Epic Series Fresno/Clovis

On March 31st, 2018 Sierra Meadows Park in Clovis, California played host to the latest event put on by Epic Series OCR. The hybrid OCR/Functional Fitness competition is gaining a reputation for having the perfect blend of obstacles combined with functional fitness movements that make this my personal favorite race series. Epic’s motto of “more fun, less run” means your name doesn’t necessarily have to be Magnus to win, but a strong strength base will certainly help you complete the course.

With several events held each year in the Southern California area, Epic has gained almost a cult following in the ever-expanding world of OCR for athletes who are tired of running the endless miles associated with typical OCR events. Epic’s main course offers 25 obstacles all located in the space of a football field with a total distance of around a mile and a half. The course offers the same obstacles scaled into 3 different categories including competitive male/female and open class. Male and female competitive obstacles must be finished completely while open class is a pretty much a free for all. While volunteers are stationed at each obstacle along the way, task completion in the competitive heats relies mostly on the honor system.

Imagine looking down at a regulation 400-meter track. Epic basically puts their entire event into this small space! The breakdown of their system generally includes running a lap carrying something awkward, then completing a row of obstacles inside of the track area before running another lap. Computer timing is provided on a manual basis and has caused issues from time to time, but they always seem to iron everything out in the end. Awards are given out to the top 3 male and female in the competitive class along with competitive masters. As an added bonus athletes competing in the competitive class have the option to take on either the elite strength or endurance competition following the event. Think of this as more of a Crossfit competition with separate top 3 winners.

Now onto the main course! Epic always starts off their race with athletes sprinting around the first lap while carrying a brightly colored Epic Series flag. After depositing the flag back at the start line the fun begins with a ladder wall traverse immediately followed by the atlas stone over the shoulder flip for reps.

Another lap around the event was now required, this time carrying a medicine ball. Butt to bucket overhead squats for reps with a weighted pipe was the next obstacle in line along with some box jump burpees before taking on the most unique balance beam in OCR. This nightmare of a balance test consists of 4X4 pegs mounted along beams suspended above the ground. The wobble factor here is at a maximum and it usually gets me at least once each event.  After a sprint lap around the track, a set of banded bunny hops got those quads burning before moving on to a 20-rep set of Russian twists with a medicine ball.

 A keg hoist started off the grip killing section of the course. Right after one more ladder wall traverse athletes picked up a set of jerry cans for a grip killing lap which led right into the rope climb. What a nasty way to completely trash your grip strength! From here athletes moved quickly onto a timed wall sit followed by more box jump burpees.

An inverted wall climb followed leading to another lap with a hard to balance slosh pipe. The ever-popular timed plank and lumberjacks made of 4×4 metal tubing required athletes to start digging ever deeper into their energy reserves. An over and under for reps using plastic tubing started off the last series of obstacles followed up with a bow and arrow shot into a target. If you’ve ever dreamed that you were Robin Hood this was your chance to live out your dream! One last climb over a wall with rock climbing holds led you to one final lap, this time with a keg on your shoulder! Drop the keg at the finish and collect your medal and your breath.

Now if you entered the open class race your day was over. But if you entered the competitive class you had the option, for a small additional price, to compete in either the Strength or Endurance Elite course. This was a scaled event for men and women with the strength course having heavier weights and lower reps than the endurance course, but both courses followed the same WOD in the same format. Top 3 awards were also presented to the winners here with a WWE style belt given to the champ in each division!

