Previously I had written a post about what is a Battlefrog as I joined the field team to promote this new race series, however, I had only been able to write about the facts about what it is and the experiences of others. On Saturday June 20, 2015 I was finally able to experience it for myself first hand and it was even better than I had expected. Of course there were some areas that I will discuss that they can probably improve upon, but this is a newer racing circuit and are still working out the kinks so I am sure these items will all be addressed in due time.
The morning of this much anticipated race for me finally arrived and I headed to Raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ, a site that I have become very familiar with from other previous OCR races. The ride down was about 90 minutes and when we arrived on site, instead of having us park in the more than ample parking areas, they had us drive through and park in a grassy field that was overgrown with grass and weeds, had lots of uneven terrain, and although I arrived at 7:40 I had to park pretty far away. There was no shuttles, just a long walk in this overgrown, bumpy field with cars driving right next to you. It was like this was the first obstacle and so far, not a very good impression in my opinion.
After getting out of the field, we met more of our teammate near the dirty and disgusting port-a-potty’s where the smell almost made me sick! We then headed over to the main festival area and located the registration tents, which the volunteer I had was not very knowledgeable, however the guy at the next table was and was very helpful explaining how things worked regarding the different laps and course splits. After registration, we put on our bibs and bands and then headed over to bag check, where the line seemed to be a mile long and barely moving. As we headed over, the Star Spangled Banner was sung live so we stopped and stood facing the flag until it was over, then proceeded to head to the bag check line. While on the back check line we were asked if we wanted to get our finisher shirts while we were clean and they were stocked with all sizes. Of course we said yes, so we all took turns standing in line & getting our shirts. I handed in my ticket and got my shirt and put it in my bag before checking it, then it was time for a quick picture and then we had to rush off to the start.
As we were waiting to go over the first obstacle, a wall about 6’ high, I remembered that I left all of my fuel in my bag. I had to make the call if I was going to go back for it, or start the race with everyone. I decided to proceed to the start and take my chances, which would prove to be an extra challenge as I took on lap 2 and most of my team was only doing the 1 lap, the 8K. To clarify, for future races, you only have the options of the 8K, Elite (16K) wave, or BFX but due to the fact that I signed up originally when it was a 15K race, I was allowed to do 2 laps for the 15K medal and didn’t have to pay the extra to run in the elite heat (which is also 2 laps). The BFX is where you sign up to run a minimum of 3 laps and are awarded a special medal and stars to represent how many laps you successfully completed. The rules for the elite wave is that you are required to complete ALL obstacles. If you do not, you must turn in your elite band, do your 8-count body builders (standard for failing all obstacles even in open heats, however you can attempt the obstacle more than once before you are required to do them), and you are no longer eligible for cash prizes and lose your elite status and all of the privileges that come with it, such as line hopping on round 2.
As we stood at the starting line, we were told to take a knee and we had to repeat that we were not athletes, we were champions. They demonstrated how to do the 8 count body builders for those who didn’t know what they were. They also encouraged everyone to try every obstacle, to not allow fear to take you over. To push beyond your comfort zone and encouraged you to not just give up. After a chant of HOOYAH! we were off! The first obstacle was to carry a 50 lb. Wreck bag around for what felt like a quarter to a half mile over muddy hills and there was no difference in the weight the females had to carry vs. the males. After that came a series of obstacles that included the Platinum Rig, which I had the pleasure of attempting in the 2014 World Championship Spartan Beast. This set up was a little different, but still very challenging. I made it to the last bar, but slipped off and had to do my 8 count body builders. In addition to the rig there was a series of challenging walls, both regular and inverted, cargo nets, water slides, a second 50 lb. sandbag carry up slippery stadium stairs, a rope climb that was over concrete and the rope was soaked in muddy and very difficult to climb. There was lots of mud to go through, some waist height and some parts felt like quick sand. There was a gas can carry that you had to not only carry it around in the muddy terrain, but also under wire in a pool of mud. That gas can seemed so much heavier after that point too.
