Saturday, November 18, 2017

RACE REPORT: Spartan Carolina DOUBLE Beast 2017

In my second year of OCR, when I was going for my first Trifecta, I thought I was crazy for doing a Beast on day 1 and a Super on day 2.  I was so sore on day 2 and wasn't sure if I could even walk that fast.  I ended up warming up ok and made it through.  Three years later, I was back at Carolina Beast weekend, this time for my first double beast.  After that first Beast/Super experience, I had thought that a Double Beast was harder than an Ultra Beast, since you'd have time to get sore.  I think I've built up obstacle endurance, though.  I made it through West Virginia, which was a Beast on day 1 immediately followed by course sweeping the whole thing again, then the Super and Sprint the next day.  Survived that!  I also did the Dopey challenge this January, with a 5K, 10K, HM, and Marathon on successive days.  So this was less daunting than it would've been a year ago.

TRAINING LEAD-UP:

Wednesday, Oct 25: 
6.0 in 51:29, 8:35 average, 2 degrees of incline.  Pretty good progressive run.  I was hoping for a long run, but this is all I managed.  Something's better than nothing.  My heart felt like it had been sprinting afterwards, even though it wasn't that fast. 

Friday, Oct 27:
45 min strength
  • Crunches: 400/side
  • Plank: 3 + 2 = 5 min
  • 6 inches: 60s + 60s = 2 min
  • Abductor/Adductor leg lifts: 95/125
  • Pushups: 25 + 25 = 50
  • Single Leg Squats: 50 + 65, both knees crinkle quietly
  • Pillow lower leg extensions: 95
  • Assorted dumbell rows
  • 1 min hang 
Saturday, Oct 28:
I have so much training that I should be doing for the Iceland 24 hr. Also needed to get in a longer run before the double beast.  12.7 in 2:50:18, 13:23 average at the Whitewater Center trails.  I started off with some of the trails I do less often, to keep things fresh, then went to my stand-bys.  I listened to a Zombies Run race episode while running, which made it a little more interesting.  I didn't feel that tired afterwards, but I had gone really slow and easy.  It was a long duration run, for going less than 13 miles.

Sunday, volunteered at course build for Carolina.  Thorny, cool temps.  Wrapped a truck, registration tents, fences, and tables, start and finish tents and fences. 

Monday, Oct 30:
Intervals!  I didn't think I had the fitness to do this.  4.5 in 32:43, 7:16 average, 2 degrees of incline.   I need to get fitness back.  The second half of my year has been race-heavy, but not training heavy.  Lots of OCRs without much time pressure, so I didn't think I had much speed left.  It was actually pretty good, though!
  • 1 mile warmup in 8:04
  • 2 x [0.75 mi @ 9mph (5:00), 0.25 mi @ 7.5mph (2:00)]
  • 2 x [0.50 mi @ 9mph (3:20), 0.25 mi @ 7.5mph (2:00)]
Thursday, Nov 2:
1 hr biking at the gym, 16.7 mi.



CAROLINA BEAST DAY 1 

I got there early, so I got a decent parking lot.  There was a walk to get to the festival, but only maybe 1/3 the distance of the walk at Conyers, GA, so not too bad.  I was in the Elite heat, but my main goals for the weekend were to 1) get more OCR endurance training, 2) beat as many obstacles as I could, and 3) not get hurt. 

Having volunteered the weekend before, I knew that the vines on the ground would be intense.  The start line emcee aptly called them Jumanji vines.  It was actually not as bad as it was during the course build.  The first part of the race went through some wilder terrain, with bumpy grass and thorny vines.  Fortunately, I had my leggings on.  Some people still go bare shinned, though, and this was a brutal course for that. 

I wore new OCR shoes, non Reebok All-terrain ones, for the first time.  After volunteering for Merrell and trying their shoes on for a day and seeing how durable they felt, and remembering the phrase I repeated so often that day, about how good they are for drainage, protection, and grip, I had to get a pair for myself.  I wore the Merrell Dexterity.  It did drain well, and my laces were much better to work and keep on than the laces that come with the All-terrains (I've had the glow in the dark ones, and the no-lace cinch ones which I ended up cutting out and replacing with real laces because they wouldn't stay in place).  I did get blisters, but it could just need my feet to get used to it. 



