Conquer The Gauntlet (CTG) at West Georgia Mud Park, Tallapoosa, Georgia

Well, here goes nothing.   To frame the post, I have mental illness.  I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 2006 and have had several episodes before and after that year in which I have ended up getting hurt pretty bad.  I do take my medication as prescribed and lead a fairly healthy life.  So, here goes.   Upon the week of the race,  it was a week from hell.  It was my third month at my new nuisance wildlife removal job.  I work for Smart Solutions Wildlife Removal.  You can also view us at www.ratcontrolatlanta.com.  The Monday before the race, I found myself in a gentleman’s attic with a black rat snake.  He had seen it go in from the basement in the rear of the house and it had slithered its way to the front of the house to make its home.  I did not know the snake was in the attic.  Along my journey of finding the snake, I began setting rat traps in his attic.  Where there is a snake, there is food, hence, the rat traps.  So, I was setting the traps with a headlamp on, and the next thing I know, I am face to face with a 6-foot black rat snake.  Now let me tell you that I jumped back and grabbed a two by four that was situated nicely in the 5-foot high space I was crouched in.  I started screaming and hollering and tried to get the snake with the two by four.  I couldn’t wrangle him with the board and the snake slithered down into the wall near the chimney.  I was trying to decide what to do at that moment.  Go to the truck to get the snake pole or just try to go in the wall and get him. Well, let me tell you, my adrenaline was pumping and I went in after him.  The space was now less than a foot high, and I poked my head down the ceiling and there he was just hanging out.  I grabbed a piece of wire screen and a rat trap box and decided to try to get him in the box.  With the 2×4, I got his body and wrestled him by grabbing his tail and put him in the box.  It was not easy.  It was one of the hardest things I have ever done.  You can see the video of the released snake here.   So, nonetheless, it was a very stressful week and my first ever successful snake wrangle.  Furthermore, I fell off a ladder sometime during the week and bruised my tailbone.  OK sorry, I’m whining, back to the race.

I had heard about Conquer the Gauntlet (CTG) through Matt and was pretty intrigued by the name.  I looked it up and thought, WOW, that is really cool that it is owned and operated by a family.  Now I usually don’t have to pay for a lot of races because I work with Matt, however, for this one I wanted to pay to help the family.  So, I was stuck in my head all week whether I was going to do the race or not because I was stressed and slightly hurt and whether I was going to pay for the race or not.   Ultimately, I didn’t have enough money for the race and Matt talked me into doing it.  That being said, there were some other things going on during the week.  Like getting new underwear to test from Columbia, as well as some Under Armour sports glasses, by the way, are absolutely incredible for any outdoor sport.  The underwear are fabulous, almost as fantastic as Underwear For Men.  See my other reviews to see why.   Ultimately, I was overly stressed during the week and didn’t get enough sleep and was already having delusions.   I was excited about the race but overly excited I believe.

So I woke up to go to the race and threw all my stuff into my bag.  I met Matt halfway between our houses at the Dunkin Donuts where I jumped into his car because he was in a hurry to get to the race.  I was surprised to see Jackson and a nice big cup of iced coffee.  I hardly remember our drive over, other than giving Jackson half the egg sandwich that Matt gave me.  So, it was weird from the beginning.  I had no idea where we were going and where the race was.  Turns out Matt drives his Toyota Camry off road sometimes and we barreled the hill after we talked to the hick at the gate. Matt told me to move the ribbons so we could get through to the ORM tent so I did.  I was wearing my SAXX shorts and a Savage Race shirt.

Now to the mental illness, when we got there I was pretending like I was Ryan Woods because Matt was like, ok, now don’t talk to anyone, take my phone, and no, don’t do anything.  No, don’t do that.  I was pretending I was famous and that no one should see me.  These were really just delusions and grandiose, manic behavior.  I got out of the car and Jeff looked me square in the eye.  I wasn’t having happy thoughts.   I was scared and nervous since it was such a small, intense, and technical race. So, I starting running up and down the dirt road to warm up like a lot of runners do.  I was running a good amount.  I ran to the upside down cargo net called Belly of the Beast and back and then to the parking lot and back.  For some reason, when the loud gun shot went off I started running into the woods to go for a jog.  I really didn’t know that I was on the course trail, but I thought I could go for a jog while Matt and Jeff were doing their video.  Well, then I heard guys on my heals full steam ahead.  So I started running as fast as I could, down into the steep creek and jumped over the creek and up the steep hill.  The curve of the trail came around and I came to the first obstacle, the rope climb over Continental Divide.  It was easy as most obstacles at other races are for me.  This time that was not the case.  These obstacles are legit, and so are the athletes.  It is brutal and grueling.  The athletes are strong, have endurance, and and have lots of tattoos.  I felt like I fit in well, but was wrong, my head was not in it to win it, that is for sure.

