Often times I have been guilty of burying the lead in my reviews, this time I am not.
BFX Georgia ranks as one of my top 3 obstacle racing experiences of all time.
While Spartan Race finally created a multi-lap system this year, they still missed the boat on truly celebrating an experience that racers have been doing for years.
It has become common practice for many OCR lovers to “compete” in the morning, and then run for fun in the afternoon. A typical conversation goes something like this.
Susan-What time are you running today?
Sally- I am running for time at 8:30, then with some friends at work/my husband/my mom/ in the afternoon.
There are many who take this even farther asking themselves “Just how many laps can I do today?”. There have been many stories that Spartan itself have posted going as far back to 2012 with James Ogden doing 6 laps in Virginia and Daren de Hares doing multiple laps in Malibu.
However, outside of those random stories, the only real glory available until now was more medals. (We will NOT continue the argument over who should take medals and how many, at this time). BattleFrog realized that in a world of competition and gaming, OCR athletes would love the idea of seeing how they could do against themselves and their fellow racers against the course and the clock.
Here is the quick down and dirty on the rules:
The BFX wave starts at 8:30am. Racers must begin their last lap at 3:00pm in order for it to count towards the daily total. Open wave rules apply, which means that failure of an obstacle is not a DQ, but a penalty of (ten) 8-count body builders. The only exceptions are the (infamously brutal) Jerry Cans and Wreck Bag Carries.
I have been looking forward to this experience all year. As someone who has done 75+ obstacle races, I need a new challenge to get me really excited. Taking on a course multiple times is exactly this kind of challenge. My partner in crime for this race would be J.D. Allen, aka The Motor City Mud Man, a pal from GORMR who is taking on World’s Toughest Mudder with me later this year. While WTM is much longer, we looked at this a mini dress-rehearsal for Vegas in November. A good chance to test out gear, nutrition, and how much we like each other after a day on the course. That last part is not something that was brought up out loud by either of us, but I thought it, and I’m betting J.D. did as well.
I like the idea of running with a partner. It makes the time pass quicker, it’s a built in back up system of gear, fluids and nutrition, and it can be motivation when you need it. J.D. and I met around 7:30am at registration, got our bins set up next to each other, discussed strategy, and then made our way to the start line at 8:30am. Coach Pain Dewayne is giving one of his rousing speeches and we are off. Except we are not. Only one of us is. I turn around and J.D is nowhere to be found. I am slow jogging towards the first obstacle calling his name in front and behind me, and nothing. There are only 40 or so people in our wave so I can’t be missing him, can I?
In a few micro-seconds, I determine that his wife must have called him with some family emergency, and now I have to take the day on alone. Just as I am settling into that idea, I see him leave the starting area and head towards the first wall where I am waiting for him. It turns out, he was just shooting the shit with some other racers. I laughed some and told him how surprised I was by his flakiness. He then went on to remind me of two other recent racing occasions where he exhibited similar behavior.
I typically identify as an ADD and not very prepared guy. As races begin, I am always thinking that I must be the least prepared out there. I probably did not pack enough food, nor the right type of gear. I’ve also been known to show up to the meeting spot and/or the start line exactly on time, rather than room to spare.
It is at once reassuring and frightening to know that I am NOT the least responsible person in my pairing for the day.
J.D. Allen- Shown here NOT calling his wife when the starting gun went off.
So, we are off. (For real this time). First obstacles are walls and under and throughs and what not, and then Wedge Donavan. Nothing too tricky, but the thought that crosses my mind is. “What will this be like in a few hours when my arms and legs hurt a lot more?”. A thought that would alter slightly to “What will this be like next lap?” as the day wore on.
As we make our way through the woods and more walls, we approach the rope climb. I have been failing ropes the last few OCRs as a strict running only training regiment will do that to you. (And no, I still can’t Swrap or Jhook). Focusing on some pull-ups the last few weeks, I was confident I would pass at least the first round with out problems. There was one rope with a much higher knot than the others, I went for that one and got to the top. No bell was up there, so I rang the bell next to it. Drop back down and we continued on.
Wedge Donovan – You can attempt this face forward, or butt backward as pictured here.
Some more obstacles and then the Jerry Cans. These things have been talked up for the last few BattleFrog events by many participants and BF employees and to be honest, I was getting tired of it and thought there was much exaggeration going on. It seems like every post I saw on Facebook was some version of “Those things weigh a metric ton and we had to carry them 4 miles”.
