28 thoughts on “Blizzard Blast

  1. Blizzard Blast is traditionally my first race of the season, and 2018 was no exception. A race of approximately 3.5 – 5 miles in length, the focus is the seasonal theme (i.e. winter) and a focus on fun.

    For the second year in a row, Blizzard Blast took place at Shedd Park in Lowell with the festival at Wamesit Lanes, a bowling alley and family fun center. Last year, parking was about a 1/4 of a mile from check-in at Wamesit Lanes, and I was able to walk. For 2018, participants had to park quite a distance a way, which meant that we had to take two bus rides in each direction. One bus to check-in at Wamesit Lanes and a second bus ride to Shedd Park. The buses went very smoothly. I never had to wait and the rides were brief. However, this bit of logistics is kind of a drag and does add to the time one must allow before and after the race. Combined with a 90 minute ride for me to get out to Lowell, this is kind of a drag for a race that takes a little over an hour to run, no matter how fun.

    Blizzard Blast did deliver on fun. Check-in at Wamesit Lanes was a snap. I grabbed my long sleeve t-shirt and bib in just a minute. Before I knew it, I was in a very loud room (seriously Wamesit Lanes is so loud) surrounded by fellow NE Spahtens. After not seeing folks since OCRWC, it was great to have time to mingle and say a quick, “Hello,” before hopping back on the buses to Shedd Park for the race.

    Many people run multiple laps at Blizzard Blast. For me, I am a one and done person for this event, which means that I miss seeing many of my friends. I was pleased to see that many of the members of the NES multi-lap crew were around at 11:15 a.m. for a quick team picture and a greeting before we headed off to the starting line.

    Similar to last year, the course was 3.5 miles in length. This is a bit shorter than in past years when Blizzard Blast was at Four Oaks Country Club. I like the new venue and shorter, more obstacle dense, version of this race. It’s a big improvement. Race day on 2018 was fairly warm — in the upper 40s — which meant that the course was muddy and light on the snow.

    The course and obstacles were fairly similar to past years, though with much of the course a reversed format from 2017. The park was relatively flat with a few hills thrown in the mix. Definitely run-able. As always, Blizzard Blast has two main themes with regard to the obstacles: pine trees and kegs. To keep with the winter-focus, there is also always a sled ride. There was the traditional Christmas tree carry, two keg carries, a keg drag, a keg hoist, and my favorite obstacle Keg Kingdom, in which racers have to make their way across a rig of hanging kegs. This is Blizzard Blast’s signature obstacle and a real favorite of mine. (Honestly, it keeps me coming back year after year.) This year it was especially challenging for some reason with the kegs at vary random heights, making swinging and reaching the next keg extra hard. I actually had to try a number of times before I made my way across. On one notable occasion, my keg and the keg of a racer in the lane next to me swung to the side instead of to the front and we collided. Yikes!

    I had 100% obstacle completion at Blizzard Blast this year. In addition to the themed obstacles, there were some traditional walls, crawls (under holiday lights) and a rope climb. There was also a football toss (at which I was terrible) and a paint ball target shooting obstacle. Additionally, there was an a-frame with rungs, analogous to devil’s steps, though with the rungs farther apart, which allowed for racers to use hands and feet. Finally, there was a new obstacle this year — a low rig. This obstacle had racers start by crossing a metal frame on top, lying on one’s stomach. Mid-way through, one had to flip to underneath and traverse gripping with hands and feet before finally swinging around to the top again to finish the obstacle. This was a solid addition to the race and enjoyable.

    I crossed the finish line in 1:16:37 (42/336 by sex, 14/100 for age group, and 118/641 for all open racers), completing all the obstacles and certainly not running hard — this is an off-season race for me, and I don’t compete in winter races. 2018 Blizzard Blast was fun as usual. After four years, some of the obstacles are seeming familiar to me, and logistically getting to Blizzard Blast is a huge drag for me. By no fault of Blizzard Blast, I might sit this one out in 2019, despite how much I love Keg Kingdom and how organized this race is. That being said, new racers, definitely add this in for your season. It’s a race everyone should experience at least a few times during their time doing OCR.

  2. Communication: Generally very good. If you’re on Facebook, you know everything they want to tell you. Emails came out soon enough to plan the day. If you must communicate by email, they are very slow to respond, but they are generally willing to work with racers to help keep us happy. I do wish that the registration had an option for signing up for the multi-lap heat. This would reduce registrations from other heats and would have allowed me to know when I would be taking off sooner than the week before race day.

