7:05 AM, Lebanon, OH – We walk the two blocks down Main Street towards the breakfast joint. Fine examples of 19th century architecture make for a picturesque town. But, it’s still fucking cold as hell. We are happy we are not racing until just after lunchtime.
7:30 AM, Lebanon, OH – It ain’t Waffle House but the Breakfast Club Café is a fine establishment and we fuel up with gusto.
8:20 AM, Lebanon, OH – There is a substantial layer of frost on the cars. The Elite males must be freezing their betty swollocks off.
8:50 AM, Kings Domain – We opt to pay the premium and park on site. Then we get a luxurious golf cart ride to the festival area. There’s no shame; we’ll get enough exercise in a few hours.
8:55 AM, Festival Area – My skin practically tingles with the excitement and energy that is in the air. Or it could be from the fact it’s fucking 33 degrees out. But it’s a blue bell day and the sun will do its magic by the time I shove off at 12:30. I hope.
9:30 AM, Festival Area – The Grey Berets tent backs up to the last part of the course right after the slide/tubes, so I am treated to seeing Albon hit the 12 foot slant wall like his hair is on fire. Even rested, recently fed and caffeinated I know I’ll barely make the 50 yards to the other side of the festival area to catch his finish…..and he still has 5 obstacles to go.
9:33, Festival Area – Albon crosses the finish line. The math works out to 1:33. You have got to be fucking kidding me!? How is that even humanly possible? That pace would have my heart scattered into a billion pieces all over the grass 100 yards from the start line. Then 4 minutes later Atkins cruises in as smooth as spun silk to take second. I take some mental notes on his flawless technique through Skull Valley.
9:38 AM, Festival Area – Coty Moat is at the slant wall and it’s covered in fucking frost. Takes him three tries to get over it. God, I hope the sun hits the face of that thing later or I’m fucking screwed!
9:39Am – 12:20PM, Festival Area – For the next few hours it’s a whirlwind of watching other racers on all the spectator accessible obstacles, chatting with friends, people watching, photo taking, going to the fucking port-a-johns 7 times (TB – tiny bladder….with a healthy dose of nerves), going up to the camping area for some snacks and coffee, and gearing up.
Observations on the run:
- I’m standing in the starting corral, under the flags of eleven of the 26 nations represented today. I feel good, I feel ready. I just need to get to that first obstacle to ease the jitters. Coach Pain is laying down some sweet gospel; making me feel proud. I AM seasoned for a reason! And then the canon goes BOOM!
- It’s not long before the hills start and the first 2 obstacles go by in a blur. We swing back towards the periphery of the festival area to the kids Monkey Bars, but in a twist the volunteer tells us to touch every bar. No problem for me as I can’t do the monkey swing-skip-a-bar technique anyways.
- We head straight for the base of the slide and there is a pile of Wreck Bags waiting for us. My heart is pounding like a pile driver and we gotta take this 50# sausage up the fucking steep slide hill. And the carry goes on and on and on. As I’m crouching under a wooden bridge (the course crossing over our heads) I remind myself I cannot drop my bag or I’ll need to start over (fuck that!). Suddenly the bag catches the bridge and it’s sliding off my shoulders! Fuck! It hits my thigh just as I grab for it stopping the handles mere inches from the ground. I about soil my drawers. “Finally! The turn!” I start to jog thankful for the downhill. Back under the bridge but it’s taller on this side. Under some cargo netting. “Crap! This crouching is tough on the thighs!” “Oh swell a grid of nylon strapping to high step through”. This grabby grid may as well be called Tretsch-fucking-face-plants! I stumble, but today is not a face plant day. Over a small wall…don’t drop it!…and we’re done.
- Quick work through Pipe Dreams and Hurdles, (after some awful fucking hills of course) and it’s time to settle in for some running.
- Everyone is very civilized and sportsman like and call out hazards on the trail. “log!” “hole!” “root!”. Anyone see my legs?
- I come around a bend and I can see the Little Miami River. Shit! The river crossing already?! At this point I’m dry and warm (if the heart doesn’t fucking slow down I’ll also be dead). I was hoping to stay that way just a little longer.