  1. Pull a police SUV for distance
  2. 5 burpees
  3. Clean and press for reps
  4. 5 burpees
  5. Deadlifts for reps
  6. 5 burpees
  7. Farmers carry for distance
  8. 5 burpees
  9. Sandbag lunge for distance
  10. 5 burpees
  11. Atlas stone up and over for reps
  12. 5 burpees
  13. Atlas stone over the shoulder for reps
  14. 5 burpees
  15. Dual kettlebell step-ups for reps
  16. 5 burpees
  17. Tractor tire flips for reps
  18. Sprint to finish

 

A small kids race focusing more on the fun was provided for a small fee and was packed with happy faces all day. Parking was free as were the “Epic” photos of the event. If your OCR roots started with a love of the gym, then this is your race. No one body type is perfect for this event as the great blend of obstacles really evens out the playing field. This event truly looks to find the fittest athlete and makes it my personal favorite. So if you’re tired of all the endless running and seek an event tests your overall fitness give Epic Series a try!

Check out our other Epic reviews!

Epic Series Orange County

Epic Series Los Angeles

2018 Abominable Snow Race

Adaptation.

The ability to overcome on the fly using the skills you have developed. Some would argue this is the single biggest quality that successful obstacle course racers possess. Maybe you have mastered the ability to adapt to obstacles presented to you during the warm weather races, or maybe you’re still fine-tuning them.

Well, let me throw a monkey wrench into your comfy regime. How about we add freezing temps into the mix, maybe some ice or snow, or maybe even a mixture of them all with some mud thrown in. You love mud right? The kind where you rinse off from a hose at the end of an event while sipping your finishers beer in 80-degree sunshine? Well, this isn’t the same shit.

Winter OCR is here to stay and it’s getting bigger and tougher than ever before. Winter is no longer the offseason for OCR with events popping up all over the country. I had a chance to race in the third annual Abominable Snow Race held last weekend with a few thousand other racers from all over the country at the majestic Grand Geneva Resort in Lake Geneva Wisconsin and I can tell you Winter OCR is here to stay. Held on the grounds of a ski resort you kind of had an idea of what to expect, but ASR chief Bill Wolfe went out of his way to make this race one people would talk about for a while.

Yeti Nation

With morning temps hovering just above freezing my family and I pulled into the Grand Geneva bright and early for packet pickup and were directed to a parking space in a lot right next to the registration tent. Thank you once again, Bill Wolfe for the VIP treatment!

I found most racers were parked in a lot a short distance away and could either walk or take a quick shuttle bus to the registration tents. Now, there were only two stations were athletes could check in making the process somewhat slow, but ASR did provide warm trailers nearby as a changing area which more than made up for the cold wait.

After getting yourself geared up and ready you entered the resort lodge, bathrooms were to your right and food and drink were upstairs. This was your final chance to warm up before leaving the lodge and entering Yeti Nation. The iconic voice of Coach Pain was the first thing you heard upon leaving the lodge, and as you stepped foot on the snow the cold smacked you right in the face as your gaze fell upon the tallest ski slope Grand Geneva had to offer. Food, merchandise, and drink tents surrounded you along with info tents from local races including Frontline, Dirt Runner, and Highlander Assault.

An Epic Adventure

ASR offered 3 different heat choices along with a little Yeti course for the younger racers. The regular Elite and Open classes were offered along with a special Hero Heat for military and first responders. The Open class course offered 22 obstacles along a 4.5-mile course while the Elite class/Hero Heat offered 25 obstacles over a 5.8-mile distance. The little Yeti course was not timed and wasn’t very difficult, but the kids really seemed to enjoy it and they got the same huge medal as the adults did! The main course itself started and ended right out in front of the main lodge offering great views for those brave enough to stay outside or watch from the warmth of the two-story lodge. ASR started off Elites first with the Hero Heat and Open class following. With Coach Pain pumping up athletes for the start I think we all had a feeling that this was going to be an epic adventure!

 

A Tale of Two Shoes

The very first thing I noticed upon starting was that all racers fell into one of two categories. It was basically the have or have nots and it came down to shoe selection. As we climbed up our first hill made of ice those with metal studded shoes moved right along while those without struggled mightily.

The course conditions remained this way throughout the race and served to thin out the crowd right away as we came to our first obstacle, a wooden wall climb named the Ice Breaker. The trail was wide enough for a vehicle during this short stretch of the race and offered the only real chance to pass as the path narrowed to one lane shortly thereafter, but not before an over/under/through obstacle.

