I have been counting the days since participating in my first BattleFrog 15K in NJ (August 2, 2014) and the time was finally here! I volunteered in NJ and had a blast and gained a great deal of respect for BattleFrog, so I decided to take a PTO day from work Friday and drive to down Thursday night to volunteer all day Friday. I was offered a media pass by MRG and didn’t need to volunteer, but I made a commitment to Oscar and Lex and wanted to honor it.
I got on the road late and ended up arriving at Wampum, Pennsylvania around 3AM. I quickly blew up my air mattress in my Prius and went to sleep. I got up around 7AM and meet up with Lex at the course at around 8:00AM. I worked pretty much the entire day for Lex setting up barricades and using a chainsaw to trim trees so all the event tents could be set up. We ended up getting done at around 10PM.
I slept in my Prius again at the events HQ and woke up early and I was right in the thick of everything. The BattleFrog staff were already hard at work and as well hundreds of participants began arriving via the buses (provided by BattleFrog). I asked at least a dozen different people how long they had to wait for the buses and everyone told me they had almost no wait times at all.
I got my gear on and hitched a ride with one of the BattleFrog staff from the HQ to the event site. I planned to run the 15K at 9:30AM but due to some confusion with my timing chip I missed the 9:30AM. I asked if it was okay to start late and was told it was fine, so I started the course alone just after 9:45AM. I pretty much run all my events solo and to music so starting a little late was no problem at all.
Right away I could tell this was going to be my kind of course. Early on it was in the woods and mostly run in creek beds. One of the first obstacles I encountered was a mud pit with real frogs in it, as I was crossing it, I reached down and grabbed one of the frogs out of the mud and tossed it at the obstacles volunteer almost hitting him with it. It was funny to watch the volunteer try and catch the frog to put it back in the mud! The course was nice because you didn't have to run miles before you had a few challenging obstacles (unlike the Super's and Beast's I recently did). Pretty much most of the obstacles were what I had expected, obstacles I had done at other OCR's but bigger and tougher versions.
The caves where surreal, I carried the headlamp in my hand and pointed it as I ran. It was freaky to be in the pitch dark with one little light and my MP3 player blasting music. I approached deeper waters and a volunteer handing out tubes. I removed one headphone and asked if taking the tube was mandatory and was told yes! So I jumped on the tube and started to swim! At this point I could see a large group of participants in the water not that far in front of me. The water was cold, but nothing that I am not used to with swimming and cliff jumping in local upstate NY streams so I was fine, I still turned on the burners and was swimming fast. I passed everyone that was in front of me and exited the water with a hand provided by I think one of the SEAL's dressed in BDU's. I arrived to the paint ball shooting obstacle and triple tapped both targets, which made me happy! Shortly after I could see the light ahead and knew I was not far from exiting the tunnels! I ran faster than I had ever have run before and was out of that mine pretty fast. The remainder of course was very challenging and had amazing obstacles and used the woods and hills to create natural obstacles such as the “Snake Eater”. The rope obstacles where mega slippery and took me time to complete, but I did do them. I arrived to the Tsunami and it took two tries, but I was able to climb to the top on my own and go on to finish the course feeling great!
Originally my plan was to run the course, just the one time, but Oscar (the head of the volunteer department) asked me about a week earlier to run it with the volunteers and staff at the end of the day. I said okay, and said I would run the 5K version at the end of the day. Well I loved the 15K course, so much and I was feeling really good so I decided to run the 15K again! The second time around was just as fun and a little more challenging as I was now a little tired. Funny story: I ran into a group of volunteers and staff about half way through the course and one of the girls was cramping bad. I was the only one with a hydration pack on and supplements to help stop the cramping so I gave the girl something to digest and then had her drink from my hydration, if anyone had heard our conversation and not seen what was going on they would have thought we were filming a porno movie! My only problem during the first run and even worse the second time was my sneakers were taking in a lot of small rocks and I had to stop at least 7 to 10 times to rinse them out. I am pretty sure I know why the sneakers were so bad and think I have resolved the issue and will know right away at Bone Frog this coming weekend! I ran the remainder of the course passing about 10 more participants.
As I approached the finish I was getting mentally psyched to do the Tsunami again! I came around the bend in the woods to the Tsunami and no one was there and the ropes had been tucked up on the platform so I wasn't able to grab one of them. I thought this was odd and looked around, but no one was around the obstacle at all. I then proceeded to the “HOOYAH” obstacle and a climbed up the front side and then slid down the slide into the water and yet again no one was around. I could now see the finish line as all that was left were the Normandy Jacks, I immediately could tell the BattleFrog inflatable frog was down. I crawled under the jacks and wire and then approached the downed frog, I didn't want to step on the inflatable frog so I had to climb underneath it to exit the course. Once off the course I could see some of the staff, but no one was at the finish line handing out medals and fruit. I looked around the frog and could see the box of 15K medals buried underneath the frog, so I climbed back under the frog and found my finisher medal for the second finish.
