor injuries, a few more scars, and some disappointment that I never made it to the start line of the Ultra Beast as I had planned, I still made it one step closer to reaching 100 races after finishing the Beast. Hopefully, I helped others get through their race, just as they helped me. Hopefully, I spread more awareness of Alzheimer's Disease. Finally, I pushed myself physically and mentally beyond any point I had done in my 29 years of life and feel stronger for the experience.
The World Championship Spartan Beast left me exhausted, bruised, bleeding, and I'm sure scarred, but in the end it did not break me...and I couldn't be happier.
33 races down, 67 to go!
I've taken a brief moment from packing and repacking all of my gear for the upcoming weekend. This weekend will most certainly test me in ways physically and mentally to levels I've never pushed myself. For those who aren't as familiar with Spartan Races, this weekend represents their toughest races (aside from the Death Race that I'll attempt next June). Here's what is ahead, and admittedly, has certainly gotten to my nerves for almost 2 weeks now:
On Saturday, September 21st is the Spartan Beast. The Beast consists of 13+ miles and 25+ obstacles. Adding to those challenges alone is the fact that the venue is Mount Killington in Vermont. The average finish time is estimated to be around 5 hours for the non-elite athletes - to put that in perspective, I just ran a half marathon (13.1 miles) at a slow pace and finished in 1 hour and 44 minutes. I've completed a couple of Spartan Beasts before, but the fact that this race is also their World Championship race means that the difficulty will be unmatched. For Spartan Race athletes, this race weekend is the one you want to be at. Not only that, add $250,000 worth of cash and prizes, plus NBC Sports Network on site filming the action and you've certainly upped the ante.
The true feelings of anxiety for me is Sunday's event - the Spartan Ultra Beast. The Ultra Beast is a 26.2+ mile course through the mountains with 50+ obstacles. Not only that, but the race is self-supported, meaning we take our own hydration and any other items that will assist us in making through the course (i.e. energy gels, clif bars, whatever it is that you think will help you keep your energy up) - accept any outside assistance, even from the medical team, and you're disqualified. The average finish time is estimated to be between 10-12 hours with a 6am start time and course cutoff of 10pm. I'm sure I've overpacked, but I'd rather be over-prepared than under-prepared. The goal is to cross that line with a finisher's medal...a feat that many did not achieve last year.
There is so much left unknown about this weekend...what will the course be like, what will the race directors have in store, and how many of us will be able to claim the coveted Ultra Beast medal? All of these questions are part of what make me enjoy Spartan Races so much; Not only are they extremely physically challenging, but they pose a significant mental challenge as well.
I may be nervous, but I feel I'm ready. I have a greater purpose to complete these races than just for personal pride and when it gets tough out on the course, I'll remember that fact: "Not for me. For them." For everyone who has suffered through Alzheimer's Disease, are currently suffering, and the families who's emotional pain is far more significant than what I'll feel out on that mountain. Let's bring it! AROO!
Race 1 on June 15th
On Saturday, August 17th, I finished races 23 and 24 in my journey to 100. That's 24 races since starting on June 15th (and only 1 trip to the ER lol). I gave myself a year to complete the 100 races and I'm happy to say I'm ahead of schedule, but I'd also be lying if a part of me (the extremely competitive part) hasn't asked why I didn't say I would attempt more than 100 (and that's a thought I've contemplated more than once). However, I continue to be reminded that as personal a journey this is and will continue to be for me, it is about so much more than my own personal accomplishments and so many more people.
With all that's happened so far in the past 2 months, it's hard for me to believe that there is still 10 months left. I can't even begin to imagine what the rest of the year will bring. I've not only had the opportunity to run some incredible races, but have made so many new connections and met so many incredible people along the way that I never would have imagined. I find myself feeling incredibly blessed to have the chance to be having such an experience for a cause that's so important to not only me, but millions of others out there who have been touched by Alzheimer's Disease.
Completion of Race 24
I feel like I could already write a book about the experiences in the last 2 months, just to be able to share with all those who have supported the mission so far. I'm truly amazed by the support I've received so early on from not only those close to me, but those who don't know me, yet still believe that I can reach my goals. The $1 million mark is still a long way off, but I still have faith that we can hit that mark as word spreads further and further.
