6:10 AM, I20 East – Barreling down the road listening to a Police and Led Zeppelin rock block is a fine way to start the race day. Today, Terrain Race Atlanta is on the menu.
6:25 AM, Waffle House, Conyers, GA – Mr. Pink and Dirty meet me at the Grey Berets corporate board room.
7:55 AM, Parking – Instead of going around my ass to get to my elbow, they actually have me entering the parking lot at the end towards the event and stacking back from there. A minor detail but nice nonetheless for us Georgia International Horse Park (GIHP) regulars.
7:15 AM, Registration Tent – I wind my way through the zig zagging metal barriers to reach the registration tables. This is made somewhat difficult as I am pulling the official Grey Berets beer and gear wagon (shhhh, don’t tell anyone about the beer). I get to the tent and she scans the bar code of the Terrain email on my phone. Very cool tech. I hand her my waiver and she rewards me with my packet and timing chip. <pointing to some very cool sweat bands with the monkey logo> “hey what are those?” I say. “They are for mumble mumble mumble”…..I leave not asking anything further and understanding less.
7:17 AM, Grey Berets Command Tent – We have sent up next to the largest team (which is naturally, my fellow GORMRs) tent provided by Terrain. <pointing to some very cool sweat bands with the monkey logo being WORN on the wrists of my teammates>. “Hey what are those for?” I ask. “they’re the bands for mandatory obstacle completion (MOC). Well ain’t that some shit! I hightail it back to the registration tent.
7:18 AM, Registration Tent – I take advantage of an opening and dash to the same volunteer. “Hey I was supposed to get a sweatband, I’m in the competitive wave. You know, you gave me a timing chip.” She looks at me as if I have two lobsters growing out of my head. I gently but firmly prod her into action. She starts punching some keys on the laptop. “what’s your name again?” She’s not finding anything and I left my phone at the tent. Breath deep. At this point I hear a keening like sound coming from someone who is obviously a volunteer coordinator. “I want to cry right now! You are supposed to give timing chips to only those people who are in the competitive waves or who have paid for them. NOT everyone!” Doh! Shit’s about to hit the fan. My girl (who is probably part of the problem) finds my name just in time and I get the hell out of dodge with my band.
7:59 AM, Starting Corral–The starting corral was dominated by two soft sided, steel frame supported, above ground pools, pregnant with thousands of gallons of water. These fourteen-yard dumpster sized sacs of H2O are 25’ feet before the starting line inflatable. What manner of fuckery is this?
8:00 AM, Starting Corral– Competitive men’s 5k is called to the starting corral. We are a bit confused as it seems the 5k competitive waves are scheduled to go off at the same time as those of us in the competitive 10k ones. What the hell are they doing, everyone is climbing into the pools?! Is this some sort of new starting ritual; an OCR baptismal? The emcee keeps the words blissfully short and yells “go!” Everyone clambers out of the pools in a pell-mell rush of legs and feet and water. Well that is the most awkward, messed up way to start a race I’ve seen to date. BUT, considering it’s going to be hotter than two rats fucking in a wool sack today, and it already feels like I’m on a bus tour in Malaysia, perhaps it’s not such a bad thing. (writer’s note: This race originated in Arizona, so this starting line gimmick just may be a way to keep racers from melting in the desert heat)
8:10 AM, Starting Corral– I climb into the pool, and for the first time in the 2016 race season, Chubby Conquistador and his two bulldogs aren’t inclined to go scrambling for the safety and warmth of my body cavity. It’s quite refreshing standing there, but it is a bit awkward. The spectators are lined up along the crowd barriers and I kind of feel like it’s SeaWorld and we’re the seals. I can see the timing mats at the start inflatable, and with Yuri Force in the very back of the adjacent pool, I am confident I will be ahead of him in a race for the first time in recorded history. Well, at least until the timing mats.
OBSERVATIONS ON THE RUN
- And we’re off, in one of the most ungainly starts in OCR.
- If I had a dollar for every time the start of a race at the GIHP went this direction, why I’d have two Powerball tickets and junior jumbo bucks scratcher. It’s like seeing an old friend, but a friend with dried mounds of earth and rock, ready to snap an ankle.
- The 4-foot wall is wobblier than a newborn giraffe.
- It’s flat/downhill and fast.
- I come out of the woods to a 10-foot roped wall in the firebreak. The ropes are ultra-skinny! The five horizontal 2Xs make for easy work of the climb.
- Still flat and fast.