Overwalls, Over-under-through, Hurdles, 6 foot wall, Herc Hoist.  We got spit back out at the festival area, where we did Rolling Mud, Barbed Wire, Dunk Wall, Slip Wall, and a failed Spear Throw.  I haven't been able to repeat since West Virginia.


We went back out into the wild, where we met the Sandbag Carry, Rope Climb, Atlas carry, Bucket brigade not so bad because the terrain was mostly flat on this course, 8 foot wall, Log carry, Tyrolean traverse, Bender, Vert Cargo, 7 foot wall, Invert Wall.

I'm pretty consistent at Twister, which I've been 100% at from my second encounter with it onwards.  At this race, though, they had put pads on the handles.  Maybe the intention was to make it less slippery, because it was forecasted to be cloudy all day with a small chance of rain.  However, those things would spin and made the handles much thicker, and I made it only a third of the way before I fell.  It was frustrating.  Hopefully, those go away.

Plate drag, barbed wire through thorns... so there were barbs above and barbs below.  Glad I have arm sleeves and gloves.  Farmers carry log, MOnkey bars, Stairway to Sparta, Z-wall at mile 11.


In the final gauntlet, failed Olympus.  I have no idea how I made it through that at Tahoe.  I haven't come close since.  I wonder if I'm doing it differently.  No idea.  I got through the multirig, though, including the uphill pipe, and was told that I was only the 9th woman to make it through that obstacle successfully.  A-frame cargo, then the fire jump.


12.4 in 3:12:53, 15:33 average.  I was pretty happy with how it went, obstacle-wise.  I got my double trifecta medal after standing in line a while, showered cold, then enjoyed a beer before doing a PM volunteering shift.

CAROLINA BEAST DAY 2

The next day, I was surprisingly not sore.  I had treated the blisters the night before, and was ready for day 2.  This time, I was in the 8:30 volunteer wave, so I had 45 minutes less time to run, before my 1pm volunteer shift.  My goal was to finish as fast as I could and make it in time for the volunteer shift.  Since I was in the open heat and running just for completion, I took my time and enjoyed myself out there.  I chatted for a little bit with a volunteer who recognized me from Fayetteville.  Not too many Asian OCR girls, I suppose.  That was in the part of the course with the field that was 100% covered in fallen logs.  It was interesting. 

 
I also took a couple of minutes to soak in one of the creek crossings, to wash the mud off myself and make showering easier later.  On Day 2, the dunk wall was way muddier.  I also ran into a couple of friends from other events - G & A from HH12HR & GBC BEL.  They had done a HM the previous day, so we were all running on day 2 legs. 


The running was actually decent.  I wore my watch, which I don't normally do so that I don't destroy it with mud and the stress of walls and stuff, so that I could keep track of how I was doing on time. Despite the leisurely attitude, I finished in 3:35:53, 17:25 average.  Not bad for day 2! 



I failed the same obstacles that I failed the previous day, which is pretty good.  I'm feeling pretty good with where my obstacle endurance is.  I've improved quite a bit this year, with all the racing and the increased focus on pull-ups (and by "focus" I mean I may do 1 set of 5 once a week, but that's more than I used to do).


I finished with an hour to spare for going to the Results tent to put my name down to have a 3XT medal sent to me, since they ran out of the ones they had onsite, plus a shower.  A productive weekend!

Friday, November 17, 2017

RACE REPORT: TOUGH MUDDER CAROLINA 2017

The weekend after OCRWC, I was back at it, with a "for fun" race at Tough Mudder Carolina.  It was good timing, because TM is untimed, it was my first time so I just wanted to get a feel for this series, and its focus is more on teamwork and fun than competition.  I didn't do any running or workouts leading up to the event.


They do have a timed, competitive wave in the first heat of the day, but I was going to be racing with a volunteering-based discount and was not really prepared to perform well, so I didn't go for that.  I got a late start time of 12:30pm.  TM lets you do multiple laps if you're crazy enough to want it.  But with a start time of close to the last heat of the day, it wouldn't be an option for me, not that I was in the mood for 20 miles of obstacles that day a week after OCRWC, anyway.

There is a different kind of vibe at TM.  They seem to market to what I feel like is more of a college frat boy demographic, but that's just my feeling.

Before the race, I hung out in the festival area, where I could watch Electroshock and see Kong.  I happened to see someone that I had met and raced with at OCRWC... turns out we both live in the same state!

