BattleFrog Greater Nashville Review

Leading up to the BattleFrog Series Greater Nashville race on April 9, 2016 near Lynnville, Tennessee, Chris ‘Beard’ Accord and Ryan Atkins had been talking all kinds of smack about how difficult the course would be.  I saw quotes like ‘challenge may be an understatement’ and ‘one for the record books.’  Add to that the predicted low of 35 for Saturday morning, and people were pretty damn nervous about Saturday morning.  Living in Middle Tennessee myself and knowing the terrain of the area, I still wasn’t convinced.  Boy was I wrong.  BattleFrog and Wooly’s Off Road Club packed a punch that I’m still feeling down my posterior chain this morning.

BattleFrog Nashville Terrain

The Terrain at Wooly’s Off Road Club (photo credit: Brad Heilwagen)

First the boring stuff – Standard parking ($10) was about a mile from the venue in a mud-free, relatively flat field.  School buses were shuttling people from the parking lot to the venue with such regularity that we never had to wait more than five minutes to go either way.  VIP Parking ($25) was also available right across the road from the entrance to the venue for those who can’t ride or fit on a school bus.  Don’t joke, I literally heard a pregnant lady say, ‘my belly don’t fit on this bus’.  I got there right about 6:00 am, my wife and kids got there at about 11:00 am, and neither of us had to wait in line to park.  The festival area was packed tight between Mooresville Road and some trees.  The only way in or out was to walk underneath a horizontal cargo net with finishing race participants raining mud and dirt on your head.

BattleFrog Nashville Cargo

Cargo Net Over the Entrance (photo credit: Sara Heilwagen)

Apparently BattleFrog took a cue from Cracker Barrel, because everybody going in and out of the venue had to pass through the merchandise tent.  I wonder how sales went.  From there the festival area opened up a bit, but was still fairly long and narrow.  Bag check, potties, changing tents, and showers were all very close together, and the changing tents were heated.  Heated changing tents were especially appreciated given the abnormally low temperatures for this time of year.  There were two food trucks, and although I didn’t catch their names they both looked busy all day.  The only drawback I saw was that the beer tent was way at the end of the festival area and you had to walk around the finish chute to get to the food trucks.  No big deal.

BattleFrog Nashville Showers

A Finisher Gets Creative with the Shower Hose (photo credit: Sara Heilwagen)

The course itself was very spread out, maximizing the nearly 2,000 acres of ‘wooly’ terrain at their disposal.  Not super spectator friendly, since all you could watch from the festival areas was Platinum Rig #2, Cargo Crawl, and Tip of the Spear.  With only 100 yards of bushwhacking and very little mud, we spent most of our time on rocky, double-track ATV trails, going up and down calf and quad-burning hills.  Before the race, Beard told me 5 miles and 1,600 feet of elevation gain, but I saw some GPS readings of 5.25 miles and 1,875 feet of elevation gain per lap.  With every step there was potential for ankle sprainage.  Up the hills, running turned into power hiking, which turned into the occasional rest-step.  Definitely not a ‘runner’s course’.  I saw a lot of ‘elites’ who were on the fast train to crampy town, and after two laps the BFX tent looked like a Civil War field hospital.

BattleFrog Nashville Hills

Runners Head Uphill Immediately at the Start (photo credit: Sara Heilwagen)

The obstacles were typical of what has become the new standard for BattleFrog:  modular construction and multiple skill levels.  Logs and wooden beams have been replaced with lightweight aluminum bars.  Not quite as natural feeling, but I can see what they’re trying to do.  I only wish they’d bring back the round bars on the 60 degrees obstacle because the square bars are pretty tough on the nuts.  I was really looking forward to trying the new “Weaver” obstacle, and was disappointed to see that for this race the weaver was essentially laying on the ground.  The volunteer told me to just bear crawl across, and later in the day I saw they had it surrounded with caution tape.  Not quite sure what the story is there.

