Battlefrog Dallas – April 16, 2016 (Race Recap)
Oh boy, what a day.
Waking up with a headache, a sore throat, and chills is never a good sign... especially on a race day. I’d been feeling a bit under the weather for the last few days or so, but as the “Rocky” theme song jolted me awake Saturday morning at five, it was by far the worst it had been. I’d hoped that the Claritin and Excedrin from the previous day would have done the trick, but of course the greatest obstacles of an obstacle course race have to come from something outside of the course (or that’s how it always seems to work out, I’ve noticed).
Nevertheless, I tried to shake it off. Showered, got ready, then hopped in the back seat and propped my legs up as my parents got in the front and we made our way to the horse park known as River Ranch. After catching up with some friends at the registration tent, I got my race packet (bib number, Elite band, etc.) and headed into the venue, ready to race. I bounced around, jogged a bit, did a lot of dynamic stretching. Reviewed the course map, caught up with a few more friends, continued stretching, etc. The usual.
At last, it was time to get things started. The elite wave hopped the wall and entered the starting corral, where we naturally began to look around and size up our competitors (it seems like every serious competitor and their brother never fail to show up at the Texas races, so of course the field was stacked). Van Tran, Beni Gifford, Joey Patrolia, Isaiah Vidal, Jack Bauer, Matt Campione, and the undefeated Ryan Atkins—they were all there, and there were plenty more on top of that...in other words, it would be a fun race indeed. I always find it interesting how the race can get extensively harder right at the starting line, when the intimidation begins to set in.
The Beard walked up, introducing the race, immediately followed by a race run-through and a quick establishment of the racing rules, and then the classic Battlefrog pump-up sequence and motivational speech that leads to the spine-tingling, “On your marks…get set…GO!”
The race was off.
I didn’t take off fast, knowing that I had ten miles to establish my pace—to speed up, slow down, mix-and-match—and plus, there was no need to push myself too quickly out of the box, especially when I didn’t know how my under-the-weather stamina would handle the whole racing thing. We rounded the pavilion, exited onto some subtle rolling hills, and entered into our first obstacle: O-U-T (Over-Under-Through). We then deposited into some thick mud along with some river-running, trudging through the murky water for a good quarter mile before exiting into some more trail running, which is my favorite (running is typically where I make my most distance). I began to speed up a bit, passing some other runners. I ran with my friend Alan Lewis for a while and got to get my mind off of the running a bit as we talked about my college studies and possibly being able to train together in the future, but eventually he pulled ahead of me.
I was probably somewhere between 10th and 15th place when we hit the jerry cans, and since my forearms were feeling good today, I didn’t hesitate. Picking up my two cans and heading in the direction of the two runners ahead of me, I decided it was time to really start picking it up, so I began to walk a bit faster.
“Wrong way!” a voice called from behind us after we’d walked for maybe a hundred yards up a steady incline. All of us paused for a second, looking to each other. Was the person talking to us? After considering it, we looked at the trail—there were flags to our right and an arrow pointing us in the direction we were walking, so the person had probably been talking to someone else. We continued forward.
“Wrong way!” the voice called again, but this time we didn’t bother to hesitate. The group of us—probably eight to ten of us, all at various points all along the trail—did exchange some comments trying to figure out if he was talking to us, but we agreed there was no other direction to go. We kept going.
All of a sudden, I heard quick footsteps behind us, and my heart dropped. Ryan Atkins came running up the trail, not a jerry can in his hands. I suddenly realized that the voice that had been calling out to us had been his. “You’re going the wrong way,” he said to us with a frown as he ran by -- he'd tried to warn us, but we hadn't realized it. Setting my cans down for just a moment to process what he was saying, I sighed. Well, it happens. As a chorus of expletives came from the mouths of the frustrated racers around me, we all picked up our cans and made our way back to where we had started (as we did so, Van, Isaiah, Beni, Jack, and a few others passed by; we were losing a lot of ground).
Upon returning back to the original starting location, we were shocked to see how many racers had reached the jerry cans, and suddenly we saw the course we had been supposed to take—there had been no arrow pointing in that direction nor a volunteer to guide us, so we had just gone in the direction that had made the most sense. With a sigh of frustration, we made our way through the thick mud and thigh-deep water to follow the actual loop we had been intended to follow.
The only problem was that there were Normandy Jacks in this jerry can carry, and unfortunately a line had formed—and it was at a standstill. I set my cans down once again, trying to keep my mind from simply losing all its motivation. I was near the back of the pack now, probably in the 75-100 placements. A few of us asked if people would let us past so we could try to regain our positions, but being that we were all part of the elite heat, nobody would budge. Fair enough, I thought. That much reason to run faster. What should have been a two-minute or less bucket carry turned into a ten-minute long haul, most of which was just waiting and waiting and waiting until I got my chance to crawl through the Jacks. At last I made it through the muddy crawl and deposited my cans at the drop-off station, kicking it into gear and doing my best to take off like a bat out of hell (emphasis on “doing my best”).
