Dead End Race – Apocalypse

There is a new race in town, and it’s one of the most challenging courses in Canada. Dead End Apocalypse happened on Sunday, August 30th in Saint Sauveur, Quebec at the ski hill Mont Habitant.  All racers chose to race at their own risk. We put a lot on the line. We were challenged, and every single racer came out stronger in many ways.Dead End Race Sign

What’s the saying? If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you. Well, running the Dead End Apocalypse can change you. After running the Dead End Race 6km race in 2014, I was excited to tackle the new format. The Apocalypse course was 12km (two laps of the 6km race). There were three types of heats: the elite 12km, the open 12km, and the open 6km.

Dead End Race Starting Line

I sat down with the race director, Brian Townsend, to get some insight into why they created the Apocalypse. Their goal was to create a challenging race. They wanted it to be long  enough to be hard but not long enough that it would be considered too ultra. They are first and foremost an obstacle race; so, they wanted to create a challenge based around the obstacles, the climbs, the crawls, the walls and a sandbag. Oh that sandbag… I’ll tell you more about that sandbag in a second. The race organizers wanted racers to tap into their inner strength and endurance. They wanted to find just the right difficulty level to be challenging yet enjoyable to most. And they even threw in one slip and slide; so we could have a bit of fun on-course.

The logistics of mixing competitive racers with the open 12 and 6km heats was quite an undertaking, but I believe they pulled it off. People in the 6km heats let all 12km Apocalypse racers pass by and gave them priority on trails and at obstacles. You just had to yell “Apocalypse” to get by. All Apocalypse racers had bright, pink wristbands, and all 6km racers had bright, yellow bands; so, everyone was easily identifiable. Everyone was so encouraging throughout the race and were amazingly polite to Apocalypse racers; who were allowed to jump the line at obstacles. The race format is very similar to Battlefrog, in that way, and how they handle elite, Xtreme and open heats. There was quite a bottle-neck at one inclined wall in the forest, the slack line, the warped wall and the rope traverse, but jumping to the front of the line wasn’t a problem in the Apocalypse heats.

All racers started with timing chips on their shoes. However, if you were in the elite heat and couldn’t complete an obstacle, they cut your wristband and timing chip off and you became part of the open. I don’t quite understand why they cut the timing chip off the elite racers, as the open heat had timing chips on their shoes. I definitely recommend the race allow the elite heat to keep their timing chip, as they join the open heat at the moment that they lose their wristband. 

Let me tell you about the sandbag now! After the first lap, we were told to go and grab a sandbag. It would be our companion for the next lap. We had to complete the entire 6.5km with the sandbag and only put it down to complete a few obstacles. Dead End Race Sandbag

The best innovation I’ve seen at a race was how we got our medals! Once we crossed the finish line, the racing staff helped us open up our sandbags and we found our medal inside. This was an amazing touch to the race and something I haven’t seen before. I asked Brian how long it took his team to pack them. Brian’s son, niece and 2 young friends wrapped each of the medals (took them 2 days) in plastic. Other volunteers double bagged, double tied and taped each sand bag. The best part is that, while they were on a lunch break, Brian and his family ran over and threw all the wrapped medals into the bags under the sand before they were tied off. Even the volunteers didn’t know about the medals until the next day!

The race’s organization was also second to none. There were several registrations stations. We showed up at 7:30am and were done with registration and getting our race shirts by 7:35am. There were multilple water stations on course. They did warn us that the average racer would finish in around 4 hours; so, it was smart to carry water on-course. I had my water pack, but there was enough stations to keep me hydrated as well. The only constructive feedback is to improve the instructions given during the start. Although Canada has two official languages (English & French), at Quebec races, there are sometimes some language barriers to contend with. As the elite heat was channeled into the starting corral, we received instructions in French on how we’d have to pick up the sandbag and carry it for the second lap. My friends who only speak English (thankfully I’m bilingual) never heard the instructions as the announcer never switched to English. Although they didn’t really know what was going on, they luckily didn’t spend the first lap thinking how much it was going to suck carrying the sandbag through the course the second time.

The obstacles were a mix of challenging and fun. We had a rope traverse over water, a warped wall with a ladder addition on top of it, a slack line over a bog, the platinum rig was set up after 4 high walls which was right after 2 sets of ladder monkey bars and even a slip & slide. Despite loving the obstacles, I actually think one of the best parts of the race was hands down the volunteers. They really stood out to me as amazing human beings. They were smiling the entire day and were so welcoming and encouraging. Brian tells me that they have a volunteer coordinator, Vini Saba, who deserves a resounding standing ovation. She has volunteers return time after time because she treats them like family. They get lunch boxes in the morning with all the food and drink they need during the day, shirts, and free race entries and basically act like a big family.