- I come out of the woods and jump into the cool mud pits of Mud Moguls. The water is waist deep and the loose dirt mounds loom overhead on the opposite side. A guy is struggling to get out so I give him a boost. He makes the distinct wow-i-did-not-expect-a-hand-on-my-ass-today sound. Hey, I’m a Grey Beret, we help out where we can, when we can. I was not rewarded with a thank you. I follow the spirit of the obstacle and do not go to the edges where it’s clearly lower and easier to get out. It’s a fucking struggle to get out of that first pit. The next two I get a helping hand under my right foot.
- “5k to the left, 10k to the right”, yells the volunteer.
- Going to the right, I am rewarded with a 6-foot wall.
- It’s a nice bit of wooded trail running (I’m sure I’ve never been to these parts before) that leads me to a tire flip.
- The entirety of my tire flipping history can be counted on one hand with one finger, and it was a miserable fucking failure. But these tires prove to be smaller and thankfully devoid of water. 2x up and 2x back.
- My lack of tire flipping skill and etiquette are laid bare as I flip right into the path of another racer. I apologize profusely as I drag the tire off his toes. (Terrain; COME ON! You placed this obstacle in a clearing not much bigger than my kitchen. It was a wee bit tight for an obstacle that requires some elbow room.)
- I come out of the woods and find myself coming alongside the mud moguls, the course tape merging me with the previously seen 5k split. As I run past the pits I shout out to friend and fellow GORMR Michelle.
- It’s still fast and flat (or even downhill), but I am not going fast enough for the circumstances. The fitness just isn’t there.
- The Monkey Bars sit out in the open of the firebreak, not a volunteer in sight. So much for MOC.
- There is no step up bar so I am able to not break stride and just jump up and grab the bars. It’s flat and the bars are nice and thick, but whoa!, they are widely spaced. I use the momentum from the jumping swing to carry me through. I’ m not sure how my more “vertically deficient” friends will manage to even get to the bars.
- We immediately drop into the woods for some bushwacking and just like that I am flying through the air.
- I hit the ground with my arms back and shoulder rounded. Luckily it’s all pine needles where I land and no one is directly behind me. I slide to an ignominious stop.
- First water station finally shows up! As the set-up has its back to me I assume I will see this one again.
- It’s getting fucking hot and it’s not even 9AM. The later waves are going to spontaneously combust. That starting line idea ain’t such a stupid fucking idea now, is it Tretsch?! “Yeah whatever, voices inside my head!”
- A 4-foot wall (just as fucking wobbly as the first), 6-foot wall, and an 8-foot wall (with a very energetic volunteer willing a struggling racer over), and we are headed back towards the festival area.
- I’m following the tried and true path of every Rugged Maniac race at GIHP as I head towards the open field of the festival area on my way to Monkey Balls.
- There is a backup despite the five lanes this giant rig has. Chock that up to the combined 5k men’s/women’s and 10k men’s/women’s waves overlapping and no dedicated retry lanes. (Terrain, if you’re going to do MOC, you need to learn how to do it efficiently). The whole thing is suspended over a larger version of the starting corral pools, so even if I fall I’m still winning.
- It’s fucking hot, there isn’t a lick of shade out here in the open, and I’m sweating worse than a group of nuns at a cucumber farm.
- It starts off with a 15-foot horizontal 2×10 studded with 7 alternating climbing holds. The holds are juggy so pose no issue, but it still takes a concerted effort to keep the body from swinging wildly from side to side as I make my way forward monkey bar style. The deep center girder holding up the 2x10s makes for a challenging transition to the next 15-foot section; 7 suspended beast balls (think baseballs and softballs, but with the texture of a climbing hold) proceeded by a suspended cone.
- Three tries and 9 fucking minutes later I’m back at it with my soggy Monkey sweatband intact. I loathe MOC. I love MOC. MOC is the only way to play.
- Thankfully I’m soon back in the woods protected from that blazing orb in the sky.
- I spy a large crate with the telltale orange straps of Wreck Bags peeking out. Carry time!
- What the fuck?! THIS is all they have? This isn’t enough for one heat let alone the inevitable stack up when the open waves start to merge. Terrain, you are going to have some pissed off people when they have to wait for a bag!
- I heave the bag onto my shoulder only to almost throw it behind me. I was expecting the usual 50# and got 25#. And lo! They are ALL 25#. I won’t complain.
