Tag Archives: obstacle racing

Spartan Race Meets Special Ops

By Pete Williams

Workers construct a barbwire crawl the length of the Raymond James football field.

Workers construct a barbwire crawl the length of the Raymond James football field.

TAMPA – The latest incarnation of the Reebok Spartan Race will have a distinctive military feel. Tomorrow’s  “Spartan Sprint Special Ops 2014,” held at Raymond James Stadium here not far from U.S. Special Operations Command, will include appearances from top military brass, paratroopers, military equipment from private collections, and a few badass special operators for whom competing will be something of a light workout.

For all of the talk about how obstacle mud runs mimic military training, the Spartan Race might be the one that comes closest to delivering. Joe De Sena, who debuted the Spartan Race in 2010, sees the event as a fierce competition with stiff penalties (30 burpees) for any obstacle not completed and worthy of the tradition of King Leonidas and his legendary band of 300.

That tends to scare away the type of corporate team-building groups that Tough Mudder and other untimed events draw. Which explains why Spartan is expecting a relatively modest 6,000 competitors to attend the most conveniently-located obstacle race ever held in Florida, smack dab in the middle of Tampa at the home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a morning when the New York Yankees will open Derek Jeter’s final spring training across the street.

An athlete prepares for the spear throw for tomorrow's Spartan Race, part of which takes place in the shadow of Steinbrenner Field.

An athlete prepares for the spear throw for tomorrow’s Spartan Race, part of which takes place in the shadow of Steinbrenner Field.

Spartan Race has staged events at several baseball facilities, including Boston’s Fenway Park, New York’s Citi Field, and Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. Those races, though well attended, had more of a CrossFit Games feel to them since Spartan could not tear up the fields and was mostly limited to staging inside the stadiums.

That meant lots of climbing grandstands and running along concrete concourses. There will be some of that at Raymond James tomorrow – the first race at an NFL facility – as athletes will navigate three of the four concrete ramps and tackle challenges on two concourse levels, part of an 18-obstacle course spread over 3.5 miles. (Though a pedestrian overpass connects the property to the Yankees spring training home at Steinbrenner Field, the Bronx Bombers’ first workout made it impossible to make the Spartan Race a baseball-football affair.)

Much of the race will take place outside in the grassy parking lots north of Raymond James Stadium, including Spartan’s signature gauntlet of race-ending obstacles, including the spear throw, rope climb, and final dash past mallet-wielding Spartans. With grass removed from the stadium for the winter, Spartan was able to construct a barbwire mud crawl the length of the football field.

All of which makes the Tampa race something of a hybrid event for Spartan, closer to a traditional Spartan Race than the in-stadium baseball events, and more of a military-style competition.

Not your usual concourse obstacles at a Bucs game.

Not your usual concourse obstacles at a Bucs game.

Two years ago, U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), based at Tampa’s Macdill Air Force Base, began looking to work with an event that might rival the Marine Corps Marathon. Though there’s no official relationship between SOCOM and Spartan Race, there’s some interaction.

Col. Tim Nye, a recently-retired SOCOM public affairs officer, now serves as Spartan’s military liaison officer and is helping plan races near other U.S. military bases.

“People are making a connection between obstacle races and the military in terms of health, fitness, and teamwork and that’s good,” Nye said today, overlooking the field as workers applied the finishing touches. “But with the proliferation of events, the question becomes what qualifies you to put on a race like this? Can you put it on and push people without breaking them? There’s a need in the industry for some standardization and the military is all about what the standards are and following them.”

Spartan athletes must scale a rope and ring a bell -- or face a 30-burpee penalty.

Spartan athletes must scale a rope and ring a bell — or face a 30-burpee penalty.

Spartan Race has come a long way since we tackled our first Spartan event at a paintball facility in Northern Virginia in June of 2011. Back then, it was a bare-bones, truly spartan affair lacking the window dressing of a major traveling national production. As recently as April 2012, Spartan’s biggest sponsor was Dial for Men (deodorant), which gave events a cheesy “Meet the Spartans” vibe.

