Tag Archives: Tough Mudder

Spartan Beast – Vernon, NJ 2017

The Race:

I went to Vernon, New Jersey this past Saturday for the Spartan Beast.  My boyfriend, AJ, and I drove up to the race early Saturday morning and then we met up with my friend, Jayme, and two of her friends.  While registering, AJ met a guy he knew from high school who was also at the race.

18194935_10100100507769870_3898880809216318365_n
Me & Jayme

I had completed four previous Spartan races back in 2014, but this was going to be my first one since then, so I was feeling a little nervous. (Previous races: Sprint in Uncasville, CT; Super in Vernon, NJ; Beast in Killington, VT; Stadium Sprint at Fenway in Boston, MA)

I had injured my shoulder about two months ago, so although I had increased my strength training early on this year, I had to cut back tremendously in order to rehab my shoulder.

I knew that I was in good shape in terms of running, but I was curious how I would do with the obstacles.

Our start time was 9:45am, but the race was delayed since there had been thunderstorms that morning.

Once we started, the race went straight uphill.  I knew from previous races that hills are meant to be walked.  A Spartan beast is over 12 miles.  They told us that this one was mapped out to be 13.8 miles (though their mileage doesn’t account for obstacles, so it was probably actually between 14 and 15 miles total).  That’s more than a half marathon, plus crazy hills and obstacles.  If you try to run up the first hill, I can almost guarantee that you are going to use up too much energy.

The hills seem almost endless at times.  Before even getting to mile two, my quads were already burning (despite how often I had been running and climbing stairs before the day of the race).  I was actually feeling a little bit nervous at that point, knowing that I still had over 10 miles left, yet my legs were already feeling sore.

I tried to run or at least jog every time the race became flat or downhill.  I’m really good at running downhill.  Some people step very gingerly when going downhill, but I find that I do better letting my momentum take over.  There were many times when my legs felt tired to walk, but once I started running or jogging, they felt less fatigued.

Even going down rocky slopes, I still usually jogged, remaining confident with my footing so that I wouldn’t slip.

There were a total of 32 obstacles.  Here is a review of some of them (in no particular order):

Walls

In any Spartan race, there are a number of walls to get past.  Some are short and I can easily jump, push myself up on my arms, and climb over.  For the 10-foot walls, I definitely need someone to help give me a boost.  Racing with AJ made these walls a lot easier since he could give me a boost whenever needed.

There was also a wall in the water.  For this one, we had to swim under it.  I didn’t mind going under the wall, but the water is brown and muddy, so some people don’t prefer submerging themselves.  I just felt for the bottom of the wall at first, to make sure that I knew how deep I had to go underwater.

After coming out of the water, there was a slanted wall with ropes on it.  We had to hold the rope to pull ourselves up.

18274731_10100101378130660_4033899464392614853_n
AJ coming out from under the water at this wall

For obstacles like this, the type of sneaker you are wearing makes a HUGE difference.  Lots of people were slipping all over the place.  When I tried, I didn’t slip at all.  I just held onto that rope and pulled myself up, one step at a time.

I prefer racing in trail shoes since they have a strong grip on the bottom.  Lately there are a lot of running shoes, especially Nike ones, that are very flat on the bottom.  They have little grip and although their lightweight nature may be nice when running, they are not the best option when grip is needed.

I have Adidas trail shoes that I have used for the past three or four Spartan races and I swear by them, rarely failing at an obstacle only as a result of my shoes.

Water

There are a few times when you have to walk through water.  This time, there was no swimming obstacle, but for one part of the race, you had to walk through water.  I’m 5’2′ and eventually the water was up to my chest.

I expected the water to be really cold since it was only April, but surprisingly, it wasn’t bad.  It was actually pretty refreshing.

I really like the water, so I enjoy the water obstacles.  The hardest part is that you can’t see where you’re walking, so sometimes you trip on stones or branches.  In Vermont, I cut up my shin quite a bit because I kicked a rock that I didn’t see.

This time, there were some times when we had to cross a stream.  One time, I jumped into the water and tripped as I went to take a step.  I fell onto a rock and cut my knee.  I saw the blood coming down my sock and soon after, we were walking through deep mud.  It’s never ideal to get a bunch of mud into cuts, but that’s what happens during this race.

18278836_10100101378095730_8968140780571586298_o

Memory

I had forgotten about this, but there is a memory component to the race.  You get to a wall and have to memorize a certain word/number combination, based on whatever the last two digits of your bib number are.  My bib number was 12517, so I had to memorize “Romeo 213 1089.”

When looking at some YouTube videos, I can see that some racers did have to tell a Spartan volunteer their number at some point.  If they couldn’t remember, they would have to do burpees.  But somehow we never had to do that.  I don’t know if we somehow ran past the people asking, or if they stopped asking.  But after finishing the race, I was so frustrated that I had remembered my number for nothing.

Z-Wall

I love this obstacle.  It’s a wall with wooden rectangle hand and foot grips.  I’m usually pretty good at it; I think it helps that I’m small so I can more easily rest my feet on the rectangles and grab the hand pieces with my whole hand.

For this version, though, the wall isn’t just flat across.  It is in the shape of a Z.  I had made it 2/3 of the way across and AJ was standing behind me.  I told him to just spot me in case I needed help.  I got to one of the corners and I couldn’t see the other side of the wall. I tried to reach out my foot to feel for the next wooden rectangle, but I couldn’t reach it even with my leg fully extended.  The same was true with my arm.

