Arriving early to check in on race morning felt like getting back to “the good ol’ days.” I arrived a bit earlier than necessary, so I saw a few of the groups setting off to begin the Long Course. I was registered for the Short Course, so I had time to meander and get warmed up. The RISE Troops Challenge is a military-themed obstacle challenge that was held at Wanoga Snow Park. The elevation here: 5500 feet. Oh boy!
There was a short pre-race briefing, where the RD gave us some information we would need to know before running the 3+ mile course, and then groups of 5 were called to the start line at their designated time to begin the challenge. Even though the race was well-organized, it had a casual, comfortable feel to it. The start-line volunteer would shout out the names of the 5 people that should be at the starting line. I stayed within shouting distance so I didn’t miss my cue. When it was my time at the start line I suddenly felt a wave of nervousness. I realized it had been quite awhile since I had felt those pre-race nerves. A familiar feeling that I embraced. Yea, I have really missed this!
“Ready! Set! Go!” And we were off. Two of the people in my group of 5 sprinted off, I started out slow, knowing that elevation was going to be a factor. As we rounded the first turn and began an uphill climb, elevation hit me fast! The other 2 people in my group, appeared to succumb, and began walking. I tried to power up until my lungs were burning. Then I took a brief “hike” break to power up the rest of the hill. I was hating the fact that I walked a bit, but I knew I had to get on top of my breathing or the rest of the race wouldn’t go well. I ran through the forest with no one else in sight. At the first obstacle I caught up with another racer. He was busy catching his breath and told me to go first on the grenade toss. I missed the circle on the ground by less than an inch and got the first mark (AKA penalty) on my race band. (Dang it!) I made my way down the forest road to the ammo carry and press, a tire flip, and some hurdles. At one point I felt like I had been running alone forever. When I heard footsteps coming up behind me it was almost a welcome relief. I mean, at least I knew I was going the right way!
The sandbag hill climb was a challenge that slowed people down a bit. It was at this obstacle that I began to actually see other racers again. Farther along there was a calisthenics stop where push-ups, sit-ups, and flutter kicks had to be done. I could see the start/finish area and I was thinking . . . “Am I really almost done already?” Then there were some walls and a target shoot. The airsoft gun was not highly accurate, nor was I, and I got the 2nd mark on my wrist band. Right before the finish was a “gauntlet” with cones every so many feet. At each cone, a burpee was required. Each mark (penalty) on your wrist band meant an additional time through this gauntlet. So, instead of just one time through, I had 3 rounds total to complete. Oh, burpees, how I love to hate you! I finished my 3 rounds and then wasn’t exactly sure where the finish line was. I ran towards a volunteer who was holding a clipboard and she directed me a few more feet – back to the start line – where I told the finish line volunteer my race number and was checked in as finished.
My finish line thoughts were: That was fun! I can’t believe I’m done already. How long did that take me? I really should have done the long course. (Next year for sure!) I got my dog tag, caught my breath, and congratulated a few other finishers. I passed on the free beer and headed out not long after finishing. It felt a little anti-climatic as there was not an after-party and I hadn’t raced with anyone I knew to celebrate with afterwards, but I left feeling so good about being able to do a real live OCR (obstacle course race) – something I hadn’t done since February. I plan to be back again. Long Course next time, of course!
I have missed the pre-race nerves, the feeling of being a part of something challenging with other athletes, and just getting out and doing what I love and not being the only one out there doing it. While the number of participants was small, the one thing I heard from about everyone I spoke to was: “Finally! It has been so long since I’ve done this!” A huge thanks to race director Tammy (RISE Challenge Events) for figuring out how to make it happen and doing a stellar job. We truly needed this! When’s the next one?