BattleFrog Atlanta- Elite Experience

5:32 AM – Arrive at Dunkin Donuts for that sweet elixir of life; the fuel that fires the foolishness; my secret supplement of success; a large coffee– 2 creams – 2 sugars.

5:59 AM – QT, your freshly cleansed bathroom is a prerace delight, so therefore I want to apologize…….

6:16 AM – Roll into the VIP parking like a ballah.

6:24 AM – Look at that Biggest Team tent! It has to be at least 2.5x the size of the Spartan biggest team tent. Le Grand Chapiteau is going to be shading a lot of GORMR monkeys.

6:45 AM – The news flies through the festival area faster than a scalded haint; Elite men will be able to use feet on the Bridge over River Cry. I’m not gonna lie, this makes me happier than a baby in a barrel of boobies.

7:00 AM – It’s going to be a blue bell day, with sun, gorgeous skies, and beautiful temps……Damnnit! Where’s the rain? Where’s the unrelenting wrath of my sweet mistress of nature to level the playing field for those of us advanced of age and less swift of foot?

7:01 AM – Bib on. Numbers scrawled upon my person. Precious elite neoprene band on. GU tucked into my pockets. Time for the prerace jog.

7:15 AM- The call is made. Time to assemble in the starting corral.

Observations on the Run:
Readers note: *** = second lap thoughts

1. Coachpaine gets everyone pumped up. He tweaks the elites with regards to the Masters.
2. Having Overs, 12’ wall and Throughs right out of the gate requires a jackrabbit start to avoid the inevitable back-ups. Granted they are not long waits in the competitive wave, but it’s still precious time. Unfortunately I’m more off a jackass off the starting line.

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3. Damn heart is pounding like a fucking jackhammer! What the hell, all these jacks and no cokes!
4. The scorched earth of the Hill Scramble would have been more fun with some rain.
5. I still approach Unders with my damn brain yelling, “should I dive?! Should I roll?” This translates into……you guessed it; a form with no form. Less Bond, more Bean.
*** It’s just rolling a dead body under the wall at this point.
6. As I drop into the trees I get my breathing somewhat under control. Not exactly Kwai Chang Caine, but not Michael Meyers either.
*** Random dude #10 comes up beside me and gives me some encouraging words. We chat for a bit. His enthusiasm and pace put a little pep in my step. We chat and run together for a bit then he moves on.
7. So I’m climbing the Delta Ladder, my balls pretty much in my face because these damn 4x4s are spaced so far apart it seems like my right foot is behind my head, and this volunteer is yelling “the record is jumping from the 4th rung! I want to see from 5! Who’s going to break the record?!” “Are you fucking kidding me?!” I think while making my way down. “What kind of dumbass are you, inviting certain injury?!” I love my volunteers loud and enthusiastic (it’s just a great feeling to bathe in their joy of the sport and giving back, and much more appreciated than they will ever know), I don’t want them loud and moronic. Congratulations dude, you have become the very first inductee into Tretsch’s OCR Douchebag Hall of Fame (TOD HOF) – volunteer category.
*** TODHOF inductee #0001 has moved on, or has shut his piehole. I’m too busy trying to keep my overstretched hips from exploding to look around.

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8. Twisty downhill and – groan! – uphill wooded trails. Dappled sunlight. Perfect morning temps.
*** Fucking dappled sunlight! I sure could use some clouds and some rain.
9. It’s dry. Bone dry. Not a playful puddle in sight.
10. The butt-scootch method on Wedge Donovan isn’t so speedy when it’s not covered in mud and raining. Note to self; adapt to the nice conditions not just the shitty ones. A volunteer is cranking some good tunes from his cellphone.

