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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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Ep74: Ragnar Relay on the Cape, Spartan Sprint – and special guest, Desiree!

On this episode, we’re fresh from 2 days in a van on Cape Cod, and Spartan held another Sprint at Rutland. With special guest, Roxie the Aussie (and her mom!), we look at both races from a fresh perspective.

Have you checked out our rebooted website and store? We’re adding new gear all the time – limited edition leggings, camo T’s and soon, sports bra’s!

http://www.nesstore.com

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Featured Review: Ragnar Relay, Cape Cod 2018

For the fifth consecutive year, I had the privilege of running Ragnar Cape Cod with the New England Spahten Ninja team. For those who have not participated, Ragnar is a 12-person relay race that covers approximately 200 miles. Runners take turns running “legs” and hand off from person to person. Each runner runs three times over the course of around 36 hours as the team makes its way from Hull to Provincetown, Massachusetts. The team of twelve is divided between two vans, with runners one through six in van one and runners seven through 12 in van two. As a team, you are running continuously, which means there is always a runner out on the course. Generally, this means that each runner has one overnight run. You are just as likely to be running at 5:00 p.m., as you are to be running at 2:00 a.m. Each runner is assigned legs of different distance, and the captain of your team can customize who runs what based on interest and capability. This year we were lucky enough to have a team of reliable runners who were all a blast to be with.

The NES Ninjas team for 2018 was a great group. In van one, #teambreakfast, we had (in runner order): Bobby, me, Pete, Wes, Shaina, and Kelly. In van two, #teamdinner, there was Sean, Geoff, Paul, Josh, Jess, and Aaron. My three legs were 5 miles, 3.6 miles, and 4.5 miles, making me one of the runners going a shorter amount of distance. Our captain, Jess, is great about assigning us our legs, and with most of the people on the team interested and able to do long distances, this year I was assigned some shorter ones. (Note: Last year, I had some high mileage and one of the longest legs to run.) Both running long and running short are fun – in truth the real “test” of Ragnar is mental and not physical. Going 36 hours with irregular food and few hours of sleep and then having to wake up for a 3:00 a.m. run is the real challenge. The main focus is on being a good teammate, supporting the group, and running without drama. I cannot overstate how important having a good team is to the Ragnar experience. The NES Ninjas are so lucky to have a group of super cool folks who I am always pumped to spend 36 hours with unshowered and under-rested in a van winding our way towards Provincetown.

The NES Ninjas Ragnar experience began at 3:00 a.m. on Friday when we pulled ourselves out of bed in the hotel where the six of us stayed for the night before the race and dragged ourselves to the start line for a 4:00 a.m. check-in, an hour before our 5:00 a.m. start. We pulled into Nantaset Beach in Hull almost beating the Ragnar crew. Things were not set-up, and the safety video was experiencing technical difficulties. We, in fact, ended up having to go over and get our bibs and other registration items before the video got organized. Though we were an hour early, Bobby ended up running to the start line just as the announcer was sending folks out because of the lack of coordination of the Ragnar team for check-in. If racers are coming to check-in for 4:00 a.m., I would hope everything can be in place in time. Ragnar being a bit behind in getting exchanges set-up was a bit of a theme for the weekend and something that ought to be rectified for next year.

Regardless, we weren’t going to let Ragnar’s lack-of-organization spoil our fun. Bobby did a great job getting out in time. The rest of our van took a few quick pictures in Hull, as the sun came over the horizon. We grabbed the first of many coffees at Dunkin’ Donuts and headed on our way to meet Bobby at the first exchange.

I was up next for a 5:45 a.m. five miler through Hingham. Bobby arrived a couple of minutes ahead of schedule, we did our traditional team chest bump, passed off the slap-bracelet that served as a baton, and I was off. The weather was great for running. The sun was just up and temperatures were mild, in the 50s. I started by running through some nice neighborhoods. I cruised along at a comfortable 9:45/mile pace, feeling good and doing some “house hunting.” With a couple of miles to go, the course sent me down a dead-end road which led into Wompatuck State Park. I ran along an access road through the woods. It was a beautiful run, and I enjoyed myself entirely. The leg terminated with a final short hill. I rounded one last corner and came into the exchange where I passed off to Pete for his “Wicked Hard” leg, an 11 miler. I had felt good about my run. I enjoyed myself, saw some sights, and easily maintained my pace. I had put myself down for 10:00 miles, knowing that would give me some flexibility. Ragnar, for many of us, is not a race. It’s an experience, and I wanted to run well – reliably – for my team while also having a blast.

