BattleFrog: Inaugural Louisville Race – 2016 Recap

Being an OCR enthusiast from Kentucky typically means lots of travel to attend events.  BattleFrog (BF) finally visited the Bluegrass State last weekend, and I was as ecstatic as a teenage girl at a Taylor Swift concert.  After a lackluster Chicago event two weeks previous, I was hoping BF was keen to “Shake It Off” and get back to the challenging series we have come to expect.  Having the legendary “Beard” back as race director gave me great confidence this would be the case.

Battlefrog-Louisville-2016-Race-Recap-Briefing

General Butler State Resort Park nestled in the rolling hills of Carrollton, KY 45 minutes east of Louisville was the event venue.  Not only is the park located a mere 2 miles off I-71, the event parking was directly at the main entrance making for one of the easier morning commutes.  Parking fee was the standard $10 and the festival area was a short 200-meter walk away.  As usual, the registration process was well staffed and participants entered through the merchandise tent to the music-filled festival area.

With the clock striking 7 am and the sun creeping higher in the sky, Elites began crowding into the starting corral.  The “Beard” reviewed the rules, Coach Pain provided the motivation, a few Hooyah’s were chanted, and we were off.  Like thoroughbreds at Churchill Downs, participants charged towards a sharp left turn only 50 meters away causing an early bottleneck.  The course then stretched alongside the highway and provided some rudimentary O.U.T obstacles leading up to the 4-foot wall.

Battlefrog-Louisville-2016-Race-Recap-Start

The straight, wide running path then turned into the dense woods and shrunk to more single track racing.  General Butler State Park has many well-groomed trails and BF succeeded in using none of them.  The next three miles would take us directly through the untamed forest, creeks, and ravines providing extremely technical terrain.  The metaphorical and literal pinnacle of the natural terrain was Mount Battlefrog which towered 200 feet in only 300 meters kicking up to a 35% gradient.  Complimenting the natural obstacles along the way were man-made obstacles such as Ramp Wall, Spider Web, Monkey Bars, and a short Jerry Can Carry.

Battlefrog-Louisville-2016-Race-Recap-Mount Battlefrog

After three miles of technical running, the last two miles of the course was an upper body/grip strength assault of 14 obstacles.  These included 60 Degrees, Wreck Bag Carry, Wedge Wall, 8-foot Wall, Platinum Rig, Tip of the Spear, and 12-foot Rope Wall.  The thick morning dew during the Elite heat made this sequence even more challenging (not to mention the second lap).  Athletes attempting to conquer the course later in the day would be facing them in the sweltering 95 degree heat.  The finish line was a welcomed sight after this course.

Battlefrog-Louisville-2016-Race-Recap-Platinum Rig

Podium finishers for the male Elites were Ian Hosek, Alex Stephens, and Jamie McCart and the female Elites were Laura Hunt, Heather Moss, and Jen Kohlbeck.   Greg Bugher, Glenn Nakamura, and Josh McDaniel took the top spots for the Master’s male Elites while Maria Tornudd was the sole female Master’s Elite finisher.  A few brave souls endured the Kentucky heat all day for BF Xtreme (BFX) with Michael Bell and Jennifer Hawkins taking home the coveted trident.

BattleFrog has established themselves as one of the more challenging OCR series and that was solidified with Louisville’s course.  More importantly, there was fun to be had on this course no matter what skill level you entered the starting corral.  BattleFrog’s tiered obstacle system with novice, intermediate, and elite options provided everyone a chance to feel accomplished.  To paraphrase Stephen Foster’s famous state song, the sun shined bright on my old Kentucky home.

Battlefrog-Louisville-2016-Race-Recap-Monkey Bars

Photo Credits: BattleFrog Series

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. 

