Tuxedo Ridge…AKA The Hardest Sprint of the Year
This past Saturday I kicked off the obstacle racing season with a bang. At this point my podium is old news in our digital world, however the full story has yet to be told. So here is what really happened this weekend at the Spartan Race in Tuxedo, New York.
LEAVING VERMONT ARRIVING IN NEW JERSEY
Due to work obligations I was not able to leave Vermont until late in the day. I spent most of my drive down in the rain and catching up on my This American Life podcasts. It wasn’t until after 10pm I arrived to my hotel in Mahwah, New Jersey. Not sure why but I find extreme humor in the fact I stayed in New Jersey to race in New York. After a room mishap and a conversation with a wonderful lady at Zappos returns it was time for me to try to “sleep”. Emotions ran high and my sleep consisted of a short nap for the night. Morning came early which meant it was race day.
I pulled into my parking space at Tuxedo Ridge Ski “Resort” just before 7:00am. My heat wasn’t going off until 9:00am but I like to arrive early and avoid all sorts of lines and rushing. As I walked up to registration, coffee in hand, the familiar faces of Spartan Race employees and fellow competitors started to appear all around me. My nerves started to calm a little with the sight of friends. I dropped my bags, walked around the festival a little, finished my coffee and got changed into race gear. This will sound crazy to many but a shorter distance race like a Spartan Race Sprint is tougher than a long race.
In a Sprint the pace is picked up, you don’t have time to relax into the run. For me the race is over before it even feels like it began. It normally takes me about two or three miles until I feel good going into a run. So, Saturday I took off for a run before the race, I went for about a 30 minute jog down the road and around the parking area to start to activate my body and warm-up. As the start of the race was approaching I stretched out and made my way up the hill to the starting gate.
The elite heat at a Spartan Race has become a round of familiar faces for me, as I hugged friends I hadn’t seen in months and met some other competitors the nerves were raging! I closed my eyes a couple times used some calming techniques and focused in on the race. It was time for me to run my race. The familiar Drop Kick Murphies song played and we were off and running through the smoke up the trail.
I am terrible at remembering the order of obstacles but will try my best. We started off running up the mountain, I found myself among the top guys much to my surprise. The first obstacle was the under, over and throws, a set of small walls you well go under over and throw. Next we encountered was the Hercules Hoist only one woman was in front of me and I made quick work of this obstacle passing her. I found myself in first place for women. As we headed over the first set of walls I still held my position. This would not last, as we went barreling back down the mountain Andi Hardy Jory passed me and looked as if she was floating down the mountain. She does a sort of swimming move which you can’t help but smile when you see, the pure joy she experiences oozes from her. It was from that moment on I spent the race trying to catch her.
The course turned back down toward the start and after a steep decline we had the rope climb in front of the spectators. Relief, the water station and power-aid was a welcome site after the rope climb as my trek down the night before hadn’t led to the best hydration prior to the race. The relief was quick as I sipped down water and trucked back up the mountain and over the cargo nets towering two trailers high. I love the obstacles it’s my equalizer. As I came off the cargo net the course took a steep turn uphill, as I headed up I passed one of my fellow Spartan Chicks who was doing the course with her son. It was so cool to see her son accomplishing this goal. As I passed we said hellos and I continued back into some technical single track. To me most of this course felt really comfortable the technical sections made me feel like I was on the trails of Vermont. Every once in a while I would catch a glimpse of Andi and it propelled me to pick up the pace a little bit more.
We headed into the first barbed wire section which were trenches partly covered and partly uncovered. I found out later these had been sitting all winter that way so who knows what animals had taken up residence in there over the winter. I crawled through quickly and continued on making my way back into the woods. (Note: when racing for time, you completely disregard what happens to your body, thus my scrapes an cuts are extra pretty) A hanging cargo net was the next challenge. I got a lot of practice with this obstacle in December at another 24-hour race so it was a welcome sight. After I weaved my way over rocks and mud in some of the most technical terrain of the course. At this point I was flying through the woods passing people from previous heats and fellow competitors. I found myself yelling a lot “behind” and “on your left” everyone was great and gave way. The words of encouragement were great.
