The Green Beret Challenge, the time had come once again for me to take on a different iteration of this challenge. This time I would toeing the line with a Spartan World Champion who we also know as a Green Beret. Having tackled the Commando and 24 Hour Versions of Mark Ballas’ concoctions I knew that whatever laid before me, ‘easy’ was not going to be the term used to describe it.
My first GBC of 2017 had a different aspect to it. It was my first race of 2017 and the venue is home to the inaugural US OCR Championships brought to us by the same team that puts on the OCR World Championships. There was a lot of variables that built up my excitement levels, sneak peek racing a venue that will become a staple of the race community, get to see where all my hard work during the off-season has me, and then, of course, the pure excitement of it being the first race of the year. I am pretty sure that excitement left me useless after Tuesday of that week… and there were a few hundred of us in the same boat I am sure
Finally, the 18th of February was upon us and I made my way to the historic YO Ranch Headquarters or YOHQ. One note for those coming to Conquer the Gauntlet or US Championships, this venue is HUGE!!! It’s a beautiful 10-minute drive from the initial entrance point till you actually get into the main part of the ranch and festival area. Imagine the potential of that kind of land for races! Parking was a breeze with a $5 cash transaction with plenty of room for all to enjoy and safely park your vehicle. You stroll about 100 yards to the festival area and check in. There, the soul stealing Rachelanne greets you on her Ginger Wings and welcomes you to the race.
The Race/Safety briefing again was of the GBC standard, very thorough and you could tell it was run by people of a Military background. The basics we were expecting; over 5 miles of hill country with an average finishing time of 1.5-2 hours, safety is of the utmost importance but you’re going to be pushed and do not take an unnecessary risk, if you need water or help there are plenty of ways and personnel to make sure you are tended to. This all held true, this was run from a safety standpoint, as the gold standard. Plenty of water stations, the cadres riding around all race long; and unlike other races, they stopped or even changed direction to make sure they did not interfere with or endanger their racers.
The festival area was lively but a little light on the vendors. However, the vendors they had were of the highest caliber; great food and drink. WarriorPak and GBC gear were ready to pre-race fuel and/or supply you or post-race replenishment of anything you need. They even had the sweet GBC ruck on sale for $110.
As the racers entered, before the corral, Mark was there for our safety briefing and then handed us off to our MC, Yancy Culp. Yancy took a very different approach than most MCs I have encountered but as I reflect it was very much in Yancy Style. Instead of yelling and trying to artificially ramp us up, he took us under his wing and gave us a magnificent send off; more in-line with a coach mentoring his athlete. He managed to not only get us focused on the course but also about having that same zest for everything else we do in life. It was something you have to experience to understand and appreciate.
The terrain at Y.O. Ranch is amazing; the possibility of events of all different types of skill and extremes definitely rests in my mind. I’ve been there 6 or more times having never run the same path twice, the possibilities here feel endless. A solid half-mile trail run separated the field as we started hitting the obstacles. A 6-Foot wall led us to the Rope Climb with a decent and then we were off to the Yoke Carry. An area GBC does a great job of differentiating themselves with is their Hybrid OCR model. The heavy carries can really level the playing field as you cannot simply be fast, you also have to be strong. I passed numerous racers that were slowed by the Yoke. The sled pull also repeats this act, burning out arms and legs in a manner racers were unaccustomed to. The trails were just stunning as I passed my rig from Behind Enemy Lines and then right into some beautiful nature. GBC could eat you up while loving where you were at the same time.
The trails burned you perfectly as you entered that last three-quarters of a mile. The OCRAddict Weaver Rig (Naming contest coming) was a total blast and thanks to our friends at Mudstacle, (video tutorial) I was able to comfortably complete the weaver and go to the rope traverse. Then, a sprint downhill into a shallow pond and another quick ascent back to the festival areas. There, we were greeted by the Ranger Rig; a deceptively difficult rig where the stretch of the rope drops you a few extra inches making the flow a bit more difficult than expected. I saw a few souls going to the wayside at this one. Finally, we do a quick bridge climb into a barbed wire crawl, leaving you about 50 yards to dead sprint to the finish.
You cross that line and you immediately feel accomplished. The race was exactly what was promised, a brutal adventure that you would want to go do again and again.
The post race festival environment was great as the OCRWCs crew happily greeted all the finishers and then we could walk off to our bags or to the vendors. The event was fantastic and this is going to be a race that will start clearing 1,000 racers in the future because it is that good of an event. Everything is methodically planned out and accounted for, in order to prevent major backups at obstacles. Even the two separated Elite Waves is perfectly in line with their way of life. The separated waves force the racers to not only race against their wave but the unknown speed of the other wave. When Green Berets are deployed they often do not see their adversary until it’s the point of no return. The outcome might very well already be decided when they finally face their enemy. Now as they continue to grow and build for greater bandwidth or have cash prizes this may change but in many ways it is perfectly tuned for this particular series. Athletes may be currently tuned to always see their opponent, but they need to adapt to grow stronger, after all how often do you hear the advice, “run your own race”?
When Green Berets are deployed, they often do not see their adversary until it’s the point of no return. The outcome might very well already be decided when they finally face their enemy. Now, as they continue to grow and build for greater bandwidth, or have cash prizes, this may change, but in many ways, it is perfectly tuned for this particular series. Athletes may be currently tuned to seeing their opponent, but they need to adapt to grow stronger. After all, how often do you hear the advice, “run your own race”?
I’ve yet to hear anything truly negative about the event. Most are talking about how this surpassed Sprint and Super length courses. One racer saying “When you go from GBC to XYZ…. Well, I could feel the difference from the moment I stepped on the start line today!”. Followed by “I need more GBC in my life” and another comment about how the race kicked their @ss but they “promise to be back leaner, meaner and stronger.” This was a race I saw many doubting themselves just the week prior. Those that stepped up and toed the line grew from this race; even if they did not conquer every obstacle. Not many races truly accomplish that and the crew at the Green Beret Challenge should hold their heads high.
Overall if you have not run a Green Beret Challenge, stop wasting time and sign up! Use “OCRAddict” at checkout (hint hint). If you explore their site you’ll see the upcoming Operators’ Courses that will have even more obstacles included inside the endurance challenges. They also have Behind Enemy Lines, a 24 Hour Event that you need to find a way to do because it will be a life changing experience.
Green Beret Challenge is only going to get better and better. If you are eyeing a Hurricane Heat, a Go Ruck or other Endurance challenge, this is the race for you. I am more complete by completing these courses and I cannot wait to grow some more.