Spartan Dallas Stadium Race 2019

Spartan Dallas Stadium Race 2019

A Spectacle of Competition

On June 22, 2019 Spartan held their annual Dallas AT&T Stadium (Stadion) race.  The grand spectacle of the event and the huge turnout left this Spartan with a very different feeling than normal.  This year being my first Stadium Race, I didn’t know what to expect. What I walked away with was a great experience and a newfound love for the short, intense ride that is the Spartan Stadion.

As stated, this was my first Stadium race.   I cannot speak in comparison to previous Stadium races in any state, let alone Texas.  I can say that Spartan did what I feel their goal should be, and that’s created a course full of fun and challenge in order to both attract and bring back new participants who may have never even thought of participating in a Stadium race.

Are You Not Entertained

Much like the Greek namesake (Stadion stems from the Greek Stade) from the point racers walk into the stadium they feel as if they are preparing for a competition of epic proportions.  From the layout of the outside portions of the course, to the set up of vendors, to the display of obstacles on the field, to the imagery on the Jumbotron I felt as if I were in a modern version of some type of Ancient Greek Games.  For the first time in a long time, Spartan made me feel that twinge of excitement that so many feel on their very first race day. The festival area was full of fun both outside and in, and there were plenty of primo areas for spectators to either sit in the stands or walk on the turf to see the competition up close.

3…2….1….GO!

Speaking of the competition, start-up went very well for my age group.  We were carefully broken up into waves of 15 in order to prevent congestion on the short course especially since the assault bike would be our first obstacle.  The one and only Yancy Culp explained the rules of his new Ram Roller Burpee obstacle to us quite fluently. We were allowed to ask any questions, and released on a 3..2…1… GO!  Even without brush and mud, there’s still potential to get lost in a stadium, but Spartan did a great job, of course, marking throughout.

Clear Instruction (every time please)

My only complaint would be some volunteers at some stations assuming we knew what to do at every station,  Many stadium obstacles are quite different, and if you’ve never done them, you need instruction. For example, at the heavy jump rope.  I had to ask how many, to which I was told 15. I commenced jumping, but I wasn’t told until after I had already completed 5 jumps that I had to do them with a red band around my feet (which made no difference in my jumping ability.)

The same applies to the plank/push-up walk. When I saw this small wheeled device, I had no idea how to proceed and I had to ask a volunteer exactly what to do. When elite and age group competitors are in race mode, their minds are on moving forward. I know it may be monotonous, but volunteers need to continually repeat the instruction.

Obstacles

On the note of the obstacles, the course layout and variety of obstacles were extremely pleasing. I summed this race up to many as “lots of great obstacles punctuated by stairs.” From pipe lair to the balance beam, to the jerry can carry all of the obstacles were strategically placed and very well lain out and executed. The course designers did a great job placing obstacles like the jerry can carry, rope climb, box jumps, and the new ram roller burpee pit back to back in order to test participants grip and stamina right to the end.

For All to See

Many of these obstacles sat on the stadium floor and followed by the ring rig and the gauntlet. This made for the most spectator-friendly venue I have personally ever seen at a Spartan Race. Keep in mind this was my first stadium race, but I could see that Spartan put a lot of work into making it an exceptional event.

I would like to take a moment to discuss the Stadium exclusive obstacles. The assault bike station was first and is something that could EASILY cause a huge cluster. Spartan did a great job with each bike preset to a 15 calorie countdown and ready to go. Breaking up the waves into 15 at a time allowed everyone to easily find a bike. I also think it was wise to make this the first obstacle. It went much smoother than I anticipated.

How Strict are We Talking?

The next exclusive was the heavy rope which I enjoyed, but simply wish for better volunteer participation. Next came the jerry can carry up the parking ramp and back which I found to tax a quite different type of grip given the small handle holes. I enjoyed this one. The next exclusive was box jumps. My only qualm here is that I feel it needs to be made clear if full extension (i.e. standing up completely erect) is necessary as it is in a CrossFit competition. I saw many age group competitors performing without this full extension which allows for a much quicker jump. 

A Great Ending

Yancy’s Ram Roller burpee pit seemed to go off without a hitch and I found it a welcome addition. The men had to perform a burpee with the 55-pound roller and extend it fully overhead. The women used a 35. The reps were 15 for elites and age group and 10 for open racers. The roller offers a slightly different movement than a sandbag burpee because of how rigid it is. I found this to do a great job of sapping any leftover oxygen or energy. I believe it is a great challenge and should stay in the repertoire for future races.

