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Featured Review: Bonefrog – Charlemont

Bonefrog Challenge is a smaller race series hosting events in the Eastern United States. This past weekend they held their New England event in their home venue of Berkshire East Mountain Resort in Charlemont, MA. With four race length events going on at the same time, there is something available for athletes of all levels. The Sprint course was about 4 miles, with about 22 obstacles; the Challenge was approximately 7 miles with 36 obstacles; Tier-1 is the Challenge course followed by the Sprint course; and finally for those gluttons for punishment the Endurance was Tier-1 followed by as many Sprint laps as possible in the time allotted. Being owned and operated by Navy SEALS, and run at a ski resort, the combination of military inspired obstacles and rugged terrain with significant elevation pushed many course runners to their limits.  As a smaller race series, and part of the #RaceLocal Grand Prix, it is clear that the race organizers had listened to criticism from past events and implemented changes in an attempt to improve the overall experience, which for the most part worked, although there are some things still to be ironed out.

Communications:

Upon race registration, the confirmation email included the selected wave time. The morning before the race, another email went out with a reminder of the overall preparation for race day. There was a scheduled early packet pick up as well as spaghetti dinner on Friday night, but due to the remote location, I’m not sure how well attended it was.  In the reminder email, it was recommended that we should arrive at least one hour and fifteen minutes before the starting wave time, and as it turns out it was definitely needed.

Arrival Logistics:

Parking for the event was on site for $10, and was within ¼ mile of the registration tents. Traffic flow entering the venue was smooth and guided well by volunteers. Upon arrival, there were tents outside for packet pick up. Due to the limited area and volunteers available, and the popularity of the race, the line quickly extended for packet pick up. For most people, filling out the waiver online beforehand helped the process a bit, but the check-in process could still be streamlined more. Next to packet pickup was the bag check area which was available for $5 per bag, but due to the close onsite parking, many people chose to forgo it.

Festival Area:

With inclement weather coming in, the two-floor lodge was open for racers and their families to use to stay warm and dry, as well as to mingle before and after the race. Music was pumping out via PA system to get the racers and spectators alike pumped up. With the festival area and lodge at the base of the mountain, several obstacles were visible, including their signature obstacle, Black Ops: a rope wall climb up to a platform to inclined monkey bars in front of a giant American flag. Food was available for sale from the outdoor grill, including hamburgers, sausages and hotdogs.

Race:

Each portion of the course provided a sufficient challenge for athletes of all types. Being on a ski resort, there was plenty of elevation gain, with technical trails through the woods, smooth grassy slopes, and some flat areas to really open it up. Strength based obstacles included heavy carries such as the Ammo Can (Challenge only) and the Brute Force sandbag carry, as well as a hoist obstacle called Dead Weight. Plenty of agility and grip strength obstacles were on the course as well, including some classics like “Get a Grip”, “Swinger’s Club”, and their signature final obstacle, “Black Ops”.

As a smaller race series, they seem to have more flexibility in innovating obstacles, and several newer ones were on the course. These included: Guillotine, an inclined log that one needed to balance on climbing up to a wall with a relatively narrow opening at the top, then back down an inclined balance log; Strong Hold (which was named Sway Bars at its debut in the 2017 event), a two sets of U-shaped monkey bars, with a ring transition in between and a mock grenade instead of a bell to complete the obstacle; and Ship Boarding, a set very narrow cable ladders that had to be climbed in order to reach a bell. With the addition of new obstacles, it often means that older favorites end up getting removed, sometimes for the benefit. The “Slide for Life” was removed, and while it is a difficult and fun one, it was notorious for causing bottlenecks so probably for the best that it was shelved. The “Drunken Monkey” was another that was not used on this course, but may be considered redundant because of the similar obstacles with “Strong Hold” and “Black Ops” filling the niche of monkey-bar type obstacles. Also along the lines of innovation, sometimes a new obstacle or feature does not work, and they were quick to adjust for it; for example, the Grenade Toss that was new last year became a logistics nightmare and lead to many backups, so it did not return for this event.

