BattleFrog Xtreme vs. Triple Digit Heat in Portland

If the devil visited the course on race day, he would have worn shorts. My hometown greeted the BattleFrog crew with a blistering 100+ dose of PNW sun.

BattleFrog - BFX Briefing - Portland

The BattleFrog Extreme (BFX) started with a 7:45 briefing / PT Session from the Beard himself, and then an 8:15 send off from Coach Pain (after a person who missed the 7:45 briefing was publically hazed). Our goal was as many laps of the 8k course as possible, but whatever lap we were on 6.5 hours later would be our last. You could stop at 3 laps for a BFX medal, but an extra gold star for each lap would be waiting at the finish line if you wanted more – and a silver star at lap 5.

BattleFrog - Coach Pain - Portland

Coach Pain’s send off was great. The guy channels Don King’s lyricism, Leonidas’ inspirational touch and Jack Lalane’s passion for being awesome in all things fitness. And he’s a super nice! After the race I shook his hand and thanked him for the boost at the start. He pointed to my BFX medal and said it meant a lot to him to see me wearing that. Kids need that sort of guy as a role model.

The race course started easy enough going up a hill. A bunch of people ran up it while I did a slow jog, then it leveled out and I started passing. After a nice downhill in the shade we turned back up for the full sun exposure parts of the course. There were a few standards O-U-Ts, walls, and then a pond / horse toilet where the Normandy Jacks supported low wires we had to crawl under.

BattleFrog BFX Stinky Pond - Portland

After the pond there was a nice trail section again with some shade that didn’t last, and then the Jerry Can carry. These 50 pound containers of water felt easy on the first few laps, but they morphed into instruments of torment as the day got hotter. The unshaded loop we carried them on was long, and had respectable inclines.

BattleFrog Jerry Can Portland

Still, most everything was simple on lap one. The early morning flow helped burn off a lot of the nervous energy. The muddy creek we traversed, mud mounds and the quicksand obstacle were all still fresh – and they all took turns dumping new rocks into our shoes. Later in the day, these became shoe stealing and cramp inducing bogs where the mud didn’t stop until it hit your knees.

What stood out by lap one was the obstacle variety. This was my 12th OCR / endurance event, and I’d developed a bit of “been there, conquered that” cockiness about most OCR things not called an Ultra Beast. Any meathead can push through Spartan obstacles, but the BF stuff is tricky and took some real thought.

On my first lap, I successfully navigated the elite wedge wall. I think the cliffhanger from ANW might be easier. The thing leans backwards, uses rock climbing hand holds that are unevenly distributed and goes on forever. But let’s talk about that platinum rig…  I completed this contraption on 3 of 4 laps, but even after watching my video I still can’t tell you how. Were the course directors downing shots and commiserating over bad breakups when they designed that thing? The rope to Olympic ring transitions were awkward enough, but the varying heights of the rings made that thing exceptionally hard. Battlefrog, I owe you an apology for underestimating your courses…. Those obstacles are about as “easy” as Coach Pain is timid and shy.

Lap 1 ended shortly after I made it up the tall rope climb (above 2 inches of hay?) and through the Tip of the Spear (a really, super fun and semi technical obstacle). At under 1:20, I was feeling good about getting five laps in.

I’d read about the triple digit heat and thought I was ready. Instead of steady pacing the day, I planned to go out a faster and bank as many laps as possible before the heat caught up. I restocked my hydration belt, downed a Gatorade and some Nuun spiked water and took off. About 1:25 minutes later I was back again, with only a minor calve cramp from spacing calories too far apart. Lap 3 took 11 minutes longer, but the body was still showing me love so I took off for #4 feeling cocky.

It had been oppressively hot for a while before lap 4, but I thought I was managing it well. After all, I’d made it through the Platinum Rig three times already – and that thing’s impossible! The medics by the drop area asked if I wanted them to pour cold water on my head before leaving. I tapped the hydration packs on my waist, gave them a cheesy grin and said “no worries, I got this” and took off up the hill.

BattleFrog - BFX PDX - On Site Medics

Around 1:30 the course felt like Hades. The stinky pond with the Normandy Jacks now felt like an Oasis that I didn’t want to leave. I put all of my body that fit into the water to cool down a bit. After some more trail weaving, those wretched Jerry Cans were back. While lugging that thing uphill my core temp started feeling nuclear, and the heart rate started spiking. I set the can down a few times, but even after rest I felt just as tired as I did before stopping. Then the cramps started. I didn’t realize until afterwards that my final hour on the course was going to be a textbook case of heat exhaustion.

Shortly after posing for my last Jerry Can picture, muscles in my abs started visibly balling up under the skin. Every time a mud obstacle would come, cramps in the legs started firing off like a symphony. And it got progressively worse.

The legs didn’t get all the fun. The 90+ obstacles had taken an upper body toll. My forearms started seizing and locked the affected hand into a claw-like pose. Even flexing for a picture triggered the “claw” cramping. It was pretty grim, but then waves of nausea started and they helped take my mind off the cramping.

After moving like a zombie for a bit, it was round 4 with the rig. This time, I failed. The volunteer told me he wouldn’t make me do the penalty loop. Yeah right, like I’m going to start cheating on lap 4? I insisted. He pointed to a 50-pound wreck bag to carry round the loop. I found out later he was being nice, because he didn’t tell me I was also supposed to grab a Jerry Can. Sorry BF, I tried to honor your rules.

The final trudge to the hilltop cemetery felt appropriately symbolic before turning down to the finish line. After three more obstacles (where it was a constant struggle not to vomit), my 20 mile, 120 obstacle and 2,800 feet of elevation gain journey in the blazing heat was over.

If I were a horse in a 1950’s western, they would have shot me at the finish line. Instead, I was pampered with water and ice, and given a huge medal with 4 stars for my effort. I crossed the finish line 6:39 minutes after I started (too late to go out for another lap) and came in 7th among the men.

BattleFrog- BFX Swag - Portland

After the race, the medics watched us like hawks. I hadn’t been laying down for more than a couple of minutes before they had ice packs under both of my arms and behind my neck. Battlefrog really took everyone’s safety in that heat seriously. Watching them constantly checking on their volunteers throughout the day to make sure they were doing alright just reinforced this group’s class.

The course was great, the people were amazing, and I really fell in love with the way this crew rolls. Count me as one of the BF converts. Easily one of the better times I’ve ever had on a course.

If you’d like a highlights visual of the course with Tchaikovsky in the background, an 8-minute video of the day is available here .

Photo Credits: “cool random guy at the shower station” and Chosen Technologies via BattleFrog. 

Daniel Delfino

A middle aged guy with a day job that deals with stress by training for obstacle course races and extreme endurance events.