Dirt Runner’s Winter Soldier

You run OCR events for the obstacles right? How about 50 of them packed into a 5k course? Oh yeah, Dirt Runner pulled this off in their second annual Winter Soldier event held on their permanent course located in Marseilles, Illinois.

Dirt Runner is the former home to the Illinois Spartan and Battlefrog Race Series and is well known for its tough terrain and brutal obstacles. This course truly offered something for everyone with heavy lifts, tons of overhead grip work, brutal low crawls, and seriously technical terrain.

Some of the perks you got racing Winter Soldier at Dirt Runner were free parking, free pictures, and free food and drink afterward. In other words, they don’t nickel and dime you to death like most major races do. Winter Soldier offered an Elite and Open one lap wave, along with an option to get as many laps in as you could in a 3-hour time period for those hearty souls.

 

On to the course! With temps hovering around freezing athletes were released from the Dirt Runner festival area with a small fire jump which led out to a trail cut through waist-high prairie grass where a series of wall climbs of varying heights along with a few low crawls thrown in, served to thin out the herd.

Also situated on this section of trail Dirt Runner set up a series of three different weighted carries. You had your normal bucket carry along with a solid cement block carry, formed in those same buckets if you needed a size reference, and finally, dual farmer carries made up of logs with a cloth type handle screwed into them.

Immediately after dropping off your logs it was time to high step through a section of car tires set down on the path leading to another set of 8-foot-high wall climbs. Here the course took a turn into the woods where the trail difficulty increased greatly as the terrain transitioned from running on flat grass to steep hills with uneven footing filled with rocks and tree roots. Some of the obstacles thrown in along this section of the course included monkey bars, a rolling log balance beam, a series of sternum checkers of varying heights, a reversed delta ladder, and a long low crawl through a buried metal tube.

The trail now led racers on a route that circled back into the festival area where Dirt Runner set up a series of obstacles in back to back fashion. The spear throw, Z wall traverse, and traverse ladder climb were all located in an area where friends and family could easily see the action right up close before athletes were once again led back out into the woods.

At this point, the terrain turned into running up and down a series of steep ravines that really drained the legs and taxed the cardiovascular system. Only two obstacles were located in this section of the trail. The tallest cargo net climb I’ve ever come across and a long uphill low crawl through another metal tube. This low crawl was perhaps the toughest I’ve ever had to do. It was super long. There was very little clearance inside the tube, the mud inside was frozen solid killing the elbows and knees with each forward movement, and the climbing angle was about 45 degrees going up. After finally getting out of that damn tube it was back to the steep ravine climbs until the course opened back at the festival area where a gauntlet of final obstacles was waiting.

The Gauntlet: Situated on the outskirts of the festival area with very little distance in between each task this final section of the race was draining both physically, and mentally. All while friends, family, and fellow athletes watched close by.

Starting off was a set of two delta ladders and two inverted wall climbs leading right into a semi tire flip and carry, down and back twice over a twenty-yard distance. A jump and hop up and over a set of stacked tractor tires was next up followed by Dirt Runners version of the weaver. Connected to the weaver was a cargo net climb over an enormous plastic container which led to a low crawl under a set of horizontal logs.

A high-step through more car tires led to a unique wall traverse. This wall traverse was set up in three sections connected by long poles on the top. So, after you made it across a section of wall you had to shimmy your way across a pipe to the next section of wall and so on. Each wall segment had a different configuration of ropes or pegs to traverse across. Skill and planning were required to navigate this obstacle along with a serious amount of grip strength.

A hundred yards away Atlas Stones were set up for a down and back push with another set of low crawls waiting after you finished. A climb over the famous Dirt Runner slip wall followed by another climb up the equally famous fortress of logs put you on top of a hill within view of the finish line. But not before a rope climb, a cargo net traverse, a barbed wire crawl, and an Atlas Stone/semi-tire drag and carry were completed.

I found this race to be fast and furious with something new seemingly around every corner leaving me totally spent at the end. Winter OCR events have become more popular every year with good reason. It adds another level of difficulty to racing.

