Getting Savage In Chicago

The Savage Race made their way to The Richardson Adventure Farm near the Illinois/Wisconsin border on the weekend of July 28/29 for a two-day event. Saturday was their main race that most of us are used to while Sunday was reserved for their new Blitz short course format. The Chicago race is the furthest Northwest that Savage travels from their home base in Florida, so everyone living west of here may want to take note, and make plans to hit this race when it comes back around next year. The Chicago race offered 28 0bstacles over a 6.35-mile course with virtually no elevation change making it a very fast course. Something I always liked about Savage is that they bring some new obstacles to challenge you every year. This year was no different as a brand-new rig was introduced along with a new tire drag obstacle completed by peddling your feet on a spinning wheel thereby enabling the pulley attached to drag the tire towards you. While not that tough, it was something I’ve never seen in OCR and it was fun to do.

The first mile of the Savage course consisted mainly running with only a low crawl and a wall climb thrown in along the way. If you managed to work up a sweat already you were in luck as Shriveled Richard, a dunk in ice water under a wooded plank was next up followed immediately by a low crawl under a section of barrels. Savage added a set of vertical posts that needed to be climbed over in between each barrel this year as a new little twist. The second mile of the course included more running with another low crawl, inverted wall climb, and a set of vertical logs set at varying heights which needed traversed. All three obstacles were spaced evenly along this section of the route. After a quick drink at one of the many water stations racers crossed a road onto another section of the farm where a cement block drag waited along with the new Pedal for The Medal that I discussed above. The trail now led racers into a wooded section of the farm where Christmas Trees were grown for sale. Along this section Savage placed a 9-foot wall along with their slip wall which wasn’t slick at all. Also tucked into this section of the woods were the Big Cheese, which was a half dome shaped climb and Davy Jones locker which was like a jump off the high dive at a local pool.

The second half of the race led off with everyone’s favorite over water traverse, Wheel World. There is nothing like trying to make your way across those spinning wheels while trying to keep from falling in the water. Savage upped the difficulty on this by making athletes climb down an angled rope to complete the obstacle. A basic balance beam cross over water was next up followed up by a log carry. Two tough obstacles came up next in the form of Kiss My Walls, a sideways wall traverse where the top of the wall hung out farther than the bottom making gravity your enemy. To make matters worse Savage only provided small rock climbing holds for your hands and feet the whole way across. I usually have to restart on this obstacle a few times as my big feet and hands don’t like those rock climbing holds. Twirly Bird followed that up and proved once again to be the location where most elite racers lost their bands. This unique rig included alternating rings and ropes the whole way through and gets me every time! Mad Ladders, a traverse across a section of suspended cargo nets, was the last obstacle presented before racers crossed the road heading back to the original property.

A police escort helped athletes cross the intersection of the road which led to another barbed wire crawl, this served to get you nice and muddy for the next traverse over water. This traverse included suspended ropes, rings, and T shaped hangers along the way. One false move here and you would find yourself with a short swim to the other side. Battering Ram was the next new obstacle on the course and required racers to use their body momentum to slide a metal pipe down a long suspended beam where after a brief transition, the whole process had to be completed again on a second pipe. You really have to appreciate the innovative new obstacles that Savage brings to the table every year. With so many big named races just doing the same thing year after year this is a total breath of fresh air and makes OCR fun. Ok, I’ll now get off my soap box and continue with the race coverage.

Athletes now made their way back towards the festival area only to be greeted by the Teeter Tuber. Savage placed sections of tubing onto a fulcrum requiring athletes to shimmy up and through the tube. Just across the half way point the tube tips down causing a racer to quickly slide out the bottom. The initial climb through this thing always requires more effort than you would think as the inside is slick and the tube itself isn’t very wide. Do you like giant slip walls and huge water slides?  You’re in luck as Savage chose to place Colossus in this location. This obstacle has become the signature of Savage Race over the years and the huge water slide at the end is always a fan favorite. Sawtooth, another fan favorite was situated right after Colossus as this monkey bar crossing over water always tests the agility and grip strength of a racer. Racers were now heading down the home stretch, but Savage surprised everyone with another new rig. Holy Sheet, yes this rig started out by having an athlete use their hands and legs to cross a suspended bed sheet. This transitioned into a series of suspended balls which gave it a very American Ninja Warrior type feel. If you managed to get by this bad boy one only needed to climb over an A framed cargo net and jump over the obligatory fire pit as the finish line was located just after.

