|The "Golden Helmet" for my 1st Place Masters|
Finish at the 2010 Shawnee Peak Challenge
Bridgton, MAINE -- Sometimes it pays off to branch out a little. This past weekend fellow aR mate Dwight Hartman (of Tough Guy UK and Death Race fame) and I took the scenic drive to Bridgton, ME for the inaugural Shawnee Peak Challenge. Approximately a dozen 'military-style' obstacles scattered over 5 km of ski slopes awaited us at the Shawnee Peak ski area. We arrived early enough to scout out a handful of the challenges located close to the bottom of the mountain. Because of my healthy respect of high places the three cargo netting covered A-frame structures (12 ft, 10 ft, & 8 ft) positioned near the finish line immediately caught my attention. I had no idea how I'd get up and over them but I did know that I'd soon find out. The 210 eager competitors were divided into two waves with my 10:30 AM wave to go off first. Along with me were mates Dwight, Kim, and Doc. Our 5th teammate, Jerry Fitzgibbon, would race in the 2nd wave. Looking around at the start there appeared to be a fair number of "serious looking" athletes along with a hodgepodge collection of CrossFitters and men in military fatigues. It was going to be interesting for sure. The race started with an immediate 100 meter climb DIRECTLY up the mountain before veering off to the left. At the top of this first climb I found myself in a lead pack of 4 or 5 guys. The course twisted back to the right, went under a low crawl obstacle, and continued to climb to a set of balance beams. Not 4 steps onto the balance beam I fell off and had to restart. I quickly figured it out, completed the obstacle, and raced after the lead group whom had begun to pull away. Fortunately for me there was still about a 1/2 mile of climbing to do in this initial section including a 100 meters of hand over hand mountain aptly named The Bitch. It was here, on The Bitch, that my year long training and racing on hills and mountains started to pay off. One by one I caught and passed each of the early lead pack until I found myself alone at the front at the top of the first ascent. Down and across the mountain I raced over barrier walls, under low crawls, through tires, across monkey bars, and carefully through the Normandy walls. More than few times I peeked back over my shoulder but didn't see any significant challenge. At least once I thought to myself, "Save yourself...you've still got one more time on this course.". Of course I was referring to the "Champions Race" that would be held immediately following the 2nd wave and would determine the overall winners. As if once on this course wasn't enough...you'd get to do it again! The final few obstacles turned out to be my favorites. Up and over a soft sand pile and down into a mud pit set everyone up for the A-frames. Admittedly I was a little freaked out when I lay on the top of the 12 fter and threw my legs over to the great unknown that was the other side. The 10 ftr and the 8 ftr were a relative piece of cake and I crossed the tape in 28:47 and first overall. I was as surprised as anyone to have won my wave. Dwight came in shortly after in 8th place and we both waited for the RDs to post the Champions Race qualifiers. Assuming I had qualified for the finals I headed back to the truck to change into some drier clothes, hydrate, and get off my feet. Less than :90 later the finals had been announced and we were once again at the starting line. This would be completely uncharted territory for me but luckily everyone else was in the same boat. That 'everyone' included my teammate Jerry who would turn out to be my competition for the 40+ Masters title. At the gun a very hearty group attacked the mountain again led by eventual winner and elite triathlete Aaron Coleman. He was clearly the class of the field and had gapped the rest of us within the first two climbs. Again I found myself at the front and passing my younger competitors on the steep climbs. As I finished The Bitch I quickly peeked back before taking the turn back down the mountain and noticed that Jerry was less than 100 meters behind. Now securely in 2nd place overall I worked to cleanly negotiate the final obstacles...that was until I reached my nemesis, the Commando Rope. Because of a lack of understanding of proper technique I had failed on this challenge in the opening round. When I reached it again in the finals I had already made up my mind that I couldn't do it. I attempted and failed. The chase pack, including Jerry, closed. I passed on my second attempt and took my 30 second penalty. It was easily the longest 30 seconds of my life. By the time I left the challenge and began the final climb the group that had been chasing me had reached the obstacle. They were now less than 20 seconds behind! I peered back one last time as I finished the climb to see them slowly trudging up the hill after me. Down I went, under the barbed wire, over the soft sand, through the mud pit, and onto the A-frames. By the sound of the crowd I knew they were right on me but my focus now was on climbing and descending the cargo netting. As I reached the bottom of the final structure I sprinted to the finish and crossed the line in 2nd place overall and 1st in the 40+ division! Although the finals were "untimed" I did hear the announcer say that I had actually raced the finals faster than my qualifier. Pretty cool. As you can see the winner of each division received perhaps one of the most unique trophies I've seen. A Golden Helmet with the race logo on the front. Jerry finished moments behind me as the 2nd overall Master and Dwight narrowly missed the Master's podium sweep in 4th place. Obviously the terrain played to my strength but I think I more than held my own on the obstacles. Seems like all those pull-ups in the gym are good for something after all. This is an event I'll definitely give another go at...that is if I can ever lift my right arm over my head again. Guess I'm not 21 years old.
NEXT UP: Busa Bushwhack