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obstacle racing

Alpha Warrior – Pure Obstacle Racing

After finding out that Alpha Warrior was going to be taking place in San Diego the week after my Spartan Group X Training I just knew I had to sign up for this race that looked very similar to what you would see on Sasuke or better known here as American Ninja Warrior. A race whose tag line is No Mud. No Miles. No Mercy. When I first show shots and video clips of this race I had a feeling this might be my kind of race.

san diego alpha warriorAs usual I was doing double duty while racing, making sure to get some coverage and photos for Obstacle Racing Media (“Like” on Facebook) and enjoying an incredible race. Corinne Kohlen, female winner of the first Alpha Warrior in San Antonio, TX (and California LotDR Race Director), and I made our way to the event early Saturday morning for our shot at the Elite heat and a chance to win some prize money. Alpha Warrior has prize money for 1st, 2nd and 3rd Male and Female Finishers, $1000 for 1st, $500 for 2nd, and $250 for 3rd.  When we arrived at the race I was very excited it was clear that this course was designed for people with lots of upper body strength. The obstacles were stacked heavily, one right after the other with minimal running in between. Most obstacles required grip strength, hanging strength, strong arms and shoulders. Obstacles ranged from the Barrel Jumps at the beginning to vertical pipe monkey bars, rope swings and cargo net climbs, and even trampolines! My background in gymnastics and Corinne’s experience in mountain climbing gave us an incredible advantage giving the style of obstacles offered. To say I was excited about this race is an understatement.

The Race

Lining up for the race I tried to keep myself focused and not get too overly confident. I didn’t want to let myself end up failing an obstacle (20-30 burpee penalty depending on the obstacle failed) and losing my shot at a podium finish. The elite wave began at 8AM and racers were sent out in waves of six – men and women mixed – each wave leaving approx. 45 seconds apart. Corinne, Dirt in Your Skirt’s Margaret Schlachter and myself were in the second wave of runners. Within seconds of the first wave we witnessed the first injury on the course, he took a nasty fall off a cargo net and we hope he is doing okay now, and we were sent off right after it happened. I was concerned for the racer and wished him well as we raced past.

tony matesi alpha warrior rope swing cargo net climbAfter the Sea of Ropes obstacle I found myself gaining on two of the runners from the first wave, I could feel the excitement rising seeing as I was flying through the obstacles. After the Skywalk trampoline series we started to get into more and more obstacles where I wasn’t 100% certain what I had to do because it was my first time ever on this course. The baby blue Battering Rams was one obstacle that threw me for a loop since they were hanging from chains and you have to basically crawl across them, then climb on one and crawl down another series of battering rams. Since it was my first time doing this type of obstacle I approached it with caution to ensure I finished the race with zero burpees.

alpha warrior first female finisher corinne kohlenThe final obstacle structure of the race (there were 16 structures 35 obstacles) was called Alcatraz and it is without question my favorite part of the race. If anyone fails any part of this obstacle during the Elite wave they are automatically disqualified and ineligible for prize money. I knew I had to succeed at everything within this structure and I was flying at this point. First you climb up a slanted incline with a chain, I sprinted to the near top and grabbed the last foot of chain. Then you run left or right depending which ramp you climbed, and enter the inside of the structure which is exceptionally well laid out for being spectator friendly. Inside you begin with the Gorilla Monkey Bars which are pretty standard monkey bars that are spread out a bit more than normal. After that you crawl up two netted ramps which reminded me of being in a kids playground. When you reach the near top you are faced with a series of blocks of varied height and distance apart that you have to hop about much like a Super Mario Bros game above a crash net. I felt extremely confident and went fast from one to the next without pause. Once you finish that you drop down a level and are confronted with a series of bars that all face in different directions and swing, basically a more challenging monkey bar to push your upper body to its limits. After that its just a quick roll down the cargo net, if you’re brave enough, and a leap onto a crash mat and you cross the finish line.

I finished with a time of 11:46.01. I was ecstatic from what I knew about the people who raced in Texas this time was faster than the winners at that race. When I first finished I kind of ignored the volunteers trying to give me my shirt and medal, sorry, I was too busy cheering on Corinne who was fighting her way through Alcatraz. Corinne came way in front of the other females in our same wave. We both felt amazing after our finish. There was a CNN camera there and we did a quick interview about the course. I eventually grabbed my medal and shirt and the waiting began. Since the race is done in waves of six we had to wait for the entire Elite wave to finish before we would know the final results. When all was said and done Corinne reclaimed her number one spot on the podium making her the reigning female Alpha Warrior and I had the great pleasure of my first OCR podium finish taking men’s third place. This race was incredible and I can’t wait for the next venues to be announced because we will be there.

The Festival Area

The layout of their festival area was very well done. They had a beer garden, set up a VIP area which was a lot of fun to hangout in. There were food trucks and lots of tents including one for ZICO, a chiropractor, and others. The Start line and the Finish line were next to each other so the whole festival area culminated between those two points which made for a great place for people to hang out, relax and enjoy the race. Since the distance of this race is minimal spectators can easily view the whole course by following their runner all long the inside.