An Inverted wall, which ASR called Cold Snap, was the last obstacle before the trail veered into the woods where the terrain turned into a single lane of muddy slush which was chock-full of rocks and tree roots making footing unbelievably slippery. This section of trail was appropriately named The Abominable Forest and lasted well over a mile. Nestled along one of the few clearings along the way ASR set up their Alaskan Oil Rigs, which ended being a type of ladder climb with the rungs set far apart and at a 45-degree angle made slick with all the tracked mud. After tapping the bell on top of the rig it was again off along the slick path and over more of the rocky hills leading to The Winter Weaver.  It was also during this section of the race where ASR threw in a triple set of hurdles and their slip wall.  These hurdles were cut into a diamond shape with a sharp point at the top making athletes regret stopping on top for very long.

 

Sled-Pull

There were a couple different ways ASR made some of their old obstacles tougher and the sled pull was one of these obstacles. In the past, the sleds were filled with snow or a sandbag and pulled along in a snow-covered circle. Now, the only real difficulty doing that was guiding the sled.

This year, ASR filled the men’s sleds with 3 sandbags and the women’s with 2 and the path this year was solid mud making the pull long and gut-wrenching. This also created a bit of a bottleneck due to racers stopping for breaks along the way. After finally getting rid of that damn sled it was back into the forest for more of the sloppy trail run leading to an uphill low crawl.

This wasn’t your normal low crawl either as the ground was made slick with ice, frozen mud, and decomposing leaves. There was no getting around becoming wet and cold after that crawl! Back on the trail now the switchbacks increased making many racers wonder just what direction they were really going. It was along this route ASR placed a 9-foot wall and their Cliff Hanger.

This was a Z type traverse wall with 2×4 pegs along with one section made up of 3 rope loops suspended from the top. The addition of the ropes was another example of ASR making their old obstacles tougher. This marked the halfway point of the course with more fun to come in the form of the Himalayan Climb up one of the snow covered hills with a cargo net climb on top.

Separating Open From Elite

The ride back down might have left you a bruise or two on your rear end as the snow was packed tight and the descent was steep causing many racers to use their backside as a sled. Athletes now followed the trail back out into the woods in a route designed to make racers loop back up one of the higher ski jump hills. ASR had used a giant Earthmover to make snow mounds to cross as a replacement for the normal mud mounds used during the summer.

Once at the top racers made their way down the back side of the slope stopping at one point to pick up a log for the Lumberjack carry. One final loop back into the woods and returning to the festival area was all that was now required. Sounds easy right?

Well not so much for the Elite and Hero Class as obstacle 18 came into view. A slingshot target was set up and a miss required burpees. However, that was for the Open Class only as Elites and Heroes skipped this obstacle and took off down an extended section of trail.

This extended version started off with a long ass low crawl as bungee cord was stretched across the one lane path for what seemed like miles. Then there was the bucket carry. ASR put their own spin on this by filling the buckets with water during the week and allowing them to freeze making them Ice buckets. An athlete certainly knew after the race if during the bucket carry they happened to bump one into their leg. And the length?? It was a long, long, long ass carry.  Many a strong racer could be seen making multiple stops along the way to regrip. The last extra obstacle along the extended route was a set of rising and descending monkey bars with a bell tap finish.

It was at this point where the extended course and main course joined back up as athletes made one last climb up the ski slope and grabbed an innertube for a fast-paced ride back down to the bottom. Now in the festival area, only two obstacles remained starting off with a set of low walls and ending up with a tip of the spear type wall traverse. Three slanted walls were set up side by side with ropes suspended from the tops of each as your only means of getting from one to the other. From there the finish line and that awesome bling was only a few meters away.

