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Featured Review: Iron Farmer

Iron Farmer was a small event located in Phillipston, MA at the Red Apple Farm, put on by Fitness Concepts Health Club and Crossfit 696 out of Gardner, MA. It was an event advertised as a sprint distance that would be scattered with farm tough tasks and obstacles. Participants could choose to run timed competitive ($50 Early Bird / $60 after November 1st) or non-competitive ($35 Early Bird / $45 after November 1st). The competitive heat was timed and had prizes for the top 3 males and females.

Upon arrival, parking could be found on site at the orchard. After parking, it was a very short walk down to the barn where registration was set up. It was an easy, quick, in and out. I gave my name, got my bib, and was off to find some friends.

I will say, this event was unlike anything that I have participated to date. But it was a lot of fun! The competitive wave went off at 10:00 am and Non-Competitive followed fifteen minutes later.The course was 2.7 miles comprised of a 0.54 mile loop that athletes would repeat five times. Each lap brought the runner back to the start where we would have to complete one tire flip followed by another task or obstacle. After the first lap the task was an apple carry around a short loop. The second lap consisted of moving a square bale into a wheelbarrow, looping up around a row of trees, then back where we would return the bale to the pile. Any broken bales consisted of a burpee penalty (I must say, it appeared all hay bales survived!) The third lap was a bucket carry. Runners had to fill the bucket 3/4 full before carrying it another small loop before dumping it. On the fourth lap runners had to jump over large round bales. One could opt for burpees if they could not hurtle over the bales, followed by the final 0.54 mile loop. The snow left by Thursday night’s storm gave the added challenge of snow and mud.

Something key to note is that this event was not a typical OCR. It was more of an outdoor challenge. Any level could participate in this event and find success. There were all ages present and participating. This is an event that I would definitely recommend for beginners and families.

All participants received an Iron Farmer medal upon completion of the event.

Afterwards participants were invited to go back to the barn where the Red Apple Farm was hosting their Thanksgiving Harvest Festival. The Harvest Festival included plenty of food and drink options as well as crafting vendors. It was up at the festival where the winners of the competitive heat were announced. Each of the top three received apple pies as their awards.

Over all, this was a small but fun event. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to just get out there and have a little fun.

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Featured Review: Terrain Racing 2018

Terrain Racing is a nationwide brand hosting events all over the United States. This past weekend they held their New England Event at Thompson Motor Speedway. It is approximately the length of a 5k, advertises fun obstacles, mud, and a good time. On course, this promise is delivered. Off course, there were a few hiccups.

First off, Terrain Racing is well known for having affordable pricing. It’s cheap enough that you could get your whole family in for the price of what you might pay for yourself at other nationwide brands. They offer a timed competitive wave, open waves going off every fifteen minutes until 1pm, as well as a multilap option at select locations. The New England event was a location did offer unlimited laps. There is also a kids event which is called the Mini Monkey half mile.

Thompson Motor Speedway is a location that some may find boring or too easy. I personally enjoy this location. It’s flat, there is some running on asphalt, as well as the occasional backtracking to get the mileage.

Parking was a breeze and within easy walking distance to registration and the festival. However, parking was expensive. Leading up to race day on the racer info page, parking was listed to be between $15 to $25. When someone questioned it on the Terrain Race: New England 2018 facebook event page, Terrain Racing responded that it was a venue set price and not something that they could always control. Upon arrival at Thompson Motor Speedway, parking was indeed $15. This was a bit of a downside having the parking fee be so high.

At the registration tables, runners had to be ready with a paper waiver and the QR code that was emailed to them. It was simple enough and the line moved rather quickly. The festival area had a clear view of both the starting line as well as the final obstacle and finish line. There were two trucks offering food for sale as well as a beer tent. One thing to note, there was no free beer at the end of this race. The festival area also included a merch tent as well as gear check and a booth for professional photo ops. New England Spahtens had access to the Biggest Team tent where there was a cooler of water and cups was available. One drawback to the festival area was the loud ka-pow to start each heat. It was reminiscent of a gunshot and continuously startled spectators and runners alike in the festival area.