Dead End Race Volunteers

I am staking claim that the Dead End Apocalypse is one of the hardest obstacle course races in Canada. The elite heat had a 50% obstacle completion rate, with only a handful of elite women actually completing the course with their wristbands still on their wrists. The people, atmosphere, organization, how well the course was marked and fun factor were second to none! I highly suggest you add this race to your 2016 list now. No matter how fast you completed the course, if you kept your wristband or not, this course challenged every racer to want to become better, stronger, faster and more agile.

Dead End Race Warped Wall
Will you decide to train and accept the challenge in 2016?

John Bartello- “Lucky 7”

A seemingly unknown athlete out of Canada came out of the woodwork on June 20, 2015 to win the BattleFrog Tri-State Xtreme Men’s Race by completing 7 laps of the 8km course. A feat that has only been done once this year at the Miami race on a different format of course and an impressive accomplishment for the new course format in New Jersey. I sat down with John Bartello from Toronto, Ontario to get some insight into his training and race day to help inspire future Xtreme runners.

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ORM: What inspired you to run the Xtreme option instead of elite?
John: I’ve been training hard all year for Ultras [any run over the traditional marathon distance]. I ran my first 80km (50 miles) last month and will be running my next 50 miler on July 18. My goal race that I’m preparing for is The North Face 119km Lavaredo Ultra Trail race in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy in June, 2016. Since I also love OCRs, in my crazy world the Xtreme BattleFrog option just sounded like a fun challenge.

ORM: How did you fuel during the race?
John: I cramped during my first Ultra in 2014. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about fueling. I can’t stress how important it is to truly understand what nutrition your body requires over these distances. Everyone is different so the more experience you have the better you will be able to adjust to your particular needs. This time I decided to pack a variety of gels, bars and gummies. Considering how my stomach felt after the race, I’m now thinking that maybe it’s not a good idea to mix and match brands. About 15 minutes before the race I had a gel and put one in my pocket for the first lap. Each time I came through I had a gel/gummy and put another in my pocket for mid lap. I also paused at every aid station on course to have water and electrolytes and had electrolytes with glutamine and plain chips in my drop bag. I started cramping a bit on my second lap, so when I came in again I took magnesium, calcium and had a handful of chips for sodium and potassium.
ORM: Potato Chips?
John: Sheepish Grin. It’s all about the potato chips! But, only plain chips. Potato, vegetable oil and salt is ok for you if your body needs it. Everything else they put on them is not.

ORM: Describe a typical week of training for you.
John: I usually put in 5 to 6 days of training (never 7). If it’s 6, one day is usually active rest, consisting of hot yoga or maybe some light indoor rowing and core. The one thing I do every day is stretch. When I’m not building up for an ultra, I typically run 40-50km/week consisting of one longer run (20+km) and two shorter runs. During non race weeks I train at Alpha Obstacle Training 3 times a week. All the classes are focused on functional strength, but one tends to incorporate some speed work, another more power and the Saturday class a little of both. I also try to hit the gym for a pure weight workout once or twice a week.

ORM: What was the hardest obstacle for you?
John: I was fearing the rope traverse all week before the race and it was just as hard as I thought. This is something I’ll definitely be practicing on whenever I can.

ORM: What was the obstacle you looked forward to the most each lap?
John: I really enjoyed the Platinum Rig. I’ve had the pleasure of trying this obstacle out at Canadian Spartan races. The setup was challenging, but a lot of fun for this race.

ORM: What was your favourite lap and why?
John: It was definitely my 6th. By this time I had the course down pat. Mid course I was told by a member of Alpha that I was in the lead but needed to complete a 7th lap to clinch the win. I knew I had to really push it to get back around if I was going to make it for 7, but I didn’t have to worry about having the entire day ahead of me. It was go time and everything was feeling good!

ORM: You started your 7th lap with 3 minutes to spare. What made you push to finish your 6th lap with such intensity?
John:  In February a group of us from Alpha Obstacle Training went down to compete inShale Hill 8 Hour Polar Bear Obstacle Challenge. With time to run another lap, I miscalculated thinking I was firmly in second and decided to stop. By the end I was in 6th and I felt like I quit. That race taught me that you never know what could happen and that you always have to fight right through to the end.

