Epic Series Orange County

About Epic Series OCR

The Huntington Beach Sports Complex played host to the latest Epic Series OCR event on August 12th in Huntington Beach, California. This unique OCR based on functional fitness currently hosts events in Southern California only, but after reading this review you may want to schedule a trip or vacation around one of these magnificent events.

What is Epic Series you ask? My best description is that it’s an awesome blend of functional fitness movements with OCR obstacles set around a circular course with a total distance of about 1.5 miles. It’s almost like an extended CrossFit competition without the complicated movements with the weight used at each obstacle station scaled into Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced difficulty levels.

For the Competitive waves, obstacle completion is mandatory and the obstacle standards are strict (men must do Advanced-level obstacles and women must do at least Intermediate-level obstacles). In the open class, it’s more about fun with no mandatory obstacle completion, no penalties, and the ability to choose which difficulty level to complete. This makes the event challenging but doable for any athletic ability level. Although if you were to choose to run a Competitive class there was a little bonus competition after the race that I’ll get into later.

Course Design

Epic Series designs their courses in a large circle similar to a track with rows of obstacle stations located in the middle, which requires way less space than a normal OCR and makes viewing perfect because all the obstacles are right in front of the spectators the whole time. Epic could even hold one of their events indoors at a stadium or convention center if they desired, but the course for this event was set in the parking lot of a sports complex.

Waves started at 8 a.m. with each wave thereafter starting about 5 minutes after the previous wave. I personally thought this might lead to log jams on the course but it didn’t really appear to be too much of an issue as athletes moved swiftly from station to station. The only time athletes from different waves merged together was during the runs around the perimeter circle during different segments of the race, some requiring carrying of different objects that I’ll get into later.

The start of Epic always consists of a flag lap. Large Epic Series flags are used and require racers to run around the perimeter circle then dropped back off near the start. Now, this is when the real fun begins. Starting through the first row of obstacle stations racers immediately encountered a ladder wall. Once up and over the wall was the Atlas Stone station. A ten-repetition requirement was required here with athletes hoisting the stones over their shoulders and dropping them onto a mat. Larger mats really could have been used here, as many stones missed the mats and ended up being turned into rubble on the parking lot floor. I personally broke two of them and hope I don’t get a bill in the mail!

Moving onto the next station Epic set up rows of boxes for burpee box jumps that left most gasping for air. Again, the heights of the boxes and rep count varied depending on the difficulty level. The last station in the first row of obstacles was the balance pegs. This unique obstacle was set up in three sections of curved beams linked together with pegs installed every two feet apart. Another lap around the perimeter, this time with a weight scaled slosh pipe, ended the first section of obstacles once the lap was completed.

 

Row two started off with a series of banded bunny hops. Twice down and back facing frontwards and another two times down and back shuffling side to side. After taking off the band it was onto the Russian Twists. A weight scaled medicine ball was used for this 20-repetition side to side abdominal buster.

The Triwall climb, a wall with three different heights for Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced levels, was set up to climb over next leading right into the overhead squat station. Light weight pipes were used in this 30-repetition movement and most athletes knocked these out very quickly.

A rope climb for two repetitions was the last obstacle in this section leading to another sprint lap around the perimeter. Now the rope climb was a tad short. In fact, a taller athlete could just jump and hit the bell. In my opinion, Epic should find a way to make this setup a bit taller for future events. A rope with knots and a cargo net were provided for those who could not complete a rope climb.

After the sprint lap, row three started off with a keg hoist up to the top of the pulley for three repetitions then it was onto the dreaded squat wall. This was a time scaled wall sit with legs at 90 degrees while holding an hour glass with straight arms out in front of you until your time was finished and was a total bitch to do!

With quads on fire, another series of 15 burpee box jumps was next on the list and was seriously punishing after those damn wall sits! An inverted wall climb was the last obstacle in this row and was finished off by picking up two jerry cans for the farmer carry run around the perimeter of the course. This was a total grip strength, lower back, and trap buster!

(photos by: JamieHinesphoto.com)

The hourglass was used once again starting off the next row of obstacles. This time you had to watch the sand slowly moving while holding a plank position. This was almost like mental torture, come on sand, move!

The next station in this row were the lumberjacks. These consisted of metal 4×4 tubes connected to the ground by a pivot anchor. An athlete had to pick up the pipe and walk it up till it landed on the ground on the other side for a total of 16 repetitions. This Epic unique obstacle is one of my favorites combining a deadlift and military press type movement in one and really gets your heart pumping. Another ladder wall and inverted wall completed this row of obstacles and the following lap around the perimeter was completed while carrying a medicine ball.