These days, the Vermont-based Spartan Race has private equity backing, major corporate sponsors such as Reebok, an ambitious worldwide schedule of events at multiple distances, an NBC Sports television special, and an upcoming book. Driving it all has been DeSena, 45, who made a fortune on Wall Street, once completed a dozen Ironman triathlons in one year, and has made no secret of his desire to get Americans off the couch and his distaste for rival Tough Mudder’s untimed, non-competitive format. He bristles as the phrase “mud run,” viewing obstacle racing as a sport worthy of inclusion in the Olympics. (Indeed, with the exception of the barbwire crawl and a possible fall from the rope climb, there’s no mud in tomorrow’s affair.)

This all-steel depiction of two soldiers by Tampa artist Dominique Martinez will be on display at the race.

This all-steel depiction of two soldiers by Tampa artist Dominique Martinez will be on display at the race.

This morning, Spartan set up shop in the shadow of the Yankees and Buccaneers, two of the wealthiest franchises in sports. Dozens of workers wore red and black Spartan gear, blending in with the Raymond James and Buccaneers branding.

The workers rolled out chain link fencing and Reebok Spartan-branded signage, set up a huge Spartan souvenir tent, and prepared for both 6,000 Spartans and De Sena’s latest aggressive push into the world of professional sports.




Race Nutrition from Matt Fitzgerald

By Pete Williams

NewRulesNutritionWe’re big fans of sports nutritionist and prolific endurance sports writer Matt Fitzgerald. His best-selling book Racing Weight convinced me to drop eight pounds a year ago — even when I thought I already was pretty lean. Now I’m racing faster than ever.

Fitzgerald’s new book – The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition – is geared for road racers, but it obviously applies to those of us who do obstacle races lasting 90 minutes or more. He spoke with us today on our Fitness Buff Radio Show. You can listen to that interview HERE.

Becoming a ‘Dirty Girl’ (Feb. 9, 2013)

By Corrie Seabrook

IMG_6907DADE CITY, Fla. – As I brushed mud and muck from my hair, arms, and parts of me where I definitely did not want mud and muck, I knew the Dirty Girl Adventure Run was no ordinary 5K race.

On an unseasonably warm Florida morning Saturday in which much of the Northeast was digging out from under a blizzard, I was among the 2,000 or so women who dealt with a dozen or so muddy, moderately-difficult challenges spread over the neatly-manicured grounds of the Little Everglades Ranch in Dade City, Florida, just north of Tampa.

I brought along a friend for moral support, parked in a freshly mowed field, and made my way through the Dirty Girl tent city. Everything was pink, from the tents to the signage to the cases covering the iPads used by staffers to check us in at registration. I picked up my race packet, safety-pinned my race bib (#3207), to my black tank top, and took in the scene.

IMG_6866Dirty Girl is an all-women’s event, marketing to ladies who might be intimidated running with men and those who prefer the all-female camaraderie. Still, as we sat on towel watching the earlier waves finish the race, we noticed families camped out all over the grounds.

Children and husbands, fathers and brothers sat and stood around the finish line. They ate and took pictures. A little girl complained to her mother about dirt taking up residence in her lemonade. Women of all ages conversed with one another about how they would conquer each obstacle on the course. A father held his baby girl and pointed to her mother who had begun to climb a netted obstacle.

IMG_6888As my start time came closer, I took off toward the starting line. Having been sick for two weeks, I began to feel the nerves kick in as I stretched. Groups of women congregated for the 10:30 a.m. wave. While I waited for the race to start I peered at the clothing on the women. The women wore outfits decorated in pink. Some had the group names sprinkled with glitter on the shirts. Others danced around with their tutus bouncing around their waists.

I was to race with my editor’s wife and two of her friends and they weren’t hard to spot – three blondes in black tank tops and short green kilts. Racing as “Team Running Commando,” they’re apparently part of a larger co-ed group that does races throughout Central Florida. They didn’t actually run “commando,” opting for black shorts under their kilts – a wise decision as I’d soon realize.

I felt out of place with my all-black outfit, though by the end of the race the four of us would look pretty much the same covered in mud.

IMG_6845Before the race commenced, Zumba fitness instructors pumped us up for the three miles of obstacles we would have to face. Suddenly we took off. The kilted women and I stayed together. We ran through the horse stables and under bending trees. Women joked about the tiny mounds of cow feces being additional obstacles.

