CMC at Bryce: The Race That Made Me Cry

I have not been this sore in a very, VERY long time.

Saturday, my CrossFit box not only had the opportunity to judge the the Civilian Military Combine “PIT,” but we also got the chance to compete in the race too! Those of you who have been following Strong Figure know that obstacle course racing is something I LOVE, and the CMC was my FIRST ever OBC race. I’m forever loyal to the CMC and will always stand by it as my all-time favorite event. Let’s face it: no one combines a CrossFit pit with a military-style 6+ mile mud and obstacle course. It just doesn’t get any better than this.


Picture from the CMC Facebook page.
Picture from the CMC Facebook page.

Saturday’s event, in a nutshell, was freakin’ awesome. The weather pretty much sucked…it rained on us about 65% of the time, but fortunately it never rained hard and the temp stayed well in the 60s. “Liquid sunshine” is what CMC announcer Sean called it.

The day started with 55 CrossFit Harrisonburg members judging about 15+ heats of the following PIT workout:

  • 7 minutes–as many rounds as possible:
  • burpee box jumps (over the box)
  • kettlebell swings
  • push press

Men pressed 75 lbs, women 45; and men swung the 45 lb kettlebell, women swung the 26. The top male of the day hit about 191 reps and the winning chick got 171. You readers, know the second and third place PIT winners. ;)

Training partners--2nd and 3rd place in the CMC PIT! Heck yeah!
Training partners–2nd and 3rd place in the CMC PIT! Heck yeah!

Yeah, I might have gotten second place in the PIT, but I also might have made a fatal error Saturday because something I did–or didn’t do?–caused me to CRAMP up like I’ve never cramped before. My friends are probably tired of hearing this story–sorry!–but let me say, and not for the last time, that I’ve never felt pain like I felt Saturday. Erik thinks that because almost all my friends cramped up really bad, it might have been because we were PIT judges and were standing all day and then didn’t properly warm up before running. It couldn’t have been a hydration issue–at least on my end–because I drank over a gallon of water plus coconut water the night before, and then 40 oz before running. But something happened. Because right after the PIT, literally within the first minute of starting the race–I collapsed.

Terri and me--attacking the PIT!
Terri and me–attacking the PIT!

I’ve never actually had a muscle cramp on me the way my calves cramped Saturday. I mean, I’ve had quad cramps that have made me drop to the ground before, but that was more like an “Oh my god my legs are jello and I can’t feel my quads” feeling. I’ve had a lot of sore muscles, and after my first CMC I couldn’t move. After my second, I was simply walking slower–especially up and down stairs. This one? My legs are in trouble today.

I might have gone too hard in the PIT and crashed on the course. But hey, go hard or go home, right?
I might have gone too hard in the PIT and crashed on the course. But hey, go hard or go home, right?

After the PIT, we grabbed sandbags for the first part of the race. My calves IMMEDIATELY started cramping. Roommate, friend, and fellow CrossFit addict, John, told me later that his calves were cramping at that same time too. But mine wiped me out. I went over one 4 four-foot wall and collapsed. Erik immediately started massaging my calves and after a few minutes I was able to get up and keep moving. But I was too far behind at this point. I lost my team and all my box members too. I ended up running about 85%+ of the race, alone and at my own cramped-up pace.

Which was kinda cool in a crazy way. Running through the woods seemed so peaceful, beautiful, and serene. At one point while running alone in the woods, I remembered running through this same exact spot last year during my first CMC. I remember it because it was near the latter part of the race and I was holding the necklace I have of my dad’s, and just thinking about him; he had passed away only a few months before. Yesterday, during this particular stretch of wooded area, it was not short of amazing that while the entire world seemed still, four gorgeous leaves picked themselves up off the ground in front of me and floated up, and brushed directly past me–right in front of my eyes. I said out loud, “Thanks Dad!” and placed my hand over his necklace, again.

But while I was silently enjoying the beauty of nature, life, and all the wonderful moments one can have connecting to such a beautiful moment, I was still in pain. About 30 minutes in and my left knee started hurting pretty bad. Soon after, my right hip felt pretty screwed up. And within 45 minutes, both quads and inner thigh/quad muscles were toast. I actually expected my quads to cramp. They almost always do. And I’m pretty good–knock on wood–at dealing with it.

Mud. Logs. Water. Heights. Slippery when wet!
Mud. Logs. Water. Heights. Slippery when wet!