There was a rope cross that seemed to go on forever over the water and this would be where my next gripe will come in. Due to the timing of the elites beginning their second laps, the back up at this obstacle was insane! Elites and BFX racers kept cutting and then the line I chose to go on, the rope came loose and no one would allow us to go in front of them because everyone was getting so frustrated with the cutting of BFX and elites. We were given the option to either go to the back of another line or to swim across and do the 8 count body builders. I really wanted to try this obstacle so I waited. After our rope was fixed, we let one elite cut in front and she got halfway on the rope and just stopped and was literally just hanging there feeling the water with her one hand as she dangled from the rope. The people in front of me had a watch and ultimately we spent 45 minutes at that obstacle just waiting to go. They finally decided to close down 2 ropes and make the BFX/Elite only so people after me would have to endure the same frustration.
After this obstacle, the team got split up and eventually I would end up alone and doing the remainder of this lap solo as well as the entire next lap. When I got to the sandbag carry, my first thought was “why am I doing this again?” As I jogged the muddy hills with the sandbag on my back, it began to rain. The next wave had not started yet, so it was pretty quiet out there and there were not too many of us so I could hear the next heat chanting and about to start their race. I could hear the words “I am not an athlete, I am a champion” being said to them and I just kept repeating it in my head and once again I was in the right frame of mind to take on this awesome course.
When I got to the uneven logs the second lap they were very slippery and my first attempt I ended up hanging on them and just couldn’t manage to get my leg over so I dropped and tried it again. This time, I was sure to get far enough and get my leg over, but as I leaped towards the log, I felt my ribs crash into the log and it took my breath away. I ended up badly bruising my ribs so I took a few minutes on the side and medics came over to check on me, but I was not about to quit. Immediately after this obstacle was the rig, but it was too challenging to breathe with my arms up and in so much pain I decided to drop after making it halfway through and just do the 8 count body builders and move on.
While on my second lap, I began to feel the effects of not bringing my fuel. While they did have electrolytes is some of the water at the water stations, not having my own fuel would leave me to feel a like I was about to cramp a few times. There were a lot of walls to get over and the rope across the water was very difficult to do the second time because I felt my calves beginning to cramp and my grip was not as good as round one as fatigue was setting in a little. So about ¼ of the way on the rope, this time I dropped into the water and swam over to the other side and proceeded to do my 10 8-count body builders. This would be the last obstacle I would fail for the day. The rope climb and cinderblock wall were even more slippery this time around and much more difficult to do, as were most of the other obstacles. As I started running the last mile on the concrete in my shoes that were made for trails vs. pavement, I really started to feel the cramping coming on. I kept running despite this feeling because I knew how far away the finish line was this time, but I did slow down so I could still make it over 4 more walls that I knew were waiting ahead.
I had met a few people along the course and some were continuing on for another lap as they were BFX participant so I wished them well and I was off to do the last set of obstacles that you only had to complete once on your way to the finish line. These obstacles would be 2 inverted walls with ropes that you had to climb across horizontally with one inverted wall in the middle with just a small ledge for you to hold onto with your hands a had to basically hang on this wall and use your hands to maneuver you over to the end, which was very difficult with tired arms/grip, muddy hands, and no real way to use your feet to help. After this, there was the very last obstacle, a wall about a 6’ that you had to climb over before crossing the finish line. As I made my way over the finish line I was given my 15K medal and headed over to take some “after” photos.
They had a “shower” station that many of the hoses barely had any pressure so it was really difficult to wash off all of the mud. Thank goodness I brought towels and baby wipes with me. After rinsing off, I entered the woman’s changing tent, which was so dark and had no light whatsoever. Typically there are small areas that allow light to come in or I have seen lights run in them, but this had nothing and it was very difficult to get cleaned up and dressed in there. After cleaning up as best I could, I headed over to get my bag and then my free beer (and do my traditional end of race shot). We didn’t stay long as we were starving and it was pretty gloomy so I do not have much to offer about the festival area.
Overall I have to say this race was great! Lots of challenging obstacles and a really great atmosphere mixed with support and encouragement while pushing you way past your comfort zone. As I mentioned, there are some areas that they can still improve upon, but I really enjoyed the overall experience and can’t wait to do another one. While I enjoyed that this race was a smaller one compared to what I have seen with circuits like the Spartan Races and Tough Mudder because it is a newer circuit, I hope this one grows so it sticks around and continues to be a solid circuit in the OCR community because it really will challenge you. HOOYAH!