Hesco BoneFrog – Atlanta 2016

HESCO BoneFrog Challenge – Atlanta 2016

5:30 AM, Dunkin’ Donuts– I’m back to my original prerace ritual of a large coffee with two & two, now with a bagel and cream cheese thrown in. I have forsaken the Grey Berets Conference Center and Food Emporium (aka The Waffle House) as no one ever wants to join me anymore. Woe is me.

6:55 AM, 27N, Bremen, GA–A valley is spread below me, a beautiful blanket of green overlaid with low lying mist.

7:07 AM, Hell if I know, GA–Shit! I zigged when I should have zagged! A quick 180 and I’m back on track. Oops, there go three cars in a row doing the same thing. Hope they realize their error.

7:12 AM, Hell if I know, GA–Cows!

7:20 AM, Highland Park ResortI turn into the venue, and for the first time since I started this foolishness back in 2014, I give no fucks how rutted, rocky or rough the venue road is, nor will I panic about the quality (or lack thereof) of the parking area. I’m in my new whip; she’s tall, thick, and has big feet. Writer’s note: Now that I have this Tonka like truck, it will never rain again at Savage Race Georgia. You’re welcome.

7:20 AM, Highland Park Resort–I aim for every dip, bump, hump, swale, and rut I can see, and then I come to an abrupt slowdown as I bump up to the race day ambulance easing on in. Rats! Foiled!

7:26 AM, Highland Park Resort–I park in a “space” that would have swallowed my old wee car. Mwahahaha! Arggh! Arggh! Annnnnd, It’s next to a port-a-crapper. No dings on that side at least.

7:30 AM, Highland Park Resort– Other Grey Berets arrive and we make the short walk to the festival area located smack in the middle of a rise overlooking a dirt bike Disneyworld. It’s a wonderland of whoop-dee-doos. A treasure of tight turns. A mariachi of motorcross.

7:35 AM, Festival Area–It’s still early so registration is quick. It may be an issue later though, with only 4-5 people checking racers in.

7:40 AM, Festival Area – Beer tent? Check. Food truck?  Largest team tent? Huge tent for the masses? Vendors Tents? check, check, checkity check.

7:50 AM, Grey Berets Tent–There is mass confusion as we realize some of us were given the wrong wrist bands for the race. With 3 different lengths (Sprint = 4mi, Challenge = 9mi, Tier1 = 13mi) the paper bands are color coded for their respective mileage. I have the Tier1 bands, and I know I’m not fucking crazy enough to run that many miles. Mr. Pink gets us squared away.

8:15 AM, Festival Area – We all gather around BoneFrog’s signature obstacle (Black Ops) with its huge American flag and sing the national anthem. Then it’s off to the starting corral for the first wave of the day.

OBSERVATIONS ON THE RUN:

  1. And we’re off to an immediate hard downhill left to get onto the dirt bike track that hugs the periphery of the festival area.
  2. The Crag is a large culvert pipe piercing a large mound, no doubt used to catch sweet air with a two-wheeled dirt rocket. The pipe is tall enough, we don’t even have to break stride.
  3. It’s 180 degrees to the right back toward the festival area.
  4. Then 180 degrees to the left. Then back towards the festival area, then away, then….fuck! this thing’s got more hairpin turns than the Tail of the Dragon. I’m getting dizzy.
  5. Whoop-dee-doos really fuck with your pace.
  6. Coming down the hill, away from the festival area for the 600th time, I see a couple of the leaders get shut down by Rolling Thunder. The necklace of tires strung on two horizontal poles doesn’t look that high off the ground. Clearly my eyesight is for shit, because as I get closer, I can see it’s about chest high. But, I’m already going too fast this early in the race and the coast is clear on the right side, so I keep the burners on and jump. I’m flying headfirst with arms out in a Superman vibe kind of way, hoping I don’t wipe out just a half mile into the race or do damage to the cycloptic milk-spitter and the two stones of Zeus. I hit the top of the tires at an angle, chest first, and roll. Success! Bonefrog Rolling Thunder
  7. A few yards more then it’s face down in the dirt at Dust Bowl. The crawl is short, but the non-barbed wire is low and the rough ground hurts.
  8. Shit! I hear the distinct ripping sound of a bib separating from shorts! The bib is still on with two pins, but a third safety pin is hanging on open. I have to stop to pin the fucking thing, lest I prick something delicate later in the race. Luckily it’s downhill from here so I can get back my place.
  9. There’s the split! Dirt bike Disneyland to the right for the Sprint, and a long haul in the woods to the left for the Challenge.
  10. A quick and refreshing muddy water pit crossing and we’re off and running along a trail between the woods and the parking area.
  11. 1 mile buzzer! 8:36?! Fuck, that’s wayyy to fast. Ima gonna die!
  12. The running is flat, and still too fast, as I approach Geronimo (aka, a Tarzan swing). The OCR gods are benevolent in their grace, assuring the far right rope is on its back swing just as I run up on it, speed unchecked. An easy swing across follows.Bonefrog Geronimo
  13. The first water station appears. It’s hotter than a two-peckered alley cat, and I eschewed the hydration pack for the day, so I avail myself of a couple of the conveniently filled cups, all lined up with military precision.
  14. We continue along some double track, still skirting the edges of the parking lot and being teased with the dark coolness of the forest to our right.
  15. Where the fuck is this sand coming from? What a drag on the feet.
  16. Ooo! Look at that big unruly pile of tires ahead! Obstacle time! And there it goes……
  17. 2nd Phase Wall (+/- 6’) appears. Ok, that not’s good! The arms felt a little wanting going over.
  18. The green course ribbon leads us straight into the forest. Literally running in the forest like wood nymphs. Tree fall, a carpet of dried leaves, foot grabbing vines, low hanging limbs; the whole woodland experience, except you know, without the talking animals and birds perched upon my fingertips.
  19. Screw that perfectly nice ATV trail next to us.
  20. Walk the Plank appears out of nowhere. How did they even get those beams back into these woods?! My heart is fucking jacked! I stand on the 2X s holding the +/- 20-foot wood joists in place and take a moment to get the heartrate down below hummingbird level. I’m no Phillipe Petit, so I don’t want to fall down to the dry creek bed about 4 feet below me.
  21. The shade is welcome as I settle in with some other guys (I shall call them the Bearded one, The Boy, and the Black Panther) and we alternate between double track running and bushwacking it.
  22. The pace has settled into a more manageable 11 and change, and the trail has morphed yet again.
  23. My wheezing sounds so much more idyllic running on a picturesque old skid trail with grass like ground cover and tree limbs creating a verdant tunnel.
  24. A quick Low Crawl under a riot of green course tape and it’s a glorious stretch of flat straightaway.
  25. A disembodied voice echoes out from the woods; “Watch out for bees!” Then I see a couple of guys about 15 yards into the woods running the opposite direction. I think to myself, “Fuck! Where?! At what point?! How far ahead are you?! Damnit man, why are you so much faster than me!!?”
  26. The idyll starts to be more Hyde, as all I can think about is bees, bees, bees; where the fuck are those bees?!
  27. We finally turn off the trail and drop into the woods on another non-trail, doing a 180-degree turn to the right. THIS must be the danger zone. I’m on a razor’s edge expecting at any moment to get waylaid by a swarm of vexed Vespula, while at the same time trying to stay on my fucking feet, avoiding every tree, root, stump, and limb that have all converged along this one route in a conspiracy to inflict harm upon my person.
  28. Fucking forest. So pretty. So lush. So wanting to kill me.
  29. A yelp from ahead of me! A caterwaul from behind me! Gird your loins boys, the attack is upon us!
  30. I never see the little fucker coming. The side of my calf lights up as the tiny flying asshole does his dastardly business. Ouch!
  31. How in the hell are we back along the parking area?! I’m so fucking turned around. But hey, there’s a Reverse Slant Wall! Ima gonna jump over it.
  32. Now we are running parallel with the previously ran outbound part of the course. My mind is in a knot trying to figure out where the hell I just ran.
  33. Some nice ATV trail. Some nice forest frolicking.
  34. A curious wall appears in an opening. At about 8 feet tall, it has three square holes set up high along its width. A steel bar at the top of each opening makes getting through Window Walls a snap.
  35. We’ve lost the Black Panther.
  36. The obstacle sign says Mind Games, but all I see is a water station another 25 yards on. I stop to dump water on my head and into my piehole. The gummy goodness of vanilla bean GU goes down like craft paste to a 2-year-old. I take a water for the road to wash that shit down.
  37. The spent paper cup goes into my voluminous pocket. And people make fun of me wearing 10-year-old board shorts. Suck it! I can carry shit, and store trash!
  38. The Bearded One and The Boy, ruminate out loud what “Mind Games” meant. We run for a bit on the now wide open ATV trail. “There was nothing there”, says one of them. “Exactly”, I say. I stun them into silence with my brilliant, yet reductive reasoning. Or it could be the monotony of the trail.
  39. We all run around a puddle. This strikes me as fucking hilariously ironic.
  40. And we keep running.
  41. The Black Panther comes rushing past me, and then stops ahead.
  42. And running.
  43. The Bearded One, The Boy, and I change places multiple times. It breaks up the grind.
  44. And more running.
  45. The only obstacles are the puddles.
  46. Still more running.
  47. The Black Panther comes rushing past me, and then stops ahead.
  48. Thankfully no one is speaking. All of us lost in our own thoughts and respective miseries. But if this goes on much longer, I may break out into show tunes.
  49. I finally start stomping through the puddles for the shear childlike pleasure of it.
  50. And even more fucking running.
  51. I fear I shall never see my wife and child again.
  52. I happen to be behind TBO approaching a curve and I see him through the trees slowing down to a walk. I make the turn and lo! I cry out, “And there it is! Finally!”
  53. IT, is a hill that just disappears up into the trees. I was wondering when we were going to have a climb! Nothing to do but just grind it out.
  54. Each curve in the trail hides the true extent of the distance, until finally, that glorious green tape stops of us from continuing straight and signifying the end to this fucking hill.
  55. The two-foot lip to climb up and out of this atv trail looks like the fucking northwest face of Half Dome at this point.
  56. Oh! What a lovely wooden deck overlooking a spectacular view….which, I paid for with my quivering quads and clinkered calves.
  57. The obstacle sign says Obstacle #14. Obstacle 14?! Where the fuck was obstacle 13? Whatever and wherever it is, the other signs, the permanent signs, are telling me we’re about to get busy on a single track dirt bike trail, number 14……..wait a minute.
  58. The track is very tight and technical. It’s carved into the hill so there’s no real option to avoid it, and in some places it’s a gnarly drop off.
  59. We are going downhill in luxuriously lazy switchbacks
  60. More running, more puddle avoidance, until we come out into the clearing that was behind the previous water station.
  61. Next up is obstacle #15. Obstacle 15?! Where the fuck was obstacle 14? Maybe they’re playing the lonnnnnng game with respect to “Mind Games”.
  62. Hellbox is window wall times three. The first square hole is low to the ground. An awkward shuffle-squat gets the job done. The second wall has a hole at about waist height. The classic step-through-and turn Is the elegant solution. The third wall presents a chest high hole, with no steel bar. Grabbing onto the 2×4 head on the backside of the wall allows for the ol’ pull up-hop- through technique. Writer’s note: Bonefrog, make the backside of this wall smooth and that would make for a hard obstacle indeed!
  63. On the way back into the woods I spy a sign for obstacle #17, wet and sandy, on the other side of the course tape. Looks like I’ll be coming back to this clearing again!
  64. It’s back onto familiar ATV trails.
  65. The Black Panther comes rushing past me, and then stops ahead. What. The. Fuck!? That is a curious strategy. But hell if I can’t shake him. Keep on keeping on dude!
  66. A fucking hill. great!
  67. The running grind just keeps on fucking going. The scenery changes from ATV trail, to woods, and back again, but it just keeps on going. They’re trying to tear a Beret down. Could be working.
  68. I’m trying not to kill myself cruising down some toight single track, when fellow Grey Beret Frosty yells out from an adjacent and downslope track (going the opposite direction?! Fuck! How far have I dropped back!?), “watch out! Big hill coming up!”
  69. Holy fuck! It’s looming! It’s fucking steep. It’s all-other-races-would-drape-this-shit-in-ropes-and cargo nets steep! Base jumping steep. I mean it’s vertiginous. A helpful sign tells me this is Obstacle #16. Nothing to do but dig in the lugs, lean in, and power through. Thankfully it’s short.Bonefrog Cliffhanger
  70. We all mumble to ourselves of the good fortune of dry conditions.
  71. It’s a downhill bombing run on the single track from whence we came……I think
  72. We pop out of the woods and straight into Wet and Sandy. The water feels fucking awesome, but that sign must be a misprint, because just below the surface of the pond is the goopiest, soul-sucking muck this side of a presidential debate. Ain’t nothing sandy about it. TBO, The Boy, Black Panther, myself, and couple of speedsters that just caught up with us decide not to burn the quads out by struggling through the mud, so we float-hand walk the whole thing. Oh God! It feels so gross on the hands. Each “step” plunging the hands deeper into the soupy sludge! Any minute I’m gonna get my hand bitten off by a snaggletoothed snapping turtle. Near the end my crawl turns into some bizarre freestyle stroke pulled from the depths of Michaels Phelps’ nightmares.
  73. We come out smelling like Satan’s shithouse after a late night bender at taco bell.
  74. What looks to be a last minute water station add sits on the banks of the pond. Much appreciated Bonefrog!
  75. I try to wipe my hands on the leaves as I pass by. There’s got to be a grip obstacle coming up soon, after that muddy mess. I know I would do that if I was a RD
  76. We are back in the forest. The trees are widely spaced, the ground flat. Nothing to follow except the green tape. I distract myself from my legs being whiny bitches, by picking lines, like a good snowboard session in the trees. It felt smooth and clean, but most likely looked like Red Skelton stumbling around for his hat.
  77. The Black Panther comes rushing past me, and then stops ahead.
  78. A short stretch of dirt road leads straight to Swingers Club. Hehe, so naughty. What’m talkin’ about?! I’m talkin’ about sex, boys and girls! What the hell’re you talkin’ about?! You know, “l’amour”?! As in “to Swing”!
  79. Thankfully my hands are dry as I step up on to the support bar. Strange softball sized cylinders covered with tape are hanging from nylon rope from one end of a steel frame to the other. I pick the far left lane, but one of my crew (We’ve run together for an eternity. They’re my crew now. Though I’d still shank them to get across the finish line first) helpfully points out one of the thingies is hung up on the support beam, thus leaving a huge gap. This leaves only 2 of the 3 lanes feasible for completion. The volunteer is making no move to fix it.
  80. It’s ugly, but I get through it.
  81. As my plucky pack of pacers leave the scene, we note the volunteer is still not doing anything to remedy the situation.
  82. We have arrived back at the very edges of Dirt bike Disneyland where the Challenge and the Sprint courses merge.
  83. After a quick dash in the woods we come out onto the track. We’re at 6 miles, and I can just feel the engine starting to fail as I have to power walk the hill up to 1st Phase Wall. It’s an easy hop over the +/- 5-foot wall. At least the trees are keeping this edge of the track in shade.
  84. We alternate between the woods and the dirt track twice before the course finally heads towards the heart of the Circus and into the brilliance of a blazing sun.
  85. I get down on my hands and knees to crawl under the wire at Feelin’ Froggy. The mud is a fantastic slurry of nastiness, with the consistency of cake batter and the color of an 8-month old’s diaper after a booby binge, and it feels AWESOME!
  86. I’m right on the heels of The Boy, when his foot comes down hard in the soup and kicks up a Pollock bomb straight into my eyes. FUCK!!!!!! Get it out of my eyes! GAHHH!!
  87. Everything appears a brown/orange color as I stumble from the crawl to the water pit. I Splash the muddy water to clear my face of the heavy mud. It hardly helps.
  88. Stumbling up a hill everything looks like I’m viewing it through a cataract  but with a brown tint. Fuck! I hope there’s a water station soon!
  89. The Wreckbag Carry, is a 25 pounder. This makes me very happy. It’s a quick uphill/downhill loop.
  90. As I approach the Dirty Name, it just gets taller and taller. It’s the love child of the sternum checker and a ranch entrance. It’s muddy, wet, slippery and fucking scary. Any earlier ideas of killing it with 3 bounding steps, like a shadowy ninja, hit the dirt like the guy in front of me just did. Ouch! That damn third log has to be 8 feet off the ground; below it an anemic pile of hay that wouldn’t break a snowfall. With bleary eyes I carefully heave myself up and over. Success!!Bonefrog Dirty Name
  91. I’m really fucking tired and there’s still 2 miles to go, but I see a water station ahead!
  92. I grab cups of water and douse my eyes. The cold water a welcome jolt to the skin. I ask a little kid volunteer If I got all the mud out of my eyes. He nods his head yes and gives me that look reserved for idiots and the insane.
  93. Dust Bowl is a short uphill climb under wire. The mini ravines, rocks, and scorched earth make it absolutely miserable.
  94. Who sprinkled the surface of the sun with dry Georgia clay and called it a race? Fuck! It’s Hot!
  95. One of my crew is about 50 feet ahead of me with the rest behind me, going to the vertical Cargo Net, and just blows past the lines as he climbs the far right side. I follow him, hoping I don’t get daggers in my back. Then I hear “Hey, let the elites go on!” Writer’s note: If you’ve read my oeuvre, you know I don’t like this word. But hey, it helped. Bless you, nameless person! Bless you! I climb up as my crewmember climbs down. The Flip & Crab ™, becomes the Flip & Jump (patent pending). I land in yet another sparse layer of hay and with a bit of stumble brush by a guy who is standing there waiting for a friend. I apologize as I run away. “I hope he doesn’t think I am a douche! That seemed pretty douchey to bump him like that! God! I’m such a douche!”
  96. And then it happens, my adductor thingy in the left leg does the equivalent of a throat punch, AND I feel the unmistakable electrical impulses of impending calf cramps. The pain from my leg is searing and takes me back to OCRWC last year. I hobble up the hill willing it to shut the fuck up.
  97. The pace is just a wee bit slower than in the woods, but certainly speedier than moss. It’s enough to shake out the pain in the leg.
  98. Siege Wall is an angled wall with ropes, the approach side just baking in the sun. I kick up the pace, and sprint at it, knowing my Icebugs are going to stick to this wall like gecko feet. The Bugs take me right to the top, the ropes limp with disappointment at their lack of use.
  99. The obstacles are coming at a good clip now!
  100. I climb the vertical cargo net of Kraken, eager to use the Jump & Roll ™ on the horizontal span of netting. The Jump and two rolls gets me to the other side for the climb down.Bonefrog Kraken
  101. The pace is horrible and every hill taller than an anthill, I walk up. The Sun is giving me a right beat down.
  102. I get to the top of another miserable little hill I should have run up, and find a memorial wall. With a fat black sharpie, I write the names of both sets of grandparents.
  103. As I get low to crawl through Nightcrawler, BAMMMM! I fucking crush my right shoulder against the 2x cross tie that is holding up the leading edge of the black fabric draped over the ground. OWWWWW! Motherf…..!! Ain’t that some shit?!
  104. The fabric is marked with rows of yellow lines. “Stay in your lane!” I randomly yell out to no one in particular, and giggle. I’m losing it. Luckily the ground was moistened, so it’s a wonderful texture of modeling clay, and I find my mind wandering about the bowls one could throw with the stuff. I’m really fucking losing it.
  105. It’s back into the woods. The green tape has created a lane so tight, I’m bouncing off the trees. What a gas!
  106. I can feel the calves sparking, wanting to fire up, my gait now taking on a weird flat footed loping. Every misstep a potential red button switch to defcon-1.
  107. Back out onto the surface of the sun, it’s a zig-zag run to 3rd Phase Wall. 8 feet of pure vertical hell, right when cramps are pulling a trick or treat at the front door. Every race when this moment happens, the climb lights up my legs like a roman candle.
  108. From a hundred yards out I start whispering, “please don’t cramp up, please don’t cramp up, please don’t cramp up.”
  109. I make the minimum jump necessary just to get my hands on the top of the wall. A heel hook is absolutely out of the fucking question. I pull my way to the top, straddle the wall (carefully! I have bad history with the tops of walls!), gingerly swing my legs over, and then eeeeeease my way down. Cramps averted!
  110. Not a couple of hundred yards more and the watch vibrates at the 8 mile mark. Sweet baby infant Jesus, it’s almost over.
  111. The Sandbags are small and lightweight and the loop is quick. If by quick you mean hobble up the hill and stumble down it.
  112. As I pass a part of the course going the other way, some guy named Yuri appears. He sees me and yells out “I’m coming for you!” You have got to be fucking kidding me?! He has already done the 6 miles in the woods, done the first lap of the entire Sprint course, and now is gonna lap me on his second loop to finish out Tier-1?! But he said it with a smile, and he’s my friend, so I tell him to fuck off, and start hobbling faster.
  113. I’ve not seen the Bearded one since Nightcrawler.
  114. And just when I feel I’m going to vaporize in the heat, Bog Hop shows up. I jump down into the cool water and squelchy mud, amongst the cattails. And then it happens. Disaster strikes as I am climbing up out of Satan’s sinkhole; My right leg locks up tighter than a bull’s ass at fly time. I have to stick my leg straight out to even get onto the bank. Fuck! that hurts!!!!
  115. I can’t even to begin to describe the fucked up way I’m running to avoid cramping up. It’s like there’s no toilet paper, there are people about, and I have to go to the closet at the end of the hall to get some more.
  116. The Blank Panther is pacing me. I have to let him by. Ain’t no one got time to follow my sorry ass.
  117. The woods are thick with overgrowth. Someone forgot their machete.
  118. Is. That. Giant Ramp!? Please tell me we are running up it and jumping into the pond!
  119. The Volunteer directs me to go Under The Boardwalk. Nooooo!
  120. I’m in the home stretch now. I can “smell the barn” and my watch is ticking ever closer to 9 miles, as is my body ticking ever closer to failure.
  121. Get a Grip is a confusion of tape wrapped plastic pipe handles, hanging from nylon strapping, and set up in no discernible lanes. As they are not fixed to the strapping, the hand width sections of pipe are in a variety of positions: some horizontal, convenient for gripping, and some vertical with no chance of being able to hang from them. I pick a “lane” that seems to have all of the former and start my traverse. Reaching for the 4th grip my left hand slips! I swing back and rotate, facing the way I came. In that split second I think to myself; “I hope I can spot a good grip when I swing back around!” The copious amount of grips work in my favor and I’m able to flail my way to the finish.Bonefrog Get A Grip
  122. 50 yards away is Hell’s Gate. It’s a fucking horror show of walls. 4-foot, 5-foot, 7-foot, 5-foot, 4-foot. They are all spaced no more than 4 feet apart and you cannot use the preceding wall to scale the next. My calves jump up, grab me by the shoulders, and yell, ”Are you fucking kidding us?!?! You’re lucky we’re not already at the beer tent! We should have left your sorry ass back at 3rd phase wall!!” This can’t be good.
  123. First wall goes smoothly, albeit with the caution of a cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
  124. At the second wall, I get a tap on my right shoulder. And there he is, some guy named Yuri, giving me a gigawatt smile. “My man!” While I’m easing myself down as if I’m carrying a Fabergé egg in my shorts, he’s off like a cool breeze, muttering something about wanting to get this thing done. Even the Humble Hero gets tired it seems.
  125. The remaining walls are cleared, the calves oddly quiet. This makes me nervous.Bonefrog Hells Gate
  126. I can see the finish line obstacle 100 yards away. So close, but the tape takes us in the opposite direction to Dead Weight. It’s a hoist obstacle. I look at the thin nylon ropes (with small knots) with trepidation. But, the weight proves to be of no consequence, and I’m able to stay on my feet. Writer’s note: Bonefrog, make this heavier!
  127. Back into the woods. Good Lord! Will this ever end? Hobbling makes for slow going.
  128. I step up to Drunken Monkey stumbling like a drunk, just as the Black Panther is starting and The Boy on my heels. Metal pipes sticking out from either side of a 2×12 flich beam are irregularly spaced and at irregular heights. A nice twist on regular monkey bars. OOO! A camera man! stop! pose! Keep going.Bonefrog Drunken Moneky
  129. This is it, the final two obstacles. The tape is clearly leading me in the direction of the finish.
  130. I jump on the Rope Climb, and as I make my foot hold the inevitable happens. The calves have finally had enough of this shit. Damnit! I know if I muscle up the rope with no feet and they light up again, my hands will open in shock. I stand there a bit dazed when one of the volunteers yells to me, “you can do 25 jumping jacks!”. You got a fucking deal little dude!
  131. A fellow GORMR manning the obstacle gives me shit, but I’m playing it smart and my crew is leaving me behind! Oddly enough the jumping jacks don’t bother my calves.
  132. 25 yards downhill is the final obstacle; Bonefrog’s signature piece proudly stands in all its glory. It’s 50 feet from the finish line and right in front of the entire festival area, with a supportive crowd cheering people on.
  133. Black Ops; It be monkey bars, and monkey bars are my jam! 3 lanes of slightly inclined awesomeness, back dropped by a HUGE American flag. I grab the rope and make the 8-foot vertical wall climb, and as soon as my legs get over the edge onto the deck, both calves light up like a nuclear bomb. I’m lying flat out on the deck and I’m screaming for the volunteer to push my toes back. Fuuuuuuuuuuuck! I gotta get on my feet! I plead for the other volunteer behind me to lift me up. I’m almost knock him off the deck in the process. I’m a fucking train wreck! Finally, to my feet, I try to stretch it out. My crew has since left me in the dust. I can’t get the legs right! I’ll be damned if I fall into the safety net in front of all these people. The seconds turn into minutes. Just before 3 minutes have elapsed, I say “fuckit! They should be good enough for 30 feet of monkey bars!” The sun is blasting in my face as I charge up the lane closest to the flag. OOOO! Cameraman! Pose! Rock on! Writer’s note: this obstacle will give you one of the most epic race photos EVAH! I guarantee it!Bonefrog Balck Ops
  134. I fall to my butt on the deck, eliciting a cry of “be careful!” from the volunteer, and start the forward climb down the angled ladder. The volunteer is not quite sure about that either.
  135. I stumble across the finish line pissed off at my calves. Stupid things cost me three places.
  136. THAT WAS FUCKING AWESOME THOUGH! Tretsch says DO IT!

