Train Like a Pro: Robert Killian

Robert-Killian-2017-Spartan-Pro-Card

Success came early in Robert Killian’s Spartan career. In his fourth Spartan event, he won the 2015 Spartan World Championship. Most of his success from that race can be traced back to his first event, a Spartan Beast he ran four months earlier in Breckenridge, Colorado, where he placed 3rd overall. Breckenridge is known for having a high elevation gain and being one of Spartan’s toughest races.  “When I did that race, I kind of was like, ‘Okay, this must be what all the races are like. This is how I have to prepare,’” he recalls.  Because of Breckenridge, Killian immediately began running more mountains, carrying everything from sandbags to logs, and increasing his grip strength.

Although, at the time, he’d only run in four Spartan races, that doesn’t mean he was inexperienced. Before ever attempting a Spartan race, Killian had already won numerous triathlons, competed internationally on the Army Biathlon team, and won both the individual and team categories of the military division at the Ironman World Championships in Kona. He was also named 2010 Army Athlete of the Year. 

Robert-Killian-Obstacle-In-Fatigues

Killian has served in the United States military for about fifteen years. During that time, he was able to participate in numerous competitions, gaining experience moving through obstacles. Though they were urban obstacles, Killian had to learn how to properly navigate terrain, move through windows and tunnels, repel, and even climb chain ladders. “It just kind of became second nature,” he explains. “We’d do it so much that once I was introduced to OCR on a normal course, it was just a combination of all the running and orienteering that I had done in the military.” 

After winning the World Championship, Killian joined the Spartan Pro Team and was able to use 2016 as the first year he could dedicate to being a professional athlete. In the inaugural Spartan U.S. Championship series, he finished 2nd overall and never finished worse than 3rd in any of the five series races. When it came to the 2016 Spartan World Championship race, he narrowly missed defending his title, placing 3rd, under three minutes behind winner Hobie Call. Six weeks later, Killian and partner, Chad Trammell, placed 2nd at World’s Toughest Mudder, completing a remarkable 100 miles in 24hrs. Outside of OCR, Capt. Killian won the 2016 Best Ranger Competition with partner, Staff Sgt. Erich Friedlein, becoming the first National Guard duo to do so. 

Robert-Killian-Cycling

To maintain such a high level of performance, Killian continues to focus on cycling, swimming, mountain running and cross training. Many days, he does what he refers to as “power hours.” “Every hour I take five or ten minutes just to do one OCR task,” he explains. This includes carrying a sandbag, spending time on his rig, and climbing his rock wall. In order to help prevent over-training, Killian sticks to workouts that involve what he would see in a race.

The below workout is one that Killian includes in his training program on LeaderBoard. He uses it to practice throwing the spear and performing heavy sandbag carries during stressed effort levels. You will want a station set up for the spear with two or three spears and a 40-pound sandbag (or bucket) ready to go. For more information on LeaderBoard, stick around at the end of the article.


Robert-Killian-Spear-Throw

WARM UP

  • 5-minute progressive warm up jog. Start easy and build up to a moderate pace.
  • Dynamic Drills (10-15 minutes)
    • Two or Three 50-Meter Strides – Run just shy of max speed for the allotted distance.
    • High Knees – Concentrate on ensuring your knees are getting at least as high as your waist. Make sure that you stay on the balls of your feet.
    • Butt Kicks – While keeping your upper body straight, run while bringing your ankles up to touch your butt. Try to keep from kicking your whole leg back. Your knees shouldn’t pass behind your body.
    • Skips – Like high knees, try to get your knee to come up to your waist. While one knee is up, the other foot should “skip” off the ground. Alternate between left and right legs.
    • Walking Lunges – Step out with one foot, keeping the knee at a 90-degree angle. Try not to let your opposite knee touch the ground. Bring the back foot forward so that leg is now the front leg, again, keeping your knee at 90-degrees. Don’t let it pass in front of your toes.
    • Karaoke – Move side to side, crossing your trailing foot in front of the other, then behind it. Allow your hips to twist as you go. Alternate going to the left and then to the right.
    • Progression Sprints for 100 Meters – Slowly build up speed until you are running at almost a full sprint.
    • Jumping Jacks – Start with your feet together and hands at your sides. Bend slightly at the knees and jump a couple inches off the ground, bringing arms up above your head and your legs out to the side. Jump again and bring your arms and legs back to the starting position.
    • Side to Side Ski Hops – Stand feet together, bend at the knees and bring your hips back so that your torso is at about a 45-degree angle. Bend your arms like you would if you were holding ski poles. Jump up and to the left. As you’re jumping, allow your arms to come up, bringing them back down when you land. Repeat to the right.