- We drop down to the river’s edge and it’s a nightmare of shoe sucking mud as we run alongside the river. The further we go the less space there is between the water’s edge and the vertical river banks, until finally we run out of land. The water is so fucking cold and my feet immediately feel “the burn”. “So much for a quick river crossing!” I think. I try to move as fast as possible to keep my feet out of the water. I finally see some racers ahead of me in the middle of the river so I know I’m close to the crossing. The blowing wind is a nice fucking touch once I make the turn. As I make my way across the Little Miami, it becomes clear it’s going to get deeper. First the knees, then quickly to the thighs. I place my hands on my head to keep them from getting wet as the water reaches my waist. “Fuck!” I hit a G6 note as the cornstalk cowboy and his two lil’ doggies seek shelter in my esophagus. “I really hope I don’t find a hole and go under!” I think. I stumble onto the rocky bank with frozen legs.
- Back in the woods we are on a beautiful rolling trail. I chat for a bit with a very nice Englishman named Steve.
- The legs and feet warm back up, but I fear I shall not see Lord Thrusty and his two fat knights ever again.
- The sun comes out and I am buoyed by the hope it will stay out and things will warm up.
- We come into a clearing and tackle Cargo Climb. The Flip-n-crab ™ is executed flawlessly. There is a pleasant campfire crackling away with inviting log chairs encircling it. But, the show must go on and there is no time for marshmallows.
- As I cross the river for the second time, fighting a strong rushing current, I think perhaps just a quick stop at the fire would have been nice.
- We are now on an island.
- We scramble through the brush and over some logs and come out to the 3rd crossing. The water is extremely swift and I have to take a path at an angle upriver, leaning in the whole time. “I really wish I was at that fucking campfire.”
- Back in the woods it’s still pretty flat but the sun has bid adieu.
- I can start to hear the sounds of the festival area. “Oh yeah! Obstacle game on!”
- The Castle suddenly appears and it’s an easy climb to the apex. The unexpected swaying of the structure while transitioning to the down climb is not entirely fucking pleasant. My sphincter makes note of it.
- The festival area is positively roaring with excitement as people take positions throughout the field to watch the racers tackle the obstacles.
- They have added a bottom 2×4 rail to The Destroyer. Since I’m only 3ish miles in and have a shit ton more upper body obstacles to do, today is not the day for heroics to try and prove to myself I can do without it (or not…). I use the 2×4, easily top out, and jump down. One less obstacle, one closer to band retention.
- It’s a short straight run paralleling the start and then a 180 to Dragon’s Back. Couldn’t wait to do this one! I was looking forward to seeing how I would react to the mental side of this obstacle. Made out of wood, versus the steel scaffolding in Toughest’s home country, there was only two jumps. There were a handful of racers on the two platforms looking like they were doing some serious mental gymnastics. I took a deep breath, and jumped, hoping I wouldn’t hyper flex my feet/ankles/calves, or any other important body part I needed for the next fucking 7 miles. My hands solidly gripped the steel bar a fraction of a second after my feet touched the angled wall. “Whew! One down and no twinges!” The next one goes just as smoothly; and as I am climbing down I note a couple of racer’s wince when they hit the walls.
- Thinking about something I saw before the race as I approach the Tire Jump, I’m convinced I can successfully do the same move that dumped some dude on his ass. I mean sometimes you just have to throw a little flourish in the mix. NOW, if you have read my reviews before, you know damn well I have the grace of a hippo in high heels, and are probably thinking “what a fucking idiot”. I jump horizontally towards the massive tractor tires leading with my left shoulder, and as I hit the rubber, I roll over and pull my feet over and down. I land on my feet, facing forward, and in a stride. “Holy Shit! I fucking did it! I cannot believe it!” Oh I’m feeling good now!
- Getting over the Irish Table is as ungainly as it can be. I wonder how short people do that thing?!
- Englishman Steve shouts out “you make this look easy!” as we are tackling the Hurdles. “Well that is what I thought about you, my gazelle like friend, as we were going through the woods.” I think to myself.
- The Monkey Bars are a giant “V” shaped beast, which either stands for “victory” or “vanquished”. I just don’t want to be in that cold fucking water. As I climb up the tires I decide I am going to use my feet (allowed) on the upside to preserve my arms. Again, it’s about keeping the band. The down climb goes smoothly with gravity helping the alternating hand per bar technique. At the flat transition I pull my feet up as if the water is fucking molten lava. I take the up climb with caution as the bars are wet from those that didn’t keep their feet out of the water. It’s not fast but the technique feels solid and I’m to the other side in one dry piece.