    Venue and Festival: Shedd Park was nice, but I’m not a big fan of the noise of a bowling alley. It was disappointing to have the festival in a different place than the race. It meant that people couldn’t cheer on their friends and also keep warm or get food. It made the venue seem a lot less fun near the end of the day because it was so empty. It was strange to be back at the bowling alley where kids were having birthday parties in the same area where we were hanging around. I never did find out where the soup was, but I heard that they ran out of some of them before I even got back.

    Course and obstacles: I liked the course at Shedd Park and the obstacles are always innovative at Blizzard Blast. Having us jump up onto a stone wall right at the starting line did cause a bit of a backup, but otherwise things seemed to move smoothly. There was an awful lot of running on the roads and sidewalks, but I really enjoyed going through the playgrounds. The obstacles were nicely spaced.

    Swag and awards: Long sleeved tees, medals that have a little guy that moves (I love this!), and a flask for multilappers. Apparently, there were numbered stickers you could get to represent how many laps you did, but I didn’t know about them and nobody offered me one.

    Overall: I had a good time, but I do wish the festival was right at the venue.

  3. Communication:
    All of the communication leading up to the event was great. Whenever a price increase was happening, we had plenty of notice. Then leading up to Race Day we had the addresses and information that we needed to make the morning of as smooth as possible.

    Venue & Festival:
    I loved Shedd Park. This was my first Blizzard Blast and I enjoyed the use of the park and surrounding area. The Festival however… I spent a total of maybe 45 minutes to an hour at Wamesit Lanes getting ready to go to Shedd Park. I was one of the lucky ones and hopped into the Woman’s room before the huge line, however there was a massive line for the ONE stalled restroom that we were allowed to use soon after. As a multilapper I spent my time out at the Park. As someone else mentioned at the Pavilion we had a great view of the finish line, mid-course, and starting line. In the time I took between my two laps that is where I spent my time trying to catch up and see teammates. I feel that the use of Wamesit Lanes was a bit of a waste. It even felt a bit too extravagant for an event like this. Another issue was the bussing. I don’t mind one shuttle (i.e. Panic in the Dark) but the two was a bit of a pain. I was going to walk the short distance from my car to Wamesit lanes but the bus driver started yelling at me, so I simply boarded. Another thing is, I understand paying for parking, but at a shopping center parking lot… I don’t know, maybe that’s just me that’s bothered by it being an otherwise public parking area.

    Course & Obstacles:
    I really enjoyed this course. While it was a pain, the keg carry/roll was an interesting touch and a nice addition. I’ve yet to see anything like that on a course. Smithfest had a knack for using objects in ways I would not have thought of. The Christmas tree walls were fun. I had one issue with the pile we had to crawl over because I was struggling with my balance at one point and a girl was insistent on having the tree my left foot was on and had her friend pulling it out from under me. While I liked that there was a tree carry there, I did not like that you had to take from the pile as people were crawling over it. I witnessed the same situation I had twice on top of my experience. I had fun with this course, there was a lot of places where we were carrying or pulling something heavy up a hill. I felt that there were a lot of obstacles and that I wasn’t on a long hike with the occasional obstacle.
    There were a few places, that even as a slow participant such as myself, ran into bottle necks. One was at the very beginning of the course with the wall.
    One issue I had was that they were already starting to break the course down when we came across the finish line after our last lap. Volunteers were still out on course. Everything was absolutely dead by the finish line and everything was being cleaned up already. It kind of gave off a ‘hurry up and finish’ vibe.

    Swag & Awards:
    First off, I love the buff. I used it through the entire race and it was a welcome addition to my gear for the chilly weather. I like the fact that the medal’s ribbon is dated, I will forever comment on this when I see it! I upgraded to the multilap option when I arrived. It was an easy upgrade. The flask was a nice touch. What I am bummed about was I was unaware that there were numbers we were supposed to get for the flask when we finished. As well as a multilap finisher sticker – which would have totally been nice to add to my collection on the back of my car. The shirt is nice, however not a fan of the white.

    Over All:
    I loved the course. There were a few hiccups here and there, but I’ve found most courses experience that. The bussing was a tad excessive and the festival venue felt like a waste of money. I was there to run in an OCR and hang out with friends, not go bowling or play in an arcade. As for the swag and awards, the medal, flask, and shirt were great. I am bummed about not even being aware of the multilap numbers or finisher stickers.

  4. Despite the shorter distance from last year, I feel like the obstacles were upped in game. I failed two – the metal A frame bars and Keg Kingdom…someday Keg Kingdom, some day.

    I liked the new location, but the two bus situation was a little interesting. And I do agree with others that while Wamesit Lanes for the “festival area” was nice, it wasn’t much of a festival. After returning from multi-lapping, you couldn’t even tell who had run vs normal crowd there. The bathroom situation wasn’t great either, being only one real bathroom and two porta-potties we could find. Porta-potties weren’t really an option for changing post race.