Another unique aspect of Bonefrog is that being a Navy SEAL owned and operated race, most of obstacles are military training inspired, and several pay homage to service members lost in the line of duty. “Mike” and “Murph” were simulated ship boarding obstacles named after Navy SEAL Medal of Honor recipients Michael A. Monsoor and Michael P. Murphy, respectively, who will have commissioned Navy guided missile destroyers carrying their namesakes. A set of three obstacles were set up to pay respects to lives lost in military operations, with one rep of an exercise done for each life lost in their respective operation: 20 reps of parallel bar dips for Red Wings (this operation was portrayed in the recent movie “Lone Survivor” starring Mark Wahlberg); 31 burpees for Extortion 17, for those lives lost when their helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan, the worst loss of US military lives in a single incident in the whole campaign (formerly the “31 Heroes obstacle from previous events); and 8 pull ups for Medal of Honor recipients. The unfortunate thing about this obstacle is that it was on the Challenge course only, so Sprint racers did not experience this; from a logistics standpoint though this would have caused significant backups if all racers went through them.

It seems that based on much of the negative feedback they had received from last year’s event, many things had changed in an attempt to correct issues. Course markings were much better than previous events, and there was less “bush whacking” through un-groomed trails, making it easier to follow the course correctly. The course was limited to one water crossing, and this was a welcome change as being on a mountain course, and with the late arrival of spring this year, the water was extremely cold. Lifeguards were stationed on each bank, and there was a diver in the water in a dry suit to ensure safety. As cold as the water was, many people struggled to catch their breath, leading to the divers and lifeguards assisting swimmers out of the water.

Penalties for failed obstacles were removed for non-elite racers (still mandatory completion for the elites) in an effort to reduce bottlenecks at obstacles. While this helped, there were still a number of backups at some of the obstacles, particularly later in the day as the Sprint and Tier-1 racers were on the course at the same time.

There were sections of climbing that were cut out, which also meant that one of the obstacles that had really been a challenge for many people but I thought was one of the highlights, Solar Walls, was not used.  Another big complaint from last year was that the trusses used for the rig type obstacles were too high for many racers; this year, different trusses to make the rigs more in reach, and boxes were placed to make it easier for shorter athletes to reach.

Post-race:

One of the disappointing things was that after the race, the free post-race refreshment was limited to water; even a banana after finishing would have been very welcome.

A big change for the race was that the shirts are now distinct for the different event that was completed (Sprint, Challenge, Tier-1, and Endurance); they are a soft poly-cotton blend that is very comfortable, but seem to run a bit small (I went up a size from medium to large anticipating a small amount of shrinking due to the cotton). The medals were redesigned instead of being a repeat from previous years’ medals (another common complaint). The Endurance medal, unlike last year’s debut event, is now larger than the Tier-1 medal.

 

For a post-race meal, the outdoor grill was open serving up hamburgers, cheeseburgers, sausages and hotdogs (veggie burgers for a meat-free option), with chips and a beverage for around $10.

Summary:

Overall, this race was a very challenging event, due to the terrain and the numerous obstacles which tested many aspects of physical and mental fitness. The tribute to the fallen service members was a very important touch to the flavor of the event. While this year’s event did improve on a number of issues from previous years, there are a few minor changes that can still be made to improve the overall experience.

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#racelocal 2017 is fast approaching

A new year, and a new #racelocal season is almost upon us!

It’ll be our fourth season of #racelocal, and like previous seasons, we switch things up, learn from mistakes and grow the program – and I’m hoping you’ll be along for the ride, and bring your friends!

(all this, and more can be found right here: http://www.nespahtens.com/racelocal)

For those who may be new, #racelocal is a program started within the New England Spahtens to encourage and promote the rich and high quality local obstacle race scene we have here in New England. All too often, people start with, stick with and retire within the large national programs – and never get to know the physical challenge that is Shale Hill, or the huge group of friends gathered at FIT Challenge, or run in a snuggly onsie at Blizzard Blast – or the many other unique events going on in the region. As a community we’re firm believers that the local scene here is pretty much the best in the world – but if you don’t participate in it, don’t register for the races, don’t support it – we lose it.

So, #racelocal was born. The more events you participate in, the more miles you complete – the more prizes you get.

Lets talk a bit about 2017 – this is not news if you’re a member of our #racelocal Athletes group on Facebook, so if you haven’t already, hop on over and join in.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/racelocalathletes/

Firstly, the confirmed race list keeps growing. More and more local events are still building out their schedule, so expect this to grow even more. But, as of today, we have the following events.

