Category Archives: OCR Report

OCR Report: Royal Mudman: Race (semi-)Local

Yesterday was my second OCR of the year, and it kind of snuck up on me. I did the Royal Mudman 5K in Charlottesville, Indiana, about an hour and a half from where I now live.

You almost undoubtedly haven’t heard of it. It’s not part of a race series; it’s put on as a fundraiser for the Eastern Hancock Education Foundation, which provides grants to teachers in Hancock County. I don’t have any personal connection to said county, but I’m fundamentally glad that that happens.

Home of the Royals sign.

OK, one connection. The OCR took place at a high school, whose mascot is the Royals, which was also my high school’s mascot, even though I never felt like Queen Elizabeth II was particularly fierce or good at football.

I honestly haven’t been hunting for races, what with the move and such. (That excuse, still!) But I found out about the race because of the move. When I was driving to Ohio before moving to arrange housing, I saw a billboard for the race. It remains the only thing (with the possible exception of Wall Drug) that I’ve ever chosen to take part in because I saw a billboard for it.

About the race itself: I really enjoyed it. As you might expect, the scale of the race was fairly small. That means that there were only a handful of waves—start times spread over only maybe an hour and a half or two hours. Getting in and out was easy, with parking on-site at the high school and no lines at check-in or the bag check. Plus, no lines at obstacles.

Obviously, a local race isn’t going to compete on “epic” obstacles. (A concept that OCR people give way too much play to—but that’s another subject.) There were three up-and-over vertical climbs: One cargo net, one bank of tires (stacked vertically on top of each other so it looks like a bunch of big 8s), and one wooden ladder thing. Also notable was a rope swing over a mud pit and a water-and-soap slip-and-slide (curiously placed as the first obstacle, in case you aren’t fresh and clean before running). The course also made excellent use of a local creek, with one fairly long trip wading through it for some distance and several other times crossing it. (As we’ve had a lot of rain lately, the creek was often about waist-high—probably higher than anticipated.)

The other obstacles had a lot of what you could call clambering. Things like crawling over a series of large logs, through the crotch of a large tree, under a set of giant tires embedded in the ground, or through a mud pit under some wire. Also, due to the rain, the running path was muddy and uneven—though certainly not to the extent of a typical Spartan with miles of single-track muck that is impossible to run through.

Fire jump being constructed.

And a fire jump, because it’s an OCR.

None of the obstacles were extraordinarily difficult. And yet (to get back to the whole “epicness” flaw) I was still pretty exhausted after it. That’s because I was able to run the whole thing, and at a decent clip, even. The race wasn’t officially timed outside of the competitive heats, but there was a clock with a running event time at the start/finish line. If I remembered the start time correctly, and I did the math right, I did the course in about 44 minutes. Physically I was quite pleased with how I ran it.

To sum up: It was a really lovely day—or half-day, really, since I was home by about 1 p.m. It’s not going to compete on having obstacles on a grand scale or that require extraordinary strength. But it’s a great option if you’re in the region and looking for a casual OCR experience or an OCR where you can push the running pace.

Plus, the race had what I’m calling an official cow.

cow

The official cow of the Royal Mudman OCR?

 

Race shirt and medal

One more photo, for the swag hags.

 

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OCR Report: 2017 Citi Field Sprint

Last weekend was my annual pilgrimage to New York for a family visit and Spartan Citi Field Sprint run.

The race really isn’t wildly different from year-to-year, so I’ll save my words for things that are actually notable.

First off, the weather. I’ve historically not had great luck with Spartan weather; almost every race has either had rain during the event or enough beforehand to make the mud dramatic. There was no mud for this one, obviously, but there was moderately heavy rain throughout. It was bad enough that the spear literally slipped out of my hand in the spear throw. I mean, the throw looked pathetic—it went maybe halfway to the target.

The race had far less Sisyphian climbing of the stands than last year, which was very nice. I think the race was shorter and easier overall, which was nice, as my brother was dealing with some shoulder issues.

