The lead up to my running the course was pretty long since I had arrived at the course around 6 AM and actually ran the course closer to 4 PM. This does not mean that I hadn't been to almost every corner and nook (or pond or mud pit) of the course at least twice if not three times. It did mean however that when the Volunteer and Staff Wave started that I probably had 10+ miles in that day not to mention plenty of crawling, crouching and standing to get the near 800 photos that were trimmed to 330 or so for the Team Ortho FB page HERE and HERE. (Remember it is important to bracket your shots.)
I started near the front (next to one of the guys from MarathonFoto) since there wasn't that many actually in the wave (40 or so). The horn sounded and we took off, and I mean took off. One of the staffers set out with a sub 7 minute mile which really pushed the pack. Most of us were blissfully unaware of this accelerated pace until the first obstacle "Hay Fever Ridge". My legs protested as I bounded up the small bale to get to the top of the larger round bales, but the jump down to the smaller bale section in the middle is the first time where I saw gravity over power my leg strength as I tried for some style points while in the air. Recovery was easy with a quick roll and then climb to the next round bale section. I did take more caution with stepping down at the end of the bales since there was fewer bales to land on.
The path soon went through a shallow pond. This is where the devilish side of me came out and an impromptu belly flop was performed near a pack of cautious wading commandos to be. This seemed like a good idea until I realized that the cargo pockets in my shorts didn't have any means to drain out the water let alone the sand from the bottom that found its way in. The hill that let out of the pond had been turned to mud by the 3000+ runners that had traversed it before me while dripping wet.
More running brought me to the 1st mile marker and then another obstacle. It was some larger wooden spindles that had once contained some type of industrial wire stood up on end so runners would need to go under or over. Due to my height the "over" option was the easiest and most logical.
More running to get to the hardest obstacle in my opinion, the cargo net climb. The net was only secured around its edges and not to any other of the support structures in the center, so the entirety of the net would shift when the other participants went into another section of the net. While challenging, it also allowed for more rolling and general flailing as I used the support structure to fling myself into the next sections.
The path the zigzagged its way up a hill and led us across some logs to the next major obstacle, hurdles. That is correct, immediately before the 2 mile flag, they had set up hurdles of varying height. I am not sure about you but my legs don't like jumping when they are used to pumping blood for running. (kinda like that feeling you get when you get off of a bike and try to start running.) The lower ones were easy due to my size, but the taller ones did require gravity to yield to my leg muscles for a brief moment.
The "Mile 2" marker greeted us soon after as well as the only water stop. Luckily the water stop volunteers hadn't gotten the memo about the staff wave and were still diligently on duty. Although, I know that I had gotten photos of at least half of them on course earlier in the day. A short run later there was a nasty steep down hill that I chose to walk down so I wouldn't loose my footing (it was muddy from people skidding down it earlier in the day). Three built up dirt ramps awaited runners after the down hill. (This is where most of the stylish jumping happened earlier in the day as well as a rumored front hand spring.) I chose to run them with only a small jump before the crest to take them with the greatest efficiency (photographing here earlier allowed me to scout various techniques).
A sharp right then led to the next challenge. Switch backs up and down a stand of pine trees on a hill. This seemed like torture. 2 1/2 miles in your going to have us do sprints up and down a hill?! It wasn't that bad because it spread the little pack I was in out enough for the slide that followed.
Earlier in the day the bottom of this adult slip and slide had been grassy and green. 6 hrs worth of racers later it looked more like something you would expect to find a pig wallowing around in. I decide to go for distance and laid down fully after grabbing the top of the tube to fling myself down. Distance however I didn't get, but a hefty splash down and some "ooh's" from the crowd at the bottom were definitely in store. I recovered quickly and ambled away now thoroughly caked in mud.
The next portion was a naturally sandy portion of hill. Perfect for those who had just doused themselves in mud and were nice and receptive for sand to cling too. I left this section looking like I had laid down on the beach sans a towel after swimming. After rounding a corner a section of tires were waiting to be ran through. I mean what type of obstacle course would be complete with out car tires to run though. They posed little challenge and were completed without any stumbling.
My legs were burning at this point as I was pushing myself the entire way wanting to beat my previous time of 34 minutes from the year before (not to mention carrying the added weight of water and mud that had collected on my shoes). As well as possibly break 30 minutes for the first time in any time of 5k event. They weren't the only thing burning as around the next corner was the fire jump. A new standard in 5k adventure races. It was only a single line of log and was burning only 6 or so inches off of ground level so the challenge wasn't that great, and I barely could feel the heat though the layers of sand and mud on my legs.
The final obstacle was a water pit with rope strung over the top. It was meant to make people actually dip and crawl through the water, but most people just lifted it up and waded through the last little pit. Not me though, upon entry I immediately dove in and started to crawl. I wanted to use the opportunity to get the uncomfortable sand off of my legs, and I wanted to stay true to the intent. A quick few steps after the water pit the finish line greeted the now Commandos. Dog tag finisher medals, a free cup of beer and some chow also greeted the finishers. I also opted for the quickest way to get clean, the fire hose. That is right. They had the local firefighters come out with one of their hose trucks to hose down finishers to wash off the mud. The water was freezing cold, but it did the trick. The best part though was a new personal best of 31 minutes for the course. I lounged around the finish area watching others finish their slogs and grab their finisher swag. I gave away some of the extra beer and chow tickets that I had collected throughout the day from people trying to bribe the course photographer to make their photos look better.
It was a long operation, but it was well worth it. Both participants and volunteers had great times, and I, for one, cannot wait to do it again next year! Who knows. If I am still blogging at that point, I might have to have a Give-away for a comp entry so one of my bloggy pack can experience it as well.
Have you done any type of race like this? What did you like or dislike about it?