For the past several years I have been racing obstacle courses at a very competitive level. Through dedicated training and lifestyle changes, slowly but surely, I have made my way into the elite levels of competition. I love being out on the mountain but as an athlete I find that my wheelhouse is competing inside stadiums.
I found passion in going up against some of the best athletes in the world. We do battle Inside the great manmade structures in the hearts of the metropolitan centers of the world. From New York to San Francisco and cities in between. Then I heard about the big one. The stadium race to make all others look like an appetizer. The race that dwarfed all other stadiums. At the home of America’s Football Team. This OCR would be held at the home of none other than the Dallas Cowboys.
Hailed as the largest indoor space in the world able to house 80,000 people, this race has been crowned as the King of Stadium Races in the world of OCR. With serious prize money on the line (a total of $35,000 throughout the series) and the veritable “who’s who” of elite level Obstacle Course Racing showing up to toe the line- the stakes in Jerry’s World are extremely high.
An athlete can prepare themselves to a cellular level for events like these. They follow the strictest of diets, and can have entire teams of coaches helping them to train for months on end for a single event like this one. Training cycles, nutrition and mindfulness are dialed in and accounted for. While it isn’t advised, the one thing that is safe to alter at the last minute is competition apparel.
In this department everyone is a little bit different. Some people prefer compression while others prefer simple running shorts. Some athletes opt for a minimal shoe while others choose something with a padded sole and more heel support. It takes some trial and error to dial in the right gear combination but once you have a formula that works most people stick with what works best for them.
Traditionally in a stadium race my feet are snugly housed in something like a Merrill Vapor Glove or Vibram Five Fingers. I like to feel the ground beneath me. I connect better with my surroundings with minimal interruption between me and the surface I’m running on. This season I am running heavier than usual so I opted for something gentler on the foot. This would allow me to land softly from the 7 foot walls and pound across the concrete of the stadium while climbing and descending thousands of stairs all at a breakneck pace. I chose a Nike Pegasus 35 because they looks cool, they have an air pocket running the entire length of the foot and they kept my feet feeling great as I conquered this daunting course inside of Dallas Cowboys stadium.
While pounding through the 4.2 mile course- which takes you from the underbelly, onto the field, up to the tops of the stadium (where the atmosphere almost feels thinner)- my 190 pound frame carried me through over 20 obstacles and through the inner workings of the largest indoor structure in the world.
While the race went very well that isn’t the focus of this article. When viewing some of my post race photos I discovered that something was odd. In one shot there I am, on the field, overtaking a 7 foot wall. My first thought is what anyone might think after looking through their “victory photos” (as they are officially known) “that’s my training at work”. I’ll be the first to mention that I train hard and I’m happy when things go well.
When you’re in the heat of battle the last thing you are thinking about is looking cool. The first thing you’re thinking about is outperforming your rivals and beating the clock. You’re also not thinking about what you’re wearing on your body. If something goes wrong you do what you can to fix it then and there or you tough it out until you’re done.
I received the picture above in an email and the first thought that hit me was, “cool pic.” Simple enough. The second thought was, “Could I move over this wall any faster? What can I change to make this effort more efficient? “ Then after looking closer I noticed something strange.
I zoomed in on the photo and what I saw alarmed me. Smack in the middle of the footbed of my shoe was a massive gash into the body of the sole. I happened to be wearing the same shoes at the time of this discovery and upon looking down what I saw baffled me, then shocked me and then scared me.
My second thought, and this is the alarming one, was that if I had been wearing my usual footwear like the Vapor Gloves or The Five Fingers, whatever stabbed through the sole of my Nike’s would have cut clean through the bottom of my foot, straight into my lateral plantar artery and then exited the top of my foot. I would now have a hole the diameter of a dime in my dominant foot. This would definitely have been the end of my OCR season, possibly worse. Either way it would have been in the hospital.
I don’t know what inside me made the decision to wear the Pegasus’ that day. Perhaps in my heavier state something told me to select a more cushioned ride. Maybe I was overtrained and my feet were hurting from the previous cycle. Whatever the reason that I made this first time switch for this race alone it avoided a very serious injury for any person to endure.
The reasons behind some decisions that we make remain a mystery but this one in particular turned out to be a lucky one for this athlete on this hot morning in Dallas.