Saturday, April 25 5:30 AM Charlotte- my mom and Bennett have done very well at this early morning hour. There’s no grumpiness, everyone’s awake and moving. We get into the car…..and clickety, clickety, clickety, clickety! Fuck me! The distinct sound of a very dead battery! Immediately transfer all racing gear to mom’s car.
Saturday, April 25 5:50 AM- flying down the highway to try to get back on schedule. It’s dark and raining.
Saturday, April 25 6:31 AM Carolina Adventure World- relief washes over my body as I realize that the parking (which is very ample and located closely to the festival area) is on nice hard packed gravel. I will not have to worry about rain later in the day. I do not want a repeat of last week’s parking situation and sphincter puckering extraction there in.
Saturday, April 25, 6:37 AM – The fucking music is at 1,000 dB. I am in the Port-a-John having to brace myself with all appendages. The vibration of the thin plastic walls is disturbing. The sloshing is unsettling. The broken door lock may unlatch at any moment. I fear imminent implosion. I’m all for getting the blood pumped, but this is getting the blood boiled.
Saturday, April 25 6:40 AM- Hit a bit of a snafu at registration. They have me as a spectator. It’s early. I’m a bit of a dick to the volunteer. This is not the right kind attitude to have on race day. He reaches deep within the laptop, while maintaining a smile, and finally gets it straightened out.
Saturday, April 25 6:50 AM- Extremely pleased to see there is a huge tent that BattleFrog set up with tables and chairs. A mess hall if you will. My mom and Bennett are going to be able to stay dry for the day. This tent overlooks Tsunami, the monkey bars and the Delta ladder. “Holy Shit! Those monkey bars are longgggggg!”
Saturday, April 25 7:05 AM- Sky is so dark with gray clouds, it doesn’t look like the Sun will be seen for a century. It’s misting out and it’s cold. I have to admit to myself I’m a bit nervous about the upcoming race. The last BattleFrog I raced was the inaugural event in the ATL in 2014 when 15k was 7.1 miles, the monkey bars were flat and short, it was but one partially filled Jerry Can, and the obstacles were fewer. Now it’s two 8K laps for a total of 60 must complete obstacles, that are now obviously harder, in order to keep the coveted neoprene orange wristband. The warm-up jog calms the nerves.
Saturday, April 25 7:15 AM- I shed my shirt (this would later prove to be an unwise decision) and my mom goes ahead and writes the numbers on me. Finally, it’ll look like the numbers weren’t drawn on by a drunk person. I run over to the starting corral.
Saturday, April 25 7:20 AM – The elite (I really hate this word in the OCR world. It’s got the feeling of self- righteous douchebaggery. Not the athletes of course, just the word. Why can’t we use a real word, a normal word like competitive or pro. Elite is just so……….elite) wave is chock-full of OCR luminaries, with recognizable names like Atkins, Zwonitzer, Yuri, Corinna, and Claude. Rules are explained. Must complete all obstacles! “Got to keep that orange band on…..GOT to keep that orange band”! The MC gets everyone pumped up, some HOOYAHS are yelled, and it’s go time!
Observations on the run:
1. 200 yards out and we had the first obstacle. I’m never seen an obstacle that slowed down the frontline this much. Huge mud mounds with a steep drop into a vertical walled mud pit. Water is chest high! It’s a vertical climb out of the pit to another steep mud mound. Three times this happened. It was a struggle. I’ve never had so much competitive ass, male and female, in my hands before. We are all doing what it takes just to get out of that last pit. This proved later on to have set the tone of the entire race perfectly.
2. Long mud pit, a 20 foot tall steep dirt pile, and 12 foot ladder directly at the bottom was the lead-in to the start of the trail running.
3. The rain has started in earnest. Gonna get interesting.
4. The 2 inverted walls are tall and deeply in cut. A jump and a heel hook gets the job done. The rain allows for a smooth slide down the back face.
5. Holy shit! These trails are not fit for human legs. Deep ruts, carved into the earth by mud chewing 4 wheel drives, disappear into the gloom of the forest. A hump bisects these fucking channels of misery to create the third rail of today’s track. I can either run down the middle on a balance beam of mud, squeeze into the ruts, or take my chances on the high side walls of the trail. It ends up being a ballet of all three.
6. These fucking hills are tough. And I’m talking about the downhills.
7. Freedom from the woods! DAMN! That cargo net A-frame is talllllll and steep. Will the “flip and crab ™” work?! It does.
8. Uh oh! 2 Slant walls! (inverted walls in reverse). Going to be slippery. Today is not the day to try the flip technique on these. I flop over with my usual form-without-form form.
