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Featured Review: Ragnar Cape Cod 2019

NES Ninjas team photo

For the sixth (!) consecutive year, I had the privilege of running Ragnar Cape Cod with the New England Spahtens 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 Smuggler’s Beach, Massachusetts. The team of 12 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 2019 was a great group. In van one, #teambreakfast, we had (in runner order): Kelly, Wes, Shaina, Bobby, Pete, and Aaron. In van two, #teamdinner, there was me, Sean, Geoff, Monica, Josh, and Jess. My three legs were 7.8 miles, 6.3 miles, and 12.3 miles, making me one of the runners going a longer (actually the farthest) amount of distance. Our captain, Jess, is great about assigning us our legs, and everyone almost always gets something in their top three choices. Both running long and running short are fun – in truth the real “test” of Ragnar is mental as much as 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 the tip of the Cape.

This year was the second that I was in van 2. The different experiences between the various vans is significant. While my van 1 teammates were pulling themselves out of bed at around 4:00 a.m., the folks in van 2 got to sleep in — we didn’t have to be at the check-in point at Duxbury Beach until 10:00 a.m., which would give us ample time to organize ourselves before van 1 was set to exchange with us around noon.

The weather in May in New England can be a chancy thing, and this year’s Ragnar Cape Cod offered a sample of New England weather at its finest, which is to say the weather was wack. It was cloudy and in the mid-50s when we pulled into Duxbury Beach, and, boy, was it windy. By which I mean it was some next level wind that made it hard to hear people. We clamored out of the van and headed over to the festival area where we presented our safety gear — Ragnar requires all runners to wear reflective vests, a headlamp, and a blinking “tail” light during overnight hours — and watched the brief and eccentric safety video before getting our bibs. We wandered around checking out vendor tents and the merch tent. If you’re a Ragnar regular it is all stuff you’ve seen a million times, but the selection is solid. Reebok is the partner for Ragnar, and they provide a lot of good gear for those who are interested. (As someone who’s lucky enough to product test for Reebok, I am able to get their products for free as compensation for my testing, so I opted out of purchasing anything this weekend.)

Soon, van 1 rolled into Duxbury. Aaron was out on course and soon it would be my turn to kick it off with my first run of 7.8 miles. It wasn’t long before we could see Aaron heading into the transition area. I shrugged off my DryRobe and stood underneath the arch where we’d make the transition. Our team tradition is to do chest bumps at each exchange. I’ll admit it — I am a bad chest bumper (too short), so when Aaron came in for bump I almost fell over and the poor guy had to catch me. Thanks for having my back, Aaron! 

I ran out from Duxbury Beach into a really strong headwind. The 7.8 miler ended up being more challenging than anticipated but an absolutely lovely run — one of the nicest in my Ragnar Cape Cod experience. From Duxbury, I ran across a large wooden bridge that traversed the bay. The wind was so loud that I couldn’t hear, but the views were spectacular. About a mile into the run, we made a turn and were protected from some of the wind by a street lined with homes. The houses in Duxbury are just great. I enjoyed “house hunting” as I ran along. It was nice to have the distraction. The route we took was hilly. Forget anything I have ever said about the Cape being flat because I take it all back. I kept up a decent pace though. I’d predicted I’d run 10:00s. With the strong wind and hills, I was running more like 10:30s, but, all things considered, I thought that was pretty excellent. It also rained a little bit towards the midpoint of my run. I was happy to look out over beautiful bays and enjoy historic homes as I ran through Duxbury. 

After around 80 minutes of running the exchange was in sight. I spotted Sean and ran to pass off. I was glad to be done. My run was fun because of all of the great views and picturesque town, but constant hills and wind had me feeling a bit beaten down. Plus, I still had a 6.3 miler and a 12.3 miler to go. Time to change into dry clothing, eat some snacks, get warm, and rest. 

Van 2 made our way though the the towns right before the Borne and Sagamore Bridges. (Yes, many people say you are technically not on the Cape until you cross the Cape Cod Canal, so I guess the first legs for our team were not really on the Cape.) We would be making our Myles Standish State Park in Carver where we’d have a virtual exchange with Van 1. Basically, they weren’t meeting us there but would be notified by Ragnar HQ when we arrived so they could start running from where they were located at Sandwich High School. Good thing that Ragnar was using some boosters to connect to a signal because Myles Standish was a cell phone dead zone. 

While we waited, we were lucky enough to connect with another Ragnar team of fellow NE Spahtens, the NES Men-ish team’s van 2 group. I think we got to see more of them than of the van 1 NES Ninjas. An odd thing about Ragnar is how little you get to see your fellow teammates in the other van — really only a couple of times when you transition between runners six and seven and runners 12 and one. The only sad thing about Ragnar is I wish I could have seen my friends more. Seeing the NES Men-ish was a great bonus though.

After the virtual exchange, van 2 was off. It was time for some noms. The NES Ninjas and Men-ish teams headed across the Cape Cod Canal to Hyannis and dinner at the Black Cat Tavern. I was really in need of some food having probably not taken in enough calories over the course of the day, lunch being some random bison jerky, nuts, and crackers. In fact, my dinner of shrimp scampi was just what I needed because after an afternoon of feeling pretty drained of energy and slightly nauseous, I was feeling more like myself again. Just in time to run around 6.3 miles.

