Day of Crisis – Dallas 2015

* From: Timothy Killilea
* Event: Day of Crisis, Dallas, June 2015

* Event Details
I first heard about Day of Crisis somewhere on Facebook. I think I sourced the existence of the event from the NE Spahtens Facebook webpage. A Spahten has asked about the Day of Crisis being a good event. The feedback from seasoned OCR participants was that it was probably not going to deliver on its promises that the marketing materials provided.

I took a look at the website. I was hooked. I registered for the Boston Day of Crisis OCR race scheduled in June. However, in May, was told that the only race that Day Of Crisis Organizers were putting on was in Dallas, all others were cancelled due to the event organizer’s work in Nepal following the earthquakes there. The event organizer is a non-profit called Project Hope, an organization dedicated to disaster response around the world. Project Hope has had some difficulty with brand recognition, as Baby Boomers are familiar with the name, but Millenials and Gen Yers maybe less. Project Hope wanted to put on this event to gain interest in the non-profit and create a new generation of people interested in disaster response.

When the races were cancelled, I was given the opportunity to either donate my registration fee to Project Hope, or be refunded. I asked for my refund back. I still wanted to participate and went to the Day Of Crisis event in Dallas.

My big question was, how was Project Hope going to make an OCR look more like a simulated disaster scenario?

Let’s begin at registration and the starting line.

Arrival, Registration, and Starting Line:
I drove from Dallas about an hour southwest to a ranch that has already been a host of several Spartan Races and OCRs, from my recollection, so a few of you reading this might be familiar with the ranch. Parking was on a grass field, I cannot remember if we were charged for the parking or not.

The registration table was close to parking and it was simple, it was under a few tents with volunteers doing the necessary administrative work. We finished the paperwork, were given a necklace with dog tags and told to hold onto them. About 200 racers were expected to make it through the OCR.

The starting line had OCR runners from various states. My brother and I were told to stick together and told to form a team of four people. We were to stay with our team the entire time. We were also given a gallon of water to bring with us. We were able to use it to drink, but was told that we could not leave the gallon of water behind.

A team consisted of four people each, often total strangers. They were staggered to go the starting line every thirty minutes. Approximately 5 to 10 teams would be released each half hour.

* Race Details
The First Obstacle:
The race course took place over rough terrain. The only way to know you were going in the right place was to locate a piece of pinking flagging that would indicate you were going in the accurate direction. There were some trails to run on. Most of the race was run through rugged terrain, offering a rugged race through brush that I did not expect. Running through the brush was enjoyable, but the first obstacle that came up was the most concerning because of its potential for safety hazards. Brush-running with shorts could almost always lead to small nicks or cuts in the skin, and the first obstacle included a large puddle/small pond. Since it was a ranch, cows probably have left their digestive business in the vicinity, leading to hazardous species of bacteria floating around in the water.

The first obstacle’s purpose was to build an artificial floodwall using sandbags. This simulates a flood disaster scenario. Sandbags were placed in a pile, and you were required to take the sandbags from one area, transport them to another spot, and form a working sandbag wall. What was not said was that you could walk around the puddle instead of walking through it. The sandbags were traditional, nothing fancy, and you could carry as many as you wanted. (I thought I was epic carrying three across the puddle, until I saw my ox of a brother carrying four like a beast man, I admire his strength!) The obstacle was fun because of its difficulty, the puddle terrain was muddy and hard to balance, but I would not recommend falling in, the kinds of bacteria in the water could enter through the little cuts in your leg and give you a bad time. A volunteer inspected the hastily constructed sandbag wall for structural stability. Various racers suggested placement of the obstacle in the race di
fferently because it was so difficult, but feedback on that obstacle was that it worked and was tough.

The race continued on, crossing more rough terrain. Further along, we had to cross a creek, and we redirected by a volunteer. Apparently, the muddy creekbed had forced some racers to go up to their chests in mud. I guess race directors did not want this part of the race to continue.

