With an event that coincided with the arrival of Pacific Storm Lucifer, the Epic Series race held in San Diego California lived up to its name and more. The first Epic Series race of the year was held in the parking lot of the artists formerly known as the San Diego Chargers (too soon Chargers fans?). This race truly had something for everyone, not only capable of challenging elite athletes, but able to provide a fantastic first race for those new to the world of Obstacle Course Racing. You may be asking yourself what about this race allows it to appeal to such a wide audience. Read on to find out.
The race was held on Saturday February 18th, a day which started overcast, but warmed up as the day progressed with a good amount of sunshine for all those attending to appreciate. Though the course was somewhat wet due to the massive amounts of rain which fell the night before, it dried up throughout the day. The weather and some technical difficulty with electric generators caused the race to be delayed by about 45 minutes with the first scheduled heat taking off at about 0845 as opposed to 0800. This didn’t seem to cause any issues as the music was blasting and multiple vendors were set up peddling their wares and enticing the crowds. Though the race had a cut off time to register on their website, onsite registration was available for those interested.
The Epic Series race is broken up into two separate events. The first, the Epic race, is open to everyone. Both Elites and those running the Open waves run the Epic race. The second part of the race is the Elites course and as you could probably guess, is open only to those in the Elite heats. The Elite heats are released every five minutes during the first hour of the race. More on the Elite course later. Epic Series races bill themselves as being obstacle heavy with short race courses and no mud. The race states that weather may cause mud at a race depending on the Venue, but the race will never intentionally create mud. In this case they delivered as promised. Being that the course was on asphalt, mud was not an issue. In total the distance run on the course came in at about 1.75 miles, approximately half the distance of a normal Obstacle Course 5K.
What makes the Epic Series race so good for athletes of any ability is the unique design of their obstacles. The obstacles are color coded, green for beginner, blue for intermediate, and black for advanced and are designed with differing degrees of difficulty. For the Elites, women must complete at least the intermediate obstacles while men must complete the advanced. Failure to do so will result in disqualification from competition, though the racer is encouraged to continue the race.
The race starts out with a full lap around the course with an Epic flag in hand. After the initial lap the racer comes to the first obstacle, a wall jump. Three walls, all color coded, are available to jump over all based on the level of difficulty you choose. After the wall jump comes a quick net crawl, and then on to the atlas stones. The atlas stones are also color coded, with the advanced stones being heaviest. After 10 Atlas Stone over the shoulders, it’s on too burpee box jumps. The height of your box is dependent on the level of difficulty you choose. After burpee box jumps, it’s on to the ladder wall, which is basically a regular wall with cut outs. You then move on to overunders. This was one of the few obstacles I took issue with not because of the obstacle itself, but because there were only two ropes set up. This meant that even if you shared and alternated only four people at a time could use the obstacle. A few more ropes set up would have been nice.
From the overunders, it was on to a balance beam. After the balance beam was the first of four laps of the course, not including the initial lap. Three of these laps involved carrying something. This first lap was the slosh pipe, which was weighted and sized based on difficulty level. After the lap you went straight into overhead squats using a weighted PVC pipe. Next was Russian twists using a weighted ball, then another ladder wall followed by the first inverted wall. After the inverted wall was the inflatable obstacle, which due to the aforementioned generator issues was not working. After a quick detour around the inflatable you arrived at the rope climb rig. What I really liked about this rig was the way they set up the levels of advancement. 2 rope climbs for advanced, one for intermediate, and a cargo net climb for beginner. Epic Race did a good job at providing obstacles of varying levels so that anyone truly could participate in the course. After the rope climb came a timed plank using an hour glass. I don’t know what the time was for the advanced hourglass but I would estimate it at sometime between 2 minutes and eternity. After the plank it was a quick unweighted sprint around the course to the other side of the rope climb rig which had a keg hoist.
