By Pete Williams
CLERMONT – By now the challenge for any obstacle mud run is to come up with a new wrinkle to stand out among a crowded field that includes 23 races put on by 18 companies this year in Florida alone.
It’s hard to say whether the debut of The Savage Race today here at a sprawling facility usually used for ATV riding provided anything unique, though it did a lot of things well. Billed as “the race designed to kick your ass,” it wasn’t overly difficult – tougher than a Muddy Buddy, easier than The Spartan Race I did in Virginia in June, and presumably much easier than the Tough Mudder coming to Florida in December – but judging by the masses of people walking from obstacle to obstacle, it was plenty challenging for most.
That means Savage Race organizers likely have found the sweet spot in a category best known for attracting a get-up-later demographic that’s not as hardcore as the triathlon crowd.
Unlike The Spartan Race I did in June, which packed so many obstacles into a paintball facility it seemed like you rarely ran for more than 100 yards at a clip, the Savage Race required some significant running. There were plenty of six-foot walls, rope obstacles, a waterslide, and a task of carrying a 20-pound bag of sand (less for women) in a circle for about 50 yards.
The heat was brutal – low-90s when my first-wave (9 a.m. start) finished and mid-90s thereafter (last wave at noon). But I don’t think I’ve done a race of any distance in any category with as many water stops.
The biggest task for some was swimming about 150-yards around a three-buoy lake course. Water was deep so there was no way to walk it. Non-swimmers had the option of doing 30 Burpees and taking a 5-minute penalty and it was remarkable to see so many people going that route.
I know I only learned to swim properly four years ago to take up triathlon, but shouldn’t anyone who lives in Florida be required to learn to swim well enough to go at least 150 yards?
The swim did not come until three-quarters into the course, which added to the degree of difficulty. Last were some familiar obstacle run staples: a rope-pull wall, jumping over three lines of firelogs and crawling through a mudpit under barbwire.
Savage Race organizers clearly took the best from various events and the blend overall was effective. Speaking of blends, the blended cotton, fitted T-shirts — no sponsor logos — were among the best race shirts I’ve seen in a while. And I can’t think of a race that’s done a better job of branding its course in race colors, logos, and flags.
But the best part was post-race. Like most obstacle runs, you had to pay for food, but our good friends from Mix1 were there, so if nothing else you could load up on free all-natural post-workout protein shakes. And unlike other events that provide hoses and makeshift showers that rinse off some of the mud, or at least enough not to trash your car, Savage Racers could just jump in a lake and wash it all off. This gave the event something of a Woodstock feel, though nobody got naked. We’ll save that for the Caliente Bare Dare 5K in October.
As athletes rinsed off, representatives from a kayak company offered test-drives on stand-up paddleboards.
Seems like that’s exactly the unique obstacle Savage Race needs for 2012 – a loop around the lake on a paddleboard.