RACE REVIEW: BATTLEFROG ATLANTA (Spring 2015)

The best team you could ask for...

I have to be honest with you guys from the jump here. As you already know from my previous reviews- I am a huge BattleFrog fan. I have been ridiculously excited about this race since… oh… last year.   However, BattleFrog announced a major change a few months ago that put doubt in my heart. They were eliminating their 5k OR 15k option and going with a single 8k option. As a trainer, I loved giving my clients this lighter or more challenging option to train for in the gym… and I felt that the reduced length would mean a reduced experience for the 15k racers. I was a little bit peeved at first, I bitched and complained… and I will admit that I was highly skeptical as I walked onto the venue Saturday with my team.

So my opinion flipped... much like my vertical position here.

So my opinion flipped… much like my vertical position here.

SPOILER ALERT: I am not wrong often you guys… but mark your calendars… I was wrong on May 16, 2015.   The race was indeed shorter (I will cover more in the terrain section)… but the obstacles… good lord.

THE TERRAIN:   BattleFrog chose the same location as last year- Georgia International Horse Park- in Conyers, GA.  BF got my attention real damn quick with their use of the property last year. As a matter of fact, the use of terrain was one of my primary reasons for touting this series so highly. We were in rivers, ponds, over slate beds, through fields, woods and culverts. It was incredible. This year… the terrain was not as varied. I will offer that they had fewer miles to work with… which means they can only get to use so much of the property. We definitely did not get nearly as wet or muddy as we did last year. As I mentioned- I believe BF made up for the mileage in their obstacles… but I have to say that there simply wasn’t as much varied terrain as last year- and that was a bit of a let down.

Uphill. Both ways. In the snow. With gas cans.

Uphill. Both ways. In the snow. With gas cans.

THE OBSTACLES: So while I was a little bit disappointed with the terrain and mud… the obstacles were ridiculously hard and strategic this year.   The regular offenders made their appearances this year… Like the Jerry Can Carry that took a trip up hill through single track trails. They stacked obstacles together for increased difficulty… several grip obstacles in a row, followed by several pull-up-and-over obstacles stacked together.   I ultimately decided to forego a monkey bar obstacle (and do my body-builders) to save my grip for the Tsunami (quarter pipe, run and pull up obstacle). There was another grip-burning obstacle that was similar to “tip of the spear” from last year… but wickedly different. On this one, you had to cross slanted walls laterally with ropes, or a small ledge (pretty much only finger tips could fit), and your legs had to stay high and tight to make it work… there were no footholds.   There was an inverted suspended ladder over a water feature (I believe it was named “bridge over river cry”)… another grip and core burner that immediately followed those hateful monkey bars. I have to say that I did find that the cargo nets and Tsunami wall SEEMED more narrow this year- which led to some major major bottlenecking. A small offense… BF just needs to look at widening those obstacles… or adding extra lanes, etc.

THE FESTIVAL: Similar to last year- the volunteers were amazing and pumped. Check-in was more electronic this year, and therefore a bit more elegant. The merch tent was FABULOUS (again, they roll in deep with womens cuts and kids stuff… not to mention tactical sleeves and such that can be used on the course… check out mine in the Jerry Can pick above!)… their gear is high quality and holds up well. Coach Pain Dewayne kicked ass- made your heart swell, and your blood pump fast while warming each of the waves up for their flights.   I feel like BattleFrog did an excellent job of spreading out the festival tents (but not too far) on the campus so that it didn’t feel crowded- but keeping things like the showers, gear check, and changing areas close together in a way that made sense. (however, if anyone from BattleFrog HQ happens to trip over this review: White Tents instead of blue for the changing area… we were changing in the dark in there y’all! 😉

SUMMARY: I walked away from this race incredibly proud. I am proud of myself, my team, and this racing series. I am so happy to see the 2014 freshmen back at it, making adjustments and showing up as solid sophomores… still showing room for growth… but putting on a kick ass and UNIQUE race.   I love that this series is ballsy and not afraid of a little #shirtgate with Spartan… BattleFrog has a sense of humor and cajones! (What more could a girl ask for!??!) I also love that BattleFrog elicits acts of heroism from regular Joes every time I am on their course. You’ll remember Stephanie, the wounded warrior spouse from SC last year… we saw her AND HER HUSBAND on the course this year in Atlanta… and were privileged to run along side them. Then there is my client, Christian, whom has suffered injuries and set-backs… that crossed the finish line- crushing mental and physical goals… with a big WHOOOOO!

