Spartan Race

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Carolinas Hero Rush

I'm basically addicted to obstacle races.  Luckily for me, a lot of other people seem to be too, so a lot of them are cropping up these days.  A few months ago I came across a firefighter themed obstacle race called the "Hero Rush".  It looked unique, had some cool obstacles, and supported a worthy, firefighter related charity.  I was considering doing it when I got an email asking me if I'd review it in return for a free entry.  Um, okay, twist my arm... As a result, I found myself at the drag strip portion of the Charlotte Motor Speedway on a cool morning in mid-October.

The first thing I noticed upon arrival was that well over half of the participants appeared to be actual teams of firefighters. I started my heat with teams from everywhere from Atlanta to Moncure, NC.  As a single participant, it can be intimidating to run a race in the midst of a bunch of teams, but these guys were very inclusive.  Kind of nice to run a race with that many first responders, too. Very safe feeling.

Every race has some sort of separation obstacle at its start, and the Hero Rush was no different. We packed in to a corral on the drag strip,  facing a stack of shipping containers with staircases leading up to the top of them. Your object: climb up the staircase, and then slide down a fire pole on the other side. They cleverly placed the timer mat on the track just after the fire pole-in other words, no reason to worry about the slow going up the stairs, your time hasn't started yet. After that there was a stretch down the very flat, very straight drag way, which was cool in and of itself.

The Hero Rush packs 20 obstacles into about 3 miles, and that straight stretch was probably the longest we went without an obstacle. After that, you could usually see the next obstacle from the one you just finished.  For an obstacle race guy, that density is what makes a good race.  At the end of the track, we hit an over the wall/under the wall/through the wall obstacle. The first two parts were standard fair, but the through part was actually some sort of spring mounted door you had to force your way through.  Kind of cool - I should have looked to see what kind of mechanism they used to make it, but I didn't think about it at the time. Soon after, there was an up and over cargo net climb and a tire drag. 

Most obstacle races make use of the terrain, and the Hero Rush had a good mix of man made structures and woods. The next obstacle was of the latter type, and had me slogging waist deep through a river.  A very, very cold river. It never ceases to amaze me what I'm willing to do in a race that I'd never do otherwise. Run through a freezing cold river for fun included. Next up was another first for me - I rounded a corner to see dozens of rescue Annies strewn about the ground. The next obstacle - 30 seconds of CPR.  That was followed by the requisite mud pit (a run through rather than crawl through), then a offensive line style tire drill. Next up was another unique Hero Rush obstacle - you had to save a "victim" (two tires tied to each other) by getting it under a wall, over a wall, and over a hill. It could be done in teams of two, or by yourself.  I dragged my rescued tire victim by myself without issue.
Up to this point, the Hero Rush had thrown a few small twists on fairly standard fair. The next three obstacles were new ones for me. 

First up was "Hoarders Hell" - a simulated climb up a ladder to an attic full of garbage (a smoke-machine smoke filled shipping container stacked on top of another container) and then a climb down a cargo net on the other side. Next up was "Basement Escape" - a 15ish foot climb up a knotted fire hose up to a platform (there was an extension ladder option also), followed by a descent down a bridge made of one fire hose for your feet and another for each hand. I've climbed plenty of ropes, but never a hose - they make for very comfortable, civilized climbing.

If there is a dreaded, signature obstacle of the Hero Rush, it has to be the "Towering Inferno". It involves jumping into a waist deep tank of water, then climbing up the inside of a four foot drainage pipe that's had wooden platforms mounted inside it in a spiral, all the while having cold water sprayed down on you. You disembark from the pipe onto the top of a double stacked shipping container only to find that your only way down is by sliding down a tarp into a tank of ice cold water. 
   I really, really liked this obstacle. That said, the two people in front of me both backed out of the pipe and went around it. I also had to boost another woman who was stuck at the top of the pipe out.  I'm not sure why she was stuck - she couldn't climb the last few inches. The water at the end was also really, really, take your breath away type cold.  Truly unique. And fun.
   After that came another victim rescue  (this time over a wall, under barbed wire, through a pipe). I've crawled under a lot of barbed wire recently, and dragging two tires wasn't that much harder. The twist here was that you had to put your tires on a stretcher. I passed a lot of people on this one.  Next was a jump over a wood fire, followed by a foam pit.  We then headed under the drag way to an entanglement pipe. I'm a fairly big guy (6"2', 195lb), but I'm not claustrophobic at all, so these obstacles don't bother me much. Emerging into to daylight, I assumed I was almost done. I turned back into the drag way and jumped into the "bystander blast" a pool of water surrounded by spectators with live fire hoses.  Blasting you.  I could see the finish line. Then I realized I was running away from it. Towards the bleachers. The Hero Rush had a nasty surprise just before the end of the race.

The single most brutal obstacle of the race involved throwing a coiled fire hose over your shoulder (I don't know how much it weighed, but it was enough) and doing an old fashioned bleacher climb (up, down, up, and down again).  I managed to do it without rest, but it was awful, especially at that point in the race. Well played, Hero Rush.

My favorite obstacle of the day came next. It involved a fairly standard obstacle consisting of a pool of water bisected by a row of floating barrels. You simply swim beneath the barrels and come out the other side. The twist? The pool wasn't full of water, but of a blue-dyed, hydrophilic polymer of the type used to hold moisture in potted plant soil or "lock" liquid in diapers. It was warm and felt like a million little massaging fingers. I seriously contemplated just hanging out in it for a while.  It also cleaned off all the accumulated grime I had on me.

After that, it was a short run to the final obstacle - a dark maze you had to crawl through. Again, non issue if you aren't claustrophobic. A few seconds later, I crossed the finish line.

I have to say, this was a great race.  It was a great combination of easier and semi-hard obstacles and, as a result, should appeal to racers of all abilities. I'm not too speedy, but I make up a lot of time on obstacles, so I caught up with and passed a lot of people from previous heats, and they were all having a great time.  The terrain had a few surprises, but was for the most part flat and fairly easy going. The best part, though, was seeing whole stations of firefighters out having a great time together. I will definitely be back next year, even if it's on my own dime.

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