Asheville Spartan Super 2018

Every year for the last three years, I have made the nine-hour drive to tackle the Asheville-Black Mountain course. Over the past three years, the Ashville course has consistently ranked in difficulty at the highest level. In comparison to other courses, it’s put in the same category as Killington and Wintergreen.  The terrain and elevation provide a physically and mentally tough course, one that provides challenges to the strongest OCR athletes and pushes many past their limitations.

With that in mind, I drove to Ashville this year with a hopeful mindset. Each year I have managed to improve my time and overall performance and this year I had the same intentions. In typical Asheville fashion, just parking on race day was a difficult task. The rain had been falling hard for the last few weeks and the parking lot was a muddy mess with many Spartans stopping to help push out vehicles and navigate to safer parking.

Standing in the start line corral, feeling the normal butterflies and anxiousness that one faces staring at a monumental task, I took a deep breath, shouted AROO, and took off running to face the rugged terrain.

The course began much like years before, swooping hard right and heading towards the cold streams that run throughout the mountain. Soon I was jumping into the cold water and maneuvering around the slippery rocks and divots. Vertical Cargo and Plate Drag were the very first obstacles we faced. I really enjoyed the cargo climb and the way they used the terrain.

Cargo Climb Plate Drag

6ft wall followed by 8ft wall and Z-wall were the next obstacles we faced. The new design on Z-wall provided increased difficulty and many athletes were forced to do burpees in several inches of muddy water.

Z-Walls

Moving forward we faced lots of climbing and navigating muddy terrain, the rain made this particular course that much more difficult and the climbs alone were taking many Spartans a great deal of time.

Technical Terrain

After a few miles of climbing we were brought down the hill and close to the festival area. Here we faced the multi-rig and several other Spartan favorites including tire flip and dunk wall.  The dunk wall was extra gross and left us all orange and muddy.

Circling out of the festival area and heading back up the mountain we began another ascent. Most of the climbs and ascents were in areas where it was nearly impossible to actually run. Rather Spartans moved in a march up the side of the mountain. One thing to mention about this venue is the amazing views. While the climb is rugged, the view from the top is absolutely breathtaking.

Mountain View

Several miles of climbing up and back down was next; stopping only for the incredible views or next obstacle tends to be the right of passage for any Spartan who tackles the Asheville Spartan course. Adjacent to Cargo Climb we came upon a newer Spartan obstacle similar to a great wall with rock grips. The rock grips were muddy and made the obstacle very difficult but equally fun.

Great Wall

Similar to years past, the last mile or so of the course brought us back down the mountain and into the festival area to finish out the last few obstacles. First, a long barb wire crawl with many spectators and finishers watching and cheering us all on. Next, the spear throw and Hercules Hoist tried our reserves.  The last few obstacles and finish line were in the heart of the festival area. It was a lot of fun to have so many cheering you on as you finished this grueling and laborious course. Jumping the fire and smiling for the customary photo danced in my memory as I collected my medal and shirt.

I do, however, feel obligated to mention that when the small rain storm rolled in during the afternoon heats, many racers were taken off of the course with no medal or finisher shirt. The Spartan Staff at this particular event (I’ve been to many and never experienced this) chose to yell, scream and curse at racers to get out of the festival area. I was very surprised by the unprofessional display and lack of organization they showed over such a small storm; by the time I had trudged back to my car the rain had stopped and the clouds had cleared.

However, outside of the storm and festival uproar, overall the 2018 Asheville Spartan Super did not disappoint; it was the perfect combination of the 2016 and 2017 courses. I am looking forward to the next event…AROO!

The Crucible – A True OCR Challenge

 The Crucible: Difficulty is key in this short-distance sufferfest

It may seem hard to believe.  On March 31st, 2018 in Clinton, Mississippi  I found a menagerie of soul-crushing obstacles deep in the heart of the sometimes ho-hum state of Mississippi.  However, that is exactly what The Crucible is.  A once a year event not for the easily defeated, The Crucible offers a great challenge to OCR elites as well as suffer fest diehards. Proof that people who are indeed serious about OCR and about pushing themselves to the brink even in Mississippi, The Crucible will tear racers down and subsequently build them back up into a stronger person by the end of the 4.8-mile sufferfest.