Rick Flair said it best... Whoooooo!

Rick Flair said it best… Whoooooo!

This series embodies what I love about OCR’s… it has a magic that brings out the best in people, pushes them beyond their boundaries, and creates a space for racers to see themselves in a different way. Once you’re over the finish line, medal in hand… you can’t help but recount the personalities on the course, the obstacles you crushed, and the ones that beat you this time. That’s why I love and adore this sport: you leave changed athlete every single time… it’s an experience.   Rumor has it that BattleFrog will be back in the Atlanta area in November! It’s at a new venue in West Georgia- and I am pumped to race it! Get in on that early bird action here: http://battlefrogseries.com/battlefrog-atlanta-2015-ii/

What lit a fire under my ass. Literally.

Do you?

I have had a few clients recently ask me what got me motivated in the very beginning… What was the catalyst that made me stop everything and start running headlong for fire and mud? I thought it would make a good “resolution recovery” topic for the first post of the year.  😉

I would love to tell you guys that it was my kids, or my husband or some profound spiritual moment that shook me to my core… and that from that moment on- I was a changed person… and decided to take better care of my body and health.  But alas… I was forever changed by excellent marketing- a promotional video from Spartan Race… I know, I know… *hangs head in shame*.

In this video they were highlighting “Team X.T.R.E.M.E” racing the 2012 Virginia Super Spartan… particularly highlighting Cpl. Todd Love (Triple Amputee Marine) and Sgt. Todd Galloway (Double Amputee- Army).  The imagery and interview of Todd’s dad are particularly moving, and the clips of these guys just kicking ass on the course- after a little morning tandem jump out of a plane- will get your pulse going and maybe even get you to sign up for an OCR.  But the profound moment(s) for me are at the 8:00 minute mark (click here for the jump to the clip) where Noah says: “You know a lot of people tell me ‘I wanna do this, I wanna do that’. Well you know what? You gotta do it. There is no *want*, either you do it- or you don’t. You just… There are no excuses.” And then, immediate clip to Gary Love “That’s why he does what he does. There is no stop to my son. You know, he has no quit in him”.

It was a kick in the chest. This dude standing there with half an arm clearly visible in the frame- saying “either you do or you don’t. NO EXCUSES”.  I remember just sitting there– (mouth breathing, I am sure)– staring at the screen… and the thought that flashed through my mind was: “What the fuck am I doing?! I have two very capable arms and legs… and this guy is getting up and down a rope with one arm and an ARMPIT”.  From that moment in September 2012, it has been a steady drumbeat of realizing what I am truly capable of.  I ran a Warrior Dash right away- just to try out this mud-running thing.  I loved it.  I went on to run my first Spartan Race (Atlanta Sprint), in March of 2013- 6 months after watching that video:

First Spartan 2013

First Spartan 2013

I was completely hooked and immediately signed up for the Super in Wintergreen, and the Beast in South Carolina to complete my Spartan Trifecta.  The Trifecta consists of completing a Sprint (3-5 miles), a Super (6-8 miles), and a Beast (10-13 miles) in one calendar year…  Here I am with my Trifecta Medal almost exactly a year after I watched that video:

Trifecta- Nov 2013

Trifecta- Nov 2013

 

And in 2014… I added in multiple Battlefrogs, Rugged Maniacs, Savage Races, and a few non-muddy street races like the Peachtree.  I really feel like I embraced my inner athlete in 2014, and while I am not up to snuff to run with the elites, YET… I do finally consider myself a runner, and obstacle course racer:

2014 Racing

2014 Racing

(I do tend to enjoy the races that have a military beneficiary- Like BattleFrog and their support of Trident House… they even dedicate each obstacle to a fallen Navy SEAL… but its mostly because of how motivated I was by Team XTREME)

2014 was full of hard and scary moves, choices, and decisions- and some amazing opportunities and experiences.  I decided to change careers from homeschooling mom, to full-time personal trainer (which was HUGE for me).  I earned a bunch of medals, my RKC Certification, and learned so much about myself- what I am really about, and what I really want out of my life… which if I had to boil it down to one word- it would be “experiences”.  I want to experience so much with my kids, my family, my friends, and on my OWN.  That *on my own* part is a real game changer for me… 100% of my life up till late 2013 revolved what I thought I was “supposed” to be doing and what others thought of me… I finally stopped people-pleasing that year.  I think I have fully recovered from that shit 😉

I am not about to go all “New Year, New Me” on you.  Actually the opposite. I really like who I am becoming.  I am not leaving anything behind in 2014… I am carrying it all forward into 2015.  I have an amazing Client Roster at MBT, a race schedule that I simply CANNOT WAIT to accomplish, and a few non-fitness items on my bucket list that have me just… giddy.  I have no clue where I am going or what everything will look like when I get there… but I am enjoying the wind in my hair and the beauty in the messy parts along the way.  As a matter of fact, I hope that I never “arrive”… I am enjoying the ride that damn much.

And all of this because of a piece of marketing material.  I am not saying everyone has to sign up for an OCR… by no means.  But when something grabs your your attention, listen to it… get motivated… get passionate… and get after it.  There is no want… ladies and gentlemen… either you do it or you don’t.

Much Love,
~January

January Shiflett, RKC is a personal trainer, kettlebell instructor, obstacle course racing coach, and resident potty-mouth at Maximum Body Training in Cartersville Georgia.   You can contact her for classes and training opportunities at January.Shiflett@me.com

RACE REVIEW: BATTLEFROG CAROLINA’S

RACE REVIEW: BATTLEFROG CAROLINA'S

I don’t even know where to begin with reviewing this race… Because HOLY COW… my brain and body are still fried.

Lets get a few things mentioned up front. This is Battlefrog’s second race, I raced their inaugural race in Atlanta- which was amazeballs and I reviewed it here. My running partner and I were honored to be invited by Battlefrog to come race again in South Carolina (read: way beyond giddy and flattered). I have raced at both the Atlanta and South Carolina venues before with Spartan– twice for a Spartan Sprint and once for a Spartan Beast, respectively. Finally, the weather was an obstacle all on its own yesterday… the temperature peaked at 95 degrees, and with the humidity hovering around 60-70%… it felt like we were running in a hair dryer.

 

Don't let the smile fool ya- I could hear my skin frying.

Don’t let the smile fool ya- I could hear my skin frying.

So lets get on with the review… In summary- this race made me question myself many, many times. I would rank it in the top 5 hardest things that I have ever done in my LIFE. And to put that in perspective- I will list my top 5:
1. Labor and Delivery of 2 sproglings.
2. Reconstructive Jaw Surgery (mouth wired shut for 6wks which was super easy since I am so quiet and all)

  1. The Wintergreen Spartan Super… which I am still pretty angry about (I did finish in just <6hrs). Simply put- they flung the racers at all the ski slopes available, including a couple of double diamonds… with a smattering of obstacles. Around half DNF’d the race. It was bullshit.
  2. Battlefrog South Carolina… reasons forthcoming…
  3. Battlefrog Atlanta… Battlefrog stole my Spartan heart in Atlanta- for reasons aforementioned here.

 

I walked into this race knowing that Carolina Adventure World is full of steep and gnarly quad trails. I ran my Spartan Super at this venue last year to earn my Spartan Trifecta medal. That said, ladies and gentlemen, I am here to tell you that Battlefrog packed in a way more challenging and intense course in their 9 miles than Spartan could have ever wished for last year within 12. Yes… I said it… The new kids kicked some Spartan Ass.