Something that I really enjoy about Terrain Race is their obstacles. They have a variety of obstacles that range in difficulty. Not only do they have the usual walls or rigs, Terrain Race also incorporated a lot of strength obstacles as well. The first obstacle comes before participants even cross the start line. There are three pools for people to start in. Other obstacles that participants would find were a variety of rigs. There was one similar to a tarzan swing where you had to start on a short rope, go to a long rope, to a ring, then back to a short rope. Another rig set up had balls and pipes to traverse across. There were a few different sized walls, including one to climb up with a rope then swing over and climb back down like a ladder. A couple of the different obstacles that could be found included cargo nets. The first being where participants climbed up the apparatus on pipes, then traversed across the top of cargo netting before climbing down the cargo net to the ground. The other was the final obstacle which incorporated a balance beam up to the cargo net to then crawl across before having a pole to slide down.

As mentioned above, Terrain Race also incorporated a variety of strength based obstacles. These types of obstacles included but were not limited to a tire flip, yolk carry, and crochet with tires and sledgehammers. Having these types of obstacles was a nice break from the typical upper body, grip, or technical obstacles.

Upon completion of the race participants received an angry monkey medal and a shirt. This year the medal was also a magnet, however the race name was on the same side as the magnets which was an odd design choice. It also features two bottle openers, each ear of the monkey is one. The ribbon is dated with 2018 which is something that I personally appreciate. The t-shirt was black this year, which is better than the white of last year. However it is a heavy cotton. For those who participated in unlimited laps, they also received pins to commemorate their extra laps. The pins were quite nice being enamel.

Over all, Terrain Race offers a fun course with a great assortment of obstacles. They fall a bit flat on the shirt quality and parking fees. Some may even say the lack of a free beer is a shortcoming too. However, for the price of their event they do offer a fun time for the whole family. There’s a bit of something for everyone, whether you’re a competitive racer, someone who enjoys multilapping, or are looking for an event to take the whole family to.

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Featured Review: Tuff Scramblers – May 2018

Tuff Scramblers in Rehoboth, MA is a challenging, fun, and unique event. It is a 5k course spread over 140 aches with over twenty natural and man made obstacles that offers an experience you’re not likely to find at other events.

This race is a bit of a drive for me, but it’s a drive I’m willing to make because it’s such a great time. It is easy to find, clearly marked by signs directing athletes to the field to park. Parking was within a stone’s throw to where the Registration tent was.

There was a long back up at registration. It was very slow moving and when I got to the table, I was able to see why. There was only one person running the registration table. This meant that she was dealing with bib pick-up, wristbands, t-shirts, day of registration, and any questions. She was trying to be as efficient as possible, but it was clearly overwhelming for her. It is possible that volunteers slated for the Registration tent had not come, however it is something that maybe a volunteer from another location could have been pulled at least for the early morning rush.

From the registration tent, athletes followed along the dirt road into the festival area. To the left was the changing tents and showers followed by an area where larger teams had been given space to set up a meeting place. To the right there was a man creating chainsaw sculptures that were for sale – he was also responsible for making the pretty epic first place trophies for the elite wave. Also to the right was the makings of a bonfire, though wind deterred the Tuff Scramblers team from igniting it. There were tables set up by the Army,Air Force, and National Guards. There was also a large tent where participants could go to exchange their food and beer ticket then hang out while spectating other runners. The festival area is a low key setup, however it has excellent access to a bunch of the fun obstacles for spectating.

