This was a race of many firsts.  My first race of the 2021 season.  First full-blown race since 2019.  First time running a Savage race.  I took first place in my age group in the Open class.  I picked the male winners of the Savage Race, first, second, and third.  It was the best day of my OCR career in a long time.

Picked the top 3 men just before the race – Ryan Kempson, Ryan Woods, and Robert Killian

Top Pro winners of the Savage Race

Long-time Savage racers to this venue were also glad to be back and they came out in force.  Located in the middle of the Delmarva Peninsula farm country, I was delighted to find the terrain surprisingly technical on the single track and incredibly muddy in the many swamp crossings.  I absolutely loved the old-school feel of a real mud run.  I loved the challenge of new obstacles never faced before as well as some standard favorites.

Laura the race director had everything running smoothly and right on time.  Open waves for the Race and Blitz left together and occasionally shared the same well-marked course.  Photographers were strategically stationed throughout and photos were posted by the end of the day.  Race results were posted almost immediately.  Emails kept me informed all the way.

The vibe in the festival area was great.  Everyone was just so happy to see one another.  I hung around a long time after finishing just to talk to friends.  Many came with their teams whom I know and have reviewed in the past like The Endurance Factory, Otherworld, and the Philly Spartans.  For first timers like me they had a handy dandy direction vane.  Vendors circled the area and they were all electronic (no cash).

Fun Festival Area

Festival Area Direction Vane

No Cash Vendors

The finish line offered water, Kind bars, and some energy drinks.  I had a FitAid waiting for me back in the car so I did not partake.  The obligatory medals and t-shirts also awaited there.  Volunteers were plentiful throughout the course, even at the one water station for a critical Race/Blitz course split.

So, let’s talk about those Savage obstacles.  Having never done a Savage race, many of these were new to me.  The good news is, I studied the course map that came out a few days before the event.  Then I studied a few of the videos and obstacle descriptions offered on the Savage website.  That helped me plan a strategy of keeping my hands dry, knowing many grip intensive obstacles lay ahead.  The bad news is, no amount of video and story can really help if you’re not physically or technically trained for these monsters.  I loved them all.  The greatest news at Savage is you can try the obstacles as many times as you want.  But you may have to wait your turn in line and that can cost you time.  If you’re racing Pro, and ultimately fail an obstacle, then you turn in your band and lose the opportunity for podium and prize money.  None of that for the Open class however.

My favorite obstacle was the mud.  It brings back such good memories of when I started in this sport so long ago.  Back when things were raw and obstacles were made from downed trees.  Savage MD is notoriously known for its muddy swamps and they did not disappoint.  From a man-made perspective, I truly enjoyed those obstacles too.  Big, safe, sturdy, and imposing.  I was told after the race that many of those obstacles are left at the venue permanently.  That’s a nice arrangement to help save on setup cost.  The standard obstacles were there too.  High walls.  Inverted walls.  Low crawls.  Slippery rope walls.  Easy stuff for me but definitely challenging to those who are height challenged.

The tape offered no stability in this swamp mud

Sawtooth was an immense pyramid monkey bar with a tricky transition at the top.  I had no problem with this one but if you don’t have a long wingspan, it can be tough to dyno up.

Big dyno on the Sawtooth transition

Battering Bird started with a ram slide and finished with a series of skinny ropes.  This one was all about momentum and the video on the website definitely gave some good tips for doing the ram.  But the transition to the ropes was all about grip strength.  After I finished the race, I went back to photograph this obstacle.  I gave this guy some tips and he sailed right through.

Momentum Wins the Battering Bird

Colossus totally lived up to its name.  I’ve never seen such a huge obstacle.  Only the size was imposing.  Otherwise, it was just a slippery rope ramp, then a climb up a ladder, then a slide down into icy water.  I still managed to get a mouthful.  Ugh!  But the real problem was the obstacle that came after this.

The colossal Colossus Slide

For the wet, cold, and tired, Savage placed their rig next.  The first section was the cheeseboard.  I thought it was a board.  It was actually a very wobbly, flimsy piece of plastic.  If wet, a sure drop.  This caused the only obstacle backup of the day.  Both Racers and Blitzers piled up here.  Even some pros were still struggling to get through the first time.  Volunteers did their best to keep things moving.  After successfully getting the cheeseboard on my second (and dry) attempt, next came the cargo net.  Crawl under.  Much more difficult than climbing over.  Then transition to the last section.  A short span of a rope and dowl ladder with a ring at the end right before the bell.  I made a bad transition from the cargo net to the ladder and ended in a death spiral.  Just take your time here and do this like any monkey bar.  Straight on and swing through with momentum.

Right before the spiral of death on the Savage Rig

The last obstacle before the finish line was Yank My Chain.  It’s a hoist, very high, with a 110# chain.  Haul it to the top then let it drop.  That was nice.  No gentle return.  From there, it was a sprint to the finish.  Unknown to him at the time, my son toed the line with Robert Killian on this obstacle.

Aaron vs Robert

I hung out in the festival area for a long time catching up with friends, talked about races, and where we’d meet again soon.  Such great people.  Such a great time.  So good to be back.

The next day I went to the Goliathon Try The Obstacles Day where I met again a few folks who I’d seen at Savage the day before.  We got to live it all over again.  One girl in my group recognized me and gave me another first.  She actually reads my Mud Run Guide posts and complimented me on them.

For an all-around first class race in every aspect, I’d like to give five of five Mud Run Guide stars to Savage Race.

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