BattleFrog Greater Nashville Review

Leading up to the BattleFrog Series Greater Nashville race on April 9, 2016 near Lynnville, Tennessee, Chris ‘Beard’ Accord and Ryan Atkins had been talking all kinds of smack about how difficult the course would be.  I saw quotes like ‘challenge may be an understatement’ and ‘one for the record books.’  Add to that the predicted low of 35 for Saturday morning, and people were pretty damn nervous about Saturday morning.  Living in Middle Tennessee myself and knowing the terrain of the area, I still wasn’t convinced.  Boy was I wrong.  BattleFrog and Wooly’s Off Road Club packed a punch that I’m still feeling down my posterior chain this morning.

BattleFrog Nashville Terrain

The Terrain at Wooly’s Off Road Club (photo credit: Brad Heilwagen)

First the boring stuff – Standard parking ($10) was about a mile from the venue in a mud-free, relatively flat field.  School buses were shuttling people from the parking lot to the venue with such regularity that we never had to wait more than five minutes to go either way.  VIP Parking ($25) was also available right across the road from the entrance to the venue for those who can’t ride or fit on a school bus.  Don’t joke, I literally heard a pregnant lady say, ‘my belly don’t fit on this bus’.  I got there right about 6:00 am, my wife and kids got there at about 11:00 am, and neither of us had to wait in line to park.  The festival area was packed tight between Mooresville Road and some trees.  The only way in or out was to walk underneath a horizontal cargo net with finishing race participants raining mud and dirt on your head.

BattleFrog Nashville Cargo

Cargo Net Over the Entrance (photo credit: Sara Heilwagen)

Apparently BattleFrog took a cue from Cracker Barrel, because everybody going in and out of the venue had to pass through the merchandise tent.  I wonder how sales went.  From there the festival area opened up a bit, but was still fairly long and narrow.  Bag check, potties, changing tents, and showers were all very close together, and the changing tents were heated.  Heated changing tents were especially appreciated given the abnormally low temperatures for this time of year.  There were two food trucks, and although I didn’t catch their names they both looked busy all day.  The only drawback I saw was that the beer tent was way at the end of the festival area and you had to walk around the finish chute to get to the food trucks.  No big deal.

BattleFrog Nashville Showers

A Finisher Gets Creative with the Shower Hose (photo credit: Sara Heilwagen)

The course itself was very spread out, maximizing the nearly 2,000 acres of ‘wooly’ terrain at their disposal.  Not super spectator friendly, since all you could watch from the festival areas was Platinum Rig #2, Cargo Crawl, and Tip of the Spear.  With only 100 yards of bushwhacking and very little mud, we spent most of our time on rocky, double-track ATV trails, going up and down calf and quad-burning hills.  Before the race, Beard told me 5 miles and 1,600 feet of elevation gain, but I saw some GPS readings of 5.25 miles and 1,875 feet of elevation gain per lap.  With every step there was potential for ankle sprainage.  Up the hills, running turned into power hiking, which turned into the occasional rest-step.  Definitely not a ‘runner’s course’.  I saw a lot of ‘elites’ who were on the fast train to crampy town, and after two laps the BFX tent looked like a Civil War field hospital.

BattleFrog Nashville Hills

Runners Head Uphill Immediately at the Start (photo credit: Sara Heilwagen)

The obstacles were typical of what has become the new standard for BattleFrog:  modular construction and multiple skill levels.  Logs and wooden beams have been replaced with lightweight aluminum bars.  Not quite as natural feeling, but I can see what they’re trying to do.  I only wish they’d bring back the round bars on the 60 degrees obstacle because the square bars are pretty tough on the nuts.  I was really looking forward to trying the new “Weaver” obstacle, and was disappointed to see that for this race the weaver was essentially laying on the ground.  The volunteer told me to just bear crawl across, and later in the day I saw they had it surrounded with caution tape.  Not quite sure what the story is there.

BattleFrog Nashville Weaver

Athletes Bear Crawl OVER the Weaver (photo credit: BattleFrog Series)

Walls, ramp walls, inverted walls, and both platinum rigs now have three skill levels:  novice, intermediate, and elite.  On the walls, where the elites may have a smooth wall to attack, the intermediate and novice have a few extra footholds for support, making it feasible for just about everyone.  Only the male elites are required to do the elite rigs, which at this race were absurdly difficult.  Rig #1 was on a windy hilltop right after the wreck bag carry.  So you’d get all sweaty coming up the hill with a wreck bag, then stand in line on a windy hilltop shivering in the cold breeze before attempting the brutal combination of ring – pipe – pipe – ring – pipe – pipe – rest…I don’t know what the rest was because I never finished the damn thing.  The elite women had it a little easier in the intermediate lane, and the novice lane was a pretty cushy combination of rings, footholds, and ropes.  This new arrangement made the platinum rig a doable obstacle for all but about 10% of participants.  Elite Platinum Rig #2 started out with a sagging horizontal rope (no feet allowed), transition to two round bars, then rope – ring – ring – rope – pipe – ring (said in my best Adam Kwitko voice).  Intermediate had it a little easier with ring – rope – bar – bar – bar – rope – ring – ring – long pipe – ring, which was totally doable because I actually did it myself and I’m no ninja warrior.

BattleFrog Nashville Platinum Rig 2

Elite Female Andi Hardy Attempts Platinum Rig #2 (photo credit: Sara Heilwagen)

As an aside, I really appreciated how involved the BattleFrog Pro Team and Elites were in the kid’s races.  I saw Ryan Atkins, Lindsey Webster (with Suunto), Corinna Coffin, and Laura Messner out on the course giving words of encouragement to the kids.  Coach Pain even gave them a little motivational speech.  It was clear that the kid’s course wasn’t just an afterthought.

All in all, the BattleFrog Nashville race turned out to be a great event for the whole OCR family.  You can see how much they’ve adapted to the changing times and feedback from participants.  I’ve heard a lot of people talking crap about how they change too much and how with only 1,600 participants at an event they can’t keep going.  I really hope they do.  By including open, elite, and BFX distances, as well as novice, intermediate, and elite obstacle levels at all their events, they satisfy the OCR needs of weekend warriors and extreme athletes alike.  Although I’m not currently a season pass holder, I will be very soon. If you haven’t done one of these, you really should.

