Savage Race Dallas

Getting Savage Again

Every Savage is a unique experience.  On a hot day in October at the Beaumont Guest Ranch in Grandview, Savage Race Dallas began in great weather. Everyone was having a great time with a smile on their face.  Savage brings a unique feeling to the OCR community which allows serious athletes to compete and test one another, but to joke and share a hug at the same time.

Savage Race Venue

The Beaumont Ranch is a quintessential Texas venue.  I enjoyed the “Texas” feeling this venue offered more than anything.  Savage did a great job utilizing what little elevation and technical terrain they had access to on the ranch to provide some challenge.  Occasional hills, dried creek beds, and patches of brambly grass provided a technical challenge in a state not known for running elevation.

The scenery in the creek beds and the occasional tight spot through some trees was a sight to behold.  These routes gave me the feeling of fleeing outlaws in the old west. The winding path of the race course was well thought out and utilized every natural obstacle around.  Despite its lack of extreme elevation, the scenic Texas venue made up the difficulty with a good bit of heat.   The lack of any foliage to block the sun can take its toll on runners and hydration was a must.  Savage did a great job providing a total of three water stations spaced out quite well and before key obstacles.

Beaumont Ranch Savage Race Dallas 2017 venue

Beaumont Ranch Facebook

Volunteer Performance

Well-informed volunteers did a great job of being sure the pros were aware of all the rules.  They were also quick to call out any pro who did not follow them.  The volunteers also did a superb job of being sure to repeat safety concerns to competitors at each obstacle such as Davy Jones Locker and Sawtooth.

Obstacles

Designers placed “warm-up” obstacles over the first mile of the course quite well.  A good mix of crawls, under overs, and climbing walls lead you into the second mile which also upped the ante in the terrain.

In the extreme heat Shriveled Richard (Savage’s always super cold ice bath) was almost a welcome sight.  Shriveled Richard immediately led into Squeeze Play which wasn’t under water this time around.  After a bit more running and a water break, we moved through Back Scratcher, Big Cheese, and Big Ass Cargo before hitting the third mile-marker.

Savage did a superb job at keeping rhythm with the obstacles. There were about three obstacles per mile.  All of the difficult obstacles were not placed at the end of the course.  Savages “spectators are allowed anywhere on the course” stance can benefit in the course design in this way.

Savage

Savage Dallas Anthem

Summon your Inner Savage

Next came the upper-body grinder with three obstacles in succession: Tree Hugger, Wheel World, and Kiss My Walls.  These well thought out designs can annoy, challenge, and push competitors to the brink.  We train even harder to be ready for the challenge the next time around.

Each bit of terrain traversal leading to well-placed obstacles felt like a pleasant progression in difficulty to the finish line rather than a slog.  Nearing the end of the 6.5 miles, competitors encountered the new obstacle: Hang-a-rang.  This balance obstacle consisting of two logs suspended from chains is a welcome break up to the usual OCR fare.  Competitors were not allowed to touch the chains but only the tiny rope midway through each log.

Savage Hang-a-rang Savage Facebook

Savage Hang-a-rang

The adventure ended with Davy Jone’s Locker, the time consuming Mad Ladders, the infamous Twirly Bird, and Blazed.  Many competitors speed through until the end: shoulders worn out, forearms burning only to see Twirly Bird standing between them and the finish.  Nothing compares to seeing the smile on racers’ faces as they conquer a well-designed, just difficult enough obstacle like Twirly Bird.  They then jump over the flames with gusto to the cheers of a crowd able to comfortably witness it all from the festival area.

Final Thoughts

Other than one skimmed-over piece of stray barbed wire in a creek bed that could have caused an injury, Savage Race Dallas had no other detriments.  Designers utilized the venue to their utmost and created a hella good experience for racers and spectators alike.  Savage Race Dallas succeeded in cementing my love for the race series and showing me that they continue to improve as a company in providing both challenge and experience for the money.  I would also like to note that upgrading to Pro from Open on-site was quick and simple.  I have never had such an easy time with a company in modifying a registration.

Bling

I will say the new syndicate medals and state pins are a welcome adage to my collection.  These medals are high quality.  You don’t have to buy something extra to put them on OR pay extra money to get one.  Savage seems to have continued to grow and excel while still maintaining that care for their customers and appreciating what they do. Just like the words from amazingly talented Emcee Matty T, “Savages are a family.”  We are all there for one another, and that sense of family is something that is truly felt from the festival area to the course, to the finish.

