IT’LL HOLD!!!! The source of this encouragement was a race volunteer who looked eerily like an old school ship captain, but dressed in Carhart coveralls and green vest. As I took the three foot drop to the creek bed he repeated this mantra to the runners in pursuit. He was referring to the third, or maybe it was fourth, creek crossing at the Living History Farms Off-Road Race in Urbandale, IA. After the wicked cold snap we had in mid November, many of the creeks were partially to completely frozen solid. This one was half and half. Fighting every human instinct to not cross a frozen body of water, we heeded his advice and scrabbled our way to the other side with only a slight flex of the ice and a pop or two to keep us moving. Just another year of racing at LHF.
In what has become an annual event for our family, my wife and I piled into our car with Andrew Jacob as our passenger. Picking up Logan Watley at his homestead in Elkhorn and we made the trek eastward to Des Moines. A quick two and a half hours later, we were at the hotel and meeting up with LRC open teammate Jason Zakaras and the Tims McCargill and Larsen. After an always solid meal at Rockbottom Brewery, back to the hotel to turn down for an early alarm.
Got to breakfast early and beat all the high school kids to my waffles. Quick half mile jog to the farm itself, a brief recon of some of last year’s worst water crossings, a change into racing shoes, and we were over to the start line to join the 6,000 other racers.
The start of this race is scary. No two ways about it. 6,000 people on a one lane road that turns and has packed snow/ice on it. All at virtually a dead sprint. If you go down, they are not stopping it for little ole’ you. Fortunately some twists and little hills thins things out quickly enough. Winding our way through the farm itself, after about 2 miles we found ourselves on the off road portion of the race. This is where the fun begins as you never know what the course designers are going to throw at you.
This year provided us with ideal racing weather. Temps in the forties, slight south wind, and overcast were all an improvement over last year’s horrid temps of ten degrees with windchill dipping to subzero. Water crossing #1 was a random two-step, shin deep ditch that got your feet nice and cold after just two and a half miles of racing. From there it was very typical LHF. Five creek crossings spaced out by wooded trails that ranged from really fast footing to slick mud covered in wet leaves. Submerged rocks and ice provided an extra little challenge this year, but no major injuries to be had in our crew this year.
At the 35 minute mark we were challenged by a classic steep hill where ropes hung down to aid runners, I finally caught sight of Jason about fifteen seconds up on me. Logan and Andrew were hot on my heels with a mile to go and I was trying to hold them off. Slowly gaining ground on Jason I was within striking distance until the last major uphill. He unknowingly kept a gap on me and was able to be our first team member across the line. Thirteen seconds later I was able to finish off what felt like a slow motion kick. Not too soon thereafter Logan and Andrew came in together. Total team time earned us second place, just one second up on the third place Collegeville TC (Iowa Runablaze in first was well ahead of everyone). Jason and I both managed to find ourselves as age group award winners, him in second and me in fourth. Good enough for some more pottery for the collection and a beef gift certificate. As always a challenging effort over some entertaining terrain. Screw the obstacle course racing, get yourself to this event in 2015