Dirt Runner, the permanent obstacle course located in Northern Illinois, held this year’s first winter OCR – Warrior Rush Winter Soldier – on Saturday December 3rd. With the popularity of cold weather races starting to rise, I figured I’d better bundle up and join in on the fun. Dirt Runner, the former home of the Illinois Spartan and Battlefrog races, is known for its rugged terrain and demanding obstacles. With temps hovering around freezing most of the day and light winds, I was just praying to God that there weren’t any water obstacles on the course! Winter Soldier offered a one lap option for the open class, a 2 lap option for the elite class, and a three lap option for those who really wanted a test. Each lap was a 2.1 mile juggernaut packed with 30+ obstacles that were bad ass.
Starting off in the main festival area, athletes were led along a muddy trail to a series of over, under, and through obstacles and low tunnel crawls, which served as a warm up for the weighted carries that were to follow. Snaking through the trail of prairie grass, D.R. set up a concrete block carry, followed closely by a rock filled bucket carry, and ending with a large log carry. Next up was a series of wall climbs ranging in size from 6 to 10 feet, and luckily, that 10-footer had a cheater step! Now back into the forest, we were led along a trail that was really more mud than trail. Hope you had your shoes tied tight or you might lose one here! It was along this trail of slop that D.R. had set up their monkey bars before sending us back into the woods and ravines – a D.R. hallmark. This trail wasn’t muddy but instead filled with leaf chocked hills and valleys.
Now being led back towards the festival area, athletes came upon a couple of wall climbs. A delta ladder and an inverted wall were blocking our path as we made our way around on the trail and onto some of the signature D.R obstacles. A series of three spinning balance logs suspended 5 feet in the air was a sure test of balance which led us to a series of sternum checkers that varied in size all the way up to 6 feet. Now it was on to the frog hops, set in a water-filled pit, logs of varying heights were placed to test your balance or to test if your shoes were waterproof. Next up was a tire and rope climb after which athletes were led to an underground long ass low crawl. Once out of the tube was a rope traverse over some very cold water and a balance log suspended over a marsh pit. From here, we ran along the trail back to the festival area for the last bunch of physically demanding obstacles.
The obstacles came fast and furious at this point of the race with very little running in between. A wall climb was followed right away by a Z traverse wall. Then it was onto a series of inverted walls and two delta ladders. Another spinning balance log was next up followed by a 10X semi tire flip and on to a giant slip wall. After climbing down the slip wall another short slip wall needed to be flipped over before climbing up a huge log structure imbedded into the ground. At the top an athlete had to then run down the hill and climb a suspended rope ringing a bell at the top before making their way to a cargo net traverse and an uphill barbed wire crawl. Last but not least obstacle wise was a unique tire drag. D.R. placed a 72 pound Atlas stone inside the semi tire. So you first had to move the stone, then drag the tire, then drag the tire back, and finally retrieve your stone and place it in the semi tire! Now that was the last obstacle, but wait! Before you rang the finisher’s bell 50 burpees were in order. Yep, all that nastiness plus burpees. Now imagine all that for two or three laps!
Although the number of athletes competing was low, those who did compete found we really got our money’s worth. The volunteers were helpful and knowledgeable as always. Never have I raced a short course with so many physically demanding obstacles. As always, parking and pictures at a Dirt Runner event were free and medals, trophies and plaques were presented to participants. Dirt Runner had music pumping the whole time and provided a large bonfire to warm up athletes after the race. As far as winter racing goes, you have to ask yourself a question. Do you have the mental grit to complete obstacles and deal with the cold? Well do you? Try a winter OCR and find out!
44 year old Scott Brackemyer is a self described "Eliteish" racer from Dekalb Illinois. The father of four loves to travel with his family to races to spread the good word of OCR and living a healthy lifestyle.