Monday, September 21, 2015

The Inferno Race 2015

Once again The Inferno obstacle course race exceeded my expectations.  I have to give Jason (event director) and his crew credit for designing one of the best courses around.  I am tempted to claim The Inferno as the "Best of the West" in obstacle course races.  That might be a biased claim as there are a few races in California that I haven;t down, but for Oregon and Washington, it's hard to find a better course and obstacles.

Top 4 Elite Men
(L to R:  3rd, 1st, 2nd, 4th)

The Inferno has four distances to choose from, a 3 mile course, a 6 mile (actually more like 7.7 mile course), a 13.1 mile course, and their version of the Spartan Ultra Beast, the Skulls Challenge (26.2 mile course). Last year I did the 6 mile course, and this year decided to do the 13.1 mile course.  

The race is held on a remote course west of Salem on rolling hills.  The setting is amazing as it combines open meadow with dark, thick forest terrain.  Most of the running is done on open pasture land that makes it very difficult to get into a rhythm.  Twisting an ankle is constantly on your mind. There must have been a dozen times I rolled my ankle, and each time it makes you a little more timid. 

Once in the forest, the trails turn to singletrack with lots of roots and rocks, and also gravel sections where you can open up the stride a bit more.  Although Jason claims there was only about 2800-3000 ft of elevation gain, it seemed like twice that amount.  Relentless uphill running or uphill log,tire,or cinder block carrying.

New obstacles were added this year including a 30 burpee station within the first 1/4 mile.  If the body wasn't already warmed up (temps in the 60's) it was by the end of the 30 burpees.  Then a tire carry was added around mile 1 that required everyone to carry a car tire roughly 3/4 mile up hill and through rough forest trails.  More running led to another upper body carry, this time a log.  Roughly 30-40 lbs, we had to carry it uphill about 1/2 a mile and then back down.  Once we dropped the log, we had to turn around and head back up the same hill running.  This has all taken place within the first 2 miles already.  Then several longer sections of running with several obstacles mixed in along the way, including a heavy tractor tire flip, rope climb, tire pull, and 200m swim.  

By the time I reached the swim, I was in 1st place while two others were closely behind.  After the swim, we had to carry a 5 gal. bucket filled with water around the pond about 300m.  Once I got back, I noticed I had opened a bigger gap and continued to push on with the running.  My lead opened up and soon I no longer saw the two other guys behind me. There was an Atlas Stone "obstacle" (round stones weighing between 115-145lbs) that we only had to roll 20 yards, do 10 burpees, and roll back. It would have been quite interesting had we had to carry the stones that distance and back.

If you failed an obstacle, or were not able to complete any obstacle (competitive category only) you were assessed a 10 min penalty.  None of the obstacles were too difficult that anyone with descent fitness couldn't complete.  

More climbing and descending with some KB Swings, battle rope slams, and jump roping mixed in brought us out back in the open pasture land where the majority of the man-made obstacles remained.  Now at mile 9 roughly, the body was definitely getting tired.  A couple vertical walls climbed and tire traverse and it was to what I thought the most difficult obstacle in the race...the cinder block drag.  

We had to drag a cinder block up a steep, rutted hill about 100 yards then across the ridge and back down.  That took roughly 8-10 min to complete.  Then we had to run back up the steep hill and continue on with more treacherous pasture-land running.  

One of the obstacles I remember from last year was a tire drag around a dried up pond.  That tool about 15-20 minutes to compete.  This year they lighted the tire which made it more manageable and only about 5-7 minutes to complete.  

Finally I rolled into the final section of obstacles and the last 1/2 mile to the finish.  Some more vertical walls to climbs and then on to the final obstacle, what they named, WTF.  I had a large enough lead on the 2nd and 3rd place guys that I could take my time to complete the obstacle.  But I knew if I didn't make it the first time through that it would be tough to try and do a second time.

This obstacle remains the most challenging of the course, last year it had a Ninja Warrior theme to it, this year it was a version of the Platinum Rig.  For those who know what the Platinum Rig is know that is requires lots of grip strength and upper body strength.  

It started with a rope traverse immediately into a inverted monkey bar, to a parallel bar swing and vertical bars, and then finally more monkey bars.  My grip started to go once I got to the vertical bars but was able to brace myself against two 2x4's and shake out my hands.  I finished with the last section of monkey bars and ran to the finish happy to be done.  

I won the race finishing the 13.1 mile course, 30+ obstacles in a time of 2:19:48.  I think the 2nd place guy came through around 15 minutes later.  

Whether you are looking for an entry level obstacle course race (3 mile version) or one to test your strength, endurance and power (13.1 mile version) you will certainly not be disappointed with The Inferno.  

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