Friday, March 18, 2016

BattleFrog Tampa, Fl - March 12, 2016 - Why I Race


Nearly one year from the date of running my very first BattleFrog race I found myself partaking in my third on March 12, 2016.  The very first BattleFrog I ran was held in Orlando, Florida and was the longest race I had accomplished up to that point.  It was a 15K and I was super nervous.  I remember the training, hard work, and commitment it took to participate in this huge personal milestone.  I remember the feeling and sense of accomplishment after I was finished, how my medal was the prettiest, biggest, and most sentimental one I had ever earned.  That first race has set a precedence for all the BattleFrogs my husband and I have done together and to date the race has never failed me.
The "Before" of My Husband Paul and I
The Crew: Mud Run Fun
The BattleFrog Race series has had one year to evolve since the first time I’ve ran and has expanded to become a National race, offering Championships and prize money.  This past race, my husband and I, decided to challenge ourselves even deeper and sign up for the BattleFrog Extreme (BFX) portion of the race.  What makes the BFX special?  Well…it’s for special people.  Typically BattleFrog is your standard 8K Obstacle Race, one lap and you’re done, Elite racers do 2 laps…either way you’re finished at a reasonable time, can enjoy the free beer, walk around the festival area, mingle with friends, travel home, have a nice dinner, and go to bed feeling accomplished.  BFX is an entirely separate beast.  In order to receive the coveted BFX medal the competitor must complete 3 laps of the 8K.  That would be roughly 15 miles, and 90 Obstacles.  Not to worry about mandatory completion though….if you can’t do an obstacle because of fatigue you can pull away and complete 10 8-count bodybuilders instead.  For each lap you complete you receive a star pin which goes on your medal lanyard.  BFX Racers begin at 8:30 AM and must begin their final lap by 2:45 PM.  This is an awesome option for people who enjoy distance, and like to challenge their physical and mental abilities….. sign me up!

DON'T BE LATE
The BFX Tent
Race day was the perfect combination of low humidity weather, scattered clouds, and seasonably nice temperatures.  My husband and I got there early enough to safely check in, upgrade our registrations, unload the car and set up camp at the BFX tent on the far side of the finish line.  When you choose to do BFX you bypass the finish line and run by the established BFX tent where you can sit, refuel, re-tape, or do anything you need to between laps.  One piece of advice…. Be as early as you can… the worst thing in the world is to rush through registration, chance long lines, unload your stuff at the BFX tent, and be late to the BFX Safety briefing.  If you are late, Coach Dewayne Montgomery (the motivational speaker and person in charge of warming up the racers) will make you pay.  The BFX Safety briefing included the DJ going over the list of rules and safety measures for the BFX crowd, black bands establishing yourself as a BFX racer were passed out all the while Coach Dewayne had us squatting and planking while signing “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood” over and over again.  It was GREAT.  The late racers who showed up to miss the meeting were called out in front of everyone and made to do planks, pushups, and/or squats depending on the mood of Coach Dewayne while spectators laughed, took pictures, videos, and gave words of encouragement to the poor souls trying to earn their BFX band.

The start time of the BFX wave was at 8:30 AM and before racers were sounded off Coach Dewayne gave one last “Hooyah” motivational speech.  If you have never heard this man talk before, it is a MUST.  Every time I listen to him before a BattleFrog start I get goosebumps.  I was lucky enough to find a friend (Joel Doughtery) who video recorded his BFX speech in Tampa.  Check it out at: https://youtu.be/GwekUzCZCqk  Now if that wasn’t motivating, I don’t know what is…. As Coach Dewayne says, “Handle YOUR Business.”  With his finish, the gun fired and we were off!

The beginning of the MOUNDS
This course offered some very unique aspects which I haven’t seen at a BattleFrog race in Florida before.  We ran through pastures in the beginning, followed by running in a creek for the first mile.  There was the perfect amount of black mud in the trail portion to slow you down, and it caused you to focus on not losing your shoes.  This was followed by about a mile of dirt mounds, and hills created by the rock facility next door to the ranch. Who says Florida doesn’t have hills?  Have that person run over these hills 4 times and see if they think the same….The final mile as all flat as you ran through more pastures making your way back to the finish.  The terrain was impressive and my new Reeboks which were designed for trail racing worked perfectly in securing my step…especially when we were climbing up the mounds at an incline of 80 degrees.