 

Savage Race Syndicate Medal

My second Savage Race Syndicate Medal

OCR World Championship 2017 Results

OCR World Championships Crowns Jonathan Albon and Nicole Mericle as 3K Short Course Champions Each claiming the $10,000 First Prize Purse

MEN’S PRO DIVISION

  1. Jonathan Albon- UK 17:23.6
  2. Ryan Atkins – CANADA 18:00.3
  3. Ben Kinsinger – USA 19:47.2

WOMEN’S PRO DIVISION

  1. Nicole Mericle – USA 20:24.1
  2. Lindsay Webster – CANADA 20:59.1
  3. Karin Karlsson – SWEDEN 22:21.7

Blue Mountains, Ontario – The world’s best obstacle racing athletes from sixty-seven nations converged on Blue Mountain Resort for the 3K Short Course Championships as part of the OCR Championships Weekend. For the second year, athletes made their way to the picturesque Blue Mountain for one of the most challenging and exciting short courses in the world.

The OCR World Championships Short Course featured nearly 3,000 athletes from sixty-seven nations and total prize purses over $43,500 disbursed among age group and pro divisions. The Friday event featured a 3-Kilometer course with fourteen obstacles from races and builders around the world. The athletes battled a challenging Farmer Carry from Green Beret Challenge and show-stopping Hanging Walls from Indian Mud Run. The Platinum Rig obstacle continued to test the athlete’s strength and perseverance.

With rain coming in right before the start of the Pro Division it meant that the already grip based obstacles were even more challenging when wet. Many athletes struggled at the new Northman Race obstacle and Platinum Rig. Both requiring grip strength and determination.

Athletes qualified to race from all over the world and this international race showcased the best in both the Pro Division and also the best Age Group racers in the world.

In addition to claiming the 3K Short Course World Title Jonathan Albon took home $10,000 in prize money. Joining Jonathan Albon on the podium was Ryan Atkins and Ben Kinsinger. On the women’s side, Nicole Mericle finished in the top place followed by Lindsay Webster and Karin Karlsson.

OCR World Championships Crowns Jonathan Albon and Lindsay Webster as 15K Classic Course Champions

MEN’S PRO DIVISION

  1. Jonathan Albon – UK 1:33:48
  2. Ryan Atkins – Canada 1:37:30
  3. Ryan Woods – USA 1:40:41

WOMEN’S PRO DIVISION

  1. Lindsay Webster – Canada 2:01:43
  2. Nicole Mericle – USA 2:09:33 3
  3. Karin Karlsson – Sweden 2:14:58

The Saturday event featured a 15-Kilometer course with over forty-seven obstacles from obstacle races and obstacle builders around the world. With obstacles coming from as far as Sandstorm Race in the United Arab Emirates and as close as Mud Hero in Ontario and Northman Race in Quebec as well as eleven other race series from around the world. The race showcased some of the most unique and exciting obstacles in the industry. Athletes qualified to race from all over the world and this unique race showcased the best in both the Pro Division and also the best Age Group racers in the world.

Jonathan Albon continued to prove he is the top athlete in the world continuing his streak as undefeated at the OCR World Championships against the best in the world. Lindsay Webster won her third straight OCR World Championships.

Jonathan Albon took the lead early in the race and never looked back. Besting the rest of the men’s field by nearly four minutes. Ryan Atkins finished second for the fourth time in the four years of the event. Ryan Woods bested Hunter McIntyre for the third spot on the podium.

In the women’s pro division Lindsay Webster earned her third OCR World Championship title
winning 2015, 2016, and now 2017 15K Classic Distance. Nicole Mericle led most of the race but had difficulties at Skull Valley one of the final obstacles which opened the door for Webster to pass Mericle. Karin Karlsson ran a solid race pacing herself along the way to claim the third spot on the podium for the second time this weekend.

In addition to claiming the 15K Classic Distance World Title Jonathan Albon took home $10,000 in prize money. Joining Albon on the podium was Ryan Atkins and Ryan Wood. On the women’s side, Lindsay Webster earned her $10,000 prize for first followed by Nicole Mericle and Karin Karlsson.

