Obstacle Racing – 2016 World Competition, Toronto Canada

(Adapted from a 10/2016 family update email. As a result of my Spartan Sprint 2nd place age group finish in Minnesota, I was eligible to attend the Obstacle Course Racing World Championship – OCRWC – event. It took several months and more than a few miracles to actually commit to going, but it will remain a highlight of my life.)

By now, many of you have probably seen photos on Facebook and know that I not only survived 9.3 miles and 48 obstacles, but did well for my age and level of actual training. THANK YOU for your prayers of protection. Several long hikes and mountain climbs certainly helped to build my legs and lungs, so I wasn’t concerned about endurance. I finished in 4:06, but had penalties on 14 obstacles that I either failed or didn’t attempt, so my official finish time was 5:06, 20th of 31 women in the 50+ Age Group. There were separate categories and start times for Professional and Competitive athletes, so we didn’t have to watch them leave us in the dust. Only 3 total women over 50 (non-Pro or Competitive) finished this course without losing their wristband – completing every single obstacle. The winner got $10,000, and it went down from there for 2nd and 3rd. In my starting wave, there were 3 of us age 59, one 60 and one 62. You can bet there were some high-5s amongst us and when we were getting our pre-race athlete briefing, one woman asked me, “Are you old too?” LOL! In the men’s 50+ group there was a guy age 67! I don’t believe there were even 2000 athletes in attendance all weekend, but they represented 44 countries, and many were passionate about this sport, training all year doing various races. I did purchase some IceBug shoes the day before – they’re made in Sweden with kevlar uppers that shed mud and water, and have cleats dispersed in aggressive tread that also repel the elements. My regular trail shoes were slipping on everything, so these gave me a bit more traction on the terrain. They’ll work well for winter hikes with ice and snow.

Probably the coolest thing was how everyone encouraged each other, regardless of what country you were from. Some guy from Ireland helped me over a wall with these words: “Ma’am, let me show you how to do this…one foot here, one there, big push and Boom! You got it. Just like havin’ a baby!” After I died laughing and tried again, I actually grabbed the top and got over. When I was doing my best to run up the tall warped wall, even the camera guy was giving suggestions for my approach, angle, reach, etc. You could tell everyone wanted you to succeed. I had to bail on that one, but there was a smaller warped wall in another trail section and I DID get to the top of that one without too many attempts. Another daunting obstacle was called Dragon’s Back and I had practiced on a mock-up rendition in a gym in Boulder a few weeks prior. You basically have to leap from a 20 ft platform to a slanted plywood wall ??6-8 feet away, with a bar attached near the top. A “fail” would be a long, sliding drop and I heard later that one girl did break her ankle. You could keep trying, but the longer you waited or tried to work up the courage, the more psyched out you got. I was trying to count down from 3 to commit myself. Another USA girl was also balking and the small crowd that was watching was yelling “C’mon USA!!!” Gee, no pressure. Then there’s the camera dude on the other side with a honking lens focused on you. Sweet. When I finally leaped and caught the stupid thing, there was a moment of shock….followed by the realization that I needed to do it one more time to get to the end and “pass” the obstacle. It was one of the best feelings.

From a scenery standpoint, you’ll have to imagine a mountain village like Vail, perched on an oceanside setting (Lake Huron), with New England fall color blazing in peak season. My favorite part was running and hiking through the woods while big maple leaves drifted onto bridges and into creeks. So gorgeous! I honestly didn’t even want to try swing crazy looking monkey bars and rotating pipes and ropes… just give me the penalty and let me get back to the peaceful woods.

The most physically draining task was lifting and carrying a 50# sandbag on my shoulders, up a steep ski hill, over some steps and back down for a total of 1/2 mile. I think I shrunk an inch and my legs were shaking after that. But hey – only 5 more miles to go! Women do not get lighter weights or shorter distances in anything. So, to see huge guys running with the dang things was frustrating. But then, I could scurry through culverts, under barbed wire and cargo nets like a fast rat. To everyone’s relief, there were no water obstacles – no falling into or slogging through muddy water or sloppy pits like some obstacle/mud runs. I still finished soaked in my own sweat, with my braids dripping and two random thistle burrs in my hair. Haha!

