Civilian Military Combine (PA) - May 2012
5.4 Miles + Lifting Competition
May 19th 2012
Camelback Resort, PA
The Event: Civilian Military Combine (CMC) is just what the name implies: a combine. It’s a combination of a lifting event followed shortly by an obstacle race. The lifting event is four exercises done for a minute and thirty seconds each with a rest period of thirty seconds between exercises. The exercises are done for max reps with max total reps being worth the most points. The exercises are thursters (75 lbs men/45 lbs women), kettlebell swings (20 kg men/12 kg women), burpees, and 20” box jumps. In an industry of copy cats, this is a refreshing and unique challenge.
Getting There & Parking: The event was held on the Camelback Mountain Resort in Tannersville, PA. It is an easily Google’able location, and good thing too because there weren’t any signs before getting to the parking lot. Still parking was easy and more importantly free.
Check-in & Logistics: Check-in was a bit of a mess. I’m not sure if it was because I was there early, but there weren’t really any check-in lines done alphabetically like at other events. There was just this check-in table that eventually had a crowd of people around it. If you didn’t know your bib number, they had to look it up, and then you’d get your bib and timing chip. I didn’t even need to show my ID. Then you had to get safety pins for your bib and a connector for your timing chip because they weren’t included in your race packet. Luckily I got in before the crowd, so I had no issues, but I could see people getting frustrated as the crowd built. This can use some serious improvement in the future.
The Schwag: When you completed the CMC you got a nice t-shirt and finisher dog tags. There was complimentary energy drink at the Pit and finish line by one of the race sponsors as well. Add in a free beer at the finish, and that’s about it, but I like the simple approach.
The Event: The event starts with the lifting competition in the area known as “the Pit”. The Pit was broken down into stations, and each station had an area to do box jumps, thrusters, burpees, and kettlebell swings in that order. You’re assigned a station and exercise to start at. I got kettlebell swings. I was actually happy about that because that meant burpees would be last, so I could really go balls out on them to increase my number. They also had a warm-up area next to the Pit where you could do swings, thrusters, and box jumps. I thought that was a good touch.
After a quick intro by the MC, everybody in the wave is ushered in the start coral to wait for the go. When your wave is launched, you have a minute to rush out to your station and designated exercise in order to get settled prior to the starting horn sounding. I quickly find my station, and my judge introduces himself (Sorry, bro, I forgot your name the second you said it) and asks for my name and bib number. After that I settle in and try to get focussed. Before I feel like I can even blink, the count down to start begins, and we’re off. I pick up my bell and throw it around like it owed me money. I was trying to pace myself while not stopping. It seemed to work because the round ends, and it’s off to box jumps. I’m still feeling fresh at this point, but this is where shit got real.
During the couple Pit practice sessions I did in the preceding weeks (in which I used a heavier barbell for thrusters, a heavier kettlebell, and a higher box I might add), I never had to pause for breath on box jumps. I was absolutely dying here. I’m not sure what it was, but after my first 10 or so box jumps, I had to pause for breath every handful of jumps. This was just the start unfortunately. That round ends, and I rotate to thrusters. Not good. I just had no gas in the tank at all here. 75 lbs felt like 175 lbs, and I starting giving in to that negative self-talk that anybody in any physical competition knows about. “You’re off today. You just can’t do it.” That round ends, and it’s on to burpees, but I’m literally bent over heaving for air at this point. I’ve shot off 30 burpees amidst a 13 mile obstacle run with 5,000’ of elevation gain in much less than 1:30 before, but I’d be surprised if I got 30 burpees here. I’m not sure what it was, but I was flat out smoked in the Pit. The final round ends, and we are herded like cattle to the race start line passing what a lot hoped was a water station, but it was just a syruppy energy drink that didn’t do much for cotton mouth.
