Abominable Snow Race 2019

Can you imagine building an OCR event where the temperatures rarely reached -10 degrees and the windchill touched -55? Most of us don’t even leave the house under those conditions but this is just what Bill Wolfe and his badass crew had to deal with in the week leading up to the fourth annual Abominable Snow Race.

With a couple rounds of snow sandwiched between the historic lows, these hearty troopers built obstacles and marked trails for a 4-mile race with an option for an extra 2.6-mile loop for the really demented racer, during conditions that caused school for my children to be closed the entire week. Not to mention the fact that the race moved from Lake Geneva, Wisconsin to Devil’s Head Ski Resort, Wisconsin, meaning that prep would take that much longer on the virgin location. This marked the third venue change in the four years of the event as ASR constantly looks to upgrade the location to bring out the best of the winter racing experience. Devil’s Head boasted some awesome scenery including a frozen waterfall along a course with over 3,000 feet of elevation change. Now, you might not have noticed all the majestic views as 6 inches of fresh powder made racers to pay close attention to their footing, and the snow covered up all the tree roots and rocks underneath and fog added an extra layer of mystery as race time temps rose up to the balmy high 20’s. But all things considered, how could you miss the best winter OCR in the nation?

 

The start of the ASR caused a lump to form in the throat of most racers. After Coach Pain gave his iconic pep talk the race began with racers running straight up the ski slope into the fog, which caused you not to be able to see where the climb actually ended. Foreboding, ominous, and lurking right there in front of you. The initial ascent was going to be draining and you knew you were going to be in for a long day. As you made your way up and the top finally came into view you felt a wave of relief, but that was short lived as the trail flattened out for all of 20 yards and then continued going up at a less steep angle through what became a one-lane track through the wooded landscape. Along this trail transition, I noticed my first set of racers sitting off to the side as the initial climb had just taken too much out of them.

The footing here, and all throughout the course, was treacherous, making the sledding tough. Pardon the pun, I simply had to work that in. The obstacles started coming into play near the top of the initial climb, the first being an inverted wall climb followed up by a set of high hurdles. Also tucked into this section of the race was the ASR Apex obstacle. This was the toughest challenge on the course judging by the number of elite bands sitting on the ground. Apex required an athlete to traverse across three steep sections of A-frames separated by about a foot. An athlete had to cross using only the thin ropes suspended from the top and whatever stability their feet on the severely angled wood provided. This was a grip strength killer and I found trying to keep your snow packed shoes on the boards almost impossible.

 

Racers now faced a tough section of trail running as the course made its way slightly down the mountain and through the forest. The over, under, and through walls were tucked in along this section of the course that managed to be wider than 2 feet. A low crawl through the fresh powder froze racers to the core and I personally never felt warm again that day until I changed clothes afterward in my Jeep.

More seemingly endless trekking through deep snow followed that up as the constant climbs and descents started taking a toll on a racer’s legs. This led to a 9-foot wall which also marked the point where the short and long course separated. I picked the longer section as I promised ASR bossman Bill Wolfe a comprehensive race recap and immediately regretted it as I started running along another long stretch of deep ass snow. This section of the trail turned out to be a little flatter than before which was most welcome, but you still couldn’t open up and run do to the deep snow pack. A short Wreckbag carry was situated here along with a bucket carry filled with ice. This bucket carry was much shorter than the previous years carry which seemed to last forever. One last 4-foot wall led into the last low crawl of the race on our way down to the festival area. I looked at my watch watching the distance go by slowly as I entered basecamp. If you had picked the short course then your race was almost over, and I seriously considered just ending it right there as my legs were toast. But I summoned up some internal strength and hit the Z wall which led athletes back out onto the final loop. There I found myself on another steep climb almost immediately. Cursing myself about the choice I just made I found myself trekking up and down steep ravines, as the pace became little more than a walk. Luckily this was the section of the course that held the best views, the frozen waterfall being the sight most racers talked about after the race. This was also perhaps, the most physically draining as the climbs were steep and the footholds small. ASR was nice enough to throw a cargo net down for the last climb up though, that is if you wanted to stick your already frozen hands down into the snow to grab the net.

