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 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!

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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.

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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

Savage Race PA 2017: Push it real good

I’m a competitive racer, and an unashamed elitist. I don’t care about medal shape or weight, t-shirt material or how much mud there is, and I don’t drink beer. That doesn’t, however, prevent me from understanding what the majority of recreational OCR runners are looking for. They are the bread and butter backbone (wait, that doesn’t work) of the industry and need to be taken care of.

Savage Race is one of the very few organizations that keeps challenging competitive racers by constantly but ever-so-slightly increasing the difficulty level, while also catering extremely well to the huge majority of people simply looking for a good time.

I ran a Savage in Chicago in 2016, and really liked it. Flat, fast running and fun, spectacular obstacles made for a good combination, but I found the obstacles to be on the easy side, compared to European races and that now-defunct frog-themed series. They kept showing new and more exciting ones on their very well-run social media, however, so I was eager to try another one to see how things had evolved. I wasn’t disappointed.Savage-Race-Pennsylvania-RegistrationAs always, check-in only opens at 8am, creating a queue of eager SavagePRO racers (almost none of them being actual pros, but that’s a can of worms for another time) for the 9am wave. Registration was a piece of cake (I think I may be hungry) though, so the always electric Coach Pain sent us on our way right on time, as the fog lifted on a cloudy but dry morning.

Savage-Race-Pennsylvania-FogWhen Savage described the terrain as “wooded”, they weren’t kidding! Most of the running we did was in the forest, dodging trees on soft, technical, unstable terrain with moss, rocks, branches and even the occasional plastic pallet. This slows down the track speedsters and is much more entertaining than just running on flat trails. A good thing too, since the first mile and a half was completely devoid of obstacles, with only a few thrown in until mile 3. Then things got properly relentless, packing around 20 obstacles in the last two and a half miles.

Savage-Race-Pennsylvania-Tree-HuggerI’d say about half a dozen of these were challenging for most people, many were easy on their own but took enough effort to really make a difference when running fast, and a couple were psychological trials, especially for those with a fear of heights. Around half of the 29 obstacles on course were large, impressive structures, contributing to firmly establish Savage Race as a major-league race series despite “only” holding 13 events in 2017. The accumulation of obstacles also caught out many racers lacking adequate grip strength and smooth technique.

Savage-Race-Pennsylvania-Mad-Ladders-ActionIt seems to me that Savage is using the same steady, progressive approach when developing obstacle difficulty as when expanding their event calendar. This is great because athletes don’t get discouraged, and get constantly challenged to increase their obstacle proficiency rather than giving up and going back to penalty-based races (SavagePRO uses mandatory obstacle completion). This is pushing the sport forward, making us better obstacle racers, not just better runners, and Savage should be commended for that.

Savage-Race-Pennsylvania-Half-n-Half-Action

Savage added this new bonus hybrid obstacle

At the same time, the large number of easier obstacles leaves recreational participants with a sense of accomplishment as well as the desire to improve, come back, and conquer those that defeated them this time. I saw a lot of teamwork and assistance between racers, Tough Mudder-style, when observing later waves making their way through. Spectators could also enjoy lots of action as the course repeatedly looped through the festival area.

Savage-Race-Pennsylvania-Colossus-Help

Something for everyone, then, as the generous cash prizes, challenging obstacles, age-group awards and well-run, fair racing brought in a slew of fast racers despite a Spartan Sprint being held in Boston simultaneously. Savage seem to be establishing themselves as a no-brainer option for obstacle lovers that value technique over brute force, fun & fast courses over sufferfests, clean racing over burpee controversies, and the solid race experience that comes with a professional outfit.

Oh, and the medal looks great, there’s a cool spinny Syndicate medal for repeat Savages, the shirt feels nice, there were plenty of port-a-potties, a free beer at the end, various food vendors (so hungry), a solid kid’s race complete with foam machine and a great atmosphere, especially with Coach Pain as the start line motivator. It think it’s fair to say that the 3000 racers on site got their money’s worth.

Savage-Race-Pennsylvania-Foam-Machine

Kids were playing there all day!

Highly recommended.

YAY: Awesome obstacles, fun course, well run operation

NAY: They may not have a race near you (yet)

Photo credits: Sebastien David

Clydesdales and Athenas – The Next BIG Thing!