For the rest of the morning, we jumped from exchange to exchange dropping off runners and picking them up. In a great show of success, we managed to make each exchange perfectly without having anyone waiting. Getting lost (vans and runners) and missing exchanges totally happens in Ragnar, and it’s good to be prepared for things to not go perfectly, but who can complain about success.

Our last runner of the morning, Kelly, headed off for a four miler, and the van headed to the first major exchange at Duxbury Beach, where we’d trade off to van two. The weather was amazing. It was sunny and around 60 degrees. Our team had started in the first wave of the day, even though we had a solid team of runners. We had to keep an eye on the clock to make sure that we didn’t reach the exchanges too early and risk being held back. Fortunately, we were just after the cut-off time for Duxbury when Kelly ran in. We cheered her on with our van two mates. It was great to get some time with van two. The one sad part of Ragnar is that even though you’re part of a team of 12, you basically only even see the six folks in your van. Major exchanges are always festive because you get to group up and say, “Hello,” to everyone.

From Duxbury we headed off for breakfast. It is a van one tradition from the first year of Ragnar to head over to The Blueberry Muffin for giant pancakes while van two runs, especially because van one has about five hours off. This year, as always, breakfast did not disappoint. We had been up since 3:00 a.m. and all done some running; we were hungry.


In past years, after breakfast, we would head over to the next major exchange in Sandwich. However, this year, there was a gap in the relay. I heard a number of reasons proposed for this. People said it was because of construction or an alternate event taking place in the area. Another theory was that the towns in this area had opted not to participate due to an incident last year where a female runner was assaulted by a man in the area. (Note: As I understand it, the female runner was not physically harmed and was able to complete the race. Ragnar implemented an optional buddy system for 2017 in response.)

The gap in the course map in Sandwich meant that the teams would be doing a virtual exchange. When van two arrived at their exchange in Carver, Ragnar HQ would radio to exchange 13 where our runner would be waiting and then Bobby would head off.  To add an additional complication, the areas where the exchange was to take place was different from where we were designated to wait, plus, the exchange wouldn’t open until 4:00 p.m., which was also the end of the hold time, and when we expected our exchange to happen.

A well-fed #teambreakfast, headed over to the Pop Warner field in Sandwich for a few hours of napping and relaxation. Mostly we napped, read, and generally chatted and hung out, enjoying the sun. At around quarter to four, we hopped in the van to head a mile and a half down the road to the virtual exchange point, at a nearby school. When we arrived at 3:50 p.m., the volunteer turned us away stating that the exchange hadn’t opened yet, despite the fact that runners should have been allowed out at 4:00 p.m. and we were expecting Aaron in around that time. This meant we had to drive around for 10 minutes, since the Pop Warner field rest area was filled with vans that were taking their break.

We arrived back at exchange 13 at 4:00 p.m. and were allowed to park. It was clear, once again, that Ragnar HQ was not organized here. Our runner had arrived, and we should have been allowed to have Bobby head out, but the exchange was not set-up, and we ended up having to wait while volunteers organized. Finally, at around 4:20 p.m., 20 minutes after runners should have been able to go out and after our runner had arrived, people were allowed to begin running. The runners were oddly sent out in waves seemly at random, but at least we were up and moving again. The virtual exchange was somewhat disorganized and having it meant that we missed an opportunity to bond with our van two teammates, so I am hopeful that we will be back to the old arrangement for 2019.

My next run, a quick 3.6 miler, was fast approaching for around 4:50 p.m. With Bobby out on the course, the van headed to Mashpee where I would start. Again, the weather was nice. It was sunny and in the 60s. When Bobby came in I headed out at a 9:35/mile pace down the main road that made up a lot of the course to the next exchange.

While my second run wasn’t very scenic, it was festive. Since I was going down a main route there was lots of traffic and a bunch of people waved and cheered. I think it was because I was wearing my extra festive NES running tights, an item of clothing so highly decorated that my boyfriend, Ben, refers to them fondly as “dazzle camouflage.”

