Savage Race New England 2017 – New England’s Most Anticipated Race

I had heard a lot of good things about Savage Race, and when I heard it was coming to Massachusetts I immediately got excited. Like other recent races this one was held at Carter & Stevens Farm in Barre. It is a relatively flat terrain with lots of fields, wooded areas, and cows. Parking was a short shuttle ride away and then a short walk to the actual registration tent. There were some lines for registration, and it took a little longer than expected but it was a smooth process.

SavagePro

The SavagePro heat started at 9am, with an athlete meeting to explain rules at 8:50am. Each SavagePro athlete was given a wristband. If an athlete could not complete the obstacle then they turned in the wristband. This was great format for the competitive wave. It put more pressure on obstacle completion.

Savage Obstacles

The course was muddy and rugged. There were a lot of opportunities for a twisted ankle. It was about half a mile before the first obstacle, the barbed wire. The second half of the course had more obstacles than the first. The quality of the obstacles was fantastic. They were more difficult than other races. They also seemed sturdier and felt safer. There were the usual obstacles that can be found at the majority of obstacle races: walls, a heavy carry, cargo net, fire jump, and barbed wire.

However, there were several obstacles I had not encountered before. The “wheel world” was such an obstacle, a set of spinning blue monkey bars that were suspended over water. I watched people attempt this one over and over again. The amount of water on the course, in forms of ice baths and “Davey Jones’ locker” stood out for me. I personally enjoy water obstacles and welcome swims, dipping under submerged walls, and jumping into water from great heights.

Savage-Race-New-England-Wheel-World

Savage Determination

It was refreshing to have unlimited attempts at obstacles and to see the perseverance and tenacity this brought out in the athletes. There were two Savage Rigs on the course, because one didn’t seem to be hard enough… Both sets of rigs were brutal and took a spectacular amount of upper body strength.

As I passed the final rig I noted a SavagePro athlete standing to the side. She still had her wristband on and this was the very final obstacle. It was clear to see that she had been at this obstacle for a long time. I was unable to complete it and as I left she was back in line to try again. The determination on her face seems to be what Savage Race is about.

Savage-Race-New-England-Rig-#2

Savage Aftermath

The course was approximately 7.6 miles long. Savage Race boats the “perfect distance” and I can’t help but agree. It’s long enough to wear you out and beat you up, but not too long. By the time you reach the finish line you feel like you deserve that medal and that beer.

The medals were superb and the t-shirt was soft and good quality. There were food vendors and a beer vendor, as well as merchandise and several companies giving out free samples. The festival area was buzzing as I passed other wet and muddy finishers all discussing the highs and the lows of the past couple of hours.

Overall I would strongly recommend Savage Race to anyone out there looking for a more unique obstacle race with a great atmosphere. I will definitely be signing up for the 2018 race.

Savage-Race-New-England-Shriveled-Richard

 

Savage Race FINALLY Arrives in New England

After many years of begging, bribing, kidnapping, and other forms of threat and intimidation, Savage Race finally agreed to invade New England with a pretty fantastic course on the “venue of all companies” in Barre, MA. Here’s the course map:

Savage New England Map_BOS17

If you’ve never raced in Mass, and aren’t familiar with Carter and Steven’s Farm in Barre, let me tell you it’s an ankle breaking, thick mudded cow farm, and steaming cow patties are an unofficial obstacle at every event. It is a swampy, stinky course and cows gather in groups and moo in protest as you run along. They do have an onsite brewery and ice cream stand though, and it really is a great place to put on tough events.

And this Savage Rage was tough. Savage Race follows the gold standard of mandatory obstacle completion for the competitive wave, called “Pro” at Savage. Pro racers received a nice wrist band.  We had to surrender the band if we couldn’t complete an obstacle, multiple attempts allowed. I can’t say enough about how great this is. More and more events with prize money have adopted it, with one notable exception, our favorite burpeepalooza.

Savage Obstacles

This course was crammed with familiar obstacles, many had a unique twist. There were a crapload of rigs. These guys love rigs, and it’s hard to argue with them. Rigs can be arranged in so many crazy ways and Savage Race definitely put some insane stuff out there.

Below is a pic of Tree Hugger. This was a wooden rig that required traversing square poles and logs with foothold cutouts. The early morning rain made the poles slippery. It was a challenging upper body exercise. Very creative and fun.