So AJ put a hand out for me to step across since I couldn’t reach and I got my foot on the rectangle, but I still couldn’t reach with my hand, so I suddenly slipped and hit the ground.  I was so frustrated since I was so close to the bell.

I forgot that I could have tried again, but instead I went and did the 30 burpee penalty while AJ crossed the wall.

Log Carry

Men get a larger log and females get a smaller one.  You must carry it up and down a hill.  The logs are pretty heavy, so although they don’t feel too bad in the beginning, it gets tiring by the time you carry it up.

I like to carry the log on my head because I find that to be the easiest option while walking uphill.  Not too many people do it this way, but it works for me.  Most people carry it on one of their shoulders.

On the downhill, I carried it horizontally across my stomach and that wasn’t too bad.

18192755_10100101378395130_585212377299868903_o

Spear Throw

I hate this obstacle.  It’s so hard to get the spear to actually stick into the hay.  So many people have to do burpees at this obstacle.  AJ was able to complete every obstacle without assistance except for this one since he missed the hay.

Sandbag Carry

The females and males have different weights to carry.  Just like the log carry, you walk up and down hills, over some branches, and through a little bit of water.  Some people carry it on their shoulder or behind their heads.

I carried mine on my head and later kind of hugging it in front of me.

Monkey Bars

These are my major weakness.  I just can’t do the monkey bars.  But one day I will be able to.  They have normal monkey bars…well, as normal as the Spartan race will have it.  They’re still wider than normal monkey bars, so they’re really difficult to grip with my small hands.

They have monkey bars that have a long metal piece that you must get across, followed by different chains, baseballs on rope, and grips that you have to cross.

They also had ones that spin around while you’re trying to reach the next one.  AJ completed each of these obstacles with ease…me, not so much.

Atlas Carry

They have these big cement stones on the ground.  You must pick it up, walk a few yards, drop it, do 5 burpees, pick it up, walk back, and then drop it.

Picking it up is the hardest part.  Looking online, I can’t find a definite answer about the weight, but it seems that most people agree that it is somewhere between 40 and 60 lbs for women and 80 and 100 lbs for men.

40-60 lbs doesn’t sound terrible, but the size of the stone makes it difficult to get off of the ground.

I squat as low as I can to the ground and try to push it against my stomach to get it up.  Looking at tutorials online, some people roll the stone up one of their legs while the other leg is in the squatting position.  That way they can get it up against their stomach/chest more easily.

Once it’s up, it isn’t too difficult to walk with the stone, but picking it up is the tricky part.

Gravel Bucket Carry

This is an obstacle that most people hate.  It’s brutal.  It always comes towards the end of the race.  In the Spartan Beast in Vermont, this obstacle occurred twice.  You have to fill a bucket with gravel.  It has to be filled up to the line, which is a little bit lower for women than men.

Then, there is an extremely steep hill that you must climb while holding the bucket.  If you drop it, spilling gravel, you have to start all over again.  This is an obstacle that anyone can finish, but not quickly.

This was at the end of the race.  My legs were so tired from all of the previous running and obstacles.  Every step was difficult.  I hugged the bucket in front of me, slowly putting one foot in front of the other.

Going up the hill, every time I needed a break, I put my right leg in front of me, up the hill.  I would rest the bucket on my thigh.  That gave me the break that I needed so that I could catch my breath.  Many people rest by putting the gravel all the way back down on the ground, but that seems to waste a lot of unnecessary energy since you have to bend all the way over to drop the bucket and then lifting it off of the ground is much more difficult than lifting it off of your thigh.

At the top of the hill, it was flat, so I was sure to rest before the top and then after the flat part.  I knew that if I rested at the flat part, I wouldn’t have a hill to position my right leg on in order to rest the bucket on my thigh.

I expected the downhill to be more difficult, but that was not the case.  The downhill was definitely easier, but I was still very careful with my steps.  Parts of the hill were very steep and had quite a bit of spilled gravel.  I didn’t want to risk falling and dumping out my gravel since I would then have to start from the beginning.

Rope Climb

I’ve still never been able to climb the rope in the race.  Usually, the ropes are over water.  This time, the ropes were over foam mats.  And for the first time, I am able to climb a rope at the gym.  However, this obstacle was the last one in the entire race.  My body was entirely drained, especially from the gravel bucket carry which I had just completed.  I hopped onto the rope and although I thought that I might be able to get up partway, I could tell that my arms just didn’t have the strength to get me all the way up and back down without just falling.  I opted for the burpees.  Again.

Here’s a nice video that someone took of all of the obstacles:


Results

I finished in 5 hours and 3 minutes, which placed me 9th in my age group (out of 280 females ages 24-29).

I was 27th out of all 1374 females.

AJ and I both finished at the same time, so we were 299th out of 4,200 total competitors in the open division.  Not too bad!

18199565_10100100507814780_7179804860776221210_n


Women’s Clothing:

Tops: I like to wear a sports bra with an athletic tank top.  I avoid cotton, t-shirts, and loose-fitting tank tops since they become heavy when wet.  Some girls just wear a sports bra, but I don’t want my stomach and back to get cut while crawling over walls and under barbed wire.

