Battlefrog 24hr Xtreme: A View from the Podium

BattleFrog 24hr Xtreme - Lap PinsBattleFrog race series put on its first 24hr obstacle race (BattleFrog 24hr Xtreme) in Miami on March 4th, 2016, and continued to set a new bar for obstacle races. I have competed in two BattleFrog races prior to their 24hour race. I knew to expect a fun challenging course with unique obstacles. I also knew that the legendary Ryan Atkins (World Champion obstacle racer) was the course designer, Chris “The Beard” Accord was on hand for race operations, and David Moore was the creative director (the Trifecta of BattleFrog Brutality right there) and I knew this was a race I had to attend! I was so excited!

The concept of the race was whoever ran the most laps of the 5-mile course in 24hours, wins! They also had an added prize, whoever completed the most number of laps penalty free (i.e. King and Queen of THE RIGS) would receive a neon lime green nunchuck. I really liked this added bonus because it provided more incentive for athletes to complete the obstacles instead of taking a penalty.BattleFrog 24hr - King and Queen of the Rigs
What made this race so special was the choice of venue (and its perfect weather), the obstacles, and the amazing ultra racing community.

The race was held at Historic Virginia Key Beach Park in SoFlo (South Florida for those of you who aren’t hip with the lingo) and the weather was amazing. It was a comfortably warm temperature for the entire race. despite some threatening clouds and forecasts for rain. I really liked this aspect because it kept the focus of the race on athletic ability and not cold tolerance. This also allows for the use of significantly less equipment. I love World’s Toughest Mudder’s 24-hour race, but it was so nice not having to worry about lugging multiple wetsuits, windbreakers and ski goggles. I didn’t have to worry about hypothermia and how I would survive cold waters at 3am when I am exhausted. For the BFX 24hr race, I wore the same outfit for the entire race (sorry about my odiferous aroma people who came within close proximity) .  It wasn’t too hot during the day (thank you cloud cover and onshore breezes) and it stayed a comfortable temperature at night (thank you mild SoFlo winter weather). The race started at 5pm, which was also nice, as it allowed competitors to race during the night while they are at their strongest, which in my opinion is safest for everyone.BattleFrog 24hr-Sunrise with Wall
The obstacles were great, and the course was fun! The obstacles showcased upper-body and grip strength. I like this because I love monkeys bars and Platinum Rigs (that neon nunchuck was going to be mine!). I found the penalties for failing obstacles were brutal, but also fair. If a racer failed the monkey bars (which requires a lot of grip and upper body strength) the penalty was to carry a heavy bag for extra distance. The penalty was significant enough that it was always worth doing the obstacle over the penalty, which isn’t always the case for other races. I loved the general layout as well. BattleFrog - King David (Moore)
A good portion of the race was running along the beach – queue beautifully, breathtaking sunset and sunrise – and I never got bored of the course because BattleFrog did a great job mixing up the variety of obstacles (and changed obstacles and penalties as the race progressed).  The original penalty for Platinum Rig #2 was 2 Jerry Cans and a Wreck Bag; as the race went on, the penalty became only Jerry Cans, then only the Wreck Bag, then only 1 Jerry Can, then carry David Moore…hahaha! Not really, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that were a penalty next year.  The only obstacles I began to dread were the walls…. eww walls. BattleFrog 12-ft Wall
What I also really liked was a mix of mandatory obstacles and camaraderie type obstacles. This allowed serious competitors to get ahead on hard technical obstacles while keeping the community together with obstacles that racers are allowed to help each other on…i.e. walls – did I mention I hate walls? Help was really nice after lap 10 when everything in my body was aching and screaming.

The community Battlefrog race attracts is very special. Everyone there is very supportive of each other. I wasn’t able to bring my own crew with me, and that was completely fine, Melissa Dugan did a fantastic job of setting up an “Orphan Tent” open to any racer that needed assistance during the race (Chris Maxfield masterfully manned the Orphan Tent for the entire event-silly costumes, music, and all.). They literally have everything from bandages to bug spray to donuts and bananas. I was also very lucky that my friend Matt Hanson (he placed 3rd for males by the way) was attending and shared his crew with me. They were amazing support!BattleFrog 24hr PitAlso, a dad of another racer came right over to me in the pit when he saw my hands had ripped open and I was bleeding. He patched me up right away even though I was technically competing against his daughter. We all have a sense of competition, but the sense of camaraderie is greater. We all want each other to succeed and push new limits. The organizers and volunteers were also great. I remember this one volunteer cheering like crazy for racers in the last few hours of the race. I was so tired I could barely smile back at her, but she was giving us all new energy!BattleFrog 24hr Night Ops Orphan Tent

