Farm Fit Challenge 2017

The Farm Fit Challenge proved what a veteran obstacle course racer with a little land, an idea, and a lot of ambition could accomplish. Other than purchasing some trail tape every obstacle on the course was either found on the farm or handmade on the farm.

With all proceeds donated to the Wounded Warrior Project this event, which was limited to 40 participants, was one of those small grassroots contests that I love to race.

Held on a working farm, parking was pretty much anywhere on the grass that you could find and registration was basically just telling the kind lady with the clipboard that you were there. If you needed to change you headed to the barn and if you wanted a bag check? Well, it was safe wherever you wanted to set it down. ‘

The course setup and outline was simple but the execution was exhausting both mentally and physically. The object was to complete as many laps on the 1.2-mile course as possible in 2 hours. After the 2-hour limit athletes were no longer allowed to start another lap. The race started at 1 pm trying to take advantage of the warmest part of the November day but the constant drizzle and temps in the 40s still made for a chilly and sloppy race.

Starting off along a path through the fresh cut cornfield athletes accumulated mud by the pound on their shoes leading up to a maze of 12-foot-high sawgrass and cattails.

When you finally managed to navigate your way out of the maze it was back to running through that nasty, sticky, soul-sucking mud until you came up to the first “fit” challenge. 100 air squats had to be completed before moving on to a sandbag carry through…. You guessed it, that nasty mud.

Heavy legs got another test a short jog away in the form of bucket carry, again through the mud. Now, this bucket carry was unique. The bucket had to be carried by the handle with one hand only and was filled with 100-year-old bricks taken from a local building.

After carefully dropping your bucket off the trail led out of the field and into the large yard where you were immediately required to drop for 100 pushups. Once finished, a rope climb with bell tap was next up, failure to complete the climb meant a 25-burpee penalty. Love sit-ups? Great, cause the next fit challenge required 100 of them before getting your chance at the rig. The rig set up was a series of horizontal poles set at different heights and made all the more treacherous by the constant rain with a bell tap finish. Failure on the slick rig once again meant a 25-burpee penalty.

Tractor tire flips for 20 yards down and back was the next obstacle in line and further tested an athletes’ strength and endurance along the short course, but at least the mud was finally gone from your shoes!

One last test of strength and agility followed the tractor tire flips on the way through the course. Yet another tire, this time a truck tire, was placed on a peg. Racers had to pick the tire up and off the peg and walk it 50 yards down to where it was to be placed on another peg. A repeat of the process on the way back was required. If at any point the tire was dropped one had to start the whole process over.

Probably the most exhausting challenge of the whole event was next up in the form of a hundred plus yards of knee-to-ground lunges. It’s difficult to sit and write this review now as my glutes and hamstrings are still killing me! One last test was waiting once the lunge train was finished. A narrow balance beam, made even more difficult to cross as the rain came down and the mud and grass accumulated on top, was the last test before athletes picked up a “lap complete” band and headed back out for more!

Finishers awards were also very unique at the Farm Fit Challenge. Sections of a tree branch were cut into small sections, fire-branded with a Farm Fit brand, and then polyurethane covered.

Drinks were provided at stations along the course and were manned by a troop of Boy Scouts. I certainly hope those guys earned a special badge for braving that weather!

Fruit, chips, and hot dogs were provided at the finish along with a crock pot of baked beans. I found this event to be extremely family friendly and extremely draining physically. While the scale of the event was small the feeling of accomplishment at the end was still large. So, if you’re looking for a smaller event that’s tough while still providing a great family atmosphere check out the Farm Fit Challenge!