ORM: Describe the feeling when you found out you were in first place after just completing the wreck bag carry on your 7th lap and that you just had to complete the 7th lap?
John: I was just really happy! I never expected to win, but I always come out expecting to work hard and fight right through to the end. I was running well all day and was so happy that I managed to push hard enough to squeeze through for the 7th lap with less than 3 minutes to spare. When it was confirmed that no one else was able to make it through, I had just caught up with my good friend and training partner, Tomasz, who was on his 6th lap. I couldn’t think of a better way to finish an awesome race than to run the last lap with him!

ORM: How would you train differently for this race than you have been?
John: To be honest, I think the combination of my ultra training and workouts at Alpha Obstacle Training have prepared me well for this event. However, there is always room to improve. I know I need to work on the rope traverse, but that also suggests that I should do more work on grip strength. In addition to building my mileage and focusing more on trails, I’m looking at getting a road bike to do some low-impact cross training for training while recovering from running.

ORM: Why would you recommend Xtreme vs. open?
John: I love seeing people of all fitness levels challenge themselves to do something they haven’t done before and didn’t think they could do. While completing a single open lap is a great achievement, I challenge you to keep going. Even if you are new to the sport, I bet you would surprise yourself. The best part of Xtreme is that you have all day. You don’t have to rush, you can come back in, take a rest, have something to eat and then go back out. It’s all about setting your own personal goals and then achieving them. Having the Xtreme band also let me move to the front of obstacles instead of waiting in line!

ORM: How does it feel to hold the course record now for the Xtreme heat? This is the first time since the switch to the 8km course format that 7 laps have been completed for the BFX race. 7 laps was previously reached on the 15K/5K format at the Saturday Miami February, 2015 race.
John: I think I might be feeling a bit of disbelief. I know I’ve been training hard and I pushed the whole race, but I had no idea what to expect. There were definitely some great athletes out there, so just taking the win was a surprise, let alone setting the course record.

ORM: What are you going to do with the paddle?
John: I’m going to use it with my miniature canoe to go portaging…just kidding, bad joke, I know. I’ll probably give it to Alpha Obstacle Training to put in on the wall with the rest of the groups medals and awards.

*Photos By: BattleFrog Race Series 

BattleFrog Tri-State: First Experience

So you know you’re a dedicated Obstacle Course Racer when you drive over 10 hours, through 3 US states from Canada, sleep for 6 hours, race, hang around all day to cheer on your friends, eat, sleep and then drive home for another 10 hours. Was Battlefrog Tri-State worth it? Hooyah! Yes!

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I have run Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder, Mud Hero, Spartan Race, X Man Race and Dead End Race but I haven’t had the opportunity of hanging a frog around my neck until this past weekend at the Battlefrog Tri-State New Jersey race. Some of the members of my training family from Alpha Obstacle Training and I headed down to tackle the course held at Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey on June 20th, 2015.

The morning of the race our training family spread out with members in the Elite Male Heat, Elite Female Heat, the Xtreme Heat and the first Open Heat of the morning. We had seen the course map posted on social media the week before the race so we prepared to do battle on an 8K course with 32 obstacles. Those in elite mentally prepared for 2 laps of the course, the Xtreme participants started to guess how many laps they could fit in from 8:30 – 3pm and I started googling as many obstacle names as possible to get prepared for the open course. My goal was to try and complete all obstacles.

I chose to race in the open heat to get a great taste of what Battlefrog represents. Since it was my first Battlefrog, word on the street was that if you cannot complete an obstacle (despite being given as many tries as possible) you had to surrender your Elite band. You are still able to finish the course but not eligible for ranking or prizing. Since I have trouble with grip strength obstacles I wasn’t confident I’d be able to complete all obstacles which meant the open heat was the place for me.

After watching my friends take off in the elite heats & xtreme heat I climbed over the starting line wall, took a knee, listened to a rousing pep talk from Coachpain Dewayne and then launched myself out of the start with the first open heat of the day.

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After rolling under the first wall we came upon the first epic obstacle of the day and the first bottleneck on the course. After running to the front of the line to grab a wreck bag from one of my Alpha family members, April (who was the 4th place elite female!) we were made to run over the motocross sand dunes of the park. I absolutely loved this obstacle. I motored along up and down hills, jogging with the bag on my shoulders and looked around to realize the struggle that was happening around me. I’m truly grateful for my strength training, hill running and strong legs that carried me through this 1km portion of the course to feel like I’d beasted this obstacle.

As we completed obstacle after obstacle under the gloomy overcast skies, trudged along in ankle deep, knee deep and shoulder deep mud, dragged jerry cans through the mud, climbed countless obstacles, I still had a massive smile on my face because this is what I truly love. I race to challenge my strength, stamina and determination. BF Tri-State gave me the perfect recipe for that.