In just four years, OCR World Championships has become the premier championship for athletes globally in the obstacle course racing industry and continues to set standards for excellence. Bringing together not only athletes but also race organizers in a truly OCR United effort.CR World

OCRWC 2017 Team Results

Pro Men’s Team Division

  1. Ryan Atkins, Ryan Wood, Hunter McIntyre 46:10
  2. Jonathan Albon, Conor Hancock, James Appleton 46:15
  3. Nickolaj Dam, Renaldas Bugys, Leon Kofoed 47:14

Pro Women’s Team Division Pro

  1. Nicole Mericle, Lindsay Webster, Rea Kolbl 57:55
  2. Linnea Ivarsson, Anna Svensson, Karin Karlsson 58:43
  3. Ashley Samples, Jacqueline Krekow, Jamie Stiles 1:13:44

Co-ed Team Division

  1. Tiffany Palmer Brakken Kraker, Brian Gowiski 52:04
  2. Wojciech Sobierajski, Piotr Lobodzinski, Malgorzata Szaruga 54:33  Thomas Van Tonder, Trish Bahlman, Bradley Chaase 54:56
  3. Thomas Van Tonder, Trish Bahlman, Bradley Chaase 54:56

Complete OCR World Championship 2017 Results 3K

Complete OCR World Championship 2017 Results 15K

Complete OCR World Championship 2017 Results Team 7K

 

 

Photo Credits: OCRWC Press Release/Social Media Sites, ORM Instagram
Press Release: Margaret Schlachter, OCRWC

I Ran the OCRWC: I Got a Medal. And an Asterisk.

Of all the possible endings I had envisioned for my race, riding shotgun in a volunteer’s pickup truck and bypassing obstacles en route to the finish line wasn’t one of them. And of all the adjectives I could use to describe my experience at the 2017 OCR World Championships, I can’t believe the first one that comes to mind is “anticlimactic.”

I Had A Goal

This was my first time at OCRWC. I’m still fairly new to the sport, and I’m certainly on the “enthusiast” end of the spectrum. My 2016 OCR goal had been to complete the Spartan Trifecta, something that seemed crazy when I first seriously considered it. But then, last October, balled up on a South Carolina hotel bed, clutching my new three-piece medal, after eight hours-plus of the hardest thing I’d ever done, I decided out of nowhere to go for Worlds in 2017.

Winning a qualifier or nabbing a podium for an automatic entry wasn’t going to happen. The Journeyman class would be my way in. I picked my qualifying races for the front half of the year. I included one race more than I would need, just in case. I pre-registered for the 15k in December, a full ten months early. I booked accommodations at Blue Mountain in February. I lined up travel to Toronto in April. (Yeah, I like having a big red X to shoot for.) This was going to happen. After I completed my fourth and final qualifier, I badgered the OCRWC office staff via email to make sure I was really in. It all seemed like there must be some catch. I mean, surely they don’t let guys like me run in the WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS, RIGHT???

And truth be told, I was nervous right up until the moment they handed me a bib number in the Athletes’ Center on Thursday night. Right there in the shadow of the giant slip wall, it felt real. I was in. I would be included among the champions for one magical moment in time.

2017-OCRWC-race-bib

The Atmosphere Was Electric

OCRWC and Blue Mountain Resort put on a spectacular weekend. The atmosphere was electric. The obstacles, all larger than life and scattered around the Village. Coach Pain’s amplified pep talks floating through the nippy air. Huge crowds of people cheering for racers as they crossed the finish line. I felt like a rockstar walking around the grounds with my “Competitor” lanyard. I saw the giants of the sport up close and personal. Ryan Atkins and Lindsay Webster, right there for winners’ photos. Yuri Force floating up a warped wall like it wasn’t even there. I did the ‘sup-bro head-nod thing with Hunter McIntyre, who’s never seen me before in his life. I chatted up Kevin Gillotti in the pita restaurant and got obstacle tips. It was surreal.

Then it was my turn. The Journeymen (and Journeywomen) took off at 2:45 on Saturday afternoon. This had been a detail of no small concern to me from the moment the schedule had been released. That’s late in the day, certainly much later than the 9 am waves I prefer to sign myself up for. It seemed alarmingly late, even, given the 15km distance and the high number of obstacles.

