First OCR of the season in the bag.
I woke up at 4 am for today’s Terrain Race in Houston, taking my sweet time getting ready before picking up one of my fellow TAMUOCR teammate and embarking on the 1.5-hour voyage from College Station to Conroe. A solid five hours of sleep had left me more rested than usual, but my lack of proper training in the weeks leading up to the race were leaving a bit unsure of what to expect. This semester has been a busy one with little-to-no free time left over for working out, so the race would be a fun one for sure. To top things off, I’d been sick for a week and a half, so expectations were dwindling. My optimism told me I was in alright shape, but the question mark still loomed in the back of my head.
We arrived at the race course at around 6:45ish, an hour and fifteen minutes before the start. I’d never done a Terrain Race before and was thus unsure of what to expect out on the course, and it would turn out that the surprise of what lie ahead would last until I was taking on the course itself, since no maps were available in the festival area. I signed in, got my bib, met up with some other TAMUOCR buddies and other OCR pals, and started warming up. The weather was beautiful (if not a bit chilly) and I was graced with taking in the beautiful sunrise as the dark sky turned from purple to orange, orange to gold, and, at last, gold to that oh-so-familiar blue. I got to catch up with some friends and see how life’s been treating them, but before I knew it, it was time to race.
The starting corral for the race was different than any other race I’d run before, with all of us racers finding ourselves chest deep in slightly-colder-than-lukewarm, not-too-clean water, where we would remain icily until the cannon went off and we set out on the course. I got to meet up with buddies Daxton, Van, and Rich at this point, and we got to share a few laughs as we awaited the signifying cannon blast.
Once the cannon sounded, we were off. I clumsily face-planted my way out of the tub and scrambled back up to my feet, sprinting for a few seconds to regain the ground I’d lost in my momentary ungraciousness. I quickly placed myself next to fellow teammate David Tolstyka (@deafocr) at the front of the pack, and together we led the group for a solid half mile as we made our way over some quick walls and through a lengthy, knee-deep water sludge around the perimeters of a lake. We were deposited to a rope-climb/ladder wall hybrid obstacle, which then sent us off onto a stretch of running along the winding bike tracks that would be our stomping grounds for the majority of the rest of the race.
I was feeling good and decided to step up the pace a bit, taking the lead for a while as we continued through the various obstacles. At roughly mile 1.5-ish, Hunter Russell zoomed on past me, shortly followed by Van Tran. Hoping to preserve my energy I kept up my same pace, following behind as we wound through more tracks and eventually made our way back to the festival area, where there would be the 5k/10k split.
At about mile 2 we hit this surprisingly-difficult cargo net/monkey bar thing, and I think I hesitated a bit too long as I tried to decide the proper method to go across. I lost some ground here but made it across nevertheless, continuing onwards to the rig back at the festival area (a few ball-grips followed by a horizontal bar) and then to the A-frame monkey bars. After this we were sent back out on the course, and I turned off with the 10k to take on the remaining few miles, most of which consisted of running. I passed over a 10’ wall and then followed Hunter and Van into the woods, trying my best to keep them in sight as we passed through the trees. (I failed, because eventually they were long gone.)
This is where my memory gets a bit murky (remember that I don’t have a course map to reference as I write this), but I think around here is where we hit the rolling mud. I leapt into it fully expecting the water to be much deeper than it actually was, sending a shock through my knees as I braced for the impact that came far sooner than I expected. Laughing out loud and looking to a volunteer, I said, “Well that wasn’t as deep as I thought it was going to be.” Then I stepped forward and fell face first into the water, because apparently it did get deeper. The volunteer broke into laughter as I clumsily scrambled upwards, laughing to myself as I continued back into the woods. (Like I said, not my most gracious race.)
Eventually there was some sort of culvert crawl, a wreck bag carry, some tire flips, and a tire drag, though in all honesty I can’t remember what order any of that happened. What I do remember is that eventually we came to this four-rope Tarzan-swing-ish set up, where we had to swing from rope to rope and land on the other side using nothing but arms, and that was actually pretty fun. Then came a whole lot more running and eventually a second sandbag carry, this time involving some teeter-totter balance beams that we had to go over while carrying the sandbags. Then came more running and then a teeny-weeny rope climb, followed by a super-windy path (in which I definitely got lost for a tenth of a mile) and then another culvert crawl; after this, I found myself cruising back towards the festival area, surprised by the fact that my watch was telling me we were only five miles in.
Turns out it was just going to be a short race. I rounded the corner and approached the final obstacle, a balance beam leading up to a cargo net we would have to crawl across before sliding down a fireman’s pole on the other side. I embraced another moment of ungraciousness as I landed face first on the cargo net upon dismounting the balance beam, each of my limbs falling clumsily into the parting holes so that I had to awkwardly clamber out of it before tootsie-rolling my way across the net so as to slide down the pole and cross the finish line. Boom. Done.
Overall, I’d say that the race was extremely quick, both in distance and duration. The 10k course ended up being about a mile short (just a tad longer than 5 miles), and it only took forty or so minutes to complete, thanks to the extensive amounts of running and lack of too-difficult obstacles. It was definitely a good season-opener, showing me both my strengths and weaknesses and giving me plenty of stuff to work on should I find the time to actually go and work on them. I managed to come in 3rd place overall for the 10k, a feat I can only attribute to the grace of God because I know that I myself did no such training to prepare me to perform as I did. As they say, “those who put their hope in the Lord renews their strength,” and I’d have to say that the Big Man Upstairs was definitely watching out for me today.
It was awesome getting to see my fellow TAMUOCR compadres finish up the course so strongly, many of them completing their very first obstacle race ever. Fellow teammate Sarah Pledger (@pledgetraining) managed to snag 3rd on the women’s side, so we got to share in the paparazzi pic as we flashed our big checks proudly and smiled from cheek to cheek when they informed us we actually got to keep them as keepsakes.
So yeah, that about sums everything up. Terrain Race was definitely a quick course, more running-heavy and a little lighter on the obstacles. The course most definitely could have used some better marking along the way (the constantly-winding path didn’t help with the confusion), but overall it was a pretty stellar time. Great weather, great atmosphere, great community. It definitely felt good to be out on the course again, and now it’s time to go put in some work so that I can persist until I succeed!
NOTE: My dad also got to make it out to the race today, which was pretty awesome. Thanks to my hectic schedule I hadn’t been able to make it home for a visit since the beginning of the semester, so it was awesome getting to see him and hang out for a bit. Him and my mom are coming up to College Station tonight to visit some more, so it’s safe to say I’m pretty pumped. #FindTheStrawberries