PROLOGUE:

After I have to have a friend take of my socks for me, the beers flow freely, the food truck is dispensing basic fair, and the comradery is on point. Yuri wins and many GORMRs take home some extra bling. It was a good day.

photo credits (in order of appearance): April Williamson, Cole Darche, Hui Chin Smith, Patti Milio Behrend, April Williamson, April Williamson, April Williamson, Angela Brown Quillen, Bonefrog

Barbarian Challenge – 2016

PROLOGUE:
6:55 AM, Noccalula Falls park– Abs and I eschew the fleet of Barbarian Challenge shuttles (buses, golf carts,  ATV pulled wagons) and  take a brisk walk the ¾ of mile from the free parking (a real parking lot. Paved and all) to the festival area

7:05 AM, Festival area – The festival area sits on a wide open plateau. I can see the children’s course off to the left of the main festival area. Spectator tents are lining up along the last couple of obstacles before the finish line. There is a huge blow up Ronald McDonald at the McDonald’s sponsored VIP tent. There are a few food and product vendors scattered about.

7:55 AM, Starting Corral – The rules are explained. This is a MOC race (mandatory obstacle completion) for the competitive hordes (BC’s version of “waves”) except with a twist. You can burpee out (25) of the following obstacles: Monkey Bars, Weaver (40 burpees) Rope climb, and the Rig. Interesting. That ain’t gonna happen.

8:00 AM, Starting Corral – The speech is going a tad long and the barbarians are getting restless. Some are getting ill-tempered and being rude, but I hold my tongue; I gotta concentrate on me, and not falling flat on my face at the first obstacle.

1:00 PM (ha! Just kidding!) 8:05 AM, Starting Corral – The National Anthem is sung, we take the Barbarian oath, and then a chest rattling report of a real 200-pound canon signals the start.

OBSERVATIONS ON THE RUN:

