Terrified. That’s the only way to describe how I felt the night before the Warrior Dash World Championship. I had done one other low key obstacle race to qualify for this one, in which Julia Webb smoked me on every obstacle. Luckily, the steep hill climbing on that course saved me. But as we previewed the WD World Championship course, every obstacle appeared to be twice as intimidating as anything in the previous race. My words to my coach that night were something along the lines of “I’ll be happy if I just make it to the finish line.” Good thing I have a great coach…whose advice was something along the lines of stop being a baby, no being conservative, just go for it. He was completely right. I had nothing to lose.
The gun went off and I gradually made my way towards the front pack over the first 400 meters or so. We hit the first steep hill climb early on. Trying to stay relaxed, I somehow found myself at the front. “Oh shit!” Yes, that’s exactly what I was thinking. “Am I going out too hard? I shouldn’t be in the front. No, remember, no being conservative.” So I just tried to keep cruising along, knowing that this first mile and a half of running was probably my strongest part of the race.
After a few steep uphills and downhills, my eyes met what seemed like the steepest uphill I had ever seen. Somehow on the course preview we had managed to miss this lovely hill we were about to climb. So, after my initial glance at the top, I decided to just look right in front of me at my next step and keep moving until I got to the top. The stubborn runner in me started with the idea that I would run the whole thing. But my run very quickly turned into what I would call a hike. I think this was the first time I had ever walked in a race. Surprised that nobody had caught up to me, I was happy to hit a nice little downhill leading into the first obstacle.
I started to crawl under the barbed wire, only to get my braid caught. Great start. After untangling my hair, encouraged by some onlookers, I began rolling. So much more effective! From that obstacle on, I kept reminding myself, don’t be conservative, just go for it. So I charged the enormous inclined wall and was surprised at the great adrenaline rush I got when I reached the top. A few hill climbs and obstacles later, I could feel that I was starting to slow down. So I just tried to keep moving forward.
Coming down one of the last hills, I could see the finish line but had a little over a quarter mile and several obstacles to go. At this point I had no idea how far I was ahead, but I assumed everyone was quickly making up ground on me through the obstacles. So I did my best to focus on each obstacle and just tried not to screw up. About two hundred meters from the finish line I hit the mud mounds. I climbed down over the second mound and was stuck. Working my way along the entire side of the third mound, I just could not get up. I kept sliding down. Ahh. Panic! It felt like those dreams where you’re running but not going anywhere. I was expecting people to just come flying past me at any moment. After what seemed like five minutes, I finally made it over.
Just a muddy crawl to the finish line stood between me and the World Championship. It was a strange but fun feeling to be looking up at the finish line, on my hands and knees, covered in mud, with a huge crowd of people cheering me on. When I finally made it out of the mud, in a perfectly unathletic display, I tripped over my own feet and fell. The crowd let out an “ohhh.” Too tired to laugh, I made it back to my feet and ran across the finish line to break the tape.
Relief. Excitement. Exhaustion. Disbelief. Inspired.
To cap off the race, my two friends and fellow Oregon runners, Renee and Julia crossed the finish line in second and third. What a great race. But many of the best parts of the day came after the race. The obstacle racing community is so incredibly welcoming and supportive. It was amazing to me how excited everyone, including the people I competed against, were for me. I got to meet more inspiring athletes from such a wide range of backgrounds. These athletes work so hard, and I have a new respect for everything they do. I feel like I was embraced by the community, and am learning new things about this sport every day.
Several people have asked me what makes obstacle racing different from the road and track racing that I’ve done. Beyond the fact that it is a test of whole body athleticism, strength, and technique, the thing that I enjoy most about obstacle racing is the small challenges and successes you have along the way toward the ultimate finish line. There were several times in this race that I wasn’t sure if I would make it through an obstacle or up another steep hill, but each time I did, I had a sense of accomplishment and pride that helped carry be through the next challenge. When you’re sitting on top of a twenty foot wall, you feel pretty darn good about yourself. So this brings me back to the words of inspiration that describe my 2014 and that I hope to carry into 2015… “When everything feels like an uphill struggle, just think of the view from the top.”