Tuff Scramblers has a course unlike any other I have ever seen. It incorporates trails that at times become single track, weave through the woods, through streams, then back out to the open layout near the festival. In the woods is where participants find most of the natural occurring obstacles. There are plenty of rock formations to scramble over, streams to trudge through, and rocky terrain to hop across. For the most part the course was well marked with pink flags, tape, and paint. However, there were a few who got turned around or missed a turnoff and accidentally cut a small portion of the course. I believe that it was early in the race around the first two hills in the woods, but after that point all the course markers were easily located. There were two water stations on course and the volunteers there were cheery and engaged with the runners as they made their pit stop.

As advertised, you will not find the typical rope climbs and walls at Tuff Scramblers that you may find at other races. Participants will find large sand and clay piles as well as two boulder piles to crawl over. There are walls and an a-frame made of large PVC piping, as well as concrete pillars to jump across. Much of the obstacles that can be found at Tuff Scramblers are created using construction materials. Another thing that should be noted that on this course you will get wet and you will get muddy. Whether it be through a pool of muddy water, of climbing some of the obstacles that have water spraying down at you. The race ends, bringing the participants through a small brook, with about thigh deep to waist deep water. Once you climbed out a bit down the way, there were two options to finish the race. Participants could choose to swim across the pond or take the land route. The pond had a downward slope before it got a bit deep. For someone of average height you could not just walk across. It then had a small incline back out and brought you straight to the finish line.

The shirts from Tuff Scramblers are one of my favorite race shirts. It is a soft tech shirt sporting the Tuff Scramblers name on the front. On the back has the date and location of the event as well as a statement that they proudly support the various branches of military and the EMS team that was present at the event. The medal ribbon displays the date and location of the event, which is always a nice bonus.

After runners finished they were treated to food and drink. You could use your Beer ticket to exchange for a beer or non-alcoholic beverage. As someone who does not drink beer, I appreciated this because I could exchange my ticket for an iced tea. Those who do enjoy beer had a variety of Narragansett beers that they could pick from. Runners get quite the treat when they finish Tuff Scramblers because they also get post-race food included in their registration. We got two sliders with either pulled pork or sausage and peppers, a salad, and a choice of two different types of baked beans. The food was excellent and really hit the spot afterwards.

Over all, despite a few very minor kinks between registration and course marking, this is still one of my favorite events. It offers such a unique experience and atmosphere. The shirts being my all time favorite, is simply a bonus.

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Featured Review: FIT Challenge X

The team at F.I.T. Challenge has become known for their top notch small venue events, each one becoming bigger and better. F.I.T. X was no different. Their events feature innovative obstacles, challenging terrain, and elevation all spread a bit over three miles.

When registering for F.I.T. X, Participants had a choice of three different levels of racing. There was a one lap option that had both an elite wave as well as many open waves. Second, they offered a five hour multilap where a runner could complete multiple laps in a five hour window. The third option, being their newest, offered a twelve hour Ultra.

F.I.T. Challenge has taken the concept of multilapping and continued to build upon it. The idea to offer a multilap feature may seem daunting to some race directors, but this is something that Robb McCoy had flourished with. In the past F.I.T. Challenge has offered variations on multilapping, but this April they unveiled an Ultra. It consisted of running as many laps of their 3.3 mile course in twelve hours.

The F.I.T. Challenge Ultra participants, identified by Ultra Bibs, had a unique experience compared to the regular Multilap option. They received a total of three laps obstacle free. The first being their second lap, followed by two more at some point throughout the day. As long as they were wearing their orange armband, they could pass obstacles for that entire lap. After 6pm all obstacles were shut down, leaving the remaining two hours and fifteen minutes obstacle free as well.

Leading up to race day, there were nearly a thousand runners registered. This alone attests to the reputation that the F.I.T. Challenge team has worked to build.