Robert-Killian-Sandbag-Carry

MAIN SET

800 meter runs should be performed at a 10k race pace. Do 10 penalty burpees for each missed spear throw.

  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw.
  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw followed by a 200-meter sandbag carry.
  • Rest two minutes.
  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw.
  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw followed by a 200-meter sandbag carry.
  • Rest two minutes.
  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw.
  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw followed by a 200-meter sandbag carry.
  • Rest two minutes.

Writer’s Tip: Try to maintain the 10k pace, especially early on. You may be tempted to run the first couple 800m at a quick pace.

COOL DOWN

  • 5-10 minute light jog or walk. Then stretch the major muscle groups.
  • Go for an easy one-mile run.

 

Robert-Killian-and-his-son

 

Writer’s Note: Thank you to Robert for providing this workout. You can follow him on Instagram and Facebook.

Check out past Train Like a Pro articles:

LeaderBoard is where Killian and fellow Spartan Pro Team member, Brakken Kraker, coach elite athletes. Anyone can sign up for a free LeaderBoard Takeoff, to get an idea of how the program works. During the two-week Takeoff, athletes will complete five “Benchmark” tests. After completing a few of these tests, the athlete will be invited to a one-on-one chat with either Kraker or Killian in order to personalize his or her training.

After the Takeoff is complete, you can book a free seven day trial of either one’s program, plus a discount after the trial is up. The full program is personalized and includes a community chat, so you can communicate with other athletes or the coaches at any time. For more information, go to www.leaderboardfit.com.

For those just getting into OCR, or looking to take the next step beyond an open heat, Killian recently introduced his 12-week SGX program on LeaderBoard. Included in the program are detailed workouts, instructional videos, plus technique and pacing tips. Athletes also receive discounts on gear, nutrition products and non-elite wave races. To sign up go to https://leaderboardfit.com/signup-sgx/.

Photo Credit: Robert Killian, Spartan Race, NBC

Train Like a Pro: Beni Gifford

Beni-Gifford-NBC-Spartan-Ultimate-Team-Challenge

If the name Beni Gifford sounds familiar, it should. Gifford led his team (The Comeback Kids) to victory on NBC’s premiere season of Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge. He was also the captain of Team Dallas on Battlefrog’s League Championship, which aired on ESPN. And if that wasn’t enough, you’ll now be able to watch him on CMT as he competes on Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge.

Beni-Gifford-Terrain-Racing-Finish-in-Flagstaff

Off the small screen, Gifford has won fourteen races, with twenty-one podium finishes overall in just two years. That includes an undefeated record when competing in the Terrain Racing series.

Below you’ll find a workout that Gifford uses to train his body and mind to continue to perform, even after fatigue sets in and his muscles become tired. It helps with situations where your heart rate is high or your legs become heavy.

Beni-Gifford-Running

PART ONE
2-MINUTE RUN / 1-MINUTE SLED DRAG INTERVALS

Run for two minutes at an aerobic base effort. You should be able to carry on a conversation at this pace. Once the two minutes is up, do a one-minute sled drag at the same effort level. Alternate between the two until you reach thirty minutes. Once complete, perform an aerobic pace run for up to thirty minutes. You can adjust the time based on your level of fitness, but aim to hit at least ten minutes.

Pro Note: Part one is about getting your legs pumped and strained (sled pull) and going right back into a run. This teaches you to run with heavy legs.

Writer’s Tip: If you don’t have a sled to drag, go to your local hardware store and buy several feet of rope that is at least ¾”-1” thick (usually about $1-2 per foot). Then punch holes in a flattened cardboard box and thread the rope through. Stack as much weight as you can handle onto the cardboard box for your own homemade sled. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look pretty. It’s more about function over aesthetics, here.

Beni-Gifford-Savage-Rig-Dallas

PART TWO
BURPEES – 10/100 SUPERSET

Do a set of ten burpees at 90% effort, followed by 10/100 pull up/dead hang. Complete six total rounds. To perform the 10/100, start a timer and, with palms facing forward, immediately do one pull up. Then lower yourself into a dead hang. After ten seconds of dead hang, do another pull up. Repeat this until you hit 10 pull ups and 100 seconds or failure, whichever comes first. You must remain on the bar the entire time. The 10/100 is considered by OCR coach, Yancy Culp, as the Gold Standard for grip endurance and strength.

