Monday, November 25, 2013

The Savagest Savage Race Ever

This weekend I was registered for the Dallas edition of the Savage Race, a 6-mile obstacle course that included crawling through mud and swimming through water obstacles. It was forecast to be the coldest, savagest Savage Race ever. The high for the day was 42°F, and the windchill about 30°. Our 10:40 am start time meant there was no chance things would warm up for us. I had a few friends sign up with me; two bailed and one still came along.

Not finishing a race has never before been an option in my mind, but as we trekked the long distance from the parking lot to the Savage Race event grounds, I announced to my friend the Canadian that it certainly was an option that day; we'd just have to see how things went.

We stood in the near-freezing rain for about an hour before the race, our toes already soaked and frozen, and meekly warmed our digits at the fire barrels provided. The event organizers had sent us an email earlier in the week encouraging us to run with friends, take care of each other, and what to watch out for in case of hypothermia, so we were as ready and as miserable as any of the runners could possibly be.

As we went to check our bags, my friend asked dubiously if I was sure I didn't want to just call it a day and save the $5 for bag check. We had already driven an hour to get to Grandview for the Savage Race, and I wasn't ready to give up yet. "Let's at least give it a try," I said.

I had been feeling OK until we started; my toes soon screamed with pain from the cold. But the Canadian reminded me that was a good thing and we need only worry if they went numb. We trekked through soggy grass and mud the whole way. 

The first Savage Race obstacle was a big tub full of ice with crossbeams that required participants to duck their heads under. Most of the runners, us included, bypassed it without a second thought. There's typically a lot of pressure to at least attempt every obstacle, but we had decided in advance on this one and felt no shame about it.

(A big ole bucket of NOPE.)

Then it was up and down and mostly up hills of thick, sucking mud. Runners slid into each other and struggled up slopes, emerging with extra pounds worth of mud weight stuck to their shoes and nothing to be done for it because everything out there was wet. I told my friend that I could stick with it but I was honestly ready to quit whenever he was, I was so miserable. The Canadian had warmed up by this point and was finally feeling good, whereas I had suffered the opposite.

We ran toward, assessed, and ran past obstacles that required belly crawling through mud. The rain had let up but I didn't have it in me to risk getting my body wet and muddy that day. We approached a balance obstacle which is typically one of my favorites: a three-inch wide beam spanning a 15-foot-long, waist-to-chest-deep water pit. But today it was coated in slick mud and 3 out of 4 runners ahead of us fell in. I stepped up, ready to go, watched the guy ahead of me slide into the water, and I quickly changed my mind and backed out and around. My friend went ahead and quickly fell in, soaking himself to the waist.

We kept going a little longer, checked in with one another and decided it was time to quit. But the course had just wound away from the start, and I didn't know how to get back, so we decided to ask the volunteers at the next obstacle. We attempted the obstacle: you have to run up a wall, grab a rope, and pull yourself the rest of the way up. I can usually do these just fine, but I couldn't get any traction on the wall, couldn't get near the rope, and instead smashed my elbow and knee and slid to the bottom, landing on all fours. I was OK, but I wasn't going to try again. My friend made it, though! He reached the rope, pulled himself up, stumbled and slid near the top, nearly fell back down, but got a hand from the participants and volunteers reaching over the top to help others over.

(Image from the Internet. I don't know that guy.)

He was ready to keep running, but I stopped him and we asked the way back to the start. A volunteer offered us a ride in his golf cart, but we turned it down, figuring it should be saved for emergencies. About halfway back, the driver passed us and asked again, so we hopped on. We passed by an obstacle that is a giant jump from a platform into a pool. We weren't sad to miss it. The cold wind in our face was possibly as bad as trekking all the way back.

We grabbed our bags and went to the changing tents, whose flaps flapped open in the icy wind, providing little shelter at all. I happened to find myself beside two of the top women finishers, one who had run in only capri pants and her sports bra. She and her friend raged that there was no way for them to wash off the mud covering them from the neck down because the water hoses were shut off against the freeze. They shouted non-stop about being too cold and too muddy to peel their clothes off and had a really rough go of it. I'd have offered to help but was struggling myself with icy fingers and only mild dampness of my own. Though everyone else congratulated the finishers, I was not impressed with their life choices, to be honest.*

Savage barely begins to describe it.

Finally dry and dressed, I made my way to the finish to ask if I could still get my t-shirt, which is included in the price of registration but only handed out to the finishers. The volunteer said of course and asked if I wanted a medal, too. Yes, please! I was willing to sacrifice the finisher medal, but it was a cool medal and they had already ordered them for all the participants.

In the end, we ran maybe 2-3 miles and weren't the least bit ashamed of our decision to quit. We met a few others for lunch and got to brag that we at least went out and tried. I've run in similar conditions before while hashing three years ago and don't doubt that I could have finished if I wanted to, but the pain would not have been worth it for me. This was certainly a new experience (not finishing), and amidst all the online congratulations going to the few brave finishers, I'm thankful to have demonstrated more brains than ego this time.*

*I'm not hating on the finishers, bu
t many have been discounting and diminishing how freaking horrible it was out there, and my priorities differ from theirs this time, and this is my story. Good for them. It would not have been good for me.

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