BadAss Dash Chicago

The BadAss Dash made a return to the Chicagoland area on Saturday, July 8, 2017, at the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, IL. Adult participants had the opportunity to compete on a challenging, yet attainable, chip-timed 7K (4.4 miles) course, with 42 obstacles to conquer. Racers chose between the Elite and the Recreational Division. The Elite racers were awarded prizes for the fastest finishing time. There was a Kids Dash Division which was divided into two groups, by age. A 400-yard Kids Dash course is designed for ages 4-6 and featured age and size appropriate obstacles. For ages 7-13, kids race on a 2K (1.25 mile) course with an appropriate mix of obstacles. Finally, there was a K-9 Companion Course. Zuke’s K-9 Companion Division is for teams consisting of one runner (14 years of age and up), and one canine (one year of age and up) of any size, shape or breed. The 5K (3.1 miles) course is specifically designed to create a fun and challenging adventure for the runner and his/her canine.

I am a recreational runner, so I chose that division to run. Upon entering the venue area, everything was well marked and easy to find. Parking was a breeze and very close. All volunteers and officials were very friendly and helpful through packet pick-up and bag check-in. Restrooms were easy to find and signs directed us to the start line.

Once the racers were off at the sound of an air-horn, after a brief run over to a grassy area, their first obstacle was doing 15 push-ups.  After that, they had some small hills to run, and ended up at the “Lunges” obstacle. Athletes carried a two-by-four across their shoulders while doing several lunges down and back.  The distance of this was challenge was painfully long! This was the end of the first mile and where a much-needed water station was perfectly located.

After rehydrating, runners were led into a parking lot for several more obstacles. Distances to run between obstacles were minimal. These obstacles consisted of jumping over road blocks, rolling car tires, carrying one or two sandbags around a flagged off area, and carrying 25 or 50-pound medicine balls. A short jog led runners through an “under/over assault” consisting of road blocks to climb under and flag lines to jump over. It was on to another parking lot. This is where the obstacles became more interesting. Runners had to jump into a pool and walk/run/swim to the other side, ducking under bungee cords. It was a nice way to cool off! There were several wall climbs, marine hurdles, and a fun cargo net climb. The “chin-up” obstacle was just that. 5 chin-ups, anyway you can get them. Once again, BadAss Dash placed a much-needed rehydration station at mile 2.

The climbing theme continued with “plank it”. A runner was to place his/her hands on one wooden beam, and extend their body across a 5-ft span to another wooden beam. The runner then traversed their way down the beams, holding themselves up as not to fall in. Volunteers were especially helpful here as many racers found themselves unsure of their abilities to reach the span. They did a terrific job of helping us feel confident and were very encouraging. After some “little ladder walls”, which were not so little, and a “crazy cargo climb”, a cargo net up, over, and down a semi-trailer, runners got to climb over a series of 3 rock walls. Runners were faced with “mount wedge-more” where they used a rope to climb an inclined wall, then rappelled down the other side. A few more obstacles, including a “claustrophobic crawl” through very narrow tunnels, rounded out mile 3. And just as expected, another rehydration station!

Mile four started with an enormous roll under an extremely long net that left many runners too dizzy to stand. BadAss was testing our balance abilities here. They had us hop into potato sacks and hop down and back the length of the parking median. This obstacle was great for the kid’s race, but most adults I heard talking said this was lame. I agree. Next, runners had to “high knee” through a sea of tires. Quite difficult for those of us still dizzy! “Balls to the wall” was a fun take on a traverse wall. Doorknobs were attached to the wall rather than the standard two-by-four pieces. It was time to head inside the Sears Centre after a jog down to the lower level, and a quick stop at hydration station number 4!

Once inside the air-conditioned arena, runners were to climb up two tall inflatable slides and slide down them before heading to the stairs. Approximately 16 flights of stadium stairs were covered before heading back outside. Racers had to navigate a series of bungee cord webs through a “human car wash”, crawl through more tunnels, and head over to the “Australian Back Crawl”. This obstacle was likely much more fun earlier in the day. It consisted of a black tarp spread across a rather steep hill. A cargo net was placed over the tarp. Racers were to lie on their backs and use the net to crawl up the hill. The problem my group had was that there wasn’t enough water on the tarp. The sun was quick to dry the water being sprayed from a hose. And the person spraying wasn’t continuously spraying; only every now and then. I found my skin sticking to the tarp. It felt like my shoulder blades were burning from the heat of the tarp since I was wearing a tank top. We were almost done! The last obstacle was the “mammoth monkey bars”. The bars were spaced far apart, and there was some kind of sandpaper type material glued to the top of each bar. The theory was this would help people so they wouldn’t slip off as easily. I didn’t slip, but without gloves, this was very uncomfortable.

Once crossing the finish line, there was bottled water and half bananas and orange slices for the racers. Volunteers cut off the timing chip and handed those over 21 a drink ticket for a free celebratory beer. There were several vendors advertising their products or services at booths and tents in the festival area.

