Sunday, September 18, 2016

BattleFrog Pittsburgh 2015 Remembered - For the Special People I Met

Hard to believe it's been a year since the BattleFrog race in Pittsburgh.  In a way it seems like it couldn't possibly be that long ago.  In another way, so much has changed since then, that it feels like an era has passed for me.  That race not only introduced me to some incredible people...both BattleFrog staff and racers forever changed how I look at Obstacle Course Racing (OCR).

And when I look back on that day, I can't help but think about all the seemingly insignificant events that lead up to this experience...and how any one of them not happening would have caused me to miss out on this life changing event.  If the bag check hadn't been backed up and build director Peter Hering had not offered to store my race bag in his trailer...if my shoulder wasn't in a sling from the dislocation the previous Saturday...if Spiro hadn't intervened with Coach to find out when I could go out on the course...if I hadn't been my usual smart-ass self to Coach Pain (Dewayne Montgomery)...if Coach hadn't reacted in the way he did with an awe inspiring impromptu speech.  Then of course, if Nick and Dana and Dayton hadn't been the people they are.  If any one of these things hadn't happened in the order they did, I would have missed out on the greatest OCR day of my life.

The thing is though, as unlikely as it was for that race experience to happen, once I got to know Dana and Dayton better that day, as well as when we met several months ago in Miami, I realized that their story was even more remarkable.  (of course Nick and I got to talk a bit more after the race as I the prematurely closed beer taps....and a good time was had by all!)  Well...back to Dana and Dayton.  Apparently, they had met not too long before this race, through the Facebook group - Trail and Ultra Running (TAUR), that helps people meet up with like-minded individuals to run.  The only problem, they lived in different states!

While that did put a minor obstacle (pun very much intended) in the way, it didn't stop them.  Interestingly, their first contact was over a casual comment on a photo he posted on that site.  Something must have clicked though, as he woke her later that same day to chat online.  24 hours later he got her number and they talked again that night.  We all know though that online relationships can be a complicated thing, so caution is understandable.

However, caution to them apparently meant talking every night for hours.  Caution to Dana also meant signing him up for two local races before they even met.  So a month or so after this first photo comment, she was picking him up at the airport for their first race...and a month after that she would be doing it again.  Later that Spring she was flying into Memphis to meet his family!  And by the way, I checked, and to paraphrase one of my favorite Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy lines, "This is obviously a definition of caution that I wasn't previously aware of".

Once again, in the spirit of taking-it-slow, by mid-year they were making plans for his move to Pittsburgh.  Thoughts of marriage were already brewing in his head.  The idea of marriage grew for both of them until he formally proposed to her...of course...on the anniversary of their first race.  So when I eventually met them at the BattleFrog race in Pittsburgh that August, it's understandable why I first thought these two had been together for much longer.

Now they're out every weekend it seems, running trails and races or just enjoying the outdoors with her daughter.  On the weekends that her daughter goes to her grandparents, they tend to go on longer trips or do longer races.  In between, Dayton is continuing to train dogs in his new business, which is fast becoming a family affair.  Oh...and this past week of course, they got married!   In the end then, the truly remarkable story from that fateful day in Pittsburgh, is the fact that OCR brought two very special people together, who likely would never have met otherwise.  A year ago, OCR allowed our paths to cross as well.  It is a privilege to tell their story and to know them...and an even greater privilege to call them friends.

Related stories:

Sometimes Being a Smartass Can Lead to an Extraordinary OCR Experience - BattleFrog at Pittsburgh 2015

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

BattleFrog BFX24 Miami.....Facing the Truth About My OCR Addiction

When I helped cover the BattleFrog BFX24 for Mud Run Guide (MRG) last month in Miami I knew it would be a great new experience.  Every race seems to bring out some new perspective on Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) for me.  I certainly expected this to be no different.  What I couldn't predict though was how surprising that insight would be for me personally.