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11. The 12’ Rope Wall is out in the open, surrounded by cracked earth, and baking in the golden radiance of a hot Georgia sun. Those ropes are going to be dryer than a popcorn fart. Which is nice.
12. I hit the 8’ Wall with a halfhearted attempt that leaves my right hand grasping diddly squat. “Well that’s embarrassing” I think as random dude #1 gives me a “you got this” on his way over.
13. For the second BattleFrog race in a row the first hydration station is not fully set up and we have to pour ourselves refreshment. The struggle is real.
*** I pull out a mustard packet. Such a delicious accompaniment to the electrolyte drink.
14. As I make my way through some great wooded trails I can hear the distinct sound of cowbells. Christopher Walken runs with me in my mind.
*** One of my GORMR teammates who is running BFX cruises on up to me. We chat and run together a bit, and then he moves on.
15. The Rope Climb is hanging from a cable strung between two trees. All of them deliciously dry. I pick a thick monster of a rope (no knots; they get in the way) to the far left. It gives an unsettling amount as I put my full weight on it. A weird sensation to be sure. I wish this climb was higher if not for the fact it’s over hard packed forest floor.

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16. I’m stalled out in a RosePose on the 6’ Wall, because random dude #2 decides to come up tight to my right side and I don’t want to kick him in the head. I need to learn the flip technique to my left. I need to learn the flip technique period. I’m tired of pinching my jibberstick and racking my hairy space hoppers on the leg over-straddle technique.
17. I really have to pee.
18. What is this strange dry gritty substance where my shoes find such good purchase?
19. “Try out the new shoe tying trick that’s all over Facebook,” I thought. “Don’t want to leave a good eyelet unused” I said. Than why the fuck does my right heel feel like it’s going to be worn down to bone by the end of this race?! It’s too early in the race for this shite, and I have no time for retying. I need a water obstacle to cool the foot fire.
*** Fucking heel! I’m not watching life hack videos ever again!
20. I hit the Delta Cargo, after pouring some water in my head and on my head, at the same time as random dude #3. This is a perfect opportunity to test my theory that the “Flip & Crab” ™ is faster than doing a leg over and then climbing down backwards. We both reach the top at the same time [Side note: To my newbie OCR friends who are climbing nets in a crowd; remember to only grab the vertical sections of rope/strap to avoid getting your hands stepped on.] I flip, he throws a leg. Suddenly, somehow, I’m staring straight down at the dirt 16 feet below me, my fingers in contact with………..NOTHING! And for that millisecond while the OCR gods decide to which side I will end up on this fulcrum of OH-fuckery, there is absolute molecule soaking terror. Time slows down and everything moves in exquisite John Woo slow motion, minus the white doves, as I teeter over the abyss. And then the OCR gods reach a decision and my fingers find straps. I crab walk down, my heart about to go all Ellen Ripley out of my chest, and I’m twenty yards down the trail by the time random dude #3 reaches the bottom of the net.
*** More people on the net this time, as the open wave and BFX runners have been passing me. Flip & Crab ™ goes off without a hitch. Still proves to be faster.
21. Fuck! THAT was scary.
22. “Well hello Jerry Can brothers! Shall we go for a stroll?”
23. This gloriously desiccated trail is rather narrow. “Keep going! Don’t Stop! Why thank you random dudes #4 through 8 for stopping to the side – on what little shoulder there is. Damn! I think I got this fucker! Yikes! Vertical wall to my left, small cliff to my right! Shit! Crowded hairpin turn with a big step up! Don’t stop! Hey, there’s the camera guy! Do I go for Blue Steel, a smile or gritted teeth?” The struggle is real. “There’s the finish! Don’t stop! Last little steep part Dig in!” Boom! “See you boys on the next lap!”
*** “OY! These feel heavier this time! The previous cans may have been a bit light on the water. I can’t be that tired!” I go from zero stops on the first lap to three on this one. Shit! On the way to TOTS, BattleFrog’s own David Moore introduces himself. We run and chat for a bit.
24. Fuck! My forearms and fingers are pumped out! No problem, I’ll just shake them out for a while as I run to the next……oh shit!
25. Tip of the Spear looked at lot further from the cans on the map! But the A-frames are dry and the ropes are manila. Ain’t gonna be but a thing!
26. I avail myself of the bushes and give my forearms a few more precious seconds of rest. “Hey, is that the Yellow River? Why can’t we be in there?”
27. I put my weight on the first rope and my forearms immediately demand an explanation for all this tomfuckery. “OOO boy! This is going to be a long obstacle! What the hell; an extra 8 feet of the ledger boards? That’s some evil shit right there.” My forearms are screaming bloody murder by the time the bell comes into reach.
*** The multiple stops at the cans of crazy, actually make TOTS easier this lap.
28. As I approach the Wreck Bag Carry I see some of the leaders dropping off their bags. I am sure this will be the last time I lay eyes on them.
*** Fasciculation flutters start to tickle my calves as I approach the bag pick up. Uh oh! I pound my last mustard packet…and no water in sight. I’ll be burping on that for a while.