Bottoms: I wear spandex shorts, or capris with long socks.  If it’s around 55 degrees or warmer, I’ll go for shorts because I don’t like to feel too hot while racing.  If it’s chillier, I’ll wear the capris.  I opt to just wear the spandex without underwear so that there are fewer layers of fabric, but that’s a personal preference.

I used to wear shorter socks for my first few races, but then at the Beast in Vermont, I cut up my heels pretty badly since my socks were too low.  That was pretty painful.  I was running at last 10/17 miles with bleeding ankles.  They especially hurt when I had to do the rope traverse obstacle, dragging my bleeding heels across the rope.

10710775_786801517740_3391339105368188830_n

Those were my bleeding ankles in Vermont.  Ever since then, I remember to wear tall socks to avoid that unnecessary pain.

I tend to get blisters on my toes when I run, especially if my feet are wet, so I wear Injinji toe socks:

849182

Shoes: I always use trail shoes because of the grip.  These are similar to the ones I have:

I noticed that there were a lot of people slipping on the wall that we had to climb holding onto a rope.  We went from water straight to this wall, so it was pretty wet.  Thanks to the grip on my sneakers, I didn’t slip at all.  Most of the people who slipped had sneakers with flat soles that might work for running, but not obstacle racing.

Hydration pack: I prefer to race without a hydration pack, but I learned that it is almost essential on the beast.  In Vermont, there were times when I was so thirsty that I considered asking a complete stranger for a sip of their straw.

I have a small Camelbak.  It’s called a mini-mule and it’s actually a child’s size, but I found that the adult ones were larger than I wanted when I went to buy one a few years ago.  This is mine:

Even better than the fact that it held water was the pockets in the Camelbak.  I brought 8 GU gels to the race: 4 for AJ and 4 for me.  We ended up having 3 each.  In the past, I have stored my GU gels in my sports bra, but sometimes I end up with cuts between my breasts as a result.  It was nice to just keep them in the pocket of the Camelbak.

I also kept our headlamps in another pocket.  We didn’t need the headlamps in the end, but we had them as a precaution because you get kicked off of the race if you don’t have a headlamp after the sun begins setting.


 

 

After the Race:

Upon finishing, they give you your medal, a banana, and a protein bar.  Then you can grab your T-shirt.  I was happy that the T-shirts were specifically for the Spartan Beast this year.  In 2014, all of the shirts were exactly the same, regardless of whether you ran the Sprint, Super, Beast, or Ultra.  I have 4 of the exact same T-shirt since I ran 4 races that year.

18157005_10100100508014380_1791599681376253255_n
T-shirt, headband, and finisher’s medal

 

I tried to walk around a little bit after the race because I knew that my legs would tighten up once I sat down.  I was pretty dirty, so I rinsed off some of the dirt before getting on the shuttle back to our parking lot.

18157955_10100100507879650_5066540600074565699_n
Dirty face after the race

After the two-hour car ride home, my legs were super stiff.  AJ and I were both super tired and sore, so we just went out to get dinner and then had a lazy evening.  Sunday was another lazy day.  They suggest running a slow, short jog the day after the race, but my legs were already so sore that I don’t think that I could have gone for a jog.

If I had, maybe that would have helped my sore legs.  I’m not really too sure.  I can’t even describe the pain I felt with each step.  It felt as though my quads and calves had been torn apart and were unable to support my legs.

Stairs were my absolute enemy.  I have had sore legs after running full marathons, but I think that I was more sore from this race than from the marathons.  My right knee was locking up every time I stepped because my muscles just weren’t firing accurately.

We were finished with the race around 3pm on Saturday.  Sunday and Monday were the most painful days in terms of my sore legs.  Tuesday was still pretty rough.  Wednesday I was almost walking normally.  Thursday was normal other than steps.  Finally on Friday I could walk up and down steps normally (though there was still some soreness).

After the race, I had rolled out AJ’s legs, but mine were already so sore that I told him that I didn’t want it.  Maybe it would have helped.

I was also really sore in my inner arm.  I had bruised it when getting up and over one of the 10-foot walls.  I had an immediate bruise during the race, which just kept getting darker after the race.

18199496_10100100736586320_5803325412599890363_n
Bruised arm

Anyway, I’m really happy about the race overall.  I wish I could have avoided my shoulder injury so that I could have performed better at some of the obstacles that require mainly upper body strength, but I guess that is what next year is for.

Here’s another medal to add to my race rack:

18157772_10100100508069270_1618383544097680753_n

Until next time, AROO!

18157567_10100100507949510_7054268024918287714_n

My Resolution for 2016

I don’t really make resolutions. I just think they’re silly since most people can’t even remember their promise by February.

But this year, there is definitely a big change that I would like to make in 2016.

In 2013 and 2014, I ran half marathons, a full marathon, a Tough Mudder, and Spartan obstacle races.  It was an absolute blast, and it helped me to stay in great shape.

2015 hit me hard, though, in terms of Lyme symptoms.  I never really went more than 3 weeks without symptoms.  Thus, my workouts suffered.  Fortunately, because I eat healthy, my weight didn’t really fluctuate that much, but I can tell that my endurance is shot and my muscle mass is pitiful.

