Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Savage Race Boston 2017

The OCR community of New England has been waiting. For what? For Savage Race, a well-respected, southern-based obstacle course race to come to our region. This July, they arrived.

Savage Race Boston 2017, held at Carter & Stevens Farm in Barre, Massachusetts, approximately a 45 minute drive from my house, was host to the festivities. Carter & Stevens is a working farm, meaning that racers will be running through cow pastures and past dairy barns. Parking at Carter & Stevens is always offsite, a minus to be sure, but something that is made up for by the overwhelmingly flat terrain. Carter & Stevens is practically the only place to race in our area where you won't have to scale a huge mountain. Runner friendly!

I arrived at the parking lot, about 10 minutes down the road from the venue around an hour before the scheduled 9:20 a.m. NE Spahtens team wave. Everything went smoothly. There were plenty of busses and no wait, which was nice. I was at Carter & Stevens in under 15 minutes where I was able to quickly check-in and get my timing chip and bib. From there, it was over to the NES team tent to say, "Hello," and drop my bags. I connected with a number of members of the NES Ninjas team that I run my Ragnar Races with (fun fact: Everyone from the NES Trail Ninjas team was at Savage Race!), and we headed over to the start line together. There, after a bit of pumping-up from the energetic announcer, we were on our way!

(Video from Paul Jones)

Savage Race advertises itself by saying, "The best obstacles. The perfect distance." I couldn't agree more. Their courses tend to range in distance from five to seven miles. The course in New England probably measured at around 7.5 miles and was dense with over two dozen obstacles, many of which were innovative, engaging, and downright fun. For those running the open wave, stakes are low. There are no penalties, meaning you can try something as many times as you want and skip anything that either isn't to your fitness level or isn't to your interest.

I headed out on the course with fellow NES Ninjas Jess, Shaina, Bobby, and Paul. For the most part, we stuck together though the entire thing (though we did somehow lose Paul near the end). It was a blast running with friends. We had a fun approach to the entire morning's race. It was relaxed -- we weren't running for time -- and we took plenty of opportunities to say, "Hi!" to fellow Spahtens on the course and connect with other friends along the way.

Other than the people, the best part of Savage Race was, without a doubt, the awesome obstacles. Savage Race has them nailed -- what a great display of high-quality and interesting contraptions to play on. In between obstacles, there were stretches of trail running that did a good job of spreading out the field and helping avoid back-ups. The only obstacle we had to wait at was Wheel World, and the wait wasn't very long at all. Many obstacle could be immediately attempted again if you failed, which was great, for example, on Twirly Bird, which I attempted three times.

The course was ultra-muddy -- perhaps one of the most muddy courses I've done -- and even slightly muddier than this year's Tough Mudder. Rainfall the day before has a lot to do with it I'm sure. There were large sections where we were wading through water or slogging through mud so thick I was worried I'd lose a shoe.

As I mentioned before, the obstacles were the stars of the race. Below is the 2017 Boston course map, along with my recounting of the obstacles.

1. Low Crawl: Like it sounds, a crawl under barbed wire. Unlike some races where crawls are no longer under barbed wire, Savage retains the spiky stuff, so be careful!

2. Barn Doors: Ladder wall.

3. Shriveled Richard: Ug! This obstacle had participants jump into a container of ice water, submerge below a divider and then edit out the other side. As with this year's Tough Mudder, I feel emotionally done with obstacles like this for the time.Shriveled Richard was the only obstacle that I skipped.

4. Blazed: Fire jump. Haven't seen one of these in ages, so it was kind of fun to try it again. The flames were not too high, so it was just a matter of being mindful and taking a good leap. 

5. Squeeze Play: For this obstacle, we had to squeeze our way under three sets of swiveling barrels that were set close to the grounds. Being smaller was definitely a benefit here. 

6. Backscrather: Alternating five foot walls and short crawls. I seem to recall three walls and two sets of crawls. 

7. Slippery Incline: Your classic angled slip wall with a rope. This one was probably around 12' high. 

8. Lumberjack Lane: Log carry with a piece of lumber. This was the only carry of the race -- yay! -- and was a totally manageable weight, even for someone as small as me. Really kudos to Savage Race for having their obstacles be real obstacles instead of just lugging lots of heavy things around.

9. Tree Hugger: Interesting! This obstacle featured a half dozen or so alternating wood and metal posts. Racers had to grab a post and transfer from post to post without touching the ground. Savage Race asks that you don't wear shoes with tips, and I was sorely missing my Icebugs on this obstacle. When I reached the end, I was actually too short to reach the bell, and needed a boost from Bobby to ring it. 