    Communication was great. I like the medal and the multilap flask – nice touch. I do like the white long sleeve shirt and found the fit good.

    This race fills a nice little void in the race season – Only January race I know of and as always, Fred creatively uses what’s available at hand (Christmas trees, kegs). So it definitely proves there is no off season.

  5. Blizzard Blast 2017 was at a new venue and brought some new life into this race. Parking was ample and a very short shuttle ride to the festival venue. The festival was at a bowling alley/tavern/arcade. There was plenty to do for spectators and family members who came to support their runners. Registration was right when you walked in the door and moved really fast. T-shirt pickup went just a smoothly. There was plenty of space for people to get dressed in layers and get ready for the race. There was also a free bag check.

    The race itself was another short shuttle ride. They announced which waves were about to go off so the people in the lanes could make sure they didn’t miss their start times. The new race site, Shedd Park was a great place for a race. There was a building with bathrooms with running water which is always a nice touch. There was a nice space for multilappers to leave there stuff as well.

    My GPS logged 3.5 miles which was a great distance for this race. There were a couple of new obstacles which added nicely to this race. With the shorter distance it was obstacle heavy without long stretches of running. My new favorite obstacle that I love to hate was Donkey Kong. I never new rolling a keg up a hill would be so damn difficult.

    This race was fun and well planned. While there was no snow they managed to have some snow piles to climb over and the signature sled ride which unfortunately by the time we got to it the run was pretty beat up and bordering on dangerous.

    Finishers got a medal and participants got a nice long sleeve shirt and a buff. Each runner was given a choice of soup, chowder or chili at the end but unfortunately the chili ran out before we got back to the venue.

    Overall this was a great race, a lot of fun, and a bit more challenging than previous years. I look forward to doing this again next year.

  6. 2017
    Communication leading up to the race was great. Plenty of notice for price increases and the pre race email arrived with plenty of time and had correct and useful information.
    The new venue is wonderful and much better than the old venue. But as for the festival? What festival? It felt like the festival was split between the multi lapper bag drop area and the actual festival at Wamesit Lanes. From the bag drop area we had a great view of the finish line, start line and a middle section of the course. It was perfect for cheering on teammates and friends. When we got back to the actual festival pretty much no one was around. Also, we never found the bag check until we were leaving on the bus. The sign brought you into a room but it turned out to be outside. The whole bus from parking to the festival and then another bus to the start line thing was just crazy. No one likes taking buses, nevermind two each way. I think they could benefit from just having the festival on site. The bathroom situation at the festival was awful. We had a line of women waiting for one stall. Turned out there were portapotties outside by bag check but we didn’t know and weren’t allowed to use any other bathroom. The bathroom by the start line was much bigger!
    The course was so improved over the last two years. The course was about 3.5 miles instead of 5-6 and had more obstacles! New obstacles included rolling kegs, dragging Christmas trees, a bowling pin balance walk and Devils Steps. All of the usual Smithfest obstacles made an appearance as well.
    I LOVE the multilap flask! And the biggest team buff is appreciated. But I will never wear a white race shirt or a shirt that doesn’t come in XS or women’s cuts, so I’ll never wear it. The medal looks a lot like last year’s but I do like that the guy moves and I like the lanyard color better. I also liked that there were random Blizzard Blast tattoos around the festival! I didn’t see where the multilap stickers were but I stopped after one lap anyway.
    Overall, loved it compared to last year and can’t wait to see what next year brings!

  7. Great fun, good grilled sausage after. My daughter ran it together this year, both sick, and no snow, but had fun anyway.

  8. This year was my first time running Blizzard Blast, and I had heard stories about how challenging the course was the previous year with all the snow, this year there was not so much snow, however it was a balmy 50 degrees outside. I managed to complete 3 laps of the course, I would imagine that if the course was full of snow, I likely would not have completed 3 laps.

    First lap out on the course after the elites had started I was one of the people who ended up running past some down tape going off the course only to have to come back. That was the only thing that went wrong the entire experience for me other than severely cramped legs on the third lap.

    I enjoyed the long run at the start before hitting an obstacle, it allowed me to get to my pace speed and get sufficiently warmed up. The long beautiful trail run which made up the bulk of the middle part of the course, was my favorite part. I liked the innovative obstacles, the pegboard, paint ball range, tree carry, and the keg barrel swing were all enjoyable and challenging, and by the end of the first lap through the course I was ready for another. They had a very nice set up where I could continue to run my laps and pay at the end of all my laps. Something I will keep in mind for next year! I have my medal hung up at work with my two pins attached to the medal signifying the 2 extra laps I’ve run. So for Racelocal 2016, this is the first medal and the only one in my cube. Looking to add some more as the year goes on!