Each race series has their own start line spiel.  Nothing too crazy here, some pumping up, and we were off with our untimed selves.  We got spread out with the first stint of running, then "Kiss of Mud", which is barbed wire.




After that, there was an invert wall that was too tall for me to get myself.  A guy helped me up.  When I was up at the top, I almost started going down the other side, then I remembered that this event is about the teamwork, so I waited for the next guy to come, and helped him (a little) by pulling him up by his leg, although I think he probably could've made it up himself anyways.

Devil's Beard was crawling under a surprisingly heavy net of rope for a long distance.  My hair probably doesn't thank me for plowing head-first through that.  Next, I got to a sign called Hero's Carry.  The instructions said to buddy carry someone halfway, then switch.  I was near the front of the heat, so there wasn't anyone around.  It was like crickets.  Just the photographers.  

I briefly considered just continuing on, since I didn't come here with anyone, and there wasn't anyone around.  Then, I figured that this was for the experience, and it was all for fun, so I just waited around.  Fortunately, a trio came along.  There was a guy who went with his friend, but they had split early on.  


This guy was a strong-built Krav Maga guy.  He naturally carried me first.  They ended up having designated places to switch, so we switched at the midpoint, and I figured I'd give it my best... worst case, I make it only a few feet, and we'd switch back.  I was suprisingly able to carry his 170lb self the whole way, though!


After you buddy carry someone, you become immediate friends, so we continued on with the race together.  Our paces matched well, so we talked while running.  It was his first time doing any OCR!  We hit a couple of walls, which he helped me up.   We encountered the infamous Blockness Monster, and used teamwork with a few others in the area to get through it.  Time and again, this guy demonstrated a great willingness to help others, which I admired a lot. It does feel good to work with others to get through tough obstacles.  Very different from other race series.  Not rushed for time.  Help each other.

We ran up a giant hay bale, ran through rolling hills, ran up a slippery slip wall with a curved top that had nothing to grab onto, forcing you to use teamwork.  The rule of thumb is get help, then turn around and help someone else up.  Crawled down and up a pipe.  

The biggest backup was at Mud Mile, which was a long series of "rolling mud".  The last one was tall and steep, so the pools close to that one had people just sitting in the muddy pools, waiting in traffic.  Not the best design for traffic flow.  We were there for sooo long just waiting to move up a spot.  Oh well, it was something we all endured together, and it became an experience in itself to wait.  I did consider just jumping out and bypassing the last couple of pools, but I would feel like I was missing out on part of it, so I waited.

Next, a big slip wall called Pyramid Scheme, where people stacked 3 high to get up.  Spartan Ultimate Team challenge makes it look easy.  I had trouble, even with climbing up people.  My buddy worked really hard as one of the bases of the ladder, helping people up.  Eventually, after helping many, he got up, too, and we continued on.

Temps were nice that day... chilly, which is good for a runs.  I was getting a little cold even before I got to Arctic Enema, though, and that was painfully cold.  You'd think that it would feel good to get in an ice bath mid-run, but it's like shockingly cold... just gotta keep moving.  

In Birth Canal, you crawl under tarps filled with water.  There was a "Legionnaire" version for TM veterans, which was similar, but pitch black dark.  The next obstacle also had the slightly easier TM virgin option, and a harder "Legionnaire" version.  The Stage 5 Clinger "Legionnaire" version looked more challenging and more fun and more fulfilling to get through, so we both tackled that one.  It was backwards monkey bars, then pulling yourself up (with the help of a block on a post, if you want).  





While we were running across one of the many rolling hills at the farm, we ran across Arnel Banawa, of OCRTube fame.  He captured GoPro footage of us running, which is featured at minute 3 of this video:


We climbed up a wall with a rope, did a log carry, more muddy pits, then a challenging Funky Monkey 2.0 which featured an uphill monkey bars (not hard), followed by some spinning/swinging wheels or structures to grab... that was tenuous, and I wasn't sure that I'd make it, but I did!  And so did my buddy!



We were near the finish at that point.  Our legs were tired, but we pressed on.  It was all mental.  The last obstacle was Electroshock (a must for first-timers).  There are different approaches that people take.  I went carefully and slowly, and managed to avoid getting shocked at all.  I think not all of the wires are electrified, because I do think I hit one or two.  One benefit of being small.  