BattleFrog Nashville TreeCargo

Female Stars of the Upcoming Fox Reality Show American Grit Climb the Tree Cargo (photo credit: Ryan Richey)

So in honor of our friend Merle Haggard, who passed away just last Wednesday at the age of 79, I offer you this song to the tune of the first verse of The Fightin’ Side of Me.

I hear people talkin’ bad, about the BattleFrog Series.  Harpin’ ‘bout their platinum rigs, and gripin’ ‘bout the way things oughta be.  I don’t mind ‘em switchin’ races, and getting’ medals of all shapes and sizes.  When they’re puttin’ down this series, man, they’re walkin’ on the fightin’ side of me.

They’re walkin’ on the fightin’ side of me.  Putting down a series that keeps changin’ to align with all our needs.  If you ain’t done it, try it!  Let this song that I’m singin’ be a warnin’.  When you’re puttin’ down this series, boss, you’ walkin’ on the fightin’ side of me.

BattleFrog Nashville Medals

BattleFrog Elite and Open Wave Medals (photo credit: Sara Heilwagen)

BattleFrog Nashville TipoftheSpear

Athletes Attempt Tip of the Spear, Elites on the Left, Intermediate on the Right (photo credit:  Sara Heilwagen)

BattleFrog Nashville Coach Pain

Coach Pain Demonstrates the 8-Count Body Builder to Open Wave Participants (photo credit: Sara Heilwagen)

BattleFrog Nashville Kids

Completing the Last Obstacle of the BullFrog Mile with Race Director Ryan Atkins Overseeing (photo credit: Sara Heilwagen)

Find more BattleFrogs and other races near you with our new calendar.

BattleFrog Tri-State: First Experience

So you know you’re a dedicated Obstacle Course Racer when you drive over 10 hours, through 3 US states from Canada, sleep for 6 hours, race, hang around all day to cheer on your friends, eat, sleep and then drive home for another 10 hours. Was Battlefrog Tri-State worth it? Hooyah! Yes!

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I have run Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder, Mud Hero, Spartan Race, X Man Race and Dead End Race but I haven’t had the opportunity of hanging a frog around my neck until this past weekend at the Battlefrog Tri-State New Jersey race. Some of the members of my training family from Alpha Obstacle Training and I headed down to tackle the course held at Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey on June 20th, 2015.

The morning of the race our training family spread out with members in the Elite Male Heat, Elite Female Heat, the Xtreme Heat and the first Open Heat of the morning. We had seen the course map posted on social media the week before the race so we prepared to do battle on an 8K course with 32 obstacles. Those in elite mentally prepared for 2 laps of the course, the Xtreme participants started to guess how many laps they could fit in from 8:30 – 3pm and I started googling as many obstacle names as possible to get prepared for the open course. My goal was to try and complete all obstacles.

I chose to race in the open heat to get a great taste of what Battlefrog represents. Since it was my first Battlefrog, word on the street was that if you cannot complete an obstacle (despite being given as many tries as possible) you had to surrender your Elite band. You are still able to finish the course but not eligible for ranking or prizing. Since I have trouble with grip strength obstacles I wasn’t confident I’d be able to complete all obstacles which meant the open heat was the place for me.

After watching my friends take off in the elite heats & xtreme heat I climbed over the starting line wall, took a knee, listened to a rousing pep talk from Coachpain Dewayne and then launched myself out of the start with the first open heat of the day.

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After rolling under the first wall we came upon the first epic obstacle of the day and the first bottleneck on the course. After running to the front of the line to grab a wreck bag from one of my Alpha family members, April (who was the 4th place elite female!) we were made to run over the motocross sand dunes of the park. I absolutely loved this obstacle. I motored along up and down hills, jogging with the bag on my shoulders and looked around to realize the struggle that was happening around me. I’m truly grateful for my strength training, hill running and strong legs that carried me through this 1km portion of the course to feel like I’d beasted this obstacle.

As we completed obstacle after obstacle under the gloomy overcast skies, trudged along in ankle deep, knee deep and shoulder deep mud, dragged jerry cans through the mud, climbed countless obstacles, I still had a massive smile on my face because this is what I truly love. I race to challenge my strength, stamina and determination. BF Tri-State gave me the perfect recipe for that.

In no particular order here are 4 obstacles that were my nemeses for the day.

1. The Dirty Name – this was the 4th obstacle of the day. I watched people attempt, smack their bodies into the higher wooden beam and fall and so I let my fear get the best of me so I knocked out 10 bodybuilders and didn’t even attempt. I didn’t want to hurt myself so early in the race. Watching others do it later just goes to show sometimes you need to suck it up and try because it’s not as hard as it looks.

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2. Platinum Rig – This is the most prestigious rig in the industry. Since 2012, Platinum Rig has been building stronger and more stable rigs ahead of the competition. Apparently this was the first US Battlefrog race that this obstacle made it’s appearance. It was set up with a hanging rope (knot on the bottom), 3 hand rings, 2 ring footholds, another hand ring, another foothold ring, a numchuck to swinging bar to one last hand ring. I’m pretty proud to say I made it to the numchuck before slipping off. When I went to grab the swinging bag another girl was on it and had swung it forward out of my range.

BF Platinum

3. 60 Degrees – This obstacle was covered in mud by the time I got there. I have trouble with my grip strength and was quite worried about slipping off at the top as you try and get up and over. I opted for body builders but know I could have done this obstacle if I had really tried.

BF 60 degree

4. Rope Climb Wall – I failed the first time I attempted. I didn’t get my feet high enough up to the next green rung to pull myself up and almost fell on my back. I shook it off, took some deep breaths and just attacked it. I’m proud that this could have been a failed obstacle for me but instead I killed it.

BF rope wall

And again in no particular order here are 4 obstacles that made me feel like a bad ass.

1. Wreck Bag Carry – to my legs that carried me over this track. Thank you for being strong. To my shoulders and back that supported the bag. I’m sorry I promise I will get you a deep tissue massage this week.

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2. Tsunami – who doesn’t like to conquer fear of heights and slide down a huge slip and slide as an adult into a mud puddle?

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3. Rope Traverse – while I hate the bruises you left on my legs, I love how you made me feel strong for staying on the seemingly endless traverse. Note to future racers, long tights or capris with compressions socks will save you skin burns on the legs.

