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Featured Review: Samurai Sprint

samuraisprintlogo“The Samurai Sprint Mud Run is a 5k ninja warrior inspired race. Samurai Warriors trained in the elements to make themselves tougher. This race combines the outdoor elements, with the most challenging obstacles that won’t disappoint the best competitor.   This one of a kind race allows for relay teams for those of you who are new to the sport.” –

Located in Westport, MA at Westport Winery, this was the 2nd event for Steve and his crew, and I have to say they did a great job making improvements from last year. You can find last year’s review here.

Parking: $10 with some friendly volunteers that helped get you to into a spot.

Registration: Way more organized than last year. It was split into lines by last name, so instead of a ton of people in one single line there was a more organization and a faster turnaround Once you received your packet, you hopped in another line for your t-shirt.

Festival: While there was more going on in the festival area last year, there was more space for everyone to hang out and relax after finishing the course one lap (or, in some cases 5 or so laps) later this year. The jury is out on which is the preference of the masses. There were healthy food options, and the opportunity to support Westport Winery by making a purchase.

Starting Line: Located right at the Festival Area, it was easy for spectators and those awaiting their shot at the course, to cheer on those taking to the course.

Course: As promised, there were Ninja Warrior (TM) inspired obstacles. Angled platform hops. Trapeze Swing to Vert Pipe. Devil’s Staircase. There were also some standard favorites: Rope Climb, Traverse Wall, Slippery Wall, Tire Flipping. All constructed obstacles were well built. If there was any apprehension to attempting an obstacle, it certainly had nothing to do with it appearing poorly built. Last year there were a few issues with course marking, but this year the course was marked really well. Additionally, there was plenty of water available for participants on the course, and it was a warm day so this was definitely a good thing.

Finish Line: Like last year, the finish line was very far away from the Festival Area and food. There was plenty of water here for those finishing, and there was quite a crowd to cheer on finishers. From here, you could see several of the obstacles at the end of the course, which was fun!


Pros: Improvements on Registration!!
Better Course Markings
Quality Obstacles – Including New ones
Good Quality Finisher Shirt and a slight redesign of the Finisher’s Medal

Needs Improvement:
Bottlenecks – Tire Flip, Rope Traverse
Something more than just water at the finish – Bananas, Gatorade (or something other than water), etc.

This race is a great local race on the South Shore. It will remain on my “must do” list even if there are other races on the same day!

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Featured Review: Mountain Mucker 2015

I said it last year, and I will say it again this year – If you are able to attend The Mountain Mucker, it should not be missed! It’s a bummer that it falls the same day as Wason Pond Pounder, but I promise it is worth the trip to Mt. Sunapee, but my allegiance remains with this event. 2 years in a row and I’m looking forward to next year already!

This race is not timed, except for the very first wave. If you’re the type that likes to have a finish time, BYOG (Bring Your Own GPS). Expect some bottlenecks at walls and a few other “challenges” and pack your patience and a large helping of “let’s have some fun!”

The main course is billed as a 5k, but with the all the challenge loops it was right around 5.5 miles

The course had some slight variations from last year, the first being that we went straight up one of the slopes (Spruce Triple) vs last year heading up Elliot Slope. Other than that it was pretty much the same obstacles shuffled around in order – not a bad thing at all. Obstacles included half pipes, walls, mud slingshot, puzzles, and a muddy crawl. There were 3 optional challenge loops, as well – Loop 1: Log Carry, Loop 2 – All the way to the summit (the view was amazing) for a Dig For Your Number, Loop 3: Memory Challenge. If you completed all 3, you were entered into a raffle once you crossed the finish line.

There were plenty of water stops, and friendly volunteers along the way, and after nearly 3 hours on the mountain we were ready to get cleaned up, collect our free beer, and eat a little food.


The line for hoses was a little long, but not ridiculously so. Water pressure was sufficient for cleaning off the body and getting a bit of the mud off clothing and shoes. There weren’t any changing areas, but cars were parked so close that it wasn’t a big deal to make a towel tent and change at the car.

The food selection was reasonable and reasonably priced, but I did note there wasn’t much in the vegetarian department. Plan accordingly – which shouldn’t be too difficult being that they haven’t prohibited personal food and beverage brought on site.

They even had a local band playing covers of hits from the 70’s to current, which was fun.

Missing: Mucker Man. Our MC for the day was super and encouraged teams to have fun on the last few obstacles as they came in from a fun day on the mountain.

All in all, another great event. This was the 4th annual Mountain Mucker, and I’d like to see it continue to be a success!

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Featured Review: Tuff Scramblers – October 2014

TuffScramblers_WITH-TAGRegistration: We always arrive a little earlier than when registration opens, so we went along to set up the tent and they were ready for us when we returned. We were ready to go in 90 seconds!

10736117_10152360055191604_701623884_nBling: Tuff is one of the few races that doesn’t offer a medal. They do offer a pint glass to pair with your tech shirt. The pint glass was the same we received in the Spring.  The tech shirt was a lovely hunter orange (great for running visibility!), but I was a little sad to see the running mud man no longer a part of the design.

Vendors: Unleashed, Air National Guard, Below the Waist, and a log carver

Food: Included in registration was a free meal and a free beer. The food options were all tasty – pulled chicken, pulled pork, potato wedges, and a salad. The free beer was Naragansett and this time even offered Octoberfest in addition to Lager and Light.


