Monthly Archives: March 2012

Florida Obstacle Race Calendar Filling…for 2013

Looking for the best list of obstacle races in North America? Check out ObstacleFit.com!

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By Pete Williams

A competitor at last month’s Spartan Race in Miami. South Florida will be busy with obstacle events in 2013.

We’re still not sure if obstacle racing and mud runs are here to stay or just a passing fad. But Spartan Race, Warrior Dash, and especially Tough Mudder already are filling their calendars for 2013, with numerous dates in Florida.

A year ago, Tough Mudder held 14 races in North America, Spartan Race 27, and Warrior Dash 35. That was impressive considering Warrior Dash only debuted in 2009 and the other two races in 2010. This year, the three race series already have combined to schedule 125 events, including races in Canada and Europe, and planning for 2013 is well underway.

Warrior Dash, which has two races in Florida this year, announced a third-annual event at Lake Wales for Feb. 2, 2013 shortly after its January race concluded. Spartan Race officials followed suit after their race in Miami last month and will return to South Florida on Feb. 23-24, 2013.

Now Tough Mudder has announced dates and locations for a whopping 51 events for 2013. Tough Mudder will have just one Florida event this year – coming to Fort Meade’s Dirty Foot Adventures on Dec. 1-2 – but will visit the Sunshine State at least three times in 2013.

Tough Mudder will make its Miami debut Feb. 16-17, 2013 – just a week before the Super Spartan Race, the eight-mile version of the event which has been held at Oleta River State Park in North Miami the last two years. Tough Mudder also will come to Jacksonville on May 18-19 and visit the Tampa Bay area for what will be the third time, moving its date from December to Nov. 2-3.

Obstacle races, which feature 12 to 30 challenges over a 3-to-12 mile course, have exploded in popularity in the last 18 months, especially among the coveted 21-to-35 demographic that’s generally underrepresented in distance running and triathlon. Marketed to groups and featuring lively post-race festivities with free beer, obstacle races have thrived even amid a difficult economic climate. Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, and Warrior Dash each should gross more than $40 million in 2012.

The races have inspired numerous competitors, including several Florida-based promoters. Savage Race, which drew 2,000 athletes to its inaugural event in Clermont in August, is expecting 3,500 for its second race on Saturday, also in Clermont.

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Working Toward a NASM Certification

By Pete Williams

Future NASM certified personal trainer

I’ve long been envious of people in the fitness world with a lot of acronyms after their names. I write fitness-related books and articles and when I interview people with certain credentials, I know I’m going to get a wealth of insight and wisdom.

But I’ve always wanted to earn a respected fitness credential to further my knowledge and bring more credibility to my work as a journalist. Not a physical therapy degree or masters in exercise science. Those are rigorous degree programs that take years. Certifications, however, can take as little as six months.

Not that they’re easy to obtain, as I’ve discovered over the last three months studying to become a Certified Personal Trainer by NASM (the National Academy of Sports Medicine). For those who have graduated with degrees in exercise science, kinesiology, or athletic training, passing a test to become a NASM CPT probably is no more difficult than a law school graduate tackling the bar exam.

For the rest of us, it’s more challenging to get up to speed on exercise science, anatomy, and human movement, to say nothing of learning all of the key concepts behind every aspect of training: balance, speed, core, plyometrics, agility, quickness, resistance, and cardiorespiratory. The study guide for the NASM CPT program is a whopping 623-page book called NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training. It comes with a handy, interactive chapter-by-chapter online study guide.

I’ve been relieved to find a lot of the material familiar, having had the honor of writing five Core Performance books with Mark Verstegen and his staff at Athletes’ Performance. Mark, perhaps more than anyone, popularized the idea of core training.

Since starting work on that book nearly 10 years ago, I’ve learned a second language, the same tongue used in the NASM training guide. I know terms like proprioception and reciprocal inhibition. I already could identify the three planes of movement (sagittal, frontal, transverse) the importance of active isolated stretching, and how to define three heartrate zones. I know the difference between abductors and adductors, why the transverse abdominis is so important, and why I have to work so hard on eliminating muscle imbalances throughout my kinetic chain because of an ankle I jacked in high school basketball.

Still, I might have been hard pressed three months ago to explain the difference between the gastrocnemius and the soleus or how upper crossed syndrome is different than lower crossed syndrome. I knew my gluteus medius from my gluteus maximus, but might not have been able to point out my biceps femoris and piriformis, even though I must work tight hamstrings and hips constantly.

So my education is a work in progress, taking about an hour a day. Thankfully I have six months to learn the material, obtain an emergency cardiac care (CPR) and automated external defibrillator (AED) certification, and pass the NASM exam.

Once I do that, I’ll hold one of the industry’s most prestigious certifications and be qualified to pursue a career as a fitness professional. I don’t plan to work as a personal trainer, though it’s nice to know that I could. More importantly, I’ll bring more insight to my work as a professional fitness journalist.