Final Thoughts

I found the 2018 version of the ASR to be not only longer and more challenging, but also much better managed. Things seemed to flow smoother and I left with a feeling of accomplishment. The racers I talked to post-race were in agreement that this year’s event far surpassed the previous year’s race.

The only real complaint I heard was that a few of the course marshals were not specific enough regarding obstacle completion during the Elite heat. But when dealing with volunteers you occasionally get these issues. Our sport is volunteer-dependent so it’s just one of the things you live with. My final thought on this event is if you think OCR is only a summer sport, think again and come on out to ASR next year!

 

Dirt Runner’s Winter Soldier

You run OCR events for the obstacles right? How about 50 of them packed into a 5k course? Oh yeah, Dirt Runner pulled this off in their second annual Winter Soldier event held on their permanent course located in Marseilles, Illinois.

Dirt Runner is the former home to the Illinois Spartan and Battlefrog Race Series and is well known for its tough terrain and brutal obstacles. This course truly offered something for everyone with heavy lifts, tons of overhead grip work, brutal low crawls, and seriously technical terrain.

Some of the perks you got racing Winter Soldier at Dirt Runner were free parking, free pictures, and free food and drink afterward. In other words, they don’t nickel and dime you to death like most major races do. Winter Soldier offered an Elite and Open one lap wave, along with an option to get as many laps in as you could in a 3-hour time period for those hearty souls.

 

On to the course! With temps hovering around freezing athletes were released from the Dirt Runner festival area with a small fire jump which led out to a trail cut through waist-high prairie grass where a series of wall climbs of varying heights along with a few low crawls thrown in, served to thin out the herd.

Also situated on this section of trail Dirt Runner set up a series of three different weighted carries. You had your normal bucket carry along with a solid cement block carry, formed in those same buckets if you needed a size reference, and finally, dual farmer carries made up of logs with a cloth type handle screwed into them.

Immediately after dropping off your logs it was time to high step through a section of car tires set down on the path leading to another set of 8-foot-high wall climbs. Here the course took a turn into the woods where the trail difficulty increased greatly as the terrain transitioned from running on flat grass to steep hills with uneven footing filled with rocks and tree roots. Some of the obstacles thrown in along this section of the course included monkey bars, a rolling log balance beam, a series of sternum checkers of varying heights, a reversed delta ladder, and a long low crawl through a buried metal tube.

The trail now led racers on a route that circled back into the festival area where Dirt Runner set up a series of obstacles in back to back fashion. The spear throw, Z wall traverse, and traverse ladder climb were all located in an area where friends and family could easily see the action right up close before athletes were once again led back out into the woods.

At this point, the terrain turned into running up and down a series of steep ravines that really drained the legs and taxed the cardiovascular system. Only two obstacles were located in this section of the trail. The tallest cargo net climb I’ve ever come across and a long uphill low crawl through another metal tube. This low crawl was perhaps the toughest I’ve ever had to do. It was super long. There was very little clearance inside the tube, the mud inside was frozen solid killing the elbows and knees with each forward movement, and the climbing angle was about 45 degrees going up. After finally getting out of that damn tube it was back to the steep ravine climbs until the course opened back at the festival area where a gauntlet of final obstacles was waiting.

The Gauntlet: Situated on the outskirts of the festival area with very little distance in between each task this final section of the race was draining both physically, and mentally. All while friends, family, and fellow athletes watched close by.

Starting off was a set of two delta ladders and two inverted wall climbs leading right into a semi tire flip and carry, down and back twice over a twenty-yard distance. A jump and hop up and over a set of stacked tractor tires was next up followed by Dirt Runners version of the weaver. Connected to the weaver was a cargo net climb over an enormous plastic container which led to a low crawl under a set of horizontal logs.

A high-step through more car tires led to a unique wall traverse. This wall traverse was set up in three sections connected by long poles on the top. So, after you made it across a section of wall you had to shimmy your way across a pipe to the next section of wall and so on. Each wall segment had a different configuration of ropes or pegs to traverse across. Skill and planning were required to navigate this obstacle along with a serious amount of grip strength.

