If it's raining, this must be Atlanta! For the third Atlanta race in a row, there was rain on Friday night into Saturday. And for the second race in a row, it was on top of the already rain-saturated ground. But there was a difference; the rain and humidity during the week caused my tent to feel like a soggy pretzel with not-cleaned-yet t-shirts tossed in the corners…soaking up pools of condensed water. This made the idea of sloshing through extreme amounts of mud and water at the BattleFrog race seem quite attractive!
I also knew that the race parking (which until the night before had been at the race venue itself) was now to be at several nearby locations. So, instead of sleeping in that morning, as I had the previous rainy events…and also since I was already awake at 5 am from ‘sleeping' in a damp laundry bin…I decide to head on out and see if I could get one of the closer parking area spots…even though it would still be a short bus ride in.
As expected, the walk from the bus was soggier than I would have liked, but it could have been worse (in fact, by the end of the day it would be considerably worse from use and more rain!). But the festival area was in much better shape than I expected…given the conditions. My plan today would be to get out on the course early again and hopefully avoid the worst of the rain and worsening course conditions.
Yes to the first…not-so-much to the second. Although it did sprinkle a bit, the serious rain did hold off for most of my run. However, the effects of the previous night's rain had pretty much spoiled any idea of having decent footing anywhere. Still, it wasn't quite as bad as the last two races. And that was a good thing because this would be my first attempt at doing a complete race after nursing some nagging injuries for the past few months. I headed out in the volunteer wave and was privileged to be able to experience yet another one of Coach Pain's motivational send-offs. Not to mention watching Beard walk through the crowd of volunteers shaking hands and fist pounding with everyone. I think he may have been smiling…but don't tell him I said that!
Then…we were off…and after a quick trot past a barn and across the road we immediately hit the wreck bag carry. A bit early for me, but then again, no one asked…and this was a long one! Seemed like every bit of a half mile with a log balance obstacle and a 4′ wall climb thrown in. Despite the rain and mud, my new Icebugs did not let me down on the log, which is a good thing. If I'd fallen off that log so early, I would've beaten it silly with that wreck bag…which, I'm pretty sure, BattleFrog would frown upon, as would the wreck bag…and maybe the log.
So, one 12′ ladder climb later, I was into the second (and last!) carry of the race, the jerry cans, which is a personal favorite of mine [insert dripping sarcasm icon here]. This was the only obstacle I ‘babied' my arm on today. I took one can (stop sneering…it was perfectly legal) so I wouldn't over stress my shoulder. I did NOT want to set myself back 12 weeks being unnecessarily risky this early. And it's a good thing too, as the carry trail, while shorter than the wreck bag, was peppered with mud-slicked climbs…not to mention groping branches and vines. In the end, one jerry can was the right choice…I mean, nobody would want the woods littered with those thrown-away second cans, now would they?!
Moving on, although I did surprisingly well with the myriad walls and cargo nets along the way, I just couldn't work that rope! Regrettably, after only a few attempts, I passed on the rope climb because I just couldn't get any traction with the mud. Regrettable because it was so short a climb and after seeing what people were willing to go through on the rigs later, I felt I'd given up way too easy…and that thought would haunt me later that race. There were some obstacles after the rope…the spider web, Normandy jacks, ramp and inverted walls and a knee-high cargo net…not to mention a lot of trail running. All of this leading into the delta ladder, which was probably half way through the course.
The Delta ladder! This is one of those obstacles that appears to be simple and relatively easy…and it doesn't take great strength or endurance. But it's certainly not easy in this weather and these muddy conditions. First, the rungs are a good stretch to climb…even for me. And with these conditions, it's more a mental challenge…particularly going over the top. Your grip is anything but sure, and footing is unreliable…one slip could be disastrous. Fortunately, I realized that even if I do slip, at least the ground will break my fall!
That thinking also helped me over the cargo net bridge next. To say the conditions weren't kind to this obstacle either would be an understatement of biblical proportions! Even with the big lift machines' blades on the poles at each end, the net wasn't remotely taut and climbing this was one of the most challenging I've ever had to deal with…the net swaying and twisting all the way up and down…culminating in an unexpected vertical climb to the top. I'm pretty sure I was under the net at some point in my personal tribute to the Flying Wallendas…and after having survived the decent…I had to admit, it was some of the best fun I've had on an obstacle.
And then came the rig. It was the first of two rigs. Separated by lots of mud and water…including a death-defying river walk…that I think our group did on the wrong side of the safety rope. Making this truly death-defying and apparently sadistically hilarious to the volunteer watching…ok, I can understand that.
My only salvation after that last rig was the way I was able to go right up and over the ramp wall towards the finish line when some others were struggling a bit to get over. And just like that…I had finished…and I felt good. Despite some minor disappointments, I was extremely satisfied with my race…having jogged a decent amount of the time. And I was very happy with the course! It was a good distance, challenging enough without being over the top (well…discounting the rigs of course) and the obstacles were spaced out well. Overall, another good experience, particularly considering the weather conditions…and now I'm looking forward to a few Miami/Orlando races. Time to get some dry clothes and some food! Although, maybe I'll head over to grab a quick beer first. Yeah…I think that may be the best thing to do…and well deserved.
Volunteer post – playing on the obstacles