For every event you complete, we will be converting your miles covered into points. The points table looks like this.

+20% for competitive miles (elite wave at FIT Challenge, Shale Hill’s competitive division and Bonefrog’s competitive division)
-50% for non-OCR events (We’re an OCR community, but run lots of races. Events that aren’t obstacle based will be handicapped to reflect that)

Most recently we announced that the competition isn’t just going to be the full year – we have two mini-competitions going on.

Winter Warriors – all miles logged before the Spring Equinox (6:29am, March 20th 2017) will count towards the Winter Warrior prize. Top Male / Female prize earners will win some unique and cool swag.
Charity Runners – all miles logged at events hosted by registered charities will count towards the Charity Runners award. Top Male / Female points scores.

Of course, there are prizes to earn along the way – and at the end of the season, the biggest points ranking prize awards we’ve ever done (more to come) – and we’re putting significant development time into a better tool for tracking (this is a way bigger job than I realized!).

#racelocal 2017 is going to be our best yet – I hope you’re along for the ride, and I hope you bring your friends along too!

http://www.nespahtens.com/racelocal

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Featured Review: Bone Frog Challenge Fall 2016

 

With thanks again to Nicole Sibley for sending in our Featured Review for the fall 2016 Bone Frog Challenge!

 

bonefroglogoThis year’s Bone Frog Challenge could be summed up in a few sentences.

