Getting Savage In Chicago

The Savage Race made their way to The Richardson Adventure Farm near the Illinois/Wisconsin border on the weekend of July 28/29 for a two-day event. Saturday was their main race that most of us are used to while Sunday was reserved for their new Blitz short course format. The Chicago race is the furthest Northwest that Savage travels from their home base in Florida, so everyone living west of here may want to take note, and make plans to hit this race when it comes back around next year. The Chicago race offered 28 0bstacles over a 6.35-mile course with virtually no elevation change making it a very fast course. Something I always liked about Savage is that they bring some new obstacles to challenge you every year. This year was no different as a brand-new rig was introduced along with a new tire drag obstacle completed by peddling your feet on a spinning wheel thereby enabling the pulley attached to drag the tire towards you. While not that tough, it was something I’ve never seen in OCR and it was fun to do.

The first mile of the Savage course consisted mainly running with only a low crawl and a wall climb thrown in along the way. If you managed to work up a sweat already you were in luck as Shriveled Richard, a dunk in ice water under a wooded plank was next up followed immediately by a low crawl under a section of barrels. Savage added a set of vertical posts that needed to be climbed over in between each barrel this year as a new little twist. The second mile of the course included more running with another low crawl, inverted wall climb, and a set of vertical logs set at varying heights which needed traversed. All three obstacles were spaced evenly along this section of the route. After a quick drink at one of the many water stations racers crossed a road onto another section of the farm where a cement block drag waited along with the new Pedal for The Medal that I discussed above. The trail now led racers into a wooded section of the farm where Christmas Trees were grown for sale. Along this section Savage placed a 9-foot wall along with their slip wall which wasn’t slick at all. Also tucked into this section of the woods were the Big Cheese, which was a half dome shaped climb and Davy Jones locker which was like a jump off the high dive at a local pool.

The second half of the race led off with everyone’s favorite over water traverse, Wheel World. There is nothing like trying to make your way across those spinning wheels while trying to keep from falling in the water. Savage upped the difficulty on this by making athletes climb down an angled rope to complete the obstacle. A basic balance beam cross over water was next up followed up by a log carry. Two tough obstacles came up next in the form of Kiss My Walls, a sideways wall traverse where the top of the wall hung out farther than the bottom making gravity your enemy. To make matters worse Savage only provided small rock climbing holds for your hands and feet the whole way across. I usually have to restart on this obstacle a few times as my big feet and hands don’t like those rock climbing holds. Twirly Bird followed that up and proved once again to be the location where most elite racers lost their bands. This unique rig included alternating rings and ropes the whole way through and gets me every time! Mad Ladders, a traverse across a section of suspended cargo nets, was the last obstacle presented before racers crossed the road heading back to the original property.

A police escort helped athletes cross the intersection of the road which led to another barbed wire crawl, this served to get you nice and muddy for the next traverse over water. This traverse included suspended ropes, rings, and T shaped hangers along the way. One false move here and you would find yourself with a short swim to the other side. Battering Ram was the next new obstacle on the course and required racers to use their body momentum to slide a metal pipe down a long suspended beam where after a brief transition, the whole process had to be completed again on a second pipe. You really have to appreciate the innovative new obstacles that Savage brings to the table every year. With so many big named races just doing the same thing year after year this is a total breath of fresh air and makes OCR fun. Ok, I’ll now get off my soap box and continue with the race coverage.

Athletes now made their way back towards the festival area only to be greeted by the Teeter Tuber. Savage placed sections of tubing onto a fulcrum requiring athletes to shimmy up and through the tube. Just across the half way point the tube tips down causing a racer to quickly slide out the bottom. The initial climb through this thing always requires more effort than you would think as the inside is slick and the tube itself isn’t very wide. Do you like giant slip walls and huge water slides?  You’re in luck as Savage chose to place Colossus in this location. This obstacle has become the signature of Savage Race over the years and the huge water slide at the end is always a fan favorite. Sawtooth, another fan favorite was situated right after Colossus as this monkey bar crossing over water always tests the agility and grip strength of a racer. Racers were now heading down the home stretch, but Savage surprised everyone with another new rig. Holy Sheet, yes this rig started out by having an athlete use their hands and legs to cross a suspended bed sheet. This transitioned into a series of suspended balls which gave it a very American Ninja Warrior type feel. If you managed to get by this bad boy one only needed to climb over an A framed cargo net and jump over the obligatory fire pit as the finish line was located just after.

