• youtube
  • google

Archives for : Racing

Phoenix Half Marathon

Phoenix_MarathonWhen you start running, the natural progression is to run farther and farther. It’s funny to me that my now short 5k training run was once a lofty goal I someday hoped to achieve.  After the the 5k races, came the 10k and even a double down–running both the 5k and the 10k at the same event.  So naturally, a half marathon was soon on the to-do list.

The Phoenix Half Marathon was our very first attempt, and we knew it was going to be a learning experience–and it was.  I had hoped to describe to you all the buzz at the starting line and how the runners were jittery with nervous energy, anxious to start.  I would tell you all about it, except I wasn’t there.  I was in the Porta-John when the starting gun sounded.  That’s pretty much how my morning had gone, and I was not off to a good start.

Rewinding about seven hours… it’s around 11  pm, and I’m just getting to bed.  The plan was to be asleep hours ago, but that just didn’t happen due to kids’ activities and family that had just arrived in town.  I sleep very lightly, waking up several times in a panic thinking I’ve overslept.  3 am comes way too early, as toss back the covers and hop in the shower to wake up.  Four hours of sleep is not going to be fun, I think to myself, stirring my big bowl of oatmeal. I have to be at Jeff and Julia’s house by 4:30 am, in order to give us plenty of time to get to the event, park and catch the shuttle that would drop us off at the starting line.  The last bus was scheduled to depart at 5:15 am.


It’s now 5:15 am, and we are at a dead stop on the freeway.  The off-ramp is completely backed-up by what appears to be other participants arriving at the event. We finally make it to the parking area, well after the last bus should have left, and it looks as though the event coordinators realized the problem and adjusted. I hate scrambling like this on race day, especially for our biggest running event yet.  We drive for quite awhile, in fact at one point we are concerned we are on the wrong bus heading out for a full marathon. We’re dropped off exactly where we are suppose to be, 13.1 miles away from our car, and the biggest finish line I’ve ever attempted to reach.  Stepping off the bus we find a large crowd of people that is actually a semi-organized line for the Porta-Johns. One thing runners know how to do is hydrate!  I’m thinking to myself that there is no way we can get through this line in 15 minutes and get to the starting line… and I was right.

The gun goes off, catching me mid-stream, and I wonder if this morning could get any worse.  I kick open the door, and the place is all but deserted.  Julia is there ditching the pre-race warm clothes and tossing them in the back of a truck where we will be reunited with them at the finish.  Jeff is the last one out and tells us to go ahead as he runs a bit slower pace anyway. It’s a bit odd arriving at an empty starting line, almost like the race was setup just for us. We do one last gear check and give ourselves our own 3,2,1 countdown before we cross the chip timer that will record our official start time.

As we settle into our pace, I start think about our goals.  I know, I know… this is our first half marathon, and the only goal should be to finish, but I need some sort of a guideline, something that I can measure against and improve on.  Goal number one is to not be passed by the full marathon runners. I don’t think I will handle it well if I get passed by someone who started 13.1 miles behind me on the same course. All  the online calculators we messed with said we would finish between 2:20 and 2:30. We are 4:1 run/walkers and it gets a bit difficult to get the numbers right.  2 hours and 30 minutes is a good solid attainable goal, and we shoot for that.

The first two water stations come perfectly and we walk them taking small sips and rinsing.  We are feeling good and the intervals seem natural.  We eat every 30 minutes or so depending on the distance to the next water station.  Just a quick shot of GU gels or Shot Bloks for energy.  The only problem we had was finding a good pacer.  We kept passing everyone, and even though we felt great, I was worried we were running too fast.

When we hit the half-way timer, we realize that we are 1 hour and 10 minutes in and are very happy with that.  If we can run the second half just as fast as the first half, we will exceed our 2:30 goal quite easily.  We feel strong and stick with our 4:1 intervals, which seems to be working well for us.

The people along the route are great, and very inspiring with all their crazy signs and cheers, and one group is actually handing out free beer. We see lots of family and friends coming out to support their runners, and my favorite sign reads “This is the worst parade, EVER”!  We are feeling strong with minor aches and pains, couple of hot spots that are sure to cook a blister, but nothing that is slowing us down.

We run through downtown Mesa, and I can sense we are getting close to the end.  We hit the 12 mile marker and have just over a mile left.  I ask Julia for the time and almost don’t believe her when she says 2:04!  We skipped our last few intervals and ran it in with enough gas left in the tank to finish strong.  Official time:  2:14

We did it, crossing the finish line with fists pumping!  To some it may not seem like a big deal, but we were ecstatic. It was a long road to get here, in fact it was Julia’s third attempt and she was finally healthy enough not only to start, but to finish with a great race time.  Jeff came in a few minutes later with another great finish, actually beating our original goals.  Very proud of all of us.

