Guest Post by Fuego y Agua Ambassador Eddie Yanick
Hunter Gatherer was another life changing event. I don’t know how Josue does it, but he really finds a way into your soul with his races. Survival Run: Hunter Gatherer is a race like no other. The course, the obstacles, the people, all incredible. It is always a humbling experience.
My weekend began on Thursday with the second annual (unofficial) FYA Beer Mile (non-sanctioned). Myself, Tyler Tomesello, Mike Ruhlin, Margaret Schlachter, Maria Walton, and Kelly lined up on the trail, with our beer at our feet. We raised our right hands and said the sacred oath of the beer mile. “If I get hurt, drunk, or puke it’s my own damn fault.” With that we were off! The challenge was to chug a beer, then run a quarter mile and repeat until all beer was consumed and one mile was run. If we threw up we had to drink another beer and run another quarter mile. Tyler went out first and me close behind. I felt fine until halfway through the second beer, I began to feel uneasy. It took me a few minute to finish my second beer before I ran again. After that It just got worse. I began throwing up pretty bad. My stomach was in knots and the foam from the beer was caught in my throat. When all was said and done I had an extra 2 beers and another half mile ran, for a total of 6 beers and a mile and a half run. Kelly, even with her injured foot and boot on and walking beat me by a good amount! Alas I came in DFL (Dead F%$&ing Last). My race weekend began with an incredibly fun drunken run
Packet pickup began as horrible as I thought it would. We had to grab a heavy log and carry it 1.5 miles up a steep rocky hill that seemed to go on forever. I made the mistake of rushing and grabbing the first log I saw. Bad Idea. The log got very heavy and terribly uncomfortable real quick, and began digging into my shoulders tearing them up. The thing weighed about 75-80lbs. When I finally made it up the hill I received my bib number. #22 which coincidently is how old I am! I then carved my number into my log and began running down the other side of that evil hill. While running by I saw John sharp there offering encouragement. I yelled at him while running, “Sharpie! Beer me!” Quickly grabbing a Tona from him I continued running back to the finish line. The rest of that day was filled with lots of fun just hanging out with everybody and really enjoying every moment. I attempted to go to sleep early, but to no avail. There were people screaming all night, and the wind had picked up heavily and was blowing like crazy in my tent. But all I could think about was, what was going to happen in the morning
My alarm went off at 2:30 AM. Freezing cold, and tired I gathered my gear and headed to the start line. I got checked in and prepared my mind. Paula painted my face and made me look like an Indian warrior about to go into battle. It was awesome. This I’m sure is the only race in history where as soon as the race started instead of bunch of runners stampeding off across the starting line, we all just walked 10 feet to the right and sat down for a while making sandals, which we would have to wear throughout the race. As soon as I finished making my sandals, I hurried and put my pack together and was off. I ran up the very same hill up to my log, as the day before. I grabbed my log and began working my way down to the river. From there my race got interesting. We then Had to take our logs into the river and swim another mile or so with them. My log needed two life jackets around it to even float. Things were looking good, and I was making good progress, until the life jackets slipped off of my log and it sunk all the way to the bottom of the river. I was able to grab the log and struggled to swim to the shore, holding on to it with one arm and both legs. I was not allowed onto the shore so I had to hold on the rock surface hanging over the river. I struggled for a good 20 or so minutes, trying to get my log out of the water and up onto the rock so I could put the life jackets back on the log. This proved to be extremely difficult as the weight of the log had significantly increased with water, and it kept falling to the bottom. At one point I LOST my log and could not find it for close to 10 minutes. Time was moving, and I quickly fell to DFL. Finally after what seemed like forever, I had the life jackets back on the log and I was on the move again. Pretty soon I ran into another problem. Duck Weed. As I continued swimming, the duck weed in the river was grabbing on to everything it could find and pulling my under. I went under a few times trying to get out of it. The life jackets came off of my log two or three more times. After almost drowning several times trying to get my log and fighting with the duck weed, I finally made it out of the river and onto dry land. I was so relived. I celebrated by yelling “F%$# you log, I win!” It was there I received my first bead, which I would later learn that if we had enough we could trade them in for a medal. Jason Shwertner saw how bad I was struggling with the swim and decided to stay with me after that. Good thing too, because we had the time of our lives. It was right after the swim where I realized that my race was over. After almost drowning several times my mind was in a different place. I kept going, but I knew I was not going to finish. We trekked along the course soon finding out there were far less trail and more bushwhacking on the course than anything. When we reached the net checkpoint, we were told to climb down into a small underground cave, and locate 6 symbols. As I shimmied down the entrance hole, I