BattleFrog – San Diego: January 2016

Editor’s Note: After our recently published article concerning safety issues, we asked Chris Cow, a seasoned race reviewer for ORM, to note what safety improvements BattleFrog had implemented in this first race of 2016. Chris put lots of attention into this aspect of the review, and did an excellent job reporting on the results he found.

Hooyah!  After 2 years of waiting and hearing rave reviews from events on the East Coast, BattleFrog has finally made the leap (pun intended) to the West Coast.  They kicked off their 2016 season with a race at a new venue east of San Diego this weekend.

BattleFrog dawn SD Jan 2026

The venue itself was a motocross park on an Indian Reservation in the mountains, about 1-1/2 hours from San Diego itself, and featured rolling, sandy hills with windmills spinning in the distance.  The day dawned crisp and cool, and was overcast and a bit windy through much of the day.  Pretty much ideal running conditions, actually.

BattleFrog Elite start San Diego Jan 2016

BattleFrog set up the race with 26 obstacles over a nominal 8k course that measured closer to 5.2 miles by several accounts.  All of the obstacles were very solid and professionally made, many featuring massive steel trussing for support. Coach Pain DeWayne was there at the starting line, and we watched him inspire and send off the elite men, then the male masters division and elite women, followed by the brave souls taking on BFX: BattleFrog Xtreme, in which the goal is to complete as many laps as possible during the day.  When Coach Pain tells you to get ready for the BFX heat, don’t be late.  Oh, and don’t let him see you walk around the short wall at the start corral either.

Coachpain BattleFrog San Diego Jan 2016

Then it was our turn.  The course started off with a fairly long uphill slant to the first obstacle: a standard over/under/through.  Many of the obstacles on the course were fairly standard fare – lots of walls, some tunnels and mud, but many also had twists to them. A 12′ wall with a rope gave many, especially those with a fear of heights, pause, as did a very tall metal A-frame with very widely spaced steps (there was a safety net on the inside of this structure in case someone screwed up).

BattleFrog A-frame San Diego Jan 2016

There was a very interesting wall climb to tunnel slide into a small pond as the only real water crossing, and boy, did that water take your breath away!  Although swimming wasn’t necessary if you were on the taller side or skirted the shore, there were some definite deep spots, and I was pleased to see three lifeguards on hand; two in the water and one standing on the bank to oversee runners’ safety. There was also a sign for a non-swimmers option, though I didn’t see what that option was.

BattleFrog water crossing San Diego Jan 2016

Another interesting obstacle was a slackline balance: elite racers had to cross while stepping on only one line, while open heat runners could use two lines at the same time to cross.

BattleFrog Slackline San Diego Jan 2016

Then there were the Platinum Rigs.  Two of them located at different points in the course to provide a huge challenge to the elite runners (BattleFrog has mandatory obstacle completion for the elites; open heat runners can elect to do a penalty of 10 8-count bodybuilders if they’re unable to do the obstacle).  For those who haven’t encountered these yet, Platinum Rigs have rings, ropes, monkey bars, and other items designed to test your grip strength and agility.  Comparing them to the Spartan Multirig (which many may be more familiar with) is like having a Porsche parked next to the car from the Flintstones that Fred would drive with his feet.  Platinum Rigs are nearly infinitely configurable and can be tuned from “tricky” to “damn near impossible”.

BattleFrog Platinum rig San Diego Jan 2016

The two rigs at the San Diego race were somewhere in the middle. As a volunteer on Friday, I had the opportunity to play on them and found them both doable after a couple of tries. During the race was another matter, and I eventually wandered over and did my bodybuilders in shame after multiple attempts at each.  Several friends who I expected to place very well in the masters division were forced to surrender their wristbands at these monsters.

BattleFrog Platinum Rig2 San Diego Jan 2016

Another obstacle of note was the Weaver, a series of parallel bars where you have to go over one, then under the next, and so on until you reach the end. I’ve seen this one before, but again, BattleFrog added an evil twist; on theirs, the bars were square. And so far, the bruises on arms and legs I’ve seen from it have been spectacular in both color and size. I can’t imagine how it was for the BFX racers who had to do this one 3,4, or 5 times.

