A Fall Hiatus

Some of you might have noticed the absence of posts lately. Creative, recreational writing & ranting has been pushed down the priority list for a bit. I’ll be back soon. I’ve got some good stuff upcoming in the hopper. Here are some hints: the defiance diet, disaster investing, balance biking, and impeachment reruns (or “That 90s Show”).

2014 NFL Week 4 Raging Picks

Still off to a so-so start: last week, I went 9-7, yet again. I’m 27-21 for the season. This is for entertainment and know-it-all purposes. The picks are in picture form this week.

NFL Week 4 Picks

2014 NFL Week 3 Power Rankings

2014 NFL Week 3 Power Rankings

I’ve divided the league into 4 classes of teams. The “Elite” are the best of the best right now. The “Contenders” are easy to see going on a long playoff run. Those in barely the “Meh-zo-sphere” could make or miss the playoffs. The “Suh-diddly-uckleheads,” as always are trying to make bad look good.


Rank Record Team Rise/Fall
The Elite
Seattle Seahawks +1
Denver Broncos -1
Cincinnati Bengals +1
New England Patriots +1
Arizona Cardinals +9
The Contenders
Pittsburgh Steelers +16
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers -5
Philadelphia Eagles
San Francisco 49ers -4
The Meh-zo-sphere
San Diego Chargers +10
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts -2
Green Bay Packers -4
New Orleans Saints -7
Detroit Lions
Miami Dolphins -2
Chicago Bears +2
Buffalo Bills -6
New York Jets -2
Minnesota Vikings -4
Baltimore Ravens
Dallas Cowboys
Tennessee Titans
Cleveland Browns
The Suh-diddly-uckleheads
Kansas City Chiefs
New York Giants
Washington FC
St. Louis Rams +1
Tampa Bay Bucs -1
Oakland Raiders
Jacksonville Jaguars

Now, go ahead and tell me how I misplaced your favorite team in the comments section below.


Random Review: 2014 DC Spartan Sprint

Random Reviews: These posts go in the “whatever I feel like writing about” category. Hopefully, some of you will find it helpful in making a decision to try the product, service, or event.

Reebok Spartan Race

DC Spartan Sprint, Mechanicsville, Maryland, July 26, 2014

The DC Spartan Sprint was the last of my 2014 major obstacle course race (OCR) sampler series. Again, I got lucky with the weather even though I drove through a downpour less than 10 miles from the course. This year’s mild summer removed one obstacle from the race: late-July swamp-like heat.

The DC Spartan Sprint (about 5 miles) felt harder than the Virginia Tough Mudder (just over 10), but it could have just been me. I got a case of shin splints following TM, and I was still building back my mileage base when Spartan Saturday arrived.

Again, I signed up for the earliest wave I could get (without paying extra), which gave me a 9:30 start for Spartan.  They were a bit more vigilant than Warrior Dash & Tough Mudder in enforcing your wave.  Someone actually checked for the 9:30 on one of the wristbands.  Then you climb over a 5-foot wall and trot up to the starting line.

At the start they gave us the traditional rah-rah pep talk, and a warning about a pond near the beginning.  Apparently it is quicksand, so we were told not to stray slightly off course for a dip — you know, for those people who somehow thought they wouldn’t get a chance to get wet/muddy later.


DC  Spartan Sprint Under Wall

The first obstacle was an over-under-through series of walls. Climb over/hurdle one 4 1/2 foot wall, then crawl/roll under one, then through the middle of one (gap included). There was a dirty water pit before the “through” wall.

“Ravine Run”

This was not a formal obstacle, but I need to give Spartan credit for making good use of the terrain they were given. Instead of having us stay on a well-used path through the woods, we were sent down in a ravine and ran in a stream, over and under fallen trees. It was narrow and muddy. I think they were altering the actual course after I went through. At the end, they gave us a couple of ropes to use to climb up to the top of a steep hill where we rejoined the main trail. Nice find, Spartan.

6-foot wall

DC  Spartan Sprint Wall Climb

Soon after the “Ravine Run,” we emerged out of the woods and said “hello” to this 6-foot wall.  We’re stil getting warmed up, I guess.


Inverted Wall

DC Spartan Sprint Inverted  Wall
Next, up was the Inverted Wall: an 8-foot wall slanted toward you at about a 45-degree angle, so about halfway straight up. Is it supposed to be harder or just different than a normal wall? The inverted wall still had slats for you to put your feet on and climb up. Take those away and it would be harder than a normal wall.

Tire Pull

DC  Spartan Sprint Tire Pull
Next up is the tire pull: a tractor tire is tied with a rope to a stake in the ground. First, find a tire that is next to the stake, then drag it to the full length of the rope. I noticed that some ropes were shorter than others, so some people got to drag their tires shorter distances. (If you want to be in the Olympics, Spartan, you have to make them all the same.) Next, walk/run back to the stake and use the rope to pull the tire back over.

Barbed Wire Mud Crawl

DC  Spartan Sprint Mud Pit Barbed Wire

Next up is the mud pit/barbed wire crawl. This was the best/toughest mud pit I have encountered. Spartan set it up with two sections. Between them, you walked under the next obstacle, a cargo net on a tall A-frame. The mud pits had barbed wire that was moderately low, with thick mud, and a few rows of logs/hay bales that you had to go over/around while still staying low.

I got slowed down by some traffic here. Another racer was going so slow in front of me, and I didn’t want to “switch lanes” and cut somone off, possibly causing someone to actually get cut. So the obstacle included a test of your patience.