  1. It’s a blistering pace out of the blocks as we hit the first row of High Hay Hurdles. These huge rolls of cattle crunchies take a huge leap and a scramble/vault hybrid to get over. I get into a rhythm by the fourth and final row.
  2. Down and around and it’s the Over/Under logs. Under, tall over, under, tall over. I almost bite it on the last over.
  3. My nemesis appears around the bend after a quick downhill. Just Tires is a carpet of used tires laid flat on the grass. Each rubber ring ready to render racers (especially this clumsy guy) reeling. Running on the side walls helps, except when the occasional low profile tire shows up. Fucking Kumhos!
  4. The heart is getting good and jacked now! So much for starting at a moderate pace.
  5. With a hill in the background and three walls ahead in the middleground, I’m going full tilt on a steep downhill in the foreground trying not to have a fucking yard sale and kill myself.
  6. Raising The Bar is back to back to back 4, 6, and 8-foot walls. I basically use the 4-foot wall as a crash pad.
  7. The heart is at eleven when I hit the base of Kneebow Heartbuster. Good lord! This is a hill a mountain goat would say “fuck no! I’ll find some grass down here!”
  8. A line of people are trudging up the narrow and precipitous trail. Twice I have to bear crawl lest gravity pull me to earth’s sweet bosom 100-feet below.Barbarian Challenge Kneebow Heartbuster
  9. I get to the top as my heart and lungs tell me, well that was a good few miles but my watch mocks me with a mileage count of 1.
  10. We have circled around to the extreme end of the festival plateau and I can see a gauntlet of obstacles off in the distance.
  11. A quick cup of water on the move and it’s off to the Sandbag Carry.
  12. Unlike last year it appears this will be just a simple loop and not an insane carry through obstacles.
  13. As I pick up my +/-30# bag I hear someone admonishing the volunteers; “Make sure you tell the people where to go! You just let your leader go with one over there <pointing to the gauntlet>!” I chuckle to myself. “Oh Yuri, you’ve done it again.”
  14. My heart decides to give me a second chance and I jog my bag (wait, that sounds naughty) down the slight decline.
  15. I get to the turn, I’ve got my heartrate finally down below 1,000 and there ahead is a barb wire crawl. “Ain’t that some shit!” 
  16. Back Scratcher has a slight incline, but it’s fresh dry dirt under all that pointy goodness. Nothing to do but hug it out with my sandbag buddy and roll, roll, roll; roll in zee hay 
  17. Back to the flat plateau and it’s time for a gauntlet.
  18. I jump to the second rung of Cold Flush and make the short climb up to some corrugated culvert pipes (this stuff is ubiquitous in the OCR world, can we all agree from here on out and forever more, that I can shorten the description to just “tubes”. Thank you) that are angled down to a shallow pool. There is a guy already in the tube I’ve chosen and he’s having a hard time scootchin’ down feet first. Head first is the only way to go when the exit is close to the ground/water (unless the water is deep and thus allows you to sink far enough to clear your head on exiting)
  19. The tube is sticky with the humidity and I have to actually pull my way down.
  20. 50 yards gets me to the Big A-Frame, a monstrous 20-foot assemblage of horizontal 2Xs. The roll over technique at the top saves a bit of time, but it does not allow for lingering over the great view to the South.
  21. A quick dash over a very bouncy Teeter Totter (think giant see-saw) and I’m back in the dirt at Low Crawl. There were some OCR love taps given and received as legs and arms flopped around whilst rolling under the barbed wire. Better a shoe to the head than a barb in the butt.
  22. I grab another water on the fly at the first water station (I have no camel in my genes. I never forsake a water station), turn left and bomb down a rocky downhill trail.
  23. I slam on the brakes and let the Icebugs dig in as a volunteer in the middle of the trail directs me to a hard right turn.
  24. Oh sure, Cal’s Cliff starts off with a manila cargo net draped over a gentle slope, but it quickly transitions to a sheer faced, ass-puckering, stomach churning, manila cargo net draped cliff.
  25. I got a girl above me yelling at me to hurry the fuck up while I’m raining down dirt clods onto the dude below me. ”Easy there she-goat!”Barbarian Challenge Cals Cliff
  26. I untangle my foot at the bottom, turn and go down what these Alabama folk call a trail, and what the rest of us call terrifying. Out of fucking control, I let gravity throw me into a guardrail made from three lengths of rope stacked horizontally and strung between two trees. I bounce off like Hulk Hogan about to deliver a clothesline and regain my balance.
  27. The insanely steep “trail” is suddenly made scarier by a huge treefall blocking the way. “Crawl under and waste valuable time, or vault over and drop 4-feet onto a 45-degree slope?” Aww, fuck it! There are downslope trees that will stop me from plummeting down into Black Creek……I think”. I manage to stay upright and not kill myself.Barbarian Challenge Cals Cliff trail
  28. Some nice single track running in the woods along Black Creek gets me into a groove.
  29. As I turn away from the creek the trail turns into a long steady hill up through sparse and scruffy pines. Finger Wall shows up just when I’m starting to have the hill climb grumbles. This is a replica of the middle portion of BattleFrog’s tip of the spear, except without those evil plastic panels, and only half as long.
  30. The sun remains hidden behind clouds. This pleases me.
  31. The trail takes a hard right back on the firebreak. Gravity again shows no mercy as I go careening down a hill even steeper than the hill with the walls. The toe lugs dig in deep, with every footfall a badly placed pebble away from an ass-over-elbows disaster.
  32. I’m dumped straight into the Black Creek and it is fucking glorious! 50 yards of waist deep refreshment!
  33. GAAAAACK! Something is brushing against my leg! I manage not to squeal (out loud at least) like a 7 year-old girl as I realize I’m hung up on a submerged stick or vine. It leaves a parting scratch across my thigh. Disgust is none too pleased.
  34. The exit at the riverbank is covered in barbed wire. The ground is dry and the wire high so it’s an easy uphill bear crawl.
  35. Great! Soaking wet dirt covered hands. Why it’s a perfect time for fucking monkey bars. This is the first burpee option obstacle.
  36. At Monkey’s Choice you can choose between traditional monkey bars or fixed bars that are parallel with the direction of travel. Both far above a pit of muddy water.
  37. I’m cruising through the monkey bars in my typical alternating hand/bar technique when that fucking little idiot in my brain, Fear, hits the panic button on the cerebral control panel. I can feel the confidence flowing out of my hands as the klaxons in my head warn of impending slippage. This is a new and alien feeling. I immediately switch to the two hands on each bar technique for the last three bars.
  38. As I’m standing on the wall at the end of the bars I think “what the hell was that about?! That feeling has never happened before. Joy where you at girl?!”
  39. As I jump down into the water pit I hear the guy in front of me ask the volunteer, “Do I go over or under the wall?” “Whatever you want” says the volunteer. Well color me confused, because though the bottom of the wall is about 10 inches above the surface of the waterline it’s clear it’s a Dunk Wall.
  40. I’m still moving forward while the idiots in my head are running around looking for a white board to run some calculations on the stupidity of that question, when WHAM! OWWWW!!  Motherfucker! I’ve nailed my forehead full blast against the bottom of the wall. “That’s gonna leave a mark!”  (writer’s note; It did. In fact, two marks)
  41. “It’s gonna be that kind of day is it? Man, this race could get ugly” Sadness pretty much has taken over the control board.
  42. Karma is a bitch.
  43. I make my way back into the woods, albeit a bit woozily.
  44. “Another bared wired crawl?!” Gadsden must have gotten one hell of a deal on spools of barbed wire. It’s over sand, and the wire is high enough to do a fast all-fours shuffle without zinging my bubble butt.
  45. As I stand up I can see a creek ahead. At least I won’t get sand chafe on the ol’ clockweights.
  46. Moccasin Crossing is straight across Black Creek. Last year I absolutely crushed my shin against a submerged log, so I’m moving as slow as a pig through an anaconda to avoid the same disaster.
  47. I scramble up the steep boulder strewn bank and head back onto some beautiful and flat single track running alongside the creek.
  48. A Tire Wall appears out of nowhere and it’s an easy, but awkward up and over the three tire columns. Even more awkward on the way down, when a dude is on the way up on the same column, and there’s incidental inappropriate contact. “Hey shouldn’t have been slower, guy. You wouldn’t have had your bawbags brushed.”
  49. The legs aren’t feeling half bad.
  50. Shit! A Weaver made from rectangular aluminum tubes! That’s definitely going to leave some OCR kisses.
  51. I take no pleasure in seeing the confused looks on the racers who have arrived before me and the long line of people doing the optional 40 burpees. Ok……maybe a little.
  52. The weaver is barely wide enough for two people, but I make it work with the guy joining me on this over, under, bruise inducing journey. (tip: if you are on a weaver with someone else, make sure you are feet to feet, unless you want to get kicked in the head and hands….a lot)
  53. The metal is greasy and wet from those before me. Slow and steady is the name of this game. At least you don’t need the wingspan of a condor like BattleFrog’s weaver requires.Barbarian Challenge Weaver
  54. I come off the single track onto a wide gravel path, it’s like a paved 6 lane super highway compared to the technical joys I’ve just been through. (caution: Ironic foreshadowing)
  55. I open the legs up just a skosh and make it a goal to close in on the two guys ahead of me.
  56. I catch them and pass them.
  57. “You’ve just been Greyed young’ns!”
  58. A bend in the path allows me to see the three Reverse Walls Fuck! Three. In. A. Row.
  59. Having 2x cross pieces on the underside of the invert keeps me from having to employ the heel/calf hook method. This pleases me. That methodology tends to send my calves into spasms of annoyance.
  60. A quick water stop, choke down some GU, and it’s back into the woods
  61. What. The. Fuck?! Another barbed wire crawl?! Snake Pit makes for the fifth crawl today. Gadsden must have got this shit for free!
  62. The trail running is beautiful. The weather is fantastic. The breeze? Nothing short of glorious. And those ridiculous firebreak hills are long behind me.
  63. And then I feel it before I see it; a subtle shift in the terrain towards an upward trajectory. I come around a bend and see the trail just disappearing upwards into the woods. Motherfrazzleratsafratzfricka!…Fuck! I drop down to powerwalking gear.
  64. And the hill just keeps going. I try to dial the running number.
  65. “We’re sorry this number has been disconnected and is no longer in service”.
  66. Stupid fucking Cumberland Plateau! Should have eroded faster!
  67. Of course what goes up must come down (as evidenced by the many races I have fallen flat on my face). The woods are back to being beautiful again. All is right with the world.
  68. Sternum Checker comes into view at a clearing in the woods and I have it all to myself. I won’t even have to break stride. With the 2x frame on the ground and the extra log at the bottom, it’s an awkward 1-2-3-vault maneuver. But success is with me today as I clear the top log with my legs never touching the top log. The soft pile of hay makes for a comfortable superhero landing.Barbarian Challenge Sternum Checker
  69. I’m feeling quite ninja like.
  70. Back in the deep woods I hear the distinct twang of a banjo. “Yes!” I was hoping they would do this again. That boy last year cracked me up, with his hootin’ and hollerin’, and lunging out at me, all wrapped up in stereotypical sartorial splendor of overalls, a white T, and a straw hat. This year not so much. The dude is sitting in a tailgating chair twenty feet off the trail, just chillin’ and pickin’. I still smile though. The spirit of it is still the same; we play in the mud and climb things. There’s no reason to be so serious all the time.
  71. My smile quickly fades as the terrain changes once again to an upward tack.
  72. I’m just trying to stay on this dude’s heels I’ve caught up to, but the mental game is flagging.
  73. I come out of the woods and smack into another firebreak, or the same one. Who knows?! “OOO boy! This could go either way!”
  74. Annnnnnd of course it’s up a fucking hill.
  75. Jeep Hill is scorched earth, rock and loose dirt. Visions of post-apocalyptic landscapes swirl in my head as I try to drown out the voice of a girl who has suddenly come up behind me. “I’m not a runner!” she says. “I shouldn’t have done squat day yesterday!” she says.
  76. Anger lies across the ENTIRE control board. “Oh for the love of God, will you shut up!” I think to myself. “Sheesh! Mountain goat level hills certainly bring out the testiness in me. You gots to chill Tretsch!”
  77. My attitude immediately changes when she passes me. Thank you my dear for those pink booty shorts and having squat days.
  78. This hill will never. Fucking. End.
  79. I finally reach the top. The dude I’ve been pacing drops back to say hi to chatty Cathy. I’m able to get a good enough kick to start down the wooded trail first and get some distance between me and the talkative twosome.
  80. I open it up on the smooth downward trail.
  81. The weather really is fantastic.
  82. Holy Shit! Thems some tall ropes! They’re thick and knotless so it’s an easy climb to the bell. It’s a bit nerve racking though with the lack of crash padding. There are a couple of people taking the burpee option. Ain’t no judgment here. It’s really high up.
  83. Another water stop to cool my head off and then it’s across a wide gravel path to drop into the woods again.
  84. The makeup of the trail immediately changes; It’s tighter. More rocks. More roots. More tretscherous.
  85. A volunteer in the trails slows me down while pointing to my right, and next thing I know there is a tall wooden ladder leading down into The Gorge.
  86. Damn! This is some technical running! Not a good place for a spaz like me.
  87. It’s not long before I’m going up again, and then climbing some rocks. I love climbing rocks. I hate climbing rocks when my legs feel like two fucking ingots of lead.
  88. The “trail”, or as I call it, this-fucking-miserable-boulder strewn-not suitable for anything with less than four legs-gnat width gap in the trees, is getting harder and harder on tired legs.
  89. I stumble but catch myself just before I could bash my brain against a boulder.
  90. I hear someone behind me suck in their breath. Obviously impressed with my feline like grace.
  91. A couple of people pass me.
  92. And then the brain shifts. The idiots in my head are off reading manuals or something. I can feel my entire body wanting to downshift. Fucking mental game! I suck at it! I just rolled snake eyes and all I want to do now is lay down with my woobie and just take a nap.
  93. And then chatty Cathy passes me.
  94. Like a gift from the OCR gods, that bright pink just glows against the backdrop of trees and rocks. At that moment I decide I need to follow that amazing a(hey don’t hate me. One has to embrace motivation when one is presented with it. As my friend Rick says, It don’t matter where you get your appetite from as long as you come home to eat)ss. Mother nature and a gym have provided.
  95. This not only keeps me moving, but I actually have to increase my pace. GROAN!
  96. The trail is fucking torturous. These Alabama boys (now don’t get in a tizzy. I know there’s fast Alabama girls. Hell, I got passed by a few. “Alabama Boys” just rolls off the tongue better. Ok, wait….that didn’t come out right. Oh shit! Neither did that. Aw fuck it! You know what I mean!) certainly have a home court advantage.
  97. I make the tretscherous descent down to Black Creek and reach Burpee Beach.
  98. Is that a tiki hut?
  99. I fucking hate burpees. I don’t do them. I don’t incorporate them into my “training”. I think people who like them are spectacularly weird. (Love you. Mean it) But in beautiful surroundings, and some nice sand, I knock out the required 5 flawlessly.
  100. I’m feeling pretty full of myself.
  101. We cross Black Creek for the 600th time. Again I go slowly lest I rack any important bits. I take a few precious seconds and submerge myself completely underwater to cool the engines.
  102. And as I go up another fucking miserable hill climb I realize I forgot to partake in the natural beauty of Noccalula Falls. Again! For the second year in a row!
  103. Oh god does this hill suck!
  104. Just keep the pretty pink in view.
  105. We’re now on a miserable ledge about 50-feet down from the rim of the gorge.
  106. So many beautiful rock faces to play on. Bet there would be some great boulder problems here. “Focus Tretsch, you witless shitgibbon!” well I guess the idiots are back to paying attention.
  107. Another water station comes in view and all I can think about is how in the hell did they get all that down here?! Bless you Barbarian Race.
  108. And the misery just keeps going. But my motivation keeps moving, so I do as well.
  109. I finally break free of a trail more suited for an Alpine Ibex and only have to contend with dirt and roots.
  110. In my exhausted haze and with other, ahem, distractions, I never really realized we had been losing elevation. So here we are pretty much at creek level and I just know the finish line is up. There. Somewhere. Oh the humanity!
  111. Annnnnnnd there it is – A miserable hill of weeds, and roots, and vines, and stubs of saplings. A coronary conflagration that leads right to Kudzu Tire Climb.Barbarian Challenge Kudzu Tire Climb
  112. The tires are like a giant Bridgestone blanket draped across the face of the hill. I’m able to step on the sidewalls until the pitch gets so steep I have to use the bottom inside rims as ladder rungs.
  113. PANIC! My center of gravity gets a bit negative in relation to the slope of the hill and I’m windmilling like Pete Townshend on a solo tear.
  114. Sir Isaac Newton does not win today.
  115. I want to love the small cheering crowd at the top of the hill. I really do. But right now I just want this to be fucking over.
  116. Pink starts to pull away. I long passed her friend. She did the job she didn’t even know she had, admirably. She shaved at least a couple of minutes off my time. Saved me from stopping due to a weak mind. Bon voyage Pink. You keep doing those squats.
  117. I slog through the grassy cross slope on the flanks of the festival plateau. I really hate cross slope running.
  118. The Destroyer is a climber’s jam. It’s just a big fat campus move to the top lip. The soft hay landing is much appreciated.Barbarian Challenge Destroyer
  119. The last hill appears and it’s got Uphill Slide on it.
  120. The black plastic on the ground is being sprayed with water, but it doesn’t seem to be as slippery as last year. I’m able to “hustle” on hands and knees under the barbed wire (that’s six wire crawls for you all not counting at home) without using the ropes.
  121. I can smell the barn!
  122. It’s a quick 75 yard “dash” to the Village Rig
  123. I step up to the raised bar and quickly assess the situation. 4 rings, big gap to rope, ring, rope, ring, big gap to rope, ring, rope, ring, bell. Easy Peasy. I formulate a plan.
  124. Somehow I get across not even remotely following my plan, as if over here was plan A, the original, and I ended up doing Plan Z which I wasn’t even privy to. Fucking idiots in my head.
  125. Ugly still gets me past a few people slower on the rig and the folks doing the burpee option.
  126. It’s even a shorter sprint to the last obstacle.
  127. Barbarian Tower is 4 vertical tubes with aluminum extension ladders on the inside. “I’m so fucking tired”, I think to myself as I look up to the sky, framed by a circle. “That’s a long way up.”
  128. Twenty-feet in the air and I’m looking straight down through a square hole in the platform. A thick manila rope is hung through the hole leading down to a pit with yellow and blue block thingys.
  129. Ain’t nothing but a reverse rope climb. I lock in with the feet and slide on down.Barbarian Challenge Barbarian Tower
  130. The blocks prove to be 12” square squishy foam like the kind you see in gymnastics pits. I struggle to work my way out of the pit. There are two other dudes with me; I’m slightly ahead of one, and on the heels of the other. Fuck, he looks like he may be in my age group! I gotta pass him!
  131. The finish line is only 30-feet away.
  132. I lunge for the lip of the wooden box that contains all this madness. My fingers just graze the edge as I sink even deeper into the stygian depths of this foam nightmare. NOOOO!
  133. I’m floundering. Flapping. Flailing. This fucking flagitious foam has got me flabbergasted.
  134. I finally extricate myself from Dante’s foam pit of hell, having lost two places, and sprint through the finish line.
  135. And just like last year, I am handed a medal, an ice cold bottle of water, and an ice cold and wet golf towel. That towel on my steaming head is decadent luxury of epic proportions.
  136. That was fucking awesome! The BC team somehow beat the awesomeness of last year! I’m proud to say fellow Grey Beret Thumbs (aka Cal Burr) had something to do with that. If you live within 0-5 hours of Gadsden you NEED to do this race. This is an OCRWC qualifying worthy type of race (hello! OCRWC are you listening?). If you decide not to do this race next year, don’t tell me. I just don’t need that kind of negativity in my life.
  137. Tretsch says DO IT!

POSTSCRIPT
There is the usual healthy doses of comradery and post-race adult sodas. We cheer on the racers as they make their way through the rig and we even get on the rig ourselves (when it’s clear) and muck about. The Grey Berets and friends do very well reaching AG podium several times. BC gives out some great extra bling for AG winners, but the real goods go to the overall winners: A sword. A fucking full-on-Conan-like barbarian sword, a beautiful wooden shield, and a cool metal helmet. ‘Twas a good day.

Photo Credits (in order of appearance): Kathy Cole, Kathy Cole, Kathy Cole, Kevin Hunt, Kevin Hunt, Michelle Kiefer Phillips, Michelle Kiefer Phillips, Kevin Hunt

Terrain Race Atlanta – 2016

PROLOGUE
6:10 AM, I20 East – Barreling down the road listening to a Police and Led Zeppelin rock block is a fine way to start the race day. Today, Terrain Race Atlanta is on the menu.

6:25 AM, Waffle House, Conyers, GA – Mr. Pink and Dirty meet me at the Grey Berets corporate board room.

7:55 AM, Parking – Instead of going around my ass to get to my elbow, they actually have me entering the parking lot at the end towards the event and stacking back from there. A minor detail but nice nonetheless for us Georgia International Horse Park (GIHP) regulars.

