Saturday, May 23, 2015

Montana Spartan Beast/Sprint pics, and injury

The Montana Spartan Beast on May 9th and the Montana Spartan Sprint on May 10th were both completed successfully in that we all crossed the finish line.  This post is a bit long with many photos.  The reason I delayed posting is because as it ended up, I didn't take all that many photos with my own cameras and have been waiting for 14 days now on the official photos, which only some of which were posted online 2 days ago.  We will start with May 9th.  Click on all photos to enlarge.
It was a cold morning May 9th.  Chris and I drove my car to the field where we got on the Spartan bus that took us to the entrance of our Spartan Playground.  I think the morning temperature was 39 degrees Fahrenheit. (3.88 Celsius)
We met up with three of our other teammates for the morning race.  Devin, Dustin and Bret.  We were all shivering as the morning sun had not risen over the mountain peaks with it's rays of sunshine to warm us up.
I was at the starting line that morning to see the Men's elite runners take off from the gate.  These are the professional obstacle course runners that complete these races for the prize money.  The Women's elite started 15 minutes after the men's start time.
Our team along with about 200 other people, were in the starting arena at 8:45 and were released at 9:00 a.m.  This was the beginning of what turned out to be the toughest Spartan obstacle course race I have encountered so far.
The following is taken from an article written about the Montana Spartan Beast that was held May 9th: "Saturday morning Spartans seeking a bigger challenge took on a Spartan Beast truly worthy of the word “epic.” From conquering over 5000 feet of elevation gain over 38 obstacles and 14.2 miles of gnarly terrain, this just might be the hardest Beast Spartans have ever experienced — rivaled only by last year’s World Championship in Vermont."  To read the entire article click this link: Montana Beast/Sprint - Race Review
In two minutes (or less) we went from level terrain to climbing up the mountain.  This is where the uphill runners really separated themselves from the herd.  If you've ever done much hiking in the mountains, you are used to many trails that traverse back and forth as you make your way up the mountain.  Those are called hiking trails.  Spartan race course designers do not design National Parks.  They design race courses designed to challenge you physically.  So many parts of the course trail look liked a few men armed with machetes and chain saws, cleared a small path straight up and then straight down the side of many of the mountains that we climbed and conquered that day. 
I was thankful that I practiced for this race by hiking our local steep trail called Powerline on Mount Helena City Park.  That helped greatly, but as it turned out...wasn't enough as the Spartan Beast terrain proved over and over again to be steeper and more rugged.
I am glad that I built my own rope climbing tower and practiced with all my homemade obstacles.  The rope climb this year was a piece of cake for me.  It was 20 feet high in length and you had to walk down into the water to get started.  So you start in knee deep muddy water before you have even grabbed the rope.  Members of both my Saturday team and my Sunday team had more than one person unable to successfully climb the rope - both man and woman.  Aside from getting the foot work down for rope climbing, and aside from training your arms and back, you must have a strong grip and a good abdominal core foundation.  All of this helps you to keep ahold of the rope as you pull your way to the top and slap the bell.
I found a 5 minute video (mostly of the professional racers) made by a company that makes those camera drones.  It shows some of the obstacles we encountered.  It doesn't really give you a feel for the terrain in the dense brush areas.  Maybe because the drones couldn't get into those areas, I don't know.  But here is the video:
 I underestimated the weight of the Hercules Hoist.  That is because when I did the Spartan Beast in Texas in November 2014 the weight felt like maybe 80 pounds in the men's division.  When we got to the Hercules Hoist part of this year's Montana Spartan Beast, there were three 45 pound bags bound together for the men to pull to the top.  That is 135 pounds.  The ladies had to hoist 90 pounds of sand bags.  If you are reading this and think to yourself, in my gym I can grab the bar on the lat machine and pull down XX amount of pounds, don't kid yourself.  That is a totally different experience from hoisting weight upwards of 20 feet by pulling down on a rope with both hands.
The motion detector cameras were set up at the cliff climb, the sandbag carry, the barbed wire crawl and the finish line.  As I write this...not all photos of all areas have been posted online.  That is my only complaint about the Spartan races.  I think they need more people working the photos they take of all the Spartan racers.  Get the pictures posted quicker.  So are some photos of my team and a few other people during the races.  I will start with just the May 9 Spartan Beast Photos:
May 9 Spartan Beast Obstacle Course Photos 

There were 3 ropes hanging off the end of the cliff.  These pictures are after you climbed the cliff and had maybe 20 feet to go to the summit.  One of the pros fell off the cliff early in the race and needed medical attention.  Don't let go of the rope!

This was my team in the unflattering Hog-n-Jog team t-shirts.  Oh well...I guess black is slimming.  For the sandbag carry men carried 40 pounds and the women 20 pounds.  When reviewing the pictures, you can tell very quickly who is the camera hound and who doesn't see the camera.  Or ignores it.
Some folks are just full of themselves!  Scheesh!  Such egos!