A hundred yards away Atlas Stones were set up for a down and back push with another set of low crawls waiting after you finished. A climb over the famous Dirt Runner slip wall followed by another climb up the equally famous fortress of logs put you on top of a hill within view of the finish line. But not before a rope climb, a cargo net traverse, a barbed wire crawl, and an Atlas Stone/semi-tire drag and carry were completed.

I found this race to be fast and furious with something new seemingly around every corner leaving me totally spent at the end. Winter OCR events have become more popular every year with good reason. It adds another level of difficulty to racing.

Ok, you can fly through a course when it’s 80 degrees out but how about when temps drop below freezing? Dirt Runner offers some of the toughest races and events in the Midwest and I found Winter Soldier to be right on par with the rest of their events. Obstacle heavy, low cost, and a great feeling of accomplishment can always be found here. So, put one of the 2018 Dirt Runner events on your schedule!

Farm Fit Challenge 2017

The Farm Fit Challenge proved what a veteran obstacle course racer with a little land, an idea, and a lot of ambition could accomplish. Other than purchasing some trail tape every obstacle on the course was either found on the farm or handmade on the farm.

With all proceeds donated to the Wounded Warrior Project this event, which was limited to 40 participants, was one of those small grassroots contests that I love to race.

Held on a working farm, parking was pretty much anywhere on the grass that you could find and registration was basically just telling the kind lady with the clipboard that you were there. If you needed to change you headed to the barn and if you wanted a bag check? Well, it was safe wherever you wanted to set it down. ‘

The course setup and outline was simple but the execution was exhausting both mentally and physically. The object was to complete as many laps on the 1.2-mile course as possible in 2 hours. After the 2-hour limit athletes were no longer allowed to start another lap. The race started at 1 pm trying to take advantage of the warmest part of the November day but the constant drizzle and temps in the 40s still made for a chilly and sloppy race.

Starting off along a path through the fresh cut cornfield athletes accumulated mud by the pound on their shoes leading up to a maze of 12-foot-high sawgrass and cattails.

When you finally managed to navigate your way out of the maze it was back to running through that nasty, sticky, soul-sucking mud until you came up to the first “fit” challenge. 100 air squats had to be completed before moving on to a sandbag carry through…. You guessed it, that nasty mud.

Heavy legs got another test a short jog away in the form of bucket carry, again through the mud. Now, this bucket carry was unique. The bucket had to be carried by the handle with one hand only and was filled with 100-year-old bricks taken from a local building.

After carefully dropping your bucket off the trail led out of the field and into the large yard where you were immediately required to drop for 100 pushups. Once finished, a rope climb with bell tap was next up, failure to complete the climb meant a 25-burpee penalty. Love sit-ups? Great, cause the next fit challenge required 100 of them before getting your chance at the rig. The rig set up was a series of horizontal poles set at different heights and made all the more treacherous by the constant rain with a bell tap finish. Failure on the slick rig once again meant a 25-burpee penalty.

Tractor tire flips for 20 yards down and back was the next obstacle in line and further tested an athletes’ strength and endurance along the short course, but at least the mud was finally gone from your shoes!

One last test of strength and agility followed the tractor tire flips on the way through the course. Yet another tire, this time a truck tire, was placed on a peg. Racers had to pick the tire up and off the peg and walk it 50 yards down to where it was to be placed on another peg. A repeat of the process on the way back was required. If at any point the tire was dropped one had to start the whole process over.

Probably the most exhausting challenge of the whole event was next up in the form of a hundred plus yards of knee-to-ground lunges. It’s difficult to sit and write this review now as my glutes and hamstrings are still killing me! One last test was waiting once the lunge train was finished. A narrow balance beam, made even more difficult to cross as the rain came down and the mud and grass accumulated on top, was the last test before athletes picked up a “lap complete” band and headed back out for more!

