Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Rogue Runner VA Race Recap & Review

Rogue Runner Profile: 10k distance, 20 obstacles, timed 

My husband, sister, four friends and I ran as a team -- the "Spartan Rogues" -- in the inaugural Rogue Runner VA race on Battle Mountain near Ammissville, VA on October 20. Bloggers and other mud racing chicks have warned about doing first-time runs, but this one looked like it was super organized with really fun obstacles, and we got a great deal on the registrations, so we did it anyway.

Cargo net climb near the finish at the Rogue Runner VA race course

And I'm glad we did. Don't get me wrong, the race definitely had its glitches, and there were plenty of post-race complaints from some of the 1,500+ who came out on race day and completed the course. But it was a really fun family day. It was great to climb that mountain, to get out on an obstacle course and to be competitive at it.

The Good: What Rogue Runner Got Right

  • The people: race owners, volunteers and vendors were mostly very friendly and helpful 
  • Setting/venue: battle Mountain in October was just a beautiful backdrop for this race. 
  • Cool obstacles: while many were more fun than hard, they were all creative, unique and enoyable. Overall, not as hard at Spartan obstacles, but definitely some cool ones. 
  • Parking: a breeze, no long lines, no wait to get into the aprking areas. Did hear many complaints form other racers at having to pay $10 per car to park in a cow field. 
  • Traffic: there was none, Lots of thought went into this; well coordinated. 
  • Beer: a free beer after the event was enjoyed by many runners. 

The Not-so-Good: Rogue Runner Cons

  • Poor organization at the venue -- they were still putting up fence posts and mowing the path 20 minutes after the scheduled start time.
  • Late starting time for the first heat created a backlog when the 9 am, 9:30 and 10 am heats all started within 15-20 minutes of each other. They never recovered from this.
  • Long lines and waits at obstacles for most racers. I didn't have any personally (I was in the top 20 to finish and first woman) but this was the #1 complaint from other runners. Within 30 minutes of the first starting wave, there were backups at the obstacles. Some reported waiting over one HOUR in a line for just one obstacle. 
  • No signs for starting area, no signs for kids race. 
  • Volunteers who had no idea where or when or what when asked simple questions such as location and time for the kids race, awards ceremony, etc. 
  • Poor course markings -- some members of our team missed one of the obstacles because it was really unclear where to go after the barbed wire crawl. My sister and I were unsure as well and lost time asking volunteers at one of the other obstacles. 
  • No scheduled or posted time or place for awards ceremony
  • No contact post-race regarding the awards, despite promises from the race owners (My sister and I were the first women to finish and our team was pretty competitive as a whole -- did we win individual or team awards? 10 days later, we don't know.)

The Rogue Runner Kids Race Review

They advertised a 1-mile obstacle race for kids ages 9-12 and a  1/2 mile course with obstacles for the 4-8 crowd. On race day, they set up a small course with a few small obstacles and access to the adult water/ slip n' slide. My 9-year-old, who had trained almost daily by running, climbing the hill behind our house, using our vertical rope and monkey bars to improve upper body strength, was frankly very disappointed. It was nowhere near a mile, even when he ran it twice back-to-back.

The course was ideal for ages 3-5, I think. It's clear that none of the organizers actually have kids, or at least not kids in these age ranges. In fact, in responding to a comment asking about the kids race on their Facebook page, they wrote, "We are excited to have the little guys come out. " 

"Little guys"? Um, tell that to my 9-year-old and his 10-year old friend who came out to the VA race. They wanted to do the adult race course. Something a little harder than a three-foot high min-cargo net and 1/4 mile run would have been better. They're not "little guys."

The kids were happy to race, but it was a disappointment for the older ones and we were charged too much ($27 per child) for what it was.

At least they each got a T-shirt!

Did you run the Rogue Runner in VA or GA this year, or another first-time event? How was it? 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Another OCR Completed: Rogue Runner VA

I ran my second obstacle course race this past Saturday, finishing first for women along with my sister (we crossed at the same second). My goal was first place and while there wasn't the same level of competition there as you see at a Spartan event, it was still gratifying nonetheless.

The race event itself had lots of pros and cons, but overall for a first-time event they did get a good deal right. I'll post a full review later this week.

For now, here's my team: The Spartan Rogues.

I'm on the far left in pink, with my little guy wearing my medals. My sister is in black on the far right. You know what's cool? The five ladies you see in this picture took the top five spots for women. And we have 14 kids between us all. How cool is that? Go mud racing moms!!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Tapering Runs Before a Race

Two days until the Rogue Runner and all that's on my training schedule to day is a 1/2 mile hill workout, 15 burpees, kettleball swings and a rope climb. I'm tapering down my running distances ahead of the 6-mile obstacle course race this weekend because that's what a high school track coach taught me to back when I was running 5ks -- but it wasn't until I did some research on it that I learned the reasons behind the concept.

Why Taper Pre-Race Training?