If you’ve done a Tuff Scramblers before, then you know what to expect and what standards are met for each event.  This stationary course never fails to challenge, and it is always fun to see what new obstacles Joe implements.

We brought about 25 people to this event, and with other events happening on this very same day in our back yard this was a great little group.  We were large enough to once again be offered a tent area, and also be allowed to bring 2 tents along with us.

According to my GPS, the course checked in at just shy of 3 miles.  Do not let this deter you from doing this in the future as these three miles are on technical and mostly flat terrain, offering a challenge even to a seasoned runner.

The course generally remains the same, see my previous review here.

True to form, Joe implemented a new obstacle.  Out near the stair climbs and over unders there was placed a cement cylinder with perforations just large enough to be hand holds and foot holds!  It was set on its side forcing you to climb the circumference of the tube and get yourself down the other side.  This was a great addition to an already fun and technical course.

water and it was a diagonal approach to the finish line.  There was muck.  It was deep at points.  I have to say this was a nice little change up and I’m glad they were able to put something in place to utilize the pond, even if it did mean a dirtier than usual finish!

Additionally, the Elites had to run 2 laps of the course rather than just one.  Personally, I love this idea!  However, the elite field was a small number. This was a little disheartening for the organizers, and I’m sad to see it wasn’t more well embraced.

Tuff Scramblers remains on my schedule for next year.  It continues to be a great course and will be included in #racelocal.  Another change was due to Mother Nature not giving the farm enough rainfall recently.  The traditional end of the race brings you through the pond and to the finish line, but the pond was really quite low.  As a result the course went further down the bank to a point where there was some



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Featured Review: Samurai Sprint – July 2014

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When I heard there was a new local race coming up, I was a little unsure of how the event would unfold.  Then I saw the website was using racing photos, from other events, specifically F.I.T. Challenge, I went from unsure to concerned.  We all know it’s a sign to run the opposite direction!  From early on, the website showed some new and challenging obstacles, For a new kid, it seemed a little too ambitious.  What is the RD thinking?  Is he going to pull this off?  Does he realize that this is going to cost a bunch of money?  Then I heard Robb McCoy offered some assistance and I was a little more at ease about this race.

Communication regarding the event I found a little interesting.  The week before the event a few emails were sent out.  The first one, received Tuesday, explained there would be no bag check or changing facilities but parking would cost $5 and we should arrive 90 minutes before our heat time.  The next, received Wednesday, informed us of the rules and guidelines for the event.  The final email, received Thursday, notified us there would be a raffle, to benefit the cost of the shirts.  No confirmation of heat time, no bib numbers, no waiver.  Some people didn’t even receive these emails, but it is my understanding that a quick email requesting information led to a timely response with the important information.

Upon race day we headed to Westport River Winery, and hoped for the best.  Parking was easy, close to the festival area, and plentiful.  We arrived around 8 for our 9:30 heat and cars were just starting to trickle in.

This is where things went a little chaotic.  We parked, but then had no idea where to go.  We asked one of the kids who were parking cars and they pointed us in a direction saying, “I think you go that way.”  While walking to find registration I realized there were signs, but they were on 8.5×11 sheets of paper using a relatively small font.  We arrived at the registration area to find it wasn’t even set up, and they weren’t close to being ready for about 30 more minutes.  It was 8, and we were slated to hit the course at 9:30.  I ran to the car to grab our tent and when I arrived back I quickly saw that registration was a mess.  Hopping in line it took me about 10 minutes to get to the table, and there were maybe 15-20 people in front of me. Those running registration, took your ID, looked up your name/bib/shirt size, and then handed you a waiver while they collected your packet and shirt.  As I was walking away, I could see the line kept getting longer.

Once settled, it was time to focus on the festival area.  There were plenty of vendors.  Carabiners was there with a climbing rig. TKO Fitness, Unleashed, and Grit n Wit were present.  There were a few vendors offering samples as well, and a slushy truck was on site with slushies, cotton candy, and the like.  Additionally, there was a grill station that was also selling fruit.

The starting line was right near our tent, and it wasn’t completely set up until about 5 minutes before our heat was supposed to go off.  We lined up and then were asked to give them just a few more minutes to allow the volunteers to get to their posts.  I’m not really sure why the volunteers weren’t already out there.  Anyway, our heat started at 9:38 or so, but it seemed like all other heats went off as scheduled.  From here it was all about the course.

A first for me, was running any kind of a race with a vineyard as the venue.  The course was fairly flat, save for some rolling hills and a couple reasonable sized and well utilized ones.  In general, the course was marked ok.  There were definitely places where I wasn’t really sure where I was supposed to turn next and it didn’t help that there was no consistency in the arrows.  Some were big black arrows on a yellow background, and these were the best ones by far.  Some were a single Sharpie line drawn arrow on white paper, which weren’t easy to see from a distance.  My least favorite were the orange marker arrows drawn on white paper, as you can imagine these were really difficult to see unless you knew to look for them.  While trying to be on the lookout for the varying arrows, there were also points where runners were coming and going.  I remember at one intersection runners were coming from the left and heading up a hill just as other runners were approaching the same point and were supposed to turn left to hit a loop that included a few obstacles.  If you happened to just follow the runners you saw running up the hill, you missed the loop completely.

