HESCO BoneFrog Challenge Sprint Course – Atlanta Race Review

It’s quite an experience arriving at an OCR venue alone. This is the first race I’ve run without a buddy or two along for the ride and while that always makes for a great time, running solo did help me focus not only on my performance on the course but also the purpose of this particular event. This past Saturday, I took part in my first HESCO BoneFrog Challenge at Highland Park Resort in Cedartown, Georgia west of Atlanta. Proceeds from BoneFrog benefit the Navy SEAL Foundation which, in their own words, “provides immediate and ongoing support and assistance to the Naval Special Warfare Community and its families”. Their goal was on my mind from the moment I woke that day and proved to be all the motivation I needed to finish strong.

My latest OCR adventure began with parking at the venue. I paid and was directed through a fairly wooded area already pretty thick with makeshift rows of parked cars. I got the impression this was unplanned overflow because the attendant to whom I spoke told me, “Just find a spot where you won’t block anybody in. It’s going to be tight today.” I was certain I would end up being the one blocked in when I returned to my car after the race. After pushing that fear out of my head, I headed toward the starting area. Because I wasn’t in the designated parking area, there wasn’t any signage pointing the way, so I just followed the sound of the music and P.A. announcements and ended up crossing part of the course to get there. Whoops.

BoneFrog Atlanta Festival Area

The starting area for BoneFrog was excellent; one of the best setups I’ve seen. There were large signs everywhere indicating the ever present stops at any OCR event: registration tent, bag check, beer taps, etc. I didn’t have to wait in line for anything (with the exception of the hoses for washing off afterward.) Everything was in close proximity to everything else and well laid out overall. Probably the coolest aspect though was there was a fantastic view of most of the sprint course.

BoneFrog Atlanta Sprint Course

The venue itself is primarily used for motorsports like racing dirt bikes and ATVs. Because of this, the majority of the entire sprint route could be viewed from the starting area. Running it was unique in comparison to other obstacle courses because of the constant switchbacks and hairpin turns. Despite all the running, it never felt like I was making progress from a distance standpoint. Even the shorter sections of the course that did go through the surrounding woods off the track remained in earshot of the music, which was strange because I think most people who run OCR associate hearing the D.J. with being near the end of the run. Additionally, it was dry, hard-packed dirt so running it felt more like a road race than a trail run. Finally, this place must have had other designated trails still open for motocross because the high-pitched growl of motorcycle engines was constant along the wood line and I saw more than a few riders fly by on trails adjacent to ours. It was all a bit disorienting and outside the lines of what I’d describe as the typical OCR experience, but those elements did bring some uniqueness and even what I’d consider new challenges to BoneFrog which I appreciated.

As far as the obstacles go, they were solid. Every structure was well-built and challenging though I didn’t see much I hadn’t seen before at other races in some form or another which a few exceptions. (Please note, I ran the shorter sprint course which was about four miles. The nine-mile challenge course ventured much further from the starting area, went deeper into the surrounding forest, and certainly offered more obstacles I didn’t even see. I’m looking forward to checking out the event photos to see what else was there and more importantly what to train for next time BoneFrog comes to Georgia.)

BoneFrog Atlanta Dirty Name

One of those exceptions was a beast referred to as the “Dirty Name”. I have no doubt it got this name due to all the cursing and swearing it generates from those who attempt it. I made it up to the second tier and thought long and hard about going for the third one before jumping to the ground instead. Without mincing words, I’m a short man and that top log was incredibly muddy and slick by the time I got there. I saw a good number of racers hang on for dear life, exhaust themselves, and ultimately fall before I made the decision to abandon it. I’m no elite competitor, just a weekend warrior out for fun, so no obstacle is worth injury to me. It was a good one and I truly hope I have the opportunity to attempt it again sooner than later.

BoneFrog Atlanta Rolling Thunder

Another cool obstacle I’d never seen before was called “Rolling Thunder”. It consisted of a long horizontal barrier with tires running the length of it. To successfully negotiate it, all I had to do was haul myself over it to the other side just like any other static barrier on any other obstacle course. At first glance, it didn’t look difficult at all. It only looked about six feet high and I knew I’d gone over taller walls without help. However, it didn’t occur to me that once I hit the tires they’d start rolling. Very deceptive…that little motion made the obstacle exponentially more difficult. It took me a couple of attempts but I managed to get over it.

When thinking about most of the other more common obstacles I encountered, I’ve come to the conclusion that my OCR performance is a lot like my golf game. I’ve done this enough times now to know exactly what’s going to give me trouble and cause bouts of frustration before I even get on the course. Further, nothing about that observation is going to change until I find time to practice specific skills more than I already do.

BoneFrog Atlanta Black Ops at Finish Line

I’m a three quarter monkey bar man. It seems no matter how long the set is, I make it about three-quarters of the way across before I slip off. Neither Black Ops nor either of the other hanging obstacles at BoneFrog was an exception.

For some reason, I can’t seem to climb a rope to save my life either. I managed to do it once at BattleFrog (RIP), but that seems to have been an adrenaline-fueled fluke. I guarantee there’s a rope climb going in my backyard very soon as I can no longer handle walking away from a rope climb without hitting a bell.

There are some really tall walls out there on some of these runs. I can get over six and eight-foot walls on my own without too much trouble but these ten and twelve-foot monsters drive me nuts. Like I said, I’m not the tallest guy in the world by a long shot and regardless of the teamwork attitude nearly every participant maintains during a race it always feels a little awkward to ask a stranger if I can step on their thigh or even their shoulder. I might just have to learn to get used to it.

BoneFrog Atlanta Cargo Climb

If I were forced to call out BoneFrog on any shortcomings, it would be a big stretch. There’s very little to criticise at all. Here are the relatively minor things I saw that could be improved for next time:

  • I found that my interactions with volunteers at each obstacle varied wildly. At the first wall, there was a kid chastising racers LOUDLY for using the wall support to get a boost. On the other hand, there were other obstacles where volunteers were very friendly and helpful. And, then there were those volunteers that said little or nothing motivational, critical or otherwise. So, the entire volunteer experience was inconsistent and kind of all over the map.
  • The wooded sections of the sprint course were well marked for the most part but they became extremely narrow in some areas and I don’t think any brush had been cut from the path in preparation for race day. I ran into a lot of tree branches and all sorts of other vegetation consistently.
  • In regards to broken trail marking lines, they really only became an issue at a small section of the course near the parking areas. It was hard to tell, but it seemed like part of the course crossed a dirt road very close to the lot and as a result, there were a couple of cars leaving the venue while runners were on the road at the same time. It was an extremely small section relatively speaking, but it could have been a potential safety issue.
  • While climbing up Black Ops near the finish line, I did hear a participant alert someone with the event staff that Dirty Name was unattended and needed to be for safety reasons. There was a volunteer at that obstacle earlier in the day when I reached it.

