Savage Race Houston Left Me Bruised and Exhilarated

I’m still a bit mushy from the Savage Race Houston I completed Saturday with members of my box. This post might include sappy stuff, because Clear Lake CrossFit is like the extended family I’ve always wanted. You’ve been warned.

My box did the Savage Race Houston as a team. I surprised myself by wanting to be on the course longer.

The Savage Race Houston: What?

I thought my obstacle course racing days ended with Rugged Maniac. I had very little intention of ever doing one again. Then, Coach Holly organized a big group to do the Savage Race Houston. It’s hard to say no when we would be celebrating her birthday. I signed up with trepidation, vowing to skip the giant slide and anything involving scary heights.

Several days before, I checked the weather forecast. It did not look good; at our start time, I think it was something like 50 degrees. I wore black capris, a tank top, a sports bra with no padding (wet padding did not sound like fun), and Merrell trail running shoes. I also wore a $6 Wal-Mart sweatshirt that I planned to chuck, and a pair of gimme sunglasses that I was prepared to lose.

The day began with all of us (28 of us, I think) meeting at the box to carpool. After a bit of shuffling around, Roy invited me to ride up to Cat Spring with him, his fiancee Jenn, Jacquie, and Joey. It was a great group, and people I don’t normally see since we work out at different times. We stopped twice: once at Starbucks because Joey and I needed coffee, and once at Buc-cee’s because the rest of the caravan was pausing there, and I had to go to the bathroom from the aforementioned coffee.

Savage Race Houston: Team Clear Lake CrossFit's "before" picture
The Clear Lake CrossFit crew, before.

Cat Spring is kind of out in the boonies. Savage Race Houston was being held at 7IL Ranch, about an hour and a half’s drive. Once we got out of Houston and past Katy, we saw a whole lot of nothing. I love driving through little towns like Seely with their old storefronts and imagining what they were like in their heyday.

We got there in plenty of time to get our numbers, snack a little, goof around a little, and have Rob take our picture. Holly made sure we were all in groups so that we would have the most fun. At the beginning, I stuck with Coach Dana, a pleasant running partner (and, spoiler alert: she also skipped the Shriveled Richard obstacle).

Running 7.2 Miles of Trails – and 27 Obstacles

“Trails” is too nice of a word, I think. Savage Race did a great job of marking the course, but for most of the running, we were on ankle-breaking terrain: grass with a lot of holes.

Anyway, at the start line, we all kind of goofed off while we waited for our 11:20 wave to start. Apparently, Clear Lake CrossFit was the largest team there, so go us! Then, we started, and the first mile was pretty uneventful. I ended up in a pack of six with Coach Dana, Tiffany, Jess, Coach Holly, and Allen. I think the first obstacle was an over/under thing, where you propelled yourself over a fence and then ducked under a fence. The “under” part was my favorite. We went along like that, the six of us, bobbing and weaving around holes in the grass, doing some obstacles, until we got to an Achilles heel for me: heights.

Savage Race Houston: The Six Pack
The Six Pack.

Yes, I am moderately skittish climbing walls. You’d think with all the fence-climbing I did in high school, I’d be a champ. But high school was over 20 years ago, and the idea of scrambling over a fence with no footholds terrified me.

You know who helped me over after I balked? Coach Holly. There was one fence in particular that had a lip, and I was really, really scared that I’d lose my grip, fall on my ankle, and break it for real. It was Coach Holly that gave me the boost and got me to grip the lip of the wall and pull myself over (and Allen standing behind me as reassurance that someone would catch me – Allen, you have no idea how scared I was about my stupid ankle, and I can’t thank you enough). Here’s where I get kind of mushy: having Coach Holly come back and help me over those walls meant a lot. Seriously. I can run to keep up with y’all, and I can crawl through mud and climb cargo nets (and barn doors with footholds, and little rock wall obstacles) and swim across the water under the monkey bars, and for you to help me over walls and help me with that fear is something I can’t even describe. [/mushy]

Savage Race Houston: Coach Holly being an amazing coach
There are no words. Just emoji. <3

At some point, Joey, Jenn, Roy, Jarrett, Jacquie, and G caught up to us, I think somewhere near the Shriveled Richard obstacle. Dana and I (and Jarrett) gave that one a wide berth. That didn’t stop those that plunged into the ice water from trying to hug us.

For the most part, I gamely tried the obstacles, although anything involving monkey bars meant I was taking a swim. (I didn’t mind, although it was cold, and I worked really hard not to drink any of the water.) I skittered across the Pole Cat obstacle like a champ, and I think I did pretty well on the wobbly logs. I wholeheartedly avoided the Colossus slide and the Davy Jones Locker tower, which involved jumping from 15 feet into 15-foot deep water. I’m not THAT good of a swimmer.

Other highlights: I got gently ribbed for being short on that first over/under obstacle. I got to rib the tall people when they had to duck under branches on the trail. Also, a guy on the course (who was taller than me) said, “I’m too short to do that obstacle!” I had just finished, so I said, “I did it!” I confirmed that no, he was not too short.

Toward the end of the Savage Race Houston, I felt sad. Not because I was cold (I was) or tired and hungry (also true), but because the day was coming to an end. We would cross the finish line, collect all of ourselves, and drive back. I kind of wanted to stay on the course longer, just hanging out with my CrossFit family and doing crazy stuff. All too soon, we reached the fire pit. I paused to warm myself. So did Coach Holly. I’m not sure if we were half-joking or not.

Savage Race Houston: Warmth by the fire
Jenn: HOLLY! Me: Brrr. Photo: Savage Race.

But we jumped over the fire pit, and we waited for everyone else, and then we crossed the finish line with linked arms (with a time of 2:20, but it was the most fun two hours I’ve had in a while). It was that moment that made me the mushiest.

The Savage Race Houston Aftermath

We waited for everyone to finish, which meant changing into warm, dry clothes in cramped quarters and eating a food truck hamburger. (It was delicious!) I just felt sad on the way home, because I needed so much to have a day like this, and now it was over. Seriously, I’m not much of a group person. I run for solitude. I signed up for CrossFit to start pushing myself out of my comfort zone with fitness, and in the process, I pushed myself out of my comfort zone socially. And I found that there are a lot of good people in this world, people who will cheer for you when you’re scared and people who will support you in your journey, in fitness and life.

I came away from the Savage Race Houston with sore calves from running on uneven terrain; it felt so good to run on the pavement Monday. I also had a gnarly bruise on my bicep and an even gnarlier one on my thigh and shin, plus some minor scrapes on my elbows. I also came away with a warm, fuzzy feeling from spending time with such a fun, amazing group, being outside and just playing and enjoying ourselves. Oh, and I also didn’t lose my gimme glasses, but the Wal-Mart sweatshirt is long gone.

*Unless otherwise noted, all photos by Rob Salinas.