Fun fact: Despite its title as the “Houston” Savage Race, Cat Spring, Texas is actually closer to College Station than it is to Houston. (I guess it’s kind of like Glen Rose last week, which, despite being called the “Dallas Spartan Race,” is actually two and a half hours away from Dallas.)
This didn’t stop me from coming home for the weekend, though, because it’s always nice to get away from the studies for a few days and spend some good ole quality time with the parentals. I pulled into our driveway at 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon, and after a movie night (“Hacksaw Ridge”) with Papa Tate and Mama Tate, it was quick to bed for me (11:30pm-ish) to get up at 5:00am the next morning and make the two-hour voyage to Cat Spring.
The drive there wasn’t too bad – probably thanks to the fact that I napped the majority of the way (don’t worry, my dad was driving) – and we pulled into the race venue around 7:30am, at which point I got to greet some friends (Alan Lewis, Alexandra Walker, Ben Pina, Daxton Davis, Matt Gambino, Eston Jones, etc.) and chat it up as we waited for the registration tents to open up so we could get in and start warming up.
Soon enough, 8 o’clock rolled around and into the festival we went. I got to greet some more friends like Greg Sexton, Van Tran, and William Boyce, and then went on to warm-up for about a half-hour or so before entering into the corral with the others and chatting it up some more while we waited for the 9:00am start time.
And then we were off. Not wanting to make the same mistake as I made in Dallas last week, I decided to pace myself for the first few miles, holding about a 6-minute pace as we cruised across the flat [albeit very bumpy] terrain and along the winding trails. The first obstacle didn’t come for over a half-mile, at which point we hit the Low Crawl (a not-too-lengthy barbed-wire crawl) and continued on our way, clocking the first mile at 6:19; I was in about fifth or sixth place, feeling pretty comfy.
Over the course of the first two miles of the race, there were only four obstacles; over the course of the first three, there were only six. Rather than spacing us out with the typical space-making obstacles as is typically expected, Savage presented us with a runner’s race from the very beginning, something that pushed me back a bit thanks to the fact that my endurance training hasn’t been as extensive as it once was. The trails went back and forth from knee-high grass to soft pasture to thick sand, something that changed things up enough to keep it interesting and not too trail run-ish for most OCR athletes’ likings, though it was definitely an interesting way to start off such a short course.
At some point between miles 1 and 2, I was winding through the trails (still holding that rough 6-minute pace) when a volunteer driving a group of spectators in his Mule misjudged the distance between us and pulled out, in front of me, onto the trail. I yelled “Excuse me” and tried to cut to his left, but I guess he heard me from the wrong angle because he then swerved to the left, knocking me off of the trail and into some bushes. I had to come to a full stop, back away, and go around him, a momentary hitch that set my pacing back and allowed a few other racers to pass me. Nevertheless, I shook it off and continued back onto the course, pushing to get back into my pace.
Eventually we hit the Sawhorses (four 4’ wooden hurdles) and then some Barn Doors (6’ walls_; next came Backscratcher (multiple 5’ walls, each immediately followed by a short barbed wire crawl) and then, two and a half miles in, the Slipper Incline (Slip Wall), the Venus Guy Trap (an Inverted Wall followed by an Angled Wall), and the Great Wall (an 8’ Wall).
Around 3.5 miles in we hit a new obstacle in which you have to cross two horizontal logs suspended from chains over a pool of water, aided only by a rope at each log (the announcers insisted that the obstacle was “Unnamed,” but it is listed as Hangarang on the course map). My hips were getting a bit tired at this point (as was expected, since I hadn’t gotten in any running since the hip/back incident last week in Dallas) and I had fallen into 18th or so place, but I was beginning to feel good as we headed into the back half of the course, knowing that once the race became more obstacle heavy, I would have a good chance to gain some ground.
