This year’s Muscle Up OCR took place on August 26th in Spragueville, Iowa. Held on the grounds of a working family farm this 3.75-mile race boasted some outstanding scenery with about 1,100 feet of elevation change. Now, that elevation change doesn’t sound so bad until you show up and see the grade of the hills.
The farm is also used as an ATV course, the trails are torn up with steep banks and water runoff grooves down the center making the terrain difficult and physically draining.
Muscle Up provided chip timing for both the open and competitive heats with cash prizes being awarded to the top 2 male and female competitive finishers in 3 different age groups 14-24 25-40 and 41 and over. Obstacle completion is mandatory in the competitive waves while open class runners are offered a “muscle out” option at many of the stations. This provides an easier version of the same obstacle for those new to the sport that maybe can’t complete all the tougher obstacles.
I consider this the best family run OCR in the Midwest for a number of reasons.
- The farm friendly atmosphere. Chances are if you have raced here before they probably remember you and know your name.
- Some of the handmade unique obstacles you will not find anywhere else.
- For a short course, it’s very demanding. Most racers will be gassed at the end.
- Plenty of great views to see while racing.
- Competition level. While not huge in numbers there are always a few awesome athletes who show up to race here.
The course starts off in a fitting location considering it’s held at a working farm. Racers are released every half an hour behind a barn where a herd of goats are penned up and continues along a dirt track for about half a mile before turning racers into the woods.
This is the point where racers face their first obstacle. The path leads through a series of ravines where downed logs were thrown across the path making for a challenging climb. After racers picked their way through the logs and rocks the trail led back out onto the initial dirt track where we first started.
Racers encountered a few sloppy mud pits as the dirt track turned into marsh before being led up a hill and along a game trail. Along this trail, racers were required to pick up a log to make the climb just that tougher.
At the top of the trail was a series of wooden walls which needed to be traversed with your log then further down the path was a mowed out section of prairie grass cut into a circle. Once completed a racer could now drop off their log and proceed along the prairie trail.
Muscle Up used every ditch, ravine, and section of woods to their advantage and just as racers thought the trail was getting easier Muscle Up set up an Atlas Stone throw over a wall with a cargo net climb a short distance away. This led to what I like to call “the endless hay maze.” Now, this wasn’t the actual name of the obstacle but after getting stuck in this pitch-black zig zag maze I thought it was very fitting.
After brushing off the hay and finally getting some oxygen into your lungs racers were now led down a hill towards the festival area, but not before having to cross a rope bridge made up of swinging 4×4 posts and climbing down a ladder.
A sled pull and a tire ladder were waiting for athletes at the bottom before being sent back out on the trail. Steep terrain came into play again as the trail led racers up and down the ATV path in a route design to tire the legs out before being presented a long list of obstacles situated in the flat open field.
First up in this obstacle armageddon was rope swing across a small creek followed up by a rope traverse over that same section of the creek. A monkey bar setup provided your way back across the creek.
A short jog away Muscle Up placed a rope ladder followed up by a long Atlas Stone carry. The last three obstacles set up in this series included a dual bucket carry over a well-constructed set of A frame type ramps with a rope climb immediately after.
The last and perhaps most tricky obstacle was a tire ladder climb. Muscle Up was able to link together a series of tires vertically that swayed and bucked like crazy when you tried to climb up them!
The Final Obstacles
Thoroughly gassed from the energy expenditure on all those obstacles racers were led up a climb that cut through some awesome scenery. Tunnels through weather cut stone was where the trail now went and I really couldn’t help but to look around and take some of it in as I made my way up the path.
The dirt track flattened out once a racer made their way to the top and continued until the trail opened to a section of hurdles made up of 55-gallon drums that were lined up in a row to test one’s leaping ability.
One final climb down a hill was now all that stood in a racers way to the final section of obstacles and the finish line.
A 7-foot wall climb was first up on this last section followed by a series of wooden hurdles. A metal tube provided a low crawl opportunity but not before an American Ninja Warrior style wall lift. I’ve not seen this obstacle anywhere else. A wooden wall was set into a narrow door frame with wheels on the side requiring an athlete to pull the section of wall up in order to scamper to the other side before letting go and having the wall crash back down! Three of these were included in the final section of the course all leading up to a fun water slide which dumped racers into a freezing creek before climbing out and crossing the finish line.
The Festival Area
Since this event is out in the middle of the country Muscle Up did provide a beer/drink tent and had a mobile food truck on site. A shower area was provided, as long as you didn’t mind showering in a barn. A tractor trailer was converted into a sectioned off changing area for athletes needing a change of clothes.
Muscle Up could have used a few more volunteers in key locations such as the log carry and the barrel hurdles during the competitive waves just to keep people honest. The photography for the event was pretty much just people taking shots with their phone which was kind of a shame because of all the neat obstacles. I personally come to this event every year and it’s never failed to meet my expectations.
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