I’ll never forget my first “big name” obstacle race. It was the Spartan Sprint in Pennsylvania. I asked Hobie Call what I should expect out of the course. He answered, “hills.” I quickly learned “hills” is a very relative definition—especially for this Mississippi Girl. In my part of Mississippi, the Gulf Coast, which is about 15 feet above sea level, Hobie’s “hills” are known as mountains. That’s what I get for taking advice from a guy who lives in Utah.
What the heck does my first big name race have to do with the Superhero Scramble Carolina Intimidator? Hills. (AKA Mountains). The terrain and the endless “hills” are first and foremost in my mind when I recall my Superhero race experience at Carolina Adventure World. And once again, what most of my OCR friends refer to as hills, I still call mountains, even though I know it makes them laugh at me.
Overall, I loved the race. The course was very challenging. This was my second Superhero Scramble, and I have been happy with both experiences. Superhero is definitely one of the “big names” in obstacle racing, and I would recommend Superhero races to anyone.
The terrain was a great obstacle in itself. Superhero did a great job of utilizing the property. The hills were endless. I found myself walking, more like trudging, at many points in the race. I spent a little time before the race researching the terrain on Youtube. Carolina Adventure Park, in Winnsboro, South Carolina, is an ATV park which was also home to the 2012 South Carolina Spartan Beast. Although, I wasn’t fortunate enough to do the Beast last October, it’s nice to race in a place that’s already been raced in. You can always find someone who used a GoPro TM camera and is willing to share it with the world. There’s also tons of online photos and videos of folks on ATV’s in the park.
There was a great mix of running on dirt and rock ATV trails and stretches of muddy trails and ATV mud bogs. We also spent time running on single track wooded trails and even ran through a few creeks and branches. The footing was a mix of orange clay, black dirt, rocks, and gravel. Some of the trails had tree roots, rocks and all types of vines and briars that seemed to jump out and grab you. Someone ahead of me took a serious head-over-heels tumble. I even had a few less-than-graceful moments on the course with a head-over-heels tumble myself. My Inov-8 X-Talon 190’s performed very well on the diverse terrain.
I’ve heard several say about Superhero Scramble, in general, and even about this course, that it is a runner’s OCR. This was most certainly a runner’s course. There was a ton of running. Did I mention the hills were endless? It was like a non-stop assault, one after another. By mile two, I was already praying for the finish line. At one point on the course, we had to climb a really steep rock bank down by the creek. I remember my friend, Jill Kenney, was on her way down, while I was on the way up. My legs were cramping, and I was delirious. We were only at mile seven. I yelled, “I miss Florida,” as we met each other. “This sucks,” she agreed. The Florida Superhero slammed me with endless swimming and running on a flat course. In South Carolina, it was the hills, and more hills.
I won’t give a play-by-play of all the obstacles. You can check them out for yourself at the Superhero Scramble Web and Facebook page. Even so, the obstacles are the reason I do OCRs, and are the most important part of these races for me. In fact, I believe Superhero needs more obstacles. But, then again, I think every OCR needs more obstacles. I also want the obstacles to be harder in every race, too, especially for the women. Oftentimes, OCR course designers make it way too easy for us ladies. So, maybe I’m biased. In comparing Superhero obstacles and Spartan obstacles, I think that overall Spartan’s obstacles do edge out Superhero in terms of skill and difficulty.
Perhaps one of the biggest obstacles, other than the terrain, was the distance. I started the race and ran the first 8 miles expecting that distance. I didn’t get the memo that the course was actually a little more than 10 miles, and was shortened last minute from around 12 miles. I’m sure you can imagine my dismay when I hit mile 8 on my GPS, and I was still in the deep hills of South Carolina with only the sound of my footsteps to keep me company. Afterward, I came across an obstacle and a volunteer yelled out, “You’re at mile nine, you’ve got 1.5 miles to go!” My soul was crushed. This is the second time Superhero mentally challenged me. The first time was at the Florida Intimidator with the swims.
Superhero advertises 25+ obstacles for their mid-distance Intimidators. As I try to recount my race experience, I recall around 17-ish. I’m not so sure if my definition of obstacle is different than Superhero’s, or if they count the mud pit that is part of the rope climb as two? The obstacles that I do recall were standard-grade race obstacles–nothing too fancy or special. But, obstacles don’t have to be elaborate or special to make a great race. They just need to be relatively challenging, safe, and fair. And, did I mention, I’d like more?