After a short run, we came upon Wheel World. I’ve wanted to try this for a long time. It’s a momentum riding obstacle, as long as you don’t fight the spins at all, getting to the last wheel isn’t so bad. However, scores of folks couldn’t quite make the dismount. Savage Race very cleverly arranged the solid ground to be just out of reach unless one let go of the last wheel at the height of the centrifugal pull. Lots of racers were left hanging desperately for a while before trying again. Wheel World was a blast!

Savages Overcome Fear

I like that Savage Race combines challenging obstacles with ones that require you to overcome fears. It’s really a great combination. This is an undervalued asset of our sport. The next article I am writing for ORM talks about this in specific, through the eyes of a man trying to conquer his phobia. Savage Race has Shriveled Richard (think TM Arctic Enema) and Davy Jones’ Locker, which is reminiscent of the high jumps into water that other races USED to offer. Kudos to Savage for keeping it!!  Thor’s Grundle, pictured below, had a high freak-out potential.

Savage Race really cranked it up in the last couple of miles, this awesome slide below, Colossus, was HUGE and epic fun. I wanted to do it 13 times. Rumor has it that Savage Race installed several permanent obstacles, including Colossus, at the farm. Pre-registration is open for 2018 already, in the cow patties.

Savage Grip Obstacles

The last mile-and-a-half had three very tough grip obstacles. It was a straight up gauntlet. Grip strength is my thing, but by the end of the third rig, I was running on fumes. Sawtooth came first.  The rungs were all wet. It is long. Not easy. I’m filthy in this pic thanks to a face first swamp pit fall. You shoulda been there.

Next up was the Savage Rig. This obstacle was a series of rings and thick ropes. It was easy to get tangled in this rig. This one was tricky.

 

The last obstacle was a brute named Twirly Bird, and it was one of the hardest obstacles I have personally attempted. Basically it is an alternating field of single flat handles, and loose clumps of thin ropes that they describe as a mop. Accurate. I watched a video on this one where folks wisely just used the handles by swinging big. Well, they adjusted the distance on this one forcing you to grab the mops too, as a result it was far more difficult. I would have fallen off if this obstacle was any longer. This was an impressive obstacle. It wouldn’t surprise me if Twirly Bird had a 90% failure rate.

I was very impressed with this event. Good medals, nice shirt, and very involved owner as well. I have only two complaints: the first one is that there are really too many events at this venue, but I get that it is hard to find space near Boston, so this one is forgiven. Secondly, handing out full size bottles of water at aid stations is wasteful. Buy some Dixie cups. Everything else was righteous!

Savage Race, I’m glad you’re coming back next year, cows and all. I highly recommend this event. See you then!

Savage Race Boston 2017. New Venue, Same Great Race?

Colossus-New-England

To the delight and high demand from many Nor’Easterners, Savage Race debuted their special brand of, “the world’s best obstacles” to Savages old and new who came from from 31 different states to get Savage as F*ck in New England!  The new venue in Barre, Massachusetts at Carters and Stevens farm on Saturday, July 15th, 2017 was familiar to many who ran it because they have hosted Spartan races in the past. Was Savage able to bring their special brand of fun obstacle course racing to a highly expectant crowd?

Short answer: F*ck yes! Read on for the full low down on one of the best OCR brands that you might not be running.

Let’s get past the boring questions first.

Q: What was the parking situation like?

A: Shuttle parking for $10, and $20 for VIP parking next to the venue. ***These prices are for regular cars and trucks only. Larger vehicles are $25+.

Savage Race originally had no plans for VIP parking at this venue, but some of the farmers were kind enough to rent out their land for the day. I heard from many that the shuttles went smoothly to and from the venue. Sam Abbit of Savage race did say that they had a fleet of 10 shuttles that would run regularly, and they did. I personally heard 0 complaints from anyone.

Q: I couldn’t make the race due to rain, kids, injuries, I’m scared, etc.. how much is it to defer?

A: $30 to transfer to another venue/race. No you don’t have to pay for additional insurance.

Q: How much is bag check?

A: $5 per bag.

Q: How do I get a big, beautiful, spinning medal too?

A: Click on the following link to find out about the Savage Syndicate program.

