5:00 AM – Alabaster, Alabama – Wake up in a shrine to the University of Alabama football program. I feel dirty and cheap. I fear retribution from a particular anthropomorphized orange.
5:55 AM – Alabaster, Alabama – “Jimmy” the pimply faced morning manager at Chik-fil-A can’t seem to get the doors open. I guess it’s off to Waffle House for our much needed race fuel; the elixir of endurance, the potion for performance, the mud for mudding – Coffee.
6:00 AM – Alabaster, Alabama – No flipping large Styrofoam to go cups. Only four flipping cups left in the whole flipping Waffle House, and they are all “smalls”. We plunder them of all remaining cups.
6:05 AM – Route 65 South – The car is redolent with the smell of Waffle House wheat toast. My fellow Grey Berets are obviously epicureans of the highest order. I’m triple fisting with two cups of coffee and my usual pre-race smoothie.
6:45 AM – Billingsley, Alabama – We finally arrive at Bridges of Faith’s Bridgestone facility. Registration tent is literally in a picturesque grassy field with the free parking. I can see the start line 200 yards further on. It’s a fine morning.
7:03 AM – Billingsley, Alabama – The port-a-johns are a might close – as in 10 feet close – to the registration tent. I will not be held responsible as a result therein.
7:10 AM – Billingsley Alabama – The Grey Berets opt for the blue All-Star bracelet. Seven harder obstacles; complete each one and you get a hole punch in your bracelet. Get seven punches and you get the coveted blue Almighty bandana. I sense a new do-rag in my future….
Observations on the Run:
1. Oops! No one heard the start signal. The RD coaxes us, with wild gesticulations, to start. It’s a bedlam beginning.
2. 25 yards out and it’s a 90 degree left turn. Thank you smaller people for being my bumpers.
3. Going out at a blazing pace. Might be an issue……
4. A quick downhill transitions immediately into a very steep uphill with 3 flipping Mini A-Frames in the way. That’s some evil snot right there.
5. What the flip!? How in the heck is going down and up, turn into down and up and down and up on the return?! Have I entered into some sort of topographic M.C. Escher?!
6. OOOO boy! I’m kind of gassed.
7. An easy Inverted (ladder) Wall with a jump gap to a slanted ladder wall over a muddy soupy mess. Perfect time to try the flip technique.
8. They are definitely using every hill they have.
9. I love tires on a steep incline/cliff! Must not use hands going up Tire Falls!
10. Bifurcated culvert pipes turned into Water Slides sends me into a muddy mess of a Low Crawl. Good god! What is this stuff? The color of breast fed baby poop and the consistency of cake batter with too much undissolved sugar. Impossible to move quickly through and way too easy to get stuck in the morass. It’s flipping awesome!
11. Damn floppy horizontal Cargo Net! You mock my lack of grace!
12. Ahhhh! A dusty flat dirt road is nice, because I’m carrying 20lbs of cake batter in my shorts.
13. The Sun is bright and warm.
14. A smelly waist high Pond Crossing¸ but it is cool, wet, and it gets me back down to racing weight.
15. Finally! Into the trees for some shady trail running.
16. Here’s the first All-Star obstacle! Diamond Devil, the winning design in AMR’s recent obstacle design contest, is a beautiful construction to behold. It’s awkward and sketchy in a good way, but ultimately not too challenging, since it has been severely truncated from its original design. Bummer! Punch my band bro!
17. Brick Carry, the second All-Star obstacle immediately follows. Rows of cinder blocks await in an open meadow to be escorted for a short, flat, jog/shuffle/walk. My 2 blocks are painted a lovely shade of All-Star blue and connected together with a short length of rope. I channel my inner oxen and haul them around the loop. OOO! That next obstacle looks long and fun. Punch my band bro!
18. I drop my load, ahem, and move on to the Gauntlet 50 feet away. Two huge culvert pipes loom ahead, their gloomy interiors mysterious with silhouettes of strange shapes. But first! A cool mud/water pit crawl under some logs. The 48” diameter pipes 30 feet beyond prove to be filled with tires of all sizes. I trip my way through the pipe with the grace of an elephant seal on dry land. Damn! No rest! Straight to a series of elevated horizontal logs to negotiate. No rest! A 5 foot wall and barb wire roll….times two. No rest! A quick scoot across some balance logs.
19. They are packing in some obstacles in this meadow! A couple of people are nipping at my heels.
20. No sooner have I jumped off the balance logs when it’s into a muddy pit to make my way through Steam Roller. Tires, loosely hung from 4x4s spanning the mud pit, force me down into the mud as I push back against their weight. It’s mildly claustrophobic. I get passed.
Writer’s note: Later, photographic evidence clearly shows a disturbing amount of butt cleavage. One more row of tires and I may well have had my first OCR wardrobe malfunction and some scrapes in unusual places.
21. And the hits just keep coming! I start Muddy Cheerios thinking “oh hum, tires on the ground…..gee, fun”, then I round the bend. WHAT the flip!? Tires of all shapes and sizes as far as I can see going up a slight hill. I get into a rhythm by running on the sidewalls and try to catch the guy who passed me. They go on and on and on and on………………..