  1. It was cold.
  2. We did a lot of trail running.
  3. We got lost.
  4. We crawled under a bunch of stuff.
Suffice it to say, it was a sufferfest. Of course, four sentences is hardly the sum of the story. Let’s get into it.
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Bone Frog Challenge typically takes place at Berkshire East in Charlemont, Massachusetts in May. The 2015 Bone Frog will likely go down as one of my favorite races of all time with over fifty obstacles stretched over a 15K course. The race was meticulously executed. This spring, I took place in the race again and also enjoyed it. As a result, I was quite excited to see they had a fall 10K championship race planned for late October. I signed up right away.
14725721_1233367860070227_5091417190265808907_nFast forward a few months. Suddenly the championship was a standard 9 miler. The October race would be another Bone Frog Challenge. I had been excited for the shorter course, but this struck me as fine. They didn’t have enough racers, I presume, to support a championship — it would be too challenging for people to qualify. (I had signed up for the open wave, for which you did not have to qualify.)
The weather in New England is a fickle thing. Thursday I drove home in a swarm of snow. We got around 3″. Bone Frog posted pictures on Facebook of Berkshire East with obstacles covered in snow. Bone Frog’s course features two water crossings. All I could do was shake my head.
The morning of Bone Frog, I left my house at 7:00 a.m. to make it to the venue for my 9:00 a.m. wave. I live fairly close — less than an hour away — and it was an easy drive. Parking ($10 per car) was a breeze. The turn out was a lot less than for the May event, making both parking and registration a snap. Volunteers were plentiful down in the festival area and on the course. The weather was dreadful, and these people are real champions!
14925464_10208574776465017_1562675363023460515_nI connected with my fellow Spahten and good friend, Matt Puntin. Cool things about Matt include almost everything (i.e. He has obstacles in his backyard!); however, today’s cool thing was that he’d agreed to run Bone Frog with me, despite the fact that I am quite a bit slower. I was seriously off my game during the race, and having Matt with me was key to finishing. Having a good battle buddy makes all the difference.
The weather in Charlemont was unfortunate. It was damp, at times rainy, and in the low to mid 30s. There was snow on the mountain. Everything was slippery and wet. The saving grace, was that there was no wind, but this was still going to be a rough day.
Our 9:00 a.m. wave was pretty small. There were a lot of fellow NE Spahtens. Some others had chosen to do the Tier 1 Challenge, which involves doing the 9 mile Challenge course followed by the 3 mile Sprint course. They had taken off about 15 minutes prior. We had some brief announcements — a good thing in the cold — and then we were off!
The 9 mile course was almost a reversed version of the course in May with stripped down obstacles. Of the Bone Frog Challenges I’ve done, this will not rank as a favorite. I’ll go through the course map and some of the obstacles to give a bit of a breakdown of the course with my feedback.
bone-frog-fall-2016
The course featured around three dozen obstacles; however, this included a lot of repeat obstacles:
  • Four wire crawls and one net crawl
  • Two sets of tires to hop through
  • Two sets of tires on horizontal logs to go over
  • Two water crossings
14591722_1179930705428607_2705936112028398904_nThere were also a number of walls, but I consider walls an OCR staples, and these walls were all different heights so I’m good with that. The wire crawls were absolutely miserable. They were through snow. I couldn’t feel my fingers at a point, and my elbows and knees got soaked through. I should also add that I elected to not enter any of the water. I was frozen enough from the crawls and would not have been able to make it through the course if I entered the water. The first water crossing was the fifth obstacle and was chest high. The second was at the top of the mountain, where it was around freezing temperatures. I acknowledge two things about my electing to skip the water: I had a slightly different race experience and that experience was less hard. I am less strong for doing this.
I should remark that I was definitely having an “off day.” The course did not engage me, I was very uncomfortable, and my performance was lackluster. I am deeply effected by the cold, and I had a challenging day.
14939600_1237149296358750_8614942482441229949_oThere was a lot of trail running during the course. The trails were great. They were technical. The terrain was slippery and people were sliding all over; however, the paths were interesting. There was a lot of climbing up and down the mountain, but there was equally a lot of cutting across the mountain on single track trails. A problem though was that the trails were not as well marked as they could have been. I have never gotten lost on a course during the day. (And only once gotten ever so slightly off course — missing less than 50 feet — during the night.) During Bone Frog, we got lost twice. The second time, we ended up having to cut across the mountain and underneath the mountain coaster at Berkshire East. Yikes! Also, for the third time, I wished that the course had mile markers.
The low turnout, while bad for Bone Frog, meant that there were no hold-ups at the obstacles. The course moved smoothly. While there weren’t any new obstacles I can name, there were a lot of fun ones from the past. I’m a fan of the Solar Walls, which are two huge walls of at least 15′ with a rope to climb them. My hands were frozen from the crawl right before, so I had to use my legs around the rope to make sure I didn’t slip down. I also like Slide for Life. Here, you climb through a hole in a platform and then go down a traverse rope. This is unique obstacle and fun. I have to get a boost to reach the hole in the platform, but then I’m good to go.
14591874_1180029218752089_2876643097850789831_nI should mention that many Bone Frog obstacles are not short-person friendly. I cannot reach on Slide for Life, Swingers Club, Get a Grip, Drunken Monkey, or Black Ops. I also have yet to complete Swingers Club and Get a Grip, both of which are obstacles where you swing from hanging grip to hanging grip. Drunken Monkey, peg monkey bars at varying heights, I have made. Today, I was able to climb up and grab a bar, but this left me unable to get to another. Also, they were super wet, and I kind of fell half off. Matt seemed quite alarmed, and I did not elect to try again. I have made Black Ops at my first two races but did not complete it today. I made it up the rope climb but did not attempt the monkey bars, which were dripping wet. I couldn’t feel my fingers at this point, and was doing my best to just keep moving and make it to the end. Like I said, I did not have a fantastic race and did not make a number of obstacles I normally would have.
There were a few carries — the Ammo Carry for the first obstacle and the Wreck Bag Carry. Both were very short and manageable. I even found them easy. This was a great relief! I enjoyed a number of the cargo climbs and, as always, had fun on the walls. They have a number of thru walls, which are a nice way of mixing it up.
I ended up finishing this race in just over three hours. It was my fastest Bone Frog yet, due entirely to the reduced number of obstacles and zero wait time due to low turnout.
14906964_1179930842095260_6307701073490838827_nAll and all, I would give this race a 3.5 out of 5 stars. (Though I would give having Matt as my battle buddy five stars for sure.) The course was less diverse than I might have hoped, with lots of repetition, and the obstacles were less interesting than in the past. I have never gone off course before and found the markings to be a bit lacking. That being said, the volunteers were great and we got an awesome medal and t-shirt. (Though I still miss the shirts from 2015, which were the best finisher shirts ever and even came in curvy fit!) The weather, which is no one’s fault, definitely put a damper on the day and made the race a whole lot less fun. Still, no matter what, Bone Frog has some really great obstacles. I’ve seen them several times now, and might be a bit jaded, but I don’t take for granted the good work that they do.
I won’t be able to make the May race since I’m running the Vermont City Marathon the following weekend. However, I look forward to doing Bone Frog again soon. It’s a #racelocal favorite, and while this fall’s race was not their strongest showing, I’ll be back.
Got your own opinions? Leave a community review and ranking – http://www.newenglandspahtens.com/community-reviews/
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My personal #racelocal recap, and the strangest FOMO ever.