We were hoping that my nephew would be able to do the kid’s race this year. Unfortunately, that didn’t pan out—officially, due to the weather, but as a practical matter due to logistics. (The family had been having varying levels of illness in the week leading up to the race, and getting the kid out to the race while simultaneously caring for the other kid who’s still too young for the race and having care for him in place before and after his race while his dad and me were running turned out to not be feasible. He wound up going to his ninja class instead, which was some consolation.)

The Z-wall made an appearance, which was the first time I’ve seen it at a stadium race. I made a significant goof in that obstacle by not checking it out beforehand. As a result, I didn’t realize that the foothold around the blind corner, was also really, really far. So when I was on the obstacle, I really had no idea where that foothold was.

In better news: I did the rope climb for the first time in a race. Given the rain, that was a big surprise; I think the rope was thicker this year, since I was able to get some grip on my feet.

I’m feeling extremely sore today in weird ways. That’s less due to the race and more due to the fact that yesterday I drove about 800 miles from Long Island to Ohio. Yep, I’m a car owner again, for the first time in 14 years, because I bought my sister-in-law’s old car. I am not in driving shape, apparently, because my gas pedal shin is throbbin’.

 

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OCR (sort of) Report: DRX-Games: I Suck at Liveblogging

Well, so much for the attempt to liveblog. And it’s completely my bad; I had enough reception, but I didn’t have the mental fortitude to keep my phone with me during the events, let alone writing during them. Which is pathetic—one of the people I was with did a fantastic job of taking pictures. Oh well.

My gym group at the DRX-Games

She didn’t actually take this one, but it was her phone and she arranged for someone to take it.

A rough outline of the event:

The DRX-Games aren’t exactly an OCR. They’re more Crossfitty, in that it consists of a series of six events that are scored and combined. Although the challenges are fairly OCR-adjacent.

It was a small event, compared to a usual OCR. There were, maybe, 50 or so people competing. I’m pretty sure that’s by design—I think they capped the number of entries at 60 anyhow, probably to keep it manageable to operate with a pretty limited staff. It produced a pretty friendly, close-knit sort of event.

The group was big enough to split into two. My group started at the Hercules Tire Flip. As I expected, this was a pretty standard tire flip; down and back a path, as many times as possible in a minute. The tire wasn’t all that big—maybe semi-truck sized rather than tractor-sized. Definitely lighter than the ones my gym has, which were a bit lighter than the ones at last week’s Spartan Race. It wasn’t light, but for me the challenge was more in controlling the tire than in actually flipping the thing. Up to five people went at a time, but I was lucky that my heat only had three, because I’m pretty sure I went off-center at some point.

My next event was the Amazonian Tire Pull and Drag. I think these used the same type of tire as the flip, but friction can be a harsh mistress. The event involved sitting down and pulling a tire attached to a rope uphill over a lengthy course—maybe 50 feet, though I’m not good at estimating distances like that. Then, we got up, dragged the tire back to its starting point with the rope outstretched, ran back, and did the whole course again. This was probably my best event; as one onlooker observed, it was pretty similar to rowing, which is probably the (athletic) thing I’m best at.

Event 3 was a quickie: the Ares Spear Throw. Three shots, three points per stick, with a bonus point if we get all three. We had a bit of chance to practice before the event started, and I missed every single one, shattering the fragile confidence I had built at the Spartan last week. In the event, however, I hit one out of three.

Number 4 was the Dirty Bucket List. This was a race, but kind of a two-parter: we started with a farmer’s walk, hauling two buckets (with handles) around a loop. Then we dropped one of the buckets at the starting line, and did a second loop carrying it bucket-brigade style.

Event 5 was the Atlas Titan Stone Relay Carry. We had to do three laps down and back around a flag, carrying a different heavy stone each time. Men-folk had stones that were about 40, 70, and 120 pounds; ladies had a 40 and two 70s. The 120 was really heavy; rolling was permitted, but the event was scored such that the fastest rollers were put below the slowest carriers. I managed to carry it, although it took a couple tries to get it situated.

Me hauling a 120-pound Atlas Stone.

Yep, I brought the Fez of Inspiration.