Climbing Up a Wall
The obstacles which were nicely spaced apart and were similar to other BattleFrogs I have ran, and other than a few variations and changes, were the same.  This was totally okay with me because I do believe BattleFrog has some of the most challenging yet “doable” obstacles out there in the racing world.  My favorite, yet hated, obstacle at this event was the Jerry Can Carry where racers had to pick up 2 water filled Jerry Cans and walk about ¼ mile through a creek and crawl under 3 built walls.  This made my arms burn, and I had to take a few rests to give them a break, but I loved it.  A few of the obstacles I still need to work on which include inverted monkey bars, and rope climbs with tired arms.  I just learned and got strong enough to do regular monkey bars….inverted ones are even harder because you have to semi pull up and reach up to the next one.  The rope climb is one which is challenging but still okay for me, however, combine it with spaghetti arms from the Jerry Can carry and you can forget about it.  The rig was placed in the middle of the course and was definitely doable.  It consisted of a rope climb, then swings to Olympic rings, then monkey bars (or a net if your elite), back to a rope and rings for the end.  The first time I attempted I ended up in the middle of the monkey bar portion backwards, and couldn’t turn around…I have no clue how that happened.  The second lap, my arms wouldn’t hold me up, and I stopped trying by lap 3 and went straight for the body builders.  One obstacle which was slightly modified was the Tip of The Spear.  This is a slanted platform usually placed at the end of the BattleFrog where racers traverse and swing with ropes through one portion, then use their grip strength to get through the second portion, and ropes again through the last portion.  Usually I can make it, however at this race the plywood was replaced with a hard durable plastic, which made it much more slippery on my foot grip causing me to slam into the wall every time….so lesson learned, I need to practice that one a few more times.

Jucking Ferry Cans!
Now, you can search BattleFrog Obstacles and find pictures of just about all of them.  You can google reviews and find a million people who hate and/or love BattleFrog all the same, which is why I didn’t spend a lot of time reviewing the obstacles.  BattleFrog is a great race, it’s put together well, and if you’re thinking of doing it, stop hesitating and do it!  You won’t regret it….. However, what I couldn’t find a lot of information on was the BFX portion of this race.  I had a lot of ideas, spoke to a few people who had done it, but I’m an internet search nerd.  I want to know the details, find out the ins and outs, and be as prepared as I possibly can for something which requires this much endurance.  Honestly, either I failed at this search, or there isn’t much out there in cyber space to find regarding BFX.  So hopefully my experience can help you prepare for yours.  I managed to get in 4 laps in the timeframe allotted and know many people who did more, and a few that did only 3.  For your first one, shoot for 3, and consider anything over 3 a nice bonus.

                Lap 1) Lap 1 was great!  The race was everything I had hoped for and it exceeded my expectations.  I ran with my husband and a group of friends who helped each other over the high walls, pushed each other to keep going, and we finished in less than 2 hours.  We all took a 10 min break to refuel for lap 2 and were off!

Horsing Around on Lap 2!
                Lap 2) Lap 2 feelt great!  Mentally I was thinking “wait, I’m running this again?... okay… here we go… not a problem!”  Then we turned the corner to see the Jerry Cans…. I think “crap… I forgot about those…”  At this point we were still all running together and conquering the course in pretty good time.  About half way through the 2nd lap my husband started to look…bad…and not sweaty, dirty bad…he was beginning to look pale and clammy bad. He began to cramp and had to start walking.  He knew my goal was to get 4 laps in so he told me and my running mates to run ahead and do what we needed to do!  My husband and I have a mutual agreement that if one of us is holding up the other for their goal we will make the other person leave...most races we stick together unless we are attempting a PR or trying to get in a longer distance than the other.  I sadly said goodbye to him, gave him a kiss and off we went for lap 3.

                Lap 3) Lap 3 was when my legs were beginning to get tired and my arms were starting to hurt.  Luckily I was running it with an awesome woman who helped me through a few obstacles and I will swear saved my life on one…which also happened to be the one I banged my left knee on as I was falling.  As we were running to the next obstacle pain was shooting up my leg.  The mental blocks started to kick in and I told her to run ahead, I would meet her at the finish.  After a second of hesitation off she went… I can’t blame her at all… I wasn’t even sure I was going to get through the 3rd lap and get my medal because I started to feel my knee swell.  I made it to the last obstacle limping my way through, completed my body builders and had a choice.  I had made it back 20 minutes before the cut off time for racers to pass before they closed the BFX start.  To my left was the finish…I could go, claim my medal, get my 3 stars and wait for Paul at the tent with my well-earned free beer.  To my right was the beginning of the course again.  I hesitated and paused… all of a sudden out of nowhere I heard all my friends, acquaintances, and strangers call my name from the BFX tent.  All at once I heard the “C’mon Krissie, you got this, one more lap, you are NOT finished, it will be easy…you can do it.”  You see, the thing with BFX is that throughout the race, you get to know all the people running the BFX because you see them multiple times, you stop and chat, ask them what lap they are on, tell them they are doing great, and motivate each other constantly.  It’s a feeling that cannot be replaced with anything in the world.  My girlfriend who I had let run ahead was just about to start her 4th lap and yelled “Let’s go Krissie” last one!  As I mentally contemplated if my knee could handle it I must have spoken something out loud because before I knew it my camel back was on, filled with water, and I had 3 Excedrin in my hand someone had given me.  I swallowed the pills and off I went for lap 4.

