HESCO Bone Frog: Orlando

The BoneFrog Series OCR got it’s 2017 racing season started off February 25 th in Sorrento Florida. Being owned and operated by former Navy Seals instantly gave this race series credibility in my eyes so I left chilly Illinois and flew down to sunny Florida to check things out. The first thing I found out is that BoneFrog offers three different distance levels for racers to choose from at each event. The 3-5-mile sprint course, the 8-10-mile Challenge course, and their signature Tier 1 distance at 13 plus miles. All three of these options could be ran at the Elite or Open level. I found having the convenience of three different distances all in one location an awesome way to offer many varieties to the masses. Something for everyone is a great idea! For the remainder of this article I will be describing the middle level Challenge distance run at the Elite level because this was the one I picked to run.

The Elite racers of each distance started off first thing in the morning all together with our bright green bands on our wrist. BoneFrog chose to use the “fail an obstacle, lose your band” method of keeping track of Elite racers progress and overall I found that the volunteers really made sure the Elites did indeed finish each obstacle. A timing chip with a built-in wrap around the ankle Velcro enclosure might have been the best and quickest way to put on a chip eve and was a great idea. I’m going to cover the first half of the 8.8-mile Challenge race quickly here because it was basically just running along a sandy trail where an occasional low crawl or 6-8-foot wall could be found. The Spider Wall was just some tape placed between 2 trees and the low crawl was just some wire, tape and in one case palm fond placed close to the ground as a couple of examples.

It was on the back half of the course where BoneFrog brought out all their cool stuff and really picked up the difficulty! Starting off with a semi tire drag and pull we were led to the first of the many body weight overhead grip obstacles. On Get a Grip an athlete needed to traverse a series of moving rings from one side to the other. If you like rig work BoneFrog offered many different variations throughout the course to test you. Next up was the Brute Force Carry which required athletes to throw a sandbag on their shoulders for a sandy jog around some of the trees and vegetation and back before setting off back down the trail to Rolling Thunder. This obstacle gave most shorter racers fits. This obstacle consisted of a horizontal chest high pole covered with different sized tires that would spin. I personally saw many people jump up only to get spun back to the ground. Another of the signature BoneFrog obstacles, Hell’s Gate, was a short distance away and proved to be tough. Hell’s Gate was a series gradual ascending and descending walls all spaced about four feet apart.  The wall sizes were 4 foot, 6 foot, 9 foot, and back down to 6 and then 4 feet. Now feeling very winded BoneFrog set up along the trail the Dirty Name, or sternum checker as most racers have come to know it.

 

Grip strength was a major obstacle focus on the last quarter of the course starting with the Drunken Monkey. This was an overhead peg traverse set into 2 by 12 posts and was suspended maybe 15 feet above the ground. Along the way back to the festival area a unique obstacle called 31 Hero’s gassed out racers in a major way. Names of fallen soldiers were to be called off with a burpee done between each name was how it was completed and let to my personal nemesis Swingers Club. This was a nun chuck style rig traverse that cost me a few tries and a few blisters! Now back near the festival area we had a completely vertical net climb to further sap our grip strength followed up by a rope swing suspended over a pool of water. The last obstacles all situated in a row were a rope climb, dead man’s carry {wreck bag on a pully}, and the Black Ops apparatus. This was a rope climb into a monkey bar traverse and then down into a muddy low crawl before crossing the finish line. The Black Ops obstacle provided the best photo op area because there was a huge American flag behind the monkey bars and looked awesome.

My basic overview of the course was the first half was more like a trail race and the back half was more like a bad ass Seal course. Perhaps better obstacle placement would make this feel more like a complete course, or maybe BoneFrog just wanted to lull you into a false sense of difficulty. Either way, I would certainly do another event, maybe Tier 1 next time! The medals were nice and the BoneFrog apparel tent offered plenty of cool stuff to purchase. Parking was the standard 10 bucks and was located a quarter mile away from the festival area. Photos were free and spectators were free to walk around and see you race at most locations. My conclusion is that Bonefrog is defiantly worth doing, but might be needing a little better management. If you want to catch their next event it’s March 25th at Talladega Speedway in Alabama!

HESCO BoneFrog Challenge Championship 2016 – Charlemont, MA

BoneFrog Championships - StartEarlier this year, Bone Frog Challenge announced that they would be putting on their first “Championship” series event where they would invite top finishers from their regional events, to compete in a “winner take all” event in the place where Bone Frog was born – Charlemont, MA. With entry numbers dwindling, the brass at Bone Frog walked back that announcement and transitioned back to a full featured event that all could register for. Could they put together an event on par with their past performance? Let’s find out.

Bone Frog grew to half a dozen events in 2016 – while other races were dwindling, Bone Frog is growing. For a race that does their obstacles and venues right, this is only good news for the OCR community. Finisher numbers don’t seem to be knocking socks off this year but with an improved social media presence combined with the signing of OCR UberNerd Dustin Dorough to emcee their events, they were positioned to make a splash up and down the east coast.

