5 Years of Savage Racing - A Journey To The Podium

Updated: May 21, 2020

It all started in 2015. My brothers and I had just started doing some "Mud Runs" as we knew them at the time. We got hooked fast and decided to get our Spartan Trifecta that year, and thought we'd throw in a Savage Race because...well...probably because it was called "Savage".

This is a 5 year, 10 race, tale of transition from hobby OCR racer loving the grit of it all, to competitive OCR racer who simply loves the sport and plans most of my year around training and racing. This article is going to be for the more nerdy people who like details and following progressions. I'll include as much info as I can about the training along the way, and of course I'll be including data from the races, and when I can, anything particular I can remember from the race.

Savage Race, MD - Fall 2015

The first event was at Maryland in the Fall of 2015. Myself, and two of my brothers, were there to complete the course. We did. I know I struggled on a few obstacles. It is likely that I retried some as well. I don't remember if I failed any entirely though. I remember the height of the jump for Davy Jone's Locker was...scary. I never enjoyed free falls before, so it took me a bit to work up the gumption, but I did it!

Savage Race, MD Fall 2015

My training leading up to this first Savage Race had exactly nothing to do specifically with OCR. I'd been doing strength training for roughly a decade prior to this, so I had enough upper body strength for the obstacles, but my endurance, and my obstacle speed and proficiency was obviously quite low.

I finished the race 85th out of 1062 men. My time was 1:20:10. I was really really trying. I always like to go as fast as I can.

Savage Race, MD - Fall 2016

My second Savage Race. I had felt good about my placement the previous year, and had decided that I wanted to do more training to improve my time. So for the year after the first race, I incorporate a lot of HIIT/Circuit training into my programming to improve my strength endurance and overall capacity to "push harder". It definitely helped, even if it wasn't necessarily the right area to target.

Savage Race, MD - Fall 2016

We ran the Pro wave that year for the first time. The only thing I remember from that race was looking at the results afterwards with my brother Luke. He finished 4th in his age group (14/75).

I finished the race 35th out of 75 men. My time was 1:11:10. It was enough for 7th in my age group though, and that was exciting!

From there, we thought we'd be on the podium in no time! Ha...

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Savage Race, MD - Spring 2017

2017 is when things get serious for me. By that I mean that I'd decided I wanted to do really well in OCR. I wanted to compete at the highest level. As such, I cut back my hours at work and started doing a lot more training for OCR. I also started running consistently for the first time ever - trying to build up speed and endurance so I'd place much better in 2017. I also did lots of heavy carry exercises, and spent a TON of time on incline treadmills (where I lived was flat), usually alternating between walking and jogging on a 30% incline, or doing KB farmer's carries on the incline, and eventually carrying a 70lb sandbag on the 30% incline as well. I was running mostly on the roads, but out on some short trails in Falls Church, VA when I could. **The heavy carry and incline training was for Spartan Race, but certainly helped with my Savage Racing**

Savage Race, MD - Spring 2017

As such, when the race came around, I did much better than the previous year. I don't remember anything specific from that race either. All I know are my results.

I finished the race 11th of 78 men. My time was 56:55. I had broken the 1 hour mark, which was one of my goals. It was still only 7th place in my age group, but it was 11th in the Pro wave, and that was a huge leap from 35th just six months prior.

Savage Race, PA - Summer 2017

I really enjoyed running Savage events and their obstacles and courses so I thought I'd add in some more of their events. The PA event ended up being an awesome choice! I was used to the MD course, so having a new course to go through with the Savage obstacles was a ton of fun.

Savage Race, PA - Summer 2017

Again I was able to see the results from the changes and continued effort in my training.

I finished the race 15th of 108 men. My time was 54:24. The best way to compare your races isn't by time. The distances and terrain vary so drastically between courses that it would never be an accurate reflection. You could go by average pace (I didn't have that data) or you could go by % to the lead, or time off the lead. 15th wasn't as high as my 11th place in the Spring, but that 15th was out of 108 athletes while my 11th was only out of 78. The MD race put me in the top 14.1%, and the PA race put me in the top 13.9%. **Look for the small wins**

Savage Race, MD - Fall 2017

I was back at the Maryland Savage Race again in Fall. This race was a big one for me. As I'd improved and had lots more experience in racing and on obstacles, I kept getting faster and finishing better. This race was the one for me that let me know that I was on the right track. It was only a matter of hard work, dedication, and time.

Savage Race, MD - Fall 2017

I finished the race in 8th of 80 men. My time was 55:27. Two big things happened at this race. Firstly, I broke into the Top 10. That was a goal I'd wanted at Savage. Secondly, I was on the age group podium for the first time ever. 10th got me 3rd in my age group. I'd already been on overall podiums at other races (a 3rd at a Terrain Race, and a 2nd at a Bone Frog Challenge), but Savage was a higher level of competition in my mind (and in reality) and it was awesome to reach those new levels.

Savage Race, MD - Spring 2018 (AKA - The Blowup!)

Blowup isn't a good thing in this case, sadly. Leading up to this race, I was dealing with an IT band issue that took me out of running for 6 weeks. This race actually fell inside those 6 weeks. I'd been doing a lot of HIIT training to make up for the missed running training.

Savage Race, MD - Spring 2018

I remember how I felt at that race. It was not fun. I started out feeling okay for the first 5 minutes. Then I blew up. My legs stopped wanting to move. My breathing was heavy and dramatic. My brain stopped wanting and trying and went into, what I call, survival mode. Survival mode is when you only do what you have to in order to get through something. I couldn't move any faster, and the whole race was just me plodding along thinking to myself, "this sucks".

I finished the race 20th of 115 men. My time was 59:37. Might sound okay, but it wasn't. It felt terrible physically, and didn't help that I knew mentally that I could do better. However,I learned an extremely valuable lesson that day that has helped me at every single race since. **Pacing. If you push too hard too fast you will blow up at some point.**

Savage Race, PA - Summer 2018

I'd had time to let my IT band heal, and I was beginning to get back to my normal running routine again coming into the PA race. This race cracks me up sometimes when I think about it. First, this was the first time my Wife's parents (she was my girlfriend at the time) came to see a race. But the part that was funny was that, for the last 2 miles of the race, I don't remember hardly anything except the last 100 yards. That's because I went into a weird zone in my head where I was just quoting epic motivational speeches and poems in my head. I don't know if that's normal, but it seemed to help at the time, and that's all I care about. The end of the race was getting up the rope and "warped wall" at Colossus and slipping down the water slide into the water. After the swim, it was just 50ish feet to the finish line. I was neck-and-neck with another athlete coming out of the water, and we sprinted to the finish line. I believe he beat me in the rankings...darn.

Savage Race, PA - Summer 2018

I finished 9th of 113 men. My time was 55:37. It felt good. It went well. It was a good race. Sticking in the top 10 was where I wanted to be, so I was happy; especially coming off my IT band issues.

Savage Race, MD - Fall 2018

The only thing I think I remember from this event (they all blur together after you've been to the same venue sooo many times) was the age group podium.