“Don’t be afraid to win.” That phrase told to me by one of the most respected Spartan elite racers, Shane McKay, was the theme of the day. I scoped the competition before the first wave of the day and quickly observed that winning was going to be a difficult task. I accurately spotted the ones in my heat that would be fast and there were the other runner and cross-fitter types hanging around that would be racing later. I burst from the starting gate at full-speed and didn’t look back, building a 20 to 50 foot lead that I maintained for the majority of the race. My Inov-8 X-talons proved their worth once again as they drug me up and down the continuous muddy slopes and through the countless number of mud holes. If there is video of me in this race, I’m sure it was unsightly and should not be viewed by anyone who is looking for tips on proper form. I let my body just carry me down the declines as fast as I could go (probably resembling something along the lines of a 3-legged wildebeest being chased by a lion). I resorted a few times to knee pushing my way up the hills, bent over, gasping for breath and conserving energy. I had a couple of awkward spills while maneuvering over fallen trees. I imagine that I looked like a new-born colt trying to stand for the first time as my legs went flailing in all directions on the recovery. I didn’t have time to think about form because I was racing for my life. As bad as I wanted them to, my challengers wouldn’t back off, forcing me to run considerably faster than I was comfortable with. Fortunately, except for the mishaps with the trees, I didn’t slip up on any of the obstacles.
With about a quarter of a mile to go, my primary challenger pulled even with me at the start of a long incline. My first thought was “Crap! He’s just been pacing and stalking me this entire race and now he is going to pass me.” My second thought was of Shane telling me “Don’t be afraid to win”. I was winded and tired from the uphill climb, but I found just enough drive for one last push to speed up the hill. I then gave it everything I had left to power through the last couple of mud and berm obstacles. I didn’t look back. I was afraid to. Finally, I came to the final hill sprint to the finish line. I was the first to it and ran right by the medals, right by the water, and folded myself over with hands 0n knees. I was done in every sense of the word. Could barely breathe. Couldn’t speak at all. For anyone who tried to congratulate me, I apologize for the breathy grunts and half-hearted smiles. I was simply trying not to puke.
The lead held up over the rest of the waves of the day and the approximately 800 adults who participated. Kudos to the second place finisher and to Todd Love for pushing me through this race. My finishing time of 31:27 would have been much greater without their challenge. Thanks to Shane McKay for his words of encouragement, although he had no idea at the time the difference it would make. It felt good to get another win under my belt after almost a year of battling injuries at every race. That brings me to my final thank you to Stacey Pagorek for all the physical therapy and treatment you gave me to get my hamstring in decent enough shape to start the race. I thought about you every time my hamstring was vulnerable. Okay, there’s one more shout-out. I’m pleased that this was not just a win for me, but another win for Team Mud & Adventure, my incredible sponsored obstacle racing team.
The Kentucky Stampede is a really neat, family friendly obstacle race over some typical Kentucky countryside. The owners and staff are incredibly friendly and good to work with. There were massive improvements with course markings and additional obstacles from last year. The up and downhill terrain is great, as are runs through creeks and over and under trees. There are few long stretches of flat, straight running, which is good for me. It’s fun. It’s upbeat. The music is outstanding (except for the 2 or 3 girly songs that made their way into the mix)! The showers are the best I’ve experienced. Parking is onsite. There are multiple places to view obstacles and I don’t think twice about letting my young daughter hang around the race site. At 8 years old, she was even allowed to run the race, which she did alongside my wife. I had planned on running it with them, but with the hamstring (and the threat of projectile vomiting), I decided to simply enjoy the atmosphere with my friends Kirk, Kelly, Chad, & Jimmy. I consider The Stampede a race that is perfect for groups of friends who want to enjoy an exercise-filled day in the mud together. For those of us who just want to race……well, bring your A game because there is competition! 🙂
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