The year finished for Bone Frog right where it began – in Charlemont, MA. If you’re lucky, New England in October can be beautiful, colorful, and comfortably warm. We weren’t quite that lucky on this last weekend of the month. Temperatures barely tickled 40 degrees at starting time, which may be ok for some racers but that’s before you start plunging folks into ice cold waters.

Snow littered a brand new course for runners – each step, an adventure in balance and agility. Each obstacle, that much more difficult when your fingers don’t want to work. For the 66-ish runners lucky enough to choose the Tier 1 Race option, that means they’d be on both the 9-mile Challenge course before heading back out onto the 5K Sprint option – each with it’s own unique path throughout the day. Both of these distances pack a strong amount of obstacles in, many exclusive to this event – and both made sure that racers were waist deep in freezing cold waters early on, and then atop Berkshire East you were wading through chunks of ice as you navigated a second tormentingly cold pond.

The course did struggle at times to find itself. Figuratively and literally. Markings through the woods were few and far between which did lead to several lost racers during the day, myself included. One advantage to running in the snow? You quickly realize you’re off course because you don’t see anyone’s footprints in the fluffy white stuff as you forge ahead.

BoneFrog Championships - Course MapBoneFrog Championships - Black Ops

While it would appear that the draw of a Bone Frog “Championship” was not quite there this year, with under 700 racers attending this event, Bone Frog does everything right when it comes to their events. Adding details like identifying bands for Elites, to great swag, and a phenomenal home venue, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be looking to sign up for a 2017 race. They’ve debuted a new website, and next years brings even more new events in Washington DC, Texas, and Buffalo, NY.

BoneFrog Championships - Celebratory CupcakeBoneFrog Championships - Bling and Burgers

Personal Note: Nobody likes getting older. However, I was fortunate enough to celebrate my 37th birthday this weekend with some of the best people in the world – OCR people. Cheers to you all for being the best community around. PS. cupcakes at the finish line are as good as they sound.

Hesco BoneFrog – Atlanta 2016

HESCO BoneFrog Challenge – Atlanta 2016

5:30 AM, Dunkin’ Donuts– I’m back to my original prerace ritual of a large coffee with two & two, now with a bagel and cream cheese thrown in. I have forsaken the Grey Berets Conference Center and Food Emporium (aka The Waffle House) as no one ever wants to join me anymore. Woe is me.

6:55 AM, 27N, Bremen, GA–A valley is spread below me, a beautiful blanket of green overlaid with low lying mist.

7:07 AM, Hell if I know, GA–Shit! I zigged when I should have zagged! A quick 180 and I’m back on track. Oops, there go three cars in a row doing the same thing. Hope they realize their error.

7:12 AM, Hell if I know, GA–Cows!

7:20 AM, Highland Park ResortI turn into the venue, and for the first time since I started this foolishness back in 2014, I give no fucks how rutted, rocky or rough the venue road is, nor will I panic about the quality (or lack thereof) of the parking area. I’m in my new whip; she’s tall, thick, and has big feet. Writer’s note: Now that I have this Tonka like truck, it will never rain again at Savage Race Georgia. You’re welcome.

7:20 AM, Highland Park Resort–I aim for every dip, bump, hump, swale, and rut I can see, and then I come to an abrupt slowdown as I bump up to the race day ambulance easing on in. Rats! Foiled!

7:26 AM, Highland Park Resort–I park in a “space” that would have swallowed my old wee car. Mwahahaha! Arggh! Arggh! Annnnnd, It’s next to a port-a-crapper. No dings on that side at least.

7:30 AM, Highland Park Resort– Other Grey Berets arrive and we make the short walk to the festival area located smack in the middle of a rise overlooking a dirt bike Disneyworld. It’s a wonderland of whoop-dee-doos. A treasure of tight turns. A mariachi of motorcross.

7:35 AM, Festival Area–It’s still early so registration is quick. It may be an issue later though, with only 4-5 people checking racers in.

7:40 AM, Festival Area – Beer tent? Check. Food truck?  Largest team tent? Huge tent for the masses? Vendors Tents? check, check, checkity check.

7:50 AM, Grey Berets Tent–There is mass confusion as we realize some of us were given the wrong wrist bands for the race. With 3 different lengths (Sprint = 4mi, Challenge = 9mi, Tier1 = 13mi) the paper bands are color coded for their respective mileage. I have the Tier1 bands, and I know I’m not fucking crazy enough to run that many miles. Mr. Pink gets us squared away.

8:15 AM, Festival Area – We all gather around BoneFrog’s signature obstacle (Black Ops) with its huge American flag and sing the national anthem. Then it’s off to the starting corral for the first wave of the day.

