Conquer The Gauntlet – Continuum

Brand new this year Conquer The Gauntlet has added a multi-lap competitive race format to their events that they call the CONTINUUM.  Being a fan of the difficulty of CTG courses and always looking to push myself further I decided to sign up for this Suffer-Fest when CTG came through my home state of Iowa.  If you’ve never done CTG before they are known for their tough obstacles consisting of a lot of hanging grip obstacles, including their 98% failure rated Pegatron.  One lap of this 4-mile 25 obstacle course is hard enough so I knew doing multiple laps was going to be intense.

What is the Continuum?

CTG has always been a “Bands Not Burpees” race series, requiring 100% obstacle completion to be considered for a podium or ranking for OCRWC.  The Continuum, however, is what I will call a “Bands AND Burpees” race, requiring competitors to complete all but the 4 hardest obstacles to be considered for the podium.  The 4 obstacles you could fail are all major hanging grip obstacles; Pegatron, Stairway to Heaven, Tarzan Swing and Cliffhanger.  If you failed any of these you could do 15 Atlas burpees AND 15 Thrusters (12 for Women), each using a 20lb medicine ball for the weight.

CTG_Continuum_Penalty

The Race

As a continuum competitor, we started with the Elite wave first thing in the morning (you are running the Elite race as well as Continuum). The morning had brought a small amount of rain to the course softening up the ground and slicking down some of the obstacles.  There was a good half-mile run up to the first obstacle giving people time to space out a bit, though there were some bottlenecks at the 2 creek crossings.  Feelings were riding high through the first obstacles as everyone was flying through the pole traverse, slip wall and A-frame cargo.  At a mile and a half, the first Burpeeable obstacle came up, The Tarzan swing. A rig of alternating handholds (including vertical pipes, ropes, rings, and a steering wheel?!) attached to ropes.  Most were quickly through this. The real struggles didn’t begin until after mile 3, the last mile, “The Gauntlet”.  It started with Stairway to heaven which had been made slick by the morning rain, then a short run to Z-beam which gave your arms a break while making sure your core was nice and “warmed up” for the punishing, soul-crushing Pegatron which is a total upper body killer whether it takes you 1 try or 10.

CTG_Continuum_Walls

A quick run through a tube and crawl under some wire brought you to the Walls of Furry usually 5 Eight-foot walls back to back but it was only 3 walls this year, at first I was upset that the number was reduced but by my final lap I was just fine with it.  Then straight to the Cliffhanger monkey bars and a splash through Torpedo and lap 1 was over.

Lap 2

This is where the real race began. I shouted my Bib number to the volunteer at the finish line to record my lap time (there were no timing chips) and a quick stop at the pit area for continuum racers to change out my water bottle and I was off on lap 2.  The pit area was just a 6×6 canopy where racers could put coolers or bags, etc with gear for their multiple laps.

After completing lap 1 my spirits were high though I knew I had spent too much time at Pegatron and was behind where I wanted to be.  I knew that speed was necessary but endurance was going to be the key factor and I was confident in my endurance.  Lap 2 went amazing up until just before the final brutal Mile.  At Smooth Criminal on lap 1, I had smashed my shin on the corner of the platform on the final jump opening up a nice cut and giant goose egg bruise.  So on lap 2, I chose a different lane only to do the same thing to the same spot on my shin opening another big scrape and swelling my entire lower shin. Thankfully I was able to hold on with one arm and make it to the bell.

CTG_Continuum_Criminal

This was the first time I walked; I didn’t want to walk at all coming into the race but this was not fun.  The heavy carry was shortly after this which gave me a good excuse to slow down and let the Tylenol I took pre-race ease the pain.  I was then able to pick it up and run to Stairway to Heaven which was still slick and I fell on the last step twice.  It was time to set pride aside and do some burpees and thrusters.  (I have to say I’ll take 30 normal burpees over 15 atlas burpees and 15 med ball thrusters any day.  The added 20 lbs aren’t much at first but it starts to drag you down and works both your legs and your upper body far more than the normal spartan penalty.)  Pegatron only got 1 good effort out of me before I turned to the burpees to save time and precious grip strength.  Thankfully Cliffhanger was still a quick 1 try go for me and lap 2 was in the books a bit faster than lap 1.