Ok, you can fly through a course when it’s 80 degrees out but how about when temps drop below freezing? Dirt Runner offers some of the toughest races and events in the Midwest and I found Winter Soldier to be right on par with the rest of their events. Obstacle heavy, low cost, and a great feeling of accomplishment can always be found here. So, put one of the 2018 Dirt Runner events on your schedule!

Farm Fit Challenge 2017

The Farm Fit Challenge proved what a veteran obstacle course racer with a little land, an idea, and a lot of ambition could accomplish. Other than purchasing some trail tape every obstacle on the course was either found on the farm or handmade on the farm.

With all proceeds donated to the Wounded Warrior Project this event, which was limited to 40 participants, was one of those small grassroots contests that I love to race.

Held on a working farm, parking was pretty much anywhere on the grass that you could find and registration was basically just telling the kind lady with the clipboard that you were there. If you needed to change you headed to the barn and if you wanted a bag check? Well, it was safe wherever you wanted to set it down. ‘

The course setup and outline was simple but the execution was exhausting both mentally and physically. The object was to complete as many laps on the 1.2-mile course as possible in 2 hours. After the 2-hour limit athletes were no longer allowed to start another lap. The race started at 1 pm trying to take advantage of the warmest part of the November day but the constant drizzle and temps in the 40s still made for a chilly and sloppy race.

Starting off along a path through the fresh cut cornfield athletes accumulated mud by the pound on their shoes leading up to a maze of 12-foot-high sawgrass and cattails.

When you finally managed to navigate your way out of the maze it was back to running through that nasty, sticky, soul-sucking mud until you came up to the first “fit” challenge. 100 air squats had to be completed before moving on to a sandbag carry through…. You guessed it, that nasty mud.

Heavy legs got another test a short jog away in the form of bucket carry, again through the mud. Now, this bucket carry was unique. The bucket had to be carried by the handle with one hand only and was filled with 100-year-old bricks taken from a local building.

After carefully dropping your bucket off the trail led out of the field and into the large yard where you were immediately required to drop for 100 pushups. Once finished, a rope climb with bell tap was next up, failure to complete the climb meant a 25-burpee penalty. Love sit-ups? Great, cause the next fit challenge required 100 of them before getting your chance at the rig. The rig set up was a series of horizontal poles set at different heights and made all the more treacherous by the constant rain with a bell tap finish. Failure on the slick rig once again meant a 25-burpee penalty.

Tractor tire flips for 20 yards down and back was the next obstacle in line and further tested an athletes’ strength and endurance along the short course, but at least the mud was finally gone from your shoes!

One last test of strength and agility followed the tractor tire flips on the way through the course. Yet another tire, this time a truck tire, was placed on a peg. Racers had to pick the tire up and off the peg and walk it 50 yards down to where it was to be placed on another peg. A repeat of the process on the way back was required. If at any point the tire was dropped one had to start the whole process over.

Probably the most exhausting challenge of the whole event was next up in the form of a hundred plus yards of knee-to-ground lunges. It’s difficult to sit and write this review now as my glutes and hamstrings are still killing me! One last test was waiting once the lunge train was finished. A narrow balance beam, made even more difficult to cross as the rain came down and the mud and grass accumulated on top, was the last test before athletes picked up a “lap complete” band and headed back out for more!

Finishers awards were also very unique at the Farm Fit Challenge. Sections of a tree branch were cut into small sections, fire-branded with a Farm Fit brand, and then polyurethane covered.

Drinks were provided at stations along the course and were manned by a troop of Boy Scouts. I certainly hope those guys earned a special badge for braving that weather!

Fruit, chips, and hot dogs were provided at the finish along with a crock pot of baked beans. I found this event to be extremely family friendly and extremely draining physically. While the scale of the event was small the feeling of accomplishment at the end was still large. So, if you’re looking for a smaller event that’s tough while still providing a great family atmosphere check out the Farm Fit Challenge!

Highlander Assault Challenge

Inaugural Event

The first ever Highlander Assault Challenge was held October 7th in Holiday Hills, Illinois. The inaugural Scottish themed OCR offered four different distance options for you to choose from. Four, eight, and 12-mile distances were available along with a 24-mile option if you were really a glutton for punishment!

