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.