Conquer the Gauntlet: Dallas/Forth Worth

Conquer the Gauntlet: Dallas/Fort Worth

On the hottest day of the summer thus far at the time of this writing, Conquer the Gauntlet kicked off their series with a big bang.  While the Texas heat beamed down, competitors filed in to take on one of the most brutal Obstacle Courses known in America.  Don’t allow the down-home, local feel of the race series to fool you.  Conquer the Gauntlet is as serious (if not more so) than any other OCR series out there.  I’ve run several areas of Texas.  I’ve faced tons of treacherous terrain.  However, I’ve never experienced the type of challenge that Conquer the Gauntlet presented me with.  This review will focus primarily on those obstacles as I feel they deserve the most limelight.  I left physically broken so to speak, but spiritually energized.  I loved every minute of it.

Masters victors

 

The Venue

As far as terrain goes, the Village Creek Motocross Park track didn’t offer any daunting ascents or downhills.  However, Conquer the Gauntlet utilized it to its utmost potential.  Within the first mile or two competitors made many up and down runs on the tracks biggest jumps.  The sandbag carry finished with one of the steeper ascents making it extra draining with the Texas heat already sapping racers’ strength away.  Racers later cooled down in a few water crossings including a beautiful creek offering some great scenery.

The last stretch of obstacles brought competitors back around to the festival area allowing spectators a superb view of Pegatron, Tarzan, Stairway to Heaven and other favorites.  CTG knows what obstacles are fun to watch and they made sure they were front and center.

The Obstacles

CTG’s major strength in its own right as well as against all other series is its obstacles.  Three words that should consistently be used when describing this course are challenge, innovation, and fun.  Strategic placement of these challenging beasts made sure that they took everything they could out of competitors.  This made those well-earned podium spots that much more special.  All of the favorites went off without a hitch and were well manned by volunteers.

As someone who has run many obstacle course races, walls are rarely more than an annoyance in most courses.  This was not so at Conquer the Gauntlet Fort Worth.  Not one.. not two… not three… but FIVE 8 foot walls in a ROW drained more out of me than I expected.  I do not mean in the same vicinity.  I mean immediately after one another.  Stamina killers may have been lacking in hills, but Conquer the Gauntlet knows how to utilize their tools to break you even more efficiently than most terrain can.

Challenge

Cliffhanger brought the next somewhat daunting challenge as they were probably the most challenging set of monkey bars I’ve faced.  Though the bars aren’t fat or necessarily slick,  some aren’t welded in and they WILL spin on you.  On top of that, they ascend and descend adding a bit of extra kick of difficulty.  Technique and grip are key in monkeying your way across these bad boys and they should not be taken lightly.

The Z beam brought forth an unusual challenge as well.  Four very long, very narrow boards are lined up edgewise in a Z pattern. Competitors had to make their way across without falling off.  A simple concept proved to be very difficult and requires a lot of focus especially when placed after a long running portion.  This required racers to lower their heart rate and focus on foot placement and center of gravity at a time when their mind is just screaming “GO!”

Later on came the daunting challenge that has taken the belt and pride of many, and it claimed mine as well.  Pegatron was a large approximately 20-foot long horizontal pegboard that loomed over competitors much like the large evil robots from its namesake.  With a few footholds in the first and last five feet, the most difficult portion was the ten-foot portion in the middle with no footholds.

Never having practiced on a pegboard, I tried my best to develop a nice technique again… again.. and again.. to no avail.  Pegatron offered many different choices of peg sizes.  Offset holes added difficulty.  Some holes were fake.  This allows pegs to go all the way through forcing competitors to use strategy.  If that wasn’t enough, the occasional fake hole could turn a great attempt into failure.

The Mystery

I stayed at Pegatron for an hour.  I made it halfway across and even further, but never fully reached the other footholds. A handful of racers made it through, but even more threw down their belts to continue on.   I tried until my hands, torn and bleeding, gave out. I walked away knowing I had given it my all.

What immediately followed was a super fun new “mystery obstacle.”  Much like other CTG staples, this new obstacle brought in some of the best elements of Ninja Warrior like obstacles to the OCR series.  The obstacle began with a quick set of widely spaced quintuple steps.  A series of walls with bars lining the top followed.  Competitors had to jump from wall to wall grasping to the bar to keep them up.  However, the next to the last wall brought a surprise.

Instead of a bar, this wall had a nun-chuck, a ball grip, and a rope hanging from the top.  This made shimmying and leaping to the last bar wall extra difficult.  Not only was this a great challenge, it was a lot of fun and I hope to see it in future races.