The Clydesdale and Athena divisions should be added to OCR and running events. There – I said it.  Burn me at the stake, throw tomatoes or emphatically disagree if you’d like. But before you do, at least finish the article. Deal?

What are the Clydesdale and Athena divisions?  Both divisions are classifications based on weight, rather than the standard age group.  The Clydesdale division is typically males over 220 pounds while the Athena division is women over 165.  Who cares, right?  It doesn’t affect the majority of people today, right?  Before you brush off the logistics already, let’s look at other sporting events for a moment.

Clydesdale-Runner-Floating-Walls

Would the world’s greatest boxers still be the greatest if no weight classes existed? Would Floyd Mayweather be able to beat Evander Holyfield in his prime?  Could Manny Pacquiao have withstood punches from Mike Tyson?  We will never know because it would be “unfair” to place them together in a ring.

Would Olympic weightlifting results differ if they didn’t have Bantamweight, Lightweight, Heavyweight and Super Heavyweight divisions? Chances are – the super heavyweights would take gold, silver and bronze every single time.

Would the MMA be the same if Conor McGregor fought heavyweights like Fedor Emelianenko, Junior dos Santos, or Andrei Arlovski?  We will never know – they will never fight.

The majority of individual sports can be broken down into two major categories – skill vs speed/strength.  Size or weight is less of an issue in skate boarding, tennis, golf, or surfing because you either have the skill at these sports or you don’t. Not every person has the balance to surf or hand-eye coordination for tennis.  However, Boxing, MMA, Weightlifting, Power lifting, and all forms of martial arts are restricted by weight class. Not to say that skill or talent isn’t involved, but a 130 pound wrestler is far less likely to win against a 250 pound heavyweight.

Clydesdale-Runner-Wrestling

What makes running different? What makes OCR different? What makes Triathlons different? That, my friend, is the question. Why are they different? The answer is- They aren’t. It’s just that nobody has challenged the norm. Running isn’t split by weight because runners are almost exclusively less than 200 pounds. Competitive runners are ALL under 200. Why change now?  I’d ask the opposite, why not? How many people started their journey as a runner in the Clydesdale or Athena division?  Many people who were overweight to start likely fell in that category.  However – some people are just larger athletes, regardless of effort or training.  Wouldn’t it be great to have the option to compete against other larger athletes who are of similar build?

If you want to be a nurse, do you pursue it? If you love painting, do you paint? If your passion is music, do you practice singing, playing an instrument or composing music?  Fitness has become a passion of mine and I have been sharing the knowledge I’ve learned from personal experience ever since. I’m pursuing that passion with every run; every weight lifted; every training session.  Why should that passion be thwarted because I’m 6’5” – 260 pounds running against 160-pound individuals?  Regardless of your opinion, the truth is a larger framed individual will never be competitive in running against the “typical runner”.  The body supplies oxygen and energy to working muscles, so the lighter the load, the better.  If you took two runners, identical in all physical abilities, different only in their weight, odds are that the lighter runner would finish with a faster time than the heavier runner.  Some might say “then lose the weight and quit bitching”. While I agree to an extent, and I will never stop training to be better, most Clydesdales and Athenas will ALWAYS be larger regardless of effort toward losing weight.  Should we be punished because our genetics have pushed us out of the “fit” category in running?

Clydesdale-Runner-Monkey-Bars-Zoom-out

I’ll leave this with a final thought…

At 6’5” – 260lbs, I have more mass to hold up on monkey bars, more mass to swing across rigs, and a more difficult time trudging up hills than Ryan Atkins.  Yes– he trains his arse off – but put the same training into someone 230 pounds and in the same shape as Atkins.  Who wins? Atkins still wins all day and twice on Sunday.  Why are bigger males still chasing Jonathon Albon or Ryan Atkins and females chasing Lindsey Webster or Alexandra Walker for a medal when we wouldn’t be placed in the same boxing ring for the title match?

The opportunity to challenge and compete against other athletes of similar build is long overdue. These divisions aren’t about me, my family, friends or acquaintances to acquire more medals or achievements for “mediocrity”, as most would consider it.  This isn’t about one man’s journey to “win events” and be famous. It is to change society’s view regarding the larger athlete while being the motivation for acceptance and change.  Regardless if my fitness journey takes me below 220 pounds or not – I’m a f&%king Clydesdale and proud of it. It’s time to remove the stigma that has been placed on these weight classes over the years and be proud to be a larger athlete. It’s time for the Clydesdale and Athena divisions to be represented in the OCR and running world.