OBSERVATIONS ON THE RUN:

  1. And we’re off to an immediate hard downhill left to get onto the dirt bike track that hugs the periphery of the festival area.
  2. The Crag is a large culvert pipe piercing a large mound, no doubt used to catch sweet air with a two-wheeled dirt rocket. The pipe is tall enough, we don’t even have to break stride.
  3. It’s 180 degrees to the right back toward the festival area.
  4. Then 180 degrees to the left. Then back towards the festival area, then away, then….fuck! this thing’s got more hairpin turns than the Tail of the Dragon. I’m getting dizzy.
  5. Whoop-dee-doos really fuck with your pace.
  6. Coming down the hill, away from the festival area for the 600th time, I see a couple of the leaders get shut down by Rolling Thunder. The necklace of tires strung on two horizontal poles doesn’t look that high off the ground. Clearly my eyesight is for shit, because as I get closer, I can see it’s about chest high. But, I’m already going too fast this early in the race and the coast is clear on the right side, so I keep the burners on and jump. I’m flying headfirst with arms out in a Superman vibe kind of way, hoping I don’t wipe out just a half mile into the race or do damage to the cycloptic milk-spitter and the two stones of Zeus. I hit the top of the tires at an angle, chest first, and roll. Success! Bonefrog Rolling Thunder
  7. A few yards more then it’s face down in the dirt at Dust Bowl. The crawl is short, but the non-barbed wire is low and the rough ground hurts.
  8. Shit! I hear the distinct ripping sound of a bib separating from shorts! The bib is still on with two pins, but a third safety pin is hanging on open. I have to stop to pin the fucking thing, lest I prick something delicate later in the race. Luckily it’s downhill from here so I can get back my place.
  9. There’s the split! Dirt bike Disneyland to the right for the Sprint, and a long haul in the woods to the left for the Challenge.
  10. A quick and refreshing muddy water pit crossing and we’re off and running along a trail between the woods and the parking area.
  11. 1 mile buzzer! 8:36?! Fuck, that’s wayyy to fast. Ima gonna die!
  12. The running is flat, and still too fast, as I approach Geronimo (aka, a Tarzan swing). The OCR gods are benevolent in their grace, assuring the far right rope is on its back swing just as I run up on it, speed unchecked. An easy swing across follows.Bonefrog Geronimo
  13. The first water station appears. It’s hotter than a two-peckered alley cat, and I eschewed the hydration pack for the day, so I avail myself of a couple of the conveniently filled cups, all lined up with military precision.
  14. We continue along some double track, still skirting the edges of the parking lot and being teased with the dark coolness of the forest to our right.
  15. Where the fuck is this sand coming from? What a drag on the feet.
  16. Ooo! Look at that big unruly pile of tires ahead! Obstacle time! And there it goes……
  17. 2nd Phase Wall (+/- 6’) appears. Ok, that not’s good! The arms felt a little wanting going over.
  18. The green course ribbon leads us straight into the forest. Literally running in the forest like wood nymphs. Tree fall, a carpet of dried leaves, foot grabbing vines, low hanging limbs; the whole woodland experience, except you know, without the talking animals and birds perched upon my fingertips.
  19. Screw that perfectly nice ATV trail next to us.
  20. Walk the Plank appears out of nowhere. How did they even get those beams back into these woods?! My heart is fucking jacked! I stand on the 2X s holding the +/- 20-foot wood joists in place and take a moment to get the heartrate down below hummingbird level. I’m no Phillipe Petit, so I don’t want to fall down to the dry creek bed about 4 feet below me.
  21. The shade is welcome as I settle in with some other guys (I shall call them the Bearded one, The Boy, and the Black Panther) and we alternate between double track running and bushwacking it.
  22. The pace has settled into a more manageable 11 and change, and the trail has morphed yet again.
  23. My wheezing sounds so much more idyllic running on a picturesque old skid trail with grass like ground cover and tree limbs creating a verdant tunnel.
  24. A quick Low Crawl under a riot of green course tape and it’s a glorious stretch of flat straightaway.
  25. A disembodied voice echoes out from the woods; “Watch out for bees!” Then I see a couple of guys about 15 yards into the woods running the opposite direction. I think to myself, “Fuck! Where?! At what point?! How far ahead are you?! Damnit man, why are you so much faster than me!!?”
  26. The idyll starts to be more Hyde, as all I can think about is bees, bees, bees; where the fuck are those bees?!
  27. We finally turn off the trail and drop into the woods on another non-trail, doing a 180-degree turn to the right. THIS must be the danger zone. I’m on a razor’s edge expecting at any moment to get waylaid by a swarm of vexed Vespula, while at the same time trying to stay on my fucking feet, avoiding every tree, root, stump, and limb that have all converged along this one route in a conspiracy to inflict harm upon my person.
  28. Fucking forest. So pretty. So lush. So wanting to kill me.
