Overcoming Obstacles of Nature: Savage Race Dallas


Overcoming Obstacles of Nature: Savage Race Dallas

I would like to preface this review by saying that, due to unforeseen flooding the Savage Race in Dallas was canceled. This led to a unique hybrid type event the following Sunday. Rather than a Blitz– Sunday’s Race was a hybrid form of both the Savage Race and the Blitz resulting in a 4 and ¼ mile course packed with a lot of mud and obstacles. It was certainly the toughest and muddiest Savage that I personally have ever run. It was far different than the usual fare.

Savage did what they could to ensure as many people as possible got to enjoy a race even if it wasn’t what was originally planned. Therefore this review will be quite unique in that I will not only take note of the course with consideration to the events leading up to it. I saw a dedicated act of care for not only Savage participants, but for OCR as a whole.

The Race that Almost Wasn’t

As I was about to head out of the door Saturday morning, I knew that it had rained a lot the night before. I was prepared for a muddy course. However, I did not expect to receive the message from a fellow athlete saying “Race is canceled, whole festival area and course are flooded.” I sat on my hotel bed contemplating what this meant. I received a link to the video of a very disappointed and very apologetic Sam Abbitt.

Sam explained what had happened and noted that the river on the venue had risen far greater than they had thought it would. Much of their equipment was floating or submerged. They were attempting to salvage what they could, and Sam said “I am sorry” several times noting that Savage Race would do everything they could to make it up to competitors.

Around lunch, Sam released another update video. The river had receded and the Savage Crew and volunteers were working hard and non-stop on putting together a “hybrid course” for anyone who didn’t race on Saturday or who had originally planned to race on Sunday. It would certainly be unique, but they were doing what they could. I personally found this extremely respectable considering the amount of devastation that had befallen the course. The crew could have scrapped the entire weekend.  Instead, they harnessed the spirit of what it means to be an obstacle course racer. When presented with an obstacle, even from nature, we think quickly and do all we can to overcome it. I find this extremely respectable and heartening.

Race Day

Pre-Race

I didn’t expect anything out of the coming course. I don’t mean that in the sense of that I thought it would be bad.  I was happy to be able to race. Showing up to an extremely soggy and muddy venue wasn’t promising either. After a slightly late registration, the venue seemed somewhat empty.   The final turnout was nowhere near a normal Savage event, but far more participants showed up than I expected.

The pre-race rules were easily understandable. The pre-race speech given by the one and only Coach Pain. It was a great way to get us all pumped up and remind us how hard the crew had worked to put this course together after the weather had taken out the course on the previous day. He inspired racers as well as spectators.

Everything felt more “mom and pop” for a Savage Race, but it wasn’t a detriment. The competitors were just as fired up as usual if not more so, and we had one heck of a course in front of us to face down. The river flooded the entire course the day before.

The Course

As we charged out of the starting corral through a mostly flat course it didn’t take long to find plenty of mud and water. Even the pros had to be careful not to slip and slide. The first obstacle was one of the muddiest barbed wire crawls in my recent memory. Next came Shriveled Richard which is always a good start to wake everyone up. As we pressed on through a few 4 foot walls, on to “The Great Wall” and over an A-Frame, we came up to one of the new obstacles for the year “Pedal for the Medal.”  I’ll have to admit, this took a bit for other competitors and I to figure out. A rope connects a giant wooden spool and a tire.

The object of the obstacle is to use ONLY your feet to roll the spool thereby wrapping the rope around it and pulling the tire to you. This becomes hardest at the initial point at which the spool begins to pull the tire towards you. The key is to keep momentum on the wheel. Otherwise, you could lose some of the rope you worked so hard for. This really is a quad and hamstring burner. It presented far more difficulty than I originally imagined.

One of the only problems is that you almost have to rely on a volunteer to let you know when your tire hits the designated pole. Once it does, you must then carry your tire back out to the starting portion which is clearly marked by a mat. I found it inventive, yet I feel a couple of kinks could be worked out especially for competitive waves.

Upper Body Savagery

Next was a combo of 6 foot walls and barbed wire crawls. I found these  both fun and brilliantly placed as a taxation on the cardio system before “Big Cheese” and “Sawtooth.”  The wet obstacles proved very challenging. We barreled through a lot of mud to a mud-covered “Kiss the Walls.”

I do not remember “Kiss the Walls” having such small rock climbing grips on it or footholds. I also don’t remember it being as slanted. The mud and rain made it nearly impossible for most competitors. It was here that in spite of being in the lead pack after MANY tries for over an hour I finally gave up my elite band. All of the caked on slick Texas mud made this the hardest rock wall obstacle I’ve ever encountered.

Competitors were bombarded with a series of wet grip and upper body killers. Wheel world was lots of fun as always. After a  very muddy Colossus came “Twirly Bird,” “Holy Sheet,” and “Battering Ram.” I find “Holy Sheet” to be a nice new addition that provides a lot of technical challenge and forces competitors to utilize technique and body control. Most of my commentary is on “Battering Ram.” Unlike what you see on Savage Race’s website, the sliders had heavy iron with a type of handle that hung down for competitors to grab, a transition to a trust, and then grab hold of another handle and scoot along to a bell.