The last section of obstacles started off with Barnaby’s beast. This was a wall traverse up and over using rock climbing holds as anchors. After completion was another Epic only obstacle. A bow and arrow were used to hit a metal target set up a few yards away. A rubber stopper was used on the end of the arrow and a net was setup behind the targets making this a fun and safe obstacle.

After playing Robin Hood a low cargo crawl was next up leading to an over and under obstacle. Plastic tubing was set up a couple feet off the ground and an athlete had to jump over and then crawl under to the other side before repeating this suckfest for division scaled reps. One last triwall was now the only thing between you and your keg.

No not beer, this last run around the perimeter required an athlete to hoist a keg onto their shoulders for the entire lap. Once the lap was completed and the keg dropped off it was a 20-yard sprint to the finish!

(photos by: JamieHinesphoto.com)

Now had you run the open class your day was now complete. But, if you ran Competitive you had a choice to compete in a grueling separate course for more bling. Epic separated this into strength and endurance courses with the same obstacles but different weights. Actual judges followed you around counting reps and checking to make sure lifts were completed properly.

Action started off with a truck pull for a short distance followed immediately by a push press station with added chains just for fun. Once complete a deadlift station was setup just a few feet away. An Atlas Stone was set up next and required an athlete to hoist the stone over a wall then required the athlete to follow the stone over by jumping over the wall.

A heavy farmer carry was next up followed right away by tire flips. Step-ups with kettlebells in each hand followed up the tire flips then it was on to a sandbag lunge. A final sprint to the finish completed this brutal short set up. This truly separated the men from the boys and I can see why Epic only offered this to the elite athletes. It was not for the faint of heart.

The set up on this was a tad sketchy, as the pavement was not flat here causing Atlas stones and weights to roll down the lot and the bars with weights for the push press and deadlift used old twist collars which came loose after each rep. But the challenge was still awesome, kind of an old-school let’s see who can get it done while everyone is watching type event with friends screaming at each other for encouragement.

Trophies were given out to the top 3 Male and Female athletes in two classes, Under 39 and over 40, on the competitive course along with the top 3 Male and female athletes on the Elite Strength and Endurance course. As an added bonus an Epic Series WWE style belt was given to the top Male and Female on the Strength and Endurance course! With the rapid growth of Epic continuing I’d personally like to see top 3 age group medals awarded in 5 year age increments for future Competitive events. Medals are cheap and everyone likes a chance to score some extra bling.

(photos by: JamieHinesphoto.com)

Festival Area

A kid’s course made the event a truly family event. Geared more towards just getting kids active the obstacles were not hard but the kids could run the course as many times as they wanted. Lots of vendors were located around the festival area and parking was right next to the event for a cost of only a dollar. Photographers were all over the event capturing “Epic” shots as you competed and were free to all.

The bathroom set up was just awful. Two bathrooms on each end for a grand total of four were just not enough as long lines were seen the entire day. Race bling and shirts were awesome as always and results were posted quickly.

So, although Epic has a few things to iron out it’s my opinion that any OCR or CrossFit junkie really should make their way to Southern California to try one of their events. This is my personal favorite race series due to the great blend of functional obstacles. So, if you don’t like the mud, don’t like to run much, or just want to try a different kind of OCR give Epic Series OCR a try!

(photos by: JamieHinesphoto.com)

Savage Race Chicago 2017

Savage Race is known for coming up with new and innovative obstacles year after year and the 2017 edition of their Chicago race was no exception. With many race series turning down the difficulty level Savage constantly brings up their game and it’s refreshing to experience firsthand. I can easily see why attendance at their events continues to grow event after event as word of their commitment to putting on a great event spreads after each race. Pulling up to their event at Richardson Adventure Farms on the Wisconsin/Illinois border with my family I found parking to be a breeze with costs ranging from 10 dollars to 25 for the up-close VIP lot. Lines for the pro/elite check in were extremely long with only two lanes open while the open class had many more lanes open with next to nobody in line. With the popularity of their pro/elite class soaring it might be wise to shift some of their volunteer help during early check in from the empty lines to the full lines. Bathrooms in the festival area were also grossly underestimated. Athletes were lined up 6 deep before the start to take care of their pre-race evacuation further cutting down on some athletes warm up time. The festival area itself was well planned and spacious with a decent number of vendors along with plenty of tables and chairs for athletes to hang out post-race with friends and family.