- As I head up the hill (of course! It’s always a fucking hill) I hear the volunteer bellowing; “Remember the code word and whisper it to me when you return!”. What?! This is an awesome tweak to this ubiquitous obstacle, plus I get to whisper sweet nothings into a stranger’s ear.
- This is the first major hill of the day.
- It’s shaping up to be a long carry. This would be really sucky with a 50# bag. I finally get to the turn and there on the course arrow sign is a single word. It appears to have been written by a crack addled tweaker with access to a bag full of sharpies, but it is just legible enough to read the word: Monkey. “Well that makes sense”, I think to myself. Or did I say it out loud? I don’t know, it’s fucking hot; my brain is melting.
- I run back down at a good clip, afraid somehow I’ll forget a single word only six letters long.
- I think I leaned in a little closer than the volunteer would have liked. Perhaps he didn’t care for my husky sexy-time voice as I whispered, “monkey”.
- The trail opens up a bit and leads me to a series of corrugated culvert pipes leading down into a mud pit. Yes! I need to be wet….and muddy. A controlled descent head first and splashdown occurs. Oh that glorious water feels so good! All manner of body parts singing the praises of this dirty, disgusting, muddy, but oh so refreshing water. A crawl under some netting, through another set of tubes, more mud and water and I’m feeling refreshed.
- Back on to a wide open trail I get to a suspended cargo net thingy spanning the course. It appears the course crosses over itself. I love when they do this during races! Allows me to see people I wouldn’t normally see after the gun goes off. I run under it (no one over my head at this point) and keep on keeping on.
- Hey! There’s my friend and fellow GORMR Rachel, heading towards the cargo net thingy and running like she stole something. Like I said, you get to see people you normally don’t get to see.
- I am now on the wide road/trail that anyone who has raced at GIHP has been on, at least partially, 100% of the time EVERY time. However, at this point on the road I’m usually going the opposite direction.
- Still flat and fast, except my “fast” is slowing down.
- I come around a bend and there’s everyone’s favorite hill (anyone? BattleFrog wreck bag carry? Spartan bucket carry? Good times.) with a very tall and steeply inclined cargo net guarding the approach.
- The Flip & Crab ™ technique goes off with just a slight sphincter puckering hitch; my hands come away from the net when it bounces under my feet.
- The long uphill slog is made more tolerable, power(ish) walking with friend and fellow GORMR Joe. The shit is shot, and laughs are had.
- There’s the first water station, which is now the second water station. I’m about 4 miles in.
- I’m fucking hot and moist.
- A sweet downhill carries me back to the cargo net thing.
- It’s a spindly, square metal tubed affair. Widely spaced horizontal bars to climb, a horizontal cargo net to negotiate, and a flaccid angled cargo net for the downclimb.
- I have a new horizontal cargo net technique spontaneously created at Panther Run (review forthcoming. Yeah, yeah, I know! It’s been three and half weeks! So sue me. I have my notes and the review is kind of started). I dive out from the approach edge of the net as far as I can, and just before impact I turn sideways to land in a roll. I take the momentum into a couple of rolls and transition onto my hands and knees for a smooth and quick traverse. It works in my head. (do not do this with people around! Obviously)
- Back on the wide road/trail and I should be able to kick up the speed several notches. There’s no reason I shouldn’t be fucking flying down this flat road, but my brain just won’t tell my legs to go faster. I need to work on my mental game.
- I almost trip over tsome zig zagged 4x4s hugging the ground. I traverse these with great trepidation, as the 4” height from the ground is somewhat daunting.
- A mud pit immediately following the balance beam of doom is another fantastic cooling off opportunity. A quick mud crawl under some rope and boards and it’s back to hacking my way through the humidity.
- And in the same spot as so many other races, I drop into the woods. Some bushy, woodsy running gets me to the base of a short and very steep hill. Other races have used this location but with a rope. The Icebug lugs prove their worth.
- Back out at the very periphery of the festival field brings me to another diverging of the 5k and 10k courses. I take the 10k to the right and have to heave over a 6-foot wall for my troubles.
- It’s a 100 yard flat run to the Tarzan swing. I see two ropes hanging in sequence and the volunteer tells me to get to the other side without touching the ground. “no problem”, I’ll just tap into my inner Johnny Weissmuller. Damn if my toe doesn’t scrape the ground, and volunteer Johnny-on the spot makes me do it again. Second attempt I make it to the other side but can’t commit and go swinging back to the beginning. What the hell is my problem?! I said Johnny Weismuller not Johnny Depp (wait for it……). Third times a charm and I’m off and running.
