Sand, Surf, and Suffer

Sand, Surf, and Suffer, A Tortola Torture Race Report


“I mean, really, …how challenging can it be?” I thought to myself as the plane banked over the turquoise waters of St. Thomas.

The islands themselves are really just a bunch of small mountains jutting out of the sea, and although there did appear to be a lot climbing on those beautiful beasts, the mountains didn’t look bigger than a few thousand feet, and certainly not all-that-intimidating smack dab among all this beauty. After just coming off the insane climbing at Barkley two weeks ago, I felt like I was ready for anything, so these little hills? pfffft, no problem.

Says, the dude rockin’ 30th place… {sigh}

Cuz, this is what I always do. I have run over 100 ultramarathons now, and you’d think I would be an expert. I’m not. I still don’t believe pumped up race hype, I still neglect necessary and important race research, and I still rarely understand what I am truly in for, usually until the race briefing, where I find myself looking around, compiling a number of panicked realizations around what I didn’t know, what I forgot to bring, and how I failed to read the instructions carefully – if at all.

I know, I know, race directors hate that. I am admittedly a race director’s worst frustration.

Seeking Something Different

However, my elements of poor planning are well documented, so, we aren’t going to do that again. We are not going to launch yet another race report about my struggles and idiocy, but instead, focus on the aspects of the race, and why, if you are truly an athlete who seeks unique challenges, a little gnarlier than the standard weekend event, under unique conditions, a whole lot hotter than probably anything you will find in the USA, and in unique places, so beautiful it takes your breath away over and over and over again, Tortola Torture needs to be in your 2017 race plans.

You Don’t Know Steep


Ok, stop.

Sit back, close your eyes, and spend a minute thinking about the steepest hill you’ve ever encountered – at a race or otherwise – but something in which you had to actually climb yourself.

My promise to you, the roads of Tortola are much, much steeper.

Race Director, and seemingly my brother from another mother, Richard Morgan picked us up from the ferry port as we arrived in Tortola like two excited kids. I was traveling with crazy, but hilarious Sean Blanton. Yup, the “Run Bum,” Georgia Death race director, and owner of nine race events around the Southeast. I’ve always known Sean as just this crazy, wiry kid, who runs fast, so it’s funny that so many other people know him in such different ways now. Makes me feel old.

But, probably the coolest thing about “Blanton,” is his ability to seek out hard races in cool places. The Tortola Torture is $%^&*! hard, and Tortola is $%^&*! cool.

But First, A little Tease


The Tortola Torture is just shy of 34 miles, and the first 10 miles is run on completely flat – and I mean flat – road, along a beautiful stretch of waterway. There are times where you are running through the Tortola “downtown,” then sleepy, local communities, before stretches of wide open causeways, and industrial areas.

Trust me, you will go out too fast here. It’s a fact. Accept it, plan for it, deal with it. It’s simply too easy to let loose. It’s 5:00 a.m., cooler than it will ever be during this beast, your legs are fresh, everyone’s spirits are high, and well – life just feels hella good at that moment.

But, that won’t last long.

Where Beauty Meets Beast

After 10 miles, you might find yourself thinking, “Wow! I just ripped through 10 miles at a great pace, and only have 24 miles to go… No problem!”

Oh, you poor, misguided soul.

After that easy 10, the race begins a series of relentless, incredibly steep, and constant series of climbs and descents, that systemically squash your soul. And, this goes on until the very last mile.


I mean honestly, it never stops. And those miles you were clipping off early like an umpire clicking off balls and strikes? That’s a distant memory.

Nope. You are now suffering. You are now climbing hot roads, more dramatic than you have most likely ever experienced before in your running career, under a scalding tropical sun, encountering false summit after false summit, cursing the RD and his British accent, and everything else you can come up with to discredit him in the moment.

The change from happy, frolicking runner early in the race, to now droopy, dragging, tropical wanderer, is almost hilarious if it wasn’t so horrible.

And then…

Where Beast Actually Meets Beauty


Just about the time you think you can take no more, which for me was the extremely rough and long climb to the halfway point, something clicks.

You are happy. HUH? You are now on the backside of the distance. As long as everything holds together, you will finish this beast. And, by the way, the views are getting spectacular.

More and more spectacular.

Yea, the climbs keep coming, and the quad-crushing descents follow right behind them, but at every turn, every crest, every bottom, there is some sort of incredible sight.