Pro Tip: Keep your transitions as short as possible from the burpees into the 10/100. This will help with your ability to tackle obstacles successfully without having to spend valuable seconds slowing your heart rate down before attacking.  If you can’t meet the Gold Standard at first, don’t worry. You now have an easy goal to track so you can match the best in OCR.

Writer’s Tip: For the 10/100, use an interval timer app so you don’t have to keep your eyes on a stopwatch. These apps allow you to customize so that an alarm sounds every ten seconds, giving you the signal to do apull-upp.

Writer’s Note: Thanks to Beni for providing this workout. You can follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

Photo Credit: NBC, Terrain Racing, Beni Gifford and Savage Race

Check out past Train Like a Pro articles:

BattleFrog Riverside Regional Championships

Last Saturday (August 13), BattleFrog hosted their West Coast Regional Championships at Lake Elsinore, CA (about 90 minutes from Los Angeles). The race ended up being hot, flat, and fast with some unique twists. The course was 8 km (~5 miles) with 25 obstacles. Since elites make 2 laps, their total course was 16 km (~10 miles) with 50 obstacles.

As the elite start time of 7:15 am approached, just over 100 athletes (masters included) took their places in the corral. Even at the early morning hours, the heat of the sun was intense and gave premonition to the day’s 102℉ high. Coach Pain welcomed the elites and reminded them with his signature heart-felt speech to “conduct their business”. With a resounding “Hooyah!”, the elites were off!

Battlefrog-Riverside-Start-Line

Battlefrog-Riverside-Elites-Start

The flat course made for a fast starting pace. However, the sandiness seemed to quickly sap energy. The first 3 km remained flat and was scattered with many of BattleFrog’s traditional obstacles (over/under/through, various walls and nets, wreck bag carry, and monkey bars). Kilometers 4 through 7 became more interesting with the introduction of the snake eater, which traversed the racers up and down a levy. The combination of the snake eater and the mud mounds did a good job in breaking up the flatness of the course. Notable in this portion was the wedge traverse. BattleFrog did away with a separate women’s elite lane, and both men and women traversed using rock climbing hand holds and widely spaced boards for feet. This increased difficulty, however, didn’t seem to give the elite women much trouble.

Battlefrog-Riverside-Snake-Eater

Battlefrog-Riverside-Wedge-Traverse

The last kilometer of the course was packed with 7 obstacles…many of which required grip strength. The last kilometer included 2 platinum rigs (not back to back), a rope climb, tip of the spear, and the 12’ rope wall. BattleFrog adopted a similar strategy in the layout of the greater San Jose course (the prior Saturday). Because of the heat and sand, these obstacles were not slippery. None the less, this portion of the course claimed many elite bands! The platinum rigs were not significantly different than prior races. Both platinum rigs were a combination of rings, ropes, nunchucks, traverse bars, and widely spaced rectangular monkey bars. Positioning the rigs at the end of the course among other heavy grip obstacles is likely what made them the most challenging.

Battlefrog-Riverside-Platinum-Rig-1

Battlefrog-Riverside-Platinum-Rig-1

The podium finishers were as follows:
• Elite Men: Ryan Atkins, Glen Racz, and Matt Kempson
• Elite Women: Lindsay (Webster) Atkins, Nicole Mericle, and KK Stewart Paul
• Elite Masters Men: LeEarl Rugland, Colin Sanders, and Mike King
• Elite Masters Women: Elvy LaPointe, Julie Werney, and Lisa Nondorf

A really fun twist to this event was the shaving of “the Beard” (Christopher Acord, BattleFrog’s Assistant Director of Race Ops). Christopher auctioned the shaving of his renowned beard to the highest bidder. Not only did the BattleFrog community see a shocking transformation of their beloved “Beard”, but also nearly $2,000 was raised and donated to Operation Enduring Warrior, The Navy Seal Museum, and St. Baldricks.

Battlefrog-Riverside-The-Beard

Overall, this Regional Championship was fast, fun, and hot! Many of the elites anticipated that this course was going to be more difficult. However, BattleFrog did do a good job designing a unique, challenging course.