Also, I made the mistake of sliding over the logs. The mud made them look smooth, but they’re not! I lost a couple layers of skin off my shins. They’re almost healed now. Next time, no mud-log sliding.

Did I mention that the mud was thick? Everyone emerged from the second mud pit section noticably heavier than when they started. I took a minute to remove some and tighten the drawstring on my shorts before hitting the next obstacle.

Cargo Net Climb

DC  Spartan Sprint Cargo Net Climb

Next up was a cargo net climb. Climb up and then back down the other side of a cargo net over an A-frame about 20 feet tall. Now, this was immediately after (and over) the mud pit, so racers could be dealing with slippery hands and shoes, with a bit of added mud weight to carry up the net. Before beginning my ascent, I removed some of my mud. It’s just a climb; I guess some people find an “obstacle” in the height.

Hercules Hoist

DC  Spartan Sprint Hercules Hoist

Here comes my first trip to Burpeetown. The Hercules Hoist requires you to lift a sandbag with a rope & pulley about 20 feet up then lower it down slowly. The men’s bag weighed about 115 pounds. The ropes were slick with mud, and perhaps I just didn’t weigh enough to get the bag started up the hoist, but I quickly realized I’d be better off just taking the burpee penalty. Later, I find out that it is not against the rules to team up on this obstacle. So next time I’ll use another set of hands.

Sandbag Carry

DC  Spartan Sprint Sandbag Carry

This sandbag carry required racers to carry a 40-pound Spartan pancake that looks so much like a nice pillow that we could all use to rest for awhile at this stage in the race. Bags on shoulders (or back of the neck) we were sent down a steep hill, down a short, steep embankment into a stream, then up the steep embankment and back up the steep hill. Lots of people had to stop and rest. For some reason, even though we were moving slowly, this challenge really sped up the heartrates. Another nice use of the terrain, Spartan.

Rope Climb

DC  Spartan Sprint Rope Climb

The ropes were knotted and led to a bell about 20 feet up above a muddy water pool to cushion any hasty landings. At this point, I was feeling fatigued and did not trust myself to make it all the way to the top and back without falling and injuring myself. So I went up about halfway to get a feel for it, then moved on to some more burpees. I don’t regret not just going for it, because I’ll have a chance to try again next time since this is a staple of the Spartan Race that seems to be always included.

Tractor Pull

DC  Spartan Sprint Tractor Pull Pet Rock

Tractor Pull, aka, “taking your pet rock for a walk.”

The Tractor Pull had us using a chain to drag a 40-50 pound concrete post anchor thing through the woods. At the DC Sprint the course was mostly on another hillside, including a dry streambed. Mine tended to roll, so I had to go slower than I wanted to because going downhill this thing could easily get out of control and take out another racer. At the bottom there was a steep embankment we had to get over before starting back up the hill. A small line formed as we prudently took turns on this part. A tip for this one: instead of just pulling it along with your arms/hands, wrap the chain around your waist, so you’re pulling more with your legs. I guess that really won’t work too well for taller folks, but it’s worth a try especially going uphill. Again, nice use of the terrain, Spartan. This obstacle would be less challenging/fun on a clear, flat area.

7-foot and 8-foot walls

DC  Spartan Sprint Wall Climb

Here are a couple of walls to climb over. More of us needed help at this point in the race.

Mud Mounds

DC  Spartan Sprint Mud Mounds

Next is a series of alternating muddy water pits and mud mounds to climb. The last one ends with a ramped wall with knotted ropes to climb up, then down.

Horizontal Wall Traverse

DC  Spartan Sprint Wall Traverse

Mud on this photo obscures the identity of a cheater.

The wall had small hand- and foot-holds about 2 inches deep. Apparently, the trick is to stay close to the wall. I took a quick trip to Burpeetown.

Spear Throw

Up next was the spear throw. I joked about hitting the target in the face, just before my spear landed wildly at the feet. More burpees for me. The spear throw takes some practice. I have a recently broken rake handle that is now begging to have a nail duct taped to its end. Your days are numbered, backyard shrub.

Gauntlet Thing

Very close to the finish line is an obstacle that would have worked better if they put it in the middle of the woods. It is within sight of the festival area, so a lot of people won’t get the surprise that the obstacle designers intended. There are a group of heavy boxing bags hanging from a frame. The last few rows of bags are over a muddy water pit. As designed, we’re supposed to see the finish line, get excited and charge at the bags not seeing the water. I didn’t see anyone fall for it. Cute concept, bad execution. I pushed aside the bags as I descended into the water.

Fire Jump

DC  Spartan Sprint Fire Jump

This one you had to actually jump over, unlike Warrior Dash, but there was still little risk of getting burned. It just makes for a cool looking photo if the photographers are ready. Just past the fire is the finish.

Overall, it was another well-run event. Again, this could just be the experience of someone in an earlier wave. With OCR everyone has to decide what they hate more: getting up early or waiting in line. I’m a converted morning person still operationg on Toddler Standard Time, so I’m up anyway.

The race premiums were excelent. You got a reusable headband with your number and Spartan logo, a high-quality cotton blend T-Shirt (make it a tech-shirt next time, Spartan), and a double finisher medal (a round one and a trifecta pie slice).
Spartan said on their Facebook page that this was the first annual DC Sprint. I hope so, since I left plenty rooom for improvement from this time. If they bring a Spartan Beast closer, I’ll go for the trifecta.

For further reading, here are the links to my reviews of the Maryland Warrior Dash and Virginia Tough Mudder.