Savage Race Chicago 2017

Savage Race is known for coming up with new and innovative obstacles year after year and the 2017 edition of their Chicago race was no exception. With many race series turning down the difficulty level Savage constantly brings up their game and it’s refreshing to experience firsthand. I can easily see why attendance at their events continues to grow event after event as word of their commitment to putting on a great event spreads after each race. Pulling up to their event at Richardson Adventure Farms on the Wisconsin/Illinois border with my family I found parking to be a breeze with costs ranging from 10 dollars to 25 for the up-close VIP lot. Lines for the pro/elite check in were extremely long with only two lanes open while the open class had many more lanes open with next to nobody in line. With the popularity of their pro/elite class soaring it might be wise to shift some of their volunteer help during early check in from the empty lines to the full lines. Bathrooms in the festival area were also grossly underestimated. Athletes were lined up 6 deep before the start to take care of their pre-race evacuation further cutting down on some athletes warm up time. The festival area itself was well planned and spacious with a decent number of vendors along with plenty of tables and chairs for athletes to hang out post-race with friends and family.

Savage started out their 6.3-mile course by running athletes around the back side of the farm for four tenths of a mile, thinning out the crowd some before throwing racers down on the ground for a barbed wire low crawl. The course was very backloaded with obstacles and the terrain at Richardson Farm was extremely flat with only 100 feet of elevation change throughout the entire course. The Barn Doors came up quickly and afterward, this obstacle consisted of an 8-foot wall climb and was the second obstacle Savage threw at racers before a cool dip in a container of ice water Savage appropriately called Shriveled Richard. Unlike some events that just use cold hose water this quick bath included perhaps more ice than actual water leaving most gasping for air upon completion. With our bodies now stiff from the ice bath Savage led racers away from the farm and into the crops and country side for some trail running while throwing racers under a few barrels {Squeeze Play} and testing our agility with a series of 5-foot walls with barbed wire low crawls set in-between. One more barbed wire low crawl through a pit of mud started athletes on a path around a lake and across a busy road that was thankfully blocked off by local law enforcement and on to an inverted wall set up on the adjoining property. Tree Hugger, a pole to log to pole traverse, was the first test of an athlete’s grip and body control. Luckily plenty of dried cut grass was laying around for anyone to use to wipe off the remaining mud from the previous low crawl.

After hitting the bell at the end of Tree Hugger it was back on the trail leading up to a series of climbs. The Great Wall {9 foot} and The Big Cheese, a semi-circle with triangular slots cut into it, were set along a path of twists and turns through the pine trees which led racers up to the Savage slip wall. Scared of heights or swimming? Davey Jones Locker was the next obstacle Savage set up along the trail. The high dive type jump into a water pit always looks higher when you’re on top looking down at the water and always causes a few racers to turn around and climb off the apparatus. After climbing out of the water pit Lumberjack Lane was a short jog away. This wooden beam carry consisted of an incredibly short trip in a circle around a few pine trees and really should have been made longer, especially since Savage used this location as one of their photo zones. Kiss My Walls was the first Savage obstacle that had long lines of racers waiting for their turn as this wall traverse used rock climbing hand and feet holds causing for many slips and falls. The inverted wall design with the top sticking out farther than the bottom really added to the grip strength test with some of the pro wave giving up their bands on this pesky obstacle. Shaking out our hands to help dissipate the lactic acid build up racers now made their way through the pines to the Pole Cat. This Savage unique obstacle consisted of parallel poles placed horizontally at different heights and required an athlete to place one’s feet on one section while placing hands on the section directly across. A sideways crawl got an athlete across this obstacle while a slip meant getting wet in the water pit placed below.

