I might have bombarded fellow Run Oregon Bloggers Matt and Joe with questions and I’m sure they just wanted to tell me to suck it up and get it done. Instead, they remained amazingly patient with me and tried to calm my nerves. Would I be the only person running it alone? How well was the course marked? What are the chances of getting lost? Am I going to get wet? Am I going to freeze? You get the picture, so if this Nervous Nellie can do Race the Reaper, anyone can.
I got there early, since race officials suggested to arrive an hour before your wave. I picked the 9am wave since I had a soccer game to make. Scanning the crowd, everyone was fit, which didn’t help my nerves. I met a girl who was also running it solo and suggested we team up. She agreed, but then I discovered she was doing the 3 mile obstacle course, which means we wouldn’t be new besties after all. I chatted with another girl at the starting line who ran it the year before and gave me some last minute advice and told me to expect it to take over 2 hours. A slight panic set in since she was a lot younger than me and she finished in 2:03 last year. I was, however, relieved when she told me I wouldn’t get wet until close to the end.
The gun went off and our wave started to climb. I laughed with the people around me, noting I felt more like a mountain goat. I was breathing so hard and loud that I’m sure everyone nearby questioned if I even worked out. The first obstacle was some netting we had to crawl through. My knees got dirty, but it wasn’t so bad and I thought to myself only 24 more to go, hoping more would be like the first one. We continued climbing and relatively early on there was a split with the 3 mile course and the 6 mile course.
There were lots of ramps to climb up and hop over and I appreciated the easier obstacles at the beginning, it helped my confidence built a little. Distance doesn’t scare me, but heights do and, at less than a mile in, I found my first nightmare. I was somewhat relieved there was a line to climb up the ladders, it gave me a little time to catch my breath and psych myself up. Wood ladders on one side and a rope sort of ladder on the other. My short legs didn’t help me much with this one, but the people around me were cheering me on and guiding me when I couldn’t see how far I had to go.
I found that there were fun people all along the course pumping you up and offering to help, strangers or not. I lost track of the obstacle countdown and just got into it. Not that I wasn’t scared, quite the contrary. Some of the obstacles full-on freaked me out and I skipped two. I decided it was better to be docked time than break something. I knew I wasn’t in it to win, so when I saw several guys drop from the monkey bars into shallow water, I decided to move along.
Race the Reaper freaked me out, but I loved the tests of strength. There was a ‘caterpillar’ section with buckets filled with rocks attached to a base that we had to walk around 3 times. I looked around for one that might be marked lighter, but there were none to be found. Race the Reaper is all about Girl Power. There were tires on ropes we had to raise up. The tires were especially heavy since it rained the night before and they were filled with water. I’m sure I made some unintentional grunting noises at that one and still never lifted my tire off the ground. Hay, fences and posts galore to hop over, which I actually thought was fun. The setting makes you feel like Katniss, with the forest, but without the Hunger Games.
The first several times we crossed streams, I watched my footing, carefully choosing rocks and successfully keeping my feet dry. About halfway in a couple of guys told me to just get my feet wet already. I took their advice and sloshed the last couple of miles. They were right; it was much faster crossing the water their way and probably safer too, since I’m not that graceful.
I think one of my favorite obstacles was the tire wall. Once again, my stubby legs weren’t a lot of help as we laterally made our way across a line of tires, some attached and others dangling. There were high walls to get over, ropes to climb up and tires to hop through and I loved pretty much the whole thing. My favorite part, though, besides the physical challenge, was the camaraderie. Families and friends were out there as teams, but everyone was so incredibly supportive, both physically and mentally. People working together to get to the finish line, it was such a nice change of pace for this girl.
Joe had told me to not be embarrassed to ask for help and it was good advice because I needed a lot of help along Race the Reaper. I’m short and I needed a fair share of boosts, but the great thing was that people needed my help too. I loved the teamwork and if it wasn’t for complete strangers I met along the way, I would probably still be working my way through the course. Confession, I would still be sitting on a ledge, with a rope in hand and looking over the side thinking it was a long way down. A sweet woman gave me a quick lesson and was cheering me on from the ground. People at Race the Reaper were awesome.
Mud slides, ropes, hills and tires, Race the Reaper has pretty much everything and I can’t wait to go tackle it again. It was fun doing a different kind of challenge. With support crew the entire way and tape along the course, you always felt safe and there was no way to get lost. The obstacles were challenging, but not crazy. It was like an adult playground and, while my laughing along the run was more of a nervous reaction instead of a schoolgirl giggle, it was a laugh all the same. It’s a drive out there and you have to make sure to bring cash for parking, food, and Reaper gear. There isn’t cell phone service and there aren’t ATMS, but it’s totally worth it. I’d skip the modern conveniences for the gorgeous setting any day. Next Reaper I won’t pester my friends with questions (much), but I might bug people to join me. I’m hoping that next year I’ll finally get to join Annette for her favorite race and I must say Race the Reaper is up there on my list too.