DekaStrong Hosted by Underlying Strength (PA)

Sometimes, a competition is more than just an event. 

More than just a time on a stopwatch. 

More than just a challenge of fitness. 

After almost a full year of cancelled races and virtual challenges, being able to compete in-person is a gift. It’s that void you’ve been feeling ever since the last time you went head-to-head with someone who wasn’t on a computer. DekaStrong offered a chance to fill that void this March with a gym-hosted event in Yardley, Pennsylvania.

DekaStrong-Yardley-Row

Deka What? 

Underlying Strength, which opened at the end of 2016, had the opportunity to host one of DekaStrong’s first ever events. DekaStrong consists of ten fitness stations with no running in between. Deka, an affiliate of Spartan Race, also offers the DekaFit and DekaMile, both of which include a specified running distance between stations. DekaMile and DekaStrong share the same stations. DekaFit has mostly the same, with a couple that are slightly different.

 

DekaStrong Stations (Men’s Weight/Women’s Weight):

  1. 30 x Spartan RAM Alternating Reverse Lunges (55/33)
  2. 500m Row
  3. 20 x Box Jump Over/Step Over (24” for both)
  4. 25 x Medicine Ball Sit-Up (20/14)
  5. 500m SkiErg
  6. 100m Farmer’s Carry (60/40)
  7. 25-Calorie Assault Bike
  8. 20 x Dead Ball Shoulder Overs (60/40)
  9. 100m Tank Push/Pull
  10. 20 x Spartan RAM Burpees (44/22)

DekaStrong-Yardley-Farmer-Carry

Just How Tough Is It? 

If you want the short answer, DekaStrong is a kick in the ass. If you don’t at least have some familiarity with the stations, you’ll probably struggle. Unless, of course, you’re already a really well-rounded athlete. 

 

The best way to help you prepare is with a lot of metabolic conditioning and HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training). Even with those, however, you’ll still want to at least have a few runs with each exercise required. 

 

Obviously, some of the stations are harder to train for than others. Not everyone has access to the necessary equipment to specifically train for DekaStrong. That’s what makes Deka-Affiliated gyms, like Underlying Strength, an extremely useful training tool. You can get somewhat ready with a lot of equipment that a normal gym has. But to really prepare, and ultimately succeed, finding an affiliate would be a tremendous advantage. 

DekaStrong-Yardley-Assault-Bike

What To Expect

If you’re familiar with Spartan Races, you might be expecting a lot of the same at a Deka event. Gym-hosted DekaStrong events, however, are different from what you’d find at a Spartan Race in many ways. 

 

First, there is no chip-timing. Not really a huge deal since you have a volunteer that stays with you throughout each station to count your reps and keep your overall time. It doesn’t exactly make you a CrossFit Games athlete, but you may feel like one. Although, since all heats are open at the gym-hosted events, there aren’t any awards. 

 

Next up, the swag. The DekaStrong shirts are 100% cotton, unlike most Spartan finisher shirts, which are polyester or at least a combination of the two. There’s also no finisher medal, but you do receive a wedge piece. 

DekaStrong-Yardley-Medicine-Ball

One of the bigger differences from a normal Spartan event is really the photos. This may not be the case at every single Deka event, but at least the gym-hosted events don’t include free photos. Luckily, Underlying Strength organized and funded photos and videos for the event. Photos became available for purchase a few days after the event. 

 

DekaStrong is really a photo-friendly type of event because of the stations, so hopefully Deka makes the decision to fund them in the future. It’s worth noting that the local companies Underlying Strength used for photography (Wanderlove/Yardley) and videography (5Cents Media/Philadelphia) did an absolutely fantastic job. 

 

One of the biggest benefits to a DekaStrong gym-hosted event is the price tag. Most Spartan races are at least $100, if not more. DekaStrong is a very financially friendly option at $39.99. Which more than likely explains some of the areas where you’re not getting the same type of take home swag with each registration. Overall, for the amount of money spent, it’s completely worth pushing yourself to see just how fast you can complete the event. 

DekaStrong-Yardley-RAM-Burpee

How’d They Do?