So the first time out, it was not too tough. The distance was determined to be somewhere around 1/10 of a mile. You walked down a hill in the woods circled around back up a hill. Most Spartan sand pancake carries are a similar distance. Getting through this obstacle, there is a constant battle in the mind between, “Holy shit, let me keep hoofing it as fast as possible to get this thing done and “Holy shit, I can’t go one more step, cause my arms are going to fall off”. Round 1 of that obstacle finishes, and “What’s THAT thing going to be like next lap?” is the only thing I can think about.
Next up is “Tip Of The Spear”. In the past, this obstacle has been done with chains, this time around it is with rope which is easier, but with an odd wooden wedge thingy, which I will call FingerTip Killer, in between, which is NOT easier. I get through this one successfully but doubt I can do it the rest of the day.
A little more running and then the Wreck Bag carry. The Wreck Bag weighs 50 pounds, and unlike Jerry Cans has no lighter one for women or children. One size fits all. Up a hill you go for a bit, then you are at the top and done, except you are not done. When you get to the top of the crest, you see that you have more to go and that there is a wall to lug your Wreck Bag over. You may not toss your Bag over the wall. You must rest it at the top, then hop the wall, then pick it back up again. You may then proceed back down the the hill. The total distance turns out to be almost half a mile. I know I can do this as the day wears on, I just know it will suck, badly.
Some slant walls and inverted walls are next which were super easy (for now). Then we came to The Dirty Name (known as Sternum Checker at Mud Guts and Glory). Unlike MGG, you do not have a down hill running start so it’s a little tricker. Then we approached the most creatively named sponsored obstacle of all time.
The Puroast Mounds of Grounds. This obstacle looks like the “Rolling Mud” at Spartan races, which is large piles of mud with water pits in between, but at BattleFrog, the mud was sprinkled with REAL COFFEE. This water felt very soothing on tired legs and the smell of coffee was fantastic.
We then entered a short swamp crossing with a large cargo net in the middle of it prior to re-entering the festival area for the final few obstacles. There’s a strange pipe climbing thing called 60 degrees, followed by Monkey Bars, and the new obstacle Bridge Over The River Cry, which is a tricky rope ladder across some water. (We would not get to do the last two obstacles of Tsunami Wall and Normandy Jacks until we ended our day with the final lap).
I had just failed the monkey bars near the end, and did not think I had the arm strength to tackle the Bridge. Unlike it’s cousin, the Spartan Tyrolean Traverse, this ladder is constructed of wire, and not rope. So lying on top of it to save arm and leg strength is not an option. I did my 8 counts, and headed to the pit area.
J.D. was waiting for me there as he had completed those last two obstacles successfully. I looked down at my watch and it read an hour and 15 minutes. A respectable first lap time. At the outset of the day, 4 laps was the easy goal and 5 laps was the stretch goal. I did not want to mental masturbate to figure out how much time I could spend in the tent and how fast I would have to finish the next laps to get to 3:00pm, so I just focused on eating a quick snack.
Then lap 2 begins. About 2 minutes along, we run into people exiting Wedge Donovan. We have somehow gotten lost early into a course we just ran a little over an hour ago. J.D. goes to where we think we are off, and tells a nearby volunteer that someone should “stand there to mark it better”. We then start to back track, and realize that where we left course was no where near where that point. There was about 100 little orange flags marking where the runners should go. I wish I could blame J.D., since we have recently learned of his level of not having his shit together, but it was equal parts ignorance on both racers parts.
The rest of the 2nd lap is cool. We pass some of our GORMR friends, and that is fun. I get up the rope the 2nd time, J.D. also gets up the rope a 2nd time, but with arms only. Fuck him. Back over to Jerry Cans. Really not happy about them, but gotta get em done.
Make our way over to Tip Of The Spear, I get the first set of ropes, but shortly after hitting that middle wedge, my fingers are in serious pain, and I drop. That obstacle is 8 counts moving now and moving forward. We hit Wreck Bags again and I realize I can rest the thing on the top of my camelbak for much needed neck relief. J.D. helps me and a few others get their bags into position. I head up, knowing he’ll catch me shortly.