The first couple of obstacles were high, inflatable walls that you crawled up one side and bounced down on the opposite side. Women screamed as one actually plunged you into a pool of mud. There was no escape from the mud; you had to slide down. Another obstacle made you duck and dodge through a maze of cables. Occasionally a foot or hand got caught in the cords.

IMG_6957We jogged from obstacle to obstacle. The mud and water made our sneakers heavy with each stride. We laughed when some obstacles made us feel ridiculous. We cheered each other on when the obstacles scared us and we thought we couldn’t finish.

Though I have a background as a swimmer and play on a water polo team, Dirty Girl was my first running event. In roughly 45 minutes, I trudged through murky water and climbed slippery walls. I crawled through pools of mud and ran through wooded terrain. Before I ran Dirty Girl, I didn’t understand why people were so into this new racing trend. When I crossed the finish line I realized that I didn’t come in first and I didn’t sprint the entire race. I did this race for myself. I wanted to see if I could actually accomplish something that was foreign to me.

IMG_7022My new friends and I probably could have gone faster, but that’s not the point of the event. In fact, Dirty Girl is not presented as a competitive event. There are no timing chips, clocks, or age-group awards. Women run Dirty Girl for the fun of it. The bond with the strangers I met seemed almost instant. There were no judgments on the course. No one put you down or made you feel inferior.

Dirty Girl’s mission is to get women out of their comfort zones and to just have fun. I am a product of that goal, a ‘Dirty Girl’ excited to take on another challenge.

Dirty Girl: Big Numbers for 2013

By Corrie Seabrook

DirtyGirl2Dirty Girl, an obstacle mud run open only to women, has expanded to more than 60 events in 2013. Just 18 months old, it could rival established races such as Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, and Spartan Race with a projected 500,000 participants.

Though obstacle racing is the fastest-growing category in endurance sports, Dirty Girl is an untimed, non-competitive event that is more a bonding experience for women of all ages, body types, and fitness levels. Many participants have a connection to breast cancer – the National Breast Cancer Foundation is Dirty Girl’s official charity – and conquer the mud in honor of a loved one or because they’ve dealt with the disease themselves.

The Wisconsin-based Dirty Girl was founded in August 2011 by a group of fitness industry veterans, including Chris McIntosh, a former NFL player. They had attended other obstacle events and noticed a similar demographic – young, mostly male, type-A personalities – and figured there was a market for a less competitive, all-women’s event.

DirtyGirl3“They figured ‘what about everyone else?’” says Jenna Mueller, who serves as Dirty Girl’s “global ambassador” and spokeswoman. “What about the mom that just had her third child, the sisters and the co-workers.”

The race started with three venues for 2011: Wisconsin, Colorado and New York. Last year, it expanded to 16 events. For 2013, there will be 60 Dirty Girls scattered around the United States, with 6,000 to 8,000 participants expected at each. Dirty Girl expects to contribute $1.5 million to the National Breast Cancer Foundation in 2013, up from $250,000 last year.

With just 11 to 12 obstacles scattered over a 5K course, Dirty Girl is one of the shorter events with the least amount of obstacles. One unique twist is that each obstacle has varying degrees of difficulty. There usually are two options to complete an obstacle. Women also can choose to skip a challenge, walking around it.

Women can enter Dirty Girl as individuals or as part of a team. Costumes are encouraged – tutus and pink shirts are popular – and double entendre team names such as Bring on the PMS and Breast Friends are typical. Obstacles include hanging tires, water pits, wall climbs, tunnel crawls, mud hills, and several other memorable challenges tailor-made for muddy Facebook photos.

Mueller, who as spokeswoman attends many Dirty Girl events, says the company’s goal is to make events fun and enjoyable. As women cross the finish line, “they’re laughing, they’re crying, they’re cheering,” she says.


Talking OCR with Obstacle Racing Magazine Editor Matt B. Davis

By Pete Williams

Matt B. Davis

Matt B. Davis

It was only a matter of time before someone created a magazine devoted to the booming sport of obstacle racing. An Australian company has done just that and enlisted Matt B. Davis to serve as U.S.-based editor.