After the race Corinne filmed me doing almost the entire course. All in all this is an extremely spectator friendly event with lots to do in the festival area and I highly recommend this race to anyone who wants to challenge themselves.  If you want to view a how-to video be sure to check out my man Rodrigo Ortiz’s FUNning video on YouTube. I was very happy to finally meet Rodrigo as we had missed each other at a few of the recent events that we had both attended. Thanks for the interview bro and thanks for posting these how-to videos to make the world of OCR more accessible to the masses.

Colorado Spartan Sprint – Obstacle Heavy Racing

Another weekend and another Reebok Spartan Race event in the books. This time to get my obstacle racing fix I flew out to Colorado, a state I’ve only driven through at night and seen from the the Denver Airport. After this weekend my love for this sport, the Spartan Race series, and everything that comes with it grew exponentially.


reebok spartan race elite red rock colorado

Love all the Spartans that have become my crazy family.

Spartan Race without question has one of the most incredible networks and community of individuals that become part of this huge extended family that works together to help everyone have an incredible experience.  The trip was one of a kind and I just want to thank everyone, Joe, Rich, Andi, Corinne, Tommy and everyone else who made it possible. Every event I attend I meet more people that I’ve only known through Facebook photos and messages. Those moments where you finally meet are sometimes awkward because let’s face it everyone looks a little different in real life. But once that moment is over it’s as if you just met your second cousin twice removed who is now part of this big group you call family. It’s pretty awesome.

The Race

Coming into this race I had expected that we would be hitting more mountainous terrain just because that’s all I could picture in my head when I thought COLORADO. I was a little off but there were some wicked hill climbs in Fort Carson. One thing that I was wondering about leading up to the race was how bad my lungs would handle the elevation. Saturday I definitely felt the effect more than I did when I raced again on Sunday. Every so often I had to put my arms up with my hands on the back of my head to help open the airways. It was also a lot warmer out on Saturday. Sunday ended up being a very cold, windy, hypothermia inducing kind of day.

The Course

This was another Spartan Sprint so the distance was the usual 4.5 miles, unlike Todd’s longer 5.2 miles the previous weekend in Indiana. Yoda, as they call him, designed this course and an excellent job he did.  In what was one of the most evil and obstacle heavy races to date I have to say that THIS is what I envision obstacle racing moving toward in terms of course design. Right out of the gate we were faced with a series of moats to jump. Saturday they were all pretty much equal in how wide they were. Sunday the first and fourth moat were made larger to force people into the muddy water, apparently a lot of people missed these moat jumps and they busted a lot of people up so to fix that SR increased the gap on the first and last moats, leaving the middle two a still conquerable distance to jump.

reebok spartan race obstacle racing obstacle race mud runRight after the moats came the over under throughs with the nets and as soon as I finished them I was already feeling completely gassed on Saturday. Could this be the elevation kicking my ass I thought to myself? Again, Sunday wasn’t nearly as much of a problem for me. The rest of the course continued to be fairly obstacle heavy. There were two sections that were extremely obstacle heavy after around mile 2 you came toward the festival area again and had to do an Atlas Carry, Log Hop (should be called Stump Jump), one of the most interesting Barbwire Crawls (there were lots of obstacles to go around including some saggy low-hanging barb wire), then it was a gauntlet Spear throw, Traverse Wall, Slippery Wall, and then the Hercules Hoist. Not even 500 yards from there and you were right back into a strength gauntlet of obstacles, Tractor Pull on one side of the hill, then circled around to the other side to do the Sandbag Carry up and down the steep slope, then right back up that to the top where you had the Tire Flip. After the tire flip it was a short jog before coming up on the Ruck Sack which was 120lbs for Men and 60lbs for Women (a little ridiculous the weight differences if you ask me) and then it opened up and there was finally a half mile of running after a quick wall jump. Then just before the end of the race came a series of rolling mud pits, rope climb, cargo net crossing and of course as always the Fire Jump followed by the Gladiators.

The Indiana Spartan was pretty obstacle heavy and extremely challenging, I feel like even though there were different Race Directors this race built on that course design and philosophy of being more obstacle frequent and heavy and less about running and took it to the next level. In Indiana there were a lot of obstacles but there were not spaced out as consistently as Colorado. I think what made the Colorado Sprint great is that you almost never had a chance to really hit your stride, giving a lot of us non-runners an advantage we normally do not have, especially in the longer distances. The course was challenging to the point that within the first 10 minutes I questioned myself why the hell I was doing this race but when I crossed the finish line I knew exactly why. They don’t use that tagline for nothin’! It’s completely true and no matter how many Spartan Races I do it still holds true. You’ll Know at the Finish Line. Once again I knew, this IS my sport, this IS my life, and I love it.

reebok spartan race obstacle race mud run finisherBoth days left me feeling that sense of accomplishment when I finished and though both days were on the same course they each offered a different experience. Saturday was a challenge adjusting to the elevation and just discovering what the course was like. The second day was cold, windy, and once you got wet pretty miserable. That cold gave me just the boost I needed however to finish 4 minutes faster than the previous day even though I had more burpees (which I’m still not able to do perfectly…getting there). I finished 11th place on Sunday during the Elite Heat. That’s my best finish to date. Let’s break the top 10!