It’s my understanding that these last two items were being addressed immediately upon being reported. Nice response BoneFrog!

BoneFrog Memorial Wall

(Memorial Wall Photo Courtesy of BoneFrog’s Facebook Account)

Minor complaints aside, this was an excellent event and one of my best OCR experiences to date. My favorite parts of BoneFrog were the two obstacles included for the sole purpose of memorializing the SEALs and other military members who had lost their lives in battle in service to our country. Roughly half way through the run, every racer ascended a long incline referred to as the “Stairway to Valhalla”. At the peak was a Memorial Wall where anyone was welcome to pay tribute to any fallen member of the military close to them or to whom they held in high regard. The view from here was amazing.

BoneFrog View From Valhalla

As if that weren’t touching enough, near the very end of the course, a large wooden sign was posted listing the names of 31 heroes who died in combat. Before proceeding, every racer was directed to read a name aloud, do a burpee, and then repeat. I completed all thirty-one burpees but frankly those last few likely didn’t meet the Navy’s standards. Still, that obstacle and the entire race was humbling and one I’ll be feeling long after the soreness subsides. I could not be more pleased or feel more honored to participate in such an event.

BoneFrog Atlanta Finish

Terrain Race for Two – Atlanta Race Review

Last fall, I had the unique pleasure of introducing my son to the world of OCR by signing him up for the Savage Jr. It was a smashing success. You can read my account of that awesome experience here. Now, the one criticism he had at the time was that while it was a lot of fun the course was too easy for him. Obviously, on the other end of the spectrum, even if he’d been allowed to run it, the full Savage would’ve been much too difficult for him. Even I still struggle with some of the obstacles at races on that level. At 9 years of age, he’s in that awkward middle ground of being too old for most ‘kid’ stuff, but not quite old enough for those activities geared toward adults, so it was a great surprise to stumble on the Terrain Race and furthermore to read anyone over the age of 7 was allowed to run the full 5k. The race fell on the week of his birthday as well, so the timing was perfect. All he wanted for his birthday was a bib, a shirt, and a medal.
The race was held at the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers. This has become quite the popular venue for Atlanta area OCR events. I’d been here for Rugged Maniac and Spartan Sprint within the past year and I know a few other races are held here as well. While my son has never caused me any difficulty whatsoever, it was nice to have that familiarity with the area if only to eliminate the potential stress point of getting lost. My first impression of the festival area was that it looked rather sparse in comparison to that of the other races I’d attended which both had their festival set up in the exact same spot. As previously stated, I found Terrain Race almost by accident just by poking around online and had never heard it come up in conversation. Since it’s not nearly as well known among the general population or perhaps even among some OCR athletes, I assume the sponsors and vendors and their corresponding tents, displays, and samples are naturally fewer and far between. We registered a little late in the game for this one as well which resulted in a later wave time. It could be there was a bigger crowd that had already begun to disperse by the time we arrived just before 1:00 p.m. to run.
terrain race festival area
Let me begin by saying my boy and I had a wonderful time running our first race together. Really, that’s where most of the fun came from for me personally. While we had a great time, overall, the course itself was pretty ‘vanilla’ for lack of a better word. Some obstacles were harder than others but none ridiculously difficult. Additionally, there were there no unique or “signature” obstacles on which some of the most well-known races pride themselves. There wasn’t much here from a skillset standpoint I hadn’t seen before and the actual structures had more of a backyard playset feel about them. It was almost as if the organizers got truckloads of lumber and supplies from the local hardware store and simply emulated obstacles they’d seen at other races. But still, a great time was had by all. As such, I don’t think a play-by-play race review would be terribly useful or interesting. Instead, I’ll highlight some of the highs, lows, and even oddities we encountered that made the Terrain Race experience enjoyable and unique for us.
The first oddity was the starting corral. Each racer climbed into what was essentially an above ground pool and waited for the starter’s signal. When the wave began, we all hopped out and started running. I’m not sure what the specific challenge was here other than to soak us before the race began. I didn’t really understand the purpose, but it wasn’t a big deal. My kid thought it was great.
terrain race starting corral
While he found starting from in a pool amusing, he found the mud absolutely hilarious. Jumping into each one, he couldn’t stop laughing. He’d been talking about the mud for weeks on end leading up to the race. How many mud pits would there be? How deep are they? How many times can I go through them?  He told me the more mud pits the better and fortunately for him, Terrain Race had five good ones spaced pretty evenly throughout.  Because we began so late in the day the mounds bordering each pit were packed down, smooth, and extra slippery. He needed my help to get out of a couple of them. Despite going down hard on one side of his butt coming off one of the pits too quickly, these were by far his favorite parts of Terrain Race.
terrain race last pit
The first real lesson I was able to teach my son during the race was how to properly climb up and over a vertical wall. He quickly mastered the technique of pushing down on the top of the wall to lift your body up, locking your arms before throwing a leg over to bring yourself to a seated position, then carefully lowering yourself down the opposite side.
terrain race second wall
There were a few short walls he was able to negotiate after a few tries, but he wisely opted out of attempting the taller ones even if they had attached climbing ropes or when offered a boost by yours truly. His mom told him not to try anything he didn’t feel comfortable with that morning. He took that warning to heart and so did I. We were glad we did too because only a couple of minutes after passing the tallest wall on the course, we heard a few people behind us screaming and running for a medic to treat a broken leg. We briefly joined the posse hunting for an EMT but someone else reached a race volunteer with a walkie talkie before we did.
terrain race rope wall
Interestingly enough, after seeing my son decide which walls to attempt and which ones to avoid seemingly based on height alone, he shocked me by scooting right up a steep A-frame cargo net obstacle that had to be 12 – 15 feet high. We climbed up side by side so I would be nearby in the event he got scared or needed any support, be it motivational or physical, while up high on the netting. Other than taking a few extra moments to tentatively go over the summit from one side of the obstacle to the other, he managed this one like an elite competitor in my book. When our feet were back on earth, there were high fives all around.
terrain race aframe cargo
 
