The weather on Saturday was ideal for a race, partly cloudy with temperatures in the low 80’s and moderate humidity. People registered with ASF to run the course met at the ASF lodge for check in that included signing a safety waiver. I loved the section of the waiver that said you will be exposed to water that has not been tested for contaminates or diseases.
After signing the safety waiver you pin on your number and tie your tracking chip to your shoe. It’s around 1045 in the morning and our heat is scheduled for noon. People are socializing at the lodge. I find Zach pacing like a caged beast waiting for the race to start. If you recall Zach is 16, on the Autism spectrum and a member of the ASF race team. He is chatting with Ed, one of his coaches on the team. Zach sees me and confidently strides over saying “ Are you ready to do this thing ? “ and offers up a big high five and fist bump. We chat briefly and I found Karen his mother. She told me Zach could have trained a little harder. Ed said he was going to run with Zach. I decided to tag along with them because of the obstacles. We set a group goal of crossing the finish line before sunset.
The three of us walk down to the finish area to see the leap across the fire and the low crawl mud pit with the barbed wire. I thought the leap across the fire would be natural gas, but it turned out to be DuraFlame logs. They had eight pallets of logs for the weekend. It was funny to see the variety of ages, sizes, shapes and costumed runners finishing the race. Some were sprinting and diving through the last few hundred yards and obstacles with smiles, others chugging past with less energy and those with an expression of “ what was I thinking ? “. I overheard a fit looking man covered in mud talking to a friend saying “ the first half is hell “.
At 1140 we moved over to the starting area. Having run in several races I suggested the three of us hang back in the starting chute so we did not get caught up in the initial sprint at the start of the race. As we wait in the chute the clouds start to give way to the sun. The energy in the chute begins to increase with the anticipation of the start. People are trying to use up that nervous energy by talking, laughing and counting down the minutes.
At 1200 our heat starts and by 1210 reality hits those that were less prepared. The first one and quarter miles is all up hill. Within the first three hundred yards much of the talking and laughing was gone. It was replaced with panting, huffing, puffing, groans and moans. Some runners turned to joggers, joggers to walkers, and walkers to crawlers.
The three of us started working our way up the hill. Zach is a sprinter and walker. He quickly realizes it’s more work to run up the mountain than snowboard down. We set achievable goals using the obstacles and water stations to keep us motivated and moving forward. The trail begins to thin out as the serious and recreational runners take the lead. The rest of us push onward chatting and motivating one another.
We hit the first of twelve choke points, the obstacles. The first one was a series of up and over the wall, then crawl under the barbed wire fence repeated three times. Jog another two hundred and fifty yards to obstacle number two. High step through tires and climb over a junk car, again repeat this three times. Now comes the “ hell “, a little under half a mile uphill to the first water station. Most of the people are moaning, walking, stopping. Their more fit friends are up hill shouting encouragement and false hopes.
The water station is mobbed so we press forward to the next obstacle knowing there is another water station at the half way point. We keep our team together. The teetering traverse is the third obstacle. A series of angled planks that peak about six feet off the ground. You run across them and down the other side. Naturally the narrowest is right in the middle. Ed told Zach it was like riding his board across a table top or box. Walk and jog some more.
Now comes the “water not tested for contaminates or diseases” obstacle. There are pools on the mountain used to collect water for snow making the winter. This one is about forty by twenty with three big logs roped across it. Your task it to go over each log until you reach the other side. The logs are sixteen to twenty inches in diameter and twelve feet long. The “water” is waist deep if you play in the NBA and is brown black with tree debris floating in it. To cross the logs you need to coordinate with the other runners to push the log down and dive over it. That’s right, repeat three times. When you finally climb out of the pool you gain about six lbs of water weight. Slosh to the water station.
I know the course map says the obstacle is rappel down, but it’s really cross another waist deep pond then using a rope climb up a steep hill. Walk and jog to the deadman’s drop. A wooden triangle shaped form. Climb up four rungs spaced at least three feet apart. Go through an opening at the top, turn around and hang down a steep incline. Slide down and start running again.
Right about now Zach is asking if it is sunset yet. He is partially joking.
A steady downhill jog/walk to and through the tires. Then the longest walk/jog on the second half of the course. This part traverses several ski trails and wooded areas. Fatigue is setting is setting in so motivation and safety are important. We are counting down the remaining obstacles.
The cargo net is about twenty feet off the ground. Up is easy, with only a slight pause at the top and a slow steady decent. Walk to the next rope obstacle. This one was not hard, but very crowded. A group of serious and recreational runners from another heat converge on the ropes with us. Passing on this one was a challenge. It was best to pause on the obstacle and let them pass.
All downhill now and only three more challenges. Here’s a hint, hit the slippery plunge with some speed. If you don’t, the running water does not carry you to the bottom and you have to push yourself along. We can see the finish line.
Start thinking about smiles and finishing. There is a crowd of thousands waiting for you at the bottom. How do you want to be remembered ? Just hope the wind does not change and start blowing the black smoke from the DuraFlame logs into your face. Another “sprint” to the muddy low crawl. Don’t dive, it’s only twelve inches deep !!!! Zach and I low crawled through to the end. Jump up and cross the finish line.
We finished before sun down with only a few bumps and abrasions. There was a rinsing station beyond the finish line. There were three snow guns pumping out a shower for you. I don’t care how long you stood under it, that dirt was not rinsing off. I threw out everything I had on except my shorts. I still have more running to do.
I want to thank everyone for contributing to ASF. Adam and Cherisse, thank you for the use of the showers at the lodge and lunch. Karen, please let Zach know I enjoyed running with him. I’m looking forward to another season at ASF.
Robert Millar, PMP, RN, PSIA Adaptive Ski Instructor
The Kingston Hospital – Emergency Dept http://www.hahv.org/
Adaptive Sports Foundation http://www.adaptivesportsfoundation.org/