Carolina Beast 2017-SPARTAnburg STRIKES BACK

South Carolina- Spartan Beast November 2017

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You mud lovers asked for it, and Spartan Race delivered. A brand new venue for your dirty adventures in South Carolina. Spartanburg hosted their first Beast and Sprint for those last minute trifecta chasers. The new venue had every racing fanatic wondering what Spartan Race was going to bring. Spartanburg held the races at the University of South Carolina campus. The Beast tapped out around 13 miles and the sprint boasted 5 miles.

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Spartan Race Beast/Sprint Course Map
Spartanburg, South Carolina
Photo Credit: Spartan Race

Obstacle Changes

Although the OCR season is still active until the end of the year, Spartan is using this time to try out new changes that may be implemented next season. One of the changes that was noted in Atlanta at the Lake Lanier Super was a penalty loop added next to twister and the rope climb. Instead of the traditional 30 burpee penalty for obstacle failure, the athlete is required to crawl under an additional barbed wire, or go for a small jog around a loop. Spartanburg did not have any penalty loops and just required the 30 burpees for obstacle failure.

Twister

A well known obstacle for failures, Twister, earned more failures in Spartanburg than ever before. Spartan added velcro grips to the handles for extra hold on the difficult obstacle. Whether or not Spartan did this in preparation for rain, or to make it easier is unknown. However what is known, is that 90% of the athletes did NOT like the changes implemented to twister. Team Southern Spartans athletes joined in to say that the grips made it very difficult to grab the bars because they were slipping and moving. Perhaps Spartan Race could modify this change and put the grips on half of the bars instead of all of them.

Twister-Grips

Unfavorable Grips Added To Twister

 

Elites and Scratchy Terrain

Tiffany Palmer won first place for the elite woman with a time of 2 hours, 7 minutes and 34 seconds for the beast ! Tiffany recaps her experience at South Carolina on her Instagram by saying “(the) Beast was definitely a race to remember. As in…it will most likely leave scars on me from all the briars! Beautiful clean race besides gashing my knee open at mile 1!! The terrain was the worst obstacle, and there was a LOT of screaming every time a Briar wrapped itself around me.” Although it took me double time to run the beast, I did experience the same terrain issues as Tiffany. The terrain reminded me of a post Hurricane Irma scene with all of the knocked over trees, branches and pinecones. There were thorns that would come out of NO WHERE and literally reach out and wrap around your legs causing nasty scratches. Racer, Troy King states “The course was hell! 13 miles of thick woods – running through miles of briars and hurdling waist high thorns. I was constantly watching the ground for hidden holes. It was literally miles of uncomfortable aggressive terrain.”

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Top Three Elite Women (Beast)
Photo Credit: Tiffany Palmer

Troy King Scratches

Troy King- Scratches from Spartanburg
Photo Credit: Troy King

 

       I spotted this CUTE handmade tank top made from a finisher t-shirt and two spartan headbands !! 

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“Blondie” and her handmade Spartan Tank

 

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MY FIRST EVER TRIFECTA, Y’ALL !!

Overall, for my first Beast, I found Spartanburg to be a challenge and a great time. I certainly recommend this course for those seeking to test their limits and get that green beast medal to complete their trifectas. Spartan is scheduled to bring this venue back next season, but will hopefully take into consideration some mild parking lot issues and the scratchy terrain. Can’t wait for next year!

 

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Photo Credit: Jessika Poppe, unless otherwise stated.

 

Bonefrog New England Spring 2017 – If hell is easier, I’d rather go there.

Bonefrog-NE-Welcome“Harder than hell.” states Bonefrog’s ads.

On a cold Winter’s day, sometime back in December of 2016, yours truly was making her 2017 OCR list and Bonefrog New England Spring was a definite must. The only obstacle course owned and operated by the NAVY Seals? Count me in again! I ran the Bonefrog Challenge last year at the beautifully scenic Berkshire East venue, and rolled my ankle right after Stairway to Valhalla so I had to finish the next 7 miles injured, but it was still an amazing time, with their well-designed obstacles, enthusiastic racers, and volunteers pushing me through the pain. This injury lasted all throughout 2016, however, so I definitely had a bone to pick with this frog.