The next obstacle of note was the wreck bag section of the course. It should be noted that this is the point where I saw an epic fail by Terrain Race. The storage bin for the wreck bags was completely empty and a line was forming. Each racer finishing the section handed off their bag to the next person in line rather than returning it to the bin. I hoisted mine onto my shoulders and told my son he may want to skip this part due to the weight. Nope. He wasn’t having any of that nonsense. With a little assistance, he got a decent grip on his wreck bag (albeit underhanded) and started walking leaving me in the dust. If I was proud after watching my son conquer the A-frame, I was absolutely elated during the wreck bag section. So many adult racers who passed us cheered for him for taking this on. I couldn’t help but smile and do the same. 
 terrain race wreck bags
Prior to encountering one of the mud obstacles, we came upon some 4x4s on the ground and it took me a second or two to identify them as an official obstacle. The Terrain Race folks frankly didn’t try real hard with this one. Anyone with basic carpentry skills could have made one of these in minutes. Every balance-oriented obstacle I’ve encountered since I began participating in this sport was over water, up high, and/or involved some sort of distraction to make it a challenge worthy of an OCR athlete. This was literally lumber lying on the ground. I’m not sure why they even bothered including this on the course at all.
terrain race balance beam
In stark contrast to the balance beam, my favorite obstacle at Terrain Race was well done and familiar but like nothing I’d ever tried before. This one was elevated and had a series of beams running overhead with a pool underneath. Each beam was divided into two sections. The first had rock wall grips mounted on either side of the beam. The second had balls hanging from the bottom of the beam. (If I’m not mistaken, Terrain Race refers to them as monkey balls. Yep, they went there.) The objective was to cross the pool while hanging from the apparatus. I use the term familiar because in my college years I worked at a rock climbing wall inside a theme park. To this day, I still have trouble with hanging obstacles like monkey bars (especially metal ones that are a few hundred degrees and too hot to touch much less hang from, which Terrain Race also offered), so it was exciting for me to encounter the rock wall grips and know I’d do well with them. Unfortunately, my son wasn’t tall enough to reach … He ended up jumping in the pool and swimming to the other side which was just fine. I made it across though in making progress along the beam I developed a bit of a side to side swinging motion and began to worry I’d miss the pool entirely if I were to let go on every swing to my right side. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.
terrain race rock wall grip traverse 2
Terrain Race certainly had a few faults. Some could certainly be improved internally in short order while others would require more money, sponsors, name recognition, etc. especially if they want to be compared to the big races. However, the registration fees were very reasonable and aligned with what was offered for the most part. The bottom line is that my kid and I had a blast running together for the first time. I had the opportunity to teach him some things about OCR and more importantly watch him encounter challenges, test himself, overcome fear, problem solve, and revel in his success. He told me mid run about half way through the race it was one of the best birthday presents he’d ever gotten. Imperfect event or not, I have Terrain Race to thank for that. I’ll never forget it.
terrain race finish

Warrior Dash Atlanta: Race Review

When you’re only minutes away from arriving at a race venue, your phone rings, and you see it’s someone on your team calling, you immediately ask yourself two questions, “What’s wrong?” and “Are we still running?”. The answer to the first was “We may be lost…” and fortunately within the hour the answer to the second was “Yes”. Back in February, I received an email from the folks at Warrior Dash informing me there had been a location change due to “some changes with the venue”. As expected, this message included the address for the new location, however, navigating to said location using Waze or Google Maps brings you here:
Livestock at the Googled Warrior Dash LocationI’ve encountered an ass or two at races over the past year but never one that looked like this. I found the rest of my team along with quite a few other warriors on the side of the road all checking related web pages, forums, and Facebook groups in an attempt to find out how far off we all were. It was slightly comforting to know we weren’t the only team lacking navigational fortitude. Thankfully, a good samaritan drove by with windows down telling those of us suffering from spatial unawareness, as well as anyone in the general vicinity, the entrance was less than a mile down the road in the opposite direction. I understand this venue was Plan B for the folks who run Warrior Dash, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that someone could have put a few makeshift signs out on Monroe Jersey Rd. that morning. Surely, between February and April, someone had checked Google Maps and noted the discrepancy between the actual geographic waypoint and mailing address. Out of curiosity, I just checked and interestingly enough, Mapquest, which I didn’t know was still a thing, nailed the location.Alternate Location for Warrior Dash AtlantaMy first impression of the festival area was that, while all the mainstays were there (beer tent, bag check, merch shop), it felt like it had all been jammed into a slightly smaller space than intended. The length of the bag check line was ridiculous; so immediately after checking in and picking up my race packet, I went right back to the car and dropped my bag there. Smaller event space = closer parking = awesome. The hose off and changing areas were quite close as well; so we had that going for us, which was nice, Unfortunately, the bathroom facilities were entirely too close to everything else too. This seemed benign until it became an issue later in the morning when some sort of malfunction occurred. I didn’t investigate further, but let’s just say it was evident. I suppose when dealing with a backup venue scenario, you have to make adjustments to the plan on the fly, so it’s difficult to fault Warrior Dash for any shortcomings like this. Overall, the vast majority of the event layout was perfectly fine despite these ‘proximity flubs’. The only other thing I happened to notice was that the Shocktop tent didn’t appear to be serving the Twisted Pretzel Wheat Ale. I prayed I just wasn’t seeing it as that is one of my very favorite brews.Warrior Dash Atlanta Starting LineOnto the race!

Now, my race history thus far has consisted of challenging myself and testing my limits with intense events in the vein of Spartan, Savage, and Battle Frog. Each has been a unique experience and valuable lesson in what I can do, what I can’t do, and most importantly what I need to work on. I’d been looking forward to Warrior Dash because I knew it was the ‘fun run’ of the obstacle race community. It’s the one John Q. Public comes out to run with his buddies for something enjoyable and different to do on the weekend or with his co-workers as a team building activity or to raise money for St. Jude. For me, there was nothing by which to be intimidated this time. I’d finished much more difficult mud runs and was really excited to attack it without worrying about specific obstacles. While I wasn’t in a competitive wave, I promised myself I’d run for time for the first time to see what I could do.

The corral was small and we were right up front. Due to the navigation issues discussed previously, we missed our wave time by a few minutes. I was pleased to find out no one was really checking assigned times or seemed to care. I imagine I could’ve run the course a few times without anyone taking notice. I was also pleased to hear the laid back demeanor of the race starter. I don’t care how pumped I am to begin a race, sometimes those guys are a bit over the top and downright obnoxious early in the morning. After a few of his appropriate “Warrior!” cries, answered by our “Dash!” responses, we were off. I immediately felt a blast of heat and it threw me off for a second because I couldn’t figure out where it came from. Later after I finished the race, I saw the pyrotechnic fireballs that accompanied the starters. Very cool effect and much less of an odor than colored smoke bombs.