Davis, who took up the sport in 2011 and runs the popular Matt B. Davis Runs podcast, joined us this morning to talk all things obstacle race related on our “Fitness Buff Show,” which is the radio companion to ObstacleFit.com. The show, which debuted on BTR in 2008, now focuses mostly on obstacle race training. Visit our archives for shows featuring interviews with Spartan Race founder Joe Desena, Muddy Buddy’s Bob Babbitt, Death Race participants, and many more.

Visit The Fitness Buff Show:



Warrior Goes Long with Iron Warrior Dash (Dec. 20, 2012)

By Pete Williams

WarriorDashESF2(Published Dec. 20, 2012) – Warrior Dash, the first obstacle mud run to attract more than 10,000 participants to a single event, announced today a longer version of its popular entry-level 5K race. The move comes at a time when more athletes are shifting to Spartan Race, Tough Mudder and longer, more challenging obstacle events.

Touted as the “most intense obstacle race,” Iron Warrior Dash will debut March 13 in Smithville, Texas, which is between Houston, Austin, and San Antonio, and feature 26 obstacles spread over a course of “15 to 20 miles of ruthless terrain and best-in-class obstacles,” though the three announced events range from 15 to 15.6 miles.

The two other races will take place April 13 in Douglasville, Ga. (near Atlanta) and on Sept. 21 in Michigan. Though there are no Florida locations, a press release issued today promised additional venues to be announced in the spring. The April 13 event could steal some thunder from the Savage Race, which takes place the same day at Little Everglades Ranch, just north of Tampa in Pasco County.

In July of 2009, Chicago entrepreneur Joe Reynolds, then 29, debuted Warrior Dash, a 3-mile muddy obstacle race and raucous post-race party, giving finishers one free beer and a fuzzy viking hat that looked like something Fred Flintstone might wear.

WarriorDash2012Warrior Dash was an outgrowth of the Great Urban Race series Reynolds had created two years earlier after watching an episode of “The Amazing Race.” Warrior Dash has scaled more quickly and this year attracted more than 500,000 participants to 50 events in the United States, Canada, and Australia, accounting for most of the $65 million in revenue that Reynolds’ Red Frog Events will generate from entry fees and sponsor deals with Miller Coors, Reebok, and Monster Energy.

Though Warrior Dash, which returns to Lake Wales, Fla., on Feb. 2, is one of the shorter and easier obstacle races, it attracts an equal number of men and women, with an average age of 30. Most races, including Tough Mudder and Spartan Race, tilt 70 to 80 percent male.

“Being an attainable goal opens up us up to a very wide demographic,” Munirah McNeely, Warrior Dash’s chief innovation officer, told SportsBusiness Journal recently.  “It’s something for young people to do with friends other than just hanging out or going to a concert.”

Warrior Dash debuted eight months before Tough Mudder and 10 months before Spartan Race. Warrior is known for its smooth operations but has seen attendance at some events drop off this year as many obstacle racers seek greater challenges than the modest 5K Warrior Dash.

Tough Mudder, though plagued with traffic issues this fall at events in Maryland and here in Florida, has duplicated Warrior’s lively post-race party scene while providing a more challenging course of 10 to 12 miles, mocking Warrior Dash with a sign at the 3-mile mark reading “Warrior Dash Finish Line.”

WarriorDashGroupAt 15 to 15.6 miles, Iron Warrior will be comparable in distance to Tough Mudder and the Spartan Beast, the 15-mile version of Spartan Race. Entry fees, which range from $105 to $205, are similar to the other events.

Obstacle races have soared in popularity over the last 18 months, with dozens of new events created around the country, most at the entry-level 3-to-5 mile distance to attract the most participants. Since many of those people tend to be one-and-done, bucket-list, casual athletes who do it for the novelty, we feel the longer-term play is at the greater distance as obstacle racing develops into more of a competitive sport.

We’re guessing Warrior Dash, with its experience, bankroll, and legions of Millennial-aged employees who tirelessly work events, has the power to take on Tough Mudder and Spartan at the longer distance.

We’re also curious to see if the World Triathlon Corp., which always is aggressive in protecting its Ironman brand, will go after Red Frog for using Iron Warrior. WTC only has the trademark on Ironman as it pertains to triathlon, but always is aggressive pursuing anyone using Iron in the title of an endurance event.

Of course, that’s usually when a new promoter enters the game. It will be interesting to see if WTC is willing to take on someone its own size.

