Sunday, May 21, 2017

RACE REPORT: Savage Race Charlotte 2017

I think many who have been doing Spartan races for a while have been branching out into other OCRs in recent years.  Maybe some have always done so.  But at least some, based on Facebook posts, have looking for other, innovative obstacles, among other things.  I've been doing this, too.  This would be my first Savage Race.  A number of my hard-core OCR facebook friends are big fans of Savage, so I had to see what it was all about.

I went the route of volunteering, then racing same-day, which would mean racing in the 2pm volunteer heat.  My main goal during the race was to see what their obstacles were like, and to see whether I'd be able to compete in the elite heat.  Savage has mandatory obstacle completion, with the option to try as many times as you want.  If you don't make it and are running in the elite heat, though, they cut off your pro wave bracelet.  I wouldn't care so much about speed.  I wanted to complete as many obstacles as I could.


Monday, May 8:
7.0 in 55:58, 8:00 ave, 2 degrees of incline.  Felt good and easy, after taking 3 days of needed rest.  Tempted to go a bit farther and harder, but that would've wrecked me for a few days.  Tempting, but I decided to hold back a bit and allow my body to do more miles later int he week.  Most training is supposed to be at an easy pace, anyway.  Splits> 8:28, 8:12, 8:12, 7:55, 7:57, 7:46, 7:24.

Wednesday, May 10:
I decided to go to the Whitewater Center for an outdoors run after work.  8.9 in 1:42:33, 11:31 ave.  sunny but shaded.  Sometimes, my legs feel like they wouldn't be able to handle overly repetitive motion, at a forced, fixed pace like what you'd get on a treadmill.  On trails, your feet and legs hit all kinds of angles, and you get to naturally adapt your pace at every step, based on how you feel.  A mid-week burst of nature doesn't hurt, either.  Got thirsty in the last mile, making it mentally harder.

Thursday, May 11:
1 hr biking session, covering 12.9 9miles.  After a nearly 12 hr workday.  Need the stress relief of a workout, though.


I had made a facebook friend via a Spartan page a while back, and we'd check up on each other's training every now and then.  We finally got to meet in person, volunteering this weekend.  His family came, which was awesome.  We were able to join forces on Water Station 2.  The Savage course at this farm had many obstacles around a big field, which was nice, because you could watch a good bit of action from there.  We had big water bottles to give out, although most people didn't need nearly that much water.

They were a lot of fun to work with.  It was cold in the morning (like, my light jacket and volunteer shirt were not nearly enough), but it got almost a bit too warm in the sun later on.  


They let the volunteer+racers out at around 1:20, to start getting ready for the 2pm volunteer wave.  I changed and checked in.  Pumped!  
I had gloves with me, for obstacles that didn't require good grip (like monkey bars), but where I wanted to protect my hands.  I also had a shirt on, because I didn't want to get cut up or get any grass-related rashes.  I'd be racing Rugged Maniac the following weekend, and that would kind of be my A-race, so I didn't want any lingering effects of Savage to bite me later.

It's interesting to see how different race series pump up their waves.  At Savage, they had us do movements and chants, like a tribe of Savages, almost.   Just before the start, they released a deep blue smoke-maker.

We were off.  People went sprinting out, like literal sprinting, even above the usual race pace hard effort.  Some of them were walking about 200m later, which was odd, but this was a volunteer wave, so not a big deal.  The beginning of the race is running, to help spread people out a bit before the obstacles start, which is smart.  I caught up to all of the boys and was leading, after maybe 0.7 miles.  Climbed a ladder.  At the 8-foot wall, I had to try 4x before I made it over.  During my re-tries, a few guys passed me back.  They were really nice and offered to help, but I wanted to do as many as I could, on my own.  

They have some unique obstacles that I've never seen before, like squeezing yourself under big rain barrel.  They also have some standard stuff, like jumping over fire and barbed wire.


I encountered my first ice water tank during an OCR.  It was a warm day, and I like cold, so I thought it would be comfortable.  It was almost painfully cold, though.  There's a wall that forces you to dunk your whole body under it, too.  You just keep telling your body to move forward, though, and you get through it.  

As a runner, I haven't had a lot of upper body strength, so I'm always the most excited about being able to complete monkey bar-style obstacles.  The most impressive obstacles at Savage, in my view, are Davey Jones's Locker, which is mostly a mind game of jumping off a ledge into water... not a super-high ledge, but it looks high when you're up there.  There was also a steep water slide, which was similar, in the feeling that you get at the top.

There was a traverse wall, with rock wall grips instead of Spartan's wood blocks.  It felt longer than the Spartan walls.  It was slightly tilted downwards, too, making it harder.  This wall took a lot of patience, where you had to be sure your grip on both feet and both arms were good before progressing, and it was long enough to really start sapping your strength towards the end, but I made it.  

There was a log on chains, kind of like a swinging balance beam.  I was a bit too tentative on it, and took more time than I should.  This one is probably more a mind game, too.  It's probably more stable than it looks. 

There was also a tube on a see-saw.  It seemed easy, but you were already wet, so it was hard to get traction.  The challenge for small people like me, was to make my body take up as much space as possible, to get enough friction to climb up the smooth surface of the tube.  I heard that it was hard for tall people, who had trouble getting their knees under them to crawl up.  

They had a drone flying around all day, giving "live" facebook coverage.  I watched it after the race, and it was really good.  It was extremely professional-looking and seamless, even though nothing was really pre-planned, and they were just driving and narrating on the spot!  I found myself in one screenshot, rolling being the nearest wall, under some barbed wire.

I ended up pushing harder than I had envisioned, during the running of the course.  It's hard to resist pushing, when in a race setting.  Not a crazy effort, but kept the foot on the gas pedal.

Towards the end was a gauntlet.  First, a rig called "twirly bird", which had alternating mops and rings, sort of.  I made it about 2/3 of the way before dropping from lack of grip strength.  I re-tried a couple more times, but did progressively worse as I used up more and more of my remaining grip.  This would be the first obstacle that I missed.  The next obstacle was another rig.  I only made it about 15% of the way, maybe.  I wonder how I'd do at it, if I was fresh.  No way this time, though, especially after the previous Twirly Bird.  And lastly, "Tree Hugger", which was a line of poles... umm... nearly impossible for me at this point.  I struggled so much to even get on the first pole.  

Well, now I know that I'm not capable of doing the Pro wave at this point.  It turns out that only 2 women were able to complete the course, so it is hard.  I don't know if I'll ever get to the point where I can complete it, but I can at least strive to do a little better next time.  Rig-style grip obstacles are where I probably have the most bang-for-buck improvement opportunity.  It's hard for me to get gains there, though.  

On the bright side, my pure race time was really good, thanks to the running.  5.5 in 1:16:22, 13:53 ave.  A good learning experience, a fun day, and good prep for Rugged next week!  Now to recover in time.

The next day, I went out to volunteer for course teardown.  I helped to collect signs and course markings, I got to drive around a gator (awesome!!!! like a tank had a baby with a golf cart and a race car) and collect trash.  I also took down the elements from the rigs.  

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