By heathera71, Mar 31 2015 01:45PM
BY: GLENN NAKAMURA
Before I begin this review of Battlefrog Houston, I want to say that I really like what the team at Battlefrog has been doing in OCR this year. Longer courses with a good variety of obstacles that require strength, agility, and technique. I especially appreciate that elite wave participants are governed by set of defined rules with mandatory obstacle completion. No burpees to help avoid a difficult obstacle (surely, none of us have ever witnessed racers cheating on the burpees). If an obstacle can't be completed, the racer may continue but will have their "elite" wristband cut off. It's one thing to disqualified from awards, but the thought of losing the wristband should send chills down the back of any competitor.
After the Miami and Orlando venues, Battlefrog switched the format of their course layout from a single lap 15K to a two lap 8K design. I was initially disappointed with the change because I thought that the course would lose some of it's challenge and would be a little less exciting. I couldn't have been more wrong. I ran both of Battlefrog's Florida offerings and thought that they were fun and challenging courses. The two lap format would be different and would increase the obstacle density, and I was ready... or so I thought. Houston had very little change in elevation, but this race kicked the tail of pretty much any racer not named Atkins, Call, or Coffin (huge props to Corrinna, by the way). Until this race, I had never questioned whether or not I was going to complete a race due to ability, fallen off a set of monkey bars, or required multiple attempts at a rope climb. Battlefrog Houston provided me a few firsts that I can honestly say that I didn't like the thought of.
The race had a fairly standard beginning. There was muddy terrain, short steep inclines, and the like. Then came the jerry can carry. I knew this coming in and I knew it would be taxing. From prior events, I saw that they intended to make it go for a good distance, so no surprise there. However, more than 600 meters later my arms were more than a little tired. Fortunately, the course gave the arms a break by allowing the participants to carry the 50lb wreck bag for about a kilometer up and down rolling hills, through clay bottomed puddles, under wires, and over walls. Be careful not to let it hit the ground elites, except on the crawl, or you'll be starting over. Towards the end of the 8K loop the race designers either lost their minds or firmly established a strong belief in survival of the fittest. With grip strength still recovering from the can carry, racers took on a hands only caving ladder that transitioned to a descent down a phone pole, followed by the most challenging set of monkey bars that I have faced. Traditionally, monkey bars have always been a strength for me, so I immediately grabbed on and started a down a decline that would transition to an incline. Unlike the setups in Florida, there was no transition platform waiting at the bottom. Instead, there were rock holds on beams leading to bars that were obscured and difficult to grab to start the way back up. "Houston, we have a problem". Competitors were falling like raindrops in a hurricane, and words were spoken that are not fit for print. As previously stated, I have never fallen off a monkey bar rig before, but that changed in Houston. On my third attempt, I made the transition and then lost grip strength with one rung left before splashing down once more. At this point, discouragement set in and I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to complete the race. After sitting, resting, questioning my abilities, contemplating quitting, and mentally calling the course designer a multitude of names that I won't write down, I finally got across. As I left that rig running towards Tsunami and the end of the first 8K loop I was feeling beaten down and slightly victorious, but I could swear that I could hear those blasted bars mockingly yell out to me, "See you on lap 2!".
When I got home, I wondered if I was overplaying the difficulty of the course through the haze of misbegotten remembrances of hard times, like the tales of parents who had to walk through chest deep snow to school going uphill both ways in 100 degree weather... So I compared the time of the victor, Ryan Atkins, to that of his OCR World Championship results, which was an epically tough course. Battlefrog Houston took him a little more than 2 minutes longer for about the same distance. The course was amazingly hard and may have even crossed the line on the degree of difficulty scale. Needless to say, there were not many orange wristbands left on competitors' arms at the finish line, and when you saw one you congratulated the person wearing it. I can truthfully say that no 10 miles has ever taken me that long to run, nor made me seem more inadequate while doing it. That being said, I'd love another shot at that course and perhaps I'll consider taking my wristband off tomorrow.