BattleFrog Greater Philly – A Frog, A Mountain And 50 People Lost

I always find myself being overly critical of BattleFrog.  I think it’s because they have a lot of potential to be a big dog in the business and do good for the sport as a whole, but they always seem to shoot themselves in the foot with senseless, easily avoidable mistakes that call their competence into question.  They’re so close to making the next step in the business but… Two steps forward, three steps backwards.  On this particular week, it started off going backwards, but I think they gained some ground… 2 backwards.. 3 forward.. They’re +1 and here’s why.

This was my first BattleFrog event of the year as my race schedule filled while they were still struggling to finalize venues.  I wasn’t planning on this event, but being a short 30-minute drive from my house, I decided to give it a go after I finished a lap of MudmanX in NY.  Four days before race day, I received the participant email from Battlefrog. I noticed they include start time and bib number front and center making it easy to locate and eliminating the need to search on their site for this info.  Waivers are signed off and agreed upon when registering online, to avoid a paper waiver, which will make the Eco-friendly athletes happy.  Then came their first step in the wrong direction which caused concern for the event itself.

Battlefrog-Philly-Parking-Change

The night before the event I received notification from their event page(which you would not receive had you not opted to follow the event page) that the parking location had changed. Extremely last minute and unlike other companies to do short of impending severe weather, which was not the case in this situation. Sure enough on event day, I saw one post stating 50 or so people were wandering aimlessly in the original parking location with no BattleFrog representation present to direct to the new location. To BattleFrogs credit, they did issue an email late Friday night, but for many, that was too little too late.

Having the new parking location, I arrived to several buses waiting to shuttle racers to the event. Parking was smooth and the shuttle was a short 5-minute ride to the venue. As soon as we pulled up, I recognized the venue immediately. It was a ski resort that was home to the “Badass Dash” Tristate event last year. I immediately knew I was in store for an interesting and possibly very fun event. During the Badass Dash, I remember thinking it would be a perfect venue for a larger race brand to hold a challenging event, and I wasn’t wrong in my previous assumption.

Battlefrog-Philly-Mountain

Registration was quick and painless, bag check was organized and it was off to the start line. When I arrived at the starting line, there was nobody in the corral; so, I assumed a wave had just departed. My buddy and I had just run the MMX event followed by a near 3-hour drive to BattleFrog so we weren’t planning to stand around. We hopped the start wall and off we went. Later I realized I had sold myself short on one of the most appealing attractions of a BattleFrog (or any OCR start line) – the Coach Pain pre-race speech.

The race started and up the mountain we went. The first thing I noticed, and that concerned me, was lots of course markers going up and down the center of the mountain. Right away that had me thinking I was in store for a lot of tedious and boring up and back to fill space and meet the advertised distance. I was very pleased to find out I was, in fact, wrong in that assumption. Towards the top of the first peak the course veered off.

Battlefrog-Philly-Inverted-Wall

At each peak, there was some type of wall to climb. This was my first experience with BattleFrog since they implemented the 3-scaled difficulty options. Having only run the open heat, I must say I enjoyed the options. It provided me with essentially 3 different obstacles at each obstacle location. I took full advantage of this by doing the “elite”, followed by “intermediate” difficulties. For some obstacles, I didn’t notice a difference between the 3 when it came to open heats. The over/under/through walls and monkey bars, for example, were all the same setup at the time I arrived. It very well could’ve had different instructed rules during the earlier heats (please comment any difficulty variances you encountered for those two) but was essentially unchanged for each difficultly level.

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The course had a nice balance of obstacles to appease the Spartan loyalists while staying true to the Frog faithful. The terrain was labeled by many, one of the tougher courses/venues they’ve done. Two separate carries (water jug, wreck bag) would satisfy the “carry heavy shit” Spartan regulars, while still having three scaled options on distance of carry and weight(water jug; wreck bags were all 50lbs).

For those accustomed to BattleFrog races, the test of agility and grip strength was emphasized on multiple occasions in 2 different rigs, on which the rain later in the day made completion more of a challenge, a set of metal spinning incline/decline monkey bars, wall traverse and the always fun, fan favorite made popular by everyone’s favorite Brit, “Tip of the Spear”.

Battlefrog-Philly-Rig

One section of the course was a boulder/rock climb that, to my surprise and delight, held a fear factor as it was steep, with no clear path and after some rainfall made it slick and quite a challenge in itself, I busted my ass 3 times working my way up it. One major disappointment was the advertisement on the course map of Tsunami. A major fan favorite,two-sided obstacle that consisted of a warped wall with rope assist, followed up by an always fun water slide on the opposite side. For whatever reason, this obstacle was not on site; there was a tarp covered in soap and water with a shallow puddle at the bottom. On a hot day like that, I took what I could get for a cool down.

