A Frozen Festival
North Liberty’s 3rd annual Beat the Bitter 5k-ish Obstacle Run took place on the frozen tundra of Penn Meadows Park. 200 people gathered to take on the course which was put together by the North Liberty Betterment Group as part of a week-long winter games festival, which included curling, outdoor ice skating, snowmen building contests, ice carving and more. Free coffee and hot chocolate were provided to keep runners and spectators warm before and after the race.
The temperature was right around 30 degrees at the start of the race providing some freezing cold air in the lungs without too much bitter cold on the face. The course was set up with racers running around the perimeter of the city park, doing 3 laps. Obstacles were to be run on the first and third laps and no obstacles on the second lap, so as to avoid any bottlenecks at obstacles for competitive runners. With 9 obstacles on each of the first and third laps, the race felt obstacle dense. When you finished one obstacle you could see the next one coming up in front of you. With a total of 18 obstacles, you got more than you would on a tough mudder 5k. The obstacles weren’t as hard or as big as a tough mudder but for the $20 entry fee, you definitely got your money’s worth.
The course started with the polar potholes, a grid of shin-high 2x4s that you had to high step through, then moved onto a set of 3-foot walls, and quickly into a short crawl through a rather large irrigation tube. The obstacles became more difficult at this point with a climb over a six-foot hay bale and under a low crawl then a series of strength obstacles.
The heavy carry I thought showed a lot of creativity on the part of the organizers, utilizing the resources they had. You had to pick up a 40 lb large rubber parking stop and carry it down and back 100 meters. They were decently heavy and slightly awkward to carry with them bouncing around in your arms or over your shoulder. Almost immediately after the carry was a tire flip followed by the “Everest Death Zone” a plywood A-frame you needed to climb over.
Not far off was the third strength obstacle in only 0.3 miles, the Iditarod pull. A sled-pull made from kids snow sleds laden with sandbags that we had to pull like dogs. After this gauntlet of muscle burners, my legs were on fire. The final obstacle was a balance run on old light posts before running a 1-mile lap with no obstacles and then doing it all over again before finishing.
For being a small event of 200 runners put on by a local community enrichment group in a small town in eastern Iowa, this race went beyond my expectations. I am extremely happy to see small local events embracing obstacle course racing. There are always a million and three different 5ks that this or that local charity put on but there is a growing number adding some obstacles and by doing so, adding more fun to the “fun run.” I will definitely be coming back to do this race next year (and maybe learn how to curl).
Photos courtesy of Justin Smith and Beat the Bitter