Kill Cliff: The New On Course Recovery Drink for Tough Mudder

TOUGH MUDDER AND KILL CLIFF PARTNER TO BRING CLEAN ENDURANCE AND RECOVERY SPORTS DRINKS TO 2018 – 2019 US EVENTS

KILL CLIFF Equips Athletes With Extended Energy And Necessary Recovery To Dominate World Class Obstacles As The Official Sports Drink Brand For Tough Mudder And Serve As Presenting Sponsor Of Tough Mudder X Series

ATLANTA/BROOKLYN– Nov. 7, 2017 — Tough Mudder, Inc. and KILL CLIFF have partnered to provide KILL CLIFF’s clean label endurance and recovery sports beverages for the 2018 and 2019 US event seasons in its capacity as the official sports drink brand for Tough Mudder and presenting sponsor of the Tough Mudder X Series. Tough Mudder X is the one-mile race with 10 obstacles and 10 workout zones that tests competitors from across multiple disciplines to determine the fittest and fastest athletes in the world. The series debuted this summer on CBS with millions watching its first World Championship.

At all Tough Mudder events, KILL CLIFF will provide its ENDURE clean endurance sports drinks on the course during events to help participants experience longer energy maintenance as they push harder through the course. KILL CLIFF recovery drinks will be handed out at the finish line to provide electrolytes and assist in participants’ post-event clean recovery and hydration. KILL CLIFF will leverage its relationship with gyms around the country to further the Tough Mudder brand through its product offerings.

The partnership will kick off at this year’s World’s Toughest Mudder at Lake Las Vegas on Nov. 11-12, 2017. World’s Toughest Mudder is considered the most extreme, insane, imposing, pulse-pounding, heart-stopping 24-hour obstacle course race on the planet that is viewed by millions globally via Livestream and also on CBS. KILL CLIFF will be the official sponsor of one of the event’s most infamous obstacles, The Cliff, a 35-foot cliff jump into the chilly waters of Lake Las Vegas that begins at midnight on Nov. 12. KILL CLIFF will also have its own TEAM KILL CLIFF tackling the course.

“Partnering with Tough Mudder as the official clean sports drinks sponsor is a great next step for both of our brands, as well as the dedicated warriors of the Tough Mudder,” said KILL CLIFF CEO Joe Driscoll. “We are getting our drinks into the hands of hundreds of thousands of athletes who are challenging their fitness, while Tough Mudder is partnering with a cool brand that is disrupting the artificial, sugar-filled sports drink category. We are incredibly excited about being the presenting sponsor of Tough Mudder X race series, which is a fast, exciting event that is a great crossover for many of our CrossFit athletes and gyms.”

“KILL CLIFF’s Kill the Quit attitude, clean label products and brand awareness in the HIIT category makes them a great partner fit that will not only elevate the Tough Mudder brand to a broader audience and new category of athlete but enable us to offer Mudder Nation great hydration and recovery drinks for everyone to be at their best as they tackle Tough Mudder’s demanding courses together, ” commented Rich Abend, VP, Global Partnerships, Tough Mudder. “We are also proud to name KILL CLIFF as the first presenting sponsor of TMX, which has garnered significant interest from the industry since its’ debut this past summer on television.”

KILL CLIFF drinks have gained popularity in HIIT gyms across the country, and the brand has led in the emerging clean sports drink categories at places like Whole Foods and Amazon. The KILL CLIFF brand has been on a rapid growth trajectory with a loyal and passionate following of the world’s toughest athletes.

About KILL CLIFF:

Founded and created by a Navy SEAL with the spirit of giving back to the community, KILL CLIFF® makes clean sports beverage products. KILL CLIFF Recovery Drinks deliver clean recovery, providing the hydration and nutrients without all the junk so many beverages have today. Headquartered in Atlanta, the KILL CLIFF team includes civilians and accomplished military veterans, and is absolutely committed to serving and supporting the Navy SEAL community. KILL CLIFF honors the dedication and sacrifice made by these warriors and their families by donating a portion of the proceeds through their Official Partnership with the Navy SEAL Foundation. KILL THE QUIT™. Visit KillCliff.com and follow KILL CLIFF on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram @killcliff.