Our team was running about an hour or so ahead of schedule, so my evening run was slated to start at 8:30 p.m. instead of the originally predicted time of 9:30 p.m. I was pleased to start early — it meant I would be able to get some sleep sooner, and I was feeling tired. We headed to Barnstable High School where I coordinated my safety gear and changed into running clothing again. 

Night running is interesting. When it’s dark and you’re the only runner on the road, it can almost feel like you’re not even moving but instead floating through space. I didn’t quite get to that flow state on this run but had a fine enough run nonetheless. The course took me along some main roads and there were a lot of street crossings, which required some care and lots of attention. They slowed me down a little but fortunately the route wasn’t too hilly and the weather was not overly windy (though instead it was crazy humid — you could see moisture in your headlamp, according to some of my teammates). 

I finished my run in a little over an hour. The weather was warmer than it had been all day and my outfit was very wet from the elements. I changed immediately. I was super beat. I had run over 14 miles and in between sat in a cramped van. Sound fun? I’m not going to lie; some of the deprivations are part of the enjoyment of the Ragnar challenge. Regardless, I had another 12.3 miles coming up in less than 12 hours and was not feeling my best. I needed to crash. I pulled my sleeping bag out of the back, crawled in and immediately passed out on the back seat. 

I am a good sleeper. It’s probably a super power. Regardless, I lay down at around 10:00 p.m. and completely zonked out. Other than a trip to a portable bathroom at some unfortunate hour, I don’t remember a thing until 6:00 a.m. This might sound fairly unremarkable. Perhaps you are a person who often sleeps between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.; that’s reasonable. But let me put this into perspective for you. This entire time, my teammates were getting in and out of the van, running their legs, and we were driving all around. I have zero memory of this. Apparently at one point someone even tried to give me information while I was sleeping. Nope. No memory of this at all, though apparently I produced some inaudible phonemes. Pretty much everyone else on my team slept something like 8 minute. 

So for all of that when my 12.3 miler rolled around at 8:00 a.m. Saturday morning, I was hoping to feel my brightest and best self. I wasn’t. I was feeling dead on my feet. It’s ironic too because I had trained for this. I had been doing 13 to 15 mile long runs with a back-to-back run of 70 to 90 minutes the next day for months. The bottom line is that some days are off days and unfortunately the running I did at Ragnar this year was some off day running.

I headed off on my 12.3 miler down the Cape Cod Rail Trail in Eastham. I had a plan to do 4/1 run/walk intervals to make my way through. I was feeling meh but keeping it moving at a steady pace, running sub-10:30s and walking at around 15:00s to 16:00s. Midway into my second or so mile a fellow NE Spahten, Courtney, from one of the other NES teams met up with me. She was doing great; I was struggling. Courtney was a true champ and a pal and kept with me adding some much needed mental support. Another bonus was that at around mile five my team met us on the bike path! The 12.3 mile run was technically no van support, meaning that the running route and van routes did not converge. The Ninjas had made a special effort to meet up with me. They are an awesome group.

A little over half way through the run, we took a turn off the bike path onto a fire road and into Nickerson State Park. This is where the run really went downhill for me. I was beat and using every motivational strategy I had to keep up my pace. With the change to fire roads, trails, and small sidewalks throughout the forest, things got hilly. Really hilly. The last four or five miles were relentless with the ups and downs. I was hurting. I was chaffed, my legs were sore, and I was trying my best to keep moving as fast as I could. I didn’t want to let me team down — more than anything that was my goal. Courtney was feeling great, while I was really flagging. In the last two miles I felt badly enough for holding her back that I said, “Really go. I will meet you at the finish.” I had plans to change my strategy to a 3/2 run/walk but instead decided that I would power hike the hills and run everything else, responding to the terrain instead of a timer. My early miles had all been in the 11:00-range but my pace dropped into the 12:00-range at this point. I was giving 100% effort though; even if it was for 10% results. I had not had such a bad run in a really long time. I still don’t know what my issue was, but I know I was entirely exhausted and doing everything to keep moving as fast as I possibly could. 

We exited the park, making our way up and down in a hilly neighborhood and finally onto a main street. There was just a half mile to go. I gritted my teeth and ran hard as I could up the final hill to the finishing arch. There was Sean waiting to hand me a medal for finishing the longest leg on the course. He handed it to me and took off as I sat down in a heap on the ground. I was done.

I have mixed feeling about my last run of the 2019 Ragnar relay. First, I should say that my team was overwhelmingly supportive and encouraging. On the one hand, I am dismayed that I lost us about 20 minutes with my slow pace. I am disappointed in myself with the performance I gave. But what could I have done? I trained right, and I ran that leg as hard as I could on that day. Usually those two things combine, and they pay off. Sometimes they don’t. As athletes, we don’t always know why we have an off day. Sometimes you run and it feels like flying and freedom, which is a joy. Sometimes you run and it feels like pulling yourself through sand and dragging weighted legs, which is a mental trial. Having the longest leg at Ragnar is a privilege. I wish I could have taken more advantage of it and enjoyed it more. Not every race can be the best race we want; sometimes we just struggle through and do what we can.