The obstacles were the true gem of this event.  When I peeked at the website and saw what was planned I was both excited and concerned.  How could a new race pull off so many obstacles well and still manage to afford making the event actually happen?  I’m happy to say both were a reality.  We’ll ignore the fact that some of the descriptions from the site aren’t 100% accurate, because when it comes down to it they were well constructed.


There were the normal obstacles – walls, over-unders, bucket carry, monkey bars, tires to flip, more tires to run though, a rope climb… just to name a few.  To supplement these common friends, there were a few new kids to tackle.  The Reverse Staircase was definitely well built. Think monkey bars, only with lumber and in the form of a staircase.  My mind thought it would be very much like Tough Mudder, but a smaller scale – I was so wrong!  This was tough and I didn’t have the strength or technique to make it happen.  Win!  A fun one was a giant set of stairs to climb up and then descend the other side.  And finally the obstacle called “Hangover” which was a straight traverse with hands only.  I found this course to be a good one for those with good grip strength, as the traverse and staircase were complemented with a tall wall, a traverse wall, and rope traverse.

Overall the course was good, and it was surprisingly better than I had anticipated from all the indicators of participating in a disorganized mess.

Ideas for Improvement:
– Utilize your mailing list for distributing more pertinent information (bib number, heat, waiver)
– Employ obnoxiously large directional signage for both crowd control and course marking
– More volunteers, if possible, on the course
– Port-a-Potties available in more than one place
– Changing area availability
– Bring the finish line and festival area closer together


– Good quality Bling and Tshirts
– Well built obstacles
– Friendly volunteers
– Awesome and different venue
– Lots of spectator access


I am looking forward to seeing how this race improves for the next go round.  I hope to be there to see it grow and become another one of our local favorites.  Almost all the pieces are there and a few little tweaks will make this a contender!


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Featured Review: The Mountain Mucker – May 2014

Mountain Mucker Logo

You haven’t heard of The Mountain Mucker?!

Don’t worry, it’s not that surprising!  The Mountain Mucker is a small local race held at Mount Sunapee in the spring, and it’s hard to believe this is the 3rd annual event.  Being that I grew up not even an hour away from the race location, I had heard of this race previously.  A friend from high school has participated every year, and I am a little jealous of this fact.  Initially, I had heard about it after the very first race.  Last year I was reminded of its existence, but I believe there was a conflict in my schedule.  This year I made no excuses.  I skipped bigger, better known, races just so I could give this one a shot.  I could not have made a better choice!

Directions: Knowing my destination was Sunapee State Park, I wasn’t too concerned that directions weren’t passed along.  Then my GPS failed me somehow.  My co-pilots and I were able to sort it out, but I think there should be some signage as you enter the park so you at least know you are headed to the correct parking area.

Parking:  A stone’s throw from the festival area, in a large lot…and it was free!

Facilities:  Port-a-potties spread around the festival area enough that you didn’t have to go far to hunt one down! (For a small race, it was great that they didn’t have 5-6 in one spot, but rather 1-2 spread out).  Clean-up consisted of hoses, but there wasn’t a designated changing area.

Vendors:  Mountain Mucker tanks and sweat shirts.  Vinyl bags (think locally made Thirty One).  Food supplied by the resort food service.

Swag:  Polyester T (looks like cotton), finisher medal, can coozy, 16oz plastic cup, 1-year subscription to Kearsarge Magazine, race sticker, a reusable bag (not shown)



We got there very early, and were able to see off the very first heat at 9am.  A heat that consisted of 15 people.  The RD hyped them up, and sent them up the mountain. A short while later this guy wearing a bright green plaid leisure suit, showed up at the starting line.  We weren’t sure if he was racing or what, but as it turned out he was the MC for the day, known as Mucker Man.  He was lots of fun and he was all over the festival area.

I wasn’t sure what to expect for a course, this was a small race with very local roots.  Sure, it was at a mountain that was used for skiing, but this would be a walk in the park, right?  Well, no, not entirely!

Mountain Mucker Map

1 – Tire Mound
2 – Hay Tunnel
3 – Half Pipe
C1 – Log Carry
4 – 5 ft wall
5 – 6 ft wall
C2 – Dig through mud for your number
6 – Mudball Target Practice
7 – ?
C3 – Memory Test
8 – ?
9 – Traverse Walls(?)
10 – Flip your lid
11 – Half Pipe with Extension
12 – Dumpster with mud
13 – Over Unders in the mud
14 – Slippery Wall into mud
15 – “Barbed Wire” Crawl


The Mountain Mucker is a 5k course – with 3 bonus challenge loops to complete – and 15 obstacles.  We took off from the starting line and after a very short flat we started up the mountain.  Up and up we went until it flattened out a bit and we hit our first obstacle, and our first aid station. Each obstacle had adorable names, but forgive me as I’ve forgotten them. The first was a mound of tires to climb over, encased in a wooden frame with even more tires suspended from rope.  A short distance to the next obstacle and we found ourselves climbing through short tunnels made out of hay.  We continued on our way to the 3rd obstacle.  This one was a half pipe to a platform to a cargo net dismount.  It was immediately followed by the first challenge loop – a log carry, up a fairly steep incline and back down, on a patch of snow that hadn’t lost it’s battle with the Spring.