Then again, given the struggles of WTC this year and the success of Warrior Dash, Red Frog might have leaped over Ironman in terms of size.

(Read our review of the 2012 Warrior Dash at Lake Wales, Fla.)

Tough Mudder Changes Florida Venue Again (June 14, 2012)

By Pete Williams

(Published June 14, 2012) – Tough Mudder has staged just one race in Florida. But the popular obstacle race series on Thursday switched venues for its Tampa area event for a second time.

An athlete tackles Tough Mudder near Tampa last year

An athlete tackles Tough Mudder near Tampa last year

Tough Mudder sent an email to athletes registered for its Tampa race informing them that the Dec. 1-2 event, scheduled for Dirty Foot Adventures in Fort Meade, instead will be held at the Hi Hat Ranch in Sarasota.

Dirty Foot Adventures “wasn’t meeting Tough Mudder standards,” the release said. “It was too far from the western Florida coast and wasn’t able to support our new obstacles. At TMHQ (Tough Mudder headquarters), we’re really stepping up our game and designing some outrageously badass courses. To achieve this in Florida, we made the call to upgrade to Hi Hat Ranch in order to bring you:

– A longer and more interesting course

– A bigger post party area so you’ll have enough room to enjoy your free beer

– Easier access – just a few miles off Interstate 75.”

Geno Stopowenko, the marketing director for Dirty Foot Adventures, took issue with Tough Mudder’s announcement. According to Stopowenko, the move was made because Polk County refused to issue a permit for an event the size of Tough Mudder, which can attract up to 20,000 athletes over a weekend.

“Our location is certainly big enough and up to the standards of a Tough Mudder event,” Stopowenko said. “But Polk County would not issue a permit.”

Athletes navigate the watermelon crawl at last weekend’s Dirty Foot Adventure Run in Fort Meade.

Athletes navigate the watermelon crawl at last weekend’s Dirty Foot Adventure Run in Fort Meade.

Chandra Frederick, the director of Polk County’s land development division, said the application for a special use permit for Tough Mudder was denied because of concerns over noise and traffic. A permit was issued to Dirty Foot to host its own event, which took place last weekend when 869 athletes completed the inaugural Dirty Foot Adventure Run. That permit allowed for up to 2,000 athletes.

“We didn’t think the number of people that come to a Tough Mudder event was compatible with the area,” Frederick said. “There were lots of concerns with noise and traffic that would impact the neighbors. When you’re not used to an influx of 10,000 people, that becomes a nuisance.”

Stopowenko said he applied in March for permits to host both Tough Mudder and the Dirty Foot Adventure Run. He said he informed Tough Mudder shortly thereafter when that permit was denied, but Tough Mudder continued to market the event as taking place in Fort Meade until Thursday.

Tough Mudder spokesperson Jane Di Leo was not immediately available for comment on the Tough Mudder move to Sarasota, which is slightly closer to much of the Tampa Bay area than Fort Meade.

Tough Mudder debuted in Florida to rave reviews last December at Little Everglades Ranch in Pasco County, just north of Tampa. But instead of returning to that venue, Tough Mudder announced in February that it was moving the event it bills as its “Tampa” race to Fort Meade, which is 60 miles southeast of Tampa.

toughmudderlogoDi Leo said at the time that one attraction of Dirty Foot Adventures was its central location, just 60 miles from Tampa or Bradenton and 70 from Orlando or Sarasota. The sprawling facility is used for dirt bike and ATV racing. After last weekend’s inaugural Dirty Foot Adventure Run, Stopowenko announced a second race for Sept. 8.

Little Everglades Ranch, which hosted the first Florida Tough Mudder, on Oct. 20 will host the Savage Race, which will move there after staging two events in the last 10 months in Clermont.

Tough Mudder has announced dates but not specific locations for three 2013 events in Florida: Miami (Feb. 16-17), Jacksonville (May 18-19), and Tampa (Nov. 2-3).

Ragin’ Warrior: Mud Runs Go Rambo (Feb. 19, 2012)

By Pete Williams

(Published Feb. 19, 2012) – Donny Jones admires the success that obstacle races such as Tough Mudder and Spartan Race have enjoyed attracting athletes for a couple hours of muddy strength and endurance tests.