And I dealt with it by using my upper body. Which is also sore afterwards, but in a good sort of way, not like my lower body. Because I was running the majority of the race alone, I had to figure out how to climb walls that were somewhere between 8-10 feet tall–all by myself. (PS–I’m five foot nothing.) With cramping quads I couldn’t really use my legs to step up on the small boards built in to help. I had to jump. I only had one miss–out of about 10+ walls, so that wasn’t too bad. And I’m actually pretty damn proud of myself. I pulled myself up and over SEVERAL walls with just my upper body yesterday. The CMC race made me accomplish things I didn’t think I could do–and probably wouldn’t have done if I were running with others. I may not have run a fast race, but I accomplished something big.

Rope walls, vertical walls, walls in rivers, walls in mud...there were lots and lots of walls.
Rope walls, vertical walls, walls in rivers, walls in mud…there were lots and lots of walls.

I wish I could fill this entire post with pics from all the obstacles…but unfortunately I haven’t figured out a way yet to take my iPhone with me through mud, rivers, sludge, dirt, rocks, tunnels, sand, galore. I’m really hoping those who raced Saturday will read this, comment, and post some pics! But judging from posts that I read on the CMC Facebook page, most people’s fave part of the day was either the PIT or the water obstacles. I’ll admit, the water was better than I thought it would be. A) It was cold and felt GREAT on my legs, and B) The obstacle with the 10 or so logs you had to either climb over or swim under was amazing. What a challenge!

One of my favorite parts of the race--I'm not really afraid of heights and this was the end!!!
One of my favorite parts of the race–I’m not really afraid of heights and this was the end!!!

Some of the other obstacles included rope climbs, wall climbs, crawling through underground tunnels, wooden bridges, slippery slippery slippery mud and rocks, crawling under barbed wire, running through rocky rivers, climbing hay bales and rock piles, rope nets, a ladder climb that MOVED while you climbed it–scary!–and of course the actual mountain-side terrain and ski slope challenge. The ski slope is what got me in the end.

I got up the slope no problem–short legs + big quads = easy climbing. The down hill got my calves again. I actually got through about 6+ miles with my calves NOT cramping after the initial one at the beginning. But out of no where, while I was literally flying down the slope, they hit. Both calves, big time, bigger than before. I dropped and thank God Erik and Reagan (who had already finished the race about 30 minutes prior) came to find me at the exact time I went down. My calves–left one more than the right–was SOLID. I cried. I screamed. I beat the ground with my fist and gritted my teeth as Erik dug his hands into the muscles to relieve the knots. Every time he would get one out, another would pop out. He told me later that it looked like golf balls were popping out of my legs. All I remember was never feeling pain that intense and just screaming in agony for him to make it stop. I don’t know how long it took, but I just thank God he was there. I got up and limped, and finished the race with Reagan by my side. A few more walls, a couple nets, a fireman pole, more water, and the finish line. I found Sean, and told him that this was the first CMC to make me cry.

Sean explaining the PIT to all our judges and box members at CFH.
Sean explaining the PIT to all our judges and box members at CFH.

But in the end, I finished, and I didn’t let anything stop me. I did things I didn’t think I could do on my own, and I pushed through some major pain. I’m still a little disappointed with my run, but my PIT performance has left me thrilled. Honestly, after hearing about how my team and training partner just FLEW through the course in only an hour and a half, it really makes me want to train harder and get even better, and faster. Maybe even run a little too. ;) And that’s why I like competition. You’re left with three things: Pride, your flaws, and the ability to eat whatever you damn well please for the rest of the day.

These guys sure are happy! I was just happy to hobble across.
These guys sure are happy! I was just happy to hobble across the line.

I asked a few of my friends what they thought about the race and here’s what they said:

Terri has home "field" advantage--she grew up on this property!
Terri has home “field” advantage–she grew up on this property!

Terri: My favorite part was the energy! The course was harder than last year in my opinion and I loved that they made the some of the obstacles a little more difficult. I didn’t like that they changed the placing. (see below) Some of the more natural obstacles were my favorite, the water, hills, muddy banks, etc.

What Terri means by the “placing” is that the CMC used to award the top male teams, the top female teams, and then the top coed teams. This year they changed it so that they only awarded the top coed teams. BUMMER since we specifically put together a team of all girls. Terri and I have run all our CMCs together and we’ve placed in them all…come to find out yesterday, after thinking we might have won, we were totally let down to find out female teams weren’t even registered competitively. If I had known that, would I have put myself through such pain towards the end? Probably. But still–that’s a HUGE let down.

Reagan, John, and Terri attacking the first wall! I love that Reagan is waiting for Terri--it's more than a competition--it's camaraderie and friendship!
Reagan, John, and Terri attacking the first wall! I love that Reagan is waiting for Terri–it’s more than a competition–it’s camaraderie and friendship!