While this a blog post occurs at a pretty important milestone, I find myself at a loss to truly convey everything I want to (which is strange because usually I'm quite verbose). Maybe I'll have more to post later, but for now, the journey continues. Still 76 races to go and still so much time to help create greater awareness of such a terrible disease. There are some truly demanding races coming up in a very short period of time and some great opportunities for spreading the word on a larger scale. I love the challenge, I love the cause, and I love the opportunity I have to try to make an attempt to have some impact in the fight against Alzheimer's.
With that, it's on to month number three. Bring it!
This past Saturday, August 3rd, I had the opportunity to run the MuckFest MS on Belle Isle, MI. I hadn't originally intended to run this particular event, but after a series of a cancellations, I ended up there. Let me tell you, I'm glad it worked out that way. It not only gave me the opportunity to run for my own personal cause, but also in support of my Uncle (and godfather) Vern Kloha, work colleague Dan Digmann and his wife Jennifer, and a college friend, Katie, who's family has dealt with the disease in many capacities. In fact, Katie's team that travels around the state for many MS walks and have become incredible advocates for MS, had the largest team at the event of 58. You can learn more about their team at www.thefightingshamrocks.com.
Now, what I will say, is that this was not the most challenging obstacle race for me. However, let me make this abundantly clear as you'll read later, this is not a bad thing at all. At no point in their advertising does MuckFest claim to be a tough challenge (or as the trend goes in OCR to make the claim of being the toughest race of all those out there). Instead they focus on their purpose - a fun event that's meant to bring awareness and fundraise for the MS Society.
In that regard, the MuckFest MS certainly delivered! It was a pretty incredible event to be a part of. Obviously, most races have their own charity they partner with, but this race is specific for Multiple Sclerosis. The course was about raising money and awareness for the disease, those participating having fun, and not about the difficulty of the obstacles.
Let me start with the beginning of the race. As we gathered for our wave time, a representative of the MS Society for Michigan came out and spoke about how important this event was and how many people in Michigan live with the disease (18,000). She then asked how many people in the wave of several hundred knew someone with MS, and without fail, every single person raised their hand - something I had not witnessed when a similar question has been asked at other events. During the race, many people were walking, even right from the start, but it was evident that this event was not about the race itself, but the support of the MS Society. In all the races I've done, I've never seen such large teams, all with some sort of t-shirt or other form of clothing, speaking to the effect of how they were doing it to fight MS or for a specific person.
While MuckFest MS may not fit the traditional OCR mold, I don't think that's a bad thing. They put on a great event, they had a great turn out, the volunteers were incredibly supportive and encouraging, and the environment was about the cause - what I can only assume was the reason they started the MuckFest MS. With so many OCR's closing down lately, I can only hope that MuckFest MS is able to continue. They offer great fun, for a great cause, and I would encourage anyone looking to enjoy a simple, fun mud run to support an incredible cause, I would certainly encourage you to check out the MuckFest MS.
I wrote a post earlier about the Warrior Dash because it was my second race of my 100 race journey, and I have a couple more still to come on the schedule. In true Red Frog Events style, they put on another great weekend of races in Mount Morris, MI. Instead of focusing on the race itself, I figured I'd focus on some pretty cool moments from the races of the Michigan Warrior Dash weekend.
On Saturday, in addition to a lot of friends I ran into from the gym I instruct at, as well as fraternity brothers and friends from college, I had the chance to introduce my Aunt Susie and our friend Tammy to their first ever obstacle race. I'm pretty sure I was more excited for them to have the experience than I was to run (which I'm always excited). So excited in fact, that when we got to the race I realized I had forgotten to pack my shoes - quite possibly the worst thing to forget for a race and always a consistent fear of mine. I was left with 2 choices, run the course barefoot, (which I'll be honest, really wasn't an option - I've seen some folks pull it off, but I would never try it), or cram my feet into the extra pair of shoes Tammy had brought with her. Obviously, I made the latter decision and while it was a slightly painful experience, I made it through nonetheless.
Both of them absolutely loved the race, they did great, and once they crossed the finish line they said they now understood why I loved to run obstacle races so much and how they could be addicting. My aunt was so excited that she actually came very close to signing up to run on Sunday again with me! They're already excited to run again next year. I also had the chance to crawl around in the mud and jump over the fire a few extra times to get some extra photographs with a photographer from Great Lakes Bay Magazine for the story they're doing on Run to Remember...so I got to have even more fun!