The final event was the DRX Dash—which was an actual OCR. It was a sprint, though, only about 300 yards, with 20 or so obstacles. The obstacles included a bunch of things that we’d already done, including tire flips, spear throws, atlas stone carries, and a bucket carry, but also crawling through tunnels, a log carry through a pond, barbed wire crawls, a pair of inverted walls and a pair of diagonal ladder-kind-of-thing climbs, a really effing huge slip wall, and a cool (though not spectacularly difficult) climb up a bunch of logs sticking perpendicularly out of a hill.

Overall Thoughts about the Event

First off, I was there with a few other people from my gym—Chantelle, Hayden, and Jay. That’s the first true group experience I’ve had at an event like this, and I really enjoyed it—it’s awfully nice to have people photographing, and sharing bananas and giving tips and cheering and sharing sunscreen and so on and so forth. Big thanks to them for organizing and for being there.

Second, the overall vibe was really nice—chill and relaxed and friendly, but also just a group of people coming together to do something cool, more than a heavily sponsored, very for-profit, “hey-Olympics-look-this-way!” Not that there is anything wrong with that (really, I swear!) but I have a lot of respect for little guys who do things too.

Third, the event was held at the Dirt Runner facility, which also contains a 4-mile OCR course and a Ninja Warrior-style speed/balance/power hybrid course. I think we had the opportunity to try the other stuff, although I was pretty cashed out afterword and didn’t. (Although before I tried the Ninja pegboard and its Z-wall, which wasn’t really a Z because it had four legs rather than three.)

Fourth, the small-scale nature of the event did have a bit of a downside in the form of some logistical glitches. I think the group was quite a bit larger than at the first one, so crowd control wasn’t always dead-on. There were also some logistical issues within the events themselves. For example, in the tire flip they used people competing but not in that specific heat to count, and in the first heat one person got counted twice while another person didn’t have anyone counting. In my heat of the tire drag, I’m told the timing got messed up so I’m not sure if I got an official time or what. In the Atlas Stone Carry a couple of people complained when they were assessed penalties because they dropped the stones in an out-of-control way and they kept rolling. (In a way, a valid complaint, since it hadn’t been explicitly explained. In another way, you shouldn’t need to be explicitly told that rolling a 120-pound, or even 40-pound ball, through a crowd of people is a Bad Thing To Do.) The bucket carry probably would have been more fair as a series of straight lanes rather than a loop, since people on the outside of the loop had to carry their buckets farther than people on the inside.

I’m not terribly bothered by these issues. Obviously you want to avoid them, but most of us viewed it as a fun event—the grown-up equivalent of a field day—rather than a hard-core competition, which I think is the right approach.

Fifth, I’m not a swag hag, and I wouldn’t do any event for the medals, but this is cool.

DRX-Games MedalI heard that it’s hand-made, and I believe it (you can see a few scratches and cracks that a computer probably wouldn’t have left), which is awesome. Also, heavy. If you had to, you could use this as a mace.

Personal performance

My stated goal was to finish not-last in something, and I’m pretty confident I did that. I don’t know details (they’ll post results on their website, but they’re not up yet) but I know I was second out of five in my heat of the tire drag, second out of four in my bucket carry heat, and second out of three in my Atlas stone heat. I’m really happy with how I did in the first five events.

And then the sixth was absolute crap.

My climbing is getting worse, and now there’s a mental component to the problem. Fear of falling, combined with the very real slickness from muddy hands and arms and equipment, and my own physical shortcomings have created a serious block, and I’m not sure how to deal with it. I’d like to figure out a place that’s feasible to get to where I can actually work on it—for me, familiarity breeds success—but I’m not sure where in Chicago that’s possible.

If you’ve got any ideas, let me know.

 

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A Woefully Uninformed Weekend Preview: DRX-Games II

This one is a late-breaking bit of personal news: This weekend I’ll be taking part in the DRX-Games in Marseilles, Illinois.

I normally don’t do events every weekend—I like to have a bit of recovery time, and the opportunity to keep them “events” rather than a constant thing. However, a couple of the trainers at my gym announced they were doing it and invited anyone who wanted to form a group, and so I’ll be there with a small group of friends.

What I know about the event is: It’s not really an OCR, but rather a collection of six events. Although one of those events is an OCR, albeit a very short one (300 yards).