Within a minute or so of starting, I encountered my first obstacle. It was a pond. Nothing flashy or intimidating; just a pond. As I mentioned, I was running for time and I started at the head of the pack so at this point so early in the wave, there wasn’t anyone to follow and I thought for a moment that I’d already lost the trail. Nope. They wanted us to run the entire course drenched or at a bare minimum with soaked shoes. It was difficult to tell how deep it got. This particular body of water only rose to knee level, but it wasn’t the last.Warrior Dash Atlanta Pond ObstacleSoon after skirting the edge of the pond, I came upon something called the Diesel Dome, which is odd because it’d be more aptly referred to as an arch and from what I can tell had no connection with fuel whatsoever. It was constructed with smaller, more flexible lumber than I’m used to seeing in similar structures on other courses. Other than that, it was pretty unremarkable and easy to negotiate. It struck me as nothing more than makeshift playground equipment, but at least it got the ball rolling in the obstacle department which up until this point had consisted of a pond.Warrior Dash Atlanta Diesel DomeNext came the mounds of mud. There were three deep valleys separated by three high mounds of the earth that created them. I liked this particular obstacle a lot because the mounds were steep enough to be challenging but dry enough to avoid the frustration of constant slipping. Any slippage was due to loose dirt as opposed to slick, wet mud. I passed without any notable difficulty though I did notice a few racers in the vicinity had some trouble with the steep incline from valley to peak. Maybe I am getting better at this mud run business after all.
Following the mounds came the first impressive man-made structure of the day. The Warrior Dash pipeline wasn’t difficult to climb up and through but it was most certainly a sight to see for anyone who’s built a deck, a treehouse, or something similar. The cargo net tubes were a bit rough on the knees and I was about half way across when I discovered I was small enough to bear crawl keeping the soles of my shoes on the rope instead of my knees and shins. Lesson learned.Warrior Dash Atlanta PipelineSo, approaching the next obstacle called Shocktop Unfiltered will briefly lead one to believe they are nearing the festival area again due to the copious Shocktop logos and signage. In actuality, this obstacle is a series of barriers in line with one another and laid out almost like a small obstacle course within the obstacle course of which you’re already in the middle. It’s a series of ramps, low walls to alternately go over and under, and a nice size cloth covering under which to crawl. Each piece had Shocktop logos emblazoned on it that could likely have been seen from space. Frankly, I think the inclusion of this obstacle is really more of a way to get the sponsor logo on the course than anything. Like most of the course, it was great fun, but not particularly challenging. That said, this one is unique to Warrior Dash and I love the signature obstacles you can only find at one event.Shocktop Unfiltered at Warrior Dash AtlantaWhen the advertising blitz was over, it was back in the water. Alcatraz was calling my name and that made for two signature obstacles in a row. This obstacle is simple enough on paper, but somewhat awkward to attempt as you have to start climbing a cargo net while you’re still in the water. The structure itself is made of hollow plastic pieces lashed together, then covered will cargo netting that drapes over each end into the water. I swam out without issue, crawled out of the water and rolled onto Alcatraz pretty quickly. I only had a problem on the backside when I jumped back in the lake to head back to shore. The depth on the back side seemed much deeper than the front side. I dropped in thinking the water level would be at my chest or chin when in fact I went a few feet under. For making such an inaccurate assumption, I was rewarded with a gnarly mouth full of lake water and subsequently rinsed and spit at both water stops thereafter.Alcatraz at Warrior Dash AtlantaI’ll take this opportunity to interrupt play-by-play to make note of something I really like about Warrior Dash because this is the point in the race it made an impression on me. Humorous signs are peppered throughout the course for no other reason than to entertain the runners. I liked this one in particular, but in fairness, mid-stride I thought it read, “If you lived here, you’d be home by now… you’d also buy a beer.” Is there any question about my motivation to complete these events?Warrior Dash Trail SignBack to the race. Right about the time most of the excess water from the lake had left my clothing, Warrior Summit made its appearance. This was simply an A-Frame with knotted ropes hanging down either side from its peak. Climb up one side, then rappel down the other. No problem. While my Achilles heel is still a vertical, unknotted rope climb (and thankfully Warrior Dash has none), I can traverse obstacles like this pretty easily now. Similar obstacles at other races have been challenging for me due to the need to really use your body weight against the obstacle in combination with a tight grip on the rope to succeed. Here, the angle wasn’t bad at all and it seemed like it was over before it began which in terms of a race is a good thing I suppose, however, I feel like obstacles with climbing ropes should present a little more difficulty. Then again, this is Warrior Dash and I did see some folks struggling. In hindsight, this may very well have been another indicator that my OCR skill set is improving.Warrior Dash SummitOne obstacle about which I was aware but had forgotten about until I came upon it was the trenches. Once again, not a hard obstacle, but more of a mental challenge especially for those participants who’ve ever felt claustrophobic or had a fear of being buried alive. Fortunately, the covering strung across the trenches let in the natural light; this would have been a bear to accomplish in the dark. So, the only real issue I had here was that the soil was quite rocky. Crawling through was extraordinarily rough on bare knees.Warrior Dash TrenchesI’m neither sure what was so risky about Risky Business nor could I figure out a connection between the obstacle and the movie of the same name. The objective was to cross a balance beam while overhead water jets attempted to throw you off balance. Much like the Warrior Summit, this obstacle barely factored into my race day experience.Risky Business at Warrior DashAnother skill on which I need to improve is crossing monkey bars, hanging rings, rigs, and the like. I just don’t have the upper body strength or control to go end to end on these things yet, but I’m getting there. When I ran up on Fisherman’s Catch, I saw the hanging rings and was sure I’d finally come to a Warrior Dash obstacle I couldn’t finish. When I got closer, I saw they were in reach of a cargo net at the bottom of the apparatus. I could walk right across without ever touching a ring. It almost felt like cheating to have it there. Again, there were jets of water in play to distract you, though I found them to be more of an annoyance than anything. My few seconds of self-doubt were quickly out of mind and I was able to proceed without using any upper body strength or any delay.Warrior Dash Fisherman's CatchGoliath is a big waterslide. I’m not sure what else there is to say about it. It was fun like most waterslides tend to be and the volunteer at the top was probably the friendliest and most encouraging volunteer I’ve ever encountered at a race. Make no mistake, this was tame in comparison to anything like Savage Race’s Colossus. I would’ve preferred something taller and a bit more intense.

Warrior Dash Goliath SlideIt was time for everyone’s favorite obstacle race photo opportunity, the fire jump. It’s standard fare at most races; here referred to as Warrior Roast. I will say one thing I thought was notable. Whoever was feeding the fire was doing a great job as there was a good line of tall, bright flames. I have quite a few photos of myself doing this at other races in which I appear to be jumping over blackened logs that were smoldering at best which isn’t too impressive after the fact. I imagine the weather, natural light, shade, wood, fuel, and likely a few other dynamic conditions play a part in that, so I lucked out at Warrior Dash. Immediately after the “roast”, was the deepest, stickiest mud pit I’ve entered in any race. Muddy Mayhem was just that. Many struggled to get out to reach the finish line and the thing absolutely painted people brown from head to toe to ensure a good photo as well as a nasty hug for the otherwise clean volunteers.Warrior Dash Muddy Mayhem and Finish LineAnd just like that, I was done. I’d run for time and I didn’t disappoint myself. Passing every obstacle and not taking any breaks to walk was a first for me and resulted in a time of 41 minutes. I was very pleased. While I didn’t find this race particularly challenging, I had a fantastic time running it and that’s what’s most important for me personally. I’m not an elite athlete and have yet to register for a competitive wave anywhere, so my primary objective is to have fun. I certainly achieved it at Warrior Dash. I would recommend it to anyone looking for their first obstacle race experience….unfortunately, it’s not for those looking to have a cold Shocktop Twisted Wheat Ale. As I suspected after first walking around the event area, the good stuff was nowhere to be found. Fortunately, one can survive on Belgian White variety in a pinch.Warrior Dash Atlanta Finish Line and Medals

Spartan Race 2016 Atlanta Sprint: Race Review

“So, what’s it like to run one of those races?”

