Get Blitzed! Savage Blitz Maryland – Fall 2018

Savage-Blitz-MD-Rig

Earlier this year, Savage Race introduced its first ever “Savage Blitz” in Maryland. Now, they return in the fall to not only return Savage Blitz but its first-ever Savage Blitz Pro wave, which is Savage’s competitive heat. As if that wasn’t enough excitement, the course was soaked with an all-day rainstorm. But that didn’t stop Savages from coming out and trying Savage Race’s new race.

 

WHAT IS BLITZ?

On Saturday, Savage held their usual format of 6+ miles and 20+ obstacles. Blitz, which took place on Sunday, averages about 3 miles and 15-20 obstacles. Maryland’s fall Blitz saw about 3.3 miles and listed 24 obstacles on the course map. From what I can remember, I believe there were only 22 obstacles, as a second Barn Door and Blazed did not appear on the course. Blazed was most likely removed due to the rain.

Savage-Blitz-MD-Map

The obstacle list included two out of three obstacles that are new for 2018, Battering Ram and Holy Sheet. A side note, which helped me with Holy Sheet, look at the “extra” piece of sheet hanging down by where you transition to the ball holds. Pick a lane where that piece is shorter, so it doesn’t get tangled when you reach for the ball. It’s also easier if you grab above the chain, especially in wet conditions.

 

I did notice that a lot of the water obstacles are absent from Blitz, aside from one called Double Dip. Most of the grip obstacles were above dry ground, too. No Colossus, Shriveled Richard, etc. Blitz is meant to be quick and short and seems to be a nice introduction to anyone wanting to try a Savage without jumping right into a 6-mile course. Some water obstacles, though fun, can be time-consuming or scare away anyone who doesn’t want to jump into a freezing cold tub of water.

Savage-Blitz-MD-Fall-Holy-Sheet

WHAT ELSE IS NEW?

New this year is Pro wave competitors wear two chip bands. One is the standard timing chip. The other is used to keep track of completing obstacles. Savage Pro competitors face mandatory obstacle completion. That’s great if you hate burpees, but can be troublesome if you need to retry and obstacle multiple times before being able to complete it. If you can’t ring the bell, you put your obstacle chip band in the “fail pail” and move on. You can still finish the race and will record your time, but lose eligibility for prizes and go into a non-completion category. Finish with the obstacle chip band, and you’ll receive a Savage wristband to show off your victory.

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Savage Race does a great job at getting course maps up early and sending out enough communication before race day. You still need to look up your bib number and do a printed waiver, where other races have the waiver as part of the sign-up process. But otherwise, registration and check-in is extremely easy. There were no lines at all and everything was quick and painless.

FESTIVAL, RESULTS & PHOTOS

The festival area had the usual beer tent, bag check, results, etc. There weren’t a lot of vendors, but not many people walked around because of the rain. At the finish line, racers received their medal, a shirt, a water, as well as their choice of a few flavors of protein-infused water (Trimino). Results were available at the results tent as soon as your chip crossed over the finish line. They were online shortly after as well.

 

Most impressive were the race photos. A lot of races take a few days to get pictures up and there are only a couple stations. Savage Blitz had a total of SEVEN obstacles with a photographer. Most of them took at least 3 or more pictures. I know other races have more people so it’s difficult to get a lot of pictures from one race, but Savage did a great job on this front. They also let you run another lap for fun, minus the medal and race shirt, so you can have another crack at the course plus more pictures.

Savage-Blitz-Bling

This was Savage’s fifth ever Blitz, with at least two more on the schedule for 2018. It’s a great introduction to Savage for OCR newcomers, as it allows you to run a minimal distance but still try some of their challenging obstacles. Competitive racers who aren’t into Their site lists Savage Blitz at every location in 2019, which would be

 

Savage Race Chicago 2018 – Spreading the Gospel of OCR through Grit and Grip

 

 

Savage_Race_Chicago_2018_Fire_Jump

This is the third year Savage Race has held an event in the Chicago area and the third year at the Richardson Adventure Farm – the same site as the parking lot of Spartan’s Chicago races the past three years.  The festival area is small and simple and parking is a breeze; paying an extra $10 for the VIP parking will get you right next to the entrance but only 60 feet closer than the regular parking.