- Climbing down the tires my brain is reeling from the success of these first few miles. Sure my legs feel a bit tired too soon, but damnit, if the obstacles aren’t just flowing under me like water!
- I jump onto the first massive set of logs at Over Unders, and with intentions of keeping as much of my upper body, especially my hands, as dry as possible I gingerly drop down into the water with my hands above my head. It all goes wrong. Horribly fucking wrong! I slip on the black plastic liner and in exquisitely painful slow motion, as if to scrutinize the motion for scientific study of transient phenomena, I go under water…..completely. The water is sooooooo fucking cold! Spurt Reynolds and the bandits exit my esophagus and hightail it to the nearest campfire, leaving me here wet, frozen and nutless. “FUCK! This is way too early in the race to be completely wet!” My mind clouds with ominous thoughts.
- Abandoning any need for caution now, I tear through the over unders and straight to the Pipes. I get down low to enter the plastic culverts and slam the top of my head against the exposed edge of the pipe. Little stars and birdies circle my head as I crawl through the pipes. No blood…yet. “what happened to that smoothness bro?!”
- The sweet feel of flat terrain is quickly replaced by brutal hills and the gloom of the day is enhanced by the heavy canopy of trees.
- Luckily there has been no rain of late, so the leaves on the forest floor that have taken an early leap are dry as tinder. I grab large handfuls of leaves in each hand. I have to get my hands dry and warm. It works like a charm.
- The downhills are fucking brutal
- The uphills are fucking miserable
- The vertical Cargo Climb was a floppy flaccid mess. It did not tense up until all the horizontal slack on the opposite side was pulled in. But with other people on it, flipping over the support cable to the other side was a dream because I could just roll down the gentle incline. Extracting myself at the bottom gracefully was another story.
- “Oh for fuck sakes another High Steps! And it’s uphill!” True to form I trip half way up. I rest a second pretending I’m just about to rip out a few push-ups off the nylon straps…..
- I’m starting to get chilled, so I grab more dry leaves and hold them on my head and neck.
- The Inverted Wall pops out of nowhere at the bottom of another fucking hill. It’s a brute; tall and looming with no cross beams for feet. Nothing a honking heel hook can’t take care of. I’m careful about sliding down the backside lest my knees blow out.
- I’m starting to feel fucking violated by the terrain and my watch mocks me with its low mileage count. Part of me wants the battery to die. “Die fucker, die!”
- The Balance Beams are small diameter logs. “No jumping at the end!” yells the volunteer. “You must go the entire length.” Another small detail on an easy obstacle that might trip up a few people.
- I’m keeping the cold at bay with the leaves, but it’s still a predator in the tall grass, ready to pounce at any minute.
- Sternum Checker comes into view and there is a pack of people at it. Shit! I knew I needed to hit sternum checker without stopping or I would end up overthinking it. It’s a big fucking monster; bigger than any I had done to date. This crowd was not part of the plan. As I slow down to assess the situation the volunteer yells out “left side or middle!”. I see a narrow gap between two racers standing on the launch log in the middle and I “thread the needle”. I hit the launch too timidly and catch every bit of that giant log straight in my fucking gut. My center of gravity (aka my bubble butt) is too far back! For a split second it could go either way (Howard Cosell doing the color commentary in my head), then I dig into the bark with my fingertips and haul myself over.
- Yet another steep downhill. My thighs, the delicate little flowers that they are, scream in protest on the downhills.
- I can hear the festival area. My watch tells me I’m still not even fucking close to finishing, so it can only mean one thing: Platinum Rig #1.
- Standing there with a pile of leaves on my head and ignoring all my fans, um, I mean random mob of strangers watching the action, I picked a lane whose foot ring was moving the least and got it started. It wasn’t smooth and it wasn’t pretty but I reached the last two rings. “Where the fuck is the bell?!” “Wait! Why is the bell tied up above my head?!” “Oh MY GOD what is happening?!?!” Then, out loud, I calmly scream to the volunteer, “WHERE’S THE BELL?!” “No bell, just get both feet over the yellow line” he says. “Oh……..ok.” And off I went.
- What a joy this fucking creek bed is on my ankles.
- So……….you know, more fucking hills.
- “Shit!” That minute has arrived. The predator has sprung from the tall grass! More Over Unders with water! I manage to stay on my feet in the deep cold water, but I know once I get out I’m going to be in trouble. I grab a silver mylar emergency blanket (aka a “space” blanket) from a jumbled pile and wrap it around myself. There is a happy little campfire here and I spend some precious seconds remembering what warmth is.
