Case Creek OCR

With so many large OCR events going on across the country these days it’s easy to forget that many started off as a small, local event. I always try to include a few of these into my race schedule every year due in large part to the down-home feel and personal attention to detail. The costs associated with these events are generally far less without a huge drop off in the quality of the obstacles.

If you’re a competitive athlete these smaller events may offer you a better chance to place due to the lower participation numbers while still making you work for it and there is a good chance the staff will greet you by name at the registration tents if you are a repeat attendee.  It was for all these reasons and more that I made my way to the small town of Coal Valley, Illinois on August 11th for the 6th annual Case Creek OCR.

The 3.4-mile event was held on a beautiful farm filled with rolling hills tucked into the far Northwest corner of the state. The course had a modest elevation change of around 700 feet but very few sections of the course were flat making the race feel more vertical that it was. The race director made excellent use of the surrounding farmland and wooded acreage along with a few jaunts through the race namesake, Case Creek.

The event had two different race categories, Competitive, which was the first heat of the day with open class heats taking off throughout the rest of the morning. The competitive heat awarded awesome custom plaques to the top three men and women in age group categories separated by 10-year spans and looked really cool hung on your wall at home.

The race started off as it always has by sending runners up the hill in front of the main house before taking a turn sending athletes along the edge of a field where a series of low hurdles were situated.

The next obstacle was the only one that I think Case Creek should get rid of as two blue plastic 55-gallon drums were laying on the ground and required an athlete to crawl through them. Now, this was a super tight fit for any large person and the drums were not really secured to the ground causing me to almost run the rest of the race with the barrel around my waist! From there things improved greatly as the next obstacles presented included a wall climb and low crawl along with a set of monkey bars suspended over a water pit.

The herd had not thinned out much by the time racers reached the weaver and cargo net climb causing a bit of a bottleneck but from here on out, I had no trouble with lines at an obstacle. After a log carry the course got down and dirty by sending athletes through a series of ravines with fallen trees laid over the top making many racers get down on all fours and crawl through the slop to escape. This was an excellent place for Case to set up their balance beam made of logs as racers shoes were still caked with mud from the previous low crawl.

Athletes now made their way back towards the festival area where 5 obstacles were set up within easy viewing distance for family and friends but not before finishing a log hoist which was very light and hardly slowed down an athlete at all.

First up was a low crawl over a section of fence followed by a short atlas stone carry. A low hurdle was presented right after dropping off your atlas stone followed by a set of muscle-unders requiring an athlete to lift a wooden wall up before scooting under to the next. A unique cargo net, suspended off the ground by 2 climbing walls, was the last obstacle in this section. Racers now made their way out of the festival area in one final loop scaling a giant tire wall on their way out. This final loop included such obstacles as a rope swing and mud pit crawls and ended by having racers wade against the current through the creek and back to the festival area.

The only thing I might suggest to Case Creek is to maybe stagger the men’s and women’s competitive heats by 5 minutes to help with a few of the bottlenecks. So if you’re into smaller events or not a big fan of crowds give Case Creek a try. Everyone there is super friendly and your low race fee gets you free pics and parking along with a tee shirt and post-race refreshments.  A separate kid’s only course will be held on the weekend of September 8th so get your little one signed up!

Muddy Warrior Run 2017

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Before heading down to Chicago to tackle the Toughest Mudder, I made a pit stop outside of Rochester, MN and ran the Muddy Warrior Run.  The Muddy Warrior Run is a 5K locally-run OCR that’s very well-produced and designed, with some great obstacles and excellent use of the terrain at their venue.

Festival Area:

Everything was close together and easily accessible, with some food and nutrition vendors sprinkled throughout.  There was ample seating for people to hang out, and the bathroom/shower situation was solid.  Registration was done and over with quickly and smoothly.