 

THE BEST START LINE IN OCR

Savage_Race_Chicago_2018_Matty_T

While OCRWC may claim to have the best finish line in OCR, Savage Race certainly has the best start line.  At the Savage start line there is no canned speech that you’ve heard a thousand times, or a stern drill sergeant-esque man yelling.  Instead, there is a wildly happy bearded man with the energy of a 5-year-old who just drank espresso.  His name is Matty-T and outside of Flava-Flav, he is by far the best hype man that I’ve ever experienced.  It started with crowd surfing, then some call and response chanting as Matty-T skipped and jumped amongst the crowd whipping us up into a frenzy of laughter and cheering, locking arms with fellow racers and creating comradery, eliminating any anxiety a racer might have by simply having fun.

 

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Flatout

The terrain is flat, like Nebraska flat.  According to my GPS there was a total of 356 feet of elevation gain and I’m going to say most of that was from climbing obstacles like Colossus and Davy Jones Locker.  Just because the terrain was flat did not mean it was easy.  Being on a farm the ground was very rutted and strewn with rocks just waiting to twist an ankle.

 

Savage_Race_Chicago_2018_Colosus

 

This first mile was fairly easy with just 3 obstacles, letting the pack of fresh racers spread out and avoid jams.  The one element that was missing from this race was mud.  Savage made up for this lack of mud by getting you wet early and often with multiple mandatory immersion obstacles.

 

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The next few miles had a few strength obstacles including a cinder block pull followed directly by the new “peddle to the medal,” which is a tire drag powered by spinning a giant spool with your legs.  One thing I liked about Savage Race is none of their strength obstacles are overly heavy, both men and women use the same weights, and there was only one heavy carry.

Savage_Race_Chicago_2018_Block_Party

 

A Gauntlet of Grip

The final 2 miles were a gauntlet of grip-destroying obstacles starting with “Kiss my walls,” a wall traverse using small climbing holds, exhausting your finger strength. Not 150 meters away it was right into Wheel World which had me spinning.

Savage_Race_Chicago_2018_Wheel_World

 

Then came the Rig, then shortly after that Twirly Bird and another traverse–this time across rope ladders and cargo nets and then the behemoth that is Sawtooth. Finishing the gauntlet of grip was the new “Holy Sheet” a rig across a saggy piece of cloth then onto ball grip climbing holds.

 

Savage_Race_Chicago_2018_Sawtooth

 

For the Pro wave I thought the setup of the obstacles made for a good competition, but for the open waves who make up the majority of racers I wish that the grip obstacles had been spaced out more throughout the course.

 

Savage_Race_Chicago_2018_Marcia

 

I was very fortunate this race to have been able to run in the Pro-Wave at the beginning of the day amongst some of the greats in this sport.  I was even more grateful to run in the open wave midday with my sister who had never run a race of any kind in her life.  After spending the last 3 years running competitively it was refreshing to experience the fun of the open waves first hand and watch someone I love overcome fear, push through pain, and laugh while playing in the mud. After we jumped over the fire, crossed the finish line and hugged, my sister turned to me and asked if I would run with her again next year.  A convert to the gospel of OCR was made. Yes, Marcia, I’ll run with you again, maybe even sooner than next year.

Gooey Gooey Garfield


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Garfield made his own races before working for multiple OCR companies, and eventually landing with Spartan Race. Let’s learn about what happened before that… Casino dealer? Club DJ? Arms dealer?

Todays Podcast is sponsored by:

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Show Notes:

Garfield and Carl

Garfield 2012

Listen using the player below or the iTunes/Stitcher links at the top of this page. 

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

Savage Race Launches “Savage Blitz”

SAVAGE RACE LAUNCHES NEW “SAVAGE BLITZ” RACE PRODUCT

January 22, 2018 – Florida based company Mad Cap Events, LLC, owners of the popular “Savage Race” obstacle race series opened registration yesterday for a new race product called Savage Blitz. Savage Blitz is a 3-mile obstacle course race to complement Savage Race’s original 5-7 mile format. Savage Blitz features many of the Savage Race signature obstacles participants have come to know and love over a shorter distance.

Initially, Savage Blitz opens in four select markets in 2018, but with plans to expand to more locations in 2019, and possibly late 2018. The first four Blitz events will occur on Sundays at existing Savage Race venues.

