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PHC is leading a track workout every Thursday this summer at 7pm over at the UF track. Totally free. The focus will be on developing good running technique and building endurance and speed for the winter running season. Runners of all abilities are welcome!
When I do a mud run, I expect certain things when I fork over my $100+ entry fee:
I expect a pleasant check-in experience, with short lines at registration and plenty of portable toilets.
I expect a safe, well-marked course that is about the same as the advertised distance.
I expect obstacles that are challenging, not impossible, fun and plentiful.
I expect at least one water station every 3 miles (more if it’s a hot day).
I expect plenty of volunteers on course to ensure the safety and well-being of all participants.
I expect a jubilant atmosphere and a fun post-race party.
At the Ragin’ Warrior Challenge on March 3, 2012 in Ocala, FL, I found NONE of these. The Ragin’ Warrior Challenge was a very poor experience, ranging from odd at best to unsafe at worst. Unless there are drastic changes high up in Rugged Warrior LLC’s offices, I will not be participating in any future Ragin’ Warrior Challenge events. I encourage you to do the same.
Here are the “highlights” of my Ragin’ Warrior race experience, roughly in chronological order:
- I almost missed the turn into the race site because the location was poorly marked.
- Paying for parking seemed pointless, there was plenty of space to park and few racers. The parking lot was covered in ants.
- There were no timing chips, as promised on the race website.
- There were no portable toilets. I was told, however, that “that building about a half mile down the road has some bathrooms I think.” This is Race Directing 101! How can you not have portable toilets? (I eventually found a portable toilet hiding in the woods–I had to move it around to access the door, and it was pretty disgusting.)
- There were few participants. In spite of the 9am and 9:30am waves being combined, there were only about 25 of us starting at 9:30.
- There was no enforcement of “spectator tickets.” I purchased one for my partner so she could walk freely about the course. However, anyone could walk about with or without a spectator ticket. This was a waste of $10.
- The PA announcer guy sounded boring and unexcited.
- There was an obnoxiously loud cannon that was used to start the waves. In our wave, the cannon sounded 10 seconds after we actually started. In the next wave, the cannon sounded a minute *before* they were supposed to start.
- The first obstacle (an ice water dunk) was a mere 50 yards from the start. The ladder to the ice water dunk was only wide enough for one person. This resulted in lines forming just 20 seconds into the race. Also, the water was not cold; it was actually quite refreshing.
- The course was horribly marked. We ran off course too many times to count, including just two minutes into the race, within shouting distance of the registration tent. Me and another racer (who were at the front of the pack, and couldn’t follow the runner in front of us) spent several minutes stopped at various locations trying to figure out where we were!
- A few of the obstacles were next to impossible to accomplish for a single racer. This includes a climb over a large cargo crate (which had non-functional ropes to “assist” us) and a huge wall climb near the end.
- Several of the obstacles were unsafe. The wall climb mentioned above was about 14 feet high, with no safe way to get down once at the top. There was also an obstacle that involved walking across floating barrels, which were anchored so that they could spin. The anchors were sharp metal tubes. If a racer were to have fallen off the barrel, they would have hit the sharp metal tube.
- The handful of the remaining obstacles were boringly easy. Winding through trees and crawling through mud does not a mud run make.
- Many obstacles that were advertised on their race site were not as promised, or were absent entirely. This includes the “Ambush Alley” and the paintball snipers, which I was particuarly looking forward to.
- There were very few safety officials and volunteers out on course. If I had injured myself, I would have had to wait until another runner crossed my path (which may or may not have happened, considering how poorly the course was marked).
- There were no water or aid stations out on course. The air temperature was 78 degrees and the dewpoint was 70, resulting in heat indexes well into the 80s. This is UNACCEPTABLE for a race of any distance.
- I ran about 6-7 miles in total. The race was advertised as 11.5 miles. Though I certainly took some wrong turns (and may have accidentally cut a few parts of the course), there’s no reason for this discrepancy.
It’s not like hosting a mud run is rocket science. There are plenty of templates upon which to base your race (look at the success of Warrior Dash, Rugged Maniac, Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, etc). It takes time, personnel and effort, but it’s certainly possible.
Unfortunately, the Ragin’ Warrior Challenge was a failure in every possible way. It’s surreal how poorly this event was run. Was the race staff even trying to host a successful event? Maybe they were intentionally trying to host the worst possible mud run? It’s really mind-boggling.