Battlefrog 24hr Xtreme: A View from the Podium

BattleFrog 24hr Xtreme - Lap PinsBattleFrog race series put on its first 24hr obstacle race (BattleFrog 24hr Xtreme) in Miami on March 4th, 2016, and continued to set a new bar for obstacle races. I have competed in two BattleFrog races prior to their 24hour race. I knew to expect a fun challenging course with unique obstacles. I also knew that the legendary Ryan Atkins (World Champion obstacle racer) was the course designer, Chris “The Beard” Accord was on hand for race operations, and David Moore was the creative director (the Trifecta of BattleFrog Brutality right there) and I knew this was a race I had to attend! I was so excited!

The concept of the race was whoever ran the most laps of the 5-mile course in 24hours, wins! They also had an added prize, whoever completed the most number of laps penalty free (i.e. King and Queen of THE RIGS) would receive a neon lime green nunchuck. I really liked this added bonus because it provided more incentive for athletes to complete the obstacles instead of taking a penalty.BattleFrog 24hr - King and Queen of the Rigs
What made this race so special was the choice of venue (and its perfect weather), the obstacles, and the amazing ultra racing community.

THE VENUE
The race was held at Historic Virginia Key Beach Park in SoFlo (South Florida for those of you who aren’t hip with the lingo) and the weather was amazing. It was a comfortably warm temperature for the entire race. despite some threatening clouds and forecasts for rain. I really liked this aspect because it kept the focus of the race on athletic ability and not cold tolerance. This also allows for the use of significantly less equipment. I love World’s Toughest Mudder’s 24-hour race, but it was so nice not having to worry about lugging multiple wetsuits, windbreakers and ski goggles. I didn’t have to worry about hypothermia and how I would survive cold waters at 3am when I am exhausted. For the BFX 24hr race, I wore the same outfit for the entire race (sorry about my odiferous aroma people who came within close proximity) .  It wasn’t too hot during the day (thank you cloud cover and onshore breezes) and it stayed a comfortable temperature at night (thank you mild SoFlo winter weather). The race started at 5pm, which was also nice, as it allowed competitors to race during the night while they are at their strongest, which in my opinion is safest for everyone.BattleFrog 24hr-Sunrise with Wall
THE OBSTACLES
The obstacles were great, and the course was fun! The obstacles showcased upper-body and grip strength. I like this because I love monkeys bars and Platinum Rigs (that neon nunchuck was going to be mine!). I found the penalties for failing obstacles were brutal, but also fair. If a racer failed the monkey bars (which requires a lot of grip and upper body strength) the penalty was to carry a heavy bag for extra distance. The penalty was significant enough that it was always worth doing the obstacle over the penalty, which isn’t always the case for other races. I loved the general layout as well. BattleFrog - King David (Moore)
A good portion of the race was running along the beach – queue beautifully, breathtaking sunset and sunrise – and I never got bored of the course because BattleFrog did a great job mixing up the variety of obstacles (and changed obstacles and penalties as the race progressed).  The original penalty for Platinum Rig #2 was 2 Jerry Cans and a Wreck Bag; as the race went on, the penalty became only Jerry Cans, then only the Wreck Bag, then only 1 Jerry Can, then carry David Moore…hahaha! Not really, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that were a penalty next year.  The only obstacles I began to dread were the walls…. eww walls. BattleFrog 12-ft Wall
What I also really liked was a mix of mandatory obstacles and camaraderie type obstacles. This allowed serious competitors to get ahead on hard technical obstacles while keeping the community together with obstacles that racers are allowed to help each other on…i.e. walls – did I mention I hate walls? Help was really nice after lap 10 when everything in my body was aching and screaming.

