The OCR industry has been tightening their belts in 2015. Across the industry companies are looking to operate both effectively and efficiently in order to stay in business for the long term. Most of the time this gives the participants the best event at the best cost to them. However, what is the downside when companies strive for growth and efficiency too quickly? What happens when companies mandate quicker build times for the guys on the ground?
This year BattleFrog Series has often been in the news, recently Corinna Coffin was announced Lifestyle Director. Shawn Ramirez the National Youth Program Director won his division at the CrossFit Game. Just over a year ago, Ryan Atkins began his undefeated reign at BattleFrog events. The company has gone through tremendous change in the last couple of months in staffing, aggressive calendar announcements, as well as increased efficiency with their build crew. BattleFrog Series currently has the quickest build time out of any of the major traveling obstacle race series. But does this quick build come at a cost?
Over the weekend the much anticipated Pittsburgh BattleFrog took place. The same race that made headlines a year ago for the creativity of the designers and the natural features of the venue. Participants raved about the course and its challenging obstacles. The mine at the venue drew the most applause as course designers directed participants through an underground swimming section, a first in OCR history. However the headlines this year have been mixed.
On Saturday, shortly after the men's elite heat took off, BattleFrog had an obstacle failure. Their Delta Cargo obstacle broke with, according to eye witness reports, anywhere from a twelve to thirty elite male racers on the obstacle during the first heat of the day. The top beam supporting the net, cracked and broke. Mud Run Guide contributor Eric Acuna was on the obstacle when it broke and said,
“It was unreal!
I was about to climb over the top beam when it snapped right in front of me. It left me dangling with other racers on top of me. If I had been on the beam I would have really been badly injured…maybe ejected.
We all got lucky.
It was closest call I have had in a race.”
BattleFrog staff are currently investigating the exact cause of the obstacle failure. Safety is always a concern on every build crews minds when it comes to building obstacles and BattleFrog is no different. There obstacles are designed and structured by ex-Navy Seabees. Mud Run Guide reached out to BattleFrog CEO, Ramiro Ortiz this afternoon he told MRG
“we are reviewing what happened and reevaluating to make sure it doesn't happen again.”
This is the first high profile race series to have an obstacle failure during an elite heat. This begs the question has the quick build timeframe resulted in a lack of proper stress tests. Are crews having to rush builds or is it something else. Acuna went on to comment,
“It was our second obstacle. The first obstacle was through three mud pits & then it was the cargo net. Because it was the second obstacle all the runners were still in a tight pack and rushing through it. I don't think that would have happened deeper into the race with less runners rushing the obstacle all at once.”
The short build time and company reorganization has put additional pressure on course designers. Last year the course design was challenging, innovative and by all accounts very safe. This year, one participant said the only comparison between the two years was the mine itself. She noted,
“the course was more technical than last year. The addition of The Platinum Rig really leveled the playing field.”
and praised the race as a fun time but also noted on her second lap most of the headlamps for the cave were broken and the swim had been shut down. Ortiz commented that the medical team made the decision to divert racers taking out much of the swimming section of the course for safety reasons in reference to the water temperature. Safety being the highest concern.
Overall, some left the most recent BattleFrog with mixed feelings. Many have already signed up for future races while others are a bit hesitant. After speaking with several participants it seems the Pittsburgh race fell prey to the trickle down effect from the company's strive for efficiency. This begs the question, with an aggressive race schedule for 2016 can BattleFrog retain a quality event? Are those on the ground given enough time to continually produce great courses. We are left with many questions but also hope that this incident brings everyone at BattleFrog HQ back to the table and reevaluate current policies and build designs resulting in a better race series for the entire OCR Community.
Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and official policies of Mud Run Guide LLC, or their staff. The comments posted on this Website are solely the opinions of the posters.