All this time I was still trying to catch the woman in the lime green. I ran up to the tire carry hoisted the first tire I could find on my arm and took off. I saw Andi along the way and yelled to her, “I am trying to catch you” with a smile on my face. I ran down the hill with the tire and powered my way back up. Along the way yelling to my friend Tweek who was running the barbed wire crawl. Spartan Race really is like a family when you race it enough you really know everyone. I dropped my tire took off running and got to the slippery wall. In the past it was just the wall now a mud pit preempted the wall. I jumped in the mud, grabbed the rope and pulled myself up and over the wall. My winter training in the rock climbing gym really paid off!
The tall walls were next, seven and eight feet high. I propelled myself over both of these for the first time by myself. This was my first time completely getting over them without any assistance, I was stoked! Andi was in my site again, but only for a moment as I came off the last wall and saw her at the cinderblock drag. Directly after the cinderblock drag when my hands were feeling a little smoked came the monkey bars. I took a second took a deep breath and went for them. I did not want to loose ground with burpees, success.
I continued back into the woods into some more single track and arrived at the sandbag carry. I was stoked to see Chris Davis at the sandbag carry and yelled out his name. I grabbed my pancake (round sandbag) and headed up a steep pitch. Andi was headed down as I was just over half way up. I cheered for her and said again, I was trying to catch her. Yes, I cheered for my biggest competitor. I dropped the bag and headed over to the stump jump. Almost all the way across my balance faltered. Again not wanting to do burpees I balanced myself one leg on one log and one on the other and went for it, success again! The stars were aligning.
In and out of a few mud pits I went. Then came the traverse wall, the only time I have messed this wall up was Texas at World Championships. I was praying I would not make that mistake again. A little mix-up with the volunteer at this obstacle held me up for a little, I got a little agro. Yes, sometimes I get agro, I really wanted to catch up with Andi. Sorry if I sort of yelled at you volunteer lady (she directed me to a wall with someone on it, I stood and waited then yelled to her is a wall open again saying I was in the elite heat only to find two walls open). Seconds matter when you are in a race and trying to catch up! Next up was the spear throw, MISS! Thirty burpees for me, I powered throw them as quickly as possible.
I got through the burpees and next came the world’s longest barbed wire crawl. Not only was it long but also up the hill. I could see Andi in the barbed wire almost half way up. With complete disregard for my body I hurled myself up the barbed wire alternating crawling and rolling whatever was fastest. As I exited the burpees headed back into the woods for the last section of trail I had no idea how far ahead Andi was. I was just going, I slid down the slip and slid then over to the tire flip as quickly as possible. Andi wasn’t in sight. I ran down the home stretch, jumped the fire, wrestled a gladiator and finished smiling with my hands above my head 1:06 minutes after I had started. There was Andi smiling and congratulating me on my race as I congratulated her on her win. She finally earned her helmet after a first place in the Founders race in Indiana and a second place in Georgia.
We cleaned up got our awards. The rest of the day was spent meeting people, readers, and catching up with friends. It was a fantastic day. I went over and helped at the sandbag carry in the afternoon, doing another lap of the sandbag with Chris Davis. At the end of the day I was able to help sweep the course and watch the final competitor of the day finish her first Spartan Race. She reminded me it isn’t always about the place it’s about finishing what you started. This was as rewarding as my own race was watching her do something she didn’t know she could do.
I made my way back to the race on Sunday. This day was purely for fun. I cheered on Andi as she went on to win the competitive heat again on Sunday beating her own time by three minutes from the day before and finishing 4th among the men. I was stoked to be able to play with the fire hose at the barbed wire crawl for a while. It was a highlight of the weekend. I was like a kid in a candy shop.
I helped out with a few photos for an upcoming campaign. All I can say about it is I did a couple of the obstacles in four inch heals. Yes, I actually jumped over fire in heals! When the fun was all over, I headed to my car riddled with battle wounds from the weekend and made my way slowly back to Vermont.
A great way to start the race season and a surprising podium for me. My two swords have become buddies and are quickly resting in a corner of my living room. Now it’s back to the normal grind of things. Back to work and back to training. Just a few more days before the start of the Death Race. For now it’s taking it easy until it’s time to go again. Thanks to everyone for all the support this past weekend.