 

As I mentioned in my Atlanta BattleFrog review, I loved the intensity and rugged-ness of not only the obstacles but also the terrain. The intention of putting the racers through as many elements as possible was obvious on the course. So I knew that the staff would go ape with all of the diverse landscape, natural water features, clay, sand, mud, and vegetation that Carolina Adventure World has to offer.   And yet again- Battlefrog didn’t disappoint… this course was INSANE… easily 3 times harder than the Atlanta course- which was a feat all on its own.

 

So happy to be DONE.

So happy to be DONE.

THE 15K TERRAIN:   Battlefrog’s use of the natural terrain, water features, and vegetation in South Carolina was impressive. We were sent thru some super thick quicksand-like-mud within the first mile. It slowed us down for the next 2 miles because it added some major weight- and simply wouldn’t shake loose. The sand, clay, and silt became a major factor to contend with as well- as we were in and out of ankle deep loose sand for a good stretch of the race. I am not one to usually look forward to water obstacles- but I was then- just to rinse the pounds of clay and sand that I kept collecting. Carolina Adventure World is an ATV/Dirtbike playland- full of mudbogs, enduro courses, rolling dirtbike trails, etc. This means that as a runner you simply have to attack those hills at a full sprint and then just claw your way to the top… I will summarize the terrain this way: If we weren’t climbing up or down a hill, then we were in heavy mud or water. The terrain was an obstacle the entire way.

 

THE OBSTACLES: I love the original obstacles that Battlefrog uses… and the way they were arranged them on the course in South Carolina was a major challenge. The intensity and difficulty of the obstacles were again multiplied in SC (in comparison to Atlanta). There were 7 different types of walls that we crossed- from rope-style traverse walls, straight muscle-up and overs, to 12 foot rope and ladders. Then after all of those walls, crawling, humping over, and “PT” (8 count body builders), they tossed us in rivers and ponds where swimming was really your only option. The inverted walls were actually placed IN the water- so not only were they incredibly slick, but you are heavier with all of that fresh muddy water all over you. The rope traverse on this course was easily 2-3 times longer than the traverse in Atlanta… I did not see one person make it across while I was there. I failed the Rope Traverse and The Tsunami… And I will say that both of those obstacles seemed damn near impossible. The length of that traverse just seemed extreme… And for the Tsunami- I really wish that BattleFrog would look into a different substrate for the wall on that. I imagine it is a challenge but doable for the first maybe 100 or so racers.   After that- It appears to be more of a challenge for the volunteers at the top- hoisting the racers that are dangling at the end of the rope up onto the platform. There is just no way to get your feet in on the game- the wall is too slicked up with mud and water. I haven’t been sore after a race in a long long time… but 48 hours later my upper body is still shuddering, and I am pretty sure I left a hip flexor out there on the course somewhere.

IMG_8583

Serious about the Monkey Bars

IMG_8579

Obstacles like carrying Jerry Can’s up and down the hill were a welcome break to running through the heat of hell.

 

THE INTEGRITY:   Obviously, I believe that BattleFrog puts together a challenging, high quality race that is designed to push you beyond your limits. There was something in the air in Atlanta that felt more genuine about this race than any other I have done. The people that this event seems to attract (from staff, to volunteers, to racers) and their tenacity and passion for racing where the magic is.

For instance, I met Don Mann (CEO of BattleFrog, decorated veteran, 17 year SEAL, 6 year SEAL TEAM SIX, and the Most Interesting Man in the WORLD) at a water stop after the Jerry Can Carry. He was passing out water, asking what we thought of the course, and was genuinely invested in our answers. He lit up when I told him that this course was so much harder than the Atlanta course. He said “Oh just wait! There is so much more fun ahead!”. His description of “fun” may need some tweaking… but so incredibly cool to literally run up on him hanging out with the volunteers doing recon.