After the race was over, there was quite a bit to do in the festival area both inside and outside. Spartan organized the kid’s races well. Booths had plenty to do even if they were just being sneaky about getting your email. The Spartan merchandise tent ran very well and transactions flowed professionally and expediently.

Excellent Use of a Great Venue

These Stadium races are something that Spartan has exclusivity with. They have the wallet and pull to rent out these stadiums.  It is wise of them to use that to their advantage by creating an excellent event. They pull in racers who want to try something new, or who just don’t like mud. They can also bring in sports fans who just want to run in the stadium. This event was a prime example of Spartan doing what they do best.

The elite waves went without a hitch from what I could tell. Ryan Kent and others seemed quite pleased with the level of difficulty brought on by this race. At the end of the day, if the elites are happy and the gen pop are it has been quite a successful event.

http://www.spartanrace.com

 

Spartan Alabama Super: A New Take on an Old Venue

Back to Bama: Saraland Spartan Super 2019

On March 16th of 2019, a slew of Spartans sauntered up to cold and windy registration lines at the Alabama Super in Saraland. This race was the first time Spartan had been back to the southern venue since 2016. It was also the second race in the Spartan National Series.

After Jacksonville, athletes expected another muddy slog, but may have been either pleasantly or not so pleasantly surprised. From raucous roots to a very well mapped spectator path athletes met many challenges and thrills at the 8.4 mile Super.

However, the amount of enjoyment of this race depended very much on preference.

[Read more…]

Terrain Race New Orleans 2018 – A Lackluster Event

Terrain Race New Orleans

On November 17th, 2018 Terrain Race held their first event in New Orleans, Louisiana at the NOLA Motor Sports Park. The weather was an optimal chilly but not cold temperature. The venue had received some rain making the flat terrain muddy and more challenging. Nature’s conditions were optimal for OCR. Sadly, the race crew themselves didn’t seem to be in the same condition. The obstacles were fun. The course was designed decently. However, poor volunteer direction, attitude, and organization issues drug down what could have been an ideal event considering that Louisiana doesn’t have many these days.

Registration

The volunteers and staff at registration were helpful and nice. They kindly explained that they were having issues with their system so there would be no timing chips. They would simply write down our time by bib number. I understand timing costs money. However, here’s the issue with timing the old fashioned way at an OCR. I nearly lost my flopping paper bib several times and had to take focus off of my race to make sure I didn’t. I suppose had I marked myself this may have helped, but timing chips are just better for all of us.

After registration stepping into the venue itself was not bad. Everything was set up in clear view. They actually had music playing, but morale seemed to be a bit low from the crew. I understand that OCR events are really hard work. However, the main reason people participate is to get excited and pumped. They want to accomplish something and feel great about it. Again, I’ve seen worse morale, but for a company that was once beginning to step into the upper echelon of OCR events, Terrain has got to step up the morale and direction of volunteers.

You Have to Make them Want it

This leads us to our next issue. I know not everyone can afford Coach Payne, but it would be nice to have something more at the take off than “3….2… 1… go…” exactly like that. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by other races, but I feel like getting everyone pumped to go at the starting line is one of the most important aspects of the race. This announcement for the elite men’s wave take off seemed to mirror the attitude of the majority of volunteers. I felt like he should have said “It’s November, can we just get this over with… go.” This is not a commentary on this individual so much as the entire morale of the crew.


Confusion

On that note, the morale of volunteers on the course was a bit lackluster as well. Not only were all of the elites sent down the course backward, but many volunteers seemed unaware of what exactly participants were to do at certain obstacles. They seemed to feel standing at the obstacle sufficed. However, I will say kudos to the guy at the tire drag. He did a very good job instructing participants as well as encouraging them.

This confusion of sending racers the wrong way caused big issues for the women’s elite heat which should not have happened. After the issue was discovered, the staff decided to send the open waves the correct way. Well, if you are an elite female and you see backwards arrows and start to run INTO open wave competitors what would you do? You obviously assume you are lost and end up doubling back unnecessarily.

For som,e this may not seem like a big issue, but when you have trained hard and want to test yourself it is. Even if you don’t plan on making top ten, showing yourself how far you’ve come is VERY important to people who have worked hard day in and day out for this chance. To have it scrapped because of simple poor direction by a misinformed volunteer is quite tragic. I’ve seen worse, but this severely detracted from the race experience for many competitors.