2017-OCRWC-course-map

Even more nerve-wracking was the verbiage I remembered from the rulebook that specified a strict five-hour cutoff. Based on previous races, I knew five hours might not be enough time for a guy like me to make it 9.3 miles and navigate 43 obstacles. When I had looked up what time the sun goes down in Toronto in mid-October, I freaked out even harder. The race officials might give me until 7:45 pm, but Mother Nature would be shutting off the daylight at about 6:30.

In Life, We Are All Journeymen

But despite those sobering numbers, I figured that the OCRWC organizers must know what they’re doing. I couldn’t worry about the details now; I had the race of my life to run. I’ll freely admit I bawled my eyes out as Coach Pain reminded me and my fellow amateurs, the ones who wouldn’t be holding a big cardboard check at the end, the in-it-for-the-love-of-the-sport racers, the men and women who had struggled the most and worked the hardest to even be here, that “In life, we are all Journeymen.” With that, we attacked Blue Mountain.

The course was brutal. That familiar OCR gallows humor came out early on the first of several trips straight up the mountain. Yet spirits were high, encouragement was plentiful, and the weather was cooperating. The rain that had been forecast to have already started… hadn’t. We all forged onward. Up and down the mountain, over walls, under barbed wire, and through the mud. This is what we came for.

2017-OCRWC-warp-wall

As the race wore on, though, things changed. The rain started – first as a drizzle, then in earnest. Now, obstacles became more slippery. Footing became more challenging. The trips up the mountain got significantly slower and harder. The sky got progressively darker as afternoon turned to evening.

Urban Sky was the first obstacle where volunteers started shouting out time announcements. “You’re behind the 8-ball! You have got to pick up the pace! You are not going to make five hours!” Very soon after, we heard a whole new race strategy: “Forget the retry lane! Start skipping obstacles! Go around if you can! Just get to the finish line in five hours or you won’t get a medal!”

I May Have Nothing To Show For It

And for the first time, it occurred to me that I might not make it, that this whole trip – no, this whole year of racing and training – might leave me with nothing to show for it but a big fat DNF.

Just after the Low Rig, there was a very narrow passageway in the woods that we had to traverse. I can only describe it as a waterfall without the water. It was a sheer rock ravine no more than four feet wide. Enough for one person at a time. With one rope for assistance. And it was pitch black. The only sound was the occasional noise of a rock skittering away and sliding downhill under someone’s misplaced foot. This sound was always accompanied by one person’s sudden – and often NSFW – exclamation… and the concerned words of coaching from the dozen or so of us trying to navigate this patch of very technical mountain terrain. My overriding thought? “This had better be the last bit of this kind of trailwork or someone is going to break something. Or worse.”

A few minutes later, I was out of the ravine and on the Log Hop. I strained to see the vertical stumps, even though they were right in front of me. It was so foggy. It was so wet. It was so cold. It was so dark. And then, a voice from the volunteer tent in front of us. “Get off the obstacle! We’re shutting it down!”

Shutting it down?!? I knew it wasn’t 7:45 yet. What did they mean? Shutting what down? Just this obstacle?

No. Organizers had just halted the race, we were informed. It was too dark and too wet. The course had become unsafe. Volunteers held us at the tent and told us no one could proceed. Trucks were on the way to take us back. Several racers burst into tears that their day was over. Some were openly relieved at the same realization. One started swearing at the volunteers, demanding to be allowed to continue.

Would We Still Get Medals

But it was over. We stood shivering, swapping stories, laughing, all nervously wondering to ourselves to some degree what would happen next. My brother and another racer realized that they still had their wristbands, 33 obstacles in. They wouldn’t get the chance to go for a perfect 43. Would we still even get medals?

After that truck ride, we were allowed to climb the final slip wall and cross the finish line. Medals were draped over our necks, to the smattering of polite golf claps from the handful of spectators who had stayed, as crews and vendors hurriedly packed up their tents in the darkness. I don’t even think the emcees were still welcoming runners in over the microphone anymore. I was sore and exhausted, to be sure, but I knew I hadn’t run the full race. There were ten obstacles out there I never even got to see. It all felt empty. Hollow. Anticlimactic.

I don’t begrudge the OCRWC organizers for calling the race when they did. Conditions on top of the mountain were no longer safe for racing. That was obvious, even to the angry guy screaming that he’d promise not to hold anyone liable if he hurt himself by continuing on. There’s nothing anyone can do about the weather; that’s an inherent roll of the dice with any outdoor event.