I did have a tasty (and free) pulled pork sandwich after the race, though! Most expensive sandwich I’ve ever bought.
Edit 2012-03-04: Ragin’ Warrior has made it clear that they will not be issuing refunds for this event. If you really want your money back, and you paid for the event with a credit card, I suggest filing a chargeback with your credit card company. CC companies are generally receptive to situations such as these, especially when the event was drastically different from what was advertised.
A lot of people have been asking me to write about my experience at the Warrior Dash, so, here it is!
The atmosphere at the race was certainly unique. There were some people there who were trying to get a good time, but the vast majority were there to have fun, wear a cool costume, get dirty and people-watch. Over 6,000 racers attended on Saturday (and probably close to that number again on Sunday) in waves every 30 minutes, so the race site was always very busy with racers coming, going, running, frolicking and eating.
The event staff did an excellent job of having enough portable toilets (I did not see *any* lines ever), having plenty of food (for sale) and posting results quickly (they had a dedicated tent displaying results more or less as they came in off the course). The packet pickup lines were well-staffed and efficient. There was a gear check for the many items racers did not want to get dirty. Excellent organization on their part.
The only thing I did not like about the events of the day was that spectators were not allowed onto the race course to take pictures or view the obstacles. Race viewing was limited to the start and about a 200 meter sector of course near the finish line. While I can appreciate this for liability and business reasons, I was looking forward to photographing all of the course obstacles before the race, which I did not get to do.
I decided to wear a compression base layer on top and some tri shorts. If I had thought of a clever costume, I certainly would have worn that, but since I didn’t, I decided to dress functionally. I chose tight clothing so nothing would snag on any obstacles, and I skipped a hat, sunglasses and watch for the same reason.
Here were the obstacles we encountered, in order, on the 3.02 mile race course:
- Knee deep muddy water. After running about 1/4 mile over easy terrain, the race immediately got us dirty with several 5-20 meter sectors of murky water. This was relatively easy to navigate with some high-stepping and running in the more shallow parts. However, our shoes were immediately muddy and soaked, which made running at speed more difficult.
- Hay bales. The course presented us with a 10 meter sector of hay bales, stacked next to each other. The bales were about three feet tall and very soft. Most of us hurdled onto the bales and ran over them cleanly, though the bales were soft enough that footing was unsteady enough to topple a careless racer. This was another easy obstacle, but slightly more difficult to navigate without losing speed due to the softness and uneven-ness of the bales.
- High-stepping tires + car obstacles. We had to hurdle over some old cars, high-step through a 20 meter sector of tires, hurdle over more cars, high-step through more tires and hurdle one last set of cars. This was one of the more technical obstacles–I saw several athletes get their legs confused in the tires. The cars were small enough to “steeplechase” over. I was able to high-step through the first sector of tires with no problems, but on the second sector I found myself running on the tire edges (rather than high-stepping through the centers of the tires in the “proper” fashion).
- “Over/under” hurdles. The next obstacle was five or six sets of “over/unders”–hurdling over a four foot tall wood wall, then immediately rolling under barbed wire positioned about two feet off the ground. This was definitely the most exhausting obstacle. Many of us “steeplechased” over the walls; I found myself hurdling them without placing my feet on the wall (just using my upper body to thrust myself over). I could have taken the “under” portions much faster, but I couldn’t figure out how to roll quickly and I didn’t want to take any chances with the barbed wire.
- Crawl through the “mud tent.” We soon came upon a low, long tent made of black tarp. We couldn’t see what was inside the tent–all we could see was muddy ground leading into the tent. So, without knowing what was inside, we were forced to get on our hands/knees in the mud and crawl. The tent was about 10-20 meters long, hot, full of mud, and almost pitch-black dark inside. A few sections were tall enough that I didn’t have to crawl, but most of the journey through the tent was on all fours. When I came out the other side I was completely muddy.
- Balance obstacle. We arrived at an obstacle that consisted of several narrow-ish (10″ wide) wood planks connected to each other in a straight line. The planks went up and down at various angles, rising to a height of 4-5 feet. We had to traverse the planks without falling. This was a relatively easy obstacle, though I could see this being a challenge for someone who was particularly tired or afraid of heights.
- Horizontal cargo net. This was a large grid made of rope knotted at about 1 foot square intervals. The net was held up by a framework of wood spaced about 5 meters apart, with significant sag in the net between each piece of wood. This was difficult to navigate quickly due to the rope sag and the wide spacing of the grid (I actually lost my balance and fell into the net at one point).