    Other lesson learned: next year I will run the course with the winter version of Vibram 5 fingers as I am a barefoot runner, and it was a bit cold second lap on the feet, had to switch to Altras for lap 3.

    Thanks Blizzard Blast for a great venue, and a nicely coordinated event!!

  9. This was my first attendance at Blizzard Blast. I was nervous about doing a winter race, since the snow and cold are generally not my friends. However, the weather turned unseasonably warm, and the snow was almost non-existent. I had a blast! I think the Smithfest team did a great job with the parking arrangements, the shuttle was easy to and fro, and registration was a breeze (maybe not for the group whose bibs were lost, but I wasn’t one of those). The biggest team shirt was a bonus, and a nice surprise! As was the room we had. The only “complaint” I have, which isn’t really a complaint is I was surprised by the obstacles. I think if the weather had cooperated and Fred’s snow dance had worked, there probably would have been more obstacles. That being said, putting on an event that is dependent on weather certainly has its challenges. Overall, I loved the event, was happy to do more than one lap, and will definitely be coming back next year!

  10. This is also my second year running Blizzard Blast. The two years were vastly different due to weather, but both years were incredibly fun.

    I really enjoy the obstacles at Blizzard Blast that we don’t typically see. Love the keg hoist (though the thin nylon rope was super slippery, it would be nice to have a thicker rope there), keg monkey bars are also a challenge I will continue to enjoy (ALMOST GOT THEM THIS YEAR!!) I would agree with a few people on the fact the first half was really light on obstacles, and shortening the course might have been a better route, but I also enjoyed my time in the woods. I also really appreciate that Blizzard Blast staff noticed my group of Spartans and asked if there were any spots where tape was falling or the course was unclear, then zipped off to fix one spot we mentioned.

    Overall, I really enjoyed this race, it was a great kick off for the year, and it was a great race to have a newbie friend join me (she is already asking when the next race is:)

  11. First time doing this race and was really looking forward to some snow. But had an amazing time- staff and everyone I encountered was super nice and helpful!

  12. I’ll repeat the comments I agree with most here.

    Communication – a couple of days earlier and include the bus schedule (start AND end) so people are aware. FB communication and response to questions was awesome!

    Venue & Festival – top notch! I do like the idea of spectator maps, but that’s the only thing I’d change.

    Course & Obstacles – too light in the first half (granted, the sledding would have been there and no one can or should hold the weather against anyone!), or make it shorter. 5k would have been more enjoyable and would have earned extra money because more people would have done more extra laps. Also loved the innovative obstacles that aren’t seen anywhere else.

    Swag & Awards – couldn’t be better!

    Overall – I’ve already purchased next year’s registration. Wouldn’t miss it!

  13. This is my second year running Blizzard Blast, and I’m definitely happy I came back! With NES taking over the race in our onesies, it is easily one of the most craziest most memorable events that has rung in 2016 #RaceLocal like no other could have. I’ll be back for sure next year too. With that, let’s break down my “scoring”:

    While I believe the e-mail did come a bit too close to the event itself, it contained everything I needed to know. A few people pointed out it lacked the bus schedule, but the really neat part about any SmithFest event is that Fred is simply a tag away on facebook. So while, I wouldn’t say that the communication was amazing, whatever it lacked it was made up for by Fred’s attention to us on Facebook.

    Venue & Festival:
    This event is held every year at the Four Oaks Country Club, and it is hands down the best venue of all the races. We get full use of the facility, upstairs and downstairs (and the bathrooms downstairs even have showers), free food chili/chowder/soup for runners, and incredibly well priced burgers/sausages and beers available at the multiple bars. Add in the heated lamps outside on the patio, which overlooks many of the obstacles, its great. The best part is that NES brings it to this event and Fred shows his appreciation fully by giving us our own room to use with its own bar and fruit platter. It is wonderful to go straight to this room and be able to mingle and keep your stuff, then after running, go back, sit down, and eat that well deserved food and a beer with your bestest friends.

