Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Getting Physical...in the Trench


Can we talk about comfort zones for a minute?

How about OCR's (Obstacle Course Races)? Have you ever done one?

I have wanted to do an OCR for a long time, but have been slightly afraid of what might happen to me. I am, after all, a very well-decorated (and documented) klutz. I wasn't afraid of the obstacles, but was fearful of getting injured.

All fears aside, when the opportunity to participate in the No-Man's Land Trench Run, I was intrigued. My husband is a retired Lieutenant Colonel from the US Air Force. A few years ago, he did an 18-month stint at Camp Dodge (Johnston, IA), and he received a "heads-up" a few months ago about the Trench Run and an invitation to participate.


As much as I was leery of taking on the challenge of an obstacle course (on a military base, none the less), the timing was ideal. My ultra was four weeks behind me, and my Route 66 training had not (officially) begun...why not give this a go?

We arrived on the scene around 6:30AM, got our packets, and had plenty of free time before the 7:30AM start time.

Myself and the husband...awaiting the start
We heard a beautiful rendition of the national anthem and listened to a few "cautionary" announcements regarding the layout of the course. Before we knew it, the cannon boomed (literally!), and we were off.

The start line had a big American flag that we ran under
The first mile was on a mostly shaded gravel road. I'm not a big fan of gravel (again, there's that klutziness variable), but it does work your ankles well! The crowd of runners was pretty thick, so I ran some of that first mile in the grass alongside the trail.

There were no mile markers, but I had my GPS watch to help me gauge my whereabouts. The atmosphere was pretty battleground-like.....there was an intermittent helicopter overhead (rustling the leaves of the trees) and periodic speakers were blasting (simulated) machine gun fire. There also were several smoke grenades throughout the course, so it really felt like a combat zone.

A map of the course
Shortly after the 1-mile distance, we had our first obstacle...an army-crawl section. I have never attempted this kind of maneuver before, so it felt a bit awkward keeping low to the ground and slithering along on my forearms and inner thighs (it was a great hip-opening exercise!). The grass was wet and sticky, but not too muddy when I went through...I would guess as more people crawled through, the grass got worn and the mud was more of a factor.

Not too far down the road was the next challenge...sand bags! I think the bags were about 20 pounds. Although not heavy, it was very awkward to sling over my shoulder and run with it in tow. I wound up speed-walking most of the loop before handing over my bag to the next person waiting in line.

I couldn't quite find a comfortable way to hoist the bag
Next we ran about another mile or so before we arrived at the official trench....literally, a trench (approximately three feet deep) with a lot of sand, rocks and mud to walk through. Trust me, I don't think anyone was running through this! This trench wasn't far (maybe 100 yards or so),but it was crazy difficult maneuvering through and then climbing out of it.

Lots of smoke grenades everywhere
After the trench, there was some asphalt and gravel, and a lot more grass-covered trails. Eventually there was a crawl through a 20-foot culvert. More gravel. A short creek to cross. More grassy trails.

Just after the culvert and the creek crossing
Then there was a huge tire to flip. I couldn't figure out how to get my hands underneath it to grip it (and I didn't want to break a finger nail). A guy helped me get it started, lifting it a few inches off the ground, then I was good.

The final 1.5 mile seemed to take forever, though. All of the obstacles were done, and the terrain was pretty level, but it was a long straight stretch to get to the finish line. And, by this time, there were more walkers than runners. I honestly do not know what I prefer: seeing the finish line (even if it's way off in the distance) or having a lot of curves so the finish line is out of sight until right before you reach it. I just know that I always seem to wish for which ever option I'm not currently experiencing.

photo credit - Linda Burger
I finally made it to the finish line with a time  of 1:23:12. The official results showed I finished 245th out of the 407 participants, 43rd out of the 105 females, and 9th out of 17 gals in my age group. It turns out, the 1st place gal in my age group also was the first place overall female...she finished in 1:00:26. Dang!

Not too muddy for the wear
Originally, the course was going to be approximately a 10K in distance, and there were going to be four creek crossings. Due to recent rain, though, the water levels were too dangerous, so the course was re-routed around all but one of them...and they decided to extend the distance to 7.33 miles to compensate for the "lack" of challenges (from losing the three creeks). The one creek that remained was ankle deep and not very long.....maybe 10 feet or so (just long enough that it was too far to leap over).

Overall, I thought this was a great event! Actually, it was a great way to showcase what kind of conditioning the soldiers and guardsmen/women have to undergo in training. I didn't think the obstacles were difficult (probably because I do a lot of cross-training), but I can see where they would be a challenge for the people who were not in condition for them.  I really thought all the smoke grenades and sound effects were great enhancements to the atmosphere. I kind of felt like I was on the set of "Forrest Gump."

After the race
Would I do this event again? Absolutely! If this becomes an annual event, chances are next time it will involve all the creek crossings (one creek is rumored to be waist-high!), so that will add another element of discomfort for me....as if wet grass all over my arms and mud under my finger nails wasn't bad enough!
Swag included t-shirts and water bottles
 After returning back home, we both crashed for a couple hours. We were up early (4:45AM wakeup) and were on the road by 5:30AM. My ankles were sore from all the twisting and contorting on the gravel and trails.