As you run long distances, your muscles break down. They can become fatigued over long weeks of intense training -- training that is, of course, essential to improving running speed, endurance and cardiovascular capacity.
"Long periods of intense training actually decrease an athlete's performance capacity. Thus by reducing training duration and intensity a week or two before competition muscle tissue damage caused by intense training heals up, and the body's energy reserves replenish. Proteins enter the muscle fibers and repair the micro tears in them." ~ Roy Stevenson 
Tapering, or cutting back on the distances you run, in the days or weeks leading up to a race or athletic competition has been shown to increase peak performance. In fact, after a forced rest due to injury, New Zealand runner Rodney Dixon went on to have the best race of his career at that point, earning a bronze medal for the one-mile event. He accidentally learned the incredible value of cutting back on mileage instead of continuing to over-train before the Olympics.

Benefits to Muscles

 In short, tapering allows your muscles the much-need chance to rebuild and become stronger, ensuring they are ready to perform on race day. By resting, that is, running fewer miles in the week or more leading up to an important event, muscles improve their power. And when you're running uphill and through who knows what crazy obstacles, more power is good.

Other Reasons to Taper

  • Mentally, running long, intense workouts day after day can be exhausting. Take a step back by reducing mileage changes things up and help a runner to rejuvenate mentally before the big day. 
  • Prevent stress injuries and avoid possible acute injuries by running fewer miles.
  • Allow small injuries, such as blisters and sore muscles, to heal properly

How to Taper Runs Effectively

For marathon-length events, tapering begins three weeks out. For shorter race distances, two weeks of tapering is fine. Taper as little as a week before a 5k.
Cut back on your miles, but not the intensity of your runs. Keep your pace at the level where you've been training; just run fewer miles. If you're working on hills for an obstacle course race with lots of elevation changes, keep doing hill workouts. Just pull back on the distance a bit.

Run Tapering Chart for Marathons, 10 Miles, 10ks and 5ks

Race Distance
Three weeks before event
Two weeks before event
One  week before event
26.2 miles
Reduce weekly mileage by about 20%
Reduce weekly mileage by about 40%
Reduce weekly mileage by about 60%
10 miles
No change
Reduce weekly mileage by about 30%
Reduce weekly mileage by about 50%
3-6 miles
No change
Reduce weekly mileage by about 20%
Reduce weekly mileage by about 50%

When Tapering Isn't Needed

If you are running a 5k race just for tempo or for fun, there is no need to taper. If you haven't gotten up to the high mileage category, don't worry about tapering. If you are a recreational jogger putting in less than 20 miles per week, no need to taper off before an event.

Do you cut back on mileage in the weeks before an obstacle course race? Have you noticed increased benefits from doing this? 

Monday, October 15, 2012


I have blisters on my feet.

Six days before my next obstacle course race, and I have blisters -- one on my right foot and two on my left.  They aren't excruciating  but they are there and my worry is that they could pop or break and get infected on race day, or that they will be painful this Saturday as I'm trying to tackle the 6-mile Rogue Runner.

I'm not sure why I got them. I ran 6.5-7 miles yesterday, in my Innov8 Talons that I wore for the 10-mile Spartan in August and have been using for my training, rotating with another pair. Maybe my feet were a bit swollen, or my changed running form had an effect.

I am looking for remedies and appreciate any tips, if you read this and know anything about healing running blisters quickly!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Staying Alive Out There

Obstacle Racing Injury Prevention Tips

These mud run training tips are brought to you by Melissa of My Exercise Coach.  

 The popularity of obstacle racing has soared in just a few years. Beginners and seasoned fitness enthusiasts don’t need to go far to find a race. And there’s one for everyone: from a zombie-themed course to a rigorous 10+ mile challenge.

Train Intelligently.

Beyond the novelty of the sport, though, lies the need to train intelligently for a race. Most obstacle races have training tips and program recommendations on their website. But in addition to working on your physical fitness, you’ll need to devote prep efforts to running injury-free to be fully prepared for an obstacle race.

Some injuries can be expected as part of the race. Crawling under, climbing over, and running through obstacles may leave you with a few cuts and bruises. Embrace these minor war wounds, but train to protect your muscles and bones.

Warm Up.

Successful injury prevention starts with your training program, starting with the warm-up. Warming up before you workout helps prevent any unwanted muscle pulls and tweaks during your workout. A proper warm-up should consist of a general warm-up with light cardiovascular/aerobic activity and a specific warm-up with exercises to prep you for activity. If there are particular muscle groups you find tight, it may not be a bad idea to hold a stretch for 20 seconds targeting that specific muscle right after your cardiovascular warm-up. For a specific warm-up, you can do bodyweight versions of exercise you’ll do during the “work” bout of your routine. These include squats, push-ups, lunges, crunches, and similar exercises.

Cool Down.

The cool-down is just as important as your warm-up in preventing injuries. Cooling down with static stretches may help delay soreness and promote muscular flexibility. Focus on muscle groups you’ve trained during the work bout of your session. Hold each for 20-30 seconds. You can also add foam rolling/self-myofascial release to your cool-down -- it will have a similar impact of a deep muscle tissue massage.