    Course & Obstacles:
    I feel as though this subject has been a struggle point for both this year and last. This year was definitely incredibly different from last year simply due to the fact there was almost no snow. That means sledding was out. However, Fred is not new to the OCR scene and had other new obstacles for us. For me, the biggest “upset” was that there was only 1 obstacle (an 8′ wall) for the first 2.5 miles. I actually turned to my kickass battle buddy around mile 2 and asked if we signed up for a trail race instead! As much as I like trail running, I was getting a bit antsy for obstacles. It was definitely tough at times running around one of the hills we sled down yesterday, but that’s just the weather for you. We did have one course tape incident where somewhere between the elite heat and the front of the 10:15 multi-lappers, the course tape cutting off a cart path where we’re supposed to turn left got disconnected and too many people ran an extra 1/10mi + before realizing the error. It was a mysterious folly to everyone. Another downside for me was the water. There was a water stop 1mile in, at the wall, and then not another one until mile 3.5-4ish. It was a much warmer day than anticipated, and while two water stops could be sufficient, their positioning in the race wasn’t the best. I wasn’t thirsty enough for water at mile 1, and was dying for water at about mile 3.
    There were quite a few highlights to the course and obstacles this year. The positioning of the keg kingdom to the back of the country club was awesome, as it was a great viewing point. The enhancement to the structure was really awesome as well, and made me incredibly sad that I couldn’t give it a go this year with my current injury. Another great improvement was to the wrist hoist, as the pulleys were tossed and simple rings put it its place. I was amazed how hard this obstacle was! There were a number of additional obstacles this year, such as the keg hoist (but the rope was terrible; too thin and stretchy), the cars (climb through 2 cars head first filled with foam blocks), and the keg carry (LOVED this). Old favorites were still there such as the christmas tree carry and the christmas lights crawl. With the snow-free weather, the see-saw was easily traversable and there was even a hot chocolate station set up right there!
    Overall, the course either needs to spread the obstacles out better, so its not a half trail race, half OCR (and literally split in half), or it needs to be shortened, even though I actually really love the 5 mile distance. It is fun and of moderate difficulty, with something for everyone.

    Swag & Awards:
    Again, one thing SmithFest events will never steer us wrong is with swag. Its awesome. Long sleeve t-shirts with the NES logo on the sleeve, and they’re black this year!! My white one was so dirty. The medal is made of thick material and includes a bottle opener. It looks great! We also get a Blizzard Blast buff with our shirts. The swag is awesome. If you decided to run multilaps, you got a pin for every additional lap completed to put on your medal’s lanyard, and a pretty awesome sticker.

    It is still a growing event with room for improvement, but has been making continuous improvements! I love this race. I have a blast from the minute I show up to the minute I get back to my car. Fred treats us well! It is a race that any person of any skill level should give a go. Whether there’s snow or not, you’re sure to find something here that appeals to you!

  14. This was the first time I participated in this event. I was initially going to wait for the FIT challenge to start my season but this event being part of #racelocal changed my mind. Overall I loved the event but here’s a breakdown

    Pros: Excellent Venue that they allowed us full use of. They easily could have limited access and put up porta-potties
    Registration was fast and easy. I got there towards the middle of the event and was in and out.
    Great swag. Being a bald guy I love buffs and a nice shirt was made better with the addition of our logo.
    I felt the race itself was very well managed. The start corral was efficient and all the obstacles had volunteers that were engaged and helpful instead of just standing there.
    There were some fun and different obstacles like paintball, football toss, and Christmas tree carry that you don’t see anyplace else.
    The Obstacles were challenging enough without being too easy or being impossible. I beat some, I struggled with some, and I failed on some. That keeps me coming back. Good Mix
    Hot Cocoa on the Course! with mini-marshmallows

    The obstacles were end loaded. I didn’t mind the distance so much as the time it took me to get to the obstacles. If some of them were sooner, It would have been better.
    A couple of obstacles were a grind. Not so much a challenge or a obstacle just work specifically the cinder blocks.

    I’d definitely do this race again.

  15. The first official OCR of the season and a fun one at that – I will keep this simple since others have covered many details:

    – Great venue – open course and a great post race indoor area to eat, drink and keep warm
    – NO free beer (normally might be a con but…) YES free soup/Chili/Chowder – not everyone drinks so I LOVE this about Blizzard Blast
    – Getting treated special for being on the biggest team (unique swag, just for us)
    – Fun obstacles with a twist and theme – tree carry, football throw, keg kingdom
    – Hot Chocolate and marshmallows on course – nom nom nom
    – Multi lap process VERY easy
    – Pre-Registration for 2017 – was ONLY $30!!!!

    – Distance – this does not need to be a 5 mile race, at all. During the first 3 miles there was ONE obstacle, make this a 5k and focus on the obstacles. This will also make it more welcoming for folks new to the sport and “non-runners”
    – Food – this was a major PRO for me, but, they always run low or out toward the end, if you are in the final heat or run multiple laps you may be sacrificing your free food.
    – Trail portion – I already mentioned the distance – but I am glad there was not snow or ice, the back trails were rocky and very wooded (it did not appear to be a natural path) this would have been miserable, especially for a newbie in the snow/ice.