I applaud Savage for continually challenging athletes with new obstacles, although I would caution new Pro wave athletes to really be proficient on rigs before entering this wave. Savage brought their new Blitz short course race out on Sunday. I was not personally there for the Blitz, but after talking to a few racers afterwards the short course sounded very watered down. This might end up being a great race format for a new racer as it sounded like many of the tough obstacles were removed from this event. Savage has told me that the Blitz event will award age group medals from here on out, possibly as a way to increase attendance as this is the first year for the shorter version. One last note, I saw more photographers on this course than I’ve seen at any other. So if you’re a picture whore like me, you’ll definitely need to hit up a Savage Race so you can flood social media with all your epic race shots!

 

Dirt Runner’s Warrior Rush The End of an Era

Since 2011 Dirt Runner, located in Marseilles, Illinois has hosted many memorably significant events in OCR. Many of us in the Midwest ran our first Spartan Race here. Many of us caught the “Spartan Rash” one year when the course had its barbed wire crawl through a poison ivy patch.

One of the very last Battlefrog races was held here, along with many smaller events that Dirt Runner put on throughout the years, but not anymore. Dirt Runner has now joined King’s Domain in Ohio and The Battlegrounds in Missouri as permanent OCR locations that have closed their doors. Warrior Rush, held on July 14, was the last event ever held at this iconic location and even though registration numbers were low I just had to go. This location was always my “home” course and I’m going to miss racing there, so I just couldn’t pass on climbing up that hill made up of logs jutting out of the ground one last time.

Known for having some of the most physically demanding obstacles in the area DR’s Warrior Rush didn’t disappoint. The 3.6-mile course stayed in large part around the festival area, avoiding all the nasty ravines and steep crawls on along the back half of the property, which was totally alright with me. I’ve spent enough time over the years carrying sandbags up and down those steep slopes! Ok enough with me reminiscing and onto the event! The Warrior Rush event featured four different levels of competition to choose from. Elite and Open class which required just a single lap to be completed, along with a 6-hour and 24-hour division for those who enjoy the multiple lap option.

DR started off their last event with a brief trail run through what was once the kiddie course. Although the kiddie part ended very abruptly as DR turned one of their old kid obstacles into a super challenging rig consisting of hanging ropes and rings suspended from above at varying heights. Failure on this obstacle in the Elite heat meant 100 burpees, and this obstacle proved to thin out the herd rather quickly.  After completing this grip killing obstacle the next section of the course ran along a mowed path cut through the former parking area for larger events as this section of the property was now overgrown with prairie grass.

I’ll call this segment of the course “walls and carries” as many different sized walls were placed along this stretch separated by the different types of carries. These carries consisted of cement blocks, tires, logs, and buckets. High stepping through a set of car tires started athletes on their way out of the prairie grass and into the timber, but not before a series of incredibly tight low crawls through metal tubing. The rain from the previous night made this trek slick and I found getting up to speed to be very difficult. Racers got a small taste of the terrain change here as hills and cutbacks became the norm. A set of monkey bars were set up along this section of the course as were the rolling balance logs and a series of sternum checkers set at varying heights. A delta ladder and inverted wall were also nestled in along the trail as athletes now started to make their way back to the festival area.

 

A spear throw was the first obstacle that greeted athletes upon their return to the festival area. Following that up a short distance away was a rock climbing wall and a traverse across the very first Z wall, rumor has it that Spartan stole this twist on the wall traverse and used it as their own. At this point, DR played on a racers fears now as a combination of swimming and heights were required using the pond and cargo net on site.