 

The festival area itself presented some interesting new challenges, as after athletes climbed over a slip wall ASR had built a cargo crossing over the starting corral. This led to my favorite obstacle of the day. The ASR build crew constructed a long wooden traverse suspended about 7-feet off the ground and covered it with long sections of cargo net. The object being an athlete had to traverse this expanse by crawling upside down using only the net to hold on to. Athletes finally got to get up to speed during the last obstacle of the day. After picking up an inflated inner tube, racers made one final climb up a hill, hopped on their tube and flew back down the hill to the finish line! Now, there were things missing from the race that were either included on the race map or had been included in previous races. The sled pull, tire drag, monkey bars, and winter weaver to name a few but considering the unprecedented weather leading up to the race, I think a round of applause are in order.

Never before in OCR has a crew had to set up a race in these conditions. Personally, I felt the terrain alone made this race extremely tough, so missing a few obstacles didn’t bother me at all. The only concern I heard from people completing the race was the lack of water along the route, I sucked down 3 bottles of water myself upon completion of the race. I don’t feel it would have been possible to add water stations to the course due to the temperatures as almost every water delivery system would have been frozen solid. Besides, veteran racers should have already known to bring hydration… cough… cough… I forgot.

The mountain ski patrol was situated around the course at various locations to ensure the safety of racers along with a few members of the ASR staff who zipped around on snowmobiles. I offer a question to you as my final thought on the race. You’ve become pretty good at climbing over walls and carrying heavy things around when the temperature is 80 degrees, but have you tested yourself when the thermometer dips below freezing? If not, what’s keeping you from joining Yeti Nation?

Spartan 24 Hour Championship 2019 – Sweden

PRESS RELEASE

The Snowcapped Mountains of Åre, Sweden to Host the Third-Annual “Spartan Ultra World Championship” 24-Hour Obstacle Course Race

World’s Largest Obstacle Course Race and Endurance Brands Brings the Word’s Most
Challenging OCR Event to the Alpine Heart of Scandinavia November 8

Åre, Sweden (February 7, 2019) – Spartan, the world’s largest obstacle course race (OCR) and endurance brand, will bring the third annual “Spartan Ultra World Championship” to the picturesque mountain village of Åre, Sweden November 9-10, 2019. Combining the beauty of the Scandinavian country with the grit of Spartan, the 24-hour endurance event will test the world’s best athletes as they face harsh winter conditions, high elevations and miles of technical terrain, just 350km below the Arctic Circle. As in the first two editions of the Spartan Ultra World Championship—held in Iceland—competitors in Åre can expect full-spectrum extremes of Mother Nature’s beauty and fury.

[Read more…]

Press Release: Warrior Dash Helps You Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

Now Through Sunday, January 27, Warrior Week Inspires Participants to Keep Their New Year’s Resolutions

First OCR Warrior Dash 2
Chicago, Ill. – January 21, 2019 – With 2019 in full swing, Warrior Dash, the 5K obstacle course race that more than 3 million people have completed since 2009, wants to help people stick to their New Year’s resolutions with the return of Warrior Week. Beginning today, Warrior Week will feature seven days of training tips, healthy living advice, exciting announcements, discounts, and more.

To celebrate the launch of Warrior Week, now through Sunday, January 27, it’s Buy One, Get One Half Off all 2019 Warrior Dash registrations with promo code WARRIORWEEK19.

Whether trying to improve overall health and fitness, spend more time outdoors, or try new things, New Year’s resolutions aim to improve oneself, but according to Business Insider, nearly 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February. By signing up for Warrior Dash and following along with Warrior Week, people are one step closer to following through on their resolutions

Warrior Week kicks into gear with a complete core workout by strength trainer Katie Uhran, sponsored by Core PowerⓇ high protein shakes. Sierra will break down the top gear choices to help Warriors conquer the course in 2019 with Warrior’s getting a 101 on healthy snacking from Bobo’s— from how to choose the right snack to healthy snack ideas.

Warriors have three course distances to choose from in 2019: an obstacle-loaded 1-mile course, a 10k option for those wanting to kick it up a notch, and the signature 5k course featuring 12 unique obstacles. As the race that anyone can start and everyone can finish, Warrior Week will help guide Warrior’s to determine, “What kind of Warrior are you?”

Registration

Visit WarriorDash.com to secure a spot in a competitive, preferred, or standard wave at one of Warrior Dash’s 2019 locations.