Josh Reed conquers the high wall

Methodical Mania in Mississippi

Just over four miles can seem like much further when it’s jam-packed full of forty obstacles.  The Crucible challenges racers with unique unorthodox challenges that they may not be used to. What seemed to be a large, low incline A-frame was actually a hanging over-under.  The concept is hard to grasp without optical aid. Imagine weaving your body in and out of two by fours all while trying to hold your body weight up.  The unknown can be daunting.  Discovering a technique that gets you through a new obstacle is part of the fun.

Katie on challenging Monkey Bars

Katie Windham making her way across the elevating monkey bars

Coaching at its finest

Monkey Swing

Innovation for the OCR Nation

This OCR introduced new, challenging obstacles.  It also made many OCR staples more challenging and threw a new twist on them.  We’ve all done a log carry. How about a DOUBLE fence post carry around a berm and down and up a hill?  Rope climbs are nothing new to the OCR world. A thirty-foot rope climb out of water is no easy task.  Bucket Carry? No, participants had to complete a double tire carry instead.  I commend and respect the race director on his barefaced approach.  The Crucible presented competitors with a great physical and mental challenge designed to unleash the animal of survival from within.

Sweet Victory

Working out the Kinks

The only qualm I have with The Crucible is expected with smaller, newer races.  Volunteers were either not placed at some obstacles early on, or they did not know how to properly give instruction.  This is vastly important when elite waves come through, especially when cash prizes are being awarded. Early on there were no instructions and no volunteers to give direction.  Many newcomer elites had to repeat obstacles, in turn, forcing them to be behind other competitors on an obstacle losing valuable time.

There were also a few bad choke points that just didn’t flow well for an elite event.  Hanging in the air because someone is in front of you and hasn’t yet figured out their technique isn’t fun.  However, these small detriments did not severely detract from the overall experience of The Crucible.  I feel that the small race can improve on these factors creating a tough challenge that also flows.  I am happy to get the word out about what The Crucible is and can be.  I invite many of you from surrounding states to come and try it out! It’s one of the few events that I personally can say makes a trip to my home state worth it!

 

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!

 

2018 TOYOTA WARRIOR OCR SERIES

Attracting close to three thousand athletes, and a couple thousand onlookers, the 2018 season opener of the hugely popular obstacle course racing (OCR) series, the Toyota WARRIOR Series, powered by Reebok, was off to the perfect start this past weekend at Riversands Country Farm in Johannesburg.

The OCR Toyota WARRIOR series is designed for adventure seekers from all walks of life, and, with no barrier to entry, makes obstacle course racing (OCR) accessible to anyone with a pair of trainers, t-shirt, and shorts.

Course designer, Jono Hart, says Toyota WARRIOR 2018 will be the best year yet for OCR.

I build these courses to allow ordinary people to start somewhere and build themselves into who they want to be. None of the obstacles are easy but they are all manageable depending on your fitness level. Black Ops is an absolute monster. These men and women are at the top of their game.

With three categories on offer, Rookie, Commando, and Black Ops, the Toyota WARRIOR races have something for everyone who wishes to have fun and challenge themselves across world-class obstacles.

The Rookie

The Rookie, the shortest and easiest race, is all about fun and comradery – a wonderful opportunity to have real fun with your friends and colleagues. For those seeking a greater challenge, the Commando offers a greater test of physical and mental ability. The most difficult challenge is the Black Ops – the ultimate test of endurance, speed, strength, and agility.

Black Ops Elite

The main event of the day was Black Ops Elite. This tough course incorporates 35 obstacles over roughly 15 kilometers of trail. These athletes are either climbing, traversing, carrying or gripping from start to finish. It is intense and only the super-fit and trained make it to the end.