This was were it started to get interesting.  If you’ve done an OCR before you met a wall or 2 in your travels.  The standard wall build allows for you to grab the top of the wall, right?  Well someone told the course designer that this type of wall was too easy.  These walls were 2x6s on the face.  At the top there was a 2×4 – yes folks, you had to get all the way to the back of that board or pull yourself up by your fingertips at the wall face.  But wait, this was only on the shortest of the walls.  The 6 ft and 8 ft walls had the added bonus of a 4×4 underneath that 2×4, and there was no step!  Needless to say, these were tricky!




The second challenge loop brought us up to the summit.  It was a beautiful view of Lake Sunapee from way up there!  We trucked on up, and our challenge was to first figure out the degrees Celsius of the last number on our bib, then dig those digits out of a muddy pit.  For our efforts we were rewarded with another aid station, a lovely conversation with the volunteer (“The Old Guy”), and a breathtaking view of the valley below.  We made our decent down to an area where there was a mud pit, some jumbo (3 person) slingshots, and a series of targets.  The goal was to make a mud ball and hit a target using the slingshots. This was lots of fun, and required a little bit of talent, skill, and luck.

About this time is where the obstacles start to get a little fuzzy, hence the blanks and question marks above.  There was another obstacle after Challenge Loop 2, but then we arrived at the final Challenge Loop.  Using the last number of your bib, you had to memorize a string, go for a little trek, and return back to recite it back to the volunteer.  The loop was up and back down, and I still remember my string – BB22JKLXQ.  We headed back to the course after this, and of the next 3 obstacles, only one do I remember – the traverse wall!  This one was epic, it consisted of 3 lengths of wall with 2 90 degree angles to navigate.  The hand holds and foot holds were mostly 3D and triangular, and boy was this one fun!

The last few obstacles were one right after another.  A quick one with a bunch of plastic lids to dodge through.  Then, remember the half pipe from earlier, well it made another appearance nd wasn’t any easier.  This time it had a 2 foot extension at the top.  There was a platform made out of 2x4s.  This was a tough one, and required some upper body strength I currently lack.  After 3 attempts I called it, and move along to the next one.  We weren’t really all that muddy at this point and we were a straight shot from the finish line; it was right there!  Don’t worry this was remedied.  We climbed into a dumpster containing about a foot of really sticky mud.  Emerging from the other side my feet felt like they weight 10 pounds each!  Then we dove into the mud, climbing under some PVC and over some PVC.  Hopping out of there we tackled a slippery wall, then through a barbwire crawl (it wasn’t real) and a few trots to the finish line.

I loved this course and am already planning to do this one again next year!

A few suggestions:

* Add steps, or some form of assistance to the taller walls
* Add a “ladder” to the back side of all of the walls and not just the 8 ft wall
* Each of the challenge loops were supposed to have colored bracelets for those who completed them.  None of the loops had any left when we passed them.
* Changing tents


* Supplying bug spray and sunblock to the masses
* Great course with fun obstacle variations
* Mucker Man (who gets bonus points for knowing Akuma!)
* Reasonably priced food options
* Really great mud!


Team Photo


To keep updated on all things Mucker related, keep an eye on

All photos used with permission from Pat Hendrick Photography –


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Featured Review: Massasoit 5k – May 2014



Massasoit State Park is literally 10 minutes from my house, but until this race I had never been there.  When I heard there was a 5k trail race being held so close to home, I was all in.  This was the first race held here in quite a while as East Taunton stopped approving requests for such events a few years ago.  Evidently there has been a big trail biking race here in the past, but with budget cuts the park has also started to need a little more love and attention.


The race description as per the event website (

“We are very excited to feature just a sampling of one of our favorite trail systems!  This 5K trail run starts off on some nice flat fire lanes, but don’t let it fool you!  Soon enough you’ll be winding through single tracks and rolling through the hills along the shoreline of Lake Rico.  This trail race is put on in cooperation with the Friends of Massasoit State Park, as well as the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.   Our hope is to revitalize interest in the recreational uses of Massasoit.   After being unstaffed by the State for years, some of the park has fallen into disrepair.  However, the trails are still in great shape and you are going to love this course! We hope to see you there!”

Parking:  Free and inside the park, close to the finish line

Registration:  Simple and organized, close to the finish line as well

Facilities: Port-a-potties

Schwag:  A comfy Tshirt, offered in cuts for men and women.  Bling awarded to overall winners and all age group winners received a reusable cinch backpack.



Post-Race: At the finish line they offered water, Muscle Milk, mini muffins, bananas, and Pop Chips.  (Not a bad spread for a race consisting of 80 or so participants)

It was a short walk to the starting line from where everyone parked (and the finish line), just long enough to loosen up the legs a bit.

This course was great, and technical.  I am by no means a speedy runner, but when I am on my game I can crank out multiple miles in the sub 10 minute range.  I wasn’t pushing my pace, but I was comfortably running and cranked out 12 minute miles.  The trail definitely started off fairly flat, and eased into some rolling hills through the woods.  Toward the middle of the trail the hills were fairly significant.

My favorite part was climbing and descending hills with “steps” created by roots.  Some of the climbs were steep, some of the descents were a little tricky.  The trail was winding, but it was so much fun!

