Spartan Race

Monday, April 1, 2013

Shamrock Half Marathon 2013

I've described the Shamrock Half in detail before this, and I'm not going to go int detail about it again  I will say, however, that I think this is still one of the best races on the east coast, and continues to outdo itself every year.  Some years it is cold, some years it is wet, this year it is phenomenally windy (my trusty Sugoi Zap jacket is good for all of the above, however).  It always has great crowd support (at least 4 random groups with in-race beer stops this year!), superior organization, and awesome swag (full size fleece blankets this time!). There was one thing a bit different this year.  I never really get sick, but somehow managed to come down with full bore influenza the Sunday prior to the race.  I wasn't even sure I was going to start the race, much less finish it, but, hell, I was there.  And if you are there, then...

Long story short, it was slow, but I finished.  Not fancy, not pretty. I'd like to think it was a gritty performance on my part, but the truth of the matter is I didn't push it, so I felt fine. Mrs. RQ was kind enough to slow down and keep me company, so I even had a good time during it.  This race continues to get 5 stars.  If you haven't run it, you are missing out.

The Rugged Maniac

I started March thinking I was going to run the Jungle Cup, a scant 45 minutes away, however, a week before that event, I got an email saying that due to unforeseen circumstances, it would have to cancelled. I was a bit dejected about not having an obstacle race to do, so started looking around for a replacement.  As it turns out, the very next weekend, the Rugged Maniac, Carolinas version, was slated to go on at Boone Hall Plantation in Mount Pleasant, SC, and, hey, we were to be in Charleston anyway.  Mrs. Runningquack agreed, so I signed up.   

The Maniac was an interesting race.  It isn't timed unless you sign up for it to be timed.  I never really care about my time in an obstacle race, so didn't pay the extra ten bucks for a timing chip.  As it turns out, that means you didn't even get a number.  I checked in on a cold, 43 degree morning to find out that I got a T-shirt (a pretty good one, but more on that later) and a wrist band for beer.  No problem, I just do this for the experience, right?  It was cold enough that my family abandoned me for the sanctuary of a warm car, and I gravitated towards the starting line for the first heat of the day.  One had to climb over a four foot wall to get in the starting corral, which I thought was a nice twist. A remarkable number of people had trouble with it, which probably didn't bode well for them later in the race.  

At the start, it was clear that this was very different from most other obstacle races I have done. It was pancake flat.  I've gotten used to the terrain being a huge, ubiquitous obstacle on these things, but on this one it really wasn't.  I had to slow myself down a couple of times because I thought I was going too fast, and needed to conserve energy.  I was wrong.  On the plus side, apparently (at least I hope), Boone Hall has some sort of haunted hay ride during the Halloween Season, and the rugged Maniac route weaved all through these props.  My first clue was the six foot diameter faux brain in the middle of the running path.   I ran past Indiana Jones-style temples, haunted electrical plants, swamp-cannibal cabins, and out-of-control trains.  It was actually really fun and gave those of us running a lot to look at between obstacles.  The whole course was a legit 3.1 miles.  I've gotten so used to claims of a 5k stretching into 7 or 9 k (all the Spartans, and I think the Hero Rush as well), that I assumed that this course would just keep going.   

As for the obstacles, this reminded me a lot of the Hero Rush.  Some classic, easy stuff, mixed with some pretty innovative things I haven't done before.  I'll not dwell on the classics - this race had its share of cargo net, jump the pit, log over the pit, and climb the wall obstacles, but it also had some unique things I hadn't done before.  The Maniac decided to make its own dirt hills on the tundra-flat terrain.  There were eight foot tall piles of dirt all over the place. On one set of these, the put a corrugated drain pipe on the downhill side that ultimately led to a freezing cold mud pit.  One had to climb down the pipe, slog across the mud pit, and the climb back up another drain pipe to the top of the next dirt pile.  Good obstacle - it combined a psychological, claustrophobic element  with some physical strength (you had to pull yourself up with a rope) and, well, freezing cold mud.  They also had a taller-than-usual wall with a 4x4 mounted a few feet up and a two by four mounted about that.  One had to run up to the wall fast enough to jump on the 4x4, progress to the 2x4, and then grab the top of the wall and climb over.  I'm about 6'2", and had no issues with it, but the shorter racers had a hard time with that one.

I have to say, the piece de resistance obstacle of this race was a hybrid climb-net-slide monstrosity that would have done the Hero Rush proud.  It combined a short mud pit with a slanted wall to the top of one level of cargo containers, followed by a cargo net climb to the top of a second. One then had to cross a cargo net slung horizontally to another set of cargo containers, and then slide down a really fast slide into ice cold water.  As in knock the wind out of you, disorient you, cold.  I'm not sure if it was just the outside temperature, or if they actively iced the water, but it was freezing. 

The rest of the race was standard mud-under-barbed-wire crawling.  I've gotten real used to rocky, red clay as the substrate for such a crawl, but this one was in a flat, cultivated field.  I think it may have strawberries growing in it now. It was just mud, pure and simple.  It was almost luxurious in comparison to a lot of the other races I've done.  If it hadn't been cold, it would have been pleasant. As it was, I plowed through it, and hit the finish line fast.  As in about 33 minutes by my stopwatch.  This race was fun, but over almost before it started.

One doesn't get a medal for this race (which is a negative for me), but does have a cool associated shirt. It has a rugged maniac logo on the back and "I'm a Rugged Maniac" on the front.  I've worn mine a couple of times since, and the fairly unadorned front always gets me funny looks.  A woman behind the cash register at Subway read it out loud and then said, "Hmm, well, you look fairly normal to me".  It clearly is good advertising for these folks.

 I liked this race a lot.  I initially equated it with the Warrior Dash (beginner race), but it was actually a lot more like the Hero Rush - fairly short, but with some really innovative, fun obstacles in it.  Not once did I feel like I was being asked to do something dangerous, which is a fear with smaller races, but the race directors clearly put a lot of thought into it, and worked hard to make it a great experience.  The added benefit of Boone Hall's Halloween decorations gave it a weird, quirky twist that bumped it up a notch, too.