We don’t normally published featured reviews for out of region events, unless theres a good reason for it. With the rise, and fall, and hopeful rise again of Battlefrog, one of our veteran community members was making the trip from Boston to Pittsburg to give Battlefrog a second chance, and run in the mines.
This race wasn’t without problems of it’s own, and Josh gives us more detail about what Battlefrog did right, and did wrong.
BattleFrog is arguably one of the most talked about race series in the last 12 months of OCR news, and there’s both good and bad reasons for that. From huge buckets of money to attract racers, to a new CEO, to an amazing leading athlete in Ryan Atkins who conquers not only his home team races, but other companies alike – #ShirtGate!
In 2014 I had heard nothing but good things about BattleFrog from our teammates who ran their New Jersey event and I also heard whispers of this cool race they did in Pittsburgh that had a mine that racers had to swim through?! Now if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s missing out on cool races!
After BattleFrog New England a few weekends ago, I was admittedly disappointed in their first ever northeast showing, but I am easy to pass off a single failure for overall success. When the opportunity to hit up BattleFrog Pittsburgh arose, I jumped all over it. I was not disappointed again, that’s for sure.
BF Pittsburgh was held at an ATV resort called “Mines and Meadows” – a name that gave a hint as to what you were in for but didn’t nearly brace you for what proved to be an amazing course. Parking was held off site and as per usual, we carted some early morning busses and headed off to the festival area.
Battlefrog does a great job with their festival area I think. For spectators they had 10 obstacles that encircled the area so there was always constant action. They have great merch vendors, a free photo-op, equipped with all kinds of military style props, and a large selection of food vendors to pick from. Myself and racing buddy were doing the BFX race – where you do as many laps of the course as you can in a set amount of time – and those racers were given their own tent, food and drink, and bathrooms, a really nice touch for people who were planning on being on course for 6+ hours.
The course itself, was AMAZING. From rolling hills, to ultra-muddy bogs, to river bed creeks that snaked their way through wilderness, this course was what I envision as having all the elements of the perfect OCR venue. It didn’t have the outrageously steep climbs of a Killington, but also wasn’t flat like we saw at the New England location. It was a perfect balance. Stretched to run for speed, hills to slow you down just enough to challenge you but not zap your strength completely, and one half mile section that traversed an abandoned mine, 250 feet below the surface that tested both your physical and mental toughness. More on this in a bit. I really feel like this location is one of the best I have raced.
There’s really one reason we come to these races, most of the time at least, and that’s the obstacles. And there was plenty to talk about when it came to BattleFrog’s obstacles. The day started with 34 advertised obstacles, but it probably ended at closer to 28-30. The reason? Obstacles being shut down left and right for a number of reasons. The first being the Delta Cargo Net – placed absurdly early in the race (think 100 yards from the start line) – was shut down during the Men’s Elite wave because apparently one of the A-frames had collapsed under the weight of all the racers scaling it. 8:00am and one obstacle already closed. It was clear that this was not a smart place to put that obstacle where so many people would be jockeying for position to get over it at the same time. There was also some single track climbing paths shortly after that, which immediately made for backup during the open waves. Again.. less than a mile in and people are waiting in lines to scale a hill. People got creative and just started making their own path, myself included.
This race also had one of the most intense carries I have ever done. A Wreck Bag carry down, up, and over a few rolling hills and through some mud that was almost scarily deep. I’m thinking that mud claimed several bags as well as plenty of shoes. A few more rolling hills and steep 50 yard climbs brought you down to the Sternum Checker (or Dirty Name as BF calls it). This one was the source of some controvery in New England as it was immediately after a mud pit which made for slipping, crashing, and the like. While there was no mud before this one, they also didn’t take much care to cover the ground in any protective materials. Now I’m a tall guy so jumping to these and rolling over the second log isn’t usually a problem but there were plenty of people who struggled, and a few who crashed – HARD. One girl flipped over the top and landed right on her head in front of me while being watched by a guy who had just recently bonked his head on the second log, splitting his forehead open, prompting the immediate closure of this obstacle. It barely made it to 10:45am before this was shut down. After navigatinig a Platinum Rig, make that TWO Platinum Rigs, and some serious technical creek terrain, you came to the PREMIER obstacle of BattleFrog Pittsburgh – The underground lake in the mine. I can’t speak enough about how amazingly terrifying this was. Freezing cold air enveloped you immediately as you ran into the mine’s entryway. Think walking into an ice rink on a hot summer day. After a quarter mile run in, you’re turned off into a pitch black section of the mine lit up only by the few headlamps (oh yea – they ran out of headlamps to hand to people by 9:00am – not good) of your fellow racers. There was a race attendent handing out pool noodles (I took 4 of them – I can’t swim, shutup) and in you went. Imagine the coldest water you’ve ever felt – now imagine that quickly rising to your neckline and oh yea, you can barely see. All you can hear is the grunts, groans, and (real) panic from your fellow racers. The swim felt like navigating thousands of needles stabbing my body simultaneously. I had a very real moment of panic when my feet could no longer touch the ground but it was still the most amazing thing I have accomplished in a race to date. I exited the underground lake for the first and last time (this was also shut down shortly after 10am because it really was SO cold that the rescue swimmers were unable to stay in the water to watch over the racers) and then I headed back out into the open. The remainder of the race was the usual walls, carries, and such. One last obstacle that caused some commotion was the simple-enough looking cargo net out of a barn near the finish line. It however was not anchored very well and was met with a few folks tumbling down it face first, one of which suffered what looked to be a very serious knee injury.
I continued on to do the course 2 additional times, myself, with the BFX winner coming in with 5 laps. This course was truly no joke. It was one of those cases where they did a whole lot, with very little. Aside from tthe obstacle drama, which they had plenty of, this event is going to be a staple for me each year if it stays at this location. BattleFrog does certain things very well, but it also needs to focus on runner safety (remember BF, we’re not all Ryan Atkins) and logistics. Things like late start times and closed obstacles are disappointing to people who came for those reasons.