Anytime you take the the woods in a race the idea of course marking comes to mind.  The course marking for this race was great!  Signs were placed where turns were necessary or questionable.  Cones were set out where runners shouldn’t go, therefore forcing everyone to stay on the same trail.  There was one point I, for a split second, did not realize where I was supposed to go.  I attribute that more to “race brain” as there really was just the one trail to follow at that point.  In speaking with Dan, the RD, he lamented not using mile markers.  I actually didn’t see this as a problem, and suggested maybe using a “1 mile to go” sign at the end and call it a day.  If you sign up for a 5k, you pretty much assume it will be right around 3 miles and this one was right around 2.9 miles.



10344148_779006395444687_3735147265377170163_oI can’t say enough about how great it was to run in the woods, along water, on a beautiful and sunny day.  I look forward to more events held at Massasoit State Park!

For more information about future races please go to:

For more information regarding the revitalization of Massasoit State Park, click here.

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Featured Review: Tuff Scramblers, May 2014

Tuff Scramblers is a stationary course built in Rehobeth, MA. 2 times a year they hold races on the course, once in the Spring and once in the Fall. This particular race was part of the inaugural Grand Prix. #racelocal


Parking: They changed this up a bit for this race, but I believe it was for the better. Elites, Volunteers, VIP team tent (if you were responsible for bringing the tent) were all able to park in the lot located on site. Everyone else was asked to park at a lot about 1/2 mile away. It is an easy and quick walk to the other lot, but also a shuttle ran in a timely fashion. The reason for the change, was to allow the shuttle bus a better turn-around situation.

Registration: We arrived a little before 8, but at 8am registration was easy, organized, and uneventful. This isn’t a surprise, as I have never had an issue with registration.

Bling051714Bling: Tuff is one of the few races that doesn’t offer a medal. They do offer a pint glass to pair with your tech shirt. Both the glass and the shirt design changed this race.


Vendors: Unleashed, FIT Challenge, Air National Guard, Muscle Milk, Below the Waist

Food: Included in registration was a free meal and a free beer. The food options were all tasty – pulled chicken, pulled pork, potato wedges, and a salad. The free beer was Naragansett. I’m not much of a fan of beer, but I did drink close to half of it.

Now, that we have all that out of the way, let’s talk about the course.

If you’ve never done a Scrambler before, Joe (the RD, and the mastermind behind this course) is really great about tweaking things for the next event. This was my 4th Scrambler, and while I generally know what to expect, I love that there is always a surprise!

Prior to everything kicking into high gear, Joe chatted with us to let us know he made the course longer and apologized for not making a lot of the changes he had planned due to the crazy winter weather.

From the starting line we took off into the woods and looped around to tackle a couple dirt mounds. Then it was back into the woods again, emerging to find another dirt pile, a mud pit bear crawl, and another dirt mound. The pit was new for the Spring 2013 race. It started off with just netting and no real supports to keep you from accidentally popping up between the netting strips. In the Fall race it had metal pipes holding the netting up, and many people earned some eggs on their noggins from smashing into them. This time around I was happy to see the pipes were swapped to PVC, but there were straps and rope used to keep the netting from sagging between the pipes. I saw a number of people struggle with having to duck under the ropes/straps and not eat mud in the process. I wonder if using some smaller PVC and tying the ends of the netting to it might be a better idea. I loved the challenge of ducking, and I enjoy the evolution of this obstacle.


From this point it is a blur. I don’t ever remember a course, no matter how many times I run it. I know there was lots of mostly flat wooded trail, with rocky technical terrain (which is always fun and challenging). A few more mounds to climb, the wall of boulders to negotiate, the metal plate wall, the barrel hop, stone pillars, the log climb overs, balance beam, cargo net, vertical tubes, hay bale “marshmallow” tower, PVC a-frame, and monkey bars.

Newly added was a 6 ft PVC wall, with straps to help get you over. This was great! I had a couple of people in front of me so I used the time to figure out my plan of attack. Also, the newly added trail brought a new, and giant, boulder to get up and over. As I approached it I definitely said out loud, “Well, this is new!” as I negotiated a way up and over!

This course has always been fun and challenging, and I don’t believe this will ever get stale.

I ran with the team in the 11am heat, and I think toward the end of my race I bumped into the heat before. As a result there were some bottlenecks at the last major obstacles. Normally this wouldn’t be such a big deal, but this was my final Grand Prix race, so time mattered a little more. The cargo net had about 10 people climbing it with 3 deep waiting to tackle it. The vertical pipes were 2 people deep waiting, but while some people struggled others didn’t, so the wait wasn’t too long. The Marshmallows were easily 8 deep waiting, and there was also a line at the monkey bars. I blasted through all of these as fast as I could when it was my turn, but I easily burned 5 minutes waiting in lines at the end of my race. This race has definitely grown over the past 2 years, so it might be time to start looking into expanding obstacles to accommodate more racers. Granted, there were definitely other times where these bottlenecks weren’t present and therefore I may have just hit these obstacles at the peak time of the day.

Cleanup: Being that this race takes place on a farm, the changing rooms are horse trailers which always makes me giggle. They supply a couple shower stalls, and 6-8 free standing hoses. When I ventured over to the cleanup area it was a buzzing place. The ladies trailer had a line, as did the hose off area. I opted for an additional plunge in the pond and then changing my outer layers behind a tent, which I could have done anywhere since I decided not to strip completely.