Hello compression sleeves and my comfy Oofoos!
I should mention...since this was the inaugural year of the No Man's Land Trench Run, it was a free event! How do you beat that?

Have you done an OCR event? Did you obediently do all the obstacles, or were you allowed to skip them? Did you do any specific training, or just wing it?


I'm linking up with Deb (from Deb Runs) for the Wednesday Word...which, ironically, is Physical! How appropriate and timely! Head over and see what's being talked about!

































32 comments:

  1. Looks fun! And for an inaugural event, it looks like it was very well organized! Great job!

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    1. It was fun! This stuff would be easy-peasy for you! You probably could have flipped that tire single-handedly ;-)

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  2. Nice work Kim! I did one OCR a few years ago but it was pretty tame. I always worry about getting hurt and compromising my marathon training at these kinds of races. Glad they took the dangerous creek level into account. Yikes!

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    1. The creeks kind of freaked me out (from the course description in the pre-race email). I was relieved when we got the news that they chose to re-route around the creeks!

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  3. Wow, that sounds pretty intense! Way to get through those challenges. I'm not sure which type of finish I prefer either. I like to see it, but not TOO far in advance.

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    1. This finish line was frustrating! It was along way off in sight, but there was a slight incline before it, so the actual "line" was out of sight.....I kept glancing at the GPS (for mileage), so I knew it was coming LOL

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  4. That race sounds amazing! What a fantastic opportunity -- and I love, love, love your headband!

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    1. Thanks! I realized (afterwards, of course!) that I have the headband on upside-down ((oops!))

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  5. I have done 2 obstacle course races. They were definitely fun and out of my comfort zone but not something I would want to do all the time.

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    1. I agree...most are pretty expensive, too. This one was free, so it was a great opportunity to give the OCR arena a try, and I liked the experience. My event, though, I think probably had a lot more running than obstacles than what is typical. #nocomplaints

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  6. Congrats to both of you for finishing! I really want to do an obstacle course race someday and I'd love it if my husband would race one with me!

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    1. My husband doesn't run as much as me, so I was "leading the way" for most of it LOL HE's a lot stronger with the obstacles, though.

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  7. Free?! that is pretty good they did a course like that for free. Great job on the finish! I have not tried one of these but I would have enjoyed this. The mud run here is a super muddy obstacle course - I went and watched last year and people were falling all over the place and I don't want to get hurt. I like the idea of obstacles but not extreme mud pits!
    That is fun you and the hub did it together :)

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    1. I'm glad that this was not super muddy. Some people like that, but I'm good with keeping my shoes as clean as possible.

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  8. This sounds so fun! I've done a few Spartan Races and a Tough Mudder, and boy are they a challenge! I tend to find new bruises every day for a week after doing one haha.

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    1. SO far, so good on the absence of bruises...though my feet still hurt (outer edges, along the bottoms) and my ankles are a bit "off."

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  9. Free! That is so awesome. I am always intrigued by the idea of an obstacle race. You do make it sound fun!

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    1. It was fun! It started early enough that the temps were not too bad. Also, the mud was kept to a minimum!

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  10. I'm not there yet but with my strength training getting better I can at least see myself doing one of these in my future. Before I wouldn't even consider it. I thing what would ultimately reel me in would be the challenge and it would be something new! Great job on yours! I love how you are always up for adventurous races!

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    1. I do like challenges! I kinda wish there were a few more challenges, though...like a wall climb...just to balance with all the running ;-)

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  11. Great job Kim! I have never done an obstacle run or any run involving mud! There is a color run less than a mile from my house next weekend and I don't even want to do that cus I don't want to get my shoes messy and no, I don't have old shoes to wear..lol

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    1. I agree on the messy shoes thing! I taped my arches good, so the older shoes weren't too bad for support. This had a lot of running, so I was worried about wearing the old shoes for that kind of distance and over the trails and gravel. Thankfully, there wasn't much mud!

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  12. So cool! I've never done an OCR (I'm afraid of mud LOL), but I am so intrigued by them. One day, I will work up the courage.

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    1. I'm not crazy about mud, either...it's slippery AND sticky.

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  13. wow, free?! that's amazing. I've done one OCR in my life. It was a mud run and pretty fun but checked off the bucket list and doubt I'll repeat it. Still, SO fun to do with friends.

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    1. This was fun, but I"m not sure how many more I will do. It all depends on where they fall in terms of my training...this was right in the middle of my "big" events, so the fear of injury wasn't too great.

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  14. What a great event! I'm honestly terrified of OCRs because I'm not strong or coordinated. Ha.

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    1. Ha ha! coordination is definitely not my strong suit, either! Thankfully, I stayed vertical.

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  15. Looks like a fun event, but I am def afraid I will somehow I will injure myself if I participate in one.

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    1. The timing of this was perfect...smack dab in the middle of training cycles, so my fear of injury wasn't too bad

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  16. I like to run, I like to swim, I like yoga, I strength train, but OCR? Nope, can't say as it's something that calls to me.

    Sounds like you did great for your first time! The first time is always the hardest.

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  17. I've never done an obstacle run before, but the one you just did sounds fun. Congrats on a job well done!

    Thanks for linking up!

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