The start of the race came all too quickly. I was at the back of the pack with my friends Crystal, Ivanna, and Justin when we realized they were releasing us. Still too gassed to sprint up to the front, I lolly-gagged in the back. We made our way up a trail and quickly came to a wave pool that we had to get through and use a cargo net to climb out at the end. Being at the back I figured why bother treading water waiting for people to climb out, so I held back a bit. The water was refreshingly cool. Even though it was only around 10:15 at this point, it was already a scorcher and the Pit put me in redline territory. As I got to the net, I realized there was some gentleman that obviously was too far past his redline. He collapsed backward off the cargo net seemingly unconscious as my friend Deanna propped him up with her knee against the side of the net waiting for the lifeguards to jump in and save him. The lifeguards were in there in the blink of an eye, but being unconscious underwater is typically not very healthy. Deanna’s quick action could have possibly saved that guy’s life. (I only joke about this because the “guy” recovered quickly and ran the course with the 10:30 wave. No serious injury was sustained.)
Once out of the wave pool, it was a short run to the second water obstacle. You just had to pull yourself across a pond on a rope. Done and done. I’m starting to get a little gas back at this point, so I start running faster and passing people. After another short run, the first land obstacles jump out in front of me. The first is a slatted wall climb. It’s basically a tall wall made of planks that you can climb like a ladder. Then comes a series of walls. Some are just 5 footers to hop over, some are a-frames to climb over with ropes, some are a-frames to scurry over, some are more slatted walls, and lastly some are half a-frames to hop over and slide down. These are spread out over maybe a quarter mile area, and sucked whatever gas I had in my tank right back out. Huffing and puffing, I made my way up a steep incline to the sandbag carry and the first water station. I greedily grabbed 3 or 4 cups of water as I chugged one after the other down. I was so parched. Perhaps it was dehydration causing my poor performance earlier because I was running dry since right before the Pit started, but the second I got that water in me, I was a new man.
I grabbed a sandbag, which was relatively light, and started making my way up the hill. Not wanting to gas again, I didn’t have the accelerator floored yet. I really enjoy the climbs and started passing people again on my way up. I hit the top and started bombing my way down the slope as the sandbag opens up and starts dumping sand on me. I get back to the sandbag station at a trot and then bombed down a decline to a muddy water pit where you have to belly crawl under logs as a hose sprayed you. The water was actually nice because it was refreshing, and there was enough of it where you could basically float your way under the logs.
Once out of the logs, it was down to a rather long and rocky river run. The river was broken up by a couple long tunnels. It was a cool section. I got jammed up here a little by a couple slower racers that were doing a good job of not letting me pass. Finally another racer just bombs past the clump of us, so I figure “screw it” and follow her past the crowd. We quickly get out of the water at that point, pass a couple more people, and get to a barbed wire crawl. I went for the rolling technique, but it was so long that I became dizzy and had to drunkenly crawl the rest of the way. There was another slatted wall right after the crawl (I’m a poet), and then it was off up a hill. The hill itself was broken up by another slatted wall climb that led to a woodsy off trail section.
Once out of the woods, there was another water station. I destroyed a couple cups of water. Even with all the water and shade of the woods, it was a hot day. I felt bad for the midday heats. Ok. Moment of reflection over, it was up another steep hill. This hill was capped with a series of over-unders. There were about 5’ walls to hop over and low lying pipes to crawl under. Another short climb was followed by a long descent. Now was the time to really let loose and fly because you didn’t know when another big climb was coming. I heard the course was only around 5.5 miles, and this was the halfway point. If I didn’t stop holding back now, it’d be too late. I flew down the mountain and came to a series of slatted wall climbs; I think four in total. By this point, you had to be an expert slatted wall climber because of the sheer volume of them on the mountain. After scurrying over those, it was another short climb followed by a very long, winding descent broken up by a series of alternating rope and scurry a-frames, some climb and slide half a-frames, and a series of 4’-5’ walls.