Winners

Winner and ranked 2nd in OCR South Africa, Thomas van Tonder (Jeep Team SA) won the men’s race; the Women 2017 Series winner and #1 ranked female in OCR, Trish Eksteen (AOT) won the women’s race. Trish Eksteen came 4th overall, an indication of her strength and speed in this sport.

In addition to the honors and the R10 000 prize purse, these two athletes each got to drive home in a WARRIOR-branded Toyota RAV4 – theirs to drive until the next event in Bloemfontein on the 17th of February.

Contenders

The men’s Black Ops Elite was initially a close fought race between South Africa’s top 3 OCR athletes, Bradley Claase, Thomas van Tonder, and 2017 series winner, Claude Eksteen.

The toughest obstacle in the race, Breaking Point, proved to be exactly this as it defeated Eksteen, who eventually finished 34th overall, and Van Tonder, a three-time Top 10-finisher at the OCR World Champs, calmly pulled off a superb win ahead of Claase in second and Jason Friedman in third.

 

Says van Tonder,

Today, level-headed strategy beat bullish endeavour, which would be my normal stance. I took a good breather before starting on Breaking Point and this was my saving grace. I ran my own race and it paid off.  I am absolutely blessed to take home the win in the first Toyota WARRIOR Race of 2018. I had to dig deep today, mentally, as it was a very tough race.

 

In the women’s race, 2017 series winner, Trish Eksteen, showed her racing prowess, taking the win ahead of Carla van Huyssteen in second and Nedene Cahill in third. What makes their achievement even more impressive is that the top 3 women all finished in the top 10 overall.

Another interesting fact is that both Van Huyssteen and Cahill have made their mark in other sporting disciplines. Van Huyssteen is an accomplished trail runner with many stage and ultra-trail podiums under her belt, and Cahill is an ex-MTB XCO SA and World Champion. The cream always rises to the top.

 

These women are really strong. Everyone forgets how hard these obstacles are and yet, year after year the women get stronger and stronger and get through the obstacles with more ease. Well done to Trish. She is an amazing athlete, and I hope I can learn a lot from her coming into the next few races, concludes van Huyssteen.

 

Race 2 of the 2018 Toyota WARRIOR Race, powered by Reebok, takes place on 17 February in Bloemfontein, Free State, and promises to be equally impressive.

 

Says Hennie Scheepers, co-owner of the Warrior Series and race organiser, This is the Free State’s first Toyota WARRIOR and we are super excited to meet new warriors. The Free State has always produced strong, sporty individuals, so we are really looking forward to seeing them in action.

Results – Toyota Warrior #1

Black Ops Elite

Men

  1. Thomas van Tonder 01:23:10
  2. Bradley Claase 01:24:45
  3. Jason Friedman 01:29:51

Women

  1. Trish Eksteen             01:31:01
  2. Carla van Huyssteen 01:34:01
  3. Nedene Cahill 01:34:55

 

Commando Elite

Men

  1. Kelvin van Wyk 00:50:29
  2. Conrad Herbst 00:53:02
  3. Calen Hastie 00:53:29

Women

  1. Sammy Nel 01:10:15
  2. Sam Ryder 01:12:24
  3. Tarryn Butler 01:13:16

 

Rookie Elite

Men

  1. Nick Oberholzer 00:36:45
  2. Simeon de Bruyn 00:37:03
  3. Jasper Mutsindikwa 00:37:16

Women

  1. Tumi Matlou 00:45:11
  2. Monique Els 00:46:15
  3. Megan van Tonder 00:49:15

 

Written and distributed by Hot Salsa Media on behalf of Advendurance.

Images and Enquiries to viv@hotsalsamedia.co.za

For the full results of Toyota Warrior #1, visit www.jumpertrax.com.

For more information or to enter, visit www.warrior.co.za.

Images and Enquiries to viv@hotsalsamedia.co.zaWritten and distributed by Hot Salsa Media on behalf of Advendurance.