  29. A yelp from ahead of me! A caterwaul from behind me! Gird your loins boys, the attack is upon us!
  30. I never see the little fucker coming. The side of my calf lights up as the tiny flying asshole does his dastardly business. Ouch!
  31. How in the hell are we back along the parking area?! I’m so fucking turned around. But hey, there’s a Reverse Slant Wall! Ima gonna jump over it.
  32. Now we are running parallel with the previously ran outbound part of the course. My mind is in a knot trying to figure out where the hell I just ran.
  33. Some nice ATV trail. Some nice forest frolicking.
  34. A curious wall appears in an opening. At about 8 feet tall, it has three square holes set up high along its width. A steel bar at the top of each opening makes getting through Window Walls a snap.
  35. We’ve lost the Black Panther.
  36. The obstacle sign says Mind Games, but all I see is a water station another 25 yards on. I stop to dump water on my head and into my piehole. The gummy goodness of vanilla bean GU goes down like craft paste to a 2-year-old. I take a water for the road to wash that shit down.
  37. The spent paper cup goes into my voluminous pocket. And people make fun of me wearing 10-year-old board shorts. Suck it! I can carry shit, and store trash!
  38. The Bearded One and The Boy, ruminate out loud what “Mind Games” meant. We run for a bit on the now wide open ATV trail. “There was nothing there”, says one of them. “Exactly”, I say. I stun them into silence with my brilliant, yet reductive reasoning. Or it could be the monotony of the trail.
  39. We all run around a puddle. This strikes me as fucking hilariously ironic.
  40. And we keep running.
  41. The Black Panther comes rushing past me, and then stops ahead.
  42. And running.
  43. The Bearded One, The Boy, and I change places multiple times. It breaks up the grind.
  44. And more running.
  45. The only obstacles are the puddles.
  46. Still more running.
  47. The Black Panther comes rushing past me, and then stops ahead.
  48. Thankfully no one is speaking. All of us lost in our own thoughts and respective miseries. But if this goes on much longer, I may break out into show tunes.
  49. I finally start stomping through the puddles for the shear childlike pleasure of it.
  50. And even more fucking running.
  51. I fear I shall never see my wife and child again.
  52. I happen to be behind TBO approaching a curve and I see him through the trees slowing down to a walk. I make the turn and lo! I cry out, “And there it is! Finally!”
  53. IT, is a hill that just disappears up into the trees. I was wondering when we were going to have a climb! Nothing to do but just grind it out.
  54. Each curve in the trail hides the true extent of the distance, until finally, that glorious green tape stops of us from continuing straight and signifying the end to this fucking hill.
  55. The two-foot lip to climb up and out of this atv trail looks like the fucking northwest face of Half Dome at this point.
  56. Oh! What a lovely wooden deck overlooking a spectacular view….which, I paid for with my quivering quads and clinkered calves.
  57. The obstacle sign says Obstacle #14. Obstacle 14?! Where the fuck was obstacle 13? Whatever and wherever it is, the other signs, the permanent signs, are telling me we’re about to get busy on a single track dirt bike trail, number 14……..wait a minute.
  58. The track is very tight and technical. It’s carved into the hill so there’s no real option to avoid it, and in some places it’s a gnarly drop off.
  59. We are going downhill in luxuriously lazy switchbacks
  60. More running, more puddle avoidance, until we come out into the clearing that was behind the previous water station.
  61. Next up is obstacle #15. Obstacle 15?! Where the fuck was obstacle 14? Maybe they’re playing the lonnnnnng game with respect to “Mind Games”.
  62. Hellbox is window wall times three. The first square hole is low to the ground. An awkward shuffle-squat gets the job done. The second wall has a hole at about waist height. The classic step-through-and turn Is the elegant solution. The third wall presents a chest high hole, with no steel bar. Grabbing onto the 2×4 head on the backside of the wall allows for the ol’ pull up-hop- through technique. Writer’s note: Bonefrog, make the backside of this wall smooth and that would make for a hard obstacle indeed!
  63. On the way back into the woods I spy a sign for obstacle #17, wet and sandy, on the other side of the course tape. Looks like I’ll be coming back to this clearing again!
  64. It’s back onto familiar ATV trails.
  65. The Black Panther comes rushing past me, and then stops ahead. What. The. Fuck!? That is a curious strategy. But hell if I can’t shake him. Keep on keeping on dude!
  66. A fucking hill. great!
  67. The running grind just keeps on fucking going. The scenery changes from ATV trail, to woods, and back again, but it just keeps on going. They’re trying to tear a Beret down. Could be working.
  68. I’m trying not to kill myself cruising down some toight single track, when fellow Grey Beret Frosty yells out from an adjacent and downslope track (going the opposite direction?! Fuck! How far have I dropped back!?), “watch out! Big hill coming up!”