A key thing about Ragnar though is being present in the moment — I don’t mean this in a “new age” kind of way; I just mean that you don’t want to dwell on your performance or spend you free time engaged with your phone instead of your friends. So I put my feelings about my long run on the back burner and took the opportunity to enjoy the last Ragnar afternoon with my teammates. I got out of the van at each exchange to cheer people on and to enjoy the beaches of Harwich and South Yarmouth. The weather had turned sunny with temperatures in the mid-60s. After a spring of days of uninterrupted rain, I was going to maximize this time.

Before I knew it we were sending out Jess, runner 12, for her last leg and making our way over to Smuggler’s Beach to meet up with van 1 and finish this Ragnar thing.

The parking at Smuggler’s Beach was crowded, but we found a place where we could quickly clean the marker off the van. (Note: Marking the van is a Ragnar tradition, as is “tagging” other team’s vans with magnets.) We grabbed our gear and headed to the festival area where the rest of our team was waiting for us. 

Prior to this year, the Ragnar Cape Cod event had always finished in Provincetown and, I admit, that I prefer that venue to Smuggler’s Beach. The festival area here was a bit crowded, way too loud, and somewhat lack luster. The joy of relaxing on the grass, having a post-race chowder and beer was replaced with sitting on the asphalt with no beer (the line was too long) and a pulled pork sandwich. (Okay, yes, the food was still pretty good, and the mac ‘n cheese side was killer awesome.) So, yeah, I miss Provincetown but, whatever, because I was sitting in the sun with friends and we had just run almost 200 miles together. Can I complain? Naw.

Six years has turned Ragnar Cape Cod into a tradition. It is legitimately the race I look most forward to year after year. I give 100% credit to the NES Ninjas and our fantastic captain, Jess. There are no other folks I would rather spend 36 hours with and run the length of the Cape. So, same time, same place next year? Oh, yeah, and I’ll take more beer and less miles for 2020. Thanks, all!

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Featured Review: Cinco de Mjolnir Ultra Viking 2019

NES at Viking

I’m a fan of Viking Obstacle Course, a fixed course of around six miles at Sunny Hill golf resort in Greenville, New York. I try to make it there every year for at least one of their several races. 2018 ended up being busy and the races just didn’t fit into my schedule. As a result, I was determined to make it to Viking in 2019. Enter their May 5 race, Cinco de Mjolnir Ultra Viking.

It actually turned out that the May 5 race wasn’t ideal for my schedule either — the date was the Sunday before Ragnar Cape Cod, where I’ll be running around 26 miles that Friday and Saturday. As a result, while I was signed up for the eight hour “ultra” race, I decided it made sense to do one fun lap to see how my obstacle fitness has overwintered and otherwise keep this an easy effort. There was an option for a charity 10K the same day as the Ultra Viking, but that race was at around 11:30 a.m., and the ultra started at 8:30 a.m., which would leave more time free in the afternoon for R&R.

My house is about two hours from Greenville, NY, so I got up early and made my way to the race the day-of. There are plenty of places to stay on-site for those who want them, so if you’re traveling from father away, keep that in mind. The race tends to have an intimate field of less than a hundred runners, so check-in in the club house on-site was a breeze. I was able to park my car footsteps from check-in and a very quick walk to the start line.

The day of Viking dawned wet and cool. We’ve had rain non-stop in New England for pretty much all of April and the start of May but the 50 degree temperatures have been on the colder side for this time of year, I think. Regardless, I layered up with long pants and a long sleeved t-shirt. The Viking course is wet in the best of times with muddy sections as well as a pond and a river that are all integrated into the course. I was hoping that race director, Asa, would have some pity and not send us through every water element on the course.

At about 15 minutes before our 8:30 a.m. race start, I headed out of the club house, where I’d been avoiding the weather, to the start line. I stashed my gear in the covered picnic area and checked in with some fellow Spahtens. It was a small but awesome group.

We braved the rain to line up and listen to pre-race announcements at the start from Asa. He explained the penalty system for the race. There were five obstacles that you got a penalty for not completing, which were to be completed at the end of your lap — the rope climb, the Dragon’s Tooth monkey bars (which included up and downhill bars), the five-part traverse wall, the Norse Poles (wood blocks hanging from ropes), and Asgard Skywalk (a balance obstacle with rope traverse). At each obstacle you passed, you’d receive a band to prove you’d completed it and, thus, avoid a penalty. All standard walls and carries were mandatory. Odin’s Tables, where racers climbed up a ramp and then climbed down the rope hanging off the other side, had an on-course penalty if you didn’t complete the obstacle.

At 8:40 a.m. we headed off to begin the race! I was planning just one fun lap but many people were serious about doing as many loops of the approximately six mile course in eight hours as they could. To that I say, “Props!” The weather was wet and the course even wetter. We waded through mud and traversed streams. I was completely submerged up to my shoulders after one river crossing. The weather stayed rainy, which meant that once you were wet — which was immediately — you weren’t getting dry. Plus the course put us through water again and again. The temperatures hovered in the low 50s, but as long as I kept moving I actually felt alright and the cold was less a problem than I thought it would be. Fortunately, the course did not have us doing a swim in the pond and completely submerging.