One of my favorite obstacles was next up for racers. Wheel World is a set of spinning wheels suspended over a water pit requiring an athlete to traverse from one spinning wheel to the other and makes for a great test of grip strength and body control! Now making our way back towards the lake and festival area Savage stacked the Block Party, a cement block on a rope pull towards and carry back, and the first of the Savage rigs. This new rig for 2017 was about average difficulty wise and consisted of a few rings, three low monkey bars onto a dual rope and ring finish. A slap or kick of the bell signaled completion of all Savage rigs and you could hear bells ringing all throughout the course. Another new obstacle for this year, Hangarang, was next in line for racers. This balance obstacle was truly unlike any other in the world of OCR. Two logs were set in line and suspended off the ground by chains at either end. The goal here was to cross the logs without falling off which would require a restart. The last obstacle before racers were led back across the road to Richardson Farms was the Big Ass cargo net, this A frame climb was on par with every other cargo climb in the industry but was still taxing nevertheless. After a stretch of running on a dirt path Savage set up their second new rig, Rig Over Water was precisely that. Rings and ropes suspended over a water pit was a nice addition to the race for 2017 and provided another chance for racers to test their body control.

Making our way back to the festival area now Savage set up their Colossus obstacle. A slip wall climb up to a giant water slide usually makes for great fun, but the water wasn’t working during the pro/elite wave so a simple climb up and then right back down was the work around Savage came up with. The popular Sawtooth monkey bar traverse was next up on our way along the course and is a favorite photo location for athletes of all levels. For those thinking this race was close to done and in the bag, Savage set up the toughest rig yet. Whirly Bird proved to be a pro/elite band stealer and general pain in the ass for all racers. This handle to cluster of small ropes repeated traverse was a brutal test of grip strength and coordination. The lines were huge here as the pro/elite class racers had to repeat until completion and were made even longer by the open class racers following them. This was another new obstacle for 2017 and I tipped my cap to Savage for coming up with it as I handed over my band to the volunteer after failing repeated tries at this beast. This was the make or break obstacle for the pro/elite wave and separated the haves from the have nots. After either crushing or being crushed by Whirly Bird Savage set up another fan favorite. Teeter Tuber, an obstacle placing an athlete into a claustrophobic tube requiring a racer to climb up in the small tube to a point where the Teeter Tuber over causing one to slide down to the ground on the other side. One last new horizontal traverse was now all that separated a racer from the fire jump finish. Mad Ladders was an innovative obstacle consisting of a wooden ladder on each side of a suspended cargo net in the middle. Lots of spinning around on this one till you figured it out, most likely using up the last of your grip strength in the process.

The 2017 Savage Race series is certainly worth doing as anyone from a pro to a novice would enjoy the new challenges. Savage provides a great combination of running along with ever evolving fun obstacles that will test you. This also continues to be one of my favorite race series because of their awards setup. 66 different medals are given out to age group, overall, masters, and team top finishers down to third place giving athletes a great chance to score some extra bling. And speaking of extra bling if you race more than Savage Race you also qualify for the huge Savage Syndicate medal. This monster of bling really looks great around your neck or hanging on your wall. Race photos and bruises were free as always along with the great memories!

Photo Credit: Savage Race


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

LeaderBoard Training – Coached by the Pros (Part 2)

LeaderBoard-Athletes-at-Chicago-Super

A plateau isn’t just a really tall, flat piece of land. It’s also where you, as an athlete, can find yourself if you get too comfortable in your training. Without the proper guidance, your body can become accustomed to the pace, distance, workouts, weight, and so on. Luckily, as I’ve found, LeaderBoard excels at preventing plateaus so that its athletes can continue their climb to the top.

If you’re unsure what LeaderBoard is, there’s an entire first article to explain just that!

ONE OF THE FAMILY

A common theme among LeaderBoard athletes is a sense of family. It may be a little cliche, but it’s true. Ean Caskey, a member of LB since the beginning, was surprised of the familial vibe. “Once you suffer alongside someone for months on end and share your highs and lows, you feel a certain connection and pride to be part of the team,” he said. The programming, along with Slack messaging, really keeps communication open. Not only can you see how fellow athletes are doing by checking out the WOD (Workout of the Day), but there’s always discussion on the workout itself. Everyone is there to support each other, which isn’t a common theme among training programs. Got a PR? Post it in Slack and just watch as everyone gives you a congratulations and various emojis.