2019 Warrior Dash Locations:

Florida (Orlando), Feb. 9

Texas (Austin), March 2

California (Los Angeles), March 30

Georgia (Atlanta), April 13

Tennessee (Nashville), May 4

Kansas City, May 11

Oregon (Portland), May 18

North Carolina (Charlotte), June 1

Wisconsin (Milwaukee/Chicago), June 8

Minnesota (Twin Cities), June 29

Illinois (Chicago), July 13

Ohio, July 20

Michigan, July 27

Maryland, Aug. 10

New England, Aug. 17

Kentucky (Cincinnati/Louisville), Aug. 24

Indiana (Indianapolis), Sept. 7

Colorado, Sept. 14

Washington (Seattle), Sept. 21

Pennsylvania, Sept. 28

Oklahoma, Oct. 12

Arkansas (Little Rock), Oct. 19

Gulf Coast, Nov. 2

About Warrior Dash: Warrior Dash is the multi-distance obstacle course race that anyone can start and everyone can finish. Since 2009, over 3 million participants have celebrated their decision to leave their normal weekend in the mud – and the running industry hasn’t been the same since. Warrior Dash and its parent company, Red Frog Events, with the help of participants and a variety of initiatives, have donated over $14.5 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Visit www.WarriorDash.com to learn more or find a location near you.

About Red Frog Events: Red Frog Events is an event production company and a pioneer of the experiential entertainment industry, recognized for its award-winning company culture. Since 2007, the company has developed innovative brands including the Warrior Dash obstacle race series, Firefly Music Festival, and Chicago Beer Classic. Red Frog also provides event services ranging from food and beverage to its ticketing platform, EventSprout. Red Frog has been named one of Forbes’ “Most Promising Companies in America”, has appeared consecutively on Inc. Magazine’s “Fastest Growing Companies” list, and was recognized on Chicago Tribune’s “Top Workplaces” from 2011-2014, among other honors. In recognition of its philanthropic efforts, the company was selected as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s “Corporate Partner of the Year”. To date, Red Frog has raised over $14.5 million of a $25 million dollar fundraising commitment to St. Jude and in 2016, announced a one percent profit donation to the organization. Visit RedFrogEvents.com for more information.

Spartan Spain – Night Sprint Review

In the hunt for my first trifecta, Spartan Race Spain delivers an irresistible twist on stadium races, the Night Sprint!! A no-brainer at race selection.

As a parting gift from my 19-month old I was hit with a mild plague days before the race (ok ok just a cold), which the flight, kindly rammed into my sinuses leaving me jelly-legged and out of it until only a few hours before the race! Thankfully, adrenaline, ignorance and? Hopefully painkillers? (#notaspaniard #craptourist) cleared my vision and pain long enough to go for it, I set off.

Park and Arch

Locating, parking, and finding your way to registration at the Ricardo Turmo Circuit race track is fairly easy. Although, clearer signage when entering the car park, which was huge, would have helped too.

Registration was easy, and donning your glow-in-the-dark night sprint tee and mandatory headlamps mean you’re all set. As darkness drew in, the pre-race pump up began! Moshing, rugby scrums, piggyback wars and British bulldog style games were there to kill the 10 mins delay in starting, but then we were off!!
Racers leaving start line in night sprint

As the novelty of night running reached its peak, you hit the first few 4′ walls and the O.U.T. It’s then, that Spartan Spain goes and throws the proverbial bucket on the fire you just pumped up by moving off the pleasantly springy race track, onto loose, fairly deep, gravel!! Good gosh, what a proper energy sapper!

And oh, they didn’t stop there. I had assumed, it being a stadium race, it would probably be a longer distance, but I didn’t expect any trail running, maybe more obstacles?? How wrong I was!!!!! The route led off gravel and out of the stadium altogether and onto some SOLID inclines. Half, being wide long concrete steps followed by steeper concrete trails. Oh and the cherry? The BENDER.

As one of my favourite obstacles, the bender has the appearance of simplicity, until you reach the top where physics seems to abandon you (unless you’re one of those salmon jumping immortals). It is an obstacle that breaks many a spartan to tears, and as such, I did notice a number of people skip this obstacle all together (so easy at night), burpees and all.

Although, I can also understand why, with only one spartan on each of the three sections allowed at a time, it’s a BIG time sink. I easily lost 10 minutes here, waiting for my turn, helping and being helped with the obstacle. Get there first if your running for time!