Overall, this was a terrific race for a novice. There were no extreme distances to run without obstacles breaking it up. And many of the obstacles were easily achievable. For the Recreational Division, there were no penalties for incomplete obstacles, which is perfect for those who feel physically unable to do some of the more difficult ones. The course was clean and very well marked. My biggest compliment goes out to the volunteers. They were very encouraging, helpful, and had a great sense of humor. Elite runners would have been disappointed with the lack of differentiated challenges. Only a few obstacles allowed for this skill level difference. The BadAss Dash at Sears Centre was very spectator friendly. All areas of the course were accessible to family and friends who were there to cheer on their runners. Finally, this was the best kids race that my children have ever run in. The 9-13-year-olds were chip timed and ran a portion of the adult obstacles. Heats of 30 children were released at a time to keep the kids safely spread out on the course. The 2K distance was a well-balanced challenge of running, stairs, and obstacles. Again, volunteers were plentiful and helpful. What a great way to get them prepared for their racing future!

My only concern with this race is with its name. I have young children who love to race and show off their accomplishments but cannot take their medal to school to show off because of the word Ass. Nor can they really talk about it! We call it the “Bad Dash” at our house. I can’t help but wonder if more would be interested if the name did not contain a common swear word.

Photo Credit: Author

BattleFrog: Chicago 2016

13332725_1245885512096275_6698609014792783944_n The 2016 Chicago BattleFrog was held May 28th at the Dirt Runner in Marseilles, Illinois. Dirt Runner has been the home of the Illinois Spartan race since Spartan brought their series to the Illinois. But this year Spartan left and BattleFrog moved into this permanent OCR course, which in my opinion, is one of the best in the Midwest. The permanent obstacles that Dirt Runner has installed are top notch with plenty of hills, mud, and technical terrain thrown in. Unfortunately, without Chris Accord there to design the course little of the terrain was utilized and none of the Dirt Runner obstacles were used. The one thing that did stand out to me as my family and I entered the event and hit the restrooms was that there were 3 volunteers that constantly cleaned up the porta potties after each use. This was one change I was excited about! No piss and mud all over!

13332897_1245887545429405_8544112993519530806_n

Upon arrival to the event, volunteers took your 10 bucks and moved you quickly to the grass field where you were guided to park well within walking distance of the festival area. In recent years, Spartan charged you 40 bucks to park in this vast grass field, but for 10 bucks Spartan would bus you in from 2 miles away. So thank you BattleFrog for not pinching us on the parking! Registration went smoothly and heats were running along on time with Coach Pain giving everyone a good pep talk. They had a few more companies with booths set up to buy things and they had two places to get food and drink. The event didn’t seem to be overly well attended and movement through the festival area was fairly painless.  Plenty of bathrooms, changing areas, and showers were provided as well.

DSCN0179

Now on to the actual course. We were started off in the same grass field used to park cars where they ran us around a small loop and onto the 12-foot ladder walls and the inverted wall. Besides the rig at the end this was the only place along the route where family could take photos along the 5.1-mile course. From there we were led through the flat part of the Dirt Runner course where some halfhearted mud mounds were set up. BattleFrog left room on either side for people to skip the mud though, not a typical well planned course like we expect from BattleFrog. Along the flat terrain were tucked a wreck bag carry, jerry can carry {only one can was carry was the rule for open class}, and an obstacle where you picked up a small cement block and walked it about 10 feet to a line and back. The dreaded jerry can and wreck bag carry were just a circle route through the grass and a paved parking lot. Why they chose to not use the hills on the other side of the course was beyond me. The Normandy Jacks were put across a simple mud puddle on the ground with only wire across them. Not barbed wire, this was one of the few photo set up areas used by BattleFrog and we basically had to cross the puddle one at a time in order to not be on top of one another.

13268278_1245882048763288_6063630839070915009_o

Further along the course we were able to finally get to some hills along with a dash through a very scenic creek, but BattleFrog didn’t use these natural features to install any obstacles. So this part of the course was basically a trail run. They would sneak in a delta ladder and a rope climb {I was able to jump up and ring the bell without climbing} but other than that it was turning out to be a very lame course for a BattleFrog vet. After our brief trail run which ended up with an embarrassing 312 feet of elevation change they circled us back to the festival area. A small swim, maybe 15 yards, and an obstacle where we actually carried wooden pallets in a small circle before stacking them back up and finishing up at the rig before the finish.

13308752_1245888585429301_891696548594672377_o

I was greatly disappointed with the design of the course and obstacles offered at this event. It’s almost as if they just threw it together at the last second. Maybe they had to get the pallets back to Wal-Mart. I don’t know, but they failed to use the great terrain to their advantage and failed to use any of the great, permanent obstacles provided by Dirt Runner. This ended being like a longer version of a Warrior Dash. For an OCR vet this was basically a joke, but for a novice I’m sure it was a great experience. Maybe BattleFrog was told their events were too hard and didn’t appeal to the masses. Maybe this is a kinder, more gentle BattleFrog. If this is the new mainstream BattleFrog, I’m not sure it’s right for a competitive racer. Better luck next year.13316983_1245876122097214_1505358033465460675_o