More Grip and Upper Body Destruction

As if Pegatron and the “mystery” obstacle didn’t kill our grip enough, later competitors faced Tarzan.  It was not a particularly long rig, but that did not matter.  With bloody and battered hands I attempted it, but of course to no avail.  The rig began with a nunchuck.  There is no grip on this nunchuck.  These nunchucks were metal and SLICK.  Competitors must get a big swing going.  That sweet little ring on the next hold appears to be 15 feet away.  IF you even make it to that ring you are forced to grab hold of some little bungee cords. Hold on for dear life and attempting to keep your swing going until you can reach the final hold.  Needless to say, even for those who made it through Pegatron, their elite journey ended here.

IF THAT WASN’T ENOUGH for your grip and upper body to be screaming, next came stairway to heaven.  Don’t let the heavenly counterpart of a name to Ninja Warrior’s devil steps fool you.  These wooden bad boys are steeper and higher than almost any set of devil steps I’ve encountered.  Bloody and battered I clawed my way to the top and even made the transition only to have my screaming, throbbing hands give out on me as I plummeted into the water below.  A nice little tube slide ended my journey to one of the most difficultly obtained medals and shirts I’ve ever earned.

A Fun Learning Experience with Truly Elite Athletes

Many have often described OCR as a mixture of Ninja Warrior and trail running.  In fact, I often use it to describe OCR to those who have never heard of it as it makes the concept easier to grasp.  Conquer the Gauntlet is the truest example of that definition.  To every Ninja who reads this: sign up.  To every OCR racer ready to test themselves in a new way and ready to push limits they may not have known they had: sign up.  Even to those who love to run with friends and just take it easy: sign up!  This challenge will bring you either closer to those you run with, closer to yourself, or closer to the OCR community as a whole.

As someone who became addicted to OCR because I kept learning that I could achieve feats I never thought possible, Conquer the Gauntlet awakened that feeling in me once again.  I was beaten, badly by a greater obstacle challenge than I’ve ever experienced, but I walked out with my head held high.  I hadn’t only had a lot of fun, I was inspired. In my heart… that’s what the number one goal of all OCR companies and racers is… to inspire.  Thank you Conquer the Gauntlet for a wonderful experience.  I will be back.

I give it 5 torn callouses out of 5.

https://conquerthegauntlet.com/

Savage Race Florida Has Serious Beef With Their Racers!

Savage-Race-Mens-Pro-Start

Thanks to the Florida Women’s Cattle Association, Savage Race served up protein packed, amazing post race bites of some of the most well seasoned, succulent rib eye and NY strip steaks. That sure beats the traditional bananas and protein bars for this racer!

I’m getting ahead of myself however, so let me run down the basics before getting to the true meat of Savage Race, the obstacles. The heart-pounding, well-designed, and amazingly fun obstacles that had thousands of Savages from 37 states descend upon Florida to run the very first Savage Race of 2017.

The parking situation: Savage Race Florida did not have VIP parking. It was $10 to park at the venue with a first come, first serve situation in order to get the best spot. The parking area was close enough to the venue with a short walk to the entrance, where a friendly volunteer handed you a course map.

Savage-Race-Course-Map-Volunteer

What about the Port-o-potties? There were portable crappers in the parking area and the festival area as far as the eye can see. So, if you had to do race rule #1 (Take a dump before the race), there was no wait before or after the race. They also had 2 portable crapper stations on the course right around miles 3 and 6. As for the cleanliness? You’ve seen worse. Much much worse, trust me on that. Post race is where you start asking, “Mud or poo?”

Savage-Rage-Venue-Porta-Potties

Registration and packet pickup: Simple and hassle free. Just make sure that you have a valid I.D., your bib number and a signed waiver.

Savage-Race-Registration-Volunteer-Packet-Pickup-Tent

Bag check: $5 (each bag) to check your belongings, and if you needed to get something from your bag after checking it, like a second packet for your Savage Syndicate lap, or if you simply forgot something they will not charge you again. Your belongings were kept behind long tables where very friendly but watchful volunteers and security made sure your things were safe.

Savage-Race-Bag-Check-Tent

Savage Syndicate Program: There seems to be some confusion on how this works. It’s very simple folks: run 2 paid laps in 1 calendar year and you get a big, spinning medal to go with your 2 regular medals. You can run 2 paid laps on the same day like I did and BOOM, you too can walk around like King or Queen shit though the festival area with your neck laden with bling. You also get a state pin, and the best part? All Savage Races that you run after becoming a Savage Syndicate: you get the regular medal and another Syndicate spinner medal with that state’s pin, without having to run double laps at the same venue.

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Savage Race Pro Kevin “MudMan” LaPlatney, Owner of Obstacle Athletics with his Savage Race Syndicate Bling (Gold Medal not included)

Water stations: There were 3 water stations on the course spaced every 2 miles, and Savage Race is still keeping the water on ice. So when you are handed your own personal water bottle, it’s nice and refreshingly cold. They spoil their racers, unlike another race brand (which shall not be named) that tends to run out of the water and is warm enough to make tea with.

