Dahlonega, Georgia is not the kind of place that immediately comes to mind as a great setting for an OCR, but it should be after the awesome event held there on Saturday, October 26th. This town in the Georgia mountains, about an hour north of Atlanta, and known more famously as the site of a nineteenth century gold rush, was host to the Xtreme Ranger, a 5K obstacle and mud race with an added obstacle – the cold.
While the gold standard for a “cold obstacle” has to be the Arctic Enema at Tough Mudder, the initial shock of the ice and water wears off pretty quickly. But imagine having to slosh, wade and crawl through ice cold mud and water, all while tackling other obstacles as well? We experienced all of these things at Xtreme Ranger. The event was coordinated by and held on the property of Floyd Wimpy and it is easily one of the best local races in the state.
The race was a solid mixture of hills and flat farm land and racers never had a chance to get used to any one type of terrain because as soon as you ran or crawled up an incline, there was a descent. Floyd’s property worked perfectly for this race and by all accounts, the cold couldn’t keep an enthusiastic crowd away. About 300 runners braved the elements and tackled a lot of classic obstacles –logs and balance beams; a cargo net and tire wall; muddy rope incline; etc.
What made this race so great, and also such a huge pain in the ass, was the number of water and mud obstacles, all of which were between 29 and 35-degrees. It was really cold. There was a stretch of about 100 feet where I had to crawl on my back through ice cold muddy water; attempt monkey bars, which I failed and landed me in more cold water; then about 30 feet of a mud crawl under barbed wire; then mud hills; and then a 25-foot wall with slender holds where two soldiers cheerfully sat at the top to encourage and motivate.
After this enervating obstacle quagmire, which the organizers dubbed “Obstacle Alley” runners had to tackle a creek, climb hay bales, crawl through a tunnel and then wait in line for the highlight of the race – the zipline. It is surprisingly, really, why more races don’t incorporate a zipline. This one was not particularly long – maybe, a 100 feet? – but there was no harness. You just held on for dear life, got a running start and zipped over a pond. I made it about three-fourths of the way over before I fell in to five-foot deep water. Then a soggy run up and down more hills; more water; and of course, a viscous, muddy moat at the very end to suck whatever energy you had left before my friend Matt Reynolds greeted everyone at the finish line.
With so much talk these days about shady race organizers and events being cancelled without notice, it is refreshing to see a local, DIY OCR and race director with so much flair and energy. After the event, Floyd spoke to us about future obstacles he wants to build, which can make this course even better. He also wants to continue to work with those of us in the community to ensure this race can be the best it can be. It is for these reasons, I believe Xtreme Ranger is here to stay for OCR enthusiasts and we should all look forward to more events in the future.
Shyam K. Sriram is a professor of political science in Atlanta. He is a proud member of Georgia Obstacle Racers and Mud Runners (GORMR).