The rope cross shredder

This was a weekend of miracles and firsts. For two weeks leading up to Goliathon, the weather forecast promised thunderstorms all weekend. Race Director Doug Horton told me at 4 pm Saturday after all waves had nearly finished the course that God miraculously kept the lousy weather at bay all day. It was just another sunny, hot, humid, typical South Jersey summer day.

That probably kept some athletic performances lower than hoped. Last October, Goliathon VIII had seven Davids (a perfect score) whereas this weekend, there was only one. Congratulations to Daniel Vecchio for becoming the 21st David in Goliathon history. To remind you what an achievement this is, there have been well over 5000 participants in Goliathon over the years. Including Daniel, there have only been fifteen unique individuals to earn this distinction (some have been repeats over the years). To date, no females have done it.

Elsewhere, one young lady earned a landmark achievement on a debut obstacle. Larry Cooper brought his Destroyer to Goliathon. He introduced this beast to the world five years ago. To date, very few men have conquered it without blocks. No females have ever succeeded until Saturday. Watch this video to see, in Larry’s words, “perfect, textbook execution” of the Destroyer. No blocks. All technique. I’ve never seen him so excited. “It’s taken five years!” He was so happy it happened here in New Jersey. It’s a badge of honor for him, this super young lady, and Goliathon. These were the most significant firsts of the day.

“Now Larry, this is how you do the Destroyer.”

Course designers reversed the layout this year. They also added a lot more single track for those who elected to run. Since this was not a race, I chose to walk to conserve energy for the obstacles. Each one is tiered, offering three choices in a level of difficulty. The more difficult the obstacle, the more points you earned. Points were tracked electronically by scanning a Q code worn by each participant. We also collected the traditional colored bands to prove our scores and have some souvenirs.

The first obstacle was a water jug carry up and over and back up some very gnarly terrain. This year I chose the hardest level. Two five-gallon jugs were lashed to a yoke. This first and most important obstacle reminds participants why they are here and what this event is all about. It’s not a race. It’s a mission. Net proceeds bring fresh water to third world countries. There, villagers often have to walk hours a day to collect clean water and then return to their homes. Because of Goliathon and charity:water, fresh, clean water is now available from completed projects like drilled wells, piped water, and filtration systems. To date, $199,000 has been raised. This year alone, Doug Horton wants to raise $100,000. He plans to do it with three Goliathon events. One, the G8, is a first. On October 27, it will be an 8-hour, multi-lap event, limited to just 300 participants. Goliathon X will be just two weeks prior on the 13th.

Imagine every day for hours a day all your life

After the water carry, eleven more obstacles awaited. The trails were marked, and water stations were abundantly provided along the course. About half-way through, a first-aid station was also available. That’s where I came in.

Although my hands were well calloused and I have done plenty of bare-handed rope traverses, I got shredded this time. The medic did a fantastic job of cleaning me up and bandaging my hands. Others were in the tent getting treated for cramps and heat fatigue. Just another day on the course. I kept on going after that knowing that the remaining obstacles required less full grip technique. So my confidence remained high in getting a good score.

But life and weather and painful hands have a way of making things go sideways. On obstacles that should have been easy, well, things went sideways. My foot slipped out on the last tire of Leap of Faith. Instead of hitting the bell, I hit the water. A DNF on any obstacle at Goliathon results in zero scores. No penalties. Just no points. At Balancing Act, I didn’t get ten feet into the thing before getting woozy and falling backward. Since there was no line, I tried it three more times, just not believing I failed something so easy. But I repeated that failure three times in a row before finally getting across.

Circus Maximus – lesson learned this year

With three obstacles to go, I still felt very strong, hydrated, and fueled. I just had to stay in the mental game. Half Dome was no problem. Neither was Hangman. I took my time, gave out some technique tips to other people, and helped them earn their points. Then it was Ninja Killer. This was last year’s new obstacle. Still true to its name, it took me out too, just not where I expected. After the landing pads, I successfully made the first leap to the tiny tire targets. I made it. My confidence soared that I would make the rest. But on the next to last tire, my concentration lapsed again, and my foot slipped off. I finished the obstacle anyway but checked in my Q code for another zero.

Leap of Faith – a Slip on the Last Tire = DNF

My goal this year was to improve over last year. At Goliathon VIII, I got 26 points (out of a possible 60) and placed 7th (out of 25) in my age group. This year I moved up, earning 27 points and taking 4th in AG. I was happy with that. But I wanted so much more, knowing I could do these obstacles. The last one, Over the Moon, was a warped wall. I went for the middle tier, having finally succeeded at it just a month ago for the first time in my life at TTOD.  This one obstacle allows three attempts. I was unable to repeat my performance.

So I walked through the finish line, got my medal, picture, t-shirt, and banana, then immediately guzzled an ice-cold sports drink. I hung out with friends for a while, then headed to a fine changing tent (two huge inflatables, one for guys, one for gals, with outdoor showers right next door) and stripped down to change out of my salt-encrusted clothes. I guzzled another cold iced-tea, thanked Doug for another fine performance, and headed off into the sunset. Parking was abundant and right on site for just $10 per car.

Mission Accomplished

Goliathon IX had over 1100 registered, with 969 individual and 43 team finishers. I think we can all agree that this event earned its Mud Run Guide distinction of 5 for 5.

All photos courtesy of

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