Considering everything that continues to go on with the global pandemic, Underlying Strength did a phenomenal job hosting its first event. Because of COVID restrictions, they did have limited wave sizes, but sold out with a total of 64 registrants. Gym owner and certified fitness trainer, Sid Turner, said that was more than they expected when they scheduled the event. 

 

We are still down about 25%. With more people choosing to workout at home, the fitness industry has definitely taken a shift,” he explained. “However, events like Deka create an energy that no at home workout will ever be able to replicate. With that being said, Things will shift back, we just have to keep bringing the noise!”

 

If you missed out on this event, Underlying Strength intends to host many more events to come during the Spring, Summer and Fall seasons. There’s even a DekaMile already on their schedule for this May. 

 

Because it’s a smaller facility, and some of the stations need to be outdoors, there won’t be any competitions in the colder months. But you can still train there to get yourself ready for the next event. 

 

If you’re nowhere near Yardley, just mask up and hop on a plane. Or, you can check out Deka’s website for all event dates and locations. 

Deka-Strong-Yardley-Tank

Photo Credit: Wanderlove (@discoverwanderlove)

 

Video coverage of last year’s DekaFit Jacksonville, Florida

 

Barbarian Race 2020 – Ustron, Poland

Barbarian Race was held in Ustron, Poland on Sept 26 and Sept 27. Never had I experienced this high level of technical obstacles in OCR.
First, I will describe the general facts of the race, but mainly name some of the obstacles to show you why the Barbarian race is the hardest OCR out there right now!

4 races:
Opener – 6km
Arrow – 400m with 10 technical obstacles
Main Race – 12km
Pain – 2 laps of Main Race

Arrow – September 26
Firstly, this Barbarian race was 400 meters and had 10 technical obstacles.
This happened on Saturday evening. Waves of 4 people were released every 2 minutes. You can try the obstacles as many times as you want until you succeed or admit defeat. Each racer had a wristband containing up to 40 numbers(obstacles). Athletes who gave up had their wristbands marked at a certain number and then continued to the next obstacle. There were different time penalties for different failed obstacles. The harder obstacles had a longer time penalty than say an easier obstacle. The finish line is up at the warped wall. The top 4 times competed again during the night time for prizes.  Finishers for this race received a different medal in comparison to the main race.

Main Barbarian Race – September 27
12km and 900m elevation ascent

Elite Wave
A couple of different waves of elites separated by 10 minute periods. All male elites start with 3 wristbands that they can lose throughout the race on failed obstacles. The females start with 5 wristbands. In the elite heat, you only get 1 attempt at the obstacles. If you fail, they cut off one wristband. Lose all three (or five) and you are automatically pushed into the Open heat when you finish. If you finish with all three (or five) wristbands, you can cross the finish line. If you finish with zero, you can cross the Open-wave finish line. However, if you have 1 or 2 wristbands left, the volunteers at the finish line sent you back down the mountain for 200 meters and back up 200 meters. You would do this either once or twice depending on how many wristbands you lost.



Open Wave
You can repeat the obstacles as many times as you like. If you fail and give up, they will mark a number on your wristband. These numbers represent obstacles that would give you an extra-time penalty. Some obstacles that did not have a time penalty required you to complete 20 burpees.

Barbarian Race has trained their referees. Most importantly, only the certified referees are judging the technical obstacles in order to keep the integrity of the race. 

Obstacles
These are difficult obstacles. These are the best obstacles. I have not seen this level of technical obstacles anywhere throughout North America, not even at Worlds. Here is to name a few of the obstacles in the Barbarian Race.

3 Low Rig obstacles, one which was in the water.
Fatality – pegboard to monkey bars to ring switches to bell
Klik Klak – Monkey bar wheel to monkey bar wheel to bell
Egzekutor – trampoline to bar to bar to angled nun-chuck to ring to ring to angled nun-chuck to bell
Fuzja – samurai pole to samurai pole to big wheel to small wheel to low bar to bell.
Combo – tarzan swing to ring to big wheel to boxing bag to low log.
Holy Sticks – salmon step ladder to swinging bar to swinging bar to zip-line bar to bell over water.
Hot wheels – 4 windmill angled wheels to bell
Hybryda – boxing bag zip-line to ring to ring to wheel to low hanging bar to nun-chuck to bell

Some other obstacles that might have been seen before are as follows:

4 flying monkey bar jumps to bell above water
warped wall
salmon ladder
trampoline to bell over water

Overview
The Barbarian Race had over 700 participants this weekend.
The terrain was 1/3 in the water, 1/3 on flat ground, and 1/3 on mountain climbing.