Our local crew from Colorado Springs did quite well, bringing home one 3rd place finish (Amelia, age 14), one 1st place in the 3K (Miriah, age 17), and then 8th in age group for Suzanne (age 46). We crammed into a 2 bedroom, 1 bath apt with a new friend from Utah, so 7 of us shared one bathroom. My bed was couch cushions on the floor with a camping mattress. It worked well until 3 of us woke up with mild to moderate food poisoning the day of the 15K race. Oy! I had Imodium with me, but Suzanne lost over 5 pounds from midnight on thanks to severe gastric distress. It’s no small miracle that we all “got our crap together” before our afternoon start times and finished. Not fun. I rallied several prayer warriors that morning, so we were all well aware of where our strength came from.

I would be remiss if I didn’t share the other “God moments” that bookended my trip. My flight from Colorado Springs to Chicago (2+ hrs) was spent talking with my seat mate who was in her late 60s. She tearfully shared the purpose of her trip: her husband passed away in July and she had returned to their mountain cabin to finish some business and see family. Her husband had had a sudden heart attack and was doing well in recovery, until something went wrong and took his life quickly. Even more devastating, their adult son died 6 weeks later. She showed incredible strength as we looked at photos from her iPad and shared tears. It was a stark reminder of the brevity of life and the contrast of our trips.

When I got to Toronto, I was waiting in the baggage area for the rest of our group to arrive, but was eventually escorted out by a nice Canadian officer. It was a controlled area and he didn’t want to have me confronted by MPs with dogs. (Yeah, me neither!) I had to wait at a Starbucks outside the baggage area, and of course, Suzanne couldn’t access my text messages telling her where I was. Thankfully, our weary troop eventually met up, and made the final journey to our apartment in Osaga Beach.

On my return trip, I decided to go to Toronto with our roommate, Michelle, on Sunday afternoon. My return flight on Monday made it necessary for me to be at the airport at 6 am, and I wanted to be a short shuttle away, not 2 hours. Most of the trip, I had shared the van and driving with Suzanne and the teenagers, so you can imagine our shock when we discovered — in Toronto –that WE had the keys to her van. Lord knows how those things wound up in one of Michelle’s bags, but 5 of our roomies were stranded at the mountain venue, while we held the only keys. After much prayer and several phone calls to explore our options, I located a shuttle service that was heading that way and they delivered the keys in person to Suzanne. It took faith to hand those keys to a complete stranger, but it would have been well over $400 to tow, re-key, etc. Keep in mind that our phones were not communicating well on different International plans. She could leave voice mail, but I couldn’t receive her calls or make outgoing calls without them immediately disconnecting. She never got my texts. That day only, we were able to actually talk and discuss our predicament. Crazy. Once again, God answered our prayers and filled in the gaps, creating connections and providing for our needs.

As I went through customs and was asked the purpose of my trip, the agent perked up and said he’d cleared a couple of guys that morning from the competition, but I was the first female to come through. We chatted it up a bit and then he strongly suggested that I do a Tough Mudder race where you have to run through live shock wires while they spray you with garden hoses. Everyone gets zapped. (Gee, pay to get practically tased?) So, lest you think I’m crazy…there are many more levels of creative obstacles in this relatively new sport. 

I’ll attach a few pictures from the adventure. Love you all!

With Suzanne before her start wave.

Finisher’s medal.

Team competitors, Michelle, Suzanne, & Miriah, ready to attack the slip wall.

Crossing the Finish Line!

Our group rocks!

Me with Mariah & Amanda. teen rock stars.

Checking out the course from the gondola.

A tiny part of Team USA – me, Suzanne, Michelle.

In keeping with doing the splits in unique places…

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