RaginWarriorBut the creator of the Ragin’ Warrior, which takes place at Florida Horse Park in Ocala on March 3, thinks the category could use more noise, some pyrotechnics, and perhaps even a little gunfire.

Athletes navigating the 11.5-mile Ragin’ Warrior course might feel like they’re in a warzone says Jones, who wants them to get at least a small taste of what it’s like to deal with the mental and physical stresses of combat. He consulted with former U.S. Special Forces personnel to create a course that will include guys dressed as drill sergeants barking orders, smoke grenades going off, and “explosions that feel real as hell.”

“There’s going to be dust and mud flying everywhere and you’re going to have to keep calm and collected while all of this is going on around you,” Jones says. “You’re going to have deal with 24 obstacles, most of which won’t be similar to anything that’s been done by Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, or anyone else.”

Most mud runs require athletes to go under barbwire. For Ragin’ Warrior’s “Shock and Awe,” athletes must crawl under electrified barbwire while a 50-caliber machine gun fires compressed air overhead.

“It’s just compressed air, but it sounds like a 50 caliber firing 350 rounds a minute,” Jones says.

Other obstacles include “Icy Burrows,” where athletes must crawl through large metal culverts partially buried in ice water, and “Mount Ragin’,” two metal cargo containers stacked to form a 17-foot obstacle athletes must climb with ropes.

RaginWarrior6The military theme continues after the race, when athletes can test their target skills with paintball guns. The Ragin’ Warrior has partnered with the Lone Survivor Foundation as its official charity. Post-race will include bands, beer, and vendors selling food.

The Ragin’ Warrior was moved from its Jan. 28 date after the original race site was sold. Now the event is in the middle of a busy Florida obstacle race calendar that includes Spartan Race (Miami, Feb. 25-26) and Savage Race (Clermont, March 10).

“Our goal is to not be a regular mud run,” Jones says. “We want to provide a challenge that’s as much mental as it is physical.

(Editor’s Note: Ragin’ Warrior failed to deliver on many of its promises and folded after just one event. See race review under Race Recaps.)

An Interview with Joe DeSena, Spartan Race Founder (Feb. 15, 2012)

Going over the wall at Spartan Race Carolinas. (Photo by Brent Doscher - Nuvision Action Image)

Going over the wall at Spartan Race Carolinas. (Photo by Brent Doscher – Nuvision Action Image)

By Pete Williams

(Published Feb. 15, 2012) – We spoke this morning with Joe DeSena, founder of the infamous Spartan Death Race and the Spartan Race series, which quickly have become recognized as the toughest races in endurance sports – perhaps even more so than Tough Mudder.

You can listen to that Fitness Buff Show interview HERE. Some highlights:

— DeSena does not like the term mud runs, preferring “obstacle racing,” believing the competition is more about overcoming obstacles than dealing with mud.

SpartanRaceLogo— Though his company plans to attract more than 350,000 competitors to 41 events this year, including several overseas, he bristles at the idea of people entering huge teams of athletes, some of which are not prepared for the rigors of the race.

— More than 10,000 people applied to be on “Unbreakable,” the upcoming reality show that will pit 100 athletes in seven days of Death Race-like competition in Vermont this spring.


Ragin’ Warrior’s Learning Experience (March 3, 2012)

Ragin' ice plunge: Twice as long, half as cold

Ragin’ ice plunge: Twice as long, half as cold

By Pete Williams

OCALA, Fla. – (Published March 3, 2012) -In the last two years, Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, and Spartan Race each have emerged as $40 million businesses, each weekend drawing between 10,000 and 20,000 athletes willing to pay between $100 and up to race, along with $10 parking fees and additional charges for post-race food.

It’s a business model with a high profit margin. Not surprisingly, numerous imitators have sprung up around the country.

Think you can put on an obstacle race? You might want to talk to Donny Jones.

Good thing he didn't get impaled off the side

Good thing he didn’t get impaled off the side

Jones is the race director of the Ragin’ Warrior Challenge, which attracted just 96 athletes this morning to the Florida Horse Park. Half of those bought discounted entries via Groupon. Judging by the reviews posted on the race’s Facebook page, a number still felt they overpaid.

