BattleFrog Atlanta II 2015: Race Review

It had been raining hard across Georgia for more than a week, and while a good downpour is great for mudding up a trail, the amount that had fallen in the days leading up to BattleFrog led me to believe I was about to trudge through more mud than I had ever seen. Sure enough, the night before the race emails and Facebook posts popped up letting participants know of alternate parking areas to head toward the next morning because the ground at Foxwoods was simply not going to accommodate anything less than a tank. After pulling up to alternate parking area number two, my friend and I were surprised to find out they would allow us to proceed to the venue as long as our vehicle had four wheel drive. Score!  However, the excitement of that little perk was short-lived as we passed under the impressive Cargo Bridge obstacle and immediately sank into the mud, tires just a spinnin’ as fast as they could go. Apparently, four wheel drive doesn’t do much for you without a decent amount of tread on your tires. Duly noted. I’m not sure if the guy who towed us out was with BattleFrog, Foxwoods, or otherwise, but I sure am thankful he was there with his Bobcat and chains.

Battle Frog Atlanta Staging Area

Once freed from the mess and parked, I began the pre-race ritual of registering, attaching my bib and assorted wristbands, picking up t-shirts, dropping off bags, checking GoPro operation and settings, etc. The organizers for BattleFrog certainly know what they’re doing. From the moment I entered the event area, everything went as smoothly as could be expected and there was no waiting in line anywhere from what I could see. The efficiency was doubly appreciated as our towing needs resulted in a slight delay in actually entering the event, so this put us back on track for a timely start to our race. Almost immediately after finishing all my pre-race preparations, I heard the announcer on the P.A. system call racers in my wave to the corral. This was the point where things went off the rails.

Like other OCR events, the first challenge is often going over a wall into the corral to begin your wave. I’ve done it before without a problem. This wall was so muddy and wet, I couldn’t manage to haul myself over it to even start the race. I should note that this was the tallest starting line wall I’ve encountered since I began running obstacle races and I am not a tall man. After a few tries, I figured it was ridiculous for me to waste any more energy before I officially began and simply walked around it. I’m not proud of it, but if I was going to be taken down by an obstacle, it was going to be on the course, not before it. Only a few other people were in the corral at this point and I didn’t see an official starter; just the trail beyond the inflatable arch. A race official standing down range on the course waved to us indicating we could go ahead and begin. It was strange not to have that ‘ready, set, go’ moment and to simply begin running, but this wasn’t a competitive or even a timed wave and I was anxious to begin especially given my difficulty with the corral wall which I wanted to put behind me and forget about as soon as possible, so I took off and my first BattleFrog was underway.

Now, it’s mind boggling how your brain can trick you into thinking you’re ready to do something and then how your body can let you know you’re most decidedly not. This past Saturday BattleFrog was that something. I consider OCR an exciting, fun, and healthy activity in which to participate, but I don’t do much training aside from running regularly. This event was definitely the kick in the ass I needed to start working on upper body strength and grip as there were a few obstacles I encountered that absolutely wrecked me and had me doubting my ability to finish strong. The wreck bag portion of the course was the first of these. These particular bags were heavier than ones I’d had experience with in the past and I couldn’t heave this thing up on my shoulders to save my life. After the difficulty with the corral wall, having issues with the very first obstacle on the course really had me doubting my abilities and I started to worry whether I’d bitten off more than I could chew this time.  I finally got the wreck bag positioned where I needed it to continue and started my weighted march through the ankle deep muck.

Battle Frog Wreck Bag Stack

Like any good racer or writer, I’d done my research and taken a good long look at the course map as soon as I could get my eyes on it and I had seen that after the wreck bag came the balance beam. What the map did not convey was that when I was to encounter the balance beam, I’d still have the cursed wreck bag on my shoulders. That’s sneaky, BattleFrog folks… very sneaky. What made things even more challenging was that the balance beam wasn’t a balance beam at all. It was a tree trunk on its side and it was covered in thick, slimy, slippery mud. Amazingly and despite my difficulty with the wreck bag, I made it across without falling. Finally, something about this event was going my way. Other than the pleasant registration process, it had been pretty rough going all the way around up until this point. I hauled the wreck bag back to the stack and ran hard toward the next obstacle hoping the tide had turned. After going over a few standard issue four foot walls and admiring the view from high atop the higher ladder wall, I encountered my first Jerry Can carry.

