Another week, another race! This week was my first experience with BONEFROG. Sponsored by HESCO, this U.S. Navy SEAL obstacle race is similar to, but still pretty different than most other races. Like most other OCR events you will get dirty, you will have obstacles, and they even offer different race lengths, but it’s all done a little differently. They approached their event with a different perspective than some of the other offerings and I appreciate that, it’s nice to mix it up once in awhile.
This event was held at the Wicomico Motorsports Park in Charlotte Hall, Maryland. For those savvy Spartan racers in the area, you will recognize this venue as the same place they held the first D.C. Spartan Race in 2014 (also MY first OCR race!). It was good to be back and it was even better to see it from a different angle. The first thing that is different about BONEFROG is that all of the obstacles are either obstacles the Navy SEALs actually train on or they are inspired by SEAL stuff. For example, there are a lot of walls to get over in this race. Like “Hell’s Gate”, a 4ft-6ft-8ft-6ft-4ft wall medley.
But there are some obstacles where they got more creative. “The Chopper” is a body weight grip strength obstacle. Sort of like “Wheel world” in Savage Race or part of “Funky Monkey: The Revolution” in Tough Mudder. The difference is that in the other races it is some sort of wheel that you grab and it rotates. Instead of a wheel this is a 4 “Bladed” rotor, sort of like the blades of a helicopter. It also rotates and you have to move from one to the next without falling to ring the bell at the end. I actually found this obstacle to be much more difficult than the other variants. I think the narrow space it gave you to hold and the spacing of the handles made it a little tricky and while I completed it on my first try it took me awhile, with a lot of spinning. You definitely want to keep your momentum in check on this one!
I do want to take a moment to call out the “31 Heroes” Obstacle. I thought this one was really awesome. As you are running through the trails you come to a large vinyl banner with a story, instructions, and names. Each name on the banner (31 in total) is the name of a solider who died in the service. To honor their sacrifice and their memory you must read each name out loud and perform one burpee for each one. So, you complete 31 burpees before you proceed. I really liked this obstacle as I think it is important to remember those who have gone before you, especially our veterans. It also helps to put into perspective what you are going through on the course, and it really made me realize that the challenges placed before me were nothing compared to what they had to endure. I want to extend a sincere thank you for your sacrifice.
The next, but maybe more distinctive quality of BONEFROG, is the distances offered. You have several options here: Sprint, Challenge, Tier 1, and Endurance.
Sprint – 5k with 20+ obstacles.
Challenge – 8+ miles with 30+ obstacles.
Tier 1 – Both the Challenge and the Sprint, back to back, so around 11 miles with 50+ obstacles.
Endurance – Tier 1 + as many laps of the Sprint as you can complete (Endless obstacles!!).
As I have the hardest test of endurance I have yet faced coming up the week after this race I decided to go with the Sprint distance. I didn’t want to be worn out or hurt going into a Spartan Trifecta weekend! But since my goal for next year looks like it is going to be going for the bigger endurance races, I think I might take on the endurance distance next year.
I will tell you though, don’t let the distance fool you, this Sprint was no ordinary 5k, this is a Navy SEAL 5k! I have done the Rugged Maniac and Warrior Dash this year, both are the same distance, and neither compared to this event. I was shockingly sore for the days following this race. It is fun, and it’s not so hard that ‘normal’ people can’t finish it, but it’s not to be taken lightly. I can only imagine how I would feel if I HAD done the longer distances. Some of the obstacles on the longer courses seemed really cool and I’m sad I missed them, but I’ll get ’em next year!
Interestingly, this race doesn’t have any sort of validation to your starting time. You are basically signed up for a wave at a specific time, but not a specific race. So Challenge racers were starting with Tier 1 racers and Sprint with Challenge, so that was interesting. Once you are on the course, you just follow the signs for your event. Also, there is no real starting corral to speak of, so you can just walk right up to the start line. And most interestingly of all: the starts are done on the honor system. There is no verification of identity or start time. You just walk up with your band and you can run. This has the potential to get messy, but it seems to be working so far. I think most people are going to follow the rules and it didn’t seem chaotic.
While the start line area didn’t get too messy things were a little different at some of the obstacles. Full disclosure, I’ve been racing earlier and earlier so obstacle backups might be a little more common than I think they are in all the races. I’ve been noticing at some of the events that things are really, really backed up. For an example look at the line for “The Chopper” above or the line for “Kiss of Mud 2.0” in the Tough Mudder post I did. The line for “The Chopper” might not look very long, but everyone was pretty much waiting until the person on the obstacle finished completely, which could take a little bit of time. It was like this at the “Walk the Plank” (a very unstable and challenging balance beam) and “Rolling Thunder” (hurdles with unsecured tires on them). It’s hard to know what to do with these because there isn’t ever a clear line and while you don’t want to be rude and cut in line you also are being timed. I went the polite route and I know I spent a lot of time at these obstacles that I didn’t want to. However, it is nice that you can try as many times as you like on any obstacle. It’s up to you if you think you can get it or not. Much like Spartan Race there are penalties if you fail the obstacle. Unlike Spartan each obstacle has a different penalty. It could be burpees (as it was at “Rolling Thunder”) Or pushups, or jumping jacks, or squats, whatever they want you to do. That is pretty cool too, since it mixes things up a bit. I’m glad we got to try the obstacles multiple times though. I didn’t make it over “Rolling Thunder” on my first try. In fact, I failed so miserably that I basically got close-lined by the hurdle and I hit it so hard that I knocked the air out of my right lung. I had to limp around for a minute to catch my breath. It’s always nice to have an audience for those moments!
I am sure if I had raced earlier that the backups wouldn’t have been an issue. I am also sure that if I had insisted that everyone would have probably let me go first with no problem. Ultimately, most people are there to have fun so they don’t even think about it. I do wish I had tried a little harder though or had pushed through the lines a little more. Turns out I was only 15 minutes away from a top 5 age group finish which would have qualified me for the OCR World Championship race. I really think if I had given it my all I would have made it. I did push myself, and I’m not ashamed of my finish. It was very warm that day and the humidity was suffocating. I was shocked at one point during the race when I realized the top of my shirt, which never went under water was as wet as the bottom, which did get submerged. The humidity did make it quite hard to breathe and I know that slowed me down some. I’m not going to complain though, I had a great time and it was a really good race. I am definitely interested in trying this one out again and seeing what challenges the longer distances have in store for me!