By MIKE JETT
The 2011 Rugged Maniac race was one of the high points of my year. PURE Fitness was a major sponsor, my associate Luke and I filmed training videos which ended up turning into the Rugged Regimen â€“ the official training program of the race series, and I performed well in the race, coming in sixth overall.
So naturally the PURE Fitness team was hyped up for the 2012 edition. We expanded our team, which I dubbed PURE Pain, and began doing training runs six weeks out from the race set for Aug. 25.
On race day, our 15-member team headed up to Paoli to take on the Rugged Maniac. At the starting horn I got out pretty cleanly and settled into third by the time we began the descent down the massive slope.
In the lead was a kid, maybe 14, skinny as a rail. Running second was one of the guys I noticed prior to the start, and I figured it would be a duel with him throughout. Flying down that first hill we reached the bottom in no time and made the hair-pin turn to begin the climb back up.
This was the black diamond ski slope at the resort, nearly impossible to continuously run up, but I think I made it to the flat right before my legs gave out.
I have neglected to mention thus far that I had decided to wear my heart rate monitor â€“ my new favorite training tool â€“ during the race. My goal was to have it beep for the entire race, indicating that I was above my comfort zone. By the time I reached the end of the first hill I was hovering around 180 beats per minute, only a few beats away from my age-predicted maximum heart rate.
The first obstacle consisted of a muddy-water â€œpoolâ€ with five faux logs that you had to either go over or under. The runner ahead of me was going under, but I decided to go over â€“ after all, I was completely out of breath and the last thing I wanted to do was hold it while going under water. By the time we exited the pool I had pulled ahead of him and was now leading the wave.
Twenty or so yards later, we hit another massive descent, basically back down the black diamond slope. The other runner flew past me and regained the lead, but began walking as soon as we made the turn and started going up. I passed by him, gave him a bit of encouragement, and would not see him again until the finish.
The rest of the race was about enduring the hills, both up and down. Every once in a while I would glance back and see Chris, a PURE Pain team member, running second behind me â€“ close enough to make me keep running rather than take a walk break. Eventually though, we both had to walk a bit.
The hills were brutal, but the obstacles were great. There were several new ones added to the solid group from last year. There was a massive slide into a muddy pool; several of what I would describe as giant ladders to climb up and then down â€“ these would be treacherous when muddy; mud pits covered by barbed wire to crawl through; and a hanging/swinging tire yard. The tunnels were the new twist.
The first was a dry tunnel, covered by ply wood, that was about twenty yards long, but zig-zagged so that it was very dark â€“ you could not see the end until the final turn.
Stepping back into the light, I felt a bit revitalized, that is until I saw the next steep slope ahead. I ran on and mixed in brief periods of walking. My brain was really getting tired of telling my legs to move, and it was starting to revolt.
The last half mile of the race was radically changed from 2011, and I loved it. It began with the second tunnel, a plastic sewer tube that was angled downward at 45 degrees into a muddy water pit that happened to be covered by barbed wire. I dove into the tube head first and slid into the water. A good strategy but I did end up with a mouth full of dirty water. Gross. Crawling through the mud pit, there was a similar tube on the other side, this one angled up at a 45 degree angle. There was a rope attached to the ground on the other end to pull oneself out.
The sound of music ahead, signifying the finish line, was motivating me to get it going. This year they placed three or four tough, treacherous climbing obstacles just before the finish line. The ladder structures were very muddy and probably 12 feet high, so one had to be careful not to slip off. And the traditional walls, one had no choice but to jump from the 9-10 foot height after scaling to the top, and the landing was certainly a bit jarring to the joints.
I jumped the final obstacle, the famed fire pit, and one final muddy turn later, crossed the finish line, placing first in the 11:30 wave. I did not sprint the finish, and those three seconds cost me in the rankings.
I made my way back in time to see Chris pass by, placing second in the wave. Slowly, more and more PURE Pain members came by, including Louise and Elizabeth, the top female finishers in our wave.
Once we had all gathered, we talked about how much fun it was, despite the pain and misery of the hills. Overall it was a great experience, solidified by the great group of people that made the trip and accomplished the task together. My time was almost 8 minutes slower than last year, yet I still finished eighth overall.
Team PURE Pain learned a lot this year, specifically that we need more hill training, but we will be ready for the 2013 edition! Great work Elizabeth, Anna, Carson, Karah, Katherine, Kellyn, Louise, Terra, Bernard, Brandon, Chris, Josh, Lee, Malik and Willy!