As I sat there looking at the Tier options, I must have had a brain fart, because all of a sudden, I was signed up for the Open Tier-1 wave.

Bonefrog has 4 Tier choices: Sprint (3+ miles), Challenge (8+miles), Tier-1 (12+ miles), and Endurance (New this year,) which is Tier-1 and then you run the Sprint course as many times as you can until you drop dead presumably. You get a green frog pin for every lap of the sprint that you finish, a special Endurance medal, and the coveted Golden Frog, if you can do 5 extra sprint laps! Norm was proud to tell us that he didn’t think anyone got the gold frog at this event.

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Tier-1 is Sprint + Challenge, so you get to do all of the obstacles, some of them twice. No going back at this point; so I pulled up my big girl pants and said, “Bring it on Bonefrog, gimme everything you got!”

I must have spoken too soon because shortly after that, Bonefrog announced that the OCR torture master himself, Norm “EffNorm” Koch was now their new head course designer. The word that came out of my mouth when that was announced? It wasn’t fuck… it was, “FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!” I’m sure anyone that has run a Norm Koch mountain course knows why.

As Bonefrog New England approached, the pictures and videos of intimidation started lighting up the internet. Norm with his machete and that sardonic grin of his, Bonefrog showing off their new obstacles, pictures of Stairway to Valhalla (which btw no picture that I’ve ever seen has done it justice of showing the actual steepness and distance of this death march), along with the NAVY Seals promising you an ass beating that you’ll enjoy.
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My fellow OCR people let me tell you that I was NOT mentally prepared for what they had in store for us this year. Once the map was released and I saw that long stretch of nothing between obstacles 12 and 13, I pretty much started shaking in my boots. Berkshire East is already known as Bonefrog’s toughest course because it is all mountain. Who loves extreme death marches up mountains? The head course designer of course!

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So on Friday, May 19th I and a car full of other mud running hooligans headed up to Charlemont, Massachusetts to, “GET THAT DAMN MEDAL!” and to “Make that course our bitch! RAWR!” A lot of shit talking from nervous racers, because had we known what we were in for, that car would have been quieter than a funeral. We set out on Friday because Bonefrog offers packet pickup the night before. I personally think that other race brands should also offer this option.

Early packet pickup is picking up your bib and timing chip the night before the race. They also have a cocktail and pasta night social where racers and Bonefrog staff can mingle; you also get to see and try some of the festival area obstacles. Early packet pickup is free, pasta and beverages are not. The pasta dinner last year was around $13 per person and you were offered a plate of pasta with or without meatballs, a mixed green salad, garlic breadsticks and chocolate chip cookie brownies. Unfortunately, we did not make it in time for the food, but we did make it just in the nick of time to get our race packets early, which saved us a lot of time in the AM and allowed us more sleep. You might even get a glimpse of EffNorm!

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The parking situation this year at Berkshire East was such a vast improvement over last year. Not only was it shuttle parking in 2016, but they did not have enough shuttle buses for the racers and spectators so many racers missed their early wave times. This year parking was onsite and they rented some farmland next to the venue so it was all within a short walking distance. Free parking for volunteers and $10 for everyone else.

The morning festivities at Berkshire East started beautifully with the singing of the national anthem as a member of the Navy Seal skydiving team soared his way across the mountains and over the festival area with a huge flag and colored smoke. It was a truly amazing and awe inspiring sight.

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Then it was off to the races as the Tier-1 elites thundered their way through the starting line and veered off left into the mountains. This is where it kind of gets funny at the starting line, btw where was Coach Pain? I don’t know if Norm wanted to see the fear on our faces for himself or what but he was the starting line, “Pump up” man. I am laughing as I write this because while Norm Koch is a brilliant Course Designer, he doesn’t make a great starting line emcee. Sorry Norm but I think you know it too. He is unintentionally funny however. The vollie wave was the next to go out and Norm was like, “Ok, have fun. All 5 of you.”