Clydesdale-Runner-Fist-Raised

Photo Credit: Starr Mulvihill, Jason Akers and Billy Howard – Single Stone Studios Photography

Savage Race Maryland – Fall 2016

Back in 2014, I, like many who want to give OCR a try, ran a Warrior Dash. Once I crossed the finish line, I knew I had to kick it up a notch. After taking 2015 to adjust to life with our son, I was ready to take the next step in 2016. Not only did I run my first Spartan (Palmerton), but also my first BattleFrog. I had planned to do another BattleFrog this season but, as we all know, they are no more. Luckily after doing some research, I found that Savage Race had an event on the same day I planned to run the BattleFrog. After scoping out their website and seeing the obstacles, I knew I had to try it. I was not disappointed.

I had received several emails leading up to the race with my bib number, wave confirmation, course map and waivers. Because of this, check-in was pretty quick. I didn’t notice much of a line for the later heats either. The festival area was on the smaller side, consisting of a merchandise tent, a stage, photo area, food and porta potties. The hoses and changing tents were actually outside the festival area near the general parking area. Because of this, I didn’t see a need to use the bag check, so that saved me $5.00. 

Savage-Race-Maryland-Starting-Line

The SavagePRO heat, which is their competitive heat, began at 9:00 a.m. Since the course was just over two hours away, I was glad to hear I didn’t have to get there by 7:30 a.m. like a few other races do. About fifteen minutes before the start, the corral was open for racers to enter. Five or ten minutes before, we got a run down of the rules. Savage has an entire page on their website with the competitive rules, but the pre-race meeting cleared a few more things up. After some pre-race chants, the National Anthem, and a bit of blue smoke, we were off.

This was the first I had ever run in a competitive heat, so I was excited to get first crack at the obstacles. The course map Savage sent out was very accurate. The only obstacle I don’t remember seeing was Barn Doors. I did see a video with it, though, so maybe I’m just forgetting. Like many other races, the first couple miles had few obstacles. I always like this because it gives the quicker runners a chance to spread out a little. And most of the first few obstacles consisted of either going under or over something.

Savage-Race-Maryland-course-map

The first challenge came around the end of mile two, when one of Savage’s new obstacles came into view: On The Fence. I thought I knew what to expect when trying to conquer this unique obstacle, but after the first couple miles my shoes were already a bit muddy, so I couldn’t always get a good footing on the fence. That made it more taxing on my grip. After finishing the obstacle, I decided to file it under the “harder than it looks” category. On I went.

After Squeeze Play, which had racers crawl through mud under large barrels, I came upon Savage’s only weighted carry, Lumberjack Lane. As I approached, several racers in front of me were carrying two pieces of wood. The volunteers made it clear that only one was needed, but I let my ego get the best of me and picked up two anyway. I remember regretting that decision afterwards.

As I completed mile three, one of Savage’s featured obstacles was next: Davy Jones’ Locker. The course designers were nice enough to put this right before Sawtooth, another featured obstacle. Sawtooth is one of the most unique monkey bar obstacles in OCR so I wanted to make sure my hands were dry. After a little grass-rubbing, I climbed up and down with little issue. This was a confidence booster.

This confidence helped me get through the next couple obstacles, Big Cheese and Venus Guy Trap, pretty quickly. Savage makes sure your confidence doesn’t last long, though, because then I reached Kiss My Walls. Fitting name, as it consists of small climbing holds across a long wall. I had done some traverse obstacles similar to this, so I didn’t think much of it as I approached. After falling off about halfway through my first attempt, I had another member of the “harder than it looks” club.

Remember that ego I had mentioned before? Well, it wasn’t letting me give up that little blue band that SavagePRO racers lose if they don’t complete an obstacle. Finally, on the third attempt I rang the bell and moved on.

