I am in the best shape of my life and return to Battlefrog (as a vet) more ready than ever! Yet, I finished 32……What happened?
The Platinum Rig
The excuse: I went to the rock wall on Wednesday and did four hours of rock climbing sending my forearms into lactic overload. They did not recover by Saturday and I could not muster the grip strength required to complete the one arm pull-up on the vertical pole hold from the monkey bar transition at the end (those who were there know what I am talking about).
The reality: I wasn’t ready to run with the elite. BattleFrog has stepped up the game in the last few months and separated themselves from the competition (Tough Mudder, Spartan, Warrior Dash). In my opinion they have become “the best” obstacle racing series with their tough obstacles, mandatory obstacle completion, and multi-lap format. They are the race to measure yourself in. I am not an elite athlete, few are in the sport. An elite athlete should be able complete any obstacle on any given day.
Anyway, here is the review, race recap, and my thoughts.
Since my last Battlefrog race in Orlando a few things have changed to the race format:
First, the course layout is different. Instead of elites running 1 – 15 kilometer lap, we now run 2 – 8 kilometer laps for a total of 10 miles (16k).
Second, they made the obstacles bigger, longer, and overall tougher. Tip of the Spear was 3x as long as in Miami and Orlando. Plus, you gotta do them all twice.
This is exactly what I want to see in the sport and I am pleased with both decisions. I prefer higher obstacle density (kill the runners) and running the course twice means that you get to complete over 40 obstacles. This also makes the event more spectator friendly since they can see the racers as they come around the event area for their second lap. Friends and family can now see and cheer on their racer mid way through the race.
Leading up to the race
I’d been racing all summer so I didn’t do any specific training for this race (besides loads of Farmer Walks). The week of the race I flew out to Boston and spent my time sight seeing. The Wednesday before the race I spent 4 hours at the rock wall climbing, slacklining, and doing pull-ups. This left my forearms smoked, an effect that didn’t go away and I had to deal with for the race.
The night before the race Battlefrog released a photo revealing the “platinum rig”, an obstacle I heard was tough, but had never come across until now. I wasn’t too worried, I figured it wouldn’t be any tougher than the Clif Multi Bar that I did at the Spartan in SLC, I was wrong.
A link to my strava from the race
The course started with a fast 50m sprint leading to a bottleneck into the woods and for once I got a good start and settled in behind Ryan Atkins and another guy, putting me in the top 3. I hung behind Atkins for about half a mile (haha) and slowly fell back to 4th and then 5th where I remained. Atkins was still in sight and we had a tight running group in the top 5 for the first mile.
Note: Atkins would later reveal that he had trained 20 hours that week and his legs were in lactic overload. Hence why I was able to hang with him for so long.
The first obstacle was a short rope climb followed by a wall. I sprinted up to the wall and put my foot on it to propel myself to the top, but my trashy shoe slipped off and I hit it full on with my body banging my knee. I reset and tried again, hopping over and losing a position in the process.
I chased the guy who passed me on the wall and finally made the pass when we came to the Jerry Can Carry (a long one). Elite men had to carry 2 large cans filled with water. I trained for this obstacle and made it in good time only setting the cans down a few times for a quick rest.
4 miles into the course I was cruising in the top 5 and pacing myself to unleash a brutal 2nd lap where I hoped to pass some of the youngsters in front of me. Endurance is my strength and I planned on doing a faster 2nd lap than my first. The course seemed easy at this point -Battlefrog had only brought out their easier obstacles like 60 degrees, dirty name, a small rope climb, some walls, and a few mud crossings – but 38 minutes into the race at mile marker 4 I knew why. They were saving us for the Platinum Rig.
The rig had 10 lanes. 4 lanes for the women that featured Olympic rings hanging for foot holds, and 6 lanes for the men that had no foot holds, and using your feet at all was against the rules.