22. As I come around another bend I finally see the end of this infernal tire highway and catch a glimpse of the familiar blue chevrons denoting an All-Star obstacle. There’s just a bit of a line.
23. Sidewinder is monkey bars with bars parallel with the direction of travel and all not in the same line. Excellent twist, but not long enough. Punch my band bro!
24. A quick run along some old horse stalls – pastoral in their quiet decrepitude – and Tire Wall, the 4th All-Star obstacle appears. Two columns, of three humongous hanging tires each, flank a center grid of tires for the non All-Star lane. It’s a tricky climb that tops out at least 12 feet high. The transition to the down climb makes the heart skip a beat. Punch my band bro!
25. A quick climb up into the hay loft of the Barn. No time for nooky (my, that IS an idyllic spot for a hammock….wink wink nudge nudge) as it’s a quick sprint to other side to climb back down.
26. Back out onto a dirt road. I am feeling uncomfortably winded and the negative voices in my head are getting louder. What the hey, this is only a 5k!?
27. Backtracker is an interesting riff on the backwards uphill crawl, the usual cargo net having been replaced by monkey bars. However they are high enough off the ground to be able to keep my butt elevated and do a speedy reverse-crab-walk-monkey-bar-traverse hybrid. The “Crabkey”? “The Crabey”? “The Monkrab”? Lower those bars and it becomes an arm burner.
28. Back in the trees I stop, just literally stop. I’m tired. Why am I so flipping tired?! I walk a bit battling the voices in my head. I convince myself it’s the lack of consistent training runs due to being so flipping wrecked from the last few “big” races. Or I’m just a being a puss.
29. The All-Star version of the 8 and half foot Climbing Wall has the signature painted blue chevrons on its face in lieu of stepping blocks. Damn! Hanging from fingertips was not what I was expecting. Nothing like a heel hook to get you out of trouble. Punch my band bro!
30. It’s always cool when the obstacle allows for overlapping traffic. The Bridge has you traversing over the heads of people slogging through a very uneven mud pit on the way to the 6th All-Star obstacle.
31. It’s out of the mud pit and immediately you’re climbing the very tall warped wall that is Escalator. Though the rope is braided nylon it proves not to be greasy and the top is reached with a big leg hook. Punch my band bro!
32. The final All-Star obstacle proves to be a doozy. Triple A-Frame is a huge A-frame, covered with a slippery All-Star logo emblazoned tarp that rises straight out of a thigh high swampy mess. The attachment of the rope on the slanted face of the wall at the top proves to make for a very tricky transition to a ¾” lip. Punch my band bro! The bandana will be mine!
33. Lowering myself on the other side (the mirror opposite of the approach side) is less than elegant. And now I am faced with a steep hill. Great.
34. The Polar Dip is well timed, as I am getting hot and more tired. Giant square blocks of white Styrofoam floating in the muddy water make the dumpster look like a giant mug of hot chocolate. This seems appropriate given the crackling fires of Fire Jump beyond. The blocks are a challenging add to this oft copied obstacle.
35. Three consecutive rows of blazing logs with tight spacing makes for awkward pacing and I am unable to successfully pull off “The Flash” ™.
36. I come out into an open field where the course is doubling back on itself. I can see the guy who passed me, my mental breakdown walk creating a gap too large to overcome.
37. The Low Crawl here is not “smooth” cake batter, but rather a wet rocky mess. Rolling under the logs keeps the scraping to a minimum.
38. Why do I have such trouble with floppy flaccid cargo nets? I finally get to the top of Oil Rig, get to the other side, and immediately take a high jump onto the slide. The water is refreshing and just the right depth.
39. Take another 180 turn and head straight towards Sheriff’s Taser. I have a philosophical issue with electrical obstacles; there is no physicality to them, no fun upside, and nothing but potential unhealthy downsides. BUT, I have to do all obstacles in the competitive wave to be eligible for placing. The dangly wires are spaced in such a way that I can cruise through them sideways without being touched. My hypocrisy goes unpunished.
40. A short run through the woods with an unwanted hill right before the finish line and it’s all over.
41. I remember to do the TretschStretch ™ as I cross the finish line at 41:29.
42. Despite wrestling with my demons and it becoming an unpleasant chore to finish (the second lap brought back the fun!) this is a great race for a good cause. Tretsch says DO it!
9:00 AM – Finish Line – I cheer on my fellow GORMRs and Grey Berets crossing the finish line as I struggle to stand upright under the heavy load that is this amazing bling hanging around my neck.
9:10 AM – Finish Line – After a lot of “I don’t know, you wanna do it?”, and “I’ll do it if you do” the Grey Berets (3/4th of them anyways) decide to go for a second lap.
9:15 AM – Festival area – The Air Force tent has perfectly ripe bananas, water and Nilla Wafers. Nilla Wafers! This makes them the best post-race refreshment stop to date. The funnel cake truck tempts me with its powder sugar dusted fried goodness. BUT, a second lap awaits. I will however, come back to you, oh fresh squeezed lemonade stand to partake in your sugary citrus deliciousness.
9:30 AM – Starting Line – The Grey Berets plus one yuck it up as we start our second lap. It’s sunny, I’m with good friends, and there is no competition. It’s going to be a fine day
*Photos By: Tobias M.