FIT

These people…they make it all happen.

From late September of 2014, Paul Jones and I have been working hard on the 2015 #racelocal Grand Prix.  Everyone knows who Paul is, he is arguably, the face of NES.  Me?  Not so much, mostly by design.  I have always been a “behind the scenes” type, this is where my comfort level is.  I’m not a stranger to the Biggest Team tent, and a lot of you know me and have met me, but I’m much more involved in areas a lot of you will never know.  A “forced extrovert” is how I’ve always defined myself, I’m definitely on the quiet side.

BoneFrog
Finally…Bone Frog!

But, boy…have I enjoyed watching this season.  Every time someone posted pictures of their medals, every time I saw someone in a #racelocal shirt.  Showing up at Killington and having someone race past me in a #racelocal “hoodie.” Reading the reviews of the races, seeing the pictures of the events I wasn’t able to attend, seeing the triumph at the ones I did.  Paul and I had so many “behind the scenes” talks about how proud of this community we are, supporting this effort.

As the races signed on and committed, everyone “behind the scenes” became more and more excited.  Amazing races like Pounder, Shale Hill, O2X.  You know the names.  I was stoked about all of them, and started checking ones off the list, what have I never done before?  Snow race.  Bone Frog.  Shale Hill.  My “to do” list went through the roof (and a  lot of it still remains).

I remember the days leading to this year’s Blizzard Blast.  I looked outside and, speaking to a friend on the phone, we both thought out loud “it might be a blast, but there won’t be much blizzard!”  It was warm, and very non-snowy, right up until a few days until the event.  Boy, did the weather change, just in time!

…and then it wasn’t!  More snow than we knew what to do with. It was awesome, and a sign of an amazing season to come! We raced, slipped, slid and slipped our way through six miles of fresh snow (that wouldn’t stop falling all year).  And, with that, #racelocal 2015 was off and running!

 

Bold
Killing it at Bold ‘R Dash!

I’ve wanted to do a Bone Frog for a couple years, this was going to be the year I would not be denied.  Setting out with my buddy Rob, I can’t think of a course that pushed and challenged us more.  Another unexpected weather day, yes?  So much for “60’s and raining,” by the time it was all said and done, we saw mid 80’s that day!  #racelocal was certainly an adventure this season.  I watched my wife crush Bold R Dash (I was sidelined with injury), same with FIT in April.  I was this (-) close to finally getting to Shale Hill (which will not elude me in 2016), only to be derailed by child care issues.  And, through all the races, I was able to do my “thing,” watch from the back ground and really enjoy all of your successes.

So, you may be asking yourself how I could have all these cool memories and still have this “strange FOMO.” Last year one of my best friends moved to North Carolina.  We planned a time for me to fly down and see him, coinciding with Spartan’s Beast weekend.  Bought my plane tickets, booked the hotel and the plan was set.  The #racelocal Grand Prix was scheduled to end weeks before this event, there were no conflicts.  I figured, great – I get to see a friend, and race. It sounds like a great weekend!

…And then Robb McCoy announced the fall FIT Challenge.  Now I was going to be missing something.  Now my weekend away wasn’t so clear and easy.  Everyone “behind the scenes” would be at FIT, except me.

Ryan
My buddy Ryan and I, running hard in South Carolina.

I had an amazing time with my buddy, we had a great weekend; however it is really hard knowing that everyone it gathering at an event, except you.  An event you had a large hand putting together is going to be ending, there will be a lot of smiling faces, awards, laughs, memories…and I won’t be there.