Finishers awards were also very unique at the Farm Fit Challenge. Sections of a tree branch were cut into small sections, fire-branded with a Farm Fit brand, and then polyurethane covered.

Drinks were provided at stations along the course and were manned by a troop of Boy Scouts. I certainly hope those guys earned a special badge for braving that weather!

Fruit, chips, and hot dogs were provided at the finish along with a crock pot of baked beans. I found this event to be extremely family friendly and extremely draining physically. While the scale of the event was small the feeling of accomplishment at the end was still large. So, if you’re looking for a smaller event that’s tough while still providing a great family atmosphere check out the Farm Fit Challenge!

Highlander Assault Challenge

Inaugural Event

The first ever Highlander Assault Challenge was held October 7th in Holiday Hills, Illinois. The inaugural Scottish themed OCR offered four different distance options for you to choose from. Four, eight, and 12-mile distances were available along with a 24-mile option if you were really a glutton for punishment!

This course offered some unique terrain that included something for everyone from technical trails, to forest, to prairie grass, to mud so thick that I’m sure there that there are still shoes stuck at the bottom of the muck now.

The course was designed by veteran obstacle course racers and police officers Mike Boyce and Chad Riffe and their great team of professional builders. Coach Pain was on hand to meet the crowd and get athletes pumped up before their designated heats.

Vendors including Stark Energy and RX Bar were set up for some pre- and post-race refreshment. Parking was only 5 dollars and was located right next to the festival area. J3Timing was on hand to provide instant chip timed results and a finisher photo of each athlete.

Assault Course

Onto the course, Highlander had an 8-mile course set up with a 4-mile cut through. This was where the 4-mile option went on to their finish and where the 12-mile course cut through on their second lap. I thought the signage at this split was fairly clear, but a few racers got mixed up at this point causing them to run 16 miles instead of 12.

Starting off from the festival area Highlander led athletes out through a recently cut soybean field and over a series of three four-foot-high walls. This served to start thinning out the crowd before coming up to an inverted wall located in the same bean field.

A low crawl net was set up on the trail sending athletes down on all fours towards one of the lakes on the property which led to a custom-made rig. This well-constructed rig started off with 5 rings in a row and finished with a traverse across a suspended 2X6 section of wood. There wasn’t a bell or anything to signify completion, in the future I’d suggest a bell tap or a painted mark at the end of the 2×6 to mark completion.

Signature Obstacle

After rig completion, Highlander set up one of their signature obstacles that you will not find anywhere else. The Highlander was set up with a cargo net climb onto a shipping container leading to another large cargo net was suspended between the first shipping container and another one set up on the other side. This led to a climb up to a wooden staging area where a waterslide was set up to send racers back down, rather quickly into a water pit.

Climbing out of the lake area racers followed the course markers out into the harvested bean field once again in a giant loop designed to add some distance to the course. At this point, a dug-out moat filled with water and covered by chain link fence was waiting to soak racers on their way towards the back side of the lake where a balance test was waiting in the form of a telephone pole crossing over a water pit.

Highlander now took advantage of some of the many hills by sending racers over and between the trees in slalom style back and forth and up and down. The next bit of nastiness came in the form of a march and wire crawl through some extremely thick mud.

Stuck in the Muck

This muck stuck to racers like glue and was still stuck to us as we came up to a dirt-filled bucket carry. The trail now continued along an actual section of road where an over, under, and through series of walls set up leading to a Z shaped traverse wall. No bell tap was set up here and no volunteer was stationed to make sure racers completed the crossing, in the future one or both should be in place to ensure obstacle completion.

At this point racers entered a gravel pit area where the split from the 4-mile and the 8-mile course was located, I’ll continue on with the 8-mile course for the rest of this article. Making way through the gravel pit Highlander now directed athletes into the connected forest following a technical trail through the hills leading us to a sandbag carry. The sandbags were piled up in a way where they looked like they might have been placed there to hold down the wood structure they were sitting on. Some of the athletes were running past the sandbags so in the future having either a sign or a volunteer would be helpful in clearing things up here.