What do you know, we are back at Coffee Coolata again. Hooray! This means refreshing water on the legs, and then lap 2 is almost done. Shortly after that, the race leader Cody King comes flying by us on what is his 3rd lap. I had anticipated being lapped, just not this soon. Back through the swamp and to the Cargo Net which has a slight backup of participants. It is there we run into Justin Rose who is also about to finish his 3rd lap. I have a friendly Waffle House bet with Justin on who makes it farther and am not happy to be this far behind him.
Out of the swamp and I do 8 counts on the monkey bars (again). I watch J.D. make it almost all the way to the end, then fall, then curse a lot. He then shows me his hands which have many torn callouses. More 8 counts at The Bridge and back to our little pit area. (Quick Kudos to BattleFrog for keeping our tent area filled with water and bars all day).
I change shirts, and debate changing socks and or shoes. There is not a ton of mud or water on this course, my feet are in great shape and I decide to keep what I have on.
Race history tells me that at the 3 hour plus mark of a race, I need to start mixing up my fluid intake. I brought some mini cans of Coca-Cola as quick sugar rush and downed one of those. Not as cold as I had hoped but still enjoyable. I also need solid food. Bars, gels, and fruit can only hold me for so long. In the past, I have packed pizza, fried chicken, or hamburgers. This time, I wanted to go with something filling but not too heavy, so I asked my wife to prepare me something that fit that description. Being the greatest wife ever, she came through and prepared an awesome macaroni chicken salad thing.
Just as we are about to leave the pit area, David Moore (D-Mo), my good friend, who also happens to be the one the guys behind the idea BFX, comes running in. This means he is about to lap us. I have a friendly bet with D-Mo as well, and I really don’t want him to pass us.
Lap 3 begins. I do begin to do math on how many laps we can do. It is around 12:00pm and the last lap must begin before 3:00pm. If laps, are taking us 1:15-1:30, we will be cutting it close to start a 5th lap.
By the time we reached the Delta Ladder (not very far into the race), DMo had passed us, and continued on a pretty good clip. Looks like 2 Waffle House meals are on me.
J.D. appears to be in considerably better shape than me on this lap. After the 2 heavy carries and the body builders on Tip Of The Spear, I need a long time to recover before I can slow jog again. I am starting to feel guilty that maybe I am holding him J.D. back. Not so guilty, that I tell him to go on ahead though.
The voices started to do that thing they do to me on long runs. You know those voices, right? The angel and devil kind of thing?
“Cmon, Move! Let’s do this!”.
“Dude, just take it easy, if you go slow enough you can stop after 1 more lap”.
“Don’t be a puss, lets do this, let’s hustle!”
“Ouch, your legs hurt, what are you proving, stop after the next lap, for real”.
“Why are you going to quit again? Don’t be such a loser!”
Yeah, those voices.
SUPER annoying right?!
To quiet those voices, I find it best to start a conversation with an actual human being. Sometimes, I call it out and tell a friend I am having doubts so they can pull me out of the malaise. Sometimes, I’ll just strike up a friendly conversation with a random runner or volunteer, and this works as well.
As we approach the end of Lap 3, J.D. tells me that he does not plan on pitting very long on this lap. This scares me a little as I want to eat some more of that delicious dish my wife made, change shirts again, plus I have to fill my camelbak.
Maybe he forgot he said that, cause we didn’t leave in a hurry. I have no idea how long we stayed, but by the time we leave it is 1:40pm. We have an hour and 20 minutes to make it back in time if we want to start a 5th lap.
4 laps was always my goal going into this event, but now 5 seemed very doable. I said to J.D. “Hey, if we run this lap, we can always walk the 5th”. So, we give it a go. We try running whenever possible. It feels like running anyway. When I looked back at GPS data, I was sure I was going to see these really fast miles for the last lap. (I didn’t).
Somewhere around the rope climb (which I made on every lap including my 4th-Hooray for me!) we come up on a super loud annoying dude who is a lame version of a motivational speaker. He yells to himself and to all of us around him at each obstacle. “You people inspire ME!” “Let’s go!” “I am a 45 year old grandfather out here!” “C’mon Frogs!” “You people inspire ME!”
I hate this guy.
First of all, I’m on my 4th lap, you are on your first. 2nd, Jeanie Kirsey is in her 60s and does these races almost every weekend. 3rd, am I supposed to be impressed that you had children so young, that you are now a grandfather?
