Crossfit + Obstacles = Combine Love

When you take three of my current obsessions (Crossfit, obstacles, and hills) and roll them up into one race, I may start foaming at the mouth out of excitement. And as we surveyed the PIT early last Saturday morning at Civilian Military Combine up in Camelbak Mountain, PA, I could feel the buzz in the air.

Ironically enough, when I signed up for CMC at the behest of a friend this past winter, I did not feel the same way. A Crossfit WOD followed by an obstacle race up a mountain? I knew I could hold my own on the obstacle part, but I had never stepped foot into a Crossfit box, let alone even know what “WOD” and “AMRAP” stood for. Thruster, huh?

[Side note: As many people know, I resisted Crossfit for over a year, hemming and hawing at the perceived cult-like nature and exorbitant membership fees. I finally caved about two and a half months ago, and haven’t looked back since. The Kool-Aid is excellent and mighty tasty.]

So I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical with the race format. 6 mins, and then only a 5 and a half mile course? How hard can that really be? (says the “too big for my britches Death Racer”) A workout followed by…a workout? With your score being weighted evenly between your number of reps in the pit and your time on the course? Intriguing format, though quite unknown. The concept, when you think of it, is ingenious: it’s a way to even out the field, and find the best of both the strength and the endurance worlds. To win, you have to dominate both.

“The PIT”

The first time I looked at the 4 90-second AMRAP’s that made up the PIT — kb swings, box jumps, burpees, and thrusters — I was less than enthused. I mean, how hard can 6 minutes of work really be?

Fucking hard. Seriously.

Many of the hardcore Crossfitters I told about the PIT in the weeks leading up to the event scoffed at the weights and the exercises. Too easy. Too weenie. Meh. And I’ll admit, I happened to agree with them. I mean, I had done 3000 burpees a few months ago, what’s 90 seconds of them?

Many of my friends competing at CMC ran through the pit dozens and dozens of times leading up to the event, trying to increase their reps each time. I did not. I had no idea the number of reps I would get going in, and no idea how those 9 minutes (30 seconds rest and transition bewteen each of the AMRAPs) would feel.

Smart move. Because I definitely wouldn’t have wanted that feeling again. I was a bit intimidated before the PIT watching the other racers–there were some serious hardcore Crossfitters here. Super strong women, ripped men, and tons of boxes that all came out as teams. So it made me feel mildly less like a weenie when they were all wrecked post PIT as well.

Lesson: the PIT’s no joke. As Crossfitters know, some of the most brutal WOD’s are the shortest (e.g., Fran, Grace). And while the PIT was all body weight exercises, 6 minutes will smoke you when you are under the gun. But if it was just a WOD, life wouldn’t have been too bad.

Oh wait–I have to go run up a mountain now? Shit.

The Course

Post PIT, you have 3 minutes of recovery and transition time to the starting line for the course. I frantically threw off my F-lites and threw on my Speedcross, grabbed a drink of water, and headed for the start. All I knew was that my calves and quads were burning. And that double-black diamond ahead of me didn’t look so awesome.

But I’m a runner and endurance athlete by nature, and the one advantage I have is quick recovery time (well, and also that most Crossfitters can’t run worth shit). So I shook it off, and set out at a clip ahead of the pack. The course was sprinkled with military style obstacles. These aren’t your Tough Mudder or Spartan gimmicky obstacles: you won’t find electric wires, spear throws, or ice baths. What you will find are walls, ladders, ropes, sandbags, and low crawls. Nothing “hard,” but taxing, especially when you consider the terrain.

The terrain. I’ve blogged before about how I love hills. I LOVE RUNNING HILLS. It’s the biggest thing I miss about the Northwest, and the thing about Chicago that kills me slowly inside. But I train creativity, and was pretty confident I’d be able to run them all. And I did mostly…until we met “The Asp.”

The course had us running up two double black diamonds, the first of which was steep, but still manageable at a slow jog. The Asp, or the second, was manageable at…a crawl. Yup, people crawling up on their hands and knees. I broke down and bear crawled for a few, and then actually walked up sideways for a bit as well. Apparently I do need to work on my hills still…

I was told post-race that the official mileage was 5.4 miles and close to 2000 feet of elevation change. Alright, CMC course, I’m sorry I prejudged you. For 5.4 miles, you destroyed me. As I mentioned to others post-race, I ran a Tough Mudder in PA a few weeks earlier that measured 13 miles, and that was a BREEZE compared to this course.*

The Booze

Booze was not *technically* part of the race, but I ran out of heading ideas. So when the dust settled, I came away victorious. That’s obviously a great feeling, but it’s not why I do these races. And whether I had won or came in last place, the fact doesn’t change that the point of these races for me is to go balls to the wall on every race, dominate the day, but most importantly–have a blast doing it.** In sports we always talked about “leaving everything on the field.” CMC definitely brought that out, not only in me, but in my fellow racers: the amazing energy in the PIT, the looks of pain and determination up on the mountain, and the camaraderie and buzz post-race.

CMC, you made a believer out of me. I never knew a race that lasted less than 2 hours could prove to be one of the hardest I’ve run in recent memory. And just ridiculously fun.

The People

But of course, I don’t race with strangers. In the past year, these people have become my friends and my surrogate family. Many of you know that I have a mild love affair with the amazing Carrie Adams (as you all should). But what you probably don’t know is that CMC was the first time Carrie and I actually ever met in person. Odd for two friends that talk on the phone almost daily, sometimes for hours. CMC also introduced me to team Hybrid Athlete, who so graciously took me on as a teammate at the last minute (nice 2nd place team finish, guys!) And of course, Simple Fuel brings us all together.

Til next time (meaning: CMC, get your ass to Chicago! I’ve got teams lined up!)

*In fact, the TM bored the hell out of me. Are they making them easier to appeal to the masses? Do I really want to subject myself to another WTM when it’s going to be a snooze fest? More on that in another post.
**Let’s be honest: if it’s not fun, why are you doing it?


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