Monkey See, Monkey Swing, Monkey Climb

One of the highlights of this race was the obstacles themselves. I have to say the crew did a great job keeping with the monkey theme of the race which I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed. The obstacles made a step up from last year in difficulty and in fun. Terrain did not create anything wholly original. What they did though was take OCR staples and mold them to fit their brand and theme. The course featured a nice big cargo. Competitors tackled a decent, short force 5 rig that only had two detrimental features. The second half of the rig had foot rings. I believe these were added to decrease difficulty and allow open runners more stability. They just caused more chaos.

Lanes were so close that stepping in these rings would just cause you to swing into the competitor next to you. This just made things awkward. Starting the rig with the ball grip was an interesting choice that threw off many. My main issue again with this obstacle though was volunteer direction. After many of the lead elites came through, others racers were being allowed to grab the top rail and shimmy across rather than utilizing the awkward foot rings. Plain and simple: this just isn’t fair.

Other Monkey swinging obstacles included a well put together Tarzan swing rig with large ropes and rings and very well done monkey bars over water. Monkey strength obstacles included a tire flip, tire drag, a concrete block drag, and a short, light sandbag carry. The most interesting addition to the strength aspect of the race was a sledgehammer obstacle where competitors had to hit a tire to a specified point and back. This was fun, but pretty awkward with piles of grass in certain lanes and wet sledges. I feel like a certain race company does this obstacle far better, but I won’t name any names. You know who you are.

The rest of the course was full of mud which taxed the running of many competitors. This was nice considering there is absolutely zero elevation in New Orleans. The finishing obstacle was well placed and well put together. Competitors first had to work their way up an angled balance board onto a horizontal cargo net. They then got to twirl elegantly (or plop down not so gracefully) from a fireman’s pole and cross the finish line to be greeted and congratulated by fellow competitors. All in all, I would give the obstacle portion of the race the highest point in this review.

 

Post Race

I would love to say the awards ceremony went perfectly. I would love to say the crew’s morale pepped up. I would love to say there was so much to do in the festival area afterwards. However: it didn’t, they weren’t, and there wasn’t.  There was an issue of who actually came in as the third female. The woman listed as third admitted she did NOT complete an obstacle, This contributed to the bad organization and direction issue. I would like to congratulate those top finishers pictured below.

The kids race was the highlight after the other heats. The kids had a great time. I will admit it was one of the better kids races I have seen. However, afterwards, there were no vendors, no activities, no food trucks. There was simply nothing to do. It honestly felt like Terrain was sort of like, “Ok, you came and raced now leave so we can too.”

Granted some could argue the festival isn’t important, but for those who drive a good distance the least you could do is have actual hoses. Racers were using the valve of a water truck to clean up.

There is Potential

I feel that if Terrain comes under better management next year they can be a competing race company again. The theme, the obstacles, and the venues they have accessed all have potential. The main issue they seem to have is organization.  I would hate to see such good obstacles and a good brand go down the drain because of a lack of organization and direction. So here’s to hoping Terrain can work out the kinks in their company and come back for 2019 stronger and more fun than ever!

Spartan Dallas Beast 2018-Muddy Miles and Cramping Calves

Dallas Spartan Beast 2018

On October 27th, 2018 Spartan held the annual Dallas Beast to nearly maxed out waves for all times. The course had to be cut down a few miles due to flooded areas. This didn’t stop Spartan from putting racers calves through mile after mile of foot groping, sloppy goodness. Of about twelve and a half miles nearly sixty percent of those miles were sloppy bogs or slick, muddy rocks. A fun cramp-inducing time was had by all on a well put together course in beautiful Glen Rose, Texas.

Muddy Miles on Muddy Miles

Due to frequent rain in the previous week many of the trails on Rough Creek Lodge’s ranch were a muddy mess. From the beginning even the fastest group of elites were not moving their quickest as we were pulling our feet free from mud constantly. This added an extra endurance element to an already endurance heavy event. Later on in the race, many suffered from severe burnout, muscle fatigue, and debilitating calf cramps.

Spartan ingeniously utilized the hills on the ranch. Competitors proceeded up and down them both with and without sandbags. Steep, rocky descents coupled with mud spelled potential disaster for anyone not closely watching their feet and controlling their body. I personally throttled myself down a bit on these downhills to avoid injury. Slick rocks can come out from under you in a heartbeat.