I was happy to see the rope climb, as my last Superhero in Florida did not include one. However, the location of the rope climb was not well-placed. It created a bottleneck as it was within the first mile, or so, of the race. I remember getting to the obstacle and having to wait for two people ahead of me to climb it. Afterward, as I rounded the corner to climb the cargo net above the rope climb pit, I saw the crowd was growing bigger and bigger. I imagine folks from the second heat probably had to wait for people in the first heat, too, which is very frustrating as a racer, “elite” or not.
I love how Superhero has several obstacles at the end of the race all together. The rolling mud, the wall, fire and ice, a mud crawl, which lacked the super slime I encountered in Florida, and the gladiators were all smashed together at the end. I call it a “gauntlet.” It’s so nice to have a crowd cheering at the end. It also makes for an interesting finish if you have two racers next to one another.
I admit I was disappointed with the lack of volunteers on the course at a few obstacles. While the volunteers’ jobs are certainly important from a safety standpoint, I think they play an even bigger role in the elite heats, AKA the “Scramble Gamble” in Superhero land, by keeping the race fair and limiting unfair advantages at obstacles. Every second counts in an obstacle race. I recall one of my teammates and fellow racers having to tell another racer on the cargo net that he was not allowed to use the telephone pole in the middle to get across. Where were the volunteers? This was particularly frustrating at the tractor pull. There were zero volunteers at that obstacle. With no direction, how are racers supposed to know what on earth to do? Also, how are racers going to be held accountable for penalties and obstacle completion?
Obstacle Course Racing League and Scramble Gamble
This is my absolute favorite part of Superhero Scramble. Other OCRs have team components, too, but none of them celebrate and reward the team aspect like Superhero. I love racing with a team. It’s also nice that you can “double dip,” and take home team and individual prizes. Teams are great ways to create awareness for OCR. Kudos to Superhero Scramble’s organizers for being at the forefront of recognizing the value of OCR team racing.
I commend the dozens of volunteers that I had the pleasure of encountering during registration and on the course. I sincerely appreciate them for what they do. Without volunteers, these races would not be possible. Many of the Superhero volunteers I encountered were great at explaining the tasks racers were to perform, and they were all super encouraging. I was so glad to see their faces at the obstacles after running for what seemed like hours alone in the woods. It was a great morale boost to hear their encouraging words. Thank you, volunteers!
There were two. It was a 10-mile course. That was fine with me. Superhero did their job and advertised what they’d be offering. I actually chose not to carry my hydration pack on the course. I had no gels, either. I wouldn’t have changed my hydration choices, but I may have carried gels. I really underestimated the amount of hills, and I was oblivious to the distance. Next time, I’ll pay better attention. The course took me about two hours. The two water stations were enough for me with the overcast weather conditions. If it were sunny, I would have certainly carried my pack.
The race was about 15 minutes late on the start time. I wasn’t surprised. The Florida Superhero was a little over 30 minutes late. I heard many in the start line there tell me that has been their experience with Superhero races.
Despite the great race course and wonderful time I had, the penalty standards, just as in all OCRs I have participated in thus far, lacked uniform enforcement for various reasons. Superhero is no exception. It appears that volunteers are not properly trained by the race organizers, and then in return, many racers do half the work–not doing all their reps, or not doing the full movement, or even blatantly disregarding the volunteers trying to correct them. In the process, these racers shave minutes off their penalty time over the course of the race. It is very frustrating to see a racer doing “burpees” and realizing they are not doing the full range of motion. I saw several folks competing for money in the Scramble Gamble doing what I call “cheater burpees.” No matter the reason/cause a racer cheats in a course, it is the race company’s responsibility to protect their own reputation and the other racers from cheating/unfair advantages—whether intentional or unintentional. It is especially problematic when a race company has offered up prize money for their race.
I understand this is a huge undertaking, and that it will not happen overnight. We may never find a perfect solution, either. But more effort in that department would be moving in the right direction, and would bring more professionalism to our sport. A great start would be publishing standards videos, even via iPhone, on the spot, ahead of the race. Superhero is not the only OCR company tasked with enforcing uniform standards and fairness. I hope they will take the lead in this area, though. The company that takes this seriously, will become the leader amongst all the hundreds of companies trying to make a name for themselves in this new sport.
Again, overall, I give this race a big thumbs up. The course terrain, the super volunteers, and the obstacles deliver a great overall experience combined with the team racing element. I would certainly race this course again, and I will certainly be racing with Superhero Scramble again. Superhero is one of the top OCR brands for competitive obstacle course racers. Keep up the great work, y’all!
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- Superhero Scramble Intimidator Review, South Carolina - July 11, 2013