The website has the event titles, and they vary in clarity. “Hercules Tire Flip” is, presumably, flipping tires as many times as possible in a given time. “Are’s Spear Throw” is probably a spear throw, although you may be disqualified for proper use of apostrophes, in which case I am fucked. “Dirty Bucket List” and “DRX Dash” aren’t quite so clear. Even the relatively clear ones have some mystery—for the tire flip, for example, how big is the tire, and how long are we flipping?

My stated goal is to finish not-last in at least one event. But that’s a bit douchey. And to explain why I need to call myself out there, I need to back up to when I first got into OCR.

I downloaded a free ebook from Spartan and read it, and got pretty annoyed by it. First off, it presented as “beginner” workouts things like 10-mile runs that really obviously aren’t beginner workouts. Second, even then I got bothered by the “This is a completely impossible challenge, and also, anyone can do it” mental gymnastics that most OCR is guilty of. Third were, as always, the “inspirational” stories. I think inspiration is problematic generally, but these stories, as I recall, were nearly all people who started as elite athletes and stayed that way. One that stands out in my mind was from someone who (again, in my mind; she probably didn’t actually do this) giggled as she said that she expected to come in dead last in her first OCR, but actually, she won it!

Yeah, fuck that false modesty.

And yet, here I’m dropping some of my own. Because even though I’m not ever going to be mistaken for an elite athlete, I’m looking at these events and very cautiously saying that several of them are kind of in my wheelhouse. (At least three are pretty heavy on power rather than speed or nimbleness, which plays well for me.) And you can see results from the last event online. The winner of the tire flip, for example, had 16 flips. That doesn’t seem like all that many flips! I mean, I can flip a tire 16 times.

Of course, the ambiguity still comes into play, because the results don’t say how heavy the tire is (the one at my gym is the one that I use as a baseline, and I can throw that around pretty impressively, but the Spartan last weekend had a tire flip obstacle, and it was definitely a bit heavier than my gym’s) or how much time you have to flip. And, of course, I have no idea what level the other competitors will be.

So there’s plenty of room for surprises on the upside. I guess when I say my goal is to finish not-last in something, really I’m saying that I don’t have any expectations and I’ll be satisfied with doing my best and not humiliating myself. But I wouldn’t be terribly shocked by any result.

Hoping it’s fun!

Eta: If things go well, I’ll live blog things this weekend.

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OCR Report: 2016 Battlegrounds St. Louis

This was a lot of fun.

But let’s start negative. The timing of this race was absolute shit. That’s not the race’s fault, but this is a personal blog, so I’m claiming the right to whine about it. The timing was bad because there turned out to be an event I had to do in the couple days after the race that required a lot of preparation, and a lot of stress, and a lot of travel in a direction that works against sleep patterns rather than in favor of them, but as I can’t blame the organization that put on that event, I’ll complain here.

Whew.

Also, reaction to the fez was a bit surprising. A fair number of people commented on it, generally positively, so that’s always nice. Many thought it was a Doctor Who reference, since fezzes are cool. I have to say, while I was aware of that reference, it wasn’t the reason the fez happened. (I’m generally happy that Doctor Who exists, and on paper I should be a raging fan, but I never got past casual fandom. I’ve seen all of the Eccleston and Tennant years on Netflix, but not much more, even though the man who performed my brother’s wedding did so in an outfit intentionally reminiscent of Tennant’s doctor. I’m also not cool enough to do something simply because it’s cool. Doing so would immediately render such thing uncool. I’m the entire reason why swing dancing went out of fashion on that particular Tuesday in 1996.)

A surprising number of people thought I was a Shriner, which is a reference I was aware of but only in the back of my mind; it absolutely never occurred to me that by wearing the fez I might be presenting myself in that way, or that anyone sees a fez these days and thinks “Shriner,” or that anyone thinks “Shriner” at all.

As far as I know, nobody was inspired. Perhaps for the next race I’ll write something on it to clarify, like “THIS IS TO INSPIRE YOU SO BE INSPIRED DAMMIT!”

The fez worked pretty well as a hat. I’d sewn an elastic chinstrap to it on the train ride down (a surprisingly tedious task that I won’t detail, since it’s tedious) that worked OK—I should have made it a bit tighter because the hat had a tendency to sort of suction around my head rather than staying loose. I also held onto the fez at a couple spots, including a long slide where volunteers were warning that anything that’s not glued down was likely to get lost. So I grabbed it, and it didn’t get lost, and all was well.