BattleFrog Weaver San Diego Jan 2016

Finally, shortly before the finish line, there was BattleFrog’s signature obstacle, Tip of the Spear. This obstacle has steeply inclined walls that you have to traverse with the help of ropes or sometimes wood studs to grip. Again, changes were made – where before the walls were plywood, here they opted for a much more slippery plastic, and the middle section with the inclined hand grips as your only hold were particularly tough.

BattleFrog Tip of the Spear San Diego Jan 2016

Of minor note was a planned waterslide to the finish line that turned out to be a dud; the slope wasn’t really steep enough or the water flow high enough to make it viable, and this was summarily scrapped, leaving just a couple of shallow mud pits before the finish line.

Dr. Bronner’s was on hand with their awesome customized mass shower to wash away the mud with modestly warm water and their foam soap, a big improvement from the hoses that are standard at many events/venues.

BattleFrog’s medals are great (same designs as last year), and their merchandise tent had a wide variety of high-quality items to choose from.  The one minor negative nit that I’ll pick with this race was the choice of beverage for the free beer ticket: cans of Budweiser and Coors Light really don’t cut it when your event is in the heart of craft beer country. They could definitely up their game in this regard.

While the turnout at this race wasn’t huge (they estimated around 800 without counting the volunteers), the crowd that was there represented a core of OCR enthusiasts, and BattleFrog put on a great race that impressed us.

BattleFrog CEO Ramiro Ortiz was at the San Diego event and gave this official statement about the race:

We’re thrilled with the way the San Diego race turned out; this being Ryan Atkins’ first time as Race Director.  It’s our first race of the 2016 season. We’ve also introduced a number of new obstacles and received great feedback from the OCR community. We expect a great season as we expand coast to coast.

BattleFrog Tip of the Spear San Diego Jan 2016

Having (finally) done a BattleFrog event, I am now an enthusiastic fan of this series.  It was professionally run, well-staffed, fun, and challenging.  I can’t wait to try my hand at multiple laps for the BFX in Los Angeles. Fortunately, I don’t have to wait long; they’ll be there in two weeks.  If you are at all interested in obstacle racing and are anywhere in the SoCal area, you should make plans to join me.

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Chris Cow

Chris is a research scientist for Novartis Pharmaceuticals, but on weekends he is an avid runner, endurance athlete and OCR junkie. He runs mostly with his wife, Anne. He is a 45 year old father of two gorgeous teenage daughters, and wants to help them adopt a healthy outdoor lifestyle.
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Comments

  1. My Son and I did Chicagoland Battlefrog at the end of the season last year, just to fill out our season I have to say after 15 race season, BF was no joke ! I for one am looking forward to this year’s race from BF and it sounds like there just getting better !!!

  2. Richard Cunningham says

    I have done one Battlefrog event in SC last year. I enjoyed this event but it was the first after they downgraded to 8k only from 16k. San Diego had 700 total? That’s not going to be successful with those numbers, and that is what concerns me about this series. They obviously have money as evidenced by their bowl game sponsorship and expansion this year. But I just wonder how sustainable it is.

    • I think they came pretty close to 1000 after adding in the volunteers who also raced, but agree that they need to up those numbers significantly going forward.

  3. Marshall Breite says

    I am curious how the elites did on the slackline? That adds a whole new twist especially if you have not played on one before. And, even “if” you have!

    • Mayra Rodriguez says

      I was volunteer at the Balance Beam and most Elites succeed after a few attempts, no wrist bands taken or medics needed.. Definitely not the easiest of obstacles but pretty fun to watch everyone making their best efforts to accomplish this task!

  4. Problem is of those 800 many of the enthusiasts have done BF’s before and are loyal OCR athletes. For BF to expand and be successful, they need to find a way to tap into the non-OCR market and get first time participants to choose them over a Spartan, Warrior Dash, or Tough Mudder race in their given geographical location.