On top of the Battle Frog Ladder Wall

All I had to do was carry two heavy cans from one point to another. No problem right? I grabbed two of the big ones feeling quite confident I’d already dealt with my problem obstacle for the day and then turned to see where the race official was directing me. Some sadistic planner routed the Jerry Can carry down a steep decline covered in mud so it was really more of a Jerry Can slide. At the bottom, elevation leveled a bit, but I was already feeling the weight of these beasts from my shoulders down to my fingertips when I spotted a few racer-less Jerry Cans that had already been discarded along the way by those who could no longer hack it. Progress was slow and toward the end of this section of the trail my Jerry Cans were being used more like walking sticks supporting my body weight. There was much commentary from my fellow combatants in the vicinity about how this particular Jerry Can carry was ridiculously difficult. I agreed and finally acquiesced to receiving some help with one of my cans for the last few yards.

For all intents and purposes, this was still essentially the beginning of the race and my arms already felt shot. I really wasn’t sure what other obstacles I was going to be able to manage successfully. That was a bad feeling to have so early in the day. Next up was the eight-foot wall off of which I fell hard after I lost my footing on the mud which was literally running down the wood. Once again, I accepted assistance from a much taller guy who was more than happy to give me a boost and made it over successfully on my second try. There was a lot of teamwork and applause in play at this particular obstacle. I’m not sure why this one elicited such a response and it could’ve been nothing more than a fluke in timing, but I saw more people helping others here than anywhere else on the course. One woman was so happy she finally made it over, she teared up when thanking her teammates. It never ceases to amaze me that nearly everyone who takes part in this sport is so helpful, gracious, friendly, and generally incredible to one another. Cheers to all of you out there.

Teamwork on the First Wall of Battle Frog

The time for applause and emotional moments had passed and it was back to business. The next barrier to receiving my big green medal was the first rope climb. Well, I have a confession to make. I’ve never climbed a rope. Ever. I never went to a school that had this most basic apparatus in their gym, so I simply never had the exposure to it. But, I did know it was coming because I studied my course map after all. Without the time to visit a facility with climbing ropes or to build my own at home, I did what any other tech savvy person who lives in this day and age would do. I Googled it. Yep. I found a YouTube video with instructions for a few different methods of military-style fast rope climbing. I would never flat out pass an obstacle just because I don’t think I could do it. I attempt everything at least once, but I didn’t have much hope I was going to get up that rope based solely on what I’d learned online. Imagine how surprised I was when everything I learned worked perfectly and I rang the bell on my first try! I can only assume it would’ve been even less difficult had the rope not been covered in multiple layers of caked on mud. In the grand scheme of things it was a small victory though it put a HUGE smile on my face.

The next stretch of the race consisted of some fun but less challenging obstacles than those I had already passed which included a spider web of bungee cords, a few angled walls, a low cargo net which required some high knees, and the iconic Normandy Jacks. This succession of more manageable obstacles following my success on the rope climb was just what I needed to boost my confidence so I was feeling pretty damned good about myself now.

Battle Frog Normandy Jacks

I was still running hard and living large when a race official stopped me and asked me where I came from. I was thrown off to say the least. I’d been feeling so good about my performance over the last few obstacles I’d taken a wrong turn and lost the trail. Fortunately, I wasn’t too far off and was back on track within a couple of minutes. Lesson learned. Pay close attention to the trail markers no matter how confident you’re feeling. When the race official pointed me back toward the course, I caught my first glimpse of the Delta Ladder. From a distance, it didn’t look any different than similar structures I’d climbed at other races. Up close, it was a towering behemoth of intimidation. What made both ascending and descending the Delta Ladder difficult was that it was made with extremely thick lumber. The dimensions of each board were so large; I had difficulty getting my hands around them to get a firm grip. This was in addition to the ever-present mud on the wood. So rather than grabbing tightly around each board it’s more accurate to say I pushed myself up using the top side of each one which worked though it felt much less secure. I never thought I suffered from acrophobia, but like most people I’m not a big fan of heights. That said, being at the peak of this thing was scary. Lest anyone think my fears were in any way irrational, the guy climbing down the back side next to me slipped and fell part of the way down giving everyone in the immediate vicinity a heart attack. He was fine, but that fall could’ve been much worse.

Battle Frog Delta Ladder

Shortly after recovering from the Delta Ladder scare, I came up on the Cargo Bridge which I’d seen earlier when we arrived at the venue. This one was a pile of fun and my favorite of the day. I climbed up and across the cargo nets quickly with no problems at all. There was a slight backup waiting to climb back down the other side, so I took a moment to admire the view and check out the start/finish area in the distance. Climbing down from the Cargo Bridge seemed to catch a lot of people off guard. The backside cargo net seemed much looser than that of the front side so there was much more motion to deal with while descending. At one point, the net shifted far enough to one side causing me to nearly get tangled up.

