A year ago, my son and his two friends ran the Alpha Race - at that time, it was just over 3 miles of wooded trails and about a dozen military-style obstacles. I sat on the sidelines and watched the racers joking and laughing as they waited for their turn to run, then watched them take off running through the forest.
Then later, I watched as they made that last turn and stood at the top of a 200 foot slip-n-slide created with huge tarps covering the side of a hill (used for sledding in the winter) with hoses spraying cold water from the top and down along the sides. At the bottom of the hill was a mud pit that they had to crawl through before crossing the finish line. I didn't know what was in the middle because spectators could only watch from the start and finish lines.
The starting line is on the left, slip-n-slide on the right.
Last year, I said I would run the Alpha Race in 2013. Last year, I made myself a promise. I kept that promise. Today, I know what happens in the middle.
This is me, getting ready to start the race.
The 2013 Alpha Race in Michigan ended up being 4.2 miles of wooded trails and obstacles. The ground was mostly packed dirt, though some parts were mulched trails, some were muddy and mucky, and other parts were completely flooded due to recent heavy rains. I won't bore you with the running and walking, suffice it to say, I did a considerable amount of both. Here’s what most of the trail looked like:
The first obstacle was long logs, laying horizontally, held up by what appeared to be saw-horses on either end, 4 logs in all, the goal was to go over, under, over, under – not too hard.
The second obstacle was the hardest and most unexpected. Huge ropes tied to trees on either side of a small river, a creek really, about 3 feet deep in the middle. The goal was to hold on with your hands and feet, then "walk" your way across while dangling over the river. I made it about 1/3 of the way across, then, with my hands screaming from the scraping of the rope, I dropped my feet and landed in the (very cold!) water. Cold felt good though, and if I hadn't tripped on a branch at the bottom, it would have only been part of me that was wet, but I trudged on.
The next few obstacles were completed in a bit of a blur, but here's the gist of it....an A-frame style climbing wall with only a rope to pull yourself up, no foot-holds (I nearly lost my footing at the top, but a couple guys behind me gave me some encouragement and advice, and I made it!!), two 16 foot tall climbing walls built of 4x4s that were spaced about 4 foot apart, a net laid low across the soft ground that we had to crawl under, and the cargo net that reached about 12 feet high in the middle (totally fun!). There was a huge pile of old tires dumped across the trail that needed to be climbed over, two huge wooden spools (like the ones used for telephone wire when they put up new lines) that needed to be climbed over (set on their rolling sides, but anchored somewhat), and a 12 foot vertical rope climb. Since this was the last obstacle before the slip-n-slide, I was pretty tired, so I grabbed the rope, gave a couple valiant tries, hugged the rope, promised it a better try next year, and moved on!
My very favorite obstacle though, was two ropes – one above the other, stretched across the creek/river where we needed to cross back over. The goal is to hold the top rope with your hands and put your feet on the bottom rope to maneuver yourself across the river - I ROCKED this one!! My dad had a 100 foot tower in our backyard growing up and it had guide wires to hold it up, spaced just perfect for a kid to climb quite a ways up the wires - I grew up doing this one! I loved it, and it totally gave me the confidence to keep pushing through!!
Here’s where the ropes crossed the creek (picture taken the next day, after everything was taken down):
Before long, I was standing at the top of the slip-n-slide, contemplating the best way to go down it. I thought about sitting on my butt and sliding gracefully to the bottom (as a lot of people were doing), and I thought about how you only get an opportunity to slide 200 feet into a huge mud pit once a year, if that. I made my choice, stepped over the edge of the hill and hurled myself, head-first, down the plastic covered slide. What a RUSH!! That was the most exciting 5 seconds of my weekend, maybe my year! There were a few places where the water pooled and my head went under, but it didn’t bother me at all! At the bottom, I had gained just enough speed to fly over the small hill and into the 2 foot deep mud pit of FREEZING cold water – it completely took my breath away for a minute, but still totally AWESOME!
After crawling through the mud pit, it was just a short jog to the finish line and a much-needed bottle of water.
This is me crossing the finish line at 1 hour, 6 minutes, and 34 seconds.
I looked at this photo 10 times after I finished the race that day and thought it was just another picture. The next morning, I looked at this picture again, and tears filled my eyes. It's not just another picture – it’s a reminder that I kept my promise to myself. I took myself seriously. I really finished the Alpha Race. I proved that I could do it.
I AM Alpha.