Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Hurdles for Hope: Extreme Racing, Extreme Fun

My husband and I did a race last Saturday.  Not any normal race.  It was a 5k obstacle race.  We ran in the Hurdles of Hope!  It was extremely challenging and so so fun.  Since my husband did the race with me, I asked him to write the race story.  So here is his accounting of how things went:


We hurdled.

We hoped.

And when I say we hurdled, I mean we jumped, climbed, and dragged our beat-up bodies over massive hay bales, fifteen-foot boot-camp obstacles, walls of fire, and actual hurdles that seemed insurmountable by the end of the race even though they were only three feet high.

At the start

And when I say we hoped, I mean we hoped and prayed that we didn’t fall on our faces in mud, blow out any important joints, collapse in a heap and die, or otherwise publicly humiliate ourselves.

That’s right. We competed in the 2012 “Hurdle for Hope” extreme race in Rexburg, Idaho. (I use the word “competed” lightly here, but we’ll get to that later.)

Anna has been trying to get me into running races for a while now. She loves it, so she naturally wants to share it with me. (Either that or she just takes some sick pleasure in inflicting pain upon her husband. Jury’s still out on that one.) So what better introduction to running races than an extreme-obstacle-course 5k? Right?

Hurdles! Oh the hurdles!
I started training (read “a semi-regular routine of masochism and self-inflicted injury”) a month or so ago. For my first run, I did a full 5k (because I’m an idiot.) After recovering from the resulting knee injuries a few days later, I started over at a mile or so and worked my way back up to 5k. For my last run, I took on the bottom portion of Lincoln road leading up to the windmills, and I was feeling pretty darn good about myself.

Saturday, July 14th. Race day.

It was nice and cloudy, even dropped a little rain every once in a while, and I decided that was the perfect environment for a race. It felt great outside, and I was excited for this challenge. Anna and I didn’t bother dressing up (because we’re lame like that), but it was fun to see the team of Ninja Turtles and the family sporting matching pink bandanas (this little five-year-old boy with no shirt and a pink Rambo bandana looked tough enough to beat the crap out of me). It was less fun to see the dude in short-shorts, muscle shirt, and fake handle-bar mustache who looked like a 70s porn star, but you can’t win ‘em all.

The 5k racers ran in several smaller heats so we wouldn’t trip over each other when we got to the obstacles, and Anna and I set out with the third heat. We hit the spare-tire terrain, which was more funny than difficult, and then entered the Rexburg Nature Park. After jumping a few foot-tall hay bales and standard wood track hurdles (well, I had to use a hand to get over them—I wasn’t as tough as the He-Man: Master-of-the-Universe dude in front of me that was taking the things in a full leap), we came to a section where we dropped down into the wetlands. But the mud pit was pretty small and I was able to leap the whole thing without making a mess of myself. This is cake, I was thinking. I felt fairly awesome about myself.

Mud pit!
We climbed up a small hill, and then dropped straight down into crotch-high muddy water. There was no jumping over this. The whole thing reeked of stagnation, and it felt like we were trudging through a dead-animal-infested swamp. By the time we dragged ourselves out of it, my shoes felt like they weighed twenty pounds apiece, full of mud and rocks. Suddenly, every step took effort and caused pain.

Awesome feeling gone.

And that was just in the first half-mile or so. For the rest of the race, you just had to muscle through it. There were man-made mud pits (definitely less nasty than the swamp water, but always filled your shoes with more rocks and dead weight). There were giant, five-foot-tall hay-bales that you had to sort of leap and roll over. At one point we ran into three of these bales stack on top of one another and you had to climb all the way up and over. There was a whole section filled with boot camp obstacles, including big wooden walls and a roped-off section where you had to crawl on your stomach. And yes, there was even a mini bonfire that had to be leapt over (Anna cut it fairly close on this one, landing just beyond the burning wood.)

Strangely, I think my favorite part of the course was the river. There was a largish stretch where we were running up stream through the Henry’s Fork (at least I think that’s where we were.) It was just the right depth where you could still run if you high-stepped it, and it felt so refreshing to be clean for a few minutes. Of course, I had to stop on the way out to ring out my shoes and cut a little of the extra water weight, but I really enjoyed this section.

The race ended with us running a stretch down the horse-racing track, leaping a few more hurdles, and then diving through a soapy slip-and-slide at the finish line. We ended up finishing at just over forty minutes, which put us at sixty-third and sixty-fourth place out of two-hundred and twenty-four 5k finishers. Obviously, that’s a pretty terrible time for a 5k, but this race really wasn’t about that.

As an introduction to endurance racing, “Hurdle for Hope” was a blast! It was so fun to do something crazy with Anna, and it felt great to push my body through something so difficult. Now hopefully my future races don’t seem anticlimactic and boring by comparison, but I’m looking forward to continuing this new hobby and I’m grateful to my wife for pushing me to take on such a fulfilling

With the grace and agility of a slightly lame llama....
And there you have it.  This was Arik's first race.  I recently talked him into running and when I saw this race I knew he'd love it.  I have to admit that I was somewhat jealous watching him leap like a gazelle over some of those hay walls, but also super impressed and proud.    I had a ton of fun doing this even though it was the longest 5k of my life.  I have to say that one of my favorite obstacles was leaping over the firepit.  I think the hint of danger in that one made it cool.  The boot camp-like walls were the most challenging for me.  Next year, I need to beef up my upper body strength so those walls don't seem so daunting.  I keep discovering bruises, cuts, and scrapes from that day, but I wear them with pride. 
All in all, rain and mud and fire and rivers and hay bales and 15-foot walls, it was a blast.  It's on our summer to-do list from this time forward. 

Have a race experience you just HAVE to share?  Send it to me at annadurfee@yahoo.com.