The buzz is that once again Savage Race did not disappoint in terms of fun and I agree to an extent. I personally think that the Maryland course is their best venue in terms of the terrain, emcee, and obstacle rotation, but Savage Race Boston was still an absolute good time. Savage Race Boston had one of the best festival areas out of all of the Savage races that I have run in 4 states, however.

There were interesting racers to meet and greet, the post race beer was brewed on premises, smiling faces everywhere, clean porta-potties, secure bag check, and very tasty food trucks and stands with reasonable prices! Everything that you are used to or expect from running a Savage Race.

Even INOV-8m the shoe of choice for many obstacle course racers was there, running a promotional sale. They lent out pairs of OCR shoes which you were able to return after the race, and yes I will repeat that… after the race. As in they let you run that day with a loaner pair. If you loved them you were able to buy a pair for $60-$65 flat. It looks like a lot of racers took them up on this deal (which are incredible prices for these shoes). Click here for Inov-8’s online store.

Savage-Race-Boston-Inov-8-LogoSpeaking of before the race, where in the world is Matty T? He’s one of the best pump up starting line people in the business. It just doesn’t feel like a full Savage Race without him and his, “starting line fun time.” No crowd surfing at Boston? Boo! Matty T. has been missing for awhile, has he been kidnapped? Matty, if you read this and need us to call 911, just blink once for yes.

Clocking in at close to 8 miles according to Savage Race and closer to 9 according to some racer’s Fitbits, it left some people asking, “Wait, I thought it was only 6 miles?”

Well SURPRISE! The Boston course had more room in which to spread out obstacles, along with narrow running trails where putting an obstacle of Savage sized magnitude would have been pretty much impossible, unless you want them to water it down with random cargo nets, walls, and logs. That’s not very #SAF in my opinion (For the newly minted Savage, #SAF means Savage As F*ck!) and that is choosing quantity over quality, which of course Savage Race did not do.

I can’t deny that this was the longest and muddiest Savage Race course to date for me personally. A big shout out to those that did their 2 lap first time Syndicate run at this venue, or even did fun run multi-laps. It was definitely tough due to mud, the heat, and stink. Wasn’t one of the obstacles wading through a mile of cow piss and shit? It smelled like the porta-potties AFTER the race in there.

I swear I felt like the main character from Shawshank Redemption once I came out of the many sewage/mud pits on this course. The only thing that was missing was the sweet, sweet rain to wash all the cow crap off. I mean look at the faces. You like mud boys and girls? Savage gave us all of the mud that we could handle and then some.

Savage-Race-Boston-Mud-Cargo

The only way to get all of that stink off of you, to the chagrin of quite a few racers, was to leap off of Davy Jones’ Locker aka the cliff jump, which was the next obstacle after the worst of the sewage/mud pits. There were a ton of, “Oh no, I’m not ready for this.” I dove right in though, no way was I going the rest of the way covered in cow pie. It was quite refreshing to feel clean. Well played Savage race, making a lot of us look forward to jumping off of a 15 foot platform just to get clean. Does anyone else think that Savage Race should put a photographer at Davy? I personally heard a few people say that they’d only jump if there was a camera person present at this obstacle, lots of skipping in the open wave. *Hint Hint*

Savage-Race-Boston-Davy-Jones

Speaking of mind trickery they placed everyone’s favorite (NOT!) obstacle at #3, the dreaded Shriveled Richard aka the ice tank, and then Blazed the fire jump immediately after. So not only did you freeze but you got to jump over a blazing fire while soaking wet which helps your clothes absorb the heat from the fire. Bet there were some chapped asses there. Hey Savage I thought it was Fire and Ice, not the other way around. Lots of people hate the Shriveled Richard but it’s one of my personal favorites, I mean where else can you get hilarious pics like this?

Speaking of their more intense signature Savage obstacles, wheel world had some real world problems with many of us racers. A lot of us felt that the initial jump to the first wheel, and along with the dismount at the end was a bit too far and out of reach. Many of us couldn’t even reach the first wheel without a flying squirrel leap, and still fell short. You used to be able to reach the wheels fairly easily, it wasn’t like 10 yards away. At least that’s how far it felt and looked as you stared up at the wheels.

