Overview BTC Events
This may sound a little strange, so I'll say it right at the beginning – even though all three Bermuda Triple Challenge races are challenging, exciting, fun & beautiful, they are only 50% of the whole experience. While I'll do my best to convey all our adventures from the weekend below, for those not interested in a long article I'll give you a quick synopsis:
- Bermuda is a gorgeous island with amazing beaches… duh.
- The island is very, very clean, locals are extremely welcoming, and Bermudians are very proud of and eager to share their island.
- Bermuda is not in the Caribbean.
- Made up of 18 islands, there's adventure to be found just about everywhere on this sapphire gem in the North Atlantic Ocean.
- Even with participating in all three events, there is plenty of time for excursions around the island.
- All 3 Bermuda Triple Challenge events are dramatically different in length, location, terrain, vibe, and give athletes the feeling that they've touched and experienced (challenged & conquered) all of Bermuda. (See complete recap of each event below)
- Friday Night's Argus Urban Foot Race is roughly 2 miles long with well over a dozen different obstacles and nearly as many physical challenges packed into a city-style course complete with climbing over & through cars, scaling a city bus, rope climb, tire flips, and so much more. Run through the streets of St. George island, up & down the City Hall steps, through neighborhoods, parks, shops, and even right smack in the middle of an outside cafe. The vibe is fun, the challenge level is hard, and the setting is all around the town, starting & ending in the Town Hall square.
- Saturday's Sun Life Island Challenge consists of 2 3.7 mile loops of hilly trails, runs on the sand and water of Elbow & Middle Beach, obstacles and challenges hidden around every corner from physical challenges of a sandbag, concrete block, or water shuttles on sand to a 10′ wall in a park, A frame walls on a beach, or a long slip & slide from the trails down to the beach. Each loop finishes up with a run through the 10-obstacle Bermuda Royal Regiment Challenge Course. The setting is beach & trails, the vibe is all about the natural beauty, and the challenges are the sand, obstacles, and challenge course.
- On Sunday, the Chubb Royal Challenge takes on a very aquatic vibe, fully contained to the Royal Naval Dockyards and using pretty much every square inch of it over the 3 mile course. While there are penalty options to skip the water, it's a huge part of the day's challenges and fun. The course takes athletes in & out of the water several times with a swim, tarzan swing, rope traverse, inflatable floating obstacles, and a high jump (probably about 30′) from a cargo container into the crystal clear waters around the dock. When on the land, the scenery is no less amazing as you start in a historic fort, run through an abandoned prison, up & around the same fort, through a bit of the wilds, and more. The vibe is all about getting wet, setting is running around & through historic buildings, and wrapping the weekend up in style. The challenges aren't as tough as Friday, and the course isn't as long as Saturday, Sunday hits the sweet spot of both, especially after a weekend of adventures.
Great News: You can register NOW for 2019's Bermuda Triple Challenge and save 35% with code MRG35. The events take place March 15-17 2019. Hurry, this offer ends on April 30!
Simmons' Sentiment: Suffer in Style
If I have to go anywhere and “suffer” through an event, why not choose somewhere new, beautiful, friendly, and surrounded by amazing scenery?
American pop culture/sports personality Bill Simmons was a writer for ESPN the same time I was there, and during those “Sports Guy” days became well known for many things, credited for The Ewing Theory, and most notably The Manning Face. He spoke often of his Massachusetts upbringing, and aside from his successes in many other areas of sports (Grantland, The Ringer) and pop culture (Jimmy Kimmel Live) programming, a throw-away line from one of Simmons' 2500 ESPN Page 2 articles (that despite an hour of googling I still can't find in order to properly quote) on choosing a college sticks with me the most. After visiting Arizona State University (ASU), a sprawling, sun-drenched campus rimmed with great bars, a legendary party atmosphere, and no shortage of minimally-clad coeds enjoying the benefits of said sun and parties, Simmons quipped something along the lines of (and I'm paraphrasing here) “How would anyone attend a Boston University in a world where an ASU exists?” Basically, if you're going to suffer through college, why not do it somewhere beautiful and surrounded by adventure?