Bonefrog New England could really use some volunteers everyone. If you’re looking for a solid race with great people please consider volunteering for this brand. You do have the option of running and volunteering on the same day. Click on this link for more info on volunteering for Bonefrog at www.bonefrogchallenge.com/volunteer.

Then it was my turn as Tier-1 Open wave. After Norm showed us a grenade for a new grenade toss obstacle and told us he’d see us sometime in the afternoon, it was off into the mountains we went. The course has been changed, for the harder and better in my humble opinion. Everyone’s favorite obstacles are still there. Like their fun-tastic spider traverse wall, drunken monkey, river rope traverse, tree rope traverse, walls, cargo nets, Black Ops etc…

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Let’s start with the short list of things that I was not impressed with this year.

Where’d the rope climb go? How can you have a military obstacle course without a proper rope climb? Bonefrog also had the good climbing rope too, that nice sturdy climbing rope with knotted and unknotted options, bring it back, please!

The barbed wire crawl didn’t have real barbed wire. It wasn’t even metal. Come on now.

The grenade toss. Toss a grenade into a hula hoop. Really? A hula hoop? Maybe it would be more interesting if the target was better like a doorway structure, or better yet get rid of it all together. It was a dud in my humble opinion.

Bring back the memory test because that was one of the signature things Bonefrog was known for, their hard memory test. If you failed, you had to go back and re-read a sign until you got it right.

The line was too damn long for the new green monkey bars called, “Seat bars.” Many racers, including myself, opted out of this one due to the bottleneck with a 25 pushup penalty for some and 25 squat penalties for others. Yes, Bonefrog has penalties ranging from 25 pushups, squats, burpees and jumping jacks.

The new rotor obstacle, “Twirly Bird” was too damn high and it had a huge failure rate, I personally did not see 1 person complete it. I think that it was high enough where it should have been placed over a water pit or something. Norm, however, did explain after the race that it was due to the wrong length of beams being sent and that it was meant to be lower. I saw one guy land flat on his back from that height and it was not pretty.

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Porto-potties for the racers on the course would be nice, it’s not easy going long stretches especially as a female, or if you have to take a dump mid-race to just drop trow in the middle of the course since there are not any good places on the course to do so. In the festival area, you have indoor and outdoor potties so no complaints there.

Now on to the good stuff!

Speaking of not pretty, that long stretch of nothing I mentioned earlier between obstacles 12 and 13? It was definitely a long stretch, but it wasn’t nothing. It’s called the Punisher. This is where Norm’s talents and skills really shine through and why every OCR racer has a love/hate relationship with his courses. He bushwhacked a death march with his machete that is more than twice the distance of Stairway to Valhalla up one of the most tree and rock dense areas of the mountain that he could find. Stairway to Valhalla makes you question life, The Punisher makes you question your sanity. I think the name of it should be changed to Tree Hugger (Sorry Savage race) because that is how you will be getting up and down this crazy death march, by hugging onto trees for dear life.

I don’t know how many reading this have seen the Barkley Marathon documentary (I highly recommend it if you haven’t, it’s on Netflix) but there’s a scene where you see people throwing their whole bodies up and onto a plateau while clinging onto trees. That’s Bonefrog’s Punisher in a nutshell and you get 3 long soul crushing peaks of it. What are we being punished for anyways? Someone take away Norm’s Netflix account so that he can’t watch the Barkley anymore.

On my second loop, yes Tier-1 not only got to do Stairway twice but the Punisher twice as well. So that’s 4 death marches total if you are going Tier-1, and 6 death marches minimum if you go Endurance. The Sprint people were shocked that they had to do this mother of all death marches along with Challenge and Tier-1 because in the past Sprint was much easier than the other tiers simply put.

Bonefrog is known for a lot of mindfuckery with fake maps, intentionally leaked false course information and the Punisher was NOT marked on the map for the Sprint course. Surprise!

Bonefrog-NE-Punisher

As for the Tier-1 experience, it was VICIOUS; when I heard at the starting line that Tier-1 would be doing Stairway to Valhalla twice, which I was afraid would happen, but I trekked on starting with the Challenge portion where most of everyone’s favorite and fun obstacles are like the Swinger’s club. It’s a Tarzan rope over water. Lots of fun if you make it, and into the drink if you don’t. It was much improved this year with a longer distance to swing over and a deeper water pit.