Things started to go awry when I got to the large pond of water.  I was still running, warming up, and having fun.  I didn’t want to race anymore so I started heading back to see what Matt and Jeff were doing.  They were still filming. Matt was then ready to go so we started in the 0945 race slot.  I did the first few obstacles with him again and I was feeling ok.  Then, when we got done with the Rockies obstacle, things started to go downhill fast.  The next obstacle was Hammertime.  This is where I lost my shit.  I started to see old beer cans in the mud, broken lighters, and a whole heap of crap all over the ground.  I went and stood in the soupy mud at Hammertime and decided to slip out of my shoes while Matt was trying the obstacle and videoing people do it.  I thought it was ridiculous that it was an obstacle.  I started doing mud angels on the ground and acting like an idiot.  I didn’t think it was a big deal until I couldn’t find my shoes and started walking back to the finish.  Well, I felt I was burying those shoes.  And I really didn’t know why that would be an obstacle in any case.  I digress.  I didn’t think it was a bad idea until I started getting bit by ants and stepping on broken lighters and beer cans.  That place is a mess.  I was a lot farther in than I thought.  I ended up going backward through the course and jumping in the freezing cold water at  Stairway to Heaven, which I loved.  The water was so cold and refreshing.

That’s when a volunteer starting talking to me and I wondered off by myself.  I started crying.  I was hurt and upset about what was going on with me.  I was having another psychotic episode.  They are not fun.  They are scary.  I understand and relate to people who have PTSD.  It is not the same but both are so hard to deal with.  The race directors came and checked on me and brought me to the medic tent.  They gave me Benadryl, anti-itch cream, and water.  I thought it was all my fault for not paying for the race.  I was so upset I didn’t get to finish the race.  It was my first DNF other than Warrior Dash just because I didn’t want to stand in line.  On the way home I passed out in Matt’s car.  He was worried about me.  He had mentioned during my stressful week before the race that I go to Ridge View Institute to get some help.  I didn’t think it was a bad idea because I was having such a bad week.  Well, I had hit rock bottom.  Matt decided to take me to Ridge View, a very good psychiatric hospital in Smyrna, Georgia.  I will spare you the details of my stay at Ridge View.  However, I was able to heal and fully recover from a very difficult “Gauntlet” of a week.  My favorite obstacles were Stairway to Heaven, Cliffhanger, and Walls of Fury.  I am very upset with myself that I didn’t get to finish the rest of the obstacles.  I really wanted to have full strength for Pegatron, Great Wall of America, and Torpedo looked like so much fun.  This is one race I want to do again.  I would pay for it this time and tell anyone that loves obstacle racing to do it.  Just be careful.  It is dangerous.  People can get hurt and die from these races.  It’s fun until someone gets hurt.  Partake in obstacle races at your own risk.  Sometimes the reward is now worth the risk.   I might or might have been able to finish without having to get a white belt, but I know my mental fitness was tested 100% as well as my physical, emotional, and spiritual.  If you ever need to talk to someone, don’t be afraid to ask.  My number is 678-913-7217.  Now I know why Matt talks so much about his mental health.  It is very important.  Thank you to all veterans and to Conquer the Gauntlet for a 100% great race even though the venue was a little sketchy.   That being said, the bottom line is that the race directors, staff, and volunteers all made sure that everyone was safe and happy before, during, and after the race.  Happy obstacle racing!

Clayton Griffith

One day, Clayton made the mistake of getting too close to ORM co-founder Matt Davis. Now, most weekends, he is stuck with Matt running on a trail, on some train tracks, or at obstacle races. He also been forced to take on additional duties, such as writing for ORM, manning the ORM tent, and watching Matt's kids, all against his will.
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