RACE REVIEW: SAVAGE RACE GEORGIA (spring)

Race Summary: The Mud. (photo credit: Lloyd Parker)

I personally had a ton of energy coming into this Obstacle Race, and not all of it was necessarily positive energy.  I was very anxious and nervous… both were new feelings about an OCR.  I usually set out to just do my best, not get injured, and have a good time.  But this time, I had set some performance goals that I really REALLY wanted to meet at this race- just for me… because I wanted it.  I wanted a finish in the single digits for my gender/age, and I wanted to finish well under 2 hours.  Hitting both of those goals at a Savage Race would definitely feel like an accomplishment.

Last year I ran the Georgia Fall Savage, and I managed an injury that required four sutures, and a finish time/place that I was honestly surprised by- since I got pulled off course by medical.  Savage definitely brought a race “built to kick ass”… the obstacles were physically and mentally demanding (seriously, you have to get over your issues and force up some courage)… the running portions were moderate in difficulty- all trail, and BEAUTIFUL… and not too bad on the hills at all.

The 2015 Spring Georgia Savage Race will forever be remembered in one word- MUD.  Most Obstacle Course Races do require some mud bathing along the way to the finish line.  However, the Southeast received about a weeks worth of rain leading up to the day of the race (the build had to have been miserable). The grounds were not muddy… no, my brothers and sisters… they were entirely over-saturated.  Thin mud floating over top thicker mud, layered on top of some good, wet, sticky Georgia red clay.  It was a glorious fabulous nasty MESS… and I loved it. So before I get into the rest of my race review- take a good look at the anchor picture up there^^^– that is not the trail… that is on the way from the parking lot to the festival area… yeah.  lol

THE TERRAIN:
Moonlight Stables in Dallas, Georgia has some of the most beautiful pasture and wooded acreage that you could ask to run through.  Grassy, rolling hills… twisty, little creekbeds… and winding wooded paths make up much of the landscape… even mud covered- it is simply stunning. The layout and use of natural resources (creeks and hills namely) were more proliferate this year.  During the fall race I remember the terrain being more visually stunning than technically difficult… the course would have still required more technical running this year even without the mud.  The over-saturation only stood to increase the intensity.

Traverse Wall... with grips that make sense!

Traverse Wall… with grips that make sense!

THE OBSTACLES:
Savage’s trademark obstacles (Shriveled Richard, Colossus, Davey Jones’ Locker and Sawtooth) all returned to the race this year… but a few new ones were included as well. Colon Blow went up onto a teeter-totter (crawl from one end of a tube to another that was situated see-saw style over a pivot point), inverted walls, and a traverse wall with rock climbing grips (yes! thank you!!!!). More insidious than the individual obstacles was the placement- nut smasher was arranged directly after a nice hill sprint and well into the race… creating added rubbery leg difficulty.  Tackling Colossus after several inverted walls and a couple of heavy carries seemed just cruel… grip strength was toast, but you had to call it up from somewhere if you were going to make it up to the top.  In other words- the designer seemed very focused on just how exhausted he wanted you to be when you made it to each obstacle.

THE FESTIVAL:
The mud did put a bit of a damper on things for the spectators… it was an unholy, muddy mess EVERYWHERE.  And while Savage did their best to be hospitable (wood chips and gravel were spread about to calm it down a bit)… there was only so much that could be done with the amount of total rainfall last week.  The Junior Savage race was fantastic (2 of my sproglings ran it). The course was so much fun for both of them. They had to balance, crawl, climb, and push through to get to the finish line.  The organizers could not have been more encouraging and excited for the little savages as they passed out medals, shirts, and high fives.  If your children haven’t ran a Junior race- they MUST.  It is such a thrill and achievement for them to experience.

All of the necessities seemed to run without a hitch save one area- Gear Drop.  Gear Drop was very slow this time… I am not sure what really happened- as I do not remember that being an ordeal at all in the fall.  I waited nearly an hour in line to pick up my bag- and I had an early heat. I can’t imagine that it got much better for a while.  I do also wish that Savage Race would roll in with more “feminine cut” merch… I would love to sport less-boxy Savage Race Tee’s… However, that’s totally inconsequential compared to everything that went right:  Parking was easy and smooth (I got stuck and unstuck by the volunteers in less than 5 minutes, lol), check in and packet pick-up made sense and was not bottle necked, and there was plenty of spectator access to mill through to watch the racers.

kids

As for me personally- It was a banner day! I met both of my goals (3rd place for my age group, with a 1:51 finish time), watched the accomplished expressions on my kids faces, and saw so many friends out there this time!  Everyone went home exhausted and in one piece… woot! Early Bird Registration is going on now for the Fall Savage Race- I’ll be there and you should be too!