Grzegorz Szczechla is a professional OCR athlete and the organizer of the Barbarian Races, founded in 2015. For more information about upcoming races visit barbarianrace.pl

UltraVirus Race II Results And Recap

Congratulations to everyone who ran UltraVirus II – 379 people completed at least one, 5 mile lap.

There were a total of 2512 laps run for 12,560 miles

The 5 percent prize pool in entry fees (including those that DNS) equaled $700.00.

Podium  Cash/Prize Payouts

Devon Yanko and Trevor Cichosz.                       80 miles.     $200.  Tailwind Starter Pack. Darn Tough Socks.

Beverley Andesron- Abbs and Ean Caskey        70 miles.      $100.  1 pair of VJ Shoes. Tailwind Starter Pack. Darn Tough Socks. Rind Snacks.

Melissa Sholomicky 60 miles and Ron Little     70 miles       $50.   Tailwind Starter Pack. Darn Tough Socks. Rind Snacks.

Top Ten Women

Top Ten Men

You can view the complete UltraVirus Race II results here.

You can view the entire leaderboard for the first UltraVirus Race results here.

Register for the 3rd and final UltraVirus Race here.

 

Spartan Race in Alviera, Philippines


Spartanrace-Philippines-Jeep-Finish-line
Spartan Race announcement that the spartan race will relocate due to the eruption of Taal volcano in the Philippines. The race venue was located near Batangas, and now is moved to Alviera, just 2 hours north of Manila. Although there is the corona virus outbreak, the Spartan Philippines event is still happening. Spartan Vietnam didn’t happen the week prior, so I’m super excited I got to race here in the Philippines. Spartan Philippines is part of the South East Asia Series (SEA) but this race was not part of that Regional Series.

Spartanrace-Philippines-Terrain

This was a sold out event. There were approximately 4500 participants on February 22. There was the Super, Sprint, and Trail with  2300, 1900, and 300 people respectively. The day started with the Super in the early morning, followed by the Trail race and then the Sprint. It was a really warm day so the shade was your friend, I couldn’t get enough of it. It began to get really hot and definitely affected the speed of the racers.
The Super and Trail were competitive with Elites and Age Racers. Sprint was only available in the Open category. Additionally, there was a 4 hour hurricane heat later in the afternoon.

To start, the festival area was really well laid out. Not too big, not too small. Everything was within a close distance. Think of it as a big circle you can walk around and within. There was a food area along with marketing and sponsored tents. Then the entrance beside the Merchandise. There were really unique things you can buy at the merchandise including the face mask with the spartan logo, the new spartan hats (very cool) and spartan coasters! They posted a merchandise list with costs around the tent so this was very convenient. As you move towards the other side of the circle there is bag check, along with tents for changing. Showers nearby the medical tent. Results and podium tracking. And lastly a training area held by Philam Vitality in the center.

Spartanrace-Philippines2020-MerchDuring the race there are plenty of water stations. Philippines is being proactive and not using plastic cups. It is the racers responsibility to provide a cup or Camelbak. I just tilt my head and let water fall into my mouth straight from the source. That’s the first time I saw no cups at the races, so this was really cool.

Spartanrace-Philippines2020-Spearthrow

Next, the terrain varies from sandy runs to fields to some stream running and dirt, and finally hills with sand and uphill roadways. It felt like a fast race. The Super fastest times were in the 50’s minutes. The Super was 10km with 200m of elevation gain.
The obstacles were really similar to the ones from USA or Canada. Their spear throw I believe was better because they used a black foam pad instead of hay. The obstacles included a sandbag carry, bucket carry, cargo nets, spear, atlas carry, Hercules hoist, short and tall walls, Irish tables, sled drag, a-frame, and multi-rig with mostly rings.

spartanrace-philippines2020-philamvitalityLastly, Spartan Philippines was sponsored by Jeep (i love my wrangler), Merrell, and Philam Vitality. Merrell had multiple tents and advertising. Even when running past the course while carrying the sandbags there were big letters spelling out Merrell.  Also they had great sales for shoes up to 50% off therefore I got myself some Bare Access Flex shoes. 🙂

Spartanrace-Philippines2020-MerrellIt was a pleasure and look forward to more SEA races!