How did she stay so clean? 

I felt like an old hog that got chewed up and spit out.  There was 1000 feet of barbed wire.  For the most part I just rolled over and over to get through it.  I got snagged on the barbed wire multiple times. 

Part of the reason we are all so dirty is when we were going through, some of the Spartan staff was holding fire hoses and spraying part of the barbed wire course with water.  So you are getting soaked and then rolled in the dirt and the mud.  Did I mention this was fun!?!
There were also young and beautiful people in the race.  Speaking of which...most were very kind to me.  A little too kind.  The young ladies would pass me and smile and give me encouraging words like, you are doing awesome!  Or you are so inspirational!  More than one stopped to give me a hug.  I guess I looked like I needed one.  The dark haired woman on our team (Devin) said I was the team chick magnet.  
The younger men used different language.  Wow!  How old are you anyway???  [Like there was an age limit on participating.]  I can't believe you are doing the BEAST!?!  Occasionally on a steep uphill incline, I would be able to pass a person or two 20 to 25 years my junior stopping to catch their breath.  More than once I would hear behind me, "Oh geez!  The old guy is faster than us!"
There were literally thousands of racers.  Here are just a few standouts I refer to as the beautiful people:
I think this one never saw a camera she didn't like! 

I'm not sure what she is doing. 
There was a young lady that came up to me at the finish line, told me I did an awesome job out there, embraced me, walked away and disappeared.  Why didn't I have that kind of luck with women when I was their age? *sigh*
So five of us crossed the finish line together.  I am the front right guy.  After posing for this, we had to strip down and hose off the mud, dirt, etc.  It was then that someone pointed out to me that I had been injured.
My left leg below the knee was extremely swollen.  It looked like all the fatty tissue and muscle around the calf area had been moved to the front inside of my leg near the shin bone.  I went to the medic tent and they packed it with ice.  I kept ice packs on it all night long to reduce the swelling.  By morning the swelling was down.  I stretched out, ignored the pain and warmed up.  I didn't want to disappoint my Sprint team (a completely different group of people with the exception of blond Kathey.)  My injury turned out to be worse than I thought.  More on that later.
Same routine on Sunday morning for the Sprint as Saturday morning for the Beast.  Arrive early, check in and watch the pros take off.  My two favorite lady pros, I got to see up close and personal before they started the race.  Rose Wetzel and Amelia Boone.  They are the Spartan Darlings.  At least that is what I call them.
Kathey took off 15 minutes before the rest of us.  Which was fine.  She is a team member in name only.  As it turned out she took 2nd place overall in her age bracket.  45 - 49 and she is 47.  There were 48 ladies that did the sprint in her age division.
Speaking of age divisions...mine was the men's 55 - 59 year old bracket.  There were 19 of us in that bracket that did the BEAST on Saturday.  There were 34 of us that did the SPRINT on Sunday.  Only three of us in my age bracket did both the BEAST on Saturday and the SPRINT on Sunday.  I came in 14th in my age group for the BEAST and 24th for my age group for the SRPINT.  Does that put me in the Bad Ass category?  Just curious.

May 10th Spartan Sprint Photos

These pictures are of the cliff climb on Sunday May 10th.  I am the front left in the background. 