Now, for my favorite aspect of the entire race. After completing Tip of the Spear, just before the finish line was 3 large, tarp lined dumpsters, originally advertised as ice baths. At this point in the day, it was cold water with no ice. Being the first time(and truly hope,not last) Battlefrog has dealt with ice baths, adding in the heat factor on that day, I can almost guarantee they didn’t have the adequate amount of ice required to sustain the obstacle for the entire event. They could always touch base with Savage Race for input on ice quantities needed for a full day ice bath. But honestly, it was an amazing cool down to finish a grueling event.

Battlefrog-philly-ice-bath

After receiving my medal, I proceeded back into the dumpster to wade around for several minutes. Speaking to many racers who participated in the “Extreme” multi-lap option, the consensus was this course was one of the toughest they’ve done to date. I wish more companies would utilize this venue and all the potential therein that BattleFrog did an amazing job tapping into. I’m usually very vocal on BattleFrogs lackluster business practices and employee turnover, but it’s not possible to say they don’t put on a hell of an event for all skill levels. Continue utilizing an ice bath, avoid last minute parking snafus, and provide more opportunities for free spectators (especially for kids race registrations) and you’ve got my business on future events.

P.S. Beautiful portashitters. 💩💩💩💩/5 turds

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P.S.S. Amazing photographers with a surplus of participant pics but for the love of Hobie please change the search format. Searching by bib number makes zero sense as nobody remembers that info, and if a race has an adequate amount of mud, your bib number won’t be visible.

BattleFrog New Jersey: Something for Everyone

BattleFrog returned to the Tri-State New Jersey area this past Saturday with an 8k Obstacle Course Race to brag about. BattleFrog has previously used the overplayed Englishtown, NJ venue but this time opted for the wooded trails and lakes that the Mount Allamuchy Scout Reservation in Stanhope, NJ had to offer, and it did not disappoint.

BattleFrog_Tri-State_Rope_Wall

The majority of the course was composed of double-track, you read right DOUBLE not single-track, technical trails through the woods. The forest provided dense shade through most of the course, which was a welcome feature on a hot and sunny June day. The major benefit of true wooded trails is that they provide undulating terrain for some elevation gain and tricky footwork in the form of roots, rocks, and uneven dirt. The downside is that technical terrain often comes paired with a trail that is only one person wide, making it hard to offer up open passing lanes for the competitors and first-timers alike. This is an often overlooked feature that allows those gunning for the podium to feel competitive and comfortable while also allowing for self-conscious slower runners to move at their own speed and not be concerned if they are holding others up. What BattleFrog managed to find in this venue was technical terrain combined with room to pass, almost without exception. There were also some gravel roads, and a few lakes and marshes thrown in for good measure. I cannot possibly say enough good things about this venue and BattleFrog’s use of it. But maybe widen the Normandy Jacks mud crawl next time, okay?

BattleFrog_Tri-State_Trails

The facilities offered were also top notch to include seamless parking, shuttles, and registration. This course also boasted the world’s cleanest porta potties, water stops every mile on course, friendly and enthusiastic volunteers and staff, plus one of the best pump-up speeches (with some PT to boot for the BFX runners) given by Coach Pain. For the swag and memorabilia lovers: photographers were a plenty, the medals being earned are bad-ass, and the t-shirts were super comfy. However, my only major complaint with the whole day was logistical: the location of the BFX tent. Typically the tent is located just off the cut-through from the Finish line to the Start line and semi-secluded from the buzz of the festival area. This time it had to be accessed by cutting across the festival and often found it was mistaken as a hangout area for spectators. If the tent was moved to the less accessible side of the festival near the cut through, BattleFrog would have earned perfect scores in New Jersey.

BattleFrog_Tri-State_Pain

One thing that rang true through the entire event is that BattleFrog is the ultimate race series for just about anyone. The race brand has built-in so many options that no matter your experience or preference, from newbie to elite to endurance OCR athlete, you will find what you are looking for at BattleFrog. The first option comes at race sign-up, and has been a signature of BattleFrog for years in offering 3 race types: open 8k, mandatory obstacle completion elite 16k, or as many laps as possible in BFX. There is a race format for everyone offered.

