Monday, May 18, 2015

Bone Frog Challenge New England 2015

May 16, 2015
This was my second OCR.  I had originally planned on doing the Killington Spartan Sprint in 2014, but real life got in the way, and I could not manage to train so I did not feel up to it. I vowed that 2015 would be different, and so I signed up for the Bonefrog Challenge. I planned on starting 2015 with some hardcore training, but again, real life got in the way and I wasn’t able to train much until March, and then I knew what I was doing was not enough. The closer I got to the event, the more I felt that I had bitten off more than I could chew. 10+ miles, 50 obstacles, 6000’ of elevation change...this felt like it would be too much for me. I kept training as much as I could, however, and even managed two long “runs” of 10.5 and 11.5 miles on the treadmill in the month leading up to the race. I was very slow, but I could do it, and that gave me a little bit of confidence.
Course Map

Arriving at the venue, a ski mountain in Western Mass., I wasn’t nearly as nervous as I had been at my first OCR. I was properly equipped with hydration pack, long socks, trail-running shoes and clothing, and I had been through a check-in before, so I knew what to expect. I had also regulated my food consumption sufficiently the week before I had no digestion issues--always a concern.  

I met my friends John and Linda at the NE Spahtens tent with a pair of John’s co-workers and Nicole, another Spahten they were friendly with. Time was near so we were off to the start line. The weather was good, not too hot and generally overcast, although there would be sun later in the day. At 10:00am we were off.

The first part of the race was up the mountain, and I realized very quickly what would be the most difficult part of the race for me: the hills. My heart rate shot up, my pace slowed dramatically, and as would happen for the rest of the day, I would trail behind the others. I don’t remember all the obstacles in order in spite of having a map available, but I will do my best to recall them. There was a standard Low Crawl under wires, and very quickly I had scraped my knees and forearms in the muddy ground.  Next was a jump/climb over a large plastic tube perhaps 4-5 feet high, with lots of mud around it--I managed these easily. There followed a Tire Drag--you had to pull a tire towards you with a rope, then drag it back to its starting position. Nicole, being petite, had difficulty dragging hers, so I helped her do it and then did it again myself. Another Low Crawl and then a Sandbag Carry uphill--the bag was flexible so it was easy to rest on a shoulder.  Up the hill, switch shoulders, carry it back down. Then a Tarzan Swing--I had done one at the Spartan Sprint last year, so this was easy.  By now were were back down at the base of the mountain.

Then was the first long wait of the day--the obstacle was the “Assault Craft” of several large inflatable boats tethered together, and you had to go from one to the next to cross a body of water. They were having trouble with the boats, as apparently some came untied, and people would bunch up in the boats causing more backups, etc. I estimate we waited in line at least a half hour, probably more, before getting our chance. The obstacle was fun, and I managed to jump from boat to boat without falling in. Next was a Log Carry up a hill and back that was easier than the sandbag carry.  

Next was the first set of Monkey Bars. I knew these would be tough, and I was proven right--my hand slipped right off the first bar like it was coated with grease. Already I had little grip strength. I did my penalties and went in line for a Tyrolean Traverse. Another long wait as there were many in line and only six ropes. I knew the technique, and managed to keep it up for perhaps ten feet, but then I went into the water and had to swim. The water was shockingly cold, and sapped my strength very quickly, and swimming with shoes on was very hard. I considered waving to one of the lifeguards for help, but in the end I made it to the far shore by myself.

Next up was a horizontal wall climb and another long wait. I managed most of the climb before I had to descend, which was much harder than ascending, and I slipped off and fell, having to do more pushups. What followed was swinging handles/monkey bars, which I tried but of course failed, and more pushups.

Next was a climb through a wooden contraption, on top of monkey bars in a wooden frame, and then  a Trench Crawl with a bend in it underneath an opaque tarp. Some people were having claustrophobia issues with it, but I kept on my hands and knees and got through ok. My only complaint was that wherever I put my knees, it seemed like it was on a rock. After that was a hop through some foxholes with some hedgehogs that was made to look like Normandy Beach. Back up the hill to a Tire Carry, and then back down to a “Black Out.” Another opaque tarp that covered three consecutive walls with windows in it at varying heights you had to climb through. The only illumination was provided by some chemlights, which proved to be enough to get by. There was a backup inside, but it wasn’t so bad.