This course offered some unique terrain that included something for everyone from technical trails, to forest, to prairie grass, to mud so thick that I’m sure there that there are still shoes stuck at the bottom of the muck now.

The course was designed by veteran obstacle course racers and police officers Mike Boyce and Chad Riffe and their great team of professional builders. Coach Pain was on hand to meet the crowd and get athletes pumped up before their designated heats.

Vendors including Stark Energy and RX Bar were set up for some pre- and post-race refreshment. Parking was only 5 dollars and was located right next to the festival area. J3Timing was on hand to provide instant chip timed results and a finisher photo of each athlete.

Assault Course

Onto the course, Highlander had an 8-mile course set up with a 4-mile cut through. This was where the 4-mile option went on to their finish and where the 12-mile course cut through on their second lap. I thought the signage at this split was fairly clear, but a few racers got mixed up at this point causing them to run 16 miles instead of 12.

Starting off from the festival area Highlander led athletes out through a recently cut soybean field and over a series of three four-foot-high walls. This served to start thinning out the crowd before coming up to an inverted wall located in the same bean field.

A low crawl net was set up on the trail sending athletes down on all fours towards one of the lakes on the property which led to a custom-made rig. This well-constructed rig started off with 5 rings in a row and finished with a traverse across a suspended 2X6 section of wood. There wasn’t a bell or anything to signify completion, in the future I’d suggest a bell tap or a painted mark at the end of the 2×6 to mark completion.

Signature Obstacle

After rig completion, Highlander set up one of their signature obstacles that you will not find anywhere else. The Highlander was set up with a cargo net climb onto a shipping container leading to another large cargo net was suspended between the first shipping container and another one set up on the other side. This led to a climb up to a wooden staging area where a waterslide was set up to send racers back down, rather quickly into a water pit.

Climbing out of the lake area racers followed the course markers out into the harvested bean field once again in a giant loop designed to add some distance to the course. At this point, a dug-out moat filled with water and covered by chain link fence was waiting to soak racers on their way towards the back side of the lake where a balance test was waiting in the form of a telephone pole crossing over a water pit.

Highlander now took advantage of some of the many hills by sending racers over and between the trees in slalom style back and forth and up and down. The next bit of nastiness came in the form of a march and wire crawl through some extremely thick mud.

Stuck in the Muck

This muck stuck to racers like glue and was still stuck to us as we came up to a dirt-filled bucket carry. The trail now continued along an actual section of road where an over, under, and through series of walls set up leading to a Z shaped traverse wall. No bell tap was set up here and no volunteer was stationed to make sure racers completed the crossing, in the future one or both should be in place to ensure obstacle completion.

At this point racers entered a gravel pit area where the split from the 4-mile and the 8-mile course was located, I’ll continue on with the 8-mile course for the rest of this article. Making way through the gravel pit Highlander now directed athletes into the connected forest following a technical trail through the hills leading us to a sandbag carry. The sandbags were piled up in a way where they looked like they might have been placed there to hold down the wood structure they were sitting on. Some of the athletes were running past the sandbags so in the future having either a sign or a volunteer would be helpful in clearing things up here.

Now the trail led athletes back into the forest where the path followed a game trail along the back side of the property. This eventually opened up when racers made it to the second lake along the course where the cut grass around the lake became the trail. Highlander situated a teeter totter balance beam and a unique ladder climb up to a bell tap along the long loop around the lake.

Game of King’s Thrones

As the obstacles became fewer now the trail became tougher as racers were presented with a mixture of forest, marsh, and creek crossings which made for rather nasty and tiring running.

This eventually led to the King’s Throne which was designed like a huge Irish table with a ladder climb on the back side making this obstacle look very much like a huge chair! The 8-mile trail now joined back up with the 4-mile trail which set racers on a course back towards the festival area. A 12-foot high ladder was the first obstacle racers encountered along the merged trail.

Another harvested bean field jog led to a caber carry before sending athletes into some thick cattails for another murky creek crossing. Climbing out of the creek racers were now presented with an Atlas Stone carry, 95 pounds for men and 65 pounds for women. Once your stone was dropped off a short jog away Highlander presented a maze run that required racers to pick up a yoke with car tires dangling from a metal chain off each side for a zig-zag sprint through a field of parked boats testing one’s coordination to the max.