I went to confession at church this week, like I always do during Advent, and one of the sins I confessed was how I sometimes found myself feeling angry at God.  I had the whole “why me?” mentality regarding the Lyme, frustrated when it kept coming back.

The priest’s advice really resonated with me.  He said to stop saying “I’m sick” and to instead, say “I’m getting better.”  It’s not a lie, because at any time, I should be maintaining the hope that I am getting better.  And my mom always told me about self-fulfilling prophesies.  Saying “I’m sick” all of the time isn’t really helping anything.  If nothing else, it probably just perpetuates my symptoms since, in a way, I expect those symptoms.

I know that I can’t always maintain my positive “I’m getting better” outlook, but I think that being cognizant of the way I talk about the Lyme may be helpful.  I need to stop dwelling on the things I can’t do, but rather focus on the things that I am able to do.  This week I was able to walk on the beach a few times, I did two simple, low-impact workouts, and I even ran a mile, albeit a very slow mile.  I need to focus on each of those accomplishments rather than complaining that my running pace was not great.

It’s easier said than done, but I’m hoping that working on my outlook and positivity in 2016 will help me to feel better.  I also want to try to do workouts even when I’m feeling sick.  If my back hurts badly enough, it probably isn’t a good idea to run, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t at least do stretches, or go for a walk.  If my knees are sore, maybe I can lift weights instead of doing a run or squats.

I’m only 27.  I can’t already give up.  I have too many more things that I want to do.  Too many more races that I want to run.  So I am hoping that in 2016, I can complete in at least one race, if not more.  I’m hoping to either get my distance running up to the level that I can run a half marathon, or get my strength training in order so that I can run another Spartan race.

That’s my goal and I’m determined.

Here is my motivation:

run.jpg
Hartford Half Marathon – 2013
sparant
Spartan Beast – 2014 – 17 miles of obstacles and mountain climbing in Vermont

Why I Despise Showers

Yes, you read that correctly.  I don’t just hate showers.  I absolutely despise them.

So true
So true

As I sit here, I really should be taking a shower.  But what am I doing?  Writing a blog about how I hate showering.  And I really could have showered a full hour ago, but found a multitude of mindless YouTube videos instead.  That’s the problem I have with showering — there are so many better things I feel I can be doing with my time.

I know, I know, I don’t want to be the stinky girl.  But gosh do I hate having to shower.  I would rather do any of the following things in order to avoid showering (and most are not particularly thrilling):

-Grade papers

-Plan lessons

-Cook dinner

-Clean dishes

-Run errands

-Work out

-Pay my credit card bills

…you get the idea.


-It feels like wasted time

I don’t really take that long to shower, but it’s the whole process that is a drag.  For me, it usually goes something like this:

-Find clothes to put on after I shower

-Stand in my bathroom for a minute not wanting to get undressed because I’ll feel cold

-Shower (probably only 10 minutes out of the whole process)

-Dry off with my towel (or what I more commonly do: stand there wrapped in my towel, waiting to be dry)

-Put lotion on my newly shaved legs

-Put argan oil on my face (seriously the best skin/hair/nails product I’ve ever encountered)

-Maybe floss (if it’s a day I really have a lot of extra time)

-Brush my teeth with my electronic toothbrush (and probably shut it off a little before the 2-minute automatic shut-off because, well, I just don’t have time for that)

-Get dressed

-Detangle/comb/mousse my hair (more on that later)

So you see, if it was just the shower, maybe I’d have a higher tolerance.  I hate the shower and all that must accompany it.

Oh, and those of you who enjoy baths???  I don’t think I will ever understand you.

-Shampoo sometimes gets in my eyes

How can something that leaves your hair so nice and smooth feel like absolute fire from hell when it gets into your eyes?  And why can’t all shampoo be made the way the no tears shampoo that is used on children is made?

Shampoo inside of the eyeball is so torturous, and it sometimes leaves your eyes red for hours.

This man's eye is probably red from shampoo while showering
This man’s eye is probably red from shampoo while showering

-I’m always cold when I get out of the shower

Spring? Winter? Unless it’s over 78 degrees in my bathroom, I feel chilly when I get out of the shower.  And ladies, you know what chilly means.  Goosebumps.

Those dreaded goosebumps.  Why so dreaded?  Because your lovely, smoothly shaven legs will never feel the same after you get goosebumps.  You took the time to shave during your shower, and all for nothing.

-If it’s winter, nothing good comes from showers.

Although I’m still sometimes chilly after fall and spring showers, winter ones are the worst because, not only am I chilly after exiting the shower, but I remain chilly until my hair dries.  With curly hair, that can take hours.  Literally.

maxresdefault

-Curly hair problems

My Shirley Temple hair when I was younger
My Shirley Temple hair when I was younger

As a child and even teenager, I hated my curly hair.  While there are still times when I would love to have naturally straight hair, I like it much more now because I have learned how to manage it.  The problem is that there’s a bit of a process involved.  If I just let it air dry without any mousse, it would be a frizzy mess.

Step 1: Turbie Twist:

Turbie Twist
Turbie Twist

In order to have a good hair day, I must shower in the morning, dry my hair in a turbie twist for some time, put in some It’s a 10 miracle leave-in product, comb through, put in some mousse, scrunch, and let air dry.