Timing: For the first time ever, Tuff Scramblers used a timing company. Gone are the days of a volunteer at the end guessing your start time. The timing company used was Racewire, and as with anything new there were some issues. I checked the time sheet and didn’t find my name on the list. This was easily fixed by having a chat with the guys running the booth. I gave them my bib and my estimated finish time. They assured me that they were jotting down the bibs that didn’t beep, and hypothesized that the water crossing was killing the chips. No big deal. They will get the timing situation squared away I am certain. (UPDATE: Tuff Scramblers has already started handling this issue. They were not pleased with Racewire and are investigating their options going forward.)

It is evident this race is becoming more popular, and therefore more people are participating. We *officially* brought 40 people to this event, with many others running Elite or with another team. I am looking forward to seeing how this event continues to grow!

This was another great race put on by Tuff Scramblers and I can’t wait for the next one in the Fall!



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Featured Review: Reebok Spartan Race Invitational – 4/28/14

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A few weeks ago, our team was afforded the opportunity to be the first made aware of the Reebok Spartan Race Invitational to be held at Reebok HQ in Canton, MA.  A mile and a half course, littered with a bunch of obstacles.  The price was $150 plus insurance and fees, which brought the cost to right around $165.  Many cringed at this price, but I gladly shelled out the money.  Why? Why not!  Canton isn’t far from my place of residence.  I’ve been trying to figure out a way to get myself out on the course that already existed on the Reebok campus, anyway.  Sign me up!  Take my money!

Let me say, I thought it was well worth the price!  It was far more than just a race, as there were a number of events happening at the same time.  More on that later.

For us Wohlens, the trip was pretty straight forward.  Take 128N off of 24 and then get on 138.  As we were turning onto 138, we already knew we were in the right place!  Obstacles were visible from the main road…um…Awesome! One additional turn and we just had to find the entrance, loop around the whole campus, and park in a garage(!!!) for free(!!!).

Registration was a little confusing.  Everyone was coming across the festival area and having to loop around the other side of the registration tents to get on the correct side, but with only 800 participants this wasn’t pandemonium.  We got registered in no time, using what might be the new checkin/registration system.  It was computerized – licenses are scanned, you initial an authorization electronically, and you get your bib and other stuffs.  (Other stuffs included: a food coupon and a 40% off coupon for any purchase made at the Reebok Store until 5pm)

All registered we gathered with some other Spahtens, to prepare for our taste of glory at 10am!  We Bag Dropped – that means yet another FREEBIE!

The corral was structured much like the stadium series.  Everyone gathered in a pack at their starting time, but only 5 athletes were allowed over the starting wall at a time with each group released approximate 60 seconds apart, with our favorite person sending us off – Dustin!

There weren’t any real surprises for obstacles, but the course was jam packed with all of our favorites and then some.  Straight away there was 5 foot wall which led to a short run through a parking garage and “through the bushes” which brought you back out to another sidewalk up over a platform with a “ladder” on either side, and then back on grass.  There was another 5 foot wall, a slight hill climb and yet another 5 foot wall at the top of the hill that I treated like a 6-8 foot wall being that it was angled on the hill.  Banging a right led to the rope climb, where I earned my first set of burpees (one day, rope climb…).  From here we had a decent “barbed wire crawl” (with rope) through a wooded area followed by several trees with rope threaded between them which required going over or through.  At the clearing was a 50# sandbag carry, if you put it down at all there were burpees!  Next was a personal favorite, the tire flip (I opted for the bigger option), followed by a box over and then down and outs requiring you get muddy by crawling under logs.  Once good and muddy, it was time for the Herc Hoist (again choosing the men’s weight)- which is probably one of the shorter ones I’ve seen.  The traverse wall was next, and many had problems with all the first handholds being fully muddy.  I failed, which I haven’t done in a while, after several attempts at trying to get a good hold and switch pattern to get beyond those first few exchanges.  Well played SR, well played! Next was the Slippery Wall.  While I didn’t find this so slippery, the masterminds added another angled piece at the top which made it just a smidge trickier.  Once over there was a variation on the inverted wall.  I had to negotiate this one, as there was an overhang to deal with and a rope on the other side.  There was a balance beam made from a log that required a slight incline balance element, then the weighted sleds.  These were followed by the log hop, which were all fairly close in diameter but varied in height. From what I could tell, all row options were solid.  We climbed under the boxes we went over earlier, looped around and then did a bear crawl through the cargo net, only to go through one more tunnel that led under the ladder platform mentioned earlier.  Next was Monkey Bars – the variation was the pegs on either side of the wood plank, then back through the garage, over an 8 foot wall, over the cargo net, hairpin turn and up over the cargo net again.  This was interesting since the net was literally being pulled in 4 directions at a any given moment.  Finally, there were 3 walls, each 5 foot, before the sprint to the finish!

Phew! See, there was a lot going on, and I know I missed a few things!

RSRIblingAt the finish line we received an awesome dated dog tag and a dated unique Tshirt.  We also received a swag bag containing: one canister each of Spartan Fuel Energy, Recovery, and Refuel; a roll of Rock Tape; and Joe Desena’s book “Spartan (The F*ck) Up!” (I did censor the title…sorry kids!)

The race itself was really really great!  I would normally end here, but we still have a couple coupons to mention.