So, the event itself. This was the first race I’ve done at a permanent course, which was neat. I don’t know how many of the obstacles were permanent or had to be—there seemed to be a lot of wall-style obstacles that non-permanent courses have without much trouble—although some, like the aforementioned slide probably were. Also probably permanent was what I’d consider the course’s centerpiece: The Gauntlet.

The Gauntlet at the BattlegroundsThe Gauntlet was actually five different lines of obstacles over a water pit, although you only got to do one. They were all different; some elements were no harder than a reasonably wide log to walk across, while others required a lot of upper-body strength like hanging from a steel I-beam and crossing it from below.

This was one of the few places where I saw a line, and it was only for the easiest route. I decided to bypass it and go for one of the harder ones, which started with a swing from rope to rope, which I couldn’t do and fell in. I wish I’d had a bit more presence of mind to go back and try one of the other routes, because (in retrospect) there were a few others that I think I could have done that didn’t have the backup. But it was at the end of the race, and I wasn’t thinking so clearly.

Perhaps because I ran fairly late in the day, but there wasn’t much else in the way of backups, apart from a bit of a crowd in the initial running out of the start line. (Having heats half an hour apart seems like it might be too much; heats every 15 minutes that are half the size might fix that.)

I did the 5 mile option, rather than the 5K. The two routes share the course, but there were a couple places where the 5-milers veered off to a side route with extra running and obstacles. It was controlled by honor system (although there were timing chip readers at each of the turn-offs and turn-ons to monitor for the competitive rounds) which made me wonder if people signed up for the (I think less expensive) 5K and did the longer version anyhow. Of course, there wasn’t much in the way of control of who could get into heats, so probably any banditing was minor compared to the cost and effort it would take to fight said banditing.

One of my favorite bits wasn’t an obstacle at all. The Battlegrounds shares its space with an adjacent winery. (I don’t know much about wine, but I’m sure St. Louis wine has an excellent reputation.) Some of the running was through rows of the vineyard. So I can now say that I’ve run through a vineyard. It was a neater sensation than I’m making it out to be.

There were a lot of obstacles—38 in total for the 5 mile version. While some were pretty minor (“Knee High Hell,” as far as I could tell, was where you ran through a small stream for a little while), I didn’t feel like there was any shortage. There were certainly runs, but I thought there was a nice mix—no segment of running was obnoxiously long. (At least not looking back on it. It was obnoxious at the time, but all running is.)

A really nice element was how visible a lot of the course was. About half of the obstacles could be seen from the festival area, and several more could be seen on the way in. The course made about three passes near the festival, plus the start and finish, so the obstacles never came in bunches of more than three or four.

Some obstacles that I haven’t seen before include:

  • The aforementioned slide and gauntlet.
  • A pontoon bridge—not extraordinarily difficult, although the individual segments did move a lot and it was awkward jumping from segment to segment.
  • A teeter-totter obstacle.
  • A horizontal cargo net climb, as well as a monkey-bar approximation with cargo nets instead of bars. The latter was really tough, since it moved and since it was not particularly high (I could reach without jumping.) I attempted to do it sloth-walk style, which proved ludicrous.
  • One of those things where you walk across one rope while holding onto another at chest height. I assume a fair number of OCRs have them, but I haven’t seen one before. I wish my upper rope had more tension—I stayed on without too much trouble, but I got horizontal enough that my back touched the water at one point.
  • The “carry-heavy-shit” obstacle included walls to either climb over or under, although this part wasn’t so successful. It wasn’t really possible to crawl under the walls with the bag on our backs—in my case, the opening was simply smaller than me plus a bag—so for most of these runners just tossed the bag over the wall before doing it themselves.

