Spartan Central Florida Beast 2019

Central Florida Beast

 

December 7th 2019 in Mulberry, Florida

Venue: Sunshine and Quick Times

The repeat venue of the Mims Co. Ranch in Mulberry, Florida was shined upon by the ideal weather for a Spartan Race of any kind. With a low in the mid fifties increasing to the low seventies by mid day Spartans could not have asked for better weather, aside from some dry air. The easily accessible ranch made for close parking to the festival area and though parking was a bit bumpy it was definitely sufficient. The course layout was a simple reverse of last years which did not seem to cause much of a problem.

Flat and Fast

The Ranch was flat for the majority of the Beast. Spartan did a good job of utilizing some rolling hills on a power line in the beginning of the course to slow down many who barreled out of the starting gate. They also used one very steep cliff on the ranch for a couple of short climbs and steep descents.

This broke up the consistent running through the ankle sprain mine field that was the Mims Ranch. The terrain was fairly technical considering the many divots and uneven ground throughout with many crawls under fences throughout. Tall saw grass and some toe catching tufts of tough dry pasture grass were also the culprits of a few bruised egos along the course. As always, the South Florida Beast gives out some of the best Beast completion times considering the landscape.

Course Layout

Aside from the main obstacles in the festival area, only as few were sprinkled throughout the backside of the course. This makes sense if you consider the great additions it made to the festival and spectator area. Many had gripes about the large gaps of simply flat running along fence lines. I agree with this. I feel that the running portions could have possibly been spiced up more, but it is really had to say considering we are not aware of what Spartan was allowed to clear out as far as trail.

The fact also remains that the majority of the land was flat and grassy regardless. Running along fence borders could have also been a good method of preventing racers from going off course. To my knowledge, the course markings worked quite well and there were not many who veered off course.

Multi-rig

The Spartan multi-rig was the typical Beast format of: rings, pipe, some other holds. Interestingly, rather than a ball or Force 5 grip of any kind spartan implemented two slick black ropes as the last two holds on the rig. This led to MANY failures throughout the day. Though it was early on in the course, staying high on those ropes proved to be difficult. Staying high was definitely a necessity because they placed the bells REALLY high on the rig.

Aside from increasing difficulty, I am sure this was meant to reduce the probability of the bell wrapping onto the top of the rig. Sadly, it did not, but more on that later. Spartans rigs usually aren’t very special, but this one offered a different challenge than most of the Beast rigs I have encountered.

 

Twister

With many open lanes and no grips on any of them, Twister seemed to go quicker than I have personally seen in other Spartans. The fact that I came off of it with silver paint on my hands makes me wonder if it had been freshly painted the night before, but it worked just as it should have. It was a long twister with three separate turning portions separated by trusts.

Some may consider this a negative and some a positive. Rather than a burpee pit, a penalty lap was offered for twister. The rub here being that the loop was only a quick quarter mile detour off of the race course. There was no elevation. There was no barbed wire crawl. This offered the potential to go a few rungs on twister, drop, and save grip while utilizing running speed to compensate. I’ll allow the reader to make their own judgment on whether or not that is “fair.”

Stairway to Sparta

Though it was much more difficult for many racers, I really enjoyed the adjust Stairway to Sparta. Stairway to Sparta is essentially just a large wooden A-frame with a difficult initial ascent placed at the bottom. For years, this was just a steep slip wall with a large board at the top racers could jump or climb to. The stairway now has a portion of planks which is rounded outward, towards the racer as they approach the stairway.

These planks do not continue on to the ground, but leave the bottom half open (i.e. no foot placement). On these planks are rock climbing grips. In order to ascend the stair way racers must utilize grip, core, and body awareness. They must pull themselves up using the grips until they can manage to sweep a leg and get a toe hold on one of the climbing grips. I found this a fun and welcome adjustment to an otherwise dull obstacle. Major kudos to Spartan on this design.

Olympus

The adjustments made to Olympus have certainly upped the difficulty. Course designers made the clever/sadistic decision to put racers through the sloppiest mud pit that they could find in Florida before forcing them to tackle the new, steeper, and slipperier Olympus. For those of you who have yet to encounter it, Olympus still consists of the same mix of chain holds with a ball grip, holes, and rock climbing grips.

