The Summit Solstice 4-Mile Obstacle Challenge

As I lay sprawled out on the lawn in front of the Davidson library, I stared up at the picturesque blue sky and thought to myself, “What the cuss [Author’s Note: I will be using Fantastic Mr. Fox expletives for this entire post] am I doing here?”  But I’m getting ahead of myself – let’s back up.

Months ago, Chris Murphy, one of the owners of the Triple C Brewing Company, got Laura and me entries into the Summit Racing Series, a series of road races put on by Summit Coffee in Davidson.  Which meant we’d be running every race in the series, including the Solstice 4-miler which had somehow morphed from the awesome half-cross-country/half-road-race it was a year earlier into one of these trendy new warrior-dashy-cross-fitty-road-race-but-not-quite kind of hybrid thingies.

Along came Saturday, June 8, where Laura, her 2 boys, and I found ourselves in Davidson.  I had brought along a basketball because I heard one of the challenges would be shooting hoops and I wanted to get in a few practice shots beforehand.  Prior to June 8, the last time I picked up a basketball was over Thanksgiving when my 10-year-old nephew Eli very nearly took me in a game of one-on-one.  The charity for this event was Nothing But Nets, Stephen Curry’s baby, and if Stephen Curry was involved, I thought we might have to shoot 3-pointers, and as I was obviously rusty, I needed the practice.  So Laura and the boys and I shot a few practice shots on the Davidson Fire Department’s basket.  Little did I know, shooting basketball, something I’ve done a lot of during my life, was going to be the least of my worries.

Finally, post time arrived as Laura and I lined up in front.  I took the opportunity to talk a little smack when she asked me “Will you wait for me at the finish?” and I responded with “No, I want to go get a beer.  Don’t worry, I’ll be back in time to see you finish.”  Karma made a little mental note of my hubris.

Then Brian Helfrich, one of the Summit guys, yelled “Go!” and just like that, yet again, I was screaming down South Street.  An older, hippy-looking, guy with a long, graying, ponytail jetted out in front with a few kids close behind.  I tried to go with him but a glance at the ol’ Garmin showed we were cruising along at about 5:15 pace.  Whoa, back off cowboy, let him go, he’ll come back to you (which he never did, by the way).  I settled down into something more akin to my usual 5K pace.

We entered the greenway at the bottom of South Street and soon encountered the first challenge where the elder hippy and about 9 or 10 others who had gone out faster than me, were busy doing burpees in the grass off to the side of the trail.  Some volunteers were screaming instructions, “Give us twenty burpees!  Shoulders and hips must touch the ground!”  Twenty?!?  Cuss.  I was a wee bit miffed – I am an old-school running purist.  I want USATF, purely running, events – if I wanted to do calisthenics with my running, I would have joined the Marines.  Oh well, I was in it and I was here to compete so I just thought, “Cuss it.  Let’s get this over with.”  I got down to it.

I need to make a point here – this race was a Kip Litton wet dream.  Nobody was keeping up with, nobody could, count of the racers’ reps.  I’m pretty sure I saw a girl jump up and take off after 3, maybe 4 tops, burpees.  I cursed, but I insisted upon doing all twenty, even if my shoulders and hips may have failed to completely touch ground on 1 or 2 reps.  But they hit grass.  Grass, ground, same thing right?

After the burpees, my quads were already fried.  Before the race, I told Laura, “Make sure to hit the lap button immediately before and after each challenge so you’ll be able to tell your actual running pace later”.  One obstacle in and I had already forgotten my own advice.  I glanced down at the Garmin and it had some ridiculous pace like 12-minutes or something.  I had no clue how fast I was actually running – might have been 5:30 pace.  Or 9:30.  Who knew?  I just focused on trying to chase down 3-reps burpee girl – no way I was letting her beat me.

Next obstacle, lunges, although they had some trendy new Crossfit name, they will always be lunges to me.  Twenty of these to do.  “Mother cusser!”, I thought.  But I did ’em all, even as 3-rep burpee girl was up and running after 4 or 5 lunges.  “Why that little cuss”, I muttered under my breath.