Racers had to climb up a wooden ladder and then jump into the pond.  Then a short swim over to a floating dock needed to be completed before climbing onto a floating dock. After crossing over the dock it was back into the water for another short swim to a vertical cargo net suspended 25 feet over the pond suspended by a wire. If you had an issue with heights then this was not the obstacle for you.  Upon getting to the top I found that the net would wobble back and forth like crazy, and I found myself almost too frozen to continue as my fear of heights almost got the best of me. Once you negotiated the cargo net it was back into the drink for a short swim to the other side as a set of inverted walls and delta ladders awaited you upon getting back on dry land.

 

The last section of the course, located entirely inside the festival area, really took it out of you as all of the obstacles were virtually right next to one another. This obstacle gauntlet started off with a semi tire flip for distance. Once complete, an athlete then picked up that same tire for a farmers carry over the same distance. A stairway of tractor tires now needed to be climbed over as the first “stair” consisted of a single tire and the last consisted of four. A balance log over a moat could then be found immediately after dismounting the tires.

The weaver was presented to races next followed by another cargo net climb and a series of over-unders made out of timber. Another set of high knees was again required as rows of car tires were now laid down on the path to DR’s version of Tip of the Spear. The setup for this fan favorite consisted of three sections separated by a set of overhead pipe traverses.

The first section required an athlete to cross using only rock climbing holds, whiles the second and third consisted of suspended ropes. Atlas Stone carries took center stage as the next obstacle in the gauntlet followed up by a moat crossing and low crawl. No trip to DR would be complete without a climb up their slip wall. From there only a rope climb and barbed wire crawl separated a racer from their well-deserved bling!

Warrior Rush ended up being what you expected from an OCR held at Dirt Runner.  The obstacles were tough as DR always likes to challenge you. The parking and pics were free as DR never liked to nickel and dime you to death, and the comradery afterward was outstanding as always. I for one am going to miss bringing the family here as every one of my family members have competed here at some point in time. While Dirt Runner has officially closed their doors fear not, as their popular functional OCR series The DRX Games will take their show on the road for events in Ohio and Wisconsin later on in 2018.

Slippery In Chicago Spartan Super U.S Championship Series

“You’ll know at the finish line” is the famous motto of the Spartan Race. But, if you ran the Chicago Super you probably knew by the time you reached the parking lot at The Richmond Hunt Club.  The rain had hammered the area the previous week and since this race was part of the US Championship Series most racers were super curious about the course conditions.

Well, thanks in part to my 4×4 Jeep I could park on site and from the moment I stepped out of my vehicle and sank into 4 inches of mud I knew this was going to be a long day. Grabbing my ID and picking my way through the slop to the festival area I made my usual pit stop at the restrooms. Upon opening the door, I found that I really couldn’t distinguish where the muck stopped, and the actual toilet started due to the high levels of mud. Although after finding the seat I realized this may have been the only dry spot to sit on the entire property. I’ve raced from coast to coast for many years and this may have been the worst slop that I had ever encountered. If ankle-deep muck was the only thing to walk through from my Jeep clear to the start line what was the rest of the course going to be like? One word, Nasty.

Spartan started the 8.1-mile Super at the far end of the festival area and immediately threw athletes along a trail on the edge of a cornfield which made racers shoes feel more like concrete blocks. The small streams along the trail were swollen with water due to the storms but provided a small opportunity to rinse off some of the built-up muck.

A series of low walls were placed in this location to thin out the crowd a bit before testing racers grip strength on the Monkey Bars. A short distance away the inverted wall was set-up leading to the Herc Hoist. The ropes on the hoist had already become slick with mud by the time I got there making this obstacle much tougher than usual. Hands still slick from the constant slop made Twister an adventure as the burpee zones were so packed with people that racers just started doing burpees wherever they could find a spot. The bucket brigade, which was next up, was relatively short thankfully but the Atlas Stone carry a bit further down the line was brutal as each stone had a coating of thick mud around it making even the strongest competitor dig deep.

