Monday, July 27, 2015

Battlefrog New England 2015

July 25, 2015

With the hoopla leading up to this race, I was a little worried about how it would go (short version: There were questions about Battlefrog's future because it was rumored they were in financial trouble). As for difficulty, this race was less distance than the Spartan Super, and I knew the venue to be flat, so I was not too worried.

Parking was similar to the Super, but right away you could tell things were a smaller scale. Whereas the Super they had maybe 10 porta-potties at the parking area, here there was only three. There was also a line at the buses, but fortunately I didn’t have to wait too long to get on one. At the venue, Registration was extremely fast and easy. Up to the festival area, the layout seemed a little strange, and I had to cut through a merchant tent to get inside (perhaps I didn’t enter the right way, but I just followed the crowd). Bag check was smooth dropping off, but less so picking up--it did not seem very organized despite several volunteers helping out. I ended up having to find my bag myself and then point it out to the volunteer who retrieved it.  

We lined up to start and prepared for the motivational speech. At other races I’ve been to, the speeches are okay, somewhat motivational, but far too long, and I’m always impatient to get going. This time, however, the speech was short, to the point, got me pumped up, and got us on our way fast. Good job and very much appreciated.
The NE Spahtens start the race

The course itself followed much of the path of the Spartan Super, so I was familiar with the terrain. As always, I lagged behind as the group surged ahead.  To my surprise the first obstacle was a Rope Climb, and there was already a backup. The climb didn’t seem as high as some others, and the ropes were very close together. I’ve never completed a rope climb before, and I wasn’t looking forward to failing the first obstacle, but I managed to do this one, which was definitely a mental boost early in the race.

Next was a Tire Flip, then a Mud Trudge (at the Super it was just a muddy pool that was part of the trail, here it was a little muddier and deeper, and called an obstacle).  Next was an 8’ Wall.  At the Super they had an 8’ wall that I needed a boost over, here they had a horizontal board for a foothold maybe 3’ up that was sufficient to get me over the wall unassisted.  Next was 60 degrees, an inverted ladder.  I usually manage inverted walls just fine, but this one was a challenge to get over the top bar.  Next was the Jerry Can Carry.  Men got a 20 liter plastic Jerry Can mostly filled with water (so about 40 lbs?  It felt like a lot more).  We carried that 0.4 miles, and then it was on to the Natural Ledge, which was essentially climbing up a fallen tree to get to the top of a ledge. Some might consider it cheating to call that an obstacle, but it’s really just taking advantage of the terrain of the venue. Next was Mounds of Grounds, which was a standard multiple mud pit obstacle.

Next was an obstacle that isn’t on the map, but (I think) has been called Gut Check or something similar.  It is set up similar to gymnastic uneven bars.  You climb up to stand on a log (the lower “bar”), then have to leap onto a higher log, get over it, and then you’re done. There was medical staff standing by at this one, and I could see why--it would have been easy to fall off the higher bar if you misjudged your jump. I saw several people jump up to it and not quite make it, clinging to the upper log and struggling to get over. Some succeeded, others didn’t. I saw one guy jump up, grab the log in a bear hug grip and swing right over it, which seemed crazy to me when I saw it. I decided not to overthink any particular technique and just go for it, so when it was my turn, I leaped, hugged the upper log like the other guy did, and my momentum swung me right over it like it was the most natural thing in the world.  

Next was Normandy Jacks, which was a wire crawl (thankfully no barbs) that had some small pits dug into it as well, which made it more interesting than the standard wire crawl. Here is where I learned that compression sleeves do make a difference in protecting your arms during crawls!

Next was a 12’ Rope Wall.  I attempted this one assuming I would fail, and I almost gave up, but I tried again, managed to get my foot on a foothold, and completed it. The obstacle was difficult but I enjoyed it.  Next was the Wreck Bag Carry for 0.34 miles. Since I could carry the bag across my shoulders and I could control it easily by the widely spaced handles, this was a breeze and I barely noticed the weight. Next was a Slant (Inverted) Wall, and then the Platinum Rig.  By this point I was pretty tired, and by the amount of people doing 8-count body builders around it, there were a lot of failures. The women’s side had various footholds for parts of it, and I thought it looked hard...but then I saw the men’s side and actually laughed.  A lot of guys just looked at it, shook their heads, and did the penalty.  For principle’s sake I climbed on the first part, a vertical metal pipe that was slick with mud & sweat, promptly slipped right off, and did the penalty.  I had forgotten how many body-builders to do, so I asked someone, who said “Eight?  Ten?” and shrugged. There wasn’t anyone policing the body builders, which I thought was good. It’s my own race and I’ll penalize myself by what I think I deserve, and I don’t need anyone to yell at me while I’m doing it.  I did ten body-builders and moved on.  
Climbing the Delta Ladder

Next was the Delta Ladder, which was very tall with widely spaced planks. I just took it slow and steady and got through it fine. Next was a 6’ Wall and then Tsunami.  I had never done an obstacle like this before, and it looked like fun. First you went up a cargo net, and then dropped off the top onto a quarter pipe made slick with water from a hose.  A lot of people were hesitating at the top, but I just went over and did it, slid down to the bottom and that was that. Reading other reviews apparently Tsunami was a disappointment to others.  I thought it was ok, but if there are better versions, then I’m all for them.  I approve of the cargo net at the beginning however, as there was already a backup due to people hesitating at the top--a rope climb to get up or anything else that could slow it down would only make it worse. But a slicker slide or into a pool of water would be a welcome addition, but I imagine there were limitations due to the venue.
Tired Trudging on the Trail

Next was an Inverted Wall, but this one was leaning away rather than towards you. I ran up, managed to get a finger hold at the top, and pulled myself over.  Then a 12’ Ladder Wall, up and down, and then the final obstacle.  Tip of the Spear was the final obstacle, with a horizontal traverse across three slanted walls in succession, the first with ropes, the second with wooden rail for finger grips, and the last with more ropes. I managed the first ropes, got halfway through the second part when my grip failed me and I could not complete it. Angry with myself, I did 10 body-builders, and then completed the final rope section, then crossed the Finish Line.
Interesting side note on finishing:  I’ve done 5 OCRs now, Spartan Sprint, Bone Frog, Tough Mudder, Spartan Super, and now Battlefrog.  At Bone Frog, a veteran put the medal over my head and gave me a firm handshake.  At Tough Mudder there was a crowd of people there waiting, all supportive and eager to award me my headband.  At Battlefrog a volunteer put the medal over my head.  But at the two Spartan races?  Both times, the volunteers waiting at the finish line handed me my medal as if it was an afterthought.  It’s not that I feel cheated for not getting a pat on the back at the Spartan races, but the reception you get at the end puts a positive cap on the tone of the race.  

To sum up, Battlefrog was a fun race.  Not as physically punishing as some of the longer (and hillier) races I’ve done, but some of the obstacles were unique and challenging, which is always a plus and makes a race stand out. It was good to have obstacles that were challenging but not impossible for someone of my fitness level. Assuming Battlefrog is still around next year I’ll definitely be back.

Other Races in this series

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