In what has been called “The Best Small City in America,” there is one of the best small permanent Obstacle Courses: Obstacle Elite is a new, permanent, outdoor obstacle course in Mount Vernon, Washington (about 60 miles north of Seattle). The course was created by Elite Racer Sara Knight and her family on their 23-acre property just outside the city. Obstacle Elite is currently a 2-mile course that includes trail running, tractor tires, 25-foot rope climb, the infamous weaver – as seen at the 2015 OCR World Championships – monkey bars, walls, and spear throw just to name a few.
When I pulled up to the property today, the first thing I noticed was the beautiful farm house on the hill. Sara lives on the property with her family, and they continue to forge new trails and build new obstacles through the surrounding forest. The day was wet and windy but nothing stops the training at Obstacle Elite. As I got out of my car, I was welcomed by an enthusiastic Sara who had an excitement about the day that was truly infectious. I met 5 of my training friends to get worked over on the course in a “Heavy” themed day and Obstacle Elite delivered!
The workout started with a 50-yard lunge walk to a barbed wire crawl, however, this was no ordinary obstacle. At the start of the crawl were 6 tires tied to thick rope. The challenge: Drag the tire through the uphill barbed wire course then drag it back down. It was a blast while still creating some technical challenges. We then ran down the trail to a relay course that had been set up for us. The relay allowed us to compete with our friends for fastest team on the course. We broke up into teams of three and were challenged to a bucket carry, 30-yard log flip, and a large log carry. The race was not done until all members of your team completed each of the three obstacles. This relay was intense and fun. It helped to build comradery amongst my friends while challenging us to compete against each other.
The next obstacle took us on a brief trail run into the forest where we were greeted by a row of cut logs. The challenge: Carry the log for what felt like FOREVER to the next obstacle. I thought that once I was at the next obstacle the log carry would be over. I couldn’t have been more wrong! I had to throw the log over a wall then scale it. Next, I had to carry my log to a ladder that had been built between trees. I had to throw it over the ladder and climb over to retrieve it again. Lastly, I had to throw the log over a bar, jump over it, retrieve the log and throw it into the wood pile at the end. My shoulders were burning and my endurance was challenged on that one. What my shoulders and endurance didn’t realize was that this was just the warm-up for what lay ahead!
After a brief rest, we jogged down another trail to a row of small boulders. All smaller than atlas stones but not by much. Sara then looked at us with a sadistic smile and said, “See that trail we just ran down? I need each of you to pick a boulder and take it back up the hill. Oh ya, the only way to get it up the hill is by throwing it, and don’t forget that boulders roll down hills!” This was the most exhausting workout of the day for me. The trail felt a hell of a lot longer throwing the boulder up than it felt walking down. I was completely gassed by the time I made it up. I took a breather then got to pick the boulder up like an atlas stone and carry it back down the hill.
We then ran another trail to a figure eight track with some tractor tires. The challenge: seemed like a cake walk. As an individual, role the tractor tire through the figure eight. “No problem,” I thought. I was so confident that I grabbed one of the first tires and started down the course. The track, however, was there to remind me that I am a weak idiot who is over confident sometimes. Trying to maneuver the tire through the divots on the course was challenging enough. All those little stability muscles you forget about until you have to roll a freakin’ tractor tire around…ya they get worked. The biggest challenge to this came with the 8-foot gully you had to roll the tire down then back up. The tire roll was deceiving and made for a bunch of laughs for my friends.
Our day wrapped up by doing a team carry of a 400+ pound tire about 50 yards. Once we set it down, we had to then go back to the tires from the tire roll and take turns flipping them to the larger tire. Once there, we stacked the tractor tires on top of one another, threw a car tire on top, and called it quits. None of us could believe that the time had flown by like it did and none of us were ready to leave. I guess that is the mark of a great business though…it leaves you wanting more.
Obstacle Elite offers one-on-one personal training with Elite Obstacle Course Racer, Sara Knight, as well as group training by donation. Sara just asks that people call and schedule the training in advance so she can make sure that she can put together a great time for the group. At this time, Obstacle Elite is not able to host events or market group trainings due to the local government’s demand for some land use permits and wetland testing, which carry a fee of over $5,000. She can, however, do individual personal training and uses the donations from small groups to save for the permits and testing so Obstacle Elite can offer more in the future.