Half way through the run, I turned off the main road. The next bit of course was a bit lacking in markers, and when the final turn came for the run up to the exchange, I would have missed it were it not for a fellow runner coming out of the exchange who directed me correctly. In a few other instanced members of my team mentioned that clearer course markings would have helped. Particularly confusing where instances where Ragnar wanted the runner to cross the street but instead of having a crossing sign and then an additional directional sign (i.e. straight), there were signs that said right and then left and the like. Fortunately, I made it into the exchange without incident and Pete headed off. Van one finished up this set of legs fairly quickly, since the only longer run was Shaina’s 6.5 miler. We were afforded some time on Craigsville Beach while we waited for her. I allowed the Atlantic to kiss my toes. It was frigid. I hastened back to my socks and shoes and curled into my Dryrobe and, in that manner, enjoyed the beach.

Kelly had the last leg, into Barnstable High School in Hyannis, and was scheduled to arrive around 8:45 p.m. She ended up being in a little later than anticipated since she was misdirected by a well-meaning but incorrect crew in another van. They had told her she was going the wrong way when she was in fact going the correct way.  They then brought her back a ways and mistakenly pointed her in the wrong direction. They soon realized their mistake and came back to pick her up and put her on the right path again. To Kelly’s extreme credit, she took this with a great deal of equanimity and was totally chill about it. She had them drop her back off and finished her leg only a few minutes past the time she was expected to arrive. Kudos.

Our van was off until 1:30 a.m. so we quickly headed off to exchange 24, Harwich Community Center where, it was promised, there would be showers. One advantage of running really far ahead…I was the very first person in the locker room and had the entire place to myself to shower. It was amazing to wash away a day’s worth of sweat, sunscreen, and dirt. I felt amazing. I was the best shower ever. Then I brushed my teeth, and it was the best time I ever brushed my teeth. Then I got to wash my hands, and that was the best too.

I also felt tired. We’d been up since 3:00 a.m. It was time for some much needed shut eye. I grabbed my sleeping bag from the van, told Bobby where I was and to come wake me when he was ready to roll and snagged a spot on the gym floor where I promptly passed out for the next three and a half hours. I woke up when Bobby came to get me, fell asleep for a few more minutes, and then dragged myself up so I could brush my teeth again in the locker room and change into running clothing before we left.

Bobby had a 6.6 miler for his night run, so I had some time for a quick snack before my 4.5 miles in Brewster. The night was cool with temperatures in the lower 40s but less humid than in past years, so visibility was good. I was waiting when Bobby arrived and headed out, maintaining a 9:52 pace for my night run and feeling pretty decent for someone who’d dragged themselves out of bed and decided to run for 44 minutes in the middle of the night.

In the past I have really enjoyed my night runs at Ragnar because they are such a unique experience. This year, thinking of the assault that occurred during this event last year, I was a bit more on edge than in the past and very mindful of my surroundings. In past posts I have written about night running saying that it feels like floating in space. It’s fun to run at night, look up at the stars now and again and totally dissociate and just enjoy the wild experience of it all.

With the events of last year in my mind I found I couldn’t really do that. I was 100% focused. Being a woman, and a small woman at that, I am conscientious about running alone and while I don’t generally run feeling fearful and don’t consider running to be dangerous, I am always mindful. I was fortunate that my night run went well. The course was well marked, I saw a runner or two from Ragnar but was untroubled, and I went along feeling good and at a decent pace. I should note how appreciative I am that the course had very frequent markers along the night leg. In the past this has not always been the case, but it was this year, and it was welcome. My run finished at an elementary school where I passed off to Pete. I was done. I changed into pajamas and napped on and off as the van made its way along the course.

Our van was slated to finish up a little after 6:00 a.m. The sun came up as we waited at Cooks Brook Beach in Eastham while Shaina ran. I enjoyed some coffee from a group doing a local fundraiser as we cheered Shaina’s arrival and Kelly’s departure for the last three miles van one had on the course.

The van made its way to Nauset Regional High to join van two. We hung out and chatted; before long Kelly had arrived and passed off to Sean. Van two was live, and we were done. Time to change and head to Provincetown for breakfast at our second traditional breakfast location, Post Office Cafe. There were four plus hours to kill before we could expect van two to finish-up. We grabbed some Dunks on the way out to P-town, knowing that we wouldn’t be able to get into the restaurant until after it opened at 8:00 a.m. This gave us time after we arrived to nap. We grabbed a delicious breakfast and then headed over to the beach for a #teambreakfast photo in the world’s largest chair (unverified).