THE COMMUNITY
The community Battlefrog race attracts is very special. Everyone there is very supportive of each other. I wasn’t able to bring my own crew with me, and that was completely fine, Melissa Dugan did a fantastic job of setting up an “Orphan Tent” open to any racer that needed assistance during the race (Chris Maxfield masterfully manned the Orphan Tent for the entire event-silly costumes, music, and all.). They literally have everything from bandages to bug spray to donuts and bananas. I was also very lucky that my friend Matt Hanson (he placed 3rd for males by the way) was attending and shared his crew with me. They were amazing support!BattleFrog 24hr PitAlso, a dad of another racer came right over to me in the pit when he saw my hands had ripped open and I was bleeding. He patched me up right away even though I was technically competing against his daughter. We all have a sense of competition, but the sense of camaraderie is greater. We all want each other to succeed and push new limits. The organizers and volunteers were also great. I remember this one volunteer cheering like crazy for racers in the last few hours of the race. I was so tired I could barely smile back at her, but she was giving us all new energy!BattleFrog 24hr Night Ops Orphan Tent

The only thing I would change for next year is some sort of system to update racers on their positions. It was very confusing and nothing was in place. I had to rely on volunteers looking up stats on their phones, and most of the time I didn’t trust anything anyone told me. Besides that, I would not change a thing! So please Battlefrog, put on another 24hr race next year because we all loved it!
BattleFrog 24hr - Tired Beard
TAKEAWAYS
I’ve competed in World’s Toughest Mudder for the past 4 years, and every year it has been goal of mine to podium, and every year I’ve come up short.  As a personal trainer, it’s hard to swallow your own shortcomings.  Also, as a personal trainer, I know how growth happens…when you commit to it.  I started working with Yancy Culp in June 2015, and it is paying off.  I finally feel as though I’m ready to compete for the podium, and BattleFrog 24hr Xtreme was my first outing.  I wanted to run 75 miles (15 laps)! I wanted to win Gettin’ Riggy with It (come on…you all know I LOOOVVVEEE me some rigs!). I really wanted to win!  And, although attaining all my goals I set for this race is FANTASTIC…what’s even more AMAZING was the experience – it’s always the experience and the people.

When I started to feel really delirious and exhausted, I saw Cassidy Watton, who was crewing for a friend. They ran with me for a little bit and made sure I was staying hydrated and didn’t wander off-course. When I finished my 14th lap, there were 3-4 hours left to race. I knew my lead was enough that I could stop racing. Everything was aching and I felt exhausted. I saw Phoebe Brimer and Corey Herzlich and told them what I was thinking. They urged me on to complete another lap; they knew one of my goals was to hit 75miles (what I didn’t know was that they had hatched a plan to make sure I did that 15th lap). Corey walked the entire last lap with me. I was so thankful. I also thought about Milla Bizzotto- a 9-year-old girl who was still on-course completing her 6th lap, and she wasn’t quitting, so I couldn’t quit either!

I knew I would regret not giving this course everything I had.  When I crossed the finish line, I had finally accomplished all of my goals that I had been working towards for years. It was one of the greatest moments in my life. 2016 – I’m coming for ya Eh!
BattleFrog 24hr - Morgan's Map

BattleFrog Extreme (BFX) – Tampa, Florida 2016

This weekend I took on the challenge of BattleFrog Extreme (BFX). Having never run BFX, I was nervous upon approaching Maddox Ranch in Lakeland, Florida. The registration lines were a bit long, which caused me to miss the BFX briefing-don’t be like me. Coach Pain greeted us late comers by making us earn our BFX bands: this included a run, push-ups and flutter kicks. After earning my band, I jogged over to the starting corral, still nervous, jumped the wall and waited with a large group. Coach Pain gave the best motivational speech I’ve ever heard. My nervousness faded, and I was ready to tackle this course with everything I had in me. I wanted as many laps as my body and time allowed. I ran this race for my buddy Joshua: a 7-year-old boy with a congenital heart defect that leaves him unable to be as active as other children.  I felt pretty great starting my first lap; there was a good jog before we came to our first obstacle of 6-ft walls .

Battlefrog 6FT WallWe were running in sort of a creek that had two fun tunnels to run through. Next came Jerry Can Carries, these sucked! It was a good distance that took us back into a creek and under several walls. My forearms were burning  by the time I dropped them off. I figured this would be one of the more difficult obstacles on my following laps.