You’ll find yourself running through tropical parks down low, skirting the turquoise water’s edge, before summiting climbs that present you with vast, distant views of the other Islands scattered throughout the Caribbean Ocean.


It’s an absolutely stunning place. The were multiple times I found myself digging deep – not to find strength to continue, because no, that was an easy decision, now – but instead, to find a way to actively appreciate what the Hell was happening.

Here I was, in absolute paradise, doing exactly what I love to do, in extreme conditions, with extremely cool people, on an extremely beautiful island, away from all the office cubes, traffic, malls, stresses, and material things that have somehow become gauges of success for some people.

Yep. I was experiencing success. The greatest success one can obtain in life. I was LIVING. Truly living as I ran around the circumference of Tortola, experiencing my body in all of its joys and pains; experiencing others as we crossed paths and shared stories; experiencing the humongous bright blue sky, wide open ocean, and thick, deep jungles.

Dammit, I was actually happy. In pain, but man, I was happy, …and all of a sudden, I wasn’t in such a hurry for it to end.


Crossing the finish line was bittersweet.

I suffered. A lot. Made rookie mistakes, had some nutritional issues, didn’t drink enough, …you know, typical Christian Griffith shit; but, crossing the finish line ended my journey with me, and that made me a little sad.


I titled this report “Sand, Surf, and Suffer” because I thought it was clever, but the suffer part is only partly true. It’s through short bouts of suffering that we learn what we are truly made of, and I will take the life lessons and spiritual growth obtained from coming out on the other end of such suffering, over the comforts of sedentary existence, any day of the week.

These are the lessons that I find it very difficult to experience at my “backyard ultras.” It takes new people, new places, new experiences, new environments and cultures and terrains and ecosystems, to really have a profound effect.


Tortola Torture provided that profound effect for which I am forever grateful.

Thank Yous

I cannot end this report with the deepest of thank-you(s) to the local people of Tortola, and most specifically the race directors Richard and Nellie Morgan, and their friends Chris and Ellen, as well as Natasha and Dan who graciously offered us a place to stay while on the Island. The generosity was ridiculous – huge meals, rides everywhere, Island tours, race route scouting, …and did I mention the meals? Delicious.

We were totally pimped-down, styled-down, and well-taken care – British style. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

And to the course angels who kept us hydrated, especially those of us with very misguided ideas of what we’d actually need for this race, thank you. You were not only appreciated, you were absolutely necessary for my, and I’m guessing many others’, survival. You truly were selfless and helpful and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Where in the World is Waldo?

A Gator Mud Run Race Review, Waldo, Florida

Waldo, Florida? Never heard of it. Seriously, even Google Maps struggled with getting me to the race venue; but once I got there and saw about 15 wooden obstacles all within my field of view, and they all looked cool, I knew I was in for a killer morning of racin’.

Race Organization

Who cares? I never have anything to say about race organization ‘cuz I really just don’t care. I’m there for one thing – playing on big-boy toys while I run through the woods. I really don’t care what the shirt looks like, how long the lines are, nor what kind of ‘swag’ we get at packet pickup. If you like that kind of stuff, my reports will not be your thing.

Race Obstacles

This is what I care about most. I’ve always judged OCRs on one standard – Spartan Race. I’ve always had the best experiences at Spartan races in the past; however, the last few felt cookie-cutter, and more designed around ease of the course designers, not the enjoyment of the athletes. I guess that’s what happens when you get huge and have to franchise a process.

Gator Mud Run was a nice surprise. Having dipped out of OCR for awhile, I was excited to race again, and Gator promised 40 badass obstacles, over 5K distance.

That’s a lot of obstacles.

Waldo Mud Run race course map

Blow by Blow

Let’s see how much I can remember… Ready, go:

  • After the starting gun, the front pack bunches up, leaping a few waist-high log jumps and shaking out the butterflies.
  • We got to the first of a crap-load of wall ascents. Lines started forming? …Really? I charged ahead and got over the damn wall. The elite division is the money division, and lines don’t make sense. Race like ya wanna win, ma’an.
  • Ducked into the fringe of some woods, jumped more walls, stepped through some tires. Nothing crazy …yet.
  • Next, the quintessential series of up-and-down mud pits followed. You could actually jump across a couple of them without ever getting in them, but I don’t think volunteers knew what to do when that went down.
  • Ropes. Rope climb was pretty standard. ~20 feet, with knots. Let’s be real, knots make it easy, but that’s ok. It was fun.
  • An interesting “barrel hop” obstacle came next. We ran up an inclined plank of wood, and then leaped across a series of full, plastic barrels. Cool obstacle. Very unique.
  • And then, egad. The sliding obstacle, which really isn’t an obstacle, but I get called an a-hole whenever I slam slides in races, so, well… I’m still saying slides are lame. Sorry, they just are. At least I got wet, and cooled off for 3 seconds.
  • More raised log jumpin’, more wall scalin’, and then came the pegs. Horizontal traverse using pegs and rock-climbing holds. Cool obstacle. maybe my favorite.
  • More walls, more mud waddlin’, and then those crazy floating boards you see in races. You have to try to run across them, over water, and not fall in. I know the strategy, so I moved through this pretty quickly. I stopped to thank some volunteers and take a sip of a mystery drink. Story for another time…
  • A few underwater pipe crawls, and we found ourselves at three A-frame setups. The challenge? Run up the step slant as fast as you can, hope you make it about 12-14 feet to a piece of rope to use to hoist yourself all the way over. Lots of failures and thus burpees happening here, and I’m glad I wasn’t one of them.
  • 2.1 miles in and I could still see the front guys. Race is going well. I’m gassed, but happy and excited and fulfilled.
  • Next obstacle, flip tires. A strong man’s love. This was really too easy. Two flips? come on, RDs, make it 10 at least.
  • Jumped in the water for a 100 yard swim. Not much to say about that other than, “ahhhhh… nice and cool.”
  • The last obstacles were designed to pin people down right before the finish (which is brilliant).
  • Trampoline launches to Tarzan ropes, and floating boards came next. I chose the ropes. Tarzan swings are my jam.
  • Next, the rings. I have rings at my office. I train rings all the time. At the Ninja gym in Atlanta, I used rings-based obstacles to warm-up before every training session. I NEVER bust on rings… I busted on the rings. Simply slipped. 20 burpees was my reward.
  • Lastly, there was a short barbed-wire mud crawl to get us nice and dirty for the finish line pics.

And that’s about it.

I ran the Elite wave, not because I see myself as elite, but because waiting for obstacles in the open waves is something I just can’t imagine myself doing without making hella enemies. Racing and waiting do not go well together.

Finished the race in about 33 minutes or so. Not really sure yet as the race clock was all jacked up, and we started later than expected. For me, my main goal these days in athletics is to blow the doors off of what is expected of Masters athletes. I want to show that we can be strong, fast, trained, and dedicated, just like the young athletes. Age is only a number. I expect to continue to be competitive until I die. I will run my heart out because I care about giving it my all. I just do.

Every race… every experience… they are gifts. Gifts to be treated with heart. I can’t even imagine what life would be like without these physical outlets to keep crazy-hyper dudes like me from climbing the walls. Or, let’s be honest, getting into trouble.

Great race, Gator. Thank you for the abundance of obstacles, and keep up the good work. (but, that was not 3.1 miles. Jus’ sayin….).


The Inaugural ‘Kill That 5K’

“I am so thankful that there are men and women like this in the World. It’s because of their patriotism and determination that dopey creative kids, like me, get to run around and play all day.” – Christian Griffith, 5K race reviewer.

Inaugural Kill That 5k

Military Envy

Yup. I have it.

I romanticize, which further demonstrates my ignorance, by the way, the life of a soldier. I imagine myself as a gear-totin’, rifle-yielding, ammo luggin’ badass, who’s quick to step between his boys, and the enemy, and save the day.

Truth is, fire one bullet at me, and I’d probably drop to the fetal position and start singing Disney songs.

My respect for military service started with the admiration of my best friend, and grandfather. He was a P-51 Mustang fighter pilot, and a member of the Flying Tigers during World War II.

In my eyes, he might as well have been Captain America.

After 9-11, and a little maturity and education, I became more and more impressed with the military veterans I met through various physical challenges like ultramarathons, obstacle course races, survival events, and CrossFit gyms. Speaking as a man, many of these individuals ooooze what I aspire to be as a man. What I consider a “real man.” – I have a long way to go.

These people are truly tough.

I’m just a “tourist of tough.”

Bridging A Gap Between Military and Civilian Life

GORUCK Kill That 5K patch

I might not express the whole “bridging the gap”-thing precisely as GORUCK means it, but I heard this sentiment made by a GORUCK team member in reference to the new series of GORUCK events called Kill That 5K, and I liked it. I dug it because GORUCK events do just that – they connect, and re-connect, those of a military ilk; but also, and arguably most importantly, gives us civilians access into the training, mindset, personalities, dedication, determination, and toughness necessary to succeed in living in their shoes.