The Final Obstacles

One last forested section of the course was all that remained left to be conquered! Scattered throughout this acreage was the remains of an old paint ball course, including some small houses and castles, which Highlander integrated into the trail. Some of structures were rebuilt and added onto in the form of a two-story rock climbing wall and a two-story wall climb with a rope assist.

After breaking free of the forest racers faced one of the most unique climbs in the OCR industry. Suspended in the air vertically was a set of plastic tubes. Perhaps a foot in diameter these pipes rose approximately 15 feet in the air. The only means to climb this pipe were small ropes which hung out of two sides of each pipe and spaced around 16 inches apart leading up to the top making this the most challenging “rope ladder” ever! One last set of parallel bars provided a good triceps/shoulder burn before the 8 and 4-mile course finished and the 12 and 24-mile racers continued on for further punishment.

Final Thoughts

Other than a few issues that you would normally expect for a first-year event, Highlander really did prove to be very challenging and well-managed. The event benefited from having actual obstacle course racers design the course and its obstacles.  People could complete most of the obstacles and the four distance levels offered provided a test for every fitness level.

The finishers’ bling was cool looking and Highlander also had a merchandise tent with everything from flex fit hats to hoodies to complete the look. I’m really looking forward to the next Highlander Assault on October 6, 2018, to see what those crazy cops come up with next!

Chicago Terrain Race

 

Terrain Race Chicago

The Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois played host to the second annual Terrain Race on September 30th. After the collapse of a rig the previous year at this same location I was curious to check out the event again and was pleased to see the craftsmanship of the obstacles was significantly upgraded. All the obstacles felt solid and safe which allowed athletes to really push themselves without worry on the flat and fast course.

The choice of 5k or 10k was offered during registration with a higher fee charged for the 10k, but only the 5k was timed slightly upsetting those who signed up for the competitive 10k. Racers who paid for the 10k could run a second untimed lap if they chose to do so and an unlimited lay option was offered.

Registration took a little time as only two lines check-in lanes were open, one for elite and one for open class. Terrain positioned a volunteer at each obstacle but the knowledge of the rules at some of the more difficult obstacles left some elite racers shaking their heads in frustration. Personally, I feel that all races should identify where their tougher or more confusing obstacles are located and spend extra time making sure that the volunteer at that location knows exactly what’s required for obstacle completion as this would make for a much smoother race.

Plenty of restrooms were available in the lots surrounding the speedway and in the festival area. Parking in those lots set you back 10 dollars and was an easy walking distance of the registration tent.

The Course

Terrain starts their race in a unique and chilly way. Three swimming pools were filled up waist deep with freezing water. This served as the starting corral and proved to be a great way to start off a race as athletes were already subjected to the mental and physical punishment of the cold before the race even started!

After emcee Lashay Marks released us from the Pit of Despair athletes were led through the speedway grounds and over a 4 and 6-foot wall to thin out the herd some before hitting a tall wall with a rope to assist you up and over. This was the first location I noticed a racer backup as athletes had to wait their turn for an opportunity to grab a rope to conquer the wall.

Back now on the mowed grass field, Terrain led racers to a rope climb with a bell tap at the top provided the first grip strength test. This led to the lone muddy area along the course as terrain used a series of tubes, water pits, and mud mounds to get racers dirty.

A very short jog away was a yoke with a car tire attached to each side which athletes placed across their shoulders for a short distance. I’m not sure where this obstacle was supposed to start and stop.  There was a flag a short distance away for athletes to go around but there was no apparent start/stop point given. Since there were not enough yokes to go around an athlete had to wait for someone to finish and pass their yoke to the next person in line. This was another obstacle backup which frustrated those worried about their time and was one of the few obstacles with no volunteer guidance.

Obstacles

Making our way now to the speedway stadium Terrain set up a twice up and back tractor tire flip where athletes once again had to wait their turn for a chance to complete the obstacle. A few more tires located here in the future and the issue would be solved.