With a couple of hours left to go, we took time to clean the marker off the van and prowl the festival area. Ragnar has significant merch, though I find it to be a bit of a high price point, especially considering that Reebok is their sponsor, and one of Reebok’s virtues is their general affordability. I decided I was all set with my free race shirt and opted out of grabbing any other items in the store, as usual. We convened with the van two crowd and waited for Aaron to finish his final leg. The wait wasn’t long. Our team has either gotten seriously faster or I’ve gotten much better at how I feel about the downtime during Ragnar. (Perhaps five years has made me better at managing unstructured free time, which, honestly, in my post-graduate-school-life I realize is a gift. How often do you get to sit around outside and do nothing for hours? Not often, and it’s pretty good.)

Aaron cruised up the hill and we joined him for a final run across the finish line. Ragnar 2018 was in the books.


As always, Ragnar is all about your team, and I am so lucky to have a great group with the NES Ninjas led by a terrific captain, Jess. These are folks who I can spend a few days with having little sleep and enjoying the entire time. We’ve really upped our running game, as a team, and can now be reliably counted on to get some decent running done – a bonus to be sure. Ragnar is a must do race for me. Five years ago, it was my introduction to the NE Spahtens. I don’t think I even realized my luck at the time to get to meet this fantastic group in such a cool way. Ragnar 2019 will be on my race calendar for sure. See you there fellow Ninjas.

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Featured Review: Savage Race MD 2018

I had the opportunity to venture the 360 miles down to Savage Races Spring race two day event this past weekend at Hopkins Game Farm Kennedyville, Maryland. Location was easy to find, parking was plentiful and onsite for $10. At its farthest point the parking was about a five minute walk to the entrance/check in area. There was also a premium parking option for $20 and this got you within 100 feet or so of the entrance. Checking in was easy, with no large backups, and then you are directed through the merchandise tent to the festival area. The festival area was a perfect size for the approximate 3200 finishers and their spectators that were there throughout the day Saturday. However, it felt almost empty on Sunday with only about 650 finishers and respective spectators of the inaugural Blitz race. Looking around you had the start line, a small platinum rig, the awards stage with a DJ/emcee, and last obstacle/finish line at one end, then at the other end you had the port-o-johns, two BBQ vendors, a healthy/nutritional food truck, and a shaved ice vendor. To fill in the outer perimeter of the festival, in between these two ends, were the beer tent, an AIR FORCE table, Maryland National Guard table, a Maryland Air National Guard table, the Savage Syndicate tent, future race purchase tent, and a gear drop off tent. In the open area was found numerous round tables with chairs to sit at. The area was well thought out and funneled everyone’s attention to the far left in the direction of the start/finish and the DJ.

Our start time was at 10:20am, and we had three New England Spahtens make the journey to race. We were let in the starting corral about ten minutes early and they had a hype man get everyone ready for the race. After a warm-up, hyped out speech, and a 10 second countdown, we were sent off to tackle the course. The terrain is not what most from New England would expect, open flat fields, very few single tracks thru the woods. We ran for about half a mile before we encountered our first obstacle and never went that far in between after that. One thing this course does have that we do not is slow flowing river beads. These were used on several occasions. The full race clocked in at around 6.5 miles on my Garmin, just as advertised. Not too long and not too short.

The obstacles, thirty in all, were all well built and sturdy. We got to see many of the obstacles that were in Massachusetts last year including Shriveled Richard (HEHE), Big Cheese, Saw Tooth , Twirly Bird, and Davy Jones Locker among others. We also got to experience three new obstacles just introduced this year. Holy Sheets, literally a rolled up sheet traverse to four hanging balls. Pedal to the Medal, a tire drag with a twist, you lay on your back and using only your feet you “roll” in the tire. When done drag it back out to the line. And battering ram, which was the obstacle in the finishing area, and I find this obstacle is hard to explain, but as best as I may, you are suspended from a pipe via a handle and you need to shimmy down the length of pipe to make a transition to another handle and then do it all over again to a bell (which you could kick). After completion, this brought you to crossing the finish line to get your Savage race medal, which is a new design for this year, your finisher t-shirt, water, and a Trimino protein water.