You can also help prevent injuries through your daily obstacle course race training. Make sure you are including exercises that will specifically prepare you for your race. You’ll see a lot squats, push-ups, pull-ups, lunges, abdominal exercises, and burpees as well as running included in many programs. Since obstacle racing challenges your entire body, a strength program integrating total body exercises with some targeted work for legs and core are ideal. Remember to rest between sets of hard work and include a day or two each week to scale back and recover with mobility and flexibility work.

Race Smart. 

On race day, you’ll still need to do some work to prevent injuries. Trust your judgment, run at your own pace, and don’t be afraid to skip an obstacle that seems unsafe to you. Wear supportive footwear and be confident in your hard work to get you through your obstacle course race. 
 Be sure to visit Melissa's blog, http://www.myexercisecoach.net/ for more great posts.

Have you been injured in training or on an obstacle race course? How were you injured, and what do you do to prevent injuries in training and on race day?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Next Obstacle Course Race: Rogue Runner!

I'm training for my next obstacle course: the new Rogue Runner race to be held on Battle Mountain near Warrenton, VA on October 20. I am totally stoked for this one. The obstacles are already going up, with full descriptions on their site.

Brand New OCR

While it's an inaugural event, I am confident that it is being well organized by some talented individuals. I spoke with one of the race founders, Andy L., via Skype and was super impresses with everything that's in the works for this race.

In planning their first two races (this one in VA in and one the following month in GA), Andy and his partners raced in and observed many different obstacle course races and mud runs, picking the best obstacles and inventing some new ones of their own to include in the Rogue Runner. The decided to imitate the best elements of the most popular races, leave out the not-cool aspects and create a day that is both challenging, fun for families and entertaining.

The course itself looks like it will be challenging: the six miles starts out with an intense elevation climb, with the obstacles set up evenly throughout the course -- and there's plenty of them, over 25 at last count.

Family Day at the Races

My husband and sister and I are all running in the early morning heat, and we've got three of our kids signed up for the kids race around noon. They are really looking forward to it -- my oldest son (age 9) has been working out faithfully to get ready.

I definitely am more motivated while working out with this race less than a month away. Do upcoming races change the intensity and duration of your workouts?

P.S. If you're interested in running the Rogue Runner, discount code ROGUE MO gets you $15 off your fees.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Photos from The Mid-Atlantic Super Spartan 2012

My husband and I couldn't wait to see photos from our first-ever obstacle course race, the Spartan Mid-Atlantic Super held in Leesburg, VA a couple weeks ago.

None of ours were exactly epic or picked as promo photos for Spartan blog or Facebook use, but it was definitely cool to see ourselves doing the obstacles.

The balance logs were more a matter of concentration than difficulty. I made it across (after a slightly shaky start) no problem.

There I am under the barbed wire -- I rolled for most of it and passed a few dudes and another woman -- so yes, you can race when you're crawling/ rolling.

The mud pits felt great after a long section of running -- very cooling and a relief from the heat.

The dudes with the gladiator sticks or whatever they are were more funny than anything -- they are cushioned and don't hurt at all.

And I didn't feel like I was going to collapse afterward -- it was more a feeling of, "Oh, that's all? I could have run faster!"

I guess I'll need to prove that next time. 


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

No Post-Race Blues Allowed!

The obstacle course race I looked forward to for months is over. I finished the Spartan Super, and now it's back to regular life. And there's this natural let-down, the feeling you get when you no longer have something big to look forward to that for so long was motivating you in more ways than you'd even realized.

But I refuse to be depressed about this, even one bit. I had so much fun doing my first obstacle course race!I wish there was another one this coming weekend. I want to run faster, go harder and do it even better than I did last weekend.

Barbed Wire Mud Crawl at the Mid-Atlantic Super Spartan 2012. Photo from Facebook.
And so I will train, I will run, I will work hard, I will do pushups and pullups and squats and burpees even when my body protests, becasue someday I will race another obstacle course and I want do even better.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Mid-Atlantic Super Spartan 2012: Done!

I completed my first obstacle course/ mud race on Saturday: the 10+ mile, 74-obstacle Super Spartan in Leesburg, VA. My time was two hours, 11 minutes, giving me the 13th place for women in my heat and 3rd in my age group.

 I did it!

It's hard to believe that only a few months ago I could barely run 1/3 mile without stopping to walk. I could only do one pushup, only one pullup at a time, and couldn't get off the ground when trying to climb a vertical rope with knots.

And on Saturday, I ran the race and completed nearly all the obstacles without a problem (the last two got me -- 30 burpees times two!) If I did it, you can too -- and by you, I mean anyone who wants to -- decides to -- and works for it.

I'm a mom of five, and my youngest was only six months old when I decided to run the Spartan obstacle course. I hadn't worked out consistently in years, and I was more than 20 pounds overweight. 

Once inspired, I started training in my yard, on the roads and in the woods. I did not join a gym or buy any fancy program or workout videos. I just used my own body weight and a few weights and homemade obstacles to get my body back in shape.

Apparently, it worked. I finished. And next year, I want to be on the podium for placing in the top three. This is my journey ... join me!