By now it was clear that the obstacles were well spaced, which was a plus, because it broke up the hiking a lot. Past another obstacle (a wall?) and then was the Stairway to Valhalla. This consisted of climbed straight up a very steep ski run to the top.  In places it was steep enough that some people went on all fours to climb it. Utterly exhausting, it took me a long time but I got up it. At the top was a memorial to fallen veterans and a board that you could sign. Back down and on. Another Horizontal Wall--much easier and with better holds than the first, I did this one easily and then a reverse wall which was doable, and lots more hiking. Another obstacle with a backup was one with a Horizontal Pole lined with Tires that you had to get over--the backup was caused by people who couldn’t make it over. When it got to my turn, I used a person to help me over and got boosted far that I crashed down on the other side, but was ok. I made it over the second one myself. More hiking to two consecutive nearly vertical walls with a rope up and down on each, I could not manage any of it and thus had to do more pushups.  

Next was a few walls to go over and under, and then another Sandbag Carry--this one you had to fill yourself and carry up and down a hill.  At this point a volunteer told us we were at the 7 mile mark. Already I had gone more than the Spartan Sprint, but it didn’t feel that far. I felt low on gas, but not empty.  With this encouragement we went on to a Vertical Rope Climb, which I failed--I knew what to do, but did not have the strength to do it. Next was a flurry of obstacles, including a less steep Rope Climb, which I could do, climbing over some logs, then another vertical Rope Climb followed by Monkey Bars and another Rope Climb, which I predictably failed (at the vertical rope climb). I asked the nearby volunteer what the penalty was, and he said “Just pride on this one,” to which I replied, “I lost that a while ago.”  

Next was a Vertical Cargo Net, and another long backup. (by this point in the race, I feel like I had lost maybe 90 minutes in waiting in line for obstacles). The cargo net was vertical and perhaps 15-20 feet high.  A lot of people needed to be talked through it.  When it came to my turn, I managed it fine--I didn’t think it was technically hard, but I was low on gas and that made it difficult.  Getting my shoes caught in the ropes was another worry but I did it ok.  More walls then a steep ladder with maybe 3-feet between “rungs”, which was easy for me, although it would have been much harder had I been shorter.

Next was “31 Heroes”, a memorial to veterans who died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan: you had to do a military press with a sandbag and then a burpee for each name.  Another wait, then I slogged through my 31 presses/burpees and on again.  I think the tribute is a great obstacle, and although I didn’t shout the names out loud, I made sure to say each one in turn, and not just count to 31.  

On to “Mind Games” which was to answer some questions, and we were told that “it was all downhill from here.” Not quite true, but close enough.  The next obstacle was the “Slide for Life”, near the base of a large wind turbine. You had to jump up to a platform, climb through a hole to a higher platform (I needed help getting up), and then a slide down a rope back to the ground, which you had to do as a Tyrolean Traverse. It took some doing to hang onto the rope backwards and headfirst off the edge of the platform, but I did it ok, and managed to hang on long enough to complete the obstacle. I was proud of myself for completing that one.
Carrying an ammunition box up the mountain

A few more obstacles that are a blur and lots of hiking through the woods, and then back through a tunnel that we had jumped over at the beginning of the race. Down to the base of the mountain again, and for the final push. We had to Carry Ammunition Boxes up the hill and back down--by this time my wife Kerri and the kids caught their first sight of me, and Kerri took a picture of me going up the hill with the ammo box on my shoulders. Back down and over a tall wall (more boosting), then a Balance Walk over a telephone pole that would shift and roll slightly. Then was a climb up a set of horizontal logs--you had to make small jumps up each one, which was difficult, but I managed ok (proud of myself again), and once I was told an easy way to get down, I did it and was fine. Then another rope climb/monkey bars/rope climb that I tried just to say that I did, and failed, so it was a final 50 pushups, with Kerri and the kids cheering me on. Then a short low crawl and a “roll” through sand, and John, Linda, and I were all through the finish line together. 7:04:18, 10 miles and 6000’ elevation change.
Horizontal Log Obstacle

This was definitely more of a challenge--and more fun, than last year’s Spartan Sprint.  It was good to race with friends, especially those patient enough to wait for me.  Unlike the Sprint, this time I really had a sense of accomplishment in finishing. Aside from scraped up knees and forearms, I’m just sore from the experience. My next race is the Tough Mudder in three weeks, and I think I can handle it.
Survived my second race!
Other Races in this Series

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