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29. Dry grass trail and moderate hill grade?! What a treat! I can’t get more than a power walk up the hill. The rule of not letting the bag touch the ground while negotiating the 4 foot wall seems to be a bit goofy when I need only rest the bag on the wall as I climb over. The guy who got beaned in the noggin by a Wreck Bag in South Carolina would probably tell me to fuck off. As I jog downhill I get to shout out to a fellow Grey Beret coming up the hill. Unfortunately this will be the last time I see him.
*** I see another good friend coming up the hill as I stumble down the hill. “Good for you dude! You have made up some serious ground!!”
30. Nothing but a flat, dry and dusty dirt road for as far as the eye can see. Which is nice.
31. The volunteers at Slant Walls and Inverted Walls are loud and funny. I can’t help but smile.
*** The flutters turn into 10,000 volts of electricity as my left calf says “Howdy DOO! Fuck you!” Now I’m going to have to launch off my right foot. Awkwardness ensues.
32. I finally feel the need to drink some of the electrolyte stuff. Compared to the sloppy seconds of Succubus that was at Tough Mudder, this drink tastes like a ’47 Chateau Latour.
33. Dirty Name looks a whole more menacing over dry land. The ol’ jump, hug and spin move, while not elegant, works flawlessly. Hugging trees is what I do.
34. Mud Mounds finally! Time to get wet….finally! I have been worrying about these since the course map was released. They are far into the race, and if they are anything like South Carolina AND I’m by myself, I may very well not get out of the pits. The mounds are smaller! Annnnd, the first pit is shin deep. What the hell? The next two not much deeper. The water does feel good though. I must be getting tired and loopy, because I swear I smell coffee.
** David Moore (man, does it ever help to run with someone when you’re getting low in the tank) clears up my previous confusion and tells me, in fact there is coffee in the water and scattered on the mud mounds. This caffeinated delight all provided by a new sponsor. The sign “Mounds of Grounds” now makes sense and I feel a little bit less crazy. This is by far the BEST sponsor tie-in of any obstacle in the OCR world (yeah, I’m looking at you TM with your dumbass “skidmarked” name for an inverted wall). Genius. Now just make the damn things taller and deeper. D-Mo and I chat and run together a bit, then he moves on.
35. The dusty road to Perdition finally comes to an end as I take a sudden right and drop right into a scene plucked straight from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Primeval swamp? check. Wicked looking trees, black and menacing, rising form the fetid waters? Check. Candles throughout? Check. Wait! What? Scattered throughout the approach and into the water are Tiki torches assumedly filled with citronella oil. This is a great mosquito control idea on Battlefrog’s part, or volunteers setting the mood for some OCR sexy time. Either way I hit the vertical Swamp Cargo net with Captain Jack all googly eyed and slurry running all floppy through my mind. I use the flip technique here as well, but manage to take a shot to the gut with the support cable before I do. Ooof!
36. Swamp Cargo part dux is a bit of a challenge with the sloppy slippery face of the wall to negotiate before getting the net. Luckily a tree and two small roots prove effective at combating gravity. I can hear the music! The end…..of the first lap…..is nigh. My watch a happy harbinger of good news, as I calculate the first lap will happen in under an hour and I will get out ahead of the 8:30am BFX/first open wave at the backup causing first few obstacles.
37. The Festival area is fully awake now with (the more manageable decibel levels) sounds of great music and abuzz with the activity of spectators and racers as I round the corner and come out from under the trees. Despite the sun and dry weather 60 Degrees is still a bit slick with mud. And like in South Carolina, careful deliberate movements are the name of the game. My transition is still as awkward as a baby giraffe learning to walk.
38. I hear the cries of the grass gasping for water so I oblige by wiping my hands all over their shriveled blades. Monkey Bars are but 50 yards dead ahead.
39. UNLIKE South Carolina, not only are the ground and sky devoid of water but so are the monkey bars. Bonus! they start on an upward climb and end with a downward climb instead of the harder reverse! The overall length is just as long however. The whole assembly is so low to the ground to mitigate injury, as there is not an inviting muddy water pit below, that I must crouch down to avoid splitting my melon on the first two bars. All goes smoothly.
*** Redemption from South Carolina! The second lap goes even more smoothly than the first. As I drop down to the platform I yell. A loud primal yell. Guttural. Impassioned. Spontaneous. An Arms out, fists clenched, teeth bared kind of yell. I probably looked like Wolverine….except for the claws, the mutton chops…..oh, and the muscles, and the good looks. Shit! Never mind.