The venue was beautiful to look at as always. Rough Creek Lodge never disappointing on the views that you get to see at the top of those hills if you take the time to look around. The festival area was also set up very nicely and the starting line was again by the beautiful church on the property. The weather was absolutely optimal with a pretty still 58-degree start for the elite men and a slow warm up to around 70 as the day went on. Compared to last years freezing temperatures the weather was absolutely amazing.

The Obstacles

I would like to preface by saying that there were no mile markers at this race.  Some areas were cut due to flooding. I found this to be a good thing as it kept me focused on the task at hand rather than how far I had to go. However, this also prevents me from stating an approximate location for all of these obstacles. I would like readers to know that between each of these obstacle portions were long, long bouts of running through mud and rough terrain. Spartan did a great job of throwing great combos of obstacles at racers. Each section seemed to have an intended aspect of skill to attack and I really appreciate the thought that went into this design.

As previously stated, Spartan has an optimal venue for such a flat area in Texas and they utilize it well. The first majorly taxing obstacle was after the z- wall in the form of a sandbag carry up a steep hill and back down. This put a decent little burn in the calves especially after running through all of that mud. The spectator route was superb. It allowed spectators to see many of the most entertaining obstacles. Compared to last years Dallas Beast, Spartan did a superb job on the spectating end of things.

Climb

The slick mud made the slew of climbing obstacles far more difficult. These included: stairway to Sparta, Bender, the 8-foot wall, and the inverted wall. The first real grip tests came in the form of the Tyrolean traverse (which was hanging far too low in many lanes people were dragging their backs). The next grip obstacle was Twister following Bender. I do appreciate Spartan placing this obstacle out of the mud for the most part as it is so grip-heavy. However, there were many Spartans plunging face first into the mud for burpees at this notoriously difficult obstacle. If the strength and endurance is not still present in your shoulders and hands, it can be a real killer.

Lift

The next obstacle heavily affected by the mud was the Atlas carry.  I’ve never had trouble with an Atlas carry.   However, the first ball open this time around was a mud-covered concrete lump of fumbling, back-straining hell for me. I was picking it up out of a very large divot caused by the soggy ground and it was slicker than a freshly born calf. Finally, I had the good sense to look up and see a dry ball had became open and moved through no problem.

Spartan knows their obstacle placement game as after the Atlas Carry came the Hercules hoist and the Yokohama tire flip. For those of you who aren’t aware, Spartans tires are heavier than most. Getting under these 400 lb tires when they are sunken deep in mud is no easy feat. Though the requirement was only to flip the tire twice. Many chose burpees instead. I, however, found that once I worked my way around the tire and found a good place to get under it the rest was simple.

Later on, came another short sandbag carry followed by an equally short bucket brigade. Some elites were shouldering the buckets. Volunteers were not correcting them.  This was unfortunate considering that immediately afterward many grip obstacles followed. This allowed them to salvage their grip for later on.

Hang on!

The plate drag was a muddy, sticky mess that added difficulty. The grip gauntlet afterward sapped the last bit of strength left in Spartans as they neared the finish. The multi-rig, Olympus, and the rope climb were nearly back to back to back.

The spear throw, slip wall, and fire jump where spectators could get a great view of finishers coming in as the annoucner did a great job as well. The finishing area and the number of spectators were very impressive.

 

 

Aside from some minor issues, the Dallas Beast was a fun and challenging experience. Many racers suffered horrible cramps. This was due to all of the mud eating away at their endurance mile after mile. It was truly a suffer fest for many. I feel they will all return next year with a new determination.

Great merchandise, attractions, and people filled the festival. Spartan did a superb job of making the awards ceremony very central. There was also a great festival for racers to enjoy afterward. This was a big leap from the lackluster festival area last year. I would certainly recommend running the Dallas beast if you are in the area, or if you would like a Texas-sized challenge.  Spartan created a great race.  They utilized the venue to its utmost potential. Aroo!

Overcoming Obstacles of Nature: Savage Race Dallas


Overcoming Obstacles of Nature: Savage Race Dallas

I would like to preface this review by saying that, due to unforeseen flooding the Savage Race in Dallas was canceled. This led to a unique hybrid type event the following Sunday. Rather than a Blitz– Sunday’s Race was a hybrid form of both the Savage Race and the Blitz resulting in a 4 and ¼ mile course packed with a lot of mud and obstacles. It was certainly the toughest and muddiest Savage that I personally have ever run. It was far different than the usual fare.