Sawtooth, oh boy. The absolute favorite love and hate obstacle for many. I love the challenge it brings, but I hate that out of 6 Savage races that  I ran, I still can’t nail that sonofadog. Sawtooth at Boston seemed like a combination of the old and new Sawtooth. A kind of hybrid with the thinner rungs, but with the new harder transition from the “tooth” along with the metal framing which makes for better pictures in my humble opinion. I still want a shot at the original Sawtooth though. The group I was running with hit Sawtooth during the heaviest part of the brief rainstorm making it extra crispy challenging and slippery. Right into the drink for many.

Hangarang, another new addition and fan favorite seems to have found a nice balance between much too hard and doable. The mud made it extra slippery but it’s a great obstacle that requires some decent balancing skills. It has also been put back over water, YAAAAY!

Another view showing just how muddy and slippery Hangarang was at Savage Boston. I wonder what the dirt to cow pie ratio was in this mud mix.

The Pièce De Résistance of every Savage Race is that wonderful, glorious giant of an obstacle called Colossus. I have had dreams where I am doing this obstacle. It is that good. There is usually some amazing team work involved in this 2 part obstacle. The first part is scaling the 20 foot warped wall with different fitness levels of ropes. You can go sans rope if you have the ninja skills to do so. It’s so impressive to see. There are stairs on the side of Colossus if you feel unsafe going up the warped wall for any reason but still would like to go down the 2nd part, which is their 25 foot slide and the angle seems to get steeper at every race. Awesome!

Savage-Race-Boston-Colossus

As Savage Race likes to say, “You have to earn this slide!”

Savage-Race-Boston-Colossus-Slide

Twirly Bird gave the Boston racers a run for their money. Lots of bands are lost on this one (according to every volunteer I have asked at this obstacle at every race this year). It’s one of the toughest rigs in obstacle course racing according to many. I agree, but I just suck at rigs in general, and yes I am working on my grip strength.

Savage-Race-Boston-Twirly-Bird-Fail

    I can feel her pain.

What do they drink at a Boston Savage race? A nice refreshing craft pale ale by Stone Cow Brewery which is right on the premises. Lots of Savages were happy that it was a pleasant change from the dreaded Coors Lite that many lovingly refer to as “race piss.”

Savage-Race-Boston-Beer

 

Many said that Stone Cow was absolutely fantastic, even my friend, the non-beer drinker, called it delicious.

 A nice friendly pour.

The food at every Savage has been good, but the food at the Boston Venue was incredible! They had a food truck selling fusion cuisine for $7 with amazing portions and flavor, a jerky truck selling fresh jerky for $3 a bag, a brick oven pizza stand, and the food stand with your standard festival food.

Savage-Race-Boston-Baby-Berk-Food

 Some of the best quesadillas and smothered tater tots ever.

Savage-Race-Boston-Pizza

They even had a banana and chocolate chip pizza. $10 per pizza pie.

Savage-Race-Boston-Food

The food stands if you preferred more traditional festival fare.

As you can see, Savage Race was a huge hit with the New England crowd that likes their races down and dirty!

*Bonus Read below! Not for the squeamish! Graphic Content! May be disturbing to some readers!*

Disclaimer: Obstacle Racing Media, Savage Race, and myself DO NOT condone pinning your bib to your skin ever, or attempting any other dangerous stunts. This is a bit on a very interesting Savage Pro racer, and American Ninja Warrior, Rigel Henry who happens to do this as “his thing.” Attempting this or any of his stunts featured has the very high potential of landing you in the hospital at best, and the morgue at worst. So please don’t do this ever, anywhere.

Rigel Henry first made waves at Savage Maryland when he went skins with his bib attached to his abdomen. I mean Facebook and Instagram blew up big time when his Savage Race pics came out. He’s on this season of ANW where they aired a part of his run last month, but are supposed to be airing the full run in August. He’s becoming better known as “Safety Pins Spicoli” in the OCR world.

Savage-Race-Boston-Rigel-Henry

Rigel has run Savage Races in 3 different states now, and he says that he is hell-bent on beating Yuri Force aka, “Mr. Has He Ever Lost a Savage Race?” I personally don’t know the answer to that. Maybe one of you other Savages can educate us in the comments regarding Yuri’s track record. Yuri Force took it all in Boston, including the $1,000 1st place overall prize money by finishing the entire race with 100% obstacle completion in 58 minutes. The second place winner was still  a 1/4 of a mile behind as Yuri Force crossed the finish line.