  69. Holy fuck! It’s looming! It’s fucking steep. It’s all-other-races-would-drape-this-shit-in-ropes-and cargo nets steep! Base jumping steep. I mean it’s vertiginous. A helpful sign tells me this is Obstacle #16. Nothing to do but dig in the lugs, lean in, and power through. Thankfully it’s short.Bonefrog Cliffhanger
  70. We all mumble to ourselves of the good fortune of dry conditions.
  71. It’s a downhill bombing run on the single track from whence we came……I think
  72. We pop out of the woods and straight into Wet and Sandy. The water feels fucking awesome, but that sign must be a misprint, because just below the surface of the pond is the goopiest, soul-sucking muck this side of a presidential debate. Ain’t nothing sandy about it. TBO, The Boy, Black Panther, myself, and couple of speedsters that just caught up with us decide not to burn the quads out by struggling through the mud, so we float-hand walk the whole thing. Oh God! It feels so gross on the hands. Each “step” plunging the hands deeper into the soupy sludge! Any minute I’m gonna get my hand bitten off by a snaggletoothed snapping turtle. Near the end my crawl turns into some bizarre freestyle stroke pulled from the depths of Michaels Phelps’ nightmares.
  73. We come out smelling like Satan’s shithouse after a late night bender at taco bell.
  74. What looks to be a last minute water station add sits on the banks of the pond. Much appreciated Bonefrog!
  75. I try to wipe my hands on the leaves as I pass by. There’s got to be a grip obstacle coming up soon, after that muddy mess. I know I would do that if I was a RD
  76. We are back in the forest. The trees are widely spaced, the ground flat. Nothing to follow except the green tape. I distract myself from my legs being whiny bitches, by picking lines, like a good snowboard session in the trees. It felt smooth and clean, but most likely looked like Red Skelton stumbling around for his hat.
  77. The Black Panther comes rushing past me, and then stops ahead.
  78. A short stretch of dirt road leads straight to Swingers Club. Hehe, so naughty. What’m talkin’ about?! I’m talkin’ about sex, boys and girls! What the hell’re you talkin’ about?! You know, “l’amour”?! As in “to Swing”!
  79. Thankfully my hands are dry as I step up on to the support bar. Strange softball sized cylinders covered with tape are hanging from nylon rope from one end of a steel frame to the other. I pick the far left lane, but one of my crew (We’ve run together for an eternity. They’re my crew now. Though I’d still shank them to get across the finish line first) helpfully points out one of the thingies is hung up on the support beam, thus leaving a huge gap. This leaves only 2 of the 3 lanes feasible for completion. The volunteer is making no move to fix it.
  80. It’s ugly, but I get through it.
  81. As my plucky pack of pacers leave the scene, we note the volunteer is still not doing anything to remedy the situation.
  82. We have arrived back at the very edges of Dirt bike Disneyland where the Challenge and the Sprint courses merge.
  83. After a quick dash in the woods we come out onto the track. We’re at 6 miles, and I can just feel the engine starting to fail as I have to power walk the hill up to 1st Phase Wall. It’s an easy hop over the +/- 5-foot wall. At least the trees are keeping this edge of the track in shade.
  84. We alternate between the woods and the dirt track twice before the course finally heads towards the heart of the Circus and into the brilliance of a blazing sun.
  85. I get down on my hands and knees to crawl under the wire at Feelin’ Froggy. The mud is a fantastic slurry of nastiness, with the consistency of cake batter and the color of an 8-month old’s diaper after a booby binge, and it feels AWESOME!
  86. I’m right on the heels of The Boy, when his foot comes down hard in the soup and kicks up a Pollock bomb straight into my eyes. FUCK!!!!!! Get it out of my eyes! GAHHH!!
  87. Everything appears a brown/orange color as I stumble from the crawl to the water pit. I Splash the muddy water to clear my face of the heavy mud. It hardly helps.
  88. Stumbling up a hill everything looks like I’m viewing it through a cataract  but with a brown tint. Fuck! I hope there’s a water station soon!
  89. The Wreckbag Carry, is a 25 pounder. This makes me very happy. It’s a quick uphill/downhill loop.
  90. As I approach the Dirty Name, it just gets taller and taller. It’s the love child of the sternum checker and a ranch entrance. It’s muddy, wet, slippery and fucking scary. Any earlier ideas of killing it with 3 bounding steps, like a shadowy ninja, hit the dirt like the guy in front of me just did. Ouch! That damn third log has to be 8 feet off the ground; below it an anemic pile of hay that wouldn’t break a snowfall. With bleary eyes I carefully heave myself up and over. Success!!Bonefrog Dirty Name
  91. I’m really fucking tired and there’s still 2 miles to go, but I see a water station ahead!
  92. I grab cups of water and douse my eyes. The cold water a welcome jolt to the skin. I ask a little kid volunteer If I got all the mud out of my eyes. He nods his head yes and gives me that look reserved for idiots and the insane.
