I’ve been struggling to think of a way to start this. During this time of isolation and panic, it’s difficult to put together an article about the last great hurrah (so far) of the 2020 race season without sounding like an exercise in self-help or abject thoughtlessness. This also comes a bit delayed as my job has me in IT with a food supply company, so I have been on “Team Overworked” for the past month and a half. That being said, let’s talk about the shining jewel that is the Bermuda Triple Challenge and why when the world returns to a set of normalcy, you need to get out there as well. This past March, before things really hit the fan, I had the absolute pleasure to travel to Bermuda to cover the BTC. If anyone was watching our Facebook page, you saw me running around the course after my wave each day showing you the different races and areas each day. There’s nowhere else to start than the day before the first race, Thursday, March 12, 2020.
Race Weekend Day -1
I’ve traveled to an amazing assortment of places in the past six-seven years. The short (comparatively) flight to Bermuda is an easy trip and not one that will leave you with the tired travel body you'll experience at many destination races. Flying into a gorgeous island paradise is a surreal experience. Surely, I can’t be going to that pristine area. Oh, but you are, and don’t call me Shirley. I highly recommend you take the earliest flight in so you can see some of the sights around the island and get some relaxation time in. This evening, there is a welcome BBQ at the Rum-Bum Beach Bar, where you check into registration for the weekend, pick up your swag and then get your grub on. It’s just off the side of the historic and freaking serene Horseshoe Bay. I mean, can you ask for a better place to meet your friends, fellow athletes and eat/relax on the beach the evening before? I’ll answer that for you, no. No, you can’t
Race Weekend Day 1: Urban 3k OCR-ish
When I say Race Day 1, I mean race Evening 1. On the Friday race, you get the entire day to relax. Do some more exploring of the island, eat in peace, and then get ready to race starting around 7 pm. It’s a really tight network of urban streets, alleys, and interspersed parks and fields with amazing views of the bay. You are started off in waves of 10 with a running clock. Sun, setting over the ocean next to a giant three-mast sailboat is the corral with tires and ropes ahead of you. As soon as it starts, you are on a mad dash. Grabbing a large tire, dragging it around the starting area, and then straight under parked trucks. Then running straight into the town square over hurdles up and down steps, inflate-o-obstacles, double stacked tires then onto the streets hills and the park.
Upon entering the park, I saw this was going to be a bit different. There were cinder blocks and benches and people standing in the middle of grassy areas for no reason. Spoiler alert, there was a reason. Cinder block Lunges, Superman Burpees were to be done. Down and back lunges and 25 burpees in fact. After running through theses, back onto the streets we went. We were set climbing a close hill to a field with another amazing view, and some heavy stuff ahead. Large tire flips, which while not a Yokohama Tire, still had their own difficulty being set on soft grass so getting under then took a second. Right after that, it was climbing over a container carrier and then a down and back bucket farmers carry. Once completing the field, we ran back through a second set of streets.
Through this, we had more turns, more obstacles, more plyometrics… and we also had so many residents hanging out in their yards watching and cheering us on. It was surreal. The only times you hear anything in OCR are those times where you swing around the festival area once in a race, and the finish. You never get it through almost the entire race. That’s what you get here. Constant eyes, constant yelling, and cheering, constant pushing to go faster, and perform better. It was amazing. With the first race complete, we get some food for the road and head back to the hotel.
Race Weekend Day 2 – 10k point to point
This day marked a new version of the race. In years past it was two loops of a 5k course. This year, we gathered at the finish area, and the athletes were bussed out to the start line. Upon arriving we were left to our own devices to warm up and get ready. On this day, the top 10 times from the day before go out in the first wave (solo and teams). The others and I jumped up and got ready to run on the beach. Here’s why my wheels came off. I live in San Antonio, Texas. We don’t have beaches. We have solid rock, loose-ish rock, and hard pack dirt. We don’t have sand. Let alone, 2.5 miles out of a 6.2-mile race. I’ve never run on sand, and while running on the beach was freaking gorgeous, the sand ate my dreams. Two of the locals took it out hard with us, and I quickly understood my mistake. I’m used to hitting the beginning of a race quickly and being able to sink into pace after a mile or two. Yeah no. Sinking into the sand made me do so after the first half-mile.
