The Men’s Health Urbanathlon is an endurance obstacle race ranging anywhere between ten to twelve miles. As described on Menshealth.com: “The Urbanathlon is a bi-coastal event that combines a traditional road race with muscle-burning challenges designed to test your endurance, strength, mobility and pure toughness.”
The first time I competed in this event, it was as a relay with a group of friends. We didn't place or anything, but it was a great experience. Second time running this race, I opted to go solo to see how well I could perform; placing 27th overall, I was determined to placed top 5 next time around. Next time around was October 13th, 2012.
The day before the race my friends and I rented a minivan and I drove the three and a half hours to Chicago. As we cruised down the highway six of my friends and I sang Disney songs, Like Hercules "Go the Distance" or Aladdin "A Whole New World." We were on a high, enjoying each other’s company and electrifying conversations. Usually the day before a race I like to remain quiet, and to visualize myself crossing the finish line. Instead I was filled with love and laughter, and allowed the warm energy of my friends to
After many years of doing things alone, having a group of friends willing to travel to Chicago with me to watch me push my body to its near breaking point was heartwarming.
Five thousand runners would be competing
Five thousand runners would be competing
“You got this buddy!“Don’t be no punk, you better your run ass off boy!” I think the comment about calling me a punk, is what got me riled up and ready for war,
Saturday morning, October 13th, I woke up at 4 AM. I crept into the bathroom, and turned my cellphone volume to a low setting so I could enjoy my motivational mix. I kept the lights off and took a boiling hot shower. I kept my eyes closed and let the water relax my muscles and to wake up my body. With the lights off my auditory senses amplified, and I relished in the sounds of Robert Tepper’s No Easy Way Out from Rocky IV.
I was preparing myself for battle. I was the leader and my troops were in the next room, ready to go to war with me. By 4:30 AM I had my red racing tights and my Ferris State University black logo sweatpants and sweatshirt. Most of my friends were awake and we sat in the middle of the room getting amped up. Everyone was surprisingly as excited as I was for the race! They respected that I needed time to mentally prepare for the race, so at 5 AM they left me alone while I ate my energy-packed pre-race breakfast consisting of:
· 1 cup of brown oatmeal
· A medium banana with peanut butter
· 8 ounces of orange juice
· 8 ounces of skim milk
· 1 piece of whole wheat toast w/ grape jelly
Once I completed breakfast, I put my headphones on, and we all packed into the van. With my tunes blaring in my ears, we headed to Soldier Field, where the race would begin. The weather was perfect for racing. It was almost forty to fifty degrees when we arrived the pre-race festival. Hundreds of athletes were gathered around dozens of well-known brands selling performance products and offering free items. A huge stage was set up with celebrities pumping the crowd up by doing jumping jacks or giving speeches.
I found all the commotion to be a waste of energy, so I went off for a short slow jog around the facility to understand the obstacles better, which was my biggest concern. The Chicago Urbanathlon consisted of two course options that morning: the Classic Race (10.8 miles with eleven obstacles), and the Sprint Race (4 miles with eight obstacles). My motivation was to get noticed, so it was time to go big or go home. I signed up for the Classic Race where I’d be running with the elite starting at 7 AM on the dot. It was around 6:10 AM, so I began performing my track warm-up routine to get the legs moving and ready for war.
It was 6:50 AM, and the announcer began to introduce the race and thank everyone for being there. Next, the publisher of Men’s Health Magazine said a few words and wished all the athletes good luck. Six minutes before the race commenced the audience sat awed by a thirteen-year-old girl singing the national anthem. I felt goose bumps crawling on my skin as I positioned myself within the first wave of runners, ready to lead the pack. The wind slowed and a very calm feeling filled the surrounding area, as well as my heart, mind and body. My nerves were on fire, but the anticipation was more excitement for embarking on a major transformation. There’s something magical about being surrounded by elite runners, and zoning into the moment without the distractions of life fluttering around you.
The singing stopped and the announcer started the countdown, “Alright runners, we’re going to get started in ten, nine, eight, seven…” Rock music blasted out of the speakers once more as I heard the numbers descending, “six, five, four…”
My final thought to myself was: Every mile is going to be tough, but every meal is an opportunity to change the outcome.
Bang! We were off! We ran as if we were running for our lives. Myself and nine other runners flew down the roads of Chicago setting a strong pace and breaking away from the pack. I wasn’t sure how fast we were going, but my strategy was to stay with the top five runners at least for the first seven miles, and then use whatever energy I had left to bring it home. When you’re competing at such an advanced level, you don’t hear the crowd, the music, or even yourself breathing. All you hear are the loud steps from other runners, like hooves pounding into the earth beside you.
As I approached the mile one sign I looked down at my watch. We’d clocked our first mile at five minutes and twenty seconds. This was perfect because I expected the obstacles to slow us down a bit, although if the other runners were able to keep the pace up after six miles, I was doomed. We continued to glide effortlessly at a furious pace, approaching our first obstacle around one point five miles into the race. The obstacle consisted of hurdling over three orange plastic barricades, followed by going under two blue police barriers four times. The majority of the runners were not skilled in the art of jumping, so it was more a stop and leap kind of cadence. It was a nice way of bringing down our heart rates.
Among the top ten runners I was the worst at this obstacle, so once it was completed I had to catch up the next .5 miles to the second obstacle. This time we had to crawl under a cargo net about thirty meters in length, followed by leaping over horizontal poles attached to orange cones. If you knocked a pole down you’d have to return to the start and try again. At this point I was in seventh place and still felt pretty strong. I kept telling myself not to lose sight of the lead runner, and to maintain a comfortable, yet aggressive pace.