Viking has a wonderful and diverse set of obstacles, created by Rob Butler of Shale Hill. I have a detailed write-up from Viking with descriptions of all the obstacles on my blog from the past. Since that post, which I recommend reading for more content about the obstacles, the layout for how you tackle the obstacles has changed a bit. Racers now run the old course almost in reverse, though there’s a bit of meandering back and forth to add some miles. Regardless the course is fun, and I love the obstacles there. They are the perfect mix of challenging and achievable. The only obstacle I failed was the Dragon’s Tooth monkey bars, which I find hard always and the wet didn’t help.

Despite the weather, I actually had a blast at Viking. I took it fairly easy on Sunday, keeping a modest pace and focusing on enjoyment over performance. I’ve seen very serious about my athletic pursuits lately and have been training super super hard. In all of that, I have somewhat forgotten that this is play. Taking a step back at Viking and playing instead of beating myself up with lap after lap was a good move for me and great for my mental state. It also gave me the opportunity to bond with teammates, something I haven’t done in a while as I’ve been in a “run my own race” state of mind. I didn’t let the weather get me down and prevent me from having a good day.

Being relaxed definitely helped my performance in some ways too. Though I wasn’t at my fastest, I did well with only one failed obstacle. Winter training for me doesn’t involve a lot of grip work, and I tend to bulk up a little from lifting heavy, so I was glad to have solid results on the obstacles this early in the season. Over the next week or so, I will be switching up my training to work on grip and muscular endurance and should lean down a little going into August and my A-race for OCR, NorAm.

For those who are looking to hit up Viking this season, they have another race coming up on July 27 and have regular training throughout the summer. While I won’t be able to make the July race, I would love to go back to Greenville for training and for a fall race, if they do one for, say, Halloween (hint hint). Fellow, NE Spahtens, I’d love to have some friends to run with, so maybe I’ll see you all there?

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Featured Review: Shale Hill Polar Bear 8 Hour 2019

The temperature gauge on my Volkswagen registered -10 degrees Fahrenheit as  I pulled out of the driveway of the Lake Bomoseen house where I was staying with my fellow NE Spahten teammates. It was 6:00 a.m. and I was headed to Shale Hill for their final race, Polar Bear 8 Hour.

The sky was still dark when I pulled into the parking lot and made my way up the hill to the barn for check-in. The air was the kind of cold that makes your body suck into it self. I huddled in my Dryrobe and walked as close as was safe to the many small fires that illuminated our way. I had done this walk so many times before; there was no way that this could be the end.

At the top of the hill, I hurried myself into the barn to check in. Jill Butler, co-race director, was there graciously managing all the logistics as always. She welcomed me by name as I picked up my bib and dropped of my gear. From there, I headed over to the “party barn” for breakfast, catered by the local Wheel Inn and the pre-race meeting.

Familiar faces met me right away. One element of Shale Hill that I cannot overstate is the sense of community. Racers who come to Shale Hill to train and race often mention the innovative and challenging course and the beauty of watching the sun rise and set from the start line. These things keep people coming back again and again. But the piece that has always struck me as unique about Shale Hill is the community that co-owners, Jill and Rob Butler have built. At Shale Hill, racers tackle the course together, they know each other by name, and they support each other. This is a testament to the welcoming and familial atmosphere that Rob and Jill have created. Shale Hill is greater than the sum of its parts in that most inexplicable way that so many wonderful things are. As someone who quantifies things for a living, it strikes me that I cannot entirely quantify all my feelings about Shale Hill. How can I place an exact figure on the sense of love I have for the place and how its supported me in my growth as an athlete and provided refuge in good and challenging times? Shale Hill has been there for me in and has given me something that I hadn’t even known I needed.

In the party barn, I connected with fellow NES friend, Bobby, and the two of us grabbed some breakfast and coffee. I chowed on eggs and french toast while Rob Butler led the pre-race meeting providing details relevant to the day. The frigid weather has left tires and wheelbarrows buried under snow and glued to the frozen earth with ice, meaning non-elite racers would walk those loops unencumbered. Rob also explained the Polar Bear penalty system, which required racers to run back to the previous obstacle when they failed something. In select instances, where obstacles were quite far apart, racers would instead take a chip and complete obstacles like battle ropes and sled rides at the conclusion of their loop. The goal: As many loops of the approximately 6.5 mile, 70 obstacles Shale Hill course as possible in eight hours.

Did I mention it wasn’t even zero degrees Fahrenheit outside?

I am not a good cold weather athlete. I’ll be fine if it’s 80 degrees, but winter weather is a challenge. Knowing this, my goal for Polar Bear is always to be non-competitive and run in the penalty-free journeyman division. I am quite serious about setting only a small handful of A-races per year during my peak time of the summer. I don’t believe in every race being an all out event, and I am lucky to have coaches that work with me on periodization that makes sense for my race calendar. Suffice it to say, that with temperatures as cold as they were and snow on the ground, I was realistic about planning to do one lap at the 2019 Polar Bear race.