Phoenix Marathon photosWe get our finisher medals and meet up with Julia’s daughter, who congratulates us with hugs and flowers!  I was not expecting either, and both were very cool.  We grab water and wet towels that they were handing out, cool down and get in line to have our official pictures taken.  There are tons of vendors handing out all kinds of free samples of drinks, eats, and treats.  The cool-down tent is full with people stretching and soaking their feet in ice baths, which look inviting especially with the blister on the ball of my foot.  We decide to skip it and head over to bag check, where the line is long but seems to be moving.  It’s a good time for race review and to critique our strategy.

This morning was pretty rocky and did not go exactly how I wanted, but we made the best of and it turned out to be a great event and a huge milestone for all of us.  We’ll be attending next year for sure.  In my mind, road running is type-two-fun (it’s fun when it’s done) and it has been a few weeks since the race and the pain memory has started to fade, so the only question for next year is…the half or the FULL!!!!



Race Review

Things that sucked:

  • Traffic into the the event. Every one was stopping at the traffic light. Need a police officer directing traffic (especially at 4:30am when there is no other traffic besides racers).
  • Starting line porta-johns.  Need more and spread them out.  Too many people in a small area with one thing on their mind.

Things that rocked:

  • The route was very flat, actually slightly downhill.  Great race for beginners.
  • Aid stations. Well stocked and managed.
  • Race route volunteers.  They did a great job of handing out water and energy food.
  • Finish line activities.  Lots of vendors, food choices, etc.

Conclusion:  Great event.  We look forward to next year!

Tough Mudder Arizona

Tough Mudder logo

If you ask me, Tough Mudder is the pinnacle event of the mud running season in Arizona. There are tons of mud runs popping up all over, each promising a challenging course that will push you to your limit. This may be true for some, but there are only a few out there that truly deliver on that promise. Tough Mudder is one of them. At ~12 miles in length and  21 obstacles, the course will challenge…everyone.

Here is what Tough Mudder says about their event:

Tough Mudder events are hardcore 10-12 mile obstacle courses designed by British Special Forces to test your all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie. With the most innovative courses, 700,000 inspiring participants worldwide to date, and more than $5 million raised for the Wounded Warrior Project, Tough Mudder is the premier adventure challenge series in the world.

We arrive at the Mesa Proving Grounds early in the morning, even though our heat wasn’t until 11am.  I like hanging out, watching the other competitors, and just soaking up the atmosphere.  As usual, registration was a breeze, with basically no wait in line, and girls armed with black markers eager to tag you with your race number.  We find some of our group in the pre-arranged meeting area and watch some of the big guys toss a beer keg.  Some of the first runners are starting to come in, and we head over to the last obstacle to watch the dramatic finish.  It’s just as brutal as I remember it from last year.  10,000 volts is not kind to people, and that is exactly what Electro Shock Therapy delivers as you make your final dash for the finish line.

Tough_Mudder_StartAs our starting time approaches, we leave our gear at the bag drop, and make our way over to the staging area. Once over the 7 foot wall, it’s competitors only, and this is usually where reality sets in. The MC starts his roll and yet again delivers an amazing speech and really gets the crowd pumped. He instills in you that this is not a race, but an event. This is not about course time, but about camaraderie. We are one big team pushing through obstacles, some physical, some mental. After a few rounds of a guttural “OORAH!” the count down begins and before we know it, we are running through a cloud of orange smoke, knowing that we will be tested and pushed for the next 4 hours.

Tough_Mudder_Artic_EnemaAfter a pretty good run, the pack of several hundred thinned out, as it usually does.  The first main obstacle we come to is the Arctic Enema, a huge trough of ice water. Watching people’s faces contort as they hit the cold water was priceless.  Halfway through this obstacle is a large beam that forces you to submerge your head in order to continue to the other side. The trough was packed with enough ice that you have to push your way through it and pull yourself out. Jumping up and down we force ourselves to move in order to shake off the stinging cold. Another mile down the course, I am still finding ice cubes in my pocket!

Tough_Mudder_Artic_Enema Tough_Mudder_Berlin_Walls

Tough_Mudder_Cliff_Hanger We scale walls, crawl through the mud and run and run, as you would expect. This year there were two mud hills that are insanely slippery, and it takes some ingenuity to get to the top. Where do you get mud like this? There is absolutely zero traction, and we saw lots of human ladders and teammates crawling over one another. The best hill has a sweet mudslide down the back.  Don’t tell anyone, but I did this one twice.