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4. Caving Ladder – I practiced a few days before the race at my local climbing gym doing an inverted climb upside down, so I was slightly thankful when the ladder was vertical in the forest. Up I scrambled, rang that bell (oh that sweet sound) and scrambled back down.

The race really had so much to offer. The festival area was awesome. There were massive signs beside every tent from registration, merch, bag check, a place with tables & chairs to get ready or just hang out, showers, washrooms and change rooms were easily marked so everything was easy to find. The Xtreme tent was placed off to the side from the start line for drop boxes. It seemed a tad small but worked well for all those involved. I didn’t hear any massive complaints from those racers. Spectators could easily hang around to see our friends and help them with anything after every lap or to yell madly at them to just keep going! The finish line was well stocked with water, bananas and protein bars. While the showers were hoses, the water was actually not as cold as I’ve experienced at other races. I was thankful for the baby wipes I remembered to bring to tidy up post hose shower in the change tent 🙂

As someone who has raced in over 10 obstacle course races and trains 3-4 times a week for them I found the course challenging, but doable. The course set up was amazing, the obstacles top rated. The course however was much flatter than what I’m used to up in Canada. But then again we have a lot of ski hills. All my hill training definitely paid off in the wreck bag carries. I was actually anticipating much tougher obstacles. I technically could have completed the dirty name obstacle, the 60 degrees pipe wall and I’m confident I could’ve gotten the Platinum Rig after a few attempts. I was beyond proud of getting the rope climb on the first try which has been my nemesis at other races and the caving ladder with ease. What’s great about the open heat is that it really is accessible for anyone who wants to try to push themselves but isn’t able to complete every obstacle. The 10 body builder “burpees” are penalty worthy but don’t gas you like the 30 burpees at a Spartan race does.

The top 3 males were Ryan Atkins, Marc-Andre Bedard and Brian Gowiski

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The top 3 females were 1. Claude Godbout, Corrina Coffin, and Ashley Samples

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I am a bit disappointed that I didn’t challenge myself to run in the Elite heat. I am a competitive person and love to push myself. The only challenge I truly had in the open heat was being stuck in bottlenecks waiting for obstacles. As an elite or xtreme runner you had the benefit of yelling out what you were since you were wearing an identifying wristband and were able to move to the front of the line at an obstacle. Although I was fine waiting, it didn’t give me a chance to compete for time or even see how I stacked up against elites on the course. But if that’s my only complaint than BF you have an amazing race series and I can’t wait to see you come up to Canada! HOOYAH!

BattleFrog Atlanta- Elite Experience

5:32 AM – Arrive at Dunkin Donuts for that sweet elixir of life; the fuel that fires the foolishness; my secret supplement of success; a large coffee– 2 creams – 2 sugars.

5:59 AM – QT, your freshly cleansed bathroom is a prerace delight, so therefore I want to apologize…….

6:16 AM – Roll into the VIP parking like a ballah.

6:24 AM – Look at that Biggest Team tent! It has to be at least 2.5x the size of the Spartan biggest team tent. Le Grand Chapiteau is going to be shading a lot of GORMR monkeys.

6:45 AM – The news flies through the festival area faster than a scalded haint; Elite men will be able to use feet on the Bridge over River Cry. I’m not gonna lie, this makes me happier than a baby in a barrel of boobies.

7:00 AM – It’s going to be a blue bell day, with sun, gorgeous skies, and beautiful temps……Damnnit! Where’s the rain? Where’s the unrelenting wrath of my sweet mistress of nature to level the playing field for those of us advanced of age and less swift of foot?

7:01 AM – Bib on. Numbers scrawled upon my person. Precious elite neoprene band on. GU tucked into my pockets. Time for the prerace jog.

7:15 AM- The call is made. Time to assemble in the starting corral.

Observations on the Run:
Readers note: *** = second lap thoughts

1. Coachpaine gets everyone pumped up. He tweaks the elites with regards to the Masters.
2. Having Overs, 12’ wall and Throughs right out of the gate requires a jackrabbit start to avoid the inevitable back-ups. Granted they are not long waits in the competitive wave, but it’s still precious time. Unfortunately I’m more off a jackass off the starting line.

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3. Damn heart is pounding like a fucking jackhammer! What the hell, all these jacks and no cokes!
4. The scorched earth of the Hill Scramble would have been more fun with some rain.
5. I still approach Unders with my damn brain yelling, “should I dive?! Should I roll?” This translates into……you guessed it; a form with no form. Less Bond, more Bean.
*** It’s just rolling a dead body under the wall at this point.
6. As I drop into the trees I get my breathing somewhat under control. Not exactly Kwai Chang Caine, but not Michael Meyers either.
*** Random dude #10 comes up beside me and gives me some encouraging words. We chat for a bit. His enthusiasm and pace put a little pep in my step. We chat and run together for a bit then he moves on.
7. So I’m climbing the Delta Ladder, my balls pretty much in my face because these damn 4x4s are spaced so far apart it seems like my right foot is behind my head, and this volunteer is yelling “the record is jumping from the 4th rung! I want to see from 5! Who’s going to break the record?!” “Are you fucking kidding me?!” I think while making my way down. “What kind of dumbass are you, inviting certain injury?!” I love my volunteers loud and enthusiastic (it’s just a great feeling to bathe in their joy of the sport and giving back, and much more appreciated than they will ever know), I don’t want them loud and moronic. Congratulations dude, you have become the very first inductee into Tretsch’s OCR Douchebag Hall of Fame (TOD HOF) – volunteer category.
*** TODHOF inductee #0001 has moved on, or has shut his piehole. I’m too busy trying to keep my overstretched hips from exploding to look around.

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8. Twisty downhill and – groan! – uphill wooded trails. Dappled sunlight. Perfect morning temps.
*** Fucking dappled sunlight! I sure could use some clouds and some rain.
9. It’s dry. Bone dry. Not a playful puddle in sight.
10. The butt-scootch method on Wedge Donovan isn’t so speedy when it’s not covered in mud and raining. Note to self; adapt to the nice conditions not just the shitty ones. A volunteer is cranking some good tunes from his cellphone.