Savage started out their 6.3-mile course by running athletes around the back side of the farm for four tenths of a mile, thinning out the crowd some before throwing racers down on the ground for a barbed wire low crawl. The course was very backloaded with obstacles and the terrain at Richardson Farm was extremely flat with only 100 feet of elevation change throughout the entire course. The Barn Doors came up quickly and afterward, this obstacle consisted of an 8-foot wall climb and was the second obstacle Savage threw at racers before a cool dip in a container of ice water Savage appropriately called Shriveled Richard. Unlike some events that just use cold hose water this quick bath included perhaps more ice than actual water leaving most gasping for air upon completion. With our bodies now stiff from the ice bath Savage led racers away from the farm and into the crops and country side for some trail running while throwing racers under a few barrels {Squeeze Play} and testing our agility with a series of 5-foot walls with barbed wire low crawls set in-between. One more barbed wire low crawl through a pit of mud started athletes on a path around a lake and across a busy road that was thankfully blocked off by local law enforcement and on to an inverted wall set up on the adjoining property. Tree Hugger, a pole to log to pole traverse, was the first test of an athlete’s grip and body control. Luckily plenty of dried cut grass was laying around for anyone to use to wipe off the remaining mud from the previous low crawl.

After hitting the bell at the end of Tree Hugger it was back on the trail leading up to a series of climbs. The Great Wall {9 foot} and The Big Cheese, a semi-circle with triangular slots cut into it, were set along a path of twists and turns through the pine trees which led racers up to the Savage slip wall. Scared of heights or swimming? Davey Jones Locker was the next obstacle Savage set up along the trail. The high dive type jump into a water pit always looks higher when you’re on top looking down at the water and always causes a few racers to turn around and climb off the apparatus. After climbing out of the water pit Lumberjack Lane was a short jog away. This wooden beam carry consisted of an incredibly short trip in a circle around a few pine trees and really should have been made longer, especially since Savage used this location as one of their photo zones. Kiss My Walls was the first Savage obstacle that had long lines of racers waiting for their turn as this wall traverse used rock climbing hand and feet holds causing for many slips and falls. The inverted wall design with the top sticking out farther than the bottom really added to the grip strength test with some of the pro wave giving up their bands on this pesky obstacle. Shaking out our hands to help dissipate the lactic acid build up racers now made their way through the pines to the Pole Cat. This Savage unique obstacle consisted of parallel poles placed horizontally at different heights and required an athlete to place one’s feet on one section while placing hands on the section directly across. A sideways crawl got an athlete across this obstacle while a slip meant getting wet in the water pit placed below.

One of my favorite obstacles was next up for racers. Wheel World is a set of spinning wheels suspended over a water pit requiring an athlete to traverse from one spinning wheel to the other and makes for a great test of grip strength and body control! Now making our way back towards the lake and festival area Savage stacked the Block Party, a cement block on a rope pull towards and carry back, and the first of the Savage rigs. This new rig for 2017 was about average difficulty wise and consisted of a few rings, three low monkey bars onto a dual rope and ring finish. A slap or kick of the bell signaled completion of all Savage rigs and you could hear bells ringing all throughout the course. Another new obstacle for this year, Hangarang, was next in line for racers. This balance obstacle was truly unlike any other in the world of OCR. Two logs were set in line and suspended off the ground by chains at either end. The goal here was to cross the logs without falling off which would require a restart. The last obstacle before racers were led back across the road to Richardson Farms was the Big Ass cargo net, this A frame climb was on par with every other cargo climb in the industry but was still taxing nevertheless. After a stretch of running on a dirt path Savage set up their second new rig, Rig Over Water was precisely that. Rings and ropes suspended over a water pit was a nice addition to the race for 2017 and provided another chance for racers to test their body control.

Making our way back to the festival area now Savage set up their Colossus obstacle. A slip wall climb up to a giant water slide usually makes for great fun, but the water wasn’t working during the pro/elite wave so a simple climb up and then right back down was the work around Savage came up with. The popular Sawtooth monkey bar traverse was next up on our way along the course and is a favorite photo location for athletes of all levels. For those thinking this race was close to done and in the bag, Savage set up the toughest rig yet. Whirly Bird proved to be a pro/elite band stealer and general pain in the ass for all racers. This handle to cluster of small ropes repeated traverse was a brutal test of grip strength and coordination. The lines were huge here as the pro/elite class racers had to repeat until completion and were made even longer by the open class racers following them. This was another new obstacle for 2017 and I tipped my cap to Savage for coming up with it as I handed over my band to the volunteer after failing repeated tries at this beast. This was the make or break obstacle for the pro/elite wave and separated the haves from the have nots. After either crushing or being crushed by Whirly Bird Savage set up another fan favorite. Teeter Tuber, an obstacle placing an athlete into a claustrophobic tube requiring a racer to climb up in the small tube to a point where the Teeter Tuber over causing one to slide down to the ground on the other side. One last new horizontal traverse was now all that separated a racer from the fire jump finish. Mad Ladders was an innovative obstacle consisting of a wooden ladder on each side of a suspended cargo net in the middle. Lots of spinning around on this one till you figured it out, most likely using up the last of your grip strength in the process.

