Since beginning this adventure 5 seasons ago, I've made a lot of improvements and have gotten a little further on the course each year. But after failing on the 5th obstacle the past 2 years, I decided I needed to ramp up my preparation. So in the months leading up to the competition, I began working with a personal trainer, and we focused on increasing my muscular endurance. When I got to Miami, I was feeling more confident and in better condition than any other season, and the course I saw being put together felt like it was built for me. To give you a sense of what it was like from my perspective, here's what was going on in my head before and during my run.
The Floating Steps:
Last year in Daytona I had trouble dismounting the steps and got caught up in the rope swing to the platform, wasting a lot of precious energy. This time I focused on jumping a little left of the rope to cut the angle down a bit, and grabbing it a little lower, giving me more room to reach the platform. It worked, and I just needed one extra swing and push-off to dismount safely.
I was familiar with these only after seeing them used in other regions, but they looked plenty doable and fun. Building up swing on the third flywheel is tougher than the first two, as it swings on a pendulum and is more difficult to generate momentum. After a couple "almost" releases, I finally got enough swing to feel comfortable dismounting.
The Razor's Edge:
Out of all the possibilities of balance obstacles I might've chosen, these would have been near the top of my list. Like the Spinning Dice in Atlanta (ANW8) and the Broken Bridge in Daytona (ANW9), they have a lot of mass to them, and my light weight is a nice advantage. The key to an obstacle like this is fast, forward momentum and quick, light steps. Every nano-second your foot and your weight is on top of it, your risk of going swimming increases exponentially.
The Ring Turn:
This was a new obstacle and one that looked like a lot of fun. I knew I could muscle my way through these somehow, but I wanted to do it efficiently and not use any more time or energy than necessary. My intent was to grab the first ring as high as possible and ride it down, but somehow I nearly missed the ring altogether and ended up saving it by grabbing hold at the bottom. I knew I needed to keep my swings going while moving the rings, because once you lose your momentum it can be difficult to get it back, which wears you out physically AND mentally.
The Slippery Summit:
Obstacle number 5. No matter how confident I was feeling, I could not fully-erase the gentle reminder that the 5th obstacle had taken me down the past 2 years. And now here we were, face to face, about to dance once again. But this time felt different because I was still feeling really strong and fresh. Unlike Daytona last year when I went right into Rolling Thunder, this time I took a decent break, focusing on calming myself, breathing and shaking out my arms. I knew the motion on the ascent was going to be awkward, but I felt confident that if I got up the incline successfully I'd be able to get across and down on adrenaline and willpower. Once I got the feel of moving up the first couple of rungs, I knew I could get to the top. And then once I got the feel of the first drop in the descent, I thought, "This is it, man, just keep your grip, don't make any huge, risky moves, and you're gonna finish."
The Warped Wall:
Once I felt the relief of reaching the platform after the Slippery Slope, a sly grin came across my face as I looked up to the tower at Matt and Akbar. I knew I was about to hit my first button. I took a short breather and sprinted up the wall to the roar of the crowd. It was a surreal moment, one I had been working toward for 5 years. I think a good word to describe that moment was "relief".
5 years in the making, baby! I hope you are having as much fun as I am, but I doubt it!! Be sure to tune into the Miami City Finals episode later this summer to see if I can continue my run toward the National Finals!