    It’s nice to see the prize money is more in line with what it should be for the Elites as well (although it could still come down). BF thought offering a lot of $$$ last year would bring in more racers and they were mistaken. The vast majority (95%+) who do these races aren’t Elite and even a majority of the Elites aren’t doing it for the money, they are doing it to challenge themselves and see where they stack up compared to the Amelia Boone’s and Ryan Atkins’ of the world. Just look at Spartan, the majority running in the elite heat know they won’t make the top 3 to earn any cash, but Spartan’s elite heats are still always filled. And they only pay $500 to first place (except televised races).

    BF still has a lot to figure out I think and will be interesting to see how much more money will continue to be pumped in to this organization.

  5. Mark James says

    Great write up of the San Diego Battle Frog. Yes, although the Weaver obstacle has the same over/under concept of the Weaver at BUD/s (Navy SEAL Training) the square rails instead of round were unforgiving and painful. The obstacle should be called the bruiser! Also I didn’t realize Elites could only walk on one of the elastic bands…. Don’t think many of them followed that rule or maybe that was because I was still on the PlatinumRig suffering trying to figure it out!

  6. My first OCR ever was the BattleFrog in Miami back in 2014. BattleFrog is very popular down here, especially because this is where it’s based. I’m not surprised at the turn out in Cali, they have a history of having a lot of Spartan Races and other events, with a loyal following. Overall, BF is very established and right there next to the Spartan Race series here on the E. Coast and TX. The problem is that it’s moving to a new and crowded arena on the W. Coast.

  7. As far as numbers go, I thought they had a pretty good turn out. I agree that the over-under is much more difficult than the Special Forces “Nasty Nick” at camp Mckall, Ft. Bragg. At Bragg the wooden beams are much more spaced so you have to stretch, and they are also made of wood.

    Back to the numbers. I was impressed with the turn out, and the overall amount of revenue being generated considering the location of the event. I don’t know how much it costs to put on a BF event. It seems as though they are saving money and time switching from wood structures to aluminum.

    This San Diego BF, I believe, they expect to take a financial hit the first time round. Here in San Diego, word of mouth is everything, and I am sure after this BF everyone will be out spreading the gospel about BF in the positive.

    BF has a great strategy in my opinion. No one can deny the behemoth that Crossfit is. Crossfit is a culture, unlike other fitness workout and regimes. According to Infogr.am, (https://infogr.am/The-Demographics-of-Crossfit) most Crossfitters make six figure saleries, half have advanced degrees, and also have children. The point I am making is that, at the moment, Crossfit cannot be out done, the a strategy has to compliment, and supplement Cross fit rather than compete with it. I think BF does a good job of tapping into the demographic that Crossfit dominates.

    Also, just as crossfit is right down the middle 50% male/female, BF may soon be able to boast that statistic as well. I would imagine that they are around 70% male 30% female. As you, the reader already know, women are starting to make up the largest consumer of fitness clothing, and gender specific races, so it is reasonable, that with a few tweaks here and there, women could become the largest consumer of BF and obstacle coures/ mudd runs in general.

    The key point being, that the people who frequent BF, have a great deal of money to spend and enough time and motivation to spend it at said events.

    Ryan, no offense bro, but the slack-line seemed a little dangerous. Not judging, but I saw a few people take some nasty spills that they were lucky to limp away from. Seriously dude. My favorite obstacle was going through the tunnel and into the ice-cold water though.

    By my last lap at around 10:00 am I went straight into the water. The exit was under water! That was awesome. If you didn’t take a good breath, you had the real possibility of inhaling a little water, which made the experience all the more real and exciting.

    Then that ice cold water sucked what little air I had left right out, so that I was fighting to catch a breath, which I loved. Then, at 6’0 tall, being on the far right side, I could not touch the bottom, so I had to doggy paddle my way out. I wondered if this was what it was like going through BUDS?

    Of course I know Seal training is much tougher, but that part of the course did give that same feeling I get, when going through selection or Q course. I hadn’t felt water that cold since S.E.R.E. school. Truly awesome part of the course. I LOVED that part. Best part of the whole day!

    Sorry for rambling on, but I love talking fitness. It is my life. I could talk fitness talk all day. I drive my wife crazy with it. Its all I do is talk, read and participate in fitness when I’m not working. So again. So sorry for the lengthy post. I don’t pretend to be an expert. Just an fitness enthusiast. Thanks yall. Have a good one.

    Jerry Funk