It Feels Like A Hollow Victory

I guess my frustration/anger/bewilderment comes when I think about that schedule. That 2:45 pm start time. For the Journeymen wave, of all people, the runners that need the most time of anyone competing the entire weekend. Why wait until 2:45 to send the amateurs off on a 15k mountain run with 43 obstacles when the sun goes down at 6:45? A five-hour time limit for “the enthusiasts” seems awfully hardcore, but it adds to the challenge, fine. It’s Worlds; it should be tough. And if you have to call it at four hours because of weather, well, them’s the breaks.

But I was never going to get that five full hours. Even on a bone-dry course, I doubt I could have done that race in four. The full five would have still forced me to make decisions about skipping obstacles or bailing out on retries, both of which would seem to contradict the “for-the-love-of-the-sport” ethos that had inspired us, Journeymen, to be there in the first place. Coach Pain had pointed out at the start that our group was not the fastest, nor the strongest. True enough. But we were given the hardest obstacle of all, the one that couldn’t be overcome, the one I worried about when I saw the race-day schedule, the one that anyone with a free app on their phone could have foreseen simply by looking up sunset times.

There’s Too Much At Stake

How could OCRWC organizers not have seen that coming??? How do you justify starting the amateurs so late in the day? I understand that we can’t go first. That course has to be clean for the elite runners. There’s too much at stake for the sponsored racers to make them navigate a course full of obstacles AND a bunch of couch warriors getting in the way. I get it. Truly.

So give the Journeymen their own day. The 3k seemed to go off for all waves without a hitch on Friday, or at least I haven’t heard of any similar issues with darkness. Saturday is the right day for the elites, the semi-pros, the podium runners, the athletes who have a legitimate shot at prize money. And Sunday rightfully needs to be reserved for the team relay and charity runs. Totally agree. So extend the event one more day and let the Journeymen have the torn-up course all to themselves starting at 8 am Monday for as long as it takes them. I wouldn’t have minded. And I’m not the only one. But to allow the Journeymen to come from 67 countries to compete at the World Championships… only to yank them 75% of the way through the course because it’s too dark?!? That’s just terrible planning.

2017-OCRWC-finisher-medal

I See An Asterisk

I’ll always have the story of this weekend to tell. And I hope that one day when I tell it, it won’t include the words “empty” or “hollow” or “anticlimactic.” But right now, it sure as hell does. I competed in the OCR World Championships. For one magical weekend, I was included with the best on Earth. I played on some insane obstacles I’d never even seen before. I climbed a mountain… multiple times. I crossed the finish line. I got the T-shirt. I ran three-quarters of the hardest race of my life. Yes, I now have a World Championship medal. But honestly, when I look at it, I don’t see a neon green maple leaf in the middle of it. I see an asterisk.

Maybe someday I won’t.

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!

Spartan Seattle Beast 2017

On Saturday, September 16, 2017, I ran the Spartan Seattle Beast at the Meadow Wood Equestrian Center in Snohomish, WA in an attempt to obtain the last medal for my Spartan Trifecta.

I’ll begin with a little bit about the venue. This is my second time completing this particular Spartan Seattle Beast and I have also done the Spartan Seattle Super once. For the most part, its a really easy location to reach and there is plenty of parking. Upon arrival, you immediately notice multiple horse arenas surrounding the registration area. This is a world-class equestrian show facility and it really does look like it. Not to mention the SkyKomish River creating the Southern border of the property.

Spartan-Seattle-Beast-Map

Before the Race

Registration/checking in was pretty rough. I arrived a little over an hour until the start time of my heat and had to wait almost 30 minutes in line to scan my barcode and get my packet. Wasn’t a big deal for me as I gave myself plenty of time, but there were quite a large number of people that I overheard talking about missing the start of their heat due to the long wait.

Normally, I like to run in the competitive heats, but due to the fact that I was driving up that morning from Portland, I was forced to sign up for the open heat and a late morning start time to avoid a wake-up time in the very early hours of the morning. Thus, I started the race at 11:15 AM.

I wear my Garmin VivoActive HR during the race to keep track of time, distance and elevation. My watch tracked the distance at 12.94 miles. One of the volunteers after the last barbed wire crawl and slip wall stated that the course was 13.6 miles, but the few people I talked to ranged from 12.7 miles to 13.4 miles.