- And sur-fucking-prise, there is a steep hill to climb!
- The blanket starts to work its magic but the cacophonous rustling is disturbing the tranquility of my woodland misery.
- “Good Lord! The Weaver is massive!” I toss the blanket onto a pile and heave myself up to the first log. I don’t pick the right side and get stuck behind a bit of a slowpoke. But I’m too lazy to shimmy to the other side where there is a clear lane. It’s all good. I grab a space blanket on the way out.
- There is the slide as I crawl under a wooden bridge. So close! Yet so fucking far!
- The hills! They fucking grind on. Whether it be uphill or downhill, they just never. Fucking. Stop.
- I down my first mustard packet, enjoying the vinegary bite.
- Holding my heroic silvery cape of OCR justice does not make for an easy gait, but I am forestalling potential hypothermia.
- The water stations have been providing kid size bottles of water. Oh, how awesome this is! With my 20 year old Quicksilver board shorts I’m able to take one on the go.
- How many times have we crossed this road? I’m starting to mumble to myself.
- I can tell we are working our way up to the camping area. I’m excited to see the Grey Berets Command Module (otherwise known as a pop-up camper) conveniently encamped adjacent to Platinum Rig #2. This means I will be roughly half done, according to previously mined sources. This looked menacing the night before when it was installed, but in the gloomy daylight it doesn’t seem so bad – two rings, stripper pole, ring, 5 looooow square monkey bars. I use tall guy beta and skip the first ring by leaning over and grabbing the second ring. I then swing past the stripper pole, or more accurately through it….clang! oww!, and grab the third ring. I let go of the second ring and use the momentum to carry me down to the bars. It takes all of what little core I have to keep my feet off the ground as I monkey across. I don’t see how the big fucking Dutch dudes nipping at my heels are going to get through this. Feet up boys!
- I pick up my silvery woobie and double back whence I came.
- And like a broken fucking record on Satan’s Victrola along comes another hill.
- The downhill is so steep I finally just give up and slide down on my ass. Actually works pretty well. I just hope I don’t have a wardrobe malfunction and expose my Voltron undies.
- I wince when I see the Bucket Carry, but immediately smile when I realize the buckets are sealed. “Carry them anyway you want,” says the volunteer. “Oh it’s on!” I throw it on my shoulder like the big plastic log it is and enjoy the flat short loop with an easy jog.
- The flat terrain has the half-life of a fruit fly and soon I’m back to the fucking hills that have made it crystal-leg-crushingly-clear I am inadequately prepared for their “charms”.
- I down another mustard packet
- The log choked, boulder strewn ravines continue with painful regularity. But, damn if they aren’t gorgeous parts of the course.
- The giggle comes out of nowhere. Low at first, slow, gaining traction; welling up from deep inside me. It soon develops into a full on cackle, loud and with abandon, reverberating off of the walls of the ravine. “Holy shit! I have gone defcon 5 crazy. I’m losing my shit!” and just like that it goes away and I’m back to reality (cue the Eminem).
- I kind of laugh when I get to Pinnacle Junior, because all the hills have felt this steep and they didn’t have ropes.
- More beautifully torturous ravines.
- All of a sudden I’m bear crawling, yup you guessed it, up a hill and it’s under netting. And it just keeps going. I’m in Broken. Then we are going down a steep, what do you call it?……oh yeah, a fucking hill. But now we have to go under barbless wire strung across the trail…..ok ruts….fine! It’s a gully! Every single move is potential strangulation by garrote and I don’t what to end up like Luca Brasi. It stops and then we 180 and go uphill under the wire. I’m now bear crawling again and I’m so close to the guy in front of me I pretty much have my head in his ass. All I can concentrate on is the heel of his shoes. “Just keep going” I tell myself.
- I suck down another mustard packet. I’m starting to pop these little yellow packets of vinegary goodness like Hunter S. Thompson on a pill binge………just without the lizards.
- For the umpteenth time I tie my mylar cape around my neck to let my arms swing naturally with the gait. I am loathe to get rid of it. This wonder of materials science is saving my bacon and keeping me on the course.
