I’m going to be straight with you. I really like Savage Race. I’ve done four of their events, three of which took place in the exact same location, and I have loved all of them. If you know anything about me you probably associate my existence in the Social Media OCR World with Tough Mudder (or trolling), yet you may be confused at the recent influx of pictures showing me and my wife tackling obstacles covered in blue paint sporting the Savage name. Since I am not a RACEist I will give my hard earned money to any company that puts on a good event and is relatively close. If I cross the 2.5 hour drive to another state barrier, well then it appears we have something special. Enter Savage Race Pennsylvania.
“You just listen to the words of the old Porkchop Express and take his advice on a dark and stormy night when the lightning is crashing, the thunder rolling and the rain falling in sheets as thick as lead. Just remember what Jack Burton does when the earth quakes, the poison arrows fall from the sky and the pillars of heaven shake. Yeah, Jack Burton looks that big old storm right in the eye and he says: ‘Gimme your best shot pal, I can take it!.” –Jack Burton, Big Trouble In Little China
I felt a lot like Jack Burton on the morning drive through the Pocono Mountains to Skirmish USA, the site of Savage Race PA. It was clear that my wife’s decision to sign up for a race when it would be “warmer” out backfired as the weather was calling for a high of 59 and rain. LOTS of rain. The first obstacle for many, including eventual race winner Ryan Atkins who toed the SavagePro start line with minutes to spare, was actually getting to the event. A road closing accident on one of the few roads in to the venue was closed with no indication of when things would clear up. Using my “mountaineering skills” I zoomed in and out of iMaps looking for roads that would connect and drove around the side of a large waterfront gated community and eventually found a side way in. Upon our arrival check in was smooth and we were treated to what was very clearly the most spectator friendly OCR set up I have ever seen. The festival area, kids course and all of the large scale obstacles were located in an open field with spectators able to view the majority of the obstacles. Colossus, Sawtooth, Nut Smasher, Davey Jones’ Locker, Shriveled Richard, and the new innovative Wheel World were all in short walking distance of one another. If I were to recommend one event to have people come and spectate then THIS would be it.
Now, if you are asking yourself how an OCR event can have almost all of their obstacles in a spectator friendly area and still manage to hit the advertised mileage of 5-7 miles there is a simple answer: Skirmish USA and Gnarly technical trail running. The majority of the running took place in the woods through heavily rooted trails, trails dominated by moderate and large sized rocks, stream crossings and enormous man made outdoor paintball structures. Picture yourself quickly navigating the technical terrain when you approach what appears to be the white castle walls of Minas Tirith (minus Legolas and Gimli). As you run through to the other side of the trail it becomes clear that is one of the coolest venues to hold an event at. In between some of the paintball “villages” were walls and various other obstacles to break up the trail running. They routed us in and out of the woods on numerous occasions to hit the larger scale obstacles in the open field so it did not have the feel of a trail run with a bunch of obstacles set up at the end for people to watch. In routing the course as they did, the achieved an entertaining event for both the participants and spectators while also providing technical trail running to keep the race fresh for both the SavagePro and Open racers.
Things that are New:
1. Wheel World: This is the second showing for Wheel World and it did not disappoint. This obstacle is aimed at grip strength and managing your momentum. Spinning pipe wheels are mounted to the structure and the participant must cross the water while using their upper body to get across. It gets tricks as depending on how you shift your weight the wheel may spin you around as you reach for the next one. This is the first obstacle of its kind and from what I saw had a pretty high failure rate amongst open participants. This is a great obstacle and I cannot wait to do it again.
2. Participants: At the beginning of every wave the start line emcee asked how many participants were doing Savage Race for the first time. Of the 3 waves I witnessed being sent out a large amount of people raised their hands as first timers. This was also evident as I overheard many people on course expressing how excited they were and how exhilarating the event was for them. As someone who does a lot of events I enjoy seeing new participants as it reminds me of how I felt at my first event. Additionally, having new participants makes for a much better after party. Even in the pouring rain.
3. Sponsor: Savage Race was sporting a new sponsor named Nu Aquos. This is important because I believe new sponsors coming aboard the OCR train are an important part of the future and help enhance the experience of racers during the event and in the festival area. Having a rehydration beverage on course that tasted good was a huge positive, and who doesn’t like free samples?
If you are new to Obstacle Course Racing and see that Savage is in town it is a no brainer to sign up. Dollar for dollar Savage Race provides probably the best race experience as their prices are extremely reasonable for the quality of obstacles they provide. If you are a seasoned Obstacle Racer and you haven’t signed up for a Savage Race yet?? Seriously, what are you doing? Sign up.