It was a strange feeling, being at a fun event with a great friend and, yet, having this strange FOMO feeling at the same time.  While I was running with, literally, thousands (and thousands) of people in South Carolina and doing the exact obstacles I’ve done hundreds of times, my mind was wondering what you folks were doing.  I loved being with my friend, I wouldn’t trade that weekend for the world.  But I would be lying if I didn’t admit I wasn’t jealous, and I didn’t miss you guys.

I guess that is what #racelocal does to you.

I was glad to have Paul to talk after both races, yours and mine.  I loved seeing the pictures of the event, and the prize winners.  But, really, aren’t we all “prize winners,” everyone who ran even one #racelocal event?  I know that is how I feel.

My wife and Paul at FIT!
My wife and Paul at FIT!

And next season I am determined to not have the FOMO feeling again. I hope you avoid it as well.  How do you avoid it?  Pretty simple, something Paul and I have been working on since about October of this year..

#racelocal #strongertogether

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Battle of the Frogs …

Personal note: When I “teased” this article was coming, several people assumed I would be bashing Battlefrog, or Pro-Bone Frog. I actually felt a teeny, tiny bit of resentment at that insinuation – as much support as I give to local OCRs and local events across New England, I’m quite capable of seeing merit and achievements in national series too. I have no biased against a good event, simply because of where they are located or based.

battlefrogbonefrogmedal

I made the drive to Battlefrog NJ in 2014 with a little bit of a bee in my bonnet. New England had just had it’s second year of Navy Seal, long format, extremely tough OCR events, and here I was, driving to NJ to see what this new Battlefrog was all about. Too many “frogs”, with too many similarities, and I already liked the local guy.

Tsunami was the center piece in 2014
Tsunami was the center piece in 2014

Except, Battlefrog put on a great event. Despite not being able to run the course that day – every report I heard from my muddy friends was glowing. Course and obstacle design and construction was top notch, festival and all the sundries that make an event up were high quality. It was clear they were spending a large quantity of money to do it – but after just a few races, they were putting on events that rivaled anyone in the OCR scene.

Of course, things have changed. It’s now 2015 and Battlefrog had to downsize and restructure. I’ve finally had the opportunity to run both a Bone Frog Challenge, and most recently a Battlefrog. It’s about time someone compared the two.

A fast summary, to get everyone up to speed:

bonefroglogoBone Frog Challenge is a Navy Seal owned and operated company based in New England. 2015 was their third year in business, and they have a signature 15k race on the Berkshire East slopes, MA. They also offer a 5k option, and a Tier One challenge (15k + 5k). They have held events in NY state, and have one scheduled for the tri-state region later this year.

battlefroglogoBattlefrog Series is Navy Seal inspired, but not owned or operated to any extensive capacity. Florida based, they have had a series of well publicized downsizing and focus shifts in recent months, that are impossible to ignore. The current format is an 8k course, with a Battlefrog Xtreme option (multi-laps). They travel the east coast and have stated very ambitious plans to be in many more locations in 2016.

Which is better? And how do you rank “better”? Lets dig in.

You can’t compare venues. They both travel, to some extent – and comparing a ski slope to a cow field is poor comparison. Apples to Oranges – so lets steer clear of worrying about which specific *race* was hardest, covered most elevation, was more of a runners course – and deal with the rest.

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Black Ops makes a huge statement

This is Obstacle Course Racing – and the obstacles at a Bone Frog are a huge focus and point of pride. Even at the top of Battlefrogs budget, Bone Frog would get the edge from me. Not by much, on 2014 standards, mind. Battlefrog had some epic obstacles. Since the refocus, and certainly in New England, the Battlefrog obstacles – while fun, and in some cases *really* cool (I’m looking at you, Tip of the Spear) – can’t compare to the three tier Dirty Name, or Black Ops. Both had heavy carries – ammo cans vs jerry cans – both had Wreck Bags (a carry at Battlefrog vs 31 Hero Tribute at Bone Frog). Bone Frog spends considerable time and energy building the venue out – with 54 obstacles in 15k for 2015, and Battlefrog, being a more mobile roadshow, doesn’t have that luxury. Boasting the fastest build crew in the industry, with a three day build schedule – Battlefrog simply didn’t have the volume, “epicness” or scale of obstacle that Bone Frog had.