  93. Dust Bowl is a short uphill climb under wire. The mini ravines, rocks, and scorched earth make it absolutely miserable.
  94. Who sprinkled the surface of the sun with dry Georgia clay and called it a race? Fuck! It’s Hot!
  95. One of my crew is about 50 feet ahead of me with the rest behind me, going to the vertical Cargo Net, and just blows past the lines as he climbs the far right side. I follow him, hoping I don’t get daggers in my back. Then I hear “Hey, let the elites go on!” Writer’s note: If you’ve read my oeuvre, you know I don’t like this word. But hey, it helped. Bless you, nameless person! Bless you! I climb up as my crewmember climbs down. The Flip & Crab ™, becomes the Flip & Jump (patent pending). I land in yet another sparse layer of hay and with a bit of stumble brush by a guy who is standing there waiting for a friend. I apologize as I run away. “I hope he doesn’t think I am a douche! That seemed pretty douchey to bump him like that! God! I’m such a douche!”
  96. And then it happens, my adductor thingy in the left leg does the equivalent of a throat punch, AND I feel the unmistakable electrical impulses of impending calf cramps. The pain from my leg is searing and takes me back to OCRWC last year. I hobble up the hill willing it to shut the fuck up.
  97. The pace is just a wee bit slower than in the woods, but certainly speedier than moss. It’s enough to shake out the pain in the leg.
  98. Siege Wall is an angled wall with ropes, the approach side just baking in the sun. I kick up the pace, and sprint at it, knowing my Icebugs are going to stick to this wall like gecko feet. The Bugs take me right to the top, the ropes limp with disappointment at their lack of use.
  99. The obstacles are coming at a good clip now!
  100. I climb the vertical cargo net of Kraken, eager to use the Jump & Roll ™ on the horizontal span of netting. The Jump and two rolls gets me to the other side for the climb down.Bonefrog Kraken
  101. The pace is horrible and every hill taller than an anthill, I walk up. The Sun is giving me a right beat down.
  102. I get to the top of another miserable little hill I should have run up, and find a memorial wall. With a fat black sharpie, I write the names of both sets of grandparents.
  103. As I get low to crawl through Nightcrawler, BAMMMM! I fucking crush my right shoulder against the 2x cross tie that is holding up the leading edge of the black fabric draped over the ground. OWWWWW! Motherf…..!! Ain’t that some shit?!
  104. The fabric is marked with rows of yellow lines. “Stay in your lane!” I randomly yell out to no one in particular, and giggle. I’m losing it. Luckily the ground was moistened, so it’s a wonderful texture of modeling clay, and I find my mind wandering about the bowls one could throw with the stuff. I’m really fucking losing it.
  105. It’s back into the woods. The green tape has created a lane so tight, I’m bouncing off the trees. What a gas!
  106. I can feel the calves sparking, wanting to fire up, my gait now taking on a weird flat footed loping. Every misstep a potential red button switch to defcon-1.
  107. Back out onto the surface of the sun, it’s a zig-zag run to 3rd Phase Wall. 8 feet of pure vertical hell, right when cramps are pulling a trick or treat at the front door. Every race when this moment happens, the climb lights up my legs like a roman candle.
  108. From a hundred yards out I start whispering, “please don’t cramp up, please don’t cramp up, please don’t cramp up.”
  109. I make the minimum jump necessary just to get my hands on the top of the wall. A heel hook is absolutely out of the fucking question. I pull my way to the top, straddle the wall (carefully! I have bad history with the tops of walls!), gingerly swing my legs over, and then eeeeeease my way down. Cramps averted!
  110. Not a couple of hundred yards more and the watch vibrates at the 8 mile mark. Sweet baby infant Jesus, it’s almost over.
  111. The Sandbags are small and lightweight and the loop is quick. If by quick you mean hobble up the hill and stumble down it.
  112. As I pass a part of the course going the other way, some guy named Yuri appears. He sees me and yells out “I’m coming for you!” You have got to be fucking kidding me?! He has already done the 6 miles in the woods, done the first lap of the entire Sprint course, and now is gonna lap me on his second loop to finish out Tier-1?! But he said it with a smile, and he’s my friend, so I tell him to fuck off, and start hobbling faster.
  113. I’ve not seen the Bearded one since Nightcrawler.
  114. And just when I feel I’m going to vaporize in the heat, Bog Hop shows up. I jump down into the cool water and squelchy mud, amongst the cattails. And then it happens. Disaster strikes as I am climbing up out of Satan’s sinkhole; My right leg locks up tighter than a bull’s ass at fly time. I have to stick my leg straight out to even get onto the bank. Fuck! that hurts!!!!
  115. I can’t even to begin to describe the fucked up way I’m running to avoid cramping up. It’s like there’s no toilet paper, there are people about, and I have to go to the closet at the end of the hall to get some more.
  116. The Blank Panther is pacing me. I have to let him by. Ain’t no one got time to follow my sorry ass.