The clock is ticking.

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Obstacle Race Training on ABC 28

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Ragin’ Warrior’s Learning Experience

By Pete Williams

Ragin' Ice Plunge: twice as long, half as cold

OCALA -In the last two years, Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, and Spartan Race each have emerged as $40 million businesses, each weekend drawing between 10,000 and 20,000 athletes willing to pay between $100 and up to race, along with $10 parking fees and additional charges for post-race food.

It’s a business model with a high profit margin. Not surprisingly, numerous imitators have sprung up around the country.

Think you can put on an obstacle race? You might want to talk to Donny Jones.

Jones is the race director of the Ragin’ Warrior Challenge, which attracted just 96 athletes this morning to the Florida Horse Park. Half of those bought discounted entries via Groupon. Judging by the reviews posted on the race’s Facebook page, a number still felt they overpaid.

Jones admits he didn’t do as thorough a job of planning as he would have liked and didn’t get nearly enough volunteers to show. It didn’t help that his team was not allowed to start setting up obstacles until Wednesday. As a result, the course wasn’t well marked and many athletes ended up running just 6.5 miles of the 10.8-mile course, thus missing five obstacles and all of the water stops.

“I dropped the ball and have no excuses,” Jones said. “Our prep time wasn’t long enough. There were a lot of things we planned on that we couldn’t do. I’m embarrassed at what happened and I want people to know I didn’t just throw this together to make money. I  lost $6,500 on this and I hope this doesn’t kill my business.”

Navigating a tire challenge

The Ragin’ Warrior was hyped as the toughest obstacle race on the planet, the one that would make Tough Mudder and Spartan Race look like fun runs. Jones planned to create a military-style obstacle course with challenges never before seen in the category.

The Ragin’ Warrior showed promise. Less than 100 yards from the start, Jones set up a double version of Tough Mudder’s notorious Chernobyl Jacuzzi: a pair of 30-yard dumpsters lined back. Unfortunately, only half the expected ice showed up and the plunge wasn’t very cold. (Some athletes got in after the race to cool off.)

After the ice plunge, athletes took a right turn into the woods and ran another 100 yards before reaching a dead end. Jones said it was marked with a U-Turn, but apparently not clearly enough. Either way, it set the tone for a course that would leave athletes guessing through most of the morning. (I didn’t run myself, having gotten injured last week at the Spartan Race in Miami, but was able to follow the race via golf cart.)

At one point, athletes dealt with “Shock and Awe,” crawling under barbwire while a 50-caliber machine gun fired compressed air overhead. Smoke grenades went off and someone even sprayed a hose for good measure. Jones had hoped to stage “Mount Ragin’,” two metal cargo containers stacked to form a 17-foot obstacle athletes must climb with ropes, but that was not allowed for insurance reasons.

Another “Barrel Bridge” obstacle required athletes to walk across quickly like in lumberjack competitions, but most misinterpreted it and just belly-flopped across. “The goal was to have a volunteer at each of those,” Jones said.

Jones said the Florida Horse Park would not let him set up obstacles until several days before, which explains why many of the obstacles were steeplechase-like challenges horses deal with during the property’s many equestrian events. The facilities manager told anyone who would listen that he has a major event coming up next month and was concerned about obstacles leaving holes that big-money horses might step in.

Jones has pledged on his Facebook page to give free entries and gas cards to Florida participants to his upcoming Georgia race, tentatively scheduled for May 26, though he says he could push it back to make sure he gets everything right.

Barrels and steeplechase

“Next time, I’ll have it set up two weeks in advance and will let anyone who wants to see it beforehand,” Jones says. “It made me sick to my stomach to see what happened today and I know you don’t always get a second chance. The last thing you want to do is lead people on and not live up to the hype. I know I let 96 people down and I’m determined to give them the ultimate obstacle experience next time.”

Here’s hoping it works, though athletes show little patience for subpar obstacle races, which as a group charge big money when compared to half-marathons and triathlons.

Last year the Iron Crusader debuted in Fort Meade but will not be back. The Champions Mud Bash canceled a proposed second race and does not have one scheduled for 2012. The Florida Dirty Duo, which debuted in 2006, canceled its race last year. This year, Muddy Buddy pulled its two races out of Florida, though it would have returned to Disney’s Wide World of Sports had Disney not banned outside promoters from putting on endurance events there.

Rock on Adventures (Highlander) and Savage Race have built some traction in the last year. But we’re not seeing any other Florida-based obstacle race promoters with staying power just yet.

Maybe one will get a shot at using the Florida Horse Park, a well-manicured, 500-acre slice of Old Florida ideal for obstacle racing, though it’s tough to imagine it wanting to host another event after today. One thing Jones and the facilities manager seemed to agree on is that park officials aren’t too excited to host obstacle racing.

Still, it’s listed as the site for Hero Rush, a firefighter-themed obstacle race series, on Nov. 3.

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Get Faster with Interval Training

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