Catchy title, huh? It’s pointedly true, sort of.
Hamstring issues have prevented me training at anything greater than 50% speed, but I actually came into the day the healthiest (not completely healthy, but better than before) I have been in over a year and I liked my chances. The Clay City version of Extreme Rampage was 5+ miles, still short enough to be considered a sprint race, meaning I was going to burst out of the gate.
Anyway, the race started and off we went down the quarter mile drag strip with the odd sound of sticky shoes running on the melted rubber of the track. I hated this part of the race. It was essentially a road race and I wasn’t comfortable until we turned off into a field and headed to the woods. My sub-5 minute mile pace got me out in front early. My strategy was to go hard in the beginning, let off the pedal midway, and then finish strong. Although my strategy would have been almost perfect, it proved to be my undoing. After a half-mile or so in, I came to a fork in the course. One sign pointed straight. One sign pointed to the left. No volunteers. The path to the left contained a jumping wall and there was no other way to get to that obstacle other than go left. I made the millisecond decision and turned left. Bad decision. Very bad. The course was muddy with several more smaller ‘jumping’ walls of 4 to 5 feet. They had little ropes hanging off them that I found odd, but didn’t think much about it. Can you see where this is going? At a turn in the course I glanced over my shoulder and had built a pretty good lead, but I wasn’t comfortable with it so I picked up my pace even more. I passed the 1 mile marker and was relieved that the beginning of the race was finally behind me. I abhor the beginning of races! The course wrapped around and was coming back through the field down the opposite direction of the start. I went through a big set of bungee obstacles and raced ahead, only to find myself back at the start/finish with no markers, no volunteers, and no idea of which way to go. My frustration mounted as I watched my sizable lead diminish. I found a race official and discovered that we (I) had taken a wrong turn! Uggghhh! I had led myself and 3 other fast runners off the adult course onto the kids’ course! Someone had forgotten to tape off the area where I turned. They fixed it, but the damage was done. I had expended a boatload of energy, but the only thing to do was wait until the next heat and run again.
Twenty minutes later I was sprinting down that dreaded track again, this time a bit slower than before. I held the lead for a mile or so until the first big water crossing when my right foot came down between 2 fallen branches in the water and I couldn’t get it out. Ten seconds or so passed until I finally yanked it out. By this time, my good friend Jonathan Burns had taken the lead. I paced myself a few yards behind him for awhile, as we traversed up and down hills and through the creeks. Somewhere around the 3.5 mile mark, the fatigue started to set in. This was my second bout of frustration as I realized that my strategy was pretty good, but my energy levels were depleted because of that extra 1.25 miles. Several hours later, I realize that I am extremely disappointed with myself. I didn’t push like I should have. I left the killer instinct at the 3.5 mile mark. I knew I wasn’t going to catch Jonathan and no one was even in sight behind me. My pace slowed. If there had been immediate challengers I could have fairly easily dug deeper. In the end, it cost me because a couple of good runners in later heats ran faster than me. That’s my fault. I can’t blame the missing marker. I can’t blame the lack of a volunteer. I can’t blame the extra mileage. Kudos to everyone finishing faster than me. They completely deserved their podium spots. However, fourth place in a regional OCR isn’t going to cut it. If it happens again, it certainly won’t be because I lost resolve.
On a brighter note, I was glad that my friend won and I met a few more really cool racers. Oh, and of course I won the Kids Race, because there is no way a kid ran that 1.25 mile course faster than me! Yay!
A young friend of my sons who I have recently gotten in to Spartan racing made a similar mistake in Indiana. He is only 19 and runs like a deer but he ran off that course and over onto that motorcycle course. He turned back, reentered where he exitted and still managed 91st place.
I am kind of stoked to see how he will finish at the Super in Ill. in July.
Sorry for the wrong turn.