An urbanathalon is a middle distance running course (9-11 miles) with obstacle courses mixed in. Guaranteed to require travel over construction walls, under police barricades, over tires, up a lot of steps, down a lot more steps, through monkey bars, and at least 6 wall-type hurdles to climb over.
I did this race in 08, but can’t really compare the challenge because the course has changed since then. This year, the race was to be 9 miles long – certainly do-able with just a continuation of training since the Iceland 1/2 in Aug. So training was in full effect – and at some point, my ankle decided to be a little pain in the butt, and for the last 2 weeks I’ve been living life with my shoes tied so loosely you can barely make a knot in the laces. Ice, myofascial release on the bottom of my foot, and separating runs so I was never running on back-to-back days seemed to help make sure I was able to get to the start line this morning as I felt ready, strong, and was thinking, it’s the last race for me this year, tomorrow starts a rest period so I can afford to blow it all out there & deal with whatever happens after.
We were assigned “waves” to start in, presumably to keep the course moving & avoid having big back-ups at the obstacles (nice try, but this would prove to be a huge problem out on the course!) And in the most welcoming fashion possible, women racers were relegated to the last wave. The absolute last one. We would be starting almost 30 mins after the 1st group. Whatever. I made sure I brought food & water with me since we’d be standing around waiting for a long time since my breakfast at 5:30am & knew if I could manage it, I should hold a slightly faster pace to make up for any time lost in the almost guaranteed wait times at the obstacles. I got to the front of my wave & got ready to go.
I got a nice Saved by the Bell flashback as A.C. Slater himself got each wave started & with the horn we were off. Fast. Really fast. I knew I didn’t want to let the girls around me pace me so I got control quickly & made sure my HR was where I needed to be. I still saw some pretty fast times slip by.
3 miles in & we hit the balance beam, monster tire climb, and tire run – easy! I knew my HR would be pushing max after each obstacle, but I know how to recover from that while still keeping moving, so no worries! Within 2 miles we came up on the construction barricades & police blockades. Get over the construction barricades – about 4 ft tall – get under the police barricades. Done! Easy! Let’s go!
The next several miles were a long quiet stretch where I was just trying to pass people & keep a steady pace. My mind wandered to my scheduled massage later that afternoon & what I’d ask her to focus on after this little adventure! We ran along the lakefront to get to Soldier Field & that’s when the back-ups really got bad. Remember that “wave” start we had? Any benefit of that was GONE by the time we hit this obstacle. There were packs of people waiting to do the obstacle so I tried to slip in between enough people who were lolly-gagging around so I could get going on this one.
We were to climb over 6 “marine hurdles” – wooden structures that are just under 6 ft high that you pull yourself. The technique that works best is to jump/pull yourself up onto the frame, then do a flip over the front of the bar & land on the other side.
That obstacle & seeing one of my friends cheering for me gave me a surge of energy in my cardio, so I was increasing my speed again at each mile! We ran out through McCormick Place, swung through a set of monkey bars, crawled under cargo netting then were off running again. We headed back toward Soldier Field for the stair climb. Which I was NOT looking forward to. In 08, this was where we lost the most amount of time on our chip-time. We were stuck waiting for a log jam of people to move through, I stood in place for 5mins not moving, during a race! ugh. So I knew I had to be prepared for a potential mental & physical slow-down coming up ahead.
Sure as shit – same problem despite them trying a different approach to getting us quickly onto the stair climb. Remember Labyrinth with David Bowie? It was like that. First we were on the concourse, then we were on the party deck, then we were on main level A, then we went up and down the loading docks, then we were outside, then back inside. Instead of little trolls telling me where to go, we had volunteers holding arrows saying “almost there!” Liars.
I was so confused with this part of the race, where are the stairs? Are these the stairs? Why are we standing still? Why are we standing still again?? I stood in line for at least 7 mins at this obstacle & when I was climbing steps, it was not at a pace I would have chosen, as you were totally limited by the people in front of you & how fast they were going. I got a little annoyed here because I was watching the time I wanted slip by – on the time clock, my time would not reflect the fact that I had to wait all this extra time. But on my watch, I was watching that it took almost 30 mins to do the stair challenge, when I was actually working for only 1/2 of that time. The rest of the time was wasted.
Finally, finally!, coming out of the stair challenge, I knew we had a mile to go. Or so they told us. The race was to be 9 miles in total. We passed the 9 mile marker with at least 1 mile to go. Right then. However far we have to go, I was determined to make up time lost on the steps, so I made sure I had my legs turning over SO fast, paying extra attention to my glutes since my quads were now trashed from all the incline on the steps. I could hear the DJ & music at our event & all I could think was “Go go go! Now is when you lay it out there!” My legs felt so heavy – the workload of the day had gotten to me, but I knew I could totally ignore that for a few more minutes.
Around the bend, over some cabs & a bus – yes, a bus, we crawled up a cargo net over a bus – & throw everything you have into a wall that is 6.5 or 7 ft tall. I jumped ahead of some slowpokes and threw myself onto the wall via the rope. And quickly realized, this was my “wall.” Oh man, how to get over this, so tired – and out of the blue, some older lady goes “need a boost?” and I shouted at her “YES!!!!” So boost me over she did & I was over the wall & through the finish line. Official time: 1:51:55. Unofficial time, removing the wasted time standing & waiting at obstacles, 1:41:00.
I was done & off to my massage. So needed after hurtling my body at walls, barriers, cabs, stairs, & a lengthy run. Now I’m officially on “rest week.” I am going to walk many places but run few. Until next week, at least.