If you're looking for a new challenge or experience, it's always helpful to look at the smaller and/or newer endurance and obstacle course racing (OCR) companies. These smaller outfits usually are endeavors of passion where the people running it are trying to create something that highlights some great aspects that we've seen before while minimizing the difficulties. It also helps that they're cheaper, so the barrier to entry into the intimidating space of events longer than 3 hours is low.
To give you insight into what 3 Elements is about, I'll tell you about my recent experience in Long Beach, California. The event was held at No Limits Sports and Fitness Academy, organized by Kyoul Cha, Cookie, and Alisha Lopez. The elements were as follows: strength, team endurance, and personal performance.
Element 1: Strength
We were split into two relay teams that competed against each other by Kyoul. There were four exercises to complete involving plate pushing, reverse crab walks, lateral curtsy lunges, and bear crawls for around 100 meters. As the person completing these exercises was working, the rest of the team would complete AMRAP (as many reps as possible) for other cycling exercises including ball planks, jump rope, wall balls, static sits, and other mostly bodyweight exercises. During this exercise, I was on Team 2 which we decided to call Team MurderGuide, inspired by a misreading of my MudRunGuide shirt. It was a close competition but Team 1 finished first. Almost immediately after, we had another relay race involving a plate push for 100m with some assault rope jumps. Team 1 finished first again. Lastly, we did a sprint cycle relay where each person completed the following cycle twice: sprint with a 20 lbs medicine ball for 50m, unweighted sprint for 50m, then recovery jog. Team 1 won that cycle as well, and thereby named themselves Team Won.
Total duration: 90 minutes. Effort level: moderate. Fun level: high!
Element 2: Team Endurance
At this point, we ate then met our new friend: a roughly 800 lb tire with a wood plank in the middle. Our task was to get this tire out from the obstacle course area without touching any course markings, but we weren't allowed to lift it above our heads (as if we wanted to anyway…). This involved teamwork as we planned our route, then navigated the tire over or under different obstacles. Once we were free and clear, Cookie gave us a rope and a strap. We were going on a walk with our tire with rules that we couldn't roll it or lift it to shoulder level or above. We affixed the rope to the wood plank in the middle, then proceeded to drag the tire around the neighborhood into a park. Oh, I forgot to mention that there were also 5 sandbags of around 40 lbs each that we had to carry as well, on top of our rucks with 20 lbs extra dry weight (required gear item). If you weren't actively pulling the tire, you were carrying the extra weight. I put one of the 40lbs sandbags in my ruck so that I did both almost the whole time.
Of course, our friendly tour around the neighborhood started with a relatively steep uphill road then onto a dirt path. Cookie then gave us a choice for how to get up the dirt hill. Either we could take the switchback, or we could drag the tire directly up the hill. The switchback was quite long, so we opted to drag the tire up muddy hill after muddy hill. It wasn't overly complicated, but it definitely required the whole team to be working consistently the whole time. Around halfway, we had a friendly break to do some team exercises including partner GHD situps and venus fly trap situps. We then dragged the tire all the way back to the gym.
Total duration: 3.5 hours. Effort level: consistently moderate, leading to exhaustion for most. Fun level: high for me! Type B Fun level: high for all!
Element 3: Performance/OCR
The last element was an obstacle course that involved popular obstacles from many courses. We were to complete 2 laps of the course for time to earn our finish. The course involved only around 800-1200m of running per lap and alternated between Crossfit/Functional Fitness including plate push, weighted step-ups, rope climb, sandbag cleans, and sled drag; and conventional obstacles including Traverse Wall, Tire Flip, friendly walls, monkey bars, and Twister. If I were to look at this rested, I'd contemplate going quite quickly through everything, but after all the above work, it was all about consistent effort. It also gave me important practice on some obstacles that are hard, but I don't see all that often in my routine training.
Total duration: 1.5-2 hours. Effort level: choose your own adventure (aka: MAX). Fun level: high if you like obstacles.
After all that, we were done! We waited for the last competitor to finish and took pictures, hung out, and got our finisher swag. All said and done, it was about 7 hours of effort and most were exhausted. While I knew a lot of the participants going in, it was a great way to spend time with like-minded, positive people, working towards a common goal, then having some personal performance icing on the cake. There weren't any times or rankings involved. At the end, Cookie named the top male (Chris Cow) and female (Jenny Schweigert) performers.
I'd definitely go back for more!