Hyrox Dallas 2020

Hyrox Dallas 2020

A New Type of Fitness Competition

Hyrox is the new hotness of the fitness world in the United States. Though it may be new to us, the team behind Hyrox certainly has a lot of experience behind it. The popularity of the event overseas is quite high. After my experience in Dallas, it’s easy to understand why.

“What is Hyrox?” you may ask? Hyrox is a fitness competition involving a mix of running and functional workouts. This competition is always held indoors, at the same distance, with the same workouts, in the same order. Divisions are split into open men, open women, doubles women, doubles men, mixed doubles, pro women, and pro men.

The differences between these divisions being that, in doubles, teams are allowed to split the workouts as they please, but must run together. Otherwise, weights and or reps simply increase depending on which division a participant chooses. The order of the event is always as follows:

1km run

1000m ski erg

1km run

50m sled push

1km run

50m sled pull

1km run

80m burpee broad jump

1km run

1000m row

1km run

200m Kettle bell Farmers Carry

1km run

100m Sandbag Lunges

1km run

75 (women excluding pro)/100 wall balls

Finish

Organization

At first glance, the maze of barricades, rigs, and stations can seem to be chaotic. Countless thoughts run through your head. How will we know where to go? Where do we run? Will enough stations be open? As for Dallas, Hyrox was a graceful ballet of controlled chaos and every staff member and volunteer seemed to be on their A-game.

From the briefing to wave send off, to on course aid. Hyrox staff seemed to always know what their purpose was and how to most quickly and efficiently relay that information. This is key to running a good event. No matter how much stuff you have, no matter what great venue you have, if you do not run a tight ship it can all far apart and leave a sour taste in the mouths of participants.

Is Hyrox Really for Everyone?

Is Hyrox for OCR athletes? Maybe it for Crossfitters? Can everyone really complete a Hyrox event? The answer to all of these questions is: yes. Just like any other fitness endeavor, training is necessary if you would like to perform decently. It will push you to limits and test your grit. This is the reason that people participate in such events.

However, claims such as Hyrox being for everyone have no ground if the staff does not treat everyone equally and hold them to the same standards. From the beginning of the day with the open waves to the end of the day with the last pro waves, volunteers and coaches motivated every single participant in the same manner.

Establishing a Sense of Accomplishment

Everyone should have left feeling as if they accomplished something great. That is the core of what these type of events are about. The goal is to change people’s lives. It does not matter if you are Hunter McIntyre finishing the pro wave in 58 minutes and some change or if you are an open lady competing in your very first competition. The goal is to make you want to keep coming back and to keep improving! Is Hyrox for everyone? No. Can anyone do Hyrox? Yes.

Hyrox brings together a blend of spectacle, personality, and difficulty to create an empowering experience for each participant. It is quite obvious that they have planned and they have had plenty of practice. If any athlete had questions during the powerpoint briefing on their heat, they were quickly answered and explained. There was no “oh wait I don’t know let me see.” Of course, the fact that the event is the same every time attributes to this efficiency. This is often a gateway to success for many: pick a focus and execute it really well.

How Can it Work?

The Hyrox staff has developed quite the efficient technique of calculating exactly how many participants can be released in each wave to ensure that there is no backing up at workout stations. Though things can get slightly hectic in the running loop, the “fast” and “slow” lane separation helps. Ideally, faster runners hug the inside lane allowing them to pass slower runners on the right.

Of course, after all of the brutal workouts the occasional runner would be straggling in the middle of the lane, but skirting around them was never a huge issue. I did not see many runners get hung up even during the doubles waves.

Will I get Lost?