    This is a great race and I will be back for sure!

  16. I love Blizzard Blast. It’s a great way to start the new race season. The venue is beautiful and I love having indoor bathrooms – the ladies room downstairs even has an actual shower!
    My only complaint would be that there are very long stretches of running which just feel like the purpose is to extend the course. Sadly, this longer distance actually puts off a lot of people who would rather have a nice, short 5K – especially if they are expecting cold weather. For me, it makes the race feel like a trail run followed by a short OCR.
    I do like the obstacles. While most are not terribly difficult, I do love the tree carry and the uniqueness of Keg Kingdom. Plus, I got to play Dukes of Hazzard and The Ground is Lava!
    All in all, this is a fun race and a great day. I’ll be back next year.

  17. Most people have already covered the details of the race in the previous reviews so I’ll just mention a few specifics.

    The venue is perfect for this event. Lots of food, a couple of bars, plenty of tables, merch table, easy check-in, free bag check, an outdoor barbecue. There is such a fun party atmosphere pre and post race.

    The course was light on obstacles in the beginning as has been stated, but definitely made up for it during the second half. Unlike a few other reviewers, I love running in the woods, so the fairly long trail portion came as a nice surprise.

    The obstacles are a nice mix of standard and totally unique, with varying degrees of difficulty. The keg carry was a fun new obstacle, as was the “WTF is this?!” climb through these abandoned cars obstacle. There was at least one missing foothold on a traverse wall, but with three other sides to choose from, it didn’t slow things down. As always the keg swinging obstacle is a beast of a challenge for most, but it’s one of my all time favorites in terms of fun.

    The only real negative was the second water station running out of cups by about 1 o’clock. Other than that, and in spite of the weather, it was a great day and I had a blast. (See what I did there?)

    I’ll definitely be back next year.

  18. Even with its faults, I’ll keep going to Blizzard Blast because it’s a race at a time of year when there are very few things on my calendar OCR-wise. It’s a good opportunity to play outside in the winter and a great opportunity to get to see friends that I see less often than I wish during the colder months. If this race was instead in a busy month like May or July, I might skip it. It also tends to be a very affordable race, costing anywhere from $40 – $70. For OCR that is downright cheap!

    The race experience is mixed. I like how the obstacles are different from what I see elsewhere. For good or bad, we do get some novelty here. None of the obstacles are going to win “most innovative,” but they, in general, have a fun twist that adds up to a good time. I continue to be a big fan of Keg Kingdom; it continues to be one of my favorite obstacles.

    I enjoy how dedicated Blizzard Blast is to their winter/snow theme. I like some of the details, such as the personalized t-shirts for our team and the hot chocolate stop along the course.

    I also think having the race at a country club is quite nice. The venue provides a nice indoor location for the cold weather (when we have it). Plus, it offers any easy place to store gear, get a meal, and use an indoor restroom. What more could someone want!

    I still believe that this race would be much better as a 5K. (I said it last year too.) Blizzard Blast is advertised as being a 3.1 mile race; however, last year it clocked in at 5.8 miles and this year it clocked in at 5.5 miles. We ran the first 2.5 miles of the race and only encountered one set of obstacles – an over and under wall. The vast majority of the obstacles were jumbled together at the end. I’ve given my feelings about this in numerous other reviews, and I continue to feel the same way. Good obstacle placement and spacing the obstacle out across the course is key for the experience of your racers.

    I am sympathetic to the fact that key to Blizzard Blast is snow. I am sure that all bets were off when they realized it was going to be warm and the ground bare. This probably meant the removal of some obstacle from last year, like the sledding, which were a lot of fun and broke up some of the distance.

    Have I signed up for the 2017 Blizzard Blast yet? No. Will I. Very likely, yes. It’s fun. The level of challenge isn’t overwhelming, but you do get some obstacles that will work you. It’s a race anyone can do. Friends are key to the experience. So, yes, 2017, I’ll be there with the team.

    (More comprehensive review with pictures on my blog: http://perseid85.blogspot.com/2016/02/blizzard-blast-2016.html)

  19. Communication:

    I got one email prior to the race that had tons of info, the one thing that I thought could be improved was more information regarding the bus schedule. Being an NES member, we are lucky that if someone asks on Facebook when the bus start- we get an answer. However not knowing how often they ran, or when the last bus would be- made it hard to plan on when to arrive and when to leave.
    The communication regarding how to run multiple laps was easy to understand- and easy to do.