IMG_5547Battlefrog Jerry can kiss After the Jerry Cans, the course led us into the woods. There was a lot of trees and mud to jump over . Coming out of the woods was a rope climb / rig. Basically, there was a ring, then a rope followed by another ring. You needed to use the first ring to swing to the rope, climb the rope up and hit the bell, then descend the rope, grab the final ring and swing off the obstacle. Continuing back into the woods, we were met by deep mud. Trudging our way out of the woods, the next obstacle was ladder walls. Up and over two sets, then followed some man-made terrain rock and dirt piles (mounds of grounds) were the next mile with an obstacle cargo climb, 8-ft wall, and monkey bars scattered throughout.Battlefrog TerrainBattlefrog Under TiresThe last part of the course had a 12-ft rope wall, under tires, the platinum rig and 60 degrees. The platinum rig had many athletes doing 8 count body builders as the required penalty for not completing the obstacle. After these obstacles, there was a quarter mile run until tip-of-the-spear and the finish line.Battlefrog RigFor BFX runners, you didn’t cross the finish line, you circled around to the BFX tent and a special entrance was flagged for us to start another lap. I ran 3 laps before I really began to feel the course and all the aches and pains that come from so many obstacles and miles. That last lap had to be started by 2:45 and I barely made the cut off with 7 minutes to spare. To be honest, I walked the last lap, really struggling with each obstacle. The pain in my feet and legs was really becoming noticeable. I pushed forward because 4 laps was my goal and I was so close . When I finished this lap, I was relieved and overjoyed.  This had been one of the hardest challenges I’d put my body through. I completed 19.2 miles and over 120 obstacles. Tired, sore, sun burned, and bruised,  I made it, proving to myself I’m stronger than I realize. The finish line was done right, with a large banner, music and several volunteers ready to give you your medal and direct you to the awesome photo area making it a special moment. As always, Battlefrog gave us a hell of a course, and I can’t wait to go back and tackle five laps in December! Hooya

BFX Medal

BattleFrog Xtreme San Francisco: A walk in the pain park

If you’ve done an event with BattleFrog before, you know what to expect: moderate to easy terrain, tough obstacles that challenge upper body strength, grueling jerry can and wreck bag carries…

…if that was the assumption for OCR veterans for BF San Francisco, they were in for a surprise.

90 minutes north of San Francisco at Lake Sonoma, something else entirely was waiting.
bf-sf_coursemap

Even the course map was misleading. Rain had forced the course designer to leave out their signature “HOOYAH” obstacle and the “Balance Beam” obstacle. It wasn’t clear to me if they couldn’t set up the obstacles due to the weather or if they were concerned about people slipping. Either way, considering the very muddy course, it seemed like a good call. Additionally, instead of having two Platinum Rigs back to back, they combined both of them into one very long rig.

Instead, they gave athletes the gift of extra mileage and extra elevation gain. GPS data puts the course around 7mi distance with about 1700ft of elevation gain; the thick vegetation in the green hills appeared to mess with the GPS signal more than usual. For an advertised 8k/5mi distance, and people expecting mostly flat terrain, it’s a pretty significant difference to put those extra 2 miles on your feet.

The course layout took full advantage of the trails, hills, creeks, and even briefly had athletes get their feet wet on the lake shore. Other than a few wet spots in the “Mud Mounds” obstacle, there was no water beneath or around the obstacles. Instead, hay was used to cushion potential falls, which worked well even at the monkey bars.

Parking & Venue

BattleFrog continues to show rooms for improvement in this area, as the parking signage could have been more prominent which led some people to miss the turn off to the parking area.
Plus, the email sent out to athletes ahead claimed that parking would be “on site”. To me, this means there won’t be a shuttle that I need to take. This is especially relevant for everyone with a very early starting time (typically Elite and BFX competitors). Turns out, there was a – very short – shuttle ride from parking to the venue. The shuttle service itself worked very well, so that helped minimize the inconvenience.

