Savage Race Maryland: A Family Affair

The two weeks leading up to Savage Race Maryland were like any other race for me and my wife. “Who are we asking to babysit, Kel? We aren’t in Virginia anymore so this is a bit more of a drive.” Kelly took her eyes off of Candy Crush looked over at me and asked, “Are they old enough for the kids’ race? We should just take them.” EUREKA! I quickly checked the Savage site and the site simply said “12 and under.” My kids are 5 and 3 so it was game on. The only real question was how would this play out? Were we entering a new phase in our obstacle racing hobby that allowed our kids to enjoy it as well or were we fooling ourselves? Giddy up!

**Time to channel a Grey Beret**

6:30am: This is basically the default wake up time at The Allen Compound and even though we were at a hotel about 45 minutes north of the event the continental breakfast started at 6:30 am so we were up and at ’em. The kids were very excited to be at a hotel and they were excited to participate in their first race. I loaded my KitBrix, Under Armour shorts, Salomon Top, Swiftwick socks and Altra King MT 1.5 shoes into our 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee with my wife and children and dreamed of drinking a Dunkin Donuts Iced Coffee on the ride down to the venue.

8:15 am: We got to the venue to park. I still reminisce about the days where when you were early to arrive you got to park right up front. My first mistake of the day was not buying VIP parking with the kids. If you have little ones spend the extra 10 bucks or plan on walking an extra 2 miles back and forth throughout the day to get stuff from your car. Regular parking feels like a punishment for not handing them 10 bucks.

8:36 am: We signed four of the enormous participant waivers and signed in rather quickly (duh!). By 8:40 am my kids had already seen the Kona Shaved Ice Truck and began asking for shaved ices. They also saw the hats at the entrance and began asking for those as well. It was clear I would be spending more money than usual at Savage.

8:46 am: We showed the kids the kids course and they were pumped. “WHY DO THE ADULTS GET TO GO BEFORE THE KIDS?” my Daughter sternly asked. “I don’t know, you have to ask Sam Abbitt, baby.”

8:53 am: The kids had some fun on the kid magnet mini Platinum Rig set up. Kid magnet!

9:04 am: Porta Potty visit 1

9:20 am: Kelly went off in the first open wave as I volunteered to have the first round with the kids. The plan was for Kelly to run first and make it back for the 11:00 am kids’ race. After that, we would trade and I would run once they were done. The most memorable part of the start was when Matty “best emcee in the game” T threw one of the signature savage blue smoke cans and it took an errant bounce and headed right towards my son’s face. My catlike reflexes saw the can’s trajectory and I batted it out of the air and back into the open field. Crisis #1 averted.

9:30 am: Visit #1 to the Kona Shaved Ice Truck. We bought two Chipwiches and a Reese’s peanut butter ice cream bar.

9:32 am: We ran into Sam “Savage Go Ruck Tough Master” Abbitt as we ate our ice cream. Sydney forgot to ask him why the adults got to run first.

9:40 am: We got to see Kelly jump in Shriveled Richard. It was fun hearing Chase say that. Side Note: You will get splashed if you try to get close and take a good picture…

9:50 am: Stop 1 at the car. I think it was for the chapstick that wound up on Chase’s face.

10:15 am: Porta Potty Visit 2

10:20 am: The lifeguard was yelling at me for having the kids too close to Sawtooth. I disagree with her definition of too close. They were sitting in the dirt covering their own legs in dirt. Oh, we got to see Kelly complete Sawtooth. Score!

10:30 am: Stop 2 at the car. This time we grabbed 3 of our chairs so we could sit down in the field. It was almost kids’ race game time.

10:40 am:  I’d like to think that the people by the rings that overheard my kids arguing about who gets to sit in the mustard colored seat prayed for me, as what happened next was what some folks would call a gift from God. As we waited for Kelly to approach the rings and hopefully make it back in time for the 11:00am kids race we saw a Male Cheerleader who has done 100 of some race that I can’t remember the name of. He got to maybe the third ring and fell off. He kept on trucking and said nothing to any of the volunteers at the obstacle. This particular Male Cheerleader was heavily involved in the defending of a habitual line stepping cheater and called me a liar and a bully among other things within the last 8 months. Well, as it turns out he popped up in the “Pro 100% complete” rankings even though I watched him fail the rings. It seems that the two timing chips in the Pro Wave are not cheat proof. Cheaters gonna cheat!

