When I go to a race, I never really know what I'm going to write about afterwards. So, arriving at the BattleFrog Championship in Orlando later in the week than usual, I found that Mud Run Guide needed someone to take some “live action” photos of the elites along the actual course on race day. Being an avid, yet amateur, semi-pro photographer and never one to shy away from a new challenge, I thought this was perfect! So I offered my services…although I may have left out the amateur part.
I told Brett my initial plan, which was to jog along with the elites, allowing me to take photos at every obstacle. But while Brett was slapping me silly, it dawned on me that he thought this was a poor plan. Once he wore himself down a bit, I told him my second idea…head them off at the course loops and do the shots at some key obstacles. He appeared to like that idea much better. There were only two small problems.
1) It was a bad plan!
2) It didn't work!
Reason being…these people are just fast!! I managed a cart ride out to the Hump Overs. But after that, it was all over but the crying. By the time I got photos of the elite women and jogged (even I laugh at the thought of me calling what I do jogging) back to the first rig, I had missed the elite men….I mean what??!!….that was, at least, a mile of running and seven obstacles!! Well, since stealing a cart from BattleFrog or finding a horse were equally unlikely solutions, I went to yet another plan…hitting just a few key obstacles during the end of the first lap and then a different set the second lap. Finally…something that worked!
From that point on though I actually started to think more about the race itself and the lead elites. Although the men's race stayed fairly steady…Ryan Atkins and Josh Zwonitzer stayed one and two for the entire race it appeared. Which meant the men's race was for third……eventually going to “Air Force” Ken Corigliano. Initially, the women's race had KK Stewart-Paul and Lindsay Webster tied for the lead with Corinna Coffin and Claude Godbout not far behind. But then it got interesting….and I'm not sure anyone else besides me had the pleasure of seeing it unfold first hand!!
Corinna had gotten caught up on the second rig during the first lap. Instead of staying in third, close behind the leaders, she would lose close to ten minutes struggling through it. So during the second lap, KK had opened up around a one minute lead on Lindsay at the Normandy Jacks and appeared to be cruising to a championship win. But we weren't finished with the rigs yet. Unfortunately for her, KK had troubles with the same rig Corinna had struggled with earlier. Lindsay passed her easily and because of these troubles, Corinna passed her for second and Claude passed her as well to take third. As exciting a finish as you could ask for!! And this brings up several important points.
First, someone…somewhere…somehow has to put all the pieces together so we can watch these races!! Doesn't have to be live, but it certainly seems that we should be able to see them fairly close to real-time…given that all these technologies exist. This is an exciting sport to me…and no amount of photos, blogs or even random videos can capture that. My OCR dream is that someone out there from one of the race promoters will be reading this and they will know that the answer is already coming….maybe even in 2016. Not just because I want it, but because it's the best way to build the popularity of the sport and bring the thrill of the races to them!
Second, there was another aspect to this race and finish that also solidified my thoughts on what some call the “bands over burpees” controversy. BattleFrog and the OCR World Championship (OCRWC) require that all racers complete every obstacle. You can try it as many times as you need to, but you MUST complete it. Spartan Race allows only one attempt, and then you must do a penalty…typically 30 burpees…but that can be 60 on certain obstacles. That means instead of struggling through a 10-minute obstacle like the Rig (assuming you could even finish it in one attempt!) you could do 30 burpees in two-three minutes and keep going.
If this penalty method were in place at the BattleFrog race, any racer could have bypassed the Rigs…particularly the second 80′ Rig…changing the entire complexion of the race. Not only the race, but the essence of the sport. The sport is called Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) for a reason. If a racer doesn't actually have to complete the obstacles, you've taken the “O” out of OCR. Obstacle completion is, and must remain, paramount to the heart of every race…certainly at the competitive, elite level.
In the end, there are no obstacles that the elites can't finish. So the race will really come down to their running abilities on the trails, their endurance and strength on carry/drag obstacles, their upper body and grip strength on rigs and monkey bars and possibly the most important factor…..avoiding mistakes! Those mistakes are most likely to occur on the toughest challenges…and those challenges tend to be obstacles like the Rigs and Tip of the Spear. Removing these challenges by allowing a racer to opt-out with a penalty lessens the difficulty and lessens the chances of a mistake…making the race easier in a sense.
Easier is not a word I've ever associated with OCR. Certainly it shouldn't come into play for the elite racers. The elite racers want it hard and many of us would like to see the racers on the course…during the race…meeting these challenges and battling each other. Hopefully the developments in 2016 will see progress towards both of these goals. I for one would be very excited to see this!
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