- More knee deep muddy water. Though we were thoroughly dirty by this point, the water served to re-soak our shoes and make running more difficult again.
- Log hurdling. We had to run through muddy water while hurdling felled tree logs at a height of about three feet. The logs were very close together, perhaps a stride’s length apart. I decided to straddle and swing my legs over the tree logs, which was a bit slow but definitely “safe.” It may have been possible for a faster racer to jump on top of the logs and actually run across them to get to the other side!
- Very long sector of muddy water. This was the longest and most challenging sector of muddy water yet. The water was deeper (thigh level), the sector was probably 40 meters long and we had to navigate a 10 foot sandy descent into the water (and a 10 foot sandy ascent out of it). Plus, we were 2.5 miles into the race, so we were all pretty tired. Fortunately there was a “sandbar” on one of the sides of the mud sector so I just ran through that.
- Vertical rope wall climb. The finish line was in sight! However, first we had to climb the rope wall. The wall consisted of a wood platform about four feet off the ground onto which we had to jump, and then a 6-8 foot (nearly) vertical rope climb. The descent on the other side mirrored the ascent. Experienced climbers could definitely use their skills to gain time on this obstacle.
- Warrior fires. This was one of two obstacles viewable by spectators from the start/finish area. We had to hurdle over two “fire walls” about a foot high. These were more visually impressive than anything else, as a normal stride would take most racers cleanly across the fires.
- Mud pit laced with barbed wire. Just 10 meters from the finish, we dove into a mud pit and crawled through it on our stomachs. Barbed wire laced about two feet above the surface of the mud ensured we got super dirty. I was able to half-swim through some of the mud, and had to crawl at the end.
In the end, I was able to complete the course in 25:00.35, good for 30/959 in the M25-29 age group on Saturday and 109/6394 overall Saturday. I probably could have been at least a minute faster had I taken more chances on the obstacles and been more aggressive with my run pacing, but I, like the rest of the racers, was there for the experience.
And what an experience it was! I’m definitely going to do another one of these races in the future.
SWIM: 1:19:42 (Rank: 107/216)
BIKE: 7:01:32 (Rank: 89/204)
RUN: 5:29:44 (Rank: 100/178)
For my second Ironman race, I chose the Great Floridian Triathlon, primarily because of it’s close location to Gainesville and secondarily because of the challenge it offered. Though the GFT’s course changes every year, it always offers lots of hills on the bike and run, warm temperatures and overall challenging race conditions.
The two lap swim was in Lake Minneola. The water temperature was 73, so wetsuits were legal. The swim went well for me; I actually went through the first lap a bit ahead of schedule and settled back into an easy rhythm for the second lap. With less than 300 racers, there was almost no contact on the swim.
Considering I swam the same time as I did last year at Ironman Wisconsin on almost no swim training, I am satisfied with how the swim went. T1 was a bit slow, but uneventful.
My plan on the three loop hilly bike course was to be super ultra conservative. I knew the heat and hills would be problematic if I was at all aggressive, so my plan was to be a slave to my power meter the whole way.
First, here are the numbers:
Distance: 114.8 miles (more on this oopsie in a bit)
Pedaling time: 6:50:40
Actual time: 7:01:32
Pedaling speed: 16.8mph
Actual speed: 15.9mph
Average power: 131 watts
Normalized power: 147 watts
To summarize, I rode easy the whole way. My average power for each of the three loops was 130-131 watts. I kept my power low on the hills and pushed down the hills (my max speed was almost 50mph). I stayed aero on the flats and downhills and used the uphills as an opportunity to change positions, eat/drink and stretch my legs. I used very low gearing (50/34 chainrings, 11-28 cassette) to allow for easy ascent of the rollers and fast speeds on the downhills.
On the first loop, I was getting passed left and right by testosterone filled guys pushing 500 watts up the rollers. I was not too concerned. I had a feeling I’d catch them at mile 100. Sure enough, I was the one doing the passing on loop 3!
I made several short stops at aid stations to collect my nutrition, pour water on myself (the air temperature on the bike reached 85 degrees) and keep my HR under control. I’m glad I did this, as it gave me a chance to catch my breath and stretch my neck out a bit.