CTG_Continuum_Barrells

Lap 3

Lap 3 began the same as lap 2 screaming “69” (my Bib, and favorite number), grabbing a new water bottle and some more Gu and running off feeling pretty decent.  It was lap 3 that things started getting difficult.  The Tarzan Swing was still a quick 1 try pass, but it was the mandatory obstacles that became the problem.  Penalties on Stairway and Pegatron were foregone conclusions but More Cowbell (rope climb) could not be bypassed.  After so many people had gone through, the ropes were covered in mud and a big jump was required to get high enough to have a decent grip on the rope.  Lap 3 ended with multiple falls on Cliffhanger, an obstacle I thought I would never fail.

CTG_Continuum_Cliffhanger

Lap 4

After my failure on cliffhanger, I didn’t feel great but exchanged my water got more Gu and started Lap 4 alone.  On all the other laps I was either being passed by elites or passing open runners, now the trails were silent save for my thoughts (and random weird songs I’d sing).  The mandatory obstacles became more difficult.  Belly of the Beast an underside cargo net climb was exhausting.  Great Wall of America a 12-foot wall with no ropes and only the support braces and 2x4s at 4 and 8ft was a scary contortion act of sheer will power to get over. Sitting atop the wall I knew this would be my final lap.

CTG_Continuum_Belly

On the last mile, I caught up to the final wave of the day.  It was so nice to be with people again giving and getting encouragement.  Though I knew I would be doing many burpees my spirits were lifted and my resolve strengthened.  I hit the water on Stairway, burpees. I dropped instantly on Pegatron, burpees. Cliffhanger I wanted it so bad but my grip was gone burpees.  I jogged into the pit “69!” looked at my watch 4:48.  The rules for Continuum state that you have 5 hours to start your last lap.  I talked to the volunteer keeping the times and was told I was in 3rd place but there was one other person on their 4th lap.  I exchanged my water one last time got more Gu and waited to see if 4th place was going to make it in the next 12 minutes and challenge me to one more lap.  Thankfully that did not happen.

CTG_Continuum_Podium

All the Extras

In addition to the extra laps you get to run, competitors received a nice big Continuum medal and a wrist band.  You also got a giant bib vest similar to what you get at a Toughest Mudder event except that these were made out of normal paper bib material.  I only saw two people actually wearing them on course, everyone else chose instead to go with the far less cumbersome Sharpie on the skin style.

CTG_Continuum_Stairway_Bib

Room for Improvement

The one issue I found most disappointing, was the lack of professional photographers.  On course I only noticed two people shooting photos.  Both of which were not using SLR cameras and seemed to just be volunteers.  While going through the race days photos the lack of pro photogs was apparent in the quality.  The volunteer at Smooth Criminal while not a professional photographer was one of the most enthusiastic and positive volunteers I’ve ever encountered so kudos to him.  Unfortunately, none of the shots he was taking were uploaded to the race day picture page.  ☹

I think my only critique of the continuum race itself would be a need for better prize money for competitors.  The top male and top female each get a custom wooden plaque (which is nice) and $100, which is less than the cost of entry for the continuum (unless you sign up a year in advance) Though this hasn’t really been a problem yet as every winner in the 3 races so far has been a CTG Pro Team member, and has thus raced for free.  I do think more people would be willing to compete if they at least got a free race out of winning.  It would be nice for 2nd and 3rd place to receive some type of award, a special plaque or medal, or even just some CTG swag.