7:15 AM, Registration Tent – I wind my way through the zig zagging metal barriers to reach the registration tables. This is made somewhat difficult as I am pulling the official Grey Berets beer and gear wagon (shhhh, don’t tell anyone about the beer). I get to the tent and she scans the bar code of the Terrain email on my phone. Very cool tech. I hand her my waiver and she rewards me with my packet and timing chip. <pointing to some very cool sweat bands with the monkey logo> “hey what are those?” I say. “They are for mumble mumble mumble”…..I leave not asking anything further and understanding less.

7:17 AM, Grey Berets Command Tent – We have sent up next to the largest team (which is naturally, my fellow GORMRs) tent provided by Terrain. <pointing to some very cool sweat bands with the monkey logo being WORN on the wrists of my teammates>. “Hey what are those for?” I ask. “they’re the bands for mandatory obstacle completion (MOC). Well ain’t that some shit! I hightail it back to the registration tent.

7:18 AM, Registration Tent – I take advantage of an opening and dash to the same volunteer. “Hey I was supposed to get a sweatband, I’m in the competitive wave. You know, you gave me a timing chip.” She looks at me as if I have two lobsters growing out of my head. I gently but firmly prod her into action. She starts punching some keys on the laptop. “what’s your name again?” She’s not finding anything and I left my phone at the tent. Breath deep. At this point I hear a keening like sound coming from someone who is obviously a volunteer coordinator. “I want to cry right now! You are supposed to give timing chips to only those people who are in the competitive waves or who have paid for them. NOT everyone!” Doh!  Shit’s about to hit the fan. My girl (who is probably part of the problem) finds my name just in time and I get the hell out of dodge with my band.

7:59 AM, Starting Corral–The starting corral was dominated by two soft sided, steel frame supported, above ground pools, pregnant with thousands of gallons of water. These fourteen-yard dumpster sized sacs of H2O are 25’ feet before the starting line inflatable. What manner of fuckery is this?Terrain Race starting corral

8:00 AM, Starting Corral– Competitive men’s 5k is called to the starting corral. We are a bit confused as it seems the 5k competitive waves are scheduled to go off at the same time as those of us in the competitive 10k ones. What the hell are they doing, everyone is climbing into the pools?! Is this some sort of new starting ritual; an OCR baptismal? The emcee keeps the words blissfully short and yells “go!” Everyone clambers out of the pools in a pell-mell rush of legs and feet and water. Well that is the most awkward, messed up way to start a race I’ve seen to date. BUT, considering it’s going to be hotter than two rats fucking in a wool sack today, and it already feels like I’m on a bus tour in Malaysia, perhaps it’s not such a bad thing. (writer’s note: This race originated in Arizona, so this starting line gimmick just may be a way to keep racers from melting in the desert heat)

8:10 AM, Starting Corral– I climb into the pool, and for the first time in the 2016 race season, Chubby Conquistador and his two bulldogs aren’t inclined to go scrambling for the safety and warmth of my body cavity. It’s quite refreshing standing there, but it is a bit awkward. The spectators are lined up along the crowd barriers and I kind of feel like it’s SeaWorld and we’re the seals. I can see the timing mats at the start inflatable, and with Yuri Force in the very back of the adjacent pool, I am confident I will be ahead of him in a race for the first time in recorded history. Well, at least until the timing mats.

OBSERVATIONS ON THE RUN

  1. And we’re off, in one of the most ungainly starts in OCR.
  2. If I had a dollar for every time the start of a race at the GIHP went this direction, why I’d have two Powerball tickets and junior jumbo bucks scratcher. It’s like seeing an old friend, but a friend with dried mounds of earth and rock, ready to snap an ankle.
  3. The 4-foot wall is wobblier than a newborn giraffe.
  4. It’s flat/downhill and fast.
  5. I come out of the woods to a 10-foot roped wall in the firebreak. The ropes are ultra-skinny! The five horizontal 2Xs make for easy work of the climb.Terrain Race Rope Wall
  6. Still flat and fast.
  7. I come out of the woods and jump into the cool mud pits of Mud Moguls. The water is waist deep and the loose dirt mounds loom overhead on the opposite side. A guy is struggling to get out so I give him a boost. He makes the distinct wow-i-did-not-expect-a-hand-on-my-ass-today sound. Hey, I’m a Grey Beret, we help out where we can, when we can. I was not rewarded with a thank you. I follow the spirit of the obstacle and do not go to the edges where it’s clearly lower and easier to get out. It’s a fucking struggle to get out of that first pit. The next two I get a helping hand under my right foot.
  8. “5k to the left, 10k to the right”, yells the volunteer.
  9. Going to the right, I am rewarded with a 6-foot wall.
  10. It’s a nice bit of wooded trail running (I’m sure I’ve never been to these parts before) that leads me to a tire flip.
  11. The entirety of my tire flipping history can be counted on one hand with one finger, and it was a miserable fucking failure. But these tires prove to be smaller and thankfully devoid of water. 2x up and 2x back.
  12. My lack of tire flipping skill and etiquette are laid bare as I flip right into the path of another racer. I apologize profusely as I drag the tire off his toes. (Terrain; COME ON! You placed this obstacle in a clearing not much bigger than my kitchen. It was a wee bit tight for an obstacle that requires some elbow room.)
  13. I come out of the woods and find myself coming alongside the mud moguls, the course tape merging me with the previously seen 5k split. As I run past the pits I shout out to friend and fellow GORMR Michelle.
  14. It’s still fast and flat (or even downhill), but I am not going fast enough for the circumstances. The fitness just isn’t there.
  15. The Monkey Bars sit out in the open of the firebreak, not a volunteer in sight. So much for MOC.
  16. There is no step up bar so I am able to not break stride and just jump up and grab the bars. It’s flat and the bars are nice and thick, but whoa!, they are widely spaced. I use the momentum from the jumping swing to carry me through. I’ m not sure how my more “vertically deficient” friends will manage to even get to the bars.
  17. We immediately drop into the woods for some bushwacking and just like that I am flying through the air.
  18. Fuck!
  19. I hit the ground with my arms back and shoulder rounded. Luckily it’s all pine needles where I land and no one is directly behind me. I slide to an ignominious stop.
  20. First water station finally shows up! As the set-up has its back to me I assume I will see this one again.
  21. It’s getting fucking hot and it’s not even 9AM. The later waves are going to spontaneously combust. That starting line idea ain’t such a stupid fucking idea now, is it Tretsch?! “Yeah whatever, voices inside my head!”
  22. A 4-foot wall (just as fucking wobbly as the first), 6-foot wall, and an 8-foot wall (with a very energetic volunteer willing a struggling racer over), and we are headed back towards the festival area.
  23. I’m following the tried and true path of every Rugged Maniac race at GIHP as I head towards the open field of the festival area on my way to Monkey Balls.
  24. There is a backup despite the five lanes this giant rig has. Chock that up to the combined 5k men’s/women’s and 10k men’s/women’s waves overlapping and no dedicated retry lanes. (Terrain, if you’re going to do MOC, you need to learn how to do it efficiently). The whole thing is suspended over a larger version of the starting corral pools, so even if I fall I’m still winning.
  25. It’s fucking hot, there isn’t a lick of shade out here in the open, and I’m sweating worse than a group of nuns at a cucumber farm.
  26. It starts off with a 15-foot horizontal 2×10 studded with 7 alternating climbing holds. The holds are juggy so pose no issue, but it still takes a concerted effort to keep the body from swinging wildly from side to side as I make my way forward monkey bar style. The deep center girder holding up the 2x10s makes for a challenging transition to the next 15-foot section; 7 suspended beast balls (think baseballs and softballs, but with the texture of a climbing hold) proceeded by a suspended cone.Terrain Race Monkey Balls
  27. Three tries and 9 fucking minutes later I’m back at it with my soggy Monkey sweatband intact. I loathe MOC. I love MOC. MOC is the only way to play.
  28. Thankfully I’m soon back in the woods protected from that blazing orb in the sky.
  29. I spy a large crate with the telltale orange straps of Wreck Bags peeking out. Carry time!
  30. What the fuck?! THIS is all they have? This isn’t enough for one heat let alone the inevitable stack up when the open waves start to merge. Terrain, you are going to have some pissed off people when they have to wait for a bag!
  31. I heave the bag onto my shoulder only to almost throw it behind me. I was expecting the usual 50# and got 25#. And lo! They are ALL 25#. I won’t complain.
  32. As I head up the hill (of course! It’s always a fucking hill) I hear the volunteer bellowing; “Remember the code word and whisper it to me when you return!”. What?! This is an awesome tweak to this ubiquitous obstacle, plus I get to whisper sweet nothings into a stranger’s ear.
  33. This is the first major hill of the day.
  34. It’s shaping up to be a long carry. This would be really sucky with a 50# bag. I finally get to the turn and there on the course arrow sign is a single word. It appears to have been written by a crack addled tweaker with access to a bag full of sharpies, but it is just legible enough to read the word: Monkey. “Well that makes sense”, I think to myself. Or did I say it out loud? I don’t know, it’s fucking hot; my brain is melting.
  35. I run back down at a good clip, afraid somehow I’ll forget a single word only six letters long.
  36. I think I leaned in a little closer than the volunteer would have liked. Perhaps he didn’t care for my husky sexy-time voice as I whispered, “monkey”.
  37. The trail opens up a bit and leads me to a series of corrugated culvert pipes leading down into a mud pit. Yes! I need to be wet….and muddy. A controlled descent head first and splashdown occurs. Oh that glorious water feels so good! All manner of body parts singing the praises of this dirty, disgusting, muddy, but oh so refreshing water. A crawl under some netting, through another set of tubes, more mud and water and I’m feeling refreshed.Terrain Race Spider Web Tubes
  38. Back on to a wide open trail I get to a suspended cargo net thingy spanning the course. It appears the course crosses over itself. I love when they do this during races! Allows me to see people I wouldn’t normally see after the gun goes off. I run under it (no one over my head at this point) and keep on keeping on.
  39. Hey! There’s my friend and fellow GORMR Rachel, heading towards the cargo net thingy and running like she stole something. Like I said, you get to see people you normally don’t get to see.
  40. I am now on the wide road/trail that anyone who has raced at GIHP has been on, at least partially, 100% of the time EVERY time. However, at this point on the road I’m usually going the opposite direction.
  41. Still flat and fast, except my “fast” is slowing down.
  42. I come around a bend and there’s everyone’s favorite hill (anyone? BattleFrog wreck bag carry? Spartan bucket carry? Good times.) with a very tall and steeply inclined cargo net guarding the approach.
  43. The Flip & Crab ™ technique goes off with just a slight sphincter puckering hitch; my hands come away from the net when it bounces under my feet.
  44. The long uphill slog is made more tolerable, power(ish) walking with friend and fellow GORMR Joe. The shit is shot, and laughs are had.
  45. There’s the first water station, which is now the second water station. I’m about 4 miles in.
  46. I’m fucking hot and moist.
  47. A sweet downhill carries me back to the cargo net thing.
  48. It’s a spindly, square metal tubed affair. Widely spaced horizontal bars to climb, a horizontal cargo net to negotiate, and a flaccid angled cargo net for the downclimb.
  49. I have a new horizontal cargo net technique spontaneously created at Panther Run (review forthcoming. Yeah, yeah, I know! It’s been three and half weeks! So sue me. I have my notes and the review is kind of started). I dive out from the approach edge of the net as far as I can, and just before impact I turn sideways to land in a roll. I take the momentum into a couple of rolls and transition onto my hands and knees for a smooth and quick traverse. It works in my head. (do not do this with people around! Obviously)
  50. Back on the wide road/trail and I should be able to kick up the speed several notches. There’s no reason I shouldn’t be fucking flying down this flat road, but my brain just won’t tell my legs to go faster. I need to work on my mental game.
  51. I almost trip over tsome zig zagged 4x4s hugging the ground. I traverse these with great trepidation, as the 4” height from the ground is somewhat daunting.
  52. A mud pit immediately following the balance beam of doom is another fantastic cooling off opportunity. A quick mud crawl under some rope and boards and it’s back to hacking my way through the humidity.
  53. And in the same spot as so many other races, I drop into the woods. Some bushy, woodsy running gets me to the base of a short and very steep hill. Other races have used this location but with a rope. The Icebug lugs prove their worth.
  54. Back out at the very periphery of the festival field brings me to another diverging of the 5k and 10k courses. I take the 10k to the right and have to heave over a 6-foot wall for my troubles.
  55. It’s a 100 yard flat run to the Tarzan swing. I see two ropes hanging in sequence and the volunteer tells me to get to the other side without touching the ground. “no problem”, I’ll just tap into my inner Johnny Weissmuller. Damn if my toe doesn’t scrape the ground, and volunteer Johnny-on the spot makes me do it again. Second attempt I make it to the other side but can’t commit and go swinging back to the beginning. What the hell is my problem?! I said Johnny Weismuller not Johnny Depp (wait for it……). Third times a charm and I’m off and running.Terrain Race Tarzan Swing
  56. I groan as I see which direction the course tape is taking me. it’s to be some exposed granite face running for me today. I fucking hate running on that shite.
  57. The tunnel under the road is especially dark today since the eyes are so wasted from the bright sunlight. I run slowly with high steps.
  58. And just like Spartan we have to run through a concrete culvert. I just love how that feels wearing big lugs.
  59. Annnnnd there’s the exposed granite, radiating a billion fucking degrees of heat straight up my shorts. If this race doesn’t end soon Imma gonna be getting grass stains on my gentlemen’s briefcase back at the festival area.
  60. Will this rock ever end?!
  61. Finally! A water station! Most of the water goes on my melon. I swear I hear a sizzle.
  62. And it just keeps going up. Fuck!
  63. A lone girl, a sad little pile of 40(ish)# sand bags, a 25-yard loop carry (unless your Yuri Force. Ask him about it sometime. It’s a gem of a story.) and it’s downhill granite running time. Downhill is only slightly less sucky. I fucking hate running on granite.
  64. At this point, given the burden of event site knowledge, I could go on autopilot. Yet, somehow I still manage to almost impale my head on a tree branch.
  65. Back under the road, back up the hill and I’m running alongside the VIP parking lot again, looking at the incoming people looking at me. They’re all full of excitement and wonder and naiveté for their upcoming wave, and here I am, about to make a fucking phase change.
  66. The rope climb is 12-feet max. no bell, I need only tap the metal truss holding up the collection of knotless ropes.
  67. I can see the finish line across the festival area and yet the legs still won’t cooperate. Stupid appendages with their need for oxygen.
  68. As the course tape takes me in an out swinging arc, I can see the last two obstacles: a long mud pit and a huge elevated cargo net.
  69. I greedily jump into the mud pit/pool as if it was a marble tub full of Cristal. The finish line is 50 yards away and I’m lingering in this thing like it’s the baths of Caracalla. I finally climb out and “dash” to the last obstacle.
  70. It takes two attempts to walk up the angled, slippery, muddy 4×4 that leads to the edge of the massive cargo net crawl. The Dive & Roll ™ is executed with the grace of a flying rock.Terrain Race Cargo Net
  71. NO!!! a firemen’s pole to get down! Last time I had to do something like this I jammed up my knee but good. I give it a death grip with both hands and feet and slowly slide down.
  72. And just like that I’m across the finish line. My friend and fellow GORMR Gwenn drapes the sweetest piece of bling (apologies to UB belt buckles) in all of OCR around my neck. Seriously a huge heavy spinning monkey head. Best medal to date……from an aesthetic point of view. What can i say, I love the monkey logo.Terrain Race Medal

POSTSCRIPT
9:30 AM, Festival Area – The Grey Berets Start to come across the finish line and we hang out to cheer as each additional one shows up.

10:15 AM, Festival Area – The beer and gear wagon is assaulted and the first beer is cracked. Don’t judge me. It’s Noon somewhere.

11:35 AM, Festival Area – The heat finally gets to me. So, the race shorts go back on and it’s shenanigans at the Monkey Balls. Again it takes me 3 tries. Glad I didn’t keep my street clothes on.

11:45 AM, Festival Area – The biggest team swag from Terrain is truly impressive: aluminum water bottles in Terrain orange with the monkey logo, Terrain coozies, Terrain squeeze water bottles, and Terrain stickers. However, the Aluminum bottles came with the screw-on tops loose (while the bottle itself was sealed in plastic) in the box and the squeeze bottles came with no tops. A true OCR mystery there.

12:15 PM, Festival Area – I can’t take it! I’m out of water, and the beer isn’t cutting it. I MUST have a Coke. Luckily my free beer tab also works for sodas and water at the beer tent. Good move Terrain. The fizzy burn is sooo good.

