[2x the Beast 15mile loop: 49.8k/8900ft/240 burpees/8hrs52min]
The morning of the race it was 7°C. I thought, "Great! if it's 7°C now then its gunna get nice and toasty just in time to get to the peak and hit those water obstacles." Logical right? No, it wasn't. Maybe, if we were in the prairies and weather is 100% predictable, but we weren't. We were in the Sierra Nevada. At altitude. Where the weather went from 'not-totally-freezing' to 'gail force winds-totally-the-coldests-i've-ever-been-kinda freezing" pretty darn quick.
We huddled around the start while we waited for the announcer to finish telling us how only 78% of us were not going to finish. [I rolled my eyes at the time, but in fact he was correct. 1000 racers starts and 150 finished] Ok let's gooooo already! So finally after 15 minutes of fear mongering aroo-aroos and a homemade national anthem, we were off.
I'm a negative split kinda runner. I really struggle with redlining discomfort. (please refer to equine metaphor in Chapter 2 of Part 1) I like to take my time warming up. Sometimes this can take upwards to 2-3hours to happen. So I took the first mile loops pretty easy, getting passed by everyone. "Run my own race, just run my own race". I was sitting in 6th place when we looped back to the start and arrived at the vertical cargo net. Up and Over and immediately to the monkey bars (please refer the video in Ch.3 of part 1). I had heard the bars had broke the previous day and therefore must have changed them because I had no problem scooting across them (ahem...the first time around that is)
I slowly made the climb up to the peak reach the log carry. Now in 5th position, I strategically grabbed a log and heaved up and down a 400m loop. It was on the carry obstacles that I struggled a lot on last year in Vermont. Despite warnings that the altitude would make it challenging, I managed to scoot it up and down relatively easily.
As we approached the 9000' summit of Squaw Valley, the weather started to turn for the worst. The clouds rolled in and the wind picked up to gusts so strong I felt as though I was running...err..hiking...ok walking...sideways.
By the time I got through the 1st Sandbag carry (about 8 miles in) I had moved into 3rd and was just meters behind 2nd. It was still early in the race, I wasn't too concerned about my position, especially with the majority of the obstacles coming ahead, including the swim and the dunk (which would come down to a game of survival).
The majority of the climbing was over. It was now all down hill (until the 2nd loop). I love down hill running. What I lack in uphill ability I make up for in downhill speed. It makes me so happy to racing down beautiful single track switch backs. So down down down down down I went. The joy came to a sudden halt when we approached the lake. A 200m hairpin swim in a 11°C lake at the top of the mountain, where it was nearly zero out and windy as heck. Due to the cold, lifejackets were mandatory. Which, quite frankly, I was ok with.
I made it through the swim relatively easy. I didn't actually find it terribly cold. As long as I kept moving at a good speed I was able to maintain body heat. Body heat did, however, become problematic as soon we got to the long barb wire crawl.
The barbed wire was incorporated into a circuit of obstacles that went something like this: barbed wire --> 6' wall --> barbed wire --> turn back into barbed wire --> wall --> barbed wire --> dunk wall (I highlight this because this is where the problem began for the majority of people) barbed wire --> wall --> barbed wire -->barbed wire .
As I entered the circuit I could see 1st place female struggling at the dunk. I was currently neck and neck with 2nd and 4th was not to far behind. We slowly scooted through the barbed wire where immediately I began to feel the cold for the first time since the swim. My hands were numb, my toes weren't far behind. As I came up to the dunk wall I didn't hesitate and I just got'r done. 'm sure you are thinking, "what's the big deal, she just spent 2minutes swimming in a lake, why is she concerned about dunking for 10 seconds?". Well, in the lake I was able to keep my head, neck and top of my chest relatively dry. Dunking would be full submersion and with the air being so cold it made it rather difficult to get the body temperature back up.
I have never experienced cold as I did in this part of the race. Somehow I was able to get up the rope climb, despite not being able to feel my hands and losing all function in my wrists. One foot in front of the other. My toes were rock hard. My teeth were chattering so much my jaw was starting to get sore. Just keep moving. Atlas carry --> Tyrolean traverse --> Spear toss. Back to back to back. I struggled with the traverse rope. I tried to get on to my stomach so I could pull myself forward, but rolled over and had to traverse under the rope. It was a struggle. With the cold, I had lost all my strength in my forearms. I made it across, but I knew It would be struggle come lap two. I obviously missed the spear toss. So did 1st place. She was struggle with the cold and couldn't get through her burpees. I got through my first set of penalty burpees with ease and raced down the mountain (now 1st female) to the bucket brigade where I finally began to warm up. I got through the bucket carry easily and headed to the finish (of the first lap).
