Tandem Obstacle Race Review

I had the great pleasure of running The Tandem Obstacle Race on July 25, near Wilmington, Illinois with my fellow “40 something” buddy Erick Pfaucht. Parking was close to the registration table and easy to manage on grass and gravel, making it well worth the $10.00 parking fee. The event was held at a motocross park and all of the obstacles were located around the central event area, which made for excellent spectator viewing! There were wooden bleachers for those wanting to sit and cheer on their loved ones. There was a DJ playing terrific upbeat songs that were perfect to motivate runners.

Once I arrived, I was shown around by the two masterminds of this one-of-a- kind event, Ethan Swanson and Brian Hulbert. Two more friendly and excited people could not be found! As a matter of fact, all volunteers and staff from the entry all the way through the obstacles could not have been more friendly and helpful. Check in was smooth and quick. The registration fee included a T-Shirt, finisher medal, and a drink ticket. Though I didn’t take advantage of it, the bag check was handy and effortless.

This is not a runner’s race coming in at 2.4 miles on my GPS, but the “American Ninja Warrior” style obstacles were like none I’ve ever seen. There were three levels of difficulty to choose from; Challenge {easy}, Fierce {mild}, and Legend {damn tough}. We went for the Legend course and it was an upper body strength, balance, and timing assault. Everything was based on you and your partner completing the obstacles as a team.

Tandem 2

The Pulley Climb had wheels at the top, and each team member grabbed one end. You had to climb at the same pace as your partner or risk getting off balance and dropping into the water. The Grip Assault required you and your partner to switch to the next handhold at the same time or you fell. The grips were made of different materials and hanging at varying heights. Planning the next move together was crucial to successfully completing this challenge. The Peg Board had teammates on OPPOSITE SIDES of the board! This was brutally hard trying to pull a pin out and communicate with your partner. With only 2 pins, you had to coordinate both teammates hanging from one pin on either side of the wall, while the second pin was removed and repositioned through the wall. This was by far the most difficult challenge of the race.

Tandem 1

The 11 foot wall was also a unique test! The way we blew through this obstacle was to boost one guy (me) up first. Then my partner ran and jumped and grabbed onto my hand as I leaned precariously over the top of the wall. Together we pulled and climbed to reach the top. The Rope Shuffle was an outstanding test of grip strength as well. Throw a rope over a wooden traverse and shake it to move down towards the end. The catch is that both of us were hanging from either end of said rope. We had to communicate and work together with synchronized moves. My favorite obstacle of the day was the Rope Traverse. One teammate held the rope taut while the other traversed the length of the rope. Then teammates switched roles. There was a chilly, foul-smelling bath below to break your fall if you slipped. Fail an obstacle and be prepared for a brief buddy carry.

Tandem 3

I found having a partner close to your weight very helpful at the Tandem Race. The obstacles were well built and very challenging, taking 8 months of work to complete. One negative is that restrooms (though VERY clean and pleasant with hand sanitizer) were sparse. More are certainly needed for future events. There was no timing or awards here, although Ethan and Brian told me they were trying to come up with a way to do so at the next event. This will be a difficult task to accomplish as there were lines at obstacles since only one team per difficulty level could occupy an obstacle at one time. Lines will negatively impact a timed event. The other negative is that the $95.00 entry fee (for the Legend) is steep for one person. For the team to run the course it costs $190.00. The other courses were $85 and $75 per person and the only difference was the difficulty level. The length of the courses and the finisher medals were the same. In summary, this is not a runner’s course, but the outstanding, upper body intensive obstacles make it well worth doing.

*Photos By: Scott and Jessica Brackemeyer.

Scott Brackemyer

44 year old Scott Brackemyer is a self described "Eliteish" racer from Dekalb Illinois. The father of four loves to travel with his family to races to spread the good word of OCR and living a healthy lifestyle.

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