On Sunday, my cousin Kimmy joined me for her first ever obstacle race as well. She had a great mindset going in and was extremely excited! Her biggest goal was simply to finish, complete every obstacle, and enjoy her time out there...and she succeeded on all 3 accounts. Even though it was a slightly colder event, especially for late July in Michigan, she once again enjoyed it completely. I think I've created another OCR addict, and she's already gearing up and preparing to run her next Warrior Dash here in Michigan in September, where she'll be joined by her daughter, Errin for her first obstacle race as well! Kimmy's also ready to try some other obstacle races, most specifically the MuckFest MS next time it's in Michigan, to run for her dad, and my uncle, who has MS.
So far, that's been one of the great things about running so many races, and doing it for such a great cause. Friends and family, even people I don't know, who haven't run an obstacle race before want to try one because they get to see the fun I'm having and they want to be a part of the quest to 100 races, help bring awareness to Alzheimer's, and hopefully reach the goal of $1 million to support the Alzheimer's Association. It continues to show me that while this is obviously an extremely personal mission and endeavor, it touches so many others, and I'm extremely thankful for the support and those that want to be involved. It's barely over a month and a half since I started running, and I've already found myself so incredibly lucky, I can't imagine what the rest of the year will hold!
Though last year's Midwest Super Spartan took place in October and was moved this year since it was 30 degrees during last years event, I was really excited to get back to this event. First, it's just a great event, at a great venue, with great obstacles and challenging terrain. More importantly, however, it was driving back from last year's Midwest Super Spartan that I formulated the initial plans for Run to Remember. I'd be wrong if I said I didn't become extremely reflective on the journey it's been since that day in late October to now and even more thankful and slightly surprised that the plans I started to develop at that time were actually in motion.
First off, the race was once again incredible. As I stated in a previous post about the Spartan Beast, there's something special about a Spartan Race, making their slogan "You'll know at the finish line" extremely appropriate. I love the physicality the race presents and even though it's still a race and you're competing against others, during a Spartan Race I always find myself competing more with myself than in any other race. I thought I knew what to expect having done the race last year, but Spartan Race being the innovators that they are took us on a completely different path, with very few of the same obstacles, and making some of their traditional obstacles all the more challenging. After running the Hurricane Heat the night before, I wasn't quite sure how my body would recover and react, but I ran a surprisingly good race, finishing in the top 100 overall out of over 3000, and 14th in my age group. Of course that doesn't include the Elite racers, because those men (and women) are just incredible all-around athletes who demolish these courses in times that us mere mortals could only hope to run on a flat course without obstacles.
I was also thankful that I only ended up failing 2 obstacles, leaving me with only 60 burpees considering the number of burpees we did during the Hurricane Heat the night before. The spear throw continues to give me problems - I wonder if my apartment complex will mind if I build a replica to practice. I also failed at the Hercules Hoist. Most people doing burpees complained about their inability to get a grip on the rope. This wasn't my issue, but rather I just simply couldn't get it off of the ground. I can't be certain (and I may be exaggerating), but the 5-gallon bucket filled with cement may have weighed more than I did, leading to my issues. However, in both cases I did my 30 burpees dutifully, counting out loud, so everyone knew I was taking my penalty seriously.
I'm truly appreciative of Spartan Race, because not only do they provide me each and every race with unique ways to challenge myself both physically and mentally, but they've recently given me the tremendous opportunity to spread the word about Run to Remember and to create greater awareness for the Alzheimer's Association to their millions of followers. On the 14th of July they posted to their blog the story about what and why I'm running, later posting it to Facebook where it received more attention than I ever could have generated on my own. At this race I also had the outstanding pleasure of working with Steffen "Cookie" Cook and a couple of videographers, Matt and Sean, where they interviewed me and allowed me to tell more about the importance of Run to Remember, as well as getting footage of me going through several of the obstacles, for a short feature to be produced later. I never would have imagined being given such opportunities when I first formulated the idea so many months ago, especially considering all of the incredible stories of others out there running. Hopefully through the magic of editing they can make sure I sound good lol.