The Rolling mud and dunk wall were next up combined with the first of two barbed wire crawls. My initial thought upon seeing this was “Why do we need more water with a dunk wall”? You really noticed the stench of the standing water as you made your way under the barbed wire. And just to be cruel, after getting finished with the crawl which left you caked with mud Spartan threw the Z wall at you.

There is nothing worse than a slick Z wall, all obstacles were made much worse as you never really had a chance to get your hands dry during the race. Now approaching the halfway point of the race, the effects of the sloppy conditions could clearly be felt as athletes were struggling with obstacles that normally didn’t slow down most competitive racers.

I noticed that at the 8-foot wall, which was the next obstacle on the course, there were way more people doing burpees than I’ve ever seen. The bender followed up the wall climb, and this obstacle was a new one to me. This new obstacle consisted of a series of ascending vertical pipes starting about 7 feet off the ground with bars placed about every 2 feet apart. The structure curved back towards an athlete and reminded me a bit of the Battlefrog delta ladder.

The race was now at its furthest point from the festival area and the trail meandered through a section of the property used for paintball games. Along this stretch, Spartan placed their second barbed wire crawl along with their vertical cargo net climb before sending racers back to running alongside the rows of corn.

The Stairway to Sparta and a series of hurdles were the next obstacles athletes encountered on the trail leading to a hay bale wall. Just let me say right now that mud and hay stick to you like nothing else! I mean, don’t some sections of the world use mud and hay to built houses? And what better obstacle to try to traverse while carrying a house on you than Olympus right? As an added bonus, if you failed on Olympus the burpee pit was in a solid foot of muck. These were the worst burpees I’ve ever done in my life as you brought up 15 pounds of mud with each repetition.

The plate drag and rope climb? These two tasks were next up and close to impossible to complete. Dragging that sled through the thick mud? Yeah right. Climbing a rope slick with mud? Welcome to the burpee train. Now the sandbag carry only consisted of a single bag, and the distance of the carry wasn’t that far, but it kind of felt like trying to ice skate with a small child on your back.

The last section of the course led back towards the festival area where family and friends could easily see you miss your spear throw and roll around in more soup doing your burpees. If you happened to get lucky and hit the spear, then your hands were still dry! Until you ran around the corner and found the Yokohama tires sitting in the same shit you’ve been battling all day.

Those tires were already tough to get a grip on without trying to flip them in a batch of Montezuma’s Revenge. The burpee pit for that? Yup, more slop.

By this time, you could see the finish line and I’m guessing most people were thinking the same thing I was. Please, don’t let me fail another obstacle and have to burpee in more mud. Luckily the A-frame cargo was next up, no failing this! Then the slip wall. Not a problem, I might finish strong here. Only one last obstacle before the fire jump, the multi-rig. The rig set-up for this event wasn’t the worst ever. Three rings on each side separated by a vertical pipe traverse. But like all the rest of the obstacles on this course, this one too was slippery with farm mud.

So, unless you had the grip strength of Thor or the running ability of Mercury this event was pretty much an unending burpee train.  My final thoughts on this event are as follows. With good weather conditions this course would not have been terrible, maybe not even U.S. Championship Series worthy as the obstacles were what you expected, the track was flat, and the distance wasn’t overwhelming.  But the massive amount of rain turned this race into a brutal suckfest that was worthy of a Championship race.

Kids Obstacle Challenge Chicago

It’s tough to coordinate things when you and your kids head to an OCR event. Bringing extra clothes for everyone and managing start times so everyone can be seen can be a major headache. Here’s an idea though, why not find a Kids Obstacle Challenge race near you? It’s just for the kiddies, although parents can run along within the non-competitive waves and everything is designed just for your little one! I had the great pleasure of attending the June 16 event held in Chicago with my 3 little ones and found it to be a great way to get the kids active and enjoy some family fun. KOC had set-up 14 obstacles along a 1.75-mile course within the Ned Brown Preserve in Rolling Meadows for a thrilling test for the youngsters. There was plenty of space at the park and KOC made great use of it by keeping their course in easy viewing for the multitude of spectators watching their little ones having a blast. Registration was a breeze in the early going as not many parents signed their children up for the opening competitive wave, but the lines became much longer later in the day when the open runners checked in. So, a little hint here mom and dad, if your child is competitive sign them up for the early wave as I found this to be the least attended wave of the day and had virtually no obstacle backups. Your child will get chip timing and could win a Razor product if they finish in the top 3 of their respective age group. Later on in the day when the open waves race I found the course to be really packed up at obstacles with many more athletes as well as their parents on the course at the same time.