Final Thoughts

I’m very glad to see another company offering a multi-lap event that is competitive, as there are so few out there, we really need more of this.  Would I do this race again? Hell yes, I’d do it again. Taking the challenge of a regular Conquer the Gauntlet course and multiplying by 4 was a great challenge.  If you like to do Spartan Beasts but want some more damn obstacles, here you go.  One of my favorite parts of this race, which make it unique, was the mandatory obstacles which became harder and harder each time and had the potential to stop your race.  But my favorite thing was being able to run with members of my team.  As a competitive runner, I don’t get to see my team that often on course and doing multiple laps brought the opportunity to give and receive encouragement to/from all my open wave team members.  Thank you.

CTG_Continuum_Smile

Photos Courtesy of: Conquer the Gauntlet and Suzanne Peer

Gladiator Assault Challenge 2019

GAC-group

Local Charm

Gladiator Assault Challenge is a local mud run put on every year outside of Ames, Iowa.  For being a small, local race, it has quite a large attendance number with heats of runners going off every 20 minutes from 8 am till noon for 2 days.  There was a DJ pumping out tunes and getting people hyped and ready for the race. Being a local race, some frills were left out such as bibs, and timing chips. (which I agree would be completely unnecessary for this race). But what it lacked it made up for with all the benefits of local-race charm. The parking and bag check was free, the atmosphere was friendly and down to earth, and the volunteers/staff while few and far between were ultra-positive and dedicated to making sure everyone was having a good time.  You were even greeted with a free beer right in the finish chute, and brand new this year they hired photographers for free race photos. And the winners were given bad-ass handmade wooden swords as trophies.

GAC-Prize

No one told me that this race was on a ski hill!

This is the Midwest we don’t have mountains we have gentle rolling hills… except sometimes we have big steep hills and we put up little chair lifts and ski down them, and sometimes when there isn’t any snow we set up obstacles on those hills and run ‘em.  I had no idea till I showed up what exactly my quads and calves were in for, over 1K ft of elevation gain on very steep slopes, not including the 150 ft vertical climb from the spectator area to the start line at the top of the chair lift.  For some perspective, a typical Midwest race has around 200 ft of vert.

GAC-Start

The Course

The race offered two race distances a 5K or 10K option.  According to my GPS, the 5K was actually 2.5 miles and the 10K was only 5 miles, I’m not sure but from looking at previous course videos it seemed that a portion of the course that involved running through the creek may have been cut due to weather-related issues.  Most of the obstacles (20) were on the 5K course leaving more running on the full gladiator course, going up and down steep hills.

GAC-Start-Hill

Obstacles

The number one obstacle at Gladiator Assault Challenge 2019 was mud, mud and more mud, combined with the steep slopes this made for some precarious running and some really fun slipping and sliding down the hills.

GAC-Fall

Most of the obstacles were terrain based with some big climbs assisted by a rope or the “Plinko” obstacle going down a precipitous descent where you bounced from one small tree to another to keep you from tumbling down the hill.  Thankfully the heavy carry was actually on flat ground, while the barbed wire crawl was on one of the nasty hills (have I mentioned how steep the hills were yet?)

GAC-Crawl

95% of all the obstacles could be completed by everyone running making this a very family friendly event, and there were plenty of families in attendance.  My favorite obstacle had to be the cage crawl which got you super muddy just before your final push to the finish line.

GAC-fence

I would like to see some obstacle improvement though.  Of the 30 obstacles, there was only 1 grip obstacle which had you traverse a set of monkey bars while your lower half was submerged in water.

GAC-Monkey

While the water provided some resistance and slowed movement it also provided buoyancy making the traverse easier.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed this race and I would not hesitate to do it again. Everyone I talked to was having a great time, from the OCR vets to the first-time mud runners. Gladiator Assault Challenge has been adding new obstacles every year and seems dedicated to putting on a quality event.  Two thumbs up!

GAC-Thumbs

(I know, those aren’t thumbs)

 

Photos Courtesy of Justin Smith and DE Hodges Photography

Hammer Race Fall 2018 – Hammers and Hills and Tires, Oh My!