Terrain next used the speedway stairs to their advantage with two climbs to the top. One with a Wreckbag, and one without separated by a 5-gallon bucket carry with maybe 3 gallons of water inside each bucket. Heading back out from the parking lot to the grass a tire slam with a sledgehammer for ten yards was set up along a path leading to a ladder climb and cargo net crossing.

The trail now led us on an extended looped back around towards the festival area where the obstacle difficulty increased starting with an 8-foot wall climb immediately followed up by a tractor tire drag down and pull back.

Making our way now to the festival grounds Terrain set up the first of their two rigs. This rig proved to be the easier of the two as the first half included 3 suspended ball holds leading to a high handle followed by 4 low rings which required an athlete to use their feet to make the final transitions where a bell tap signaled fulfillment of the task.

Rigs

A short distance away the second rig was set up. This proved to be the more difficult of the two as the configuration was a repeat of ropes to single high rings. The Tarzan Swing was an appropriate name for this rig and this obstacle caused the greatest bottleneck.

The volunteer situated to explain the finish guideline was less than stellar which left some very confused as to what the finish qualifications were. Once the last rig was completed the last grip intensive obstacle was waiting in the form of a unique set of monkey bars. Situated over a pool of water this traverse led racers on a slight incline to the apex where a set of wooden beams needed to be negotiated past before the trip down the bars which was on a slight decline. These bars were tougher than they looked because some of the metal rods spun while others did not which kept athletes guessing the whole way through. The last obstacle before the finish was a combination of a balance beam leading athletes up to a cargo net crossing finally finishing with a slide down a pole where the finish line was located.

These bars were tougher than they looked because some of the metal rods spun while others did not which kept athletes guessing the whole way through. The last obstacle before the finish was a combination of a balance beam leading athletes up to a cargo net crossing finally finishing with a slide down a pole where the finish line was located.

Overall Thoughts

Despite the above-mentioned hiccups in the event, I found the Terrain Race challenging and would race it again in the future. Terrain clearly made an effort to improve the quality of their obstacles over last year and the low cost helps make this a worthwhile race.

The Chicago Speedway is a cool location to visit. Perhaps spreading out some of the obstacles would help with the racer congestion and spending a little more time instructing the volunteers on the rules couldn’t hurt.

I didn’t notice an area where you could check your finish stats and as of the Tuesday after the race, I still can’t find one online. The medals were not as big as in previous years and the finishers tee shirts were very basic but like I mentioned before, the low cost and challenging course make this a race I would run again.

Michigan Spartan Sprint

Michigan Sprint

The Michigan International Speedway played host to the Spartan Race over the weekend of September 9th and 10th, offering a Super distance on Saturday and a Sprint on Sunday. I participated in the Sunday Sprint, which is the distance that will be covered in this race review. Spartan seamlessly used the flat terrain around the stadium as well as integrating the stadium itself into the 5.6 mile Sprint, bridging the gap between a stadium race and a mud run.

Parking Problems

40-degree temperatures greeted the first groups of racers to arrive at the speedway as volunteers dressed in winter coats directed traffic to the lots surrounding the event. The standard $10 was the universal price for parking as no upgraded VIP parking was offered. There was a 10-minute walk to the registration area. This provided racers time to get moving, build up a little body heat and shake out some last minute nerves.

Post-race was a different story. You’re tired and wet and just want to find your car and get out of there! That walk was longer than desired. For some, it was a good chance to catch their breath and walk out some sore muscles. Once registration was complete, there was another short hike required as racers were led under the stadium and track via an underground tunnel to the festival area and start/finish line. Spartan added no surprises during this event, making the course map accurate.

Obstacles

Racers on the infield of the track and additional athletes were then led immediately outside of the stadium. They were greeted with a series of walls to hop over on the way out which started the process of thinning out the crowd. A tunnel under the track provided our opportunity to explore the surrounding racetrack grounds as athletes were led over a series of hurdles set along the grass path. This grass trail continued around to the back side of the track where the O-U-T and vertical cargo net were located. This further thinned out the crowd.