    Venue and Festival:
    The venue is nice. The heated tents that you enter for registration are warm and welcoming. Checking in and getting my bib was easy however there was a back up at getting a shirt and one person asked me if we had to wait in the line at all. Once inside the festival area is nicely arranged. I like how NES gets their own area- we are a big bunch! The food and drinks were easy to find.

    Course and Obstacles:
    Blizzard Blast is always a bit longer than a normal 5k and this was no different coming in at about 5.5 miles depending on your GPS. The course is a bit more hilly than I remembered but that may be due to having no snow. I love Blizzard because it’s unique and its in the snow however with the weather so warm I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I didn’t mind the trails even though I tripped over branches and caught myself before landing face first . I felt that I had to go slow in the trail area due to slippery leaves and occasional mud.
    Some of my favorite obstacles are here and I look forward to them every year. Where else do you get to carry a Christmas tree? The tree carry has to be one of my favorites. Followed closely by the weave in and out of the trees, the paint ball and the little mini keg hoist. I thought the rope for the big keg hoist was the wrong type. It wasn’t just slippery- it was stretchy. The rope climb (usually one of my favorites) didn’t look very safe and on my first lap, there was even a man on a ladder trying to take some of slack out of the rope that held three of the ropes to climb. Another one of the unique and fun obstacles is the Keg Kingdom. I was disappointed this year with it for two reasons: it was higher than usual and it was over asphalt. I’m short and I liked to try this obstacles in the past because it was one that I could reach on my own unlike at other races. I also lack upper body strength and don’t get very far (usually at least two kegs in) and falling is bound to happen. In the past this obstacles was over snow but also over more hay bales so I didn’t worry about falling. Falling on asphalt is too dangerous. This year- I walked by the obstacles both laps without even trying. The new addition of the going through the car windows was fun and I laughed the entire time! I’m sure it was a last minute addition to replace the snow obstacles but I thought it was a big hit.

    Swag and Awards:
    The medal at Blizzard Blast never disappoints. I love that one of the unique obstacles is always part of the medal. The buff is a great addition to the tee shirt- you can never have enough buffs! I love that the tee shirt is long sleeve, one of the few that is. The slogan “there is no off-season” is something that I have adopted as a mantra as well so I really enjoy wearing my shirt. Not to mention that we get the NES biggest team logo on the sleeve.

    I’ve done Blizzard Blast for three years now and it is one of my favorite races of the season. I look forward to it every year. Granted with no snow some may have felt that it lost its essence, however I still had a great time and I enjoyed myself none the less. As long as there is a Blizzard Blast, I will sign up and attend- snow or no snow.

  20. Really the thing I love most about this race is that I get to see so many Spahten friends after a few months of no races. On top of that, the race swag is fantastic – they really go above and beyond for biggest team. And the venue is great. It’s nice having real bathrooms and plenty of tables and chairs. I had to get home but if I lived closer I would definitely hang out and have some food/drinks after the race.

    On to the race itself. For me, I do these races for the obstacles, so I tend to be conflicted about Blizzard Blast. The second half of the course is great – plenty of obstacles and some fun/unique stuff thrown in (that crawl through the cars was so unexpected and fun!). But the first half, especially the long stretch of trails, is just boring to me. I don’t have the exact measurements but I think one set of walls was the only obstacle in the first 2.5 miles. I realize there would have also likely been a sledding run if the weather was different, but this still isn’t enough for me.

  21. An OCR is supposed to be about the obstacles. While I thoroughly enjoyed the walk in the park with my battle buddies, there was far too much trail and cart path running/walking in comparison to number of obstacles. Will I do it again? Possibly, for two reasons, it is very local for me and for the camaraderie of the NES team. If I had to travel more than an hour or so, I most likely would pass on this event.


    The communication about running extra laps was very good.

    The only communication issue I saw was a lack of clarity on when the last shuttle bus was leaving for the parking lot. The RD got directly involved and made sure nobody was left behind.


    The team area and clubhouse as a whole were very nice.


    It was great seeing obstacles I’d never encountered in a race before. The Kegerator ruled! The paintball was also super fun. Bonus points for creativity.

    Many of us from the 10:30-ish ‘extra laps’ heat missed an important turn, and took an extended detour up and over one of the first hills. I still don’t get what happened with the tape there.

    On the traverse obstacle, footholds had broken off of two of the four walls by the time I got there on my second lap. One water station had also run out of cups.

    Volunteers on the course were engaged and positive.


    Fantastic bling.


    I had a fun day and would definitely come back.

  23. This was my first Blizzard Blast. Unique and challenging obstacles. It was a beautiful day despite there being no snow! There was a little bit of a line at the first obstacle. Overall, fabulous experience. If I didn’t leave my wallet in the car, I would have signed up for 2017 on site!