After the keg hoist, came the lumberjack. For those who haven’t seen the lumberjack before, myself included up till this race, it’s a heavy weighted bar on a pivot which must be lifted up and pushed until it falls down on the other side. After that came an exercise using strength bands (see giant rubber bands). After shimmying into a band you were required to do a set distance there and back of side steps, bunny hops, and a run/hobble. From this it was on to the squat wall. You placed your back up against the wall, got into the squat position, and keeping your arms extended, held another hourglass to time yourself. The same 2 minute to eternity hourglass was employed for this exercise. After the squat, I was more than happy to get moving into the gas can carry lap, which involved carrying a gas can in each hand. After this lap came a fun obstacle, the bow and arrow, Epic Series spear throw if you will. A regular re-curve bow was the weapon of choice. You had 5 chances to hit an approximately 1ft by 1ft metal plate roughly 10 feet away. Luckily the arrows were tipped with giant balls of foam to avoid any serious injuries.
After the fun came a tire drag and then another round of atlas stone over the shoulders. This was followed by the second inverted wall, and then another regular wall. After the regular wall it was a set of box jump chest to ground. This was followed by the largest wall on the course. Depending on the difficulty, the climber was given less or more hand and footholds to ascend the wall. After this wall was the final lap, carrying a keg. With the last lap completed and the keg dropped off, it was a short sprint to the finish where your bib number was recorded for your time and you received your medal and a bottle of water. Quick side note here, shirts are also included as part of the race but are picked up at check in. With that there is nothing left to do but give yourself a pat on the back and enjoy the good vibes. That is unless you were running in the elite class, in which case it’s on to the elite’s course.
This is another thing that sets Epic apart. The race itself is no longer considered to be enough. The Elite course truly separated the wheat from the chaff and was a difficult course all its own. The Elite course itself is further broken down into the strength versus endurance course. Strength obstacles are higher weight but less reps. Endurance obstacles are lower weight but more reps. I opted for the Endurance course and was glad I did, as it was difficult enough as it was.
Epic Series race winners are determined based on the Epic race run time combined with their Elite course time. Competitors run the course one at a time, with someone going every fifteen minutes. Each competitor has a judge who goes with them throughout the entire course. Special shout out to my judge Moe Bautista for motivating me the entire way through. Each competitor gets 15 minutes to complete the 10 obstacles with mandatory obstacle completion for everything but the first obstacle. The first obstacle, which is a truck pull, has a time limit of 90 seconds. Failure to complete the truck pull results in a two minute and thirty second penalty assessment added on to a racers final competitive time. Any other obstacle not completed also incurs the 2:30 time penalty. With mandatory obstacle completion for all but the first obstacle, this means failure to complete the second obstacle would add thirty seven minutes and thirty seconds onto a racers final time.
As stated, the first obstacle was a truck pull, a newer year model Chevy Colorado quad cab to be exact. The racer used an over the shoulder harness to pull the vehicle. This obstacle was made slightly more difficult because it was on asphalt which remained somewhat slick due to rain from the night before. The next obstacle was the overhead barbell press. You were required to get it up from the ground and then press it for reps. This exercise did quite a few people in and I saw people struggling all day with this particular obstacle. I believe this was due to the fact you had to lift the bar into position instead of getting it from a racked position. From the press it was on to deadlifts. After deadlifts was an atlas stone lift over the wall. After lifting the stone over the wall you were required to yourself jump over the wall. Next was a farmer’s carry, followed by a tire flip. After the tire flip were kettlebell box step ups followed by sandbag lunges. Then it was a simple sprint to the finish. Normally the sprint would have instead consisted of a rope climb. Epic Series announced on its various social media pages the night before the race that the rope climb would be cancelled to due high winds that day, up to 60 mph gusts, which did not allow for safe set up of the obstacle. Good on Epic Series for watching out for the safety of both its racers and set up personnel on that one.
Overall, I would say the Epic Series race truly lives up to its name. With something for everyone, from competitive athletes to those new to the sport of OCR, Epic Series allows you to challenge yourself at whatever level you’re currently at. I liked that instead of simply not doing an obstacle or taking the penalty, you were given a choice based on your comfort level and ability. Epic Series is currently only based in the Southern California area but is well worth the trip if you’re considering going. For those interested, the next race is currently scheduled for April the 23rd, at the LAPD police academy.
Photo Credit: CSDC Photography