Hammer_Race_Fall_2018_Hammer_Kilt

For those of you who don’t know Hammer Race is a beloved local Minnesota 10k OCR that requires each runner to carry an 8lb or heavier sledge hammer through some of the Midwest’s toughest terrain.  If you know me you know that I’m a rig guy, I love monkey bars and rope climbs.  Bucket carries and Atlas stones are my worst enemies, so it took some convincing to get me to this race where 90% of all the obstacles were strength based but I saw it as an opportunity to work on a weakness and have some fun.  After all according to the Hammer Race finisher shirt “Weakness is a Choice” but not a choice I nor any other Hammer racer would make.

 

Hammer_Race_Fall_2018_T-Shirt

 

So you think the Midwest is flat?

Nope!  We may not have mountains but we do have some pretty amazing hills.  Over the 10K course, my GPS recorded 1,400 ft of vertical gain and descent with a maximum grade of 77%, and that crazy steepness was seen climbing, descending and even traversing across for one section.

A Sufferfest

The race started with a short quarter mile run up to a tire flip with various sized tractor tires all filled with water from the previous day’s rain. 10 flips later it was another short quarter mile to another heavy flip.  This time it was 200+ lb railroad ties for two flips.  2 brutal obstacles within the first half mile of the race, this was going to be a sufferfest.  A quarter mile later and we were in the woods facing the first steep hill 150 ft up and then right back down, hammer in hand.

Hammer_Race_Fall_2018_Tire_Carry

The obstacles became a blur in my mind, each one coming right after I thought I had recovered my strength from the last obstacle or brutal hill.  There were many “Bangers” with a cut piece of railroad tie or sometimes a tire you had to smack with your hammer down and back a certain distance.  Your hammer was used on almost all obstacles either as a smashing tool or handle to drag or carry some heavy object.

Hammer_Race_Fall_2018_Carry

For the elite “Burden Carry” you had to carry a piece of railroad tie as well as your hammer up and down a hill. The suffering was intense and the last half of the course while not as obstacle dense was loaded with constant ups and downs on steep ravines.  The course ended with the only two non-strength or crawl based obstacles.  A traverse wall with hammer holds and a final wall without your hammer

Hammer_Race_Fall_2018_Traverse

Having fun through the suffering

Knowing that this race was going to be a test of my physical strength and mental fortitude I knew I needed to do something that would add some fun to the suffering.  I decided to put on my best warrior gear and wear a kilt because what is more fitting to wear while running through the woods with a giant hammer than a badass kilt?  After a bit of research I found a “running kilt” by JWalking Designs that was made of recycled plastic bottles (basically your typical stretchy performance polyester) It was super lightweight and didn’t slow me down in the least, while attracting plenty of compliments and imbuing me with the strength of my Scottish ancestors, which was greatly needed for the tasks at hand.

Hammer_Race_Fall_2018_Yoda

Other people were also having fun with this brutal race like this force-wielding gentleman who decided to carry his Jedi master through the course with him.

Conclusion

This was by far the hardest race I have ever done.  It pushed my physical and mental fortitude to the limit.  If you want to improve your heavy carry skills/strength, or you are just a masochistic glutton for punishment, put this race on your calendar.  If you are looking to have fun or increase your manliness without sacrificing speed or comfort get yourself a kilt.

 

 

Photos courtesy of; Rick Aske, Justin Smith, David Razidlo
Kilt courtesy of JWalking Designs

Savage Race Chicago 2018 – Spreading the Gospel of OCR through Grit and Grip

 

 

Savage_Race_Chicago_2018_Fire_Jump

This is the third year Savage Race has held an event in the Chicago area and the third year at the Richardson Adventure Farm – the same site as the parking lot of Spartan’s Chicago races the past three years.  The festival area is small and simple and parking is a breeze; paying an extra $10 for the VIP parking will get you right next to the entrance but only 60 feet closer than the regular parking.