Lap 4 - Let's Be Silly
Lap 4) As I was hobbling yet slowly jogging for the first mile mentally I was thinking “Why am I running 4 laps again?”  Luckily I had my girlfriend and a few others keeping me company and whom I kept in view for most of the miles.  This final lap I walked….I walked a lot…outside of the Excedrin I didn’t stop at the BFX tent prior to this lap to eat or properly take in any nutrition for fear of not continuing.  Luckily I had some Zingers and granola bars in my camel-back which I gratefully thanked myself for bringing.  I tried as many obstacles as I could, and surprisingly completed some…. For the ones I didn’t I gladly gave into doing 10 body builders.  People started catching up with me and asking me where was Paul, how am I doing? How many laps? Am I okay?  Everyone was cheering me on and saying they were impressed and how great of a job I was doing.  How is a person supposed to fail when they have this much support!!!!?!! It’s impossible.  The last 2 miles of the race I was alone and was able to do a walk/jog combo….but mentally I kept thinking “did I pass this part on the last lap? I don’t remember it… was that tree there?  Am I going the right way?”  It’s funny how your brain begins to process things when you are close to exhaustion.  I’m pretty sure I saw water station that was actually a fence pole, and cat that was actually a shrub.  By the time I rounded the corner to see the last obstacle “Tip of the Spear” I could have dropped to my knees in thanks….but they hurt… so that wasn’t a smart option.  I ran up, performed my 10 body builders and someone yelled “Krissie do 1 more for the race”…. I thought… “Who in the hell?…I’m going to kill them…but okay” … and did 1 more just because….

Mike the Volunteer
Upon finishing I ran (which was more like a hobble jog looking back … but felt like a sprint at the time) to cross the finish line and was met by a volunteer who I now know is named Mike.  He placed my BFX medal around my neck and I hugged him….had I ever met this man before in my life?.... Nope…. But I just held on to him like an old friend, so thankful to be done…. And what’s great about that particular moment was that he hugged back knowing how tired and thankful I was.  So, finish line volunteer Mike… thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I had completed 20ish miles along with 120+ Obstacles and I was so proud of myself.  I met up with Paul who had changed and I made sure he was feeling better.  He had completed 15 miles and 90+ obstacles.  After cooling down for a few moments, and taking in the feeling of being done, we packed up and made our way to Outback to meet up with the rest of our crew to get some serious food in our stomachs.

The biggest thing which kept me going the entire race was the community of other BFX and BattleFrog racers out on the course.  We are all a very unique breed and motivate each other as if we’ve been best friends for years.  I would have never done a 4th lap if it hadn’t been for my friends, and strangers who are now friends, pushing me along the way.  Because of them I made my goal.  This is one of the many reasons I love this sport.  We are a small family.  You don’t even have to know each other personally, but as we see each other on the course a bond is formed that is unbreakable.  Will I do BFX again?  Hell yes I will, and each time I will get better and better…. One day I’m determined to make it 5 laps!


Tips and Suggestions:
1)      Arrive as early as you can, at least 2 hours before your wave to accommodate for traffic, lines, and setting up your coolers and food supply to get you through the day.
2)      If you want any merchandise or race freebies get them before you start.  When you finish most everything will be shut down or people will be packing up and you may miss out on something you liked.
Lenny and Larry's Cookies Are YUMMY
3)      Stock up on energy supplements.  I prefer Zingers which taste like honey, and Lenny and Larry’s cookies for between lap nutrition.  I also throw in a few tabs of NUUN in my water bladder for hydration.  (See bottom of page for link to purchase Lenny and Larry’s cookies!)
4)      Bring outside food your stomach will tolerate between laps.  Like I mentioned above I enjoy the Lenny and Larry’s cookies, but I had pre-made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chips, and Coke to sip on.
5)      Thank you to Josh Andrews from Team Blacksheep who taught us Campbell’s chicken soup straight from the can was the new “mustard” for endurance races.  Bring a few of those.  My husband started to cramp up BAD after his second lap and Josh gave him a can of soup and told him to drink.  Within in minutes his cramps had subsided.  This is because of the salt content in those little can’s is high and since it is soup, the absorption rate is crazy!  What’s $3.00 for 3 cans to keep in your bag for emergencies right?
6)      Camel back or hydration belt.  I chose not to run with it on the first 3 laps because volunteers were still out at the aide stations service electrolytes and water…but by lap 4 volunteers are scarce, and nutrition stations may or may not have water.
7)      Dress for the weather and comfort.  Preferably clothes that dry out quick, and shoes that don’t give you blisters.  Now is not the time to be concerned about what you look like.  Trust me, no one cares at mile 15 if your stomach is protruding and you look like a marshmallow man or woman stuck in a Michelin tire from all the salt intake and your body swelling…only you do when you look back on race pictures… just remember… you survived and did a race that the normal population wouldn’t even dream about.  Be proud of your accomplishment.
8)      Find someone to hug at the finish line… it really does make everything better!
9)      Enjoy your race and as Coach Dewayne says “Handle YOUR Business!”

To try some Lenny and Larry’s cookies check out the website at:  https://www.lennylarry.com/a/14680
Register for your next BattleFrog Race Here:  http://www.battlefrogseries.com/
                Want $20.00 Off Your Next Race?  Use PROMO CODE:  BFW0311









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