The 2017 Savage Race series is certainly worth doing as anyone from a pro to a novice would enjoy the new challenges. Savage provides a great combination of running along with ever evolving fun obstacles that will test you. This also continues to be one of my favorite race series because of their awards setup. 66 different medals are given out to age group, overall, masters, and team top finishers down to third place giving athletes a great chance to score some extra bling. And speaking of extra bling if you race more than Savage Race you also qualify for the huge Savage Syndicate medal. This monster of bling really looks great around your neck or hanging on your wall. Race photos and bruises were free as always along with the great memories!

Photo Credit: Savage Race


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Frontline OCR

It’s rare to see a startup OCR that thoroughly impresses, but the Frontline OCR held July 8th at Dellwood Park in Lockport, Illinois did pretty much that. Put on by four obstacle racers with ties to the first responder community, this inaugural 5-mile event featured innovative new obstacles along with new twists on some of the standard obstacles. The Frontline theme of the event tied its obstacles into dealing with physical obstructions that first responders or military might encounter doing their job and adapted that into construction of their course to bring a new feel to an OCR. Frontline offered three different levels of competition for athletes. Open class, endurance class which was a multi lap option, and their Special Forces class. This was Frontlines elite wave and came with a unique twist. Each elite racer was given a 15-pound weight vest at registration to be worn during the race. Failure to complete an obstacle meant giving up your vest, however if an athlete completed all obstacles on the course they could keep their vest! The top 3 finishers then competed head to head in the Blitzkrieg round consisting of a new section of the course to determine the champ. This was the division the great guys at Frontline picked for me to do while covering their race and I’m still cussing them for it! Parking for the event was right on location at the park grounds, and a short walk away was registration along with a good dose of vendor booths and bathrooms.

At 8 am the Special Forces elite wave started off with Coach Pain giving the opening pep talk with all elites taking a knee in a dumpster. Yes, a more unusual starting location I’ve never seen but the large dumpster held us all tight.  When the wooden barrier was removed athletes, all took off over the timing strip laid on the ground and made our way into the woods and dry creek bed of the park. The uneven terrain and extra weight of the vest made footing iffy as racers came up to the first set of obstacles which consisted of cables strung horizontally across the trail which Frontline appropriately called Clothesline. After ducking low to keep our head attached we continued along the trail where a set of 4 foot walls stood in our path. Frontline now led racers out of the woods and into an open field area where an inverted wall was placed along with a dug out military crawl with a section of barbed wire right next to it. After rolling our way out of the wire racers were led back into the woods along a trail which led to a single six foot high wall and onto and a section of the park where a trio of softball fields was located with one giant hill in the middle. Frontline chose this location for a grip strength testing carry obstacle using authentic ammo cans. Now these cans were not large but they were full, and you could really start to feel the strain on your traps during the return trip over the hill. After racers placed their cans back onto the pallet it was back into the woods for another jaunt along the creek bed. It was at this point of the race, about a third of the way through, that you could start feeling the effects of that extra 15 pounds of weight.

Now being led away from the softball fields and back into the park, Frontline set up their version of a slack line which was strung between trees with a rope stung across the top for help with the balance aspect of the tough obstacle.  Once completed racers again made their way through the woods where a brand-new obstacle awaited. The Fugitive was a series of one foot in diameter pipes that were suspended vertically between sections of trees and required racers to navigate from one cylinder to the other without touching the ground. I found this unique obstacle to be a great test of grip strength and body control! The last obstacle set up in the woods was a ladder climb with another great Frontline twist. The bottom rung of the rope ladder was removed requiring athletes to pull themselves up to the second rung to start their climb. Once the ladder climb was completed racers were once again led back into the open field area where a series of trenches had to be negotiated on our way to the unique Frontline rig. This innovative rig configuration consisted of a 2X6 suspended high and held by chains for a hands only traverse which then dropped down to a section of a balance beam to cross, then a repeat of the suspended 2×6 and balance beam which was all situated in a roofed pavilion. The next section of the course caused the greatest race controversy. A multi path series of tubes either sent racers on to the next obstacle which was a multi rope traverse, or sent racers along a longer path which contained a weaver. This was purely a luck obstacle and Frontline’s thinking on this was you never know what to expect as a first responder and I totally get that. But when money and sponsorships are on the line for elite racers the majority of them wanted a level playing field. Thanks to my wife screaming at me to take the shortcut tube I avoided the weaver but in all honesty I would have liked to try it in race conditions.

