BattleFrog San Francisco Recap:
BattleFrog has expanded into the West Coast bringing OCR fanatics like myself a new obstacle course experience. On February 20th, BattleFrog held their first Northern California race series in beautiful Sonoma Lake.
My friends and I woke up early morning to make the drive out to Sonoma; we arrived by 6:00AM and ran into many familiar Spartan Race faces. It was still dark, temperatures read 37 degrees Fahrenheit, and the ground was still muddy and wet from earlier rain. Entering the grounds I knew it was not a Spartan event but saw many Spartans with finishers t-shirts. For us here in Northern California, had not yet seen or participated in a BattleFrog event but the rituals were about the same; runners getting their warm ups, entering the starting corral etc.
In our racing packet, was an orange wristband for Elite heat racers. Coach Pain, our MC at the starting line gave us final instructions, “I want to see Integrity, I want to see Power, I want to see Strength!”. Off we went, all of us wearing our orange bands. We committed to two 10K laps, a total of 13 miles of some of OCR’s toughest obstacles. Unlike Spartan Race, there was no burpee penalty for Elite runners, you either complete the obstacle or hand in your orange band.
If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try Again and Again
The two most challenging obstacles by far were “Tip of the Spear” and the “Platinum Rig”. For “Tip of The Spear”, imagine traversing a 10 foot inverted wall through ropes and wooden ledges. Although I did not struggle with it, it was taxing on my forearms and my core. The hills added an extra challenge to the course, a few so steep I was bear crawling a few feet.
I estimate it was around mile 4.5 when it was time for the “Jerry Can Carry”. Our mission was to carry two 45 pound jugs for about 250 meters on a muddy down & uphill. During the first loop I tried to maintain my grip strength so I took two small breaks on this obstacle. I finally arrived at the rig which was at around 5.5 mile, a 20 foot long rig that at first sight appeared similar to the Spartan Race World Championship rig. It was mentally challenging to see so many top elite runners making multiple attempts at completing this obstacle. I immediately analyzed my chances at completing this obstacle. Looking at it closely, the 20 feet rig was much tougher than the Spartan Championship rig; it consisted of hanging ropes, gymnastic rings, hanging steel poles and steel bars & beams.
I knew good grip and momentum was key so I shook my arms and decided to go for it. Little did I know the rings and steel bars were dripping in wet and just like that, I slipped three quarters of the way. I made the mistake to rush it on a second attempt and failed at the very same point as my first attempt. At this point my forearms started to burn and I knew I couldn’t afford to tax my grip strength and so I took a slightly longer break. I made my third attempt after seeing that the group of runners attempting the rig was getting larger but failed again.
At this point my forearms started feeling rock hard and I felt a bit frustrated as the rig was taking a toll on me mentally. I took a much longer break, stayed collected and took the time to strategize the best way to nail those points of transitions. I finally made it on my fourth attempt. Touching the last ring at the end of that rig, I felt free to continue making progress on the course.
I caught up to my friend, Horacio Pastor, at around 1.5 mile on the second loop just right before the “Tip of the Spear” and we decided to run the rest of the race together. Once again, our focus was to preserve as much of the grip strength as possible to save ourselves for the rig once again. We arrived once again at the rig and we knew exactly what was ahead of us. I tried to retain that muscle memory of how I had gotten it the first time around and so I did not hesitate and decided to do it in the same fashion. HOOYAH! My grip and forearms felt great and nailed it on my first try without any struggle! I have seen how Horacio had nailed it on his first attempt during the first loop. We train together and I was confident he had the grip and upper body strength to repeat his success at the rig. At this stage of the race, the rig was the game changer. Those who did not have grip strength left were stuck at this rig, making several attempts and feeling the pressure of the minutes passing by. I decided to stay with Horacio to show my support but it was on his sixth attempt that we decided that it was best for me to cross the finish line and come back later for help. He spent more than an hour on the rig before he successfully completed it on his 14th attempt.
Band over Burpees
While my time was not competitive (5:31:17), I feel proud that I kept my Elite band and that I was there for my friend Horacio. As my first BattleFrog, I was looking forward to proving that I am Elite among the OCR community that I have known and admired at Spartan Race. Not having the burpee penalty eliminates the probability of someone avoiding the penalty as we have seen in a few Spartan Races. Many of us Spartan Elite racers get frustrated when we witness lack of integrity on the Elite heat. Band over burpees! Out of 57 men in the Elite heat, 28 kept their Elite bands. I am beyond impressed with the 6 out of 19 women that completed that rig, and they did it twice! Those that left home without their bands will definitely be back! With OCR, a failed obstacle adds more fuel to the fire and motivates us to overcome any challenge. I feel extremely proud with anyone that faced the BattleFrog challenge, with or without their band at hand! It takes heart and commitment to get you through a course like the one in Sonoma Lake. Among the top three finishers, I can proudly say my boy Johnny Luna-Lima took 2nd with an impressive 2:20:31 finish. Only 1 minute and 13 seconds away from the 1st place finisher Matt Kempson. Not only does he have speed but he completes obstacles quickly and efficiently. Being only 20 years old, we will see him on the podium for many races to come!
Battleling is Believing! What’s Next?
Overall this was such a great and humbling experience! I couldn’t have done it without the support from my beloved girlfriend who never misses any of my events. I hope for more events here in the West Coast so I can test my mental and physical abilities. I trained on grip strength for this race but felt that I could have done more of it. In addition, I lost ten pounds in an attempt to improve my times and I must say that I feel lighter and faster. Now that I am familiar with BattleFrog, I will be signing up for their next event in San Jose on August 6th. At this time, I am preparing for their endurance race, “BF Extreme”, in which you complete as many laps around the course as possible in 8 hours.