  117. The woods are thick with overgrowth. Someone forgot their machete.
  118. Is. That. Giant Ramp!? Please tell me we are running up it and jumping into the pond!
  119. The Volunteer directs me to go Under The Boardwalk. Nooooo!
  120. I’m in the home stretch now. I can “smell the barn” and my watch is ticking ever closer to 9 miles, as is my body ticking ever closer to failure.
  121. Get a Grip is a confusion of tape wrapped plastic pipe handles, hanging from nylon strapping, and set up in no discernible lanes. As they are not fixed to the strapping, the hand width sections of pipe are in a variety of positions: some horizontal, convenient for gripping, and some vertical with no chance of being able to hang from them. I pick a “lane” that seems to have all of the former and start my traverse. Reaching for the 4th grip my left hand slips! I swing back and rotate, facing the way I came. In that split second I think to myself; “I hope I can spot a good grip when I swing back around!” The copious amount of grips work in my favor and I’m able to flail my way to the finish.Bonefrog Get A Grip
  122. 50 yards away is Hell’s Gate. It’s a fucking horror show of walls. 4-foot, 5-foot, 7-foot, 5-foot, 4-foot. They are all spaced no more than 4 feet apart and you cannot use the preceding wall to scale the next. My calves jump up, grab me by the shoulders, and yell, ”Are you fucking kidding us?!?! You’re lucky we’re not already at the beer tent! We should have left your sorry ass back at 3rd phase wall!!” This can’t be good.
  123. First wall goes smoothly, albeit with the caution of a cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
  124. At the second wall, I get a tap on my right shoulder. And there he is, some guy named Yuri, giving me a gigawatt smile. “My man!” While I’m easing myself down as if I’m carrying a Fabergé egg in my shorts, he’s off like a cool breeze, muttering something about wanting to get this thing done. Even the Humble Hero gets tired it seems.
  125. The remaining walls are cleared, the calves oddly quiet. This makes me nervous.Bonefrog Hells Gate
  126. I can see the finish line obstacle 100 yards away. So close, but the tape takes us in the opposite direction to Dead Weight. It’s a hoist obstacle. I look at the thin nylon ropes (with small knots) with trepidation. But, the weight proves to be of no consequence, and I’m able to stay on my feet. Writer’s note: Bonefrog, make this heavier!
  127. Back into the woods. Good Lord! Will this ever end? Hobbling makes for slow going.
  128. I step up to Drunken Monkey stumbling like a drunk, just as the Black Panther is starting and The Boy on my heels. Metal pipes sticking out from either side of a 2×12 flich beam are irregularly spaced and at irregular heights. A nice twist on regular monkey bars. OOO! A camera man! stop! pose! Keep going.Bonefrog Drunken Moneky
  129. This is it, the final two obstacles. The tape is clearly leading me in the direction of the finish.
  130. I jump on the Rope Climb, and as I make my foot hold the inevitable happens. The calves have finally had enough of this shit. Damnit! I know if I muscle up the rope with no feet and they light up again, my hands will open in shock. I stand there a bit dazed when one of the volunteers yells to me, “you can do 25 jumping jacks!”. You got a fucking deal little dude!
  131. A fellow GORMR manning the obstacle gives me shit, but I’m playing it smart and my crew is leaving me behind! Oddly enough the jumping jacks don’t bother my calves.
  132. 25 yards downhill is the final obstacle; Bonefrog’s signature piece proudly stands in all its glory. It’s 50 feet from the finish line and right in front of the entire festival area, with a supportive crowd cheering people on.
  133. Black Ops; It be monkey bars, and monkey bars are my jam! 3 lanes of slightly inclined awesomeness, back dropped by a HUGE American flag. I grab the rope and make the 8-foot vertical wall climb, and as soon as my legs get over the edge onto the deck, both calves light up like a nuclear bomb. I’m lying flat out on the deck and I’m screaming for the volunteer to push my toes back. Fuuuuuuuuuuuck! I gotta get on my feet! I plead for the other volunteer behind me to lift me up. I’m almost knock him off the deck in the process. I’m a fucking train wreck! Finally, to my feet, I try to stretch it out. My crew has since left me in the dust. I can’t get the legs right! I’ll be damned if I fall into the safety net in front of all these people. The seconds turn into minutes. Just before 3 minutes have elapsed, I say “fuckit! They should be good enough for 30 feet of monkey bars!” The sun is blasting in my face as I charge up the lane closest to the flag. OOOO! Cameraman! Pose! Rock on! Writer’s note: this obstacle will give you one of the most epic race photos EVAH! I guarantee it!Bonefrog Balck Ops
  134. I fall to my butt on the deck, eliciting a cry of “be careful!” from the volunteer, and start the forward climb down the angled ladder. The volunteer is not quite sure about that either.
  135. I stumble across the finish line pissed off at my calves. Stupid things cost me three places.
  136. THAT WAS FUCKING AWESOME THOUGH! Tretsch says DO IT!