Walk the Plank is a 15-20 foot leap into a deep mud-hole and comes much earlier on the course than last year. We had a few in our group that were not looking forward to this jump and even thought they might skip it.  After a quick free-fall we plunge into the cold, muddy water and swim for shore. Very proud to say everyone on our team faced their fears and conquered them. The only problem was out of the 4 GoPros on our team, we lost one. It sank to the bottom in full record mode. The water is too deep and murky to find anything, and we have to leave it and keep going.  We decide to try to retrieve it after the event.


Tough_Mudder_Fire_Walker Seeing a column of smoke, I knew we were approaching the fire obstacle, and it was more intimidating than most.  Jumping over the line of burning logs sent you into a muddy hole about 5 feet below, and several runners stopped short only to back up for a second attempt.  It was one of the best fire obstacles I’d seen. Not sure what it is about running and jumping through fire and smoke, but people dig it.


The Electric Eel was a new one for us–well, just different from last year–the difference being that it was turned on!  The Electric Eel is a 20 yard belly crawl though a foot of water and–oh, yeah!–electric wires overhead.  Pretty sure everyone got nailed at least 3 or 4 times before sliding out the other end.


Tough_Mudder_Boa_ConstrictorThe Boa Constrictor can be mentally challenging for some, and physically for others, as you squeeze through a long tube and get dumped into yet another mud-hole.  That usually goes as planned, if you are not afraid of confined spaces, and our team seemed to handle this well.  The second tube is where it gets tough, as it is slightly angled up and all the mud and water makes for a slippery climb. One of our teammates is working his butt off, but the progress is slow.  The whole point of this event is to work together, and so I crawled back into the dark tube with just my feet sticking out. I am able to just barely reach Larry, and we clasp hands while Robert takes hold of my feet.  With one big pull, Robert yanks the both us out of that tube like a pro.  Pretty sure I’m 2 inches taller now.


The Tough Mudder crew really put together some great obstacles, and you can tell this is not their first rodeo. A lot of thought and time go into the build process for some of the obstacles, like the Funky Monkey and Hanging Tough. The biggest constructed obstacle has to be Everest, which is a 50 foot wide, 12 foot tall half-pipe, and it can be a struggle to reach its “summit.” A lot of team work comes into play as we scramble to pull one another up to the top.



Tough_Mudder_Electro_Shock_TherapyAs always, the final obstacle is Tough Mudder’s most infamous. Electro-Shock Therapy is anything but therapeutic as you sprint though knee deep muddy water, jumping over hay bales, dodging dangling electrified wires that are impossible to avoid. It is hands down the most dreaded, the most feared thing out there. This obstacle is no joke, and when you get hit with the full 10,000 volts, it’s pretty much lights out. We all got together once we reached this final stage.  I could see the finish line through the tangle of wires, and tried to think of a plan for coming out on the other side, alive. Unbeknownst to me, the plan was to sprint through as fast as possible as our group takes off at top speed, and I follow. I enter the obstacle at top speed and clear the first hurdle and then…it all goes dark. In my mind, it is quiet and I am running… but not here, somewhere else. The best way to describe it, would be an out-of-body-experience. It feels like I was there, in my happy place, for several minute before the rush of sound and pure chaos floods over me. I am completely disoriented and survival instincts must have kicked in, because I am somehow on my feet again and running though, what feels like to me, a battlefield. I get the full brunt of it once more before spilling out the back end. What takes only 20 seconds to get through, feels like 20 minutes in my head. The first thing I realize was that I have lost my GoPro during my unconscious face-plant into the muddy water. I tell the staff member, and with a sly smile on his face, he invites me to go back in and get it. In my mind I say “No thank you, sir,” but what actually comes out of my mouth was language that should not be repeated here. Luckily, I see the strap float up near the side and he gives me  3 seconds to grab it before he turns the juice back on.


I receive my coveted orange TM headband, my free T-shirt,  find my team and take our finish line picture. Someone points out that I have an 8 inch piece of the braided wire hanging out of me.  It must have punctured my shirt and broke off and is most likely the reason I got nailed so hard.  I have to say, it’s the best souvenir I’ve ever gotten from one of these events, and one I’ll be keeping for a long time.

Tough_Mudder_Wounded_WarriorThis is truly a team event.  We were all pushed hard and overcame individual challenges as a team.  We have fun every year, because we build our team with good people and good friends, and we will continue to do it year after year.  People always ask why we do this.  It’s difficult to explain so we just tell them it’s Type Two Fun… it’s fun when it’s done.




Race Feedback:

Things that SUCKED!

Crazy, but I can’t recall one thing that I didn’t like.  After Electro-Shock Therapy it’s all a bit fuzzy.

