This weekend I learned that I can do a lot of things I thought I couldn’t do. And I think a lot of us did.
There were some pretty hardcore obstacles on course and there were plenty of them.
To make things more interesting, I had a raging cold. And truly the worst part about that was not being able to hug my people.
The race weekend started off with a 3k Sunday. Surprisingly only one obstacle gave me any grief.
The Dragon’s Back consists of three 8′ high platforms. You need to jump through the air and land with your feet on the side wall and your hands on a bar.
I saw a video online beforehand and totally and fully underestimated how tall the boxes were or how big the jump was. I am not a jumper or a faller.Thank goodness Jen, Mandi and Mik were all there to patiently talk me off that ledge.
I counted myself down several times and could not for the life of me muster the gumption to throw myself into the air and onto that bar. I paced around, considering turning in my band and calling it a fail.
I couldn’t do it. I was too scared. I could walk away now unhurt.
But then… maybe I could do it. If I didn’t, I would stay scared. I would walk away unchanged.
Mik counted and I went. Zero hesitation. This guy ended up slipping off the very same obstacle on the take off and fell to the ground, destroying his knee. He then got up and redid it, taking 7th male in the world. When Mik says jump, you jump.
Sigh of relief. And onwards.
The Samurai (where you move from pole to pole by hugging them) was the talk of the town Friday, taking bands and causing back ups. I kept moving and made it in one shot. Phew. Must be all those years of riding horses.
The rig was swingy and fun, the wreck bag was long and heavy.
One 8′ wall and then onto the finish area.
The last six obstacles were monkey bars to a traverse pole (Monkey Business), an Irish Table, a set of hanging traverse walls, a zipline where you had to kip over little blocks (Skyline), a rig with those swingy wheels you find at playgrounds followed by monkey bars on a turny spindle (Urban Sky) and then a slip wall with a short rope.
I felt good finishing. Not spent, not gassed, just good. Ready for tomorrow.
Saturday was the 15k Championship and I was kinda chomping at the bit. It followed a lot of the same course but added a bunch of new (and crazy) stuff… and 12 more kilometres.
I was feeling a whole heap better and lasted for minutes at a time without coughing fits. I sensed that this could be a good day despite also having a healthy amount of terror about what lay ahead.
But I knew something was horribly amiss when they postponed the women’s start by ten minutes because the pro men were stuck at the first real obstacle.
Say what?? These are the best in the world. And they are men.
OCRWC is an unusual race in that ladies do the same rigs, lift the same bags and have zero concessions.
So if the top men are struggling on a quarter pipe… well… shoot. I’m in trouble.
They set us off and we moved up the mountain.
Approaching the infamous quarter pipe, I really didn’t see what all the fuss was about.
I so got this.
Tucked in behind a ninja (literally a ninja warrior), I hold back a second… but when she hits the ramp her feet just cycle wildly on the spot. Bam. Down. Apparently, the more people that went, the slicker it got.
I so do not got this.
The ninja and I notice the other side climbing up the left side of the wall using the edge. We take turns trying the same technique but soon find out there is no lip above halfway on the right side.
So we line up at the back of the pack to wait – painstakingly – watching one person at a time slowly scale their way up.
The longest I’ve ever waited at an obstacle was in the Legionnaire Lap at Tough Mudder, an untimed event. Almost ten minutes. This was twice as long. It was agony for everyone. Not least of which, those who trained all year with this as their goal race.
It seemed a little curious to me since they very clearly knew there was a problem and yet they still sent us right into it. It would have been so easy to just route us all around the problem. Instead they just ran us into it.
As we stood there biting our nails, they lowered some ropes. And finally we made it over: like a scene out of the walking dead… all remaining people clambering their way up the rope. At once.
I wasn’t there to run fast, but still I was angry. So angry.
Let it go. You came here to have fun. You’re not having fun. You’re being angry.
Wait – hold that thought… stay angry until Dragon’s Back. Then stop being angry.
Two roars and I was over.
Ok, now you can suck it up and have fun Miss Poopy Pants.
And right there I promised myself to control what I could… my attitude… and let go what I couldn’t. To cruise through the race like I planned and feel good about the obstacles.
And the obstacles were awesome.
There were heaps of ramp walls, incline walls, a Wreck Bag carry, a pipe traverse, an uphill crawl, and then things got really interesting.
Skull Valley was made with an overhead beam and climbing holds for only your hands. It looked scary. Mostly because the climbing holds were skulls. But it was actually fun.
It lead right into the Mini Rig: a 2.5′ or so high rig you had to traverse without touching the ground. I loved it. Such a fun concept. And a perfect use for my tiny body and squirrelly-ness.
Next was a weaver: over and under poles on a latter. So many new bruises.
After climbing over a Warped Wall and then some more walls, we hit the Stairway to Heaven. Which was straightforward enough until you get to the top of the stairs where you need to transition to the other side. After some discussion with the volunteer on how best to do such a thing, I opted for a pull-up, a Tarzan yell, and some wishful thinking. It worked. I surprised myself… again.
A fairly easy Herc hoist, log hop and big rope climb later, we were heading back to the barn for the final obstacles. I was super glad to know I could do them, since they were on course the day before. And oddly surprised that my grip strength was absolutely fine.
My technique was cleaner on the Skyline, instead of kipping, I just did a quick pull-up/press-up move. Unlike a Salmon Ladder, you don’t need to go back, just up.
Happily, I breezed through the final obstacles… and I had done everything I had set out to do: run a clean race with no retrials, not injure myself in the process, and have a blast. Bottleneck from hell be damned.
The team race was extra fun the next day due to a heavy down pour. I was doing the “speed leg” (I know, I know, but choices were limited). We ran up the mountain and then bum slid back down in the mud. Some of us on purpose… some of us not as tactfully. I was trying to keep my hands clean for Dragon Back (really… a third time) so of course I broke my falls with whatever else was available. Usually my face. It was a riot. A very serious race got very silly fast.
Ok Dragon’s Back. You and me. Again.
It was the last time I would stand perched atop the platform, knees shaking in my peripheral vision, rain running off my eye lashes, heart pumping through my chest. I went for it. Not with yesterday’s rage but now owing bravery to my teammates. And never alone, a friend, MJ coaxed me through with all the right words in the background.
After handing the chip off to our strength leg athlete, who had to carry a Wreck Bag for a mile up a very steep VERY slippery slope, we partook in the hilarity that was the scene. People falling every which way… and then bombing down uncontrollably, clung to their Wreck Bags, trying frantically to stay on course and not crush their fellow racers. And then trying to stop at the bottom. Too much fun was had.
After Joe’s final obstacles came the giant slip wall we had to work as a team to get over. It probably would have been easy had it been dry. But it was not dry. We did it as a team though.
That was the best part of my weekend. People that do crazy stuff and challenge themselves are great people. They are my people. I also got the opportunity to hang out with people from the opposite end of the sport: American Ninja Warriors. And they weren’t just ninjas on TV… it was really just who they are: awesome, down-to-earth, super-humans.
So what was the worst part? Even after that Quarter Pipe fiasco, it was the lack of hugs.