The "Legionnaire" option for the last obstacle is Kong, which I really wanted to try, so I looped back around to do it.  It was rings, really high up.  I have no issues with them at Spartan.  These were a little farther apart, and was really high up, so it was scary getting started, but once you get going, it's fine.


Once you finish, you get a headband.  They have different colors, depending on how many you've done.  I personally prefer medals, but they have some other fun incentives that they've recently started, like the Repeat Offenders program where doing a Full and a Half mudder in consecutive years gets you a shirt and a fake kettlebell, or the Holy Grail that you get for doing a Tougher, Toughest, and World's Toughest in the same calendar year.  We'll see what 2018 holds.


It was a fun adventure, and I made a new friend.  TM is definitely different with its teamwork aspect.  I'm not sure how competitive variations of this event would feel, since you'd constantly feel torn about needing to go, vs. staying to help others.  It feels contradictory.  People do seem to love it, though... World's Toughest Mudder has die-hard fans, and it's considered one of the big three premiere events in our sport (along with OCRWC & Spartan World Championship).  I've now done the latter two, so maybe WTM will be my next big-time event in 2018!

The day after, I volunteered with Merrell.  With TM, you just get a discount on your race, rather than a free race plus insurance.  However, they treat you well... we got cool swag (cool hat, nice design shirt), and good food for once (Panera bagels and lunch).  The volunteer coordinator was really nice, too.  I would definitely volunteer for them again.  If only they had more events!!!  I enjoyed the time in the festival.  They had an emcee who was cracking jokes all day, commentating at Electroshock.  It made it different and interesting the whole time, vs. the usual OCR festivals that just have music.

It's a fun day out, whether you're racing or volunteering.  TM exceeded my expectations on both fronts!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

RACE REPORT: Obstacle Course Racing World Championships 2017 #OCRWC17

TRAINING IN THE 2 WEEK LEAD-UP:

Monday, Oct 2:
Wanted something long-ish as my last bigger run before OCRWC.  I wasn't able to do one on Sunday, but I got 9.0 in 1:16:07, 8:28 average, 2 degrees of incline, tonight.  It was a good distance as a confidence booster, since OCRWC is 15K (9.3 mi).  My mileage has been super low this year, without a fall marathon to train for, and I haven't done much weekly mileage in order to taper and recover between my very frequent races.  So, even 9 miles seems like a lot for a run for me right now, so it's not like it's something I can take for granted.  I wasn't going that fast, but I did feel like I was having to force it a bit, and that my legs were spinning hard to keep up with the treadmill.  At least I got through it successfully, though, without too much trouble.

Splits> 8:48, 41, 42, 36, 26, 26, 19, 09, 7:56.

Wednesday, Oct 4:
45 min strength session, last strength before OCRWC
  • Plank: 2.5 min
  • Pull-ups: 5 strict ones a record and kipped a 6th but didn't hang afterwards because my elbow felt a bit strained, followed by 4.75 strict and kipped to 6 with toes to bars afterwards
  • Crunches: 300/side
  • Pushups: 25 + 25 = 50
  • 6 inches: 75s
  • Single Leg Squats: 30 + 45 per side, right knee weak and crackles
  • Clam: 30 + 40 = 70
  • Adductors/Abductors: 45/105
  • Lower Leg Extensions: 70
  • Squats: 115
Saturday, Oct 7:
5.0 in 42:18, 8:27 ave, 2 degrees of incline.  Harder than it should've been, more sweat than I remember normally having for this pace of run.

Sunday, Oct 8:
60 min stationary bike.

Monday, Oct 9:
Turned out to be my last run before the race.  5.0 in 41:04, 8:13 average, 2 degrees of incline.  Felt fairly strong.  Not easy, but not hard like the last few runs were.

FLIGHT TO YYZ
After work on my last day before vacation, I drove to Charleston, so that I could fly out with my mom.  We matched!  At least color-wise... I had on USATF warmups, whereas my mom had on normal people clothes.


We waited around in the airport, for my sister to fly in from NYC.


NIAGARA FALLS

When I first visited Niagara Falls with my family when I was like 10 or something, one of my bucket list items was to return one day, on a road trip with my sister.  I had already returned since, but it was fun to plan a visit with my mom and sister, too.  We normally go the budget route with our trips, but I wanted to give my mom a special experience during this trip.