We hung around for a while watching the start line, cheering on finishers, and generally listening to the music. We cleaned up, had our beer, three options were available with your participant ticket, Coors, and for a $1 up charge you could have a Blue Moon or Dos Equis. We left with smiles on our faces, knowing we were returning the next day to participate in the first of its kind race, the Savage Blitz.

When was the last time you got to do an inaugural race? When we arrived at the venue on Sunday we got to do just that. We were two of 640 participants in Savage Races new series called the Savage Blitz, a shortened version of their course. We arrived a little later than we did on Saturday, knowing that there would be less people. While getting ready we saw the top three males and the top female cross the finish line. After that, we finished getting ready and went out with our 10am start time. The Blitz race wound us around the venue in a new way than Saturday, much to my surprise, and it was fun doing some obstacles backwards from the previous day. It made you really have to wrap your head around the technique first, at least for me. The course was just over three miles by my Garmin, and it was perfect. This being what appears to be a gateway into the full Savage Race, most of the big daunting obstacles were missing, like Colossus and Davey Jones, but you did get to run by all of them and see what could have been. The three new obstacles were still on course and fun again.

Crossing the finish line for the second time in two days was amazing. Picked up our new Savage Blitz medal, Blitz specific finishers t-shirts, a water, more Trimino, and headed over to the Syndicate tent to pick up our huge (did I mention HUGE) Syndicate medal and state Axe pins. Grabbed our beers, watched some more people finish the race with huge smiles, cleaned up and made the seven hour ride home to Massachusetts.

This was one hell of a weekend! The full course was fun, and challenging at the same time. The Blitz course was great. Hopefully they will roll this out at all venues next year. Savage Race does a great job at paying attention to what racers want. Sam Abbitt, one of the cofounders of Savage, is very active on the Syndicate facebook page and is listening. I give both Races an A+, for fun factor and quality.
So New England where will you be on July 14t​ h​? I know where I will be, at Carter and Stevens Farm, running the Savage race. I hope to see you all there.

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Featured Review: Wason Pond Pounder 2018

Wason Pond Pounder has been a part of Race Local since the beginning. It’s a small race located at a beautiful park in Chester, NH. It’s not the race with the biggest attendance, toughest obstacles, or steepest hills, but it’s a great 5K and features 24 obstacles. The best part, in my opinion, is that 100% of profits are donated to local charities.

Like most races, parking is not allowed on site. The parking lot is about 2 miles away, with shuttle buses running fairly regularly. The check-in process was smooth and fast, with volunteers who were polite and smiling. Bib numbers were posted at the entrance, a table was provided for signing waivers, bibs and timing chips were obtained at the next table, and t-shirts and swag bags were at the last table. Multilapping is allowed for $10 per lap, and even has its own table to make it a very easy process. Bag check is free and there are several vendor tables. The local fire station sells burgers, which smell great even at 8:30 am. There is no medal at this event. However, you’ll find water, several types of fruit, and cheese sticks at the finish line. There are plenty of porta-potties and there is a large changing tent. The swag bag was actually really impressive. Now, I usually peek into a swag bag, see that it’s mostly flyers and maybe a sticker, and throw the whole thing in the recycling bin. This bag has a few flyers and stickers, but it also has a cooling towel, 3 pens, a pad of paper, one of those sticks that has the anti-itch stuff that you can use on a bug bite, and a set of ear buds. Seriously, this is the first swag bag I was happy to open for a long time!

Although it is a very small race, the first wave is competitive and offers a cash prize to the winners. After that, waves go off every 20 minutes, including the final 3 waves which are considered family waves. Bring your kids as young as 8 years old! The waves were on time all day and the course was rarely crowded. In fact, the only time a crowd tends to form on this course is when a large group is trying to stay together. I’ve found that these groups tend to be very happy to let smaller groups pass by.

While the obstacles aren’t generally as tough as at some of the bigger races, there are some challenges on course. There is a set of monkey bars, an overhead pipe traverse, a sandbag carry, and an inverted wall.

They have an option of climbing a rope or a cargo net, with the rope climb being made a bit more difficult by being just after a water crossing. They have an obstacle called “wobbly docks”, which is four or five small docks roped together across a shallow bit of water. They look quite tricky, and people do fall in, but they are completely doable as long as you keep moving. While there is no real mud on the course, there is a water crossing where you’ll get wet above your knees, and there is a slide into the water where you’ll get completely wet. There is a crawl through the sand earlier in the race, though, so you’ll be happy to wash some of the sand off in the pond. Every obstacle was well built and sturdy, and there was at least one volunteer stationed at every obstacle. There is one water station placed strategically so that racers will pass by twice. The course does zig-zag a lot, so it’s easy to spot friends on the course even if you’re not racing together. Altogether, the gently rolling hills through the beautiful woods and the fun obstacles make this quite an enjoyable race.

