The 2020 season is a wash for many brands, but a couple are still managing to hold events.  One of those is one of the oldest multi-state Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) series in the nation, Conquer the Gauntlet (CTG).  CTG has been holding races since 2012 and recently held their first post-quarantine event.  Here is a quick review of CTG Iowa and what it was like returning the world of competitive OCR:

Some of the first ladies at the finish line

Course:  The Iowa course starts off flat and fast as you would expect based off stereotypical views of Iowa cornfields.  However, they made good use of the terrain weaving into wooded sections, up and down some steep slopes as well as managing to find three different stream crossings over the four mile course.

Winner of the elite wave CTG Pro Ashton Abraham had this to say of the use of terrain and course layout:

“The use of the terrain was great, had technical spots, steep hill climbs, water crossings. The obstacle placement was strategic and challenging (example slack line right after a steep climb).”

Obstacles:  CTG brought their normal mix of obstacles. The only changes were the mandatory water obstacles removed from this event as a byproduct of local government recommendations provided by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

The Tarzan Swing: A rig over land this time, included grips like balls, cones, steering wheels, and handles

A variety of grip-intensive obstacles were used, including Pegatron, Stairway to Heaven over water, Cliffhanger (rotating monkey bars on an incline/decline over water) and Tarzan Swing (their rig).  Tarzan Swing was over land for this event which made it easier to ensure the holds were dry and not swinging, but also means the rig was less technical (i.e. no floating boards and weird spinning black spool like they had at the end of 2019).  Depending on how much of a ninja you are, would determine if you loved the rig variant or preferred a more challenging one.

Cliffhanger is an elevated monkey bar with some random spinning rungs. Choose your grips carefully!

Also added in were some of the more unique obstacles in OCR like Belly of the Beast (balance beam into a downward traverse on a cargo net suspended on the underside), the fan favorite Smooth Criminal (a combination quintuple steps/rig) and Elephant Graveyard (horizontal poles your run up, cross a pipe and then run back down).  These are three obstacles I’ve never seen even a similar version at any other OCR event.

Finally, the course was rounded out with some balance obstacles like Slackin’ Off (a slackline) and Z Beam (3×12 foot sections of 2×6 boards on edge).  Z Beam was in the first mile and helped determine who got an early lead towards the podium.  I love how their course requires athletes to be well-rounded.

CTG is known for their epic obstacles, and as always, they delivered.  While the ninja in me thinks the harder the better, I know that’s not necessarily for everyone.  Still I enjoyed it, and after seeing the men and women running Continuum, it certainly showed that the obstacles were challenging enough.

Kid’s Course:  In addition to the adult course, the kid’s course was over half a mile in length with some fun obstacles to make this event great for the whole family.

Atmosphere:  The atmosphere was simultaneously amazing and different.  Amazing because it was so great to see everyone back at a live OCR event again.  Different because all athletes I encountered were wary of people’s new behavior, which meant more social distancing, less muddy hugs and less high fives.  Honestly for most of the day I completely forgot about all the drama on the news and the whole COVID environment.  It just felt good to be “home” with my OCR people and running my favorite series.

The coveted gauntlets for the 1st place male and female.

Overall:  CTG is back and just as good as ever.  The crowd felt a little lighter than normal as athletes seemed to race and then head back home instead of hanging around for long periods like usual.  However, it was great to be back.  With four more CTGs (Oklahoma, Little Rock, Dallas and Wichita) left on the calendar in 2020, I’m looking forward to a great year despite many other brands having their races canceled.  I’m hoping to see more of you out there with me joining in with the #CTGFamily.


5/5 stars

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