We stayed at a Holiday Inn close to the falls, which was really convenient, transportation wise.  It wasn't on the falls, so we did have to walk up and down a steep hill a few times a day, but it was still good.


On the afternoon of our arrival, we checked out Canada's Journey Behind the Falls.  I had done the USA's Cave of Winds and loved it, but was curious about how Canada's side was.  I got pretty soaked, in the part that's in front of the falls.  That mist is more like heavy pouring sideways rain, when you're so close.


Besides that part, the rest of Journey Behind the Falls was a tunnel that led to a couple of peep holes that let you look outwards from behind the falls.  You were far enough so that you weren't really sprayed, but the sound of the falls thundered in the caves.


It was a different twist.  All the stuff at Niagara Falls is cool and unique.  I personally prefer Cave of Winds over Journey Behind the Falls, but if you have the time and money, try both.  I'm not counting Maid of the Mist, which I haven't done since my very first trip.  That should also be cool.

My sister was all about the gift shops.  Not much has changed in 20 years, haha.  We got some cute stuffed animal magnets, though.  My mom is cute!


That night, we went to an awesome restaurant that had the best food of the trip.  It was a themed restaurant, too, for extra cool points.  The Syndicate Restaurant and Brewery - highly recommended.  Great food, unique flavor combos.  It's a testament to the quality and tastiness of the food in Canada.  Great service and incredibly friendly Canadians, too!  There was another OCRWC family next to us.


That night, we went back out to the falls, to get a different view of it.  Fireworks season was over, but the falls are lit up in colors year-round.


The next morning, we went out to the Skylon Tower.  I had always thought of it as something that likely would be expensive and not that cool.  I got free tickets as a Holiday Inn rewards program perk, but it wasn't that expensive, in any case, and the view out there was special and better than I expected.  It was a nice surprise.




After Skylong, we made our way to the park close to Rainbow Bridge, to visit a Geocache.  It's a really pretty park, too, which is worth visiting for just park purposes.


We went across Rainbow Bridge, back to America.



And then we saw as much of the US side we could in a limited amount of time.  No time for Cave of Winds.  I would've liked to do it again, if we had time.  My mom and sister weren't in the mood to get drenched again, in any case, though.


It was awesome getting to visit Niagara Falls again.  There are so many different angles from which to see and experience it, figuratively and literally.

OCRWC


We rushed through day 2 of Niagara, to get up to Blue Mountain for mandatory packet pickup the day before the race.  We left Niagara at about 4pm, and with traffic, we didn't arrive until about 8pm, so it was good that we didn't dilly dally in Niagara.  Pickup closed at 9pm.  It was quick, no lines at that time of night.  Afterwards, we took a quick look at the Merch Store, but based on facebook, much of the highly desirable SWAG had sold out by mid-day the previous day!  


After that, we got a late dinner at Northwinds Brewhouse and Kitchen.  Good beers there!  Food was ok.


We then checked in to the Westin Trillium, which is part of the Blue Mountain resort.  It was double what I typically pay for hotels, but it was really nice, and it was a suite.  It was really convenient, too, to be able to walk out to the festival whenever we wanted.


I savored the few hours that I'd likely have with my band.  With OCRWC, it's mandatory completion.  You can re-try (to the extent that you stay within the 5 hour cutoff on courss) as much as you want in the retry lanes, but once you give up, you must give up your band, plus take a time penalty.  Those without bands aren't eligible for prizes.  If you get enough penalties, you may even push your sub-5hr time over 5 hrs.  It would be tough.


The next morning, it was go time.  The highlight of the OCR year.  The Olympics of our sport.


Fortunately, it wasn't too cold in the morning.  Perfect for racing. After lounging in the checkin area for a while, we watched the Pro Men head out at 8:00.  At 8:20, it was the Pro Womens turn.  It started out with some running and light wall obstacles that helped to spread out the field.  There were some sections of scrambling on muddy slopes, but it wasn't too bad for us. 

Part way through, it started misting.  I hoped that it wasn't raining much where my mom and sister were.  They'd be waiting for me at the midpoint of the race, where there were a couple of obstacles that we'd do back at the village.  

The first challenging obstacle was a slip wall steeper than Spartan's.  In the mist, it was tricky, so those of us who were towards the back of the pack waited in line to use the longer rope.  I needed it. There were other variations of slip walls and half pipes, too, but not as challenging as that one.


