The 2015 Grinder was a completely different beast than last years's slap dash affair. Instead of two months to plan, I had an entire year. I was able to bring in Death Race Points Champion Amie "Live Wire" Booth as co-director and More Heart Than Scar's Zackary Paben signed on to provide crew/medical/pack mule/comedic support. The course, while in the same location, made much better use of the terrain. And most importantly, thanks to the hard work of some friends, we finally were creating a small but definite buzz in the endurance community. Our schemes were laid as well as they could be and we were anticipating an event that would truly put Boo Hag Races on the map.
Instead, we nearly got wiped off of it.
A week before The Grinder, weather reports were predicting rain up to and including race day, and I couldn't have been happier. Despite being a cypress swamp, the Congaree River basin had been unusually dry on my scouting runs and I figured that a good couple of inches of rain would do wonders for increasing the difficulty of the trails.
I hit the camp at 9:00 a.m., set up base, laid out the first challenge and set to work doing a final walk through. All the challenge areas were nicely muddied and The King Snake Trail, a rarely used riverside 12 mile out and back and the centerpiece of our first time trial had bloomed nicely over the two weeks since I'd seen it last, turning the single track effectively into an overgrown, thorn covered game trail. In other words, it' was perfect.
That is, until about 3 hours into the official start (some competitors had made the mistake of checking in early and were immediately put to work. Two time men's winner, Mitchell Wallace, started nearly 8 hours early, and despite my best efforts, beat The Grinder again. I'm still looking for someone who can take him down. Get up with me if you think that you have what it takes). While it had been raining on and off all day long, the sky completely opened up in the middle of the night swim and all hell broke loose. Cutting the next challenge short, challengers had to hightail it back to cover, all the while carrying a 12 and 8 foot kayak over water logged trails, across slippery, uneven bridges and through hanging branches that all seemed determined to pitch someone into the river. The muddy basin I saw earlier that day had become a full on flood plain, with over 12 inches of rain falling by daybreak.
The next several hours were a blur of hastily altered plans, medical checks, gear changes and many, many drop outs. By daylight, 70% of the original competitors that signed up were either officially out, DQ'd and competing unofficially, or on the fence. By 10:00 a.m., there were only two people left, our eventual winners: Mitchell, and Grinder newcomer, Wendy Paben.
In the end, nothing turned out as originally intended. Like the mouse whose home was plowed up by the farmer in Sir Robert's poem, our plans were completely uprooted and had to be rerouted, altered or scrapped completely in the name of safety.
But thruthfully? Being challenged at a race I created made the whole thing a much richer and rewarding experience. The event crew wasn't allowed to idly sit by and watch the proceedings. When the rain came and the river plowed across our course, we had to scrabble to make something new from "That wee bit heap o' leaves an' stibble" which would still honor the original plan and give our racers the experience they came for.
And from the responses so far, it looks like we succeeded. Thank you so much to everyone who contributed to this year's success; I can't wait to see you again next time!