Anyhow, due to the eventfulness of the past week, I’m posting this late and official race photos have already been released. Here are some of mine. (As usual, they’re not good. I don’t photograph well.)

race_3041_photo_35763805

Here’s one where I at least look vaguely human. (Although you can see the gap between the elastic and my face; I need to see to that.) As opposed to…

race_3041_photo_35763801

This is especially tragic, because I posed for this one, thinking that this would be a good look for me. Moreover, I posed for this one twice, because the photographer didn’t catch me the first time. Sheesh.

race_3041_photo_35773377

Hey. This timing chip? Do I put it in the bin with all of the other timing chips, or is there something special that I should do with mine since it’s mine? Also, how did my shorts get so asymetric?

 

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OCR Report: 2016 Spartan Citi Field Sprint

So, I was in New York over the weekend to visit my brother and sister-in-law and nephews, and to run in the Spartan Citi Field Sprint with my brother.

Spartan Citi Field 2016 swag

Swag from the Citi Field 2016 Race, including: shirt (with sleeve folded in a probably futile effort to juxtapose the prominent U.S. flag with the less-prominent “Made in China” designation); finisher medal; and picture frame (given to me as a birthday present and decorated by my nephews and I. The photo is the one that came with—you can tell because I’m not in black-and-white in real life.)

It was my first race of the year, and given that I haven’t been real happy with my training and (especially) diet thus far, it’s not shocking that the race was a mixed bag. In fact, a mixed bag is probably better than I should have expected. So without more intro, here is:

The good

It’s not surprising, but the race was overall well-organized and well-put-on. I’ve never had any significant logistical issues during Spartan races, and this was no exception—parking was fine, getting in was a snap, no major logjams on any of the obstacles, and so on. I feel bad about not writing more about those things, since they’re a major part of what makes an experience satisfactory or not, but since there weren’t problems there’s not much to say.

For myself, I’m getting better at the cargo net. Last year, it gave me—not difficulties, but definite tummy-rumblings at the height, which weren’t soothed by the knowledge that I was perfectly safe. This year, I’m happy to report having no real fear on it and no real trepidation approaching it, so that at least is something I have gotten over.

Speaking of getting over, I made it over all three of the walls (2 6-foot and one 8-f00t) without the aid of other people. I did use the support brackets, which may not be strictly tournament legal, but I have never been able to manage the 8-footer even with that before.

One excellent change that Spartan made to the race this year was that the Stupid Wheely Thingy that You Velcro to Your Feet But That the Velcro Never Stuck Long Enough To Work obstacle that was “used” in Milwaukee’s Miller Field Sprint in 2014 and was present at Citi Field last year but looked like it had been discontinued due to defectiveness before I arrived appears to have been completely retired. In its place was a sort of platform on wheels—you put your feet on the platform and wheelbarrow yourself a certain distance. It’s a good core challenge and a good task. I wish the platforms had been slightly bigger, just because my feet are ginormous and it was tough to get them both on. I get the reasoning—wider feet would make the task slightly easier—but as long as I recognize the irrationality of my complaints I feel that making them is an acceptable behavior.

More life-related: I really like seeing my nephews. They’re exhausting, but energizing—a good reminder of why I want to be better.

The Bad

I was pretty angry at myself on several of the obstacles. The rope climb I went nowhere on, even though this was the first race with a dry rope after learning how to actually climb a rope. But even though the rope was almost the first obstacle, it was also very thin and pretty slick. My S-hook didn’t clamp at all, so the whole rope climb didn’t work at all. (The rope I learned to climb on is manila, which has more texture.)

The monkey bars were also frustrating. This was the first time I touched them when I had any hope of completing them—they had been closed due to some sort of safety concern or injury at Citi Field last year, and at last year’s Chicago Super I was coated in slick mud and had no energy at all so I dropped of immediately. My gym has a lengthy set of monkey bars, and I’ve gotten fairly competent at them, but I’ve never tried the up-and-down ones that Spartan uses. And… I made some progress but slipped off a bit less than half way. I’m pretty sure that’s more an issue that I need a few tries to get comfortable with something than because I couldn’t do it—after my burpees, I went back and tried again and got about 3/4 of the way before slipping off. (There wasn’t a huge lineup, and it was about 4:30 by then, so I don’t feel like I broke anyone’s timed run.) I’m not sure how best to deal with this issue—it takes a while for me to feel comfortable enough on a thingy that’s at the edge of my ability to successfully do it, but there are very limited opportunities to actually be on those thingies before I have to do them. A conundrum.