 

KOC set up their starting corral next to the festival area where the emcee for the event got the kids pumped up for the start. Using a super soaker water gun only added to the excitement on this 95-degree day. Once we were thoroughly drenched the air horn blew and waves of parents with their children took off. The first obstacle along the way was a series of suspended punching bag type balloons which required racers to weave their way through before continuing to a series of A-frame type walls that needed to be traversed. Next up a shallow pool of ankle-deep water filled with colored floating balls needed to be crossed before dropping down on all fours for a set of low crawls. An A-frame with rock climbing holds sat in a pool of water and required racers to cross from one side to the other. I found this to be perhaps the toughest obstacle of the day and possibly the most fun for the youngsters. KOC followed up with an adult obstacle, the sandbag carry, but scaled it down to 5 and 10-pound bags with the carry distance being around 20 yards total.

The trail became a bit soggier now as the rain the previous night drained into this section of the course. Racers now encountered a spider web of bungee cords on them leading to a fun rope swing across a shallow water pit. I noticed the kids really liked playing Tarzan on this rope! No obstacle course can be complete without a cargo net climb, right? KOC chose this section of the trail to install their A-frame cargo climb with a group of car tires set up a short distance away for the high knees obstacle. The distance between obstacles lengthened a bit now during the last section of the course. Ladder walls, which the racers could either climb or go under was the next obstacle presented. A suspended balance pole with hanging ropes proved a tough task to manage as racers made their way around the last turn of the course where a rock climb with a slide down to the stickiest mud ever waited. I personally had to pull one of my kids out of this mess and I’m sure many a parent went looking for missing shoes in this muck after the race. The last obstacle along the way to the finish became a messy one as a net was suspended over a mud pit which got kids low and dirty before crossing the finish line and picking up their unique medal.

The KOC was an awesome family adventure as I saw smiling faces everywhere. The obstacles here were geared a little more towards younger racers as there wasn’t anything that older racers would fail to complete. KOC offered cool Razor Scooter products to the top 3 winners in each competitive age class and although the competitive waves were small, the competition for those scooters appeared fierce. One thing I noticed is a bit of an obstacle back up during the open waves. As a veteran racer I’d suggest making smaller waves staggered every 10-15 minutes apart instead of the larger waves every half an hour, or by adding another obstacle at each location along the course. Additionally, having a computer or tablet available for competitive racers to view their time would have been a valuable addition. The only people who knew their times were the top 3. The rest of the racers had to wait until Monday to see their results.  Parking and pictures were free at this event which was certainly another plus. So, if you’re an OCR enthusiast, and I’m guessing you are if you’re reading this, grab the kids and hit a KOC event so that generation next can enjoy their own special race!

 

Frontline OCR: The Special Forces Elite Wave

Frontline OCR was back in action for their second event on May 19 but in a totally new location. This highly anticipated event took place at the Byron Motorsports Park right next to the nuclear power plant in Byron, Illinois.

As a matter of fact, the 5.85-mile course may have required some nuclear strength to get through it as this race wasn’t for the faint of heart. Frontline based the theme of their event on tasks or obstacles that military or first responders might encounter mixed in with some of the normal tasks you may encounter on an OCR course, except they jacked up the intensity factor of each.

This badass race series offered a multi-lap endurance wave, open waves, a Hero Heat dedicated to former military or first responders, and their Special Forces elite wave. This is the heat I picked for some crazy reason as those who dared to try this heat were issued a 20-pound weight vest for their journey through the course. This vest was required wearing for the duration of this mandatory obstacle completion wave until a time where an athlete could no longer complete an obstacle wearing it. At that point, they gave up their vest and continued but were bumped down in the final standings to all those who finished with the pesky garment. Although, even without the weight vest this was certainly one of the tougher upper body races I’ve ever done, and I applaud Frontline for really making you get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself.