The only thing I would change for next year is some sort of system to update racers on their positions. It was very confusing and nothing was in place. I had to rely on volunteers looking up stats on their phones, and most of the time I didn’t trust anything anyone told me. Besides that, I would not change a thing! So please Battlefrog, put on another 24hr race next year because we all loved it!
BattleFrog 24hr - Tired Beard
I’ve competed in World’s Toughest Mudder for the past 4 years, and every year it has been goal of mine to podium, and every year I’ve come up short.  As a personal trainer, it’s hard to swallow your own shortcomings.  Also, as a personal trainer, I know how growth happens…when you commit to it.  I started working with Yancy Culp in June 2015, and it is paying off.  I finally feel as though I’m ready to compete for the podium, and BattleFrog 24hr Xtreme was my first outing.  I wanted to run 75 miles (15 laps)! I wanted to win Gettin’ Riggy with It (come on…you all know I LOOOVVVEEE me some rigs!). I really wanted to win!  And, although attaining all my goals I set for this race is FANTASTIC…what’s even more AMAZING was the experience – it’s always the experience and the people.

When I started to feel really delirious and exhausted, I saw Cassidy Watton, who was crewing for a friend. They ran with me for a little bit and made sure I was staying hydrated and didn’t wander off-course. When I finished my 14th lap, there were 3-4 hours left to race. I knew my lead was enough that I could stop racing. Everything was aching and I felt exhausted. I saw Phoebe Brimer and Corey Herzlich and told them what I was thinking. They urged me on to complete another lap; they knew one of my goals was to hit 75miles (what I didn’t know was that they had hatched a plan to make sure I did that 15th lap). Corey walked the entire last lap with me. I was so thankful. I also thought about Milla Bizzotto- a 9-year-old girl who was still on-course completing her 6th lap, and she wasn’t quitting, so I couldn’t quit either!

I knew I would regret not giving this course everything I had.  When I crossed the finish line, I had finally accomplished all of my goals that I had been working towards for years. It was one of the greatest moments in my life. 2016 – I’m coming for ya Eh!
BattleFrog 24hr - Morgan's Map

Fuego Y Agua Survival Run: Adapt or Die!

Ometepe Awaits - Jeff Genova Photgraphy

Wow – what an experience!

The Fuego Y Agua Survival Run is exactly what the title implies: it’s a self-supported, 24-hour race on the beautiful island of Ometepe, which rests off the coast of Nicaragua in Lake Nicaragua. It’s an adventure race that combines ultra marathon distance running, volcanoes, and insane obstacles – ranging from climbing palm trees, carrying a live chicken for miles, to catching and gutting a fish – along the way. There is NO course map, NO water stations, NO paramedics on-course (though there were Red Cross emergency personnel at the ready to respond if necessary). It’s a serious race that requires experience and survival skills. Racers must agree to the following statement in order to race: “If I get hurt, lost, or die, it’s my own damn fault”. This factor makes the race very unique in that racers must accept full responsibility for themselves. “Adapt or die” is another slogan of theirs, and I was forced to dig deep and ultimately gain new confidence in myself as a solo elite endurance racer.

I had first attempted Survival Run in 2013 and was on a mission to win. It was their first year putting on Survival Run, and there were some organization problems. I was heartbroken when I got lost on course and missed the finish line by 2km. I was very upset about a DNF, especially because it was something completely out of my control. It honestly took me months to get over. I had to realize that Survival Run was so much more than a race; it was an adventure and an experience and something I really enjoyed. I knew I had to go back! I had been following Survival Run for a few years, and I watched it evolve and the organization became stronger. That’s why I decided 2016 was the year to go back!

