Wow, what a ride this has been!
First, I need to point out that over 110 people ran the course in Atlanta, but not even half of those folks end up with any airtime. Each new 2-hour episode only has time to show 30-40 runners, leaving many deserving ninjas who will never get to see their run or share it with others. I wish there was a way for those runs to be shown or maybe released online, and getting those folks some recognition. I would not be in this without them as friends and fellow-competitors.
I really wanted another shot at that course for Finals night. After going through it the first time (nearly completely) I felt like I could’ve gone a lot faster on the second night, and with a lot more confidence. Here it is by obstacle:
The new steps were definitely harder than prior versions. A number of people went swimming there. I never considered trying to 1-step them. But I did feel confident I could make the jumps and move between them by just focusing and not rushing. My dismount needs some work.
I knew the big dipper was doable, but I had gone out on a pipe-slider obstacle in season 5, so that was somewhere in my mind. Still, I figured if I allowed my legs and body to trail behind me as much as possible during my descent, that would help me generate more momentum through the curve to launch to the net/platform. The mixed grip was the popular advice on this obstacle, as the straight grip might allow the bar to roll out from under the fingers more easily. The grip felt a little unnatural but I’m glad I did it.
I think the spinning cubes had me concerned the most. On an obstacle like that, you don’t have any idea how it is going to respond until you actually step on it, so you don’t know how much weight or pressure you can get away with using. Also, last season I fell on a balance obstacle with questionable footing. When I was warming up before my run, I decided my best approach here was to have my momentum moving forward as fast as possible, like trying to run across water. My bailout plan was to dive for the platform if anything went wrong. The cubes had a lot more mass to them than I expected, which added to their stability for my small size. I was across before I knew it.
The spin cycle. I had seen these last season in another region. They looked like they’d be pretty fun, and they were! I had an idea for a more aggressive approach but was going to save that for the finals and play it more conservative in qualifying. I felt comfortable that once I got up there I could work my way through it.
The pipes. Obstacle number 5 of 6. Twenty feet away from the warped wall. My “underneath” approach on the 2nd pipe was intentional, saving my grip and arm strength by pulling the pipe to me while also advancing to the end of it, then using the swing to get to the 3rd pipe, ready to transfer to it. My first attempt would’ve been great, because if I had held that position I would’ve transferred facing forward, and able to easily transfer to the last pipe. But my second attempt put my hand on the 3rd pipe so that the transfer put me backwards. Once there, I could not figure out how to turn myself back around without losing my grip. I’d like to do that one over. I believe I would’ve gotten up the new wall.
Although I didn’t hit the buzzer or make it to the finals, I had SUCH a great experience, all-around. It’s always a great time catching up with ninja friends, making new ones and just experiencing the energetic atmosphere that is there. This year, with the location being so close to home, I had a great crowd of family and friends in the stands cheering me on. Many of them were children and youth who were already big fans of the show, but for them to get to be there and see it all up close and in person was like going to the moon. After my run I got to hang out in the stands with them, have some “ninja” talk, and watch some other runners come through the course. And later I pulled some of the top-name ninjas over for photos and autographs with the kids. I really enjoyed watching their excitement of it all and being able to be a part of it.
I’d like to thank everyone so much for your support! What a crazy adventure, huh? I’m trying to figure out whose life this is I’m living. Let’s keep at it. I’ve got to hit that buzzer!