About Tough Mudder:

Founded in 2010 with the launch of the Tough Mudder obstacle course event series, Tough Mudder Inc. has become a leading global sports, active lifestyle and media brand. With more than 3 million participants, the company hosts more than 130 non-competitive (Mini Mudder; Tough Mudder 5K, Tough Mudder Half, and Tough Mudder Full) and competitive (Tougher, Toughest, Tough Mudder X and World’s Toughest Mudder) events annually in 11 countries including China, Dubai, Indonesia, and Australia through its partnerships with IMG, Seroja and Sports Media and Entertainment 360 (SME360). The company’s content arm provides the more than millions of engaged online brand enthusiasts with fitness, nutrition, and wellness content delivered daily across social and digital platforms. Tough Mudder broadcast, OTT and Live Stream programming can be seen worldwide through partnerships with CBS Sports, Facebook, Sky Sports, The CW Network and ESPN Media Distribution. Other sponsorship and distribution partners include Merrell, Amazon, KILL CLIFF, Jeep, Aflac, Guinness, Vega, Samsung, Olympus, Lucozade Sport, Nexcare, For Goodness Shakes, Bosch, TREK, Head & Shoulders, L’Oreal Men Expert, Käserei Loose, Snapchat and Live Stream.

MEDIA CONTACTS:

FOR TOUGH MUDDER 
Angela Alfano
(703) 447-5629
Angela.Alfano@ToughMudder.com

FOR KILL CLIFF
Reina Porritt
(651) 789-1272
reina@kohnstamm.com

Robert Zimmerman
(917) 543-1046
Rob@zimstrategies.com

Spartan Race Dallas – A Cold Day in Hell AKA Glen Rose, TX

Texas is apparently about as indecisive with its weather, as I am come dinner time. Labor Day weekend for the US OCR Championships had us succumbing to 95+ degree heat, while this past weekend in Glen Rose (a city outside of Dallas), participants struggled to stay warm, as temperatures dipped under 30 degrees when the first Ultra Beast wave kicked off. Anyone looking for an easy race to finally get their belt buckle was in for a frosty eye-opening.

Ultra Beast numbers continue to surge, as competitors continuously push themselves to achieve new heights – a perfect opportunity for Spartan Race to inflict creative new punishment on a fresh group of willing participants. While certain aspects of this course were punishing, we’re also starting to see a softer side of Spartan emerge as well – A “burpee free” penalty? We saw it in Atlanta, and it popped up again in Texas this weekend.

Something Old, Something New

The irony of asking if you remember the Memory Test, is not lost on me – but do you remember your first time? Echo 430-6620, Killington 2013. It’s seared into my brain, it’s not going anywhere. While the Memory Test obstacle has mostly disappeared at events the last few years, Ultra Beast runners saw it utilized in a whole new way – on an added 1-mile loop, they were told to memorize a token Spartan code: [Army Alphabet Letter] + [7-digit number]. Except for this time, they were required to recite their number to enter the transition area, before starting lap two. A nice touch, as opposed to planting arbitrary volunteers in a dead space on the course.

During the start line speech, participants were told that if they were to fail Olympus, no burpees were to be rendered. In fact, you were unable to even opt-in to burpees if you wanted to! There was a penalty loop added, where failures meant you were adding a half-mile to your Beast distance. A significant addition for the Ultra Beasters, should they miss the obstacle twice. After being dunked in water 3 times before Olympus, failure was a very real possibility for some.

Something Borrowed, Something Blue

The local Dallas Wal-Mart had no idea what hit them. Based on the number of discarded articles of clothing I saw on the course, I can only guess that racers stopped at their nearest big box retailer and grabbed the cheapest throwaway clothing they could find, to help ward off icy-cold temperatures in, what is supposed to be, a warm Texas! Added clothing may have helped for a short period of time, but once racers were dipped into a wading pond, followed by Rolling Mud & a Dunk Wall that required racers to push aside chunks of ice in order to complete, there were more than a few blue lips in the crowd of green-pinny adorned racers.

