The HESCO Bone Frog Challenge is an obstacle race company that was founded and is still operated by former Navy SEALs; knowing that, you know the race is going to be epic! And it definitely was. Taking on Bone Frog was my first race since May, and it definitely gave me the challenge that I was looking for.
To start off this introduction into the world of Bone Frog, you should know that they have three levels of races for athletes looking for a challenge to take on: the Sprint, which goes through four miles with 16+ obstacles; the Challenge, which is nine miles and over 36 obstacles; and the infamous TIER 1, which is both the Challenge AND the Sprint, covering approximately 13 miles and including over 50 obstacles. Challenge accepted? But there’s more; a racer can also upgrade to run the Challenge or the TIER 1 as an Elite athlete, which is the competitive portion of the day, demanding total obstacle completion to be eligible for prizes and a spot on the podium.
I also experienced something new with Bone Frog: my first gig as a volunteer. Because of my day job, I decided to take on a position with packet pickup the day before the race. It was a simple job, but Sharon was awesome to work with. My role was simple: when someone came up to pick up a packet, I would hand a packet to Sharon. She would then log in that information in the computer (participant’s name, the number, and so on), and they would take their stuff and go. Yeah, easy job. Despite the slow nature of it, it was really awesome to see the other side, even if it was a small glimpse. I also got a chance to meet the CEO, Brian. He was right in the thick of it, even taking golf carts with building supplies and water out to those finishing up obstacles. And even with a volunteer build team, I could hear how efficient they are. Sometimes, it’s the day before and there is still much to build; the Bone Frog crew was done by Friday and was staging breakdown and cleanup for after the day was done. Pretty awesome work. I was glad I signed up to volunteer. I know it seems like there wasn’t much happening with me, but Sharon did say I helped, and I’m glad I did.
Bone Frog offers three levels at their events: the Sprint (over four miles), the Challenge (nine miles), and the TIER-1 (both the Sprint and the Challege). All levels (except the sprint) also offer an Elite (competitive) or non-Elite option. I did the Sprint, which was the better choice for me since I hadn’t done a race in a few months and four miles was plenty for me. (For the record, I overheard someone say it was closer to five miles.) One thing that I found to be impressive was the way they were able to easily blend each course together. To give a basic idea, everyone starts going on the same path for close to a mile. Then, there’s a split. Prior to the race, participants got a wrist band with a specific color to help volunteers direct runners in the right direction. Mine was yellow, showing that I was doing the Sprint. The course for the most part was laid out well (disclaimer: I only saw the Sprint course). There were a couple areas that unfortunately weren’t marked as well as they could be, causing some confusion for myself and other runners. In fairness to Bone Frog, the property they were using was land owned by farmers, and the farmers had cattle roaming prior to race day, so it’s very possible that some markers had been taken down by the cows.
They had some great obstacles that definitely posed challenges to most runners. (One thing I liked about Bone Frog was their decision to leave obstacle descriptions off of their website. In speaking to team members, this is definitely intentional to add an extra element of challenge. For that reason, I’ll keep my descriptions brief here.) The first obstacle encountered, Rolling Thunder, consisted of two long barricades with different sized tires wrapped around a long beam. And you had to jump over it. Easier said than done. The tires spun. Thankfully, you saw the Bone Frog spirit immediately in play as some helped others to get over it (myself included). Once a majority of the wave had made it, I continued on my way. The course also featured three wall climbs, each level increasing in height. Since I did the Sprint, I only saw levels two and three. And three was tough. I am guessing it was at least 10 feet tall. I also had a bit of a challenge with the Cargo Net Climb (which was a straight climb, not an A-frame like I’m used to) and the Rope Climb. However, other runners were able to help. In fact, while going up the Cargo Net, I felt the need to apologize to the racers going up after me. As I’ve written often before, I’m not good with heights. The other races didn’t mind though. They continued to encourage me. And at the Rope Climb, another racer showed me how to pinch the rope between my feet. I did it well enough to get to the top, but I definitely need to practice it more. For now, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, and maintain the Bone Frog anonymity of the rest of their obstacles.
Bone Frog had the usual things you’ll see at an OCR. Free beer, some food, a couple of vendors, music. Truthfully though, Bone Frog doesn’t feel like the party-type of company and race. Not to say they don’t know how to party; I’m sure they can. But that’s not what the race is about. They’re about pushing oneself physically and mentally. And really, after a race like that, you’d rather just take it easy. One thing that was really cool that I have met seen anywhere else is the timing tent. Once your ankle timer crosses the line, you can get a printout of your unofficial time. Mine was one hour, 48 minutes. Not bad for a course I knew nothing about.
There is one thing I was hoping to see but unfortunately missed. While volunteering at registration, a nice young couple from Michigan checked in. It turned out that the young man had contacted the company and informed them that he wanted to propose to his girlfriend at the finish line after they finished the TIER-1 Elite race. They checked in, then went to the merchandise tent. Sharon had to think of a way to get him back to registration so they could further conspire. I offered to do that, so I ran over, tapped him on the shoulder, and informed him we needed him back at registration. He came over, and I heard the whole planned outlined. Who was holding on to the ring, who would pass it off to him at the finish line, and I had a small part (okay, a very small part) in helping there. I missed the actual proposal, but I did see the pictures later. She said yes! And she got second place for the women’s TIER-1 Elite. Go her!
Overall, my whole Bone Frog experience was a great time. And I’ve never done this, but I’m going to do so here: I’m going to ask anyone who enjoys OCR to do Bone Frog. I’m used to waves of 50-100 people. My wave at Bone Frog was maybe 20. Maybe that’s because they’re really good at spacing them out, but this was a good race and it’s run by good people. I’d like to see them continue, and while I have no reason to believe nor am suggesting they aren’t doing well, I still want to see good things for them. So, check them out, sign up, and as they say, GET AFTER IT!
Edit 11/23/ 16 – Finally!!! The photo gallery is up! Thank you to the amazing Bone Frog photographers who not only got the most shots of me in any race I’ve done, but also the best shots! In fact, you may notice that a Bone Frog photo is now my new header on the blog. Seriously, thank you for such amazing photographs!