Now the trail led athletes back into the forest where the path followed a game trail along the back side of the property. This eventually opened up when racers made it to the second lake along the course where the cut grass around the lake became the trail. Highlander situated a teeter totter balance beam and a unique ladder climb up to a bell tap along the long loop around the lake.

Game of King’s Thrones

As the obstacles became fewer now the trail became tougher as racers were presented with a mixture of forest, marsh, and creek crossings which made for rather nasty and tiring running.

This eventually led to the King’s Throne which was designed like a huge Irish table with a ladder climb on the back side making this obstacle look very much like a huge chair! The 8-mile trail now joined back up with the 4-mile trail which set racers on a course back towards the festival area. A 12-foot high ladder was the first obstacle racers encountered along the merged trail.

Another harvested bean field jog led to a caber carry before sending athletes into some thick cattails for another murky creek crossing. Climbing out of the creek racers were now presented with an Atlas Stone carry, 95 pounds for men and 65 pounds for women. Once your stone was dropped off a short jog away Highlander presented a maze run that required racers to pick up a yoke with car tires dangling from a metal chain off each side for a zig-zag sprint through a field of parked boats testing one’s coordination to the max.

The Final Obstacles

One last forested section of the course was all that remained left to be conquered! Scattered throughout this acreage was the remains of an old paint ball course, including some small houses and castles, which Highlander integrated into the trail. Some of structures were rebuilt and added onto in the form of a two-story rock climbing wall and a two-story wall climb with a rope assist.

After breaking free of the forest racers faced one of the most unique climbs in the OCR industry. Suspended in the air vertically was a set of plastic tubes. Perhaps a foot in diameter these pipes rose approximately 15 feet in the air. The only means to climb this pipe were small ropes which hung out of two sides of each pipe and spaced around 16 inches apart leading up to the top making this the most challenging “rope ladder” ever! One last set of parallel bars provided a good triceps/shoulder burn before the 8 and 4-mile course finished and the 12 and 24-mile racers continued on for further punishment.

Final Thoughts

Other than a few issues that you would normally expect for a first-year event, Highlander really did prove to be very challenging and well-managed. The event benefited from having actual obstacle course racers design the course and its obstacles.  People could complete most of the obstacles and the four distance levels offered provided a test for every fitness level.

The finishers’ bling was cool looking and Highlander also had a merchandise tent with everything from flex fit hats to hoodies to complete the look. I’m really looking forward to the next Highlander Assault on October 6, 2018, to see what those crazy cops come up with next!

Chicago Terrain Race

 

Terrain Race Chicago

The Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois played host to the second annual Terrain Race on September 30th. After the collapse of a rig the previous year at this same location I was curious to check out the event again and was pleased to see the craftsmanship of the obstacles was significantly upgraded. All the obstacles felt solid and safe which allowed athletes to really push themselves without worry on the flat and fast course.

The choice of 5k or 10k was offered during registration with a higher fee charged for the 10k, but only the 5k was timed slightly upsetting those who signed up for the competitive 10k. Racers who paid for the 10k could run a second untimed lap if they chose to do so and an unlimited lay option was offered.

Registration took a little time as only two lines check-in lanes were open, one for elite and one for open class. Terrain positioned a volunteer at each obstacle but the knowledge of the rules at some of the more difficult obstacles left some elite racers shaking their heads in frustration. Personally, I feel that all races should identify where their tougher or more confusing obstacles are located and spend extra time making sure that the volunteer at that location knows exactly what’s required for obstacle completion as this would make for a much smoother race.

Plenty of restrooms were available in the lots surrounding the speedway and in the festival area. Parking in those lots set you back 10 dollars and was an easy walking distance of the registration tent.