“Aren’t they all pretty much the same?”

Since I began running OCR, these are the two questions I’ve most often been asked. When answering the first, I do get a thrill out of relaying my experiences in great detail, essentially reliving the experience myself, and I often refer the person asking the question to ORM for additional extensive information on the sport. However, I find the latter is much tougher to answer. One of the things I find incredibly fascinating about obstacle course racing is that, while all the events have a similar makeup and general atmosphere about them (at least in my experience; I haven’t tried them all yet), each definitely has its signature obstacles and sets a tone all its own, creating a unique ‘flavor’ for each race. So, no they aren’t all the same, but it’s impossible to limit the answer to just that. The discussion inevitably continues, covering which events I’ve run, how they are the same, how they are different, which ones are harder than others, what skill set is needed to succeed, etc. In running my first Spartan Race this past weekend, I found the atmosphere of the event quite familiar though this one most assuredly sets itself apart in a number of ways.

Spartan is “one of the big ones”. It’s THE race most people outside the circle have heard of, read about, and recently may have even seen on tv. In prepping for this review, I asked myself what could I possibly write about Spartan that hasn’t already been written already given the enormous media footprint it already has. There’s not much more to say about the mud, the static walls, the fire jump, and the like. It’s pretty standard OCR fare, so, I’ll highlight the elements of this particular Spartan Sprint that stood out, that made an impression on me, and that challenged or in a few cases even beat me.

One of the first obstacles I encountered was a vertical cargo net. At first glance, it certainly seemed pretty unremarkable, but once I started climbing, it was evident it was less taught than comparable obstacles I’d climbed during other races. It’s amazing how much more challenging climbing a cargo net can be with the slightest adjustment in tension.

Spartan Sprint Vertical Cargo

It was the same story with the A-frame cargo. I’m not sure if the lack of tension on these nets was intentional for the sake of the challenge or if it was a result of having so many people climbing simultaneously. I was never worried about safety, but modifying my climb was necessary.

Spartan Sprint A-Frame

My absolute favorite obstacle of the day also had a cargo net… a big one … and it was high! It was so high, the officials were directing racers with a fear of heights to take an alternate route with much less of an incline. It’s worth noting that taking the alternate route was a burpee free option, which as far as I know is unheard of for a Spartan event. There’s always a penalty, so you know this beast was way up there. Hanging from the precipice of what can only be described as a cliff with a face made up of Georgia red clay was a loose cargo net. Hanging from the cargo net were a number of ropes of varying lengths. Below the ropes, there was quite a bit of bare cliff face before the cliff face met the level ground. If I had to guess, this towering obstacle was on an incline of only a few degrees less than ninety the entire way up. It was impressive, to say the least, and it was scary, but I would have regretted skipping this one.

Spartan Sprint Cliff Hanger

It took me three tries to successfully grab a rope after running up the muddy cliff face, but once I snagged it, I made my way and had a blast doing it. I was so excited when I reached the top I let out my only unsolicited “AROO!” of the day.

Spartan Sprint Cliff Hanger Peak

The one time I thought I might have injured myself was attempting to pull the weighted sled along the ground. It was much heavier than I’d expected. I think I may have chosen my sled poorly too; mine had a good bit of mud and ground debris build up on the rope side, which was certainly hindering its movement. The muscles in my stomach and waist barked at me for a while after that, but I did complete the obstacle without penalty.

Spartan Sprint Weighted Sled

Later in the race, the weights for the Atlas Carry and the Hercules Hoist were extremely heavy as well. I was unable to get either off the ground so both sent me to the burpee area.

Spartan Sprint Atlas Carry

There were two other obstacles that dealt with negotiating dead weight I was able to complete without much issue. The first was simply carrying a weighted bag along a set route. I’d done this before with a heavier Wreck Bag at BattleFrog last fall so it wasn’t too intimidating. However, the route for this segment was along wet, slick granite. An overzealous gentleman in front of me slipped on the rock and nearly went down hard from the weight on his shoulder.

Spartan Sprint Bag Carry

The second was the Bucket Brigade, one of Spartan’s signature challenges. Filling the bucket with gravel wasn’t too difficult. Neither was lifting it or walking with it. What nearly got me at the bucket brigade was the steep, slick, muddy slope I had to get down almost immediately after leaving the gravel pile. Of course, what goes down, must come up. After hauling my bucket along the route, I had to head back up the slope to dump my rock. Both slopes were littered with a few piles of rock where buckets had fallen. I came close a few times but never let go.

Spartan Sprint Bucket Brigade

Let’s discuss the water on this course. There was more than I had anticipated considering the pristine weather. I’m not sure how they managed to do it, but the temperature seemed just as cold if not colder than the aptly named Shriveled Richard obstacle at Savage Race even though there was no ice truck in sight. There were a few separate segments of the race where I was trudging through this cold water in some sort of drainage system for the horse park or the adjacent golf course. In addition to the cold, these concrete and steel tunnels were dark enough in spots where I felt the need to keep a hand on the wall to maintain my balance. They didn’t smell great either. My teammates and I dubbed this the Shawshank obstacle.

A few final thoughts on my Spartan Sprint experiences…

I still have trouble climbing ropes. I’d hoped and prayed for months that the ropes at Spartan would be knotted. In browsing through photos of previous Spartan events online, I’d seen both so the odds were pretty even on whether or not I’d have my prayers answered. No such luck. I really am going to have to rig up my own climbing rope and practice this. Those ropes aren’t going anywhere and neither am I. Another area where my OCR skill set needs work is the signature Spartan obstacle: the spear throw! Prior to race day, I’d been looking forward to trying this more than anything else. I’d carefully crafted my own Spartan spear and practiced, albeit not as much as I would have liked, in the weeks leading up to the event. Let’s just say I need to spend more time practicing my throw. Much more. My spear hit the hay bale angled down and to the left. I certainly threw it hard enough. Accuracy was my downfall. I absolutely hate racers only get one shot at this. It’s a lot of pressure.

Spartan Sprint Spear Throw

When navigating under barbed wire, is it common to turn 90 degrees to the length of the obstacle and roll from one end to the other as opposed to army crawling? I’d never seen anyone do that in races prior, but it seemed to be the preferred strategy at the Spartan Sprint. I tried it briefly and immediately went back to my army crawl. It was too disorienting for me. Had I continued, I feel confident I would’ve rolled right into another person or become nauseated, or both. One of my teammates rolled for the entire length of the first barbed wire segment, stood up at the end, then immediately became dizzy and fell over. No thanks.