The venue was compact and the short walk from the shuttle gave a little preview for the course: wet, muddy, slippery, uphill. Early arrivals were shivering with temperatures hovering around the low 40, which fortunately quickly warmed up to sunny 60s with a blue sky, providing a stunning view over Lake Sonoma.BattleFrog San Fran - 60 Degrees

BattleFrog Xtreme: BFX

Almost every race offers Elite and Open waves. BattleFrog however also offers an endurance option. This allows athletes to run as many laps of the course as possible after the 8:15am start time. For each competitor in the BFX, the last lap of the day has to begin before 2:45pm, which is the cut off time. For every lap, a gold star will be awarded after the last lap is completed. If five laps are completed, the fifth star is silver.

During the mandatory pre-race briefing, every BFX competitor receives a black wrist brand and Christopher “Beard” Acord lays down the law: the jerry can and wreck bag carries are always mandatory for BFX and every obstacle has to be valiantly attempted before the penalty exercise of 10 8-count body builders can be done. Merely touching an obstacle isn’t enough and integrity matters.

With a delay of 15minutes, the BFX competitors toe the start line. A few late comers get their punishment for missing the briefing before they receive their wristband and then Coach Pain DeWayne and Beard send us out on the course. He had said earlier that he expects 4 laps out of the male winner and 3 laps out of the female winner.

BattleFrog San Fran - BFX StartAfter having done BFX LA just two weeks before and cruising to five laps, this statement still rang in my ears as I took off down the first bend and soon after found myself completely off-trail but still on-course. This highly technical and slippery terrain would continue throughout the course and serious trail shoes made all the difference. Since mine ripped apart during BFX LA,  I was sliding all over the place with my hybrid race shoes which required extra stabilizing work.

The steep descent soon hit the inevitable “Hill scramble”. About half a mile of nonstop steep incline was waiting and made sure to tax the quads of every runner to the max. Soon after, an easier version of the “Weaver” (easier compared to LA) and the “Wedge Wall” were waiting. This was followed by the famous “Tip of the Spear”. Now, all these obstacles require upper body strength and technique, which makes them a bit painful and challenging. However, since they were placed so early on the course (before the rigs, monkey bars, and carries), they were not as bad as they could have been. Also, dry weather and no muddy obstacles before meant that it was easier to grip the ropes etc.

BattleFrog San Fran - TerrainThe wreck bags, which offer 50lbs of fun for all genders and ages when dry, had taken on easily between 5 and 15lbs of extra water weight due to the rain and dew overnight. The quarter mile carry was exciting thanks to a steep downhill followed by a steep uphill carry – both off-trail on grass. A ton of people chose to slide down the hill sitting down, not trusting their shoes to hold them in place.

An obstacle dreaded by many is the “Jerry Can Carry”. Usually 40lbs per can for the men and 25lbs per can for the women, this very short carry changed as the day went on. The volunteer on site unfortunately didn’t make sure everyone carried their cans back to the pickup point.

The result: Everybody dropped off the cans as close as possible to the end of the carry and after a few hundred people, all cans are suddenly on a slope of the hill instead of on top of it. Even worse, a lot of the cans were dropped and not set down upright. When this happens, the cans leak and become lighter as the water drains out of them. Certainly great for some, but not so great when you are competing and strength is your, well, strength.

At several points – after obstacles or during creek crossings – the little course marking flags got trampled down or were a bit hidden away. At almost every lap I had to point out to others or ask volunteers myself where to go. The course was very well marked, I believe this was simply a result of the “off the beaten path” course design which gave this race a bit of an adventure feeling at times. The route took advantage of the natural obstacles and the various surfaces (creek, trail, off-trail, lake, mud) challenged every racer. Even in my fourth lap, it never got old or repetitive.

Coming back up from Lake Sonoma, a 1.3 mile steep incline that finally led to the “Platinum Rig”. This incarnation offered several long ropes, two low gym rings to step in, two sets of round and square monkey bars, and several high gym rings. On my first two laps I finished the rig without any issues, on my third lap my arms wouldn’t cooperate at the very last ring which I just had to touch, and on the fourth lap I was happy with taking the penalty after going out on the first monkey bars.