In no particular order here are 4 obstacles that were my nemeses for the day.

1. The Dirty Name – this was the 4th obstacle of the day. I watched people attempt, smack their bodies into the higher wooden beam and fall and so I let my fear get the best of me so I knocked out 10 bodybuilders and didn’t even attempt. I didn’t want to hurt myself so early in the race. Watching others do it later just goes to show sometimes you need to suck it up and try because it’s not as hard as it looks.

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2. Platinum Rig – This is the most prestigious rig in the industry. Since 2012, Platinum Rig has been building stronger and more stable rigs ahead of the competition. Apparently this was the first US Battlefrog race that this obstacle made it’s appearance. It was set up with a hanging rope (knot on the bottom), 3 hand rings, 2 ring footholds, another hand ring, another foothold ring, a numchuck to swinging bar to one last hand ring. I’m pretty proud to say I made it to the numchuck before slipping off. When I went to grab the swinging bag another girl was on it and had swung it forward out of my range.

BF Platinum

3. 60 Degrees – This obstacle was covered in mud by the time I got there. I have trouble with my grip strength and was quite worried about slipping off at the top as you try and get up and over. I opted for body builders but know I could have done this obstacle if I had really tried.

BF 60 degree

4. Rope Climb Wall – I failed the first time I attempted. I didn’t get my feet high enough up to the next green rung to pull myself up and almost fell on my back. I shook it off, took some deep breaths and just attacked it. I’m proud that this could have been a failed obstacle for me but instead I killed it.

BF rope wall

And again in no particular order here are 4 obstacles that made me feel like a bad ass.

1. Wreck Bag Carry – to my legs that carried me over this track. Thank you for being strong. To my shoulders and back that supported the bag. I’m sorry I promise I will get you a deep tissue massage this week.

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2. Tsunami – who doesn’t like to conquer fear of heights and slide down a huge slip and slide as an adult into a mud puddle?

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3. Rope Traverse – while I hate the bruises you left on my legs, I love how you made me feel strong for staying on the seemingly endless traverse. Note to future racers, long tights or capris with compressions socks will save you skin burns on the legs.

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4. Caving Ladder – I practiced a few days before the race at my local climbing gym doing an inverted climb upside down, so I was slightly thankful when the ladder was vertical in the forest. Up I scrambled, rang that bell (oh that sweet sound) and scrambled back down.

The race really had so much to offer. The festival area was awesome. There were massive signs beside every tent from registration, merch, bag check, a place with tables & chairs to get ready or just hang out, showers, washrooms and change rooms were easily marked so everything was easy to find. The Xtreme tent was placed off to the side from the start line for drop boxes. It seemed a tad small but worked well for all those involved. I didn’t hear any massive complaints from those racers. Spectators could easily hang around to see our friends and help them with anything after every lap or to yell madly at them to just keep going! The finish line was well stocked with water, bananas and protein bars. While the showers were hoses, the water was actually not as cold as I’ve experienced at other races. I was thankful for the baby wipes I remembered to bring to tidy up post hose shower in the change tent 🙂

As someone who has raced in over 10 obstacle course races and trains 3-4 times a week for them I found the course challenging, but doable. The course set up was amazing, the obstacles top rated. The course however was much flatter than what I’m used to up in Canada. But then again we have a lot of ski hills. All my hill training definitely paid off in the wreck bag carries. I was actually anticipating much tougher obstacles. I technically could have completed the dirty name obstacle, the 60 degrees pipe wall and I’m confident I could’ve gotten the Platinum Rig after a few attempts. I was beyond proud of getting the rope climb on the first try which has been my nemesis at other races and the caving ladder with ease. What’s great about the open heat is that it really is accessible for anyone who wants to try to push themselves but isn’t able to complete every obstacle. The 10 body builder “burpees” are penalty worthy but don’t gas you like the 30 burpees at a Spartan race does.

The top 3 males were Ryan Atkins, Marc-Andre Bedard and Brian Gowiski

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The top 3 females were 1. Claude Godbout, Corrina Coffin, and Ashley Samples

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I am a bit disappointed that I didn’t challenge myself to run in the Elite heat. I am a competitive person and love to push myself. The only challenge I truly had in the open heat was being stuck in bottlenecks waiting for obstacles. As an elite or xtreme runner you had the benefit of yelling out what you were since you were wearing an identifying wristband and were able to move to the front of the line at an obstacle. Although I was fine waiting, it didn’t give me a chance to compete for time or even see how I stacked up against elites on the course. But if that’s my only complaint than BF you have an amazing race series and I can’t wait to see you come up to Canada! HOOYAH!