This long descent brought you do another water station. I was tempted to skip it because I was feeling so good by this point, but I opted to grab a cup anyway. Good thing I did. I turned the corner and the steepest climb of the day punched me in the gut. There are steep hills and then there are STEEP hills. This was the latter. I mean I’m not impressed easily, but if you managed to run that whole thing, I want to shake your hand. I went into hiking mode and settled into a fast walk while breathing forcefully. It was definitely a grueling climb, but I just kept putting one foot in front of the other thinking in my head that it’d be all downhill after this... pun intended. Breathily heavily, I finally crested the the top of the hill and immediately settled into a trot. As expected, this short, flat area was followed almost immediately by a very steep downhill section that you could really bomb down. Unfortunately, my spirit was temporarily crushed as this long downhill was met with an off-trail uphill section that you needed a rope for in order to get up the last section. Ok. That had to be it, right?
Convinced that was the end of it, I started going all out for this last section keeping my pace close to a 7:00/mile. It was basically a straight downhill run the entire time that was mostly wide open running with some semi-technical descents to pick your way down. I see these plastic jersey barriers up ahead being doused with water by hoses. I don’t slow my descent too much just planning to hurdle them. Parkour! I get to the first one... SLIP... I slammed my knee pretty good. It wasn’t the most graceful moment of my life, and it caused me to slowly jump over the remaining barriers. Now it was home free because I saw the lazy river up ahead. I’d stopped by my friend Sherry’s Simple Fuel tent earlier and saw the finish line at the lazy river.
I jump in the lazy river and just start hauling. Ok. Well according to my GPS, “hauling” through a lazy river is approximately a 20:00/mile pace. It felt like I was hauling at least. I was determined to catch the guy in front of me but it never happened. He must have been wearing one of those shark skin suits the Olympic swimmers wear. After what seemed like an eternity, the finish line appears up ahead. After another minute of pushing my way through water, I cross the finish line, and it’s all over. Thanks for the beer and the t-shirt. All told, it was 5.43 miles and 1,972’ of elevation gain.
The Verdict: This was a really cool event. I’d recommend it to anybody. The Pit is a unique element seen in no other races. Since your final place is a combination of your Pit score and running time, it really helps level the playing field between the pure runner types that dominate most other events and the people that may focus a bit more on strength and conditioning. I loved that aspect of it. The race course was challenging and well thought out. While the obstacles themselves were a bit repetitive, there were a lot of them that did a good job of breaking up the run. Having the water park there was another completely unique element as well. I don’t know any other obstacle races that start in a wave pool and end in a lazy river. It was a really nice touch and topped off a fantastic event.
There are some complaints and suggestions though. Judges in the Pit really need to no rep the competitors if they do the exercise wrong. I know quite a few people that had done a lot of incorrect reps only to be told that when they asked the judge. The judges should be saying “NO REP”, so competitors at least know. Also I’m not a fan of the two different standards for the box jump. Either it’s a box jump or a step up. It shouldn’t be both. If somebody can’t box jump 20”, that’s the same to me as somebody unable to do a 75 lbs thruster... no reps. Now while the course was terrific, it could use a few different types of obstacles. It’d be nice to see something that challenges the upper body in there like monkey bars or a rope climb. Both would fit into the military feel of the o-course.
On a personal level, this was probably the single worst athletic event I ever competed in performance wise going all the way back to the organized sports of my youth and high school, boxing in college, and submission grappling afterwards. I’m borderline embarrassed by it. I’m not a runner; never will be, but I still usually finish at worst in the top 25%... usually much higher. I was in the bottom 40% here. Ouch. The horrible Pit performance and slow start killed me. I know everybody has off days, but that’s ridiculous. The good thing is that this was such a good event that I have no problem coming back next year for redemption. It will be fun.
CMC has one more event scheduled this year in Brooklyn, New York. Unfortunately, I’m already in another race that day, so I’ll be eagerly awaiting their race schedule for next year.
- Check out this great vid of the run -
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