Well… that was interesting.
It was a race unlike anything I have ever done and by far the hardest challenge I have ever accomplished. I woke up at 6AM for my 8 o’clock start time and, me being me, I almost missed that. Driving up to the mountain it was a $10 parking fee and naturally I had no cash on me. After rallying back down the mountain to find an ATM and finally parking my car I headed to the starting line 25 minutes before the gun. I was definitely the new guy in town and had no idea where to go or what to do but somehow I managed to register, stash my supply bag for my second loop, and get to the tape before the 400 athletes rushed the start of what would be over 26 miles of pure hell.
Trenches, barbed wire, rope climbs and traverses. Monkey bars, more barbed wire, sandbags, and much much more, this was not a regular 26.2 that I was use to. I found the hardest part of the race was my inexperience to the multiple obstacles. I can climb a rope and jump an 8 foot wall no problem. When it came to crawling under barbed wire or any other obstacle that required a bit more finesse I was astonished at how much time I was losing. While some lady and about 15 others just cruised by me I was like, hey! I exerted myself tremendously passing you 3 miles ago!
One of my few saving graces
Where finesse was not required I found that downhill running was one of my greatest allies. Being 22 I possess a very little amount of self preservation and a great deal of recklessness. Have you ever run down a hill and had your legs completely out of your control? Just pumping your arms as fast as they would go while you cross your fingers praying your toe doesn’t catch a rock? Yeah, that was me yesterday every time the pitch would turn downhill. Very unfortunately my toe did catch a few rocks which resulted in some truly spectacular face plants but thankfully nothing serious enough to take me out of the race. Just a flickering of vision and a badly wounded pride as people gather around me yelling something that sounded a lot like, “Are you alright?!” I kept getting back up though and going even more recklessly, one thought playing through my head more than not. A phrase my old coach Brandon Dyksterhouse use to say if we botched a turn in skiing. “Free money. You’re giving away free money.” Thats how I started viewing those poor people crawling down the hill, who clearly cared more about their well being than I. Ever time I got seriously out of control I would laugh. “Free money”
The first lap took me just under 4 and a half hours. It included 35 obstacles over a distance of 13+ miles. I was beaten down, chewed up, and spit back out. My body was bloody and my muscles ached. My right knee, which a week prior said a big “F YOU” for my aggressive training schedule, had been having spasms. I jogged into the transition area, replenished my food and water. Emptied my shoes of rocks, mud, and water and 7 minutes later headed back out for my second lap on that hellish course. I’ve gone this far, right?
Pictures from this morning. Yes, my body definitely hates me.
About a tenth of a mile into my second loop I was crawling under a mesh cargo net when my legs seized up. They made it clear that another 5ish hours was not looking too appealing right now and they wanted to stop. Under that net I sat down, rubbed my legs and gathered some mental fortitude. I truly believe that in that moment my body and mind came to a mutual agreement. I imagine it was somewhere along the lines of my body saying, “Hey listen. I will get you through this race. I will get you to the finish line and I won’t completely shut down on you. But after that I am off the clock for a while.” I am guessing my mind agreed because after, I got back up and I must say I am astonished that my body put up with what I asked of it yesterday. My pace didn’t fall off dramatically and I kept on waiting for that moment when something would just stop working but it never came and I was extremely happy and surprised at that.
At this point everyone and their mother was on course since the regular heats of the normal “Beast” had started, flushing thousands onto the mountain. I found a fellow Ultra athlete and me and him hammered out the miles together, both aware of the hell that still awaited us. It’s funny really. Ever obstacle I came up to on that second lap was the worst one on the course. One of them was a “Tyrolean Traverse” across one of the snow making ponds. You had three tries and if you didn’t make it you were disqualified. I opted for the “on top” method and yes, this was one of those obstacles where people were crushing me. I must have spent 10 minutes lying on that stupid rope, puling myself across. As a result I feel as if someone has punched me in the chest but at least I made it.
Not me, but my technique. You could understand it gets a bit painful after a while…
At this point I was 7 or 8 hours into the race with more and more trenches, walls, ropes, and logs in my way. Not to mention an hour of extremely steep hiking. “One foot at a time.” The Beast athletes were very respectful to the Ultras, so on critical single tracks they moved out of the way and we were all granted to right-of-way to the obstacles which was really, very helpful. It was a classy way to handle things and I only met nice people yesterday.
After scrambling through this challenge and that I was in the home stretch which was basically 2 miles of straight downhill. Since my knee was fond of spasming at this point I had developed a unique style of running down hills which involved locking out my knee and half skipping, half galloping, as I rotated my hip to keep moving. Simply put, I looked completely ridiculous but making that “free money” all the way.
9:25:09.6 after my 8AM start I crossed the finish line. Definitely worse for wear but still on my feet and not dead. Which I am happy about. I finished 16th overall for the men and 2nd for my age group. Yes, it was a far cry from 1st and no, they do not give money for making flip 30 in an ultra. I set out with a goal, partly to raise money, but I think giving myself a few weeks to train for an ultra race may have been a tad aggressive on my part. Either way I know I gave it everything I had yesterday and left nothing in reserve. My body hates me but my mind is content.
McKayla Maroney anyone? hahahah, loving it
If you were wondering, no. Today I can not walk. Not very well and I see a long time coming in my recovery. I gave that course my heart and body like every person out there yesterday. I am glad I rose to the challenge and am looking forward to the day when I can hit the trails again. To everyone who helped me in this, from Doug and Joe, to the blog reader or facebook liker, thank you very much!