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Venue:

The race venue is about 1 ½ hrs. from the Twin Cities, on the NE corner of the Rochester area.  From the parking area (which has lots of room and within walking distance to the registration tent), it looks like just a grouping of trees in the middle of a wide-open field.  This misled yours truly to think there wasn’t going to be much in fun terrain for this course.  Boy, was I wrong!

Course:

The race started off with a very energetic emcee getting all the racers pumped up and ready to tackle the course.  After getting all pumped up, we were off!

Leading up to the race, there had been some rain, and it was still raining on & off throughout the course.  This made the “muddy” part of the Muddy Warrior Run easy to live up to!  Big clumps of mud stuck to me as I crawled out of the barb wire crawl & headed into the trees.  This is where I ate my first impressions of the venue, as it opened into some great double-wide track through creek beds, roots were strewn all over the trail, and some decent inclines.  My watch gathered around 600 feet of elevation change in roughly 3.5 miles (not sure how accurate that is, but that’s what I’m going with!) so the course designer made use of every inch they could!

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Obstacles of Note

The log station, where we had to do 15 squats with the log & the Form Enforcer right there making sure we went deep enough on the squats (she was great!).  There were the normal walls to climb over but threw in a tall wall climb over and a traverse wall for a little bit of spiciness.  A couple of the most fun ones for me were the base jump into a pool of water, the straight pipe rig towards the end of the race, and the spear throw.

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Muddy Warrior Aftermath

After talking with some people that had done the course in previous years, they said this year’s course was much tougher than past years.  I also learned that the competitive wave people had bands, which meant it was mandatory obstacle completion.  They also had cash prizes for the top 3 overall, which is always great incentive to have the fast athletes show up.  Overall, everyone had mud on them, smiles on their faces, and phrases of “Can’t wait to do this again next year!” filling the air at Muddy Warrior Run!  Another great locally-run OCR in Minnesota is done and in the books!

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Steeplechase Challenge 2017

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Another weekend, another excellent locally-run OCR in the books for the great state of Minnesota!  This time, my adventures took me to the hilly Zumbro River valleys of Mazeppa at an event called the Steeplechase Challenge.

This is a new-comer to the local OCR scene, as this is only their second year of holding this weekend-long event.  The event focuses on the charity Toys For Tots and brings in donations for the local chapter.  There’s a 5K or 10K distance to choose from, with plenty of families and weekend warriors alike tackling the course either Saturday or Sunday.  Registration and festival area are within walking distance of the parking area, as everything is on-site.  Everything was clearly marked and easy to get through.

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Course / Venue:

The venue is hands-down one of the best in MN.  The family that runs this event owns about 170 acres of pristine Zumbro River Valley beauty at the Steeplechase Event Center (hence the race name), hills and all.  The site used to be an old ski resort and chair lifts are still standing to this day but not functional anymore.  This paves the way to some truly fantastic trails, mud, hills, single-track (even through what was dubbed ‘Rock Canyon’ where rock boulders had to be climbed over uphill) and… more mud & more hills.  Anytime you can do an OCR in Minnesota and get over 1200+ ft of elevation change in a 10K (watches varied, so I’m going with that number as an average) is a huge plus.  I’ll let some of the photos do the talking:

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Obstacles:

One of the standout obstacles was the addition of a 300-foot water slide, which everyone young to old enjoyed (some of them multiple times, I ran the 10K on Sunday and was told a woman on Saturday went up/down the slide 11 times!).  Some fun random ones: hitting a tractor tire 10x, hitting a junked car with a sledgehammer (seriously more fun than you’d think!), and a spear throw that was longer than a standard Spartan Race distance.  There were some challenging ones as well, with the signature challenge (other than the terrain) was the log carry up to a shorter but very steep climb towards the end of the 10K distance.  Talk about a quad burner!

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The obstacles themselves may not be as technically challenging as other races, but the terrain/venue/heavy carries back up the ‘Challenge’ claim in full.  It’s a great feeling to see both young and old, newcomers to veteran racers enjoying some of the best that MN has to offer when it comes to OCR racing.  See you again in 2018!

 

Photo Credit: Author