The Course

Terrain starts their race in a unique and chilly way. Three swimming pools were filled up waist deep with freezing water. This served as the starting corral and proved to be a great way to start off a race as athletes were already subjected to the mental and physical punishment of the cold before the race even started!

After emcee Lashay Marks released us from the Pit of Despair athletes were led through the speedway grounds and over a 4 and 6-foot wall to thin out the herd some before hitting a tall wall with a rope to assist you up and over. This was the first location I noticed a racer backup as athletes had to wait their turn for an opportunity to grab a rope to conquer the wall.

Back now on the mowed grass field, Terrain led racers to a rope climb with a bell tap at the top provided the first grip strength test. This led to the lone muddy area along the course as terrain used a series of tubes, water pits, and mud mounds to get racers dirty.

A very short jog away was a yoke with a car tire attached to each side which athletes placed across their shoulders for a short distance. I’m not sure where this obstacle was supposed to start and stop.  There was a flag a short distance away for athletes to go around but there was no apparent start/stop point given. Since there were not enough yokes to go around an athlete had to wait for someone to finish and pass their yoke to the next person in line. This was another obstacle backup which frustrated those worried about their time and was one of the few obstacles with no volunteer guidance.

Obstacles

Making our way now to the speedway stadium Terrain set up a twice up and back tractor tire flip where athletes once again had to wait their turn for a chance to complete the obstacle. A few more tires located here in the future and the issue would be solved.

Terrain next used the speedway stairs to their advantage with two climbs to the top. One with a Wreckbag, and one without separated by a 5-gallon bucket carry with maybe 3 gallons of water inside each bucket. Heading back out from the parking lot to the grass a tire slam with a sledgehammer for ten yards was set up along a path leading to a ladder climb and cargo net crossing.

The trail now led us on an extended looped back around towards the festival area where the obstacle difficulty increased starting with an 8-foot wall climb immediately followed up by a tractor tire drag down and pull back.

Making our way now to the festival grounds Terrain set up the first of their two rigs. This rig proved to be the easier of the two as the first half included 3 suspended ball holds leading to a high handle followed by 4 low rings which required an athlete to use their feet to make the final transitions where a bell tap signaled fulfillment of the task.

Rigs

A short distance away the second rig was set up. This proved to be the more difficult of the two as the configuration was a repeat of ropes to single high rings. The Tarzan Swing was an appropriate name for this rig and this obstacle caused the greatest bottleneck.

The volunteer situated to explain the finish guideline was less than stellar which left some very confused as to what the finish qualifications were. Once the last rig was completed the last grip intensive obstacle was waiting in the form of a unique set of monkey bars. Situated over a pool of water this traverse led racers on a slight incline to the apex where a set of wooden beams needed to be negotiated past before the trip down the bars which was on a slight decline. These bars were tougher than they looked because some of the metal rods spun while others did not which kept athletes guessing the whole way through. The last obstacle before the finish was a combination of a balance beam leading athletes up to a cargo net crossing finally finishing with a slide down a pole where the finish line was located.

These bars were tougher than they looked because some of the metal rods spun while others did not which kept athletes guessing the whole way through. The last obstacle before the finish was a combination of a balance beam leading athletes up to a cargo net crossing finally finishing with a slide down a pole where the finish line was located.

Overall Thoughts

Despite the above-mentioned hiccups in the event, I found the Terrain Race challenging and would race it again in the future. Terrain clearly made an effort to improve the quality of their obstacles over last year and the low cost helps make this a worthwhile race.

The Chicago Speedway is a cool location to visit. Perhaps spreading out some of the obstacles would help with the racer congestion and spending a little more time instructing the volunteers on the rules couldn’t hurt.

I didn’t notice an area where you could check your finish stats and as of the Tuesday after the race, I still can’t find one online. The medals were not as big as in previous years and the finishers tee shirts were very basic but like I mentioned before, the low cost and challenging course make this a race I would run again.