After the rope traverse Frontline had dug out a pit and suspended 2×12 sections of wood across the top connecting them with metal tubes for another grip killing traverse. A rope was thankfully provided for an athlete to pull oneself out of the pit which then led along a trail and over a bridge where tires were laid down for the old football high knee drill. Once a racer got done feeling like Walter Payton Frontline led athletes into VFW Park where a slip wall was located, with a damn sprinkler spraying water onto it! Trying to get your feet under on this was a knee buster for sure. When you finally managed to gut out the slip wall crossing it was back to the bridge where a semi tire flip was set up for a down and back hamstring killer. Now that your hamstrings and lower back were on fire, Frontline guided racers up a flight of stairs for a concrete block carry/drag. It was here that numerous people got off track. With the flags to the right leading one way and the tape on the inside leading back to the start of the carry I noticed some people following the flags further into the park. I personally followed the tape back to the start but those who didn’t follow the tape and instead followed the flags were led off course. I found the blocks not to terribly difficult to carry but the effects of the weight vest were really starting to take its toll here. After dropping off our blocks and heading down a hill Frontline stationed a wall traverse borrowed from The Abominable Snow race. This unique wall traverse consisted of the normal 2×4 sections screwed into the wall but this one had an expansion between the two wall sections where a 2×10 connected the two wall segments for a hand only crossing from one segment to another before finally sending racers up a steep hill where a set of two 8-foot walls needed climbed over.

 

The last section of the Frontline course proved to be perhaps the most difficult. Already thoroughly gassed athletes came upon a cargo net set over a huge concrete dam which led to a series of nasty tunnels located in and around the dam. Making our way out of the stagnate water more steep hills awaited us on way to a standard rope climb which surprisingly had no volunteer on site to make sure the obstacle was completed. Now at the back end of the park with grip strength fading an inverted wall was set up to gas you just a bit more before being send down another steep hill. Frontline was nice enough here to add ropes to aid in our descent to the bottom where a log carry over balance beams and a short wall awaited. A series of semi-trailers was next up for athletes to run through our way to three brutal last obstacles. A 7 foot high Irish Table was an absolute killer for most including yours truly then a 20 foot warped wall with the last four feet being completely vertical! Now Frontline installed a small section of rope hanging down from the top to aid in the climb but it was still super tough! If you managed to make it through those two killers you got the pleasure of trying to negotiate the last obstacle. A Platinum Rig was the last thing now standing between a racer and the finish line. This required hands only crossing and many of those elites who still had their vests on lost them here.

 

I found this event to be more geared towards a seasoned racer. The obstacles presented would have been difficult to overcome even without the elite vest on. Frontline used the terrain very well and came up with some new and tough obstacles. It was fairly easy for spectators to view and the race bling was super. I’d highly recommend anyone with some training to try this event but this might not be your course if you are new to OCR racing. Everything in the festival area was easy to get to and the volunteers were friendly, although not particularly knowledgeable. A kid’s course was also included and offered a multi lap setup to tire out the little ones. The only negative things I heard were about the chance obstacle and a small section of course that could have been marked better. So congrats to Frontline on their first event and I’m looking forward to their next one!

Photo Credit: Frontline OCR

BadAss Dash Chicago

The BadAss Dash made a return to the Chicagoland area on Saturday, July 8, 2017, at the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, IL. Adult participants had the opportunity to compete on a challenging, yet attainable, chip-timed 7K (4.4 miles) course, with 42 obstacles to conquer. Racers chose between the Elite and the Recreational Division. The Elite racers were awarded prizes for the fastest finishing time. There was a Kids Dash Division which was divided into two groups, by age. A 400-yard Kids Dash course is designed for ages 4-6 and featured age and size appropriate obstacles. For ages 7-13, kids race on a 2K (1.25 mile) course with an appropriate mix of obstacles. Finally, there was a K-9 Companion Course. Zuke’s K-9 Companion Division is for teams consisting of one runner (14 years of age and up), and one canine (one year of age and up) of any size, shape or breed. The 5K (3.1 miles) course is specifically designed to create a fun and challenging adventure for the runner and his/her canine.

I am a recreational runner, so I chose that division to run. Upon entering the venue area, everything was well marked and easy to find. Parking was a breeze and very close. All volunteers and officials were very friendly and helpful through packet pick-up and bag check-in. Restrooms were easy to find and signs directed us to the start line.

Once the racers were off at the sound of an air-horn, after a brief run over to a grassy area, their first obstacle was doing 15 push-ups.  After that, they had some small hills to run, and ended up at the “Lunges” obstacle. Athletes carried a two-by-four across their shoulders while doing several lunges down and back.  The distance of this was challenge was painfully long! This was the end of the first mile and where a much-needed water station was perfectly located.