The only complaint that I would make about the course itself was that the weaving through the stadium seats got to be a bit perpetual by the end. The last round, in particular, just felt like a thing we had to do—there were only a few stairs at a time, and then we’d go over a section, but since they’re in the seating you can’t really run fast, and since it’s basically horizontal it’s not a great challenge. It was just sort of there.

The silly

I’m hoping that my brother and I won the smallest team award. In order to be assured of running at the same time, we formed a team, and there were just the two of us on it. I suppose maybe somebody had an Official Spartan Team of 1, but that seems to be gilding the anti-social lily. So eat your heart out, Spartan 4-0.

Being with my brother often seems to turn things a bit lavatorial. I’m happy to report that there was no repeat of last year’s Massive Fart of Doom (and, in fact, the winds have finally carried the aroma away). But we did prepare for it. At least, we went to the gas station beforehand. (And the gas pump kindly played videos reviewing recent film releases for us. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t have gone to see Batman vs. Spiderman if I had known that pump 3 only gave it 1 and a half stars.)

Before entering the stadium, both my brother and I availed ourselves of the port-a-potty facilities outside. While waiting for my brother, I heard from another in the bank of stalls terrible, deep booming and grunting and straining and screaming, like it was Elvis or my dad when he wants to make sure that everybody knows he’s on the toilet. After a bit of this, the sound-maker emerged—a perfectly fit, average to somewhat smaller than average sized woman. So congratulations to her.

 

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OCR Report: 2015 Chicagoland Badass Dash #2: A Most Suburban Race

Today I ran the Badass Dash in Rosemont, Illinois, a near suburb of Chicago and one that’s accessible via public transit, more or less. It’s the first OCR I’ve done outside of the big 3, but I’m really glad I did, because I enjoyed it a lot.

There is no mistaking Rosemont for anything other than a suburb. This is the sight you get when you’re coming off the train:

Suburban RosemontThe Race

The suburban Chicago nature of the race definitely showed through in the course. It started and finished inside the Ballpark at Rosemont. Stadium races have plenty of precedent, but this was a bit of a different animal.

The Ballpark at Rosemont is home to the Chicago Bandits, a professional fast-pitch softball team. So the park is not anything resembling the scale of Citi Field or Miller Park. That meant that most of the race was in the environs of the stadium rather than within it. (In fact, only three obstacles were actually within the stadium itself, although we did start and end on the field. The field, incidentally, was entirely turf—not just the outfield, but also the infield and the warning track.)

The environs aren’t terribly stadium-specific. I’m not sure exactly what was around it, but it had that standard suburban office park feel to it.

As a result, the terrain was quite flat—though not entirely, as the course designers did use some of the banks that led to roadways to add a bit of climbing and descending. Still, if your primary interest in OCR is rough terrain, this isn’t the race for you.

On the other hand, the lack of rough terrain had the happy side-effect that a lot of the course was visible. Here’s an artsy little shot that I took of my first sighting of the course:

Badass Dash Course from across highway

Look at that framing!

And yes, that’s an interstate I had to cross to get to the race. (There was a bridge; I didn’t play Frogger with the semis or anything.)

The race was advertised at 7K with 33 obstacles. Some of those obstacles were actually activities—push-ups or sit-ups or pull-ups or the like. The obstacles were not, on the whole, extremely difficult: if you’re looking for really hard obstacles with high failure rates, this also isn’t your race. I did have to do penalties on two obstacles. There was a tall and steep A-frame that you can sort of see in the above photo that was a problem—there were ropes to help pull yourself up, but the rain made both the ropes and the ramps slick; the second time I fell down, in a not-terribly-controlled way, I was thinking better of it. The other I failed was a set of monkey bars, which was the last or second-to-last obstacle (depending on if you count a run through bleachers as an obstacle or not). I actually got about halfway across, but the wet conditions hurt. I also managed to hurt my hand on the previous obstacle, which didn’t help much.

That said, there were several notably interesting and fun obstacles. The Australian Back Crawl was a plastic sheet positioned on a hill, with a cargo net above it. We laid on our backs and used the net to pull us up, all while a guy with a hose sprayed the sheet and us down with water.

