No there was no podium moment for us, and the race officials did not even acknowledge the most awesome nature of my “third place” age group finish. When I have entered races in the past, my only desire was to challenge myself and to be a “finisher”. My singular goal was to not be dragged from the course by the proverbial “sag wagon”. It has never really been within my grasp to claim a place on the podium, and that has been okay with me. But today, when I achieved a personal best, especially in light of the fact that just three years ago, I weighed over 200 pounds and was ashamed to leave my house, I have to tell you that my heart is absolutely freaking soaring. This is the highest ranking I have EVER achieved in any race that I have entered, and I am very proud to say that one of my “trainees” came in 4th in her age division! Whoop Whoop Whoop!
It’s 11:30 the night before the race and my head is absolutely spinning. I’ve just read the same three pages on my kindle, at least 8 times, and I still have no idea what they say.
We went to packet pickup tonight for our race tomorrow. We were able to wander around the grounds and go over some of the obstacles. We watched the “elite ” racers make their way around the course and I was a bit surprised to see folks walking at the early stages of the race. At other races I have entered, the elite category athletes were so far and above the rest of us that they were akin to a completely different species.
Daylight waning, we were heading back to the stadium to watch the finishers. Along the way, I positioned myself to watch the racers run down the infamous Suicide Hill. Lord have mercy! It is so freaking steep and the racers were literally hurling themselves down at ridiculous speeds. I have to say that I am really a bit freaked out by that hill.
While watching folks in the river and hoping to glean some tips on techniqe, it seemed that most were trying to walk across rather than swim. It didn’t seem very fast or efficient. Hmmmm.
The final obstacles were located inside the stadium. There was a rather long mudpit with barbed wire running across the top to ensure that you get nice and mucky, the fire jumping, and yet again, more muck to run through. I wasn’t worried about the mud at all until a gal got stuck in it. She stopped to wait for someone and she must have sunk, and she could not get unstuck. I heard rumors that somebody else lost a shoe in the mire. I’ve gotta remember no stopping at the mudpit.
I really do hope I can sleep tonight. I am far too excited.
Sleep really did elude me for the most part last night. This morning, as I laced up my timing chip into my running shoes, and pinned my race number onto my jersey, my resting heart rate was running at least 20 bpm higher than normal. My nerves were just completely fried! This is the first race that I have entered in over 10 years. I don’t know why I am so keyed up, but I just can’t keep the butterflies at bay.
We arrived at the fair grounds and I could see racers of all varieties milling about. My ladies arrived, and we did a few warm up exercises and took a few “before” shots. While trying to calm our nerves, I spied a lady that I believed to be in my age bracket. She had the look of a runner; petite figures, no hips, and huge calves. Uh oh, I feared she would wreak havoc with my race result. I was not wrong about that, but what really surprised me, as a definite beginning runner, is that she was in my sight for the entire race. In fact, if I had not gotten caught up in a few log jams at the various obstacles and balked at the suicide hill, I may very well have bested her time. As it were, she came in a mere 26.03 seconds ahead of me. The winner of my age bracket, must have been running in a different heat, as we never saw her on the course. She came in 2 minutes and 52 seconds in front of me…. which has me fantasizing about next year. I really think, that with a bit more running time under my belt, and a bit more strategic planning with regard to the obstacles, it is within my reach to beat or match that time. Hmmmm…. It really puts a lump in my throat and moisture in my eyes to even be able to contemplate something so grand. Just three short years ago, I could never have imagined the possibility.
The race started and ended in the stadium, as we ran out beneath the big inflatable warrior arch, we crossed the blue mat that triggered the timing chip to officially begin our race time. We ran for probably 1/3 of a mile before reaching our first obstacle. After hurdling an old growth size log, there was a series (4 of them to be precise) of chest high walls, with mud and barbed wire to navigate in between. I had been hoping to keep my feet dry for the majority of the race, but it was not to be. Right off the bat, the shoe sucking muck beneath the barbed wire, very nearly claimed one of my beloved running shoes.
From there, we ran on the grass field to a series of apple bins that we needed to climb in and out of. Last night, while testing my mettle before the race, it was on this obstacle, that I removed a large amount of skin from the top of my foot. My technique here was to place my hands on the sides of the gigantic boxes, and perform a series of slightly ungraceful vaults in and out, in and out, and in and out.
Continuing down a gravel hill and across more grass fields, we came to the tire obstacle. Here is where it would have benefited me greatly to hold back a bit and start my race a few minutes after that initial wave went through the arch. I had to stand around and wait. I had trained running through tires, but my practice course consisted of a measly 8 tires in length. In comparison, this course seemed interminable, and there were some gigantic tractor tires standing on end, blocking our exit from the obstacle. The only way out was up and over!