I know we've all read the stories that begin with "Hello, my name is (fill in the blank) and I'm addicted to OCR".  Almost did that myself....several times.  And for years now I have suffered under the illusion that I was slightly obsessed with  (OCR).  I mean, that's all I seemed to be talking about most of the time.  Certainly most of my free time revolved around for...planning for...traveling to...running...OCR races.  Not to mention writing and posting photos afterward!  That weekend though, I learned the real meaning of the word for me.

So let's start with the definitions.  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the two terms:

A state in which someone thinks about someone or something constantly or frequently, especially in a way that is not normal.
[editor's note: for the purpose of this story, we will overlook the fact that the writer frequently thinks about things in a way that would be considered particularly abnormal]

A strong and harmful need to regularly have something or do something.
 [editor's note: Ibid. "Obsession"]

Interestingly, this was a race I never expected to be running in the first place.  One, because I hadn't even known there was a regular race Saturday.  If I had, it's likely I wouldn't have been covering the BFX24!  Second, because when I did find out there was a Saturday race, it was in the middle of the night....while out on the course about as far away from the pit area and my car as you could get.  And I was alright with that....disappointed, but alright.  I was enjoying the whole experience so I chalked it up as a missed opportunity...nothing to be done about it.

What happened at daybreak the next day though really put this all into a new perspective for me.  After a short nap in the back of the car...surprisingly, more to rest my back than from being tired...I was up again around 6am.  After heading to the beach to see the sunrise and watch a few racers still chugging along, I headed over towards the festival area.  And that's where it happened!!

As I approached the festival area, long before I could see it I heard the familiar blaring the way, AC/DC seems to be a staple on all the Pump-You-Up play lists.  Then I could see the people.  Racers milling about, making last minute adjustments...stretching...heading over towards the start corral.  A palpable buzz in the air.  Hearing Coach Pain delivering another motivational sendoff.  Suddenly, I was no longer thinking about the BFX24 still going on all around me.  I was watching the first wave go off and then....well, then it all gets a bit fuzzy.

When you're obsessed about OCR, you do strange things.  Like getting at the venue seven hours before your start time.  Spending four hours the night before a race; planning, sorting, packing, repacking......going over every detail.  One day you realize after a meeting that you just told your boss your goals for next year were to increase your squat weight, work on your downhill running technique and improve your grip strength.  But it seems to me that when you're obsessed, you still have some control....I think....maybe....

Not so much though when you have a true addiction.  Now don't get me wrong, I'm fine at home...or at work.  I have no compulsion to check on the latest news or sign up for any race I can find within a days drive.  I don't wear racing shorts under my street clothes.  But hearing that music and Coach Pain and standing under the starting arch taking photos of the first wave.  Next thing I knew....there I was, a race packet in my hand, heading back to change into what little race gear I had with me.  And explaining to Margaret (my MRG editor, OCR friend and on-site boss for this event) that I would be ummm, off-duty, for a little bit.  Without the sense to even take off my MRG shirt!  I had to do this course.....had to.....had to.....

In my OCR career, I've only been at one event that I didn't race...the 2015 OCRWC.  But that was only after fifty-ish hours working on the build, right up until 9pm the night before.  And race day was going to be near freezing, on a course that would be wasted on my injured shoulder and knees.  Yet, even then...even then....when I showed up race day to do some photography on my own, the urge was so strong to get out there...just to see what I had in me that day.  I should have realized at that point....I should seek help....immediately!!

And just a few weeks before the OCRWC, I'd run six weekends in a row, the last four after dislocating my shoulder at a race (and believe me, I am way too old for that to make any sense at all).  I won't even talk about the shape my leg was in from Wintergreen when I did the race at Asheville the following week.  There was always some excuse's the last race in the series...I've waited years to race at this're already're already dirty...I can't just skip it because parts of me are falling off.  Don't be a wimp!!