After breakfast, I coordinated myself for the 7:50 a.m. start time of the journeyman wave. Vermont had gotten about 18″ of snow over the past few weeks. The first layer has packed down into an impermeable icy layer. On top of it was another 6″ to 10″ of powder that we’d have to wade through, similar to running along a sandy beach. I put on Icebugs with carbide tips, gaters, two layers of pants, two tops and a jacket, and two buffs — one for my face and one for my ears. I put on gloves and added Bleggmits on top. I stuffed foot warmers into my shoes and hand warmers into my gloves. I was ready to go. Or as ready as I would ever be. At 7:54 a.m., I crossed the starting line at Shale Hill for the last time.

I have spoken at great length in many many blog posts about the obstacles at Shale Hill. If you’re looking for a detailed play by play, I refer you to my write-up from summer 2014 and the NES weekend training. Obstacles have been added since that time, but it will give you a good idea about what we were up against. Rob Butler’s obstacles are no joke. They are innovative, challenging, and a heck of a lot of fun. I am a decent enough obstacle course racing athlete, and yet I have never completed an entire loop of Shale Hill with 100% obstacle completion. For context, I cannot think of any other race series where I haven’t been able to 100% in one or more of their races.

Polar Bear 2019 had its own set of challenges. The cold was mind-numbing. When the wind blew I got a cold headache, like one might get from drinking a bubble tea too fast. My muscles did not cooperate. My fingers did not grip. My hips were locked. Of course, faced with the snow, ever step was effortful and anything more than a little bit of running was off the table for me. It is truly humbling to experience the effects of weather on the body. All of the racers at Polar Bear were challenged in this way. I failed obstacles that are a snap for me in warm weather. The 7′ wall that I consider one of the most manageable obstacles on course was a challenge without assistance. My gloves slipped on the ropes making them impossible to climb. If I tried to take my fingers out of the gloves, they would get numb, making my grip strength exactly zero. Everything was a tremendous effort.

The first couple of obstacles, the split log carry and the pond rope traverse, had some unexpected back-ups. Since I was journeyman, I walked the log loop sans-log. The pond traverse is a favorite of mine and something I wanted to do one last time. As luck would have it, very few people wanted to try the lane was the metal ring around the rope. I opted to tackle that traverse, leading me to get to move ahead quickly. However, the pond traverse was a good example of what was to come in terms of effort. That rope traverse took it out of me. I barely made it to the end and was left huffing and sapped of energy, body almost shaking. Exerting yourself in the extreme cold is no joke.

I was glad to have the company of fellow NE Spahtens on the course to keep up morale. I ran with Bobby for quite a bit, saw Niki and Steve, Josh and Molly, and encountered a few others briefly. Friendly faces helped. I got to meet some entertaining guys from Connecticut who gave me a mental boost in the last mile. It was great to see some photographer friends all over the course to add a smile to a rough race experience.

It’s pretty easy to get lost in the “pain cave” when you’re walking across a meadow into the wind in weather that makes your eyes feel as though their fluids are turning to a solid state. It’s almost impossible not to question how you define fun when you’re on the top of a metal obstacle and feel its penetrating chill. 2019 Polar Bear was mentally challenging. I have never failed so many obstacles in my life. Truly it’s a shame because while I did as much as my body could do in this last race at Shale Hill, what I really wanted was to be able to do everything, something that was impossible for me given the conditions. In a way, I knew this would happen — I am not a winter racer after all. So in many ways, this summer’s 24 Hours of Shale Hell was my farewell effort. Though just as I say that I want to take it back. Because every time I run Shale Hill I want to run it again so that I can try harder, do better, see the moon from the top of a pile of hay bales, watch the sun come up over the mountains as I wrench myself up from my sleeping bag for another lap.

I crossed the finish line after 3:50 out on the course. I was freezing, and I was tired. One and done. I accepted my medal and went inside to change and get a hot drink and some food. I’m not such of a social person, but I love post-race time at Shale Hill. I ate many delicious rolls from the buffet while I chatted with Amy, Bobby, Liz, Niki, and Steve about our love of Shale Hill and various feelings of denial and sadness that it was over. (There was some bargaining thrown in there too — those of you familiar with the Kubler-Ross model may sense a pattern…)

Finally, it was time to go. I said goodbye to my team and then made my way around saying farewell to all the Shale Hill folks I have come to have such affection for. I was especially glad that I was able to see Jill who has always been so generous with allowing me to come up to Shale Hill for training and stay over. I was sorry to not get to say a final goodbye to Rob and thank him for his excellent coaching during training weekends and for building such an amazing course.

I don’t think that I will ever race anywhere else again in the same way that I raced at Shale Hill these past five years. Shale Hill has always been a staple in my race calendar. It’s odd not to have a race to look forward to with them this summer. And I know that while other things may fill my time, nothing will be a replacement. Shale Hill will always be a special place, the years an experience to forever value, and the camaraderie we all found there a testament to Rob and Jill’s efforts.

The truth is, I don’t know how to end this post because I am not quite sure yet how to say farewell to Shale Hill. But maybe it’s as simple as just this: Thank you.

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Episode 5 – Garfield Griffiths of CMC

In this episode of nespahtens.TV, we speak to Garfield Griffiths – once English, now a Floridian who is well known from his time with other race brands, and the fantastic 2015 OCR World Championship course – he is now leading the charge in the reboot of one of our favorite races – Civilian Military Combine.