Naturally, the LeaderBoard family has members all over the country. So, although you may have had communication with several members, maybe you never met them. But when several members are going to be at the same race, usually dinner plans are made. Everyone gets together to hang out and share their race day stories, or whatever else may come to the table.

LeaderBoard-athletes-meet-for-dinner

 PUSH IT TO THE LIMIT

Remember that whole plateauing thing? Well, that can happen without you even realizing it. Sometimes, you just don’t think to add that one part to your workout that keeps your body guessing. Sure they can be tough. But, LeaderBoard athletes like Eric Aanerud, find that the parts he hates are actually his favorite. He explained that they are “the parts I would skip if they weren’t in there. It makes me feel like I have to do it. So I do. You get to the point where you stop asking questions and just do the work.”

I remember quite a few times thinking about how difficult a workout was, but realizing I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Not only is there a sense of accomplishment with the physical training, but it hones your mental strength as well. Jeff Shoaf, who has completed 27 races since 2014, appreciates this part of the training. “They help train your brain to keep going and not quit just because it gets hard or mentally boring,” Shoaf said.

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Forrest Bouge on his way to first place at Savage, Ohio

THE LATEST BENCHMARK RESULTS

Outside of running a race (which I’ll get to), the Benchmarks are a great way to measure progress. Since article number one, I was able to retest all five Benchmarks: the mile, carry, rig, 5k and personal trail BM. Though I expected to beat a few of my previous numbers, I hadn’t expected to PR all five. But that’s exactly what happened.

I didn’t destroy the old numbers, per se, but any improvement in 4-8 weeks is positive. First, let’s start with the rig benchmark, since I had been on the rig specialization leading up to the test. The first part of the test is a grip-alternating chin up, with the second part being a straight dead hang (without dismounting from the first part). Before, I had done eight reps of part one and 40 seconds of dead hang, which counted as two reps. That totaled 10 reps. This time around, I hammered out 10 reps of part one, but only 20 seconds of dead hang, or one rep. Overall, an improvement of one total rep.

On the bucket carry, the test consists of timed carries for the bucket, double sandbag and dumbbell, or farmer’s carry. I was fairly concerned that my total carry distance would go down, since I hadn’t been specializing in it. I was able to squeeze out an extra 15 meters combined. Again, not a large increase. But, considering it was not my specialization and definitely my weakest obstacle category, it was great to see that number go up.

Eric-Aanerud-Boise-SandbagEric Aanerud at the Boise Sprint

We all know in the sport of OCR, running is pretty much the most important part. So, I was really curious to see how those tests turned out. My previous 5k time, done on 4/22, was 23:50. Just about 2 months later, on 6/21, I ran 23:37. That’s only 22 seconds from my lifetime PR, and certainly a non-race PR. As for the mile, on 5/23 I ran a 6:26. Five weeks later, on 6/27, got that down to a 6:19, a lifetime PR.

The trail loop time trial that I discussed in the first article would be another test. The other Benchmarks I had only done one time previously. This was my third out on the trail loop. As of the last article, my time was 59:09, an improvement of 3:43 (previous 1:02:52). This time around, another time reduction, totalling 57:36. My GPS lost signal briefly, so the splits are inaccurate, but the overall time is correct. That means in just under 3 months (March 25 vs June 24), I’ve dropped over 5 minutes off my time!

EVERYBODY GETS A PR

Right, I get it. You’re thinking, “Well, Adam, anytime someone starts a new program, they see the greatest results early on.” And you’re right. Or are you? I looked at some of LeaderBoard’s longest trained athletes, those that have been there since early on. They surely must have leveled out their Benchmark numbers.

Caskey, who is in his fourth year of OCR, hit a PR in the rig during the most recent test, and both the carry and mile this past May. Shoaf also had bests in his mile and carry at the most recent testing. Aanerud almost had a clean sweep recently, PR-ing in all but his rig (due to an injured hand).