Out With The Old

There are only a handful of races left on the Spartan calendar for 2017, and with next weekend packed with a Beast, Super, and Sprint happening simultaneously up and down the east coast, racers are stretching their travel and wallets thin for a chance to podium in what is seemingly the last breath for Spartan’s Competitive Wave. Also unknown is what will truly become of the Spartan Ultra Beast belt buckle, with the announcement of the new Spartan Ultra events. 2018 looks to bring a new look Spartan Race, and hopefully, some warmer weather to Glen Rose in 2018! I know I am looking forward to seeing new obstacles from Spartan Race – more than just an Atlas Ball with a handle on it (womp womp).

Warrior Dash Gulf Coast 2017

Warriors are Willing to Work for It

Warrior Dash holds a special place in my heart despite its lack of EXTREME CHALLENGE.  The lack of difficulty is not a good reason to pass on the “beginners race.”  If Savage, Spartan, and Conquer the Gauntlet are super healthy foods like organically raised salmon, fresh farm raised avocados and naturally grown kale then Warrior Dash is a spinach/chicken wrap.  While it may not be on the “superior” level of the other races, it takes on an extremely important role in being the bridge for many into OCR or even into a healthy lifestyle.

Nathan Beisser

Competitor Nathan Beisser after having a great time during his run in the pro wave

 

Helping Start the Addiction

While I may not have encountered obstacles that pushed me to my brink, I did see and meet far more newcomers who were there to make an effort at slowly improving their unhealthy lifestyles than at any other race.  I also encountered more “running for a cause” teams than I have seen recently.  Warrior Dash is that beginning step that is necessary for many.  We can’t all dive head first.  Some of us have to begin with dipping one foot in at a time (not charging for parking or a bag check helps.)  This is where the average working Joe or Jill can see the potential to become greater than they thought possible.

Mud Pit

Venue

The venue of the Harrison County Fairgrounds in Gulfport, Mississippi proved to offer more challenge than most would have anticipated from a mostly flat area.  Though any sort of incline was very rarely found, running three miles in a soggy field that gave way with every step proved to take away some of the speed many competitors would have normally had on a more dry or packed terrain.  Muddy areas were easy to create and find, though they weren’t as large as I have seen before from Warrior Dash.  Even at the finish, each mud pit seemed less like a pit and more like a hole.  The trail was cleared and marked extremely well.  It would have been extremely hard to get lost.

Nets…. Nets Everywhere

The obstacles were a lot of the usual Warrior fare.  There was a lot of crawling under wire and a lot of net usage.  From normal cargo climbs to pipeline to the new (and really fun) Upslide Down I saw more cargo nets during this race than I could shake a stein at. Cargo nets serve as a great introduction to new racers as an obstacle that can burn you out.

Warrior Dash also earned positive points for its new obstacle Upslide Down.  It was a simple, fun obstacle though it could have been longer.  A flat slide lay under a cargo net.  Competitors laid on their backs and proceeded to utilize the cargo net to pull themselves down the slide.  I had a blast with this one and hope to see more like it in the future.

Pallet Jacked

Rather than placing Goliath at the end, Warrior Dash left their new obstacle “Pallet Jacked” front and center for spectators to check out.  I can rightfully say I underestimated this obstacle.   I assumed running across pallets suspended from straps wouldn’t be a problem.  However, the pallets swung and moved vertically depending on weight distribution.  I enjoyed the slight challenge of this obstacle as well as the creativity of Warrior Dash race designers in utilizing simple construction to create a very fun obstacle.  Much like a good hamburger, both of Warrior Dash’s new obstacles offered a lot of satisfaction for something so easily and affordably constructed.