Step 2: It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-In Product:

It's a 10
It’s a 10

Step 3: Herbal Essences Mousse:

8391123215phpkcIScv

It’s not too time consuming.  I don’t need to use a flat iron or a blow-dryer.

Want nice hair? Gotta let it air dry after putting in some mousse...
Want nice hair? Gotta let it air dry after putting in some mousse…

However, it does require a shower.  But that leads me into my next problem…

-To shower at night or in the morning?

If it wasn’t for my curly hair problem, I would always shower at night.  If I could wake up with nice hair, I would never ever shower in the morning.  But I basically have one option if I don’t shower in the morning: wear a ponytail.  Unless I somehow slept without much tossing and turning, my curly hair is always a little frizzy or silly-looking by the morning.

But I wake up at 5:31 to leave my house by 6:03 to get to work.  I need that time to get up, go to the bathroom, get dressed, make and eat breakfast, put on makeup, brush my teeth, pack my lunch, quickly check my email, and get out the door.  I’m actually pretty proud of myself for being able to do all of that in 32 minutes.  I have it down to a science.

However, I can’t add a shower to the mix.  If I shower, I have to get up at 5:20 and although I’m a morning person, I don’t particularly enjoy waking up before 6am…I especially don’t enjoy waking up at or before 5:30 am (hence the 5:31 alarm).  I know, I’m a bit quirky, but I started setting my alarm at 5:31am in high school and I have continued with that time in each of my teaching jobs.  It just works for me.

-The awful situation that is a morning shower in the winter

Anyway…the morning shower is just not my favorite.  Couple the morning shower with the winter and I’m really done for.  In the summer, I can shower in the morning and go outside without freezing to death.

426003_610496100210_1365306040_n

In the winter, however, I can shower in the morning if I dare.  But then I know with a high degree of certainty that my hair will freeze when I go outside.  Now, I don’t know the science behind it, but I don’t think it can be good for hair to get frozen solid.  It definitely doesn’t feel nice.

And the days when I still had Butterscotch and had to walk him outside with wet hair after a morning shower in the winter?  That was just terrible.

531659_667612204080_729878508_n

Remember the whole shaving-followed-by-feeling-cold-leg-hair-stubble problem?  Yea….on those really cold days in the winter, I’m probably wearing leggings under my dress not just to be warmer, but also to hide my not so smoothly shaven legs.  Let’s be honest, ladies, we’ve all been there, done that.

-The paradox of not wanting a shower when I’m sick, but knowing that it will clear my sinuses

You know how when you have a super stuffy nose and then you shower, it kind of clears out your sinuses?  This is definitely a nice shower perk.  But when I’m sick (which usually happens in the winter), I REALLY don’t feel like taking off my cozy pajamas or getting out from under that warm blanket to shower.  Do the ends justify the means?  Probably.  Usually.  But it doesn’t mean that I enjoy it.

Sick Young Woman Lying in Bed --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis
Sick Young Woman Lying in Bed — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

-The dreaded 2-a-day shower problem

*Gasp* Did she just say 2 showers in one day?!?!  I did, indeed.  You would think that if I hate showers so much, I would never even fathom taking two a day.  Unfortunately, there are times when this can’t be avoided.

1. Weddings/other fancy occasions – I need to shower before a wedding to do my hair properly (see aforementioned curly hair problems), but because I usually wear more makeup and sometimes have more products in my hair when I go to a wedding, I don’t usually feel like putting my dirty body into my bed or onto my pillow.  Thus, the second shower of the day.

Extra makeup and hair spray for my sister's wedding
Extra makeup and hair spray for my sister’s wedding

2. Not planning my workouts properly – Aside from consecutive days of intense workouts, I prefer to shower every other day.  But sometimes the timing doesn’t work out well.  For example, if I shower on Monday night, that means that I am clean for Tuesday.  But if I shower on Wednesday morning before work and then complete a hard workout, I need another shower Wednesday night.  This happens rarely, I assure you.  When it does, I feel like such a shower-planning failure.


Despite all of these reasons why I hate showers, though, there are a select few times when showering seems acceptable to me:

1. Immediately following an intense workout

Key word here is immediately.  If I finish a really hard workout, I usually feel quite dirty, sometimes sweaty (it takes a lot to get me to sweat), and overall disgusting.  A shower sounds lovely at that point, and I probably won’t even feel chilly since my body is so warm from my workout.

However, if I wait a few minutes too long, that disgusting feeling fades.  Maybe this is because I don’t sweat much, I don’t really know.  Most people work out and will feel the need to shower no matter how long it has been since their workout.  Not me.

After a half marathon and already starting to feel the sweat drying up
After a half marathon and already starting to feel the sweat drying

30 minutes after a workout and I already begin feeling clean, or at least feeling normal, again.  Once the sweat is dried up, I lose any desire to get in the shower.  My body has cooled down.  I’m now ready to do anything other than shower.

2. When I have just made my bed with newly laundered sheets (preferably ones that are still warm from the dryer)  

I love going to bed after putting warm, clean sheets on my bed.  It’s such an amazing feeling.  I can’t ruin brand new sheets with a dirty body.  So there are times when I shower simply because I want to put those clean sheets on my bed without dirtying them the first night.