We had about 1.8 miles of running before the third obstacle, which allowed me to catch back up to the top five runners. Obstacle three involved maneuvering beneath five blue police barricades again, followed by stutter stepping twenty meters worth of tires. This was repeated three times. Sweat bounced off my body as I lifted knees swiftly through the tires, and then dropped my body to go under the barricades. I didn’t notice it at the time, but my legs were scratched up from the concrete.
I kept my eyes fixated on the other runners ahead of me, without looking back or to my side. I had to keep pushing and refuse to give in to the pain. After the third obstacle you could see the pain in our faces as we crossed the five-mile marker around nineteen minutes into the race. A runner with a red headband and bright yellow shorts cruised passed us to the front, and the group really felt the pressure. This guy in the lead was trying to pick up the pace in order to burn the other runners out. Even though we were about four miles into the race already—this was truly when the race begins. We’d moved beyond a solely physical competition, and now it was sixty percent mental and forty percent physical. Would you be willing to increase your speed at a moment’s notice, with the possibility of burning out too early? I believed in myself and I knew what my body could handle, so I followed suite and increased my pace as well.
Obstacle four involved crawling beneath two rows of jacked up Subaru SUVs, followed by three good-sized marine hurdles. These hurdles are about seven feet tall, and to tackle them you needed upper body strength to pull up and push your body over the hurdle. I’m not the tallest guy, so I put my upper body strength to good use. I never thought my street skills of running and jumping over fences back in Miami would ever come in useful, but that day it did!
After the obstacle it became apparent that myself and the other six runners were inevitably going to be leading the pack. The shock from coming off the marine hurdles took a lot out of us, and slowed down our running. We were now running at a 7:21 mile pace. We zoomed forward in alignment, body to body and stride for stride. An outside observer might have thought the seven of us practiced synchronized running in advance. Not one of us was willing to lose our position. At first I tried to pick up and run around the person closest to me, but they would block me off. After a couple of attempts, I opted to remain where I was to avoid wasting additional energy. As we ran towards Solider Field I saw a large group of people on the sidelines with signs, jumping up and down while cheering the lead runners.
I heard the announcer say, “Wow, here we have seven runners who have completely broken away from the pack by at least a mile. Next they’ll be tackling the stair climb.”
I saw my friends cheering me on, and it gave me an additional boost of energy to take the lead. Again, I heard the announcer, only this time he was talking about me, “Woah!” he said. “It appears that twenty-year old Carlvin Dorvilier from Big Rapids, Michigan has taken the lead with an aggressive burst of energy. Let’s see how he holds up after the stair climb.”
It was actually a stupid move on my part, because we had a mile worth of stairs to tackle in the Soldier Field stadium. Inside we ran up and down both the stadium stairs and stairwells in the hallway. Climbing from section one, to, two, to three, to, four, then working our way back down again was intense. Uplifting music blasted and I thought: "This really hurts, but I’m almost done so I have to suck it up and keep on going." I had to walk a few sets of stairs, which dropped me back down to fifth place.
Finally, I exited the stadium where my level of focus reached 100% and zoned in completely on mental toughness. Physically, my body was telling me, “Slow the fuck down.” But my mind said, “Hold on, you have roughly thirty more minutes of pain. You’re doing this because you love the feeling of being alive. You’re doing this because you don't believe in being average.” With every mile and every obstacle, my sense of purpose transcended the pain in my body. I didn’t care that I was about to puke, and I wasn’t worried if my heart was about to pop out of my chest. I didn’t even mind the fact that the lead runner was now four minutes ahead of me. I would continue to run to test how much pain I could endure before my body literally gave out.
The final obstacle entailed climbing over taxi cabs, a cargo net over a bus, and a cargo net to get off the bus. Rushing over the cargo net was difficult because my foot kept getting stuck in the net. At the end of the obstacle we had to scale a wall before crossing the finish line. I crossed the finish line in one hour and twenty-three minutes, averaging out at a 7:42 mile pace for 10.8 Miles with 11 obstacles. When I crossed the finish line my friends were waiting to hug me, and handed me a towel to wrap around my body. When I calmed down a little I saw blood running from my leg. I hadn’t even realized I’d been wounded from scraping the asphalt, which only proved to myself how badly I really wanted it, and how focused I really was. Runners were still crossing the finishing line as I wondered if I’d even placed in the top five overall.
Even though I was the third person to cross the finish line, results came in by fastest times, since each running wave (a section of runners grouped by running status or predicted finishing time) all started at different times. As my friends and I patiently waited for the award ceremony, my right leg wouldn’t stop shaking. It was trembling like a wet dog. We made conversation over the next hour in the hopes that it would eventually stop. It did, and I realized it was the adrenaline still coursing through my veins.
The announcer took the stage and congratulated all the finishers, and then began to announce the winners. I thought I had placed 9th out of 5,000 competitors, and waited patiently to find out. The announcer said, “In third place we have Monte from Franklin, Michigan with an overall time of one hour twenty-three minutes and three seconds. In second place we have Anthony from Columbus, Ohio with a time of one hour twenty-two minutes and six seconds. And our first place winner is Roy from Cape Girardeau, Missouri with a time of one hour eighteen minutes and three seconds.”
I felt upset and slowly sunk to the ground. My friends surrounded me with comfort and praise. Before deciding to walk away, I heard them begin to announce winners by age division. He said, “In third place for 18-24 men’s division, we have Robert from Columbus, Ohio with a time of one hour twenty-seven minutes and twenty-six seconds. In second place we have Carlvin Dorvilier from Big Rapids, Michigan. Carlvin placed fourth overall out of 5,000 competitors, and missed the podium placement by seven seconds, a truly a remarkable effort.”