PROLOGUE:

After I have to have a friend take of my socks for me, the beers flow freely, the food truck is dispensing basic fair, and the comradery is on point. Yuri wins and many GORMRs take home some extra bling. It was a good day.

photo credits (in order of appearance): April Williamson, Cole Darche, Hui Chin Smith, Patti Milio Behrend, April Williamson, April Williamson, April Williamson, Angela Brown Quillen, Bonefrog

HESCO Bonefrog Carolinas 2016 – Southern Exposure

Over the past few years, the HESCO Bonefrog Challenge has put on events to rave reviews in the Northeast. On July 23, 2016, they brought their brand of obstacle course racing below the Mason-Dixon line for the first time.

Early morning race day and it's already hot Early morning race day and it’s already hot and humid

But, much like what Federal armies experienced in the early days of the civil war, this initial incursion south was not with out its hitches.

The Format
Bonefrog events offer three distances:

  • The Challenge – nine miles, 36 obstacles
  • The Sprint – four miles with a bunch of obstacles, and
  • Tier-1 – both courses back-to-back

There is an option for elite racers to compete for awards at each of the distances. Elite racers get a wristband and must complete all obstacles. If unable to complete an obstacle, the wristband is cutoff. Racers must keep their wristband to be eligible for prize consideration.

Thirty-six obstacles over nine miles is a lot of obstacles. It suggests that you’ll encounter an obstacle every quarter mile. However (at least in South Carolina) several obstacles are grouped close together so you end up running some longer distances before reaching an obstacle.

Now, go read the ORM reviews of Bonefrog Challenge from events in New England and New Jersey, then come back here. No seriously, go read them. But don’t forget to come back because I’ll be waiting …..

Okay. Cool. See what I mean? The reviews are stellar. People love Bonefrog Challenge. You probably saw Josh Chace’s review of the New England race. He wrote, “If you haven’t run a Bonefrog Challenge before, you’re doing OCR wrong.”

I don’t want to do OCR wrong, so I was very excited to experience Bonefrog for myself. But, I came away from the event in Winnsboro, SC (just north of Columbia), with mixed feelings.

The Race
I want to stress that I enjoyed the race, but at the same time Bonefrog definitely had issues in South Carolina. It also had a slew of fun obstacles on a grinding, dirty, rocky, extremely challenging, and at times treacherous (I say this as a good thing) running course that wound in and out of wooded areas which provided some merciful shade on a hot, steamy, southern day.

The Dirty Name obstacle - A gut check or a sternum breaker The Dirty Name obstacle – A gut check or a sternum breaker

The obstacles were interesting, sturdy, well-built variations on your usual monkey bars, rope swings, climbs, cargo nets, carries, walls, rig-like contraptions, and water crossings. A great mix, and lots of fun.

The most difficult obstacle for me was the most significant – it’s called 31 Heroes.

It was difficult because it involved burpees and it came at me for the second time on my last loop of the Tier-1 challenge. As I said, it was HOT. This obstacle was totally exposed to the sun, which was beating down on the course with a vengeful molten lava 2×4.

It was significant because “31 Heroes” refers to 31 fallen Navy SEAL officers. Their names are listed on a banner and you must say a name and complete a burpee — one burpee for every name on the list. Thank you to our service men and women.

31 Heroes - The names live on 31 Heroes – The names live on

The Problems
Races have growing pains and they sometimes make mistakes. When Spartan Race first came to Georgia in 2011, they had bibs for everyone on race morning, but when they started handing them out, they realized there were no safety pins to attach them. I think someone eventually made a Walmart run to buy some. Even recently, Spartan Race has had horrific parking issues at events in Texas. Tough Mudder obstacles have fallen down. Just because a series has some issues, does not necessarily mean that you have to completely write it off. The good series learn from mistakes and comeback with stronger, better events.

Race Directors often say that volunteers make or break a race, and that may have been the key issue with the 2016 Carolina Bonefrog Challenge. There were not enough volunteers. I suspect that they went into race day with fewer volunteers than they wanted, so when 15 registered volunteers didn’t report for duty, Bonefrog staff was left scrambling.

To their credit, they did make sure that all of the well-stocked water stations remained open with 100% volunteer coverage throughout the day. This was incredibly important on a day where temperatures soared to 110 degrees. They weren’t skimping on life support systems – something we’ve previously seen, even at big name races.

But the lack of volunteers was felt elsewhere. A group of elite athletes running the Tier-1 distance veered off in the wrong direction and started on the Sprint course instead of the Challenge course. This spilt in the course would be an obvious post for a volunteer, had been available, pointing out the right way to go.

As the day progressed, some obstacles were left unattended with nobody to direct or watch over them. Even with obstacles being mandatory completion for elites there were no volunteers on hand to monitor and penalize for non-compliance, greatly depreciating the value of keeping your wristband.

Another issue a lack of volunteers may or may not have influenced, was that some obstacles didn’t seem to be completely set up and/or were abandoned with many racers still on the course. None of the really cool ones, but still obstacles that counted towards the “36 obstacles over 9 miles.”

For example, any obstacle that called for crawling was indicated by metal wiring strung across the route. You were supposed to crawl under the wire (you know what I mean, almost all races have you crawling under wire). The wire, however, was not pulled tight. It loosely lay on the ground, spooling up on itself in some places. To crawl under, you had to get down, lift the wire off the ground, and go under it. The wire seemed to be just thrown out there, rather than fully laid out. If this was the intended concept, nobody on the course got it – and there were no volunteers around to give direction. Later, many of these wire crawls were trampled over or just pulled off to the side, no longer an obstacle.

There may have been reasons for this, but based on the information I had (as just a guy out running the course) it just looked like they scrapped the obstacle on the fly.

The Promise
But Bonefrog Challenge shows heart and a lot of promise. It has a history of putting on quality events. They have a great logo, great medals, great race shirts, and great merchandise.

Bonefrog's merch tent - stocked with quality offerings Bonefrog’s merch tent – stocked with quality offerings

I want them to succeed for the selfish reason of “I want to race”. I want them to stick around because I want more dates with QUALITY races on my calendar. I am willing to give them another try and I look forward to them impressing me.

They are coming to Georgia next week and I’ll be there.

Photo credit: HESCO Bonefrog Challenge