There was a particularly long and steep decline toward the end of the race just prior to the Shawshank segments mentioned previously where you had no choice but to sit and slide the entire way. From the top, it looked like a hell of a lot of fun! I couldn’t help but think of that moment when the Goonies slid down through the caves to the pirate ship. I, along with a few of my teammates, discovered that regardless of how smooth the ground appears, there’s a good chance there’s a hidden stump or rock somewhere along the line. I’ll spare you from seeing photographic evidence of the resulting butt injuries.

Spartan Sprint Muddy Butt Slide

The Spartan Sprint was a great experience. It was extremely challenging and a lot of fun. I completed the vast majority of obstacles and even succeeded on a few on which I thought I might fail. None of my failures were unexpected. I know my strengths and know better my weaknesses. It’s time for me to acknowledge that I have the trail running down and I need to practice practical skills applicable to actual obstacles if I ever hope to improve my performance in this sport moving forward. Up until Saturday, I always felt like the rookie to some degree. While I’m no elite competitor and may never be, I have more and more fun each time I race and I finally feel like I belong in the OCR community.

Spartan Sprint Angled Wall

BattleFrog Atlanta II 2015: Race Review

It had been raining hard across Georgia for more than a week, and while a good downpour is great for mudding up a trail, the amount that had fallen in the days leading up to BattleFrog led me to believe I was about to trudge through more mud than I had ever seen. Sure enough, the night before the race emails and Facebook posts popped up letting participants know of alternate parking areas to head toward the next morning because the ground at Foxwoods was simply not going to accommodate anything less than a tank. After pulling up to alternate parking area number two, my friend and I were surprised to find out they would allow us to proceed to the venue as long as our vehicle had four wheel drive. Score!  However, the excitement of that little perk was short-lived as we passed under the impressive Cargo Bridge obstacle and immediately sank into the mud, tires just a spinnin’ as fast as they could go. Apparently, four wheel drive doesn’t do much for you without a decent amount of tread on your tires. Duly noted. I’m not sure if the guy who towed us out was with BattleFrog, Foxwoods, or otherwise, but I sure am thankful he was there with his Bobcat and chains.

Battle Frog Atlanta Staging Area

Once freed from the mess and parked, I began the pre-race ritual of registering, attaching my bib and assorted wristbands, picking up t-shirts, dropping off bags, checking GoPro operation and settings, etc. The organizers for BattleFrog certainly know what they’re doing. From the moment I entered the event area, everything went as smoothly as could be expected and there was no waiting in line anywhere from what I could see. The efficiency was doubly appreciated as our towing needs resulted in a slight delay in actually entering the event, so this put us back on track for a timely start to our race. Almost immediately after finishing all my pre-race preparations, I heard the announcer on the P.A. system call racers in my wave to the corral. This was the point where things went off the rails.

Like other OCR events, the first challenge is often going over a wall into the corral to begin your wave. I’ve done it before without a problem. This wall was so muddy and wet, I couldn’t manage to haul myself over it to even start the race. I should note that this was the tallest starting line wall I’ve encountered since I began running obstacle races and I am not a tall man. After a few tries, I figured it was ridiculous for me to waste any more energy before I officially began and simply walked around it. I’m not proud of it, but if I was going to be taken down by an obstacle, it was going to be on the course, not before it. Only a few other people were in the corral at this point and I didn’t see an official starter; just the trail beyond the inflatable arch. A race official standing down range on the course waved to us indicating we could go ahead and begin. It was strange not to have that ‘ready, set, go’ moment and to simply begin running, but this wasn’t a competitive or even a timed wave and I was anxious to begin especially given my difficulty with the corral wall which I wanted to put behind me and forget about as soon as possible, so I took off and my first BattleFrog was underway.

Now, it’s mind boggling how your brain can trick you into thinking you’re ready to do something and then how your body can let you know you’re most decidedly not. This past Saturday BattleFrog was that something. I consider OCR an exciting, fun, and healthy activity in which to participate, but I don’t do much training aside from running regularly. This event was definitely the kick in the ass I needed to start working on upper body strength and grip as there were a few obstacles I encountered that absolutely wrecked me and had me doubting my ability to finish strong. The wreck bag portion of the course was the first of these. These particular bags were heavier than ones I’d had experience with in the past and I couldn’t heave this thing up on my shoulders to save my life. After the difficulty with the corral wall, having issues with the very first obstacle on the course really had me doubting my abilities and I started to worry whether I’d bitten off more than I could chew this time.  I finally got the wreck bag positioned where I needed it to continue and started my weighted march through the ankle deep muck.

Battle Frog Wreck Bag Stack

Like any good racer or writer, I’d done my research and taken a good long look at the course map as soon as I could get my eyes on it and I had seen that after the wreck bag came the balance beam. What the map did not convey was that when I was to encounter the balance beam, I’d still have the cursed wreck bag on my shoulders. That’s sneaky, BattleFrog folks… very sneaky. What made things even more challenging was that the balance beam wasn’t a balance beam at all. It was a tree trunk on its side and it was covered in thick, slimy, slippery mud. Amazingly and despite my difficulty with the wreck bag, I made it across without falling. Finally, something about this event was going my way. Other than the pleasant registration process, it had been pretty rough going all the way around up until this point. I hauled the wreck bag back to the stack and ran hard toward the next obstacle hoping the tide had turned. After going over a few standard issue four foot walls and admiring the view from high atop the higher ladder wall, I encountered my first Jerry Can carry.

On top of the Battle Frog Ladder Wall

All I had to do was carry two heavy cans from one point to another. No problem right? I grabbed two of the big ones feeling quite confident I’d already dealt with my problem obstacle for the day and then turned to see where the race official was directing me. Some sadistic planner routed the Jerry Can carry down a steep decline covered in mud so it was really more of a Jerry Can slide. At the bottom, elevation leveled a bit, but I was already feeling the weight of these beasts from my shoulders down to my fingertips when I spotted a few racer-less Jerry Cans that had already been discarded along the way by those who could no longer hack it. Progress was slow and toward the end of this section of the trail my Jerry Cans were being used more like walking sticks supporting my body weight. There was much commentary from my fellow combatants in the vicinity about how this particular Jerry Can carry was ridiculously difficult. I agreed and finally acquiesced to receiving some help with one of my cans for the last few yards.

For all intents and purposes, this was still essentially the beginning of the race and my arms already felt shot. I really wasn’t sure what other obstacles I was going to be able to manage successfully. That was a bad feeling to have so early in the day. Next up was the eight-foot wall off of which I fell hard after I lost my footing on the mud which was literally running down the wood. Once again, I accepted assistance from a much taller guy who was more than happy to give me a boost and made it over successfully on my second try. There was a lot of teamwork and applause in play at this particular obstacle. I’m not sure why this one elicited such a response and it could’ve been nothing more than a fluke in timing, but I saw more people helping others here than anywhere else on the course. One woman was so happy she finally made it over, she teared up when thanking her teammates. It never ceases to amaze me that nearly everyone who takes part in this sport is so helpful, gracious, friendly, and generally incredible to one another. Cheers to all of you out there.