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11. The 12’ Rope Wall is out in the open, surrounded by cracked earth, and baking in the golden radiance of a hot Georgia sun. Those ropes are going to be dryer than a popcorn fart. Which is nice.
12. I hit the 8’ Wall with a halfhearted attempt that leaves my right hand grasping diddly squat. “Well that’s embarrassing” I think as random dude #1 gives me a “you got this” on his way over.
13. For the second BattleFrog race in a row the first hydration station is not fully set up and we have to pour ourselves refreshment. The struggle is real.
*** I pull out a mustard packet. Such a delicious accompaniment to the electrolyte drink.
14. As I make my way through some great wooded trails I can hear the distinct sound of cowbells. Christopher Walken runs with me in my mind.
*** One of my GORMR teammates who is running BFX cruises on up to me. We chat and run together a bit, and then he moves on.
15. The Rope Climb is hanging from a cable strung between two trees. All of them deliciously dry. I pick a thick monster of a rope (no knots; they get in the way) to the far left. It gives an unsettling amount as I put my full weight on it. A weird sensation to be sure. I wish this climb was higher if not for the fact it’s over hard packed forest floor.

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16. I’m stalled out in a RosePose on the 6’ Wall, because random dude #2 decides to come up tight to my right side and I don’t want to kick him in the head. I need to learn the flip technique to my left. I need to learn the flip technique period. I’m tired of pinching my jibberstick and racking my hairy space hoppers on the leg over-straddle technique.
17. I really have to pee.
18. What is this strange dry gritty substance where my shoes find such good purchase?
19. “Try out the new shoe tying trick that’s all over Facebook,” I thought. “Don’t want to leave a good eyelet unused” I said. Than why the fuck does my right heel feel like it’s going to be worn down to bone by the end of this race?! It’s too early in the race for this shite, and I have no time for retying. I need a water obstacle to cool the foot fire.
*** Fucking heel! I’m not watching life hack videos ever again!
20. I hit the Delta Cargo, after pouring some water in my head and on my head, at the same time as random dude #3. This is a perfect opportunity to test my theory that the “Flip & Crab” ™ is faster than doing a leg over and then climbing down backwards. We both reach the top at the same time [Side note: To my newbie OCR friends who are climbing nets in a crowd; remember to only grab the vertical sections of rope/strap to avoid getting your hands stepped on.] I flip, he throws a leg. Suddenly, somehow, I’m staring straight down at the dirt 16 feet below me, my fingers in contact with………..NOTHING! And for that millisecond while the OCR gods decide to which side I will end up on this fulcrum of OH-fuckery, there is absolute molecule soaking terror. Time slows down and everything moves in exquisite John Woo slow motion, minus the white doves, as I teeter over the abyss. And then the OCR gods reach a decision and my fingers find straps. I crab walk down, my heart about to go all Ellen Ripley out of my chest, and I’m twenty yards down the trail by the time random dude #3 reaches the bottom of the net.
*** More people on the net this time, as the open wave and BFX runners have been passing me. Flip & Crab ™ goes off without a hitch. Still proves to be faster.
21. Fuck! THAT was scary.
22. “Well hello Jerry Can brothers! Shall we go for a stroll?”
23. This gloriously desiccated trail is rather narrow. “Keep going! Don’t Stop! Why thank you random dudes #4 through 8 for stopping to the side – on what little shoulder there is. Damn! I think I got this fucker! Yikes! Vertical wall to my left, small cliff to my right! Shit! Crowded hairpin turn with a big step up! Don’t stop! Hey, there’s the camera guy! Do I go for Blue Steel, a smile or gritted teeth?” The struggle is real. “There’s the finish! Don’t stop! Last little steep part Dig in!” Boom! “See you boys on the next lap!”
*** “OY! These feel heavier this time! The previous cans may have been a bit light on the water. I can’t be that tired!” I go from zero stops on the first lap to three on this one. Shit! On the way to TOTS, BattleFrog’s own David Moore introduces himself. We run and chat for a bit.
24. Fuck! My forearms and fingers are pumped out! No problem, I’ll just shake them out for a while as I run to the next……oh shit!
25. Tip of the Spear looked at lot further from the cans on the map! But the A-frames are dry and the ropes are manila. Ain’t gonna be but a thing!
26. I avail myself of the bushes and give my forearms a few more precious seconds of rest. “Hey, is that the Yellow River? Why can’t we be in there?”
27. I put my weight on the first rope and my forearms immediately demand an explanation for all this tomfuckery. “OOO boy! This is going to be a long obstacle! What the hell; an extra 8 feet of the ledger boards? That’s some evil shit right there.” My forearms are screaming bloody murder by the time the bell comes into reach.
*** The multiple stops at the cans of crazy, actually make TOTS easier this lap.
28. As I approach the Wreck Bag Carry I see some of the leaders dropping off their bags. I am sure this will be the last time I lay eyes on them.
*** Fasciculation flutters start to tickle my calves as I approach the bag pick up. Uh oh! I pound my last mustard packet…and no water in sight. I’ll be burping on that for a while.

