Look out, Spartan Race. There is a new kid in town. The inaugural Celtic Warrior Challenge kicked off in Meridian, MS, this weekend and it was a spectacular success!
What made it such a great time? Absolutely perfect weather. Super friendly staff. (Shout out to Julie & Jason!) A great Festival Area for a band new race. And some truly fun obstacles.
Tell you more about the obstacles, you say? Well, if you have done other OCRs, you will be right at home! There were multiple carries including sandbags and buckets. But there were some clever spins involving dangling buckets and PVC pipes. There were several climbing obstacles including a wicket set of triple walls, some cargo nets, a couple of military-style log stations, a pipe-covered Z-Wall, and an evil slip wall that required a running leap if you wanted to complete it solo. Throw in some crawling and dragging. A rope climb. Some balance work. Agility challenges. And add a 25# slamball throw. Then top it off with a grip-burning multirig. Boom! It is OCR Nirvana with a sultry Southern accent.
Tell you more about the course? Bonita Lakes Park is 3300 acres of rolling hills crisscrossed with streams and miles of winding trails. The course went around the larger lake and was only rough in a couple of places. Most of it was on a warn trail with about a quarter mile on an access road. The views around the lake were beautiful this time of year, especially for Mississippi. The leaves and roots on the trail made for a technical run and thankfully nobody was close enough to see me trip once or thrice.
How was the pandemic handled? Lots of social distancing. The runners were spaced in waves of only five people per wave, approximately five minutes between waves. Within a mile, I did not have anyone within 50 feet of me except at some of the obstacles.
How did Your Humble Narrator do? Well…. It is never a dull moment for me and somehow, I had my head fixated on a 5K plus 18 obstacles. I did not bring my hydration pack. And did not bring any fuel. During the opening ceremony… surprise! It is 10k plus 26 obstacles. Okay. No problem. If I can do 5k, I can do 10k. Right? Right!
And then I run off course. Completely my fault, though. I turned onto the bike trails and did not look back. For almost 3 miles. Until I noticed I had run in a complete circle. (sigh) Climbed over a hill and found the course. While I was at 4 miles on my watch, everyone else was just over one mile. So, yeah, I had that going for me.
Out of 26 obstacles, the only one that I did not finish was: the rope climb. Why? The bottom half of the rope was coated (COATED!) in mud. I have climbed plenty of wet ropes at Spartans. (Twice in the rain during the Carolinas 2019 Ultra!) But this rope was slicker than baby snot and my cleats would not bite enough to hold my weight. In my defense, nobody ahead of me was able to finish the climb, nobody next to me finished it, and while I was in earshot, nobody behind me rang the bell. The slam ball throw took me four tries to figure out. The slip wall took me two leaps to grab the top. And then the second-to-last obstacle was a massive tire flip. My practice tire is 200# and I can routinely flip it twice during a MetCon. When I got my fingers under the Big Celtic Tire, I could not budge it without invoking my lower back. After doing nearly 15K without any hydration or fuel, I was frustrated and on fumes. So, I saved my spine by cursing the tire’s lineage and skipping it. A couple of dozen yards later, I rang the bell on the multirig (see below for a preview) and ran across the finish line.
Overall, a very enjoyable race with great obstacles, supportive volunteers, and gorgeous weather. If I had brought the right fuel and not gone off course, it would have been a perfect day. Even with my own setbacks it was my favorite race of the year. And I am eager to race in more Celtic Warrior Challenges!