Introducing Ruck Runnin’

A ruck is basically a frame-less backpack. Just like CrossFit, anyone can do it at some level. Old, young, male, female, …dog. And also like CrossFit, rucking is an exercise that can be scaled based on level of experience, desired benefit, or need for additional challenge.

GORUCK’s Kill That 5K is a ruck race series that is one of a kind. Participants have the option of strapping on heavy weight and chasing each other for 3.1 miles, or throwing on any amount of weight, and getting in some quality, fitness miles while being social with others, and making new friends.

Some of the things that make this 5K unique:

  • You are running with weight, adding significant challenge to the distance.
  • Start times are late afternoon, instead of the typical, o’dawn 30.
  • Finish tables consist of only beer. No bananas. No bagels.
  • Concrete. Grass. Both. You never know for sure.
  • Prizes awarded worth up to $250 in gear credit.

The Inaugural Kill That 5K

The very first Kill That 5K took place just a couple of miles from GORUCK Headquarters, on a golf course, in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, on Saturday, January 17th, 2015 @ 5:00 p.m.; and while I have no idea if the race was considered a success by the organizers, it was a slam-dunk success to me.

Leading into the event, GORUCK did an excellent job keeping the excitement high for participants by launching helpful rucking tips and techniques videos via social media, as well as a few trash-talking, winner-prediction videos. The mood of the content was light, and focused on the fun of the sport, while keeping it just interesting enough for those of us who truly wanted to race and compete.

Never one to sidestep a challenge, I stepped into the elite category which called for competitors to carry, at least 45lbs of weight on their backs, for the full 3.1 mile race distance. Our packs were weighed pre-race, and post-race, to ensure the weight of the pack was the same both times. My pack was 46.18 lbs.

Passing Cadre. Good Idea? Bad Idea?

Having done a GORUCK Challenge event during the summer, I got hooked and want to shoot for more GORUCK events, including the granddaddy of them all, GORUCK Selection; however, some of the elite competitors were also GORUCK “Cadre” (definition: Event leading, experienced personnel able to assume control and to train others) and tend to lead many of the other, more brutal events in which I will be attending.

Passing them in the race seemed likely to pay some future dividends.

But as I mentioned in another online venue, a race is a race, and by the time I crossed the finish line, I found myself ahead of almost all GORUCK Cadre, but 6th place overall, behind a group of blazingly fast GRTs (GORUCK event past participants), that beat us all pretty well.

Christian Griffith at the inaugural GORUCK Kill That 5K

Photo: Christian Griffith, reviewer, finishing up the Kill That 5K.

In future events, I sure hope the cadre focus on those winners, and not me.

Yea, Yea, But Would You Do Another One?

Would I?

I’m already registered for Kill That 5K #2 in Tampa, Florida, February 28, 2015, and for the inaugural event, GORUCK made a slam dunk…

…but, there are some areas where they can improve if they want to maximize potential for future growth. Here are just a few ideas:

Offer t-shirts to all participants

Not only does the race community covet their race shirts, it’s just smart marketing and race branding. Especially if the shirt is cool, and the message is simple and strong.

Provide chip timing for Elite races

As the elite competition gets more and more fierce with every race, and money is on the line, competitors will begin to expect a timing solution that is more exact, and verifiable.

Beer is good, but…

For the folks competing at redline levels, some nutrition at the finish line could be helpful, especially, if some of the participants do not drink alcohol. As more and more elites are attracted, there will be a growing number of non-drinkers.

GORUCK Is Definitely On To Something

I came home from Florida extremely impressed with the inaugural event, the cadre represented, GORUCK founder Jason McCarthy, the volunteers, and all of GORUCK HQ in Jacksonville Beach.

Ruckin’ is great because, again, anyone can do it, and it’s a great way to stay fit without a gym, and while engaged in social time with friends – “No one rucks alone.”

Mark my words, and reference back to this review in three years. You will see these events grow, and especially if I have anything to do with it, because I believe in it.

Check the list of upcoming races, and see if one is coming to a town close to you. Shoots, I might even do it with ya if it fits my ridiculous event schedule; And if you are feeling extra ambitious, try one of the traditional GORUCK events for a challenge like no other.

Can you Kill A 5K?


