The start and finishing for each lap of the 24 Hours of Shale Hell (Hell) was the first Pick Your Poison and the finish was at the Tarzan Swing. This was a bit different than their other events that either start in the center field or up at the barn and start with the Oxfords and Teeter Totters. As the Benson Bear Challenge #3 was currently taking place, we did register down in the center field. We were able to park (free as always) next to the Tarzan Swing, set up tents, canopies, and whatnot; we had access to porta-johns, a grill; the medic was stationed here and a fire was started at dusk that was kept going all night. This was also where your support crew was set up ($40 registration fee per crew member).
I opted to camp Friday night, the drone of the race track down the road lulled me to sleep without a coyote howl to be heard. With a mornings worth of time to fill, I opted to help Jill stuff bags for the Benson Bear Challenge #3, registered a few of the Hell racers, and then was stationed out at the sandbag carry to direct 5k and 10k racers on the correct loop. Was a beautiful day for a race and I was able to see Sandy and Michael on course.
It wasn’t long before I had to start getting ready for my event and made my way up to the tent. Before too long had passed, Rob was pulling all ten of us racers together for a meeting. The rules were simple:
– As many laps as you could manage safely in 24 hours.
– The Tyrolean Traverse would be closed from dark to sunrise.
– Penalties would be normal the first lap and scaled for each lap as follows:
Lap 1 – 30 Spiderman Push-ups (every obstacle, not 25 for most and 50 for 4)
Lap 2 – 15 Spiderman Push-ups
Lap 3 – 15 Spiderman Push-ups
Lap 4 – 20 Jumping Jacks
Lap 5 – 10 Inchworms
Lap 6 – No Penalties
Lap 7 – 5 Lunges
Lap 8 – 10 Flutter Kicks
Lap 9 – 10 Arm Circles
Lap 10 – Balance 15 seconds on left leg, repeat on right
Lap 11 – We shall see
– We were to help each other, if someone was down and hurt, if they were on course and weren’t being safe/smart, etc
– That we were to check in and out on a white board after every lap and let the medic know when we went back out on course.
Rob suggested a first lap of sticking together with a 2:30 lap pace, especially for the people who had never been on course. I know I spoke up immediately and said I knew the course and wouldn’t be able to keep that pace, I was fine alone. I did start my lap with another female racer, Serena, a Shale Hill veteran and high school classmate! I spent the second half of the lap with the other two female racers, both elite racers out of Canada, Jen and Sara. I was able to give them some tips on several of the obstacles! Can’t wait to see them again in September at the Killington Beast. After my first lap, Sandy, Michael, and Adam decided that I wasn’t going to do any additional laps on my own, of which I am very grateful. I had the pleasure of Michael’s company on my second lap, someone whose racing and attitude inspire me. My third lap, Adam accompanied me and other than my slip on the loom that resulted in a small panic attack, I never seemed to stop laughing. The taco’s Sandy got me were the best food I ate all weekend, if you do a race at Shale Hill, volunteer, or are just in the general area, West Coast Taco (I think that’s the name) is worth a stop, cash only!
Over the course of my 3 full laps, I was able to scale the 8 foot wall, climb the HUGE slant wall, walk the top of the loom, and more. All things I had either never done before or just learned the previous weekend at a NE Spahtens training day. I will be honest, other than a few Spiderman Push-ups in my first lap, I didn’t do any penalties. I wasn’t there to beat myself up with penalties, just to see how far I could go in 24 hours.
There were very few volunteers stationed on course but there were plenty around and mobil on course. They were great at keeping the on-course fires burning, candles burning, and refilling the water stations when they were told they were empty. There was a crew stationed at the Bucket Carry with a fire that definitely lifted my spirits.
The decision was made about 3:30 to close the course due to heavy fog that left runners with no visibility beyond the few inches in front of their noses. Incredibly smart decision! This was just after I got back from my decision to stop less than a quarter of the way into my fourth lap as my left hip flexor was not happy and I couldn’t lift my leg over even the smallest of obstacles. The medic seconded my decision but also respected my decision to rest, see if stretching would help. It didn’t.
Rob was called away as he finished his second penalty free lap due to a family emergency but was able to call in at the finish to congratulate us all. What a race director!
OH! SWAG! There were prices for the top three females and top three males (top male finished with 8 laps, top female finished with 5), and every racer got a special Hell shirt, Hell medal, Shale Hill sticker, and a $10 gift certificate to The Wheel House in Benson. Even the crews got a special Pit Crew shirt.
All in all, this event was small, intimate, and incredible. My one and only suggestion would be to build the cost of one crew member into the registration fee as I could not imagine, personally, being able to do this race without someone there as support.
I cannot wait to see where I can go in a year!