I ran the Men's Health 2009 Urbanathalon last weekend up in Chicago. Definitely a different kind of race for me. It's a 12-ish mile course with obstacles: monkey bars, marine hurdles, stadium stairs, taxi cabs, a 8' wall and a tire obstacle.
My girlfriend Erin, my buddy Jeremiah, his girlfriend Erin and I flew up there on Friday morning. Instead of taking it easy the day before the race we spent most of Friday walking around the city. We did turn in early that night...well, they did, I couldn't sleep, so I spent three hours in the lobby reading books and trying to get tired. Figures.
We got up around 6 on Saturday for the race. Jeremiah and I headed down there early, we decided to walk/run there instead of cabbing it. Seemed like a good way to warm up. It was about a mile and a half away and during the hike down there it started a strange rain/drizzle/snow/hail combination. I actually liked it, as I'm a fan of running in weather like that.
Anyways, we got to the start, stretched, wasted time, etc. The way the race was started was moronic. They simply divided us up by age and sex. So, males under 25 started first, followed by 25-29 males, etc. I felt pretty bad for people who started in, say, the 30-35 age group and had trained for the race and felt like the had a chance to place. They'd be forced to weave in and out of hundreds of people who had started before them. They gave us about 5 mins between heats, which didn't help the serious competitors at all.
We started off towards the North, headed to Navy Pier. At the pier we encountered our first obstacle, the tires. Simple, run through the tires, jump over the big ones, run through more tires, etc. Not a tough obstacle, you just had to make sure you weren't stuck behind someone really slow.
After the pier we headed back down South, towards Solider Field. At Solider Field, heading South, we hit the second obstacle, the monkey bars. Again, a simple obstacle, as long as you had good momentum and weren't stuck behind someone who decided to just hang there or drop off and not get out of the way.
We continued South. We were on mile 7 or 8 when I started really wanting some sports drink. They had water stations that were just that, water only stations. No Gatorade, Powerade, nothing. Just water. That really sucked.
The turn-around was the marine hurdles. Man, I didn't expect these. First off, they were on a sand volleyball court. Running up to it was the first time I'd wished I'd had gaiters on. I cleared the first two ok. The third one was tougher. I swear I had to jump higher to get it (I think because of the slope of the beach). I tried 3 times to get over it, and I couldn't. Shiiittt. Screw it, I went under it. I felt like a loser for that. Better yet, Jeremiah saw me fail to get over that last hurdle. Excellent.
Heading back North we had three obstacles left, the stairs, the taxi cab and the wall. I wasn't moving nearly as fast as Jeremiah wanted me to. I wasn't tired or worn out, I was just moving at my own pace, which I like to think is a consequence of running ultras. I like to think that, it's probably not true.
We got to Soldier Field in short order and started up the stairs. We headed up to the top level and were ushered into one of the sections. This part was the definition of a clusterfuck. They had two sections of stairs for us to run and were randomly dividing us between the sections. We were told to run past the first and do the second. Ok. We got to the second and found a giant mass of people trying to crowd into the same small section entrance. On top of that, the runners from the first section were coming out right next to us. It was a total disaster. We must have wasted 5 minutes just standing there trying to get onto the stairs.
The stairs were mostly a walk, not a run. There were so many people going up and down you didn't get much of a chance to walk until you ran into someone's rear. I didn't mind this much as I didn't have the energy to run the stairs.
We left Soldier Field and headed to the finish. I wasn't moving nearly fast enough for Jeremiah and he spent most of the last part trying to speed my ass up. It wasn't happening. We got back to the start, hopped the cab and waited in line to scale the wall. Jeremiah helped me over. I don't know if I needed it or not, but it was nice to have the help.
We finished in 1:56 and something. Not bad. The winner ran a 1:08, I think. Which is completely insane.
Once it was over I felt like I could easily do the course three more times. I don't know if that's a mental and/or physical shortcoming I have now. I didn't feel like I could run faster during the race, but I could do the race several more times.