A short distance away we re-entered the stadium through an open gate where a series of obstacles were set up in the infield. This obstacle position provided excellent viewing for family and friends. It was here that Twister, the A frame cargo climb, tire flip, and spear throw were located. If you wanted a bad ass picture of yourself on the Twister or flipping the 200-400 pound tire, this was the race to be at. Spectators were only a few feet away, watching your epic triumph or failure.

Quarter-Mile Challenge

After proceeding past this gauntlet of obstacles, Spartan led racers to a flat section of pavement where each runner was timed passing through two timing mats for their ¼ mile challenge. The top 3 male and female athletes received awards for the fastest times. It was a fun addition to the race.

Spartan began their bucket brigade on the grass trail leading around the back of the stadium. After that, there were a few rolling hills of sand/mud mixture, finished with a cold dip under the dunk wall. Being that Spartan is excellent at combining complicated obstacles with natural obstacles, this was a perfect area to place the slip wall for all soaked runners to climb.

This same sand/mud mixture was also where a long ass barbed wire crawl was situated. This wasn’t your standard crawl as tires and large cones were placed inside the barbed wire to make the transition through much more difficult. Mud and sand-covered racers were then led into a loop around the far side of the grounds where the 7-foot wall and the multi-rig (rings only) were located.

Strength Required

The plate drag and pull was the last obstacle in this loop. After which each athlete reentered the stadium for the hardest obstacle of the day. Welcome to the sandbag carry. Starting on the ground floor, Spartan placed their long and narrow sandbags near a set of steps for a fun trip to the top of the stadium. Every flight was a challenge and an accomplishment.

The decline down the steps was difficult as your legs were taxed and the weight of the sandbag could easily throw a runner off balance. In true Spartan form, after the intense climb up the tower and bleachers, the race had each athlete drop off their sandbag and climb again without the additional weight. If you didn’t hate running stairs before this race, you were bound to after!

The Herc hoist was the last obstacle before Spartan led us back to the racetrack infield through another tunnel. Spartan set up its grand finale of obstacles in front of the crowds for everyone to see. This truly was a spectator’s course. The rope climb tested everyone’s grip strength, after being taxed from the previous hoist.

I laugh as I emphasize grip strength because the evil (or genius) minds of the Spartan team gave us Olympus as the next challenge. The back to back grip and arm strength obstacles gave the crowd a good perspective into the requirements for a strong Spartan finish and a well-earned fire jump.

Aftermath

If you had any juice left in the tank, this was the time to utilize it. Otherwise, you faced the 30 burpee penalty while staring at the finish line, which was only an inverted wall climb and fire jump away.

Upon completion of this grueling course, Spartan offered their normal post-race treats and drinks. Showers and bathroom accommodations were located in the racetrack infield for racers to clean up before their long trek back to their cars.

Outside of the sandbag carry from hell, this course was filled with the standard Spartan familiarity. Z wall and Atlas Stone were not used during the Sprint but were used the previous day on the Super. The distance was slightly longer than most sprints, but Spartan used the stadium and terrain incredibly well and their obstacle setup was specifically and thoughtfully designed to test you and provide great viewing for spectators.

As a racing fan, it was really cool to see some of the stadiums that you don’t typically get to see, and it was thrilling to actually be on the Speedway track. There were plenty of hotels and places to eat near the event.

My final word on this race is that it’s a great one to get to if you live in the Midwest, but I don’t think I’d travel very far to run it. Aroo!

Photos courtesy of Spartan Race

Muscle Up OCR

This year’s Muscle Up OCR took place on August 26th in Spragueville, Iowa. Held on the grounds of a working family farm this 3.75-mile race boasted some outstanding scenery with about 1,100 feet of elevation change. Now, that elevation change doesn’t sound so bad until you show up and see the grade of the hills.

The farm is also used as an ATV course, the trails are torn up with steep banks and water runoff grooves down the center making the terrain difficult and physically draining.

Muscle Up provided chip timing for both the open and competitive heats with cash prizes being awarded to the top 2 male and female competitive finishers in 3 different age groups 14-24 25-40 and 41 and over. Obstacle completion is mandatory in the competitive waves while open class runners are offered a “muscle out” option at many of the stations. This provides an easier version of the same obstacle for those new to the sport that maybe can’t complete all the tougher obstacles.