Australian Back Crawl

Australian Back Crawl

(Unfortunately, after the Australian Back Crawl was one of the biggest backlogs on the course. There was a single mudslide to get down the hill, and I don’t know why it took so long, but I wound up bypassing it and just walking down the hill. I don’t feel like that was a bad decision in the slightest.)

This run on floating bins across a pond was also pretty cool—I made it about three steps before falling in spectacularly and having to swim the rest of the way across.

Feared Float

Because most of the obstacles needed to be alliterative, this was called the “Feared Float.”

A climb over stacked pallets wasn’t terribly physically difficult, although some people had some minor panic about the height and weirdness of having to climb over them. Meanwhile, the Claustrophobic Crawl—a narrow tube to travel through—was surprisingly difficult. There wasn’t nearly enough room to actually crawl, and there wasn’t a lot to grab onto, so I kind of had to pull myself forward with my forearms and then push myself with my toes. Surprisingly taxing. And there was a dodge ball section—really not terribly difficult, and the ball-huckers weren’t throwing terribly hard, but it was kind of a fun thing. (Except that this is where I jammed my thumb, trying to be fancy and catch a ball so I could send the thrower to prison.)

Dodge Ball

Dodge!

The Organization

The race was pretty well organized—but you could also see a few rough edges that might not show up in a bigger race series. On the good side, racers were released in fairly small sub-heats, which mostly kept backups down. Getting in, packet pick-up, and bag check were all pretty easy, although I’m not sure the bag check system was ideal. We got a numbered tag for the bag, and the attendants wrote the number on our hands, which they checked after we had picked the bag up after the race—but my ink came almost entirely off during the race. I got my bag back no problem, but it’s not hard to imagine that the system could have broken down in a bad way without truly permanent markers.

The race did cross some roads with traffic on them, but they all had attendants to ensure safety, and there was no point at which I felt any concern on that front. The volunteers at obstacles weren’t quite as good, though. There were a few points where it wasn’t entirely clear what the rules were. At one obstacle, for example, we had to potato-sack-jump down a path and back. Everyone seemed to be jumping backwards on the way back, but I’m not sure if that was the obstacle or just something that people were doing. A couple obstacles later, we had to either roll or carry a tire down and back a similar path—I’m still not sure which. And the cargo net also had a bit of confusion: It was divided in two sides by a flag on the top, and I think we were supposed to climb over it once on the left side, and then turn around and climb back over it on the right, but no one was shouting instructions so some people were coming down the up side.

The floating bins obstacle was one of the points where there was a backup, and it probably didn’t have to be. When I arrived at the obstacle, people were generally waiting for the person in front to finish—a polite thing to do, since the bins were all connected to one another—but also a time-consuming one. A more aggressive volunteer telling people when to go to give the person in front space but keep the line moving might have made it go faster.

I’m inclined to pin volunteer-related issues on the organizers: a volunteer, after all, is there for the day, and won’t know what issues there are unless the organizer explains them. Fortunately, the issues that there were were pretty minor and really didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the day.

One other area where the scale of the race really showed was in the free stuff. We got a backpackish thing, a medal, and a headband (not shown, since I wore it during the race and when I finished it was gone). Swag Hags, this is not the race for you. (Fortunately, I’m not one, but I include this information out of interest of completion.)

Badass Dash swag

The Badass Dash Medal and backpack.

(By the way, did I just coin the term “Swag Hag?” I feel like someone must have used it before, but I don’t remember seeing it elsewhere.)

Overall

I feel like there’s been a lot of negative in this report, which is too bad because my overall impression of the race is really positive. I really had a lot of fun. It was definitely less difficult than an outdoor Spartan, and even a notch lower in difficulty than the stadium sprints, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. It is really nice to be able to race an entire race, rather than have to slog the majority of it. Both have their place (I do believe there’s value in doing something grueling and completing it) but as I’ve done a lot of slogging this year, I’m pleased to get through a course running the whole thing.

Even the small amount of hills in this course demonstrated that that’s something I need to work on. That’s a problem, since the nearest hill that’s taller than I am is about 5 miles away. It will probably entail lots of stair-climbing at the gym. Ugh.

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