After finishing mile four, I had to deal with Great Wall, an eight-foot wall, and Slippery Incline, which was surprisingly dry. I have a feeling this changed as rain moved in later in the day and more racers traipsed their muddy shoes up the obstacle. Next up was another new one for 2016, Pole Cat. This time, racers must navigate sideways along two parallel bars, one higher than the other. At the halfway point, you switch so that if your hands were higher, they’re now lower and visa versa. This one wasn’t too difficult and the damp bar actually made sliding my feet easier.

Savage-Race-Maryland-Pole-Cat

The final mile began with a wake up call. Shriveled Richard requires racers to submerge in, what I can only assume is the coldest water ever recorded on the planet. As I continued on, trying to shake out my arms and keep the legs churning so nothing cramped, I was met with a Big Ass Cargo Net, then Back Scratcher. The first is pretty self-explanatory, while the second consisted of going over a shorter wall, then under some barbed wire.

Grip strength then became a common theme. Another one of Savage’s unique obstacles is Wheel World. It requires racers to navigate across water by grabbing five rotating wheels above them. I had watched Savage’s video breakdown of the obstacle, along with their Facebook Live videos of past SavagePRO racers conquering it so I came prepared. I would definitely recommend watching those videos if you want to get across quickly.

Savage-Race-Maryland-Wheel-World

In between Wedgie, a twist on the incline wall, and Blaze, Savage’s fire obstacle, was one of their biggest hits: Colossus. I heard as the rain rolled in later in the day, this one became ridiculously difficult. Luckily I avoided the rain, but still needed a couple knots of the rope to make it up this giant warped wall. The slide back down was a nice flashback to childhood. As I climbed out of the water, I realized my hands were now wet again as I approached more grip tests. Thanks again course designer.

Just before the finish line was the Savage Rig followed immediately by Tree Hugger. The rig, like Kiss My Walls, took me until my third try. Good old ego wasn’t giving up that band, so I was prepared to try thirty if I had to. Rigs are always tough, so there was a sizable group of SavagePRO runners giving it multiple attempts. Unlike a couple other obstacles, the rig looked difficult and I knew it would, so it’s not a member of that club.

Savage-Race-Maryland-Savage-Rig

Tree Hugger, on the other hand, is the VP of Operations in the “harder than it looks” club. I could be wrong, but it looked twice as long as Tree Hugger at other races I’ve seen. Maybe it just felt that way because of how taxing it is on your body. Luckily I made it through on the first try. If I didn’t I would’ve needed a few minutes to rest before giving it another go.

Side Note: The second place female would’ve finished first, but she forgot to ring the bell at the end of Tree Hugger, so if you’re in the competitive heat, pay attention to all obstacle instructions!

Savage-Race-Maryland-Tree-Hugger

Overall, the fall Savage Race in Maryland was very well managed and provided, like they say, the best obstacles and the perfect distance (6 miles / 25 obstacles). The rain held out for most of the SavagePRO heat, but later heats got some extra water for their race! Savage is a great way to take the next step in OCR if you’re looking for a challenge. I definitely plan on racing again when they come to my area in Pennsylvania in June of 2017!

Photo Credit: Savage Race and the author

Savage Race: I was a pussy, and I’m okay with that

It was my first Savage Race, so I decided to rest  two days before so I would be able to do my best. We got a sitter which was novel idea. I insisted on just doing the race with my husband Matt and no kids. Taking your kids to a race seems like a good idea, but so does having kids.

The last OCR I did was the Spartan about two and a half years ago. My son was 6 months old and I was still nursing. Needless to say – it was awful. I hated it. I hated it A LOT. I also don’t like to do stuff I’m not good at with lots of people watching. At Spartan, I failed almost every obstacle. I was too afraid to even jump over the fire.

For the record, I don’t like barbed wire, and I don’t like mud. I don’t think getting muddy is fun, or cool,  and I am a clean freak. I am also terrified of heights. Jesus I’m neurotic, this is supposed to be a race review. I do love running, I love challenges and I love lifting heavy things. And I love doing stuff with my husband without our kids so I was fully looking forward to Savage.

Matt is very crafty. He knows me very well, and he just kind of doesn’t “mention” certain things when we do adventures together. What can I say, opposites attract, and I do love an adventure.