So how does Rigel keep the bib and his skin from ripping off during the race? Especially during belly crawls and jumping off of Davy Jones’ locker? He holds onto it he says and he places the pins deep. Very simple answer and he plans on making a Youtube video in the future on how he puts the bib on due to the slew of questions that he’s been getting.

Sorry Rigel, but you’re about to get a lot more.

What does he do once the pins are removed to prevent infection? He swears by Neosporin.

Now WHY does he do this? I wish I could tell you an elaborate tale of how he went on a spiritual retreat to India or Tibet and acquired super human abilities to ward off infections, pain, and maybe even death. That’s not it though.

The reason isn’t anything groundbreaking, and some might even call it petty… but he sees it as good old competitive spirit. He says, “If I can’t beat Yuri Force, I’m going to look more badass than him.”

I forgot to ask him if he’ll stop if/when he beats Yuri but I just have a feeling that his answer is going to be, “No.”

Rock on Rigel and it’s awesome that you chose Savage Race as your favorite place to test your ninja skills. If all the stars align properly we might get to see his full run on American Ninja Warrior this season within the first couple of weeks in August. At least that’s the rumor.

Rigel Henry showing off his ninja skills. He made that look too easy btw.

Now let’s play a game, is this Rigel or Spicoli?

 

Photo credits: Savage Race, Poly Poli, Richard Anthony, Surfermagazine.com

 

Spartan Race – Palmerton Super/Sprint Weekend 2017

Spartan Race U.S. Championships Series – Blue Mountain Challenge

Ask any Spartan Racer what the most grueling event they’ve done in their racing tenure, and Palmerton is sure to be high on that list. After Killington and Tahoe, I’ve heard plenty of stories of racers dropping out during the dreaded double-sandbag carry Palmerton is famous for or succumbing to the heat on what has proven to be a very formidable mountain.

Palmerton, PA also just happens to be the 3rd stop in the Spartan Race US Championship Series – dubbed The Blue Mountain Challenge, which meant the stakes were higher than ever. If you came to watch the best athletes in this sport, you weren’t disappointed. Atkins, Call, Boone, Webster, Kolbl, Killian were all on site. Spartan Race continues to drive amazing live footage, along with an onslaught of social media presence around these big name races – something the OCR enthusiast in me truly can’t get enough of.

For myself, and thousands of other racers, this was simply a chance to experience a championship caliber course on a mountain that has proven it’s worthy of mention in conversations about the toughest Spartan Race venue.

Spartan Up Your Friday Night

Select Spartan courses have also been offering an Open House the Friday before an event weekend. Spartan also offered racers an option to “Spartan Up” their Friday night, which gave the public the perfect opportunity to come enjoy the festival, learn obstacle and training secrets of top coaches, and maybe even meet a few Spartan Pro’s. New obstacles like Twister and Olympus were available to try out, which helps runners get a valuable chance at trying an obstacle before they see it on race day. We also saw a “prototype” rope wall obstacle Spartan was trying out that didn’t make its way into the race itself but gave us a possible look at what may be coming next.

Ape Hanger was another obstacle that has only been seen in one other location – Lake Tahoe, for the 2016 Spartan Race World Championships. Combine the old school rope climb from the water, with a monkey bars / slash rig type feeling, and you’ve got the Ape Hanger. Here is hoping Ape Hanger finds its way to more events because it was an absolute blast.

Spartan continued the assault on racers bodies by building two of the most grueling carries seen so far this year. A double sandbag carry (mandatory to Elite & Competitive racers) down an aptly named ski trail dubbed “Nightmare” and a Bucket Carry that was so long, it extended into the festival area, where onlookers could cheer on runners, and share in the pain that is the Bucket Carry.

All in total, Palmerton saw 25+ obstacles over 6000+ feet of elevation change across the Super course and didn’t skimp at all on the Sprint course the following day. After completing both events on consecutive days, I’m starting to understand the groans I have heard from fellow racers any time the word “Palmerton” is mentioned. When you combine the presence of the obstacle course racing elite, NBC and Spartan Facebook Live coverage, with a course like this, it’s a recipe for success. I’ll be adding Blue Mountain to my list of must-do events going forward.

Photo Credit: Josh Chace

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Spartan Race Palmerton Sprint #1 – Going Up?