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The balance beams aka Walk the Plank this year was really tough, not only were they set over a rocky stream, it was on a fairly steep incline. Elites were only allowed to use their feet, open wave was allowed to use hands and feet to make it across. I personally saw 2 people lose their elite bands on this obstacle. I am usually really good with balance obstacles but I used my hands and feet for this one. The idea of dropping into a stream full of rocks was not appealing to me. Otherwise, it’s a solid obstacle that showed me that my balance can always be improved upon.

Hell’s Gate, which was introduced last year, has had a bit of a makeover, instead of over and then under the walls, it’s now all over the walls. It’s still a lot of fun however and it does prevent potential trampling in such an enclosed space.

The Challenge side of Bonefrog had a good mix of terrain and obstacles. You had a little bit of everything from flat RUN FREE trails, to the arduous death marches, wonderful woodland scenery, and through an area with dead trees that was hauntingly beautiful. Last year it was just up Stairway and across long stretches of flat trails with one long downhill. So much about this course has changed and for the better IMO. Much more challenging and the scenery alone just feels enchanting.

After a merciful stop at a porta potty before taking on the Sprint side of Tier-1, and I 100% admit that it took a lot for me to get back out on that course while smelling BBQ cooking, hearing the cheerful laughter of people who had just received their medals, the music pumping away. The temptation of Black Ops which is the finisher obstacle staring me in the face, seductively whispering for me to settle for a Challenge medal or a DNF. I ignored all of that and got back on that course to get that Tier-1 medal and to show the course and myself who is the boss of me.

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Now the Sprint side of the course had some of the fun obstacles like the river rope traverse that everybody loves getting their pictures on, where you have the option of doing a full rope traverse, dropping into the frigid water and then swimming a few yards to shore, or you had the express lane option of a lower rope which you used to just drag yourself through the water.

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The Sprint side had to do the hardest obstacles like the death marches that the Challenge side did but they had no flat portions. NONE, ZIP, ZILCH, NADA unless you consider slight grassy inclines that are few and far between flat. You were either going up at all times or down muddy, rocky, leafy declines. After my 2nd trip or should I say crawl up Stairway my hip flexors really started feeling it. Every step was torturous and when a kind vollie (that’s short for volunteer) gently let me know that the Sprint had to do the Punisher as well, I took a moment to lay down on a sparse patch of grass somewhere between that water station and the Punisher, and a lone tear just rolled gently out of my right eye like that old Native American Chief in the no littering ads of the past.

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Bonefrog made me cry, there I said it.

At this point in the race, the only ones that were on the mountain were a few other Tier-1 and Endurance racers. I saw maybe 2 racers wearing Challenge bracelets but it was mostly Tier-1 and Endurance out there. This is at the point of the race where you start seeing some shit while racing against the clock so that you don’t DNF. The point in the race where you have gone so far, yet that finish line seems as far away as it was at the starting line. You go past the racers that have had enough and quit halfway up the Stairway or the Punisher and they tend to say, “I tried guys.” and all you can do is smile back and say, “Good job.”

This is where you also start making promises to yourself that you won’t give up. You limp helplessly by the poor guy that a volunteer is taking care of because his ankle is broken. You share your energy snacks and chocolates with those out there suffering with you, yet not tasting a thing except the anticipation of the finish line. You ignore the pain, the voices of self-doubt, your screaming joints, you ignore everything except those that are still sticking the course out with you motivating each other with chants of, “Big gold medal, big gold medal, big gold medal.”

Finally, after another round of obstacles in the festival area, you are brought back around to Black Ops and it was such a beautiful sight to see, but it’s one more obstacle to finish and a big one at that. With my hips pretty much dead at this point, I needed help from the wonderful vollies to get up the rope wall, but once I was on the bars, I flew past it’s spinning rungs and got that Big Gold Medal! That’s what makes Black Ops challenging, it might look like an innocent slightly inclining set of monkey bars, but the rungs in the middle spin so if you don’t move fast you will fall off right into the net.

