Friday, May 26, 2017

Ohio Beast/Sprint Weekend 2017

In keeping with what I want to be become a habit, here’s a bit of a rundown of last weekend (5/19-21) and what we did at the Ohio Beast/Sprint weekend. We have mapped out our race schedule early in the year and even though this is our “home” race we decided to mix it up a bit and not run but rather explore new things. This meant the Kid’s Race for our 3 that are not old enough to participate in the full Spartan races, volunteering at the race and then the Spartan Endurance event, Hurricane Heat.

For the TL;DR crowd – we had fun and got very muddy. 10/10 would do it again.  😉

The whole weekend revolved around Spartan Race and driving back and forth to Chandlersville, OH which is about 1h45m from home. My son and I signed up to be volunteers and this was new for us. We received the email notifying us so sign up for times to volunteer a few weeks before the race. I was hoping we could volunteer to help with course setup as I think it would be neat to see some of the logistics behind a Spartan Race but they require you to be 18. I meet that requirement (by a few years!) but my son does not.  We tossed around different ideas and settled on the Course Marshal position where we would be recording the Elite athletes and verifying their burpee penalty if they failed the obstacle. We could easily do this job Sunday AM and then participate in the Hurricane Heat later that afternoon so it sounded like a perfect opportunity!

One caveat for the Course Marshal position is that we needed to attend training Friday afternoon, but you get a free race *and* a hoodie. We made the trek to the race site and met up with Alex who showed us the camera and how to use it. It was simple to do and seemed easy enough. All in all, training took maybe 20 minutes and much of that was standing around chit-chatting with the other volunteers. We drove home and were excited about the weekend ahead.

Saturday came and today was all about the kids. We packed into the van and headed to the course. For our youngest 3, this would be their first Spartan Race. They have never even been to a course because there really isn’t much for a spectator to do while your racers are out and about. It was foggy and overcast with the threat of rain all weekend but it’s a Spartan Race so mud is part of the fun. The youngest two have done plenty of 5Ks and the oldest of the three has also done some 10k trail races so they were well prepared.  We checked in and walked around the festival area while waiting for their wave to go out onto the course.  We watched the Beast runners start a few waves and then walked over to some of the other obstacles and watched people take a crack at them.

Once it was finally time, they loaded into their starting corral (complete with wall to climb over!!) and waited the last few minutes. This is where the local Spartan Race team really did a good job. The Beast runners were maybe 20 feet away from the Kid’s Race starting corral so the starter for the Beast had them “coach” the kids on how to start and say AROO. The kids really liked this and helped make them feel like they were getting ready to do something epic (which they were). They got to listen to the usual Spartan starting speech (check it out here if you’ve not heard it) and watch the 10AM beast wave go out. Additionally, this was the official Corn Fed Spartans wave and there must have been 100 Corn Fed in the corral and our kids were sporting their jerseys.  Jen from Spartan Race, was the starter for the Kid’s Race and she got them loose and warmed up with some light exercises before sending them off on their 1 mile race.

Spartan Race does a great job of making the Kid’s Race similar to the regular races and they had an A-Frame, inverted wall, regular wall, spear throw, mud pits, mud crawl, balance beams and more around the 1 mile, undulating course. Our kids had a great time and did amazing with helping each other over the obstacles and being true Corn Fed Spartans. They finished the race and collected their finisher medals and enjoyed a post-race snack. Afterwards we walked around a lot more and went to watch some of the new obstacles like Olympus and some classics like the multi-rig and sandbag carry.  We called it a day and drove home.

The next day my son and I were up at 3:45AM to head back to the course to start our volunteer shift at 5:30AM. We made great time as there wasn’t a lot of traffic on the roads for some reason. Ha!  We checked in at the volunteer tent to get our assignment which was spear throw. Spear throw is one of the most failed obstacles on the course and is considered by many to be a burpee machine. Our job would be to record all of the Elite male racers, record their bib number if they failed and then later, count their burpees. We would stop counting the men once the first women Elite showed up and then record 30 of them before packing up and heading back to review the footage.