After rehydrating, runners were led into a parking lot for several more obstacles. Distances to run between obstacles were minimal. These obstacles consisted of jumping over road blocks, rolling car tires, carrying one or two sandbags around a flagged off area, and carrying 25 or 50-pound medicine balls. A short jog led runners through an “under/over assault” consisting of road blocks to climb under and flag lines to jump over. It was on to another parking lot. This is where the obstacles became more interesting. Runners had to jump into a pool and walk/run/swim to the other side, ducking under bungee cords. It was a nice way to cool off! There were several wall climbs, marine hurdles, and a fun cargo net climb. The “chin-up” obstacle was just that. 5 chin-ups, anyway you can get them. Once again, BadAss Dash placed a much-needed rehydration station at mile 2.

The climbing theme continued with “plank it”. A runner was to place his/her hands on one wooden beam, and extend their body across a 5-ft span to another wooden beam. The runner then traversed their way down the beams, holding themselves up as not to fall in. Volunteers were especially helpful here as many racers found themselves unsure of their abilities to reach the span. They did a terrific job of helping us feel confident and were very encouraging. After some “little ladder walls”, which were not so little, and a “crazy cargo climb”, a cargo net up, over, and down a semi-trailer, runners got to climb over a series of 3 rock walls. Runners were faced with “mount wedge-more” where they used a rope to climb an inclined wall, then rappelled down the other side. A few more obstacles, including a “claustrophobic crawl” through very narrow tunnels, rounded out mile 3. And just as expected, another rehydration station!

Mile four started with an enormous roll under an extremely long net that left many runners too dizzy to stand. BadAss was testing our balance abilities here. They had us hop into potato sacks and hop down and back the length of the parking median. This obstacle was great for the kid’s race, but most adults I heard talking said this was lame. I agree. Next, runners had to “high knee” through a sea of tires. Quite difficult for those of us still dizzy! “Balls to the wall” was a fun take on a traverse wall. Doorknobs were attached to the wall rather than the standard two-by-four pieces. It was time to head inside the Sears Centre after a jog down to the lower level, and a quick stop at hydration station number 4!

Once inside the air-conditioned arena, runners were to climb up two tall inflatable slides and slide down them before heading to the stairs. Approximately 16 flights of stadium stairs were covered before heading back outside. Racers had to navigate a series of bungee cord webs through a “human car wash”, crawl through more tunnels, and head over to the “Australian Back Crawl”. This obstacle was likely much more fun earlier in the day. It consisted of a black tarp spread across a rather steep hill. A cargo net was placed over the tarp. Racers were to lie on their backs and use the net to crawl up the hill. The problem my group had was that there wasn’t enough water on the tarp. The sun was quick to dry the water being sprayed from a hose. And the person spraying wasn’t continuously spraying; only every now and then. I found my skin sticking to the tarp. It felt like my shoulder blades were burning from the heat of the tarp since I was wearing a tank top. We were almost done! The last obstacle was the “mammoth monkey bars”. The bars were spaced far apart, and there was some kind of sandpaper type material glued to the top of each bar. The theory was this would help people so they wouldn’t slip off as easily. I didn’t slip, but without gloves, this was very uncomfortable.

Once crossing the finish line, there was bottled water and half bananas and orange slices for the racers. Volunteers cut off the timing chip and handed those over 21 a drink ticket for a free celebratory beer. There were several vendors advertising their products or services at booths and tents in the festival area.

Overall, this was a terrific race for a novice. There were no extreme distances to run without obstacles breaking it up. And many of the obstacles were easily achievable. For the Recreational Division, there were no penalties for incomplete obstacles, which is perfect for those who feel physically unable to do some of the more difficult ones. The course was clean and very well marked. My biggest compliment goes out to the volunteers. They were very encouraging, helpful, and had a great sense of humor. Elite runners would have been disappointed with the lack of differentiated challenges. Only a few obstacles allowed for this skill level difference. The BadAss Dash at Sears Centre was very spectator friendly. All areas of the course were accessible to family and friends who were there to cheer on their runners. Finally, this was the best kids race that my children have ever run in. The 9-13-year-olds were chip timed and ran a portion of the adult obstacles. Heats of 30 children were released at a time to keep the kids safely spread out on the course. The 2K distance was a well-balanced challenge of running, stairs, and obstacles. Again, volunteers were plentiful and helpful. What a great way to get them prepared for their racing future!

My only concern with this race is with its name. I have young children who love to race and show off their accomplishments but cannot take their medal to school to show off because of the word Ass. Nor can they really talk about it! We call it the “Bad Dash” at our house. I can’t help but wonder if more would be interested if the name did not contain a common swear word.