 

THE BEST START LINE IN OCR

Savage_Race_Chicago_2018_Matty_T

While OCRWC may claim to have the best finish line in OCR, Savage Race certainly has the best start line.  At the Savage start line there is no canned speech that you’ve heard a thousand times, or a stern drill sergeant-esque man yelling.  Instead, there is a wildly happy bearded man with the energy of a 5-year-old who just drank espresso.  His name is Matty-T and outside of Flava-Flav, he is by far the best hype man that I’ve ever experienced.  It started with crowd surfing, then some call and response chanting as Matty-T skipped and jumped amongst the crowd whipping us up into a frenzy of laughter and cheering, locking arms with fellow racers and creating comradery, eliminating any anxiety a racer might have by simply having fun.

 

Savage_Race_Chicago_2018_Barbwire

Flatout

The terrain is flat, like Nebraska flat.  According to my GPS there was a total of 356 feet of elevation gain and I’m going to say most of that was from climbing obstacles like Colossus and Davy Jones Locker.  Just because the terrain was flat did not mean it was easy.  Being on a farm the ground was very rutted and strewn with rocks just waiting to twist an ankle.

 

Savage_Race_Chicago_2018_Colosus

 

This first mile was fairly easy with just 3 obstacles, letting the pack of fresh racers spread out and avoid jams.  The one element that was missing from this race was mud.  Savage made up for this lack of mud by getting you wet early and often with multiple mandatory immersion obstacles.

 

Savage_Race_Chicago_2018_Barbwire_Justin

 

The next few miles had a few strength obstacles including a cinder block pull followed directly by the new “peddle to the medal,” which is a tire drag powered by spinning a giant spool with your legs.  One thing I liked about Savage Race is none of their strength obstacles are overly heavy, both men and women use the same weights, and there was only one heavy carry.

Savage_Race_Chicago_2018_Block_Party

 

A Gauntlet of Grip

The final 2 miles were a gauntlet of grip-destroying obstacles starting with “Kiss my walls,” a wall traverse using small climbing holds, exhausting your finger strength. Not 150 meters away it was right into Wheel World which had me spinning.

Savage_Race_Chicago_2018_Wheel_World

 

Then came the Rig, then shortly after that Twirly Bird and another traverse–this time across rope ladders and cargo nets and then the behemoth that is Sawtooth. Finishing the gauntlet of grip was the new “Holy Sheet” a rig across a saggy piece of cloth then onto ball grip climbing holds.

 

Savage_Race_Chicago_2018_Sawtooth

 

For the Pro wave I thought the setup of the obstacles made for a good competition, but for the open waves who make up the majority of racers I wish that the grip obstacles had been spaced out more throughout the course.

 

Savage_Race_Chicago_2018_Marcia

 

I was very fortunate this race to have been able to run in the Pro-Wave at the beginning of the day amongst some of the greats in this sport.  I was even more grateful to run in the open wave midday with my sister who had never run a race of any kind in her life.  After spending the last 3 years running competitively it was refreshing to experience the fun of the open waves first hand and watch someone I love overcome fear, push through pain, and laugh while playing in the mud. After we jumped over the fire, crossed the finish line and hugged, my sister turned to me and asked if I would run with her again next year.  A convert to the gospel of OCR was made. Yes, Marcia, I’ll run with you again, maybe even sooner than next year.

Frontline OCR – The 2nd Wave Review

Frontline_OCR_Weaver2

Frontline OCR – The 2nd Wave

The 2nd iteration of Frontline OCR took place on the damp hills of the Byron Motorsports Park, in Byron Illinois.  The night before had brought rain and there were a few small showers which cleared just before the first wave started, making for some excellent muddy racing conditions.

A different kind of race

Frontline_OCR_Irish_Table

Frontline OCR is a unique event with two competitive race types, an open class, and a special wave just for first responders and military personnel.  The first competitive wave of athletes vying for a spot on the podium and prize money all had to wear a 15 pound weighted vest, in simulation of the body armor and gear that first responders and military personnel must wear and carry when performing their duties.  In addition the obstacles were mandatory completion, you could try as many times as you wanted but if you give up you give up your vest and must complete Twenty Two 9-1-1’s (the Frontline’s version of a burpee) for each obstacle failure.  If you managed to complete the course with your vest you got to keep it, an amazing value.  Not many people were able to complete the entire course with the vest though.  Only 3 of the 13 women who started the race were able to keep their vest. I’m not sure on the men but I would guess only half completed the race with their vest.