 

On to the course. There is no better way to start off a race than with the iconic voice of Coach Pain. Coach was in his element, dressed in fatigues, and ready to rumble as he sent waves of racers out on the course. Athletes took off from the festival area over one of the motorcycle jump hills on their way into the surrounding wooded acres.

Now the total elevation change was only around 800 feet on the course, but nothing seemed flat and the rains from the previous week made the course, and the obstacles, slippery and difficult. A series of low walls were situated along the trail and served as the first obstacle athletes came upon with a bucket carry placed a short distance further down the path. An inverted wall followed that up along the game trail which led back to the edge of the festival area where racers encountered concrete blocks with tethers tied to them which were waiting to be dragged through a marsh where an occasional bungee cord was strung across the path making for a challenging low crawl.

Once complete Frontline again sent racers back out into the forest for a slackline crossing made of wire and placed over a dry ravine. After hopping off the slack line and climbing up out of the ravine the trail once again led into the motorsports arena where another inverted wall waited to be traversed before running through the middle of the arena where the semi tire drags awaited on the other side.

Frontline then made great use of a flooded drainage ditch by having athletes wade chest deep through it before crawling a short distance through a concrete culvert. It was through this infield area where the course markings became a bit confusing to some as one set of trail tape ended up running into another, but since they were both going to the same general direction I just followed them out. From there athletes were led to a series of carries consisting of dual ammo cans and a wooden log before being sent on to the first stumbling block for racers, the Irish Table. This platform was set to close to 7 feet in the air and nothing was provided to aid you in your climb.

From this point on I noticed that the majority of the obstacles became much more difficult starting out with the next obstacle racers faced called Pitfall. This obstacle was divided up into 3 sections and kept an athlete completely suspended off the ground.

Section one was separated by a dual rope traverse leading to a long jump onto an angled piece of plywood. An athlete had to land on the plank and pull themselves up before crossing another dual rope traverse to get to the other side. The trail now turned to grass as athletes made their way back towards the festival area once again for the toughest obstacle of the day in the form of a 12-foot wall climb. This wall started athletes out in a dugout pit of mud and required racers to scale the wall using a rope without knots. There were two lanes provided but only one for elites and as the mud made the rope slick the retry line grew huge.

Eventually, the race director ended up putting knots in the rope and then used a chainsaw to cut out a section of the wall for footing, but I personally spent 35 minutes there before my second attempt and by that time my mojo was gone. Once an athlete made it past the wall from hell things didn’t get any easier as racers climbed a hill and encountered an American Ninja Warrior type grip traverse. Here several 2×4’s were placed onto a suspended beam at different angles with the goal being to get from one side to the other. If your grip wasn’t cashed out from the previous wall climb it surely was now.

It was at this point in the race that Frontline led athletes back to the arena and loaded up on the obstacles with very little running in between. This stretch of brutality started off with a new twist on the stairway to heaven as Frontline made racers climb up at an angle but then flattened the climb out at the top with the slats spaced about every 2 feet till the end.

Racers then moved on to the second weaver of the day, this one made up of suspended fire hoses before moving on to Broch’s Slide.  Racers picked up a 12-pound sledgehammer and used it to slam a log down one stretch of a wooden buck and back. Moving down one hill and up the other side Frontline then placed their version of a rig consisting of a monkey bar set at various heights for a down one side and back the other with the transition between the two sides separated by rings and Gripsling holds making for one of the most unique rig crossings in OCR. This was another racer retry area that caused quite the backup.

The brutal assault on grip strength continued with another suspended transition, this one requiring athletes to maneuver themselves from one vertical 12-inch tube to another without touching the ground and proved to be tricky to master. Two climbs were set up next in the form of a suspended rope and separate suspended ladder. Frontline then turned Spartan’s Olympus upside down, literally, as the top of the obstacle was now jutting farther out than the bottom! Quite the reversal on this grip killer! One final test remained along this gauntlet of doom, the much-feared 20-foot warped wall, and although Frontline was kind enough to attach a rope it was still a long way up.

