Savage Race is a highly popular OCR brand that claims to have the best obstacles. I wanted to test them out for myself to see if they could back that claim up. The race was originally supposed to be back in the 2nd quarter of 2013 but had to be postponed due to venue issues. It was moved to November 23, an entirely different season…… I had seen all week leading up to the race how the weather was forecast to be. Extremely cold and raining was the consensus with temps being in the low 30’s at race time. I am NOT a cold weather OCR racer, it hinders my performance each and every time, so I knew that my gameplan was probably going to be different. I can road/trail race all day in the cold, but when it comes to grip strength the cold takes hold!
I walk up to the start line before the 10am competitive heat, it was originally 9am but they pushed it back an hour due to the weather. As I prepare myself for the 6 mile 20+ obstacle course ahead of me I hear the announcer say that to be eligible for a medal and awards you MUST attempt each water obstacle. They follow that with informing everyone the first obstacle is a 15 foot long, 5 foot deep tank filled with ice water called “Shriveled Richard”. I’m all for obstacles like that but when the weather conditions are as they were that morning, I believe that certains changes should be made to modify for safety. Yes, we were all required to sign a waiver beforehand but I think that falls a little outside the normal waiver bullet points. As they send us off, they release a blue smoke and everyone sprints towards the first obstacle. Person after person jumps in and instantly gets a shock of ice cold straight to their souls. About halfway through wading in the ice there was a wall that made you submerge yourself all the way under to clear and come back up the other side. Cold doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling when I jumped out.
Off to the next obstacle I went which was another water obstacle with 3 walls to climb under as well. The frequency of obstacles seemed to be spaced out well and the cold made each one a little bit more challenging. It also didn’t help that about a half mile into it, sleet began instead of rain. A little over halfway into the race was a mini version of their most popular obstacle, called Colossus. This one was 12 feet high or so with a rope about 8 feet up or so. It took a little more effort than I thought to run up the wall, grab the rope and climb to the top. Probably because I had zero feeling in my hands at this moment of the race. Various obstacles were mixed in, various crawls, climbs, and good terrain running. I came upon the “Sawtooth”, another one of their more popular obstacles which consists of a long monkey bar climb. It mimics a bar graph as various inclines and declines of different heights, making it much more difficult than normal bars. I knew as I approached that it would be a lost cause, my hands were too far gone and numb. I attempted and lost grip around the fourth bar and fell into the watery pit below. I couldn’t get any more wet, but somehow managed to become more cold. I climbed out and continued on my way, shivering almost uncontrollably.
The next few obstacles were a few barbed wire crawls, an incline tunnel crawl, and an 8 foot wall. As the race was nearing the end, I see myself coming upon the número uno obstacle, Colossus. It’s a massive warped wall that has a slide on the backside down into a water pit. The wall is between 15-20 feet high with the same type of rope hanging down to grab ahold, only difference is the wall is straight vertical at that point instead of inclined like the smaller version before. I attempted, made it up, and grabbed ahold of the rope. I corrected my footing and went to grab the rope with my other hand. The next thing I know, I’m sliding back down. My hand just wasn’t cooperating at all with my mental directions. I attempted a few more times with the same result. I then walked over to a barrel that had a fire going to attempt to warm up my hands. After a few minutes it wasn’t helping and realized that I was wasting time. So I took my penalty, jumped into the water and threw in burpees. Nearing the final mile, I notice one last water obstacle called “Davy Jones’ Locker”. It is a 20′ tall platform that you have to climb up one side and jump into the water off the other. At this point I was looking to get the race over with so I jumped in with little hesitation.
I continued on and come around the corner towards the finish. The end was in sight. The last obstacle was a low voltage shock where it made you crawl under an awning with electrical wires hanging down. As I get ready to get on the ground I see three runners just run around it and skip it completely. It was the first time I had seen many people skip obstacles that day. As much as I hate it and think it skews the results/times, I barrel rolled under with no problem, jumped up, and ran across the finish. Once I crossed, all that I could think was, “Get warm!” I ran straight to the changing tent that was supposed to have a heater… no dice! I stood there a few minutes and realized I was only getting colder. I ran out and up the venue to the inside commons area where warm conditions were.
I was shaking uncontrollably as I tried to recover and warm up. A bystander offered me a blanket, I gladly accepted it. My wife had walked in. She had been out the entire morning taking her normal race photos of myself and others that we know. I walked over to a tucked away staircase to begin to shed the wet, soaked, and muddy clothes. It was hard because I couldn’t quit shaking so my wife was helping me as best as she could. She had on multiple layers and began taking some off to give to me to wear and warm up. It took me over an hour to finally begin to calm down and regain warmth. I must say that until that day I was sure that competing and completing the Spartan Ultra Beast back in September was the coldest thing I’d ever attempted. Well, that takes second place now after the Savage Race. By far the coldest, less mobile race I’ve ever been in and hopefully will ever be in. I was so focused on warming up, I not only had no clue where I placed but also forgot to stop my Garmin watch. I found out late Sunday that I finished 19th overall with a time just over 1:04. All in all it, was a good race but just terrible race conditions. Give me the same race with 20 degree warmer temps and it would be a completely different race.