MAJOR EXECUTION ERROR: on the first loop, I made a wrong turn that cost me almost 3 miles and 15 minutes of clock time. It was 100% my fault! The turn was clearly marked and there was a cop pointing the way. I simply went right when I should have gone left. I finally realized my error when I came to a T junction without any marked turn arrows or police cars! I fortunately made the correct decision to turn around and go back the way I came. Damnit!
Aside from the wrong turn, I’m happy with my bike execution. My TSS numbers were right where I wanted them to be. I got off the bike still mentally alert, confident and as ready to run as one can be after 8.5 hours of racing.
The three lap run course was a 4.4ish mile out and back on a paved trail. About half the trail was covered in tree canopy, and half was exposed to the sun. My plan was to execute a run/walk strategy the entire way, to prevent a major meltdown. I knew I wouldn’t have the run chops to go the whole distance without a walk break. I would also keep my cadence very high, and run on grass and dirt when possible.
I knew after the first few miles that I wasn’t going to be setting any speed records, and that even my reasonable run/walk strategy was in jeopardy. I was jogging at 10-11′ mile pace and my walk recoveries were nice, but I wasn’t getting any faster and my legs were already starting to burn. The heat was a major slowing factor early in the run, and I was also having GI issues that were slowing me down considerably.
The mile leading up to the turnaround was quite hilly (both up and down), so I quickly modified my strategy to lengthen my walk breaks from 1′ to 2′, and then to 3′, and then finally to 3′ + uphills + aid stations (lol).
However, I was still able to run consistently and steadily during the run intervals, and easily resume running when I chose to begin again. So I was still in control.
At mile 11, I took a Mucinex-D tablet, which contains pseudoephedrine. I’ve found I respond very well to Mucinex-D, and this was to be my “secret weapon.” Sure enough, I found my rhythm and maintained my speed as I ran the second lap. Aside: pseudoephedrine is a legal performance-enhancing supplement, much like caffeine, in reasonably limited quantities.
When I hit the last loop, I actually began to feel a bit better. Maybe it was because I knew the end was in sight, or maybe it was the Mucinex-D kicking in, but I didn’t slow down (and I didn’t have to take any more bathroom breaks).
Finally, I arrived at the last mile. It felt so great to finally be done that I actually kicked it up like six gears and cruised at 8:30 mile pace to the finish! Maybe I was a bit *too* conservative on the run?
Anyway, though I walked a sizable portion of the marathon (probably about 1 hour in total of walking), I feel like I executed the marathon well, because (a) I was in control of my body the whole time, (b) when I did choose to run, it was at a relatively constant pace the whole time, and (c) my third loop was approximately the same pace as my second loop, which is a sign of good pacing during an Ironman. Of course, I wasn’t fast at all, but given the fitness I brought to the race course, I went as fast as I could.
I have a lot of work to do before I can compete (rather than just participate) at Ironman. I know too many people that I can compete with at short course, but school me at the 140.6 distance. I need to significantly improve my ability to run long after accumulating 300+ bike TSS and I need to improve my nutritional strategy.
I am going to take this coming year off from Ironman, work on my run, and we’ll see where things go from there. I know I said the exact same thing after my Ironman last year, but I really mean it this time!
This Saturday, I’m racing the Great Floridian full distance triathlon in Clermont, FL. Here’s my race strategy:
LOGISTICS: the GFT is logistically quite simple. It’s less than 2h from Gainesville, which means I only need a one night hotel stay. That, in addition to the race being a non-Ironman ™ branded race, means I’m saving a lot of money over the cost of an Ironman ™ ™ branded race. I’ll drive down the afternoon before the race, check in, drop off my bike and gear, go eat and go to sleep. Nice!
Weather is looking okay. Forecast is predicting low temps around 62 and highs around 84. The bike should be mostly pleasant and the run will probably be hot enough to present a challenge. I’m reasonably heat acclimated and I have the necessary heat gear, so I’m not going to lose any sleep over the weather.
SWIM: the swim is a beach start, two lap (exiting the water in between laps) affair in Lake Minneola. No alligators, hopefully. Water temp will be around 73-75 degrees, which is perfect for a wetsuit swim. At a cruising effort, the swim should take me about 1:20. Even though I haven’t been swimming a lot, I’m not too concerned about the swim. It’s just the relaxing start to a long day!
