On April 26, 2014, myself along with quite a few other avid and devoted obstacle course racers, arrived at Mineral, Virginia’s Cutalong Resort for the inaugural Bushido Challenge, which incorporates a few new concepts to OCR and awards some very nice prizes for top finishers. Bushido is a 6+ mile course with 17+ obstacles that embraces ninja warrior concepts. Each 1st place male and female was awarded a pretty awesome sword along with prize money, and 2nd and 3rd place males and females won smaller cash prizes. On Sunday, the 1st place team won a sword, and 2nd and 3rd place teams won cash prizes.
Bushido Challenge is the idea of David Martin and Andy Royer. The two met at the end of 2012; Andy was David’s personal trainer. In April 2013, the idea was born, and it took about a year of planning for the first event. After gathering the background information, I asked David to explain to me why Bushido was born. He said, “Andy and I had run many of the big races – Spartan, Savage, Tough Mudder and Warrior Dash and we felt strongly that many of them utilized the same rehashed concepts, obstacles and ideas. We have always loved that the industry is open to everyone – the obese individual looking to get into shape and change their lives or the elite athlete looking to test their abilities. We wanted to create a fun race series that was accessible to all but was challenging enough to push people to the next level of their training – to not hold their hand on the course. Many obstacles were too difficult for some [at our first event] – but it has since motivated them to increase their training to come back to the next event and try again and to keep going until they overcome it. We see this as a huge success.”
Below are some race highlights and key take-a-ways for putting on a well-organized and well-received OCR while providing Bushido Challenge with some personal tips after having attended their event.
Festival Area: Being a new race series, like always, the race festival area was minimal since there are not 1,000s descending upon the venue. Bushido provided all essentials, but I would suggest a little more organization the night before, which would lessen the work needed to be done race morning. Due to the driving rain prior to the event day, it was hard to have anything set up, but that just means volunteers and staff have to arrive that much earlier to make sure it is all set to go. The last thing any race series wants to be known for is being unprepared and having to delay or cancel events.
- Kids’ activities- There needs to be children’s activities. David mentioned to me that they plan on having events for children as the race series grows such as something as simple (but fun) as a bouncy house to occupy the kids. It might be the small child inside of me, but I thought that would be really fun for kids. I would recommend, though, as the race series grows, participants get numerous, more investors come forward and funds are available, Bushido incorporate a small kid’s race with mini obstacles. Growing up with parents who do OCR, most, if not all of the children who come to these events, are highly interested in completing obstacles too. Not to mention, it greatly boost their self-esteem allowing our generation to raise healthier and happier citizens (and provides cool stories to tell their friends).
- Rumor has it that Bushido is also planning on having those large sumo costumes to have sumo wrestling. Again, the small child inside of me thinks that sounds like a blast.
Rules: Compete all required obstacles and have at least 1 flag at the finish line. 3 strikes and you are out–if you cannot complete an obstacle, you are disqualified from winning any prize, and you receive the “Fallen Warrior” medal at the end. Another wrinkle is you must run with 3 flags, and ninjas along the course will chase you when you least expect it to take your flags. In order to not be disqualified, you must have at least 1 flag when you cross the finish line too.
- I can only speak for myself when I say I like the idea of making the participant complete an obstacle no matter what. That made the challenge real—no burpeeing out! This rule makes it extremely important for the participant to be a well-rounded athlete, which I appreciate. My suggestion would be to only make the elite waves 3 strikes and you are out. Otherwise, you risk alienating (and hurting people’s feelings) the majority of race participants who complete races in order to accomplish their own personal goals (not to complete every obstacle perfectively), and some people, no matter how many tries, may not be able to complete an obstacle; therefore, by default, they will DQ the race. The purpose of OCR is to inspire/motivate people not to break people as David did mention in our discussion.
- If you are going to have the 3 strikes and you are out rule for elite, you must have volunteers who are trustworthy. The solution to not having eyes all over the course is to videotape each required obstacle with the explanation that, if needed, race footage will be reviewed to confirm winners, and participants must have their bib number written on them so volunteers can see it. If the participant gets DQ’ed, they must check in with the volunteer (not just run off), provide their bib number, and the volunteer must record on paper who was DQ’ed at each obstacle (and backed up by video evidence). Additionally, in order to distinguish the elite from open waves, some type of unique marking must be used since these rules should only apply to the elite athletes.
Course: The race was held on what seemed to be a soon-to-be construction site for a resort. I do not recall ever seeing an actual building. There were some areas where it looked to have been recently clear-cut, there were some wetlands that had been delineated (had to throw my job a shout out) and some dirt roads that had been recently created. Other than that, it was open field, woods or stream running. The venue was pretty. Some would argue it needed more elevation change, but I am not a fan of hills, so I will say I appreciated just the rolling hills.
- Obstacles: For an inaugural event, I give props to Bushido for having some more complicated obstacles. I have ran many newer race series, and in comparison, Bushido had far better obstacles coming out the gate. My advice would be to stick to the ones you have established to be part of your race series, and perfect them. There were some spots were I had to consciously make sure I was being careful.
- Navigation: On Saturday, I would say everyone got lost at least once. David was quick to hear our recommendations on lessen that chance on Sunday, and from what I was told (I did not race the competitive team wave Sunday), it was marked off very well with caution tape by Sunday race time. Great job listening to feedback.
- Staff: We all greatly appreciate the hard work volunteers put in and all races could use more, no matter how many they have, but please ensure you have at least one volunteer per obstacle. I believe this might be where the confusion came from with course navigation. When finishing an obstacle, it was hard to tell which way the course continued. Not to mention, for safety reasons, it would behoove Bushido to have someone watching over each obstacle.
As for me, you are probably wondering how I performed at the race? I raced on Saturday in the elite heat, and after calculating who disqualified from failing obstacles or not having a flag at the finish line (honor code was the policy—kudos to the original 3rd place winner for being honest), I won 3rd place elite female behind two very amazing athletes. As for Sunday, my ever-charming boyfriend, Ryan, won 3rd place team with Trish and Brandon Synan (Trish also won 1st place elite female the day before). I plan on returning to Bushido in the fall as long as my race schedule and work travel allows for it. I encourage you to check them out too!
…and his sword.