- I bottom out at the 410,000th hill of the day to find Tall Walls and a fellow GORMR. Tarnandus my man, in the bright yellow Batman technical T with the matching calve sleeves! I am delirious with excitement at seeing someone I know and give him a big old hug. The physical contact buoys my spirits and as I drop down the other side of the 12’ wall, my giant silvery bow fluttering, I yell back to him to “keep on! Keep strong!”
- My legs are fucking tired. The mustard and electrolyte tablets have kept the cramps away but the relentless technical terrain is starting to slow down the getaway sticks.
- I thought I was done with Wreck Bags for the day but Hoist proved me wrong. Rows of 50# bags in pairs are lying on the forest floor and tied to a rope slung through a fixed pulley. Since my mechanical advantage is only 1 and there is no immobile object to push against, I have to take a small jump to grab the rope and allow my full weight to raise the bags. Digging my heels in and leaning way back allows me to continue raising the bags to the required height. And like all hoists, I have to ease it down in a controlled manner. The hands feel strong. It’s a good sign for obstacles to come.
- And right on cue Rope Climb comes along, and it’s sitting in a deep water pit. “Fuck! The water sure isn’t any warmer in this part of the woods”. The rope feels synthetic and doesn’t have the grippy texture of hemp. But it’s thick and the J-hook works well so the bell is rung.
- I’m scrambling through another ravine (are these Mother Nature’s trash cans for every fucking dead tree in Warren County?!) when the guy ahead of me yells back, “Are my shorts ripped? “Yes, they sure are! Hope you don’t have a wardrobe malfunction!” I reply. Inwardly I am yelling “please don’t rip completely open because all I see is white ass and don’t want to see more!”
- Getting out of this ravine proves a huge challenge. The hill is steep and muddy. The entire face is raked with scars from all the shoes of the racers before me.
- I almost go sailing over the edge of Rope Burn, but not really, since my pace is reminiscent of a Galapagos Tortoise high on muscle relaxant. I had watched a video of this obstacle from last year so decided to run down forward with the rope in my hands. I’m not sure your hands are supposed to spontaneously combust into flames. Perhaps my technique could use some work. The burn of the rope does feel good on my cold hands.
- More water at Trenches, but it is shallow, the logs are high enough to allow for a low crouch, and I have my shiny pashmina of power to wrap up in afterwards.
- I grab a water and continue along the creek bed. A creepy tent, a long house writ large in canvas, appears out of nowhere. I immediately think “oh great, they’re going to gas us.” That can’t be a healthy thought, can it? But the trail bends around it and I continue on.
- A horrific stench assails my prodigious proboscis. “What the fuck is that smell?!” I yell to no one in particular. It has the unmistakable nose hair curling bouquet of rotting flesh. I can feel the tickling of my gag reflex warming up. “Fuck! Gak!” I have a delicate balance of Gu, Shot Bloks, Homeostasis and mustard lining my belly and the last thing I need is to splash that chemical cocktail all over the nearest oak tree.
- For the first time today I am happy about a hill. The elevation change gets me out of that toxic cloud.
- “The creepy tent must have been an inspiration”, I think as Blackout comes into view. A massive swath of canvas is laid over the trail and I have to crawl under it. “Hell yeah! This will be the warmest I’ve been all day!” this proves to be true, as the dark confined space is noticeably warmer.
- Yet another hairy scary descent immediately follows. This goes on any longer I’m going to have to sprout horns and hooves.
- Through the trees I see the distinct look of a GORMR jersey and realize it’s Joe; a true blue friend of the Grey Berets. I yell out to him and he says “is that Tretsch?! Fuck! Are you kidding me!? Shit!” I catch up to him in yet another tree fall choked ravine. And for the second time that day, I make another racer give me a giant bear hug (Grey Berets hug it out. What can I say?). I embrace him, rub his shaved head, and give encouraging words (really more for me), then keep moving on. We commiserate for a while until I encourage a more silent approach to our collective misery.
- Above my head is a massive circus like net spanning the two sides of the deep ravine I’m in. I see people seemingly walking on air above the net. I take a hard left and go straight up to find Tension. It’s slow going traversing the steel cable like Phillipe Petit, except I get another cable over my head to hold on to. Half way across, below my feet, I see the two huge fucking Dutch dudes down below. We have been trading places all day, and damn if I’m going to end up like Mortimer and Randolph.
- Spontaneous giggling wells forth once again. I am cracking for sure.