11:00 am: It was finally time. Every moment of both of my children’s lives led them to to this start line. In the event that The OCRWC comes out with a kids’ race division, my kids are qualifying TODAY. I scoped out the other 3-8 year olds (for the first wave of the 12 and under) and quickly did the 50 percent rule math in my head. It was time to DOMINATE.

11:00:30 am: I blacked out for a second, what just happened? Thank goodness the race hasn’t started yet. I am really loving how excited all of these kids at the start line look. I hope they all give it their best. The emcee counted them down and they are off. Chase took off like a man on a mission and I am hanging back with Sydney. Wait, where is Chase? I hope he waits for us at the finish line.

11:01 am: There is Kelly! She slid down Colossus just in time to see the kids take on the kid’s course. What perfect timing. Sydney is 3 going on 4 and she is handling all of the obstacles on her own with the exception of the mini-slip wall.

11:06 am: The A Frame is PERFECT for the kids. If it weren’t for the mud and bubble ending I think that would be the signature kids’ race obstacle, but it is pretty hard to beat Bubbles.

11:10 am: My son finished the race, got his medal and took off his shoes. He then headed back on the course to cheer on and help his sister finish. This was easily the best part of my day. If you have kids in the 6 and under range then you should definitely  sign them up. I’m not saying it isn’t fun for 8-12 year olds, but I am not too sure how the Savage Jr. plays into this mix. I would check out the website, but if you are paying for them to spectate anyway the extra couple of bucks for the kids race will at least make them feel included.

11:15ish am: Kelly finished up her race and she and the kids got to compare their shirts and medals. This is much better than handing them our medals when we get home.

12:00 pm: At this point, I can’t keep track of the time anymore as I am about to race. I haven’t run in a wave this late since my first obstacle race back in 2012. It is kind of a weird feeling considering I have been at the venue since 8:15am. As usual Savage is top notch with their course marking, obstacles, course design, water stations, and attention to detail. In fact, there weren’t really any waits at the obstacles later in the day, which I expected to run into. In all of the reviews I have written on Savage Race I have never described disappointment (unless you count the far walk to the car). I truly believe that Savage has the best obstacles in America and that they actually care about their participants. My entire family had a blast and I would definitely bring them all again because so far it is one of our more memorable days on 2018.

Final Notes: There were at least 2 porta potty visits that I didn’t log and two more trips to the Kona Shaved Ice Truck. Oh, and we bought them hats. Next stop…. Boston! #SAF

Should I Fib To Let My Kid Race OCR?

I cheated at the Spartan Sprint in Virginia. I’m probably not the only person that cheated at an OCR this weekend, but I might be the only one writing about it. And <<spoiler alert>>, I will probably do it again.
I did all my burpees. I didn’t cut the course (it was very well marked). I paid for premium parking, although they never asked me for proof. I ran in my assigned wave (and watched a Spartan official/volunteer ask a racer to leave the corral after he snuck in to run with friends a half-hour before his assigned time). I didn’t receive any assistance on Twister or the monkey bars. My bucket was filled up to the holes on the side of the bucket.

So, what did I do? I claimed that my 12 year-old was 14 so we could run his first big OCR together. For those that say “That’s doesn’t count” or “Everyone does that”, go ahead and skip to the next article. It is cheating and it is a big deal. And if we want the sport to grow, it’s something that needs to be discussed and addressed.

“I don’t care, I don’t have kids” – Just the fact that you know about ORM means you care about OCR. No sport will have sustainable growth without engaging children and teens in an appropriate manner, (except maybe Beer Pong. Hmmmm… “Milk Pong”?). Baseball has tee-ball. Football has Pop Warner. Soccer has a bajillion levels from 4 year-olds to over 50 leagues.

And let’s go ahead and get the “You’re a bad/unsafe parent” stuff out of the way – my son and I train every week at a Spartan SGX gym. I have run in ~50 OCRs from local mud runs to WTM with a healthy variety of Savage, Rugged Maniac and Battlefrogs along the way. I know my son’s ability and I have a decent idea of the types of risks that accompany the different obstacles.