 

Frontline_OCR_Blitzkrieg

The top two male and female special forces finishers had to put on a firefighter’s suit and compete head to head in “The Blitzkrieg” a series of timed challenges to determine the overall winner.

The 2nd competitive wave was the endurance class – this is the wave I ran in.  This wave was unlimited laps of the 6 mile, 33 obstacle, course with mandatory obstacle completion. (Thank god we didn’t have to wear a weight vest.) There was a strict time limit though.  You had to FINISH your final lap by 2 PM or you would be disqualified.  That’s right, there wasn’t a cut off for when you could start your final lap just for when you had to finish which means you needed to be fast and be able to know if you could make one more lap in time without being DQ’d.

 

Frontline_OCR_Bagpipes

 

The course was set up at a small motorsports park meaning lots of dirt hills up and down.  It also meant there was a lot packed into a small space.  The small space allowed you to be able to hear all of Coach Pain’s starting line speeches and the music of the bagpipe color guard band which was playing at the festival area.  Running through the damp and slightly misty woods with the sounds of bagpipes in the background brought an ethereal warrior sense into my blood and helped to propel me over the obstacles.

 

Frontline_OCR_Hammer

Obstacles

The obstacles were a wonderful mix of OCR classics. Multiple heavy carries from a bucket carry, tire drag, dragging an Atlas stone through mud and water, an ammo can carry over moguls, and finally, a sandbag carry made from old fire hoses.  There was plenty of mud, with mucky watery trenches, crossing through water which was neck deep at times and running through creek beds, some dry and some not so dry.

The best obstacles though were the big ones, and there were a few. What really made this possible and made this event unique and special was that multiple local OCR teams donated obstacles to the race.  Strong as Oak brought out a hang board setup called “A Bridge too far” which for the Special Forces lane consisted of traversing across ascending and descending ledges with gaps in-between using only your hands.  FlatLiners brought an obstacle called Thermopylae- which was an inverted version of Spartan’s Olympus obstacle.  There was a Monkey Bar rig with two parallel lanes, you had to go down one lane, transfer to a set of rings then swing yourself over and up to the parallel set of bars where you had to descend and keep from touching the ground before ascending back up to ring the bell. And of course, there was the Frontline signature 20 ft warped wall.

Frontline_OCR_Warped_Wall2

 

Improvise Adapt Overcome

Frontline_OCR_Wall

Some of the obstacles proved to be too hard and caused some large backups, so in true military style, the course workers adapted the obstacles.  The first major change happened at the mud pit wall, a 10 ft wall set up in a mud pit.  On my first lap, the rope was straight (and covered in mud) and few people in vests made it over so they knotted the rope.  On my second lap, they had removed 2 boards from the wall so you could get a foothold.  When I had made it back to the monkey bar rig on my 2nd lap there was still a line of Special Forces competitors not willing to give up their vests, trying their best to make it across the setup which had been reduced to one lane and a transfer to the 2nd set to ring the bell.

Frontline_OCR_Teamwork

After completing my 2nd lap my heart wanted to continue but my Achilles tendon did not.  There were other athletes who came in behind me who wanted to try for a third lap but knew they wouldn’t make the 2 pm cut off so they called it a day and kept their band.  From talking with my fellow competitors it seemed that they would have liked a last lap start time cut off more than finish time cut off.  One runner who shall remain nameless had already lost his band (on his first lap) and was already disqualified but told not to start a 3rd lap, which he was not happy about, even though the final wave hadn’t left yet and he was already DQ’d.

