{Monster Challenges: A Personal Apology}

Over the past few weeks, the OCR world has been buzzing with passionate discussions about cheating during races.  I had recently written about my frustration over cheating seen at Savage Race, and if you follow the OCR world you’ve inevitably seen the photo of the man pouring out his bucket of dirt at a recent Spartan Race that has sparked intense debates about race regulation and what’s to be considered cheating.  Whether it be during competitive or open wave of an event, there has been a recent backlash against those who cut corners or cheat during their event, and (in my opinion) this is rightfully so.  Races who offer competitive waves should enforce regulations on those striving for top placement so as to avoid cheating, hands down.

Due to this recent increase in concern, Deby, Event Coordinator of Monster Challenges, decided to be proactive and made the executive decision to enforce competitive wave rules by sending them to all participants prior to race day.  I thought this was an excellent move, and told her as such upon receiving the email.  I was happy to see a race taking initiative and truly taking competitive wave enforcement seriously.  And as I prepared for this race, I was excited for a tough challenge, one that I’d heard would provide an excellent group of elite runners eager to earn top placement.

Little did I know that this race was about to throw me headfirst into a situation that would make me both second guess my own performance, but also force me to reevaluate how I will handle certain situations in future races.  Ultimately, I feel that I must first apologize to the women who I raced against this weekend.  I’ll tell you why.

Almost a mile into the race an intensely difficult obstacle was encountered.  An I-Beam spanned across a bed of mud, requiring competitors to grab hold, swing their feet up, and shimmy their way across the beam to the other side.  There was an alternative, easier obstacle that could be traversed, but that would result in an immediate DQ should someone running for placement choose to take this route.  Rules had been distinctly communicated prior to the competitive wave being sent on our way; we were to attempt this obstacle, and if we failed, go to the back of the line and try again.  We were not to cut in line, but to go to the back and wait our turn to try again.  Simple enough, and a very understandable request.

The race began as usual, with the competitive wave fighting tenaciously to gain ground against those striving to beat them.  The competitive was fierce, and we catapulted over barrels and logs, sloshed through thick mud, and fought our way across a long stretch of monkey bars, attempting to solidify our position as we continued through the course.

And then we came to a complete stand still, something rare for a competitive wave (if you ever want to annoy a group of elite runners, make us wait in line, unfortunately you won’t see the best side of us).  A long lineup of anxious competitors waited our turn on the I-Beam, trying not to show our agitation at having to wait to complete an obstacle, as we watched our foes who had been lagging behind now joining the line just inches behind us.  It was as though we’d been brought to a grinding halt just to size each other up as we gasped for breath, awaiting our turn on the upcoming obstacle.

We waited… and waited, the line growing immensely longer until, after several minutes, my turn finally arrived on the beam.  I was uncertain as to how my upper body strength would hold up through this obstacle, and was thankful for the aid of a fellow elite wave member who offered to help boost my feet up so I could get a firm hold on the obstacle.  I then began creeping my way across the beam.  Fearing that wrapping my arms along the top of the beam would result in a DQ, I held onto the bottom ledge with my fingertips, and slowly made my way across.  As I progressed, the pain in my hands and fingers became intense, and I knew that I did not have the grip strength to continue.  Finally, with a frustrated cry, I fell to the ground.  Defeated, I began heading to the back of the line (which now had increased to an incredibly long wait), debating between another try at this dreadful obstacle, or choosing to DQ myself, take the easy route, and continue on without a 20+ minute wait.  And as I was engulfed in this internal debate, those who had been directly behind me in line beckoned me to jump the line and try again.  ‘Are you sure?” I questioned, knowing the rules of the race had stated otherwise.  They all vehemently agreed it was okay, inviting me back onto the platform for another try.  This time, I saw a female competitor wrapping her entire arms around the top of the beam, just as I’d feared I shouldn’t, and hopped up to the platform to quickly climb up and use this method.  The 2nd attempt was successful, and I continued on.

But although I had completed the obstacle and was allowed to run on, the feeling that I’d done something wrong ate away at me through the rest of the race, and still today I do not feel right about how that circumstance played out.  I was proud of myself for conquering a difficult obstacle, mad at myself for not trying it with my arms wrapped the 1st time so as not to have avoided the initial fall, and conflicted about having accepted the opportunity to jump into the front of the line and have another try before waiting in line behind everyone else who had yet to attempt the obstacle.  Had the wait not been so long I don’t think that I would have accepted their offer, but then again I have not been in a competitive situation such as this before where a lengthy wait time behind all other elite runners was the punishment for a failed obstacle.  In the end, it was just a bad situation, a crappy circumstance, and I made a split decision.

After completing the I-Beam, the rest of the race became more about completion than placing, and I continued on course, resolving to do the best I could despite the initial hiccup.

The race itself was fantastic, one that I’d had my sight set on running for a while.  Built as a permanent course, the natural obstacles built into the winding trails provide a stellar challenge, and I was incredibly impressed with how difficult the race was.  The course was beautiful, and the barrage of demanding upper body focused obstacles provided an intense test of strength and stamina.  This race truly tested my strengths, and reminded me of my weaknesses, as I struggled through the Tyrolean Traverse, and failed the dreaded Curved Creature, a wicked half-pipe wall.