BattleFrog_Tri-State_Water
Next, within the race itself, most obstacles now offer 3 different level of difficulty. I think this change has opened the appeal to inexperienced and casual racers by offering an unintimidating setup where you can work at your own level, and strive to be better next race. BattleFrog is well known throughout the business as one of the most physically demanding race forms in both elite and BFX, yet still manages to be approachable. Ultimately, with all the options, your build your own race flavor.  It brought me great joy as an Xtreme racer, to chat with 3 generations of women running together on course, with Grandma leading the pack. BattleFrog is keeping the effort going to expand the footprint of Obstacle Course Racing, as exemplified by this.

BattleFrog_Tri-State_Rig

BattleFrog Tri-State: Mandatory Obstacle Completion … And Getting Lost

BattleFrog has a unique approach to Elite racing–you must complete the obstacle, or you DNF.  I love this concept as well as the two lap set up they use.  This allows a racer to get familiar with the course and really race the second lap.  BattleFrog also offers a nice prize purse to the top 3 finishers of each regional regular season race: $500, $250, $150 for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd respectively.  I had no idea what type of competition would be at a smaller regular season race like this, so I quietly had my eye on a top-3 finish.

Getting to the race from NYC is a breeze and parking is painless, although for a $10 fee.  We shuttle over to the start and work our way through an efficient registration process where we proceed to attach a total of 4 bracelets (one that was never used for anything).   One of the bracelets is for a free beer that we later find out is redeemable at a “local bar” that is actually a 20 minute drive from the race (most people are not fans of this!).  Once registered we have plenty of time and space to get a brief warmup in on some nearby trails.  I even find an old camp pavilion to get some pull ups and climbs in on the wood beams.  There is no line whatsoever for the port-a-potties, which also stay immaculate with a clean up crew going through them every hour on the hour.  All in all, I would say the organization for this “event” appears flawless, but as far as organizing a race, there’s some work to be done.  My overall feeling is that the money is spent on organizing the event for the masses and not making sure there’s a clear and standardized race for the competitors at the front.

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After a whole lot of hoopla from Coach Pain, we are off and I stick with the lead pack up a pretty steady climb (my Strava indicates about 250 feet in the first mile).  There were very few obstacles for the first mile or two, which allows for a good race to develop at the front.  I realize that 10 miles is not the shortest of courses and settle into a comfortably hard pace which has me running smoothly in 6th place.  I am hoping that a few of the guys in front got a bit carried away and will come back to me as the race takes its toll.  Most of the first 2-3 miles is on technical trail.  For those of you familiar with typical “east coast trail” it’s not so bad (I’d say a 3 out of 5), but still rocky and twisty enough to slow you down some.  I bought some new Inov8 X-Talon 212’s specifically for this race, but quickly found out I could’ve worn some road shoes.  I’m sure if there were more rain in the days leading up to the race it would’ve gotten really muddy out there, though.

Coming out of the trail, we reach the Platinum Rig that I’d heard so much about.  Fortunately one of the guys from the lead pack was struggling with this and I fly past him by completing the rig smoothly on my first attempt.  After some quick running I pull up to the 50 pound sandbag carry.  I looked forward to this obstacle as I routinely train with heavy backpacks on my back during my run commute.  I thought I might be able to actually run through this obstacle.  I quickly realize the trail is a bit too gnarly to run well, but I’m still sort of run/hiking through the woods at a nice clip.

And then disaster strikes.  I haven’t seen any flags for a few minutes.  Is this normal?  Perhaps they don’t mark all their trails as well as I’d seen so far.  I push on with the 50 pound bag on my shoulders.  Eventually I come across a flagged trail, and although I can feel that I am probably off course, I’m just relieved to be on the course.  Eventually I come to an obstacle where the attendant has no damn clue why I have a sandbag on my back.  He shows me where I am and I quickly realize that there will be no placing for me today.  I traipse back through the woods aimlessly, but heading in the right general direction.  Fortunately I run into a few others and get back to the start of the sandbag and I’m off and running.  I figure I should at least have fun and finish.  Strava tells me I ran an additional 1.1 miles, most of that with a heavy sandbag on my back.  I later learn that there were others who missed that turn as well.  On the next loop BattleFrog would have an arrow at the fork in question.  Thanks BattleFrog, good thinking.