9. There’s the first water station! I always take the opportunity for some hydration. NOTHING set up! I yell at the volunteers. Where is this dickishness coming from this morning?! I must still be annoyed about my car not starting. “This attitude won’t work! It’s bad for me and certainly not fair to the volunteers. I have got to get myself right!” I have to rip open a package of Styrofoam cups myself and pour from a water cooler. Unexpected flavor as I realize it is a fucking nasty tasting electrolyte drink. I spit it out.
10. More sloppy wet trails from hell. The last 5 obstacles have been spaced pretty far apart.
11. And then I spy through the trees, Jerry Cans lined up in neat rows like tidy toy soldiers. I pick my two cans, fat fucks both of them, and move out. The 5 gallons, or as I like to say – 41.7# of liquid misery – feel familiar in each hand. The training had me prepared for their heft, but as I round the bend, the nightmarish 1:1 down slope of mud, rocks, and boulders was a complete surprise. Knowing what goes down must come up, I vowed to keep moving until at the least the uphill. At the bottom I round the bend and then my nightmare truly began. An even steeper longer climb awaited. At one point there was a small but fucking shear rock face that had to be negotiated. Who knew that jerry cans could be used as climbing aids?! Back into the woods, the steepness has subsided, the footing more comfortable with the soft cushioning of terrestrial humus, but the fucking end seems nowhere in sight. And then it appears through the dense scrim of trees, those tidy soldiers still waiting to crush others behind me. That was a quarter of a mile of hell if it was a foot!
12. Maybe someday I will be able to feel my forearms again.
13. The racers have really thinned out. I find myself alone for long stretches.
14. The trails have gotten more twisty, deeper and concave. Like running down a ½ pipe maintained by a tweaked out crackhead driving a Zaugg pipe monster with most of its blades missing. Its evil Chutes and Ladders.
15. I feel that earlier sense of annoyance literally wash away in the rain and mud. I’m feeling right, I’m feeling good. The trails are still nasty fuckers though.
16. And suddenly we are out of the woods and smack in the middle of a swamp.
17. I hear the sweet sounds of a volunteer (a GORMR) who recognizes me as I crawl under a cargo net in the muck.
18. There is mud. There is water. There is mud and water. Then there is the soul sucking muck we were hiking through. Running was not an option, and it seemed actually moving might not be one either. Every step a fucking struggle to free ones foot from the ravenous thirst of this muck beast. It was the Swamp of Despair or the Swamp of Sadness if you are a fan of Never Ending Story. I’ll be damned if I was going to be Artax. The hips were hurting and the thighs were burning and my knees were coming up higher than a bunch of stepping Alphas doing the Alpha Train. Unexpected holes and deeper mud beneath the water made for nasty surprises. But because of the relative earliness within the course I was able to keep on my feet and plow through.
19. Cattails and reeds were the gateway to a pond crossing. The waist+ high water was cool but not uncomfortable. Good sportsmanship was expressed as hidden logs and holes were identified by the other two racers sharing this watery jaunt with me.
20. Out of the pond and straight up a fucking hill. This wasn’t even a trail at first; rather a vertical bushwacking without any cigarette at the finish. Oh lovely, a tree fall to step (nee….climb) over! Mind the sharp fucking broken limb at crotch level.
21. Back out into the open of a fire break. 6 foot walls to flop over. The concept of bounding over anything now lying in broken misery at the bottom of the Swamp of Despair.
22. I can see the slant walls. Yes! There are other humans around! At least someone may find my broken and battered body in the not too distant future……I don’t want to be a speed bump for some hopped up redneck in a tricked out Chevy with a 48” lift.
23. A quick 12 foot rope climb (over rocks and dirt…….scary!! this may want to be reexamined) and it seemed that the run through the hilly trails of terror had come to an end. Glorious flatness as far as the eye could see. Still more fucking rutted than a herd of deer in a field outside a Cialis factory though.
24. Running along at a good pace when this lone volunteer, in the middle of fucking nowhere, on the side of the trail yells out, “ok, crawl under the wire!” “What fucking wi….” whoa! Brakes applied. I surely would have taken myself out at the knees, the thin silver wire barely visible to my race addled senses. Gonna have to remember this for the next lap!
25. Still doing the trail rut two step, but it’s flat, and that’s alright with me!
26. Through the wall! Under the Wall! Over the Wall! Rinse. Repeat.
27. My watch tells me I am just over the theoretical halfway point and it’s painfully clear I may not finish this first lap in under an hour. But, I am blissfully unaware of the shitstorm that awaits me and I forge on with the confidence of the stupid.
28. 8 foot wall. A female elite is struggling. I give words of encouragement as I haul my ass over the edge. Didn’t pinch the trouser trout this time. Things are looking up!
29. She repays me by cruising by me on the trail easy as you please. You go girl!
30. DAMN! That is a tall cargo net strung across the trail. Without a mess of people on the net keeping it taut, it is floppier than a pimp’s hat at the disco. It is surprisingly taxing on the arms.