2014 Cranky Bastard 5K Race Results

Results will be updated every couple of days until 11:59 p.m., December 31, 2014, at which time the race ends, and we will not accept any further submissions. Please submit all race times to Queen of ORM at [email protected]

5K Treadmill Race Results

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5K Outdoor Race Results

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2014 Cranky Bastard Virtual 5K Race

2014 Cranky Bastard Virtual Race Medal

We are a bunch of liars

When we launched the Cranky Bastard Virtual Race last year, we said it was only going to be a one-time event.

That didn’t turn out too well. We had to cap the number of participants due to the number of medals on-hand, so some people did not get to race, and thus missed out on what could most likely be one of the coolest pieces of 5K finisher hardware, ever.

Here’s another thing we learned – People prefer 5Ks. For those just coming to us, a 5K is more accessible and fun; and for those of you fire-breathing speedsters, a 5K offers the opportunity for maximum speed and strong competition.

FUN FACT – Last year’s 5K winner was the 2013 World’s Toughest Mudder, Ryan Atkins. Any of you speedsters gonna chase him down?

It’s big. thick and meaty

Truth be told, we clown Cranky because he is so vocal about disliking medals. We think he’s just trying to be cool, but what better way to taunt him than to create the thickest, highest quality, solid piece of hardware that is so heavy, you have to sign a disclaimer to wear it. Ok, not really, no waivers …but it’s a damn nice medal  – if you are going to bother to offer a medal, make it be something unique and desirable. The Cranky Bastard 5K medal is all that.

Register now – It’s simple, fast and easy

  1. Register online. Same inexpensive entry as last year – $25 (Only 200 slots available)
  2. Decide on treadmill, or outdoor division
  3. {optional} Talk trash on the Facebook event page. Taunt your friends
  4. Break out the Garmin, Suunto, or mobile phone GPS tracking app
  5. Run your 5K. Run the distance as many times as you want, but submit only once
  6. Submit your race time to the Queen of ORM (must include screenshot)*
  7. Watch the rankings pages for your inclusion in the online rankings
  8. Collect your medal **
See the 2013 results – and a funny note about that, the Cranky Bastard Virtual Race actually got picked up by Athlinks.

* To be eligible for rankings, you must submit proof in the form of run tracking data, screenshot, phone picture, etc. If you have any questions, please email [email protected]. We will take submissions through 11:59, January 7, 2015.

** This is a USA-only event. Due to the cost of shipping medals, we must limit participation to USA address runners only. Medals will begin shipping at the end of the race period, January 7, 2015. 



Selection Training Week 1, Eyes Wide Open

This first week was spent:

  • Wrapping my head around my decision to take on GORUCK Selection
  • Compiling some semblance of a plan
  • Connecting and communicating with cadre, past selection candidates, and actual Special Forces soldiers

Selection PT performance training

Nailing physical training performance standards

Last Selection class start with 83 candidates, and 52 failed the initial PT (physical training) performance standard testing, and thus were sent home, BEFORE the Selection event even started.

This left only 31 Selection candidates.

I will not be that person.

The minimum standard is 55 strict push-ups in 2:00, 65 strict sit-ups in 2:00, a 5-mile run in under 40:00 (7:59/miles), and 3:30:00 45 lb, ruck run.

But, its been pounded into my head, “don’t even think of showing up to selection with only the performance standard in the bank.” Instead, be ready with 80 push-ups, and 100 sit-ups, and a 34:00 5-miler.

I need a plan.

The beginnings of a plan

First, I am lacking incredibly in the ability to knock-out the necessary, STRICT, push-ups and sit-ups. To the right, in the top right rail of this page, I will keep a log of every time I shoot for testing, usually going to be once a week., or 10 days, or so.

The goal: 100 push-ups, 110 sit-ups.

In the meantime, I will be following the Navy Seals BUD/S Training Guide.

As supplementary training, I will continue functional training activities and sports designed to make me a better bodyweight athlete as I have a slew of challenging goals for 2015 such as Catamount games (Jan.), Survival Race Nicaragua (Feb.) and American Ninja Warrior (May). This includes:

  • Indoor rock-climbing
  • Obstacle course racing
  • Ninja obstacle training
  • Bar movements, and gymnastics
  • Some weight training – perhaps some CrossFit, but not sure, yet.

CrossFit simply requires too much recovery since all WODs are performed at max effort. My initial thoughts are that, while I love the methodology for GPP (general physical preparedness), it’s simply not specialized enough for my current goals. That may change…

My biggest nemesis, my bodyweight.

What do you think about this training focus?

Am I on the right track?

Would you do it differently?