Spartan Spain went on to milk the hills a little more, with some sweet, steep switchbacks and a sandbag carry to the hilltop, and then a return back down over some DODGY rocky trails for doing at night!

Day-time-sandbag

I added this day shot, to give you an idea of that tasty INCLINE! 

On the return to the stadium, the route loops around and over some crash barriers and onto 3 decently long MUDDY barbed wire crawls, dotted between 8 ft walls, the slip wall (with hoses running!) and the inverse wall. All of these made lovely and challenging to grip, due to a fair bit of thick goopy mud!

I found the whole section very satisfying, albeit, that wonderful gravel finding its way into the mud, and shredding my knees and elbows! At least it made for some solid knee/elbow grazing battle scars!

Barbed wire crawling

At 1.5K left on the course, glow sticks (which marked the whole course) led back onto that wonderful gravel, and brutally, all the way back to the festival area where you’re almost allowed to feel you’re reaching the end but alas, there’s still more to go. 

Arrive next at a confusingly light herc hoist, especially as the preceding obstacles seem adapted to INCREASE difficulty.  Lighter weights here seem to merciful for the spartan races of recent months (Ashton down, Windsor etc). Shoulders were definitely grateful 😉

A short crawl under a walkway leads to the spear throw, and back around to the side of that entrance archway. On closer inspection, this is actually an obstacle. Spartan netting sprawls up, over and back down. A neat little challenge for the vertigo-ed among us.

Descending this obstacle, and on to the last km takes you back out of the stadium boundary and on to the multi rig, consisting of monkey bars, tyres and rings, which is a really nice mix, creating a new challenge to all abilities.

The olympus wall, seems heavily aimed towards elites and those with insane grip strength. Everyday runners/OCRs, especially of the “more meat on bone” variety, may find this completely impossible, and may as well head straight to the burpees. Unless, of course, you have some spartan help nearby.

The finish area includes the rope climb, balance beams, straddling a weird little “product placement” obstacle; 3 Mercedes SUVs (see picture below), to crawl or squat past. The finish fire was the best I’ve seen yet. An actual jump! Maybe even high enough to trip over, but a great incentive to bust a pose….

Firejump

The post-race goodies were standard for a sprint, with coconut water, water, tee etc; which leads me onto my biggest complaint of Spartan race Spain, no free photos for the race. The group Sportograf gives well taken and finished. 6 Euros each (around £5/$6), leaves a bitter taste to a wholly sweet experience.

The race was satisfying and well organised, and I cannot recommend the night experience enough really. Only a slightly under-powered herc hoist and no free photos to complain about. An impressive mix and adaption of well-known obstacles over a 6.2km course presents a decent challenge for most. A backdrop of beautiful area and city to enjoy afterward, what more does a Spartan nomad want?!

World’s Toughest Mudder – An Ode to Pissing in My Wetsuit

When I think about the world’s toughest race
A mudder that put me in my place
The memory that I cannot replace
Is pissing in my wetsuit

I registered in the previous year
My training plan became more clear
A piece of training I never went near
Was pissing in my wetsuit

The forecast was cold for our race day
The five-mile course ahead of us lay
Nolan and Eli never bothered to say
We’d be pissing in our wetsuits

Worlds Toughest Mudder GirlThis competitor probably pissed in her wetsuit

The first couple laps were warm and free
The sun was out, everyone could see
I figured no other runner would be
Pissing in their wetsuit

The sun went down and it turned cold
The time had come for me to be bold
And deliver a liquid colored gold
By pissing in my wetsuit

The first couple times were totally weird
Being seen by others is what I feared
But eventually I became less skeered
Of pissing in my wetsuit

Worlds Toughest Mudder PondThe pond was the perfect place for pissing in your wetsuit

Turning laps, my heart would pound
My friends and family I couldn’t let down
I mastered the art of walking around
Just pissing in my wetsuit

As grass and obstacles turned to ice
The liquid warmth was really nice
Some laps I would even go twice
By pissing in my wetsuit

When the race was over my body was toast
My pit crew wouldn’t even come close
The smell of ammonia was super gross
From pissing in my wetsuit

Worlds Toughest Mudder WoodsTwo Ryans – Possibly Pissed in their Wetsuits

When I got home and cleaned my stuff
A simple scrub was not enough
Removing the smell was really tough
From pissing in my wetsuit