Okay, time for a confession, though.  There have been a few times when I put new sheets on my bed, but still so badly wanted to avoid a shower that I opted to sleep on my couch instead.  Yea… about that…

3. When I am about to put on clean pajamas

This is basically the same as the last one.  Pair the clean pajamas with clean sheets and that is one of the best nights of sleep I can get.  However, a dirty body would ruin all enjoyment

4. When my feet are dirty from wearing flip flops somewhere with lots of dust or mud

After a day walking around an outdoor fair, you get that brownish hue on your feet.  You remove your flip flops and have what looks like flip flop tan, only it isn’t tan.  It wipes off when you add water.  Gross.  That’s just dirty feet from walking around the fair.  I can’t get into my bed if my feet are dirty.

chacofeet

…Time for another confession.  There have been times when I washed just my feet instead of showering my whole body during situations like these.

5. Following a Spartan Race or Tough Mudder

Because I don’t sweat much, I can run a half or even full marathon and, because I don’t feel that dirty after time has passed (see #1), I feel fine by the time I get home.  The obstacle races are different.  You end up with mud and bits of pebbles and leaves and grass in every one of your body orifices.  Really.  Every one.  I usually wear spandex shorts for those races, which means I have lines of dirt at the edges of the shorts.  And a little rinse in the showers following the race isn’t enough.  Even rough scrubbing sometimes doesn’t get that dirt completely cleaned off of my body.

My face after the Tough Mudder
My face after the Tough Mudder
My legs/feet after the Tough Mudder
My legs/feet after the Tough Mudder

Those are the best showers.  I can see the accomplishment I’m making.  I see the brown trail of water headed down the drain.  I see the bits of mud and grass that have fallen out of my hair.  I feel like I am making progress.

6. After doing yard work

This is pretty similar to the last one.  I usually feel quite dirty after raking the leaves, mowing the lawn, and cleaning out the gutters.  This cannot be said, however, for trimming the bushes or shoveling snow.

But the main reason I enjoy showers after yard work is because of my anxiety regarding ticks.  I have Lyme Disease.  Unfortunately, Lyme isn’t one of those diseases that you can only get once.  There’s hundreds of strands, in addition to numerous co-infections.  I just can’t risk a tick bit, so showering is the best way for me to do a tick check and feel relatively confident that I don’t have any attached to me.

13101_797393251820_4695275503113605638_n

7. After being in the ocean.

After I go into the lake or ocean, my hair always feels different.  It feels really crunchy and salty after swimming in the ocean, so that is actually a time when I am excited to shower so that I can get my hair back to smelling normal.

12009802_862747281820_1696221720328694553_n

I’m pretty sure those are all of the times I feel that a shower is acceptable.

And now that I’m done, I realize how this is such a total #firstworldproblems blog.  “Like OMGosh, I’m just going to write a blog about how much I hate showering while I procrastinate online.  Then I’ll go sleep in my full size bed in my nice apartment right by the beach.”  Oops…

Tough Mudder vs. Spartan Race

This year, I completed the Spartan Trifecta (Sprint in Connecticut in June (4+ miles/15 obstacles), Super in Jersey in September (8+ miles), and Beast in Vermont in September (16+ miles/25 obstacles)).
download
Tough-Mudder-Logo-e1347477465234

I then completed the Tough Mudder in Jersey in October. So here are the differences:

RUNNING:
Tough Mudder: During the Tough Mudder in Englishtown, NJ, I ran in between every obstacle because the course was so flat. Probably 90% of the course was mud, so it was muddy running, but running nonetheless.

Spartan Races: During the Spartan Races, there was less running simply because the hills were so vertical that much of the course was spent hiking up the hills (very few people, if any, could run up the entire mountain). This was especially true at the Super in Vernon, NJ on a ski resort/water park, and absolutely the case at the Beast in Killington.

MUD:
Tough Mudder: They live up to the title. This course was muddy. And it’s a different type of mud than the Spartan Races. It’s almost like clay — very slippery. Most of the course, minus the short stretch on the actual raceway track, was muddy. There was even some knee-deep mud that was easy to get stuck in. It was also raining all day, which added to the mud factor.  Some people lost their shoes, so make sure they’re tied extra tight!

10730993_791024355140_5673803353806209224_n

Spartan Races: This probably depends on the event location. The CT race in June had a disappointing amount of mud. Even the barbed wire crawl had hay under it rather than mud. The Super and Beast had more mud, but a good portion of the distance is spent hiking up grassy mountains or walking/jogging through the woods, which have occasional muddy spots.

OBSTACLES:
Tough Mudder: Most of the obstacles require teamwork. Very few can be completed individually, so this is not a race to enter alone. I was in a group of 4, though we split into pairs at times and then would meet back up at the next obstacle. There were many groups of at least 10 people. There is a lot of camaraderie on the course, so everyone helps each other, even if they’re not on the same team. Some of my favorite obstacles:

Pyramid Scheme: It’s impossible to complete this as an individual, or even a pair. On the bottom, people stand on each other’s shoulders to boost people to the top, while the people at the top hold someone by his ankles to reach down to grab the next person trying to get to the top. Everyone needs to work together to get people up the steep wall.

1962738_791023601650_6871336256633352938_n

Everest: It’s basically a half pipe. Some of the guys were able to run far enough up the wall to reach the top and hoist themselves over. Most people run as far as they can to reach the hands of the people helping out at the top, waiting to catch the people who are running. I’m pretty short (5’2″), so on my first attempt, I felt the fingertips of my partner above me, but I just didn’t reach far enough. So on attempt #2 I ran as fast as possible, went as far up the wall as I could, and then actually jumped into the air and my teammates caught me midair and pulled me over.