Things that ROCKED!

  • Parking was great with zero wait in line.  Free parking if you had 4 or more in your carpool.
  • Registration was simple and quick.
  • Plenty of Porta-Jons.
  • FREE bag drop!!! Seriously!!! (other events should take note)
  • Starting line MC was awesome and very motivating.
  • Obstacles were everything I expected and more.
  • Music on the course, that was kinda cool.
  • Headband and t-shirt are both UnderArmor and good quality.
  • Everything seemed well organized and efficient.
  • A diver was able to recover Robert’s GoPro!  We have 90 minutes of  HD 1080P blackness to prove it.
Conclusion:  Tough Mudder is a well run event that does exactly what it said it would do…challenge you.  We’ll be back next year.  I just need to find a better way through that last obstacle.



Spartan Race – Arizona

Spartan ChickThe Arizona Spartan Race has come and gone. The bumps, bruises and scrapes have faded away, but the memory is still fresh. The best part of this Spartan Race was running with my youngest sister. Turns out, she was born to be an obstacle racer! She may disagree, but Janell rocked that course like she’d been doing OCRs for years. It was her first one. The only thing I enjoy more than mud runs, is running with the “first timers.” Maybe it’s because of the nervous energy brought on by the unknown. Whatever it is, it makes it a bit more exciting.

A few weeks before the race, the officials moved the course to McDowell Mountain Park, about 30 minutes outside of town. I was kinda glad for the switch, as I had run the event last year and a change of scenery was nice. The 2012 Spartan course was pretty flat terrain, and I hoped the venue change would bring, well… a mountain.

We parked in the designated area and boarded the buses for our 20 min ride to battle grounds. At first I didn’t like being shuttled in away from my car and found it a bit inconvenient, but as we went along, it was cool to hear all the nervous chatter. Some of the people talking about obstacles they feared, while others talked about other OCRs they had completed. As we approached, we caught a glimpse of the course and some of the competitors who had already started their heat. For some, the reality of what they were in for seemed to set in as the nervous chatter increased. I loved it.

Spartan-MikeAs usual, the registration process was quick and easy, as we had already signed our waivers and just needed our race packets. I always enjoy walking through the crowds and seeing the diversity of people. This year didn’t disappoint. Many competitors had already completed the course and looked as though they had come straight from a battlefield–which they had.

Once we met up with the rest of our crew, we headed to the starting gate. We briefly talked about a game plan and if we should stick together as a team or was it every man for himself. I knew the competition was “on” when Robert said he was running for time. We’ll save the team work for the next event, as this time it was every man (and girl) for themselves!

Not sure why it’s so cool to run through smoke, but it is, and that’s how we started out.  Keeping tabs on Janell, we headed out with the pack.  I noticed Robert jockey for position early and made a mental note to keep an eye out for him. Didn’t want him to get too far out where I couldn’t reel him in.  The trail quickly narrowed to a single lane, which was very frustrating.  At times we would get stuck behind slower traffic and either walk or bolt out into the dessert to pass, jumping cactus and sage brush. This happened a few times on the course but was worst at the beginning.

Spartan Race obstacle Over UnderWe went for a good half-mile before the first obstacle. Our group was…no longer a group, as we had spread out, each running at a different pace.  Janell, Randy, and I stuck together for the first several obstacles, and I kept my eye out for Robert who was out in front with Aaron.  Wasn’t sure how far.

Spartan Race Monkey BarsWe all breezed through the monkey bars with no issue. I think the last time I did monkey bars was at last year’s Spartan Race. This was the first penalty obstacle, meaning that if you fell (couldn’t do it) you had to complete 30 burpees before continuing on the course.

Spartan Race WallJanell went over the walls like it was a prison break, wasting no time getting over. Some of the obstacles had a “girl” option which Janell did, as she didn’t want us guys to feel bad. Positive she could have done either with no issues.

Spartan Race Atlas CarryThe Atlas Carry was next and consisted of picking up a sizable chunk of concrete, carrying it  approximately 10 yards, completing 10 burpees and then bringing the concrete back.

Spartan Race log hop

After a bit more running we came to the log hop. I remember telling Janell to take a second to to catch our breath and to make it count. One bad step and you would be penalized with 30 burpees. I found it easier to keep my balance if I had my feet on two stumps instead of matching feet on a single. We made it with out incident and headed out.