Kirk-DeWindt-wins-Chicago-SuperKirk DeWindt fire-jumping to victory in Chicago

Kirk DeWindt, who joined LeaderBoard July 2016, shortly after his first OCR, has also found recent success. He hit a PR in both the 5k and carry during the last round of testing. It’s worth noting that DeWindt was a collegiate All-American in the mile during his college years, so it may be a bit harder to get a personal best there. Forrest Bouge ran his first OCR two years ago and was in the first group of LeaderBoard athletes. He’s hit a PR in all his Benchmark in the past 6 weeks.

OFF TO THE RACES

Now, that part that really matters to some people. How does training with LeaderBoard improve your racing? Shoaf, who had mentioned the benefit of mental toughness, has seen an increase in his ability to race through fatigue. It’s paid off in races as recently as the AT&T Stadium Sprint. Last year, he finished a respectable top 38% in his age group, top 32% of men and top 29% overall. This year, however, he rocketed up to the top 21% in both his age group and gender, plus top 18% overall.

Bouge has improved from a top 15 finisher to a top 10 finisher, with two podium finishes so far in 2017. Caskey was a top 10 finisher prior to starting LeaderBoard. So, with LB training, he’s now consistently challenging the podium spots. “The last three races I’ve been in 2nd for a large portion of the race,” he said. “ Last year that would have made me nervous and think to myself that I was going too hard. Now I feel like I belong there, and confident that my training will keep me moving forward.”

In 2016, Aanerud ran his first season as an Elite Spartan. His placement ranged anywhere from 15th to the mid-60s, and a 77th place finish at Spartan World’s. This year, his worst finish is 25th, with the majority being between 6th and 15th. Most recently, he finished 8th in Boise. DeWindt has also found success since joining LeaderBoard. He won back to back races, his first wins, at Spartan Race Chicago in June, and finishes top ten in most races he competes in.

 

Ean-Caskey-Chicago-RigEan Caskey making quick work of the rig in Chicago

I don’t get the opportunity to run a lot of races, so my main comparison is between Savage Maryland in the fall of 2016 and Savage Pennsylvania a few weeks ago. Though my overall placement wasn’t quite as good, I put that blame on my own inexperience and not my training. At the 2016 MD race, there were a total of 188 racers in the competitive heat. In 2017, the PA race had 256 racers. Unfortunately, in PA, I waited too long to get in the starting corral, and started the race towards the back. This resulted in more cattle jams and even a five-minute wait in line before a first attempt at an obstacle. That obstacle, however, was Kiss My Walls, which took three attempts in Maryland, but only two in PA.

At both races, I was able to finish the SavagePro wave completing all obstacles. To me, the difference was the new obstacles for 2017. The 2016 race had one rig. Savage PA had two rigs, plus an obstacle called Twirly Bird, which is essentially another, more difficult rig. The upper body demand was much higher at the PA race. Though I obviously can’t say for sure, it would’ve been very difficult for me to finish 100% obstacle completion had the Maryland race been as tough. This year, I even had enough energy to run the course again, in an open heat, a few hours later with some friends. Something I know I wouldn’t have been up for last fall.

BLUE MOUNTAIN CHALLENGE

Palmerton gets its own category for a couple of reasons. First off, it fully reinforced the family aspect of LeaderBoard. A group of members got together Friday night, before the Super. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it. At the Super, I had the chance to meet almost all of the LB athletes that came out to compete, which was around 15. Saturday night, the group got together again and this time I knew I couldn’t miss out. After hanging out for a couple hours to chat about races, honeymoons, training and much more, it felt like Thanksgiving dinner with the family (minus the OCR talk). We all even had a chance to catch up with our fearless leader, Brakken.