31. Well hello there again elite female now struggling on the 12’ rope wall. I use the first board at thigh height to get up and realize why she is having so much trouble. The huge 2” (at least) thick rope is greasy with mud and wetness. Dry, you can just walk up the wall. Not gonna happen on this day. Will the rain ever fucking end!!? I grab the rope as high as I can and just hoist my right foot up to the second board 5 feet above the first board. Guess what? I flop over. And slide down the rope on the other side. I am rewarded with a view of a gnarly fucking hill in the distance. Yay. I leave behind my new acquaintance plus a couple of dudes also struggling.
32. Some more slippery fucking hills and then its swimming time. I am not a strong swimmer, but it seemed like only 50 yards. I jumped in. Fuck! COLD! I did the best imitation of my late grandmother swimming; a leisurely breast stroke with head held high so the bouffant would not get wet. All very civilized you see. My subconscious meanwhile sounded like a freaked out tweaker yelling in my mind’s ear; “You gonna have to do this again, man! You’re gonna be tired man! We’re gonna DROWN man!! Hey, hey…you got any GU on you?! I need a rush man!”
33. With the water still dripping off my body……oh wait, it’s still fucking raining, I come up on a hydration station and a pile of Wreck Bags. As I take a cup of water I look across the trail and lock eyes with Justin Rose. This gives me a huge boost, as I am a hell of lot closer than I would have ever imagined to people I never see after the start of the race until the beer tent! I am pumped! Than he says these four words as he drops off his bag; “That carry WAS brutal!” (or something like that. My brain is addled). “Well shit! That ain’t good!” The pump has sprung a leak. “Fuck it! Let’s get this done! I own one of these 50# sausages, I know a Wreck Bag!” I heave that fucker onto my shoulders and wear it like some kind of giant’s necklace, and take stock of where I am headed for the first time. I almost gasp as I look straight up a steep, rutted, muddy hill with no apparent end. Surely I have fallen to the 4th circle of hell. This hill has got to be at least 1:1! I drop the diesel into low gear and just grind my way up. This is the trail rut two step in fucking high-def super slo-mo, and there ain’t a damn TiVO in the world that’s gonna speed this hell up. The shoes are keeping me pretty locked in. This infernal rain is gonna really make it suck, at a molecular level, on the second lap. I see sky ahead. The top of the mount seemed to be only 50 yards away! Maybe? The grey, dead, lifeless sky never looked so beautiful! And then I had to climb over a waist high tree fall. Are you fucking kidding me?! Acord’s sadism seems to know no bounds. I crest the slope, but there is no elation. I’ve only walked up, up and AWAY from the bag drop and in front of me is a 6’ wall. WTF?! “Throw the bag over the wall and follow it!” (This will be amended by the second lap to be “place your bag ON the wall, make sure it’s clear, and tip it over!”), says the volunteer. Either way, as you may know by now, I will be as graceful as the Wreck Bag I’m following. On the way downhill I commiserate with a tiny female elite (there are no smaller bags for the women!), she complaining of the suckiness of the carry, and I grunting in agreement and trying to NOT bust ass and look like a chump. Strangely, I get a sudden feeling of enjoyment and realize I’m having a blast. A brutal, wet, sloppy, hellish blast, but a blast nonetheless. I am, of course, still on the first lap. Either that, or it was the booty shorts. A final sketchy downhill, a last fuck you up hill, a slog through some squelchy mud and the carry from hell is over. That had to be a half mile!
34. An hour as come and long gone. The digital readout on my watch mocking me; relentless in its ability to make time move forward faster than I would like.
35. I crest a short steep hill to an open plateau to behold Tip of the Spear, and I come face to face with the wondrous realities of mandatory obstacle completion mixed in with shitty weather and the way it can level the playing field like a 75 ton Caterpillar 657e Motor Scraper. There, before me, were a least a dozen people struggling on this obstacle. People I hadn’t seen since the start. People I recognize that I don’t EVER see after the start. I was floored. I was stoked. I was deliriously happy. I was needing to stop fucking standing there and get through this obs myself! Three 8 foot+ tall plywood A-frames. Two with short nylon ropes hanging down from the top and one with 3 horizontal boards running parallel with and just below the top. All separated by a 6’ long balance beam. Goal: ring the bell at the end. I know from the climbing gym I’m better going from left to right, which happens to be the front face of the first row closest to the approach. I hop on the step as a dude falls in front of me. Giddy up time! I’ve never done this obs before, but it’s clear that you need to stay high on the rope with a good crouch with feet firmly planted above the midpoint of the wall. The first three ropes are only about 24” apart, but the 4th rope leading to the last two ropes is a long 3foot+ reach. First A-frame complete as I shimmy down to the balance beam. My track record with anything balancey has been awful, so I literally shuffle across this 6 feet like a sloth on Xanax. Cross the second A-frame in a weird but successful position. A new form with no form. More slow shuffling. Damn! I’m gonna get this done! Third A-frame is done and the bell is fucking rung!