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Bonefrog ran out of Finisher shirts at The New England race and rumor has it, it’s because there were a lot of same day registrations that they weren’t prepared for, so I hope you wrote your bib # down on the T-shirt list if you didn’t get one. Bonefrog says they will be in the mail.

Speaking of shirts, Bonefrog offered a nice selection of shirts ranging between $15 – $20 at their merchandise booth. I wasn’t leaving without some kind of Bonefrog t-shirt.

Bonefrog-NE-Merchandise

As we were leaving Norm Koch was there looking very pleased with himself and relaxed knowing that he took an already tough as nails event and made it even more challenging.  He did ask my husband if he thought that the Punisher should be longer to which my husband said, “Yes.” So EffNorm and Eff you my dear hubby for that. You don’t tell that man a death march should be longer.

As for who won the race between me and Bonefrog New England, let’s just call it a draw since we both got what we wanted from each other. I got my medal and the mountain got my tears.

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Thank you Bonefrog for putting on another great event. Here’s a standing ovation to the racers, spectators, staff and volunteers (All 5 of you guys lol). I’ll be seeing you again at Bonefrog New Jersey!

Photo credits: Bonefrog Challenge, Phil Poli, Poly Poli

Savage Race Florida Has Serious Beef With Their Racers!

Savage-Race-Mens-Pro-Start

Thanks to the Florida Women’s Cattle Association, Savage Race served up protein packed, amazing post race bites of some of the most well seasoned, succulent rib eye and NY strip steaks. That sure beats the traditional bananas and protein bars for this racer!

I’m getting ahead of myself however, so let me run down the basics before getting to the true meat of Savage Race, the obstacles. The heart-pounding, well-designed, and amazingly fun obstacles that had thousands of Savages from 37 states descend upon Florida to run the very first Savage Race of 2017.

The parking situation: Savage Race Florida did not have VIP parking. It was $10 to park at the venue with a first come, first serve situation in order to get the best spot. The parking area was close enough to the venue with a short walk to the entrance, where a friendly volunteer handed you a course map.

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What about the Port-o-potties? There were portable crappers in the parking area and the festival area as far as the eye can see. So, if you had to do race rule #1 (Take a dump before the race), there was no wait before or after the race. They also had 2 portable crapper stations on the course right around miles 3 and 6. As for the cleanliness? You’ve seen worse. Much much worse, trust me on that. Post race is where you start asking, “Mud or poo?”

Savage-Rage-Venue-Porta-Potties

Registration and packet pickup: Simple and hassle free. Just make sure that you have a valid I.D., your bib number and a signed waiver.

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Bag check: $5 (each bag) to check your belongings, and if you needed to get something from your bag after checking it, like a second packet for your Savage Syndicate lap, or if you simply forgot something they will not charge you again. Your belongings were kept behind long tables where very friendly but watchful volunteers and security made sure your things were safe.

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Savage Syndicate Program: There seems to be some confusion on how this works. It’s very simple folks: run 2 paid laps in 1 calendar year and you get a big, spinning medal to go with your 2 regular medals. You can run 2 paid laps on the same day like I did and BOOM, you too can walk around like King or Queen shit though the festival area with your neck laden with bling. You also get a state pin, and the best part? All Savage Races that you run after becoming a Savage Syndicate: you get the regular medal and another Syndicate spinner medal with that state’s pin, without having to run double laps at the same venue.

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Savage Race Pro Kevin “MudMan” LaPlatney, Owner of Obstacle Athletics with his Savage Race Syndicate Bling (Gold Medal not included)

Water stations: There were 3 water stations on the course spaced every 2 miles, and Savage Race is still keeping the water on ice. So when you are handed your own personal water bottle, it’s nice and refreshingly cold. They spoil their racers, unlike another race brand (which shall not be named) that tends to run out of the water and is warm enough to make tea with.

The obstacles: Oh my, where do I even begin? Savage Race surprised many of their Florida regulars with the course set up this year. The first mile was a nice long run without any obstacles. You heard that correctly my fellow Savages, a Savage Race where they didn’t bombard you within the first ¼ mile with obstacles. How is this a good thing some may be wondering? It builds up anticipation, and you get a nice warm up mile to get the blood flowing before they start slamming you with obstacle after obstacle.