My legs were wet noodles after the lunges and I was cussing (literal usage here, not Mr. Fox) the Helfriches, Davidson Timing, and/or whoever else had helped come up with this sadistic race.   But rep cheatin’, little Ms. Kip Litton, was up ahead, and I focused hard on trying to reel her in.

Next up, Ben and Jerry’s.  At least I was prepared for this one as Summit had posted this video a day earlier. We ran up to volunteers who handed us popsicle sticks.  We put said sticks into our mouths and then scooped up whipped cream with them.  Then we had to spin around 5 times and run to the sprinkles station where we, popsicle stick still in mouth, scoop up sprinkles then spin 5 more times.  Um.  Spinning and then running with a stick in your mouth?  Hey, whoever came up with this one, isn’t this the kind of thing your mom screamed at you about?  What’s next, the Scissors Hundred Meter Dash?  Jesus Cussing Christ.

Ms. Kip Litton, a few meters ahead of me now, spun and ran simultaneously and I could no longer keep silent.  “Hey, is that legal?” I screamed as I pointed at her, but the volunteers ignored me.  I made a mental note, “I will NOT lose to that girl.”  I finished spinning, walking lest I fall and gouge out the back of my throat with a popsicle stick, ate my whipped cream and sprinkles, and chased the girl.

Legs of mush, nauseous from the lingering whipped cream and sprinkles taste in my mouth, I carried on, happy that I could not see any imminent obstacles ahead, I ran.  As we neared the end of the greenway, I saw a waterstop ahead and was just about to run past when someone screamed, “You have to stop and do the cup challenge!”  Ugh.  I stopped.

Here you had to flip an upside-down plastic cup until it landed in the upright position.  “You try up to 5 times.  If you don’t get it by then, you can go.”  I tried twice in earnest until it became readily obvious that I was not going to be able to do this quickly.  Then I just flipped it over three times and took off.  It looked to me like Ms. Litton bypassed the cups altogether.  Cuss, cuss, cuss!

Finally, we had a significant stretch, a straightaway, to run down Pine Road.  Ha, Ms. Litton, how are you going to get out of this one?  I passed her – her legs looked to be mushier than mine as we approached our next obstacle, the basketball shoot.

This was the only challenge I’d call ‘easy’.  Dribble through some cones, shoot a layup, piece of cake – I was out of there in only a few seconds, although I had to wait a beat for the guy in front of me who blew his shot.  As I exited, Laura, tight on my heels, approached and screamed “Go Allen!”  Karma laughed.  On the way out of the basketball challenge area, kids sprayed us with water from squirt guns, cool, until the last kid threw a full cup of water square in my face, not cool.  My Triple C Beer Runners singlet was now completely drenched.  I tried to take it off and carry it but then thought how that defeats the entire purpose – wearing that thing was the reason I was here in the first place.  So I put it back on.

We were back on the greenway for a stride or two when we came upon the next challenge, ropes to crawl under.  Son of a cuss.  I started on the far left until I noticed it was significantly muddier there than in the other lanes.  Cuss that, I switched to a drier lane and crawled as fast as I could.  Some cusshole rolled instead of crawling as volunteers screamed at him that he couldn’t roll, he had to crawl, but he ignored them.  How many people did similar things throughout this race?  I know I saw people at the start that looked incapable of doing twenty burpees, let alone the rest of it – how were they getting through this thing?

Finished with the crawling, now we ran for a significant stretch.  We were running up the pretty tough incline that is Concord Road which is plenty challenging on its own without the need for any obstacles.  I focused on trying to reel folks in when suddenly I noticed a tiny little kid up ahead.  What the cuss?  I told myself, “You are not losing to any cussing 5-year-old.  Reel him the cuss in.”  I made little progress as that tough little kindergartner maintained the gap he had on me.

Next challenge, beer (minus the beer) pong – they handed us ping pong balls and we shot at cups, in a triangle formation, on a table.  My first shot was short, ricocheting off the first cup.  Then I gathered myself up enough to realize that if I just lobbed the ball toward the middle of the formation, I almost couldn’t miss – it was bound to come to rest in the bottom of a cup.  So I did – second attempt, nothing but cup.  Back to chasing the little kid.