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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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Ep73: Josh drops a bombshell!

Along with Josh’s bombshell announcement (ahem), we also discuss the 2018 Citi Field Spartan event, FIT X, the new burpee penalty adjustment. We cover some troubles as Tough Mudder tries to please everyone, we sing our praises for Akuma, and talk about whats coming up in the May time frame. 

Did you check out our revamped website? It’s easier to navigate, easier to find things, easier to use! We’re adding more and more products to the store, and by becoming an annual member, you can save 10% off everything!

Enjoy the show!

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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.

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Featured Review: Bermuda Triple Challenge

Who is up for a Racecation?  The Bermuda Triple Challenge is 3 days of OCR spread across the beautiful Island of Bermuda.  You get to experience the real flavor of Bermuda while racing though the original capital of the island, across one of its most beautiful beaches, and around the updated dockyard.  All as part of a charity event for a variety of Bermuda programs.

The Challenge is made up of 3 different races run over three days including an OCR Worlds qualifier.  Each race has its own feel with very almost no obstacle repeat.  There were a lot of familiar obstacles like wall climbs, barb wire crawls, and under/overs but also some unique obstacles I hadn’t seen before.

Here is some general info before I break down the races.  Starting with Swag, all competitors got a pretty nice tech shirt.  They made an effort to ensure that all overseas entrants were ensured a shirt by emailing a few days in advanced and asking your size.  Completing each race earned you a medal piece that all fit together into a nice medal.  There was also sponsor swag handed out at the first two races and food at the last two.

You could enter as an individual or as part of a team.  There were different rules for each as there was a winner for each type of competition.  Individuals ran alone, had a timing chip, and had to complete obstacles or pay a penalty.  For an individual to remain in contention for the podium, they had to complete all three races including 2 laps on Saturday.

Teams ran together and could share obstacle work i.e. one person had to do the weighted carry and they could switch off.  Also, only one person on a team wore a chip and the team had to cross the finish line together.  Teams also had a fund raising component and earned points for the championship based on how much money they raised ($1 = 1 point)

The official hotel for the race is the Fairmount Southampton where they had a special rate for athletes.  This is a beautiful high end hotel located centrally on the island about 2 miles from Saturday’s race.  It was also really close to the Thursday night welcome party ($60 ea) for racers.  A free shuttle bus to all the races is provided from the Fairmount but you are on your own to get back.  I didn’t stay here choosing another hotel that my wife and I liked.  We used the very easy to use Bus/Ferry system to get to the races on Friday and Sunday and took a cab on Saturday.  Speaking to some others, many people had really good luck with AirBnB to save some money.

In addition to the Welcome Party, there was an Island tour on Friday and a Sunset Boat Cruise on Sunday available for racers for an extra fee.

The Argus Urban Foot Race

This is a 3k race through St. George held on Friday night (started about 7:30) so it was dark by the time you finished.  St. George is one of the oldest parts of Bermuda so you ran through windy narrow streets surrounded by old architecture.  It was really nice.

There were a lot of familiar obstacles on the race including a version of the Destroyer (Larry Cooper and his wife were there running) but there were also a fair amount of CrossFit style stations.   Over the course of the race we had to do a tire drag, tire flips, superman burpees, and a long downhill bear crawl.  There was also a bouncy castle to climb through and a cargo net thrown over a bus.  In total there were about 20 obstacles over the short course.

This race was fast and fun as it ran up and down the main street full of bar.  So there were a lot of spectators cheering you on.  After the race, there was DJ in the square and all the bars stayed open.

The Sun Life Island Challenge

This race was Saturday morning and began at Warwick Camp home to the Bermuda Regiment and across the street from Bermuda’s best beaches (Horseshoe Bay).  The course was advertised as a 5k loop but it’s probably a little longer.  Teams ran one lap.  For Individuals, You earned your medal piece after one lap but to run for the podium or to try and qualify for the OCRWC, you had to run 2 laps.  For reference I was told that most people only did one lap.