Although competitor rules had been emailed out, and then recited prior to the race, direction was still confusing as many competitors were given different instructions at the I-Beam, Ninja Walls, and Curved Creature.  I do not fault the Race Director for this though, and instead take this as the result of volunteers who did not clearly, nor consistently, communicate the expectations to the competitive wave participants.

So although I finished well, I leave this race behind with mixed feelings.  I am disappointed in myself for choosing to cut a corner when offered the chance, and for that I apologize.  I did not intend to disappoint anyone, as I typically pride myself on running fair and ethical races where my own actions can never be called into question.  I do hope that Monster Challenges is able to find a fix to aid in eliminating drastic wait times, specifically during competitive waves, and to also be sure that volunteers communicate the same expectation to all competitors.  I really loved the challenge of this race, I loved that it showed me the areas that I need to work on.  It was also a lot of fun, as a low crawl through snow, a huge slide, and a zip line provided an insane amount of unique excitement during the race.  Ultimately I’d like to redeem myself and take this race on again, in order to prove to myself, as well as to everyone else I competed against that I can earn my place fairly and without question.

So perhaps you’ll see me at the next Monster Challenges, coming up on October 11th of this year.  And this time, I promise you there will be no question as to how I earned my place when I cross that finish line.

~Holly

Deby, as the Event Coordinator of Monster Challenges I greatly respect you and want to thank you for the opportunity to run your race.  I loved it, despite the fact that it ate me alive and spat me back out a hot mess of emotions.  Thank you for challenging me, for entrusting me to run your event, and for allowing me to spew my feelings about it all over this post.  I hope you know how much I truly loved your event, and I cannot wait to tackle the I-Beam & Curved Creature (AND OWN THEM BOTH!) once again. 

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9 thoughts on “{Monster Challenges: A Personal Apology}

  1. 100% agree re: the I-beam. I ran the elite wave as well, and ended up sandwiched between the joy of catching up to two who had passed me, then the realization that four more caught up to me while we all…waited.

    And waited.

    I had a great second split but this delay really killed the fire of the comp wave for me as far as having any chance to place. I will say the volunteers overall were very good about watching for folks who failed an obstacle and calling them back to either start over or enforce the burpees; definitely a refreshing change after Savage – and even a couple stations at the Miami Super.

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  2. I was there at the I-beam as well, and even witnessed them inviting you back to the front of the line after you fell. I saw the uncertainty in your face and believe that your choice was a spontaneous one, and it does not define you as a person or as a competitor. Thank you for having the moral fortitude to acknowledge and write about it because as yours was a choice made at a moments notice, I watched numerous “competitors” completely go around the I-beam or go right to the ‘easy’ side of the obstacle (sadly enough, mostly women). You are an inspiration and a class act, and I hope to see you at another event soon! 🙂

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  3. I have a great respect for honest reviews of races, and people, but even more so for those who admit a mistake. It is difficult to admit, we know.

    We severely under-estimated this competitive group. In past events, top competitors separated themselves much earlier. So, when we changed the course route to make it more interesting to repeat participants, we were sure the separation would take place before reaching the eye beam. We were wrong. Unfortunately, that was at the expense of all who participated in that wave. And for that, we apologize. But, this does prove that those who compete are getting faster and stronger.

    We hope that Muddy Mommy gets another chance with us. Until then, we will do our best to provide a safe, competitive, fair, and fun environment to meet eye-to-eye.

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  4. Maybe adding a second I-beam would help move thing along faster and ease up the bottleneck. I didn’t run this in the competitive wave and the “easier” version of the obstacles were all jammed up and I opted to do the harder challenge. The I-beam was new to me and the Curved monster whipped it’s tail in my face.
    However, I had more fun “wasting time” helping others at the walls and chatting with other runners. The course is challenging and I’m already signed up for the next one since I had so much fun this time around. Yes I can be competitive too but too many of these competitive wave runners act like there’s a million dollar prize on the line. My wife and I run these for fun mostly, yes we have both run them for time and took awards for our age group (we’re both over 50). We look forward to running these races for more years to come and getting our grand-daughter involved once she’s old enough to run with us.

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  5. Simply having a course marshal on the I-Beam obstacle and timing a specific interval to allow completion would have removed a lot of the waiting. If each participant had 30 seconds to either finish or be forced to dismount & return to the line it would have gone a bit quicker. It wasn’t that participants were trying and failing, it was the very slow completions that were backing up the line. I also think the change to allow use of the full bar and not just the bottom lip slowed things down a bit.

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  6. Just wanted to let you know that I appreciate your honest review, and that we are all very sorry so many mistakes were made… We’re all working hard to see what we can do to fix it and to ensure it won’t happen again.
    Thanks for being there, and giving us such a helpfull review!

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  7. This was really about having an obstacle that just couldn’t accommodate the amount of (competitive) people. A timing interval still would have allowed a back-up and that’s unacceptable by our standards. It’s a great obstacle. But, we need more beams.Totally our fault.

    I hope this helps our participants understand why we close the competitive wave registration when we reach a certain amount. We know the capacity, for the most part; yet they want to participate. This was our first attempt at a competitive wave with over 80 people. The extra 45 people…very competitive athletes kept the pack from separating, as usual.

    #catch22

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  8. Pingback: I cheated | Obstacle Racing Media

  9. Pingback: {The End of an Era: Saying Farewell to Monster Challenges} | Muddy Mommy

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