One of two featured reviews for this weekends Foam Fest 5k! Foam Fest weren’t stepping into MA on the right foot, having messed their volunteers around and being more combatative than usual in their email communitions ($1 for a waiver sheet? Really?)
But, it sounds like they made up for it with a fun event. Mary Bowens brings us our first review, with community reviews here.
Pre-Event Communication: I found the Foam Fest website to be really sleek, simple and particularly user friendly with easy registration. I received 30 day, 2 week and 1 week emails leading up to the event. They made it very clear what we could expect from them and what they expected from us. It was evident however, many runners, did not follow the instructions we were given (more on that later).
Getting There: Coming from Western MA, we had a two hour drive and with GPS we found Kimball Farm easy to find. Once we were about 5 minutes away from the venue we started seeing “Event” signs, followed by more clear “Foam Fest” signs as we got even closer. Once we pulled into the farm, we were directed by at least a dozen volunteers and/or farm workers pointing us in the right direction. There were several parking attendants for the super convenient on site parking that was provided for the usual price of $10.00. Check in was about a tenth of a mile from parking. Doesn’t get much better than that.
Registration: The registration area was clear when you walked in and organized alphabetically. Bib pick up was quick and painless. They were seemingly trying to keep people to stick to their wave times. They were (attempting) to enforce this by color coded bibs, I think there were three or four different colors, I’m not entirely sure what each color meant, but they were also writing start times on bibs. In our team, three of us were registered at 10:30 and one for 11:20. We remedied the situation by using a sharpie on the odd man’s bib to turn 11:20 into 10:30, and we were able to sneak through. At the time we ran there were two volunteers guarding the coral (pictured below), one diligently grabbing bibs to check the time, the other at least pretending to look at them. I heard Saturday they had become more lax as the day went on, so it seems like there was sporadic ability to sneak in depending on what time you ran. Alternatively, if you did end up with a super strict “door person” as you can see in the coral photo, there we a handful of spectators standing right beyond the start line, my assumption would be anyone who wanted to jump in a different wave, or double run, could have just snuck in with the crowd there as waves started. There was also a bag check that was easy, quick and free.
Spectating & Photo Ops: There was no charge for spectating at this event, which is always a plus, especially at family friendly events like this one. I would say overall there was pretty ample opportunity to check the course and racers out. The obvious viewing points were the start line coral and the last two obstacles including the Death Drop and the final 50 foot Slip and Slide, both fun ones to watch. There was no spectator path per se, but given the fact that the coral just opened up onto a hill where lots of spectators were lined up, and the rest of the course was pretty open, racers probably could have cheerleaders or a personal photographer follow them through most of the course if they felt so inclined. I’m not sure if I just missed them, but it didn’t seem like there were too many photographers set up throughout the course- but I may edit that pending photos coming out. At the end of the course they did have an official Foam Fest team photo area, which I thought was awesome! It took us about 5 minutes to get through the line, but the photographer was thoughtful, prompting us to take a “nice” photo, followed by a silly photo, and then a third pose of our choosing. He even went out of his way to show us the photos at the end to make sure we felt good about at least one of the shots. As I mentioned, this made for a little bit of a wait in line, but it was well worth it in my opinion. I’ll be interested to see the photos go up, and the cost.
Terrain: I absolutely loved this venue. The course was hilly which was a nice extra challenge, especially since the obstacles were more fun than difficult. The space was utilized perfectly. They took advantage of the hills to weave the course through the farm in a fun way that limited your view of the upcoming obstacles, so what was next was often a surprise until you were right coming up on it. The path was was cleared incredibly well and probably a good 10 feet wide which left enough room for you to pass other runners or vice versa. Most of the course it was just wide open space anyways, so even if you had to go outside the “path” to get around, it was very accessible. A narrow course, especially one thats poorly cleared can be remarkably frustrating when trying to navigate around fellow runners. I think the venue was perfect and they absolutely nailed the course set up.
Obstacles: We started the run on a open hill which, in my opinion, is one of the best ways to go. The space was wide and the physical challenge of the hill separated the crowd based on ability and pace immediately. Granted this was more of a fun run, than a race, there were no chips- which would have been pointless anyway (more on that later too), but either way it’s always frustrating to start a race, challenge or fun run with a giant bottle neck. It was clear from the beginning that no one was really running for time either way, as a matter of fact, I didn’t really see too many people running for most of the course. The majority of participants were definitely taking it at a leisurely pace. At the top of the hill we reached our first obstacles which were a 5 foot wall, followed by an 8 foot wall. The walls had slots in-between the boards to put your feet in to assist with the climb. All that being said- these were probably the most physically challenging obstacles of the run. That brings me back to this definitely being more of a fun run, than a challenging one. This race would be excellent for a beginner, or a seasoned pro that just wants to have some foamy fun. The rest of the course had a smattering of blow up obstacles including the first of two 50 foot slip and slides, also the Stumpy Jumper, The Moon Walk and the Bouncy Ball Attack which were all some version of an inflated pit with varying amounts of foam and water. I went into every one smiling and left every one laughing hysterically. We all had fun choosing what kind of graceful (or not) dive we would use to get in and out of the pits. I think these obstacles were really as fun as you made them. We saw a few people just sort of uneventfully walking through the pits. Perhaps foam just wasn’t there thing, but seriously, so much opportunity to be goofy in each one, I don’t know why everyone wouldn’t take advantage of that. The Aqua Lily pad was another obstacles pretty unique to Foam Fest. We had to run across, maybe 30-40 feet of water, on foam like pads. The trick is to run quickly so you don’t sink! This was another one that left us all laughing at the end.