Food Coupon.  So there were 3 food vendors on sight, and this coupon bought you one food item from any of these 3 options.  I mainly focused on B.Good because they are so tasty!  If you were so inclined you could have requested a double chicken sandwich with lettuce, tomato, avocado, AND bacon on a bun…and you would also get water with that.  This was FREE!  I also saw a Paleo vendor (Paleo Power Meals), and then there was a 3rd vendor that honestly I have no idea what they were selling. Everyone was pretty much getting B.Good.


Reebok Coupon.  40% can go a long way if you play your card right.  This girl bought a new workout outfit (capris and a Tshirt) and a pair of Nanos.  Retail was just shy of $200, and I walked away spending less than the Nanos would have cost me all alone! WIN!



The really fun thing about this event:  SR wasn’t the only thing going on.  In addition there was a Crossfit Competition, so the festival area was geared toward both camps hence the healthy options. There was also a LesMills event going on near the Reebok Store.  It was as though Reebok was having a dance and there was mingling going on, willingly.  No event conflicted with the others, save for the loud speakers, but as long as you knew where to focus this wasn’t an issue,  everyone played nice and I enjoyed the atmosphere!

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Featured Review – Tuff Scramblers Fall 2013

Tuff Scramblers is a smaller (but growing!) OCR held in Rehoboth, MA – though their website makes reference to the fact that they may be hitting the road or creating some new locations.  They hold 2 events a year – one in the spring (usually May) and one in the fall (usually October).


This was my 3rd Tuff Scramblers; my 2nd of the fall race variety.  In 2012 I was still recovering from a broken hand so I couldn’t take on the course in all it’s glory, but I did what I could.  I also remember it was REALLY chilly.  This year the weather was much more cooperative with highs near 70 degrees and no injuries to speak of to hinder my abilities.

Jeff and I arrived really early – around 7:30am.  I think there may have been 6 cars in the on-site lot at the time we arrived.  Needless to say, parking was not a difficult thing at all.  Since we were one of the larger teams, we were offered a spot to set up a tent and essentially make a home base for all of us to gather when we weren’t racing, or watching, or taking in the sites. We found our spot and set up the tent, then hung around by the traditional campfire we’ve come to know and love at this event.  The tent area was conveniently located right across the way from the campfire, and gave a reasonable view of the ending leg of the race.   This was a great way to make use of this little section of land and I think there were a total of 6 teams who were granted the opportunity to use this perk.  I thought this was a nice touch!


Once we were set up, we headed back to registration.  It was still really early and volunteers were accumulating at this point.  Registration was a breeze.  No lines for Jeff and me.  Since we were recognized we didn’t even need to show ID.  We collected our tech shirts (ladies received pink, and gents received gray – however I understand you could trade colors later in the day if you had a preference for the other color) and pint glasses (which, I discovered have the date on them!) as well as our bibs and free drink coupons (we opted not to get meal coupons at registration so these weren’t included).


The festival area had plenty going on.  The Air Force had a presence.  Reebok brought their store on wheels and had various shoes and workout attire for sale.  B-Low The Waist had a tent set up.  Core Power was offering samples right near the finish line.  Unleashed set up camp right across from our tent and was using the Salmon Ladder as a contest to win a free spring race.  There was also a food/beer tent.  The DJ was set up closer to the Starting Line but all of the speakers were aimed at the festival area, so there was never a time you couldn’t hear him – unless you clearly weren’t paying attention.

The spectator areas are among the best anywhere.  I was able to watch our elite team run through a number of obstacles without having to move too far from where I initially entered the spectator area, from this one location I was able to watch nearly 8 obstacles be traversed.  The course is set up in just a way that all the boring trail running (let’s face it, it isn’t as exciting to watch someone negotiate technical trail now is it?)  is left out of sight for the spectators, but several times they end up in a rather large clearing where really all of the actual obstacles are set up.  There are a number of photo opportunities and (from the runner’s perspective) it’s awesome to have random people, as well as teammates and family, cheering you on.  I honestly don’t think there is another race out there that has this level of accessibility to the course.

At the Starting Line there was an MC clearly announcing everything we needed to know about the course.  Heats seemed to be heading out a couple minutes early, if not exactly on time.  Since each heat was separated from the next by about 45 minutes, the heats had plenty of time to move through the course without the next heat being hot on their heels.

The course always surprises me.  Sure, the layout isn’t going to change drastically, but I can honestly say that each of the 3 times I’ve participated in this event, the course has had upgrades or changes.  The course start was the same as it was in the spring, but different from where it was last fall.  Each race, the evil mastermind race director adds some new level of fun and crazy to what already exists.  This time around was no different.  You can always count on the pickle barrel hop, and the pillar hop, as well as the balance beam and over-unders.  When you sign up for a Tuff Scramblers race you can count on some mud to muck through, ant hills to climb, and rocks to traverse.  This time around we encountered a pipe a-frame to conquer (think an A-frame ladder wall, but instead of wood use 5 or 6 inch PVC pipe) and, to add a little extra difficulty, we were being sprayed with water from the top.  Also, for the first time ever the hay bales were stacked 4 high – and let’s not discuss how the monkey bars were being sprayed with water too!


I’d also like to mention the course marking situation.  This year course marking was the best yet!  Both times previous, I lost the trail in the middle of the woods.  On the most technical parts I would focus so much on my foot placement that I’d miss a turn and when I looked up to see where to go I found myself spinning in circles looking for some tape or an arrow.  This never happened on the course this time.  The course was marked so well that I never questioned where I needed to go – even when I was deep into race brain!