What if I forget where to go? I will fully admit it was completely possible to forget which workout you were on when your brain starts to shut down and you are just trying to keep moving. Hyrox takes every possible measure to ensure that racers stay on track though. Every workout station is manned by a knowledgeable volunteer. Every workout station has a giant blowup gateway with a readout of what number the workout is as well as the name of the workout, i.e. “ 08 Wall Balls 08”.

A large screen on the running course displays the names of participants as they cross a timing mat.  This screen displays what run lap you are on or what workout you should enter the “in” section of the course and complete before moving on. MANY times I was scatterbrained and not sure of what to do, but this screen and volunteers kept me on track. Is it possible to run an extra lap? Absolutely. Is it possible to skip a workout? Absolutely. However, Hyrox cares enough to take as many measures as possible to keep everyone on track.

Aid Station

There was only one aid station and it was the only one truly necessary. It was well manned and well serviced. This station was stocked with both water and the event sponsor: Refix (basically water and sea salt, doesn’t sound tasty, but when you’ve wept yourself dry of all electrolytes it’s pretty nice.) It was located at the “out” section of the workout area so that runners could fuel up before their running loops.

Equipment and Warm-up Area

Though the warm-up area was just a tad small, it was a far better warm-up area than I have seen at most CrossFit competitions. The area had every implement that would be used in competition. It was well stocked with plates and two sleds to practice the dreaded push and pull complete with a strip of that devil carpet. The warm-up area also contained: bike ergs, ski ergs, self-propelled treadmills, concept 2 rowers, kettlebells, mats, and wall balls. Each of these pieces of equipment was in tip-top shape, and a water station was in the warm-up area as well. Chalk was also readily available at each and every workout station.

If anything used by Hyrox is really going to incite participants’ frustration, it is going to be the carpet. Sled pushes and pulls are bad. Sled pushes and pulls on turf are bad, but sled pushes and pulls on this carpet are a step into hell forcing you to summon your own inner demons to escape its momentum breaking wrath. While the carpet never bunched on me, I could see it being a possibility. The carpet adds an element of difficulty which some may like or dislike.

The “Festival” Area

The stage was clearly visible and offered a seating area for awards. Vendors were set up nicely along with a cool little Michelob Ultra booth. The Puma store was nice and sales went through without a hitch. The workout zone for those spectators interested in learning how to prepare for Hyrox was a very nice touch that I wish other races and CrossFit competitions would incorporate more often. The goal is to get more people involved in these events and Hyrox seems to do a very good job of keeping that in mind.

So It Isn’t Perfect

The set up does have some drawbacks. Crosswalks over the running track were the only way in or out of the arena housing the event as well as the only avenue to the restroom. This caused security to have to perform the task of super decisive crossing guard especially as the faster runners got onto the course. Although this simple act of having to wait to cross was not a big deal for me, I could certainly see it getting stuck in the craw of some spectators.

Hyrox is not the perfect fitness event. It may not be up the alley of some athletes. It may deter strict endurance athletes. Is it the “World Series of Fitness” as its branding claims? Well, that depends on your personal definition of fitness. What Hyrox is, is a great bridge between the gap of CrossFit, OCR, and other realms of athletic performance. What is most important is that Hyrox does what they claim to do and they do it very well (or at least did in Dallas this February).

They treat every competitor exactly the same and they motivate each and every person to be their best. Hyrox does not just claim to be what will force you to dig deep. Hyrox does not drop you off in the well and leave you to find your own inner strength. It provides you with the tools to do so, and they jump in the well with you holding a light and saying “come on, you’ve got this.” If they stick to this type of passion and attention to detail in each and every event, Hyrox will become a much bigger attraction in the United States next year.

https://obstacleracingmedia.com/podcast/hyrox-explained-with-christian-toetzke-and-mintra-mattison/

https://obstacleracingmedia.com/podcast/hyrox-miami-2019-corrina-coffin-and-matt-kempson/