Stein

Stein Holding Competition Trophy

Party Time

Warrior Dash knows what it does well and continues to improve on it year after year by offering more after race competitions and activities than any other race series.  The push-up contests let the macho bros show off for the crowd.  The tug-of-war competition gives families and teams the opportunity to work together and have a good time.  The stein holding competition allows warriors to prove their grip strength and grit and walk away with a free stein.  Even if warriors don’t want to join in on these competitions there are rigs to play on, beer pong setups to play around with, an awesome DJ, and lots of cornholing… I mean the game with the bean bags.

Tug of War

Tug of War Competition

Warrior Dash offers many of the best beer choices and food around as well as the ability to refill your stein for a moderately steep price. A plethora of patrons seemed to be having an amazing time at the festival.  I will be surprised if Warrior Dash doesn’t return to the coast next year given the huge turnout.  Seeing so many newcomers and groups of friends discovering the joys of OCR together filled my heart with glee. I left the festival with a huge smile on my face – not for my own accomplishments, but because I saw something I loved growing and I saw people spreading fitness, love, and no hate all in one place.  That’s one of the better achievements that any of us can achieve in this lifetime.

 

Mr. Incredible

Mr. Incredible receives his newly designed Warrior Dash Medal

Savage Race Dallas

Getting Savage Again

Every Savage is a unique experience.  On a hot day in October at the Beaumont Guest Ranch in Grandview, Savage Race Dallas began in great weather. Everyone was having a great time with a smile on their face.  Savage brings a unique feeling to the OCR community which allows serious athletes to compete and test one another, but to joke and share a hug at the same time.

Savage Race Venue

The Beaumont Ranch is a quintessential Texas venue.  I enjoyed the “Texas” feeling this venue offered more than anything.  Savage did a great job utilizing what little elevation and technical terrain they had access to on the ranch to provide some challenge.  Occasional hills, dried creek beds, and patches of brambly grass provided a technical challenge in a state not known for running elevation.

The scenery in the creek beds and the occasional tight spot through some trees was a sight to behold.  These routes gave me the feeling of fleeing outlaws in the old west. The winding path of the race course was well thought out and utilized every natural obstacle around.  Despite its lack of extreme elevation, the scenic Texas venue made up the difficulty with a good bit of heat.   The lack of any foliage to block the sun can take its toll on runners and hydration was a must.  Savage did a great job providing a total of three water stations spaced out quite well and before key obstacles.

Beaumont Ranch Savage Race Dallas 2017 venue

Beaumont Ranch Facebook

Volunteer Performance

Well-informed volunteers did a great job of being sure the pros were aware of all the rules.  They were also quick to call out any pro who did not follow them.  The volunteers also did a superb job of being sure to repeat safety concerns to competitors at each obstacle such as Davy Jones Locker and Sawtooth.

Obstacles

Designers placed “warm-up” obstacles over the first mile of the course quite well.  A good mix of crawls, under overs, and climbing walls lead you into the second mile which also upped the ante in the terrain.

In the extreme heat Shriveled Richard (Savage’s always super cold ice bath) was almost a welcome sight.  Shriveled Richard immediately led into Squeeze Play which wasn’t under water this time around.  After a bit more running and a water break, we moved through Back Scratcher, Big Cheese, and Big Ass Cargo before hitting the third mile-marker.

Savage did a superb job at keeping rhythm with the obstacles. There were about three obstacles per mile.  All of the difficult obstacles were not placed at the end of the course.  Savages “spectators are allowed anywhere on the course” stance can benefit in the course design in this way.

Savage

Savage Dallas Anthem

Summon your Inner Savage

Next came the upper-body grinder with three obstacles in succession: Tree Hugger, Wheel World, and Kiss My Walls.  These well thought out designs can annoy, challenge, and push competitors to the brink.  We train even harder to be ready for the challenge the next time around.

Each bit of terrain traversal leading to well-placed obstacles felt like a pleasant progression in difficulty to the finish line rather than a slog.  Nearing the end of the 6.5 miles, competitors encountered the new obstacle: Hang-a-rang.  This balance obstacle consisting of two logs suspended from chains is a welcome break up to the usual OCR fare.  Competitors were not allowed to touch the chains but only the tiny rope midway through each log.