The rest of the day is spent enjoying the company of my fellow Grey Berets, chatting with fellow GORMRS, cheering on the podium winners, being lightly seared to a medium rare perfection, and general all around foolishness. The walk back to the car is never easy after a day of racing but this time I took a different route and it was fine.

Writer’s note: Terrain race only recognizes top three in men’s/women’s 5k and 10k. With that, they have MOC for the competitive waves BUT within the results they do not parse out those who keep their bands and those who don’t.  Therefore, there is no real way to truly know one’s final results. Caveat Emptor if that kind of thing matters. My personal opinion is if they are bothering with MOC then they need to take it to its obvious extent and make that a data point in the results. 

Photo Credits (in order of appearance): Hilery Stillions Wilson. Jeremy Wisotsky, Terrain Race, Laura Vanella Hawkins, Jennifer Hess Foster

Tough Mudder Atlanta 2016

PROLOGUE-TOUGH MUDDER ATLANTA
6:30 AM, Atlanta – A sudden elbow to the gut rips me out of a nice dream. “Someone is ringing the doorbell!” says my wife. “Oh God! Did you oversleep?!” Through sleepy eyes, the digital numbers of my clock glare at me. The numbers, they’re all wrong! Fuck! It’s 15 minutes AFTER the time I told fellow Grey Beret, Mr. Pink, to pick me up!  I run downstairs to get the door. No one should have to see me in nothing but boxers and crazy bedhead at 6:30 in the morning.

7:00 AM, Waffle House, Fairburn, GA – As ultra-super-duper-high octane-elites, Mr. Pink and I take our race day nutrition very seriously. I get my fill of coffee, bacon, eggs, grits and toast and we head on out.

7:35 AM, QT – My habit, my deeply ingrained rut, the bedrock of my pre-race routine, does not happen. What the hell?! The universe is out of order!

7:55 AM, Bouckaert Farm – The long line of cars traces a sinuous path into the green rolling parking fields of this beautiful equestrian facility. 10 million square miles of open fields and they still funnel everyone down to two people taking money.

8:05 AM, Bouckaert Farm – We start the long trek towards Mudder Village. The air is cool, the sky is cloudless, the sun is blazing, and the gravel road is dusty. It’s going to be a blue bell day.

8:15 AM, Endless gravel road – We’re getting our warm up in by powerwalking. Tough Mudder isn’t a race (…”it’s a challenge”) but, by God, it seems walking from the parking area sure is.

8:45 AM, Mudder Village – My board short pockets are loaded down with Mustard packs, Gu blocks and gels for the whole crew. I’m a walking hot dog stand wrapped in a Vitamin Shoppe bun. And in the other pocket an old school waterproof, disposable camera. You know, with film and a winder thingy.

8:49 AM, Mudder Village – At the control point into the Warm-Up Zone, fellow GORMRs Laura and her sexy man, Howard, are the TM “bouncers”. Extremely official with their number clicker. It’s good to finally meet in person. Hugs and Handshakes (who got what I wonder?) are exchanged.

8:50 AM, Mudder Village – We name drop and they let us in.  We head into the scrum of bodies to loosen up with tight, short-shorts wearing Coach Mud. I’m trying to find our missing Grey and avoid getting hit in the face and the sacred globes with all the swinging arms. It’s proving to be the first obstacle.Tough Mudder Coach Mud

9:15 AM, Starting Corral– We are three Grey Berets (myself, Mr. Pink, and Stretch) and one GBbaby (any potential future Grey Beret under the age of 40).

9:16 AM, Starting Corral–This year we get an emcee with a more serious message. He has us take a knee as he lays down some inspiration. And it keeps going. And going. I’m fidgeting more than an ADHD addled first grader in church, and my knees are barking. Fuck it! I can take my inspiration standing up.

OBSERVATIONS ON THE RUN

  1. And we’re off. We settle into an easy pace.
  2. A mile into the woods and we already have to pee. Getting old is great….
  3. Kiss of mud 0 is the first obstacle to appear (finally!) out of the woods at the top of a hill. It’s a short barbed wire crawl with one pit and a hay bale barrier, but it brings the mud.
  4. It’s a lovely view of the rolling fields in the distance.
  5. We head back into the woods and quickly arrive at Skidmarked.
  6. All the room in the world and we have to make this hard 90-degree approach to this giant angled wall. The transition is more awkward than a middle school dance. This thing is a monster. It takes a running start and a big jump to reach the lip and then carry that momentum to a big heel hook and then crank with the leg to pull up an over. Tires (thus the obstacle name) on the canted backside make a stable place to stand while helping others get over the lip.
  7. The trail running in the woods is just glorious.
  8. A nice downhill gets us to the first water station. The volunteers are handing out cups of water and some kind of pinkish red liquid being supplied by huge spaceship looking coolers perched on spindly steel tripods. I down some water and then eye the liquid of unnatural color. “It’s an electrolyte drink”, says the chipper volunteer. Hoping that it’s not like last year’s Smurf Semen, I take a swig. It’s fucking nasty. Sphincter puckering nasty. Drag your tongue across sandpaper to erase the taste, nasty. Different color, same nastiness, but this year it’s trying to replicate the tropical flavors of the jungle. This is true, if the fucking jungle was made up of Triaminic trees, ball sweat bushes, and castor oil climbing vines. I belly up to the watership and down (see what I did there?) multiple cups of water to cleanse my sensitive and sophisticated palette.
  9. Pitfall shows up soon after. I won’t make the same mistake as last year, and so tread carefully in the watery mud pit, keenly aware of the hidden drops in elevation that await. A volunteer is dousing us with a firehose.
  10. The open field running in the grass is flat but the mowed path is still heavy on the legs.
  11. Shit! I forgot to put on sunscreen. The sun is blazing, but the temperature is perfection.
  12. And there it is, majestically perched on a meadowed hill; King of Swingers. Oh do I have plans for you my lovely steel and wood monster! I climb up to the 12-foot-high platform determined to ring the bell and NOT smack Johnny Spittinseed and his love apples against the water after a caterwauling death spiral. Oh look! There’s a rare siting of Grey Beret All-Star! The intimidation of last year is replaced by shear excitement in the now. I jump and get a good swing. The lache is on point, with no flailing. The bell is rung, and I fall into the water feet first. Sweet!!!! Now it’s time to do what I have been thinking about all week.Tough Mudder King of the Swingers
  13. I’m back on the platform. This time it’s going to be all about the élan, the flair, the pizzazz, the joie de vivre! It’s all just 10 dollar SAT words for fucking show off. I jump, I swing, I release, and wheeeeeeeeee, I execute a reverse flip (aka a gainer) and manage to land it the water mostly feet first.
  14. As I clamber out of the pool, lifeguard lady says, “that was cool, but you were nowhere near the bell.” You think? Wow, tough crowd.
  15. We all go back together to do a team swing. It takes a few minutes and letting some people pass in line to get us all lined up. People will talk for generations about the majesty of that moment, when we swung in perfect harmony…..and all missed the bell.
  16. Oh look! Another water station! There’s goodies! Chocolate Chip cookie dough energy-protein-something or other bars. I take a big ol’ bite. “Hey! That’s pretty good.” I keep chewing and chewing and chewing. My initial assessment obviously wrong. This shit is just not breaking down. It’s transforming into disgusting little fucking pellets in my mouth. I spit it out onto the ground. Looks like a Keebler Elf took a shit in the middle of the road. I choke down a vanilla bean GU to get rid of the bad taste. I avoid the putrid pink piss of the Prince of Darkness.
  17. It’s nice and flat and shady as we run by two beautiful lakes. There is no sprinting.
  18. Mud Mile 2.0 appears – huge, deep gashes in the earf, with piles of dirt between them. We jump down into the first pit, after taking a group picture of course; the “kid” taking the picture eyeing the disposable camera as if it’s some alien object from another world.
  19. Our GBbaby immediately takes point, does a wall squat, and pats his thighs in a brotherly Mudder invitation. We use him as a stepping stool and then turn around and pull his ass up onto the mounds. I immediately nickname him “Thighs”. We repeat this 32 times, or maybe it was 5. I don’t know, it seemed to go on forever, everyone getting good and lathered up with the sweet silkiness of Georgia clay.
  20. We come upon “civilization” as we cross the road being used as a spectator thoroughfare. On the other side I see a huge morass of the blackest, goopiest mud this side of Mississippi in the middle of the course. There is but one thing to do; I jump as high as I can and come straight down, feet first, into the middle of it. It makes a very satisfying “squelch”. I manage to keep my shoes on my feet upon extraction.
  21. A steep hill scramble gets us to the perimeter of another picturesque lake. We are about a third in and the legs are feeling fine.
  22. As we follow the bend in the lake’s edge we spy an idyllic dock where other Mudders seem to be rinsing themselves off. We all have a shit ton of mud in our shoes and agree that’s a fine idea.
  23. Who is this crazy motherfucker in FULL fireman’s kit, oxy tank and mask, and carrying a huge (50 foot?) section of supply hose? And I thought my Gu packets and camera were too much weight.
  24. We hop over the triple tiered round hay bales of Bale Bounds and head straight to the dock.
  25. We practice our flutter kicks while trying to get the mud out of our shoes.
  26. Back into the woods we go and Mr. Pink decides now’s the time to start doing hill sprints in preparation for the Blue Mountains of the OCRWC. Well fuck me! But, I accept the challenge, downshift and hightail it after him.
  27. Sounding like a herd of stampeding water buffalo and making more noise than a playground full of preschoolers, people just automatically moved to the right, as we made our way up the hill.
  28. Well that was unnecessary………my heart wanting to throat punch me.
  29. I can hear the music of Mudder Village! This means absolutely nothing, because I know we still have a long fucking way to go.
  30. We pop out of the woods at the edge of the gravel parking lot behind Mudder Village. And run by the showers. Nothing to see yet since it’s too early. Later it’s sure to be a funny picture of runners looking at showerers thinking, I wish I was them, and showerers looking at the runners thinking, I’m glad I’m not them. Looks to me like the perfect mooning opportunity.
  31. We get past the stables and see the Finish Line side of Mudder Village with electroshock therapy and the towering construction that is frequent flyer’s club.
  32. As we leave the Mudder Village behind, we get a nice downhill on the dirt road, running past the spectator outpost where people in chairs are drinking beers, catching some rays and enjoying “the show”. And by show, I mean us of course; plodding along, weazing like geriatric pugs.
  33. Now back in the fields we climb a hill and come up on Quagmire. It’s a deep rectangular pit with shear faces at either end. It’s another TM example of nonsensical obstacle naming. It is neither a low lying spot of soft wet land nor is it a particularly difficult situation to resolve. Not when you have Thighs running with you! We drop down the 5+ feet, trudge through the shallow water/mud, put Thighs in the wall squat position and hop on out easy peasy lemon squeezy. He stays in to boost a few people out while we help from up top.
  34. I jump back in to see if it’s possible to jump up and mantle out. It is. We extract Thighs and head on out.
  35. From the top of this hill we get a fantastic long range view of the larger meadows beyond. I can see pyramid scheme immediately downhill from us.
  36. I lead the charge, and Grand Jeté my way downhill through a carpet of golden ragwort. I’m jumping and prancing, people are laughing, and it’s just all around general horsefuckery.
  37. A wet, deep, muddy moat separates us from Pyramid Scheme. This was not here last year. What a site it is! If any obstacle screams teamwork, this is it. A huge angled wall covered in white, obviously slippery, plastic panels laden with human ladders. The bottom 2×4 lip being used to brace the “base people’s” feet is a good 3 feet above the pit. There is a rhythm of open lane, human ladder, open lane, human ladder, etc…, which allows one to climb to the second person’s shoulders and then get pulled up from the top by someone hanging by their ankles from the top. It is no joke making my way up.Tough Mudder Pyramid Scheme
  38. I get to the top and I am immediately recruited, along with another fellow, by this VERY fit young woman to lower her down by her ankles so she can help her teammates. She helps a couple of people including Mr. Pink and then has to abandon the cause as her teammates have shifted too far left. I go ahead and get grabbed by the ankles. Wait, that didn’t sound right. Stretch and GBbaby are pulled to safety.
  39. We yuck it up while running along the edge of the main meadow. Everyone is in good spirits.
  40. The mustard supply is dipped into as a prophylactic measure.
  41. The gravel road along the beautiful lake is dead flat and not unwelcome.
  42. As we come up to the sign for Hero Carry (on a flat gravel road? Sweeeet!), this tiny wisp of a girl yells out “Hey, is that Tretsch?!” Why yes it is! It’s my GORMR friend Lara and she is in need of a hero to carry. Before my boys can jump on this (you know where I’m going with this) I offer up my slim 184 pound self. I know, I know – a true gentlemen. I drape myself over her shoulders by just leaning over (she is that tiny, but the quads?! Boom!) and she carries my ass THE ENTIRE WAY, no stopping. To quote a rarely used saying in the OCR world, “she went full beast mode”. And on the second  leg of the carry, while my boys are carrying two hundred pound bundles of sweat and stank, I’m sprinting with wee little (but fucking strong!) Lara over my shoulder caveman style. I. Have. No. Shame. Tough Mudder Hero Carry
  43. More heavy grass running gets us to Funky Monkey (no longer 2.0 anymore? When will we see 2.1 release?). We are all dry as German comedy, so I am not worried at all about the thin monkey bars. I hurt my lat/shoulder at Savage Race in April and hadn’t been able to do even one pull-up until just a few days prior to today. So, that was a bit of a concern. The self-imposed hiatus from upper body exercises proves to have been the right choice and I get through without even a twinge. The other two Greys sail through and then it’s GBbaby’s turn. We cheer as he makes his way across the bars, we holler as he makes it through the trapezey thingy, and we are just short of getting up in his grill, drill instructor style when he stalls out, but then digs in and finishes out the traverse bar. It’s his first time making it through and we couldn’t be happier.Tough Mudder Funky Monkey 2.0
  44. The Greys go back for another round.
  45. Will this fucking grass ever end? At least it’s flat and mowed shorter than last year.
  46. Fuck! I hate crawling under nets on the ground. Devils’ Beard has enough slack to do a hunched over walk. Going backwards makes it easier, but it’s hell on my shirtless back. I bear crawl the last few yards. Mudders at the end are helpfully holding the net up and taut.
  47. Well, this is interesting, Birth Canal has had a release update and is now Birth Canal 2.0. The difference is immediately apparent. Instead of crawling underneath and along the length of the water filled vaginal walls (oh please! This obstacle is fertile material for sophomoric humor. It’s like TM is trying to egg me on with such a name. I can push these jokes out all day. So take a deep breath and relax) we will now crawl perpendicular to them. This proves to be MUCH harder than last year. I strain a stomach muscle making the final breach.Tough Mudder Birth Canal
  48. The third water station is like seeing an old friend, but now this friend has upped his game and brought port-a-johns and bananas (any correlation is purely coincidental I’m sure.) I take a conveniently cut half of a perfectly ripe banana while another chipper volunteer is slicing her way through a mountain of additional bananas. Oh glorious musa acuminate, your delicious flavor touches my soul! Again I avoid Satan’s sack syrup.
  49. I pass out some Gu blocks to chew on. Their fruity and sweet flavor is a good little pick me up.
  50. I really hate this fucking grass.
  51. Cage Crawl shows up at a perfect time as I’m starting to really feel the heat of the sun. Man, am I gonna have a burn when this is done! This is the first obstacle that has a Legionnaire’s (that’s a Mudder who has completed more than one TM) lane. I suss out the two different versions but do not see any particular detail that makes them terribly different. They both are chain link fence suspended just scant inches above the surface of a long water pit. I love this obstacle. Macon Mud Run has one like this (without the water being sprayed in your face). It’s peaceful pulling yourself along using the fencing, with only your face above the water. It’s quiet. The spraying water every few feet ruins the Zen, but this is Tough Mudder, not a sensory deprivation tank at some shi shi new age spa. I gotta remember to close my fucking mouth!Tough Mudder Cage Crawl
  52. The wind picks up just in time for us to head into the shade of the woods, soaked from head to toe.
  53. We play sun patch hopscotch.
  54. The flat trail takes us through a pleasant pine forest. This part of the 2015 TM was, and I quote from last year’s review, a “slippery, muddy muckfest of a trail”. Today it is mercifully dry. So my hips, knees, ankles, pretty much my entire fucking lower half is pleased.
  55. Ok, TM HQ, you need to have a come to Jesus meeting with the Department of Obstacle Designation (DoOD!). Last year the Liberator was a net laid over the trail, this year it’s a canted peg board ten feet high. Neither year does the name make any fucking sense. Did you not want to throw away your preprinted signs?
  56. The Liberator also has a Legionnaire’s lane, however this time the difference is immediately apparent; the regular lane has two rows of peg holes by utilizing two pegs while at the Legionnaire’s lane there is but one peg for one row of holes. We of course want to do the harder one, so we go for the single peg.
  57. Each lane on the wall is bordered on each side by a continuous notched 2×4 that starts about 6 feet off the ground, so its crystal clear that the beta is to pull yourself up with the peg, get your feet in the notches and top out easy peasy. It takes a couple of jumping tries to get the peg into the highest hole possible. This of course elicits all manner of crude jokes. At this point, calling me sophomoric would be generous. Once that’s achieved it’s a fairly straight forward climb from there. If this wall was vertical, now THAT would be interesting.
  58. More running through the woods gets us to Balls to the Wall (now here’s a name that makes sense. Especially for someone who “inconveniences” his conkers at almost every race). These 12 foot walls are hung with large diameter ropes with huge knots (which just get in the fucking way). The two 2x ledger boards at the 1/3 points make it an easy climb. The horizontal bar holding the rope makes the transition very awkward and rather “exciting”. I go around and do it a second time to get rid of those butterflies at the transition. Doesn’t work.
  59. We have to force GBbaby down to move on. The man loves to help people.
  60. A barely controlled downhill pell-mell run (oh! The kneecap is barking!!) gets us back to the open meadows. I’m pleased with myself that I stayed on my feet. And in fact, have not taken my usual fucking face plant all day long. It’s a good day.
  61. The 4th water station offers up blessings in the form of fellow GORMR Patti, who yells “Grey Berets!” at us from a distance with uplifting enthusiasm. Your volunteer experience is not complete until you get felt up…..err, I mean hugged, by a gaggle of Grey Berets. I’m still avoiding Beelzebub’s bathwater.
  62. Blockness Monster was invented for WTM 2015 and I was pumped to tackle it after hearing about how fun it was from GBbaby for the last few miles. Imagine the shape of a box of aluminum foil. Now imagine it 20 feet long, 4 feet square, covered in black plastic panels, skewered with a rotating axle, and partially submerged in the water.Tough Mudder Blockness Monster
  63. We eagerly jump into the chest-ish high water. The key is to get the block moving (with numerous people needed. These things are fucking beasts), grab the corner as it rises above your head, and let the rotational mass carry you to the other side. The fun part is staying on and riding it like some kind of cubist log rolling competition. This benefits the people on the approach side who can just “grab-n-go”. I spend a few minutes doing my best lumberjack imitation.
  64. We have a blast playing around on the two blocks.
  65. My watch vibrates as I climb out of the pool for an even 10 miles. Oh, we on the downhill side now boys!
  66. I really. Hate. This. Grass.
  67. Everest 2.0, a white plastic coated ¼ pipe, sits alone in the field. Blinding white against a dull green background. The main access road is only 50 feet away, given ample opportunity for people coming and going to watch the madness.
  68. I wave the people off from grabbing my hands and make my approach. Now, I am fully aware of the curved, deep (16 inches versus a standard 2x), plastic coated top lip from last year’s race, so I know what to expect. But, my tiredness, and frankly nonchalant approach, leaves my fingertips an inch shy of the lip. I wave off everyone for a second time and the attempt is successful. I gladly accept help to pull myself over the top.
  69. We all start chipping in to help other Mudders get over the top, but after helping GBbaby my shoulder/lat issue flairs up and I have to call it quits on the assistance.
  70. Pink grabs a volunteer and points out a piece of the plastic panel that is torn, its sharp point just waiting to slice someone open.
  71. We pass the Taj Mahal of horse stables on our way to Cliffhanger. This thing is a fucking equine extravagance. A pony palace. A stupendous stud structure.
  72. For the first time today we come to a screeching halt due to a long backup. The cargo net draped over the shear cliff face is only wide enough for three people abreast and the volunteers are keeping too much of a vertical distance between the racers.
  73. As the wait goes on, knees start to hurt, backs start to seize up, and I can feel the sun crisping my unprotected skin.
  74. We finally get our turn and waste no time clambering up, and then head back into the cool shade of the woods.
  75. Pink decides it’s time for another fucking hill sprint. And it’s a long one. By now we are over 11 miles in. Fuck! Oh well, the Blue Mountains ain’t get any shorter.
  76. With my heart still pounding like Ron Jeremy, we arrive at Berlin Walls. These 10 foot monsters aren’t too bad with the step board at about 12” off the ground and everything being dry. A running start does the trick. We hang around for a bit helping out.
  77. Uh oh, I feel a wee flutter in the left calf and we are coming up on Arctic Enema 2.0.
  78. I maintain my cool (doh!) after sliding into the water under the chain link fence, but as soon as I climb over the wall at the midpoint of the dumpster, the cold slams into me like a freight train. I’m just waiting for the inevitable calf seizure.
  79. I have written many words and dropped many a genitalia euphemism talking about cold water obstacles, be it Savage Race, Almighty Run, Tough Mudder, and many others. BUT, this year’s Arctic Enema 2.0 is, by far, the COLDEST FUCKING DUNK…EVER! The water is so chock full of ice that it seems to have stalled between phases and become this horrific viscous slurry. Moving through it is an effort. I can feel my body shutting down as I strain to climb out.
  80. It takes a moment of vigorous thumping on the thighs to get some feeling back and then we’re off running to finish this lark.
  81. We round the final bend and see the choice between Electroshock Therapy and the Legionnaire’s choice; Frequent Flyer’s Club. There is no choice for any of us, we choose the Legionnaire Lane. I could get on my soapbox and rant about how fucking stupid and dangerous electroshock therapy is but I don’t want to start a war between the masochists and the realists.
  82. We stop at a tent to get our Legionnaire’s head band (2x for me) and I couldn’t be happier that it’s fellow GORMR Peter McNairy putting the band on my noggin. Inappropriate hugging is shared.
  83. GBbaby stops us just before get to FFC and asks us to “huddle up”. Becoming very emotional and obviously holding back tears, he tells us today is the anniversary of his father’s battle with cancer and how grateful he is for us and this day. We give him a Grey Beret group hug (as I have said before the Grey Berets like to hug it out). I turn away toward the obstacle because I’m getting some major dust in my eyes.
  84. FFC is a towering single sided ziggurat (that makes it technically giant stairs, ok, sue me. Ziggurat is a cool word!) We heave ourselves up to the first tier and then the second. There is a guy stuck there, with crippling cramps, trying to get to the last tier. We lift him straight up to the final tier.
  85. I make my way to the edge and assess the situation. 12-15’ above a stuntman’s airbag (which is BARELY wide enough for the three lanes), and long poles, hung with platinum rig nunchucks, jutting out from each lane above our heads. The finish line is but 15 feet beyond the airbag. I guess the object is to see which nunchuck you can touch. The furthest one, colored orange of course, is about 8 feet out. There is no room to back up and take a running start.
  86. “Land on your butt!” the volunteer yells, and then sighs with disgust and rolls her eyes as the dude next to me jumps and lands on his feet. Pffft! Hasn’t he ever watched a stunt show?!
  87. I pull out my disposable camera. I have one frame left. I jump, while taking a selfie, and land on my butt. Since I had to literally send the camera off to get developed, you my dear readers, will have to wait to see if this level of jackassery was captured on film.
  88. Getting off the airbag is a combination of awkward rolling and flailing limbs. Never has there been a more ungraceful finish to an OCR.
  89. I step on the finish line, stop my watch, and get my orange headband. 12.2 miles has come to an end. But wait! I turn right around to go back and do FFC again. I’m gonna touch that furthest nunchuck!
  90. I grab the middle lane again (is the bag moving? There seems to be less room at the left lane!), and jump! I miss the last nunchuck by a finger length! Damn!
  91. I go back around and climb back up. It has gotten crowded at the center lane, for obvious reasons. I don’t want to make the boys wait too long watching all my foolishness, so I grab the left lane.
  92. I hear the screams below of suckers going through electroshock therapy.
  93. Fuck ME! This bag has moved! Dropping a plumb line would surely show the edge of the air bag only a couple of feet from my starting position. Gulp! I’m going to have to jump out and to the right while trying to hit the nunchuck with my left hand. Zoinks!
  94. I bend the knees, spread the feet, and spring forward! And the world stopped, no external stimuli getting through my grey matter, and I floated through the air, my eyes squarely on the prize. I wish it was a bell, because I smacked the shit out of that last orange nunchuck. I land squarely on my ass, thankfully on the air bag. I’m sure the volunteer is pleased.
  95. Annnnnnd I’m done. What an awesome day!! The course was fantastic, the obstacles fantastic, the companionship fantastic. Whether you walk or run, grab some good friends and do this challenge at this location. Tretsch says DO IT!