When I arrived 2 guys in front of me were already stuck. If I could make it across this would be a huge pass and maybe even put me on the podium. With fresh – but sore – arms I made my first attempt. I climbed the first vertical pole, transitioned across the next 2 vertical poles, grabbed the ring, swung down to the lateral bar, moved across that to the next ring, transitioned to the rope, reached down to the monkey bar, swung across to the next monkey bar, and with one arm reached up above my head and grabbed a short vertical pole. To complete the obstacle at this point I had to – with one arm – pull my body weight up to the level of the bar and move my arm from the monkey bar below to the same pole or to the next ring. I squeezed as hard as I could, tried to pull up, but my squeeze wasn’t hard enough to hold my weight on the smooth metal pole. I slipped off and fell to the ground joining the ranks of the failures.
The youngster behind me (on his first race) breezed through the obstacle. I was heart broken to see him pass while I rested my forearms for my next attempt, but happy to see him do so well. We had chatted at the starting line and seemed like a humble kid.
Determined, I went for my next attempt, but slipped off in the same spot. More racers were coming, 1 at a time they approached and failed. The crowd was growing. I’d say 1 out of 5 would make it on their first attempt. If you didn’t make it the first time, you were most likely stuck for the long haul. The guys you least expected to make it, were the ones who did. I tried and tried again. Fail. Fail. Same spot. I couldn’t get by body up that last small vertical pole. My hand kept slipping off. I tried to dry my hands on a wooden post since my body was soaked in sweat and the vegetation was wet from the dew. I tried to swing and skip the vertical pole reaching for the ring. It was too far away. I needed a new strategy.
I made my next attempt and got all the way down to the transition that was beating me. Instead of reaching up to the vertical pole. I muscled my way up on top of the monkey bar, got myself level with the pole by resting on my elbows, grabbed it, pulled it close to my body, put both hands on it, and swung on it to transition to the last 3 rings. I finally completed the Platinum Rig after 30 minutes of effort. Now I had to run the last mile of lap 1, and do it all over again.
After the platinum rig I had one goal, make up time and position. I passed Carolyn and 3 others straight away and kept charging. I was running a 7:00 mile pace in between obstacles. My shoulders and arms were sore from the Rig, I couldn’t go any faster, but I kept picking off racers in front of me 1 by 1. I was making fast gains, passing racers and getting out of sight within seconds.
I took the detour around the event area and started my second lap seconds ahead an open heat. I had a huge crowd of runners coming in behind me but they never caught up. I passed 3 more people in the woods and on the rope climb. One of the elites I passed picked up his pace to try and pass back, but he didn’t have the endurance. I sped off and moved on to the next group.
I reached the first open wave at the Jerry Can Carry and thought I would be stuck waiting in line for my 2 cans (which happened to the elite men on the first lap). Luckily, Battlefrog made a command decision mid race and knocked it down to carrying one Jerry Can. Only rule was you couldn’t hoist in your shoulder. You had to carry it at your side. This was annoying but I ran with it passing about 20 open racers and a few elites, switching it from hand to hand.
I continued to put on the heat and pass back a lot of the elite men and women that made the platinum rig before me. They had the strength today, but I had the speed.
Back at the platinum rig there was still a large crowd of men stuck on the obstacle. Some were still on their first lap and they would not give up their bracelets! It was awesome. Good on them.
I jumped on the rig and immediately slipped off the first vertical pole. It was muddy and wet from all the previous users. I cleaned off my hands real quick and went at it again. I made it all the way across and transitioned across the “crux” using the muscle up method from before.
In the last mile I pushed harder and continued to move up in position. I passed a guy in the field, 2 over the cargo net, 2 more over tsunami, 1 over the slant wall, 2 in the field leading to the finish, 2 more over the climbing walls, and 1 more on “tip of the spear” at the finish line. It was a good finish, but not enough. Maybe given a 3rd lap I could have made it to the top 10. I covered the 10.6 miles in 2:14, including the 30 minutes I spent failing at the platinum rig. I believe I could have finished in 1:45 if I had the grip strength to run a good race.
Overall it was a great race. I liked the addition of the platinum rig even though is beat me in the beginning and ruined my race. I hope to see it at more events in the future. I know where I need to improve now. Congratulations to Ryan Atkins, he once again ran a flawless race, won, and proved he is the best.