Back in the village, there was a green half pipe from Mud Hero that was also fairly challenging, but I got through that ok.  Then, there was a GBC Yoke Carry turned Farmer's Carry as a safety measure.  I'm glad to not have a heavy log on my neck with hanging heavy bags, going up a slope.  Good call.


Then, a new obstacle, La Gaffe from Northman races.  It's one of those that looks really cool but is fairly doable.  I did slip off of it on my first try, but got it on my second try.  You climb up a pole, use your body weight to tilt it over on its floor-based pivot, reach out to the next pole, and repeat, for 3 poles in all, getting a bell at the end.  They added little steps on the bottom, to help.



Next, up a steep hill that went along the gondola.  Gondola riders could cheer us on, which was fun.  At the top of some steep forested switchbacks, we encountered Traverse Walls, that took me two tries. 

Then came Stairway to Heaven, which is like going on the underside of an a-frame ladder but only with your arms - no legs.  It's doing like 5 pullups of great distance, then a transition, then an equally challenging reverse pullups before going down to the last rung.  There was a decent-sized line there.  I tried like 5x, but I couldn't even really do one of the pullups.  We watched each other re-try, but it was brutal.  Those who made it past the pullups struggled with the transition.  Those who got through the transition struggled with getting down.  It seemed more and more likely that this would be what would make me lose my band.  I resigned, and got my band cut, and my name and number taken down for the time penalty.

You have to make some decisions during the race.  Each time you try, you tax your arms a lot, and leaves you with less for future obstacles.  I guess the first decision is easier, though, because on the first obstacle that may cause you to lose your band, you might as well give it everything you've got, because once you give up, you're kind of out of the running. 



Onwards, to a wall with 2x4's to help the shorter people.  There was a muddy uphill barbed wire crawl.  At the summit of the mountain, Urban Sky was my second failed obstacle.  I only made it like halfway through the first third of the obstacle.  I retried like 4x, but after trying Stairway so many times, I didn't have so much left.


After Cargo Climb came Dragon's back.  This was the one I had been anticipating the most.  You jump from one platform to another, catching a horizontal bar as you land, with your feet landing on a slope.  One famous pro OCR athlete had been psyched out on this one and gave up her band last year.  I'm not good at jumping, either vertically or horizontally, so I wasn't sure if I could even physically do it.  And what if you don't catch the bar?  Faceplant, at best, tumble down the wall, maybe head-first, worst case.




Getting up on the first platform took like 5 tries, because it was muddy and steep, and had no rope.  Once I got up there (super-psyched to have done so, I was faced with Dragon's back.  I took a moment to gather my wits, and watched someone else do it, then I went for it.  I got it!  You don't have to be a good jumper at all to do it.  Just trust yourself.  After getting past the first one, the remaining 4-ish were less scary.  Still a little scary, but less scary.

Quarter Pipe, then a big wall with a super thick top ledge.  Then, a fun obstacle - GBC's Log Rig.  It was a rig close to the ground, where you can't touch the ground.  Short rig is my kind of rig!


Log Hop, Sidewinder (don't remember what that is).  The Rope Climb is taller than the Spartan ones I'm used to, but I got it.  Fortunately, there was one rope where the bell was a little closer to the rope than the others.  Most bells required a huge reach, which is really hard.  

Getting close to the end... a gauntlet of rigs.  First, a Battlefrog rig.  It took me so many tries to even get onto the apparatus, because it was so high up.  Once I did, I only made it a little way before falling.  I decided not to try a million times just to get on again, so I turned in my name for a third time.  After the race when I was spectating, I saw the end of the rig, and it got even harder towards the end, so I'm not sure that I could've made it, even if I had gotten up on it again.


The wreck bag carry was 50lb, from what I hear.  While going up a slope, a guy behind me must've seen that it was not a walk in the park for me, so he asked me what my favorite ice cream was, haha.  It was a good way to get our minds off of the heavy weight, and made it disappear.  We talked about our favorite ice cream flavors for a little while, then he said that after we finish, he'd get me an ice cream.  That was nice of him.  On the way down, it was muddy and slippery.  I fell on my butt twice. The first time, the wreck bag fell off of me, and I had to heave it back onto me, while on the slope, then squat stand up again.  The second time, the bag at least stayed on me, so I just had to squat to get back up.  Not easy.  