POSTSCRIPT
1:00 PM, Mudder Village – I go through the free swag receiving line (I see the bottles of that fucking nasty electrolyte drink and make the sign of the cross. Begone spunk of Satan!), avoid the energy bars, and pick up a sample size of Secret over The Old Spice, because you know, it’s strong enough for a man but made for a woman. Besides, I don’t want to smell like my late, great, grandfather. The shirts are a nice technical Tee in a sweet grey color.

1:30 PM, Mudder Village – I am showered and smelling quite good actually. Someone had brought a bottle of Crew body shampoo. And though I smell like a desperate millennial, at least I’m mostly clean. It is a bit disturbing to see dirt on the Secret after I freshen my pits. Missed a couple of spots I guess.

1:45 PM, Mudder Village – With beers in hand we slump down to the ground under the shade of tree and shoot the shit. All manner of GORMRs are around and the socializing is on point.

3:00 PM, Mudder Village – Mr. Pink and I make our way towards the exit. We eyeball a mini fitness course being sponsored by the Army (Sorry Dad. Semper Fi!). “you wanna do it?” I ask. “Sure”, Mr. Pink replies. We sign up and I line up to go first. Push a weighted sled 30 feet, do 6 pull ups, low crawl back to beginning, 20 decline push-ups and then pull the sled back to the starting line. I about die. Mr. Pink absolutely crushes my time. A take-me-out-to-the-woodshed kind of beating. I blame it on my shoes. We both get cool t-shirts.

3:10 PM, Endless gravel road – We stroll back to the truck, reliving the day and enjoying the spectacle of our surroundings. It was a good day.

Savage Race Georgia – Spring 2016

Chapter 1
That fucking shaggy bastard, Boreas, was making a rough day of it despite the blue bell skies and the blazing sun; his gusty temperance having finally worked through my defenses and chilled me to the bone. Cursing the winged old fool, I stood there exposed atop a high platform and took stock of my situation. I was fucking cold; I was covered in ten pounds of goopy Georgia mud, and I was getting tired. But, I had a fantastic view of rolling hills, verdant fields, and forests lush in spring splendor. There were scores of wet, dirty people running about. Then I looked down. Fifteen feet below, the sun glinted off water the color of hot chocolate or coffee with cream. This was going to be less Swiss Miss and more frozen crappucino. I just didn’t want to get wet for the fourth time today. I was frozen in place both physically and mentally. It was just so nice and toasty at breakfast this morning…….

Chapter 2
2 hours 50 minutes earlier….

7:05 AM, Waffle House, GA – It is dry! Gloriously dry! It has not rained in days, the sun is coming out, and the skies are clear! It is fucking cold for April 9th; Forty-six degrees….but it’s dry! Perhaps the curse of rain is finally lifted.

7:15 AM, Waffle House, Ackworth, GA – Fuck! Could it be any hotter in here?! You wolf down a plate of eggs, bacon, grits and toast washed down with several cups of coffee and next thing you know you’re sweating like a hamburger under a heat lamp. Muy caliente! I take off any more layers and Gladys the wonder waitress will be giving me tips.

7:30 AM, QT, Dallas, GA – Taking care of official Grey Berets business

7:51 AM, Moonlight Stables – I pull into the venue and immediately see a magnificent horse strutting in a hilltop paddock. Head high, chest out; the dude is a stud. No, literally, he is a stud. Boy is packing some serious heat.

7:52 AM, Moonlight Stables – I see Sam Abbitt and stop to say hi. He’s a vision of roll up-your-sleeves-leadership. As I prattle on about how dry it is, he mentions how cold it is. Bah! I say not a problem! He has a worried look on his face.

7:54 AM, Moonlight Stables – The gravel road is dry. The grass field used for parking is dry. Hell, I’m even kicking up clouds of dust! It’s as if I’m in some sort of alternate universe, where it never rains in Georgia on Savage Race day.

7:55 AM, Moonlight Stables – As I load up the beer….I mean, OCR gear wagon I start to really feel how cold it is. The little bastards of Aeolus are full of bluster today! My hands, tender appendages that they are, start sending me WTF signals to my brain, as in “where the fuck are some gloves?”

7:58 AM, Moonlight Stables – Walking to the festival I think about the 7 obstacles incorporating water, 5 of which are full submersion, AND 2 of which are in the first mile and a quarter. And of course there are the 4 obstacles, should you fail, send your ass straight into the drink. Pffffft! I never fail those and the sun is blazing. She’ll be right.

8:00 AM, Moonlight Stables – The line for SavagePro check-in is long, but I’m chill (literally) ‘cuz there’s plenty of time.

8:05 AM, Moonlight Stables – Fuck! I did it again! Just like last year, I’m not standing in the line with my bib# range. Neither is anyone else it seems, because the volunteer at the table is lonelier than a moisture farmer on Tatooine. So I make a beeline to her and breeze on through. A stampede of realization quickly follows behind me.

8:10 AM, Savage Festival Area – As usual Colossus throws a large shadow over the festival area with its looming presence. However there are many other obstacles within close proximity to the start line, merch tent, stage, three food trucks, beer tent, finish line etc. I can see the Teeter Tuber and the Rig from the Grey Berets tent.

8:11 AM, Savage Festival Area – Sweet! The Grilled Cheese truck is back! Thank you eight pound, six-ounce baby Jesus.

8:12 AM, Savage Festival Area – Speaking of the Rig, I need to go check that new bad boy out. Let’s see here: ring, ring, ring, ring, rope, rope, shovel handle thingy, shovel handle thingy, rope, rope, stripper pole, stripper pol, bell.  Oh man! this thing is a go for sure!

8:25 AM, Savage Festival Area – The damnable wind is really making it glass-carving-nipply out. There will be no team shirtless for this kid. The full kit will be required.

8:45 AM, Savage Festival Area – Gear is on, warmup is done, and it’s time to head over to the start line for the SavagePro pre-race briefing.