Fuego Y Agua Survival Run - Digging for treasure     Fuego Y Agua Survival Run - Raft Building     Fuego Y Agua Survival Run - Puzzle Assembly
This year, the race started in an unconventional way. Racers are first divided into teams, approx. 15 racers per team. The mission: the first team to finish a sequence of challenges will receive its race bibs and start the 24-hour clock while continuing on as individuals. This provides a huge head start to the winning team. Remaining teams have just one hour to finish their tasks after the lead team is done and are unable to compete until all the challenges are completed. Luckily, all teams finished their tasks in time and the race officially began. The main rule of the race was to protect a raw egg the entire race. If a racers egg breaks at any point, they are unable to clear a checkpoint until that egg is replaced. Note: Initial eggs were obtained from Bird Shit island via raft flotation…over half the eggs were broken before the race ever started.  Good thing there was a restaurant on the fringes for egg purchase. I stopped and quickly made a protective nest for my egg out of a water bottle and grass – carried it tucked safely in my buff on my head. Fuego Y Agua Survival Run- Egg Safety
The first challenge was to fill a grain sack with plantain’s (20lbs for females, 30lbs for the males, and 50 lbs for a team to share). We then had to carry our sacks all the way up Volcán Concepción (an active volcano-which last erupted in 2010-approx. 1,600m high) and all the way back down. This task was insane! It was mid-day and the sun was blazing: it was SO hot! Concepción is an exposed volcano with little shade. It took approx. 7-8 hours for the elite racers to complete the ascent and descent – far longer than was anticipated. This was the hardest task I have ever been given in any adventure race. I had 4-litres of water with me, and I thought this would be more than enough: I was WRONG! I ran out of water near the top of the volcano-as did 99% of the racers (one or two had just a sip left for the descent). I knew I had a few more hours before I would have access to water, so I had to use my life straw to suck water out of a cactus plant that held water in its center. I felt pretty badass for discovering this survival skill! I was also really lucky that I made some friends during the Concepción hike: Chris and Curtis – “Team Misery;”  and we kept each other in high spirits by exchanging adventure stories and jokes. My new friend Chris gave me some Coca Cola, and wow – a warm Coke at the top of a mile high volcano felt like heaven, and the view was phenomenal! Wow!
Fuego Y Agua Survival Run - Concepcion Descent
The descent was surprisingly the hardest. I had figured going downhill would be a lot easier, BUT IT WASN’T! The trail down was steep and on loose rocks, I fell so many times on my butt that I bruised my tail bone! I finally reached the bottom and I knew the hardest part was over. I also knew this would take out half the competitors, and I was right.  Once at the bottom, I finally got to ditch those plantains, drink copious amounts of fluids, and try my hand at the 2nd slingshot challenge (the 1st was at the top of Concepción, along with a traverse over the edge of the crater).
Fuego Y Agua Survival Run - Morgan Slingshot Fuego Y Agua Survival Run - Morgan Fail Medal
This was also when I obtained my first medal of FYA 2016…FAIL.  One of the unique aspects of Survival Run is that you earn bracelets for completing challenges (12 or 13 this year I believe) and medals for completing stages (4 total).  The medals are awarded in the following order: FAIL, I, DID, NOT – is Josue a Star Wars fan? Yoda?  These are the holy grail of racing medals.  Racers go into the race knowing the paltry chance of achieving success…but we try time and time again.  I missed the time hack 3/4 of the way through the race when I would’ve received “I”.

The remaining part of the race consisted of a combination of running trails with various unique challenges mixed in. We had to fill and haul a 5-gallon bucket with sand 10x; there were petroglyphs to carve – things that related to what the locals past and present might have done.  I felt pretty good during the race, I was very prepared from 2013 and my training was on point. I was battling for 1st place with Hélène (Hélène Dumais went on to complete the Devil’s Double – LOOK IT UP! Only 6 people in history have ever achieved this and she’s the only female!); we must have switched positions at least 15 times in 18 hours! This made the race so exciting and fun! I knew this year there would finally be a female finisher!

Fuego Y Agua Survival Run - Helene Dumais Slingshot  Fuego Y Agua Survival Run - Morgan & Ralf
One of my favorite obstacles was carrying a live chicken for miles! I got an extra fussy chicken, I named him Ralf. Every 5 minutes or so, Ralf would start squealing, and I would have to switch sides to try and make him more comfortable. This is when we ran into an aggressive stray dog in the middle of the night. I heard barking in the distance, and as I got closer, this dog was warning me to turn around. I had no choice but to move forward, there was only one path to follow. The dog became more and more aggressive and leaped forward at me, snapping his sharp teeth. I was prepared with a pocket knife, and I prayed I wouldn’t have to use it. I flashed my headlamp at the dog and he backed up. I briskly walked away and the dog kept his distance, while barking ferociously at us. Thank god Ralf and I survived, and I was able to bring my chicken safely to the next checkpoint.

The next task was to aim a 10-foot bamboo pole into a tree and get a bracelet. I nailed this and was off to the next checkpoint. This is where the race got really hard for me. I had to carry this 10-foot bamboo pole for a couple of miles along a treacherous coastline. Imagine trying to balance a 10-foot bamboo pole on 4-foot high wet boulders, in the dark, while being eaten alive by bugs. It was awful! I was really struggling to follow the flags; some were on the coastline and somewhere off in the bushes. I got so frustrated that I sat down on a rock and cried. I knew I was wasting too much time stubbing along the coast, and I was going to miss the next cut-off. I missed it by 30 minutes or so; I was disappointed, but I adapted. I wasn’t devastated like I was in 2013. I knew from past experience this situation was very possible and I was prepared for it.

This race is creative and unexpected. The best way to train for a race like this is to become a well-rounded person in life, not just an athlete. Survival Run will always challenge decision making, and strategy plays a big role. Any wrong choice can end your race. The thing I’ve had to accept with Survival Run is that it’s an adventure, and this was an EPIC adventure!  Things aren’t going to go according to plan, but it was fun, challenging and life changing.  If you are an adventure seeker, SURVIVAL RUN IS A MUST! ~Morgan

Fuego Y Agua Survival Run - Morgan's Map

Photo Credits: Many thanks to Jeff Genova Photography for the headline photo of Ometepe, the raft building, and the Concepcion descent.  You bring memories to life!