So yeah, I hate this guy. I also hate myself for being so judgemental. I try to think about the positive. “He’s trying to help people” “Don’t be such a downer Matt, this might be his first time, don’t hate on new people”.
At the Jerry Can carries, I stop in the middle and cry.
I hear other runners coming up behind me. I want to stop each one and explain to all of them that I am not a grown many crying in the woods for no reason. I need to tell each one that this is my 4th lap, and I fucking hate these cans. These cans are the worst thing in the world. They are taking forever and are most likely going to prevent me from getting back in time for a 5th lap. Just as I am deciding that I really don’t have time to explain this to all of them, here comes Fake Motivational Guy. “Boy these cans is heavy!” “You people inspire ME!”
I truly hate this human being.
We hit the Wreck Bags for the 4th time. There is a photographer who has been there all day taking shots as we come up. I know he has gotten me every time. I look forward to see the progression. I also notice there are some orphan Wreck Bags laying on the ground. Quick flashback to the worst carnage in the history of sandbag carries at UltraBeast Vermont. This makes me smile as I realize it ain’t that bad.
I have been avoiding looking at my watch. Now it is time to check in. I am at the top of the carry, where your bag goes over a wall. It’s 2:48pm. I ask the volunteer how far til the end. He says about a mile. J.D. and I are very hopeful at this. A mile in 12 minutes, including some obstacles. We can do this.
We run (sort of) down the hill and start discussing the few obstacles left and how we can really make this happen. Remember how I said those walls before Dirty Name were super easy. They aren’t any more. The way the body gets taxed on these endurance events is very subtle. No one obstacle is some grueling thing that kills you. It’s drip by drip. So dismounting a 5 or 6 foot slanted wall really hurts. The shock to the feet and legs that you did not even notice on lap 1 reverberates for what feels like a minute on lap 4.
The next time we ask someone what time it is, it’s 2:57. We have 3 minutes. I think this is when we were at Cafe Ole. We aren’t going to make it. I have no idea how much ground we covered in those 9 minutes, but it went by faster than any 9 minutes I can remember. Now we can just settle in and finish. Of course, part of me is happy (for now) cause it means I get to stop.
Through the swamp cargo, back in the festival. I do my last body builders of the day for the monkey bars and Bridge. Bonus though, we get to do Tsunami. All day as we had run by it, I was sure that I would have no energy left to get this obstacle by the end of the day. It turns out to be easier than I thought. There was no mud on the ground or on the obstacle so I made it without assistance. Down the water slide, through the Normandy Jacks, and onto the finish.
Earlier in the lap, I asked J.D. if he wanted to hold hands across the finish line. He said No. I pretended this didn’t hurt my feelings and almost asked him again when we came through the Jacks. At the last minute, I choose not to, and just cross at the same time. We hug it out. I am thrilled to be done.
4 laps, 18.5 miles, 100+ obstacles completed, Time 6:50:15
Total Obstacle Failures: Tip O’ The Spear (3X) Nurtiforce Monkey Bars (4X), Bridge Over The River Cry (4X)
Total Body Builders: 110
The winner of the day, Cody King did 6 laps. My pal D-Mo made it back from his 5th lap with 20 minutes to spare before the cutoff and finished 6 laps himself.
J.D. thanked me for running with him. I told him I thought I was holding him back on the early laps. He assures me that I didn’t, and that I helped pull him through the last one.
I said at the beginning that this was one of my favorite ocr experiences of all time. It also ranks as top 5 race experiences, period of all time. What are the others you ask? World’s Toughest Mudder, The UltraBeast, Fuego Y Agua 50k ,and the OCR World Championships.
What do all of these experiences have in common? Well, other than OCRWC, they are all endurance related. They are events that I spent between 7 and 14 hours on the course. I guess if I get to pick something to do for a day, that didn’t involve being with my wife and kids, it would be out on a race course.
The other thing in common is the people. Each one of those races, I am running (and resting) along side people who want more out of life. They want an experience they can look back on and be proud of. They too, want to push themselves farther than they thought they could go. Mentally, physically, and yes, sometimes spiritually.
Thank you David Moore for bringing this concept to BattleFrog. Thank you BattleFrog higher ups for trusting David’s vision and giving me and my OCR friends an awesome way to spend the day.
Photo Credits: Jeff Marier, BattleFrog
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