Chapter 3
Observations on the Run:

  1. The starting corral feels warmer with all the bodies and the emcee getting us into an ol’ fashioned frenzy. This won’t be so bad. The sun is out after all.
  2. Again Beelzebub’s blue fart cloud is ten feet after the start line. It tastes of dread and despair and smells of the Third Circle of Hell’s bathrooms. Really it just tastes like shit and burns the throat.
  3. Some quick – I mean going out hot kind of quick – open field running, then into the trees, back out into the open, through Backscratcher and it was on to the first of Savage’s new obstacles, Squeeze Play.Savage Race Squeeze Play
  4. It appears Savage HQ raided an eco-commune and stole all their plastic rain barrels. They then strung these barrels through (on their long axis) with poles and suspended them over two mud pits.
  5. Fuck me two ways to Saturday! That water is cold!!! The first row of hanging barrels were not terribly low. I get fully wet but my head is not forced underwater as I go under the barrel. I am close enough to the guy in front of me to take advantage of the second barrel on its outgoing swing, thus avoiding being squeezed. I am not so lucky on the third barrel. It lives up to its name and I am forced face down in the mud and water. It’s so fucking cold! And to finish it off, a log so low that it required another face plant.
  6. I am soaked from head to toe, it’s freezing out, my love spuds are screaming holy hell, and I still have 5.5 fucking miles left to go.
  7. Thor’s Grundle (another full soaking) and Low crawl sit squarely in the trail out in the middle of the woods. The trails are beautiful and hilly and they are gloriously dry. Every footfall meets Mother Earth with grippy stability. My knees and hips are pleased.
  8. My hands are fucking cold. Time to grab handfuls of dry leaves and pine needles that have been sitting in the sun to dry the hands and “warm” them up.
  9. We pop out of the woods and immediately feel the wind. The sun is welcome though. Beyond is On The Fence (where “pipe dreams” used to be, methinks). This is the second new Savage obstacle. Two 7 foot sections of chain link fence, tethered together (about a foot apart) with chain, and suspended (by chain) over water.Savage Race On The Fence
  10. This is brutal on cold hands! But memories of fence climbing delinquency in my youth offer funny distractions. The lugs on my Icebugs prove effective in “grabbing” the chain link. If the two sections of fence were not tethered together this obstacle would be a bit more challenging.
  11. I grab a bottle of water (the volunteer had to scramble to get me one with a cap since they had so kindly pre opened several cases worth. With my trusty board shorts, I can take one for the road and not have to stop again) on the way to Big Cheese a hundred yards away.Savage Race Big Cheese
  12. The hommage to fromage is a sight to behold! Savage Race’s 3rd new obstacle has gotta be twelve feet tall, it’s Savage blue, it’s surface is faceted and it’s peppered with 6” holes. Looks like a target for cannoneers. The holes are randomly placed so it’s an easy – oooh look! They started cutting a hole here but said fuck it, and didn’t finish – scramble up to the top. A vertical ladder gets me back down to grade.
  13. Back in the woods the winds are calmed but the sunlight is dappled and loses its warming intensity.
  14. Fresh handfuls of warm leaves are in order.
  15. Fuck! the heavy thick grass at the edge of woods is such a drag to run through. And now I’m in the shade AND getting blasted by the wind.
  16. Just. Keep. Fucking. Moving.
  17. A quick(ish) jog through Lumberjack Lane (only one 4×6 this time! Easy Peasy) passes by the SavageJR course and gets me close to the festival area. I can see mighty Colossus crowning the hilltop; magnificence writ in blue painted lumber. Silent, brooding, dry! Waiting for the vanguard of the Pro Wave to arrive.
  18. Pole Cat, the 4th new Savage obstacle is 5 lanes of bizarreness located over a pool of water formally occupied by Nuttsmasher (long balance beams over water). It’s a weird traverse with a low bar for hands and a high bar for feet. There is a gap transition and the bars change heights. It’s a sideways shuffling downward dog. I get a bit confused and have to come back for a restart. I’m just glad there isn’t anyone in the lane next to me. This setup, when busy would have people’s feet from the next lane, at your head. And should you cheat and use the high bar you would pay the potential price of stomped fingers.Savage Race Pole Cat
  19. It’s a short downhill to Venus Guy Trap. I’m still out in the open, and it is still windy. Savage’s inverted wall has to be the tallest in OCR. It’s a monster, with no horizontal boards for assistance, and requires a good jump (I’m 6’-0”) to even reach the lip.
  20. After a few feet of fucking cold knee high water (I was just starting to feel dry!) they’ve turned another angled wall 180 degrees to become a ramp wall. With no room for a run up it’s helpful there are two 1x mounted to the face of the wall.
  21. Some nice trail running and plenty of leaves and pine needles keeps the chills at bay and the hands somewhat in working order.
  22. I cruise through Kiss My Walls and manage to avoid face planting or racking my conkers on Sawhorses. Things are looking up.
  23. Back in the woods, I know at this point we are in for a long haul of trail running.
  24. Fuck these hills! But, the leaves are nice.
  25. I have kept the coldness at arm’s length up until now, but I can tell it’s starting to creep into my core. I don’t have another gear to shift to so I can get the blood pumping. I try to quiet the disquiet.
  26. What kind of fucking asshat do you have to be to leave an empty water bottle in the middle of the trail?! I pick it up and add it to my dry leaves and pine needle gloves.
  27. Me So Thorny is the lone obstacle in these back forty woods. A zig zaggy barbed wire tunnel crawl on dry forest floor, bathed in a patch of sunlight, is not unwelcome.
  28. Having studied the course map, the previous evening, I leave the sheltering embrace of the woods knowing the majority of the rest of the race will be out in the open. This worries me.
  29. As I prance through a pasture of poop – why it’s positively a pas de bourrée couru around a plethora of pony pucks – I reach the top of a hill and feel the full brunt of that fucking wind.
  30. After Barn Doors and some nice flat running, it’s straight up a fucking steep hill to Slippery Incline.
  31. Well, well, this is interesting! We are approaching the backside of the obstacle. A ladder climb first and then the incline down.
  32. I pass two people sliding down on my posterior in lieu of rappelling down with the ropes. Wheeeee! (Writer’s note: Dear readers, I have seen complaints and questions about this set up. It wasn’t a mistake and it wasn’t wrong. It was just different. This is OCR, not track and field. Besides it was dry as a bone, there wouldn’t have been a slippery thing about it.)
  33. Fuck this heavy grass! They need fewer horses out here and more goats.
  34. Mud-n-Guts is not as thick and porridge-y as usual, but it is ice fucking cold! The barbed wire is strung a bit high, so I cruise through on hands and knees. My bubble butt only gets zinged a couple of times, but my hands feel every bit of the frigid mud.
  35. I crawl out the other end, shake off as much mud as I can and head to Davey Jones’ Locker, fifty yards away. 

Chapter 4 
I snap out of my cold-induced reverie and come back to the present. I’ve got to get moving! I can’t stand here any longer and watch racers ahead of me getting further and further away. Fuck it! I take a huge leap outward to shorten the post jump swim, my whole body tensing up waiting to be swallowed by the arctic abyss, and fell. I hit the water flat-footed with arms extended to lessen the depth I would go under. The water is warm! It is fucking WARM! As I swim out I realize for the water to feel this “warm” my body must be really cold. This can’t be good. I clamber up the cargo netting, stand up, and immediately feel the horrible combination of cold wind and wet skin. It’s time to giddy up, and now all I can think about is “we haven’t done shriveled Richard yet! Get it together Tretsch, everything coming up is in your wheelhouse. Just keep fucking moving!”

Chapter 5

  1. Shockingly, given the cold, I have been cramp free up to this point, but the Great Wall has me worried as I tend to cramp when negotiating the tall walls.
  2. It goes off without a hitch or inconvenienced body parts.
  3. I skirt along the edge of a lake then turn inland up yet another fucking hill. I need to move to Florida!
  4. MY hands are absolutely on fire with coldness.
  5. I cross over the gravel road with Blazed to my left and Shriveled Richard to me right and head into the woods.
  6. More dry leaves and pine needles for the hands. Mother Nature provides and the Dude abides.
  7. I am not in the woods very long and then it appears; A 14-yard dumpster of pure icy hell. The water is shit brown and filled with ice. I’m so cold I give zero fucks. I mean how bad can it be at this point? Nevertheless, I won’t be taking tea in the motherfucker, so I jump all the way to the dividing wall, swim under and pop out at the other end.
  8. For the love of all that is good and Deadpool related, THAT is the coldest water I have ever been in! Fuckballs! I’m literally choking on my testyclods, they’ve retreated so far into my body!
  9. I jump out and every appendage is a useless stump, and 200 feet away is Sawtooth.
  10. You. Have. Got. To. Be. Fucking. Kidding. Me?!
  11. I run towards it pounding on my legs, my arms, my body; anything to get some sense of feeling to return.
  12. Sawtooth sits on a leveled pad on the side of a hill. It’s giant splayed leg “M” of monkey bars spanning 35 feet of water. I head to the approach end which faces the slope and the sun. I lay down on the sun warmed ground for a few seconds and bury my hands into a pile of dry grass clippings. The wind has not abated.
  13. I dust myself off and pick a lane. Mmmm? Bars aren’t so grippy as last year. My hands and the metal bar are the same temperature. The going is good, though I’m not driving with my knees and core like I should be, thus wasting energy that I don’t have to drive with my knees and use my core. It’s a fucking paradox. The transition at the tooth goes well. I’m heading on the downhill run, right hand to bar, left hand to next bar, right hand to bar, left hand to……………….nothing. For the first time ever on Sawtooth I fall into the water.
  14. Ain’t that some shit!
  15. I get out dazed and cold. I quickly go back to the hillside and lay down. I’m not the only one. I give it a couple of minutes. I’m being passed! Fuck!
  16. I pick a different lane, but this time go with exquisite slowness and care, changing the alternating hand technique, to a hand/hand to each bar style. I concentrate on my legs and core. The other side is reached.
  17. By now my hands are dry and have feeling in them again and fuck it if I don’t have to do Log-a-Rhythm almost immediately. This is an over-under incorporating logs over a water pit. My body just doesn’t care anymore, but I go through contortions to keep my hands out of the water. Going under the logs I look like a surgeon just coming out of the scrub room. Awkward at best to do, probably funnier then hell to watch.
  18. Back into the woods for the last bit of trail running and, you guessed it, I pick up some leaves and pine needles.
  19. Come up on a hill – the end is near and I can smell the barn. Hell I can HEAR the music – so there’s no more walking, I’ve got ground to make up, and then the woods end and there is Wheel World. All is fairly quiet, people wise. There is not but a couple of racers, the volunteers and a few spectators.
  20. 6 lanes, each with 5 spinning 30 inch hexagons made out of tubular steel, all over more fucking water. I did it last year I can do it again this year. I make my way. It’s ugly but I’m moving, and then at the 4th wheel my left hand slips. And for the 5th time today I get wet from head to toe.
  21. I climb up the ladder and out of the pool. A strange calmness comes over me. My mind is weirdly blank. I’m not cursing outwardly or inwardly. All the festival area sounds, the general noisiness, the movement of other people fade away, and I sense nothing but my breathing and the movement of my feet and arms as I return to the approach side. I stand there for a few moments looking at nothing. Feeling nothing. Then I pick a new lane.
  22. And at the exact same distance I stall out. I can’t get the wheel to spin. My calmness now working against me as my brain won’t kick in the fight or flight surge I need to do……something, anything.
  23. I fall.
  24. As I start to exit the pool for the second time, I become aware of sounds and people yelling, and of my coldness. I snap out of my daze and immediately decide I need to warm the fuck up. So I head back in the direction I had come from. I run to an open spot at the edge of the woods and the trail with a single tree and a thick carpet of sun soaked leaves. And there I lay down and bury my hands and try to absorb some of their warmth.
  25. At the edges of my mind a worry starts to form; an idea that if I don’t make it on this third try I won’t be able to make it at all. It’s a dangerous idea. And just at that moment my friend Joe runs by and offers up some spooning. I mumble no, but it’s just the kind of funny spontaneous moment that pushed that little fucker of a worry back to the depths it came from. I spent another few precious seconds in the leaves, when another friend, Brian, rolled by. Great! he has a fucking GoPro on his head! Video evidence of my weakness! He asked me if I was alright. At this point I was in the mental process of getting a move on.
  26. As I run back up to Wheel World, Joe has just successfully completed it, and Bryan is a few steps behind me. Again, I pick a different lane. In fact, I decide to go all the way to the opposite end and get the fuck away from the negativity of the other two attempts. Since I’m tall enough I can just reach out to the second wheel if I commit. What the hell, I commit. One less wheel to deal with. I make my way. I feel good. The 4th wheel is in my hand and it spins just right and I make the 5th wheel and I’m out! Hell yeah! Savage Race Wheel World
  27. I kick it into high gear towards Colossus. Without pausing I approach the farthest left lane and run with just enough speed to grab the end of the rope. With everything dry it’s an easy climb up, but then at the transition my fatigue rears its ugly head and I have to struggle mightily to top out. I lay there for a moment, my left leg and arm flopped over the edge. A beached Beret. Fuck me! Oh the warm plywood feels so good! But I see Joe at the top of the slide, and that spurs me to get moving.
  28. I climb up to the top, quickly check for anyone in the way, and do my typical Jump-Up-to-slide Down technique. This always ensures maximum velocity and ass over elbows skipping across the water. It’s a competitive slide for fuck sakes, you gotta have fun.
  29. Ugh! The smell of diesel fumes assails my senses when I come up out of the water. The wind is pushing the exhaust from the pump motor across the water pool.
  30. And like every race, I have the grace of a pachyderm in Pradas getting out of the pool. That damn black plastic liner is just so slippery. And right on cue, I slip and am rewarded with a mouthful of that nasty fucking muddy water. Oh that’s not gonna be pretty in a few days! I get smart and shimmy to the edge and hold on to the wall as I walk.
  31. A quick in and out (call me!) at the woods and I approach Blazed. I start to do my patented jump, but I’m so tired and it’s so halfhearted, I abandon any showmanship and just run over the burning embers. With a Gameface Media cameraman right there, this lack of joie de vivre is almost sacrilegious in the OCR world.
  32. Teeter Tuber, you glorious bastard! You cost me at least 22 places last fall! But today it is dry! And well, well, well isn’t that special, you seem to be set up on downward slope! You’re gonna be my bitch today you tubular spawn of Satan. Savage race Teeter Tuber
  33. The crawl is easy, but I’m tired and cold and not paying attention. Before I know it I’m rocketing down and out of the tube and sliding across the grass for ten feet. I never even moved my arms in reflex. Well played Teeter Tuber, well played.
  34. The Rig was 100 feet downhill and the last impediment to band retention glory. I take a quick breather and then hop up on the starting bar in the farthest left lane. Fuck! I am so cold! That wind can kiss my ass!
  35. I can reach the second ring from the start. I launch for the 4th ring, taking advantage of my wingspan. And I completely miss it and swing right back to the start. Well that wasn’t good, but at least I’m not on the ground. What the fuck is wrong with me today?! Perhaps I should keep my eyes open, or something. I launch again, grab the 4th ring then grab the rope and in my haste completely forget I have feet, or you know, legs. My hand isn’t prepared for the fact that my feet, seemingly off taking a break, were not working in concert with my hands and thus did not lock off with a J-hook. Down I went. FUCK!!!
  36. Crap! Now I have to go to the two far right “retry” lanes and I’ve lost a few places just thinking about it. And, of course there is a line.
  37. And then out of nowhere the shivers start. Oh Crap! Time to pull out the emergency mylar blanket, or as I like to call it, the official flag of the OCRWC. And people laugh at my board shorts and big pockets.
  38. Unfortunately, it’s an old blanket and I cannot get it unfolded between the shivering hands, the loss of focus and the fact it’s fucking stuck together. I look like an insane person pawing at this 4-inch shiny rectangle. It must look as if I’m petting it. I will love him and pet him and squeeze him and call him George. Bad thoughts are pouring into my head. Quitting thoughts. The cold is dictating my mental state. I try to shake it off.
  39. I finally walk over to a spectator and ask for help, and then my friend Joe swoops in and saves the day. And here in a nutshell, the effects of mandatory obstacle completion (MOC) are realized. My cumulative time with the multiple attempts over multiple obstacles has allowed Joe, who ran a flawless race, to finish before me, get dressed and be there at that exact moment. He gets the blanket all nice and unfolded and I get wrapped up as best I can in the blustery conditions.
  40. I spend a few minutes pacing around near the retry lanes gathering warmth from the sun and the reflected body heat under the blanket. At some point my brain just tells me it’s time to go and get this shit done. There really is no line anymore; just a bunch of shell shocked looking people loosely coalesced around the two retry lanes. No one seems to be eager to go, so I toss the blanket aside and I hop up again on to the starting bar. Again, I happen to be at the opposite side from my initial failure. I watch my fellow Grey Berets brother, Mr. Pink, taking a crack at it. I note the calm movements, the deliberate foot work at the ropes. It dawns on me that my first attempt was just too rushed. I need to take it slow like Mr. Pink. I yell words of encouragement. Savage Race Rig
  41. And so I launch for the 4th ring a 3rd time. I manage the first two ropes with soberness and calm deliberation. The shovel handle thingies have grips of two different diameters but feel solid in the hand. I keep my feet locked on the rope until I have both hands on the grips. I then cut feet and grab the next set of ropes. Slow and steady. Feet locked on the rope. I grab the first stripper pole and then transfer feet to pole. With the momentum, I’m able to skip the last stripper pole and reach out and ring the bell. I drop to the ground and let out a primal scream, and it doesn’t stop until I run across the finish line 25 yards away.
  42. The misery is over. The band is retained. I need to get some fucking dry clothes on.
  43. That was so fucking awesome. Savage Race continues to be a top notch race. Tretsch says DO IT! Always.

 

Photo credits (in order): Cory Acuff, Gameface Media, Jon’s Beard, Gameface Media, Gameface Media, Amanda Leigh Cahill, Mariano Oliveti

Battlefrog Atlanta -Spring 2016

PROLOGUE-BATTLEFROG BOUND:
March 19, 6:05 AM, My Driveway – The doom and gloom reports of a frigid morning prove inaccurate. It’s 57 degrees out. Nice. Let’s hope the rain doesn’t show up either.

5:35 AM, Buford, GA – It’s always gonna be a good race day when there is a Waffle House and a QT at the exit to serve both ends of the body.

7:20 AM, Lake Lanier Islands Resort – Parting with my $15 at the gate house hurts as I enter OCR’s newest venue.

7:23 AM, Lanier World – I pull into a giant parking lot with asphalt and painted parking spaces and everything. Such wanton luxury.