I also had the opportunity to meet a Wounded Warrior Spouse while out on the course. I had actually connected with her on the BattleFroggers FB Group Page before the race, and learned that she and Battlefrog were working together to give him his honorary “Final Flight” (Helocopter) that he never got while in service. Which is super cool all on its own. We found her out on the course, badly injured, but pushing through the pain to make a 1pm deadline to see her husband take off. She made it, limping, with sheer minutes to spare to see her husband off. We watched her baby congratulate her, and got a picture with her too… She was nothing short of AMAZING.

Looking a little ragged here... but considering what all we had been through... lol

Looking a little ragged here… but considering what all we had been through… lol

I have to say that my experience at Battlefrog Carolina’s blew Atlanta out of the water… And Atlanta received rave reviews not only from me, but from big names like Hobie Call, Obstacle Racing Media, and many many others! Next up for Battlefrog is DC, then Tri-State, and Pittsburgh after that. If you haven’t signed up yet- what are you waiting for!? This is a bucket-list race for sure!

 

Toughest Race to date... proud as hell to have finished it.

Toughest Race to date… proud as hell to have finished it.

 

RACE REVIEW: BATTLEFROG ATLANTA

I ran the Atlanta BattleFrog 15k OCR this past weekend… and I have to be honest with y’all… my Spartan heart has been won over. Spartan Races are fantastic, challenging, exciting races- no doubt. But the BattleFrog…oh this race was PHENOMENAL.

The Atlanta race was the inaugural event for BattleFrog, so I expected there to be some kinks that would need to be worked out along the way. I experienced NONE… which is so huge for their very first event. I will also add that this is the first OCR that I have ran with a partner. If you can find someone of similar fitness level, and running pace to train with- you MUST run with a partner. While I have never had a problem with making buddies while on any course- there would always be lulls of misery and boredom along the way. If you have a partner, you can look at them and say “What the f*** are we doing!?” and then laugh maniacally when you are reminded that you trained for 6 weeks for this shit.

The festival area was pretty standard… check in was seamless- less than 60 seconds and we had our bibs in hand. We hit the merchandise tent, aptly named “The Exchange”, to pick up some shirts while we were still clean enough to handle them. I loved all of their Merch. They actually had women’s cut t-shirts! Even the finisher shirts were in men’s and women’s cut!! (I know, I know! CRAZY!)

We joined the 10am wave, and got to see a SEAL Demo while we waited in the chute.   The best way to describe their demonstration is “Drive-by via Helicopter”. It was amazing to watch the helicopter and the SEALS, with their easy skill… just too damn cool, and what better way to get pumped up right before your race!?   Then HOOYA! HOOYA! HOOYA! And we were off!
I am not going to go obstacle by obstacle thru the entire course- there is youtube for that. But I do have to make a few points about this amazing course design. It was obvious from beginning to end that the designers (veteran Navy SEALS) were very VERY intentional about providing a demanding, thoughtful, and intense course. There was no just sending the racers through muck and mud just to do it. We were in the water, up high in the air, over all types of terrain, down low through culverts, rivers, and crawling through obstacles. The obstacles themselves ran a wide range- from brute physical force, to mental strategy, to sheer patience and endurance to plot through.

I have to add that the volunteers at this race were unbelievable! They were enthusiastic, super helpful, and just freaking pumped up! I cannot emphasize enough just how solid this race was- from beginning to end. Oh- and of course the BLING… They had different size and color medals for the different levels of races… The larger medal with the blue ribbon was for the 15k, and the smaller medal with the green ribbon was for the 5k. Here is mine… it’s kinda my favorite:

Big Honkin Bling

Big Honkin Bling

I do earnestly hope that this racing series makes it for the long haul, and sticks around for a long long time. The quality of the event and course is definitely right up there with the big dogs- like Spartan Race… and it would be wonderful to have some healthy competition. If this race comes close to you- Sign up and Show up! You won’t be disappointed!