“You call yourselves Elite Obstacle Course Racers? Elite athletes can make it through this course, let’s go!”
My hands were fried. My forearms were toast. My pre-race nutrition did not prepare me for the 7 hours that I didn’t know I would be spending on this course. These monkey bars had me by the throat, and my mental and physical tenacity were waning. It wasn’t even a factor of wanting first place, second place, or any other placement anymore. It was about gathering my thoughts, my last efforts of energy, and getting across the hardest of the last three obstacles. I couldn’t hold onto the bars for long enough to get across, and the transition was screwing with me mentally.
As an athlete, I was pleasantly surprised by the course. Coming from a pretty Spartan Race-heavy background, the new course, obstacles, and rules were welcomed. Though I am definitely not a fan of the twice-through requirement for Elites (I think it makes for a rather boring experience – seeing the same course and obstacles twice in a row reduces the allure for me and changes a lot of aspects of the race), the mix of obstacles was pretty neat. There were a lot of grip-intensive and heavy upper body exercises; between the longest Jerry Can Carry in race history, the Wreck Bag Carry / Wall, the Tip of the Spear (American Ninja Warrior style cliff hang combined with two rope traverses) and the Aerial Assault wire ladder, my second lap through this course was brutal on my hands, forearms, and shoulders. By the time the Monkey Bars and the Tsunami obstacles rolled around, my grip strength was weaker than I was willing to admit.
Important difference between elites and open waves in BattleFrog - there is no penalty for not completing an obstacle, except you get your elite band cut off and no longer qualify for the prizes. You cannot "burpee-out." And it's quite a game-changer. Elites have a must-complete rule, you can try as many times as you like, but you HAVE to complete the obstacle to continue as an elite. If you fail an obstacle in open waves, you must complete 8-10count body builders to continue.
Back to the race, these weren’t your standard run-of-the-mill monkey bars (Thanks, Peter!) Starting on a platform, swinging across 12 monkey bars at a downward angle, a middle transition from hell (4 rock climbing grip holds), and then 12 more monkey bars, this time angled upwards. The whole rig looked like a huge “V.” Brought back solid reminders of my gymnastics days and the rips we got on our palms and fingers from Giants. WOO! The majority of the elite women faltered on this obstacle, and it was the source for numerous DNFs that day.
Out on the course, elites are pretty cutthroat. I was catching up to Melanie on one of the walls on round two, and as she turned around to check where her competition was, she saw me. I was smiling, because I had been catching up to her for a while, but I think she was less than thrilled. Fast-forward about 3 hours, and we’re comparing rips on our hands from the devilish monkey bars that we’re both fighting. The obstacle leveled us out, and allowed us to learn about, befriend, and support one another on a different level. The camaraderie between second-sixth place elite women that day was beyond comparison. Combined with their support, and the encouragement from Chad (who’s MOS was my elite band number, and who’s words were circling in my head, motivating me to finish), I knew I had to finish.
The walls, rope climbs, and some of the natural obstacles – like running up a dam, and/or avoiding the snakes – were pretty fun (Thanks Drew and Chris!). There was a fair amount of straight running involved though, on both flat and uneven terrain, mixed with running in some gnarly water obstacles that slowed down even the fastest athletes (Thanks, Adam!). There were only two parts of the course that had straight (boring) running for any long stretch, and that was after a 12’ rope wall climb and before a cargo net / inverted walls. Breath of fresh air for sure.
One aspect I am never shy about sharing is the fact that without volunteers, the OCR industry would not be where it is today. From motivation and support through obstacles, monitoring the elite wave, to helping festival run smoothly – volunteers are so dedicated and so very much appreciated. Set-up and take-down of the races would be damn near impossible without you all. Anyway, I had the opportunity to volunteer on course and in festival, and in the volunteer tent. With the introduction of build team members as zone leaders, I thought the process of both assigning, checking on, and retrieving volunteers went relatively smooth. I felt like I was really part of a big event, something important, and that my assistance as a volunteer was appreciated. Thanks Heidi and team, for making it a great experience!
So that's the thing. That I did. I volunteered at and raced a BattleFrog. My very first one. As always on a race weekend, I saw friends and racing family and had more than enough chances to make some new ones. Monkey Bars turned out to be quite the hang out spot for the Elite Women, and I wouldn’t trade my time there for anything (except maybe all of us getting through just a little bit faster).
So will you see me at another BattleFrog? Hell yeah! And I’ll see you out there, too.