I won’t hit on the all the obstacles as some are self-explanatory and don’t need a recap. The first half of the race differed greatly from last year if I remember correctly. The first mile flew by with only the hurdles and over-wall to get through. Then we hit the river and ran along the shore. Had to do a low crawl through sand and then coming back a low crawl through the water. This part of the race I actually really enjoyed the scenery. Running along the river with trees surrounding us made it a little tough to watch my step on the treachery terrain and not take in the view.

 

Spartan-Seattle-Beast-Start-Line

From there we came back towards the equestrian center. This year the dunk wall was early on made sure no one came away clean. Shortly after the dunk wall, I saw the monkey bars in the near distance. At first, I thought that we were headed straight there and I assumed I would be screwed. My hands were covered in mud and still not dry. I did my best to rub them in some dirt/grass, but luckily I was wrong and we actually did a little loop that allowed my hands to dry prior to the monkey bars.

 

Spartan-Seattle-Beast-Dunk-Wall

Obstacles

About a mile later came my personal nemesis. The Twister. I am not sure why, but in my 2 attempts so far, I haven’t even made it to the second half of the obstacle. Not this time. This time I easily made it through. I had prepared by watching the Spartan “Ring the Bell” video and other videos as well as reading strategy for completing the Twister and it definitely paid off.

After a couple more obstacles, including the atlas carry, I came upon the Z-Wall. I found what appeared to be the shortest line without looking at the path of the blocks and waited. This turned out to be a big mistake. The path that I chose had a grouping of blocks in the middle that had the foot and hand placement only a few feet apart. This may not have been so bad, except I am 6’2” and was essentially bent in half trying to keep my grip and move forward. This ended up being the first (and only) obstacle that I failed. Did my 30 burpees and moved on.

Up until this point, I was feeling really strong and confident. More than half the race was done as I had just passed mile 8 and I was riding the high of completing the Twister for the first time, despite my failure at the Z-Wall. Then things picked up.

We were back into the trails and beginning the really technical climbing. Unfortunately, I got stuck behind some people that weren’t aware that others would be trying to pass (I have no doubt they were trying their best to move quickly for them) and I wasn’t willing to take the risk of knocking them off the trail (some spots would have had a pretty nasty fall). After climbing for what felt like forever, we finally emerged near the festival area for a quick set of 3 obstacles: the new vertical cargo, rope climb and an updated version of the multi-rig. The vertical cargo had a 5 foot (by my estimate) platform that you had to climb on before you got to the cargo net to climb over. The multi-rig started with a straight bar, followed by some rings and then a baseball. It ended with a dismount onto a wooden wall that had spaces in between boards to climb up and over.

Next was the bucket brigade. I had studied the map prior to the race and knew that there wasn’t anything that I considered extremely grip intensive for the remainder of the race. I didn’t worry about saving my grip and just held onto the bottom of the bucket with both hands and moved as quickly as possible. Shortly after this came the sandbag carry. This was a single sandbag and I picked the first one I saw that looked to be evenly distributed and threw it on my shoulder. I believe I only switched shoulders once during the sandbag carry – it was not very long.

Spartan-Seattle-Beast-Bucket-Brigade
The Home Stretch

Following this was more and more trails. For every climb, there was a fairly significant downhill. It was at this point that I started to feel the cramps coming on in my calves and quads. I was prepared though and went through a couple of packets of mustard which shortly cured my cramps. I did my best to at least power walk the ascents if I wasn’t able to run them and then power down the descent. We popped out of the woods at one point to do a barbed wire crawl and the slip wall and then we were right back in. It was after the slip wall that the volunteer told us we were at 11.4 miles of 13.6.

After some more up/downs in the trails, we were finally in the home stretch. Next obstacle was the Spearman. I was somewhat nervous for this as not only is it easy to fail, but I barely managed to succeed at the Spartan Portland Sprint. In Portland, I actually stuck it into the head of the wooden figure. The volunteer told me to move and so I did, but I didn’t know if that technically counted. I did check later and confirmed in the rules that sticking it anywhere on the figure/hay counts as a completed obstacle. This time I aimed a little lower and managed to stick it in the top of the hay bail without issue.
Herc Hoist and Olympus were the next two obstacles. I liked having Olympus near the end. I normally find this obstacle pretty easy, but with the exhaustion of 12 miles on my legs, it made being in that tight position a real struggle.