Traverse wall --> 60' ring/tarzan rope rig. I got through the traverse wall, although I did find it a lot more difficult then walls in the past. I attempted the rig for a hot second, but jumped off in attempt to save what little grip I had left. 30 more burpees. Jesse (my husband) kept telling me to put my gloves and jacket on to help me warm up. I shouted "I'm warm! I'm great!" (Only after the race did he tell me that he'd never seen my face and lips so blue before and was slightly concerned)
They detoured me through the finish to head into the drop bag zone. I had about a 3 -5 minute lead on the 2nd and 3rd place females at this point. I was feeling great. Mentally I was a little anxious about going through the two water obstacles again, but thankfully was warm enough and energized to not be overly concerned with the battle.
LAP 2. (Short and sweet)
As I headed out of the drop bag area I made it back to the vertical cargo net and straight to the monkey bars that felt a whole heck of a lot more greasy the 2nd time around. Needless to say I fell off of them immediately.
30 more burpees.
I moseyed up the hill and got to the hercules hoist. I was wearing gloves, which I think was my down fall, and couldn't get a good grip and by time i took my gloves off it was too late and the rope slipped from my hands and crashed down.
30 more burpees.
This is also where 2nd place, the lovely Ashley Seeger, was able to pass me. (clearly she spent much more time working on her grip strength then I did) We headed back up to the summit where I caught her just at the top on the sled drag. My sled got caught in a foot of sand and I have to heave extra hard to get it moving again. She passed me again. Unlike my grip strength, my ultra legs were just getting warmed up and I was feeling stronger than ever running and was able to scoot passed her and down to the lake for the 2nd swim. It was little bit more of a mental challenge this time around, but in I went and out I came and down the hill I continued to dunk wall numero dos. [see video above]
Then came the tyrolean traverse. I struggled with this on the first lap, so I wasn't expecting much come the second time around. I tried to get on top the rope and immediately well around to the bottom. I used my arms (rather than hands) hoping it would help. It did. For about 3 feet. then I looked back and realized I had 20+feet left.
30 more burpees.
Ashley powered right by me on the traverse like tarzan himself. I met her as she was half way through her burpees from a missed spear toss, where I too did:
30 more burpees.
With only 2.5 miles left I ran my heart out. Knowing that I was most likely going to fall off the travers wall at the finish line, and then again on the rig, (meaning I still had 60 more burpees left) I booked it as fast as I could down the hill to the bucket brigade. Oh gosh my forearms were on fire. I had to rest the bucket on my leg every 20 feet or so, making it easy for Ashley to catch up to me at the end of the carry.
1 mile left.
The trail was full of people who were completing the sprint and beast distance. It was a bit of a salmon swimming up stream feeling. Then came the final two obstacles: the traverse wall and 60' rig. I made it about 2/3 of the way across the wall and then fell. Oh shoot! I had about a 45 second lead on Ashley, I know that wasn't going to last long. And after already doing 180 burpees, my burpees were running in slow, horrible, sloppy motion. (did I say slow?) Then I looked over and Ashley also fell of the the wall. Holy Smokes! After racing for nearly 9hrs this race was going to come down to a burpee off!
30 more burpees.
I opted to jump on and right off the rig and get straight into my final set of burpees. Jess was counting down for me. Total soccer dad style (I definitely needed it). Hands to the ground, step back, step back, flop down, kneel, one leg up, another leg up, 1 inch jump of the ground. Repeat. 29 more times. As I neared the final 4 burpees I knew I had it. 4,3,2,1... finish line!
When I crossed the finish line I felt great. I felt like I was just getting warmed up. I felt as though I was ready for another lap. I was ready for the next adventure. I woke up the next day with a couple of sore calves, but otherwise ready to run.
There was a lot of chattered from racers regarding the lack of heavy carries compared to Vermont's course and disappointment in that it came down to a running race, that course was too quick. To be honest, this is what OCR is all about. Versatility, the ability to adapt to anything, the unknown, the mountain. To be an all around athlete and a great runner, especially technicalrunner, a confident downhill runner.
What's next? A trip to Vegas perhaps. :)