Bluff Valley Campground-Zumbro Falls, Minnesota
One of my love/hate relationships with OCR is the unpredictability of the weather. As Hammer Race states, “There Must Be Tests”, and for the 2018 Spring race, this was no exception. The days leading up to the event I was expecting to get an email stating the event was canceled but instead was re-assured by Event Staff that it would not. As the impending record-setting snowstorm approached; the Staff continued to update racers via social media of the current course conditions, and how they planned to still put on the event; while also taking into the consideration of racer and volunteer’s commute and safety.
Any racer that did not show up to the 2018 Spring Hammer Race due to the weather would be allowed to transfer to the fall race. For a small local event, allowing transfers really highlights the passion and respect the hammer race event team has for its small, but loyal group of race followers.
Last year the start line was filled with people in shorts and summer clothing. The grass was green, it was Spring! This year, Spring didn’t show up. The 20-40MPH winds, temperatures in the 20’s, and snowfall upwards of 1” per hour had the race starting indoors with slight course modifications (a bit shorter, and a few less obstacles). Wave 1 consisted of elite individuals and teams; while wave 2 was the rest of the brave souls who decided to venture into unknown OCR meets blizzard territory. Donning an 8-10lb sledgehammer in hand, each wave charged out of the building and into the great white wilderness. I’m glad the Elites stayed on course and blazed a trail through the snow; as I started in the second heat and was happy to have footprints to follow.
A fair amount of the event is bushwhacked through unforgiving hilly terrain that the area is known for. This terrain is what I feel makes the Hammer Race such a special event. It’s tough running even if dry. The technical, rocky, steep terrain had you crawling and scraping on hands, knees, and hammer to the top of some climbs; just to send you sprawling down the hill on the backside grabbing for branches and small trees to control your descent. These conditions made it challenging even for the most seasoned of runners. The course was just shy of 10 K in distance, similar, but different routing than previous events and slightly shortened due to the weather conditions.
Want to make running more challenging? Carry a Hammer! That’s not enough? Add technical terrain. Still want more? Here’s a snow storm! Did I mention lots of wind? How about some sleet to the face? I for one enjoy a suffer fest. For this, the conditions were epic.
Obstacles generally consisted of the following: Climbing over, climbing under, carrying, dragging or hitting. I hope Hammer Race continues to innovate new obstacles that involve the use of a hammer for future races to keep it fresh.
The way the race directors use the Zumbro Falls terrain may be one of the crown jewels of Hammer Race. In the case of this past weekend, most events (regardless of type) would have been canceled. I’m glad Hammer Race was not. The long relentless Minnesota winter made the race one to remember, and I’m happy I made the drive to experience it. Until next fall, Hammer’s Up!
If you came to this article to find out ‘What is the Hammer Race?’ (Which I did not explain) See the link below: http://obstacleracingmedia.com/race/hammer-race-2017-spring-hammers/