While doable, the rams did not slide as well as they should have and the handles allowed for less usage of momentum in sliding. Essentially, the only way to move the ram was to sling it forward using pure muscular shoulder and arm strength. I am not sure if it is intentional. I feel the more traditional larger pipe on a smaller pipe would  be a smoother obstacle.  It would also allow more fun for open competitors.

The End of a Tumultuous Journey

The festival area didn’t have much going on afterwards.  However, high hopes and good spirits filled the festival area. Top finishers received their awards, but far fewer finishers came out with bands than normal. Some of this could have been due to the placement of obstacles because of the weather. The highlight of the festival was seeing off the volunteer wave with Coach Pain. He commended them on their hard work.

 

What OCR is All About

I am proud of that volunteer crew. I am proud of Savage Race’s crew. I am proud of the understanding and concern from all competitors. Yes, many were disappointed, but at the end of it all, we are a family. This past weekend showed me again why I enjoy Savage Race so much. Most everyone acted like a big family who wanted to help one another and do all they could to help.

Everyone came together with love, logic, and understanding and overcame a problem the best way they could. This embodies the spirit of OCR. In spite of all these adversities, Savage put on a great, well organized, well manned by volunteers event. I’ve seen races in perfect weather with months to prepare that couldn’t hold a candle to this “thrown together” event.  I give it a 4.5 out of 5.

Georgia Savage Fall Race 2018


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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 Georgia Spring 2018 Review

Moonlight stables in Dallas, Georgia set a majestic scene for truly one of the most Savage courses I have ever done. While racers froze in ice baths and freezing cold water and challenging their frozen limbs on insanely difficult obstacles, the rest of the crowd enjoyed the vendors and festivities.

The parking was orchestrated incredibly well and they even offered a VIP parking area to be closer to the event. Score! I had no idea how huge this race was going to be.  There were over eight thousand people at the Savage Race that windy day, but the event was so well done that you couldn’t even tell until you got out on the course. If you happened to get a later morning start time like I did, you were met with some pretty long lines on obstacles like Teeter Tube, Sawtooth, and several walls. If you plan to run for time, make sure you register early for your next Savage Race to get the earliest wave time possible.

Obstacles 

Savage Race Wheel World

Savage Race Wheel World

Oh man. There’s something for everyone here. Savage throws you right in the mud out of the gate with Thor’s Grundle. Your fitness was the first thing to be tested during the first three miles as Savage sends you along with your muddy, weighed down shoes through hilly trails with steep inclines with only a few obstacles. If you can keep up on the trails, you’re met with some pretty difficult obstacles after the third mile. Still catching your breath from the hilly run, you’re tested with two new obstacles back to back, the Battering Ram and Pedal For The Medal.

Savage Race Battering Ram

Savage Race Battering Ram

First, you expend upper body energy making your way across the ram, then you pedal as fast as you can to reel in a tire attached a spindle. My legs were jello as soon as I stood up. Then there was the Savage Race staple, Sawtooth, whose transition from the 15th rung proved to be problematic for even some of the most athletic racers.  And man was that water cold!

As if that wasn’t difficult enough the rig was right behind Sawtooth, really testing your upper body. Aside from testing your grip strength, the Savage is a great way to get over your fear of heights, with obstacles like Davey Jones’ locker room, a 15ft jump into the bone-chilling water. Speaking of cold, Shriveled Richard tests your mental kahunas as well, containing 60,000 lbs. of ice.

Savage Race Shriveled Richard Ice

Savage Race Shriveled Richard Ice

It was hard to think when I got out of that one. Luckily a volunteer told me which direction to go and I snapped out of it. It just so happened to be a nice windy spring day with a little chill in the air so I felt a tad bit frozen the rest of the race.

Savage Race Shriveled Richard

Savage Race Shriveled Richard

The latter half of the race had more demanding grip obstacles such as Twirly Bird, Wheel World, and Holy Sheet. The toughest part of the Wheel World was the horizontal rope at the end. Without the ability to use your feet to get there, it proved especially difficult. Holy Sheet is new to Savage and a lot of racers had a problem staying on the sheet, let alone moving from the sheet to each new grip.

 

Final Thoughts 

Savage Race Colossus

Savage Race Colossus

It’s obvious why this race is so popular. It is well-organized and caters to everyone from your group fun runners to elites. Hands down, Savage proved to be one of the most fun, yet toughest grip races out there with its mix of brutal obstacles to test your grit with an epic finale, Colossus. As the name suggested, Colossus is a giant ramp with the giant slip and slide on the other side that dumps you right into a final pool of water before stepping out into the finish. Once the race concluded, participants enjoyed their beer and OCR comradery. I truly enjoyed this race and look forward to getting that syndicate medal.

Photos: Savage Race

OCR Training with Leaderboard: Trading My Bikini Gig For Running and Rigs

My Last Pro Show of 2017

At the beginning of the year, I began to plan out my race season. Typically this would involve the Peachtree Road Race (the only road race I enjoy) and some other trail runs scattered throughout the year. However, as I embarked on a new adventure in obstacle course racing, I quickly found myself lost.