 

Editors Notes

Toyota Warrior Race 2018 Dates:

Warrior 1                             27 – 28 January                  Riversands Farm, Johannesburg, Gauteng

Warrior 2                             17 February                        Bloemfontein, Free State

Warrior 3                             17 – 18 March                    Soweto, Gauteng

Warrior Namibia              24 March                             Midgard Country Estate, Windhoek, Namibia

Warrior 4                             14 – 15 April                        Cape Town, Western Cape

Warrior 5                             14 – 15 July                          Blythedale, KwaZulu-Natal

Warrior 6                             11 August                            Nelspruit, Mpumalanga

Warrior 7                             20 – 21 October                 Meerendal Wine Estate, Cape Town, Western Cape

Warrior 8                             24 – 25 November           Tierpoort Adventure Farm, Pretoria, Gauteng

 

Toyota WARRIOR, powered by Reebok, is back with mud and obstacles built to sustain and delight the thousands of athletes, large and small, tall and short, thin and large that are ready to challenge themselves having fun building better humans.

The event calls adventure seekers from all walks of life – whether a weekend WARRIOR or an elite athlete hoping to snatch up the series title. With a Rookie, Commando, and Black Ops category on offer, WARRIOR has something for everyone.
For the first time in the popular series, there will be an escape route for those who don’t find the idea of mud particularly appealing. Instead of diving into the infamous Mud Monster, participants will have the option of taking a penalty loop that will take them the same amount of time to complete. The ‘mudless’ option will not be made available to any Elite athletes, however. Adventure seekers looking for some extra high-speed excitement have the option of entering the popular Reebok Sprint Race. A specifically designed children’s obstacle course will be available for little adventurers, as well as a WARRIOR Kids Zone under the supervision of child-minders.

 

There are some exciting things in store at the 2018 TOYOTA WARRIOR SERIES, powered by Reebok:

  • You can choose your own batch start times again, so enter soon to choose the batch you prefer.
  • The theme for 2018 is Māori Warrior, so expect to see a lot of tattoos and funky designs
  • In 2018 the Mud Monster will not be compulsory, non-Elites can do a penalty loop and skip the mud
  • Sprint Race: we have changed the Sprint Race format to make it more exciting and involve more age categories.
  • Two one-day action-packed events added in Bloemfontein and Nelspruit
  • Warrior is going International! On 24 March 2018, we will be hosting a Toyota Warrior event in Windhoek, Namibia. Entries opening soon!

Savage Race Launches “Savage Blitz”

SAVAGE RACE LAUNCHES NEW “SAVAGE BLITZ” RACE PRODUCT

January 22, 2018 – Florida based company Mad Cap Events, LLC, owners of the popular “Savage Race” obstacle race series opened registration yesterday for a new race product called Savage Blitz. Savage Blitz is a 3-mile obstacle course race to complement Savage Race’s original 5-7 mile format. Savage Blitz features many of the Savage Race signature obstacles participants have come to know and love over a shorter distance.

Initially, Savage Blitz opens in four select markets in 2018, but with plans to expand to more locations in 2019, and possibly late 2018. The first four Blitz events will occur on Sundays at existing Savage Race venues.

“This was something that has been heavily requested by participants. There is a lot of interest from folks who aren’t quite ready for a 5-7 mile Savage Race, so we created a race product that would be better for a beginning OCR athlete. Savage Blitz is also going to be a lot of fun for experienced athletes who want to run a faster course. Fifteen to twenty obstacles is a lot to pack into a 3-mile course, so I think people are going to have a lot of fun with this!” – Sam Abbitt, Savage Race

Savage Blitz registration opened yesterday at 1 pm eastern.

Tickets and information are available here.

Savage Blitz Opening Calendar

Maryland – Sunday, May 6th, 2018
Charlotte – Sunday, May 20th, 2018
Ohio – Sunday, June 10th, 2018
Chicago – Sunday, July 29th, 2018

*More dates TBA