The Other Obstacles:
Because it has been about two months since I ran the race. I do not fully remember the sequence of obstacles and which they occurred. However, I do remember the details enough to paint a good picture of what was good, and what needed work.

One obstacle was the person carry, where you had to travel with a teammate carrying them a certain distance. Some materials were provided, such as a portable stretcher, often one team member would just piggy back on another. The person was carried a certain distance, and then you went on your way through the trail. It was cool, but I thought it could have been a little more difficult to make it fun.

A second obstacle was pretty cool, but might need to be developed further. It looked like a wildland/urban interface fire, a fire near a house in a wooded area. Participants had to walk through a little shed, and connected to the other end of the shed was a tunnel that was smelled of smoke and completely darkened. No sunlight was visible within the tunnel and the platform to stand on banked and inclined at random spots so that the footing was a little difficult. It required a person to really move slowly with their team, and one person to lead them through the tunnel. Smelling the smoke and not being able to see was a very intense feeling. It did not require me to change my underpants, though.

A third obstacle was the ol’ rolling a large tire up a hill and rolling it back down. We had to work together as a team to get it done. Mud and small rocks dotted the tire as we worked to bring it back up and down. It was tough, but the teamwork aspect made it fun. Does it reflect a disaster scenario? Not really. Was it an obstacle? Yes.

A fourth obstacle was what looked like a field hospital in a refugee camp. Volunteers dressed up as medical staff were directing teams to tents where other volunteers were on stretchers pretending to be sick. Teams were given a card before they entered the field hospital with a list of symptoms of “Patient Zero,” a volunteer who was pretending to be sick with a specific illness. Teams were required to look at clipboards with various medical facts and conditions of each patient and identify the correct patient that corresponds with the symptom list that teams were given before entering. After that, teams were required to mix liquids in test tubes together to create the right color liquid to serve as an “antidote” for Patient Zero. Teams then finished the Field Hospital obstacle and were told to move onto the next part of the race.

I thought that this idea was a little confusing, as you can tell by the detail I had to add in this paragraph. I think if people were required to wear PPE that medical staff do at field hospitals, it would have been more realistic. I also think including a CPR component where racers just work on CPR or some basic medical task would have added to the realism. Teaching or experiencing CPR in a high stress environment is a lot more realistic and could provide the training that people would benefit from in the future if they had to step up to the plate and deliver 30 compressions at the rate of 100 per minute.

The Finish:
The finish line was in a large hangar that was decorated for large cowboy Texas Family reunions. Once finishing the race, you were expected to bring the gallon of water back to the race organizers. It could be full or empty, our team decided to leave it full and unopened, even though it was hot. The muddiness of the course eventually got on our gallon of water and it did not look appealing enough to drink from.

Runners were checked for their dog tags. The dogtags would be taken away from a runner if they did not complete each obstacle correctly. Once the race volunteers checked the dog tags, runners were given a Day of Crisis shirt and a ticket for one free drink. On the other side of the hangar were the runners, collected and assimilating this latest OCR over a cold beer.

Most said that it was enjoyable for a first of its kind race. A lot stated that the concept was great, the obstacles could be worked on, and that they would do it again, assuming the race was improved.

Personally, I dig the idea of bringing disaster scenarios into an OCR. I think there a lot of brave people out there who can learn something from a race like this: just what people are capable of. While an OCR already teaches that, Day Of Crisis takes the OCR from a Super Mario Bros-like awesomeness to a new awareness of what goes on in life, and how similar it can be to an OCR. Just think of the power that someone feels helping out a community by moving those sandbags somewhere they are needed. I know that this race has a lot to work on, but that is why you start with one race, and move on to the next after that.

(I am an unpaid volunteer working with Project Hope to bring Day Of Crisis to the Boston area. I was given free registration for the race because of my interest in it and am working with people to bring an OCR here. This is merely a review, but please let me know if I am crossing that fine line between marketing and reviewing.)

* Rating