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Review: Megatransect X

If Kokoro 25 was the capstone to my sports year–scratch that, the capstone to my athletic career–then Megatransect 2012 aka “Mega X” was the after party. I went up with about 20 of my friends from CrossFire Firebase and we had a spectacularly good time. Traversing the 26 mile course was fun and difficult, every bit as kickass as last year. Having done two Megas, I fully plan on going back in 2013. It’s still that good. Below I’ll tell why.

What I Liked

The way I think about Mega the race, I think of a great fighter who humbles me when I finally show up for the battle. I get a good long beatdown and a tremendous learning experience. It is good to be humbled as an athlete, because it gives you perspective on your physical self. It’s healthy for the spirit. Every climb at Mega is a cathartic experience and every descent is a victory. Simply finishing the race is an accomplishment. If you’re a serious athlete, you have to put yourself through these grand experiences or else you’ll never grow. That’s something I figured out last year and something I’ll continue to schedule yearly as long as I’m healthy. Mega is the perfect grand experience.

The terrain is wicked and beautiful and the course itself is artful. It’s design is perfect. It’s hard to describe the suckage of some of the climbs, but suffice it say I remembered them as being much easier than they actually were. I recall standing on Raw Trail this time around, looking straight up with my hands on hips, and swearing at its brutality. My friend described it as a “kick in the junk.”

What gets you is that right before many of the climbs, you’re running a straightaway and your heart rate is elevated. Then you turn a corner and start climbing, not realizing it was right there. So you’re hitting it in a fatigued state and it sucks the life out of you.

This years race was faster and hotter, making hydration a major issue. I experienced cramping in my calves and hamstrings and that took me down a peg around mile 10. I liked Mega 2011 because it was a gut check with the extreme weather, but both editions were amazing. This year I ran more miles and had only a few miles of hiking.

I had my best moments climbing the Boulder Field. I was really feeling it and bouldering is something I’m decent at. Of course that was followed by my worst moments, which was severe cramping in my legs while we were cruising around on Rattlesnake Ridge. I got nervous I was going to have to walk the rest of the way, but fortunately I managed the cramps and picked it up later on.

The race organizers and everyone involved with Mega, including the other runners, were awesome. Of the many road races and events I’ve done, Mega by far features the nicest crew I’ve ever encountered. The positively and good vibes really enhanced the whole experience. You have to experience it to believe it.

Just to give you an example of Mega hospitality, the race director planted some pink flamingos and a sign for CrossFit Firebase at mile 22 on the race course. It was a real pick-me-up and an awesome shout-out to the Florida contingent.

It was a nice day and finishing earlier allowed us to take advantage of the free beer and food. With such a large group, it turned into a fine after party.

Also, it’s something special to be able to share the Mega experience with 20 of your best friends. The fellowship and camaraderie can’t be beat. It’s one of the gifts of CrossFit that it can bring all these like-minded people together in the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania for a trail marathon. Many individuals in our group had never run anything close to a marathon distance before.

 Gear

This year I ran with Saucony Xodus 2.0 trail shoes. I won’t mince words here, they were terrible. Poor fit, too narrow, generally uncomfortable, and an absolute liability on rock. I won’t ever wear them again. I didn’t do enough testing and research with my footwear. I had a better experience with Merrell Trail Gloves last year and those were tough on my knees. I think the ideal shoe for Mega is a super light trail runner, even a running shoe, provided you want speed and you’re sure footed on the rocks. Next year my plan is to use regular Saucony Kinvaras and gun down the course.

I only ate 3 gels from my pack and relied on the refreshment stations for calories and Gatorade. I packed way more supplies in my Gregory Wasatch bag than I needed. Next year I may try a minimalist rig to squeeze a little more speed out of my run.

Last year my knees were annihilated by the technical downhilling. I fixed that problem by wearing neoprene knee supports. Both of my knees were totally fine after the race and the next day. I considered this a huge win and I recommend this tactic if you have knee issues and you’re doing Mega. They cost $32 for a pair at Sports Authority.

Bottom Line

The funnest, hardest trail marathon you’ll ever do. It’s a legitimate challenge and makes mud runs and obstacle course races look like picking up the mail. Training-wise, CrossFit is almost useless for something like this. You need running miles and preferably a lot of trail miles with ascents and descents. You can strengthen your knees and hips in the gym but it’s not the same. I like the way Mega smashes you and gives you a new perspective on fitness and athleticism. It’s also great to be outside all day, crushing a mountain. Or being crushed by one. I can’t recommend Megatransect highly enough. I sit around while I’m at work and dream about it.

  • Francis Shanahan

    Congrats Ben. Great write up and couldn’t agree more re:hospitality. Great event. Hope to meet you at next year’s.

  • http://www.facebook.com/benogrady Ben O’Grady

    Francis, thanks for reading and writing. We’ll have to link up next year.