We hopped in the ATV that would take us out to our obstacle and away we went. The course was super muddy from the rain and pounding that a few thousand Beast runners gave it and we were slipping and sliding all over.  During the ride my cell phone fell out of my pocket but we luckily found it.  I was afraid it fell into some of the soupy mud and was gone for good. We got dropped off at the spear throw and mounted the camera and got it in position and then killed some time working on our spear throw technique. It’s not often you get a chance to practice on a real setup as you get one shot during the race and if you miss – 30 burpees.  We also walked down to one of the new obstacles, Twister. This one looks like a burpee machine to me as well!

As it got closer to race time we went back to our station and awaited the first runners. It didn’t take too long for us to hear them pounding down the trail and the leaders all stuck their throws – whoo hoo!  After that, chaos ensued as groups of runners arrived, some missing and some hitting. We got the runner’s bib number either as they went by or while they were doing their burpees. I would write their number down on a white board, show it to the camera and get the next one. It was crazy busy and at times we had 9 or 10 runners grinding out their penalties.  It was maybe half an hour before the first ladies came through. As with the men, the first runners made their throws and then the burpees stacked up.  We stopped collecting men’s bib numbers and focused on the women and started counting them as they came through. Once we hit 30, we turned off the camera and hitched a ride back to base camp.

We then started the tedious process of counting each burpee to make sure the runners completed their penalty. This wasn’t too bad when there were only a few but as the number of people entering and leaving the burpee zone increased it became confusing.  We had to rewind and review multiple times since the penalty for not doing 30 burpees is a 30 second penalty for each one missed!  Ouch! The Elites are running for money and points in the standings so it is no joke and we took our job very seriously. All in all we only had to report 3 men for penalties – the women were all legit at 30 or more.  
We finished our shift around 10:00 AM and we needed to kill some time until the 2PM start of the Hurricane Heat. We walked over to the Biggest Team tent, which was awarded to the Crazy Mudder Muckers and they were kind enough to share with the Corn Fed Spartans. It was nice to talk with people as they prepared to go out for their race or as they came in.  The Hurricane Heat (HH) is a 4+ hour Spartan Endurance event that is not a race. Its focus is on teamwork and the Warrior Ethos. Both my son and I were signed up for it, but after a visit to the Dr. Friday morning, I had to sit it out due to a pulled abdominal muscle. I was bumming that I couldn’t get in on the fun, but knew it made sense for the long term as we have a busy race schedule now that summer is here.  I figured while I was there and my son was doing the HH I would see if I could pickup another volunteer shift.

Part of the HH is designed to be a bit of mystery and being late to the event results in group punishment (50 burpees for the 1st late person, 100 for the 2nd and so on) so the HH participants started to gather around 12:30 for gear check and to make sure everyone was ready. My son was eager to join the group so he went to have some fun in the mud and I went to the volunteer tent. I’ve heard there is no shortage of need for volunteers and this held true so I signed back in to work at bag check.
Bag check was a lot more fun than I thought it would be as we got to see many of the racers as they came off the course and congratulate them. For quite a few it was their first Spartan Race ever and they loved it and for a very small few, they were convinced they’d never do one again. When we were not getting people’s bags we stood around in the rain and talked with the other volunteers. I talked with a lady from New Hampshire who had competed in the “Tough Guy” OCR in England as well as 3 or 4 years of various Spartan Races.  Another volunteer was in her first year of racing and everything in between.  It was fun to hear what other people have done and what they do for a day job.  OCR has all kinds of people that participate in it.

As the racers found their way through the course, we were asked to help tear down the festival area. This is a pretty daunting task but as the saying goes, many hands make light work.  We all worked well as a team and tore our area down. As we were finishing up, we were asked to go to the finish line to cheer on the final group of racers. It was awesome to see this group of 8 people help and push each other through the last few obstacles and then cross the finish together.  They were having a great time and they had a lot of volunteers cheering them on.  Once they got their medals it was back to work for us. We finished the final tear down just in time to see the HH group come back from their fun in the woods and do 110 burpees (it was HH class 110 so that’s where the number came from).  They were caked in mud and smiles all around when they were finished. 

My son and I stood around for a bit and talked with some Corn Fed who were still there before walking to the car and heading home.  It was quite a weekend and different from one in where we’ve raced but it was nice to see Spartan from a different perspective. We met a lot of really neat people and met many of the people we talk with on social media about OCR as well.  I am looking forward to the next race in Chicago where I’ll be running for my first Super of 2017 on my way to a double trifecta.  Aroo!

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