Then, we were back to the rigs.  The next rig, I got almost to the end, before slipping.  I thought I could do it, so I tried again, but I was a little more sapped, so I got slightly less far.  I wore my watch during the race, so I could see how I was doing on time.  I was going to be cutting it close, with a little bit of the race still to go, unknown obstacles, and I'd have penalties on top of that.  I decided to cut my losses, avoid further sapping, and turn in my name for the fourth time.


Right after that was Skull Valley, which starts with skulls that look like rock climbing hand holds that you traverse across horizontally, sideways monkey bar style.  I had almost no chance getting up on the skulls, which were so high up.  There was a ring or something meant to help, but even that was super high and would've involved an additional pull-up, even if you could get on the ring ok.  In hindsight with an idea from facebook, maybe doing a pendulum swing would've helped, but who knows.  It was tough.  Turned in my name a fifth time.


Next, Skyline was a fun-looking one... like a zip line, but with ridges you have to kip over.  There are tricks to it, and with the hindsight of video, I can see some techniques I can use to improve my chances next year.  The farthest I got in three attempts was with my first attempt, where I got 2/3 of the way... so close.


My second and third tries weren't getting me past the first ridge, and my arms were getting more and more worn out.  I still had two challenging obstacles ahead, ones that we had seen in the festival area the day before, so I knew what I was in for.  I chose to turn in my name a sixth time.


 

The second to last obstacle was Indian Mud Run's Floating Walls.  It's one of the funnest out there, from what I gathered on Facebook.  I thought I'd be able to do it.  It seems like a doable one.  At the end of a 15K OCRWC, though, after many obstacle retries along the way, though, not necessarily the case.  I got to the end of the first trio of walls, but I couldn't transition onto the cargo net.  I tried two more times, but same thing.  Grip's gone.  Waiting to regather strength wasn't helping, and I was short on time.  I turned in my name a seventh time, and went on to the last obstacle.



The last obstacle was another inclined wall, with short ropes on it.  I was worried about it, because similar walls were challenging even early in the race.  It ended up being quite ok, though, because you were able to step on the tops of the ropes.  I'm glad it was doable, because it would've felt wrong to not be able to successfully complete the last obstacle of the race, before going to the finish line.


At last, the finish line that I've dreamed of... OCRWC.  I think Adrian, the Race Director, was there, to give high-fives.  I almost missed him because I was so focused on finishing.  It was a nice feeling.


Afterwards, I cleaned up, showered, then headed back out to spectate and get a Dry Robe.  We had been debating about it, because you'd only use it for cold events where you get wet, but it should be good for Iceland.  It's an early Christmas present from my mom.


I wasn't particularly hungry after the race, but I was very ready for food a few hours later, and we had some great brisket Poutine, a fancy salad, a Brisket burrito, and pulled pork at Rusty's in the village.  We had a view of the finish area and the wreck bag carry, too, and saw some people riding down their wreck bags like a banana boat!  The course had gotten progressively more mangled during the day and the earlier rain.  Couldn't believe it!  


While we were watching, the most inspirational performance I saw was a French athlete who kept getting almost to the end of Skull Valley, before slipping off.  She made it look so easy up until the point where she would suddenly fall off, so close to the bell.  Our hearts broke for her.  She still had her band at that time, which was why it was so critical for her to get through.  She would collect herself, shake our her hands, rest a little, and then try again when she felt ready.  We left before either seeing her finish or give up.  I checked her number later, and she didn't make it.  She got through everything except this.  She fought an amazing battle, though, and her determination was incredible.


That evening, my sister and I headed back out to watch the awards ceremony, in some rain.  But it got delayed by an hour, so we gave it up.  Rest time with some tea, instead.  At night, we kept hearing cheers from the rigs, which were visible from our hotel room balcony.  We couldn't believe that people were still on course, in the dark!  We also heard fireworks, and went outside for that.  It was my first time seeing fireworks in the rain.  It made the lights hazed, but was an interesting experience.



The next morning, my sister really wanted to sleep in, but we also wanted to catch the team relays.  There were coed or single-sex teams of 3, where one person did the Endurance portion, one did the Strength portion, and one did the Technique portion of the race.  It was fun for people to find teammates, sometimes from other countries, randomly on facebook, if they didn't already have a group to go with.  I decided to stick with only the 15K this year, since it was pricey as it was to do the 15K, and I figured that I'd be wrecked after the race, anyways.  I was, so I don't regret it too much, but those who did the team race had so much fun.  I was glad to be dry and clean after I had finished my race, though.