After getting off the first beach section, we went into some amazing trails that were a mixture of fresh cut and mountain bike sections, we hit some of your standard obstacle fair. Large walls, over unders, leaking buckets… Leaking buckets? Yeah, I got lucky on this one. Instead of a normal bucket carry you had to fill one bucket with water and then come back up the beach with it to fill another past a red line. Thing is, you didn’t notice the bucket you had to carry had eleventy billion holes drilled in it. So you had to fill your bucket in the beach and run back with it as fast as possible to fill the other so you don’t lose enough to have to make a second trip. I just happened to have a completely full first bucket that when I noticed the leaking, I was able to get there just in time.
Then we were back out on the beaches again. After more obstacles, we reached Horseshoe Bay again. We had the option to run across at waist deep, or do 25 burpees and run around it to the next obstacles. I saw first and second in the water and I was overheating so much that the water was the best possible option in my head. Plus, you made the trip, why would you run around the perfect water? After some grueling current fighting, we got to the other side to hit a barbed wire crawl and a sandbag carry. Only thing was, you had to grab an empty bag, fill it yourself and then run the loop before emptying it and then running back to the final section of the course.
The final section being the Military Assault course at their barracks. They were a mixture of balance and agility all testing different facets of mobility and control. Once getting through that last loop, it was a sprint to the line. I’ve raced at some amazingly gorgeous venues over the years. I have to say this 10k along the southern portion of the island is easily a contender for the most beautiful race I’ve done.
Race Weekend Day 3 – The Dockyards
Anyone who has competed in the OCRWC knows Day 3 is always the hardest. You’re sore, you’re hungry, you’re a bit worn out from the previous days, but you’re still ready. Set in the north-western section of the island, we get set in our staggered waves again and burst out to the end of a long commercial dock and then jumping straight into the water. There was no time to think or gauge how tall it was, you just jumped off and then had about a 200-meter swim across to the other side. Upon getting out, we were off to the races. Running through tight corners, an abandoned prison, and completing all sorts of obstacles.
All sorts you say? Whatever could they be? Oh, you know. Log carries, mini-golf, overhead keg throws. Yes, you read those right. Instead of some of the skill challenges we have here in the states where we have to throw a thing into another thing, we had to grab a putter on a mini-golf course and get within a certain area. None of us did. Just four dudes doing burpees on a mini green. It was hilarious. Then, yes, a keg throw. You had to grab a keg, stand in front of a miniature goalpost, and heave the keg over it like you’re in one of those strongman competitions. The ones where they have names like Keigergestraglesvargen. Fill those grand pianos with molten lead and see how many you can hurl into a third-story window in 30 seconds!
Back down in and around again. Just tough terrain followed by glorious flats where we put some speed on and then hit with more obstacles. Then we get to the final gauntlet. It begins with a rope swing, into a work dock. Climbing out to a pinned tarp you have to go under, and then we hit The Traverse. Why do I say it like this? Because it is the longest traverse obstacle in OCR in the world. 100 meters from dock to dock. The one person ahead of me was on the rope, and I figured I’d wait a second to see what he does. Some of the others caught up and decided to jump in the water and swim across then to burpees. Once the person in the rope decided he wasn’t going to finish going across, that was my chance. One hundred meters of inverted commando traverse. Making it to the end with a suitably fried grip thinking “That’s about it”, but alas. There was something else. A long zipline into yet another 200-300m swim.
Have I mentioned that I live in central Texas, and I’ve never done swimming like this before in my life? Cool, because whatever ground I had in the flats and obstacles was lost in these swims. After dropping a place getting to the cargo climb out of the water, we had 400m to run to the finish line. Putting in a hard sprint like I never have before, overtaking in literally the last five steps before the finish. It was hard-fought, and amazingly fun. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Once finished, there was another large BBQ for all that were in attendance before the awards ceremony. All the athletes, competitive and open relaxing after a weekend of hard-fought effort and amazing fun. I met some great people out there those three days, and I can’t wait to head back to the island to see them again.
It’s difficult to put into words what this event is. Yeah, it’s an OCR. Yeah, it’s a destination race. Yeah, it’s a labor of love by the 9 staff members who put it on every year. And yeah, I said nine people. They do everything. Set the course, build the obstacles. Transport everyone, it’s a serious undertaking for the team for one race, let alone three races in three days. To put it in perspective, this experience is on par with OCRWC in terms of the excitement of everyone around. The love for the sport by participants, volunteers, and the spectators. A truly infectious thing, but these days, the absolute best kind you could ever hope for. If you’re looking for a vacation and want to race, be sure to put this on your calendar. You will be enthralled by what you find here, and the race is just as amazing.