Thursday, April 25, 2013

Beach Beast 5K - April 6, 2013

Around Christmas, before I found out how much I preferred the half marathon distance for my races, I was hearing about some friends out in the Tampa area who completed a 5K obstacle race on the beach. The first ever Beach Beast was so successful that the promoters decided to bring the event to Ft. Lauderdale in April. When they began to advertise for the Ft. Lauderdale event, they offered a rock bottom low price of $25/person plus an additional 10% off for a team of 2 or more. 

We figured, for that price, even if the event was a flop, we really didn't have much to lose.

We were signed up for the second wave (the first being reserved for the elite runners), but because we were only given our bibs and not our timing chips during the packet pickup, we were told that we needed to be at the beach at 7:00 am. Little did we know that we only had to be there that early if we were working the event, setting up the obstacles, giving out packets, etc... and not running it. 

So like idiots, we were at the race at 6:30 (because I have a serious tardiness issue and for races always plan to be there WAY earlier than I need to be), which was well before the sun even came up. And of course, it was one of those really rare frigid mornings on the beach where you could see your breath and your teeth couldn't stop chattering. 

On the plus side though, being at the race that early though meant getting to spend some time in the Famous Yankee Clipper Hotel, getting coffee, spending some one on one time together, and pre-race people watching (something that I enjoy immensely). It also meant getting to watch the elite wave as they navigated the obstacles. 

When they first planned this event, they had planned it to fall on a different day. Then, because a famous country artist was coming to town, the city forced the race to switch weekends. In a strange twist of luck, although they had all of the appropriate permits for specific areas of the beach, the musician (with his whole stage and setup) showed up 5 days early and forced the race out of their permitted area and onto another part of the beach. For this reason, the obstacles were a bit jumbled up at the beginning and end of the race, and the race wound up being a little shorter than their advertised 5k. Crap happens (I TOTALLY get that), so I don't really begrudge the race promoters for these issues, because they were legitimately beyond their control.

What I do hold them accountable for is the fact that some of their obstacles were poorly made. Granted, leaving some of their obstacles (like vertical wall climbs made out of plywood) outside overnight the night before may have exposed them to dew, salt and wind... but I think that their construction was poor quality. Poor enough that before even the first wave of participants finished, there was a safety issue as athletes were breaking through the plywood or support beams were coming unfastened. 

For this reason, I chose to forgo a number of the more difficult inverted climb obstacles. I'm sure with a little struggling (and maybe some assistance) I could have navigated these obstacles, but for my own safety (because we also know I am a complete klutz), I decided early on that I would opt out.

Me with Ray and Thomas with a couple of girls from Karma Athletes
When it was time for our wave to go, Ray and I made out way to the start line. I had seen people bunching up at the earlier obstacles, so I knew that there was no real incentive rush past the start line... We stood and talked to a man with whom we had seen when we ran the Warrior Dash. This man, who we would later spend a lot of time talking to, was kind of hard to mistake for anyone else: as a below-the-knee amputee, this man is a complete badass. When we saw him at Warrior Dash, he had been wearing some funky gold spandex costume, but this time, he was in a superman costume, and telling us about his new project... a recently launched website dedicated to "raising America's awareness to amputee needs" (I plan to write a more comprehensive post about Thomas and his Superman Walks project, but that will be reserved for another time).

For some reason Ray thought I needed a boost.
The race was fairly straightforward. From the startline, you run to 3 obstacles (a tire run, a series of boxes that you have to climb over, then a series of over/unders at the waters edge. These were not difficult obstacles, but (unlike my last run where I had no pain whatsoever) early on in this race, I knew that the arches of my feet couldn't handle the uneven terrain. I also struggled in the sand with my shoes, and quickly opted to remove them altogether.

Unfortunately though, because I took off my shoes, and the chips were attached to the shoes, I then had nowhere to stick my timing chip. I tucked it into my back pocket and hoped for the best.

The next 2 miles were a straight shot down the beach to the rock jetty, up the rocks and around a series of cones, then back onto the beach for the return distance toward the finishline. Oh, and a few areas where we were required to stop and crab-walk in the sand or do burpees or jumping jacks.

Easy in theory, but when every step into the soft and uneven sand brought tears to my eyes and made me curse everyone I have ever met over the duration of my entire life... just putting one foot in front of the other proved to be excruciatingly difficult.

At times when I felt like simply sitting my butt into the sand and giving up, I looked toward my new friend Thomas, reminding myself that this was  nothing like what he endured in losing his leg...

Before I knew it, the race was over and we were getting to the last series of obstacles. I think this is somewhat illustrative of my progress through this running journey. When I started, I could barely walk around the block without getting winded. That FIRST tenth of a mile really got me. Then when I started running 5Ks, I struggled to drag myself through them. But I did, and had an immense sense of accomplishment. And then when I started doing half marathons I struggled to keep going (which I openly admit I still struggle with), and I surprise myself everytime that I cross the finish line. But after having done so many half marathons, my perspective has changed.

What was once a whole mile, has now become a nice quick mile. What was once an entire 5K is now just a 5K. Where I used to think of 5 miles as a long run, I now think of 5 miles as a standard training run.

Don't get me wrong. This race sucked (because my own body was failing me, not through the fault of the promoter), and every step was torturous, however it went by in the blink of an eye. Afterall, it was Just a 5K.
The final obstacles were decent, we had sandcrawls, ramps with tires, crawling mazes, an inverted ladder climb (which I avoided lest I fall and injury my feet even more), 80 degree ramps (which I opted to go around because I wouldn't have been able to get the speed needed with my feet hurting so badly), a spiderweb maze, and a series of vertical walls to climb (which I opted out of due to the way they were constructed). 
We crossed the finishline and collected our medals, said our goodbyes and went to breakfast.

We later learned that both of our timing chips failed, so we don't know how long this event took us... but that's ok.

We still had a great morning at the beach.

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