Adventures in Paradise
For me, traveling to an event – whether it be a marathon, OCR, or even a wedding – should be run through the same risk/reward analysis: If I have to go anywhere and “suffer” through an event, why not choose somewhere new, beautiful, friendly, and surrounded by amazing scenery?
At first glance Bermuda Triple Challenge checked many of these boxes off for me, enough so that Kristen and I packed up the entire family (including my parents to hang out with Vivi) and headed about 3000 miles east to a little gem in the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by azure seas to take on a triad of events over a long weekend. Even though Mud Run Guide had plenty of coverage on BTC with Margaret attending & documenting the fun/challenge last year as well as Valerie Hope's great BTC recap/review, I only had a passing idea of what the weekend would entail, and it was way more than I anticipated – BTC is truly the ultimate racecation in paradise!
Arriving on the Isle
BTC sounds like a fun trip to a Caribbean island, right? Only it's not anywhere near there. Sure, it's an island off the coast of North America, but it has nearly as much in common with the Caribbean as Martha's Vineyard does. Bermuda is comprised of 181 islands and located in the North Atlantic Ocean, it's hundreds of miles closer to Martha's Vineyard (706 miles) than Bahamas (916 miles) – this was all a complete surprise to me and many Facebook friends asking “How was your trip to the Bahamas?”
While there are direct flights from many locations across the USA, UK, and other international airports, the majority of travelers we met during the weekend flew in from New York, Boston, Atlanta, or Miami. L.F. Wade International Airport is a small, pleasant airport with a good sized duty free shop, couple of restaurants & snack bars. One thing you won't find in the airport or anywhere else on Bermuda is a franchise/chain of any kind – they are expressly forbidden although a KFC opened before the Prohibited Restaurant Act was implemented in 1977 and is still allowed to operate. While the United States operated a military base on Bermuda a wildly popular McDonald's was opened and during ONE DAY in 1991 10% of the entire island's population dined there. Really. So, if you're looking for a Subway or Marriott, you're out of luck; when you come to Bermuda, you're going to experience Bermudian dining, transportation, and accommodations.
Speaking of transportation, while you can rent a scooter, you can't rent an automobile. Bermuda's roads – all 6 of them – are narrow, windy, and only one lane in each direction. On top of that, they drive on the “English” side of the road, so it's actually another reason for Americans to stay off the roads and hop in a cab or use “Hitch” the Bermudian version of Uber. Our crew enjoyed the fabulous accommodations at The Fairmont Southampton, perched atop the highest point on the island with absolutely amazing views in every direction, which also offered a convenient pickup for shuttle busses and cabs all over the island.
Hitch a Cab, Get a Tour
Bermudians are very proud of their island in a very secure way; they are not braggadocious at all or competitive with or denigrating to other islands, they just truly appreciate everything to do with their way of life and it shows during any cab ride. Every driver we had throughout the weekend – you will cover the entire island during BTC, so you will literally see the entire island – took on the role of tour guide and pointed out everything from the Guinness Book of World Record-holding Smallest Drawbridge to the former Parliament building, the house they grew up in, high school, or their favorite cliff-jumping spot.
Bermudian pride shows in everything the residents do; the island is incredibly clean and everyone I interacted with was genuinely pleasant and welcoming. Completely absent was the fake “let me put on a syrupy ‘friendly local' act while trying to sell you something” experience I've had on other vacations, and I never once felt like any aspect of Bermuda was overly touristy, the interaction with locals – including the race staff and volunteers – was natural and not forced at all.
Stop Saying “Wow”
“Wow” will already be overused by the time you land, simply viewing the sapphire waters on approach is enough to make any traveler a bit giddy and frankly you'll need a new word or phrase to describe the beauty as you head out over the causeway connecting the airport to the main island.
“Holy shit” was my go-to all weekend, with greater emphasis on the oooo in “hoooooly” with the escalating beauty of each new picturesque cove we ran through during Saturday's event. When a race course includes several different wedding spots that are known for their otherworldly beauty, you know you're in OCR paradise.
