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Unleashed At The Stadium Bowl

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Unleashed At The Stadium Bowl

Dean Roger 1

 

 

By Roger Dean
with photos by Michele Dean

8/7/16 – Tacoma

Would I do it again?  “No,” my aching quads pleaded upon finishing.  Upon reflection, my spirit vetoed this hasty reaction.  I plan to be at the 2017 event again answering the call of this urban Grand Canyon-like challenge to save rescue animals.  Unleashed at the Stadium Bowl Race, Tacoma, WA, August 7, 2016.

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From “The Unleashed Stadium Bowl” pamphlet:

“Grit City Effort=shared Struggle + Kindred Connection

Grit City Effort:  Tacoma is Grit City.  Grit means indomitable spirit, strength of character, unyielding courage in the face of hardship.  Grit must be earned through effort.  
 
Kindred Connection:  We are a group of diverse individuals who are choosing to challenge ourselves to do our best in what feels like an impossible task.  We don’t quit on each other or ourselves.  We finish, and when we cross the finish line and high five each other, we are the same in that moment.  
 
The race is hard.  The race requires grit.  It requires anyone who does it to sweat, mouth breathe, question why we wanted to do it and push ourselves beyond what we think we are capable of.  When you finish the stairs, you will have found a connection with 400+ people.
 
Unleashed is run 100% by volunteers and 100% of the profits go to their medical fund for rescue animals.”  

 

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The Scene

 
 
Eleven times we climbed to the top of this concrete monster – 60 stair steps up and 60 down, 1628 total.  These were super-sized leg burners, not your gentle house steps of 6″, but 9″ mountains.  Of the 11 up and down loops, two were super-sized.  Covering a mere 3700 feet, we went up 572 feet and down 572 feet.  70% of the time one is going either up or down, at three times the intensity of hiking the Grand Canyon.  
 
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    Course Map

 
Mingling in the crowd before the race, I made a new friend, Phil Kelly.  He was full of grit and devoid of the excuses some athletes engage in to save their egos. Age 62, Phil would run today in 21:35.  He plans to do a 3 day Grand Canyon experience, rim to rim and back.  “Each year I do about 24 challenges and add something new each year,” he related.  Yes, there were some chiseled bodies, born from Crossfit but this was an equal opportunity body type tribe. Lightning struck their souls, excuses burned out of them, a call to duty burned into them.  
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Awaiting the start

 
BOOM! The start of the race was the report from a large artillery piece.  The music blared “We will rock you”.  The place was rocking.  To avoid traffic jams on the stairs, runners were released in twos and threes every 10-15 seconds. Rocking, swaying to the music, it took 31 minutes for me to reach the starting gate.  The wait was exciting.  
 
From our formation on the field, we could watch the string of humanity scaling the stairs, the front runner taking double stairs and running the entire way. Smiles of anticipation all around me.  The gift of being first a spectator, then a participant – all inspiring.  
 
Imagine a string of runners, some bounding, some trudging up the stairs – all driven by passion and determination.  They looked like prospectors in a long line of humanity climbing up a steep hill in the Yukon Gold Rush days, driven by a lust for gold.  But, today’s mighty souls are driven by the greater challenge to save rescue animals. Humanity on a lofty moral plane.
 
The first set of stairs – I’m counting stair steps 29, 30.  My quads are starting to burn.  30 steps to go…Now I can relax going downhill…29, 30 I count.  I concentrate on each foot placement.  A fall would be disastrous.  For most of the race, there are no hand rails.  No place for someone with a fear of heights. I’m looking down at my feet, not at the bottom of the canyon.  I’m getting dizzy and disoriented approaching the bottom of the first set of stairs. Ten to go.  Mission control, we have a problem.
 
Randy, at the top of one of the super-sized loops, gives me a high five. Volunteers all encourage us along our zig zag way. All new friends these kindred spirits. Half way there and back to the canyon floor there is a 100 yard level path we can jog.  I can’t. The downhills have turned my knees and legs to rubber. They have grown dumb to running.  
 
Each stair set I rest a few seconds and count the remaining sets of stairs. Coming back up into the clouds, I’m greeted to a poster of a lovely canine, the caption reading “You are inspirational.”  I must do this for the dog’s sake and for barking rights.
 
On the last climb, I’m yelling “Indian business, Indian business.”  This chant reminds me to accomplish my mission with brave willingness – like the Indian spirit runners of old.  They ran for the honor of serving, not for personal advantage.

Down one more time, turn left, 100 yards to the finish line.  I summon something resembling a slow shuffle.  I forgot how to run six sets of stairs ago.  

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 Indian business…Indian business

 

One of my new friends hands me a bottle of water at the finish. It starts to rain. I want to sing.

As we exit the stadium, a young man I stood beside for 31 minutes at the start of the race comes walking toward me.  In the starting chute we had exchanged maybe ten polite words – like “What time is it?”  Now we greeted each other in shared memories through the challenge.  A bond formed that has meaning and longevity.
 
The race was on a Sunday.  Monday and Tuesday at 6:00 a.m., the route is open to do it again and again.  The only way to recover and gain barking rights, they claim.  No excuses allowed, just do it again.  I’m in bed Monday, my quads barking at me.
 
Yes, this experience is in the top five or ten of my best and most meaningful athletic challenges.  It is a challenge that speaks to our higher selves of doing what it takes to help others.  I’ll always remember the face of the dog at the top of stair set 9.  It pulled me up and beyond, a dog pulling me forward on an encouraging leash.
 
Today I step away seemingly empty handed, no medal, no age group recognition, no raffle prize, but having taken a giant leap toward meaningfulness.  Today we were all warriors on a special mission, like Special Forces troops parachuting behind enemy lines.  Staring down the beast before us, this band of brothers and sisters knew no exit, no excuse, no way to sit this one out.  Our collective resolve expanded in the silence of the warrior’s code of honor and service.  That spirit of being wrapping her arms around us.  
 
She can’t be bought off by baubles.  
 
 

 

 

 

 

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