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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Scott Brackemyer

42 year old Scott Brackemyer is a self described "Eliteish" racer from Dekalb Illinois. The father of four loves to travel with his family to races to spread the good word of OCR and living a healthy lifestyle.

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