Audio Only

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The cost of a Perfect Delta

Update 2/24/16

As Spartan add the hardware to their store, and after a few weeks of feedback – I wanted to add a couple of items to this article. Scroll down to find the TRUE, updated cost to getting your Perfect Delta.

What is the Delta?

Delta-Expanded-View-2Spartan’s infographic on the Delta isn’t very clear – so let me try to sum it up as best I can, with the information I currently have available (and thank you to Spartan HQ for fact checking and clarifying this post prior to publication).

12/1/16 update – Spartan HQ got back in touch post publication with some more updates to the pricing – I’ve noted these in the body of this article.

It starts with a flat piece of steel – called a “Circuit”, with space for three pie pieces, and three Delta Icons (more below). The pyramid – the Delta – you see in all the photos seems to be THREE of these Circuits, leaning against each other on a round base. You do not earn a single, solid pyramid. You probably have to buy the Circuits too – but details aren’t available on the cost.

You’re supposed to build your Delta with three Circuits – one for each of three types of Trifecta (Race, Endurance and Training) – but of course, feel free to fill it up with any pie piece you want, in any combination. They have cute names for some of the combos – if you have three Race Trifecta’s, then it’s a 3T Trifecta. If you have three Endurance Trifecta’s then it’s a Masters of Endurance Trifecta.

Those corner tab pieces (the Delta Icons) you’re supposed to be able to earn at each venue – but at time of writing, the help article describing these is poorly written to the point I have no real clue what they are or how you get them. Neither did HQ! Expect more information to come on these in the future.

I don't even know what this means ...
I don’t even know what this means …

If you have three Circuits – one from each type of Trifecta – this is called the Perfect Delta.

Lets analyze this Perfect Delta, and how much it’s going to cost you.

Note: I’ve given the cheapest prices we could find at time of writing, and listed our source. These will go up, of course, and worth noting, it doesn’t have to be done in a single calendar year. This can be picked up over multiple seasons.

UPDATE 2/24/16

Each “Delta Icon” is now listed at $5 each. $45 for a Delta’s worth of Icons, picked up at a venue (so, no shipping)

Also, the Delta hardware is now in the Spartan store and you can get it for the low low price of $125  – photos courtesy of Jeremy Reid, who got his in recently.

delta_new1$$
Race Trifecta:

A Sprint, Super and Beast. We’re familiar with these. Sprint pricing starts at $79 (Sunday in MA), $109 for a Super in MA and $159 to get your Beast in NJ.

You can get in cheaper with a regional season pass for $259, or volunteer and get free codes. Of course, you can make three Circuits up with Race Trifecta’s, and call it the 3T Trifecta, if you like – but thats not the Perfect Delta.

Total cost for a Race Trifecta: $259 (for the regional SP).

Update 2/24/16 – I was given feedback that I should include insurance costs in this total. Even if you use a season pass, you are on the hook for $14 per race insurance. So, $42 insurance too.

Endurance Trifecta:

A Hurricane Heat, 12h Hurricane Heat and an Ultra Beast.

Hurricane Heats are $25 add-on’s to your regular heat, or $100 if you do it totally solo. Most people simply add this on to their existing race weekend though. $25 it is.

The 12 hour Hurricane Heat, if you can travel to one, will run you $150 (Taken from the Vegas event)

The only Ultra Beast on the calendar today is in NJ, and it starts you at $175 (if you want to run Women’s Elite, oddly, this is the cheapest wave – Opens and Male Elite were more).

No season pass for any of these events. You’re paying $350 for this trifecta, minimum.

Update: Season Passes CAN be used for Hurricane Heats – but there are “gotcha’s”. You can ONLY use a SP once per weekend. That means you can use it for both the Hurricane Heat and the 12H Hurricane Heat, but not the same weekend you do a race. To get a race, a HH and a 12H HH, you will be visiting Spartan on even more race weekends. Still. Included in your SP. $free

Ultra Beast – I’ve been assured by HQ that the Season Pass also qualifies you for a 55% discount on Ultra Beast, bringing the cost to $96.25 at a base minimum cost. I can’t find this documented on the Spartan website at time of writing, however.

So – IF you have a Season Pass, and IF you go to a race weekend for your Hurricane Heat, your 12H Hurricane Heat, and EACH of your three Race Trifecta events – you can get an Endurance Trifecta for as little as $96.25

Training Trifecta:

To get your Training Trifecta – the most expensive step on the Perfect Delta, you need to go through two courses, and one endurance event.

SGX training has been around a while now. To earn your piece of the Delta pie, you need to take a Spartan approved class. Coming soon is a single day, Spartan Obstacle Specialist class, for $395, that will be the simplest, quickest way to earn your piece of the pie. No prior personal training experience needed. Thanks to HQ for helping clarify this, it seems to be the most confusing piece of the Delta story.

SpartanX is something new, and appears to be an online course that will cost you $199 to complete (and you have to test out of it – I assume you need to pass that test). It’ll help you prepare mentally to be a Spartan.

Lastly, the Agoge – the “not a Death Race”, event. Offered in various time lengths, all appear to start at $375, but a Season Pass will get you $75 off this – again, I can’t find documentation of this perk, but HQ assure me it’s the case.

$669 for the Training Trifecta.