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29. Dry grass trail and moderate hill grade?! What a treat! I can’t get more than a power walk up the hill. The rule of not letting the bag touch the ground while negotiating the 4 foot wall seems to be a bit goofy when I need only rest the bag on the wall as I climb over. The guy who got beaned in the noggin by a Wreck Bag in South Carolina would probably tell me to fuck off. As I jog downhill I get to shout out to a fellow Grey Beret coming up the hill. Unfortunately this will be the last time I see him.
*** I see another good friend coming up the hill as I stumble down the hill. “Good for you dude! You have made up some serious ground!!”
30. Nothing but a flat, dry and dusty dirt road for as far as the eye can see. Which is nice.
31. The volunteers at Slant Walls and Inverted Walls are loud and funny. I can’t help but smile.
*** The flutters turn into 10,000 volts of electricity as my left calf says “Howdy DOO! Fuck you!” Now I’m going to have to launch off my right foot. Awkwardness ensues.
32. I finally feel the need to drink some of the electrolyte stuff. Compared to the sloppy seconds of Succubus that was at Tough Mudder, this drink tastes like a ’47 Chateau Latour.
33. Dirty Name looks a whole more menacing over dry land. The ol’ jump, hug and spin move, while not elegant, works flawlessly. Hugging trees is what I do.
34. Mud Mounds finally! Time to get wet….finally! I have been worrying about these since the course map was released. They are far into the race, and if they are anything like South Carolina AND I’m by myself, I may very well not get out of the pits. The mounds are smaller! Annnnd, the first pit is shin deep. What the hell? The next two not much deeper. The water does feel good though. I must be getting tired and loopy, because I swear I smell coffee.
** David Moore (man, does it ever help to run with someone when you’re getting low in the tank) clears up my previous confusion and tells me, in fact there is coffee in the water and scattered on the mud mounds. This caffeinated delight all provided by a new sponsor. The sign “Mounds of Grounds” now makes sense and I feel a little bit less crazy. This is by far the BEST sponsor tie-in of any obstacle in the OCR world (yeah, I’m looking at you TM with your dumbass “skidmarked” name for an inverted wall). Genius. Now just make the damn things taller and deeper. D-Mo and I chat and run together a bit, then he moves on.
35. The dusty road to Perdition finally comes to an end as I take a sudden right and drop right into a scene plucked straight from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Primeval swamp? check. Wicked looking trees, black and menacing, rising form the fetid waters? Check. Candles throughout? Check. Wait! What? Scattered throughout the approach and into the water are Tiki torches assumedly filled with citronella oil. This is a great mosquito control idea on Battlefrog’s part, or volunteers setting the mood for some OCR sexy time. Either way I hit the vertical Swamp Cargo net with Captain Jack all googly eyed and slurry running all floppy through my mind. I use the flip technique here as well, but manage to take a shot to the gut with the support cable before I do. Ooof!
36. Swamp Cargo part dux is a bit of a challenge with the sloppy slippery face of the wall to negotiate before getting the net. Luckily a tree and two small roots prove effective at combating gravity. I can hear the music! The end…..of the first lap…..is nigh. My watch a happy harbinger of good news, as I calculate the first lap will happen in under an hour and I will get out ahead of the 8:30am BFX/first open wave at the backup causing first few obstacles.
37. The Festival area is fully awake now with (the more manageable decibel levels) sounds of great music and abuzz with the activity of spectators and racers as I round the corner and come out from under the trees. Despite the sun and dry weather 60 Degrees is still a bit slick with mud. And like in South Carolina, careful deliberate movements are the name of the game. My transition is still as awkward as a baby giraffe learning to walk.
38. I hear the cries of the grass gasping for water so I oblige by wiping my hands all over their shriveled blades. Monkey Bars are but 50 yards dead ahead.
39. UNLIKE South Carolina, not only are the ground and sky devoid of water but so are the monkey bars. Bonus! they start on an upward climb and end with a downward climb instead of the harder reverse! The overall length is just as long however. The whole assembly is so low to the ground to mitigate injury, as there is not an inviting muddy water pit below, that I must crouch down to avoid splitting my melon on the first two bars. All goes smoothly.
*** Redemption from South Carolina! The second lap goes even more smoothly than the first. As I drop down to the platform I yell. A loud primal yell. Guttural. Impassioned. Spontaneous. An Arms out, fists clenched, teeth bared kind of yell. I probably looked like Wolverine….except for the claws, the mutton chops…..oh, and the muscles, and the good looks. Shit! Never mind.

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40. As I run up to Bridge over River Cry, there are racers climbing, racers falling and racers standing there with “what the fuck?!” expressions on their faces. I pick a lane where random guy #9 is just about to finish. I have no idea what to expect. I have never climbed a caving ladder. Hell I’ve never even seen one in person. The damn thing is barely a hand and a half wide. It is clear it will require slow deliberate movements while keeping my weight completely centered on the rungs lest it rotate unexpectedly. “That pool of water looks to be rather shallow,” I think. But there is no time for reflection, only action. I’ll figure out how to transfer to that girthy 15’ tall wood pole when I get there. It has huge jugs on it so I’m not too worried……I think. It’s a wobbly awkward start reaching out to the furthest rung I can to lessen the number needed to finish. I pull my feet up and make the first tentative moves; hand, hand, foot on rung, foot on rung. As the pitch of the ladder gets steeper I decide to be more cautious and lessen the strain on the arms by wrapping my legs over the ladder and proceeding with a rope traverse type technique. I never look past the next rung my hand needs to go to. I don’t want to see how far I still have to go. At the end I grab a jug, cut feet, spin and cling to the pole. “You wondrous wooden shaft!” I say as climb down. My elite band is safe for the first lap.
*** Disaster almost strikes near the top when my left hand miscues and the cable ends up between my ring finger and my angry finger. The cable bites in hard as a good portion of my weight is supported by the two fingers on the rung. I manage to get my right hand on the next rung in time. I repeat the same transition as lap one and hit the ground with another guttural yell. My brain and body both in accord that I will finish with my band.

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41. I don’t get to do the Tsunami until the end. This makes me sad.
42. There is no cool lap transition obstacle. This makes me sad.
43. Repeat 1 through 40. Refer to ***
44. Finally I get a run at Tsunami. There is no long flat run up to the obstacle as in past races, but this proves not to be an issue with it being so dry. Out of superstition I pick the far right rope and in the immortal words of James Brown, “Get on up!” And without stopping I make for the slide. My apologies to random dude #11 who was sitting on the lip waiting to slide. I think I came really close to you as I jumped up to fall into the slide. Dick move on my part.

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45. I crawl through the Normandy Jacks as fast as I can, my back pressed against the wires. I’m too tired to crawl on my belly.

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46. And for the third time that day I yell out a scream as I cross the finish line. I’m done and I’m still rockin’ the rubber! It’s 9:30 AM and it’s a fine day.
47. What can I say, this race rocked! Dryer than I liked? Yes. Not enough water obstacles? Yes. But this is BattleFrog, if there are places for improvement it will be done. You want to be challenged, this is your race. Tretsch says DO it!

Postscript

For the first time I am able to hang for a while after the race and really soak in the atmosphere. The Music is at the right volume and the sun is shining. A couple of beers, some great fellowship, many laughs, much cheering for fellow Grey Berets/GORMRs and general goofing off makes for a fantastic morning.

1:00 PM – Thank god for biggest team perks. I hobble to my car only a hundred yards from the festival entrance.
1:03 PM – It’s going to be a long 40 miles………………………………………………….

*Photos By: Tiffany Rae Flock, John Montoya, Daniel Firment, Andy Sneller, and SeiberShots Photography.