John: There were too many walls but the rest was delightful.

Abby: I thought it was very muddy but AWESOME!! Definitely would do a CMC again! My favorite part had to be the various obstacles along the course. I loved how we were in the water, in the mud, jumping over walls, rope climbing up muddy hills, etc; it was constantly varied along the whole course which kept things interesting. My least favorite part was one obstacle–the obstacle with that dark tunnel that you had to crawl through. I hate crawling through dark tunnels more then anything. The energy in the Pit was pretty awesome as well.

All bundled up and trying to stay dry before judging! One of my favorite moments from the day was dancing to the awesome music in the PIT...and then looking around to find that Abby was totally breaking it down at her station! Love it!
All bundled up and trying to stay dry before judging! One of my favorite moments from the day was dancing to the awesome music in the PIT…and then looking around to find that Abby was totally breaking it down at her station! Love it!
Team Strong Figure! Dixie, Reagan, Me, my beer, and Terri. What an amazing group of women I have as my friends!
Team Strong Figure! Dixie, Reagan, Me, my beer, and Terri. What an amazing group of women I have as my friends!

Dixie: I liked having the pit along with the race; unique approach. Well organized, well run. Great energy. Music was awesome! The course was an appropriate level of difficulty. Racers would have to face a few potential fears – heights, closed spaces, water. The helpers were well-placed throughout the course and there was an appropriate number of water stations. Varied terrain, test of upper body and lower body strength and endurance. The rain added an extra element that made it a bit more challenging; they don’t control that but I liked it. I would like to see more varied obstacles than just another wall again and again and again. No smoking allowed around the pit!!! Sean did a great job of keeping the energy up with the rain–definitely did all he could. It was nice having a good race close to home. Well marked course. Women’s shirts that fit women that lift weights.

This was Reagans second time through this net trap! She came back for me and finished the course with me! I love my friends.
This was Reagan’s second time through this net trap! She came back for me and finished the course with me! I love my friends.

Reagan: I loved the CMC!! The trails were beautiful and the obstacles were very well done with lots of variety! I loved all the ladders to climb over and the water obstacles. All of the volunteers were encouraging along the course and very helpful! I would encourage everyone to do the CMC! And Abby I agree!!! I thought that only one of the 3 tunnels would lead out when it was pitch black in there… I almost turned around!!!

Joe: I liked the pit–great way to get things going, and by the way Steph and Reagan, way to beat all us boys in there! The distance was perfect although I didn’t feel like I was running all that much. I guess it was further than 800 meters  so that was interesting. I could have done with far fewer walls they just got annoying, never difficult, just annoying. The most challenging part was simply the big hill climb, that is where I lost a lot of time I feel like. Great location–so much variance in the course; I really liked the water aspects and the natural obstacles. All in all a fun race–much more engaging than say a tough mudder–maybe that because we got to judge and see everyone.

Trevor: I loved the lake and crossing all of those logs! There was a lot of positive energy, and everyone was just so excited to be there! I enjoyed the amount of variation from tunnels to go through to “quick sand mud” haha. Overall I loved the CMC and already started looking at some more races to do!

Trevor's CMC collage. I think he's hooked!
Trevor’s CMC collage. I think he’s hooked! Bottom left–Trevor, Ben, and Joe. Right: Trevor, Melly, and Travis.

EJ: The chocolate muffins for breakfast were spot on! Haha! (Yes, the CFH judges were fed some awesome food! Thanks CMC!)

Our crew! Ben, John, Abby, EJ, and DJ.
Part of our crew: Ben, John, Abby, EJ, and DJ.

Jill:I really enjoyed this OCR event. The pit was an added element to truly test one’s fitness/mental capabilities, I was unsure how it would effect the run. The cold river, water crossing early on was a wake up call but warmed up on the run afterward. I enjoyed the varied terrain we ran. Not so muddy, or at least plenty of opportunities to rinse off, which was nice. I personally loved the steep banks with ropes and having to climb up. Also liked running in the streams for a challenge.

The barbed wire crawl was pretty short compared to others like the Spartan and there was only barbed wire at the front and back. The tunnels were not too bad, you could see light at the end, which is always encouraging. And, the container obstacle at the end was like a fun adult playground set.

Great group running the event, weather could have been better but it was the “wild card” obstacle that varied throughout the day. I can’t wait to try another or do it again.