- I groan as I see which direction the course tape is taking me. it’s to be some exposed granite face running for me today. I fucking hate running on that shite.
- The tunnel under the road is especially dark today since the eyes are so wasted from the bright sunlight. I run slowly with high steps.
- And just like Spartan we have to run through a concrete culvert. I just love how that feels wearing big lugs.
- Annnnnd there’s the exposed granite, radiating a billion fucking degrees of heat straight up my shorts. If this race doesn’t end soon Imma gonna be getting grass stains on my gentlemen’s briefcase back at the festival area.
- Will this rock ever end?!
- Finally! A water station! Most of the water goes on my melon. I swear I hear a sizzle.
- And it just keeps going up. Fuck!
- A lone girl, a sad little pile of 40(ish)# sand bags, a 25-yard loop carry (unless your Yuri Force. Ask him about it sometime. It’s a gem of a story.) and it’s downhill granite running time. Downhill is only slightly less sucky. I fucking hate running on granite.
- At this point, given the burden of event site knowledge, I could go on autopilot. Yet, somehow I still manage to almost impale my head on a tree branch.
- Back under the road, back up the hill and I’m running alongside the VIP parking lot again, looking at the incoming people looking at me. They’re all full of excitement and wonder and naiveté for their upcoming wave, and here I am, about to make a fucking phase change.
- The rope climb is 12-feet max. no bell, I need only tap the metal truss holding up the collection of knotless ropes.
- I can see the finish line across the festival area and yet the legs still won’t cooperate. Stupid appendages with their need for oxygen.
- As the course tape takes me in an out swinging arc, I can see the last two obstacles: a long mud pit and a huge elevated cargo net.
- I greedily jump into the mud pit/pool as if it was a marble tub full of Cristal. The finish line is 50 yards away and I’m lingering in this thing like it’s the baths of Caracalla. I finally climb out and “dash” to the last obstacle.
- It takes two attempts to walk up the angled, slippery, muddy 4×4 that leads to the edge of the massive cargo net crawl. The Dive & Roll ™ is executed with the grace of a flying rock.
- NO!!! a firemen’s pole to get down! Last time I had to do something like this I jammed up my knee but good. I give it a death grip with both hands and feet and slowly slide down.
- And just like that I’m across the finish line. My friend and fellow GORMR Gwenn drapes the sweetest piece of bling (apologies to UB belt buckles) in all of OCR around my neck. Seriously a huge heavy spinning monkey head. Best medal to date……from an aesthetic point of view. What can i say, I love the monkey logo.
9:30 AM, Festival Area – The Grey Berets Start to come across the finish line and we hang out to cheer as each additional one shows up.
10:15 AM, Festival Area – The beer and gear wagon is assaulted and the first beer is cracked. Don’t judge me. It’s Noon somewhere.
11:35 AM, Festival Area – The heat finally gets to me. So, the race shorts go back on and it’s shenanigans at the Monkey Balls. Again it takes me 3 tries. Glad I didn’t keep my street clothes on.
11:45 AM, Festival Area – The biggest team swag from Terrain is truly impressive: aluminum water bottles in Terrain orange with the monkey logo, Terrain coozies, Terrain squeeze water bottles, and Terrain stickers. However, the Aluminum bottles came with the screw-on tops loose (while the bottle itself was sealed in plastic) in the box and the squeeze bottles came with no tops. A true OCR mystery there.
12:15 PM, Festival Area – I can’t take it! I’m out of water, and the beer isn’t cutting it. I MUST have a Coke. Luckily my free beer tab also works for sodas and water at the beer tent. Good move Terrain. The fizzy burn is sooo good.
The rest of the day is spent enjoying the company of my fellow Grey Berets, chatting with fellow GORMRS, cheering on the podium winners, being lightly seared to a medium rare perfection, and general all around foolishness. The walk back to the car is never easy after a day of racing but this time I took a different route and it was fine.
Writer’s note: Terrain race only recognizes top three in men’s/women’s 5k and 10k. With that, they have MOC for the competitive waves BUT within the results they do not parse out those who keep their bands and those who don’t. Therefore, there is no real way to truly know one’s final results. Caveat Emptor if that kind of thing matters. My personal opinion is if they are bothering with MOC then they need to take it to its obvious extent and make that a data point in the results.
Photo Credits (in order of appearance): Hilery Stillions Wilson. Jeremy Wisotsky, Terrain Race, Laura Vanella Hawkins, Jennifer Hess Foster