Savage Hang-a-rang Savage Facebook

Savage Hang-a-rang

The adventure ended with Davy Jone’s Locker, the time consuming Mad Ladders, the infamous Twirly Bird, and Blazed.  Many competitors speed through until the end: shoulders worn out, forearms burning only to see Twirly Bird standing between them and the finish.  Nothing compares to seeing the smile on racers’ faces as they conquer a well-designed, just difficult enough obstacle like Twirly Bird.  They then jump over the flames with gusto to the cheers of a crowd able to comfortably witness it all from the festival area.

Final Thoughts

Other than one skimmed-over piece of stray barbed wire in a creek bed that could have caused an injury, Savage Race Dallas had no other detriments.  Designers utilized the venue to their utmost and created a hella good experience for racers and spectators alike.  Savage Race Dallas succeeded in cementing my love for the race series and showing me that they continue to improve as a company in providing both challenge and experience for the money.  I would also like to note that upgrading to Pro from Open on-site was quick and simple.  I have never had such an easy time with a company in modifying a registration.

Bling

I will say the new syndicate medals and state pins are a welcome adage to my collection.  These medals are high quality.  You don’t have to buy something extra to put them on OR pay extra money to get one.  Savage seems to have continued to grow and excel while still maintaining that care for their customers and appreciating what they do. Just like the words from amazingly talented Emcee Matty T, “Savages are a family.”  We are all there for one another, and that sense of family is something that is truly felt from the festival area to the course, to the finish.

 

Savage Race Syndicate Medal

My second Savage Race Syndicate Medal

I Ran the OCRWC: I Got a Medal. And an Asterisk.

Of all the possible endings I had envisioned for my race, riding shotgun in a volunteer’s pickup truck and bypassing obstacles en route to the finish line wasn’t one of them. And of all the adjectives I could use to describe my experience at the 2017 OCR World Championships, I can’t believe the first one that comes to mind is “anticlimactic.”

I Had A Goal

This was my first time at OCRWC. I’m still fairly new to the sport, and I’m certainly on the “enthusiast” end of the spectrum. My 2016 OCR goal had been to complete the Spartan Trifecta, something that seemed crazy when I first seriously considered it. But then, last October, balled up on a South Carolina hotel bed, clutching my new three-piece medal, after eight hours-plus of the hardest thing I’d ever done, I decided out of nowhere to go for Worlds in 2017.

Winning a qualifier or nabbing a podium for an automatic entry wasn’t going to happen. The Journeyman class would be my way in. I picked my qualifying races for the front half of the year. I included one race more than I would need, just in case. I pre-registered for the 15k in December, a full ten months early. I booked accommodations at Blue Mountain in February. I lined up travel to Toronto in April. (Yeah, I like having a big red X to shoot for.) This was going to happen. After I completed my fourth and final qualifier, I badgered the OCRWC office staff via email to make sure I was really in. It all seemed like there must be some catch. I mean, surely they don’t let guys like me run in the WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS, RIGHT???

And truth be told, I was nervous right up until the moment they handed me a bib number in the Athletes’ Center on Thursday night. Right there in the shadow of the giant slip wall, it felt real. I was in. I would be included among the champions for one magical moment in time.

2017-OCRWC-race-bib

The Atmosphere Was Electric

OCRWC and Blue Mountain Resort put on a spectacular weekend. The atmosphere was electric. The obstacles, all larger than life and scattered around the Village. Coach Pain’s amplified pep talks floating through the nippy air. Huge crowds of people cheering for racers as they crossed the finish line. I felt like a rockstar walking around the grounds with my “Competitor” lanyard. I saw the giants of the sport up close and personal. Ryan Atkins and Lindsay Webster, right there for winners’ photos. Yuri Force floating up a warped wall like it wasn’t even there. I did the ‘sup-bro head-nod thing with Hunter McIntyre, who’s never seen me before in his life. I chatted up Kevin Gillotti in the pita restaurant and got obstacle tips. It was surreal.