BattleFrog Carolinas Review- Part 2

As with all stories, they start at the beginning. So if you need to catch up you can do so here!

49. Refer back to 1 through 31, just more slippery, muddier, hellish and slower. Being a bit superstitious I take the exact same lanes at each obstacle as I did the first lap.

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50. It’s still fucking raining.
51. It keeps my spirits up realizing I am passing people from the 8:30 open wave.
52. I made a critical error going shirtless. I am starting to get seriously cold. It never fucking occurred to me that when it rains you never dry off from the cold water obstacles. CRAP!
53. By now that Electrolyte drink I spat out at the very first hydration station has become ambrosia. I down a cup of that shit and savor it like it was 23 year Pappy.
54. People are walking through the pond. It didn’t occur to me on the first lap to even check the depth. However it’s up to our shoulders and takes more effort to move in this manner. The water is colder or I am. I execute another fine imitation of my grandmother’s swimming form. I wonder if she’s looking down wondering what the fuck I am up to?

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55. The Wreck Bag hill has surely dropped down into deeper circles of Hell. There is now water freely flowing down the ruts. I pass two young, ripped meatheads as they are complaining and whining about wanting to drop the bag in situ (my latin…..certainly not theirs) and just head to the beer tent. “Bitches, you just got passed by a dude at least 15 years your senior…AND, the ladies have to carry the same bag!!” This gives me the mental boost I need to top out and finish this fucker.
56. The people doing BFX must be out of their fucking minds!
57. I am pretty much scared shitless as I crest over the top of 60 Degrees. I am exhausted, and this slippery ladder from hell requires supreme focus.

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58. Delta Ladder is a grind. The hips are complaining vociferously! I’m pretty scared shitless at the top of this one also.
59. I scan the crowd for my mom. I could REALLY use my sweatshirt and a towel. I need a moment to dry off before I tackle the Monkey Bars. No luck.
60. There, crumpled in a mess, is the same shirt. It’s wet of course, but somehow feels dryer than I am. I “dry” off my hands, excuse myself through a couple of guys resting on the platform and go. OOOOO! I can feel my body weight this time as I make my way down the first section. I think I got this. The flat section transition to the upward section takes tremendous effort. “DAMN! The gas light is going blinky, blinky, blinky!” I’m getting heavier but the grip feels solid. The end is fucking near! Three bars to go. Then nothing. I’m falling in a weird slow motion as I watch my right hand miss the bar. My left hand/shoulder not tooled up to take the unexpected weight shift. SPLASH! A few “Gosh Darns” and “Gee Whizzes” and I circle back to try again.
61. I could REALLY use my sweatshirt and a towel.
62. I ask a gentlemen spectator if he can get me a towel; anything to wipe off my hands. I almost jump over the fence and hug him when he comes back with one. Back I go.
63. 4 bars from the end and I stall out. Everything in my upper body telling me to fuck the hell off. I fall. I get out of the water and stand there dazed and confused, minus the weed, the hot young girls, and Matthew McConaughey. I hang out at the end platform like a lost puppy. Not really focusing on any one thing. My brain is shot. I can tell my shoulders won’t handle another trip through without a long rest. I am starting to shiver. I’m too cold to rest it out. I could REALLY use my sweatshirt and a towel. I give up my orange band as if it’s the last piece of chocolate on earth. I am defeated and demoralized.
64. I pick the same lane at Tsunami, cruise on up, top out and my calves immediately seize up. My screams are unmanly and unseemly. I get a helping hand up from another racer.
65. I can barely get out of the water.
66. The Normandy Jacks are a disaster of huge mud holes and ROCKY soil and low strung wire. My calves won’t cooperate, so I can’t bear crawl through this to avoid the sharp rocks. I drag myself through as the calves – sometimes only one, sometimes both – keep seizing up. I am going at a blistering 47.18 minute/mile pace. I note a large brown spider crawling out of one of the mud pits with me. “You best vacate this area most ricky ticky little arachnid dude!” Great! I am literally talking to spiders.

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67. And then it’s done. Garmin says 11.31 miles. I say Hell now has a mile marker.
68. THAT was fucking AWESOME!!!!! This course was brutal and so fantastic. Everything about it was textbook challenge. The inclement weather only made it better for an old dude like me. I fear it would give a first time OCR runner complete and utter shell shock from which they might not recover from to want to race another day. Nonetheless, Tretsch says DO it!

Postscript

April 25, 2015 10:50 AM – I am shivering. There is a worried look on my Mom’s face as she describes how blue/purple my lips and face are. I’m exhausted. I’m Done. “Daddy is it time for my race yet?!” says Lil’ B. “Man up Tretsch”, time to get warm and get the clothes changed so I can go to the most important race of the day; The Tadpole Dash.

April 25, 2015 11:05 AM – I am not letting that cold ass shower water go above my knees. Imma gonna just towel clean everything north of Kneecapistan.

April 25, 2015 11:10 AM – The changing tent floor is almost as bad as the festival area grounds. I find a small dry patch as mud squishes through my toes on the way there. Another dark material tent! Hello!? You can’t see in a tent that is fucking BLACK (or was it blue?), and blocks what little light there is on this rainy grey day. I’m near the open flap of the tent. I don’t care if the outside world can see my business. Not much there anyways given my body temperature. Every move, every task is done in exquisitely slow, shivering, exhausted movements. Getting my muddy feet through the legs of my boxers without getting them dirty is the 61st obstacle of the day. The rain has finally stopped.

Writer’s note: You, my dear reader, may choose to bail if you are not interested in the Kiddy races. I know it’s been a long slog with a Wreck Bag of words and you are probably tired and in need of some nourishment and hydration. Until next time.

April 25, 2015 11:23 AM – “Daddy is it time for my race yet?!” “No sweety. About a half hour”. “Don’t forget, Daddy, you need to write numbers on my arm….and a heart!” “Yes baby love.”

April 25, 2015 11:25 AM – “Daddy is it time for my race yet?!”

April 25, 2015 11:45 AM – “Sweety it’s time to get ready for your race!” “YEAH!! Don’t forget to write my numbers on my arm….and a heart. In pink!” “I know baby love.”