The obstacles: Oh my, where do I even begin? Savage Race surprised many of their Florida regulars with the course set up this year. The first mile was a nice long run without any obstacles. You heard that correctly my fellow Savages, a Savage Race where they didn’t bombard you within the first ¼ mile with obstacles. How is this a good thing some may be wondering? It builds up anticipation, and you get a nice warm up mile to get the blood flowing before they start slamming you with obstacle after obstacle.

Savage-Race-Shriveled-Richard-Obstacle

Once you hit their first obstacle named Barn Doors, which is a wooden fence that you climb over the obstacles start coming at you quickly in true Savage Race fashion. Barbed wire crawls, mud pits, cargo nets, high walls, their signature obstacles like Sawtooth, Shriveled Richard, Wheel World, Colossus, Davy Jones and much more are spaced so that once you are done with one obstacle you are just a stone’s throw away from the next one.

On my first lap I did notice that the Squeeze Play obstacle which was placed over a mud pit was closed. Of course, the first thought that came to mind was, “GATOR IN THE MUD PIT!” but that thought quickly went away as I ran towards the always intimidating Sawtooth. On my second lap Squeeze play was placed over dry ground a few feet away from the mud pit which had red lettered caution tape, so it kind of confirmed to me that there was a “GATOR IN THE MUD PIT!” There is no official confirmation on that however, and it could just be all in my head.

Savage-Race-Mad-Ladders-Obstacle

Savage Race threw many racers for a loop when they placed Colossus a few obstacles before the finish line. I heard quite a few Savages wondering, “Colossus isn’t last?” Oh no my friends, they placed it right before Teeter Tuber making crawling up the rubber pipes extra challenging and fun because the insides were SAF (Slippery As F*ck).

Savage-Race-Colossus-Obstacle

Speaking of challenging, the hardest traverse wall in OCR, “Kiss My Walls” just got even more challenging. Savage Race upped it up a notch by adding fencing in between the tiny rock climbing pegs. Still no step stool for us shorties, sorry my fellow vertically challenged pals.

I’ll touch briefly on their 2 new obstacles that many were wondering about, Mad Ladders and Twirly Bird, since nobody had even seen a picture of these two before the race. Mad Ladders consists of rope ladders and loose cargo nets which you traverse across. Sounds easy? Far from it as you’ll be spun around and tangled up.

Twirly Bird? No propellers involved, but it’s the rig to end all rigs. Oh you thought trying to hang onto tennis balls was hard? Try hanging onto shredded ropes with tiny individual knots. You better have the grip strength of a silverback gorilla to get through this one.

Savage-Race-Twirly-Bird-Obstacle

All in all it was 28 great obstacles (no heavy carries allowed) packed into a 6 mile course.

Savage-Race-Runners

Festival area: After jumping over the fire and getting your precious medal and finisher shirt, Florida Savages were treated to what seems to be every OCR racer’s favorite post race beer Shock Top. For those that do not drink, your beer ticket was treated like you just handed off a $100 bill.

The food stalls worked much like a carnival where you bought tickets at a booth and various food and drink items cost x amount of tickets. $10 for a sheet of 10 tickets was how it was sold. The fare was burgers, chicken gyros, chicken on a stick, roasted corn on the cob and other carry around friendly foods.

Savage-Race-Food-Stalls

There was a nice large main tent where people were enjoying food and drinks giving it a very cool Oktoberfest vibe. There were plenty of canopied tables scattered throughout the festival area as well giving people a nice view of the stage where they held pushup contests. Hats off to the Savages that participated because this Savage could barely hold her burger up after the race.

Changing room and showers: You mean garden hoses and changing tents. The garden hoses should have a sign next to them saying, “Obstacle #29” so cold! The changing tents were secure, clean and roomy.

Savage-Race-Changing-Tents-Venue

Exit through the gift shop: Savage race has the best prices for gear and still continues to do so. Good selection of shirts, compression sleeves, headbands and if you buy 2 shirts you get a venue specific shirt for FREE!

Savage-Race-Gift-Shop-Tent

The best next race deal around: For $75 you can buy a voucher for upcoming Savage races at any venue. That price includes processing fees and the mandatory insurance, but wait there’s MORE! You also get a Savage race wristband, a “Train Savage” t-shirt and decals.

Savage-Race-Voucher-Swag

Thank you Savage race for putting on an amazing event yet again, the first race of the year was incredible and this Savage is looking forward to even more fun at Maryland Spring on April 29th.

If you’re still on the fence about trying a Savage Race, it’s time to get off of that fence, grab some friends and jump into the mud or water pit because it’s time to get SAVAGE AF!

Savage-Race-First-Timers

Photo Credit: Kevin “MudMan” LaPlatney, Poly Poli, Savage Race 

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