Friday, July 31, 2015

BattleFrog Race at Barre, MA.....Race Review

Well, having finished my post on The People Behind the OCR events, I wanted do what I had originally started...which was my review of the BattleFrog Race at Barre, MA.  This BattleFrog race was my first stop in the Summer of OCR series.

Most of the races I will be volunteering for a couple of days on the build during the week, then running on Saturday.  However, because of the timing and the distance....Miami to Barre....I would be volunteering as an Elite Course Marshall in the morning, then running that afternoon.  This particular arrangement is something I've never done before, so I was very interested (read: anxious) to see how that played out.  And even though I normally try to get to the venue for the early heats, I've never done it after camping the night before.

So at 5am, I arrived at the volunteer parking and after some last minute second-guessing about what I would need, jumped on a waiting shuttle bus to the venue.  Since running the The BattleFrog Miami I was curious to see how this race compared...particularly with the recent changes at BattleFrog, which included a new CEO.

My first impression was a good one...the festival and registration areas in Barre were certainly much better organized than in Miami.  Of course, seeing things from the perspective of a volunteer is different than seeing it as a pure racer.  But it does offer some insight that you don't get as a racer.  I have to say, working the course as a volunteer was a great experience overall.  Not to mention that we were located at the final obstacle...just in front of the finish line.  Not only did we have the opportunity to experience some of the festival atmosphere, but the racers knew that after our obstacle, they were done!  Which made for some very happy...although very tired...racers.

It's a little hard to compare the courses least in terms of difficulty.  In some ways the Barre course seemed more gruelling, but I have to factor in the eight hours of standing around prior to running.  In Barre, there was an opening run through the woods leading to a relatively short rope climb.  A few walls to scamper over at different points, along with several inverted walls...which can be brutal when you start to cramp up!  And a double vertical wall to climb just near the finish.

Of course they had a the "delta" style climbs...included one that was inverted...which for some reason at this race, I was completely baffled trying to make the transition over the top.  There were also long water can and sandbag carries.  Both tough challenges in the heat...particularly after a long day in the sun.  New (to me at least) was the sand bag itself.  A two handled job that I felt made the carry quite a bit easier...which is just fine! 

There were definitely some obstacles noticeably missing from the Miami course.  Some of those more memorable BattleFrog obstacles were the Dirty Name (which was much easier DRY)...but the 'scissor' monkey bars were not and the ramp climb at the end in Miami was modified into a ladder climb and slide at Barre.  One thing that wasn't missing this time were the photos!  As you can see from this post, there were several photographers out on the course...including one that cleverly took up residence under the delta ladder for some candid shots.  And kudos to the photographer at the finish!  Apparently he also ended up at that post for the entire day but stuck to it and delivered some great memories for the late day finishers....even going the extra mile to get a shot of me finally ringing that damn bell on the obstacle I'd been working all day!

Overall, the course was good....but if they do hope to move up into the top echelon of OCR events, they still have to work on their game...which no doubt is item number one for the new CEO.  One big thing they will need to work on is the volunteer scheduling.  That is, getting them to show up!  Having worked on one race as staff, I realize that relieving volunteers can be a real fire-drill.  However, apparently, they were so short on the pm shifts, that several obstacles had to be shut down.  This also resulted in many of us being an hour late getting off, which caused them to delay the volunteer heat almost an hour to accommodate us (not so great for the others but much appreciated by those of us that stayed at our posts until the last minute!).

Then, there were the great people I met.  Volunteers like me for the most part.  Some with stories like mine too, that OCR had been the wake up call to get in better shape.  Others that just found another outlet for their competitive nature.  Several from the racing group, the New England Spahtens.  Even a couple, Lynn and Greg, who it turns out have their own race, BoldrDash.  Another race added to my wish-list!

My next stop will be the Tough Mudder in Andover, NY on August 1st.  Then I'll be heading to Pittsburgh, PA for another BattleFrog.  Looking forward to both, as I've never run a Tough Mudder before and I really want to see how this next BattleFrog shapes up.

What have your race experiences been?
Please share them with us here and I hope to see you at one of the future races! 


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