I recently had the privilege to visit the Dauntless Primal Assault obstacle course race. After months of being on lockdown from COVID-19 it was a nice change to see an actual race was happening. This appears to have been the first obstacle course race to take place since everything was shut down. There have been enough virtual challenges to keep people busy, but I think everyone can agree that they just are not quite the same and we are ready to get back out on the course.
Owner Buffie Sells puts on this local race just outside the small town of Sallisaw in eastern Oklahoma. She runs all of the operations and has a few individuals that help her with the obstacle builds. They have been holding events since 2017 and typically draw just under 100 participants, which is a big reason this event was able to happen. For this event attendance was a little lower than typical with just under 60 participants but there was also not much of a push for registrations and same day sign-ups were also not allowed. I will say, however, that after running the course, it should draw in way more. It was an obstacle dense course with about 40 obstacles in 4.25 miles. A lot of fun and some challenging obstacles that gave you the option of 10 burpees in the competitive heat if you could not complete them. If you are within driving distance, it's definitely worth checking out. They typically hold 3 events per year and are currently looking at dates within the next couple of months for the next race.
Small Event, Big on Fun
When I arrived on-site you could see right away that this wasn't some big-time OCR event. Parking was right next to the start line. The race was starting in less than an hour and there were only about 30 cars there. There were only 2 porta-potties and that was plenty. I walked up to the registration line…wait actually there was no line. I got checked in right away and talked to the race owner right there. These are the perks of small local obstacle races.
Being that attendance was on the lower side, social distancing was never much of an issue. This was in a Midwest rural area, which saw only 14 confirmed cases within the county, so people didn’t seem to be overly concerned. I didn't see anyone wearing masks, but Clorox disinfecting wipes were offered at various locations in the festival area. There were no vendors on site so that was one less concern to deal with as well.
Somewhat Normal with the “New Normal”
As everyone loaded into the starting corral everything seemed pretty normal. Maybe people weren't cramming in quite as tight, but it felt pretty normal. Once we were sent off it was just like any other race. Any thoughts of social distancing were removed from everyone's minds. The elite field went out full steam. And then you had the non-competitive runners breaking off into their small groups and tackling the obstacles together in the later wave.
At the finish line small groups of people hung out together and there did not seem to be much concern about keeping distance. I would say if anything was different it may just have been that fist bumps replaced handshakes, high fives, and hugs. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves and were very appreciative of the fact that they were finally able to get back out on the course and interact with friends that they may have not seen in some time. It was a nice glimpse of what may hopefully be coming to many courses soon and throughout the rest of the year.
I asked owner Buffie Sells if she had to make any changes for the race or if she noticed any changes from participants on race day, she responded
“I left out the barbed wire crawl and some of the mud pits, I saw where some of the other races had done away with those type of obstacles so I thought I better stay on the safe side. No changes from participants, everyone I spoke with were eager to race and participate in an actual event since a lot of events were canceled or went virtual”
She also said they were not able to get their normal medals shipped in on time, so she did have to improvise with some homemade finisher wooden blocks.
Women's podium. 1st – Kate Bykowicz, 2nd – Brandy Goddard, 3rd – Rebecca Burch
Men's Podium. 1st – Brint Hastert, 2nd – Scott Wierzycki, 3rd Tom Mortimer
As other races began to startup over the next few weeks and months, I don't think there is much question that the hardcore competitive runners and the OCR enthusiasts will show up. The bigger question may be will the more casual runners or locals come out? I guess we will find out soon. It will be interesting to see how different these races look this year and how people interact at some of the bigger events.
About the Author: Scott Wierzycki
Scott is a master's athlete on the Conquer the Gauntlet Pro team and a Hammer Nutrition sponsored athlete. He has been competing in OCR since 2012.