The terrain played a large part in this race. You spent a lot of time running and doing obstacles in soft sand.  The obstacles were pretty familiar with a couple of standouts.  There were 3 weighted carries, one was along the beach, one went down the beach and up the bluff and back down, and the third went up the steepest part of the bluff to the top and you got to drop the weight there and run back down.  All the carries were long.  The big standouts were running into the surf up to your waist and “running” parallel to the shore for a couple hundred yards, a really long and fast slip and slide, and after you leave the beach to head back to the camp, you take detour to run through the Bermuda Regiment’s permanent Challenge course.  This was really fun and included a 40ft slat wall climb, some crawls, balance beams, and a rope swing.  After that you ran to the finish line.

After the race, there was a BBQ on the parade grounds and racers got their first burger free.  There was also Ice Cream Available.

Chubb Royal Challenge

This was a 5k race though the Royal Naval Dockyard.  The dockyard has been redeveloped to be a Cruise port so there are shops and restaurants but there is an old fort and prison that you get to know pretty well.

This race included swimming and they were very clear that if you weren’t a good swimmer don’t get in the water.  The did offer pool noodles to swim with if you wished but there were opt out penalties for all the swims, 15-30 burpees and some extra running.

The swims were:

1)      A 15 ft jump off a stone pier into the marina and a 100 yd swim to the other side.  This was the first obstacle of the race after about a ¼ mile run.

2)      A rope swing off a pier then swim to a ladder.  If you swung well, you entered the water near the ladder.

3)      A rope traverse between two piers.  Until last year, no one had ever made it the whole way so you went as far as you could and swam the rest of the way.

4)      A jump into the water with a swim to a bunch of inflatable obstacles.  I was told this was supposed to be a zip line but the cargo container used as the start point was put in the wrong place.  I was promised it would be a zip line next year.

 

Other obstacle highlights include a putting challenge (make the putt or do burpees), a pop quiz (get the right answer to a multiplication question or do burpees), and a spear throw.  The spear throw was different than Spartan.  You had to land the spear in a circle sticking in the ground.  Sounds easy but with the wind it was a challenge.

The course itself was a lot of fun.  Besides running along the piers, you run around the old prison and climbed to the roof.  There was long log carry around the entire top of one of the fortifications by all the cannons, the view was amazing.

After finishing the race in the Victualing Yard of the fort, they had a really great buffet for all the races including eggs and bacon, fruit, and roast beef.  The Yard became a big BBQ and party as tons of racers and spectators gathered to watch people finish.

Overall this event was awesome. The four guys in charge were friendly and checked in with us before during and after the races to make sure we were having fun or to see if we had any problems.  Bermudians are known to be friendly anyway but the race volunteers including members of the Regiment were awesome.  Everyone one of them from the young kids to the base commander were cheering us on and offering words of encouragement.

Prizes were given to both individuals and teams (although team winners were announced later due to the fund raising component).  For Individuals, awards were given to the top 3 Masters (40 and over) Men and Women, and top 3 overall Men and Women.  Prizes were Bermudian Rum and Cash.  There was some strong competition among the winners and a strong representation on the podium (and overall) from the Spartan 4-0 team.  While it was fun hanging out with them on the tour and after races, I’m hoping to see more Spahtens next year because it’s more fun with family. Plus I think some of you could hang with the podium crowd especially some of our awesome women.  If it helps convince you, the woman who came in 3rd overall claims to have never run OCR before this, she was a road racer and her husband convinced her to run.

We had the best time running these races.  The different feel for each race, the challenge of the terrain, and the varied obstacle made this a great event.  The flight home was full of racers and we were all talking about making reservations for next year.  I would highly recommend that you add this to your racing bucket list.

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Ep72: The episode where we have no plan …

On this show, we arrive with no agenda, and possibly some audio problems! But, we still get to chat about the races we’ve already hit, call Josh a wimp, and look to the Ragnar Relay season! 

Check out our newly rebooted website! With quick and easy access to the stuff YOU’VE been asking for! Pick up the new NES beach towels for the biggest discount they’ll ever be offered! http://www.newenglandspahtens.com

And register for #racelocal today – earn points, get medals and cool swag – all for supporting and running the local OCR scene! http://www.nespahtens.com/racelocal

Do you enjoy listening to the show? Share this episode with your OCR friends! Leave us a review in iTunes! Leave a comment on social media so we know you’re out there!