I watched the special on TV
They didn’t mention, I didn’t see
That Rea and Kris, I guarantee
Were pissing in their wetsuits

The moral of this story is
If during the race you have to wizz
The only acceptable answer is
Pissing in your wetsuit

Worlds Toughest Mudder Mendoza

I guarantee these guys pissed in their wetsuits

All Photo Credit Goes to OCR Nation

 

World’s Toughest Mudder 2018

Prologue

As a World’s Toughest Mudder novice, I was not sure what to expect, going into the race. I read the rules, I listened to pre-race podcasts, asked advice from past participants, followed the social media frenzy leading up to the event, and I scoured through articles and information provided from prior years. Planning for World’s Toughest Mudder was quite an ordeal in itself! While I had previously competed in other Ultra distance obstacle and trail races, preparing for a 24 hour event was a marathon of research, prepping, packing, and list-checking. At the advice of others, I purchased a full body wetsuit, neoprene gloves, neoprene hats, and a waterproof headlamp. I organized my nutrition, made a plan with my pit crew, and teed up at the start line with my heart on my sleeve. I knew it would be difficult and cold; I knew that I was embarking on the longest, most challenging athletic event of my amateur career to date. I was a little nervous and scared, but I was more excited than anything: excited to test my gear, test my legs, and test my strength against 24 hours of OCR. I knew that this competition would (obviously) be about the mileage and the ability to complete obstacles, but I had no idea this race would end up as more of a contest of grit than any other physical skill or athletic proficiency.

Course Design

The 5 mile loop was relatively flat with only about 600 feet of gain per lap. There was not a lot of single track or technical trail running, and most of the course was gravel roads and dirt paths. Leading up to the race, there had been heavy rain in the area. Most of the course was extremely slick and muddy, with Georgia clay turning into slimy, shoe-sucking smush. The slickness of the running paths resulted in poor shoe traction, excess mud on obstacles like Everest and Mudderhorn, and the slowing of cadence. There were a few steep downhills in the woods that required the use of branches and tree trunks as stabilizers, but the course was still relatively “runnable,” despite conditions. The rain caused traditionally “muddy” obstacles like Mud Mile, Happy Ending, and Kiss of Mud to become swamps of thick mud that engulfed competitors like quicksand. TMHQ maintained the standard rules of allowing (and encouraging) competitors to assist each other through the obstacles and penalty laps were offered in lieu of obstacle completion; across several obstacle failures, participants would max out at an additional 1.6 miles in penalties per loop.

Stoking the fire a bit, TMHQ had some special rules and variations in place that allowed runners to make strategic choices about their race and to earn a “Golden Carabiner,” which worked as a “get out of jail free” pass to either skip obstacles or take alternate routes on course. Runners could earn a Golden Carabiner once hitting the 25 mile (5 lap threshold), as well as by completing more difficult lanes of specified obstacles on course. In the late hours of the night, both Funky Monkey and Leap of Faith included Golden Carabiner lanes that made the regular obstacle even more complex; completion of one of these lanes earned the competitor a Golden Carabiner. Runners could redeem their Golden Carabiner at any other point during the race, either skipping a specific obstacle or being allowed to take an alternate route on course that bypassed a stretch of obstacles. Another spark of ambiguity was a fork in the road halfway through the loop that opened at 8:00 PM; TMHQ had devised two unique routes that competitors could choose between, one having standard obstacles (Quagmire, The Bloc Ness Monster, Leap of Faith, and The Guantlet) and the other having electrocution obstacles (Eletroshock Therapy, Entrapment, and Operation). This “pick your poison” and Golden Carabiner approach to course design maintained the integrity of the 5 mile loop distance, regardless of the route taken.

The Race

The race started at noon on Saturday, and the sun was shining! With a little bit of a wind chill, the temperatures were still warm enough for the short sleeves and smiles. Our first lap was a 5 mile tour and preview of the course-no obstacles; competitors took a Golden Carabiner route through the first lap, bypassing a view of some of the obstacles. For the first hour of the race, none of the obstacles were opened; beginning at 1:00 PM, obstacles were methodically opened via a rolling start through the course. By 3:00 PM, all of the 26 obstacles were opened (except for The Stacks, which opened at midnight). Most competitors started their first lap with a strong pace, full of excitement and energy about the day that lay ahead of us. I saw and felt that speed and enthusiasm on course, as runners continued into laps two and three.