The next few obstacles passed by fairly quickly—Ladder Wall, Delta Ladder, Ramp Wall, 60 Degrees, wreck bag carry, etc. I passed person after person, feeling my fatigue beginning to set in but recognizing my need to make some serious ground. I caught up with friend Robertlee Vidal, who made my day when he turned to me in astonishment and asked if I was lapping him. I wish, I thought to myself, knowing that that would imply that not only was I in first, but I was almost done (and given the rapid fits of coughing I was breaking into as I ran, it’s safe to say I was beginning to reach that point of wanting to be done). I laughed and told him that “no, this is my first lap,” and then continued on over the 12’ Rope Wall and onto the rope climb, which proved to be giving people a really hard time.
I was extremely proud of myself when I saw Matt Campione at the rope climb, thinking that I had gained a lot more ground than I’d initially suspected. Then he turned to me and told me that he’d fallen back himself after attempting it multiple times to no avail, something that I’ll admit made me super nervous given the fact that, you know, Matt’s super awesome. I looked at the obstacle: unlike a typical rope climb, it involved grabbing onto a ring and then swinging onto the already-muddy rope, which you would have to proceed to climb, ring a bell, lower yourself down, and, without touching the ground, touch another ring on the other end before moving on. He told me that he had managed to complete all of it, but that final ring was the thing giving him problems—and given the six-or-so ropes, each with lines about three or four people deep, it apparently had been giving a lot of people difficulty.
But I was feeling strong. Recognizing my chance to jump forward quite a few spots, I grabbed onto the ring and transferred to the rope, making sure to cause the rope to swing as I did so. I climbed the rope, rang the bell, lowered myself back down, and, utilizing the momentum of the still-swinging rope to my advantage, grabbed the first ring. I pulled myself back to gain momentum, then swung across and touched the final ring. Success.
I was back in the game. I landed on the ground and made my way onward -- across the monkey bars, over the Confidence Climb and across the Wedge Wall, down the HOOYAH slide, through the mud mounds and, at last, to the first Platinum Rig.
I took a deep breath. Dried my hands on some hay. Looked around to see who all had made it to the rig. Seeing my new friend Greg Sexton, I nodded to him and struck up a conversation. Moving side-by-side, we made our way across the rig successfully and then proceeded to run with each other for the next mile and a half or so, passing over the 8’, 4’, and inverted walls and approaching, together, the second Platinum Rig. I was beginning to feel my immune system fighting whatever disease I’d been dealing with, and it was having a toll on my cardio, making me out of breath and a bit queasy. Greg made his way across the rig first and I followed not long after, but I couldn’t gather the energy I needed in order to try to catch up. I made my way through a creek that resembled more of a nuclear dump—filled with at least twenty different littered energy drinks and various other curious items—and then, after passing over a cargo bridge, at last approached the Tip of the Spear.
Giving me a heavy dose of déjà vu, I jogged up to the obstacle only to find my amigo Jack Bauer there, having gotten stuck on it in a very similar fashion as in San Antonio weeks earlier. Just like in SA, he told me that only one lane was open, but this time for another reason: apparently a screw was sticking out on another lane and it had given some previous runner a gnarly gash. The problem that Jack had been facing? We were now forced to transition laterally to the left, meaning his left, less dominant hand was forced to lead him along the obstacle. I bit my lip and nodded, recognizing that this would be a potential problem for me as well—I was used to leading with my right hand too.
Nevertheless, I decided that my arms were still feeling pretty good—I can probably thank God for that—so I decided I’d give the obstacle a shot. Looking down at my bloodied hand—the result of a nearly-healed wound being reopened at some point during the course—I hopped up and transitioned across the first third of the obstacle successfully. Then, after shaking my arms out a bit, I made my way across those dreaded angled handholds—and I had made it all the way across to the very last handhold and was almost across when my ankle banged the corner piece of the angled platform. Grimacing as a sharp jolt of pain shot up my leg, I felt my grip loosen. I was falling.
I barely caught myself before touching the ground, grasping onto the handhold for dear life as I lifted myself back up and successfully finished the second third. I made it to the final ropes, crossed them successfully, and rang the bell. First lap done.
And in all honesty, the second lap went by a lot quicker, as usually seems to be the case. I ran by myself for most of the time, which gave me time to realize how sick I was beginning to feel once again, stopping multiple times as I felt my pace make me feel nauseated, as if I were about to throw up. I slugged through obstacle after obstacle, successfully following the correct jerry can loop this time around and then continuing on throughout the rest of the lap without too much difficult. Halfway through the lap, Matt Campione passed me again, which gave me a new sense of energy as I decided to try to catch back up; but by the time I got back into my regular pace, he was too far ahead. After the first platinum rig I finally found my pace again, beginning to pick it back up and get it done. I went over the walls and made it across the second rig without too much a problem, still feeling strong. Passed through the nuclear dump, scaled the cargo bridge, and then muscled my way across the Tip of the Spear. Crossed the finish line. I was done.
All in all, it was another great race, and at an especially great venue to top it all off. Sure, the confusion at the beginning was a bit mind-boggling and jarring, but that type of stuff is to be expected in all races, so I can’t really complain too much. Battlefrog is still one of the best OCR series out there, and I can’t wait until the next one.
After the race, I got the chance to catch up with a bunch of friends and fellow racers, and we got to endure the oh-so-cold power-wash showers together and then discuss the race and just hang out. One of the best things about OCR is the amazing community that comes along with it, with all the friends you make and the people you see. It really is a one-of-a-kind community, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Well done, Battlefrog, for once again putting on such a great race and providing us with such a great venue to race on; I can’t wait to see what you have in store for us next.