Frontline_OCR_Bucket

A mix of “Local” feel with “Big Time” quality

Frontline is a small company bolstered by Ed Leon’s love of OCR and the Midwest OCR community.  Being that this is only the 2nd race they were hit by some of the pitfalls of a small local race.  There were very few volunteers but this didn’t bother me as I know how to pour water into a cup and most of the unmanned obstacles were very self-explanatory.  The problems came with only having one or two lanes at obstacles.  Some of the harder obstacles had backups from the Special Forces wave with nobody wanting to give up their vest or band.

As this race grows, which I’m sure it will, I expect more lanes on obstacles will be added.  The only other negative small-time race problem that happened was a lack of showers/hoses, there were only 2 which made for super long wait times (I ended up just opting to stay dirty). What it lacked with “local” race problems it made up for with local race charm.  After you were done racing you could get a toasted coconut porter or any number of other local craft beers from Hairy Cow Brewery. They were also serving up real BBQ and sampling locally roasted coffee.  They even had some tasty vegetarian options for food.

In conclusion, I had a great time.  Tons of variety in obstacles, great atmosphere, great terrain.  The people who put on this event are passionate about OCR and continuing to improve.  I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again or recommend it to anyone.  Totally awesome race!

 

All Photos courtesy of Conquest Photos

 

Frozen Fun on The Local Level: Beat The Bitter 5K

A Frozen Festival

North Liberty’s 3rd annual Beat the Bitter 5k-ish Obstacle Run took place on the frozen tundra of Penn Meadows Park.  200 people gathered to take on the course which was put together by the North Liberty Betterment Group as part of a week-long winter games festival, which included curling, outdoor ice skating, snowmen building contests, ice carving and more.  Free coffee and hot chocolate were provided to keep runners and spectators warm before and after the race.Beat_The_Bitter_Winners

The Course

The temperature was right around 30 degrees at the start of the race providing some freezing cold air in the lungs without too much bitter cold on the face.  The course was set up with racers running around the perimeter of the city park, doing 3 laps.  Obstacles were to be run on the first and third laps and no obstacles on the second lap, so as to avoid any bottlenecks at obstacles for competitive runners.  With 9 obstacles on each of the first and third laps, the race felt obstacle dense.  When you finished one obstacle you could see the next one coming up in front of you.  With a total of 18 obstacles, you got more than you would on a tough mudder 5k.  The obstacles weren’t as hard or as big as a tough mudder but for the $20 entry fee, you definitely got your money’s worth.Beat_The_Bitter_Tires

The course started with the polar potholes, a grid of shin-high 2x4s that you had to high step through, then moved onto a set of 3-foot walls, and quickly into a short crawl through a rather large irrigation tube.  The obstacles became more difficult at this point with a climb over a six-foot hay bale and under a low crawl then a series of strength obstacles.

Beat_The_Bitter_Heavy_Carry

The heavy carry I thought showed a lot of creativity on the part of the organizers, utilizing the resources they had.  You had to pick up a 40 lb large rubber parking stop and carry it down and back 100 meters.  They were decently heavy and slightly awkward to carry with them bouncing around in your arms or over your shoulder. Almost immediately after the carry was a tire flip followed by the “Everest Death Zone” a plywood A-frame you needed to climb over. Beat_The_Bitter_Everest

 

Not far off was the third strength obstacle in only 0.3 miles, the Iditarod pull.  A sled-pull made from kids snow sleds laden with sandbags that we had to pull like dogs.  After this gauntlet of muscle burners, my legs were on fire.  The final obstacle was a balance run on old light posts before running a 1-mile lap with no obstacles and then doing it all over again before finishing.

 

The Bling

Every Finisher received a customized Beat the Bitter medal and the top three men and women got winter headbands as well.Beat_The_Bitter_Bling

Race Local

For being a small event of 200 runners put on by a local community enrichment group in a small town in eastern Iowa, this race went beyond my expectations.  I am extremely happy to see small local events embracing obstacle course racing.  There are always a million and three different 5ks that this or that local charity put on but there is a growing number adding some obstacles and by doing so, adding more fun to the “fun run.”  I will definitely be coming back to do this race next year (and maybe learn how to curl).

 

Photos courtesy of Justin Smith and Beat the Bitter