So almost 3 years later, after many days of lifting and general training, I was confident I’d do better this time. The race grounds were swarming with people, loud music, bare chests and lots of round butts in black short shorts. There was a lot to look at,  lots of blue and black bling. Loud music, and yelling with glee, but more like cavemen. Is that what “Let’s get Savage ” means? I wondered.

We forged towards our wave.  There were a lot of people, I don’t really like crowds, especially because I’m never as “excited” as everyone else, and I know Matt will rip a huge fart at the worst possible moment.

Then the whole group participation thing started and I’m kind of a closed off person so I don’t like group stuff at all. It makes me feel like I’m twelve again, and I need a drink to loosen up.  The crowd was pretty hyper and most of the men were shirtless, acting like tribal animals. I’m more of a no-nonsense, boring person who just wants to start the race. I could’ve done  without  all the grunting, face paint, and chanting.

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Matt laughed and side-eyed me at the countdown, and we were off.  I loved the trail. I loved trying to run ahead of the crowd. It was a nice first mile, the weather was perfect, the trail smelled earthy, and it was green and beautiful. I was really excited. Not the kind of excited where I grunt and yell things, just in quiet, steady anticipation.

I was also scared. I had the flashing thought : 25 obstacles is a lot . I turned to Matt “25 obstacles is a lot.”  He smiled, ” Just one obstacle at a time.”  I love running races with Matt.

As we kept running and knocking our feet against the roots and rocks, I nearly stepped in a HUGE pile of horse shit. I guess the “moonlight” in Stables  made me forget about the shit that horses make. Other racers were laughing and warning the others, “watch out for horse shit!”  I thought , now this is truly an obstacle race. A place where OCR people can be half naked, race, get muddy and wet AND possibly step in horse shit.  I was tempted to create a new hashtag.

The first few obstacles were cool. There was a wall and something else, but it wasn’t too bad. Then came the fucking barbed wire crawl with mud. Did I mention I hate mud. I don’t hate mud on its own. I hate the feeling of it in my fingers and how it oozes through my index finger to my middle finger. Then my knees slide and I hook myself on the damn barbed wire. Matt was ahead. ” I don’t like this part either,” he yelled back at me. I felt a warm slosh go up my shorts as I slid through the brown, slippery slush.

Seriously, there was way more of that. The worst was the one where it was muddy water and I had to go IN IT. LIKE I HAD TO DUNK MY HEAD UNDER the water filled with silt, mud, bacteria and possible small leeches. I screamed like a 13-year-old girl.  I don’t need to toughen up, that shit is fucking uncalled for, Ok? Why was a small part of me having fun?  Really it was a mystery to me. That while I worried I may contract some disease from water that looked like diarrhea, I was still half laughing. I also wonder if anyone from the CDC has ever done a Savage Race.

savage-muddier-dunk

That “On the Fence” obstacle was fun and just the right amount of hard. I was able to do it; so I felt like a bad ass – especially because I had been such a pussy about the contaminated water. I was mostly crusty by then, mud crust just became part of my skin. My hands were light brown, and I had particles of sand and dirt in my mouth. My teeth felt dirty and coated with small bugs. I had to occasionally tell myself this is only temporary, because I had small panic moments of just needing to take a shower in that red hot minute.

I had pulled a muscle prior to the race, and it started to hurt. I wrestled with the decision but ended up foregoing the monkey bars. That sucked, but I didn’t want to tear my muscle more.

That ice bath was fucking insane. It felt so horribly horrible, awful and horribly freezing. It took my breath away. I too had no idea I would have to immerse my head in that fucking ice water. That was cruel.   Following the brain freeze, it felt great.  I was somewhat cleaned off, but how is that really possible when the ice bath was brown?  Just like any other thing in life, everything is relative.  I started to lose some judgements for the racers who wore no clothes, because damn that wet shirt was a pain in the ass to run in.

