Kansas City’s only permanent obstacle course venue, KC Timber Challenge is one of the few brands that has been putting on consistent races in 2020. They’ve held three of their five scheduled Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) events with their final one scheduled for the end of the first week of September.
I’ve run their winter themed Yeti event (read 2019’s review or watch the 2020 OCR America Day 8 video), the women’s only (or men in drag) Wild Women Timber Challenge (read 2020’s review or Stoke Shed’s video coverage), their classic Timber Challenge and their competitive Extreme Timber Challenge (read 2019’s review) event leaving on one type of event off my list. I finally had the opportunity to run the Family Timber Challenge and complete the unofficial “KC Timber Challenge Quinfecta.” Here are my thoughts on the event:
Unique Aspect: The theme of this event is a “family-friendly atmosphere”. Athletes are encouraged to run with their kids, however, it is not mandatory. I ran the first lap at a relatively hard pace for personal training and then went back out of a second lap with my 5-year-old daughter. I had so much to say about the unique aspect of that experience I wrote another article about it that you will see shortly on Mud Run Guide. Bottom line though, it was one of my favorite racing experiences so far. There aren’t many stepping stones between kid's race and full-on adult challenge but this is one that is realistic and doable for our younger athletes.
Length: The KC Timber Challenge venue has almost 10k of trails at their venue but for this event, they used 2 miles. With the age of the participants being 5 and up, this made it perfectly doable while still incorporating almost all of their fun obstacles.
Pictures: I have some friends that run OCR solely for the pictures. If that’s how you determine value, KC Timber sets records. It’s the only race I run where I literally get tired downloading all the pictures. Normally when I run multiple laps I usually give up before getting them all because its picture after picture in more than half a dozen albums covering various obstacles. If you end up running multiple laps, the number of pictures becomes insane.
Obstacles: As a family-focused event, their famous zip line was definitely a part of the course and was a fan favorite as always. Kids could be seen flying down the line and asking to run back to the top for another round. (However, that shouldn’t be confused with their Zip KC, a zip line experience that requires separate booking that has 9 zip lines stretching over 5,800 feet, allowing participants to reach speeds over 50 mph.)
The two new obstacle modifications were changes to the low rig and changes to the monkey bars. The low rig was modified to include an unstable bridge option for the easy side. This made the low rig doable for even the youngest participants. Although, many of the adults seemed more interested in taking the kids lane than challenging themselves with the awkwardness that is the low rig traverse. People seemed to be enjoying themselves most of all on this obstacle and what used to be the monkey bars.
The monkey bars were turned into a vertical rope traverse. For the harder side it was just ropes with knots in them and the easier side had upside T bar foot holds at the bottom of the ropes. The nylon consistency and thinness of the ropes made this one harder than I was expecting as I went across on my first lap. It proved to be a big hit though and people seemed to be having a blast whether they made it all the way across or fell after only a move or two.
Overall, the obstacles were kept interesting with many obstacles having multiple difficulty lanes making it a perfect course whether you were running with a five year little girl old like I was or running with your teenage son.
COVID Adjustments: KC Timber adjusted some of their normal operations by having fewer athletes per wave, more waves, putting a lower cap then normal on number of registrations and increased time between waves. Additionally, many athletes took it upon themselves to wear masks in the festival areas and some even chose to wear them on course. The festival area also had a couple of fewer vendors than normal thus limiting the amount of gathering as is normal for their events. Plus, an additional hand sanitizer station was located between the port-a-potties and the start line.
Overall: With brands like Spartan and Tough Mudder canceling all their races for 2020, now is more of a time than ever to go experience some local brands of OCR. Local brands provide a different (often I feel better) experience at a fraction of the price.
Regarding KC Timber Challenge, I’ve now been to about nine of their events over the last couple of years and usually run a couple of laps per trip. I assumed by now I would be tired of their venue but they adjust it slightly every event with a new route, different obstacles in quantity/type and modifications to existing ones. The owners and staff are now familiar faces making the course feel like home and I look forward to many more events as part of this exceptional venue.
Up next is their OCR World Championships qualifier event, and my favorite (besides the Yeti), Extreme Timber Challenge. Hope to see some of you there on September 6th to close out the most unique seasons of OCR that we have experienced yet.
Pictures from official race photographer provided by athletes in the KCOCR Facebook group