Aside: USA Triathlon recently lowered the wetsuit temperature threshold from 78 degrees F to 24 degrees C (76.1 F). In my opinion, this is an excellent decision. The vast majority of triathletes can keep warm in 76-78 degree water temperatures; this decision eliminates the “crutch” that the wetsuit is at those temperatures. By doing this, USAT is making a statement toward the integrity of the sport which I wholeheartedly support.
BIKE: I’m going to be a slave to my PowerTap the whole way on the moderately hilly course. Shooting for 135 watts of average power, 1.1 VI and about 310 TSS. Cruising at 140 watts on the flats and capping climbing watts at 225 (just above threshold). Cadence will be between 82-87 most of the way and HR should be in the Z1/Z2 zones most of the day.
Gear includes 50/34 cranks and a 11-28 cassette–plenty of low options for the short, steep rollers. I’m also running an aero helmet, a 58mm front wheel and a disc cover on my PT rear for maximum speed. Race tires and latex tubes, with plenty of flat repair options.
I’m looking at around 6.5 hours for the 112 mile course, depending on the weather, the stops I make and the extent of the hills (there are portions of the course I have not ridden before).
RUN: out of the gate, I’m going to use a run/walk strategy. I’m going to walk the first minute of each mile, as well as every aid station. No exceptions until I get through 20 miles. My long runs have been inconsistent, so I am not confident I’d be able to run 26 miles continuously off the bike.
The run/walk serves two purposes: (1) to keep my core temperature under control, and (2) to keep my legs fresh for when I hit the wall in the second half of the marathon.
Running will be at my E(asy) pace. In normal temperature conditions, that’s around 8:50, but when it gets warm, I slow down. I plan on observing HR, RPE and pace and making a judgment call as to exactly what pace I choose.
I’ll switch into a DeSoto SkinCooler long-sleeve top for the run. This is a garment I’ve used successfully in training–when dry, it encourages quick evaporation of sweat (which keeps you cool), and when wet, it feels awesome on the skin. I really like this top in hot conditions.
I would be very happy to end up with 10 minute mile average pace (4:25 time). However, predicting one’s Ironman run time is often an exercise in futility, especially when it’s hot, so we shall see.
NUTRITION: nice big dinner the night before, with extra salt. Normal pre-race meal, with some extra salt. I’m going to skip the caffeine at the start to ensure a calm demeanor during the swim. Once I get settled on the bike, I’ll get started with my race nutrition–350-400 cals/hour of Infinit custom mix, with 500-1,200mg of salt per hour as needed and as the temperature rises. No-doz pills every 3-4 hours once I get 3-4 hours into the race.
On the run, it’s lots of salt (probably 1,200-1,500mg/hour, depending on heat), plus the on-course nutrition (gels, Gatorade and salty snacks).
I’m also putting TBD delicious treats in all of my special needs bags.
With my Ironman race (the Great Floridian Triathlon, or GFT) in approximately 6 weeks, I decided to race the Florida Challenge half distance race as a prep event. The hot weather and tough course would give me a chance to practice race execution, nutrition, heat management, etc–all the good stuff required of a successful GFT [...]
I thought I’d post a bit about my race this weekend. I’m doing the Florida Challenge half distance race down in Clermont. It’s a non-wetsuit swim, bike over some tough rolling hills and a HOT run with minimal shade coverage. Here’s what I’m thinking (along with some tangentially related pro-tips):
Equipment: most likely no wetsuit. Bike [...]
Normally, I don’t (publicly) challenge what other coaches have to say. There are many ways to skin a beast, and even though I prefer certain things, other coaches get results in other ways. And that’s fine!
However, I have to take issue with Marilyn McDonald’s recent post on Endurance Corner entitled “Workout of the Month: Ironman-Specific [...]
I was reading an online forum (not bike-related) the other day, and came across the 874,668th thread on the topic of “cars vs. bikes.” Of course, there was nothing new in the thread–the pro-car crowd cited all cyclists as hooligans who disregard all traffic laws at all time, and the pro-bike crowd claimed all drivers [...]
You’ve done the training. You’ve logged hundreds or thousands of long miles and your body is, to be honest, looking pretty good. Your body fat is low and your muscles are toned.
Now, you have to figure out how to look good outside of your tri shorts and wetsuit. T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops are comfortable, but [...]
For many triathletes, the swim can be one of the most stressful parts of a triathlon. With anywhere from 50-2600 people churning up the water around you, it’s understandable!
Here are some tips to help you get through the swim calmly and quickly:
Get in the water at least 5-10 minutes before you start and warm up [...]