Hitting obstacles as they started to open, I finished my second lap wet. The heat of my running pace and the sunshine kept me comfortable, and the blue skies created a beautiful backdrop to the event. Coming back around Mudderhorn and into the pit area at the completion of my third lap, the sun was moving towards the horizon. The Georgia autumn wind started to pick up and I began to realize just how cold this race was going to be. I was able to complete three laps fairly quickly and hit my pit crew before sunset. My wetsuit and headlamp went on for lap four, and the wetsuit never came off until I crossed the finish line. Watching the sunset from Ladder to Hell around 1.5 miles into my fourth lap was a special memory from that day; this tall obstacle was placed at the top of a hill, giving a panoramic view of the streaked paintbrush of dusk settling over the race. By the time I came into my pit for my fifth lap, the sun had settled over the edge of the woods.

As soon as darkness hit, the temperatures began to drop. Many competitors decided to opt out of active participation and camp out in their tents, avoiding the course in the cold. Throughout the night (my laps six to nine, approximately 10:00 PM to 6:00 AM) the course was relatively empty. I experienced long stretches of running alone, occasionally being passed my elite men and spotting other headlamps through the woods in the distance. With the temperatures in the low thirties, many obstacles began to ice over – even the grass and trees surrounding the course began to freeze. Around midnight, the TMHQ team began to methodically shut down certain obstacles, specifically those that resulted in total head submersion, as well as some of the obstacles that had dangerously slick frost. As a precautionary measure to ensure runners’ safety, obstacles such as Under Water Tunnels, Lumber Jacked, Skidmarked, Berlin Walls, Cage Crawl, and The Gauntlet were closed until sunrise. Many of the other water obstacles did remain open throughout the night, including Augustus Loop, Mud Mile, Twin Peaks, Funky Monkey, Happy Ending, and The Stacks (once opened at midnight).

Even with the improvised TMHQ safety modifications to the course, competitors that continued to fight overnight for mileage remained wet, muddy, and cold. The vibe on the course had shifted from energy and excitement to quiet perseverance and steady focus. Runners fought the conditions and their own demons to sustain a pace quick enough to stay warm, but slow enough to maintain shoe traction amidst slick running paths and icy obstacles. Once the sun began to rise on Sunday morning, the dawn brought warmer temperatures, many obstacles re-opened for completion, and the hibernating competitors came back out on course to continue their quest for mileage goals and the desired “24 Hour” finisher headband. The course began to refill with participants, pit crew began to awaken with a renewed sense of vigor, and the festival area began buzzing with excitement again.  By late morning, I was embarking on my final two laps, eleven and twelve; my pace had slowed to intermittent periods of jogging and walking, but I was determined to finish what I had started and reach my 60-mile goal. My last two loops were surreal and dreamlike, with the warmth of the sun back on my shoulders and the realization of the mortality of the event: my 24 hours was almost over. Despite the pain in my legs and the fatigue in my body, I felt so alive running across the finish line. This was my first World’s Toughest Mudder, and certainly not my last.

Epilogue

As I mentioned before, World’s Toughest Mudder became less of a competition of obstacle proficiency and running speed, and more of a test of mental fortitude and determination. Less than 25% of competitors reached 50 miles and less than 2% completed 75 or more miles, which were lower than most of the previous years’ result statistics. There was a clear division amongst competitors (and ultimately, finishers): those that succumbed and submit to the cold, and those that found comfort and resolve in the rawness of the adversity of their circumstances. Only a small group of competitors remained actively on course through the cold, ice, and solitude of the night; less than one-third of the twelve hundred participants maintained a continuous progression of laps through the dark. These are the racers that were able to put their heads down, remain determined, and march onward towards coveted mileage bibs (50 and 75 Mile threshold bibs). World’s Toughest Mudder 2018 was just as I expected it to be; it was an obstacle course race designed to challenge your speed, obstacle technique, physical endurance, and athletic performance.  But World’s Toughest Mudder 2018 was also something that many (including myself) did not expect it to be; it was a trial of overall tenacity, perseverance of will, and the mental grit that it takes to move forward in spite of cold, doubt, fear, and difficulty.