This concluded the toughest section of the event as the course focused now on technical running. Tucked into these trails were a series of 12-inch tubes suspended by wire through them in the air horizontally. I’m only guessing that athletes had to make their way over these as there were no volunteers or signage to explain what was to be done.

If you loved running in the woods then this was the part of the race for you as the majority of the running took place here. Springtime in Illinois made for some beautiful viewing along the way to the next obstacle called Hosed. Here fire hoses were cut into sections and filled with what I guess to be sand as there was a loop provided to run around, but again here there was no signage or volunteer to explain the task requirements.

Hamburger Hill was the last real test racers faced as this uphill low crawl was set on a muddy hill jam-packed with sharp rocks which made me glad I wore knee protection! From there a simple scaffolding cross was all that stood between you and that badass sheriffs shaped medal.

I found Frontline to be worth the price of admission based on the obstacles presented. If you were a fan of innovative new ways to test yourself this was your race. There were things you have never seen and had to master on the fly along with more difficult versions of the things you already expected to be at an OCR event. I applaud Frontline for making necessary changes on the fly but doing this changed what each racer faced.

That being said, there were a few things that also needed a bit more attention including the trail marking and a better explanation/enforcement of the Special Forces wave. Volunteers appeared to be a bit unclear as to when or if a vest needed to be given up or a penalty enforced for a failed obstacle. My suggestion would be to have the Elite wave keep their vest the entire race and enforce penalties from there for failed tasks. I think this would eliminate some of the confusion, and with a rumored 1/3 of elite racers losing their vests this may be a better way to proceed and not scare off those worried about failing. I understand that Frontline likes their policy of letting racers who keep their vests throughout the race to then keep their vest after, but this policy may be too expensive for a starting OCR.

Multiple lanes on the tougher obstacles and more supervision along some of the course would also make for a better race experience but I’ll be back October 27th when the third version of Frontline comes back to Byron!

 

Epic Series LA

Epic Series OCR made their way back to Los Angeles, California on May 6 for their second event at the Los Angeles Police Academy. For those of you not familiar with Epic Series let me give you a little background.

Epic is a Southern California based race series that’s focused primarily on functional movements with a few OCR type obstacles thrown in. They currently don’t venture outside of the SoCal area very often due to the high cost of transporting all their heavy equipment, so you may not have yet heard about them but listen up!

The formula for Epic’s success is pretty simple, but highly addictive. They pack as many obstacles as they can inside a course about the size of a standard 400-meter track. No miles upon miles of endless running here as most of their events have a total distance of between a mile to a mile and a half. The use of the track format breaks up the lines of functional exercises located inside of the track area and allows Epic to put on their events at venues with limited space quite well.

The Epic race format breaks down like this. Run a lap, usually with something awkward and heavy, then perform a series of functional movements with a few OCR type obstacles thrown in before running another lap. There are three different levels of difficulty at most of these stations throughout the race. Competitive men, competitive women, and open with weights and reps adjusted accordingly. I’ll break down the race in a lap by lap format, so it’ll be easy to follow.

Lap 1. All athletes start out the race by running their first lap carrying an Epic Series flag. Epic appropriately calls this the “flag lap” and once the lap is completed flags are dropped off at the starting line and its then time to get physical with the first series of functional movements starting off with the overhead squat for reps.

Athletes are required to pick up a weighted bar for touch and go squats while standing over a bucket. Volunteers are located at every station giving instructions, directions and occasionally calling out athletes for improper form or to repeat a rep. After completing the overhead squats Epic lined up their ladder wall and tri-wall, which each need to be traversed before continuing.

Lap 2. Athletes now were required picked up a medicine ball to carry around the track for their second lap leading up to the Atlas Stones. Atlas Stones of varying weights needed to be picked up and dropped over the shoulder onto a mat. Miss the mat and the rep doesn’t count so be precise! This took a lot of energy leaving athletes very winded, which made the next balance obstacle even harder.