The final obstacle (no fire jump due to a fire ban in the area) was the ladder climb. Tons of controversy surrounding this obstacle. I personally did not struggle with it, but I easily see how many could. I used a reverse grip with my left arm to hook it around the next rung and then stepped up. I actually found going down more difficult as I got my hands a little too close to my feet and felt like my feet were close to slipping through the ladder a few times. I looked it up afterward and the general consensus seems to be that you are meant to climb up the side of the ladder, rather than the front. Shortly after I completed someone had a pretty bad fall from near the top of the ladder. I have seen the video posted on here recently if you want to search for it.

Finishing The Trifecta

The only thing left after the ladder climb was the sprint to the finish. At the end of the day, I finished in 2 hours 51 minutes with only 1 failed obstacle. Beat my Spartan Seattle Beast time from last year by 30 minutes, and I feel I could definitely have been faster. This concludes the third and final race in my Spartan Trifecta for 2017!

Spartan-Seattle-Beast-Trifecta-GroupSpartan-Seattle-Beast-Trifecta-Medals

Spartan Sun Peaks 2017: A Brutal Beast

Some are dubbing the 2017 Spartan (Ultra) Beast that was held in Sun Peaks on September 23rd, 2017 as the Toughest in the World.  All I can tell you is, I somehow finished that dang Beast! I’m not sure how so many did it TWICE!  I’ll be honest right from the beginning, me & my best friend Troy whom I was helping pace came in absolutely dead last, if you go look at the results for the open heat we are the very last two names on the results sheets, and I’m totally okay with that because this race was the culmination of our very first initiation into the Trifecta Tribe & we left anything we had left in us up there on those peaks!

The Numbers:

The below photo was taken from an Instagram post by the Course Designer Johnny Waite (IG=participant_ribbon)

Spartan-Beast-Sun-Peaks-2017-01-Stats

During the race, we would pretty much summit all three peaks that the resort has access to.  Below are the approximate ascension gains that we made on each peak taken from my Garmin stats.
1st Mountain: Sundance ~470m/1542ft
2nd Mountain: Mt. Morrisey ~390m/1280ft
3rd Mountain: Mt. Todd ~868m/2848ft

The final distance of the race is a bit of a toss-up. It was posted at 24km/14.9mi & I’ve seen people posting their results anywhere from 26-29km/16.15-18mi.

For the Ultra Beast, it took the Elites a minimum of 8:25:01 for 1st place to complete & last place came in at 13:36:46.
As for the Beast, it took the Elites a minimum of 3:33:23 for 1st place to complete & last place came in at 11:44:29.

Spartan-Beast-Sun-Peaks-2017-02-Mtn-Map

The Experience:

I arrived in Sun Peaks on Wednesday.  I went a few days early as I was planning on working/volunteering to help set up the course.  During that time I was able to catch glimpses of what was to come.  The course maps that I had brushed passed showed early warning signs that we would summit all three of the main mountains within the Sun Peaks resort & that filled me with a little bit of anticipation.  I hadn’t really trained for the sheer elevation gain that was about to come, but I had at least recently done a few hikes, the last one being a 23.36km/14.5mi with 948m/3110ft of elevation gain so it was good practice.  The race itself left me both physically & mentally exhausted.

Spartan-Beast-Sun-Peaks-2017-03-Course-Map

The Obstacles:

Aside from a few subtleties in how obstacles were laid out, most of the 31 obstacles were pretty much the regular staples.  Doing the Stairway to Sparta at the top of Sundance @1730m/5676ft was pretty cool & it has an absolutely beautiful view.  This was my first time coming across the Tyrolean Traverse & I somehow held on & pulled myself across it & decided to headbutt the cowbell which left its mark. =)

Spartan-Beast-Sun-Peaks-2017-04-Death-March-2.0

Even though this wasn’t on the list, right after the Tyrolean was what many are now calling Death March Part 2 referring to the massive mountain climb done in Killington.  We had to climb up one of the ski runs called Challenger, according to sources, the run has a 474m/1555ft ascent within 1km/.62mi which was accomplished by many by crawling on hands & knees due to it being so steep.  I was told the Creek Crawl was rather beautiful, but due to the sheer time of day & lack of sunlight, I passed it by along with a few others.