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Ryan Atkins has dominated the very competitive Battlefrog circuit

This is still Obstacle Course Racing – and the *racing* is also a huge piece for many. Battlefrog have a heavy focus on elite racing, with Elites being expected to do two laps (16k total). Their own pro-team are super competitive, and while Bone Frog Challenge does have big names (Pak has yet to be beat), and both have mandatory obstacle completion and policing of such, and both will qualify you for OCR World Championships – if elite racing is your bag – Battlefrog has an edge here. They simply have a bigger stage, and more eyes.

Jeff hit four laps
Jeff hit four laps

Despite being a one and done man myself – there are a large group of enthusiastic obstacle racers who like nothing more than to go around in circles all day. Bone Frog offers it’s Tier One Challenge, giving you a lap of both the 15k course and the 5k course (and the flexibility to mix and match, afforded thanks to it’s more local and communal feel). Battlefrog has BFX – Battlefrog Xtreme – where they provision you with as many laps as you can handle, a unique (and cool) medal, and stars on your lanyard indicating how far you reached. This is something I heard nothing but praise for, and a really good way for them to encourage the enthusiasts, especially those who were looking for the longer format of 2014. BFX is going to be extremely popular for them.

Seal’ness. This one is difficult for me to personally comment on – so feel free to disagree and tell me I’m full of it. I’m not an American Patriot (not even being an American citizen), and while I certainly appreciate the fine folks in the military and what they do and what they give up – it’s not a driving force in my life, or my choices when I pick a race to run. I know, for some people, it is.

At the top of a steep climb, the memorial wall made everyone stop
At the top of a steep climb, the memorial wall made everyone stop

It has to be considered, though – Battlefrog and Bone Frog are heavily Seal inspired. Battlefrog used to have the very famous Seal Don Mann leading the show as CEO, but thats recently changed. Bone Frog is owned and operated by a former Seal of less fame – but no less badassness. When you get on course at Bone Frog – the Seal influence is huge. From obstacle names, to memorials, to retired and former Seals and vet’s volunteering and marshalling. Having your medal put over your neck by a war veteran was a very special moment for many people. Battlefrog does still have Seal influences and staff – but when you compare “Seal Apples to Seal Apples” – Bone Frog is hands down more military and Vet focussed on race day.

I have to stop here and make something clear. This comparison comes because of the similarities in the two races name, theme and in 2014, their style. This comparison makes less sense in 2015 (and going forward), because – despite their similar names and themes – they are now two very different races, with two slightly different audiences.

IMG_9379I don’t dislike one race over another. Despite my initial frustration with “the other Frog” and their aggressive promotion – I’ve come to get to know the race staff behind both events, without fail all good people. I’ve now run both events, and have every intention of running them both again. They scratch different itches, in the OCR space.

Battlefrog is still the big budget Seal event, sitting firmly in the mid-market space. It’s the one you’ll find in Florida, Georgia, Tri-State, Texas and on the road in betweem. It has the brand recognition and the pro-team. They showed us that they can put on a FUN 8k course, that will give you a challenge, but not be too hard. I’d bring a first timer to a Battlefrog event, and not be too concerned about their ability to do pretty much everything, with a small amount of assistance. On the Spartan Race scale that so many are familiar with, they are a 5 mile Sprint. Easy to digest, easy to access, a ton of fun when you’re done.

Bone Frog is the original, and most authentic Seal event. With a smaller geographic footprint, they’re also growing organically, based on money made and not outside investment. They put on a challenging event, and while I would be wary of bringing an absolute new comer, if you’ve done a few 5k distance races and are looking for the next challenge, I’d encourage you to make any length trip to one. On the Spartan Race scale – they rank somewhere around a tough Super, if not a Beast, but with more obstacles. You’re going to feel beat up for a couple of days after a Bone Frog Challenge.IMG_9410

Both offer great value. Both offer flexible distance and difficulty options.

If anything, the recent changes at Battlefrog made this comparison easier. I can heartily recommend BOTH events, to different audiences. If both Frog’s survive this cut throat market place, they offer incredible alternatives to the Big Box, Big Name, Big Three OCR events, and should be supported.

So, which Frog wins, in the Battle of the Frogs?

Run both, and make your own judgement.