They made qualifying for OCRWC (obstacle course racing world championships) harder at Savage this year. They changed the rules from
Top 15 in your age group to 10. Last year I was 11th, and the hills had felt like hell in ’16. They finished building the new lodge between then and now so they also had the use of the primary slope. Aka “the big hill.”
On top of that there was a ton of buzz going around some of the new obstacles. The new ones: Twirly Bird and Tree Hugger. Sawtooth, the incline – decline monkey-bars, was longer. Something with a cargo net and rope ladders that sounded rough.
Panic, basically. I panicked. I started brainstorming alternative plans for qualifying. I actually looked for tips on how to get across some of the new things. I started signing up for other qualifying races.
When race day finally did role around I had such anxiety that I probably peed 5 times before I left the house, and once on the short hour drive to Mad River.
I strapped ankle braces on both feet. The Ohio Savage course is a notorious ankle breaker. I rolled the ankle last year on a downhill there. I couldn’t afford a repeat of that. I also couldn’t afford to be slow. So that made me nervous.
My plan of attack was to tackle the up hills as well as I could, not allowing myself any stopping. Then, haul ass down hill-while simultaneously not killing my ankles. Tricky. Each obstacle got one attempt. If I fell I couldn’t afford to lose time by waiting in a retry line.
I saw more people I knew at savage race than I had at any other race. And it felt like everyone asked if I was ready or how I was feeling. No and freaking out.
I started at 9:20 – or whenever the first group of open runners went. Matty T the MC did his pre race hype and sent us off. The pack went out – straight up the main ski slope.
The plus side of the hills in this race was that they were great equalizers. Very few people were running up them. As long as I kept trucking on the uphills at a steady pace I wouldn’t get too far behind.
My race buddy and I started at the same time this race too. It was her first race back at 100% from a long rehabbed ankle/foot injury herself. She needed to qualify too. I was terrified that she’d get ahead of me and finish 30 min faster.
Turns out I was able to maneuver myself up the first hill slightly in front. The fear of her being right behind me the whole time was actually a great motivator to keep running.
I flew down the downhills. It was the best way for me to make up time. It bordered on reckless the speed I went down those things, with the extreme unevenness and divot ridden dirt obscured by all the grass.
Every time I had to watch the ground to avoid losing my footing, but I had to book it. I had to be fast. Faster. Faster. I passed the women and men in front of me each time. They’d immediately pass me again on the immediate uphill afterwards but at least they weren’t quite so far ahead anymore.
Shriveled Richard is a great and terrible obstacle. It’s basically an ice bath in between hills. You have to fight hyperventilating while you go through it but after it actually feels really good. Helps cool you down and battle the effects of the intense sun, since there’s not a lot of tree cover on most of the course.
I knew I couldn’t let myself hesitate at anything this year. Hesitating was time. Could not waste time as a slow runner.
I like savage too because they give you full water bottles at water stations. I can’t drink a whole one in one stop so I’d ask for the cap and I carried the bottle with me. I shoved it into the front of my shirt as I ran and crossed obstacles. So stylish.
I hesitated at Davy Jones’ Locker last year too. The ~15 foot jump into water obstacle. Cost me like 2 minutes last year. Not an option this go around. So I avoided looking down before jumping this time. The volunteer said it was ok to go – very few people in line when I arrived luckily too – and I just jumped.
At the top of one of the hills a man in one of the OCR groups I’m also in caught up to me. I was walking at the time because it was hot and I felt like I had to catch my breath. He jogged up beside me and told me “can’t walk here. No walking here come on.”
That encouragement I think really helped save me. I picked my slow shuffle of a jog back up. It was one of the flatter points on the course too, which I really couldn’t afford to just walk if I was going for time. It wasn’t a fast jog but it did keep me going.
I caught up to and chased this guy and another one from the same group the rest of the way. They helped me over the 10 foot wall that I couldn’t quite jump high enough to do on my own. Keeping them in my sights in front of me and he fear of my friend behind me catching me really helped to push me.
I made the new Sawtooth and Wheel World, which I’d fallen off of last year. Every time I made it on a grip obstacle I actually kind of surprised myself. I’d reach and grab for something and get a little startled when I hung on.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the fire jump being at the middle during an uphill. I prefer my fire jumps at the end, but that’s where it was this time. Oh well.
What they had towards the end was Twirly Bird and The Rig. I felt better than I thought I would on Twirly Bird but I still only managed about half way before my momentum and grip with the little bundles of ropes died.
I would have liked to try it again but I didn’t want to waste the time in the lines. There were too many people.
The end at that point was near. I was gearing up to make a sprint to the finish as best as I could. Then the ankle rolled. The ankle rolled in a huge divot on one of the few flat tracks of the trail at the very end. I might have cursed a bit. A lot.
I kept moving. I could barely put weight on my one ankle. Volunteers and people that were at this last part of the course were shouting encouragement to runners. I wanted to shout back “I can’t fucking jog it out!” But I was too busy trying to suppress hyperventilation and tears.
I think I attempted some weird hopping at one point. I held my head in my hands trying to calm my breathing. If I could control the breathing I could control the pain. Or. Something. Whatever.
I still had the rig in front of me. Freaking rig. I did get on it and shimmy across the first pipe part, but I got really nervous about the transition with my wet hands and an uncontrolled fall that might land on the bad ankle. So I let myself drop that time while I could still control the landing on one foot.
The finish line was just after that. So close! I tried to run through the finish. My foot screamed.
The ankle felt like shite but made it! Luckily it only rolled close to the end. I hobbled to collect my medal and tshirt and fell over right past the finishing space. I tore off my show and brace because they felt stifling and awful and just took a few minutes to chill.
The plus side of planting yourself down so close to the finish I got to see a lot of others finishing and checking their times. Everyone was really nice and then asked what did I do to myself?
I didn’t do it, it was a freaking divot!
Another race team mate got me a bag of ice from somewhere. My friend that was behind me the whole race crossed maybe 10 minutes after me. She’d just run a tough race too but then she helped carry my crap to the first aid tent so I could get ice wrapped to my ankle.
Navigating the festival area after that was rough. It was too uneven and gravelly in places. I avoided checking my race time for a good while. I didn’t want to know. I wanted to know but I didn’t. I was just happy that we were done.
When I finally did check the times after a few hours, right before we left it did list my name 4th in the open age group.
I was so happy about my finish despite the ankle that I did Race Day registration there. Discounted entry for any race in the future. Officially love Savage Race now.
Two years running Savage Ohio got me qualified for Worlds! It’s always been a challenge for me but I feel especially connected with it now. It’s gotten my ankles both years but somehow I’ve managed qualifying runs both times too.
Officially good enough to pursue that Race in Ontario again! I just have to apply and register now.
And run hills. More and more hills.