You’ve been cut:

After we had completed the death march, we slowly switchback climbed up to the peak of Mt. Todd and I could see a few people standing up there waving people up.  It was nearly 6:30 pm when we reached the summit & we were greeted by Johnny Waite who told me we were done & that we had missed the deadline by about 10mins.  Naturally, I was crushed, but I quickly came to grips with it as I knew there was nothing more that I could do and that I had done well pacing Troy through those mountains.

I walked back down a bit to catch up to Troy & let him know that his silent prayers of no longer having to keep going had been answered & that we would be driven down.  I could see the confusion on his face & explained that we missed the final cut off and that all racers needed to be off the mountain by 7:30 pm.  Then I saw the anguish on his face knowing that he wasn’t going to be given the chance to earn his Trifecta that day with so much put into the effort.

We walked up & we asked Johnny if there was any way we could still finish.  He told us there were at least 2 hours left, asked us what time we had started & once we answered 8:30 am he told us we were done.  At that time another racer came up the hill & I let her know what I was told.  I could tell she was a bit more upset by the news & she went over to Johnny to plead her case.  She too was gunning for her first Trifecta.  Johnny asked her what time she had started & she answered 11:30.  Johnny walked over to the edge of the hill to survey how many others were coming.  We let him know there was probably a dozen or so behind us.  He then looked at Troy & I and told us that if we could keep up her pace & beat him down to the Z-Walls in his truck that we still had a chance.

I could see Troy was physically & mentally done, he was toying with the idea of taking that ride down the mountain.  Troy was recently on disability and has since started up a youth foundation that at its core is about how everyone can change their life if they just believed better was possible, he knew he had to go on so he could use this whole experience as a life-changing beacon for others.

A second chance:

Once Troy had raised up enough gusto and made up his mind to finish the race it was total go time! We had about 5km/3.1m left until we were finished & it was all downhill from there after getting past the 8-foot wall.  Troy’s feet were in pain & having his toes smashed into the front of his shoes going downhill wasn’t helping.  I could hear him yelping over & over as he tried to quicken his pace to make sure we made the cutoff.

We completed the plate drag & came up to another drop, this one was pretty steep but we could see the Z-Walls & no sign of Johnny!  Once we made it passed the Z-Walls we knew we were on borrowed time.  We completed the Atlas Carry & were told to bypass the Creek Crawl due to the lack of light.  That’s when the volunteers’ radio went off.  It was Johnny asking if we had made it there, we had, just in time it would seem.

From there we trudged down a service road & a few trucks passed us, I was sure one of them was the sweepers but they all kept passing us by, each time my heart would speed up just a bit more.  We were then brought back into the trails, the one place a truck couldn’t get into, we were safe for now, or so I had thought.  We heard Johnny call out to a racer just behind us & he told them to head back to the last water station, I knew he wasn’t far behind.  A few more minutes in the trails and I heard Johnny’s voice again calling to Troy.  I was a bit out front trying to pace Troy as fast as I could.  I figured our number was up.

A Miracle For The Finishers:

I walked back & we had a quick conversation with Johnny.  He asked us if we were both a part of Vancity OCR, we let him know that we were & he then said the sweetest words my ears had ever heard.  He told us that he was going to walk us down & that we were going to finish the race with him.  OMG!

I was filled with such elation & marvel knowing at that moment we were going to finish!  Johnny walked us past a few of the obstacles & a small portion of the course that went back up into the woods for a bit & Troy & I actually picked up our pace even more and ran down into the festival area.  I completed the Herc Hoist with what felt like no force at all and climbed up & over the Slip Wall.  I somehow lost Troy in the and the mayhem that was at the end of that race & jumped the fire to receive my very well earned Beast Medal.  Troy showed up about 3 minutes behind me; he came over that wall & finished his race too.

All in a Day’s Work:

This weekend was one for the books I’ll tell ya that! First Beast & first Trifecta DONE.  Would I go back knowing that even the Sprint last year at Sun Peaks was 9.6km/5.5mi instead of the 7.3k & this year the beast was the hardest ever? Hell yeah!

Thank you Spartan, you showed me what I might actually be capable of doing & more this weekend.  Lookout endurance races, I just may be coming for you!

Spartan-Beast-Sun-Peaks-2017-05-Finished

Photo Credits: Johnny Waite, www.SunPeaksResort.com, Ryan Fick & John Tai