View From the Top
The Fairmont Southampton is the Official Hotel of Bermuda Triple Challenge, and it exudes every possible ounce of Bermuda's charm; atop the highest point on the island and looking out over Gibbs Hill Lighthouse you're surrounded by 8 different restaurants, luxurious accommodations, pools, hot tubs, and a complimentary shuttle down the hill to the Beach Club nestled in a gorgeous, private alcove. The Beach Club is also just steps away from the Thursday night welcome party & bonfire at the Rum Bum bar right on Horseshoe Bay… which we frequented multiple times throughout the weekend. The Fairmont Southampton also extended a BTC rate of $189/night which is a considerable savings from the standard fees, and the included continental breakfast in the dining hall became the de facto meeting spot for athletes each morning, be sure to ask for a coffee and a couple bananas to go for the shuttle trip on Saturday & Sunday.
The Fairmont is also situated conveniently near the center of the island and close to Saturday's event which starts and ends at the Royal Bermuda Regiment less than 2 miles up the road. Since the streets are narrow and lacking sidewalks, the provided shuttle is still a great idea to get to Saturday's Island Challenge, and it was easy enough for us to walk back along the beach to the Rum Bum for a swizzle or two after the race.
Friday and Sunday's events take place at opposite tips of the island, St. George Island and the Royal Naval Dockyard, respectively. For each, the provided shuttle to each event start line was extremely convenient to get us there on-time as travel is somewhat slow on the island. While Saturday was only a few minutes drive time, Friday and Sunday were a 45-55 minute commute. After each event, we were responsible for our own return transportation and easily used Hitch to get back to the hotel after walking around and experiencing each area. Friday's event finished shortly after dinnertime, and the event itself even ran through one of the nearby cafes where athletes congregated afterwards. We hung out for a bit and celebrated completing our first leg of the challenge with some frozen yogurt while we waited for our driver.
Fort, Lighthouse, Lunch, & Cliff-Jumping
Since Friday's race starts at 7:00 pm, we had all day to explore Bermuda, and the Hidden Gems Tour was just the ticket. The 5 hour tour was incredibly informational and interactive, walking through Fort Scaur, climbing the steps of Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, a nature hike around Spittal Pond for lunch atop an oceanside cliff where breaching whales are often spotted, although we struck out on whale watching, the chance to experience a couple miles of hiking was a good warm-up for that evening's event.
Our ‘cool-down' was next, cliff diving from 15-30 feet and swimming through a subterranean cave at Admiralty House Park. The tour wrapped up and dropped us back at the Fairmont a couple hours before the shuttle arrived to bring us to the Urban Foot Race, so there was very little downtime before we were off & running.
Three Extremely Unique Events
Ok, I know I'm almost 1600 words into this article and I haven't mentioned a single obstacle yet – and that is absolutely on purpose. On the flight home it (finally) hit me the obstacles and exercises were secondary to the real “event” of experiencing Bermuda. Jason, Reid, Glenn, and James blended the yin of the races with the yang of the island, and it created the perfect blend of vacation and race where aside from the soreness and a couple bruises, you can barely tell where one begins and the other ends.
If you read only one line from this recap, please let it be this:
“The three events of Bermuda Triple Challenge are so dramatically different from each other and encompass so much of Bermuda into every single element that you feel as if you've touched and experienced the entire island. Once the weekend is over, you've interacted with so much of the island, you no longer feel like a traveler just visiting a destination, but more of an adventurer who captured the essence of the wild untamed beauty of Bermuda's nature, conquered all the obstacles nestled into the neighborhoods of downtown St. George, and bested the challenges waiting around every turn in the Royal Naval Dockyard. You'll return home with a satisfyingly complete picture of Bermuda, which makes you want to return even more.”
There's a strong reason the return rate is extremely high among athletes who pencil this trip into their calendar each year and plan for it, akin to OCR World Championships. Did I mention BTC is an OCRWC qualifier?
You may be asking “So, there's three OCRs on an island, how can they be so dramatically different?” Why I'll describe my experiences below, don't just take my word for it, check out Margaret's and Valerie's coverage from 2017.