I passed the kid.  I was miffed that his dad looked to be leisurely jogging next to him even as I struggled to take in enough oxygen to keep my legs moving.  I did manage to ask the father, “How old?”  “8”, he replied.  Cuss.  Battling it out with an 8-year-old.  Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

I’ll admit it – I was utterly fatigued and downright loopy through much of this race.  Maybe the girl I’ve dubbed Ms. Kip Litton did 4 burpees – maybe she did 24.  Maybe she did the cup flip, or maybe she bypassed it altogether.  I may have been seeing things as I was hallucinogenic I was so wiped out.  This felt like Navy Seals training, not a road race.  But after the (beer) pong, I thought we were done with challenges.  As usual, I was wrong.

I struggled mightily for the last mile, running up the god-forsaken Lorimer Road.  It seems like every race in Davidson ends running up this horrific hill – it is the Morehead of Davidson.  But at least there weren’t any obstacles.  Or so I thought.  As we entered the green, the lawn in front of the library, with less than 50 meters to go, more obstacles stood between us and the finish line.

First, there were people handing out strips of paper that contained a ‘mental’ challenge.  Great, just what I needed in my condition.  I doubt I could have done simple math at this point.  My paper read something like, “Grab a mosquito net and catch…” then a name, Musky?  Mosqui?  Mike?  Some alliterative name for a mosquito.  Cuss.  I spotted the guy in the mosquito mascot costume, but no net.  I screamed angrily, “Where the cuss is the net?!?!” and some girl pointed to some netting on the steps of the library.  I grabbed it and went after the mosquito, who attempted to evade me until I yelled, “Do not cuss with me or I swear to god I will full on tackle you!”  I threw the net over him and then had to navigate these:

Are you cussing me?  Seriously?

Are you cussing me? Seriously?

Before the race, I had told Laura, “Let’s just get through this without getting hurt.  We just want to get the series points and get out of here without injury.”  For 3.99 out of 4 miles, I was successful in accomplishing this goal.  With about 25 meters to go, I started to high step through the tires, something I’ve done hundreds of times back in the day, during P.E. and/or football practice or just goofing off, etc. etc. But back then I was a spry teenager, not some decrepit old man, and I had never navigated through tires after some 4-grueling miles of obstacle-laden road race.  I caught the first tire, twisted my ankle, and went down.  I laid there and stared at the sky and cursed, while Karma just chuckled.

Well cuss, I can’t quit now.  I got up and gingerly stepped through the tires and finished, my ankle throbbing.  I barely held off 8-year-old Vaughn Siemers who I’m sure saw me just laying there and licked his chops.  Limping across the finish line, I bested tiny Vaughn by 2 cussing seconds.

As I crossed, I grabbed a bottle of water from a volunteer and bent over and put my hands on my knees, just as Laura came through the line.  She is getting fit and soon I will be chasing her.  Again.

Thank god that was over.  We made our way to Chris Murphy at the Triple C tent where he was busy pouring beer, each participant’s first one was free.  As he handed me mine, I said, “This is my first first beer.  I will be back for more first beers.”  I drank a few in an attempt to mask the ankle pain.

Laura won her age group while I finished second in mine. Here is a post-race pic.  I wasn’t much up for a big grin:

Notice my expression - something halfway between a grimace and a smile - grateful the race was over, but in pain.

Notice my expression – something halfway between a grimace and a smile – I’m grateful the race is over, but in pain.

To cap the night off, Laura’s 9-year-old son Wilson won the raffle for a Stephen Curry-autographed Davidson jersey.  After about a minute and a half’s worth of cornhole tosses, Wilson was wildly more successful than I had been after 4 grueling miles of obstacle racing.

Here is the aftermath of the race:

Swollen, discolored foot - this is precisely why I am not a fan of warrior-trail-crossfit-obstacle races.

The day after.  Swollen, discolored foot – this is precisely why I am not a fan of warrior-trail-crossfit-obstacle races.

I survived the Summit Solstice 4 Mile Obstacle Challenge.  Barely.  Now we have to see how far this sets back marathon training.  I hope I can limp around enough to mow the yard today.


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