It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
Today I woke up feeling pretty jazzed about the Dallas Savage Race. Sure, my quads were still giving me the silent treatment as a result of the hour-long burpee challenge I’d put them through on the previous Monday, but other than that my body felt good. To make things even better, I’d gotten a solid eight hours of sleep (which, if you know me, is unheard of), and I was feeling pretty optimistic; it was going to be a good day.
We (Dad and I) left the hotel around 7am, pulling into the race venue around thirty minutes later so that we had a solid hour and a half before the surprisingly-late 9 o’clock start time. It was drizzling a bit and the air had a surprising chill to it, but in no time the rain passed by and the day began to heat up. I chatted with some volunteers and racers for a while at the packet pick-up area and then headed into the festival to start warming up and getting ready for the race. Some familiar faces included people such as Van Tran, Matt Campione, Beni Gifford, Matt Willis, Yuri Force, Miles Keller, and many, many more.
At the starting line, we went through our usual pre-race pump-up, rules meeting, and national anthem, and then we were on our way, heading out and across a bridge and immediately up a semi-steep hill, which allowed the runners to start setting some distance right off the gun. I had a surprisingly good start, managing to break out of the crowd and set in at a comfortable 3rd place behind Yuri and Beni as we wound through some trails and made our way to the first obstacles. In no time Van caught up and we began to go back and forth, pushing each other yet still feeling pretty comfortable. We made our way through some of the first obstacles – Low Crawl (a short barbed-wire crawl), Barn Doors (ladder walls), Venus Guy Trap (vertical walls with angled descents), Swamp A** (back-to-back trenches of mud with some winding trails in between), and Thor’s Grundle (trenches with dunk walls every few feet) – and I was still feeling pretty comfortable in 3rd place, Beni just about fifty yards ahead of me.
As we entered into the 3rd mile of the course, I heard breathing coming up from behind and Matt Campione blew passed me, the king of pacing deciding to kick it into gear. He gained some extra distance on me on the Slippery Incline (essentially a slip wall), but I continued on at my pace, not wanting to over-exert so early in a race. We were still less than halfway done, and I still had a lot in the tank.
Then came Sawtooth, and that’s when my race began to start going downhill. If you know don’t know Sawtooth, essentially it’s an M-shaped set of monkey bars – an obstacle that didn’t slow me down at all in the one previous Savage Race I’ve run (the same race, last year), but managed to slow me down significantly this time around. My grip felt fine and I never felt like I was going to fall or anything, but for some reason my approach to the obstacle was all wonky, so that, rather than going purely off of momentum and swing as I typically would in monkey bars, it was more of a cluster of me trying different handholds and angles as I awkwardly traversed across. My pacing and momentum was all off, and I lost of lot of spots as a result of taking so long. At this point Van regained his lead on me, and by the time I got off the obstacle I had fallen back to probably 5th or 6th, maybe even 7th. I had to pick it up.
But the thing is, for some reason my body didn’t want to go fast anymore. Try as I might to get back into my pace, it just wasn’t having it. My cardio wasn’t tired and my legs were feeling great, yet for some reason my body refused to let my stride open up and I just couldn’t speed up. It was the weirdest thing, but that was the case for the next mile or so: as we went through Pole Cat (two horizontal bars at different elevations that you traversed across, hands on one bar, feet on the other), Back Scratcher (back-to-back 5’ walls, each followed by barbed wire), Kiss My Walls (a slightly-inverted traverse wall with rock-climbing grips), the Great Wall (8’ wall), Wheel World (a back-to-back rotating hexagonal monkey bar/rig thingy), and the Sawhorses (4’ wooden hurdles), I was just grogging through it (and in case you were wondering, ‘grogging’ is in fact a word I just made up), losing placements as I tried to get back into my groove. Kiss My Walls and Wheel World were especially hard for some reason, mainly because it seemed like I was going in and out of focus as I did so.
Then came a kind of strange new obstacle, Squeeze Play, in which we had to, as the name implies, squeeze beneath very low, rotating plastic barrels and the mud beneath, something that proved a much tighter fit even despite my small frame. I hit my nose one of the barrels and that hurt for the next half mile or so, but it proved to be nothing but a thing. Next came the Shriveled Richard (an ice bath with a dunk wall that is named in accordance with precisely how cold that water is…), and at this point I began to once again get into the swing of things. The cold water sent of jolt of energy through me, and I began to ever so slowly gain some ground again. I had fallen back to probably 11th or 12th (some females has passed me too), but I began to speed up. We went through the Mud-n-Guts (a whole lot of mud), jumped from Davy Jones Locker (a huge 20ish’ platform into a huge pool of water that we then had to climb from), and then 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). Upon jumping from Davy Jones Locker my ears popped [and are still ringing and in slight pain even as I write this write-up] and the Teeter Tuber was just as awkward an obstacle as it was last year, but I was really beginning to feel good once again.
…and oh yeah, in between those two obstacles, me and new friend, College Station resident John FitzSimon (who ran the race barefooted), got lost on the course, running an extra quarter mile (and almost skipping 5 obstacles and another half mile) and falling a little further back in placement. But in no time we regained our positions and continued along the course.
Next came Big Cheese (a gargantuan quarter-wheel with triangular handholds cut into the wooden structure for us to climb over and down), Colossus (a big warped wall followed by a giant water slide), the Big A** Cargo Net (self-explanatory), Lumberjack Lane (a fairly-light log carry that couldn’t have been even a tenth of a mile), and On the Fence, a new obstacle where one traverses sideways across two free-hanging, vertical chain-link fences. At this point I was truly beginning to get back into my pace, but there was only a half-mile left to go: two more obstacles.
After winding through some more trails the finish line at last came into view, with only Tree Hugger and the Savage Rig lying between us. The Tree Hugger was essentially 5 free-standing vertical poles to traverse across (metal-wood-metal-wood-metal) and didn’t prove to be too difficult, and then came the Rig, which was likewise a fairly quick one with not too many difficult handholds or anything. After swinging across 3 ropes, grabbing a triangular handhold and ringing the bell, I made my way to the finish: 8th place. Yuri had taken 1st, Campion 2nd, and Beni 3rd.
After the race, I hung out with same buddies, took some post-race pics, went on a cool down run with Van, and then headed out to get a bite to eat and head back to College Station to get back to training and studies. Twas a good day indeed, I must say.
So yeah, to sum things up, I’d have to say that it was a pretty great race today. Not my best and not my worst and while, yes, I’m sure there were plenty of things I could’ve done to improve my finish, I’m still pretty happy with it and have a clear view of what I need to work on to ensure better placement in the future. It’s all about living and learning, and I’ve yet to run a race thus far where I couldn’t learn at least something useful. I will say this: the course could’ve been marked a bit better (I heard far too many stories of people getting lost on such a short, 5.5 mile course), but other than that it was a pretty good set up. There was a huge turnout (one volunteer told me around 8,000 runners for the day), and everything was run smoothly without any major hiccups. So, other than the minor mishap in regards to course marking, I’d have to say it was an awesome race. Bravo, Savage Race, and see you in Houston!
Oh, and Van, if you happen to be reading this, know that I’m coming for you in Houston. Best get ready!