Event #1: Argus Urban Foot Race
Friday night, 7:00pm start, Town Hall, St. George Island
The Argus Urban Foot Race kicks off at night, so you have all day Friday to explore the island, hop off cliffs, drink swizzles, and all that stuff which I covered above and still grab a shuttle from Fairmont Southampton to the Town Hall on St. George Island. The pre-race vibe is unique as the check-in is at the center of the town square on a Friday night with residents dining & shopping with athletes buzzing about. The 1.9 mile Argus Urban Foot Race is distinctly urban as the course takes you from the pier through the town square, up & down St. George streets, alleys, parks, stairs and through someone's “living room” before a final gauntlet of obstacles on the wharf before returning you through the middle of a cafe, down a tight town street lined with cheering locals and over a bus on to the finish line. If this was all the race entailed, it would have been awesome… but Reid, Jason, Glenn, and James had another surprise – workout stations strategically located throughout the course designed to spike your heart rate and force out a few unintentional (or intentional, in my case) 4-letter words. The calisthenics included sandbag lunges, sit-ups, squat jumps, superman burpees, and a few more surprises that helped to even the field out a bit.
Overview: Argus Urban Foot Race is a short, intense event with some exciting challenges & obstacles, invigorating exercises, and an atmosphere like none other in an OCR with cheering locals and wild twists & turns through streets, alleys, and even a cafe.
Obstacles: Although the course is less than 2 miles, there were well over 20 obstacles, challenges, and workout stations around every corner to keep you on your toes and absolutely keep your HR pegged into the red zone. The 10-athlete staggered start was awesome for keeping the backups to a minimal (there were absolutely none all weekend for me) while allowing the race to have an intimate feel right from the start; there were only 9 other competitors sprinting out of the gate to the circular tire drag, and even as you spread out near the gauntlet on the wharf at the end, there were only a dozen or so competitors around you at any given time.
Obstacle Highlights: The tire drag was an awesome way to start the race, the 20 yard sprint to snag a rope before another competitor kicked the event off with a bit of strategy. Running through the town square, up & down the Town Hall steps and through all of the alleys was an absolute blast and the residents were extremely friendly the entire time while we literally ran around & through downtops shops & cafes. Each of the workout stations were balanced well, and hit you right as your heart rate was already maxed out. I really enjoyed the wharf gauntlet with the rope climb, tire drag, cargo container scale… but the tire flip was brutal with an absolutely massive doughnut of rubber nightmares off a bulldozer! Climbing over and through cars and scaling a cargo net over a city bus were awesome, as was the “mini Destroyer” before you finished back in the middle of the town square.
Event #2: Sun Life Financial Island Challenge
Saturday morning, 8:40am start, Royal Bermuda Regiment
After a few swizzles post-race on Friday night the 8:40am start only a couple miles away from the hotel was a nice touch; we were able to roll out of bed and fuel up at the continental breakfast before hopping a shuttle to the Royal Bermuda Regiment to check in for the Sun Life Financial Island Challenge. While friday night's event was distinctly urban, the Island Challenge lived up to its name running athletes through, over, & under all of the terrain Bermuda has to offer. The only pavement in the race was the start & finish at the regiment, which also featured a 10-obstacle gauntlet course at the end of each of the 2 laps. Once you exited the regiment, the course offered all of the wilds of Bermuda from banyan trees, rocks and steep climbs, beautiful cliffside trails, a jungle slip & slide, and plenty of beach running (and carrying, crawling, climbing) as well as a long run/shuffle in waist-deep crystal clear waters.
The obstacles and challenges were spread judiciously throughout the 3.7 mile course, with the competitive wave making 2 loops. While there were no workout areas like Friday's event, there were plenty of carries (multiple sandbags, cinder blocks, water buckets) to break up all of the running between obstacles.
Overview: The Island Challenge balanced the majestic beauty of the setting and exciting trail runs with hidden challenges around each corner. If this were the only event of the weekend, I sincerely feel every traveler would've gotten their money's worth as the experience was immersive and interactive – you end the race with a feeling that you've touched all the wilds of Bermuda. Each 3.7 mile loop was just long enough and featured plenty of challenges to exist as a great OCR by itself, the second lap was an awesome opportunity to put the hammer down once you know the layout or take another lap to take in all of the scenery you missed. True story, while running with MRG co-founder Chris Lewis, he and I both missed one of the most spectacular coves during the first lap, so it's possible!
