Monday, August 17, 2015

BattleFrog Pittsburgh

                 I headed up to Mines and Meadows for BattleFrog Pittsburgh later than planned on Friday.  I had hoped to get out early and see some of the course but after working a 12 hour shift on Thursday night I just couldn’t get myself out of Bed.  It worked out well though because I was able to meet Jason Bryant on the way up and we ditched one of our cars and rode together.  We arrived at Mines and Meadows around 9pm only to discover that neither of us knew where exactly the race was or where parking was.  Jason won the, who is most prepared battle however when he revealed that he was 90% sure the race started at 7:30.  I had no clue.  Luckily he also had a tablet as well and we were able to find the parking area.  We hit the road for a short shakeout, shunning our headlamps for starlight and ran straight into a small herd of goats that was just strolling down the middle of the road.  With that part of the adventure over we threw down our camping mats and rested up for the big day on Saturday. 
You can tell who has been through the deep mud!

                Race morning promised a fast start, with the Mounds of Grounds obstacle barely 25 yards into the race.  Jason and I split when I headed to the line as he was running the masters race.  The field looked strong as I lined up next to Ryan Woods, fresh off his points series win in the La Sportiva Mountain Cup.  Ryan Atkins of course was there as well as Marc-Andre Bedard, Joshua Zwonitzer, one of my new OCR friends Justin Anderson and several faces I did not recognize as this sport is still new to me.  As promised the race started out quick, but thankfully the pace settled immediately.  The obstacles started right away and things spread out a little on an epic wreck bag carry, with STEEP climbs,descents, a wall and several mud bogs.  Woods and I got caught almost waist deep in the last mud pit when we chose a bad a route and lost contact with the top two.  Then it was some quick running and easy obstacles before we hit the Platinum Rig.  It looked tough but I had done a lot “hanging out” in training so I wasn’t too worried about the first go around.  I saw Atkins exiting the obstacle as I entered and 2nd place, a French guy falling off.  I made it through with surprising ease, even to myself and was off again.  The rest of the lap I was back and forth for 2nd and 3rd with Bedard.  The course was awesome, with technical creek beds, steep climbs, DEEP mud and another Platinum Rig set up with just bars which while less technical than the first I found more challenging on the grip as it was soaking wet.  Then of course there was the mine.  It wasn’t as cold as I remembered but it still robbed the breathe from your lungs.  After the mine I took a few seconds at an aid station and then lost contact with Bedard  when I added a few seconds to my race by initially running past the Jerry Cans before coming back to grab two.  Now I was battling with Zwonitzer who had steadily been catching up over the last couple miles.  The carry was shorter than I expected and didn’t rob me of any grip strength Once it was over I knew I would have no trouble completing the rigs on the second lap.  I pulled away slightly from Zwonitzer at that point but we were back together after a volunteer didn’t see me ring the bell on my first rope climb and I had to do it again.  (Note this had no overall bearing on my race and all the volunteers out there were amazing!) 
Contrary to the great visibility in this picture you could barely see the ground in the mine! Still one of the coolest places I have ever raced!

The big difference in my day was at the start of the second lap.  I just fell off the pace.  I had some issues that contributed but the bottom line was I’m just not as fit as I would like to be at the moment.  I still cruised through the first rig with no problems but after that I stopped for a couple minutes at the first aid station to replenish on electrolytes.  By now I had lost over 5 minutes to Zwonitzer in the course of 1.5 miles and had little hope of catching up.  The second half of the second loop things came back together for me and I felt amazing.  I was running faster and easier at the end of the second loop than I was at the end of the first, and had a good time mixing in with the field as we came up on later start times.  I never struggled on any obstacle and came through the finish in fourth.  It was a very solid day for me and a huge improvement over last year when I was a little faster but couldn’t keep my band.  BattleFrog stepped it up this year as well.  Last year this was one of the coolest races I did.  This year it had a whole new atmosphere, a tougher course, more competition, and that feeling that you had just completed something epic when you crossed the finish line.  No doubt I will be back next year.
Loved this set up. Watch out for underwater obstacles.

                Up front the second lap stayed pretty even with Atkins taking the win holding just over a minute lead over Bedard, with Zwonitzer catching up but not quite closing the gap in third.  Jason led much of the master’s race before a back issue prevented him from finishing.  But I know he will be back stronger for the next race as will I. It was great to hang out for a good portion of the day make new friends and learn from more experienced OCR athletes. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Savage Race Recap

Being new to the OCR scene this was my first Savage Race and it did not disappoint. The first obstacle encountered was  a car crash blocking the road between our hotel and the race venue.  After a few failed attempts to follow our GPS on alternate routes, the first couple ended at gates undetectable via satellite, we finally arrived with 20 minutes to spare before the gun.  I checked in got in a short warm-up and saw Leah and Kilian just getting there spectator passes and entering the race area as I climbed the wall into the starting corral.  The race took out quick and I settled in behind Ryan Atkins.  The terrain got technical quick, which was why I chose this race, hoping that I would not have to run as fast, and Ryan and I quickly opened up a large gap.  Just as I was settling into a rhythm the course markings we were following brought us back into the middle of the race.  Somehow we had gone off course and were following the edge of the paintball field!  I really have no clue how we went wrong, the course was very well marked but nevertheless there we were in the middle of the pack having tacked on a full half mile. 
Getting out quick!
  Ryan dropped the pace big time on his hunt for the front and I struggled to stay with him.  Luckily we came up to a traverse wall that utilized small rock climbing grips instead of wooden wedges. Several people were falling off and we passed a large number of people by the time we rung the bell on the far side. We then headed into the woods where plastic pallets elevated us over marshy ground.  As I reached to step on one the runner ahead of me planted his foot on the far edge sinking it into the much while simultaneously raising the end I was aiming for of the ground.  It hit me in the middle of the shin and I fell hard and rolled.  I was back to my feet quickly though and chasing Ryan again who now had about a 10 second lead on me.  The next stretch of run was a slight incline through the woods with no obstacles and this is where Ryan put any competition to rest.  My running for the past few months has consisted of putting the kid in the stroller, running 2.5 miles and 1,000 feet down to the lake, playing on the beach for half an hour and then pushing the stroller 2.5 miles and 1,000 feet back up to the house.  It’s fun for sure and a great workout but it is definitely NOT fast, and when Ryan laid it down he DESTROYED me. I just wasn’t prepared to compete yet. 
Davy Jones Locker! 
  At the top of the hill we re-entered the main arena where obstacles were stacked one after the other.  I really liked this set-up as it made the obstacles themselves a little more challenging and it allowed Leah and Kilian to see my tackle some of the bigger and more exciting obstacles. I was also well prepared for this type of set-up and moved from about 20th the 5th over the next few hundred meters.  From here on out the obstacles were fun and creative, while not overly challenging, I handled them all very well, although I really didn’t push the run as fast or as hard as I should have.  This was my first hard effort of the year I settled into my comfort zone too easily. I still moved up to 3rd and was closing on 2nd but ran out of room at the end.  
Wheel world!  Easier than it was talked up to be but a cool obstacle for sure.
Overall the experience was awesome, the race was very well organized and as always the OCR community was great!  Having Leah and Kilian come up with me, although the ran wasn’t the best baby conditions, made the trip even better!  I would definitely recommend this race to anyone, especially those who want to face some good obstacles but don’t want to be out on the course for 2 + hours.