Other often seen obstacles included Trip Wire and Spider Web forrest, which were similar- ropes tied amongst stakes and trees that you had to climb under and over, also Cargo Climb, which was the usual A-frame cargo nets. Probably the highlight of the run for me was the Electric Mud Crawl, and I have to hand that one to the volunteers manning the station. Their commentary made the crawl an absolute riot. They had me truly convinced me the wires weren’t really electrified until I hauled ass underneath, only to have my ass find out, there actually were volts going through them. After I got through one of the volunteers said to me, “I bet you can see why my face hurts from laughing, huh?” and I definitely could. They were clearly having a great time, which added to mine. The end of the run leads me to one of the only negatives of my review, the Death Drop. By the time we finished (I would guess around 11:15 or 11:30, one of the Death Drops had been punctured and was out of use, and the other one left standing only had one lane open. Going back to a previous point, in every email they sent us, at check in, and at the coral before running, they couldn’t have been more specific about absolutely NO keys, cleats or any sharp objects on the course. Apparently, a couple of someones can’t follow directions, because this happened both days. This caused a 45 minute line, if you chose to wait, for the Death Drop, which short of the final slip and slide was kind of the grand finale of the event. Because of this, timing chips really wouldn’t have been a viable option for Foam Fest even if people did want to run it competitively. It’s hard to fault the organizers for the Death Drop blunder, because they did their best to prevent it, and when things did go array they made the best of it. They were honest about the wait time, there was music being played, an entertaining volunteer keeping us posted, and they graciously offered us all a $20 code towards next year (if you participated this year and had to wait or chose to forego the slide you can email them, each runner gets an individual code). We did decide to wait for the slide. When I got home I emailed about the coupon code and ha
d it in my inbox within 24 hours.
Overall, the website was a completely accurate representation of what we could expect, and the obstacles did not disappoint!
Schwag: Upon finishing we received a shirt, a medal and our choice of three varieties of Mike’s Hard Lemonade, the major sponsor. I LOVE when races give you the schwag at the end. I think it not only creates more of a sense of earning it, but I just hate
having to figure out what to do with it if we get it before the race starts. I thought the medals were nice quality, and for whatever reason I’m qu
ite fond of the orange lanyard. It makes it a stand out for someone who has a rack full of medals!
Lastly we got our free drink, Mike’s Hard Lemonade. I imagine this wasn’t the preference of most runners, and I think it would have been excellent if they offered the choice of beer instead, but a sponsor is a sponsor, and free booze, is free booze, so I drank my Black Cherry lemonade and carried on.
Vendors/Afterparty: Foam Fest did some good things and bad things in terms of post race festivities. While I didn’t eat anything myself, it seemed like they had a good variety of food. Including the run of the mill burgers and dogs, and also a vegan stir fry option (awesome!), as well as some candy choi
The Foam Fest gear for purchase was some of the best I’ve seen. I was in love with the “I run to look good naked… and for the free booze” shirt but was totally bummed they were out of small and medium (it was a mens cut shirt). It would have been a no brainer for me if they had my size. The shirts were funny and outside the box of the typical “official” gear. I like that Foam Fest embraces being goofy and having fun.ces and a Hawaiian Ice stand. They had good beer options, and of course Mike’s Hard Lemonade. There was a stand with a raffle to win a scooter, and a few other miscellaneous venders with fitness gear and info. The major negative for me was there was no band, or DJ outside of the start line MC, and there was VERY limited seating, maybe half a dozen picnic tables, if even that many. Especially when selling drinks and food, I would think the organizers would want to make it comfortable for people to hang out, enjoy and spend money, which Foam Fest did not execute super well. There was a bounce house that was great for the kiddos though.
The very best post race activity for me, was what some people missed. Just a few steps down from the rinse station (which was only sporadically operational from what I observed) there was a beautiful lake. I mean perfect skies, perfect temperature, heaven on earth sort of lake. We actually just stumbled down there because we didn’t want to wait in the rinse station line, but we ended up hanging out for a good 30 minutes. My fingers are crossed Kimball Farm continues to be utilized for Foam Fest and other upcoming events, because jumping into that lake afterwards, was a memory I won’t soon forget. Make sure to check out this hidden treasure if you happen to run a race at this venue. It was the highlight of the day for me!