Finally through the tires, I had to splash through the freshly aggravated muck, water, and mud before arriving at the haystack obstacle. These are not your tiny little average hay bales, rather they measured 42 inches in height. Climbing up and over them was not that difficult, but my allergy to hay left me with hives… (uggh) Again at this obstacle I had to wait for people in front of me to clear it. When we had watched the elites race last night, we were surprised to see some of the racers walking away from the obstacles rather than running. Pushing my bile limit the entire race course, I now understand a bit better, and am feeling much more sympathetic.
Another straightaway dirt road running session brought us to a stack of junker cars that we had to climb up and over. Many of the cars had the windshields removed from them. Apparently in a past year, a racer had stepped hard on a windshield and actually cracked the glass. It does make sense from a safety standpoint to remove them; however, it did add a bit to my “pucker factor” I was just a bit wary of perhaps falling victim to a badly placed step, and plummeting into the naugahyde swathed driving compartment. We had been able to practice on these obstacles last night, and I have to say that just the mental preparedness of that helped my confidence immensely; although, I continued to run right at my bile/throat threshold.
After the junker cars, our route headed across the bridge and the river, then turned sharply and once again, we ran on grass which covered the dike on the opposite side of the river. Back on pavement, we reached a very steep hill and of course, our route went straight up it. Most of the racers in my vicinity were walking (miss second place was walking). I ran. I ran the entire hill. At the top of the hill, we had to climb the “warrior wall”. This climb should have been easy, but with the fatigue of the race accumulating in my body, I found myself floundering for footholds and more than once I found that I was barking my shins on the planks . Once over the wall, there was an aid station and I grabbed a cup of water, sloshed a bit around in my mouth and dumped the rest over my head. How can I keep going and not puke? Somehow I managed.
A nice flat road section to catch my breath, led me back onto the grass and a loop through a park which involved diving into a tunnel beneath a wall and then crawling through the pitch black tunnel and erupting from the earth at a gigantic sand hill. Up and over the hill we climbed and then once more back running on a grass field. I made the mistake of entering the tunnel feet first. I had to wriggle my way around in the blackness to somehow crawl my way back to daylight.
Once back on the road, we entered the soft muddy field at the top of the infamous “suicide hill”. After watching the racers hurl themselves down this hill the night before, I have to admit to being more than just a little bit terrified. I paused at the top of the hill…. Said a little prayer, and starting plunging my way down through the mud. I had only traveled a few steps before the ground came rushing up to meet my ass. Sigh. I got back up and made my way to the bottom of the hill. Being so frightened, I probably lost quite a bit of time on this obstacle. I will do better next year. It is a good thing to know what to expect. Finally at the bottom of the hill, we plunged into the Okanogan River and made our way across. The rivers’ current got the best of me, and I had to fight a bit to stay upstream of the exit ramp from the swim. Crawling out of the water, that bile was right there in my throat threatening to emerge at any second. Heaving, I made my way up the last hill. There was a young couple who had been playing leap frog with me along the course. We had been near each other since the haybales. The man and his wife jogged up next to me and he said, “come on ladies, let’s finish this thing strong”. Inspired by his encouragement, I dug deep and gave it all I had.
We entered the stadium. I could hear whistles and cheers coming from the stands. I slowed and let the young couple enter the mudpit ahead of me. Once at the threshold, I threw myself onto my belly and pulled myself along beneath the flags and barbed wire barriers. The barbed wire was strung so low and tight, that I had to press my face into the muck to get beyond it without leaving a significant portion of my hide behind.
Dragging myself from the muck, I easily hurdled the two fire obstacles. The thing that caught me off guard about the course in the stadium, was the level of muckiness immediately after the fire hurdles. Again, struggling to sprint to the finish, I very nearly lost my shoes in the mire. Finally free from the muck, I turned on the big hurt and gave it absolutely every freaking ounce of energy that I had. Finally beyond the timing barrier, I bent over, hands on my knees in the classic “dry heaves” pose. I was a bit embarrassed when somebody asked if I was okay…. doesn’t everybody do this at a race? Sitting in the stadium, in what I imagined to be the “winners circle” catching my breath, I was able to watch all of my ladies and now dear friends and compatriots cross through the final obstacles into warrior status. It feels absolutely incredible to have set out to reach this seemingly insurmountable goal, and not only did we conquer the race, but we did it in fine style. Today, not only are we runners, but we are freaking WARRIORS!