After hearing many stories of Atlas Race I finally got my chance to try my hand at it this past weekend in Temecula, California. Atlas Race is a newcomer to the field but already is making waves in the OCR community after it’s first race in Oregon and it’s Pro Team currently lighting up the competitive field. This west coast based Obstacle Race Series is based out of Oregon and is giving us in the west another option for those looking for a race. The race would turn into a whose who of Obstacle Racing before the weekend concluded.
On Thursday night I arrived to my campground, a gem of a spot right next to the race venue run by the National Forest Service. It was going to be a (to take a term from my friend Jane) a scrubnut weekend. No showers, tent camping, composting drop toilets, and a lot of canned soups, and canned fruit. But for $15 a day/night who can complain and after over a week in Nicaragua followed by a camping trip to Moab, my tent and sleeping bag are feeling more and more like home.
On Friday I had a chance to meet the owners of Atlas Race and pick their brains about their motivation and background getting into an often saturated OCR market. After about an hour chatting with them I am confident in saying these guys are the real deal. They want to create races for people of all ability levels to complete while at the same time challenging the top athlete to compete at their highest levels. Lance Landers one of the co-founders has his own weight loss journey having lost over 170lbs and keeping the weight off. He is a walking example of hard work and dedication. Also we talked at length about his love of Kale. Scott Gephart the other co-owner is completely dedicated to running a quality race. They went so far as buying 20,000 markers for the course after rumors in the industry of other recent races having marking problems. I left confident in the race the next day after our meeting.
Saturday morning I arrived at the race venue to a competitive field that arguably was the most competitive that the sport has seen. Athletes from all over the US, Mexico, and Australia came in to compete for the top individual and team prizes. Spartan Race had teams, Atlas Race brought out the big guns, Rise of the Sufferfest flew in their ringers, as well as others. The competition field sizes were small but each person had a serious resume. Outside of the competitive race, many of the Weeple Army were in attendance as well as many other families from the area. Overall the race was small with under 1000 participants for the weekend but no lack of talent and regulars from the OCR world.
As we lined up to race on Saturday morning, everyone around me had at least a podium to their name in the sport, and we all joked around then focused in on the race at hand. Names like Amelia Boone, April Luu, Ella Kociuba, Rose Wetzel, Lauren Ho, KK Paul, Irene Call, Ang Reynolds and many more graced the starting line. My goal for the day was to not finish last in this competitive field! We set off at a blistering pace and I watched as more and more women passed me. Soon I was sitting second to last, and instead of getting frustrated just settled into my race and continued forward.
The first obstacle to take note of was the terrain. Those that have raced in Temecula before know the terrain is great at Vail Lakes. Many uphill climbs, downhill runs, and water and swamps. We headed up the first ridge and settled in running with Danielle Ross for a while. We navigated a few obstacles together and after the 12-foot wall on top of a ridge we separated. She took off down the hills, my ankle I am still a little careful with and made my way down the hills. Next was an inverted wall to climb over, as well as a long tire flip section and a few cargo net climbs where Marines enthusiastically cheered everyone on. The course was marked with three color flags, yellow (short course), red (long course) and white (kids course). Where ever the course split it was clearly marked with volunteers, arrows, and flag colors. Seriously the best marked course I have ever raced!
The first real obstacle of the race came in the form of the burpee broad jump about 50 meters long. Lance had said it was inspired by Australian elite athlete Matt Murphy who completed a recent burpee mile. This was the first real obstacle of the race where a lot of people struggled watching the open heats. The burpee broad jump will take it out of even the most hardened athlete. After this section we had a few more obstacles, ran through the mud, and swamp, and sand, the course was ever changing and no chance to get comfortable. Then feeling like you were later into the race, we encountered the sandbag carry. But this was not a normal quick sandbag carry, this would prove to be over a mile+ sandbag carry and would completely change the race for the elite field (open heats did not have this obstacle). Each bag weighed somewhere between 50-60lbs and we traversed it up a ridge along a ridge line, up and down, then along a long sandy beach section, as well as over an eight-foot wall.
It was this part of the race my personal luck would change, a lot of recent weight training and hiking had primed my muscles for this sort of endurance. I trucked up the large loose sand hill and locked in the sandbag. Soon passing one woman, than two, then soon three. The sandbag had slowed the traditional runners, and created a whole new and exciting element to the race. After going over the eight foot wall I would pass another two women including Ang Reynolds and Irene Call down a sandy section I was able to run with the bag locked in resting on my shoulders. We got to the final part of the sandbag carry where you waded through water to an island, up and over a 12-foot wall, then back finally dropping the sandbag, almost catching Leona Moat (wife of Cody Moat). The rest of the race was around a beach line, through some nasty suck your shoes off mud and swamp, through the lowest barbed wire crawl to date, and traversing a few more obstacles. I crossed the finish line 15th for women and happy with the result in an extremely competitive field. Full Results.
Sunday, I returned to run the long course and was happy to see it was not just more miles and the same obstacles. The course took a couple diversions and different obstacles were mixed into the course. A few more walls, more balance obstacles, and a few hay bails to traverse over as well as more terrain. I was lucky enough to run with Matt Trinca for much of the race on Sunday always nice to run with a friend. Sunday I would finish the race with the second fastest time for women of the day and earned my first podium of the year.
Overall, I joked around with many racers saying Atlas Race is the best race no one knows about. (Hopefully this will change) If you are looking for a bunch of gimmicks you will not find them at Atlas Race, instead what you will find is a well run race, cash prizes for top individuals and teams, a kids race, events for kids, great food vendors, enthusiastic staff, nice medals, good t-shirts (gender specific), free race photos, excellent timing (thanks J-Chip) and overall a well laid out course, fantastically marked. You don’t need a gimmick when you run a good race, that is the gimmick and other races should take note of this. Definitely highly recommend it to those looking for a fun race for all ability types in the West. The industry as a whole needs more races like this one and hopefully will continue to grow. Looking forward to their race in Idaho this summer. Atlas Race I will be back!