Teamwork on the First Wall of Battle Frog

The time for applause and emotional moments had passed and it was back to business. The next barrier to receiving my big green medal was the first rope climb. Well, I have a confession to make. I’ve never climbed a rope. Ever. I never went to a school that had this most basic apparatus in their gym, so I simply never had the exposure to it. But, I did know it was coming because I studied my course map after all. Without the time to visit a facility with climbing ropes or to build my own at home, I did what any other tech savvy person who lives in this day and age would do. I Googled it. Yep. I found a YouTube video with instructions for a few different methods of military-style fast rope climbing. I would never flat out pass an obstacle just because I don’t think I could do it. I attempt everything at least once, but I didn’t have much hope I was going to get up that rope based solely on what I’d learned online. Imagine how surprised I was when everything I learned worked perfectly and I rang the bell on my first try! I can only assume it would’ve been even less difficult had the rope not been covered in multiple layers of caked on mud. In the grand scheme of things it was a small victory though it put a HUGE smile on my face.

The next stretch of the race consisted of some fun but less challenging obstacles than those I had already passed which included a spider web of bungee cords, a few angled walls, a low cargo net which required some high knees, and the iconic Normandy Jacks. This succession of more manageable obstacles following my success on the rope climb was just what I needed to boost my confidence so I was feeling pretty damned good about myself now.

Battle Frog Normandy Jacks

I was still running hard and living large when a race official stopped me and asked me where I came from. I was thrown off to say the least. I’d been feeling so good about my performance over the last few obstacles I’d taken a wrong turn and lost the trail. Fortunately, I wasn’t too far off and was back on track within a couple of minutes. Lesson learned. Pay close attention to the trail markers no matter how confident you’re feeling. When the race official pointed me back toward the course, I caught my first glimpse of the Delta Ladder. From a distance, it didn’t look any different than similar structures I’d climbed at other races. Up close, it was a towering behemoth of intimidation. What made both ascending and descending the Delta Ladder difficult was that it was made with extremely thick lumber. The dimensions of each board were so large; I had difficulty getting my hands around them to get a firm grip. This was in addition to the ever-present mud on the wood. So rather than grabbing tightly around each board it’s more accurate to say I pushed myself up using the top side of each one which worked though it felt much less secure. I never thought I suffered from acrophobia, but like most people I’m not a big fan of heights. That said, being at the peak of this thing was scary. Lest anyone think my fears were in any way irrational, the guy climbing down the back side next to me slipped and fell part of the way down giving everyone in the immediate vicinity a heart attack. He was fine, but that fall could’ve been much worse.

Battle Frog Delta Ladder

Shortly after recovering from the Delta Ladder scare, I came up on the Cargo Bridge which I’d seen earlier when we arrived at the venue. This one was a pile of fun and my favorite of the day. I climbed up and across the cargo nets quickly with no problems at all. There was a slight backup waiting to climb back down the other side, so I took a moment to admire the view and check out the start/finish area in the distance. Climbing down from the Cargo Bridge seemed to catch a lot of people off guard. The backside cargo net seemed much looser than that of the front side so there was much more motion to deal with while descending. At one point, the net shifted far enough to one side causing me to nearly get tangled up.

High Atop the Battle Frog Container Cargo Bridge

Following the Cargo Bridge came a decent stretch of running which led me to the obstacle I’d been dreading. The infamous Platinum Rig. My earlier success with the rope climb gave me a glimmer of hope I might surprise myself again, but I was too far gone by then. I fell from the Rig pretty quickly and headed straight for the burpee area. As much as I wanted to give it another shot I know my limits and didn’t want to start a backup of people waiting for their turn. Come Hell or high water, I will be better prepared for this type of upper body test by my next race. That’s a promise.

Inside the First Battle Frog Platinum Rig

After a swim across a cold muddy lake, I came to Tip of the Spear. This was another highlight of the race for me. Because I was unsuccessful with the Platinum Rig only minutes before, I didn’t think I could do much with the ropes here either. I managed to surprise myself again and moved from end to end across the obstacle successfully. I did slip off the last wall before I could ring the bell, so I headed off to the burpee area once more. Though, given how far I made it across Tip of the Spear, I’m calling it another victory.

Battle Frog Tip of the Spear

Exhaustion was really setting in now. Mounds of Grounds posed no difficulty though I was disappointed in the lack of actual coffee. I was led to believe this obstacle did have actual coffee grounds on it and as a result, smelled wonderful. Perhaps someone was pulling my leg. Oh well.

Next came the twelve-foot rope wall. Not another rope. I was too wrecked to deal with any more ropes!  I tried to put that negative thought out of my mind and grabbed hold. The one by four going across the wall about half way up worked nicely as a foothold. Unfortunately, it was a few inches too low to be of any more use. Given my height, I still couldn’t reach the top of the wall without jumping up to grab the top. Just like every other rope on the course, this one was extremely wet and slick with layers of mud. I made my six-inch leap of faith toward the heavens with one hand while hanging onto the rope for dear life with the other.  As fast as my feet left the wall, I slid down the rope one handed and hit the ground. This was the first point in the race where I felt I probably could’ve completed the obstacle under better conditions (i.e., less mud), but decided to press on in the interest of not seriously injuring myself.

Falling From The Battle Frog Rope Wall

I’ll say just one thing about swimming upstream in a river with strangers around. Don’t yell “Snake!”. That’s not cool. A guy behind me in the water did this to mess with his buddy and thought it was hilarious. Venomous reptiles are an obstacle I didn’t sign up for.

Swimming Up The Tallapoosa River at Battle Frog

My last big challenge of the day was 60 Degrees. The amount of mud on the wide metal bars definitely had me considering skipping this one altogether for safety reasons, but I couldn’t in good conscience pass an obstacle I’d never tried before regardless of how tired or how close to the finish line I was. I made it to the top slipping and fighting gravity all the way. While gripping the highest bar, I felt myself about to fall and it was time for a quick decision. It was either fall forward on the other side and likely land on my head or fall back the way I came and drop down standing on my feet. I chose the latter and decided 60 Degrees was another obstacle I could likely overcome with less mud and exhaustion. I’m not competing against anyone but myself when I run OCR, so better to be safe than sorry. I actually found out today that my friend broke his rib on 60 Degrees. Yeah, I’m thinking I made the right choice.