Valentine’s Day Massacre

We all compete in OCR because of the obstacles, right? If not, we’d all be signing up for road races. What if you learned there was a race out there where 50 obstacles were packed into a 2-mile course? Did I manage to get your attention? What if I also told you that this race would take place in the Midwest in the middle of February basically guaranteeing a frozen track? Well, Team Hydra and the Hazelwood MO. Park District pulled off such an event this past February 15th and I was lucky enough to take part in the brutality. This was year two of the St. Louis area event, and I felt honored to have covered both. This gave me the opportunity to see how the team drastically upped their game from year one to year two. There is a certain down-home hospitality feeling that you’ll notice at any event run by Team Hydra, the community really seems to get behind them. They actually had a volunteer at each and every obstacle giving instruction and praise along the way which is unheard of. Photographers were all over the place taking action shots and the concession stands were opened up offering anything a racer or spectator needed. Oh, and the shot shack! Yep, this event offered free shots to all racers post-race! This perk was an awesome idea as that Fireball shot I took after the race helped warm me back up quickly!

The race itself started at 10;30 a.m. by releasing the elite waves first, three racers at a time, three minutes apart. This proved to be a great way of keeping racers separated along the course while getting everyone out onto the course quickly. Athletes started out by racing out of the parking lot at the Hazelwood Sports Complex, crawling over a few picnic tables, and climbing under low crawl tubes.  Wooden pallets served as your ladder leading racers up to the top of the baseball dugouts, the landing pad for your descent was borrowed from the high jump pit. The baseball field backstop was also well utilized and brought into play as another climbing obstacle. Large plastic tubes were buried in the ground and provided the next “hurdle” along the course, followed up by the semi tire drag. Bucket carry, yup, placed right here. Team Hydra built some unique mid-sized walls and topped them with a 55-gallon plastic barrel that spun, they set two of these along the course and required athletes to haul a car tire with them as they traversed the obstacle.  Atlas Stones on a rope provided the resistance during the farmer carry while a short distance away heavy tractor tires were stationed for multiple flips. The last challenge on this third of the course was the triple rope climb. The three ropes were separated by two high jump style landing pads requiring an athlete to hop up onto and over a pad between rope one and two adding to the difficulty.

 

The second section of the course started out rather tame, as a few wall climbs and an empty 55 gallon barrel roll were all that were required. But this is where things turned nasty. After scooting up a warped wall a 50-foot rig traverse was looking you right in the eye. Now this was no ordinary rig, there were ropes suspended down, a wall of skulls to cross, rings, a low hanging wooden suspension bridge, AND to finish it off a series of the ever-popular Gibbons. Now, I don’t know if anyone actually finished this rig or not, but it was the toughest rig configuration I’ve seen in over 100 races, and there was a 40 burpee penalty for those who didn’t finish. If you managed to have any grip strength left or gas in your tank after all those burpees you were going to need it as a four-section of floating wall was the next obstacle up. Team Hydra did nobody a favor by moving the grips and footings closer together than in their previous races, making finishing it much harder. A 20 burpee penalty was the failure requirement here. A sandbag weighted Herc Hoist led racers away from the floating walls along a track featuring a series of 4-foot walls. Team Hydra then lined up some functional tests for athletes starting out with the yoke carry. The yoke consisted of a wooden plank with sandbags suspended off each side. Now, this wasn’t a very heavy carry, but it did take quite a bit of core strength to balance it out as you walked the required distance. A car tire and sledgehammer were waiting for you next, an athlete used the sledge to smash the car tire a short distance before moving on to an Atlas Stone carry.

 

A spear throw started off the third and final section of the course, multiple attempts were allowed here thank goodness! A Spartan Race style Olympus traverse followed leading to a cargo net low crawl. One last rig and a fire jump were all that now stood between you and that precious medal! But once again the rig was no joke, consisting of ropes, bungee cords, and a section of twister with a 20 burpee failure penalty. This led to many a racer doing burpees just a few yards from the finish. I found the Valentine’s Day Massacre to be a truly badass event, although it was geared a little more towards the competitive level racer. Team Hydra used everything at the park to their advantage giving racers a ton of bang for their buck. The race swag was great and who wouldn’t love free shots at the end of a race? The Hazelwood community did a great job supporting the event, everyone was cheerful and helpful despite wind chills in the 20’s.My final word on the event is if you like racing during the winter months than you must leave the middle of February open for the next Valentine’s Day Massacre.