10. Me So Thorny: Another crawl. This one had enforced lanes with barbed wire on both the top and the sides!

11. Wheel World: This obstacle was awesome! It consisted of four horizontal wheels that you had to grab and spin from one to the next. Grip strength required. Also required, in my case, was a lift to the first one, which was super super high up. Thanks to Steven for this help, and to Paul for grabbing me at the end, so I didn't slip off the platform on dismount.

12. Big Cheese: A neat twist on a common theme. This is not your standard wall. Instead, it's a quarter circle with little cheese-sized wedges cut out for you to climb.

13. Mud N Guts: Muddy barbed wire crawl.

14. Davy Jones' Locker: 15 foot jump from a platform into the water below. I'm not afraid of heights, so this proved no problem, but I definitely can see how this might give people pause. I will say, that if I were to hover looking over the edge it would be harder. I climbed up and went for it -- fun times.

15. Mad Ladders: This obstacle featured a common rope ladder, followed by a rope with rungs, a cargo net, and then another set of rope with rungs and rope ladder. This was actually a bit more tricky than I thought it would be, especially with how the second rope rotated a ton. I got through, but it was without any elegance.

16. Great Wall: Eight foot large wall. I was able to grab the slide and use it to stabilize and jump for the top, where I could pull myself over.

17. Block Party: Pull a cinder block on a rope up a short incline and then carry it down again. Bonus: Half of the cinder block was filled with concrete. The block was heavy without being impossible, and I was able to move it without too much difficulty.

18. Hangarang: Two timbers held up above water by chains, which allowed the timbers to swing freely. Fortunately, there was a rope in the middle of each log to serve as a helper. Definitely necessary (and easy enough with the rope).

19. Thor's Grundle: So the name for this one gives me pause, but I am just transcribing what Savage Race provides. Suffice it to say, this was a very muddy obstacle. We had to make our way through a ditch of muddy water with a cargo net overhead that we had to lift as we moved.

20. Pole Cat: For this obstacle, we had to shimmy across a muddy pool with feet and hands on poles of different heights. I started with my hands higher than my feet (not bad) and then had to transition to having my hands lower than my feet (definitely a bit of work).

21. Sawtooth: Monkey bars with a twist! Sawtooth is one of Savage Race's signature obstacles and one I was very excited to try. The 35 foot span starts with uphill monkey bars and transition to a "tooth" where you have to kip up to a higher bar. From there you transition to downhill monkey bars. This obstacle, according to Savage Race, has a 40% completion rate. I enjoyed completing it on my first try. (Bonus: The bars started down low enough that I could reach on my own!)

22. Big Cargo: 20 foot a-frame cargo net climb.

23. Colossus: This two part obstacle starts with a 16 foot quarter pipe. You then have to climb a ladder before descending from the 24 foot structure via an almost vertical water slide. This entire obstacle is kind of insane! I loved the quarter pipe (which has ropes at the top, so it was no problem to pull myself up). The slide made me a bit nervous in concept (because unsafe racers can lead to dangerous collisions in the water at the foot of the slide) but when I got up there everyone was being very safe about allowing the water to clear before going down. The slide was well constructed and so fast that I hardly remember going down it. I recall sitting at the top and then smashing into the water. Crazy.

24. Savage Rig: This rig was awesome! I love a good rig, and the Savage Rig was an especially good one. The rig started with a couple of rings, followed by three ropes and then a couple more rings before a horizontal pipe. Nailed it!

25. Twirly Bird: Twirly Bird was the only obstacle I failed at Savage Race, and it was one of my favorites. It was a rig where you have to "swing from your standard ring grips to a mop-like cluster of rope strands without touching the ground." The rope strands were extremely hard to manage. I tried three times before my grip was exhausted. At my best attempt, I made it around 2/3 of the way across. Key to even partial success was gripping only a few of the ropes instead of all of them.

My group crossed the finish line at the three hour mark. From there, it was time for a free beer, made onsite at Carter & Stevens and some awesome tot poutine from Baby Berk, one of many awesome food options available at the venue. The festival was great. I hardly even stay to hang out for long after a race, but I loved the atmosphere, food selections, and spending time with my NES friends, so I stayed quite a while!

Savage Race more than lived up to the hype. I am already registered for the 2018 Boston event on July 14. I can't wait to see everyone there again!

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