For the recent Superhero Scramble in North Georgia, we decided to give you two recaps of this race.
One from an OCRelite and one from an OCRacer.
There are many definitions out there for these different kinds of athletes, here is how we at ORM are going to define them today and moving forward.
An OCRacer is someone who is fanatical about obstacle races and mud runs. This person does multiple races a month, sometimes weekly. They are not going to win a race outright or place near the very top. They may be working towards personal bests and age group wins, but are not going to be gunning for Hobie Call.
An OCRelite is someone who trains and races with winning in mind. They may also do heats for fun once in a while, but 95% of their training, meals, gear, etc. are directed towards winning a race or placing at the very top. They may or may not have sponsorships in the form of money or product.
An obstacle race, mud run with a superhero theme that encourages participants to dress as superheroes? OMG. It’s as if my whole life has led to this. I have always loved superhero comic books and I have found a relatively new mistress in obstacle racing. Superhero Scramble pairing the two is as awesome as the 1978 DC Comics team up of Superman and Muhammad Ali. (Pic)
Each race in the series also features the Scramble Gamble — a money heat offering cash payouts. Prize money is awarded to the first three male and female individual finishers and the first three four-person teams, ensuring that the top obstacles racers in the world would be on hand, decked out in their cult-like uniform of black short-shorts, no shirts, no socks, no body fat, and no body hair.
Although I am far from competing at the level that has me worrying about cash payouts (or depilatories), there was no doubt I would enter Superhero Scramble when it came to Georgia. I just had to decide what comic book character I would portray.
My first thought was Bizarro, the demented, decaying misunderstood Superman doppelganger. But, like Superman, Bizarro wears a cape. I didn’t want my cape snagging on any obstacles and choking me, or even worse, slowing me down. I needed to go with someone without a cape or mask. The choice was obvious: Black Adam.
Kick’n it with Christ
The race was held in the rural Redwine Cove area of Dalton, Georgia in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Dalton is located just off Interstate 75, about an hour and a half north of Atlanta and 40 minutes south of Chattanooga, TN. Upon exiting I-75, you know you are going the right way when you pass the vibrant 15 foot high, 60 feet long, “Kick’n it with Christ” wooden banner spanning between two rickety ol’ shacks just off the road.
The race venue at Redwine Cove is amazing. It is part of the Chattahoochee National Forest and is full of trails that go over and through streams, creeks, furloughs, hills, and steep inclines – all the ingredients of a great trail run. On race day, thanks to early morning torrential rain showers Redwine Cove was a wonderful, slippery, sloppy, muddy mess – perfect for a great mud run.
With great power comes great responsibility
Participants put trust and faith in the companies putting on any OC event. This gives race directors great power. With this power, race companies have the responsibility to provide a challenging, fun, and yet safe race environment while taking care of our friends and family waiting for us back at the finish line.
For the most part, Superhero Scramble lived up to these expectations.
Superheroing ain’t easy, so to watch my back on race day I brought a brave squadron of mighty heroes (my wife, 3 ½ year old son, and 16 month old daughter). I piloted the Suburban Assault Vehicle (a 2004 Chrysler mini-van) into the race site at just after 8 am, paid the $10 parking fee, and parked with no problems. Despite the rain and mud elsewhere at the venue, the ground of the parking lot remained firm. Pulling out of the lot at the end of the day was as easy as it was to pull in that morning.
Packet pickup was relatively easy, but everyone in early waves seemed to have bibs in the same span of numbers. Since the registration lines were organized by race number, this caused several mostly empty lines and one long line with about a 10 minute wait. Not a big deal, but still something I noticed. There was a $10 spectator fee. We paid in advance online, and there was no problem picking up our spectator credentials.
We learned that the early morning rain showers would delay the first heat which would be the Scramble Gamble. This was understandable. Some of the trail markings were washed out and the intensity of the rainfall made some of the final preparations, usually done right before the start, impossible.
The first heat was pushed back from 8:45 to 9:30. Shortly before 9:30, the elites, including Hobie Call and his Extreme Nation team and the Spartan Race team featuring hometown wunderkind Alec Blenis lined up and were ready to go. They would be held up for as long as 15 or 20 additional minutes before the race finally started. Once started, waves went off more or less on schedule for the next several hours.
Not everyone dressed up, but they should have
The race was very fun. Many participants dressed as favorite superheroes, generic action heroes, and in just plain crazy outfits. There were a few great Jokers; a Hong Kong Phooey (of Saturday morning cartoon fame); a Power Puff Girl; a really great Punisher; The Greatest American Hero (of 1980s primetime TV fame); scores dressed as Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman; a seven-foot tall furry alligator thing; and one Black Adam.
Advertised as 4+ miles with 20+ obstacles, Superhero Scramble Georgia / Tennessee featured many industry favorites, including log carries, sandbag carries, cargo net climbs, over-under-throughs, rope climbs, and 8 – 12 foot wall climbs. There was, however, an issue with one industry standard obstacle at this event. A competitor fell from the balance beam on the course, and according to word of mouth from other participants, there was not enough water in the pit below the beam. The competitor hit bottom faster than anticipated and broke or dislocated his ankle (depending on who you talked to). As I said, the stories I heard were from other participants. I don’t know if the injury was due to improper design or set up of the obstacle or not, but the balance beam was closed for waves that went off later in the morning and all afternoon. I am sure that Superhero Scramble takes this seriously and is addressing the issue. I like the balance beam obstacles (although I have not been able to get across one yet) and hope that they remain in events.