After another incline, the 12ft “Rope Walls” marked the difference between Elite/BFX and Open runners. Elite/BFX would turn to the right and continue for their additional lap(s), everyone else who wanted to get to the finish line turned to the left. The “Delta Cargo” net was waiting right in front of the finish line and after a last little bit of muddy trail, the finisher medals were waiting.

Results

Julie Fults got 1st place for the Xtreme Females with a time of 6:52:21 and three laps while I finished in 1st places for the Xtreme Males, getting in four laps in the same amount of time.

bf-sf_bfx-winners

Fun Fact: The 2nd place male finisher had lost his timing chip and came in less than 2 minutes behind me. Since the person handling the results also had to give out the stars for the BFX medals, he was very busy. Somehow none of us realized that the 2nd place finisher asked for a manually entered finish time that suddenly put him in 1st place for BFX! I was sitting right next to him, we chatted for a while since he caught up to me extremely well, and then he took off.

When Beard confirmed the 1st place ranks, I was surprised not to be in 1st since I was 100% certain nobody had passed me. After some emails back and forth on Monday, Beard and the timing team very quickly analyzed the finish line video and confirmed that I indeed arrived before the 2nd place finisher and the results were corrected.

I was very impressed with their professional response and attention to detail, something I have noticed in every conversation with BattleFrog officials. Unfortunately I won’t be able to make it to the Las Vegas BattleFrog but I would highly recommend this OCR for everyone who is looking for a serious challenge or just wants to mix it up. Show BattleFrog that the West Coast is happy to have them so we can enjoy their races next year again!

Elevation Profile

bf-sf_elevation-profile

BattleFrog – San Diego: January 2016

Editor’s Note: After our recently published article concerning safety issues, we asked Chris Cow, a seasoned race reviewer for ORM, to note what safety improvements BattleFrog had implemented in this first race of 2016. Chris put lots of attention into this aspect of the review, and did an excellent job reporting on the results he found.

Hooyah!  After 2 years of waiting and hearing rave reviews from events on the East Coast, BattleFrog has finally made the leap (pun intended) to the West Coast.  They kicked off their 2016 season with a race at a new venue east of San Diego this weekend.

BattleFrog dawn SD Jan 2026

The venue itself was a motocross park on an Indian Reservation in the mountains, about 1-1/2 hours from San Diego itself, and featured rolling, sandy hills with windmills spinning in the distance.  The day dawned crisp and cool, and was overcast and a bit windy through much of the day.  Pretty much ideal running conditions, actually.

BattleFrog Elite start San Diego Jan 2016

BattleFrog set up the race with 26 obstacles over a nominal 8k course that measured closer to 5.2 miles by several accounts.  All of the obstacles were very solid and professionally made, many featuring massive steel trussing for support. Coach Pain DeWayne was there at the starting line, and we watched him inspire and send off the elite men, then the male masters division and elite women, followed by the brave souls taking on BFX: BattleFrog Xtreme, in which the goal is to complete as many laps as possible during the day.  When Coach Pain tells you to get ready for the BFX heat, don’t be late.  Oh, and don’t let him see you walk around the short wall at the start corral either.

Coachpain BattleFrog San Diego Jan 2016

Then it was our turn.  The course started off with a fairly long uphill slant to the first obstacle: a standard over/under/through.  Many of the obstacles on the course were fairly standard fare – lots of walls, some tunnels and mud, but many also had twists to them. A 12′ wall with a rope gave many, especially those with a fear of heights, pause, as did a very tall metal A-frame with very widely spaced steps (there was a safety net on the inside of this structure in case someone screwed up).

BattleFrog A-frame San Diego Jan 2016

There was a very interesting wall climb to tunnel slide into a small pond as the only real water crossing, and boy, did that water take your breath away!  Although swimming wasn’t necessary if you were on the taller side or skirted the shore, there were some definite deep spots, and I was pleased to see three lifeguards on hand; two in the water and one standing on the bank to oversee runners’ safety. There was also a sign for a non-swimmers option, though I didn’t see what that option was.

