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.
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 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.
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).
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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