Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The BattleFrog Miami...and my first non-Spartan race

This post should have been done weeks months ago.  But just as the post comes months after the race, the decision leading up to this race goes back months before race day.  While I was working in the Doral, FL area, I stopped at a Taco Bell for lunch.  I noticed a couple of guys decked out in BattleFrog gear so I introduced myself...and wanted to know more about it.  I'd seen some Facebook news about them and it sounded like a race I would like to do.  Well, it turned out to be two of the founders (Mike and Don I believe....but don't hold me to that...please).  So we spoke for a bit....and I was sold on doing the next Miami event.  May have actually promised to do it...and I didn't really want to break even a promise like that to a Seal.

That Miami event happened to be the February race and the opening event for 2015.  Now, I should have known right off that things weren't going to go quite as planned.  Not only did I mistakenly take a roundabout route to the race, but after taking 3 photos at the venue my phone was dead! (full disclosure - I knew my battery was going and naturally I waited until it did go to replace it). to the race!  First, let me say, I loved the course!!  It began raining while we were still in the corral...a few minutes before the start...and kept raining for the next couple of hours.  So a course that was expected to include a lot of water obstacles ended up being virtually continuous water for most of the day.  And you need to understand, I'm not the faster racer by any stretch of the imagination.  It's more the relentless effort that's my style.  So a slick course was definitely not my friend.  Having only run Spartan races up to this point, there were a number of different...and several more difficult...obstacles to deal with.  All in all, it was an extremely challenging course, which made all the preparation worthwhile and completion of the race more satisfying.

I had expected any number of water obstacles, but what surprised me were the number of climbing obstacles.  Those are always a challenge for me...partly because of my size, and partly because I'm just a bit too old for this kind of shit!  The added challenge on one of these was that at the very top, you had to climb through a relatively small (read: tiny) opening to get to the other side of the wall.  Being smaller (and less wide) would definitely have been an advantage there. [editor's note: I found out much later in the year that you go over the top, not thru it!]  Of course, after all the brutalization they could dish out over 15K, they had the "down and up" monkey bars leading into the final ramp climb.  And if (when) you fail the monkey bars, it's right into the water trap which makes the ramp climb all but impossible.  Although I did give it my best shot, a slip at the top sent me slamming onto the ramp, then sliding down with a jarring stop into the dirt and sand at the bottom.

Ok, now to the shortcomings.  When you walked in from the parking lot there were no signs directing you to the festival area/start line.  So people...including me...wandered back and forth a bit just trying to get in.  The sign in and baggage check went well.  But the backups that plagued the first part of the race began right at the starting corral.  I had noticed when signing up that they had a number of heats starting at the same time.  There were 5K and 15K heats going off "together".  I'd thought there might be two start lines, but it turned out that everyone was going out the same chute!  Apparently the heats were too large also and we had to split up on our own to go out. 

Unfortunately, the delays and bottlenecks didn't end there.  Within a quarter mile or so, we hit the swimming obstacle.  The way they had the rescue/aid set up, every time a person had to be helped (helped...not rescued) the entire obstacle came to a dead stop for a few minutes.  The next bottleneck occurred about another half mile in, at the cargo net climb.  Just not enough space for more than 2 or 3 at a time and there are always people who are going to be slow on these.  At that point, anyone thinking of going for time had to give up on the idea completely. 

Up to that climb, the 5K and 15K courses were running together (most likely the reason for the delays...along with the timing of the heats).  Once past the cargo net climb though, the courses parted and allowed whatever pace you could handle....which for me is generally SLOW (although I like to think of it as methodical). 

The rest of the race was pretty much free of bottlenecks...and tough as hell by the way!    I even got to do a version of the Braveheart speech on the monkey bars to a guy I had been keeping pace with the last couple of miles to the finish.  Even though he didn't make the full distance either, I'm sure he was glad he tried.  I know how agonizing it can be to go home that night knowing you didn't give something your best shot because it looked too tough.

With all the little snafus in the beginning of the race, the biggest surprise for me though was at the finish.  There was no more beer!!!??  No...I'm not kidding!!  One of my favorite parts of the race has always been to have that beer and grab a bite to eat while hanging at the festival and watching racers still finishing.  Not only that, but the festival was all but closed. food....and nothing else there to drink either.  Very...very disappointing to say the least. 

I realize that the rain was not the ideal situation but really....not only did many people pay a nice entry fee to race, but for many this would be one of the few races (maybe the only race) they would run.  They deserved a much better event than this ended up being.  The surprising thing to me...allowing for the fact that it was their first event of that these guys are known for taking care of the details. Specially since this was opening up in their hometown.

In the end, course-wise, I definitely would like another shot at a BattleFrog.  I know they'll be back here to close out the 2015 season.  I'm fairly certain they'll have the kinks worked out by then too.  I'm just not so sure I want to bet my money on it....again.  If I do though, I'll make sure next time to BYOB and a BBQ!...just in case...

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