April 25, 11:55 AM – We are all gathered around as Mike Getka from Battlefrog teaches the children how to do 8-count body builders. The cuteness factor is pegging at 11. The parents are all jockeying for the best camera angles. I meet some guy name Ryan Atkins from Toronto and his huge Husky. Seems like a nice kid. Wonder if he is running the race today? My mom crushes that poor pup (the husky, not Ryan) under a barrage of loving and petting.

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April 25, 12ish PM – The Tadpole race starts. A big muddy puddle and a small wall and the air is filled with laughing screaming children. Down a sketchy hill, around a cool banked S curve and then it’s more mud and a tall dirt mountain. Unfortunately this is all going on in the woods and away from the festival area, so Lil’ B’s grandmother can’t enjoy the fun. Mud mounds and mud pits get the children really screaming, then it’s a steep hill climb. I am:
a. Filming with my phone
b. Trying not to bust my ass
c. Hoping my calves don’t explode into a post-race pile of mush.

Then it’s around the corner, a great volunteer cheering her head off for all the kids, and a huge (relative to this race’s age group of 4-8) Delta ladder/Cargo net comes into view. Must be almost 8’ tall. I’m a bit nervous, and I am sure Lil’ B was gonna balk and want me to help. Nope. As soon as a “lane” opened up she went straight up with nary a thought. Over and down the cargo net and it was back on! A stumble on some rocks, but good recovery and she then looks back and tells her old man to watch out. This is a valid concern on her part. So awesome.

A quick scramble up a hill without using rope and it was mini Normandy Jacks time. This was exactly the same as the adults down to the sharp rocks, gravelly soil and deep mud pits, only writ small. At this age it would have been better to be smooth mud. Bennett gets her medal from that kid Ryan. I guess he’s a big deal in the OCR world. I need to check that out. She gives me a couple of “Hooyahs!” and then says, “Daddy can we do it again?! I wanna do it again!” There’s no energy like 6 year old energy.

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April 25, 12:30 PM – Again, Lil’ B goes through the 8-count body builders with the older children who are going to run the Bullfrog 1 mile. Same start and initial route as before, but after the hill climb the course turns right in the shadow (if there had been sun) of a huge green sign that says one mile…and an arrow. I ask Lil’ B if she wants to do the 1 mile, and I get a resounding yes. I weep just a little on the inside for my legs. The trail winds through the woods, it’s quite lovely. I almost forget I just went through the same kind of bucolic surroundings…..except I didn’t. There are tall walls that Lil’ B gets a hoist up onto, but she nervously goes over the edge on her own while I go to the other side to catch. She has fun sliding down the backside of an inverse wall. There is some Over/Under/Throughs. The volunteers the whole time being helpful and supportive. “Daddy, I have to go potty!” Detour time! That tree looks nice.

Back on the trail there’s lots of muddy puddles to go through, and we seem to be alone. We catch up to some people at the lip of a HUGE (again, it’s all relative) mud pond/hole. Maybe 75 yards across. Mike Getka is there lending a helping hand. Lil’ B asks if it’s deep, she is assured it is not so for her height, proven by the children ahead of her already in the water with their parents. Surprise of surprises she goes in alone and fords the whole distance on her own, while I stand and chat with Mike and give him my two cents on the music volume. I run…..more of a zombie like shuffle….to the other side after she is across, yelling all sorts of proud parent things. “Daddy, can I do that again?!”

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Around she goes and does it again, this time completely alone in that watery expanse. A tiny dot of yellow, bright against the disgusting grey/brown of the muddy water. By now we are completely bringing up the rear of this race. And the love I feel for Battlefrog right now as I think about the amazing experience Bennett and I had while she was doing the last few obstacles with at least 10 volunteers, Mike Getka from Battlefrog, and a SeaBees upper mucketymuck cheering with unabashed enthusiasm for Bennett as she completed the course, is palpable. They had all just had a long day I’m sure, and to show that kind of support was just really touching.

April 25, 1ish PM – “Daddy can we do that again?!” “No, baby love. Not this time.”

And just like that…all good things come to an end! Again, be sure to check out Part 1 here if you missed out.

*Photos By: BattleFrog Race Series

BattleFrog Houston (Xtreme)- “The Wrath of Acord”

It was a stunning spring Texas day as racers arrived in high hopes and bright smiles for the BattleFrog race in Houston, Texas. The birds were chirping and the weather forecast could not have been more ideal………then a vile man by the name of Christopher Acord and his henchmen ruined it with an absolutely grip-strength stealing and soul-crushing 8K BattleFrog course. Now I am severely limited in my wise decision making so I elected to enlist in the BattleFrog Xtreme wave, basically run/walk/crawl/cry my way through as many laps of this yet unrealized wretched course as possible before meeting my maker, or being stopped from starting another lap at 3pm. My plan was to solid pace myself, carry no gear, use water stations on course, and refuel at my drop-bag in-between laps. My race memory is always extremely vague, but here it is.

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And we are off! The first lap started well. I settled into first place then came the Jerry Can carry. We were charged with carrying 2 Jerry Cans full of water weighing 30-40 lbs through the woods and mud for way too long. This began the torture that was for my forearms for the day. After dropping the cans off we were rewarded with a short swim. Normally I enjoy the swims as an opportunity to “clean-off”, but oh not on Acord’s watch. Immediately after leaving the water you had a meeting scheduled with some of Texas’s nastiest mud located under a cargo net. Some running ensued including roped-wall-climb/ cargo-net-pyramid/way too many versions of walls plus more walls (now normally I view walls as something that is placed as a “filler” obstacle, but there the nasty little children of Acord were slowly adding to my forearm torture).

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This brings us to the “Wreck Bag carry” were we adopted a 50 lb sandbag as our own and were sent back into the woods. During our trip into the woods we crawled under wires dragging our little friends along and taking it on a trip over one small wall. After dropping our little friends back off at the orphanage, we took a trip down into a river bed were we spent some quality time climbing and sinking in more of Texas’s finest water/dirt mixture. A section of rock dancing followed by a short stroll into the woods dropped us back into sight of the festival area. Here we were treated with another small swim and some small hill running before meeting another one of Acord’s twisted ideas of grip-strength-sapping-fun. This abomination of all things fun was some sort of wire ladder inclining towards a wood pole fitted with rock climbing grips for your trip back own.