There were plenty of water stops along the course.  I actually had to tell a young volunteer that I didn’t need any water at one of the stops.  It was great that the volunteers were standing at the ready with cups of water in hand, so they could just pass them off to racers as needed.  While I didn’t need all the stops, the weather was perfect for a comfortable run, it was good they existed.  The water stop at the finish line was visible to finishers.  Our very own Corrine was volunteering at this station too which was a bonus!


Getting clean is sometimes a challenge after these types of races, but I think they are well on their way to having the market cornered on this front.  While I didn’t utilize the facilities, I did peek at what they had available.  In the spring there were 2 semi-private shower stalls available to clean off.  These stalls were wooden frames with shower curtains and a hose.  The failure was that once clean, there was nowhere else to go to get changed.  Also, the line for these showers was probably about 5 deep all day long.  This time there were 4 stalls (2 for the ladies and 2 for the gents) and they had wooden doors.  Changing rooms were made available in form of horse trailers – which I found hysterical and appropriate being that we were on a farm!  I even heard a rumor that the water was warm (not hot, but also not cold).  This detail wasn’t exactly confirmed.  I did ask around and heard mostly that it wasn’t cold – but we’ll go with it all the same.


All in all, this event is always well organized and fun.  I’d expect nothing less from the organizers.  The bonus is that it happens to be one of the closest races to my house I’ve encountered to date.

* Awesome Course Markings
* Improved post-race cleanup
* Team Tent area
* Festival area
* Spectator area
* Organization
* Dated Pint Glasses

Possible Improvement:
It is really difficult to find any negative points for this event.  While chatting with others, I heard a couple people lament that they couldn’t purchase food.  It seems if you didn’t pre-purchase a food coupon at registration then food wasn’t an option.  While this does allow for quantities and food supply to be managed, it frustrates the individuals who just can’t make that decision so far in advance.  Maybe this can be modified for the future.





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So You’re Running the Super (and/or Beast)…

In the next week or 3 there are a couple of big races coming up, in case you hadn’t heard.

NJ Super – this coming weekend
VT Beast – 2 weeks later

Paul did a great series of blog posts for the Sprint (Here, Here, and Here).  All of which are still super applicable here.  Some points to remember (for the newbies, especially):
1) Cotton is NOT your friend
2) Start hydrating
3) Dress for the weather, and your ability to stay warm/cold.  Also keep track of weather reports.
4) Eat a good meal hours before you are taking to the course.

The Super (and the Beast) will likely be supported races (meaning there will be water stops along the way).  Last year, initially, the Beast was not going to be supported.  I had already run the NJ Super (aka Mini Beast) and had an idea of what worked for me, and what my Battle Group encountered on the course.  I used this knowledge to prepare my pack for the Beast – and some extra.  This is my take on the subject of packing for these races.

I highly recommend planning as though there won’t be any stops along the way and you are self supportive.  Granted, if you are planning to be running with the elite folks, you may not need to worry quite so much, so use these tips as needed.  Some people will take a few hours.  Some people will take longer.  Some people may lose the trail for a bit – Sorry Team Lost 🙂
Last year the NJ Super took me about 5 hours to complete and the VT Beast took me about 10 hours to complete.  I had ITB issues in both races which led to a slower pace, but I was trucking along nonetheless.  If you feel you fall in the middle of bell curve (like me) or on lower end of the bell curve (a slower, and yet still awesome pace!) you’ll want to pay attention to the information I have to share.  Keep in mind, on these types of courses, you obviously need to look out for your own needs first.  It is always mindful to consider you may run into another athlete in need as well, and it would be best to have some extra stuff “just in case.”  Also, in the event you have some sort of issue that slows you down, you’ll be happy to have prepared for the extra time by having extra stuff.

My Packing List:
3L  Hydration Pack – 50/50 mix of unflavored Pedialyte (or generic brand) and water
2-3 Powerbar Energy Gels (I’ll use at least one at the midway point)
2-3 GU Chomps/Clif Bloks
2-3 Pkg Snap Supercandy
2-3 Bars (My current bar of choice is Garuka Bars, but Clif/Luna/whatever)
2-3 Salt or Mustard Packets (You, or someone you encounter, may have some serious cramping – this will help!)
1 pair of dry socks

Pack Supplies

*I purchased some small dry bags to put all of this stuff in.  There’s nothing worse than consuming half a package of Chomps or SportsBeans and then discovering they were submersed in water along the way and now are useless.
** The socks will be stored in a different dry bag.  Obviously they are more useful when dry.

I’m not saying they’ll be needed, because I don’t know what is being thrown at us, but here are a few other things worth possibly throwing in your bag:
Bug Repellant
Sun Block
Goggles (I’m giving these a shot this year, as I wear contacts!)
Headlamp (For the NJ Super -If you are still on the course and hit the cutoff at 7pm, you will need this to continue!)

Above and beyond the lists above, use your best judgement.  I like to prepare for the unexpected on some level.  If this is your first distance over a Sprint (and TM doesn’t count because they are HEAVILY supported, usually), you’ll probably want to bring a little more than you expect to use and learn from your personal experience.

I hope this answers some questions for those of you who are trying to figure out what to bring along!