So – that Perfect Delta means you will almost certainly have to live the Spartan lifestyle – as it’ll cost you $1,653 at a barest minimum.

So – if you align all the stars correctly, and commit a full race weekend to a Sprint, Super, Beast – AND the Hurricane Heat and 12H Hurricane Heat – AND all five of these events happen to fall in a single region, then you COULD make your Regional Season Pass work hard, and get a Perfect Delta for only $1,024.25 (at present, I don’t see a single region with all these events – and the Spartan website doesn’t note some of these discounts – worth noting, this doesn’t include insurance, parking, gas, tolls, beer money, bail money and other sundry expenses)

UPDATE 2/24/16 – Plus $212 to buy your hardware and get your insurance! New total: $1236.25

As they say in the Delta description – Total commitment is the only true starting point.

I’ll be honest, when I started this exercise, I thought the end $ cost would have been much higher. While I used barest minimum pricing,  I think the knowledge that this can be earned over multiple seasons reduces the impact of the financial cost considerably. I think the biggest take away about the Delta is that you don’t actually earn a solid stainless steel pyramid – you earn panels – then assemble them at home. There’s going to be some disappointed fans out there …

Will you be trying to earn your Perfect Delta?

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Who is ready to race?

The warm sun, the gentle breeze, the mud; cooling off in the water after tackling a grueling course in the heat of the summer.  Congratulating yourself for a race well run with an iced cold beer.

Boy, it’s going to be amazing when race season comes back around!

Except, around these parts, we didn’t get the memo of race season requiring warm sun and a gentle breeze.  On Sunday, January 31st the 2016 #racelocal Grand Prix kicks off in earnest with Blizzard Blast!

BB tree

When you sign up for Blizzard blast, make sure you use the following team name: NE Spahtens. We’ve got your hook up for 15% off, at check out pop in NES15.  Boom, saving cake!  We’ll be rolling in one of three waves, 12:30, 12:45 and 1:00. Right now, until this Friday (1/8) the price is $64.  $64!!!!  I mean, holy ___.  A kickin’ race, amaze-ball obstacles, more fun than a barrel of monkeys on a sled in a blizzard, and a medal you won’t want to take off!

#racelocal 2016 is the year we get the whole family involved!  Do you have kids who have always wanted to run with you?

BB kegsThe minimum age for this one is 14.  If you think you have what it takes to keep up with your super star, make sure they are signed up as well!

Blizzard Blast has some of the most innovative, challenging, and fun obstacles you’ll find…on top of the fact that it’s an OCR in the winter.  I mean, right?!?  Let that sink in for a minute. You don’t have to wait until spring or summer, and your kids get to run with you.

It’s time to get serious, and it’s time to race, and it’s time to get the family involved!

Have you registered for the 2016 #racelocal yet?  Have you seen the 2016 medal?  Ooooooh,  you haven’t?

rl medal

 

Those eyes, tho. Right?!

Your first race gets you this badass medal.  And, here is the thing…every year this happens after Blizzard Blast:

Pictures of the event get posted and people get massive FOMO.  “Those obstacles look super cool, why didn’t I know about that race?”  Then the pictures of people’s medals start hitting on line…

Don’t be left out.

#racelocal.  Blizzard Blast.  It all starts…now.

 

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Endurance Society 2016

endurancesocietylogo

Please welcome Andy and Jack to the #racelocal 2016 season! I personally am very excited about this as I have been a fan of their races for a while. For those not familiar with the Endurance Society, here’s a bit about them from their website:

The Endurance Society is an organization that is dedicated to providing extraordinary physical and psychological adventures to the endurance community.

​Co-founded in 2014 by Andy Weinberg and Jack Cary, the mission of The Endurance Society is twofold: To create unique, life-changing, and mind-blowing experiences for adventure enthusiasts, and to utilize our members for community involvement.

They have just opened their 2016 membership drive with some new levels this year: a $19, $49 and $99 membership levels, with different swag offers and different levels of discounts to events. They have also partnered up with Rob Butler of Shale Hill as well as Killington for ski passes, Fuego Y Agua, and many more ski resorts, outdoor outfitters and endurance events. Check the ES website for all the partners and discounts.

Can’t wait to see you all up at Frigus for the first ES #racelocal event!!

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Robb McCoy joins Bone Frog Challenge

#racelocal and the New England OCR scene just got a little bit more awesome.

11073578_834434089963608_275746813643007483_oWe’re excited to be the first to announce that Robb McCoy, evil mastermind behind FIT Challenge – is joining the Bone Frog Challenge team as a Race Co-Ordinator for their expanding 2016 season!

What does this mean?

FIT Challenge is going no where!

Robb is still the owner and operator of one of the best short course OCR’s in the region, and it still operates independently – but along side his duties as “Chief Bicep Officer” of FIT, he will now also be working along side the Bone Frog Challenge crew, leading their road crew as they expand down the east coast in 2016.

The decision to bring Robb onto the Bone Frog team was easy. He is an incredible asset to any OCR and his involvement in Bone Frog’s growth will be instrumental in bringing us to the next level. His first hand knowledge of obstacles as well as OCR operations is where we will be utilizing his skills. We could not be more proud to welcome him into the Bone Frog family” – Brian Carney

With races already announced for Carolina Adventure World, South Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia – and of course the annual return to the best mountain in Western MA – Berkshire East – and more to be announced – Bone Frog is growing, and doing it the best way this industry knows – organically and with the best people in the sport involved.