The Epic balance beam was next in line and is truly unique as it’s built with pegs attached to a series of 4×4 boards suspended above the ground. This thing wobbles all over and usually causes me to fall at least once per event.

Lap 3. This is where the going starts to get tough as athletes are required to run this lap with a tough to balance slosh pipe. Immediately upon completion of this lap, it’s time for another Epic Series favorite, the squat wall. Pick a spot on the wall and assume the wall sit position while holding an hourglass with your arms straight out in front of you while you beg for the sand to fall faster! This obstacle is made even more fun as a volunteer constantly yells at you to keep your arms straight or they’ll make you start over.

Now normally this is where Epic sets up their lumberjack station which requires athletes to pick up a metal post on a hinge and flip it to the other side, but because this obstacle rips up the grass in a major way Epic had to substitute an inflatable bouncy house type thing as a replacement. Not nearly as much fun, but still a cardio crusher nonetheless.

The rope climb with a bell tap at the top was the next up in this long line of obstacles followed by the plank station. Another hourglass was used here as you sat in the plank position and watched those small grains of sand moving ever so slowly down. Continuing the fun on this lap was a keg hoist for reps followed by another crossing over a ladder wall.

Burpee box jumps for reps followed with an inverted wall immediately after leading to the last obstacle on this lap, the archer. Bow and arrows tipped with a rubber stopper were shot at a tiny target set up on a net and if you have never done this before it could take you forever. Luckily for me, I am a former bow hunter, so I nailed that sucker on the first try!

Lap 4. The carries started getting harder here as athletes now grabbed two jerry cans for the farmers carry lap testing out that grip strength to the max. After setting the jugs down it was time to get low for a cargo net crawl followed up by another tri-wall traverse. The band challenge was the last obstacle on this lap and it required athletes to put a thick rubber band around their ankles and hop for a set distance.

Lap 5. For the next lap Epic kept it simple, just sprint as fast as you can. Finishing up led you to another inverted wall to traverse before climbing up and over Barnaby’s Beast. This was a vertical rock wall where the hand holds became more spaced out the more with the higher difficulty level that you signed up for.

All of this led up to one final lap which proved to be a make or break lap for most people. The final lap required carrying a keg around the course! Now, these were filled to different levels depending on if you ran competitive or open, but I swear mine was filled with lead!

Now, if you ran Open your day was done. Collect your medal and bad ass Clinch Gear shirt and enjoy a Body Armour drink. But if you ran in the Competitive class you could sign up for the Epic Elite short course.

For a few dollars, more men and women could choose from either the Strength or Endurance challenge course for a chance to win even more bling! This course was a great mixture of obstacles, Crossfit, and strength and drew some great crowds to watch the athletes grunt and throw heavy shit around. The list of exercises was the same for both classes with only the weight and reps changing, plus the Endurance class had an added 5 burpees between each station.

  1. Truck pull for distance
  2. Deadlift for reps
  3. Clean and Press for reps.
  4. Atlas Stone up and over a wall for reps
  5. Atlas Stone shrugs for reps
  6. Farmer Carry
  7. Kettlebell step ups
  8. Weighted Lunge
  9. Tire flip for reps
  10. Sprint to the finish.

 

 

Now there were a few obstacles that happened to be missing from this event that are normally present at every Epic Series due to lack of space on the Police Academy grounds.

The Russian twists and the over under a suspended piece of tubing for a million reps each were gone but not missed by me personally! I found Epic to be an excellent test of one’s overall fitness and that the event offered something for everyone from a fitness newbie to a king of CrossFit.

A kid’s race was also located on-site making this a family-friendly event. Parking and photos were free as was the awesome Southern California scenery. I personally love this series and try to make it out West whenever I can, so maybe it’s time for you to do the same? It’ll be worth the trip I guarantee it and with future events in August in Huntington Beach and a September event in San Diego you still have time to test out how fit you are!