looked to my right and immediately saw a copperhead. I just stared at it for a moment and wondered how many more there could have been down there. Crawling around inside the small cave, I noticed a ton of frogs. The way they just sat there with their big black eyes just staring at me, it reminded me of Gollem from The Hobbit. I felt like I was about to be challenged to a game of riddles, by these frogs that stared into my soul! I inched along on my belly through most of the cave, and became excited when I found the first two symbols, and eventually the last four. Before leaving, I carved “SURVIVAL RUN 2013 into the cave wall, forever leaving my mark on it. After telling the volunteers which symbols I found in the cave I was rewarded with the first of four medals which would add up to “I DID NOT FAIL” One word per medal. The first medal we received said “Fail”… Josue’s sick joke. ;)
Jason and I continued on through the course. Going up and down rough, rocky, hills constantly, moving through old dried up river beds, along with even more bushwhacking. At this point we were having a ball. We both knew how we stood when it came to the race that day, and we had accepted it. So we just decided we were going to make the best of it, and we pretty much had a party out on the course. Jason swears we had more fun out there than we were supposed to. After several more grueling, yet hilarious miles and getting turned around once or twice, we arrived at the next check point. Just in time too, because we had both ran out of water and our throats were really getting dry. We may or may not have also begun getting a little hilariously delirious. We filtered our water and began rehydrating before filtering more water for our containers. For our first task, we had to cut off a prickly pear cactus pad, and turn it into a water container. I brushed all the spikes and thorns off the outside so I would not get poked, and slit a hole down into one end of the pad. A volunteer poured water into it, to make sure it did not leak. SUCCESS. My next task was to answer 3 questions about the cactus, which I failed miserably. I’m no herbologist. Jason however got all 3 questions right. No surprise there, as he was pointing out all the different berries etc. that were edible along the trail. Our last task, was to make a throwing stick (which was originally use to kill small game etc.) our targets were 3 small logs hanging own. We had to hit 3 out of 7 in order to pass. I hit all three like a champion. Jason however only hit one. He thought you only had to hit them once. When we asked what time it was and how far unto the course we were, Paula told us that we had gone 10 miles in 9 hours… All we could do was laugh. We immediately looked at each other high fived and laughed hysterically at the thought that we were that slow (even though the terrain and brutal course had a huge part in it). It was pretty sad, but so funny. Jason ended up taking a quick swim twice in the water trough before we left down the course again. At this point we were hitting bunch of rough downhill’s that were taking a toll on one of my knees. We decided to take a break and sit down. We pulled out our food from our packs and had a picnic for about 10 or so minutes. Eating those Epic Bars were delicious!! The last few miles to the next check point were pretty rough. When we got there, we found two teepees, two eagle scouts and Kelly, in all of her boot glory. We were faced with yet another throwing stick challenge. This time we had to hit and knock over a rock. I nailed the rock on my first shot. After that I could only wobble it. Jason didn’t hit any unfortunately. Our last task was to make fire. In the process of us trying to prepare our bow drill fire kit from scratch, the two eagle scouts both made 3 or 4 fires each just to rub it in our faces that they were cooler than us. We decided to call it quits at this check point. We knew we wouldn’t finish with the time we were making, but that didn’t bother us at all. We had been having such an amazing time on the course. Jason ended up running from the check point a few miles down the road back to the camps in order to get his truck. He didn’t have to get his truck though, because he ran into Josue on the way, who was coming to pick us all up. While we were waiting Kelly made some really tasty mimosa that we drank until the cavalry arrived. That was the end of my race at Hunter Gatherer.
That was probably the worst performance I had ever done during a race, but I learned the most and experienced the most from it. I learned exactly what the Survival Run is really about. The Survival Run is life, in all senses of the word. It is the challenge. It is the struggle. It is the reward. The Survival Run I about companionship, and camaraderie. You truly find yourself. Fuego Y Agua’s motto “Challenge your body, discover your soul” plays true into every single one of their events. Especially the Survival Run. I walk away from Hunter Gatherer with two “beads” and one medal that says “Fail”. I walk away standing tall and proud. I may have not finished the Survival Run, and I may have only received the “Fail” medal, but I did anything but Fail. Life is a journey, and you’ve got to make the best of every situation and live life to its fullest. Unleash your full potential! My eyes were opened once again to the beauty of the world, and to what it has to offer. I reconnected with old friends, and made new ones. I had the time of my life. Nothing can take that away. If anyone is looking for a completely life changing experience, I highly recommend doing a Fuego Y Agua event. You’ll thank me for it later.