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…….
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.
Observations on the Run:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Back in the woods the winds are calmed but the sunlight is dappled and loses its warming intensity.
- Fresh handfuls of warm leaves are in order.
- 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.
- Just. Keep. Fucking. Moving.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Some nice trail running and plenty of leaves and pine needles keeps the chills at bay and the hands somewhat in working order.
- I cruise through Kiss My Walls and manage to avoid face planting or racking my conkers on Sawhorses. Things are looking up.
- Back in the woods, I know at this point we are in for a long haul of trail running.
- Fuck these hills! But, the leaves are nice.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- After Barn Doors and some nice flat running, it’s straight up a fucking steep hill to Slippery Incline.
- Well, well, this is interesting! We are approaching the backside of the obstacle. A ladder climb first and then the incline down.
- 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.)
- Fuck this heavy grass! They need fewer horses out here and more goats.
- 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.
- I crawl out the other end, shake off as much mud as I can and head to Davey Jones’ Locker, fifty yards away.
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!”
- 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.
- It goes off without a hitch or inconvenienced body parts.
- I skirt along the edge of a lake then turn inland up yet another fucking hill. I need to move to Florida!
- MY hands are absolutely on fire with coldness.
- I cross over the gravel road with Blazed to my left and Shriveled Richard to me right and head into the woods.
- More dry leaves and pine needles for the hands. Mother Nature provides and the Dude abides.
- 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.
- 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!
- I jump out and every appendage is a useless stump, and 200 feet away is Sawtooth.
- You. Have. Got. To. Be. Fucking. Kidding. Me?!
- I run towards it pounding on my legs, my arms, my body; anything to get some sense of feeling to return.
- 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.
- 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.
- Ain’t that some shit!
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- Back into the woods for the last bit of trail running and, you guessed it, I pick up some leaves and pine needles.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- I fall.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!!!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The misery is over. The band is retained. I need to get some fucking dry clothes on.
- 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