Sunday I was running the Sprint and ran into several LB members after my race, including Brakken. Everyone asked how I did, talked about the course, and congratulated me on my result. Speaking of, I went into the race hoping to qualify for the age group bracket of OCR World Championships. Even though I know I most likely won’t make it to the race, to say I qualified would be an accomplishment. To do this, I needed to finish top 20 in my age group in the Competitive heat(s). I researched last year’s top 20 times and set the goal of 2 hours. Well, I blew that out of the water. My final time was just under 1:37, good enough for 28th overall and 3rd in my age group. The 1st and 2nd in my age group were 1st and 3rd overall, so any better than 3rd would’ve been tough.

Tiffany-Palmer-and-Brakken-Kraker-at-Palmerton

Tiffany Palmer and Brakken Kraker at Palmerton

The rest of the LeaderBoard crew had equally impressive performances. Several Saturday racers finished in the top 35, which is especially difficult at a US Championship Series race. Two of LB’s female athletes finished top 25 (Tiffany Palmer 15th, Katie Huber 23rd). Many of those who didn’t run the Elite wave finished as some of the top racers in their age group for the Competitive wave. This was also impressive as the athletes registered for Competitive was larger than usual for Saturday’s race. On Sunday, Palmer and Huber returned for the Sprint, finishing 4th and 7th, respectively. Had Lindsay Webster, Rea Kolbl and Faye Stenning not stuck around from Saturday, LB may have had themselves a 1st and 4th podium showing.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

Since the first article, a few things have changed at LeaderBoard. There is now a Standard and Pro program. The Standard is essentially everything I’ve experienced at half the cost of what it was. The normal cost now provides Pro, which includes a higher level of personalization. What does that mean? Closer contact with your LeaderBoard coaches, including 6 “Pro Chats” per year plus all the communication that comes with Slack. This personalization will help with individual athlete’s goals, such as a faster 5k time or getting better at hill running.

With this, however, Robert Killian is no longer one of the two Pro coaches at LeaderBoard. But, as unfortunate as it is to lose a great athlete like Killian, current coaches Brakken Kraker and Zac Allen have proven that they are more than capable of getting the best out of their athletes.

Does LeaderBoard require a certain level of commitment? Of course. Any training program does. Some days I had to do part of the workout during my lunch break and finish the rest later at home. But, tailor it to your schedule. If you can only fit in a certain amount of time, fit it. The more you can follow the program, however, the better your results will be.

Remember, everyone can start out with a seven-day free trial. LeaderBoard also added a pretty sweet referral system. If you are referred to the program, you receive $30 off your first month. Once on the program, if you refer someone, you receive $15 off your next month. Head to www.leaderboardfit.com to sign up!

Brakken-Kraker-at-Lambeau-Stadium-Sprint
Photo Credit: Spartan Race, Savage Race, LeaderBoard, David Martineau, Tiffany Palmer

Savage Race Pennsylvania 2017 – What A Skirmish!

Savage-PA-2017-PRO-wave

On fields where the combat normally involves paintballs, athletes from all over the country came to rise above the morning fog and win a different kind of battle. The threat of rain couldn’t prevent thousands of competitors from facing a difficult Savage course, head on. The terrain at Skirmish, located in Albrightsville, PA, was flat but technical, featuring rocks and tree roots on the majority of the race route.

Many attendees were returning Savages, ready for another challenge. Some came to earn their Syndicate medal, which Savage gives out for running multiple races in a calendar year. Others, like myself, hitting their first Savage of 2017. Those who had come to run their first Savage hopefully came prepared with upper body and grip strength.
Savage-PA-2017-Half-and-Half

PRE-RACE AND ARRIVAL

Savage’s site is very easy to navigate and, though races can get expensive, there are usually plenty of promotions. Many of them include BOGO half-off deals. Once registered, email communications keep you updated on wave times, bib numbers, course map, parking and more. This way, you’re check in is quick and there’s little concern come race day. In this case, the course map was available about five or six days ahead of the actual event.