The great wall was not great at all.  I was scared to try it because even super fit strong men were slipping and falling. The rope was like the rope in Indiana Jones but completely saturated in mud and water. I ran with focus to try to grab it and slid immediately back. There was one guy focusing like he was in the Olympics; he just kept trying and slipping. The starting line started to crowd with people because no one could get up the  wall.  A few lucky he-men hung on the other side holding their iron hands down to help people over. At that point, Matt and Obs were yelling to me to use their bodies to get up the wall. ” Use your bodies?” I yelled in a question. Then Obs started yelling at me like I was in the army, “USE ME ! USE ME!” This made me feel very panicky and neurotic. Would I hurt them? The army commands continued as if she had a whistle. “COME ON STACIE!” “CLIMB ON HIM, JUST GO!” So I did. I climbed on Matt’s shoulders and laid on Obs and got myself up far enough to grab the iron hands. “I got ya, I got ya,” I heard the nice muddy guys say in very southern accents. Jesus christ I thought to myself, that was kinda crazy. I jumped down. The girls next to me admitted they just couldn’t do that shit. I looked them in the eyes and said, “I understand.” It was five minutes, but time stopped and I thought of nothing, I just focused on getting over that wall. That’s when I started to understand the experience I was having. I was about half-way through the race, and I was thinking of nothing. I was just doing the next thing there was to do. And because most of it involved some shit that was going to be cold or muddy as hell if I fell, I tried my best to do it without fail.

There were so many obstacles, I certainly can’t bore you with every one and what it was like, but I liked a lot of them. Carrying the wood was pretty easy, but that Tree Hugger thing kind of felt like they were calling our bluffs. Like – You all think you’re so strong and fit?  Yeah well, you’re not. And fuck that one with the barrel that you have to go under. Yet another opportunity to contract some mud infested creepy virus. Apparently, Matt said I had to use my shoulders to get under it but that showed he had practiced that shit.

I know it has a Savage Race name but that pea shooter thing was fun. Okay, it was like a black scrunchy looking tunnel. I loved sliding in that thing and it had no mud in it ! I shot pretty far out of that thing and screamed again like a 13-year-old.

I had to pee, don’t ask me why. Holy hell, I thought I was going to have an OCD attack when I pulled down my shorts and saw how much mud was everywhere. I had never seen so much mud and yuck before in my life. I mean could I justify an ER visit just to use their industrial water apparatuses? I had to literally unglue my shorts off and paste them back on my skin.

Then, I took a deep breath. We were almost there. I was almost to the dreaded height obstacle I had been fearing.

People were smiling and jumping. I was not smiling. I had lots of questions and Matt’s reply to most of them was, ” You just have to do it honey. You just have to do it.” “I don’t want to do it,” I said in a terrified murmur. I looked down, to my chagrin it was muddy son of a bitchin’ water . I thought, at least if it was clear I could’ve pretended cleanliness could be a reward at the end. Okay, we held hands. The guy on the side counted, “1…..2…..3…” I froze. “I can’t do it!” I turned and walked away and Matt stayed with me, assuring me I could do it. I had a huge lump in my throat; I wanted to cry. I was scared shitless and mad that people were seeing me this way. I mean way to blow my own cover and be an enormous pussy at my first Savage. So in that moment, Tyra said, ” I was so scared too, just don’t look down, just go.” So I did. I held Matt’s hand and on the count of 3 I went. My stomach lining fell into my legs. It was a long jump. I screamed so loud. It felt great, that I did it, I was so scared and I did it. I can’t say I’ll do that again, but it was cool.

So just to totally call myself out on what a chicken shit I am, I’ll admit the slide also made me shit my pants a little. I know, a slide with water should be fun. My 7-year-old son did it!!!! Oh and Matt reminded me of that when I began to panic and said I don’t want to do that. I know he was just trying to help, but I had already been “pussified” so many times.  It was the lip of that slide. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. It seemed so high, like if I let go I would get swallowed by something. Swallowed by something? Seriously this is getting embarrassing.  I did the same thing. I just held Matt’s hand and that guy counted, and we went. WOW, that was a fast slide, and I was alive by the end. It was maybe 3 minutes we were there, but time stopped. I only thought about that slide and getting down it. I didn’t think about anything else.

I realized I hadn’t thought about anything during the race but the race. The trail engulfed us while we ran or walked or climbed up hills. We made jokes and just went on to the next thing. We just kept going; even when things sucked, we knew we’d be onto the next thing. No one had a phone, no one had anything with them, just us. Whether I hated the mud or not, it was an unforgettable experience. I think you live a little more when you do an obstacle course race. The extreme conditions force you to be human with other humans. There is nothing to hide behind, and I liked that part. I guess I’m okay with looking like a pussy, and there were some pretty cool people watching.

savage-finish


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