Then it was my turn. The Journeymen (and Journeywomen) took off at 2:45 on Saturday afternoon. This had been a detail of no small concern to me from the moment the schedule had been released. That’s late in the day, certainly much later than the 9 am waves I prefer to sign myself up for. It seemed alarmingly late, even, given the 15km distance and the high number of obstacles.

2017-OCRWC-course-map

Even more nerve-wracking was the verbiage I remembered from the rulebook that specified a strict five-hour cutoff. Based on previous races, I knew five hours might not be enough time for a guy like me to make it 9.3 miles and navigate 43 obstacles. When I had looked up what time the sun goes down in Toronto in mid-October, I freaked out even harder. The race officials might give me until 7:45 pm, but Mother Nature would be shutting off the daylight at about 6:30.

In Life, We Are All Journeymen

But despite those sobering numbers, I figured that the OCRWC organizers must know what they’re doing. I couldn’t worry about the details now; I had the race of my life to run. I’ll freely admit I bawled my eyes out as Coach Pain reminded me and my fellow amateurs, the ones who wouldn’t be holding a big cardboard check at the end, the in-it-for-the-love-of-the-sport racers, the men and women who had struggled the most and worked the hardest to even be here, that “In life, we are all Journeymen.” With that, we attacked Blue Mountain.

The course was brutal. That familiar OCR gallows humor came out early on the first of several trips straight up the mountain. Yet spirits were high, encouragement was plentiful, and the weather was cooperating. The rain that had been forecast to have already started… hadn’t. We all forged onward. Up and down the mountain, over walls, under barbed wire, and through the mud. This is what we came for.

2017-OCRWC-warp-wall

As the race wore on, though, things changed. The rain started – first as a drizzle, then in earnest. Now, obstacles became more slippery. Footing became more challenging. The trips up the mountain got significantly slower and harder. The sky got progressively darker as afternoon turned to evening.

Urban Sky was the first obstacle where volunteers started shouting out time announcements. “You’re behind the 8-ball! You have got to pick up the pace! You are not going to make five hours!” Very soon after, we heard a whole new race strategy: “Forget the retry lane! Start skipping obstacles! Go around if you can! Just get to the finish line in five hours or you won’t get a medal!”

I May Have Nothing To Show For It

And for the first time, it occurred to me that I might not make it, that this whole trip – no, this whole year of racing and training – might leave me with nothing to show for it but a big fat DNF.

Just after the Low Rig, there was a very narrow passageway in the woods that we had to traverse. I can only describe it as a waterfall without the water. It was a sheer rock ravine no more than four feet wide. Enough for one person at a time. With one rope for assistance. And it was pitch black. The only sound was the occasional noise of a rock skittering away and sliding downhill under someone’s misplaced foot. This sound was always accompanied by one person’s sudden – and often NSFW – exclamation… and the concerned words of coaching from the dozen or so of us trying to navigate this patch of very technical mountain terrain. My overriding thought? “This had better be the last bit of this kind of trailwork or someone is going to break something. Or worse.”

A few minutes later, I was out of the ravine and on the Log Hop. I strained to see the vertical stumps, even though they were right in front of me. It was so foggy. It was so wet. It was so cold. It was so dark. And then, a voice from the volunteer tent in front of us. “Get off the obstacle! We’re shutting it down!”

Shutting it down?!? I knew it wasn’t 7:45 yet. What did they mean? Shutting what down? Just this obstacle?

No. Organizers had just halted the race, we were informed. It was too dark and too wet. The course had become unsafe. Volunteers held us at the tent and told us no one could proceed. Trucks were on the way to take us back. Several racers burst into tears that their day was over. Some were openly relieved at the same realization. One started swearing at the volunteers, demanding to be allowed to continue.