BattleFrog Nashville Weaver

Athletes Bear Crawl OVER the Weaver (photo credit: BattleFrog Series)

Walls, ramp walls, inverted walls, and both platinum rigs now have three skill levels:  novice, intermediate, and elite.  On the walls, where the elites may have a smooth wall to attack, the intermediate and novice have a few extra footholds for support, making it feasible for just about everyone.  Only the male elites are required to do the elite rigs, which at this race were absurdly difficult.  Rig #1 was on a windy hilltop right after the wreck bag carry.  So you’d get all sweaty coming up the hill with a wreck bag, then stand in line on a windy hilltop shivering in the cold breeze before attempting the brutal combination of ring – pipe – pipe – ring – pipe – pipe – rest…I don’t know what the rest was because I never finished the damn thing.  The elite women had it a little easier in the intermediate lane, and the novice lane was a pretty cushy combination of rings, footholds, and ropes.  This new arrangement made the platinum rig a doable obstacle for all but about 10% of participants.  Elite Platinum Rig #2 started out with a sagging horizontal rope (no feet allowed), transition to two round bars, then rope – ring – ring – rope – pipe – ring (said in my best Adam Kwitko voice).  Intermediate had it a little easier with ring – rope – bar – bar – bar – rope – ring – ring – long pipe – ring, which was totally doable because I actually did it myself and I’m no ninja warrior.

BattleFrog Nashville Platinum Rig 2

Elite Female Andi Hardy Attempts Platinum Rig #2 (photo credit: Sara Heilwagen)

As an aside, I really appreciated how involved the BattleFrog Pro Team and Elites were in the kid’s races.  I saw Ryan Atkins, Lindsey Webster (with Suunto), Corinna Coffin, and Laura Messner out on the course giving words of encouragement to the kids.  Coach Pain even gave them a little motivational speech.  It was clear that the kid’s course wasn’t just an afterthought.

All in all, the BattleFrog Nashville race turned out to be a great event for the whole OCR family.  You can see how much they’ve adapted to the changing times and feedback from participants.  I’ve heard a lot of people talking crap about how they change too much and how with only 1,600 participants at an event they can’t keep going.  I really hope they do.  By including open, elite, and BFX distances, as well as novice, intermediate, and elite obstacle levels at all their events, they satisfy the OCR needs of weekend warriors and extreme athletes alike.  Although I’m not currently a season pass holder, I will be very soon. If you haven’t done one of these, you really should.

BattleFrog Nashville TreeCargo

Female Stars of the Upcoming Fox Reality Show American Grit Climb the Tree Cargo (photo credit: Ryan Richey)

So in honor of our friend Merle Haggard, who passed away just last Wednesday at the age of 79, I offer you this song to the tune of the first verse of The Fightin’ Side of Me.

I hear people talkin’ bad, about the BattleFrog Series.  Harpin’ ‘bout their platinum rigs, and gripin’ ‘bout the way things oughta be.  I don’t mind ‘em switchin’ races, and getting’ medals of all shapes and sizes.  When they’re puttin’ down this series, man, they’re walkin’ on the fightin’ side of me.

They’re walkin’ on the fightin’ side of me.  Putting down a series that keeps changin’ to align with all our needs.  If you ain’t done it, try it!  Let this song that I’m singin’ be a warnin’.  When you’re puttin’ down this series, boss, you’ walkin’ on the fightin’ side of me.

BattleFrog Nashville Medals

BattleFrog Elite and Open Wave Medals (photo credit: Sara Heilwagen)

BattleFrog Nashville TipoftheSpear

Athletes Attempt Tip of the Spear, Elites on the Left, Intermediate on the Right (photo credit:  Sara Heilwagen)

BattleFrog Nashville Coach Pain

Coach Pain Demonstrates the 8-Count Body Builder to Open Wave Participants (photo credit: Sara Heilwagen)

BattleFrog Nashville Kids

Completing the Last Obstacle of the BullFrog Mile with Race Director Ryan Atkins Overseeing (photo credit: Sara Heilwagen)

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Brad Heilwagen

Brad Heilwagen is that guy that you might recognize from some race last year but you can't remember where.That's ok, I wouldn't remember me either.
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