Earlier this year I had the absolute pleasure of participating in the inaugural Bushido Challenge OCR (see my post here). After the success of the initial race, the management team at Bushido decided to add a second race in Virginia to this year — woohoo!! David Martin and company put on a great event, and I was ecstatic to be running in yet another so soon! So, I registered, duh!
There were some venue issues with the original location, apparently contractual issues, and this second event had to be rescheduled from its original date in August to the now November date (which was held). This actually turned out to be a really good thing for us racers — they were forced to change venues, as well. The new location turned out to be better, more fun, and much more family-friendly in the festival area. I loved it! From what I hear, everyone else did, too!!
What follows is something of an attempt at reviewing this OCR, from my perspective.
The registration process was pretty typical — nothing painful, difficult or awkward about it. Hop online, pick your venue/race date, fill out the online form, and BOOM, registered. Standard fare.
RACE DAY/PACKET PICK-UP
Parking for this new venue was fantastic. FAN-TAS-TIC. More spaces, easier to navigate, well-marked, and still only $10 (again, standard fare for OCRs). We parked, and proceeded to the registration booths for packet pick-up and waiver signing. That was clean & easy as well — walk up, show ID, the friendly staff grabbed your packet(s) and you moved on to the waiver table to sign the necessary forms. From there, you moved on to exchange your waiver(s) for the free race shirt(s) from XRaceWear. This was a great option. It’s not a “finisher” shirt, like other OCRs, but a legit race shirt for use anytime. Since it’s from XRaceWear, you can choose whether you want the “bib holder” version or not. Pretty cool!
All-in-all, this was a great start. I can’t think of anything, at this moment, that could be improved upon.
FESTIVAL AREA/FAMILY STUFF
At the original Bushido Challenge, the festival area consisted of a big grassy knoll. That’s pretty much it. Most of us didn’t care, and we knew this was the first event, so there would be plenty of improvements to come. Well, they came. And how.
A lot of the improvements can be directly attributed to the venue change, sure, but management deserves all the credit in the world for making this change. They took the negative (having to deal with contractual issues at the other venue) and turned it into a terrific positive (changing to this new venue). Immediately inside the festival area were real bathrooms. Not Port-a-Johns. Not holes in the ground. Actual toilets. And an actual hand-washing station. Wow. A short walk from here was a big play area for kids, and then just past that were tables & tents set up for racers and family to park their stuff, as well as bag drop, a food joint (again, not a tent, but an actual kitchen with serving windows), and a few sponsor tents. GREAT!
My wife commented on how comfortable she was the whole time — that means a lot to a mommy who has to deal with seven children, four of whom would be racing in the first-ever Bushido Kids Challenge! The kids had a blast, and they still bring it up today, over a week later as of this writing. In fact, my [almost] 4-yr old daughter keeps talking about the pedal car racetrack (seriously) and how she had such fun at Bushido!
The kids race was a half-mile loop, with a bunch of kid-friendly obstacles. After the kids got their medals and everyone was done, the kids course was open to let the kiddos run around and play on it some more to keep occupied and entertained (my son ran at least 4 loops after the race).
Clean festival area (no mud), real bathrooms, a solid kids race, and plenty to do with real, good food make for a terrific family experience. My wife loved it, which is really what matters most. 🙂
RACE REVIEW – MEN’S COMPETITIVE WAVE
It’s almost race time. We’ve all been warming up, performing our usual, sometimes superstitious, race rituals of jogging up& down hills, around the venue, up to the Start Line and back — whatever you do, you’re doing now. Looking around the venue, and jogging portions of it that are near the Festival Area, I take note of what I can see: the Start Line (obviously), which is built to look like a makeshift Japanese farm gate of sorts (which, makes sense, given the theme and location — it’s on a farm!); the Tyrollean traverse obstacle at the Finish Line; the Kids Race course — plenty to see. But, despite the commonality of things, this race feels a little different. It’s not because it’s a small, up-and-coming company (honestly, this feel more put-together than a Warrior Dash), and it’s not because it’s unfamiliar (I ran the inaugural Bushido Challenge, as already mentioned), and it’s not because it’s a new venue (I’ve been to dozens of locations at this point, for various races). It’s just… somehow very exciting. I’m ready.
Just prior to the actual start time takeoff, our team (Team Titin Tough) and another team (Team Delta), are called to the stage for a face-off type of stare down — a little fun, pre-race drama for the folks in attendance. It was cool! Emcee Mikey Rukus then breaks out into a battle rap to get us all hyped up for the team competition — you see, our team took 1st and 2nd place in the inaugural Bushido Challenge, effectively owning the race. Team Delta was determined to take a stab at grabbing our dominant title, so they recruited the #1 and #2 finishers from the first Men’s Elite heat earlier in the year. A clever tactic, to be sure.
Now the race is set to begin. Team competition is a little different this time — more like how Spartan Race does it — so, while we won’t run twice for individual and team crowns, both are still on the line here. Time to put up our best, even with a slightly depleted team (thanks to Justin Anderson, David Dunavant, and Scott Phelps for jumping in to bolster our ranks back to competitive standing). Mikey Rukus hypes us up one more time, we give our ritual “HAI!”, and we’re off!!
The obstacles on this +/-5 mile course were well-spaced and challenging, with some great use of the nearby ravines and existing trails to really challenge straight-line speedsters like Jordan McDougal (2nd place elite men’s finisher at the inaugural race). I won’t go into too much detail on the obstacles, but suffice it to say that fun & challenging were two near-perfect descriptors. It was a blast. Immediately after finishing the elite/competitive wave, I ran back to the Start Line to go run again with my 14-year old daughter who was running her first Bushido Challenge (and her second OCR). I had a great time!
Adding in a special note: this race was a qualifier for the international OCR World Championships for 2015. I happily qualified for the OCRWC at this race (finishing 3rd in my AG). Wo0t!
I’d have to give this race a solid “A” all the way around — I can’t imagine what having to change venues, rebuild damaged/lost obstacles, and still putting on a great event entails — but, these guys did it. Kudos to David Martin, Andy Royer, Mikey Rukus, and the whole Bushido Challenge crew & leadership for doing just that. I’m looking forward to running the Spring 2015 Bushido Challenge (on 4/19 — mark your calendars!!!), and, while I won’t be as competitive (I’m running the North Face Endurance Challenge 50-miler the day before), I may show up and race anyway. Pride is a killer. 🙂
Who knows? Maybe I’ll be a ninja this time, and snag me an awesome ninja medal for swiping 10+ racer flags*…!
*I didn’t mention the ninjas because they do not impact the Elite/Competitive waves. But, in short, the ninjas are there to steal the “life force” of the open wave racers by hiding out and taking one of their flags (think flag football). If you cross the Finish Line with at least one flag intact, you get the vaunted Bushido Warrior medal. If no flags, you get [still-awesome] Fallen Warrior shuriken medal. Either way, you get your medal, but unlike most other races, the one you get is entirely dependent on how you finish. For the elite/competitive wave, you can choose your medal. Since the competitive wave involves a cash prize (and a really nice, expensive samurai sword!), the ninjas are not factored in at all. This also helps to reduce the chance for injury during such a competitive wave. Good call!