Parking was pretty simple and cost $10 for standard and $20 for VIP. As with other Savage races, standard parking was within walking distance from the festival entrance, making it easily accessible. For me, this saved me the $5 for bag check. I was able to keep my bag in the car and carry my valet key in the zipper pocket of my running shorts.

Savage-Map-PA-2017

I arrived at about 8:10 am, 50 minutes before the SavagePRO wave, which is their competitive heat.  The line orter line was a bit longer than the last race I had been to (Maryland Fall 2016). But, as I later found out, there were 100 more athletes in the competitive wave this time around. Overall, it took about 10 minutes to check in and get my bib, still allowing me time to walk back to the car to throw on my trail shoes and bib, so I could warm up.

Whereas Maryland really only had one or two obstacles near the start line and festival area, Pennsylvania had about ten, including a “mystery” obstacle that I’ll get into later. Many racers took advantage of this layout and got in some practice before the race. About ten minutes before the start of each wave, runners were allowed into the starting corral.

Savage-PA-2017-Twirly-Bird

THE COURSE

I’ll start this part by mentioning that Matty T, Savage’s normal master of the starting line, couldn’t make this particular event due to a scheduling conflict. Luckily, Savage was able to secure Coach Pain to fill in his place. Though they have two very different styles of beginning a race, both are extremely good at what they do. I had also run an open wave later in the day and heard a completely different, but equally motivating, speech from Coach Pain.

The overall distance was just under 6 miles, which included 30 obstacles. Runners were greeted with an obstacle-free run of almost 1.5 miles to begin the race. By mile 3, only 9 obstacles had been attempted. This meant that the last half of the course smacked you with 21 obstacles!

Savage-PA-2017-Rig-Over-Water

Though I’ve only done a handful of races, this was definitely the toughest collection of obstacles I’ve faced. By the end of it, my biceps were drained of life. Savage found a way to take, what I thought was already a tough 2016 obstacle list, and make it even tougher. New obstacles like Twirly Bird compounded with two rigs at this venue ensured this would not be a cake walk. Not to mention that mystery obstacle, which was dubbed Half and Half by the end of the day. The front half was an inclined monkey bars, like you see in Sawtooth, with the back part a declined pole, as you see in Pipe Dreams. Did this mean there was no Sawtooth, then? Of course not! At the PA location, some of the obstacles are permanent and stay at Skirmish year-round. So, although racers didn’t get a chance to see the new Sawtooth setup, they were still climbing on it!

The only complaint I had about the course was that Kiss My Walls, during the Pro wave, had an extremely long line. It took roughly 5-7 minutes to even get one attempt. And, because Pro racers have mandatory obstacle completion and KMW is one of the tougher obstacles, it cost many competitors lots of time. Oddly enough, in the open heat I ran later on, there was hardly a line at any obstacle.

Savage-PA-2017-Kiss-My-Walls

THE FINISH

After racers complete the grueling course, they’re greeted with volunteers handing out medals, shirts and water. If you’re a “swag” kind of OCR junkie, Savage’s shirts are super comfortable and the medals are solid. Within 10-15 minutes, most times and rankings were available at the results tent. Though there were no actual showers (very common), Savage had several hoses and two changing tents set up a short walk away from the start line.

Each registration included a free beer, so that was available in the festival area after (and I guess technically before) the race. There were also beef jerky samples, a life insurance company, and food vendors set up in case you wanted to hang out afterwards. Savage also had two waves of their 0.5 mile kids race, called Savage Jr.

Results were posted the following day (Sunday). Runners also had the option of signing up for a program, called Pic2Go, that will automatically post pictures to your Facebook as they become available. Or, you could wait until Thursday when all the pictures would be posted on Savage’s site. Pic2Go could only post pictures where your bib was clearly visible, so some racers may have seen a few, while others would see upwards of 20.

This was only my second Savage Race, but there’s no doubt it will not be my last. Though the course presented racers with a legitimate challenge, the casual racer was still able to find a place to enjoy themselves with friends and family.

Savage-PA-2017-Finishers-Reflection

Photo Credit: Savage Race