I usually don’t have many pictures of myself as I’m always wearing the camera. This time I got a good one with Janell sprinting up the trail behind.
I got my wish, kinda. It wasn’t really a mountain but more of a hill, which got fairly steep, and the loose gravel made it a bit sketchy. It wasn’t too bad, except it narrowed down to a single track, which made it difficult to pass slower Spartans. I still hadn’t seen Robert at this point, and it was starting to worry me. He must have been kicking some butt, because I felt we were moving at a good clip and had no penalties so far.
After climbing to the top of the hill, twice, we came to the sand bag carry. Nothing fancy, just carry it. Good chance to catch your breath, as it was too narrow to pass anyone. I think this is where I first saw Robert… on the climbing wall, a whole obstacle ahead of me. Wow! He was cruising.
Spartan Wall
After a quick loop we were back to the climbing wall ourselves. Like the rest of the obstacles, Janell dominated the traverse with no issue, ringing the bell at the end. Several people were doing burpees, but we headed out with little hesitation.
Spartan Rope climb
Finally!  We caught Robert at the the rope climb.  I think he stepped off the climbing wall, and got called to burpee duty.  Rotten luck!  And to make it worse, the guy behind him at the rope climb didn’t hold the rope for him.  This makes it really difficult, as the rope swings wildly, and you can’t get your feet on it.  He was halfway through his burpees when we finished and were heading out.  Very impressed with Janell’s climbing skills, and I think she was relieved once was passed that obstacle.
Spartan Spear ThrowI was determined to stick this stupid hay bale!  I picked a nice strait “spear” and got some quick tips from Janell, who actually threw the javelin in college.  I gave it a good heave and hit it dead center…only to watch it fall out.  UGH!!!  I also realized that javelin throwers go for distance, not accuracy, as Janell sent her spear clean over the top!  Robert arrived and gave his best shot, and in the end, we all did our burpees together. They about killed me, and Robert was on his third set.  Not sure how he was able to do it, but he did!  Very impressed.
Spartan Barbed Wire
This was the home stretch, with a little over a half mile to go. We climbed over a big cargo net and went under a couple of fences before we came to the final few obstacles.  First up was the the low crawl under the barbed wire.  This isn’t so much a crawl as it is a “roll”. Everyone has figured out that it is easier, faster and less painful if you just roll.  The problem is that it’s a LONG ways and you get pretty dizzy.
Spartan Slippery_WallWe went directly from the low roll to the Slippery Wall. Lot of fun watching people trying to get up this thing. The end is in sight, and we waste no time getting up and over this thing.  Almost There!
Spartan Fire JumpThe fire jump isn’t so much of an obstacle as it is just fun to jump over fire.  I mean who doesn’t wanna do that?  Jeff and Mike from our crew come jumping through fire and flames!
Spartan GladiatorsThe last obstacle is to make it through the gauntlet of gladiators to the finish line. Don’t try to skirt around these guys, they will take you out. Best to take it like a man and blast through the middle. Robert is demonstrating perfect form as he completes the course in true Spartan fashion! ( I never would have caught him if it weren’t for his extra burpees.  He was pure grit all the way to the end.)
Spartan Gladiator
Spartan Gladiator
Spartan Race CrewWe all finished in the upright position, with a smile on our face, and I think most of us are looking forward to the next one.  This is always our goal in pretty much everything we do.  Good times with good friends. Can’t ask for much more than that.

Race Feedback:

Things that  SUCKED!
  • The showers.  I wouldn’t even call them that.  They had little pressure and NO water would come out if you raised the hose a foot off the ground.  Raise the main pipe to 5 or 6 feet.  Should be an easy fix.
  • Shuttle ride back to the car.  Had to wait in line for 45 minutes (some reported an hour) waiting for a bus back to the car.  Add more transportation or better scheduling.  We don’t mind the shuttles and understand the parking limitation at the site.  Just don’t hold us hostage.  Heard a lot of complaints about this.
  • Narrow, single track race route.  Nearly impossible to pass slower racers during the first part of the race without tearing up the desert, running off trail, etc.  This is a timed event and other competitors shouldn’t be your main obstacle.
Things that ROCKED!
  • The overall atmosphere was great.
  • Registration was super quick and easy.
  • The obstacles never disappoint.
  • Venue and varied terrain.  Great Arizona desert scenery.
  • It was fairly cold (for Arizona) and the fire pits were awesome!
  • I didn’t use the changing area but all the girls raved about it.  I was told they were heated.
  • Heard from a few spectators that it was nice to be able to see more of the event (even though it was a bit of a walk).
  • Couple days after the event I received a email with a link to photos and videos.

Conclusion:  With a few inconveniences,  Spartan Race Arizona was awesome!  It’s a great event that I look forward to every year.

Spartan Race coupon code:

What are you waiting for?  Sign up!

Get $10 off a Reebok Spartan Race, Use Code: SPEAR10