1962654_791023975900_804052896533501481_n

Electroshock Therapy: I was nervous for this, having no idea how badly it would hurt to be shocked by live wires while soaking wet from the other obstacles. Many people were running through (or attempting to), and falling down from the shocks. Some were screaming.  I went the careful route since I’m small and crawled over the hay bails and through the mud. I didn’t get shocked at all, so I still don’t know what it feels like and that’s quite alright with me.

10355745_791024195460_5274435301667016369_n

Arctic Enema: Well, I wouldn’t say this is a favorite. But it’s memorable…especially since the race was on a cold, rainy day. I was already shivering and the last thing I wanted to do was jump into ice water. I jumped as far as possible, ducked under the wood, and then bolted for the ladder at the end to get out of the ice bath. Because I was already so cold, it actually didn’t feel nearly as bad as I had expected.

10698642_791023147560_7994471804049788277_n

Sewage Outlet: You crawl through mud, under barbed wire. You then enter a pipe on your back and pull yourself up a rope to get to the top, which is open above water. Most people then flip backwards into the water below. Because I’m small, I spun myself around so I could jump feet first into the water. I thought this was fun, but probably not if you’re claustrophobic.

Walk the Plank: You climb about 12 feet in the air, walk to the end of a plank, and on the count of 3, everyone jumps into the water below. Looking at the obstacle, it doesn’t seem too bad, but it does feel quite high when standing at the top, looking at the water below.

Spartan Race: These races have a mix of obstacles that require teamwork and those that can be completed individually. The main difference is that the Tough Mudder does not have a penalty for skipping an obstacle, while the Spartan Race requires 30 burpees for any missed obstacle. This is a gamechanger. I would never fail to attempt an obstacle in the Spartan Race because the burpees can definitely become exhausting.

Traverse Wall: There’s a wall with square blocks at the top and bottom to use your hands and feet to traverse horizontally across. I think my size helps here because my hands are small, so I can get a good grip on the blocks (they don’t stick out too far), and I can wedge the sides of my shoes onto the blocks on the bottom. You can’t reach up to grab the top of the wall or you have to do burpees. It’s key to keep your hips against the wall and avoid sticking out your butt.

1654246_784248603800_2530255682215172794_n

Barbed Wire Crawl: This is actually more intense than one might expect in the Spartan races. The barbed wire is low. There are hills to climb over with rocks sticking out. In the Super Spartan in Jersey, it seemed to go on forever and it was definitely the most painful obstacle. My elbows and knees were bruised for weeks.  Some people had elbow and knee pads.

10455851_764742219750_9184451057581549451_n

Rope Climb: It’s my goal to one day gain the upper body strength to complete this obstacle. You jump into waist or neck-deep water and attempt to climb a wet rope that has a few knots in it. Some people make this look like a piece of cake. I’m not one of those people.

10659374_784248723560_6639130183346318858_n

Gravel Bucket Carry: Another contender for the hardest obstacle. Women fill a bucket 3/4 of the way up with gravel and men fill it completely. (You do burpees if you finish and they notice your bucket is not filled to the appropriate level.) You then hike up and down a hill carrying the bucket. The hill is extremely steep.  They buckets are heavy.  This obstacle is usually toward the end of the race when you’re already fatigued.  It’s not a comfortable feeling.

10636120_784248469070_7767386676954982067_n

Spear Throw: This is an obstacle that doesn’t really require significant strength, but few people can throw a spear accurately in order to stick it into a hay bail in front of them. Many people end up doing burpees on this obstacle.  In 4 Spartan races, I haven’t nailed it yet.

10390017_784248788430_1913474291085965080_n

Atlas Carry: Women pick up a cement ball that weighs 40-60lbs lbs and men pick up one that is 80-100 lbs. Just picking it up from the ground is difficult. Then you walk, carrying the ball, to get to the other size of the designated area. You drop the ball, do 5 burpees, pick it up, and walk back.  Once you have it, it’s not too far that you need to walk, but lifting it in the first place can definitely be a struggle.

The Spartan Race obstacles require much more strength than the Tough Mudder since many of them are individual events. My arms were shaking after many of those obstacles, compared to the Mudder where, although sore, I wasn’t physically shaking from the obstacles since I had teammates helping me. The Tough Mudder has a wider variety of obstacles. The 15 obstacles from the Spartan Sprint were almost all also in the Super and Beast. Those just have more obstacles, or some that have been doubled up. The Spartan obstacles are grueling while the Mudder obstacles are fun (though I’m not calling them easy, by any means).

10649887_784910133090_1703406955395039066_n (1)

GEAR:
Tough Mudder: You need tight shoes. I saw many shoes lost in places like the Mud Mile. Tight shoes are absolutely essential. I’d also suggest trail running shoes. I never slipped while running through mud, but I saw many people struggling. Because there is so much mud, you need tight compression fabric. My spandex capris and compression socks were great. My long sleeve racing shirt from last year’s Hartford Marathon wasn’t tight enough. My arms were cold. The fabric was drooping off of my arms when the heavy mud was attached. In the future, I would invest in an Under Armour long sleeve compression shirt (or a tight tank top if the weather was warmer). I wore workout gloves, which I would do again in the future, but they end up so caked in mud that I’m not sure how much they actually help. Toe socks are also essential to avoid blisters.

