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What could be a better venue for and OCR event than a swamp?  Many might argue a mountain or ski resort, but each utilizes its unique terrain.  The aforementioned “swamp” was the Black Swamp Dash of Oak Harbor, OH; site of this year’s Black Swamp Dash. The event, now in its 3rd season, is a quality event put on by an amazing pair of OCR enthusiasts: Troy and Sandy Anthony.

Black Swamp Dash Course

IMG_2268Throughout the entire course, it is glaringly evident that they have a passion for the sport.  On the banks of the Portage River lies the Ottawa County Fairgrounds; the home of the three events put on by Black Swamp Runner(Black Swamp Dash, Moonlight Mud Run, Night of the Dead).  Today was to be the primary event: The Black Swamp Dash.

 In 2014, I ran the inaugural event here in my first year of OCR.  Not having anything to compare it to; I later discovered that Troy and Sandy put on a great event.   From the entrance, everything was very well organized.  Parking was well situated just off the main registration location, adjacent to the main event area.  A quick trip through the registration building provided us with our bibs, t-shirt, and the one item we needed to retain throughout the event; our obstacle completion band.  Bands over burpees were very apparent at their event as you needed to finish every obstacle to retain your band.  Being that the event is now an OCRWC qualifying event, it made the band retention all the more important.  Keeping every last detail in order, the bag check was also located within the registration building.  Some events can have every aspect of registration spread over the entire event area; Troy and Sandy kept everything in one complete package.

IMG_2264After all the registration pleasantries had been completed, the main event area was just a stroll away.  The infield area of the track section of the fairgrounds was the main event area.  A large set of metal bleachers were utilized for some good visuals of the obstacles spread throughout the course.  All competitors know that OCR is difficult as a spectator sport, as we traverse through so much terrain, it is difficult to show the spectators what we endure.  Black Swamp did a great job with this, allowing the use of the bleachers to view a good deal of the action in this main area.

By comparison, the Black Swamp Dash is currently a smaller venue versus some of the large race series such as BattleFrog, Savage Race, Spartan, etc.  Those events have major sponsors and are large businesses in their right.  I beseech all competitors to not overlook the smaller venues, or “mom and pop” events.  All OCR was founded on small venues, and I see great things for this series as time and promotion goes on.

Dash Heats

IMG_2267The main heats were all timed with the timing chip being embedded in the bib itself; reminding competitors to not only hold onto their band but their bib as well!  Troy corralled all the competitors at the starting line and fired them up for the event.  Clearly reiterating the race details, so everyone was clear as to the expectations.  With the competitors lined up, we were off!  Once out of the starting gate, we proceeded into a field adjacent to the main parking area.  The event creators did a good job to allow for some initial running before any obstacles to space out the crowd.  A major fault with some events is to place an obstacle very near to the start, creating an early bottleneck to begin the race.  The course was well-maintained and cleared, so there was no risk of going off course.  Arriving at the first obstacle quickly identified the option of the “Extreme” option to complete it.  Every competitor looking to qualify for the OCRWC were required to at least attempt the Extreme side, and all obstacles must be completed, or the loss of your band was realized.  The elite heat had a requirement that not only must all obstacles be completed but on the Extreme section.  This was a nice approach as to eliminate any possibility of a penalty to skip an obstacle. 

Early on, it also became very evident that the build quality I had experienced a few years prior had held true today.  The obstacles were not only well built and engineered, but they were also adorned with the colors of the event on all the obstacles; showing the level of detail as to reflect the passion of Troy and Sandy in creating the event.  Water stations were also spaced well on the course to aid the competitors in the heat of the day.  For a 5K course, the spacing and amount of obstacles balanced the course very well.  There were never sections that were either run or obstacle-heavy; just a nice balance of the two.  Speaking of balance, that was soon to be put to the test.  A section composed of 2 vertical blocks and a balance beam loomed before us.  Stepping on the first post identified a small area of opportunity for the construction for this obstacle.  The wobbling of the posts made the obstacle much more difficult (or was it intentional by the course designers…..?).  After the obstacles in the main field section, we were treated to a stroll through the woods.  The shade provided by the canopy was a quick respite from the blazing heat of the day. 

IMG_2269Just to ensure we didn’t find ourselves too comfortable; the Black Swamp emerged.  A few different trips around the swamp in the section nearing the river.  The Black Swamp mud proved as formidable of an obstacle as anything constructed by the crew.  After a few steps into the viscous material, it was quickly apparent that floating/crawling was the better option.  Very good of Troy and Sandy to ensure we received our dose of the mud they so carefully cultivated.

Eventually, the grip of the swamp subsided, and we were back out into the blazing sun.  Earlier, I had joked with the race creators about the last time I competed at their event.  A torrential downpour had hit the course during that event last time I was there, and today was a beautiful sunny day.  Since they were not able to control the weather; they found a way to recreate the experience.  I would find that out later.

IMG_2261Once a muddy climb over/under some rubber bands eclipsing a hill was the Black Swamp Dash’s version of monkey bars.  Very similar to the end of the OCRWC in 2015; this race had its cargo net crossing.  Another well-built obstacle presented itself, providing the competitors the ability to either cross with the netting overhead or to climb across the vertical section.  Certainly, an obstacle you want to get off quickly as to the toll it takes on your hands.

 Nearing the end, the sound of the DJ booth came into earshot.  As I had previously stated about the day being “too nice,” the race creators made sure I had a flashback to the rain.  A long/muddy stretch of mud loomed before me; personally dubbed “the rainmaker”, guarded by someone with a fire hose.  If Troy and Sandy couldn’t control the weather, they weren’t letting me out without a dose of their rain.  Running through a shower from the hose added to the caking of mud underfoot.  If fatigue had not yet set in, it was exacerbated by the addition of mud that caked the bottom of my shoes.  This made the final few hundred yards that much more challenging.  A few more walls impeded us before the finish, making sure that the medal was well-earned.  A final climb through a tunnel and a last chance at the Black Swamp mud,  with a crawl through a muddy section that led up to the finish.  Clearing the mud, I held my Crazy Mudder Mucker jersey overhead in triumph.  A large departure from my last finish as I had to hold my hand over my eyes to see the finish; this year proved to be a welcoming sight.  The finishing medal for this event was also one of 3 to be combined to create the telltale “foot” of Black Swamp Runner.  Similar to the trifecta in Spartan ace; Black Swamp runner created their trifecta at their course.

IMG_2265This made the final few hundred yards that much more challenging.  A few more walls impeded us before the finish, making sure that the medal was well-earned.  A final climb through a tunnel and a last chance at the Black Swamp mud,  with a crawl through a muddy section that led up to the finish.  Clearing the mud, I held my Crazy Mudder Mucker jersey overhead in triumph.  A large departure from my last finish as I had to hold my hand over my eyes to see the finish; this year proved to be a welcoming sight.  The finishing medal for this event was also one of 3 to be combined to create the telltale “foot” of Black Swamp Runner.  Similar to the trifecta in Spartan ace; Black Swamp runner created their trifecta at their course.

Overall 

Black Swamp Dash is an event I strongly ask everyone to consider.  Not only is it a great course; it is built/designed by two individuals who are extremely passionate about the sport.  The love of the sport is apparent in their creation.  Knowing the tight-knit community in OCR, this event is a great example of supporting the right people.  Thank you, Troy and Sandy for a great event and for putting your passion into the course! 

Overall Rank: 4.5/5

 


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