7:25 AM, Lanier World – Registration is right at the edge of the parking lot just before the entrance to the water park. Sunrise is struggling against the gloomy cloud cover.

7:30 AM, Lanier World – – It’s a curvy downhill sidewalk to the water park. There are strings of edison bulb café lights strung along and over the sidewalk. I feel as if I’m going to some fancy wedding.

7:31 AM, Lanier World – – Oh look! There’s the wavepool: serving Atlanta’s chlorinated pee wave needs for over 20 years. Very strange to see it empty.

7:45 AM, Lanier World – – The festival area is on the soft, white (and obviously imported) sandy beach. All the tents are laid out along an arc of the sheltered cove near the water, the start line inflatable is damn near in the water (facing TOWARDS the water!), and the main stage IS in the water. This is one cool set up! I even see a few obstacles in the distance near the mouth of the cove.

8:00 AM, Lanier World – – Though it is in the high 50s, the heavy cloud cover coupled with the fact that the water is 5 fucking feet from the start line, cements my decision: it’s another long sleeve compression shirt, pecker pants, and skull cap kind of day.

8:10 AM, Lanier World – I take a quick warm up jog, thinking about the fact I’m not running the 2 lap elite wave. I’m just going to do the 8k and then do a second lap for fun. I’ve been a lazy fucker this past winter, so it’s just as well I’m not having to try to crush it for 2 solid laps.

OBSERVATIONS ON THE RUN:

  1. The 8:00/8:30 open waves have been combined for unknown reasons. I nudge my way to the front of the corral. I pay for it with my right ear being 12” from a monstrous fucking speaker turned to 11.
  2. We are down on one knee as Coach Pain, the Bishop of BattleFrog, the Sensei of the Start Line, the Monsignor of Emcees, the Preacher of the Pep Talk, delivers unto us his sermon. He really is the best at the motivational style of starting.
  3. Damn, that water looks cold! Sun, where for art thou?!
  4. And we are off! It’s a high-stepping, wide arc, following the beach in the knee high water to the opposite side of the cove. I am moving too fast and the adrenaline is pumping too hard for me to notice the water temperature. The sand turns to riprap on the other side of the cove. BF start line
  5. The riprap immediately drops the pace next to nothing to avoid turning an ankle on the submerged rocks. Now I’m feeling that water!
  6. I clamor out of the lake and straight up steep fucking Hill Scramble 1. I’m half way up and my heart is jackhammerin’ my chest into a heaving mess.BF Hill Scramble1
  7. Well, that’s a bitch of a way to start a race.
  8. After a bit of pavement running, we drop onto an abandoned golf green and immediately hit Over/Under/Through.
  9. It’s a looong rolling par 5 to Confidence Climb. This is a new BF obstacle: fifteen vertical feet of square aluminum tubes spaced ass puckering distances apart. The side roll technique at the top works well. These will suck when wet and/or muddy.
  10. As I continue, on it becomes obvious we will be running the hilly fairways of the closed PineIsle Point Golf Club.
  11. The pile of Wreckbags is so clean, and neat, and dry, and heavy looking.
  12. Within 50 yards, I’m climbing over the 4-foot wall. Of course, a short but fucking steep hill immediately follows it. What the hell? Another 4-foot wall awaits at the top.
  13. I drop off Beelzebub’s bolster and it’s a barely controlled run down a steep hill through the trees taking us to the next fairway. Oh goody look at that fucking long hill!
  14. I’m starting to get pretty warm. I wonder if it was a mistake to wear a shirt?
  15. The two 8-foot walls are our reward at the top. Interesting, there is an elite lane and a novice lane. Step boards on the novice and the standard smooth wall for Elite. Elite it is. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
  16. A hard 180 and I’m shooting down another single track “trail” in the woods, getting wacked by branches, right through some squelchy mud and straight up a fucking hill. I’m sensing a theme here.
  17. Back on a fairway, I’m bombing down three tiers of tee boxes. No time to wash the balls. Looks like a long, straight, downhill three wood from here.
  18. After another fucking hill (who knew that Lake Lanier was so fucking hilly!) I see a small wrought iron structure perched on a dais, framing a spectacular view of the lake below. Another wedding image flashes through my mind. What the fuck?! I’m a walking (running actually) romantic comedy.
  19. A sweeping 180 degree lie and we arrive at the Monkey Bars. Looky here! BF has brought back monkey bars. Not the original beast with the long downward angle, horizontal transition to the long  upward angle (how I miss you so) mind you; but rather a shorter, and fairly staid, classic up/down configuration. Again, it seems to be part of the new concept of building the obs out of aluminum box beams.BF monkey bars
  20. Fellow Grey Berets, Mr. Bean and Fireball, are there volunteering. Supportive hugs are given. This obstacle is also divided into “skill” level lanes. So, I beat feet to the elite lane. I figure I normally would have to be in this lane anyways. I step up and grab the first bar. What the fuck?! These bars are not secured down! They freely spin within the holes of the castellated beams! You tricky motherfroggers! The angle of the beams and gravity pretty much keep the bars where they need to be so it goes off without a hitch. Wetness would cause havoc though, I think to myself.
  21. It’s a straight, short 3 iron to 60 Degrees. The elegance of the original construction of this obstacle has been changed to another sterile aluminum mess, and the bars are now square!BF 60 degrees
  22. A long putt and I’m at the base of Hill Scramble II. Fuck! That is a steep hill in the trees. “Scramble” invokes visions of speed and agility. I’m trudging up this fucker with neither speed or agility. This sucks! At least I’m not dragging a fucking sandbag filled coffin-wheelbarrow.
  23. I come out of the woods (at least I haven’t lost my balls) onto another fairway. We’re still heading in an upward direction. Fuck!
  24. Hump Over is a series of four horizontal logs in increasing heights off the ground. Not hard to get over, but after that damn hill slog, certainly not welcome.
  25. I finally reach the top of this long uphill fairway and drop into the woods for some single track trail running. It’s apparent now we are getting into a rhythm of fairways to woods to fairways to woods; exactly like my fucking golf game.
  26. I’ve always hit Ramp Wall with one step on the wall and then launch to the top. Without even thinking I took two steps, my Icebugs like glue on the wood, and was at the top without slamming myself or Elmer the glue shooter and his BBs against the wall. Yay for that!
  27. After some rolling hills, I start a descent towards the lake that offers up another fantastic view. The clouds hang heavy, dark, and ominously.
  28. The pink course flags lead me along the lake’s edge on a cracked and weed-choked golf cart path. And then just like that, I’m in the water again. Well, no worries about overheating now.
  29. It’s tough going on the slippery riprap hidden under the murky water. It’s not above thigh level so all the important bits stay warm and dry.
  30. I pick my way up the bank. We are now way out on a point, connected to the main island by an isthmus. This would have been a spectacular green. I would have shanked a fuck ton of balls into the lake on this approach.
  31. There in nice neat rows are the Jerry Cans. Camo green cans of pain and misery. I take my two and head out.
  32. My little pink flag friends take us on a wide arc around the fringes of the green. We are going to be circumventing this entire point, I just know it!
  33. Just after I drop down onto a rocky “trail” just above the water line, I have to stop and pause for a moment. Fuck! The lack of winter training rearing its ugly head again!
  34. Negotiating the rocks as I have to head into the water is a fucking nightmare. The unsure footing in the water not much better.
  35. We wade onto a beach (Like MacArthur, but without the aviators and brass balls), climb back up to the grassy point, and finally drop off Satan’s sippy cups.
  36. Back down to the beach, and back in the water and back on to a fairway.
  37. Oh goody more hills! This whole golf course was built on an ancient fucking mountain. Stupid tectonics. Yeah, for erosion though!
  38. Wobbler looks like it was designed by a bored 14-year-old summer intern at BFHQ, with no access to good supervision or software. A cargo net on the ground followed by a classic spider web, all under the framework of a huge, but old, set of monkey bars. This made it on the course versus the Delta ladder?
  39. I laugh at the signs telling us to keep off the monkey bars. BF knows its audience well.BF Wobbler
  40. I manage to stay on my feet through the spider web. In fact, I haven’t fallen on my face yet! This day is lookin’ up.
  41. More fairways, more woods. This is such a great fucking course!
  42. At the bottom of a hill, I arrive at Hump Over 2. I’ve seen this obstacle on videos and even at last year’s BattleFrog College Championships, but I had never experienced it myself. A series of beams (again, with the aluminum castellated box beams) alternating between chest height and knee height. Over the first one, under the second one. Repeat.
  43. The volunteer is yelling, “try to avoid putting your hands in the holes!” I roll my eyes, as I think about what I’ve been telling people about this style of obstacle building. (writer’s side note: BattleFrog, this is my biggest beef with aluminum framing – the edges of the metal at these holes can be sharp! Using these beams on the parts of the obstacle that will be touched by hands is stupid. I said this about some of Spartan’s obstacles last year. I shouldn’t have to be told to avoid a part of the obstacle that I have to touch in order to successfully execute said obstacle….rant over)
  44. Fuck! How long is this hump….over?!
  45. It finally ends, I suck down a GU, grab a water at the aid station, and keep on keepin’ on.
  46. More fairway, more hills, but all the body parts are intact and feeling fine.
  47. I’m enjoying the long range view of the lake as I crest a hill and head down to the next obstacle. It appears to be some sort of traverse type obstacle.
  48. Wedge Wall is a piece of cake. 2Xs for the feet, incut 2Xs for the hands, and straight as an arrow.
  49. As I approach the Mud Mounds, I hear the volunteer yelling “keep those hands dry! The platinum rig is next!” My hands shoot up over my head faster than a teller’s at a bank heist.
  50. The mounds are not too high/steep and the pits are not too deep. (Any of you who did BF Carolinas last year know what the extreme opposite is like. Oy!).
  51. The mighty Platinum Rig, taker of bands – destroyer of dreams. It also is split into skill level lanes. I’m running for time in the open heat but still choose the elite lane. There is a bit of a backup. I take the time to assess the set up: ring, nunchuck, rope, fixed bars (round and square), ring, nunchuck, rope, low-hanging cargo net, rope, stripper pole, nunchuck, nunchuck.BF Platinum Rig
  52. The clock, she is a-ticking!
  53. I finally get my turn. It’s easy peasy until 1/2 of the way through, when I get all twisted around and flailing. Next thing I know, I’m doing my 8-count body builders. I would love to take another crack at it….or two, or ten, but I have no band to defend.
  54. I stop at the adjacent aid station for a quick water and realize how much time I burned when I see some fellow Grey Berets have caught up to me.
  55. With a twinge of disappointment for not giving it a few more tries at the rig, I head on down the hill.
  56. The sweet tug on all my body parts by sweet Lady Gravity is short lived as she suddenly ups and leaves me in a huff, and her idiot brother Benny Hill shows up.
  57. It’s another long uphill slog in the woods.
  58. Every time the course turns towards the lake, the vistas never disappoint. As I soak in the view this time, I spy an obstacle far below that is in the water just off another sandy beach.
  59. After wading into the lake up to waist high, a short climb up a saggy vertical cargo net gets me to the top of Hooyah: plastic culvert pipes all angled down to the water. Fuck! more than just my feet are going to get wet now! The sun has not won its battle with the clouds. The temperature is fine, but there is a bit of a breeze. I do not want to get fully submerged.
  60. I pick the furthest pipe to the left, since the course goes left from here. I plan to control my descent so I can ease into the water. Feet first!
  61. My concerns are quickly proven wrong, as I slowly…..slowwwwly, painfully slowly slide down. It is the very antithesis of the slide at the 2015 OCRWC. At the bottom, I actually have to grip the edge to pull myself out.
  62. The water is chest deep and fucking cold! I have to take a long route at an angle to the beach. The going is slow. I could swim and get through it faster, but I just don’t want to get more wet than I have to.
  63. Inverted Wall has a commanding position on another picturesque point.
  64. I get to the top in my usual manner, but as I make the transition, something goes horribly, horribly wrong. My foot slips and Slug Gherkin and the testaculars take the brunt of all my weight. MOTHERFUCKER!!! OWWWWWW! I slide down the other side and collapse on the grass. Fuck! Fuck! Owww! The dude behind me asks if I’m alright with genuine concern in his voice. “Yeah, I just racked my nuts and pinched my pecker!”, I tell him. I get a look of understanding that only men can share in moments like this.
  65. As I stumble in the sand of the next beach, my shelled nuts crying holy havoc, I realize I did the intermediate lane of the inverted walls. Well shit! There goes that whole paying attention problem again.
  66. OWWWWW! My twig and berries hurt!
  67. Back on the grass, along the shore, I see the Rope Wall. Yet another BF original obstacle now divided into skill level lanes. I start to get the post nutsmash cramps as I climb the wall. Thank god it’s dry out, so it’s a quick easy climb. I’m almost glacial in my movements at the transition. The little gentleman in the pink pullover and his manbags is yelling at me like Samuel L. Jackson on a tirade, “Motherfucker, you best move slow and careful!!!”
  68. The course takes us along the lake, and I’m relishing the flatness. Just before I follow the flags away from the lake, a big motor yacht comes into view. There are a bunch of people on the deck cheering as the racers go by. Certainly don’t see that at every race, I muse. I throw em’ some metal horns and head up yet another fucking hill.
  69. As I get out of the trees and along the edge of another fairway, I am treated to a view of the BattleFrog College Championship 2016 course down at the lake’s edge. A spectacular scene of awesome obstacles and ESPN crew and equipment everywhere.
  70. Heading down the remnants of an ancient driveway/road, I see the staging area for the production.
  71. Delta Cargo has changed! Beyond the obvious new construction style, the angle seems different, at least sixty degrees! I do the Flip-n-crab ™. The new steeper angle makes the crab walk down a might scary!
  72. Rope Climb didn’t escape design changes either! What’s this? Use the two rings to get to the rope, climb the rope, ring the bell and then touch the last ring after climbing down? COOL! This is a great twist to the classic rope climb. Best perfect your foot technique now people!BF rope climb
  73. Down and out of the woods and I am back on the road from the beginning of the race. A giant loop has been made, I gotta be close to finishing now!
  74. The course flags take me up the road while people from a newly released wave run in the opposite direction on the other side of the street. I can hear the festival area speakers.
  75. A hard right and I hustle down into the woods in some kind of ravine. The sound of the music is muffled; the thick leaves under my feet making a nice rustling noise. What is that strange black cable running along the ground? Someone bootleggin’ Comcast? I hope no one trips on it.
  76. It’s all very pleasant, and then the fucking hill that takes me up and out of this idyllic spot appears. Oh for rice cakes! Will it ever end?!
  77. Through a small park and the cove appears! I can hear the music. I can smell the barn.
  78. I turn onto a sidewalk that leads down to the cove. Gotta check the speed on a steep downhill curve lest I end up in the lake. The sidewalk leads directly to a marina that spans the width of the mouth of the cove. Walk the Plank is the floating dock that connects the two sides of the cove. It is absolutely the coolest approach to a festival area I have yet experienced. It puts a little more pep in my fucking step!
  79. I hit the beach and am confronted by the Weaver. Fuck! This thing is made out of small, SQUARE aluminum tubes! That’s gonna hurt!
  80. I hop on and realize they have spaced the bars for someone of Kareem Abdul-jabbar’s  height. I’ve only ever done a weaver once before (at OCRWC), and I’m not sure my method will work here. Lots of grunting and groaning ensues. Half way through, going under, my legs slip and my feet come within inches of touching the ground! Shit! that was close. I dismount at the end with a graceful ass plant on the sand.
  81. I jog the 50 feet to Tip of the Spear trying to get my breathing under control. This BF classic has also been updated. The wall angles seem steeper, they’re covered in BF blue FRP panels (what the fuck!?), and the finger boards at the middle wall ascend and then descend. The shoes prove worthy and I ring the bell. Those damn plastic panels are going to absolutely suck when they are wet during a race!BF tip of the Spear
  82. I sprint to the finish line and it’s over. No elite loop for me.
  83. HOLY COW! This race was awesome! Lake Lanier Islands is an awesome venue for a race. Tretsch says DO IT! Do ANY ocr that comes here!

POSTSCRIPT:
I stumble across the finish line after my “fun” second lap. My legs are screaming at me. All I want is a fucking cold beer.

It never rained and the sun even peeked out for a second. The temperature is just right for hanging out with my toes in the sand.

Walking back up that hill to the parking lot sucks. The walkway has lost all its wedding bliss charm from the morning.

I need an ice bath for my nuts.

Photo credits: Patti Milio Behrend, Kimberley Williams Blake, BattleFrog