The special thing about the team race was that they finished with the same knot wall, but with none of the lower ropes, so people had to stand on each others' shoulders to get up, Spartan Team Ultimate Challenge slip wall style.  We watched some inspirational performances, there, too.  There's also something about compatriots getting through something and finishing together, something that you don't get doing an individual race.  Maybe one day... or maybe, if I don't do the 15K one year.  I wouldn't want to be the one to cause my team to lose their band, so maybe if I find others who are doing it for fun...

I got to see some of the people that I had raced with, too, after the race.  Both of them kept their bands.  Despite the 15K being an individual race, it was cool to see how the competitors supported each other and cheered each other on, nonetheless.  I've seen it in races like Spartan, but it was cool to see that even at OCRWC, that kind of comraderie exists, too.  We were just as excited to see others struggle and overcome obstacles, as much as we were when we finally got through after multiple attempts.



The neatest thing about the weekend was seeing so many people from lots of different countries come together.  We're all united by a love of the sport.  Fanatics, really... you're surrounded by fellow fanatics.  Right after we finished registered, when we were walking by the t-shirt pickup table on our way out, we saw the t-shirt guy doing hand stands against the wall, randomly.  Something I would do (I've done pushups at Narita airport, to get some blood flowing before the flight).  


While watching the team race, I rode up the Gondola with my Athlete pass, so that I could experience that and check it off the list.  


Blue Mountain is right by Georgian Bay, so on the steep slopes during the race, we had gotten great views of it. I'd turn around while racing to take peeks.




 
On our way out, got some Beaver Tails!  Skor bars (like Heath bars) with cream cheese icing.  We stopped by a couple of shops, to get the full ski resort experience.  We needed to get a move on, to make the drive up to Bruce Peninsula, stopping at a Walmart along the way to get some groceries. 

We went to the visitor center for Fathom Five National Marine Park.  It was the last day of the season, and waters were choppy, it was misting rain, and it was chilly.  They had a nice museum there, plus a lookout tower.  The view wasn't great because of the mist, I think.  


Towards sunset, the rain stopped, and I walked around the harbor.  We chilled in the inn, where I hungrily ate boiled eggs, fruit, and potato chips.  Chill time.  



The next morning, I took my sister and mom out to the harbor, where we got a geocache across the marina from a ferry for cars, which opened up in the front.


A special thing about the day was that it was "Crane Day", when they'd take their boats out of the water.  We got to watch a little of that.  



Next, it was time to head out to the main attraction of Bruce Peninsula, "The Grotto".  The water in this area is super clear and bright blue, like Caribbean blue.  We had a short hike out there, from where we parked.


We even got to see the ferry that we saw at the marina earlier in the day!


It was beautiful there.  You could just stay thing watching the view for hours and not get bored. Despite the chill, I would've tried swimming, had my mom and sister not been there. 


There were other people there, too, and my sister noticed that some people disappeared, and had mentioned a hole.  There was a hole in the ground that you could go down, to see the grotto from a different perspective!






It would've been nice to stay there all day, but we had a long 4.5 hr drive back to Toronto ahead of us, so we tried to go quickly through the rest of the trail.


On Boulder Beach, a part of Bruce Trail, we came across Inukshuks!  We contributed a few of our own, too.


On our long drive back to Toronto, we did the obligatory stop at Tim Horton's.  They actually have quite good food.  Their doughnuts were too sweet for my tastes, though.


In Toronto, we got an AirB&B.  It was a nice one at a condo close to the waterfront.  We had a full day to explore Toronto the next day.


We didn't want to bother with the trams, tickets, and subway this time, and it would be a nice walk along the harborfront to the ferry station to Toronto Islands.  We wandered our way down, stopping at whatever piqued our interest.




 At Roundhouse Park, a marketing promotion had the World's Largest Selfie Stick!



 We eventually made it to the ferry, and enjoyed views of the cityscape.



I took my mom and sister on a whirlwind walking tour of Toronto Islands, showing them stuff I had discovered on my previous trip.





 
 And we rushed back to the Air B&B, in time to go out again for dinner.



It was a fun week in Canada.  Can't wait for the next OCRWC.  It was great getting to share the adventures with my mom and sister.