This was a lot of fun.
But let’s start negative. The timing of this race was absolute shit. That’s not the race’s fault, but this is a personal blog, so I’m claiming the right to whine about it. The timing was bad because there turned out to be an event I had to do in the couple days after the race that required a lot of preparation, and a lot of stress, and a lot of travel in a direction that works against sleep patterns rather than in favor of them, but as I can’t blame the organization that put on that event, I’ll complain here.
Also, reaction to the fez was a bit surprising. A fair number of people commented on it, generally positively, so that’s always nice. Many thought it was a Doctor Who reference, since fezzes are cool. I have to say, while I was aware of that reference, it wasn’t the reason the fez happened. (I’m generally happy that Doctor Who exists, and on paper I should be a raging fan, but I never got past casual fandom. I’ve seen all of the Eccleston and Tennant years on Netflix, but not much more, even though the man who performed my brother’s wedding did so in an outfit intentionally reminiscent of Tennant’s doctor. I’m also not cool enough to do something simply because it’s cool. Doing so would immediately render such thing uncool. I’m the entire reason why swing dancing went out of fashion on that particular Tuesday in 1996.)
A surprising number of people thought I was a Shriner, which is a reference I was aware of but only in the back of my mind; it absolutely never occurred to me that by wearing the fez I might be presenting myself in that way, or that anyone sees a fez these days and thinks “Shriner,” or that anyone thinks “Shriner” at all.
As far as I know, nobody was inspired. Perhaps for the next race I’ll write something on it to clarify, like “THIS IS TO INSPIRE YOU SO BE INSPIRED DAMMIT!”
The fez worked pretty well as a hat. I’d sewn an elastic chinstrap to it on the train ride down (a surprisingly tedious task that I won’t detail, since it’s tedious) that worked OK—I should have made it a bit tighter because the hat had a tendency to sort of suction around my head rather than staying loose. I also held onto the fez at a couple spots, including a long slide where volunteers were warning that anything that’s not glued down was likely to get lost. So I grabbed it, and it didn’t get lost, and all was well.
So, the event itself. This was the first race I’ve done at a permanent course, which was neat. I don’t know how many of the obstacles were permanent or had to be—there seemed to be a lot of wall-style obstacles that non-permanent courses have without much trouble—although some, like the aforementioned slide probably were. Also probably permanent was what I’d consider the course’s centerpiece: The Gauntlet.
The Gauntlet was actually five different lines of obstacles over a water pit, although you only got to do one. They were all different; some elements were no harder than a reasonably wide log to walk across, while others required a lot of upper-body strength like hanging from a steel I-beam and crossing it from below.
This was one of the few places where I saw a line, and it was only for the easiest route. I decided to bypass it and go for one of the harder ones, which started with a swing from rope to rope, which I couldn’t do and fell in. I wish I’d had a bit more presence of mind to go back and try one of the other routes, because (in retrospect) there were a few others that I think I could have done that didn’t have the backup. But it was at the end of the race, and I wasn’t thinking so clearly.
Perhaps because I ran fairly late in the day, but there wasn’t much else in the way of backups, apart from a bit of a crowd in the initial running out of the start line. (Having heats half an hour apart seems like it might be too much; heats every 15 minutes that are half the size might fix that.)
I did the 5 mile option, rather than the 5K. The two routes share the course, but there were a couple places where the 5-milers veered off to a side route with extra running and obstacles. It was controlled by honor system (although there were timing chip readers at each of the turn-offs and turn-ons to monitor for the competitive rounds) which made me wonder if people signed up for the (I think less expensive) 5K and did the longer version anyhow. Of course, there wasn’t much in the way of control of who could get into heats, so probably any banditing was minor compared to the cost and effort it would take to fight said banditing.
One of my favorite bits wasn’t an obstacle at all. The Battlegrounds shares its space with an adjacent winery. (I don’t know much about wine, but I’m sure St. Louis wine has an excellent reputation.) Some of the running was through rows of the vineyard. So I can now say that I’ve run through a vineyard. It was a neater sensation than I’m making it out to be.
There were a lot of obstacles—38 in total for the 5 mile version. While some were pretty minor (“Knee High Hell,” as far as I could tell, was where you ran through a small stream for a little while), I didn’t feel like there was any shortage. There were certainly runs, but I thought there was a nice mix—no segment of running was obnoxiously long. (At least not looking back on it. It was obnoxious at the time, but all running is.)
A really nice element was how visible a lot of the course was. About half of the obstacles could be seen from the festival area, and several more could be seen on the way in. The course made about three passes near the festival, plus the start and finish, so the obstacles never came in bunches of more than three or four.
Some obstacles that I haven’t seen before include:
- The aforementioned slide and gauntlet.
- A pontoon bridge—not extraordinarily difficult, although the individual segments did move a lot and it was awkward jumping from segment to segment.
- A teeter-totter obstacle.
- A horizontal cargo net climb, as well as a monkey-bar approximation with cargo nets instead of bars. The latter was really tough, since it moved and since it was not particularly high (I could reach without jumping.) I attempted to do it sloth-walk style, which proved ludicrous.
- One of those things where you walk across one rope while holding onto another at chest height. I assume a fair number of OCRs have them, but I haven’t seen one before. I wish my upper rope had more tension—I stayed on without too much trouble, but I got horizontal enough that my back touched the water at one point.
- The “carry-heavy-shit” obstacle included walls to either climb over or under, although this part wasn’t so successful. It wasn’t really possible to crawl under the walls with the bag on our backs—in my case, the opening was simply smaller than me plus a bag—so for most of these runners just tossed the bag over the wall before doing it themselves.
Anyhow, due to the eventfulness of the past week, I’m posting this late and official race photos have already been released. Here are some of mine. (As usual, they’re not good. I don’t photograph well.)
Here’s one where I at least look vaguely human. (Although you can see the gap between the elastic and my face; I need to see to that.) As opposed to…
This is especially tragic, because I posed for this one, thinking that this would be a good look for me. Moreover, I posed for this one twice, because the photographer didn’t catch me the first time. Sheesh.
Hey. This timing chip? Do I put it in the bin with all of the other timing chips, or is there something special that I should do with mine since it’s mine? Also, how did my shorts get so asymetric?