Photo Credit: Author

Spartan Race – Lambeau Larceny?

How would you like to race at the stadium where the Ice Bowl was played? Or where Brett Favre and Reggie White terrorized the NFL? Well, on June 24th Spartan Race made that happen by bringing their stadium series to Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Being raised in the Midwest, I jumped at the opportunity to sign my whole family up and spend the entire day racing and taking in the sights at the historic stadium. While I left feeling like Spartan could have done way more in terms of bringing better, more challenging obstacles to the venue, I still feel the trip was good family fun.

With light rain and cool temps starting off the day, athletes and spectators were happy to find plenty of free parking around the stadium upon arrival. Usually Spartan tries to squeeze every cent out of racers by charging outrageous parking fees or bussing racers in from a distance away for a normally charged 10-dollar fee, but I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t have to donate a kidney for parking at Lambeau. A quick trip through registration led you right up the steps and into the legendary stadium where the start and finish were located. Plenty of stadium access allowed for spectators and fans to take pictures of the iconic venue or of their favorite racer. Overpriced food and drinks were being sold inside the stadium, but if you go to a game this is what you expect anyway right? Ok, enough about me being in awe of my surroundings and onto the race.

Athletes were led up one of the pedestrian ramps where we waited in line to be in the next group of 15 that got to stand on our Spartan mats until being told to go. Spartan had strung bungee cords across the ramps making everyone going up the ramps immediately drop down or get on all fours on their way to the top. A series of 4-foot walls were the first set of obstacles in our path before being led outside for what was our first of numerous stair runs. After a set of 20 hands clear pushups, we were led back out to the stadium steps where we picked up our lovely sandbags for even more stairs! Now with quads thoroughly gassed, Spartan had athletes make their way down to the ground floor where after a 6-foot wall climb, were a quick series of obstacles in a row including the rope climb, rolling thunder, and the box jump station. These three obstacles were on the main concourse, which made it easy for family and friends to spot their favorite racers.

Another dose of stair running was up next and Spartan felt that made racers just winded enough for them to throw the rig at them. The Spartan rig used at Lambeau consisted of all rings until the last two grip stations where baseballs were used instead of rings. Once an athlete negotiated the Spartan rig, it was on to… you guessed it! More stairs! These stairs led down which made racers happy and continued leading racers outside of the stadium for a brief time with a series of obstacles starting with the Z wall. A short jog away, Spartan placed the A frame cargo net, spear throw and the concrete block carry/burpee challenge. Now running back into the stadium for yet another round of stairs, racers encountered the 7 and 8-foot wall climbs back to back leading around the corner and onto the main concourse once again. The Herc Hoist and ball slams were in this easy to view area and provided yet another great opportunity for people to see their favorite racers up close. Both the hoist and the slam balls seemed to most racers to be noticeably lighter than usual.

The last leg of Lambeau started with racers crawling up bungee banded stairs on all fours to the top of the stadium where a thick, weighted jump rope with a nice large knot in the middle was waiting and requiring 20 hops before proceeding back down the stairs and through the Gladiator Gauntlet made up of large punching bags. As always, fruit, snack bars, and drinks were located at the finish line along with the unique stadium series medal.

After taking a bit to reflect on the race, a few thoughts came to mind. I felt Spartan could have done way more with this event. Now, it may have been a perfect starter race for someone, and I’m sure the regular racer really would have enjoyed the event. But for those who have been to a few Spartan Races, or for those who train hard and really expected a challenge, this was not your race. The winning male Elite time of Robert Killian was 22:06. This is faster than most people’s 5k time and had to set the record for the fastest Sprint ever. Reported distance ranged from 2.4 to 2.6 miles and I left the race feeling a bit ripped off. I can’t imagine those elite/competitive racers who put down a couple hundred bucks for this race were happy about its length.

A few of the new, and old obstacles were missing even though I thought the venue provided plenty of room. The obstacles missing were:

  1. Monkey Bars
  2. Atlas Stone
  3. Twister
  4. Olympus
  5. Jug Carry
  6. Vertical Cargo Net
  7. Rowing Machine

Also, at no time during the race were athletes led through locker rooms or onto the field. This would have certainly added to the experience of racing Lambeau and who knows? Maybe Lambeau wouldn’t let Spartan into these areas. Also, Spartan held their Minnesota Sprint on the same day. Having two races on the same day in the same geographic area was very poor planning. Local athletes in the upper Midwest basically had to choose between the two. Mike Ferguson, last year’s Minnesota Sprint champ, told me he would have liked to defend his title but the lure of racing at Lambeau was too strong to pass up for the Packer fan. So, my final say on the Lambeau Sprint was that Spartan just laid out a basic event and counted on the location to draw in racers.