Oh, and the breakfast, I agree, not Paleo friendly! ;)

Jill and Chad--two CFH members who both placed 2nd in the CMC master's division!
Jill and Chad–two CFH members who both placed 2nd in the CMC master’s division!


Side note–Jill placed 2nd in the female master’s division! Way to go Jill!! 

Please tune in to Strong Figure’s Facebook page! I’ll post pics from the CMC photographers so that you can see all the obstacles, and I’ll update you with scores, times, etc., from race day. Our crossfitters at CFH kicked butt BIG time. Many of our racers finished this course in superb time!

Let us know in the comments below, what was your favorite part of the CMC? Or if you’ve never tried one, what questions do you have for our participants? 

Click here for more info on the Civilian Military Combine. 


  1. Erik WalkerErik Walker says

    Coaching soccer for 12 years, I have dealt with loads of calf cramps, and that was probably the second worse case I ever saw. As soon as I released the stretch, a new one would pop out the side of your calf. You were definitely a trooper to continue. And Reagan was amazing for coming back to help.

    • Stephanie Walker says

      I just can’t believe how lucky I was to A) cramp up when you were there both times, B) not cramp too bad when I was alone, and C) have such amazing friends and teammates!!! BTW, I should have taken a pic of the huge burn on my arm–maybe I’ll try to add that in later. I think it was from scaling all those walls w/o help!!

  2. Erik WalkerErik Walker says

    And concerning the scoring, I am not sure how they can let you register as a same gender team but then not award same gender awards. So an all female team would have to beat a team loaded with dudes? And worse, and all male team can’t even win?

    Sorry CMC but I gotta call BS on that. Especially since you all used to award gender based teams in the past.

    But that said, according to the scores posted on their site, Steph your team would have won the all female division. Your team averaged 149 points, two teams averaged 147 points. So that would have been the top 3 male in the all female division. There was a fourth team in the 130s and the rest of the female teams were in 120s. Sean owes you, Reagan, Dixie, and Terri a medal — lol.

    And it looks like CFHarrisonburg kicked ass! Lots of top finishers.

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Thanks Erik–I apprecate you saying that! We worked hard and thought we were registered as a competitive, all-female team with the ability to place–just like all the other ones we did. Knowing we would have come away with first is an awesome feeling. :) And yes, CFH was amazing!! John placed 15th overall–our best score–and Reagan was 29th overall! She was actually 5th out of all women! I’m not sure how many people want me posting their scores, but let’s just say that CrossFit Harrisonburg had 8 people finish in the top 60. That’s freaking unbelieveable!

  3. Mike Russell says

    Congrats on a great performance in the pit and for overcoming your challenges on the course. I think I know what happened to you on the course. Coconut Water! You mentioned that you hydrated with it the night before. Here’s my experience with coconut water. It is a decent post workout drink, but terrible for pre-work hydration and on course hydration. The reason is, there is no sodium! I have been burned by Coconut water 3 times: Twice on the Spartan Beast in Killington, Vermont (2012 and 2013) and a tiny bit at the Tough Mudder Pittsburgh. I fought cramps around mile 6 / 7 at both races and the only way I got through it was to add a shit ton of salt, good old sodium chloride, into my body. At the Spartan Beast, I was literally dumping Morton Salt into a cup of water and chugging it. Guess what? It worked! Cramps went a way. I’m sure you ran to the bathroom a million times the night before and the day of. Anyway, just my thoughts. Great effort in the Pit! I do obstacle races all over the country and I can honestly say, this one in Virginia was one of my favorites if not my favorite. Good, medium distance, shit ton of obstacles and loved the Pit. I took 3rd in the first responder (police, EMS and firefighters) division for total points with the run and the race…..not bad for an old fart of 48. I was a firefighter for 11 years. Try the Poconos CMC. I’ll be there too….you can’t miss me: I always wear the same USA shirt, blue spandex shorts and a US flag doo rag. See you in the mud and the Pit!!

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Hi Mike! I think I remember you!! You’re right, you can’t miss that costume! :) And congrats to you for your 3rd place finish–that’s freakin’ awesome! I need to take some pointers so I can start dominating the course and not just the pit–I’d love to place closer to the top.

      I am so intrigued by what you said about coconut water–I always try to get some coconut water into my system pre-race days, and my legs always seem to cramp on me. I just assumed I needed more coconut water! This time was just FAR worse than ever before. I only had about 8-10 oz the night before and then the same on race day though–you think that’s enough to cause cramps? Or maybe just a lack of sodium instead? I also cramped really bad in my last two Superfit competitions and I was hydrating with coconut water throughout the day. Maybe you are on to something here! I think I’m going to start re-thinking strategy!