Jones admits he didn’t do as thorough a job of planning as he would have liked and didn’t get nearly enough volunteers to show. It didn’t help that his team was not allowed to start setting up obstacles until Wednesday. As a result, the course wasn’t well marked and many athletes ended up running just 6.5 miles of the 10.8-mile course, thus missing five obstacles and all of the water stops.

“I dropped the ball and have no excuses,” Jones said. “Our prep time wasn’t long enough. There were a lot of things we planned on that we couldn’t do. I’m embarrassed at what happened and I want people to know I didn’t just throw this together to make money. I  lost $6,500 on this and I hope this doesn’t kill my business.”

The Ragin’ Warrior was hyped as the toughest obstacle race on the planet, the one that would make Tough Mudder and Spartan Race look like fun runs. Jones planned to create a military-style obstacle course with challenges never before seen in the category.

The Ragin’ Warrior showed promise. Less than 100 yards from the start, Jones set up a double version of Tough Mudder’s notorious Chernobyl Jacuzzi: a pair of 30-yard dumpsters lined back. Unfortunately, only half the expected ice showed up and the plunge wasn’t very cold. (Some athletes got in after the race to cool off.)

After the ice plunge, athletes took a right turn into the woods and ran another 100 yards before reaching a dead end. Jones said it was marked with a U-Turn, but apparently not clearly enough. Either way, it set the tone for a course that would leave athletes guessing through most of the morning. (I didn’t run myself, having gotten injured last week at the Spartan Race in Miami, but was able to follow the race via golf cart.)

At one point, athletes dealt with “Shock and Awe,” crawling under barbwire while a 50-caliber machine gun fired compressed air overhead. Smoke grenades went off and someone even sprayed a hose for good measure. Jones had hoped to stage “Mount Ragin’,” two metal cargo containers stacked to form a 17-foot obstacle athletes must climb with ropes, but that was not allowed for insurance reasons.

Another “Barrel Bridge” obstacle required athletes to walk across quickly like in lumberjack competitions, but most misinterpreted it and just belly-flopped across. “The goal was to have a volunteer at each of those,” Jones said.

Jones said the Florida Horse Park would not let him set up obstacles until several days before, which explains why many of the obstacles were steeplechase-like challenges horses deal with during the property’s many equestrian events. The facilities manager told anyone who would listen that he has a major event coming up next month and was concerned about obstacles leaving holes that big-money horses might step in.

Jones has pledged on his Facebook page to give free entries and gas cards to Florida participants to his upcoming Georgia race, tentatively scheduled for May 26, though he says he could push it back to make sure he gets everything right.

“Next time, I’ll have it set up two weeks in advance and will let anyone who wants to see it beforehand,” Jones says. “It made me sick to my stomach to see what happened today and I know you don’t always get a second chance. The last thing you want to do is lead people on and not live up to the hype. I know I let 96 people down and I’m determined to give them the ultimate obstacle experience next time.”

One of Ragin' Warrior's few obstacles (Editor's note: Ragin' Warrior folded shortly after this race.)

One of Ragin’ Warrior’s few obstacles (Editor’s note: Ragin’ Warrior folded shortly after this race.)

Here’s hoping it works, though athletes show little patience for subpar obstacle races, which as a group charge big money when compared to half-marathons and triathlons.

Last year the Iron Crusader debuted in Fort Meade but will not be back. The Champions Mud Bash canceled a proposed second race and does not have one scheduled for 2012. The Florida Dirty Duo, which debuted in 2006, canceled its race last year. This year, Muddy Buddy pulled its two races out of Florida, though it would have returned to Disney’s Wide World of Sports had Disney not banned outside promoters from putting on endurance events there.

Rock on Adventures (Highlander) and Savage Race have built some traction in the last year. But we’re not seeing any other Florida-based obstacle race promoters with staying power just yet.

Maybe one will get a shot at using the Florida Horse Park, a well-manicured, 500-acre slice of Old Florida ideal for obstacle racing, though it’s tough to imagine it wanting to host another event after today. One thing Jones and the facilities manager seemed to agree on is that park officials aren’t too excited to host obstacle racing.

Still, it’s listed as the site for Hero Rush, a firefighter-themed obstacle race series, on Nov. 3.