Savage Race Chicago 2016

13907066_1205249149497302_1703278135195097644_n The 2016 Chicago/Milwaukee Savage Race took place on July 30th amid the cornfields and pine trees of the Richardson Adventure Farm in Spring Grove, Illinois. As a huge Savage Race, fan I was curious to see the new obstacles brought here and the unveiling of the new “Tree Hugger” obstacle. I had always thought of Savage as an easier version of a Spartan Sprint, but with the constant obstacle upgrades, Savage has made its way into the Big 3 for me along with Spartan and BattleFrog. Savage certainly isn’t wrong when they state that they have “The World’s Best Obstacles”.


The Elite/Pro wave started off promptly at 9 a.m. with athletes running through the farm and out to the fields along the 6.5 mile course, which was about a half a mile shorter than last year’s course. Open waves were released every 20 minutes after the Elites took off.  The course was extremely flat with only about a hundred feet of elevation change which was perfect for the locals who are used to the flat terrain. Athletes were led through a few of the more mediocre obstacles to begin with, including an easy barbed wire crawl, the freezing Shriveled Richard, and new for 2016, Squeeze Play. Runners must crawl under a series of 55 gallon barrels set up in a row. From there Savage stepped up their game obstacle-wise in the form of Lumberjack Lane where athletes carried a log to the inverted walls and on to a crowd favorite, Wheel World, where one must traverse a series of turning wheels across an open pit of water. After that test of grip strength, Savage ran athletes up the slip wall and again tested grip strength with Kiss My Walls. This is Savage’s wall traverse and is the hardest among other races, due to the small rock climbing holds and the fact that the top of the wall sticks out farther than the bottom making you fight even harder!


Now approaching the middle of the course, Savage continued to test mental grit with a high dive off of Davey Jones Locker into the water below, up and over Barn Doors, and across On the Fence. On the Fence was new to 2016. Fencing was placed over a water pit once again testing an athlete’s grip. The Big Cheese was next up, also new to 2016. A large, rounded, wooden wall with triangle cut outs for hand holds tested your climbing ability along with the great 9 foot wall. The claustrophobic Teeter Tuber was our next obstacle and this one is a killer for a big man. Not very much room to shimmy through this tube. From there it was on to my personal favorite set of monkey bars in OCR the Sawtooth. Climbing up 20 feet over the water pit and back down really tested that grip once again. The Big Ass Cargo Net and Colossus led us back to the festival area, where the new Savage Platinum Rig was waiting to see if an athlete had any grip strength left, and an area where many an Elite runner lost his/her band. Last up and making its debut in Chicago was the Tree Hugger. This new obstacle was a series of metal poles and tree posts sticking straight up and in a line where athletes had to traverse across three metal and three wooden posts without touching the ground. Personally, I thought it was a smash hit.Savage Race - The Big Cheese

Overall, my opinion of the Chicago Savage was that they have really stepped up the difficulty of their obstacles and cut down the running some. While Savage is not yet up to the level of BattleFrog, I feel they have Spartan in their sights. The festival area was about what you would expect with merchandise, food, and drinks available for purchase along with a $5.00 bag check and hose off/changing area. Parking was close by and only $10.00 for general parking, $20.00 for VIP parking right up front. One concern my wife had was that the medic tent was quite a ways off from the festival area. They were super friendly and well supplied, but it was quite a hike to get there. The kid’s race was a tad weak with few obstacles and mostly running, but it did include a bubble machine that all the kids enjoyed. The 2016 Chicago Savage lived up to my expectations and then some. Savage is certainly one of the must do race series for all.13669842_1205248096164074_6231899519137863591_n

Savage Race Obstacles

I’m going to talk about my experience at the 2016 Savage Race. I want to talk about, first of all, it was an amazing day out there. Savage does a great job with its basic, what we’ll call, the standard Savage obstacles. So sawtooth, you’re always going to see sawtooth monkey bars, and it’s solid. Shriveled Richard, always going to be there, and it’s fucking cold. Davey Jones’ Locker, big jump, going to scare you, and it’s going to be there. A nice addition that I’m not sure was always there, or maybe, I think they made it better, was Thor’s Grundle. Thor’s Grundle is essentially the Spartan Race Dunk Wall, but several of them. So get to the wall, go under, go to the wall, go under. Cold, scary, you know, a good part of an obstacle race.

In addition, they gave us a bunch of new ones this year and they all delivered. Savage, I feel like, much like Tough Mudder, going to bring you a new obstacle set every year.

Spartan and BattleFrog, to be honest, it ends up being a lot of heavy carries, a lot of rigs, and to me that’s boring. So what did Savage bring us?

Savage Race Obstacles 2

Well, they started with Squeeze Play. I believe it was the very first obstacle. Squeeze Play looks simple, just crawl under this thing, but one of those things that once you start, it’s like, “I’m in mud! I’m underneath a thing! What am I doing?” On the Fence, another new one, pretty simple, but it hurt. So jump on the fence, do this, and it hurts real bad. Big Cheese, nothing too complicated to this one, just a kind of standard climber wall with holes, but again, nice to see a mixed-up thing. Pole Cat we’ve seen a couple different ways. Tough Mudder did this at WTM with Gut Buster, and we actually saw it first with Urban Mudder with HeadRush.

Savage Race obstacles

The last new one, which was right at the finish line, was called the Savage Rig. Now, at this point to me, the rig is yet another me-too obstacle, meaning everybody’s doing it and there’s not much ingenuity to it. It’s a rig. A rig is a rig is a rig. You want to make it super-hard for the championship race for Spartan or double the length for the BattleFrog championship, whatever, great, but again, I’m kind of tired of seeing rigs. I don’t think it does much for us in terms of innovation.

Let’s talk about the medals. Last year, kind of rinky-dink. This year, kind of massive, right? Way bigger! Like this one could actually eat this one. Better medal.

Shirts? Last year, light blue, all the states they hit, kind of cool. Finisher 2015, nothing on the side sleeve. 2016, again, this thin, we all love super, super thin, keeping it simpler, though, just the Savage logo. Finisher 2016, little sponsor on the back, again nothing on the sleeve, but much like Spartan, a thinner cotton, a thinner shirt, victory again, 2016 shirt.

Savage Race Medals