With the finish line in sight, I saw the second Platinum Rig. I was more exhausted now than I had been when I encountered the first one and already had my share of falling off of things for the day.  I’d also made it over ramp walls earlier in the course. So, I ran right by these last two obstacles and didn’t think twice about it. I’d done my best from start to finish at BattleFrog. Considering my physical abilities, my limitations, the sometimes extreme environmental factors in play, and the unexpected obstacles I’d already overcome, I truly felt that I’d earned my medal, my t-shirt, and my beer and that I would attack those upper body monsters with a vengeance next time. BattleFrog was the most challenging and most rewarding OCR I’ve taken part in thus far. They put on an intense event and they do it wonderfully. I am already looking forward to running it again.

Battle Frog Finish Line

GoPro Wrist Housing First Impressions

While activities like skiing, surfing, kayaking, and even motorsports can serve as incredible subject matter for the GoPro photographer, I could never wrap my head around using one for OCR. I’ve always taken note of the relatively large number of people wearing GoPro cameras on their heads or strapped to their chests during races, but I was certain any footage they managed to capture would be more likely to induce motion sickness rather than enthusiastic repeat viewings. (I’ve watched enough of them posted on YouTube to know this is definitely possible if not always the case.) Since I started writing for ORM, I found myself in need of a way to better capture my race experience for readers. As wonderfully talented as the professional race photographers are, waiting a few days for their images to be available isn’t always  conducive to a time-sensitive piece and rifling through stock photography for hours on end to find an applicable shot is quite a time suck and incredibly tedious to put it mildly. To that end, I put forth the effort to learn more about the GoPro and get a much better understanding of what it could do.

First, let’s dispense with dedicating more ink to the GoPro camera itself. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an awesome tool and a fun “big kid toy” for us techno gadget fans, but an absolutely staggering amount of information is readily available about it online and in print already. I probably don’t have much to add that hasn’t been documented elsewhere many times over. What I want to focus on is the wrist housing I used with it. As a side note, many online reviews begin with extremely detailed descriptions of the packaging and presentation or even video of unboxing the subject widget. I refuse to subject you to that. In my opinion, in the vast majority of cases, this doesn’t add anything useful to a review of the widget itself. The GoPro wrist housing as well as the standard accessory back doors and wrist strap adapter are inside the clamshell. Moving on.

GoPro Wrist Housing Image from GoPro.com

 

(GoPro Wrist Housing image courtesy of GoPro.com)

As I mentioned previously, I’ve seen obstacle racers use head mounts and chest mounts a lot at events in the past, but until I researched GoPro accessories in detail, I had no idea this thing existed. After stumbling upon it, my immediate response was that it definitely could be a potential alternate solution for capturing imagery while running an obstacle race without having to wear anything on my chest or head. Keep in mind I want to grab mid-race photos, not necessarily video, so that first person perspective the more common body mounts offer isn’t a requirement. Conversely, I don’t think those body mounts would be useful for this specific purpose. I can’t imagine running an obstacle race with anything strapped to my head or my chest anyhow. For me personally, either would be quite a distraction when my focus is required to succeed and more importantly to remain safe.

Right out of the gate I felt I spent too much time finding exactly where to separate the Velcro and was terribly embarrassed for myself. As it turns out, the connection point for which I was looking was somewhat masked by the rubber retention ring that holds the camera in place when the wrist housing is worn.

GoPro Wrist Mount Velcro Connection Point

(GoPro Wrist Housing Velcro connection point is directly adjacent to the retention ring)

Despite figuring it out on my own, I’ll admit I turned toward the all-knowing Internet just to confirm I’d done it right. I am a technical writer by trade and I appreciate good, concise instructions or even a simple infographic that gets the job done. Unfortunately, this accessory didn’t have any included material which I found sufficient. I think it’s worth noting that I believe there are companies that exist who limit the distribution of instructional content with their physical products to drive website traffic. In this case, the strategy is sound. GoPro’s support site, as well as their tutorial-specific YouTube channel, provide a wealth of extremely useful instructional content for all their products. Their documentation and video offerings are some of the best I’ve seen in the industry. While I didn’t need to reference any additional instructions, it took me a few seconds to figure out the latch for the camera housing as well. It’s quite obvious the first step is to slide the release button to unlock the housing thanks the arrow icon emblazoned upon it, however, the next step isn’t as clear. This wrist housing has what can only be described as a latch within a latch in that not one but two actions must be performed after you slide the release. While holding the release button in the unlocked position, you lift the hinge side of the latch on the front of the camera. That releases the opposite edge of the latch which unhooks it from the back door of the camera. The latch configuration holds the GoPro securely within the plastic housing, however operating the mechanism seemed somewhat counter-intuitive given the operation of similar closures I’ve encountered.

GoPro Wrist Housing Latch Opening

(GoPro Wrist Housing latch operation)

When I first had the wrist housing on my forearm, I was surprised by the weight and bulkiness of it. It felt somewhat awkward initially. Also, the hinged clip that connects the camera housing to the retention ring came undone until I resecured the Velcro strap to sit much tighter. (The wrist strap adapter that came with the wrist housing also connects the retention ring to the Velcro and can be used in place of the clip, but seems better suited to securing the mount when wearing heavier sleeves. I couldn’t find any reason to use the adapter in place of the clip) I was having my doubts on whether or not this was going to work for me. Fortunately, it was short lived. Once I began running, the clip stayed in place and I was too focused on using the GoPro to worry about the weight and virtually forgot about it. I discovered the retention ring actually serves a dual purpose. You can unclip the camera housing, rotate the camera housing away from your wrist, and view the display screen when using the GoPro. This feature is cool if you’re capturing pre or post race footage while wearing the wrist housing, but pretty worthless mid-run. After trying this, I did feel the need to tighten the Velcro again.

GoPro Wrist Housing Unlatched and Rotated for Screen Access

(GoPro Wrist Housing unhooked and rotated for screen access)

Once in motion, I felt the need to steady the camera with my opposite hand to avoid bouncy video and/or blurry photographs. Since I plan on capturing still images from my video footage in post production, this approach worked fine. I only used my support hand for a few seconds at a time to ensure a crisp shot. It took 27 minutes of running hard before I felt the wrist housing slipping slightly and felt the need to secure the Velcro again. Again, this was fine with me. I have no illusions about an accessory like this staying perfectly in place for hours on end when rough motion, mud, and sweat are constant factors. I appreciate quality gear, but I keep my expectations realistic.

GoPro Wrist Housing In Use

(GoPro Wrist Housing + FitBit + Huskies = The OCR PowerGlove!)

Overall, this is a cool alternative to other body mounted GoPro housing options if you plan on taking photos during an obstacle race and would recommend it for that purpose. It could also be useful for taking short video clips as well if you can accept hitting the pause button on your race for a moment to capture the footage. GoPro probably didn’t have OCR in mind when they designed this particular mount, though. I think it’s best applications would be water sports which lend themselves to much smoother motion, but it’s definitely an accessory to consider if wearing a chest or head mount doesn’t appeal to you; it just takes a few minutes of acclimation and a little getting used to.