- Polish Traverse is an awesome break for the legs. I scootch along the top of the pole with that weird hand, butt rhythm. Since Dick and the Balltones are hiding out there is no discomfort, but that doesn’t stop the crotch jokes from flying among my fellow racers.
- I have reached some kind of flat plateau where a nice trail loops back and forth. I so want to pick up the pace but my legs feel like they want to remove themselves from my body and beat the shit out of me. The two big fucking Dutch dudes finally pass me.
- But I feel pretty in my shiny bow.
- The ropes have a deep sag at the Tyrolean Traverse, which makes getting on to them a bit of a challenge. I have no earthly idea how to do the top of rope technique so I hang like a sloth; a sloth with a fancy reflective cravat tied about its neck. After finishing, an Englishwoman and I both groan at the, now expected but no less hated, hill immediately springing from the obstacle platform.
- I continue through the punishing terrain. My mind starts to wander. That gorgeous black band of silicone is still affixed upon my person and I start thinking about the finish. I can see the festival area in my mind. My body has held up surprisingly well. I can “smell the barn!” 100 yards later my body says “not so fast Skippy!”, and a shockingly painful cramp seizes the inside of my right thigh, from knee to crotch. “OWWWWWWW! What the fuck?!” I don’t even know what to call this pain. And of course, I’m at the bottom of another brutal hill that needs to be surmounted. I start hobbling upwards muttering to myself. The muttering gets louder, the censoriously abusive language darker, the anger flaming hot. There is no power walking here; the pace is glacial, but it is upward and onward. I crest the top and start a tentative jog. And just like that, it’s gone; the pain button seemingly switched to off. I yell out a triumphant cry.
- Surely this must be the top of the hill that leads to the slide.
- And then I go downwards. “FUCK! WHERE is the slide?! Will it ever appear?!”
- I come around a bend and see Pinnacle Hill. “Holy shit!” The entire day’s hills have been idyllic fucking knolls compared to this monster. Racers near the top look terrifyingly tiny. I can see three different pitches of rope. As much as lying down in a fetal position and sucking my thumb sounds like a swell idea, it’s not going to get me any closer to the slide. The soil is loose but the ropes are dry. I go with an easy pace so not to burn my arms out. My legs would be shedding tears if they could. I stop 15 feet from the top, gassed. The volunteers encouraging words get me past the last vertical section.
- Surely this is the last apex!
- After what seems like an eternity of climbing the 9 levels of hell, THE Slide finally shows itself! Oh sweet tiny infant Jesus, with your golden fleece diapers, with your tiny fat balled up fists, thank you! Thank you for finally bringing this terrifying slip-n-slid from Satan’s back yard barbeque to me at this moment! It’s time to let my freak Mylar flag fly! I jump off the platform bridging part of the course that intersects my direction of travel and just keep motoring. I run about 15 feet down the slide and jump onto to my keister, holding the space blanket up behind me so as to flutter with maximum effect. “I’m a fucking SuperherooooooOOOO!……………….I immediately spin around. Before I can say “fuuuuuuuuuuck!” or anything for that matter, I’m on my back head first and rocketing down at breakneck speed. As I watch the top of the hill recede with horrific rapidity, my cape wrapped around my head, I am struck silent in my terror. I am in no more control of my body at that moment than I am of the ebbs and flows of my wife’s moods. My mind’s movie reels are spinning out of control as images of gruesome outcomes play out on my neuro movie screen. “Will I stay in the lane?!” “They’ll be picking pieces of my body out of the trees for days!” “I’ll take out someone at the Wreckbag carry!” “I hope my bowels hold!” “fuck! Fuuuck! Fuuuuuck!” And then a sudden calm comes over me, and I realize there is fuck-all I can do about my current predicament. So I do the only thing that can be done in a situation like this; I throw out the metal horns. And I wait for the end. And I wait. And I’m going faster. And faster. And then nothing. I have “shuffled off this mortal coil” and become airborne. I hit the water at 20-25 mph square on my back and skip. I fucking bounce like some kind of human skipping stone! I stand up in the water, toss my tinfoil woobie to the side, and execute metal horns once again. And the crowd, that glorious mob – lining the banks of the water pit, crowding the bridge to capacity all waiting for epic crashes – lets out a giant roar of approval. I clamber up the log wall and drop into the tunnels under the bridge happy to be alive and unsoiled.