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Upon taxing your grip-strength yet again we were treated with Battlefrog’s version of Monkey-Bars, good thing my forearms are super-awesome and super-pissed at this point. This is the point that I relinquished my first place status to Sal Medina who put the monkey into the Monkey-Bars and slid past me. Now a run towards the finish (or another trip back into Acord’s Hades Den) is blocked by a ramped-wall-rope climb followed by a slide back down the back-half. This now concludes, but does not include all of the obstacles endured during the course. As mentioned before my race memory is cloudy at best. At my drop bag I enjoy a diet of MexiCoke (if you don’t know you should), cinnamon rolls, salt pills, and a nice secret mixture provided by the fine folks at VPX sports.

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Laps 2, 3, and 4 brought me just a little closer towards forming a tactical strike team whose sole purpose was the removal of Acord’s “legendary” beard. Lap 5 started as what I had convinced myself was a “fun run” as I believed that Sal had built a lead that I could not overcome, but after dropping those damn Jerry Cans off for the final time I found myself pushing my pace a little harder minute after minute. Upon stopping at the last water station I was told that Sal was no more than 3 minutes ahead. This lit a fire under my 40 year old backside. With less than a mile left (and luck on my side) I was able to catch up to Sal who, despite being severely depleted was fighting that course like a champion. I offered him my best advise as I have been in his condition way to many times. Then I ran like a bat out of hell (which was exactly what I was trying to escape) to meet up with those last few forearm pleasing obstacles before finally being allowed to cross the finish line. In total, Sal and I were the only ones that completed 5 laps in the allotted time of this ridiculous soul crushing BattleFrog course.

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On a side note, I would like to offer Mr. Acord my deepest thanks for creating an extremely challenging and, dare I say, the best OCR I have ran to date. After this I am officially retired until my next race. Yours truly, John Taylor.

*Photos By: John Taylor and his Wife.

58425386-JGP_2678John Taylor is a 3 time Ultra Beast/ 5 time Fuego y Agua Survival Runner/ 2014 WTM runner and BattleFrog Xtreme, Houston winner. This is his first review for ORM.

BattleFrog- Central Florida 2015

Fresh off their first race of the season in Miami, BattleFrog rang in their second race in Central Florida on March 15th. The location was a flat field, surrounded by prairie and ranch land with the sounds of cows and other livestock resonating in the distance. The setting was quite picturesque for a race venue. As the sun struggled to come up over the horizon, the runners lined up to check in and register starting at 6:00 a.m. The only problem… the registration system wasn’t allowing anybody to register and the volunteers couldn’t check people in. This created a domino effect. All elite males needed to get checked in first, and I honestly can’t tell you if I heard the announcer call for them to line up. All I remember is looking up and seeing a rush of men fly by. Eventually they did iron out the issues with the registration, but it wasn’t a good start to the day. I barely had fifteen minutes to warm up after my own registration (shame on me for waiting till day of to register) before my heat was in the corral and ready to go.

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Just like Miami, Coach sent us off into the swamplands…err Florida flatlands and a very soggy first 5k. During the first part of the course you were constantly wet. Wetlands crossing, creeks crossing, wade into a lake and not get eaten by a gator crossing. The Jerry Can carry was through several spots of wetland that went deeper than my waist.

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The entire course was gorgeous though. I though several times that I wished I was in better running shape because the landscape was super flat. I know that Florida isn’t known for its hills, but having both the Miami course and Central Florida course back to back as flat courses was a bit disappointing. I did make the most of the scenery and enjoyed the views as the sun came up over the horizon. The terrain was much more forgiving than the track in Miami. The ground was softer and it helped that it was pasture that had been freshly fertilized by the resident cows.

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Takeaways from the course:
1. Water crossings should not be considered obstacles. We’ve all played in puddles, they are not difficult. They do slow you down a little, but it’s minimal.
2. Jerry Cans float in water….crossings.
3. Short girls CAN conquer eight foot walls without someone pushing them over.
4. Rope climbs aren’t easy. Rope climbs out of four feet of water requires creativity to elevate yourself out of the water and THEN climb.
5. Another water crossing. Only this one was deep, so don’t open your mouth unless you want giardia.
6. Elites didn’t get to do the Amphibious Assault (a.k.a the paintball shooting)…what…the…heck!?
7. Caving ladders are hard, but not impossible. Work on that upper body.
8. Great use of the Wreck Bag. A half a mile carries through an orange orchard. If you aren’t concerned with your time you could have stopped and enjoyed one.
9. Who was on gator patrol?
10. O3 is a new obstacle. Climb a telephone pole hallway with rock climbing grips, and grab onto a traverse rope and slide down. Not terrifying at all. (I’m lying)
11. Monkey Bars were much easier this time. But an added obstacle was the fact that the water kept draining out of the pit. So…don’t fall.

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Once one finished, you could enjoy that New Belgium brew. I’m a big fan of the adult beer choice. The showers were chilly, and the changing tents were far enough away that you were dry by the time you needed to change. I do have to say that whoever set up the women’s changing tent wasn’t thinking clearly. The flap to open it up was zip tied to the fence where spectators were watching people come over the Monkey Bars. Men could see clear into the changing tent, and a lot of spectators were distracted from their loved ones finishing the race. Next time boys and girls; let’s think about the modesty of the sport. I know there isn’t much with the compression gear, but not all women want their beginnings flashed to the world.

BattleFrog has done a fantastic job promoting and hopefully their races will continue to get bigger and bigger. They are forward thinkers in the OCR game, but they do need to come up with more challenging obstacles.

Side note:
ESPN was on site for the filming of the Colligate Challenge where 16 NCAA teams, made up of athletes, rec students, and regular people, competed for scholarship money. BF did a fantastic job setting up an American Ninja Warrior type course. I watched the students compete and thought that this is a fantastic opportunity for the OCR sport to showcase what they do and why so many people have fallen in love with it. Could this be a thing at future races? I really hope so as it brought an exciting new element to the festival area.

For some additional photos go here: Post by Obstacle Racing Media.

*Photos By: BattleFrog Race Series 

AmberAndersonAmber Anderson has the flare of the Wild Wild West running through her veins. She hails from the great state of Wyoming, but somehow landed in Nashville TN. She’s a snowboarder, backpacker, sometimes half marathon runner, and now OCR addict.