 And that's the way it's been for years now.  It was inevitable though that I had to face up to it sometime.  But you know.....I feel a whole lot better feeling of being cleansed.....of finally getting something out in the open.  Of understanding and accepting myself.

I suppose now it is time to say:

Hello, my name is John......and I'm an OCR addict....

It is with great hope that my friends, my family, MRG and the OCR community will respect this life choice and also accept me for who and what I am.  Is that asking too much??!!  So, until the music starts at the next race......

Related Story:

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Best of My Mud Run Guide Articles From 2015

In November of this year, not long after meeting the Mud Run Guide team at the Obstacle Course Racing World Championship (OCRWC),  I started writing articles for them.  This has been a very rewarding experience for me and I wanted to share with you some of my favorite articles from 2015.  Hopefully you will enjoy reading them as much as I've enjoyed writing them.

Designing Your Own Obstacle Race - A humorous look at how easy some people think it is to build an obstacle course

Are We Expecting Too Much From Our Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) Events?  - A reminder of the uncontrolled conditions that OCR promoters work under to bring us these races

Obstacle Course Racing in 2016 and Beyond – Olympic Sport, Accreditation, Safety - Some observations on the state of the OCR industry and what we might be seeing in 2016

A Not-so-Quiet Revolution in Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) Called #racelocal - A glimpse into the trend of racing local and what some groups are doing to encourage this

The Rig – Ultimate Challenge or Destroyer of Souls - A look at The Rig and how they are used by various OCR promoters

BattleFrog Championship 2015 Orlando – A Great Race…That No One Else Got to See - The continuing challenge of bringing the excitement of the actual elite race to the fans

BattleFrog Championship 2015 – A Flat Course Can Be Tough – Race Review - A review of the BattleFrog Championship race.  A tougher course than the flat terrain would have you expect

Mud Run Guide Awards….Must….Have….A….Name! - With the awarding of the 2015 Mud Run Guide awards, it seemed appropriate to finally come up with a name for this prestigious award 

OCR and Fitness on Facebook - Obstacle Course Racing/Fitness:

Monday, January 4, 2016

Top 10 Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) Stories of 2015

This past year was my most active in obstacle course racing (OCR).  In addition to running a number of races in the local Miami area, I was on the road twice for a series of races on the east coast and Atlanta areas with a final short trip to Orlando for the BattleFrog Championship.  Somewhere in there I found time to work as part of the build crew at the Obstacle Course Racing World Championship (OCRWC) in Ohio as well.

This is a list of my favorite articles from my blog for 2015....hope you enjoy them as much as I did sharing them with you!

BattleFrog on TV.....Here We Go Again! - BattleFrog's first attempt at bringing their OCR race brand to television with the first College Championship OCR sprint on ESPN.

OCR...Growing Pains, Competition, Money and Egos - Some early year observations on the how far the industry has come since it's relatively recent begininngs

Lessons Still Not Learned....Why People Don't Really Care What You Think! - The potentially devastating affects of sharing personal opinions on your business pages

My First Tough Mudder - Western, NY 2015 - Race/Challenge Review - Running my first Tough Mudder

Sometimes Being a Smartass Can Lead to an Extraordinary OCR Experience - BattleFrog at Pittsburgh 2015 - An extraordinary experience at this BattleFrog race with some of the people that make OCR so special

You May Be In the Wrong Business if You Think of Your Customers As F**ktards! - Another example of people who don't quite get the destructive power of the Internet on their businesses

Spartan Race Build at Asheville 2015 - I Finally Get to Build Some S**t - The first opportunity this year to get out and build some obstacles!

Spartan Race and OCR Back on TV - Here We Go Again....Again... - Spartan Race announces a casting call for another attempt at getting OCR on television with NBC Sports

Back To The Basics - Building a Savage Race - Atlanta 2015 - My first experience with Savage Race, in Atlanta

My Journey to the Center of the (OCR) World - OCR World Championships 2015 - An international spectacle at the World Championship!