Superhero Scramble Miami 2014 (World Championship)

On Saturday, January 11, 2014, I completed my first ever Superhero Scramble. I'd been looking forward to doing a SHS for a few years now. I haven't done one before simply because the one in this area has always conflicted with the annual mission trip that I take with my students.

Superhero Scramble has recently come under some criticism for canceled races in the North and for alleged (I've always wanted to use that word) lack of payment for prize money and refunds. (Click here for Obstacle Racing Media's article, "Superhero Scramble Unmasked.")

The following is what I personally experienced:

The Scramble Gamble boasted the names of Hobie Call, Alec Blenis, and Brakken Kraker of Spartan Race fame. (I personally didn't recognize any of the elite women.) This was officially the final race of the 2013 race season and the culminating event of the Superhero points series. For more details on all of that, check out the Superhero Scramble's page here.

After I registered for the Scramble Gamble, the SHS organizers announced that Miami (this event) would be the first location to hold the Villain event (13+ miles and 30+ obstacles)--previously scheduled for Illinois. Although the longer distance was appealing to me, I had already paid extra to enter the Gamble and didn't want to pay an additional fee to do (what I assumed would be) an extra lap of a very flat with lots of running course.

Communication-- emails were sent that communicated details of the event. Organizers notified runners 2 days before the event that there would be 3 water stops on the course; that those running the Villain were required to have their own source of hydration, and that others were "STRONGLY" encouraged to bring their own hydration and nutrition. Information on parking (except no mention of the $10 fee), bag check, post race party and spectators was given. After the event, SHS responded on Facebook to complaints of a lack of water. They claimed that they had communicated the event was self-supported. However, they did NOT use the words self-supported. They STRONGLY recommended racers bring water. To me, there is a big difference in a race being self-supported and a race recommending participants bring water. 

Parking-- there was one way into the venue (Quiet Waters Park) and one exit. There appeared to be plenty of volunteers directing traffic. I was glad I arrived at the recommended one hour before heat time. I saw Facebook complaints that parking was backed up-- in fact, parking back up was a cause of the start time delays. Racing in the first wave ensured that parking wasn't a major factor for me.

Registration/Check In-- quick and effective. However, if you didn't follow the emailed instructions and come with your bib number, you had to look up your number on a non-alphabetized list of names and numbers. Packet pick-up was offered the evening before the race and the morning of. I paid the $5 for the bag check, which was a bit of an un-organized mess. After the race and after some minutes of rummaging through piles of bags, mine was retrieved safely.

Race Start-- according to the DJ, the race start was delayed by about 30 minutes due to parking issues. I didn't wear a watch, so I really don't know exactly how long the delay was. You Fit provided a warm-up that people mostly ignored. I always do my own warm up.

Obstacles and Course-- Overall, the course was about a 10k trail race sandwiched between a 5k obstacle course race. Really, the course was about what I expected-- hot and flat. I heard rumors and warnings of a long swim, but I wasn't quite prepared for the giant leap into water and the really long swim. Estimates were of 250 meters, but it felt more like 250 miles to this non-swimmer. I was extremely glad I took a life jacket and that there was a rope. Among the obstacles were walls to climb over, under, and through, rings (to "monkey bar" across), rope climb, cargo net climb, concrete block drag, sand bag carry, dirt ditches, slime pit, and the swim. There was a 20 burpee or 10 "super spin" penalty for each failed obstacle. I'm not sure that anyone besides me counted out or cared that I did my 2 sets of penalty burpees.

For the first time in an OCR, I wore a Camelback and was glad I did. I remember seeing 2 water stops, one of which we passed twice. I also ate 2 gels. I saw reports that they ran out of water, but that wasn't my experience. As a matter of fact, I didn't see anyone stop for water in the Scramble Gamble.

I saw many complaints on Facebook about "lame" obstacles. Well, I strongly disagree. I'm not sure what people were looking for. I would guess that they were put off by the super long run in the middle. It was brutal, especially given the heat. The only thing I was disappointed with was the "Mounds of Doom." There were piles of dirt in between empty trenches. It would've been much more challenging if those trenches were filled with water. However, being in South Florida with our sandy soil-- it would require tons of water to keep the trenches full. 

My biggest concern was the swim. I may have been in trouble had I not taken a life jacket. I've never used one in a race, but the water was fairly cold and slightly choppy. And very long compared to other OCR swims I've done. Given the recent tragedy from the Tough Mudder's Walk the Plank obstacle (read Outside Magazine's article here), I was surprised that the swim was so long. I don't know what emergency plans they had in place, but I was concerned for the people who would follow me on the course.

**I was told by a friend in later heats that the volunteers were encouraging people NOT to do the swim or to take the life jackets. For me, I hesitated at the top. For awhile. I don't recall anyone suggesting I take a penalty instead of the jump. But my brain was screaming at me that I would surely die if I jumped and my body was screaming back that I could really survive the leap, so I'm not entirely sure that the volunteers didn't try to persuade me to take a penalty.

The Finish-- I finished 7th female. 43rd overall, despite battling a cold and not doing many long runs to prepare. Cups of water were at the finish. Finisher medal and t-shirt both are dated 2013-- no mention of "World Championship." Free beer was offered. Wash off stations were 3 or 4 stations with several garden hoses connected, which took me a little while to find because they weren't visible from the finish line. Here I agree with the complaints of 2013 dated bling. SHS's response was that this was the 2013 World Championship event and that the t-shirts and medals were made specifically for this event; they weren't left overs. Fair enough, but then why not label them "2013 World Championship." I do feel that they were using left overs. 

Overall-- I WOULD do another Superhero Scramble again. However, I have a slightly different opinion of them than I did before. They experienced a huge rise in growth as OCRs began to grow in popularity, but I think they've got some work to do if they want to continue to have success. In some ways I think they've tried unsuccessfully to play with the BIG BOYS (by offering a point system, prize money, nation-wide racing, and varying distances). I would say to the SHS organizers that they need to take a step back, return to how they started and be true to themselves. They need to scale back, narrow their focus and just be the Superhero Scramble.


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