BattleFrog water crossing San Diego Jan 2016

Another interesting obstacle was a slackline balance: elite racers had to cross while stepping on only one line, while open heat runners could use two lines at the same time to cross.

BattleFrog Slackline San Diego Jan 2016

Then there were the Platinum Rigs.  Two of them located at different points in the course to provide a huge challenge to the elite runners (BattleFrog has mandatory obstacle completion for the elites; open heat runners can elect to do a penalty of 10 8-count bodybuilders if they’re unable to do the obstacle).  For those who haven’t encountered these yet, Platinum Rigs have rings, ropes, monkey bars, and other items designed to test your grip strength and agility.  Comparing them to the Spartan Multirig (which many may be more familiar with) is like having a Porsche parked next to the car from the Flintstones that Fred would drive with his feet.  Platinum Rigs are nearly infinitely configurable and can be tuned from “tricky” to “damn near impossible”.

BattleFrog Platinum rig San Diego Jan 2016

The two rigs at the San Diego race were somewhere in the middle. As a volunteer on Friday, I had the opportunity to play on them and found them both doable after a couple of tries. During the race was another matter, and I eventually wandered over and did my bodybuilders in shame after multiple attempts at each.  Several friends who I expected to place very well in the masters division were forced to surrender their wristbands at these monsters.

BattleFrog Platinum Rig2 San Diego Jan 2016

Another obstacle of note was the Weaver, a series of parallel bars where you have to go over one, then under the next, and so on until you reach the end. I’ve seen this one before, but again, BattleFrog added an evil twist; on theirs, the bars were square. And so far, the bruises on arms and legs I’ve seen from it have been spectacular in both color and size. I can’t imagine how it was for the BFX racers who had to do this one 3,4, or 5 times.

BattleFrog Weaver San Diego Jan 2016

Finally, shortly before the finish line, there was BattleFrog’s signature obstacle, Tip of the Spear. This obstacle has steeply inclined walls that you have to traverse with the help of ropes or sometimes wood studs to grip. Again, changes were made – where before the walls were plywood, here they opted for a much more slippery plastic, and the middle section with the inclined hand grips as your only hold were particularly tough.

BattleFrog Tip of the Spear San Diego Jan 2016

Of minor note was a planned waterslide to the finish line that turned out to be a dud; the slope wasn’t really steep enough or the water flow high enough to make it viable, and this was summarily scrapped, leaving just a couple of shallow mud pits before the finish line.

Dr. Bronner’s was on hand with their awesome customized mass shower to wash away the mud with modestly warm water and their foam soap, a big improvement from the hoses that are standard at many events/venues.

BattleFrog’s medals are great (same designs as last year), and their merchandise tent had a wide variety of high-quality items to choose from.  The one minor negative nit that I’ll pick with this race was the choice of beverage for the free beer ticket: cans of Budweiser and Coors Light really don’t cut it when your event is in the heart of craft beer country. They could definitely up their game in this regard.

While the turnout at this race wasn’t huge (they estimated around 800 without counting the volunteers), the crowd that was there represented a core of OCR enthusiasts, and BattleFrog put on a great race that impressed us.

BattleFrog CEO Ramiro Ortiz was at the San Diego event and gave this official statement about the race:

We’re thrilled with the way the San Diego race turned out; this being Ryan Atkins’ first time as Race Director.  It’s our first race of the 2016 season. We’ve also introduced a number of new obstacles and received great feedback from the OCR community. We expect a great season as we expand coast to coast.

BattleFrog Tip of the Spear San Diego Jan 2016

Having (finally) done a BattleFrog event, I am now an enthusiastic fan of this series.  It was professionally run, well-staffed, fun, and challenging.  I can’t wait to try my hand at multiple laps for the BFX in Los Angeles. Fortunately, I don’t have to wait long; they’ll be there in two weeks.  If you are at all interested in obstacle racing and are anywhere in the SoCal area, you should make plans to join me.