8:30 a.m and I stood at the starting line for the first ever wave of the Extreme Rampage.  Rain was pelting my face and blustery, stormy winds ushered in cold chills.  Not Indiana Spartan Sprint cold, but a windy, wet, dreary cold.  The weather was actually quite miserable, but it gave me the opportunity to practice some mental toughness techniques and I’m happy to say that I was able to overcome it rather easily.  The weather would come into play for me later in the race, but not as  you might expect….

This was the first OCR that I actually lined up with people who I knew outside of the OCR circles.  It felt a little odd to me because I usually get quiet before the starts of races, but it was a little harder to do this time with friends around.  The start was delayed for 7 minutes as crews worked to get the timing system functioning…another weather-related issue.  Finally the race started and I bolted out pretty quickly.  I wasn’t sure what the obstacle lines were going to be like and didn’t want to get stuck.  The first set of obstacles were a well-placed set of mud berms to climb up and mud holes to jump in and out of.  By the time I cleared those, I was in 2nd place behind one of my good friends and it stayed that way for the rest of the race.  It was a runner’s race, meaning that it was flat and the obstacles weren’t overwhelming.  That didn’t bode particularly well for me, but at least there wasn’t swimming!  I have been calling this my rehab race, because there has been no training for it, only therapy and rehab exercises.  I ran it simply to make sure that my knee and foot could handle a race without too much issue.  It didn’t take long for me to realize my lack of running and cardio conditioning over the spring and summer.  I was unable to run as fast as I could pre-injuries and I did not recover as quickly from obstacles as I once did.  You do the best with what you have, so that’s what I tried to do.

The course was marked pretty well.  There were several up and over obstacles with logs, a few tunnel crawls, cargo net, and 3 different types of walls to scale.  There was an interesting “car wash” obstacle in which you ran through some suds with a bunch of the car wash ‘cloths’ hanging down blocking the path.  To be a first time race, this one was done pretty well.  The one issue that I referred to earlier that was weather-related, actually pertained to the lack of volunteers at the start of the race.  Apparently, a whole slew of volunteers didn’t show due to the torrential downpours, meaning that the obstacles were unstaffed.  For the most part it wasn’t a big deal, however there was one MAJOR issue for me…….

My big mistake

A mile or two into the race, I came up to an obstacle that involved climbing up a couple of short ramps.  I saw a pile of sandbags, but they were on the other side of the course marker and it appeared as if they were to be gotten after completing the ramps.  No one was there.  My friend had already went through this obstacle and the path went immediately into the woods so he was out of sight.  No one was close behind me.  Now, I know that most sandbag carries are a loop, that you pick them up, carry them around some point and drop them at the pickup point.  I couldn’t quickly discern where this might be, so I just picked one up and headed into the woods.  When racing for time, you don’t have the luxury of standing around and analyzing the situation.  It’s just make a quick decision and go.  Reminded me a lot of the Kentucky Stampede when I had to make several race decisions on my own.  Unfortunately, this time I made a bad one (at least in terms of my finishing time).

It didn’t take me long to figure out that the course wasn’t going to bring me back around to the drop point and that I had done something wrong.  I wasn’t about to go back, nor was I willing to just drop the sandbag and pick up my pace.  I was going to carry that blasted thing until I saw the next volunteer just to make sure.  I’ve race and trained for enough Spartan Races to have it engrained it me to take no shortcuts.  As it turns out, the next volunteer was a long, long, long way away!  I carried that 25 – 30 pound bag for approximately a mile.  Not a figurative mile, but a literal mile.  I carried it through creeks and up and down muddy inclines.  I carried it through the ‘spider web’ obstacle of 20 feet or so of bungee cords zig-zagging across the path.  I carried it through tire obstacles.  I carried it uphill and downhill.  It caused me to fall down an embankment.  I picked it up and continued.  It slowed my pace considerably, but I didn’t stop running until I finally came upon volunteers at the first set of walls.  I asked them kinda sheepishly “I’m not supposed to still have this sandbag, am I??”  They laughed and gave me a solid “NO!”  Oh well, that was good training and I’ll be doing a lot harder things than that in 2 weeks.  I only wish I could hear the conversation when the obstacles were being dismantled.  I’m sure somebody said “How did that sandbag get over here??!!”  After dropping it, I was finally able to pick my pace back up and when I saw my Dad and heard my daughter yelling at me near the end of the race, I picked up another notch and finished strong.   The finish actually came upon me kinda suddenly and I still had a lot more left in the tank, which was slightly disappointing, but at least I finished without worsening my injury.

Jeff Cain, Extreme RampageThe Review

I’ll give the race organizers credit in that they pulled off a pretty good race that could be finished easily by most, but still had a few challenging elements for the competitors.  The parking situation was great.  The race day facilities, food options, and entertainment was plentiful.  With a sufficient number of volunteers, this would have been a great race.  Note: I think there were more volunteers as the day wore on, they just weren’t there for the first part of the first wave.   I’m not sure if it was weather, or UK football tailgating, or some other reason, but people didn’t stay around the race like others which is disappointing to everyone.   There will be another Extreme Rampage in March and it will most likely be on my race schedule.  That should tell you enough.

My Results

I had loftier goals at the beginning of the year, but as injuries lingered and training was interrupted, I just wanted to run a solid race and test my body parts.  I finished 14th overall out of 1000+.  Technically, I finished 2nd in my age range by 22 seconds.  Mentally, I’ll take a first place in my age range due to the extra mile sandbag carry.  Official time was 39:28.   Sandbag-adjusted time would probably have been around 37:35 and good for 7th or 8th overall.  There’s no whining though, because I’ll take the majority of the blame for that one.  I finished 14th overall in a rehab race and podium’ed (is that a word?) for the 3rd time, which is pretty encouraging for me.  I am hopeful that by next season I can get back to full speed!

My wonderful wife also killed it on the course.  She’s getting better!