36. Cruise through the Wedge thingy. The mud and rain makes it easy to slide across with back pressed against wall.
37. A “quick” run through the open field (the flattest smoothest part all day), down some sketchy shit, up some sketchy shit (God knows #Effbeard doesn’t want us getting too cozy) and then we come up on a Circus Maximus from hell minus the chariots and the blood thirsty Romans. This obstacle clearly a mud bogging oval. As I drop in, I can imagine the roars of approval from PBR fueled spectators as machines clearly never meant to go on dry pavement, chew their way around this oval. I take clues from a couple of guys ahead of me, who keep dropping in and out of underwater holes and make my way to the edge where it is shallower and “less” mucky. I round the first turn and….”what the fuck?!”…..a sternum checker in the middle of the water. I step up onto the lower log, not sure what the fuck to do. I lean over and place my hands on the higher log. Well shit! Now I’m all stretched out! I push myself back upright, manage to stay upright, and then just jump. I manage to hang on as I spin around that log like a loose piece of roast lamb on a wire kebab. Make my way back to the edges and hightail it outta there.
38. More mud trudging misery shows up within a few hundred yards in the form of what can only be described as a mug bogging drag strip. This shit is horrible in the middle and on the edges and deeper too! The music, still a 1,000 fucking dB is starting to seep into my consciousness as I climb out of the water. I know I’m only 4 obstacles away from completing….oh wait, only the first lap!
39. Climb a short, but of course steep hill to get to the festival plateau and I’m looking at the last few obstacles – Battlefrog’s signature obstacles: Delta Ladder, Monkey Bars, and Tsunami, all in delicious quick succession. Then I focus and look straight up at “60 Degrees”. What kind of diabolical shit is this?! A “ladder” with six (was it 8?) 2” diameter rungs spaced about 20” apart leaning towards the approach at….well, 60 degrees I guess. Damn thing had to be ten feet tall. The pipes were wet and muddy and slick. I take this one with deliberation and soberness. My transition at the top was more torturous than an obstacle race series turning into a home shopping website.
40. “Has the Delta Ladder grown”?! That beast is scraping the grey off the clouds! “And these rungs, they seem further apart!” I have the flexibility of a steel beam, so getting that foot hiked up to each rung was a joy. From atop this aerie I searched for my daughter and my mom, hoping to feed off some energetic cheering. The “ants” below all look the same.
41. It’s still fucking raining
42. I hop up onto the Monkey Bars platform at the far right lane and spy a shirt hanging from the supports. “Is this yours I ask the volunteer?” “no”, he says. “Thank you random person out there who left this dry garment of delight hanging there. I’m sorry I used it as a hand towel.” And off I went. The bars just kept going……down. A quick flat then a relentlessly long angle upwards. Then it was over.
43. I run to the Tsunami, all 50 feet of it and eyeball this monster. It’s still fucking raining. No sense in hanging around, the second lap awaits. Pick the far left lane and go……and grab onto the slickest rope ever created by Satan. I stand there in the transition, giving halfhearted attempts at climbing but quickly realize it ain’t gonna happen with this braided trail of snot. I slide backwards and take stock for a moment. Several guys are struggling and then I see a small dude on the far right go up quick as a lick, easy as pie. THAT’s my rope! I happen to look to my right and see my mom standing there. She gives me a big smile and a thumb’s up. It’s giddy up time. Up, up, climb, climb, kick the leg out over the lip, and that fucker is conquered. A quick jump…..”Holy shit! I may have jumped too far out!!!” This slide is so steep it’s almost in cut. I manage to place ass to slide just before the transition and ride it out at warp fucking speed.
44. Why do I have so much trouble getting out of these pools of water with plastic linings?! I look like a baby taking its first steps, except you know, I’m six foot tall, old, and not in diapers……yet.
45. “Holy Fuck”, I whisper as I run towards Tunnel Rats for the lap transition, “THAT was a lap?!” Good God Almighty!!!”
46. Four little girls, in the brightest, most neon yellow t-shirts that modern chemistry can create, were standing adjacent to the entry to Tunnel Rats. I gave them a smile and a wink as I dropped in, feeding off their youthful energy and silly giggles.
47. I popped out on the other side feeling good. Feeling confident. Orange band still firmly affixed to my left wrist. I’m at a 1:23 split, so I missed my goal of a sub 60 by a Battlefrog mile. Will the open heats be a factor?
48. Time to do this shit all over again………
What will happen on Tretsch’s second lap? Will he survive the cold, wet course with his orange band? Be sure to check out the second installment of Tretsch’s journey.
*Photos By: BattleFrog Race Series
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