Spartan Race: Again, I suggest trail running shoes. They were key, as I never slipped. I also wore workout gloves which helped me to avoid tearing up my hands on obstacles like the walls, gravel carry, and monkey bars. I get blisters on my toes pretty easily, so toe socks were a lifesaver. However, I used ankle toe socks at the Beast and they were too low. My sneakers cut into my heels and I had to run at least 8 miles with both ankles bleeding and feeling uncomfortable. It’s tough to find long toe socks, so you can wear thin, short ones under another pair of long athletic socks. My favorite toe socks are Injinji toe socks.For this race, since the weather was warmer, I wore short compression shorts.

DIFFICULTY:
Tough Mudder: It’s not a race. It’s not intended to be a race since they don’t time you. So that alone decreases the difficulty level. I was actually disappointed about this because I wanted to know what my time was compared to everyone else since I’m so competitive.  It’s more about teamwork and the idea that we will get everyone through to the finish line. Because so many obstacles require this teamwork, they’re really not that hard when you work together. It’s by no means an easy course, but the people around you help significantly. In terms of the distance, it was 10 miles, and it’s always between 10-12 miles.

Spartan Race: I would say that even the Super Spartan (8 miles compared to Mudder’s 10 miles) was more difficult than the Mudder. The obstacles are intense. Many are completed individually, though teamwork still helps a great deal on many others. There’s a 30-burpee penalty for any failed obstacle. This course is no joke and just the distance is grueling since the hills (and mountains) are very steep. Also, going into the Beast, I thought it would be 12-14 miles. After getting there, though, we heard that in the Spartan Race, obstacles are not factored into the distance. So the website’s “12+” distance for the Beast is not even close to accurate. Most people with GPS watches tracked the distance somewhere between 16-17 miles. Now, mind you, most of those miles were spent running/walking up and down massive mountains.

VICTORY:
Tough Mudder: At the end of the course, you receive a Tough Mudder headband and a t-shirt. The shirts are awesome quality (Under Armour) and are sized according to gender. I was thrilled that it actually fits me since it’s not a men’s size. Then you get a free beer (or not if you don’t drink, like me). They had water and protein bars at the finish. There’s no medal and there’s no score since it’s not timed. I wish this race had a medal. The headband is pretty simple. These races are all expensive to enter. I think we deserve a medal.

10409712_285896948265686_1021317714151395142_n

10374483_790520499870_5622033358988525390_n

Spartan Race: At the end of the course, after jumping over the fire, you get a medal (it’s a nice one…a regular medal with a chunk of the trifecta medal in the event that you plan on running all 3 in the same year as I did). Red for the Sprint, blue for the Super, and green for the Beast. They have a protein shake, bananas, and water at the finish. There’s a free beer. And you can view your score in comparison to every participant and also broken down according to team, age group, and gender.

10696190_786802984800_8718535147197828295_n

DAY AFTER:
Tough Mudder: My body is sore, but I’m only limping slightly because my right knee is bothering me a bit. My arms/shoulders are a bit sore. I have a few bruises on my wrists, knees, and inner thighs. Nothing terrible in terms of the pain. I can probably work out comfortably after 3 days of rest.

Spartan Race: This is obviously different according to race distance:

-Spartan Sprint: Slight soreness the next day, but felt basically normal. 1 rest day before returning to my usual workouts.

-Super Spartan: In pain the next day. Elbows and knees were swollen, cut, and covered in bruises from the barbed wire crawl. I was definitely more hobbling than walking. Stairs were not my friend. 4 rest days before returning to a simplified workout.

10636106_784395579260_1066106830606207722_n

-Spartan Beast: Definitely in pain the next day, though the barbed wire was muddier and less rocky, so I didn’t have all of the bruises on my elbows and knees. My arms were extremely sore. I was walking very slowly and gingerly. I had 3 black toenails. The back of both ankles were cut open, so I had band-aids on for a few days. I didn’t attempt to work out for at least 5 full days after the race.

10710775_786801517740_3391339105368188830_n

SPECTATORS:
Tough Mudder: Spectators definitely get to view more obstacles. My mom got to see the arctic enema, pyramid scheme, everest, electroshock therapy, and the inverted walls. If I was a Legionnaire (someone who is a returning racer), she could have also seen the slide through fire and the rings. The walking path was very muddy, though, and she was happy to have her rain boots. I saw one spectator even fall in the mud.

Spartan Race: Not great for spectators. There’s a lot of waiting and they mostly only get to see the obstacles at the end. At the Sprint, my mom took a shuttle to see obstacles in the middle, but didn’t get back to the end in time to see the finish. At the Super, she saw the gravel carry, traverse wall, rope climb, spear throw, and fire jump. But those are the obstacles that are usually there for the spectators to see at every Spartan race.

OVERALL:
Overall, I feel more accomplished when I finish the Spartan Races since they’re so physically exhausting. But if I’m looking for more fun with a group of friends, the Tough Mudder is great in the events that really require you to have faith in the people who are helping you.

10698565_786801258260_4567648766451167128_n