I have to be honest, I was in shock and stunned that the frog was down and no one was at the finish line to greet/congratulate me and the incoming 20+ other participants still on the course. I then briefly talked to the DJ for a few minutes and then went over to shower off the mud. Unfortunately not long after starting to clean off and with others who had also finished the course the showers ran out of water. I know they had to use trucked in water as the grounds did not have any pipped water to use. I had a 450+ mile drive home so I made the best of things and got myself as clean as I could with just a towel. By now it was starting to get dark and cold and one of the BattleFrog staff said they set up an alternate shower, but I didn't want to risk getting sick and decided to pass on the shower.
The entire day was amazing, the course was killer, the mines where something I don't think most of us had ever experienced, the DJ played a killer music set and did a great job all day (he always does). Coach Pain Dewayne was amazing yet again and in my opinion is tied for first place with Tough Mudder's Sean Corvelle for being the two best motivational speakers in the OCR world! The event area was busy all day and fun times were being had by entire families and all age groups which is a staple for the BattleFrog events, everyone has a good time.
I loved the course and everyone I talked to loved the course as well, but I really wanted to know what some of the top Elite finishers had to say about it. I had a chance to talk with the 15K Elite male winner Ryan Atkins and he said he really enjoyed the course. He thought the use of natural terrain was excellent, and the obstacles were varied, and fun. He thought the Rock Climbing holds were great, and that if elites couldn't complete them, then they should work on their grip strength! He stated obstacles need to be harder for the elite group. He also said the mines were really fun, and the water wasn't that cold.
I also talked to 15K Elite male runner up, Kevin Drago. Kevin said navigating multiple obstacles, and running nearly a mile down a rocky creek bed was a real gut-check for him. The mines were pitch-black and even with the headlamps he could barely see the ground. He said the water was so frigid that his legs nearly stopped working. Shortly after the mine, he arrived to the Monkey Bars that included slippery rock holds. Kevin explained this obstacle proved hard to conquer and he left some skin on it, but this is where he advanced from around the 12th to 2nd place. He explained the difficulty of this obstacle really leveled the playing-field, slowing down the pure-runners that were leading the race until that point. He said running down the ridiculously steep downhills was extremely fun and the sadistically steep uphills slowed him to walking a couple times. I personally enjoyed talking with Kevin, he is an amazing young man who currently works at a local farm but has much higher aspirations! It's pretty amazing that Kevin signed up last minute for BattleFrog and took second place overall!
I also talked with 15K Elite female winner Corinna Coffin. She thought the course was challenging, but a lot of fun. She said the mine portion added some mystery and ambiguity heading into the race, as no one quite knew what to expect, but it completely surpassed her expectations. She stated “not many people can say they ran a race where they swam in freezing water in a deserted coal mine with only a headlamp and glowing buoys lighting the way. Not to mention shooting paintball targets under black light was very cool”. She stated the monkey bars obstacle, and the last 100 yards of the race proved to be very challenging for most racers (including herself), with the very slippery Tsunami wall followed by HOOYAH wall climb shortly after.
All three Elites also pointed out that the volunteers, staff and Navy SEAL's were all wonderful and you can tell they love what they do.
The swag was awesome, I got one of the best looking medals in the OCR world, a really nice looking finisher shirt that has some very cool green stitching and great artwork, and a free beer (21 or over)!
The BattleFrog staff like co-founder and former Navy SEAL Michael Donnelly did an amazing job all day motivating people and keeping smiles on everyone's faces regardless of age. The addition of Shawn Ramirez (who won The Fittest Man in the World competition at the age of 40) to the BattleFrog family/staff as the National Youth Program Director is a great move and one that will only make future events even better! Having BattleFrog Chief Operating Officer and retired Navy SEAL and former member of SEAL Team Six Don Mann at the events is awesome. Don Is an amazing man who has written over a dozen published books and someone that a motivational mentor for a lot of us. These three men all ran the final volunteer 15K and destroyed the course!
I cannot go without mentioning other staff that makes BattleFrog the success it is, such as Lex, Oscar, Allan, Garfield, Blake, Adam P, all the other Navy SEAL's and the list can go on and on!
The day started out to be everything I expected, the course was amazing, the event area was a party the whole time with the DJ Haviken Hayes and Coach Pain Dewayne doing a top flight job all day. The food was way better this time as well. The staff, as noted above did a top notch job, but with that said I have to rate the event and based on the inflatable frog being down, no one at the finish line to congratulate the final finishers and hand out medals, the timing mat was turned off so the final race was not timed and lastly the showers running out of water I am going to have to give BattleFrog a 4 stars out of 5.
I want to close by saying, I have volunteered for two BattleFrog events and both times I was one of the people that helped set up the two inflatable frogs so I know how they work. If I could re-do the events after I finished, I would run over to the generator and turn it back on and gotten the frog back to life and then stood at the finish line and handed out the medals and congratulations. I apologize to all those that finished after me for not thinking about that until the drive home. All and all it was an amazing few days and event but BattleFrog still has some fine tuning to do. I can't wait for the next BattleFrog event and remember, the only easy day was yesterday.
—–Walter F Hendrick (Sandy)—–
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