Rising Above Adversity with Battlefrog
by Montana Ross (Pretty Lil Mudder)
From a distance, the Battlefrog course at the Georgia International Horse Park looked more like a battlefield than a race. Groups of people congregated in the start area under the Battlefrog mascot to listen to Coach Pain’s motivating start line speech. Some of the elite racers could be seen attempting to traverse the monkey bars and an obstacle called Bridge Over River Cry without falling. In the gravel parking lot, groups donned compression gear and made their way to the tents in the campground area.
Held in mid-May, this was one of the last “major” races in the south before the oppressive summer temperatures thinned out the variety of races normally held. Scores of competitors from several states, including a small group of MudRunFun members, traveled to Georgia to attempt what had been hailed as “the most challenging Battlefrog course yet.”
The excitement intensified at the start line. Around 9:45 am, my group gathered in the small corral in front, jumping up and down in anticipation. We tried not to kick other participants as Coach Pain led us through a practice set of 10 8-count bodybuilders, the penalty for missed obstacles on the course.
Coach Pain counted us down and we were off, trying hard to pace ourselves amid the excitement of the beginning of a race. We immediately hit the first two obstacles, a short 6 foot wall and a larger ladder wall right after. Knowing that I had a fear of heights, a GORMR member, Corey, said, “Remember don’t look down. You got this.”
The first part of the race seemed to go by relatively fast. The obstacles were pretty evenly spaced; we hit the delta ladder, a 12 foot rope wall, an 8 foot wall & the rope climb in short succession. I completed the rope climb for the second time ever in my year of obstacle racing; this is one obstacle that continuously seems to elude me. I wasn’t quite as prepared for the hills on course, as Florida courses are very flat, but we kept up a slow and steady pace most of the time.
The course design was one of the most challenging I’ve seen- not only did we have hills and small wooded paths to contend with, but they also killed our grip strength with the jerry can carry followed by the infamous Tip of the Spear. Prior to coming to Atlanta, I’d heard that this was one of the most difficult obstacles to complete. It definitely was no joke!
We moved to the wreck bag carry: a 50 lb. wreck bad we had to haul up a huge hill, climb over a short wall without letting it touch the ground, and go back down the hill. It was definitely one of the more challenging obstacles for me and I stopped several times to catch my breath, but I made it in the end.
Obstacles were closer together now; we hit the inverted and slant walls and finally came upon a water/mud obstacle. That was one thing I missed through the course; there was a definite lack of mud and water.
Swamp Cargo was probably the worst obstacle for me. I mentioned earlier my fear of heights and it really kicks into high gear when I feel unsteady. This cargo net was a vertical net stretched between two trees. With the addition of about four people on it at one time, it was bouncy and flimsy feeling. At the top, I couldn’t figure out how to get over and started having a panic attack. Alex (from GORMR) grabbed my arm to steady me and held on to me until I climbed over. Despite my intense fear, it was pretty cool when I finally finished the obstacle and everyone clapped because they knew what a huge feat it was for me. This is an example of the obstacle racing community at its best; we band together to encourage and cheer each other on when facing difficulties.
At the very end of the almost 5 mile course, we encountered the final five obstacles. Bridge Over River Cry was probably the most controversial obstacle on the course; many people fell and some were severely injured. I later heard that the water pit wasn’t dug deep enough (due to restrictions set by the venue) and that more than one person had to be taken out on a stretcher. Apparently, this isn’t the first time Battlefrog has had issues with this particular obstacle. While I understand that they want to be challenging and innovative, participant safety is paramount, and this definitely needs to be taken into consideration in future events.
Team bonding figures prominently, as these obstacle challenges are designed to forge camaraderie. You may enter the course as strangers, but you leave as friends, having helped each other through a numerous amount of physically and mentally challenging tests.
I witnessed a number of extraordinary feats at Battlefrog Atlanta. I saw complete strangers helping each other, one of my teammates showing determination (and perhaps a little stubbornness) as it took her six attempts to scale Tsunami, and volunteers encouraging and helping everyone who came their way. The course may have taken every bit of strength I had to complete, but I gained several new friends along the way. I learned that I’m not a quitter (even though I wanted to give up at times). Obstacle racing exposes our weakest areas, but it also shows where we are strongest. And that is why I will keep coming back.