Savage did what they could to ensure as many people as possible got to enjoy a race even if it wasn’t what was originally planned. Therefore this review will be quite unique in that I will not only take note of the course with consideration to the events leading up to it. I saw a dedicated act of care for not only Savage participants, but for OCR as a whole.

The Race that Almost Wasn’t

As I was about to head out of the door Saturday morning, I knew that it had rained a lot the night before. I was prepared for a muddy course. However, I did not expect to receive the message from a fellow athlete saying “Race is canceled, whole festival area and course are flooded.” I sat on my hotel bed contemplating what this meant. I received a link to the video of a very disappointed and very apologetic Sam Abbitt.

Sam explained what had happened and noted that the river on the venue had risen far greater than they had thought it would. Much of their equipment was floating or submerged. They were attempting to salvage what they could, and Sam said “I am sorry” several times noting that Savage Race would do everything they could to make it up to competitors.

Around lunch, Sam released another update video. The river had receded and the Savage Crew and volunteers were working hard and non-stop on putting together a “hybrid course” for anyone who didn’t race on Saturday or who had originally planned to race on Sunday. It would certainly be unique, but they were doing what they could. I personally found this extremely respectable considering the amount of devastation that had befallen the course. The crew could have scrapped the entire weekend.  Instead, they harnessed the spirit of what it means to be an obstacle course racer. When presented with an obstacle, even from nature, we think quickly and do all we can to overcome it. I find this extremely respectable and heartening.

Race Day

Pre-Race

I didn’t expect anything out of the coming course. I don’t mean that in the sense of that I thought it would be bad.  I was happy to be able to race. Showing up to an extremely soggy and muddy venue wasn’t promising either. After a slightly late registration, the venue seemed somewhat empty.   The final turnout was nowhere near a normal Savage event, but far more participants showed up than I expected.

The pre-race rules were easily understandable. The pre-race speech given by the one and only Coach Pain. It was a great way to get us all pumped up and remind us how hard the crew had worked to put this course together after the weather had taken out the course on the previous day. He inspired racers as well as spectators.

Everything felt more “mom and pop” for a Savage Race, but it wasn’t a detriment. The competitors were just as fired up as usual if not more so, and we had one heck of a course in front of us to face down. The river flooded the entire course the day before.

The Course

As we charged out of the starting corral through a mostly flat course it didn’t take long to find plenty of mud and water. Even the pros had to be careful not to slip and slide. The first obstacle was one of the muddiest barbed wire crawls in my recent memory. Next came Shriveled Richard which is always a good start to wake everyone up. As we pressed on through a few 4 foot walls, on to “The Great Wall” and over an A-Frame, we came up to one of the new obstacles for the year “Pedal for the Medal.”  I’ll have to admit, this took a bit for other competitors and I to figure out. A rope connects a giant wooden spool and a tire.

The object of the obstacle is to use ONLY your feet to roll the spool thereby wrapping the rope around it and pulling the tire to you. This becomes hardest at the initial point at which the spool begins to pull the tire towards you. The key is to keep momentum on the wheel. Otherwise, you could lose some of the rope you worked so hard for. This really is a quad and hamstring burner. It presented far more difficulty than I originally imagined.

One of the only problems is that you almost have to rely on a volunteer to let you know when your tire hits the designated pole. Once it does, you must then carry your tire back out to the starting portion which is clearly marked by a mat. I found it inventive, yet I feel a couple of kinks could be worked out especially for competitive waves.

Upper Body Savagery

Next was a combo of 6 foot walls and barbed wire crawls. I found these  both fun and brilliantly placed as a taxation on the cardio system before “Big Cheese” and “Sawtooth.”  The wet obstacles proved very challenging. We barreled through a lot of mud to a mud-covered “Kiss the Walls.”

I do not remember “Kiss the Walls” having such small rock climbing grips on it or footholds. I also don’t remember it being as slanted. The mud and rain made it nearly impossible for most competitors. It was here that in spite of being in the lead pack after MANY tries for over an hour I finally gave up my elite band. All of the caked on slick Texas mud made this the hardest rock wall obstacle I’ve ever encountered.