“This was something that has been heavily requested by participants. There is a lot of interest from folks who aren’t quite ready for a 5-7 mile Savage Race, so we created a race product that would be better for a beginning OCR athlete. Savage Blitz is also going to be a lot of fun for experienced athletes who want to run a faster course. Fifteen to twenty obstacles is a lot to pack into a 3-mile course, so I think people are going to have a lot of fun with this!” – Sam Abbitt, Savage Race

Savage Blitz registration opened yesterday at 1 pm eastern.

Tickets and information are available here.

Savage Blitz Opening Calendar

Maryland – Sunday, May 6th, 2018
Charlotte – Sunday, May 20th, 2018
Ohio – Sunday, June 10th, 2018
Chicago – Sunday, July 29th, 2018

*More dates TBA

 

Obstacle Course Races and the Bad Business of Spectator Fees

Spartan-festival

Photo Credit Patrick Prentice

Last week I experienced my very first DNF in my three years, fifty plus race career. I was running the Spartan Beast in Spartanburg, SC with my longtime running partner and around mile 2.5 I started experiencing knee pains from an injury I sustained over a year ago. Luckily, we had just passed by the festival area and I sent her on to run the remaining ten miles alone while I hobbled back up the path to turn in my timing chip. My teammate and I had driven up from Florida together so I had no choice but to wait around for her to finish.

This is the first time I have ever spent an extended amount of time in the festival area of an obstacle course race and let me tell you: it was boring. I have been to craft fairs that are more exciting than a Spartan festival area and those have no entry fee. On top of this, there is no seating, the only entertainment is top 40 hits blaring from the center stage, and the food situation is reminiscent of a high school lunch cafeteria (but twice the price). In the end, the most exciting thing I came up with was balling up my gear bag and taking a nap in the grass. So why do Spartan, Savage, Tough Mudder, and all of the other big names in OCR think that this “festival experience” is worth anywhere between $10 and $25 dollars?

The issue of spectator fees really hit me when I ran the fall leg of the Savage Race one week after DNFing my Spartan Beast. My fiancee happily agreed to accompany me to my race just in case my injury started to flare back up while I was on the course and I was unable to drive myself home. After paying $60.80 for my entry, $15 for the insurance, $3 for a service charge, $4.20 for a processing fee, and $10 for parking I had already spent $93 dollars for the privilege of gracing Savage Race’s 7.2-mile course. Upon reaching the entry gates, however, I realized there was one thing I hadn’t accounted for: the spectator fee. This fee not only confused my fiancee but when she inquired about what the spectator’s pass entitled her to she was met with the lackluster response, “Access to the festival area.”

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Photo Credit Savage Race

Spectators at athletic events such as races, triathlons, and OCRs have a vital function for the athletes. A well-placed spectator can drastically improve the performance of the athletes and provide the necessary motivation to complete the event. Anyone who has had a friend or family member cheer them on during a race knows what this feels like and it really should go without being said.

Running is a sport where the energy of the crowd can be the catalyst for change. Dave McGillivray, the director of the Boston Marathon, states in his article What Do Race Spectators Need to Know? for Runner’s World, “I always picked up the pace a bit whenever I hit key pockets of screaming fans… If we put timing mats at the beginning and end of this stretch, I’m sure we’d see just about everyone hitting their fastest paces of the day thanks to the immense crowd support.”

On the flip side of that coin is the function spectators perform for the race organizations themselves. In the 2012 study The Relationship Between Visitor Spending and Repeat Visits: An Analysis of Spectators at the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon researchers find that “spectators are just as important to a sporting event as participants” (Botha, et al). The reason given for this claim is that the more times a spectator attends a race the more likely they are to visit it in the future. Obviously, in a sponsorship-laden sport such as obstacle course racing having more people exposed to the sponsors can only have a positive effect on a race organizer’s relationship with those sponsors.

In another study published in the Journal of Sports Economics The Rewards to Running: Prize Structure and Performance in Professional Road Racing (Lynch and Zax, 2000) the researchers claim that participants of races actually derive utility, or a sense of accomplishment, from larger numbers of spectators in races. The utility can be seen as the driving factor for participants to actually compete in races, especially in races where they have little to no chance of receiving any monetary compensation. In other words: spectators equal customer retention.

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Photo Credit Fort Lauderdale A1A Marathon & Half Marathon

I contacted both Spartan and Savage concerning why they charge spectator fees and what those fees are used for. Spartan Race responded by saying that they have started to improve the spectator experience at their races by opening up the venue to allow spectators to follow the racers more closely at a majority of their courses. They went on to tell me that the spectator fee went towards paying the insurance premiums for each individual race. In Savage Race’s response to my inquiry, they simply stated that spectators would have access to the festival area and the ability to follow the runners along the entire course. Savage had no comment on the use of the spectator fees but did exclaim that the fee was similar to any other sporting event.