Palmerton-Sprint-#1-Twister

Last year, I ran my first ever Spartan Race at the Blue Mountain Sprint in Palmerton, PA. Whenever I told someone that, their response was along the lines of, “Well, you picked a heck of a race to start with.” See, Palmerton has a reputation. The word infamous comes to mind. The climbs are long and steep. And, with an NBC Series Super only the day before, Sprint racers could expect a difficult course on Sunday.

THE FESTIVAL AND PARKING

Out of the handful of OCR races I’ve been to, Spartan has had the largest festival area. Although, it’s worth noting that I have not been to a Tough Mudder yet. And I’m not sure if Palmerton’s festival is larger because of the NBC race on Saturday, but there was plenty of space and plenty of vendors. I have heard that the line to park can grow long as the day goes, but early in the day it took no more than a few minutes to get in. Check in was simple as well and the lines moved quickly.

Palmerton-Sprint-#1-Elite-Men-Start

THE HILLS

Maybe “hill” is an understatement. Palmerton offers a straight up mountain course for anyone willing. The Sprint course only has one climb to the top of Blue Mountain, whereas the Super had two. This may lead you to think that the ascent on the course wouldn’t be too bad then. If you were there, then you know that’s wrong.

First off, my GPS watch thought the course was about half a mile longer than it was. I’m chalking that up to the climbs. Overall, it logged a total of 1,755 ft of ascent. On a course that was roughly 4.5-4.75 miles, that’s almost 400 ft per mile. Checking my splits, not a single mile averaged a descending number. In fact, each mile had over 125 ft of ascent. So, even when coming down the mountain, you were still going up. Mind blowing, right?

Palmerton-Sprint-#1-Map

THE COURSE

The layout of the course was pretty similar to 2016. Some thought that was going to be a negative, but with some of the minor route differences and new obstacles, I thought they improved on last year’s design.

Racers start out with a short climb up a snow tubing hill, followed almost immediately by a longer climb up a couple skiing hills. Almost the entire first mile is making your way up the mountain. Total ascent on the first mile is over 750 ft. The extended climb, with minimal obstacles, allowed for a spread out field.

Palmerton-Sprint-#1-Atlas-Carry

THE OBSTACLES

Spartan included many of its new obstacles, such as Twister and Olympus, plus several classics. One I expected to see, but didn’t, was the monkey bars. They were included in the section of the Super course that veers from the Sprint course, along with Z-Walls and a few others. The layout of the obstacles was pretty spot on. The hurdles and walls were mainly early, with the tougher obstacles coming after the mile-long climb to the top. Once the top was reached, racers almost immediately were faced with the Atlas Carry.

Palmerton-Sprint-#1-Ape-Hanger

A couple permanent Palmerton obstacles reappeared, of course, as well. First was the swim through Blue Mountain’s pond. A life jacket was optional for the Sprint (the day before it was mandatory for Super racers). Shortly thereafter, competitors had to try their grip strength on Ape Hanger, just shy of 4 miles in.

There were two heavy carries on the course: single sandbag carry and bucket carry. The hill that the sandbag carry was steep enough that many racers were walking. The earlier waves were told that it was a bit slippery from the overnight dew and were advised to be extra cautious. The Multi-Rig was all rings, but no bell. Instead, after swinging to the final ring, racers had to transition onto, then over the ladder wall. It didn’t add much difficulty, but was a nice little curveball to keep Spartans on their toes. Twister was saved for the final 100 yards, so that the only obstacles left on the downhill finish were Dunk Wall and Fire Jump.

Palmerton-Sprint-#1-Elite-Women-Finishers

THE FINISH

A volunteer awards you with a medal and even a hug as soon as you finish. One thing Spartan is great at is post-race snacks. Even though I didn’t plan on having much more than water, I grabbed each of three Clif Bar flavors, a banana, some organic chocolate milk and, of course, a cup of water. Once you’re done stocking up and leave the finisher’s corral, the finisher’s shirt pick-up is right there.

Another worthy note is that many Elite/Pro racers from Saturday stuck around for Sunday’s Sprint. Ryan Atkins, Ian Hosek and Angel Quintero took top 3 for the men, with Lindsay Webster, Rea Kolbl and Faye Stenning finishing on top for the women.

Photo Credit: Spartan Race

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Frontline OCR

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Photo Credit: Frontline OCR