Obstacles: Aside from the Royal Bermuda Regiment challenge course awaiting athletes at the end of each lap, the majority of the course consisted of natural trails with climbs and descents, and whenever possible the BTC team threw an element in to switch gears. There were a couple different sandbag carries; an uphill one during a “jungle” section, and a long slog along a vast expanse of beach. If you think running with a sandbag is tough, try doing it on powdery soft sand! The water bucket shuttle was a great twist, the holes in the bucket meant you had to move quickly in order to carry enough water to fill your target. A collection of walls including a set of 10′ tall ones appeared out of nowhere, and the A frame wall on the beach was pretty difficult after a half mile sandbag carry! The Royal Bermuda Regiment challenge course wasn't full of difficult obstacles to complete, but they surely did a great job of slowing you down they neared the finish of laps 1 & 2.
Event #3: Chubb Royal Challenge
Sunday morning, 9:40am start, Royal Naval Dockyards
Of all three events, the Chubb Royal Challenge was the most unique event of the weekend by far, and also one of the most exciting and innovative OCRs I've ever done. You could potentially compare Friday's Argus Urban Foot Race to an OCR/Crossfit event similar to Tough Mudder X, and Saturday's event was not entirely different than a standard OCR – albeit with the most beautiful possible setting. Sunday's Chubb Royal Challenge was an action-packed 5k obstacle race with a distinctly marine feel – lots of water, including 4 swimming sections (noodles were provided for those uncomfortable with the water, as well as an running/burpee option to skip the swims) and a wild run through an abandoned prison, a long log carry around a historic fort, and even a run (and putt) through a mini golf course before exiting through the 19th hole bar. (Note: Drinks may actually be an option next year mid-race!)
Overview: The challenges were fast & furious, and the 3 mile course was so exciting it felt as if it was over too quickly. Most of the running sections were just to move from one setting to another: From the dockyard to the edge of the dock (and into the ocean for a 300 yard swim), to & through the prison, around the fort, through the play zone, back to the docks for a Tarzan swing, a huuuge rope traverse, and eventually a cargo container jump about 30′ into the water for the final swim of the day. The course was packed with activities, and as I'm writing this I'm really looking forward to taking this on again next year, and maybe I can convince them to adding a second lap option!
Obstacles: The water itself was probably the biggest obstacle, as it was cold and a little choppy with a storm rolling in. Once you were in the water for a couple seconds, it really wasn't that bad at all, and although I'm a wimp in the cold and prone to shivering, the high energy of the up-tempo event kept me nice & warm, although you're in & out of the water repeatedly. Running through the abandoned prison was awesome, and I loved the tarzan swing (Note: Never let the rope go between or wrap around your legs on a tarzan swing or you'll get rope burn on the way down!) but my favorite part was the enormous rope traverse… or maybe the cargo container jump. Who cares, they were both exciting! The rope traverse was extremely challenging to climb up the 10-12′ wall at the far end and felt like a great achievement to complete it and run around the multitude of athletes doing penalty burpees.
Visual People, Rejoice: Here's a Map!
If you notice, the airport is right up near the Friday night event. I heard that a couple athletes flew in on Friday and went right to the event, but we took the Thursday flight and enjoyed the welcome BBQ & bonfire at the Rum Bum Bar.
2018 Wrap & Recap
The island is amazing and the events are totally legit. I'm sincerely impressed with how well everything went off, and blown away how different and exciting all 3 events were. Aside from flipping that big #@$* tire on Friday night, I'd love to start over and do it all over again this weekend… and the next one…
If you're looking for an exciting event where you can bring the family, enjoy a magnificent island with beautiful scenery, tons of adventure, and friendly locals you can't do any better than Bermuda Triple Challenge.
Add BTC to Your 2019 Calendar NOW!
The 2019 Bermuda Triple Challenge is scheduled for March 15-17, 2019 and is now open for registration, and you'll SAVE 35% with code MRG35!
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Where can I get a HQ copy of the ocean March? it’s one of the best photos of the weekend.