This race also included a few less interesting, less than challenging obstacles that are too common in OCR events, including rows of tires laid flat across the path and undefined ropes strung loosely across the path (to go under, I guess?). The fire jump is another obstacle that is often less than challenging. It may look dramatic and create cool photo ops, but is rarely an actual challenge. Superhero Scramble, however, adds a twist to the plot with an obstacle that, if it isn’t already, should be called “Fire and Ice”*. The line of fire lies in front of a water pit forcing you to really jump over the flames and into the water. The water is at least 4 feet deep and cold — take-your-breath-away, think-you-are-hyperventilating, keep-away-the-brass-monkey cold. To get out of the water pit, you must duck beneath several lines of barbed wire, forcing you under the water – or at least giving you a close up view of the spiked wire.
*Editor’s note: It’s called Hell Freezes Over
As you neared the end of the 4 mile running course, you could see the finish line and festival area down the hill, but you
weren’t done yet. You met a series of slippery mud mounds built alongside watery, muddy trenches. So you are climbing out of a trench, over a mound of mud, and crawling / sliding down the other side of the mud mound into the next trench. The mounds get progressively higher and the trenches get progressively deeper. Pro tip: The mud is slippery. Even if you hear “Gagnam Style” playing from the festival grounds below, don’t try to do that pony dance thing while standing on top a mud mound. You will slip and fall on your ass and slide off the side of the mound. Not that I know from experience or anything.
Two big obstacles added to the fun at the end of the race. One that seems wonderfully familiar and one that is unique in the world of OCR.
First, the wonderfully familiar: The Leap of Faith is a 15 to 20 foot drop from a platform into a deep water pit. Although falling into water is not a physical challenge, jumping off is a mental challenge. It is fun when it is over, but when I am standing on the platform, I am scared and must overcome this fear every time. I have encountered this obstacle before? The Leap of Faith bares a strong resemblance to something I have seen, but I’m not going to say what. It’d be Tough to get that information out of me. I’d walk the plank before I revealed it.
Unique to Superhero Scramble is the combination obstacle of The Super Crunch Wall and Super Slime Slide. The Super Crunch Wall is 25 feet high and set at slightly more than a 90 degree angle. Participants must use ropes to climb the wall Batman-style. Those who can’t or don’t want to climb the wall or complete any other obstacle, must complete a combination of Super Spins and burpees. To do Super Spins, a participant crouches down, resting their forehead on the end of a special wooden stick. They then spin around, keeping one end of the stick on the ground and the other on their forehead. After 10 spins, the participant is now dizzy and must do 10 burpees – a favorite exercise movement among OCR enthusiasts.
Only one way down
After climbing to the top of the Super Crunch Wall, there was only one way down: the Super Slime Slide. A gigantic water slide, splashing into a pool of green slimy water – okay, the slime may not have been fully activated here in Georgia for some reason, but I get the idea and it is a great one. Even without the full slime action, the slide is fast and fun and great for spectators to watch as it is set up alongside the festival grounds, right by the finish line. Exiting the slime, you go through a mud crawl beneath real barbed wire and then must battle through two evil villains with martial arts blocking pads to reach the finish line.
The man-made obstacles were fun, but what made the Georgia / Tennessee Superhero Scramble really … well, super and sets it apart from other events was the natural terrain of Redwine Cove. The running course was killer. Seriously villainous long steep climbs on muddy trails that forced most competitors to walk and even climb to get to the top. At some point the hills were so steep and slick that the organizers laid cargo nets across the trail so, if needed, participants could use them to crawl up the trail. While running in stream beds, the cold flowing water prevented you from seeing the rocky surface below, making you cautious and conscious of where you would step next.
While discussing the difficulty of the terrain, I must stop and acknowledge the most incredible thing I saw at this Superhero Scramble. Throughout this review I made reference to superheroes in keeping with the theme of the event. But I saw a something truly heroic during the race. A man completed the course in a wheelchair. Yes, with the help of his heroic support team, Matthew Pizzuto completed the entire course – seriously villainous long steep climbs, rocky stream beds, progressively higher mud mounds and deeper trenches, Super Slime Slide — all of it. More information is available here.
Go Full Monty or figure something else out
At the end of the race, you got a cool medal, a shirt with the great Superhero Scramble graphic on it, a bottle of water, and a beer. No food. No banana. No recovery drink. No Super Crunch Bar samples. We weren’t promised any of those things, but after a race, they are nice to have and it would be a great way for people to try those bars they keep talking about.
The showers were a hike away from the finish line and to get to them, you had to cross a final, unofficial obstacle of a steep stream bed. There were no changing tents. Participants had to go Full Monty or figure something else out if they wanted to change out of their race clothes. None of these are game breakers or even complaints, just things of which future participants may want to be aware.
My squadron of mighty heroes – my wife and two young children — had a great time at the race. The superhero theme makes it particularly attractive to families, and there were plenty of kids, many in superhero outfits, with whom to run around and play. They loved watching the Super Slime Slide, the final battles at the finish line, and dancing to the DJ music. A large tent in the middle of the fairgrounds was open to all spectators and competitors in case shelter was needed from the rain or sun. The relatively smaller size of the event made it very family friendly and gave kids the chance to run around and still be within eye site of parents and guardians.
Superhero Scramble also offered a kids race that was not just an afterthought. It featured nice pint sized obstacles including a smaller version of the mud mounds and trenches that were so fun in the adult race. All participants received a medal at the finish line presented by obstacle course racing’s first and only celebrity, Hobie Call.
At the end of the day, I regrouped my squadron, satisfied that our job at Superhero Scramble was done. But we would always be near by, standing at the ready to enthusiastically enter future Superhero Scrambles – prepared to uphold truth, justice, and the OCR way.
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