High Atop the Battle Frog Container Cargo Bridge

Following the Cargo Bridge came a decent stretch of running which led me to the obstacle I’d been dreading. The infamous Platinum Rig. My earlier success with the rope climb gave me a glimmer of hope I might surprise myself again, but I was too far gone by then. I fell from the Rig pretty quickly and headed straight for the burpee area. As much as I wanted to give it another shot I know my limits and didn’t want to start a backup of people waiting for their turn. Come Hell or high water, I will be better prepared for this type of upper body test by my next race. That’s a promise.

Inside the First Battle Frog Platinum Rig

After a swim across a cold muddy lake, I came to Tip of the Spear. This was another highlight of the race for me. Because I was unsuccessful with the Platinum Rig only minutes before, I didn’t think I could do much with the ropes here either. I managed to surprise myself again and moved from end to end across the obstacle successfully. I did slip off the last wall before I could ring the bell, so I headed off to the burpee area once more. Though, given how far I made it across Tip of the Spear, I’m calling it another victory.

Battle Frog Tip of the Spear

Exhaustion was really setting in now. Mounds of Grounds posed no difficulty though I was disappointed in the lack of actual coffee. I was led to believe this obstacle did have actual coffee grounds on it and as a result, smelled wonderful. Perhaps someone was pulling my leg. Oh well.

Next came the twelve-foot rope wall. Not another rope. I was too wrecked to deal with any more ropes!  I tried to put that negative thought out of my mind and grabbed hold. The one by four going across the wall about half way up worked nicely as a foothold. Unfortunately, it was a few inches too low to be of any more use. Given my height, I still couldn’t reach the top of the wall without jumping up to grab the top. Just like every other rope on the course, this one was extremely wet and slick with layers of mud. I made my six-inch leap of faith toward the heavens with one hand while hanging onto the rope for dear life with the other.  As fast as my feet left the wall, I slid down the rope one handed and hit the ground. This was the first point in the race where I felt I probably could’ve completed the obstacle under better conditions (i.e., less mud), but decided to press on in the interest of not seriously injuring myself.

Falling From The Battle Frog Rope Wall

I’ll say just one thing about swimming upstream in a river with strangers around. Don’t yell “Snake!”. That’s not cool. A guy behind me in the water did this to mess with his buddy and thought it was hilarious. Venomous reptiles are an obstacle I didn’t sign up for.

Swimming Up The Tallapoosa River at Battle Frog

My last big challenge of the day was 60 Degrees. The amount of mud on the wide metal bars definitely had me considering skipping this one altogether for safety reasons, but I couldn’t in good conscience pass an obstacle I’d never tried before regardless of how tired or how close to the finish line I was. I made it to the top slipping and fighting gravity all the way. While gripping the highest bar, I felt myself about to fall and it was time for a quick decision. It was either fall forward on the other side and likely land on my head or fall back the way I came and drop down standing on my feet. I chose the latter and decided 60 Degrees was another obstacle I could likely overcome with less mud and exhaustion. I’m not competing against anyone but myself when I run OCR, so better to be safe than sorry. I actually found out today that my friend broke his rib on 60 Degrees. Yeah, I’m thinking I made the right choice.

With the finish line in sight, I saw the second Platinum Rig. I was more exhausted now than I had been when I encountered the first one and already had my share of falling off of things for the day.  I’d also made it over ramp walls earlier in the course. So, I ran right by these last two obstacles and didn’t think twice about it. I’d done my best from start to finish at BattleFrog. Considering my physical abilities, my limitations, the sometimes extreme environmental factors in play, and the unexpected obstacles I’d already overcome, I truly felt that I’d earned my medal, my t-shirt, and my beer and that I would attack those upper body monsters with a vengeance next time. BattleFrog was the most challenging and most rewarding OCR I’ve taken part in thus far. They put on an intense event and they do it wonderfully. I am already looking forward to running it again.

Battle Frog Finish Line

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John Bragg

John works full time as a technical writer for a software company in Atlanta authoring end-user procedures for IT professionals and is now enjoying the challenge of writing articles for ORM. He's still getting the hang of running obstacle races, but loving every minute of it. His other interests include outdoor cooking (grilling, smoking, seafood boils), home improvement projects, model building, and target shooting.
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Comments

  1. Colman Roberts says

    What is the best time to choose?

    • John Bragg says

      Are you referring to the best wave time in which to run? The courses are in better shape earlier in the morning, but aside from that the best time really only depends on your personal schedule and preference.