I applaud Savage for continually challenging athletes with new obstacles, although I would caution new Pro wave athletes to really be proficient on rigs before entering this wave. Savage brought their new Blitz short course race out on Sunday. I was not personally there for the Blitz, but after talking to a few racers afterwards the short course sounded very watered down. This might end up being a great race format for a new racer as it sounded like many of the tough obstacles were removed from this event. Savage has told me that the Blitz event will award age group medals from here on out, possibly as a way to increase attendance as this is the first year for the shorter version. One last note, I saw more photographers on this course than I’ve seen at any other. So if you’re a picture whore like me, you’ll definitely need to hit up a Savage Race so you can flood social media with all your epic race shots!

 

Savage Race Chicago 2016

13907066_1205249149497302_1703278135195097644_n The 2016 Chicago/Milwaukee Savage Race took place on July 30th amid the cornfields and pine trees of the Richardson Adventure Farm in Spring Grove, Illinois. As a huge Savage Race, fan I was curious to see the new obstacles brought here and the unveiling of the new “Tree Hugger” obstacle. I had always thought of Savage as an easier version of a Spartan Sprint, but with the constant obstacle upgrades, Savage has made its way into the Big 3 for me along with Spartan and BattleFrog. Savage certainly isn’t wrong when they state that they have “The World’s Best Obstacles”.

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The Elite/Pro wave started off promptly at 9 a.m. with athletes running through the farm and out to the fields along the 6.5 mile course, which was about a half a mile shorter than last year’s course. Open waves were released every 20 minutes after the Elites took off.  The course was extremely flat with only about a hundred feet of elevation change which was perfect for the locals who are used to the flat terrain. Athletes were led through a few of the more mediocre obstacles to begin with, including an easy barbed wire crawl, the freezing Shriveled Richard, and new for 2016, Squeeze Play. Runners must crawl under a series of 55 gallon barrels set up in a row. From there Savage stepped up their game obstacle-wise in the form of Lumberjack Lane where athletes carried a log to the inverted walls and on to a crowd favorite, Wheel World, where one must traverse a series of turning wheels across an open pit of water. After that test of grip strength, Savage ran athletes up the slip wall and again tested grip strength with Kiss My Walls. This is Savage’s wall traverse and is the hardest among other races, due to the small rock climbing holds and the fact that the top of the wall sticks out farther than the bottom making you fight even harder!

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Now approaching the middle of the course, Savage continued to test mental grit with a high dive off of Davey Jones Locker into the water below, up and over Barn Doors, and across On the Fence. On the Fence was new to 2016. Fencing was placed over a water pit once again testing an athlete’s grip. The Big Cheese was next up, also new to 2016. A large, rounded, wooden wall with triangle cut outs for hand holds tested your climbing ability along with the great 9 foot wall. The claustrophobic Teeter Tuber was our next obstacle and this one is a killer for a big man. Not very much room to shimmy through this tube. From there it was on to my personal favorite set of monkey bars in OCR the Sawtooth. Climbing up 20 feet over the water pit and back down really tested that grip once again. The Big Ass Cargo Net and Colossus led us back to the festival area, where the new Savage Platinum Rig was waiting to see if an athlete had any grip strength left, and an area where many an Elite runner lost his/her band. Last up and making its debut in Chicago was the Tree Hugger. This new obstacle was a series of metal poles and tree posts sticking straight up and in a line where athletes had to traverse across three metal and three wooden posts without touching the ground. Personally, I thought it was a smash hit.Savage Race - The Big Cheese

Overall, my opinion of the Chicago Savage was that they have really stepped up the difficulty of their obstacles and cut down the running some. While Savage is not yet up to the level of BattleFrog, I feel they have Spartan in their sights. The festival area was about what you would expect with merchandise, food, and drinks available for purchase along with a $5.00 bag check and hose off/changing area. Parking was close by and only $10.00 for general parking, $20.00 for VIP parking right up front. One concern my wife had was that the medic tent was quite a ways off from the festival area. They were super friendly and well supplied, but it was quite a hike to get there. The kid’s race was a tad weak with few obstacles and mostly running, but it did include a bubble machine that all the kids enjoyed. The 2016 Chicago Savage lived up to my expectations and then some. Savage is certainly one of the must do race series for all.13669842_1205248096164074_6231899519137863591_n