F.I.T.X took place in Cumberland, Rhode Island, at Diamond Hill State Park. Robb MCoy and his team expertly use the terrain to their advantage. With multiple climbes and descents an elevation of 1000 feet is squeezed out of Diamond Hill throughout the 3.3 mile course. There is a mix of technical, rocky, trrails as well as some single track sections. But the most important piece to note is how well marked the race is. The trails are marked with green tape, flags, and arrows. It is near impossible to get lost on a track that this team has laid out. Spread throughout the course athletes found over thirty obstacles.

There is a wide range of obstacles for all skill levels. From low crawls and heavy carries to the Destroyer series and the newly unveiled Devil’s playground. The minds behind some of their devilishly innovative obstacles keep athletes coming back for more. Other obstacles that could be found on course included floating walls, an upside down cargo net you must climb a rope to reach, peg boards, and a teeter totter. There is absolutely something to challenge everyone.

As mentioned above, a new obstacle made its debut this past weekend. From a concept Aaron Farb introduced with the swinging steps on their Devil Steps obstacle at a past event. After a discussion with Larry Cooper the design that was debuted at F.I.T. X was born, including the adjustment where the athlete had to start from the ground. Devil’s Playground was a terrifying delight for runners. It is a metal apparatus that has swinging steps that the athlete must climb up. There were four lanes, one for Elite runners and three for Open Wave runners. The athlete had to start from the ground, grabbing each swinging step up the a-frame then back down. The swinging steps upped the difficulty of an already challenging obstacle. You are only allowed to touch the green parts, touch the black and you had to go back. The difference between the open lanes and the elite being that the elite had a smaller hold to grip on each swinging step.

Outside of the course, F.I.T. Challenge had a buzzing festival area. There was merchandise available for purchase as well as outside vendors. Some of the vendors that could be found in the festival area included Sage Nutrition and Warm-Up Nutrition, both locally based companies. OCR Beast was also present. Baystate Physical Therapy was onsite to offer stretching and massage to help athletes throughout the day. Food was also available for purchase onsite presented by Boru BBQ.

The team at F.I.T. Challenge take safety quite seriously. There was one section of technical terrain that race director Robb McCoy was monitoring closely. For the sake of the athletes participating in this event a decision was made to shift the course slightly. While it took a strenuous and technical piece of course out, the transition was seamless and gave no interruption to the main event. This did not appear to remove or add any mileage to the course.

As a whole, the F.I.T. Challenge team obviously cares about their runners. They work to ensure that problems are dealt with in a timely manner. Whether it is leading up to or on race day, they put forth the extra effort to reach their full potential. Not only to the athletes who train and make this type of event their whole lifestyle, but the casual athletes as well. There were many runners at F.I.T. X who had participated in F.I.T. or Obstacle racing before. However, there were many first timers. No matter who is in attendance F.I.T. X delivers.

Communication is a strong point to note for F.I.T. Challenge. Leading up to F.I.T. X the team provided ample communication across social media platforms and email. If you follow any of their social media accounts you were also able to see the fun being had at volunteer shifts for build days as well as sneak peeks of Devil’s Playground.

Something else that F.I.T. Challenge is known for is the race day swag they offer. Not only for purchase, but what you get for participating in their event. F.I.T. X upped the ante. At this event participants received a nice tech tee, buff, and F.I.T. X medal. Those who multilapped received a numbered pin to commemorate the number of laps completed. If a multilapper completed three or more laps of the course, they were also awarded with a block that prominently displays their achievement. Those blocks have become a long standing goal for many who participate in any of F.I.T. Challenge’s events. Participants in the 12-hour Ultra event received all the same perks as well as some Ultra specific swag. They had customizable bibs to identify on course as Ultra, a 10 ounce sweatshirt, and an Ultra tech tee. For those who completed at least 8 laps also received a belt buckle.

Overall, it is understandable why F.I.T. Challenge is a fan favorite and F.I.T. X did not disappoint. Robb McCoy and his team continues to present OCR Athletes reason to return to F.I.T. events. Not only were athletes presented with an amazing race, swag, and experience, they are in the hands of a race director and team who truly care about the athletes.