So between the Hurricane Heat and the Super Spartan, it was an incredible 18 hours spent with Spartan Race. I also had the chance to meet with people who were following along on Facebook and Twitter, which means so much knowing that word continues to spread about the need to find a cure for Alzheimer's. Unfortunately, a race on Sunday was still on the schedule, even though I really didn't want to leave. I can't wait for my next Spartan Race, which will truly test all of my physical and mental strength and drive as I take on the 26.2+ mile/50+ obstacle Spartan Ultra Beast at Mount Killington, Vermont - the most intense and furthest race I've ever attempted.
So thank you again to Spartan Race for your continued support of my efforts and for continuing to put on incredible events...you've got a fan for life.
On the morning of Friday the 19th, I got into work a little early, logged into Facebook, and saw a flurry of messages from the "Chicago Spartans" Facebook group talking about who was doing the Spartan Hurricane Heat that evening, prior to running the Super Spartan either on Saturday or Sunday in the same location. I was already set to run the Super on Saturday morning, was going to be leaving work early to head to Illinois for the race, and had always wanted to participate in a Hurricane Heat. After a few contacts with Spartan Race to see if there would be on-site registration available for the Hurricane Heat and confirmation that it in fact was, and some encouragement from others to do so, I decided to pack throw together the extra items I needed for the Hurricane Heat and proceeded to make my way to Illinois, with absolutely no idea what to expect.
The Hurricane Heat first and foremost is not a race, but rather a team event. The best way I can describe it is for anyone who has done a bootcamp workout, imagine that, and then make it 4 hours. We did so many burpees over the entire heat, I lost count, but it was several hundred. Once the initial tasks are finished, like moving 5-gallon water jugs from one location to another, we were then separated into teams. The team concept and leaving no individual behind is stressed over-and-over throughout the entire Hurricane Heat. Having done several Tough Mudders, which touts itself as a team event, the Hurricane Heat is truly a team event. You and your team succeed and fail (which usually leads to burpees if you do) together.
During the heat, we had the opportunity to run much of the course that we would see we ran the race ourselves the next couple of days, but with several unique twists. As a team of nine (shout out to TEAM VOIT!!), we had to navigate each obstacle together. For example, we came to an obstacle that had three sets of 2x4's with netting at most 2 feet off the ground followed by a 4 foot wall. The object of the obstacle was to go under the lower boards and then over the walls - pretty simple. But this was the Hurricane Heat, so as a team we had to figure out how to get 3 people through the obstacle in the correct manner without them ever touching the ground, at any time. My team developed the correct strategy, and as one of the lightest members of the team, one of the other guys kept me on his back throughout the entire obstacle (total beast mode especially when having to crawl under the boards 2 feet off the ground).
Following several laps of pulling chained cement blocks behind us, each team was given 3 wooden logs about 3-4 feet in length that we would have to keep with us throughout the rest of the course (which ended up being about the next 2-3 hours (I really had no concept of time or mileage during the course, except for the fact that it continued to get dark). This required that as a team we continued to strategize how to navigate the obstacles with the logs. This would become particularly challenging when we approached barbed-wire crawls and the logs had to pass underneath as well, without ever touching the barbed wire or the ground. At no point could the logs get wet and even when we had to do additional burpees, a couple team members would have to hold the logs while the rest of the team completed their burpees, had them off and then complete their own set. At one point, while the staff figured out our next path, we all had to get into the plank position, again without the logs touching the ground which meant they stretched along our backs...which you would think would be quite easy, but it also required additional core stability to make sure the logs did not roll off.
There is so much more that can be said about the Hurricane Heat and the events that took place, but it is truly something that you must experience for yourself. While a couple of people on our team new each other previously (I actually was happy to get the chance to be on a team with my buddy, Preston, who I ran the same Illinois Super Spartan with last year as a part of Team Dial for Men), yet none of the nine of us knew each other prior. However, it was amazing to see the bond formed, how we looked out for one another, how well we worked as a team, and the fun we had together in just a short period of time. The experience was something incredibly unique and I'm happy I made the last minute decision to head out to do the Hurricane Heat. I definitely won't forget the experience and Team Voit...can't wait to see any of the photos that might have turned out.
So that concluded race 14. Next blog entry will be Race 15 - the Illinois Super Spartan the morning after the Hurricane Heat in the same location.