After some typical rope climbs, a jerry carry, and more trails I find myself sliding down a slide into a lake and swimming.  Yes, swimming, like in water over my head.  I am no triathlete and have never trained to swim, so in a way I’m fortunate I wasn’t still “racing” any longer.  I roll over and float on my back and just kinda cruise doing some version of a back stroke (mostly I’m just floating on my back and treading water in the general direction of the other side).  Apparently most others can’t swim, because I’m not passed and I cover the 70 meters in what seems to be a reasonable amount of time.

ropewall

We immediately approach what appears to be the signature BattleFrog obstacle–Tip of the Spear.  I’ve never done this before and my first try is an epic fail as I’m unfamiliar with the technique used to swing from rope to rope.  I blast my shin on the bottom of the wall and it swells immediately.  I wait in a line.  This was new to me and I didn’t like it one bit (“I am obstacle course ‘racing’ here, people!”).  On my second try I make it through after learning the swing technique.  I would later learn that the side I went through had upside down hand holds, so instead of the grooved side with good grip being on top, that was on the bottom.  We had only a flat inch to grip, and I thought this was a bit weird, but assumed it was to make it harder.  This bothered me, because BattleFrog must have learned about this, realized it was too much work to fix now and simply let their well paying racers go through anyways, providing an unfair advantage to anyone who went on the other side.  All things considered, this was a difficult obstacle for me.  I expended a ton of my grip strength messing around with this and dealing with their upside down handholds wasn’t helping!

kerritipofspear

With lap 1 complete I tear off on the trail running section, only to learn that there are hundreds of open athletes on these single track trails.  For the most part I am able to sneak past them all while incessantly calling out “on your left, on your right” and people probably wondering why in bloody hell was I going so fast.  Sure I was way out of contention for a podium spot, but I was still moving along and having found my rhythm I wanted to finish as fast as I could.  I love to run trails more than any other thing, the more serpentine and technical the better.  To just continue to push forward despite all sorts of natural obstacles brings me my greatest joy and this was no different.  I run through the remainder of the course and although it was much harder on my grip strength the second time around (I had to set the jerry cans down every 10 feet this time), I was able to finish reasonably unscathed and in 12th place with a time of 2:17.

Post race I quickly learn that there is no beer.  Boo.  I only get a banana and a water at the finish, so I have to buy a burger from the grill for $12.  I linger at the finish for a while, waiting for my girlfriend to finish.  I talk with a bunch of others from the elite race and quickly realize that I wasn’t winning this race even if I didn’t get lost–Matt Kempson and Ryan Kempson (yes, brothers) went 1-2 and they weren’t just going to “come back to me” like I thought might happen.  I quickly learn they are quite good at this OCR thing, absolutely tearing things up this year and winning many other events.  Third place was a nice guy I met from Binghamton who just happens to have in his backyard, a 150-acre obstacle course training compound (I wonder how much that would run me in Astoria, Queens).  Jarret Newby, founder of Newbsanity, is a great guy and an insanely fast runner (former collegiate 800 runner), so I find myself feeling better about getting lost.  If you’re in the Binghamton vicinity, check out Newbsanity; I’m sure Jarret would be glad to have you.

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I am waiting much longer than I anticipated for Kerri to come through and start to get legitimately worried.  I run out on the course a bit to see if I can find her.  Eventually I run into her and learn that she was held up at the rig for about an hour.  Sounds about right, I think to myself.  She was racing elite as well and absolutely would not give up without completing it.  And this is what I love BattleFrog (and her!), the mandatory completion of obstacles.  She finished hours after the 1st place woman and still got 5th overall!  Apparently not many people can finish this race, so just for her to complete all the obstacles is a significant victory and I’m so proud of her for her determination to get that rig.  I am sure you will see more of her at the finish lines and possibly podiums of these events.  She likes the mandatory completion element of BattleFrog as well–obviously.

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After grabbing our bags at bag check and getting our finisher’s photo, we shuttle back to our car and head over to the bar for our free drink.  Place is understaffed, service took forever, food is great, though.  We catch up with some new friends we met on the course, share stories about how we could have done things differently, better.  Most of us are sure we can do better.  And just like that, the grip of obstacle course racing sinks deeper into us all.  Driving home I can already tell we will be back for more.  Both Kerri and I are overall pleased with how BattleFrog does things, despite their poorly marked section that sabotaged my race and drilling in handholds upside down.  I am confident they can get that straight for my next one.  Oh, and hopefully a post-race bash at the actual finish line!