I consider this the best family run OCR in the Midwest for a number of reasons.

  1. The farm friendly atmosphere. Chances are if you have raced here before they probably remember you and know your name.
  2. Some of the handmade unique obstacles you will not find anywhere else.
  3. For a short course, it’s very demanding. Most racers will be gassed at the end.
  4. Plenty of great views to see while racing.
  5. Competition level. While not huge in numbers there are always a few awesome athletes who show up to race here.

The Course

The course starts off in a fitting location considering it’s held at a working farm.  Racers are released every half an hour behind a barn where a herd of goats are penned up and continues along a dirt track for about half a mile before turning racers into the woods.

This is the point where racers face their first obstacle. The path leads through a series of ravines where downed logs were thrown across the path making for a challenging climb. After racers picked their way through the logs and rocks the trail led back out onto the initial dirt track where we first started.

Racers encountered a few sloppy mud pits as the dirt track turned into marsh before being led up a hill and along a game trail. Along this trail, racers were required to pick up a log to make the climb just that tougher.

At the top of the trail was a series of wooden walls which needed to be traversed with your log then further down the path was a mowed out section of prairie grass cut into a circle. Once completed a racer could now drop off their log and proceed along the prairie trail.

Muscle Up used every ditch, ravine, and section of woods to their advantage and just as racers thought the trail was getting easier Muscle Up set up an Atlas Stone throw over a wall with a cargo net climb a short distance away. This led to what I like to call “the endless hay maze.” Now, this wasn’t the actual name of the obstacle but after getting stuck in this pitch-black zig zag maze I thought it was very fitting.

The Obstacles

After brushing off the hay and finally getting some oxygen into your lungs racers were now led down a hill towards the festival area, but not before having to cross a rope bridge made up of swinging 4×4 posts and climbing down a ladder.

A sled pull and a tire ladder were waiting for athletes at the bottom before being sent back out on the trail.  Steep terrain came into play again as the trail led racers up and down the ATV path in a route design to tire the legs out before being presented a long list of obstacles situated in the flat open field.

First up in this obstacle armageddon was rope swing across a small creek followed up by a rope traverse over that same section of the creek. A monkey bar setup provided your way back across the creek.

A short jog away Muscle Up placed a rope ladder followed up by a long Atlas Stone carry. The last three obstacles set up in this series included a dual bucket carry over a well-constructed set of A frame type ramps with a rope climb immediately after.

The last and perhaps most tricky obstacle was a tire ladder climb. Muscle Up was able to link together a series of tires vertically that swayed and bucked like crazy when you tried to climb up them!

The Final Obstacles

Thoroughly gassed from the energy expenditure on all those obstacles racers were led up a climb that cut through some awesome scenery. Tunnels through weather cut stone was where the trail now went and I really couldn’t help but to look around and take some of it in as I made my way up the path.

The dirt track flattened out once a racer made their way to the top and continued until the trail opened to a section of hurdles made up of 55-gallon drums that were lined up in a row to test one’s leaping ability.

One final climb down a hill was now all that stood in a racers way to the final section of obstacles and the finish line.

A 7-foot wall climb was first up on this last section followed by a series of wooden hurdles. A metal tube provided a low crawl opportunity but not before an American Ninja Warrior style wall lift. I’ve not seen this obstacle anywhere else. A wooden wall was set into a narrow door frame with wheels on the side requiring an athlete to pull the section of wall up in order to scamper to the other side before letting go and having the wall crash back down! Three of these were included in the final section of the course all leading up to a fun water slide which dumped racers into a freezing creek before climbing out and crossing the finish line.

The Festival Area

Since this event is out in the middle of the country Muscle Up did provide a beer/drink tent and had a mobile food truck on site. A shower area was provided, as long as you didn’t mind showering in a barn. A tractor trailer was converted into a sectioned off changing area for athletes needing a change of clothes.

Conclusion

Muscle Up could have used a few more volunteers in key locations such as the log carry and the barrel hurdles during the competitive waves just to keep people honest. The photography for the event was pretty much just people taking shots with their phone which was kind of a shame because of all the neat obstacles. I personally come to this event every year and it’s never failed to meet my expectations.