Savage Race Dallas 2016: Is it too soon for this Battler?

After BattleFrog cancelled their weekend races (and after going through some serious grieving), I went in pursuit of a new favorite OCR series.  With Savage Race high on my bucket list, I snagged cheap airline tickets and registered for last Saturday’s Dallas event (Sept 10, 2016).  I have to admit, a lot of cheesy relationship rebound analogies were going through my head.  Would Savage Race be the one?  Was it too soon to move on?  Would I be thinking about BattleFrog while I was with Savage?!?  The intent of this article is to provide a recap of this race as well as to share my opinion – if Savage Race will become the new favorite series for the rebounding Battlers.

THE RACE
In the early morning hours, wind and rain whipped through the event area.  This rainstorm and the “cool” 60°F morning were quite the contrast to the 90°F sunny weather that had been the Dallas area norm.  Fortunately, the OCR gods were smiling on us, and the rain passed shortly before the 9am SavagePro (i.e. elite) wave start time.  Although the terrain was muddy, most of the obstacles were not overly slippery.

Savage-Dallas-Start-Line

The course was just shy of 6 miles and consisted of 26 obstacles. The terrain was mainly flat with small rolling hills.  Obstacles were sparse for the first 2 miles and were a variety of walls and mud pits.  With this being my first Savage Race, I appreciated “easing” into the agility-based obstacles that I knew were ahead.  At mile 3, the tides turned and many of Savage’s challenging obstacles made an appearance.  These obstacles were Sawtooth, Pole Cat, Kiss My Walls, Great Wall, and Wheel World (pictured in order below).  Although these obstacles slowed some of the elite runners down, none of these obstacles were a severe threat to claiming bands.  A bottleneck did form at Kiss My Walls as the footholds became muddy and slippery due to the earlier rain.  Additionally, Great Wall (an 8′ wall) was a challenge to several elite women since the use of kick-plates was not an option.

Savage-Dallas-Sawtooth

Savage-Dallas-Polecat

Savage-Dallas-Kiss-My-Walls

Savage-Dallas-Wheel-World

Mile 4’s obstacles gave a reprieve to the grip strength.  Davy Jones Locker and Shriveled Richard (an ice bath) gave this portion of the course a “Tough Mudder” feel.

Savage-Dallas-Davy-Jones

Teeter Tube marked the beginning of mile 5.  This obstacle was a significant challenge to many racers because the moisture from the earlier rain made the tube extremely slippery.  Even the most versed elite athletes had to inch their way up the tub at a painfully slow pace.

Savage-Dallas-Teeter-Tuber

The final mile had an influx of agility/grip obstacles and included Colossus, On the Fence, Tree Hugger, and the Savage Rig.  The Savage Rig consisted of rings, ropes, t-bars, nunchucks, and stirrup-type holds.  Although the rig didn’t appear to be a significant challenge to the elite racers, many of the open racers did seem to struggle.

Savage-Dallas-Colossus

Savage-Dallas-On-The-Fence

Savage-Dallas-Tree-Hugger

Savage-Dallas-Rig

Will Savage Race become the new favorite for the BattleFrog following?

As preface to my opinion on this question, here are the aspects of Savage Race that I loved.

  1. Fun and camaraderie was the resounding theme. The design of the obstacles, the starting line vibe, the general feeling throughout this race, and the awards ceremony were all about bringing the racers together and making sure they had fun.
  2. The course design was superb!  The distance of the course, the spacing of the obstacles, and creativity of the course layout were extremely well done.
  3. A+ on obstacle creativity!  Savage has done an excellent job in striking a balance of fun and challenging.  Additionally, by introducing new obstacles every year, they keep their races fresh and are progressing the sport of OCR.

Savage Race is a worthy contender as a new favorite for the BattleFrog following.  I think, however, that Savage will need to make a few changes to completely steal our hearts.