Jr. Spartan Adventures

spartan race reebok spartan kids obstacle races

Thanks for Rabitting with me Juliana Sproles!

The most rewarding experience of the entire weekend was hands down my decision to Rabbit the Kids Race. It was my first time rabbiting a kids race and I just couldn’t believe how much fun it was. Those lil munchkins and some of those young pre-teens are wicked fast. I was running out of breath trying to stay in the lead fast!

While running the race with a bunch of kids chasing after you like a riot was a total blast it was handing out the medals to them as they crossed the finish line that really got me all pumped up and excited about doing the kids race. Seeing their bright smiling faces as the succeeded in becoming a Spartan and being able to place the orange ribbon around their little heads while telling them, “Congratulations Spartan.” it was a moment of complete understanding and realization of how much bigger this entire sport is going to be years from now. These little young-ins are being brought up with something exciting and fun to do that helps them live a healthy and happy lifestyle. They are being encouraged to go out and play in the mud, to have fun, and it’s so great to see. Maybe one day I’ll have my own little Spartans. Who knows… but going forward you can be sure to find me rabbiting and hanging out with the Jr. Spartans. As Don Devaney always says, “Aspire to Inspire.”

Festival Area/Race Photos

The race festivals continue to improve and become more and more inviting for EVERYONE to hang out in and enjoy a beer, food options could still improve – I don’t understand why more Food Trucks are not being invited out to these races – the free beer now included choice of beer which was a very welcome change. I also enjoyed getting into some of the Festival Challenges, slosh pipe is not one I can do yet but the number of consecutive pull-ups I can do has significantly jumped, I should be able to win that one again soon enough. Overall the Festival experience continues to improve, the only dissappointment I had was that they ran out of the Colorado shirts but thanks to Andi I secured one of the old shirts for my collection, thanks Andi!

Now about the FREE photography we receive. Since the new system has been put in place I’ve tried to give it a chance. The pics I got from Vegas were okay but when I downloaded hi-res they were just the unedited photo and not the “enhanced” images with the Reebok Spartan Race logo. They got a few shots of me but most of them were of others. Then the same thing with Indiana only a couple shots were actually of me. Now again the same thing with Colorado, two days of racing and really I have maybe 3 images I like and would use. Thats not too bad really but what is frustrating is the fact the images from all these races have been basically the same thing, Barbwire Crawl, and/or Gladiators/Fire Jump. It’s as if these have become the default obstacles for the photographers to capture and it’s pretty lame. There are so many more moments I would like to see captured. I remember we (the Spartan Racers) used to have to spend an hour or two going through Lost and Found and various obstacle catalogs of photos but at least you had variety and usually found anywhere from 5-10 photos. Now you are lucky if you get anything over 2 and after three races the only reason I can distinguish them apart is because of what I was wearing. So if anyone out there is listening…please start taking photos of the other obstacles, pretty please?

Below is a video from the Sunday Elite heat. Thanks for posting this Corinne 🙂

Next up: Spartan Sprint Texas. It’s time to get packing.

EPIC Racing Arena – Citizen’s Elect Video Submission

Citizen's Elect ChallengeEPIC Racing Arena, has requested that elite racers wanting to get a leg up in being selected to race in the Elite Races submit a video of themselves performing the following challenge: At a Football field perform 15 pull-ups (for men, 5 for women) then run to the opposite end of the field, go around the field goal post and sprint back.  Then, immediately drop down and perform 20 burpees when back in the end zone.  After being sick all last week and having terrible rain all weekend I finally made if over to my old high school football field, good ol Glendbard North High School, to attempt putting this video together.

epic racing arena obstacle raceWhen we arrived there was still football practice going on for the junior high school kids.  Thankfully they would be leaving soon.  Once 7:30pm rolled around it took them a little longer to depart than we were told so we tried to wait as patiently as possible for our opportunity to get the video done. As soon as the field was cleared I jumped up onto the soccer net post, yes a soccer net post, they decided to block the field field goal post with a soccer net, I had to make do. My first attempt I finished in 1:42.08.  My father convinced me to give it at least one more try to see if I could beat my time. I went for it.  As I rounded back from running across the field I could tell I was still feeling the effects of being sick. When I finished my burpees I knew I didn’t beat my first attempt. 1:48:10.  After that I was more than satisfied with my first attempt since I would need to go home and still edit and upload the video. You can’t a video without some tunes. So without further ado, I give you my video submission for EPIC Racing Arena.


UPDATE: Voting has begun!!! Please go to this page and click the like button to vote. 🙂