Elites who travel for the BattleFrog series do it for a number of reasons, a challenge, training for the OCR World Championship, and opportunity to collect the once rare and coveted Elite band. After experiencing an excellent course in Charlotte just two weeks ago, I was longing to feel that BF rush all over again. With an 80% fail rate, epic PVC monkey bars and 2 rigs per lap, it was everything I expected a Regional race to be! I kept my band, and I added it to my pile of hard earned rubber treasures. This was a stark contrast to the vast nothingness that awaited competitors in DC.
Participants of the DC BattleFrog are wondering what happened to the BattleFrog race they know and loved, and what was the trail run that showed up in its place? After each race, BattleFrog poses the question “What was your favorite obstacle?” When the most common answer was “mud”, you’re doing it wrong.
The race venue was beautiful: gorgeous bike trails with rolling hills and more mud than you can imagine. The Elite wave took off running, we ran, and ran some more. Finally someone said what we were all thinking, “It would be cool if this obstacle course race had obstacles.” Standard to any race, athletes were instructed to keep the flags to the right, however through the main trail there were not many flags as though the path was implied, but there were a number of off-shoot trails with arrows- for bikers- that lead people off course. Everyone I spoke with post-race had a story of confusion, as did the timing tent with sorting out who actually placed among the top of their respective fields.
The biggest issue with this race was the lack of volunteers (most likely due to Savage Race taking place in MD on the same day). All water stations but one was unmanned. Many stations had large water jugs and no cups. One sip of water on a 10-mile course was brutal; the only saving grace was that the weather was cool and the course mostly shaded. An additional obstacle was trying to shower off because the water wasn’t running, leaving some athletes standing there shivering and others wandering away in search of someone who could assist.
For a “mandatory obstacle completion” race to have no volunteers at obstacles brought out the worst in dishonest racers. I personally witnessed men leaving the rig after failure and running away with bands on, diminishing the value of the band, and having zero respect for the sport. The band has to mean something, otherwise, let me throw my spear and do some burpees. There are too many people who are training extremely hard so that they can keep their band for the FIRST time. Don’t insult their efforts by lowering the standard or allowing the band to be given freely to anyone who shows up and “tries”. When elites register as elites, they know exactly what they signed up for. Every time they approach that starting line, they wonder, today, will my best be good enough. Often times, it’s not, and THAT’S what keeps the Elites coming back. My band from this weekend won’t get to join the “collection” because this band has no value, despite a first place finish on the women’s podium. The completion rate had to be 90+ percent. I saw only ONE elite band left at the rig, and as far as I’m concerned, that band was the only one of value in DC, the one that wasn’t earned. That athlete understands what an Elite band means. I am willing to bet that the respectable athlete who left it behind will be back for redemption when the BattleFrog they know and love returns.
While BattleFrog is undertaking a huge task of building a brand and working to attract a larger consumer market, they are making the returning racers wonder where this series is headed. Obviously to stay in business they need to increase their attendance numbers. One way to do this is to be consistent. After talking with Elites, first timers looking to become Elites, and open wave runners looking for a good time, there was a common consensus in DC- that race wasn’t what anyone expected it to be. Having an “elite”,”intermediate”, and “novice” lane is a great way to incorporate all levels of racers, but keep the elite field difficult. One jerry can is fine for open wave but believe me when I say all elites can handle two, regardless of course conditions. Most elites would rather shed blood, sweat, and tears on the course even to leave without a band than to be coddled in an “everyone is a winner” environment.A returning elite who participated in BattleFrog Cincinnati last year had talked up the series to his friends about how it had been the most challenging thing he had ever done. His friends all came to DC to accept the challenge and laughed at the simplicity of it. That stops people from promoting the series, when they themselves no longer know what to expect.
I love BattleFrog. I want this series to succeed. This race series drew me in at their first race ever-a 5k course in Miami 2014. I have attended over a dozen other BF races across the country. The series was what prepared me for OCRWC. BattleFrog built hybrid athletes; ones who could adapt, grow, evolve, and mentally be strong enough to believe that they could conquer anything put before them. Long wait times at obstacles were never “bottlenecks” for people making multiple attempts; they were locations where camaraderie was harvested, friendships formed, and OCR competitors were united with common goals. BattleFrog has an amazing pro team of rounded athletes and some of the nicest people you will ever meet, but for how long? If the series is no longer helping to build better athletes by presenting challenging courses, what reason will they have to stay? BattleFrog could do what they tend to do, and throw more money at problems, or they can listen to people in the OCR community and give us back our BattleFrog!
Photo credit: BattleFrog Series Facebook Page
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