RACE REVIEW: WARRIOR DASH GEORGIA

The Medals double as bottle openers... pretty much effing awesomeness.

Warrior Dash is always going to have a special place in my heart y’all… Why? Why would an entry level obstacle race be so special among all of the more “hardcore, badass, kill em dead” races?
Because it was my first. My first love. The Warrior Dash is where my passion for everything OCR related took off. During the summer of 2012, I began to make permanent changes with my nutrition and fitness- cleaning up my eats, and lifting heavy shit. In the meantime, I watched from the sidelines as friends participated in Obstacle Course Races… it looked like so much fun, and struck a chord with my inner rebel. But could I do it? To find out, I signed up for a smaller, lower octane (5k) race- The Warrior Dash. Obviously, that race was a wild success and has resulted in a subsequent 18 race finishes to date. I had the opportunity to race for a second time in the Georgia Warrior Dash this past Saturday… and guys… I renewed my vows to all things OCR. 😉

The Warrior Dash has branded themselves as the event for “Mud, Sweat, and Beer”. In essence, a little race and a lot of party. As I made the gorgeous drive out to the Northeast Georgia mountains for this race- I was anticipating an easy terrain, some fun obstacles, and some music and beer.

THE TERRAIN:
My first experience with Warrior Dash in 2012 was in Warrior, Alabama (I kid you not)… and I do recall that the race designers made excellent use of creek beds to “create” some elevation on that course… but it was mostly an easy jog. The Georgia Race was held Mountain City (again, I am not joking)… and elevation certainly played a part in the first mile or so of the race. In fact, the starting line was literally a little 20-30 yard hill sprint! The scenery was beautiful, and the trails were enjoyable- however, we were put out on the road for the last half mile or so… which was a first for me in any OCR. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the running portions of the race.

The 20 yard hill sprint right at the start line

The 20 yard hill sprint right at the start line

THE OBSTACLES:
Out of the dozen or so obstacles- two really stood out. The first shocker was a swim across a small pond of water. Sounds simple- and on paper it was. However, once I was submerged I realized that this pond was very, VERY COLD. My brain just didn’t want to operate. I half swam, half doggy paddled, and full on cussed the whole way across that pond. The second unique obstacle was a suspended balance beam (maybe fifteen feet in the air or so?) with a rope about waist high on either side to use for support to get across. So you HAD to look down to see where you were going… and how high up you were. Many people bailed on both of those obstacles, which is not a problem at Warrior Dash. One of the many reasons that I refer my clients to try this course is precisely for that reason… it’s for fun, not to be penalized for missed obstacles, and that’s a great attitude to have when you are starting out into the world of OCR’s.

THE FESTIVAL:
The festival was well organized and easy to maneuver through. All tents were well labeled and staffed. Normally packet pick-up and gear pickup/drop-off can be a major pain in the ass to staff elegantly and move people through- Warrior Dash had no trouble with either. The Beer Tent and the adjoining Music Stage and party area were arranged in a way that made sense too. Warrior Dash did all the things right- plenty of staff, organized parking and entry, free pictures, and free gear drop. This is why this series has been around for the last 7 years (which is a lifetime in this industry it seems)… they have their market pegged, they know what they are good at, and they deliver.

Well organized Festival area- happy staffers... and they won't nickel and dime you.

Well organized Festival area- happy staffers… and they won’t nickel and dime you.

Fun Band and GOOD Beer after the race.

Fun Band and GOOD Beer after the race.

I know that entry level races like Warrior Dash get the snub for not being as “kick ass” or “hard core” as other races (hell, I was once a race-snob-asshole too)… But coming back to Warrior Dash reminded me of the best part of the OCR sport that sometimes gets lost with the higher-octane races: the people that come and their stories. I met two inspiring women in particular- one that had lost 180 pounds and kept it off for the last 5 years(!), and a 62 year old marathoner woman who only started running a few months ago. They were both getting their OCR start at Warrior Dash, and had totally been bitten by the OCR bug- looking to do more races this season. And for that- we should all be thankful that events like Warrior Dash have been loyal and faithful to their “entry-level” status- because they welcome new athletes to our beloved sport at each event.