However, rather than being made completely of plywood the bottom portion is now covered with the same slick high durability vinyl like covering as “The Box.” The angle of Olympus is also a good bit steeper. The combination of these two factors along with wet shoes eliminates the technique I’ll admit I always utilized. I used it because it was fast. I strictly used chains and my leverage to always keep my feet under me I could make large strides across Olympus and get it done quickly which saved my grip.

Spartan must have caught on to many utilizing this and made the necessary adjustments. I’m completely okay with that. I discovered a hole in my game and I am going to fill it. That’s what new or adjusted obstacles are supposed to do.

Final Obstacles (Carries, Spear, and a Jump)

 

After the infamous box, racers faced: another wall, a short sandbag carry which required sinking into a pit of mud both on the way in and out, the vertical cargo (with killer Irish table), the spear throw, Atlas, the A- frame cargo, and a fire jump. This portion of the race was very spectator friendly all the way to the finish. I found many spectators enjoying themselves which is becoming a more frequent sight at Spartan Races. The exclusion of burpees on Atlas is a welcome change. It causes much less back up at the obstacle. The only draw back here was a lack of volunteers at the sandbag carry and vertical cargo.

Spectator Area

The spectators were able to view a slew of obstacles from start to finish along easily accessible routes. The rope climb, the rig, herc-hoist, spear throw, sandbag carry, vertical cargo, the a-frame, Atlas, the fire jump, and one of the walls were all easily visible and not far from the festival itself. The box was only a short walk for spectators. The spectator route was one of the better ones I have seen at any Spartan.

Festival Area

The festival area featured much more to do than I have seen at previous races. Body buff had a free massage tent set up which was nice. There were quite a few vendors and contests. Alcohol and food tents seemed to be getting a lot of business. However, if you ask me, seven dollars for one beer is outrageous even for Spartan. All in all the festival areas have seemed to continue to improve which I greatly appreciate. There were many great areas for Spartans to get their much desired photo ops. All big teams were well represented. This was one of the better festival areas I have personally seen at a Spartan which was not a Stadion.

Now for the Negatives

The largest shadow cast over this sunshine was a problem that Spartan seems to have been dealing with all year- a lack of volunteers. I will give them credit. They were up front about it when the heats began. However, when I hang on the last rope of a rig asking for acknowledgment that my bell is wrapped on TOP of the rig and there is no way for me to hit it I would prefer an official be present. I dropped and did my burpees. It is what it is.

There were recurring issues such as racers continuously dropping bags at the herc-hoist only to be told to do burpees after the fact. That is a problem. There were no volunteers in sight at Armer which could have been easily ran past, racers could easily shorten the carry. That is a big problem. There were only a couple of volunteers at the vertical cargo (mostly after the Elite and Age group heats) who aren’t making it a point to tell racers not to use the pipes on which the Irish tables are mounted to climb- that is a big problem. Female racers wer not told IMMEDIATELY what sandbags to grab at a carry. That is a major issue.

Add Some Incentive

To my knowledge, Spartan values integrity. Spartan wants to remain top of the game. Spartan wants to become a globally recognized and televised sport. If all of these notions are true please show me how much you guys care about the integrity of your product. Offer better incentives to your volunteers. Pay some judges. The regulation Spartan upholds, when done correctly, is one reason that many die hard competitive athletes stay in the Spartan game.

Do not tell me all about how you are going to video my form on burpees ensuring I get full extension if you cannot first make sure that I properly have the ability to complete my obstacle avoiding them. Also please ensure that volunteers are at EVERY OBSTACLE. I had never seen Armer. Had I not asked before the race, I would have had no idea what to do. There were no lines. I saw only the giant Armer balls all in a row. My point is: Volunteers at a Spartan Race probably work harder and longer than at any other OCR. Give them reason to do so. Care about your people. Do not go the cheap corporate route or you lose the core values of Spartan as a brand.

Final Thoughts

Tweaks could have been made to the course, but all in all the Florida Beast was a pretty good experience. It was a good way to end my race season and I enjoyed it. I was happy with the course. I was happy with the obstacle quality for the most part. I was happy with what Spartan did do in order to spice up a otherwise bland chunk of terrain. If my schedule allows it, I will return next year. I would recommend this beast to anyone in the south who is close. However, if you aren’t there are many better options unless you just really want to run a flat, warm Beast, but who doesn’t want to do that?

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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.

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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.