The second half of the course seemed to go by much quicker, if only because it was more populated by obstacles to take your mind off of the running. In little-to-no-time I had gone through the Mud-n-Guts (muddy barbed wire crawl), jumped into Davy Jones’ Locker (a 20’ish foot platform into a deep pullof water), scaled the Big Cheese (a quarter wheel of triangular handholds that you must climb up before climbing down the vertical wooden ladder once you reach the top) and the Big A** Cargo Net (no explanation needed), and both run up and slid down Colossus (a warped wall on one side that deposits you slip-n-slid style into a large pool of water). Sawtooth (the M-shaped monkey bars) came next, and I was happy to see that I managed to actually get a rhythm going this time through and was even more elated to notice I was gaining ground on some other athletes.
Nevertheless, we were about 4.5 miles in and my hips were truly beginning to tire out. The runs in between each obstacle were getting shorter, yes, but so was my endurance.
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
As those very Bible verses (Isaiah 40:28-31) sprang into my head (I had read them during the drive up this morning), I felt a seeming new strength pass over me; all of a sudden my feet felt lighter and my stride opened up, and as it happened, I knew that it wasn’t my training or anything of my own doing that resulted in such a renewed energy (this fact in and of itself put a smile on my face as I wound through the trails). I pressed on.
The Shriveled Richard (really cold water that wasn’t as cold as usual), Squeeze Play (horizontal beams lined with horizontal barrels that you have to squeeze under), Wheel World (hexagonal, rotating monkey bar thingy), Kiss My Walls (rock-climbing hold Traverse Wall), Pole Cat (horizontal metal poles of different heights that you have to traverse across, hands on one pole, feet on the other), On the Fence (chain-link fences suspended over a pool of water; you have to traverse across them), and Lumberjack Lane (a short log carry) passed by pretty quickly, and I was slowly but surely gaining grown as we rounded the corner, approaching the 7-mile mark that signified the last stretch of the race. I made it through the Teeter Tuber (long plastic culverts placed on a pivot-point so that you have to awkwardly crawl upwards halfway before the pipe rotates down to let you slide the rest of the way) faster than normal and made my way to the Tree Hugger (vertical poles set up in a metal-wood-metal-wood-metal fashion, meant to be traversed across horizontally), which was actually much harder than the one experienced back in Dallas. Nevertheless, I still managed to gain some ground on a few more people and then crossed the last obstacle, the Savage Rig (a multi-rig styled device) with plenty of strength left in the system. I finished in 11th overall, clocking in just over an hour.
Overall, I’d have to say I’m extremely satisfied with how the race went. Sure, I might not have done as well as I’d like to have done, but I did about how I expected to do and know exactly what I need to work on in order to best prep for 2017’s next racing season. I have God to thank for that second wind He gave me for the last half of the race, and overall I’m content with how it all turned out. Definitely a solid race. After chatting with some friends for a bit at the finish, my buddy Van Tran (3rd place finisher) and I went for a three-mile cool down through the course, stopping at obstacles like Wheel World, Hangarang, and Savage Rig to race each other across to see who could get the fastest times, some extra fun to add to the day (of course, he won 2/3 of them).
The course itself was awesome, albeit a bit running-heavy at the beginning, but the biggest standout to me was how extremely well marked it was, something fairly rare at obstacle racing events (not once did I ever even question whether or not I was on course). Other than that one incident with the volunteer on the Mule, the volunteers helped make the race as successful as it was, with multiple volunteers stationed at nearly every single obstacle throughout the course, each knowing exactly what they were doing and how to go about doing it. The festival area was nice and large and there were plenty of things to do, and the award ceremony wasn’t too late in the day (around 1pm), especially when compared so some other OCR events. Overall, I’d have to say that it was an extremely well-run course, organized as well as can be desired and as fun as can be expected. Yet another great day and another great race. Find the Strawberries, my friends.
Oh, and congratulations to the Top 3 Males (Ryan Woods, Yuri Force, and Van Tran) and Top 3 Females (Lauren Woodcock, Alexandra Walker, and Melanie Chargualaf) for the awesome finishes today!!!