As a former pro bikini competitor, I thought my traditional workouts mixed with some runs throughout the week would suffice. Once I realized the types of skill I would need and began to add that to my plate, I started to notice that my recovery was not what it once was and honestly I began to wonder if it had something to do with my age (yikes!).

During my podcast interview with Matt B. Davis on Obstacle Racing Media Podcast, he mentioned Hunter McIntyre and at the time, I am ashamed to say, I had no idea who he was. Matt told me to reach out to him on IG for pointers and I did. I was blown away by his kindness and willingness to help. If you know Hunter, even through his social media, you know he is quite the character, but under all that craziness is a guy who is super passionate about helping people as much as he is about winning races.

After our chat, I realized that bodybuilding mixed with some running and grip work was not going to cut it. I started researching OCR training and tips, but still felt lost, so I talked to Hunter once again after hearing he and Brakken Kraker on the ORM podcast discussing their online training platform for athletes. Enter Leaderboard.

There are 8 different paths on Leaderboard, each designed to prepare you for your course preference or OCR specific skills. There is everything from a short course path for those athletes who race shorter distances, like TMX, an ultra path for endurance athletes, Hunter’s Biceps Win Races (BWR) line up, and more. I am on the BWR AD program, where I receive daily WODs with personalized RX and pacing AND mobility WODs. Mobility was something I never had much focus on prior to LB.

Heavy Carry Practice

Heavy Carry Practice

After each WOD I complete, I record my results and can see how I stack up compared to the rest of the community that is on the same path, hence the name Leaderboard. I was super intimidated at first by these scores, but the entire community of athletes on LB is so supportive that it really pushed me even harder. When I would feel discouraged by my scores because let’s face it, I am a total newb, and didn’t exactly light up the leaderboard, I would receive comments congratulating me or telling me how quickly I would improve. Take a guess at how many bikini competitors make it a point to genuinely encourage one another – not many.

The coaches have also been super encouraging and I can’t tell you how amazing it is to get tips and tricks from coaches that are pros in the sport! As a fitness coach and former bikini competition coach, I know how valuable this is. The best part of LB is the communication forum curated by the LB Coaches.

As a new OCR athlete, I had tons of questions and really just dove into the training and pushed through even when fatigued. The coaches guided me through some of the rough spots and even had me back off a bit instead of pushing through like you do in bodybuilding. Don’t get me wrong, they never told me to be lazy, but they wanted me fully recovered and getting in quality workouts even if that meant scaling down for efficiency.

I ended up tweaking something in my hip due to my poor running mechanics (I’ll save this one for another post) and ALL of the LB coaches checked on my issues and made sure that I had particular mobility WODs to perform aside from the ones already assigned in LB. In addition, they routinely checked in to ensure that it was I was getting better and was in a healthy place to be able to run my first race. This is something that I had never experienced before. Former coaches that I have had would make me feel like I needed to work harder or grind more and give the “how bad do you want it” speech over and over when something happened. My experience with LB coaches can be boiled down to if you want it bad enough, you have to be able to distinguish between quality and quantity.

The community I have found in LB is truly inspiring. Not only do I have accountability, I have support from people all over the world who are going through the same thing with me at their own pace and skill level. Did I mention that I have that without having to leave my home gym? I was worried I would need a fancy (aka expensive) membership to have access to the equipment I needed, but aside from buying a super affordable sandbag, I had everything I needed in my garage gym. If something came up on the WOD that I didn’t have, there was always a substitute exercise with common equipment to perform and trying to figure that on my own with other OCR workouts was frustrating. As a mom, I really appreciate that I can workout on my own time, in my own gym, with my own equipment, so that I can still train like a badass without missing precious family time. Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

As I am writing this, I am 3 days away from my first OCR race of the season. I wasn’t supposed to race until the Georgia Spring Savage, but I had the opportunity to race in the Talladega Bonefrog and didn’t want to pass it up. The coaches reached out to meet to make sure I was feeling up to it with my hip issues and tailored my race week taper to ensure that I was well rested and ready to go for Saturday.

One thing that I wish I had worked on a little more during the past couple of months as I trained for these two upcoming races is my grip. The majority of work in the WODs do include lifts and exercises that require grip strength, but as a total new OCR athlete starting from ground zero, I probably needed a little more.

I did reach out to the coaches at LB and told them I think I could use more and low and behold, they gave me some tailored Grip work to do. Moral of the story is communication! I wish I had communicated my weakness in grip before, but I had been working on it a bit aside from LB but should have used the professional resources at my disposal (insert facepalm here). Lesson learned.

The great thing is that I have plenty of races this season to see how much I improve so I will be able to really see how I do this weekend with only a couple of months of training under LB and see how that translates on race day as compared to when I first started. To me, there is nothing more important than seeing the training translate to performance but the goal is just to have fun. So let’s see how I feel after my first OCR!

 

Whether you are new to OCR or a seasoned OCR athlete who has hit a plateau, head over to leaderboardfit.com to push your training to the next level.

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