Gym-Training
Finally, yes – maybe I could’ve applied for an exception (google “Milla Bizzotto”), but I didn’t because I am lazy and the application would have tipped them off since I would’ve tried to sneak him in anyway if they said no.

This is an important issue because we need to challenge our kids in order to get them to love the sport as much as we do. If there’s any chance that OCR will be in the Olympics, it won’t be Hunter or Hobie or Faye or Amelia on the podium. It will be someone that’s probably 12 right now. And I don’t want to have to make the choice between telling the truth and sharing the sport I love. Integrity is a delicate concept with a very slippery slope – how do I tell him that lying about his age is okay but doing only 25 burpees isn’t? If you think this is all easy and it’s a simple matter of knowing right versus wrong, then I congratulate you Mr/Mrs Safe Driver for never going 27 in a 25 and for reading EVERY Terms and Conditions paragraph before signing.

Before I actually make some recommendations, I want to commend Spartan Race for doing a great job in this area. They do the best job of the more established brands of providing options and challenges for non-adults. (Although my son does NOT agree that his free post-race Capri-Sun is equivalent to my free post-race beer.) Also, the volunteers were AMAZING. They cheered him on as he ran through and gave him clear and specific obstacle instruction – I’m not sure if they were supposed to make accommodations for him, but they did. He was allowed/directed to the women’s Atlas stone, women’s herc hoist and only filled his bucket halfway (which still kicked his butt). The other racers also cheered him on. I am so proud to be introducing him to a sport where a 12 year-old can be passing a 30 year-old and hear words of encouragement as she/he is being passed.

Here’s the landscape right now: Grades are based on the variety and challenge of offerings from ages 6 to the “adult” race.

  • Spartan Race – Grade: B+. They have a ½-mile race for ages 4-8. A 1-mile for ages 9-13 and sometimes a 2-mile for 11-14 year-olds. Then the adult races open up for you at 14.
  • Tough Mudder – Grade: C. TM has Mini Mudder. A 1-mile race for 7-12 year-olds and then you can run the 5k and the Half Mudder if you are 14. At least I think so. They hide this information and apparently change it depending on venue. Want to turn a kid off of OCR? Tell your 16 or 17 year-old that they are running TM Kentucky with you and then you get a message 12 hours before the race saying that the venue won’t allow racers under 18. Yep, that happened last weekend.
  • Savage Race – Grade: B. Savage Junior Race is a ½ mile course for those 12 and under. Then you step right up to the 6 mile course at age 13. So it’s pretty much like going straight from tee-ball to the minor leagues.
  • Rugged Maniac – Grade: C. Only one race offering. Must be 14 to compete.
  • Warrior Dash – Grade: B. Only one race offering. Must be 10 years old to compete.

Warrior-Dash-Kids

How do I recommend we fix this without boring our kids or lighting our pants on fire? AND without asking companies to operate at a significant financial loss? Here’s some starter ideas:

  • Parent/Chaperone Waivers – Have a special waiver for parents that want their kids to be allowed to race before they meet the age requirement. Maybe you even require the parent to run with the child.
  • Skill Requirements – Does your 13 year-old want to run with the 14 year-olds? Fine, here’s a special area with three obstacles they must safely complete before they can be allowed to the starting line.
    Race Progression – Underage? No problem, just successfully complete the course that’s appropriate for your age first. (i.e. do the 2-mile kids before you are allowed to do the Sprint).
  • Scalable Obstacles – Let kids fill the bucket half-way, make it half-way across Twister, stand 5 feet closer for the spear, or push the atlas stone across and back.

The best answer is likely to include many of these – special waivers, obstacle tests, and scalable obstacles. Of course it would be better to have 5 levels of different courses and different obstacles, but that’s not financially feasible for companies that don’t even have enough money to sponsor a college football playoff game.
In closing, I am comfortable with what I did, but I hope I didn’t open Pandora’s Box. We’ve had some good conversations about this topic and I think he is happy that I am writing this article to bring some awareness to the age/challenge gap in OCR. He had a TREMENDOUS time at the race. He is hooked on OCR and is already asking about other races this summer. Sorry, buddy, no WTM for you this year. You’ll just have to be happy as my pit crew again.

Father-and-Son