  24. Overall this is a solid event BUT this year even though the distance was trimmed a bit i still think its about 2 miles to long. this year it felt like a trail race with a few obstacles thrown in. we dident see our first obstacle till the 1 mile mark and it was a 10 ft wall . i know the distance was to try and thin the herd but a 10ft wall is just going to cause back ups and we spent a good 5-10 mins waiting at the wall. the next obstacle was wasent till mile two and then got hit with 3 quick obstacles (peg board , herc hoist and rope climb) two quick notes on the herc hoist and rope climb. i normally love herc hoist as a obstacle but the rope used was so thin it was impossible for my hands to hold on the rope and pull the kegs up. next the rope climb i refuse to ever do a rope climb that dosent any form of safety measures underneath the rope and there is another local event that does a rope climb and i wont do that rope either.

    Granted i understand that the unseasonable warm weather must have put some damper on plans but i think for next year there should be some back up plans in the waiting incase this happens again.

    Next these words are from a few friends who are not NES but i heard a few times. they also said this really felt more like a trail race than a OCR because the obstacles felt more like tasks than obstacles

    will i do blizzard blast 2017? yep i will .
    what would i like to see added / changed? id love to see either about 2 miles trimmed and get it to a lean 3.5-4.0 miles OR the addition of 5 or so obstacles in the first 2.5 miles to help break up the running. also maybe some new/different course path.

  25. Leading up to the race communication was good but it came a little later than expected and it was missing the shuttle schedule. With coordinating child care and schedules it would have been nice to have the info even a few days early. The venue is a beautiful golf course with nice heated tents for registration and nice accommodations for sitting and eating and chatting before and after the race. Registration was only manned by 1 person when we first arrived so that was a little slow but it was quickly remedied by a few more volunteers and they were able to quickly catch up with the growing crowd. The shirt we received was awesome, with the NE Spahtens symbol on the sleeve for the largest team as well as a cool blizzard blast buff. It is also really nice that we get a nice little private (ish) area to convene as a team although it can get quite loud and crowded.

    The course was a nice run and measured 5.5 on my GPS watch. It relied heavily on the cart paths with some trail running in the woods. It seemed like we ran for quite a while before hitting our first obstacle and even with that had a little bit of a backlog at the first wall. The course definitely felt light on obstacles for the first half but the second half nicely made up for it. There was some walls of varying heights, the peg board climb, paint ball gun shooting, double keg lift, rope climb, teeter totters, cinder block walk and christmas light crawl. I love the use of the left over christmas tree in the weave and thte carry. I also really enjoyed the keg carry and the crawling through the car/foam block pit. I wasn’t too excited to see keg kingdom on ashphalt. I know this would not typically be a problem if it had snowed but felt this was dangerous and was hesitant to attempt it. I saw a few people come off it and land wrong. It seemed like a hazard especially on the monkey bar portion since that seemed a fairly high drop if you fell off at an awkward angle.

    The medal was a nice heavy medal, doubles as a bottle opener and definitely fitting for the race. I loved that there was extra swag for multiple lap completion. The pins and sticker were a nice touch.

    Overall this was a solid start to the 2016 race season. There was no snow and it was 50+ degrees out on the last day of January but that didn’t seem to take much away from the race (minus the really awesome sledding portions of the previous year). I really enjoyed this race and expect that I will do it again next year!

  26. First time running this particular race. Over I was very happy with it. Would have been much more fun with snow, but that can’t be controlled. I signed up for next year’s event today before I left.
    1 suggestion is to provide a course map for spectators so they know what the obstacle order and viewing areas are.

  27. Thank you Fred for continually improving your course and obstacles. The keg carry was fun. Could have been more fun by pitting two runners against eachother with a 10 jumping jack penalty for 2nd place. The addition of the transition to tires at the traverse wall was excellent. The car foam pit was silly, yet incredibly fun.

    We do not hold Mother Nature’s dislike of your dance moves against you. Snow or no snow, we will be back.

    Additional laps for #racelocal were an incredibly smooth process. Thank you for the low $10 fee.

    All volunteers were awesome, helpful, and smiling.

    Bonus to those who were able buy on site of very low price for 2017’s race.

  28. I am biased in my thoughts on any Smithfest Events. Including Blizzard Blast. It is a race held in my area of residence. The race is challenging enough, and some of the obstacles are only found at this race. However it is weather dependent. I missed not being able to sled, or make snow angels.

    But Fred and his team did an excellent job of meeting the challenge of handling the race without as much of their integral snow. I can’t wait until next year’s race.

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