- I’m standing next to the Grey Berets tent eyeing the 12 footer. I am soaked from head to toe from my delightful ride down the slide of terror, and without my woobie I start to feel the cold. I need to do these last 6 obstacles quickly! Angled walls give me trouble late in races because the sudden change in foot position can light my calves up like the 4th of July. I run and launch with just enough effort to reach the rope. The transition at the top is scary with only a rope to help with the shear drop back down to terra firma.
- Sternum Checker #2 is the baby brother to that monster in the woods. The top cross log can be reached with my feet still touching the launch log. Any kind of form is just ludicrous at this point, and I just flop over.
- That breeze fucking sucks. Everything is grey under a gloomy sky.
- I’ve enjoyed a couple of Battlefrog races this year so Tip of the spear was a welcome sight. The ropes are thin, and more than once the knot saves my bacon. The sweet volunteer is shouting words of encouragement at the top of her lungs and this gives me the push I need to ring the bell. I give her a high five and a hug. (Grey Berets hug it out.)
- With images of Cody Moat in my head I run towards the Ramp wall with trepidation. I am elated to see there is no frost on the wall. In fact I see a small strip of dryness and head straight for it. This obstacle requires a full on assault, calves be damned. I get great position high on the wall with my foot and launch! Success! I am so stoked!!!! Two more obstacles to go!
- There is a backup at Skull Valley. I pick a lane that will allow me to traverse the skulls from left to right. People are packed on the vertical cargo net that separates the skulls from the two hanging ropes. Having to transition from the approach side of the net to the finish line side of the net by going under the metal pipe securing the net causes people to do a complicated dance to stay out of each other’s way. A girl pushes up behind me and gives me all sorts of attitude for the fact I’m not going. “Where would you like me to go?” I think to myself. “There is no space on the net to occupy, and I just don’t think I’m in the fucking mood after 9.5 fucking miles to hang by my fingers while it all gets sorted out.” My facial expression says enough for her to back off. A space finally opens up and I campus across the skulls. Their wide, flat and slightly in cut tops make for an easy traverse. At the net I have to pick my feet up a few times and shift positions a few times to allow for others to make the transition. I finally start the process myself, confident about my arms but scared to death about my legs. If I cramp up at this point it’s game over. All goes well and I awkwardly stand there assessing the ropes. The Beard’s™ partner in crime, the Ginger Soul Keeper, is there telling me to get a move on. Giddy up! The finish line awaits! I opt for a big Tarzan swing and skip the second rope. My feet find the wall beyond and I’m able to pull myself upright with the second rope! OOOOOO boy! Now it’s just 8’-9’ feet of horizontal cargo net over my head to negotiate to the other side and all the grip obstacles are done baby! I take a deep breath, envision what Atkins did, and JUMP! I grab the net just over the halfway point and the momentum carries my feet to the opposite wall. Fuck yeah!! With the feet firmly planted I’m able to walk my hands across and finish out. “Holy Crap! Holy Crap! Holy Shit! I did it!”
- I size up the Warped Wall, do a wide circle in front of skull valley for some speed, thump my chest with my fist and sprint towards the final obstacle of this harrowing day. “God, I hope my calves hold out!” The wall is dry and my feet feel solid as I keep the knees moving. The OCR gods, who have been magnanimous with their blessings all day (well except for that stench. Jesus! What was that anyways!), throw me one last bone and I find myself chest high at the lip. Copying Atkins again I roll across the horizontal netting, flip over the edge, and roll down the backside where the netting is in a perfect swag. I extricate myself without falling flat on my face and head for home!
- I cross the finish line overtaken by a war cry; a day’s worth of pent up emotion released in one loud primal scream. The MC gives me a high five and says, “Well some people are more excited than others!” You’re damn skippy brother!
And “just like that” it’s done. Three hours and seven minutes of the most amazing experience of my short OCR life. Take all the superlatives you know, write them down on a piece of paper and then burn it, because they cannot even begin to describe this event. I sure as hell am not going to try.
There are only four words you need to hear: Tretsch says DO IT!
The wet clothes are quickly shed, well if by quick I mean the ten minutes it took, working through massive toe and thigh cramping all the while shivering. For the next couple of hours, I have the distinct honor, in the company of so many different nationalities, to watch and cheer while my fellow Grey Berets cross the finish line.
Writer’s note: it is 6 days later and the buzz has not worn off. See you all in 2016.