  1. Make several of their grip and agility obstacles more challenging:  For example, lengthening Wheel World, On the Fence, Tree Hugger, and the Savage Rig would make these obstacles more taxing without sacrificing the fun factor.  Elite-specific lanes could be added to these obstacles to keep them doable for the open wave.
  2. Add a second lap:  Anyone who has run elite in a BattleFrog event knows that the 2nd lap can be a total game changer as endurance and fatigue enter the mix.  Being tested on both endurance and speed is something that many elite racers seek.  Another option is for Savage to offer two event distances – a single lap or double lap (similar to Terrain Racing).
  3. Payouts to the master’s podium holders:  The master’s category (40+) comprises a significant number of athletes.  During this event in particular, 18% of the elite males that finished with their bands where in the master’s category.  Savage will need to include a payout as part of the podium awards to gain a loyal masters following.

BattleFrog Riverside Regional Championships

Last Saturday (August 13), BattleFrog hosted their West Coast Regional Championships at Lake Elsinore, CA (about 90 minutes from Los Angeles). The race ended up being hot, flat, and fast with some unique twists. The course was 8 km (~5 miles) with 25 obstacles. Since elites make 2 laps, their total course was 16 km (~10 miles) with 50 obstacles.

As the elite start time of 7:15 am approached, just over 100 athletes (masters included) took their places in the corral. Even at the early morning hours, the heat of the sun was intense and gave premonition to the day’s 102℉ high. Coach Pain welcomed the elites and reminded them with his signature heart-felt speech to “conduct their business”. With a resounding “Hooyah!”, the elites were off!

Battlefrog-Riverside-Start-Line

Battlefrog-Riverside-Elites-Start

The flat course made for a fast starting pace. However, the sandiness seemed to quickly sap energy. The first 3 km remained flat and was scattered with many of BattleFrog’s traditional obstacles (over/under/through, various walls and nets, wreck bag carry, and monkey bars). Kilometers 4 through 7 became more interesting with the introduction of the snake eater, which traversed the racers up and down a levy. The combination of the snake eater and the mud mounds did a good job in breaking up the flatness of the course. Notable in this portion was the wedge traverse. BattleFrog did away with a separate women’s elite lane, and both men and women traversed using rock climbing hand holds and widely spaced boards for feet. This increased difficulty, however, didn’t seem to give the elite women much trouble.

Battlefrog-Riverside-Snake-Eater

Battlefrog-Riverside-Wedge-Traverse

The last kilometer of the course was packed with 7 obstacles…many of which required grip strength. The last kilometer included 2 platinum rigs (not back to back), a rope climb, tip of the spear, and the 12’ rope wall. BattleFrog adopted a similar strategy in the layout of the greater San Jose course (the prior Saturday). Because of the heat and sand, these obstacles were not slippery. None the less, this portion of the course claimed many elite bands! The platinum rigs were not significantly different than prior races. Both platinum rigs were a combination of rings, ropes, nunchucks, traverse bars, and widely spaced rectangular monkey bars. Positioning the rigs at the end of the course among other heavy grip obstacles is likely what made them the most challenging.

Battlefrog-Riverside-Platinum-Rig-1

Battlefrog-Riverside-Platinum-Rig-1

The podium finishers were as follows:
• Elite Men: Ryan Atkins, Glen Racz, and Matt Kempson
• Elite Women: Lindsay (Webster) Atkins, Nicole Mericle, and KK Stewart Paul
• Elite Masters Men: LeEarl Rugland, Colin Sanders, and Mike King
• Elite Masters Women: Elvy LaPointe, Julie Werney, and Lisa Nondorf

A really fun twist to this event was the shaving of “the Beard” (Christopher Acord, BattleFrog’s Assistant Director of Race Ops). Christopher auctioned the shaving of his renowned beard to the highest bidder. Not only did the BattleFrog community see a shocking transformation of their beloved “Beard”, but also nearly $2,000 was raised and donated to Operation Enduring Warrior, The Navy Seal Museum, and St. Baldricks.

Battlefrog-Riverside-The-Beard

Overall, this Regional Championship was fast, fun, and hot! Many of the elites anticipated that this course was going to be more difficult. However, BattleFrog did do a good job designing a unique, challenging course.