      I should have prepared something high in sodium for after the pit–we immediately drove to the nearest gas station after the race to get some gatorade but I never once thought of having sodium post pit or post race. In fact, I had been joking all week about wanting waffles and ice cream after the race but when it was all said and done, I told Erik that all I was craving was pizza. He said it was because my body was craving the sodium. I totally believe that. The only thing I wanted after that race was a TON of sodium-filled foods!

      Thanks for the advice Mike. I’m going to start saving coconut water for after the race and maybe look into a “sodium packed something” for pre-race. If I can get these muscle cramps out of the way, I might be able to place higher!! I look forward to racing with you again soon! Again, congrats on your BIG finish!!!

      • Mike Russell says

        Hey! Glad what I said is resonating with you. Like I said, it took me 3-4 races to figure it out, then I started reading up on how sodium and potassium work in balance in your body. It literally is a myth that you can start hydrating your body a few days before an event. By hydration, I mean H2O. Now you can deplete yourself of minerals like sodium and potassium prior to an event by trying to drink too much water without the proper intake of Na an Ka. You basically flush your system. And if you are loaded on too much Ka (coconut juice), your body wants to push out the Na to find equilibrium. My buddy Brian Tessiyer who took 3rd in the masters division was actually drinking water with soy sauce in it before the race. All sodium! Looked absolutely disgusting: looked like he was drinking ‘chew spit’ or something….but apparently, it worked!

        Ok, here’s a weird occurrence that happened to me at the Tough Mudder in Pittsburgh. I mentioned that I loaded up on Coconut juice prior to an during the event and then started to cramp at about mile 6-7. Well, the Tough Mudder course had those electrical shock things as an obstacle. I got hit by about 10 of the wires and my cramps were temporarily subsided after I was smacked with those things a few times. The only thing I can attribute it to was that the ‘electrical’ shock override reset my system of electrical impulses. That’s what electrolytes do. Na and Ka are conductors of electrical impulses in your body. Think about it…..Weird Science!!

        On a slightly different subject……lets talk about carbs. Loading up on pasta the night before the race sounds like a good idea, but in reality, you won’t be able to load that much glycogen in your liver or muscles from 1 meal. You start to load carbs a week to a week and a half out from the event. Now, here’s where vanity plays a ‘roll’ …I do mean roll…..when you carb load, you retain water. Can’t remember the ratio, but for every x-number of ounces of glycogen, your body stores x-ounces of water. So that ripped svelte look may not be obtainable or desirable for a distance event. You can get by with a 7-20 minute WOD with the glycogen you have on board unless you have trained your body to be a ‘fat’ burner (like a marathon runner). Whole ‘nother set of chemistry books for that, but the ABSOLUTE best book on nutrition that I have read is The Paleo Diet for Athletes. It makes sense to me. sorry for the looooooong response! See you in the Mud or in the Pit!

  4. Stephanie Walker says

    Thanks for the looong comment–haha–I have been reading and researching nutrition for over 10 years now, so no worries on writing a lot–I love it! I guess I always research food more than hydration–I’m still pretty new to OBC racing (I think I’ve done six?) so I’m definitely still in the experimental stages of what works best for me. I never once thought about depleting minerals through too much pre-race hydration but it makes complete sense. I love that your friend was literally drinking soy sauce water…this makes me think I should be eating sushi (one of my fave splurges) the night before a race!!! I wonder how soy sauce and water actually tastes–and I wonder if coconut aminos (what I usually use instead of soy sauce) would work similarly? Lots to investigate.

    Totally weird about the electrical shocks and the muscle cramps…I had no idea Na and Ka work like that! So moral of the story, save coconut water for after the event and eat lots of bacon before, right? ;)

    As far as food–I’m pretty good at knowing what works for me in that regard–but probably because I’ve been experimenting with nutrition for over 10+ years. My body actually holds onto glycogen MUCH longer than the typical person, even for females (it takes me 8 days to deplete myself of just ONE large carb meal) so I’m pretty good with just eating some sweet potatoes and bananas throughout the week. Usually about 30 min to an hour before the race I’ll take in baby food sweet potatoes, maybe a banana and almond butter…depends on how hungry I feel. Now I’m thinking I might have to add some soy sauce to it all. ;) (I usually don’t run anything longer than 7ish miles so no need to really carb-load on my end. Unfortunately I always end up carb-loading after the races in celebratory fashion.) :/

    My mind is racing with experiments I want to try now — thanks so much for the info and definitely keep me posted on more that you discover with hydration/sodium/potassium as well as future races!!