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40. As I run up to Bridge over River Cry, there are racers climbing, racers falling and racers standing there with “what the fuck?!” expressions on their faces. I pick a lane where random guy #9 is just about to finish. I have no idea what to expect. I have never climbed a caving ladder. Hell I’ve never even seen one in person. The damn thing is barely a hand and a half wide. It is clear it will require slow deliberate movements while keeping my weight completely centered on the rungs lest it rotate unexpectedly. “That pool of water looks to be rather shallow,” I think. But there is no time for reflection, only action. I’ll figure out how to transfer to that girthy 15’ tall wood pole when I get there. It has huge jugs on it so I’m not too worried……I think. It’s a wobbly awkward start reaching out to the furthest rung I can to lessen the number needed to finish. I pull my feet up and make the first tentative moves; hand, hand, foot on rung, foot on rung. As the pitch of the ladder gets steeper I decide to be more cautious and lessen the strain on the arms by wrapping my legs over the ladder and proceeding with a rope traverse type technique. I never look past the next rung my hand needs to go to. I don’t want to see how far I still have to go. At the end I grab a jug, cut feet, spin and cling to the pole. “You wondrous wooden shaft!” I say as climb down. My elite band is safe for the first lap.
*** Disaster almost strikes near the top when my left hand miscues and the cable ends up between my ring finger and my angry finger. The cable bites in hard as a good portion of my weight is supported by the two fingers on the rung. I manage to get my right hand on the next rung in time. I repeat the same transition as lap one and hit the ground with another guttural yell. My brain and body both in accord that I will finish with my band.

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41. I don’t get to do the Tsunami until the end. This makes me sad.
42. There is no cool lap transition obstacle. This makes me sad.
43. Repeat 1 through 40. Refer to ***
44. Finally I get a run at Tsunami. There is no long flat run up to the obstacle as in past races, but this proves not to be an issue with it being so dry. Out of superstition I pick the far right rope and in the immortal words of James Brown, “Get on up!” And without stopping I make for the slide. My apologies to random dude #11 who was sitting on the lip waiting to slide. I think I came really close to you as I jumped up to fall into the slide. Dick move on my part.

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45. I crawl through the Normandy Jacks as fast as I can, my back pressed against the wires. I’m too tired to crawl on my belly.

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46. And for the third time that day I yell out a scream as I cross the finish line. I’m done and I’m still rockin’ the rubber! It’s 9:30 AM and it’s a fine day.
47. What can I say, this race rocked! Dryer than I liked? Yes. Not enough water obstacles? Yes. But this is BattleFrog, if there are places for improvement it will be done. You want to be challenged, this is your race. Tretsch says DO it!

Postscript

For the first time I am able to hang for a while after the race and really soak in the atmosphere. The Music is at the right volume and the sun is shining. A couple of beers, some great fellowship, many laughs, much cheering for fellow Grey Berets/GORMRs and general goofing off makes for a fantastic morning.

1:00 PM – Thank god for biggest team perks. I hobble to my car only a hundred yards from the festival entrance.
1:03 PM – It’s going to be a long 40 miles………………………………………………….

*Photos By: Tiffany Rae Flock, John Montoya, Daniel Firment, Andy Sneller, and SeiberShots Photography.

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Tretsch

Robert A. Tretsch, III, aka “Tretsch”, is a gentleman architect and founder of the Grey Berets who revels in the pursuit of mud, obstacles and the occasional podium step.
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