By this time I was feeling the effects of the Spartan Beast from the day before.  But I'm no quitter.
She puked from all the rolling over and over.  As did many others.  This was her first Spartan race ever and she did awesome.  She is 52 years old.  She is Jen.
Kila, softball athlete, and spouse of BIG Kyle
Big Kyle - former college football star athlete.  He and his wife are both 34 years old. 
I don't know if you can tell, but I'm exhausted and it isn't over yet.  After about 1/2 dozen more obstacles, including one called the Dunk, where you have to go under the wall and submerged in the water...which is nice in that it washes a lot of the dirt jump the fire and you are done.
Here four of us are jumping across together.  You can't see Kila, she is on the other side of Kyle her big husband.  Maybe you can find her leg.  So we were all jubilant that we finished.  This SPRINT was over 5 miles long and had 24 obstacles.
I met up with Chris at our motel.  He ran the SPRINT with his wife and kids.  After getting cleaned up we posed with both of our finishers medals for the weekend.  Two Spartan races in one weekend and our third coming up June 27th.  My leg was still hurting, but we had to go visit our friend Bunnie the next day Monday May 11th.  Bunnie is 102 years old.
We got to Bunnie and Elaine's (his daughter) home Monday afternoon.  They now live in Libby, Montana.  He still remembered us.  The last time we saw him was before he moved and he was only 100 years old.  He walked with a cane.  His daughter Elaine treated us all to dinner.  I was sitting across from Bunnie.  He ordered the fish and chips.  He ate everything on his plate.  He has a very healthy appetite for a Centenarian. (A person who lives to be 100 years old).
My leg...which I had been trying to ignore wasn't getting better.  That evening it swole up again and my ankle disappeared.  My wife and I went to the Emergency Room Hospital in Libby, Montana that evening at 10:30 p.m.
My right leg looked worse than my left, but it was my left leg that was giving me fits!
Not my most flattering angle.
The Doctor took some blood samples and did a D - Dimer Test.  This blood test was to rule out the possibility of a blood clot.  What had happened to my leg is that I got a hematoma during the race on Saturday, May 9th while completing the BEAST.  A hematoma is basically a ruptured blood vessel.  He released me back to my motel room with a couple ace bandages and instructions to rest, ice my leg, wear compression socks and keep it elevated. 
My leg hurt all that week from the 11th through the 17th.  It would swell up and I would ice it and elevate it.  But it wasn't feeling better. 
I went to the E.R. at the Veterans Hospital here in town on Tuesday May 19th.  I explained what was going on.  In less than 30 minutes I was treated to an Ultra-sound from my ankle to my inner groin.  That was looking for blood clots.  There were none found.  However I had inflammation and the Doctor determined I had developed Cellulitis.
I was given a tetanus shot and 10 days worth of oral antibiotics to take home with me.  So I've been taking them for about 6 days now.  I think my leg is finally getting better.
What lessons did I take away from this entire experience?  Sometimes you are not as young as you feel.  Nobody better to point that out to you than people half your age.  And many did.  I did enjoy the hugs though.
If you get injured, see a medical professional.  In my case, see them a second time if necessary.  I haven't done any training for my next race while I have been recuperating.  For the race in Utah, it is the Spartan SUPER.  It will be at least 8 miles long and have at least 28 obstacles.  It is located in the Wasatch mountains and starts at an elevation of over 5,000 feet.
I am still waiting on Spartan to post online all the team photos.  There are two I really wanted to post here, but they are not available yet.  Oh well...maybe next time.  Completing the SUPER in Utah will be achieving my goal of getting a Spartan Trifecta in 2015.  Here is to setting and achieving the goals we set for ourselves - cheers! 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Spartan Race Rockstars in Bigfork, MT 2015

Every thing in our world has it's superstars or rock stars.  If you follow sports, you have your favorite team and on that team you have your favorite team player/players.
Spartan Obstacle course racing is more of an individual sport.  Think of those that are at the top of their game at tennis, golf, skiing, race care driving, boxing or mixed martial arts cage fighting.  You might have a team, but generally the trophy or top prize goes to the individual.  It's the same way with the Spartan Obstacle course racing.
I was looking for my bib numbers online yesterday evening and also scrolling through the list of names alphabetically to see where all the racers are coming from.  All parts of the United States and many from Canada.  Some are registered as Elite Male or Elite Female and their start times are the very earliest for the BEAST.  [7:30 a.m. for the men's division and 7:45 a.m. for the women's]
Many of the elite runners are sponsored by companies like Reebok, or companies that sell sports nutritional supplements, or electrolyte hydration drinks.  These companies pay their (elite runners) expenses to compete and run in Spartan races, and Spartan pays the top five winners in the men's and women's divisions cash prizes.
As I was scrolling through the competitors names, I saw a few elites that I followed on NBC Sports Network in 2014 when they first televised the Spartan Races.
In the men's division I recognized the names of Hunter McIntyer, Brakken Kraker, and Isaiah Vidal along with dozens of other men elite runners.
In the women's division I recognized the names of Amelia Boone, Ella Kociuba, and Rose Wetzel.
There is also Cody Moat and Matt "The Bear" Novakovich, and many, many other notables.
Every person I hyperlinked above is a world class Spartan Obstacle Course Athlete.  This year in Bigfork, Montana the Obstacle Course racers elite list is like a who's who of Spartan Obstacle Course racing.
Participating in this year's Spartan Obstacle Course double header weekend with the professionals for the Saturday BEAST and the Sunday SPRINT is the opportunity to see up close and personal some of the Superstar/Rockstars of this sport.  Though it's an individual sport, you feel like you are part of a larger team, as you see and hear people help one another to clear the obstacles and cross the finish line.
Let's say for a moment that you like World Class Soccer (football for everyone outside the United States).  Being in a Spartan Race is like being on the field with your favorite pro team players.  Imagine how excited you'd feel!
It would be like my eldest son getting to run up and down the court with his favorite basketball team, and getting the chance to dunk when the ball is passed to him.
It would be like getting to get on the field with your fantasy football league and not only hear the plays up close and personal, but get to run on the field with your team and have your favorite Quarterback throw you the ball!
So that's the kind of excitement I have going into this weekend.  I've leaving my laptop at home on this trip as I won't have time to blog.  If I have any regrets going into the weekend, maybe it would be not training a little harder.  I trained better than I ever have to date, but not as much as I know I could have.
My wife and I will be back home sometime Tuesday.  If I'm successful with the new camera, I should be able to download and blog a little bit before the end of next week.