Would We Still Get Medals

But it was over. We stood shivering, swapping stories, laughing, all nervously wondering to ourselves to some degree what would happen next. My brother and another racer realized that they still had their wristbands, 33 obstacles in. They wouldn’t get the chance to go for a perfect 43. Would we still even get medals?

After that truck ride, we were allowed to climb the final slip wall and cross the finish line. Medals were draped over our necks, to the smattering of polite golf claps from the handful of spectators who had stayed, as crews and vendors hurriedly packed up their tents in the darkness. I don’t even think the emcees were still welcoming runners in over the microphone anymore. I was sore and exhausted, to be sure, but I knew I hadn’t run the full race. There were ten obstacles out there I never even got to see. It all felt empty. Hollow. Anticlimactic.

I don’t begrudge the OCRWC organizers for calling the race when they did. Conditions on top of the mountain were no longer safe for racing. That was obvious, even to the angry guy screaming that he’d promise not to hold anyone liable if he hurt himself by continuing on. There’s nothing anyone can do about the weather; that’s an inherent roll of the dice with any outdoor event.

It Feels Like A Hollow Victory

I guess my frustration/anger/bewilderment comes when I think about that schedule. That 2:45 pm start time. For the Journeymen wave, of all people, the runners that need the most time of anyone competing the entire weekend. Why wait until 2:45 to send the amateurs off on a 15k mountain run with 43 obstacles when the sun goes down at 6:45? A five-hour time limit for “the enthusiasts” seems awfully hardcore, but it adds to the challenge, fine. It’s Worlds; it should be tough. And if you have to call it at four hours because of weather, well, them’s the breaks.

But I was never going to get that five full hours. Even on a bone-dry course, I doubt I could have done that race in four. The full five would have still forced me to make decisions about skipping obstacles or bailing out on retries, both of which would seem to contradict the “for-the-love-of-the-sport” ethos that had inspired us, Journeymen, to be there in the first place. Coach Pain had pointed out at the start that our group was not the fastest, nor the strongest. True enough. But we were given the hardest obstacle of all, the one that couldn’t be overcome, the one I worried about when I saw the race-day schedule, the one that anyone with a free app on their phone could have foreseen simply by looking up sunset times.

There’s Too Much At Stake

How could OCRWC organizers not have seen that coming??? How do you justify starting the amateurs so late in the day? I understand that we can’t go first. That course has to be clean for the elite runners. There’s too much at stake for the sponsored racers to make them navigate a course full of obstacles AND a bunch of couch warriors getting in the way. I get it. Truly.

So give the Journeymen their own day. The 3k seemed to go off for all waves without a hitch on Friday, or at least I haven’t heard of any similar issues with darkness. Saturday is the right day for the elites, the semi-pros, the podium runners, the athletes who have a legitimate shot at prize money. And Sunday rightfully needs to be reserved for the team relay and charity runs. Totally agree. So extend the event one more day and let the Journeymen have the torn-up course all to themselves starting at 8 am Monday for as long as it takes them. I wouldn’t have minded. And I’m not the only one. But to allow the Journeymen to come from 67 countries to compete at the World Championships… only to yank them 75% of the way through the course because it’s too dark?!? That’s just terrible planning.

2017-OCRWC-finisher-medal

I See An Asterisk

I’ll always have the story of this weekend to tell. And I hope that one day when I tell it, it won’t include the words “empty” or “hollow” or “anticlimactic.” But right now, it sure as hell does. I competed in the OCR World Championships. For one magical weekend, I was included with the best on Earth. I played on some insane obstacles I’d never even seen before. I climbed a mountain… multiple times. I crossed the finish line. I got the T-shirt. I ran three-quarters of the hardest race of my life. Yes, I now have a World Championship medal. But honestly, when I look at it, I don’t see a neon green maple leaf in the middle of it. I see an asterisk.

Maybe someday I won’t.