Imagine showing up to a brand new event in the driving rain and not seeing any obstacles. Am I in the right place? Yep, the JackAxe Games banners are up. The brand new event was tucked away on the grounds of the Kane County Fair in Batavia, Illinois and ended up being close to 1.5 miles of race distance. After a brief meeting with the owners I took a car ride around the grounds to find the lumberjack inspired obstacles flowing around the large parking area of the fairgrounds. The JackAxe Games held their individual elite and open class on Saturday with a team event on Sunday. Offering a payout of a thousand dollars for top male, female, and team was a big incentive to bring your A game, or A team. Although numbers were low for this first time event with decent money on the line, the level of competition was still good. In order to boost their numbers, JackAxe may want to consider holding their event on a weekend where better known events like Rugged Maniac and BadAss Dash are not being held.
On to the individual race. Elite competitors were the first people set off in groups of two about ten minutes apart from the next wave of athletes running. Athletes started off at an obstacle I bet not many people have ever tried: the caber toss. Athletes had to flip long, wooden posts end over end. A ton of balance and proper form were needed to master this challenge. Luckily, JackAxe let the athletes practice beforehand. As with all obstacles along the course, racers were given three attempts to successfully complete each station, or plan on hopping over a log 15 times as a penalty. Next up was a wall climb that was really little more than a speed bump for most athletes. This was where the course got a little meatier. The log pull back and forth for distance was where a lot of people started gasping for air due to the large size of the log and heavy chain attached to it. Next up was the log flip. Four times over and back with a 6X6X10 hunk of wet wood. After hopping over a few logs we were on to the obstacle that most people couldn’t wait to do. We actually got to throw an axe at a target! Management assured me the cost of insurance for this obstacle alone was enormous, but all of us couldn’t wait to try it. Then we proceeded to carry another 6X6X10 log around a 50 yard circle before stopping at a rock toss. The object of this was to toss a rock at a target like a baseball toss at the fair. This obstacle, as weak as it looked, actually was darn tough to do and caused a lot of people to have to “hop the log”. We bashed some wooden posts with a sledge hammer, and tossed a grappling hook to snag a tire. Next on the docket was a hay bale hop and a short jog through prairie grass over to the pulley station. Here, athletes had to pull an Everlast punching bag up and down a short distance three times. The backward 20 pound medicine ball toss over 3 different heights of rope was next up, followed by a heavy rock carry. Now, athletes moved on to the most brutal event on the course. Sawing through a log, measuring a foot in diameter, lumberjack style, really gassed out whatever you had left in the tank! I found my shoulders and lats screaming by the end. This was the end of the difficult obstacles on the course. We finished the race with a small cliff climb, a short jog, and a slide down a soapy, wet tarp. Water and Kill Cliff were offered to the exhausted athletes after crossing the finish line. The finals consisted of the top three males and top three females being invited back in the afternoon to compete in a smaller version of the course for the title and money.
On Sunday teams of five were started off on the same course with a small twist. All teams had to carry a that same 6X6X10 wooden post with them through the whole event, while stopping to have two teammates complete each obstacle along the way. I found this to be an awesome test of teamwork. Careful planning and communication was the key here. And let me tell you that our little traveling companion got to be a little heavy towards the end. That “easy-to-climb-over” wall wasn’t so easy when you had to drag that post over it. The athletes’ biceps and shoulders were feeling pretty tired by the end. The team event was a winner-take-all situation where there was no afternoon competition for the title. I’m proud to say our Synergy Kettlebell team came home with the top prize!
Overall, there was a feeling of disorganization. Aside from the unfortunate, uncontrollable rotten weather, more could have been done to make things run more smoothly. First and foremost, the course needed at least one water station. Even though it was a short course in comparison to others, it was grueling and hot. Beyond that, there were no signs marking where to sign in, start the race, or finish the race. Spectators were lost about where to even begin to look for their loved one. After walking to a tent behind the fence, my wife found a map which was very helpful in guiding her to the various obstacles. However, restrooms were not located on the map, nor were they marked by signage pointing visitors in the right direction. The few vendors that were present were not known about unless one walked around a muddy arena to see what the other tents were about. Vendors should have had a spot sectioned off in the vast, spacious main parking area, along with the informational table and maps. I thought the event had better coordination on Sunday, but the rules of the course were still being debated with volunteers along the way, which caused us some frustration. The management was very pleasant and positive, encouraging everyone throughout both days. All of the issues were worked out in the end, I’m pretty sure they learned some things along the way. I understand this happens at new events and hope their communication is a little better in the future. There were no medals awarded at this event, but racers received a free t-shirt and a beer stein with the JackAxe logo on it, which was a nice touch. Overall the event avoided some of the first year pitfalls with a nice website, management who wants input to make next year’s event better, and a cash payout. With better promotion and the continued effort of management to communicate better, I could see this event really taking off due to the strength obstacles with shorter distances.
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