Competitors were bombarded with a series of wet grip and upper body killers. Wheel world was lots of fun as always. After a  very muddy Colossus came “Twirly Bird,” “Holy Sheet,” and “Battering Ram.” I find “Holy Sheet” to be a nice new addition that provides a lot of technical challenge and forces competitors to utilize technique and body control. Most of my commentary is on “Battering Ram.” Unlike what you see on Savage Race’s website, the sliders had heavy iron with a type of handle that hung down for competitors to grab, a transition to a trust, and then grab hold of another handle and scoot along to a bell.

While doable, the rams did not slide as well as they should have and the handles allowed for less usage of momentum in sliding. Essentially, the only way to move the ram was to sling it forward using pure muscular shoulder and arm strength. I am not sure if it is intentional. I feel the more traditional larger pipe on a smaller pipe would  be a smoother obstacle.  It would also allow more fun for open competitors.

The End of a Tumultuous Journey

The festival area didn’t have much going on afterwards.  However, high hopes and good spirits filled the festival area. Top finishers received their awards, but far fewer finishers came out with bands than normal. Some of this could have been due to the placement of obstacles because of the weather. The highlight of the festival was seeing off the volunteer wave with Coach Pain. He commended them on their hard work.

 

What OCR is All About

I am proud of that volunteer crew. I am proud of Savage Race’s crew. I am proud of the understanding and concern from all competitors. Yes, many were disappointed, but at the end of it all, we are a family. This past weekend showed me again why I enjoy Savage Race so much. Most everyone acted like a big family who wanted to help one another and do all they could to help.

Everyone came together with love, logic, and understanding and overcame a problem the best way they could. This embodies the spirit of OCR. In spite of all these adversities, Savage put on a great, well organized, well manned by volunteers event. I’ve seen races in perfect weather with months to prepare that couldn’t hold a candle to this “thrown together” event.  I give it a 4.5 out of 5.

Conquer the Gauntlet: Dallas/Forth Worth

Conquer the Gauntlet: Dallas/Fort Worth

On the hottest day of the summer thus far at the time of this writing, Conquer the Gauntlet kicked off their series with a big bang.  While the Texas heat beamed down, competitors filed in to take on one of the most brutal Obstacle Courses known in America.  Don’t allow the down-home, local feel of the race series to fool you.  Conquer the Gauntlet is as serious (if not more so) than any other OCR series out there.  I’ve run several areas of Texas.  I’ve faced tons of treacherous terrain.  However, I’ve never experienced the type of challenge that Conquer the Gauntlet presented me with.  This review will focus primarily on those obstacles as I feel they deserve the most limelight.  I left physically broken so to speak, but spiritually energized.  I loved every minute of it.

Masters victors

 

The Venue

As far as terrain goes, the Village Creek Motocross Park track didn’t offer any daunting ascents or downhills.  However, Conquer the Gauntlet utilized it to its utmost potential.  Within the first mile or two competitors made many up and down runs on the tracks biggest jumps.  The sandbag carry finished with one of the steeper ascents making it extra draining with the Texas heat already sapping racers’ strength away.  Racers later cooled down in a few water crossings including a beautiful creek offering some great scenery.

The last stretch of obstacles brought competitors back around to the festival area allowing spectators a superb view of Pegatron, Tarzan, Stairway to Heaven and other favorites.  CTG knows what obstacles are fun to watch and they made sure they were front and center.

The Obstacles

CTG’s major strength in its own right as well as against all other series is its obstacles.  Three words that should consistently be used when describing this course are challenge, innovation, and fun.  Strategic placement of these challenging beasts made sure that they took everything they could out of competitors.  This made those well-earned podium spots that much more special.  All of the favorites went off without a hitch and were well manned by volunteers.

As someone who has run many obstacle course races, walls are rarely more than an annoyance in most courses.  This was not so at Conquer the Gauntlet Fort Worth.  Not one.. not two… not three… but FIVE 8 foot walls in a ROW drained more out of me than I expected.  I do not mean in the same vicinity.  I mean immediately after one another.  Stamina killers may have been lacking in hills, but Conquer the Gauntlet knows how to utilize their tools to break you even more efficiently than most terrain can.

Challenge

Cliffhanger brought the next somewhat daunting challenge as they were probably the most challenging set of monkey bars I’ve faced.  Though the bars aren’t fat or necessarily slick,  some aren’t welded in and they WILL spin on you.  On top of that, they ascend and descend adding a bit of extra kick of difficulty.  Technique and grip are key in monkeying your way across these bad boys and they should not be taken lightly.