Not every organizer believes in charging spectators for their attendance. Rugged Maniac, most notably, did away with their spectator fees in 2012 (along with every other nickel-and-diming fees such as insurance and processing fees). In a 2015 interview with Obstacle Course Racing Media Rugged Maniac’s COO Rob Dickens explained their position, “But we stopped doing it the minute we could afford to, which was back in 2012. Why? Because price-gouging your customers show a complete lack of respect for them and violate the golden rule (do unto others…). I don’t like to have a bunch of fees tacked on to something I’m buying, so why would I do it to my customers?” Rob Dickens also claimed the following:

After all, none of the “processing” or “insurance” fees charged by the other guys are legitimate. We all have nearly identical insurance policies, and none of those policies require us to charge our customers an insurance fee. Likewise, we’re all using similar registration platforms, and none of those platforms charge more than a $2 fee per registrant, so why are the other guys charging 8%-12% processing fees?

Everyone’s insurance policies are based on the number of expected attendees in a calendar year, so if Spartan is charging an extra “insurance” fee when someone run the same course twice, it’s simply another way for them to squeeze more money out their customers. Their insurance company doesn’t require it, and they don’t have to pay higher premiums for someone running twice. As I said before, their insurance companies don’t require any “insurance” fee. It’s completely bogus.

If Rob Dickens is correct then this claim would appear to contradict Spartan’s own response to my inquiry over the use of spectator fees.

rugged-festival

Photo Credit Rugged Maniac

Despite Rugged Maniac being free to attend, their festival area and spectating experience never leave you wanting. Coincidentally, both Rugged Maniac and Savage Race are held at the same location in Florida every year: Little Everglades Ranch in Dade City. It is hard not to compare the two races, thanks to this shared location.

One of the most prominent differences is in the way they use the venue. Rugged Maniac puts all of the high energy, high traffic areas such as their stage, vendors, and sponsors in one area while Savage Race spreads their vendors, sponsors, and their stage around the edge of their festival area. The difference is pretty dramatic: Rugged Maniac festival area feels more alive thanks to the sheer number of bodies in one area. Savage Race brings out tables and chairs (a huge improvement over Spartan’s zero-seating offerings) but Little Everglades Ranch has its own bleacher style seating that only Rugged Maniac takes advantage of.

Savage may claim they want their spectators to have sporting event style experience, but Rugged Maniac actually achieves this by using these sporting event style bleachers. One other difference that might often go overlooked is the difference in the number of children at each event. Savage Race, unlike Rugged Maniac, has a kid’s course. Despite this, however, the number of little people at Rugged Maniac greatly eclipsed Savage’s population. The reason for this is obvious: if your children want to watch you race you’ll have to pay another $25 to have someone there to look after them at Savage.

Another example of a race organization that does a fantastic job of providing a fun spectator experience is Warrior Dash. Like Rugged Maniac, Warrior Dash is completely free for spectators. I last ran Warrior Dash in 2016 and I heard nothing but praise for the festival area. Unlike most other organizations, Warrior Dash had live bands playing on their stage with a live DJ in between sets.

One other thing that set them apart from the type of audience participation they organized. Pushup or pullup contests are common events that obstacle course race organizers will put on but those types of contests are geared towards athletes, not your average spectator. Compare that to Warrior Dash who delivered a dance contest and a beard competition, both less physical and more engaging than their competitor’s presentations.

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Photo Credit Warrior Dash

So why does it seem that the more widespread and well-known obstacle course race organizers are so anti-spectator? There are studies showing the positive effects that spectators have on both race organizations and athletes making it scientifically sound to encourage attendance. Athletes around the world sing the praise of a cheering crowd and the ability they have to motivate. The extra attendance would invariably please the sponsors and vendors of these events.

These are all things that traditional road races such as marathons and triathlons realized a long time ago but at some point, the OCR world dropped the ball. By all appearances, it would seem that removing the spectator fee, a barrier to attendance regardless of what anyone claims, should result in greater customer retention and revenue via sponsors and vendors. Unfortunately, it would seem that OCR organizers would prefer to view their spectators as a revenue source instead of their true function: revenue boosters.