Friday, July 27, 2012

Rock The World Race Review

I know. This one’s long overdue. But I wanted to give the Rock the World race directors a chance to address a few issues and see how things played out. And I’ll be entirely upfront, I’ve got mixed feelings on this one and this may quite possibly be the toughest review I’ve ever had to write.

Before I do, there are a few things you should keep in mind though as you read on:

1) I’ve never run an obstacle race before and since I haven’t, I have ZERO experience on how these things are supposed to go down.

2) I did not pay an entry fee to participate. My fee was comped in exchange for a few posts prior and a review post after. My feelings might be a little less mixed had I shelled out $50-70 for the event.

3) This was THE first Rock the World Event. Ever. And as someone who planned TONS of events in her past life as a Recreation Coordinator prior to becoming a mom, I can tell you from a whole lot of experience, no matter how well prepared you are, or you think you are, there’s ALWAYS things that come up unexpectedly. Always. Rock the World was no different.

So let’s talk the good, the awesome, and the AMAZING about this race first. For those of you who are new here and missed my previous posts, Rock the World was billed as a family friendly landmarked themed obstacle 5K and live music event. And I give major props to the race directors for their efforts taking on such a HUGE event. It was no small feat by any stretch of imagination and the time, talent, and bucks they poured into it was no doubt enormous.

First thing I loved about this race was the how they handled shuttling. Parking was limited at the race venue, so participants and spectators were told to park at the local high school and then were shuttled by school bus to the start. I’ve done this before for races and usually at some point wind up waiting around, either on the bus waiting for it to fill or on the sidewalk waiting for a bus to show up.  So I was kind of nervous when we pulled in the lot because I saw a bus was in the middle of loading. When you’ve got three kiddos in tow, that’s a lot of gear DSCF1290that has to go with you. It takes some time to get it all together. I was dreading we’d miss that bus and be stuck waiting forever with a couple of mischievous little girls with nothing to do. Not ideal. And we did miss that bus, but to my surprise, just as that bus pulled out another one pulled in and it was pretty much like that all day. No waiting at all. Love that. (As did The Tiger love her very first ride on schoooooool bus).

IMG216 (1) The shirts were really cool looking high quality tech shirts (in fact my 6 year old, The Little Miss, likes my shirt so much that she keeps  swiping it from me whenever she sees it anywhere. “I’m gonna ROCK. THE. WORLD!” She sings). The medals though, I thought those were even cooler. They were dog tags. I remember reading somewhere too that the idea here was to have a different tag at each Rock the World event with each one featuring a different obstacle so you could collect them. I thought that was a neat, different idea, something you don’t see at every race. Ours was Victoria Falls, since that was the big featured obstacle what with the world record attempt and all.
But the most AMAZING thing about this race was hands down the location, Fitzgerald Park in Grand Ledge MI. Oh. My. Word. I had no idea something so gorgeous was sitting so close to me. At one point during the race, we’re back running through these trails in the woods and my sister, yells “Look over there!” You guys, there were these rock formations that were just absolutely stunning. I WISH I would have had my camera with me, but I was worried I was gonna muck it up in all the mud. If I am being entirely honest, I probably WOULD pay $50-$70 just to run A race there, all obstacles aside. It was that beautiful.

The course in and of itself was challenging. Pretty much all trail, some packed dirt trail, some single track, some seemed a little more make it yourself. But the course was also a little confusing, there were a couple of points where we weren’t sure which way we were supposed to run because there were arrows pointing in both directions. HOWEVER, we were told at the start that the course was designed to make you think a little. I’m ok with that.

The obstacles I’ll admit I was a little bummed on.  Some were really cool, like the giant slip and slide (Victoria Falls)100_8820In fact, I liked that one so much, I stuck around for the world record attempt so I could do it again. See how excited I was…
100_8822 I also really enjoyed the Oregon Trail, where you clipped yourself to the obstacle and weaved your way through, and the Amazon Jungle which was like a giant spider web. And the very first obstacle, Great Wall, while not very tough, was still fun, especially because we were still in view of our kiddos so we got to throw a little mud at them…
100_8797 RunSis going over
RunDad about to hop into the mud
Me wading through
Sharing the muddy fun with (or at) our kids
RunSis climbing down (this one gives you a good view of the entire obstacle)
But other obstacles were not complete, like the Statue of Liberty where you were supposed to “traverse your torch along the cable strung across the mud pits.” There was no mud. What fun is that? It was just a balance beam with a cable above it that you were supposed to clip your carabineer (AKA torch) to and walk across, but even at that when we got there the volunteer just told us not to even do that, but to just walk across the beam and don’t worry about clipping our “torches.”