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Once you hit their first obstacle named Barn Doors, which is a wooden fence that you climb over the obstacles start coming at you quickly in true Savage Race fashion. Barbed wire crawls, mud pits, cargo nets, high walls, their signature obstacles like Sawtooth, Shriveled Richard, Wheel World, Colossus, Davy Jones and much more are spaced so that once you are done with one obstacle you are just a stone’s throw away from the next one.

On my first lap I did notice that the Squeeze Play obstacle which was placed over a mud pit was closed. Of course, the first thought that came to mind was, “GATOR IN THE MUD PIT!” but that thought quickly went away as I ran towards the always intimidating Sawtooth. On my second lap Squeeze play was placed over dry ground a few feet away from the mud pit which had red lettered caution tape, so it kind of confirmed to me that there was a “GATOR IN THE MUD PIT!” There is no official confirmation on that however, and it could just be all in my head.

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Savage Race threw many racers for a loop when they placed Colossus a few obstacles before the finish line. I heard quite a few Savages wondering, “Colossus isn’t last?” Oh no my friends, they placed it right before Teeter Tuber making crawling up the rubber pipes extra challenging and fun because the insides were SAF (Slippery As F*ck).

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Speaking of challenging, the hardest traverse wall in OCR, “Kiss My Walls” just got even more challenging. Savage Race upped it up a notch by adding fencing in between the tiny rock climbing pegs. Still no step stool for us shorties, sorry my fellow vertically challenged pals.

I’ll touch briefly on their 2 new obstacles that many were wondering about, Mad Ladders and Twirly Bird, since nobody had even seen a picture of these two before the race. Mad Ladders consists of rope ladders and loose cargo nets which you traverse across. Sounds easy? Far from it as you’ll be spun around and tangled up.

Twirly Bird? No propellers involved, but it’s the rig to end all rigs. Oh you thought trying to hang onto tennis balls was hard? Try hanging onto shredded ropes with tiny individual knots. You better have the grip strength of a silverback gorilla to get through this one.

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All in all it was 28 great obstacles (no heavy carries allowed) packed into a 6 mile course.

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Festival area: After jumping over the fire and getting your precious medal and finisher shirt, Florida Savages were treated to what seems to be every OCR racer’s favorite post race beer Shock Top. For those that do not drink, your beer ticket was treated like you just handed off a $100 bill.

The food stalls worked much like a carnival where you bought tickets at a booth and various food and drink items cost x amount of tickets. $10 for a sheet of 10 tickets was how it was sold. The fare was burgers, chicken gyros, chicken on a stick, roasted corn on the cob and other carry around friendly foods.

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There was a nice large main tent where people were enjoying food and drinks giving it a very cool Oktoberfest vibe. There were plenty of canopied tables scattered throughout the festival area as well giving people a nice view of the stage where they held pushup contests. Hats off to the Savages that participated because this Savage could barely hold her burger up after the race.

Changing room and showers: You mean garden hoses and changing tents. The garden hoses should have a sign next to them saying, “Obstacle #29” so cold! The changing tents were secure, clean and roomy.

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Exit through the gift shop: Savage race has the best prices for gear and still continues to do so. Good selection of shirts, compression sleeves, headbands and if you buy 2 shirts you get a venue specific shirt for FREE!

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The best next race deal around: For $75 you can buy a voucher for upcoming Savage races at any venue. That price includes processing fees and the mandatory insurance, but wait there’s MORE! You also get a Savage race wristband, a “Train Savage” t-shirt and decals.

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Thank you Savage race for putting on an amazing event yet again, the first race of the year was incredible and this Savage is looking forward to even more fun at Maryland Spring on April 29th.

If you’re still on the fence about trying a Savage Race, it’s time to get off of that fence, grab some friends and jump into the mud or water pit because it’s time to get SAVAGE AF!

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Photo Credit: Kevin “MudMan” LaPlatney, Poly Poli, Savage Race 

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