The Z beam brought forth an unusual challenge as well.  Four very long, very narrow boards are lined up edgewise in a Z pattern. Competitors had to make their way across without falling off.  A simple concept proved to be very difficult and requires a lot of focus especially when placed after a long running portion.  This required racers to lower their heart rate and focus on foot placement and center of gravity at a time when their mind is just screaming “GO!”

Later on came the daunting challenge that has taken the belt and pride of many, and it claimed mine as well.  Pegatron was a large approximately 20-foot long horizontal pegboard that loomed over competitors much like the large evil robots from its namesake.  With a few footholds in the first and last five feet, the most difficult portion was the ten-foot portion in the middle with no footholds.

Never having practiced on a pegboard, I tried my best to develop a nice technique again… again.. and again.. to no avail.  Pegatron offered many different choices of peg sizes.  Offset holes added difficulty.  Some holes were fake.  This allows pegs to go all the way through forcing competitors to use strategy.  If that wasn’t enough, the occasional fake hole could turn a great attempt into failure.

The Mystery

I stayed at Pegatron for an hour.  I made it halfway across and even further, but never fully reached the other footholds. A handful of racers made it through, but even more threw down their belts to continue on.   I tried until my hands, torn and bleeding, gave out. I walked away knowing I had given it my all.

What immediately followed was a super fun new “mystery obstacle.”  Much like other CTG staples, this new obstacle brought in some of the best elements of Ninja Warrior like obstacles to the OCR series.  The obstacle began with a quick set of widely spaced quintuple steps.  A series of walls with bars lining the top followed.  Competitors had to jump from wall to wall grasping to the bar to keep them up.  However, the next to the last wall brought a surprise.

Instead of a bar, this wall had a nun-chuck, a ball grip, and a rope hanging from the top.  This made shimmying and leaping to the last bar wall extra difficult.  Not only was this a great challenge, it was a lot of fun and I hope to see it in future races.

More Grip and Upper Body Destruction

As if Pegatron and the “mystery” obstacle didn’t kill our grip enough, later competitors faced Tarzan.  It was not a particularly long rig, but that did not matter.  With bloody and battered hands I attempted it, but of course to no avail.  The rig began with a nunchuck.  There is no grip on this nunchuck.  These nunchucks were metal and SLICK.  Competitors must get a big swing going.  That sweet little ring on the next hold appears to be 15 feet away.  IF you even make it to that ring you are forced to grab hold of some little bungee cords. Hold on for dear life and attempting to keep your swing going until you can reach the final hold.  Needless to say, even for those who made it through Pegatron, their elite journey ended here.

IF THAT WASN’T ENOUGH for your grip and upper body to be screaming, next came stairway to heaven.  Don’t let the heavenly counterpart of a name to Ninja Warrior’s devil steps fool you.  These wooden bad boys are steeper and higher than almost any set of devil steps I’ve encountered.  Bloody and battered I clawed my way to the top and even made the transition only to have my screaming, throbbing hands give out on me as I plummeted into the water below.  A nice little tube slide ended my journey to one of the most difficultly obtained medals and shirts I’ve ever earned.

A Fun Learning Experience with Truly Elite Athletes

Many have often described OCR as a mixture of Ninja Warrior and trail running.  In fact, I often use it to describe OCR to those who have never heard of it as it makes the concept easier to grasp.  Conquer the Gauntlet is the truest example of that definition.  To every Ninja who reads this: sign up.  To every OCR racer ready to test themselves in a new way and ready to push limits they may not have known they had: sign up.  Even to those who love to run with friends and just take it easy: sign up!  This challenge will bring you either closer to those you run with, closer to yourself, or closer to the OCR community as a whole.

As someone who became addicted to OCR because I kept learning that I could achieve feats I never thought possible, Conquer the Gauntlet awakened that feeling in me once again.  I was beaten, badly by a greater obstacle challenge than I’ve ever experienced, but I walked out with my head held high.  I hadn’t only had a lot of fun, I was inspired. In my heart… that’s what the number one goal of all OCR companies and racers is… to inspire.  Thank you Conquer the Gauntlet for a wonderful experience.  I will be back.

I give it 5 torn callouses out of 5.

https://conquerthegauntlet.com/