Photo Credit: Spartan Race

The Battlegrounds

The first of two events held at the permanent OCR location called The Battlegrounds near Cedar Lake Missouri was held on May 20th in what could best be called monsoon rains. The OCRWC qualifying course was originally designed to be a 5-mile loop, but due to the heavy rain, race director Robert Holm was forced to scramble and reroute the course before the 8 am start. This made the course longer, as racers were now required to complete two 3.15 mile loops. So, while racers missed out on some of the fantastic obstacles on the back end of the course, they got to hit some of the signature obstacles that the Battlegrounds featured such as The Gauntlet and The Drop Zone twice. This also caused some course crowding due to racers coming across other racers from the next wave on their second lap. With the extremely sloppy terrain and loads of racers lined up at each obstacle, times were slowed. But with over 2,500 athletes racing, there really was nothing much more race management could do, and I applaud their efforts.

The race started a half an hour late due to the quick course redesign with the elite wave of men and women leaving from the festival area with Coach Pain leading the cheers on the microphone. The cut grass trail racers were led down quickly became a muddy mess as athletes raced away from the festival area and onto their first series of mud mounds. All the recent added rain water made every dip into the water a chilling experience! Now cold, wet, and muddy athletes were back onto the trail racing towards the hanging grape vines of the winery across the street. A series of low hurdles was the next set of obstacles for racers to overcome before being led through another freezing pond of water and muck. Back out of the pit the trail became even worse with all the water dripping off athletes making an already sloppy track miserable. Now it was onto a moat crawl with a twist. For open racers, it was just a basic moat crawl, but for elite racers, fencing was added over the top where only a few precious inches separated the water and the fencing testing your lung power and mental toughness. A short jog led us next to the first of two tall cargo net climbs on the course. Another dip into a small pond with a hurdle in the middle and crawl through a mud pit that resembled soup led racers back round to the festival area where the second cargo net climb was located.  A lake crossing on a series of floating pontoon rafts tested one’s balance to the maximum and lifeguards were stationed on both sides of the traverse for safety.

After a brief jaunt back towards the festival area, a low crawl through the drainage tubes under a low bridge awaited racers before being required to climb up a wooden ladder to the top of a platform where a huge water slide was waiting. Once you flew down the slide into the freezing water an athlete had to swim a brief distance and climb out of the water pit area over stacked tractor tires. The trail now circled away from the festival area in a sloppy loop where just keeping your balance in the much was difficult. The nasty trail loop rounded back to the festival area where an inverted wall and a 6-foot-high Irish Table was waiting before climbing up a mud mound to The Drop Zone. Don’t like the high dive at your local pool? Well this very much resembled that feeling because this obstacle required one to jump from a height over 10 feet into a pool and swim out, luckily there were lifeguards stationed all around the pool! At least you got to wash the mud off you right? Hope you were not tired from your swim cause the next task was a wreckbag trail run where the footing was basically nonexistent. The rains had made all trails very difficult to navigate.

After finally making it out of the woods with your wreck bag, a massive mud mound was waiting for you to climb over….with your wreckbag. Talk about a total suckfest! One of the Battlegrounds signature obstacles was next up. The Gauntlet is an obstacle of chance and luck and caused many people, including myself, to get very wet. Suspended over a water pit are a series of lane, that all include a different configuration, on which you must traverse from one side to the other. There may be a fence to cross, or ropes, or a balance beam, or a rock wall. Pick the wrong lane and fall requires one to swim out and start over. Tired after The Gauntlet? Well up next was a pole traverse suspended in the air where an athlete could only use your hands to cross, no leg help here. There was even Air Force personnel there making damn sure you made it all the way to the end before continuing. A lateral rope traverse led athletes towards the finish but not before a slick warped wall climb that would knock the wind out of even the strongest of racers. One last climb over a semi-trailer and one last dip into a small pond were now all that stood between a racer and the finish!

After crossing the finish line, plenty of snacks and drinks were provided and more substantial meals could be purchased in the festival area along with Battlegrounds swag. Plenty of showers were provided to wash all that muck off and they even had two areas where you could get blasted with a fire hose to get that stubborn mud off, plus a few layers of skin. Parking and photos were free and the festival and parking area were easy to navigate. The ability of race management to adjust on the fly really made this a fun event. The conditions sucked, so if you thought ocr was just a “mud run” you wouldn’t have been far off here and although the back half of the course was rerouted there were still plenty of tough obstacles to overcome and I felt thoroughly tested. This event boasted over 2,500 racers and I’ll certainly be back for their next event September 23rd.

Photo Credit: Battlegrounds