Some obstacles were not as advertised. On the Swiss Alps for example, we were supposed to “Crawl across the sloping cargo nets suspended from high in the trees.” It was there, but when we got there the volunteer told us NOT to crawl across it and to just crawl underneath it. Huh? What was the point of going to all that trouble of stringing up the cargo net then? But I don’t necessarily blame the race for that. It’s quite possible the volunteer made a mistake and we just took her at her word. I mean, if you’re looking at a giant cargo net suspended by some trees and someone official looking says, “yeah, you’re just gonna want to go under that. Don’t try to go over.” I don’t know about you, but I listen.

Then there were some obstacles that were entirely not there or closed. Unsure of whether or not we just got a little confused on the course and missed some or if they actually weren’t there, I asked one of the race organizers about that. Turns out we didn’t miss them. They were nonexistent. Here was her response as to why:

Here is a brief breakdown on the situation with a few of the obstacles.  Each was for safety concerns before the race or during construction.

a. Eiffel Tower:  This design was solid but after standing the structure up, we felt that the overall safety of the obstacle was marginal and decided the risk was too high.

b. Mighty Mac:  A brief storm blew through the area where our ropes were to be anchored a few weeks prior to the event.  We tried to find decent supporting structure from other nearby tree’s but in the end could not do it.

c. Great Pyramid:  Our team transported all of the material out to the Pyramid site.  When it was time to construct the obstacle, a trained carpenter was brought in who noticed a number of design flaws with the blueprints.  The changes necessary would have been significant and would have required more time then was available.

Now, I realize leaving out obstacles that were advertised does not bode well for your race. BUT I appreciate that they didn’t just slap something together and call it good. I am GLAD that they had enough respect and concern for the safety of their participants to NOT include obstacles that weren’t safe. Was I disappointed? Yes. Mighty Mac & Great Pyramid were the two I was looking most forward to, but if they’re not safe, they’re not safe. End of story.

The “live music event” that was advertised was also a little lacking. Something happened and they didn’t end up having any bands except one, who didn’t start playing until after our wave, the last one on Saturday, had started. That made for a kind of quiet weird vibe at the start rather than a pump you up, rock the world sort of vibe you’d expect at the beginning of a race like this, or at least I did anyway.

The kids obstacle course that was promoted, could have used some official start times so that all the kids went at once (now I’m just being nit picky though). My kiddos were a little bummed that they were really just racing against themselves. A few trips through with mom though and they were good to go.
DSCF1298 DSCF1299
All in all, we actually had a ton of fun. Here’s our little crew who ran including Speedy McSpeedster in the Middle. We had decided ahead of time, since this was our first obstacle course and we all had long runs to do in addition, we were just gonna take it easy. Not so for McSpeedster. He went full out and finished 7th overall, out of all the participants BOTH days. (Note the cooling station we apparently walked into when we stopped for the photograph.)100_8809 And I’ve got to tell you all the funniest thing thing that happened during the race.  About mid course we picked up a stray. He was on his own and kind of taking it easy like we were so we asked him if he wanted to join our little team. He said yes, and seemed like a nice enough guy. We had fun laughing and joking with him. Every once in awhile, he’d fall behind us, so we’d slow down and wait for him to catch up. Then, right when we got near the finish line, he just up and starts sprinting like man oh man, he was not going to let a one of us beat him! My husband, sister, and I all just kind of looked at each other and started giggling. But then it got better, because in his attempt to steal the title away from his adopted teammates of oh I don’t know, finisher number 457?, he totally ran the wrong way. Our buddy Speedy McSpeedster, who had finished a mere 20 minutes earlier was standing right where this guy THOUGHT the finish line was and kindly pointed him in the right direction. He thanked him and took off sprinting again. So funny.

Will I do this race again in the future? Sure! It may not be a risk life and limb to complete the obstacles designed by a 5th degree Navy Seal Ninja black belt with a death wish sort of course, but it was still fun and it’s a race I feel good about taking my kids too. It’s always a good time when we can make it a family event. And again, love that park!

The race organizers know they’ve got some work to do on the next one though. In fact, they’ve cancelled the Detroit event, which was supposed to be this fall in order to focus on making the one in Grand Ledge next year everything they had hoped it would be this year. I think that’s a wise move and I’ve got to give them credit for picking themselves up, dusting themselves off, using this as a learning experience and giving it another go. Isn’t that what we do as runners anyway? We don’t give up.

'Til next time...

P.S. Don't forget I'm running TWO giveaways right now! Win a FREE race entry here. And win yourself a copy of Train Like A Mother here.

1 comment:

runnanna said...

Liked your review. It was very fair and gave an accurate description of the event. I would like to go back and run at that park some time !