I couldn’t be more excited to join Brian and the Bone Frog team. Aside from the absolute top notch events Bonefrog produces, their values as an organization are second to none. I’m honored to be a part of their expansion as a company and can’t wait to get on that mountain in May!” – Robb McCoy

(oh, and there are some other well known names from our local community joining his team, such as Scott Sweeney, already volunteer co-ordinator at FIT, will be the new Bone Frog Challenge volunteer co-ordinator- another superb choice).

Congratulations to everyone – we think this is an awesome move – and #racelocal is only going to be even better, as a result!

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The Kids Are In The Game!

Benson Bear

Soon, the 2016 #racelocal Grand Prix will be on us.  Walls will be climbed, heavy things carried, miles will be run, mountains will be scaled.  There are medals to be earned.  One of the items we are very excited, and very proud, to announce about ~this year’s~ 2016 Grand Prix is it’s not just for *you* any longer.

It’s time to get the kids into the game!

A few early details for you: Some races will have a minimum age requirement, some will not.  Some will have a minimum age requirement, and require the child to run with their parent.  But this year your children are going to have the ability to run, crawl, jump, get muddy, and #racelocal right along with you! FULL details are coming very soon!

MaAlong with the registration information, there will be information about how to register your child for #racelocal as well.  While you are earning swag for your races, so will your child (or children). Oh, wait…you didn’t think we’d save all the cool stuff for the big kids, did you?  Oh, no…we have a lot of very cool things lined up just for the kids division!  The more they race, the more they earn!

What could be better than spending the day together, racing, and earning cool swag?  That’s what we thought, too…nothing!  Which is why we’ve put this whole thing (and prizes) together!

Racing should be able to combine all of your passions together, and now it can.  We told you the 2016 #racelocal was going to be bigger and better than ever, and we mean it.

Now, look – medals and prizes are fantastic, we all enjoy earning them.  We have all crossed a finish line with friends, our battle buddies. Imagine taking on a race with your family! Helping each other on the course, building memories as you finish the race together; those would be memories which would stay with you, and your family members, forever!  Ultimately this is the big goal, to bring us all together.  #racelocal #strongertogether

FIT

We hope you have questions, and we hope you’re as excited as we are! Keep your eyes peeled, more information will be coming soon!  All questions will be answered soon!

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Out of Dagobah

Somebody crashed a damn X-Wing into my swamp and spoiled my slumber. Now I have to go fire up an ancient Macbook and take to the keys. 40 years old you become, cranky too, you will be.

“Fear is the path of the Darkside. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Master Yoda

The worst fear is the fear we don’t even realize we have, and that is the fear that leads to anger. Its not the fear from with out that breeds hate. Its the fear from within. The things we fear about ourselves that we fear will be let out into the light. Jung’s “shadow”. When we see it reflected inn others, that which we fear in ourselves, we lash out. When you take to the internet and condemn others, your own fears about yourself spill out.

“Just because you are a character, doesn’t mean you have character.” The Wolf

Everyone is the the lead character of their own story. Most people believe they are the Hero. But if you are the villain of someone else’s story. you are probably the Villain of your own as well. It’s been said time and again that most people are their own worst enemy and I think that’s accurate. If your choice of options is to belittle, degrade or dehumanize another person for some trumped up reason in your own mind, you’re a bad person. It’s really that simple. Instead of being someone who others look up too, you simply attract sycophants who agree with you out of fear. Which leads to anger, and hate, and then suffering. So instead of being a bright, happy, respectful person. You become a twisted, bitter, angry, wrathful wretch.

Character is one of those words which many can define yet, few seem to understand. It’s quite simply the moral and mental process which lead to an individual’s choices and actions. Correlation does not imply causation however. What I mean is just because you do something good for others to see, does not mean you really are good. Dave Barry the humorist wrote: “If someone is nice to you but rude to the waiter, they aren’t a nice person.” To really be nice, you first have to think nice, then speak nice, and then: AND THEN, do nice.

Dennis Prager wrote: “Goodness is about character- integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage and the like. More than anything else; it is about how we treat other people.” Similarly Buddhism is often attributed to these five factors when speaking; Is it spoken at the right time? Is it spoken in truth? Is it spoken affectionately? Is it spoken beneficially? Is it spoken with the mind of goodwill? With all of these things in mind, when you interact with other people either in person, or over the internet, if you can’t qualify your thought and your speech by these ideas, your probably speaking with fear. And with fear you will only find anger, hate and suffering.

Master Yoda told us that the path of fear would lead to the Darkside. Lucas however didn’t define the path of the light side. Probably because it would appear too religious and didn’t fit his sci-fi movie. But we can discern it for ourselves with no need to attach currently practiced religious canon. Understanding is the path of the Lightside. Understanding leads to joy. Joy leads to happiness. Happiness leads to love. Love never finds fault. Some guy long ago tried to teach these ideas. We haven’t come to understand his message or any other great teacher who tried. Some day we will though. Some day.