Blizzard Blast holds a very special place on the New England OCR calendar. Every year – by virtue of their handy location, and early date, they get to launch the season – and for the past few years, we’ve brought the biggest team of OCR enthusiasts to Dracut, MA.
2016 – we did it again, with north of 250 people coming along for a mixture of competitive elite wave racing, multiple lap endurance – and pure fun single lap laughs. Considering there are current 985 finishes listed – thats a significant portion of the field!
Oh, and many of us did it wearing onesies. We’ve already established that the onesies were Sandy’s fault – and the weather certainly didn’t co-operate – but for sheer fun? Can’t be beat.
Lets get the big one out of the way – there wasn’t a lot of Blizzard going on at Blizzard Blast. Despite some snow a couple of weeks prior – we hadn’t had much snow, or even cold weather in the last ten days or so – in fact, race day was a spectacularly unseasonable 50+ degrees – which totally removed the Blizzard!
It’s ok – we still had a blast.
Lets get the next one out of the way – onesies SUCK in 50f weather. Sweaty, sticky mess. Many of us rolled our’s down to our waists for some ventilation. I also picked a dragon onesie with a knee height crotch – which made walls and climbing obstacles a whole bunch of “fun”.
Buses from a remote parking lot seemed to be smooth all day, with no complains coming my way, and registration was pretty quick, despite a crowded tent. As is typical at a Smithfest event, you registered, then lined up for your shirt separately – NES members getting a nice perk here, and a temp tattoo to slap on you, if you’re inclined. Free bag check – which I didn’t use, but again – no complaints this way.
Plenty of indoor and in-tent seating – but the inclement weather meant you could comfortable hang outside if you want – no big problems there. Venue does great food, and a free bowl of chili (eh, last years was better) – and a full bar inside. Indoor bathrooms – with showers!
Biggest Team perk of a private room off to the back is ALWAYS appreciated. We can become quite the crowd, and having a single place to meet, mix and mingle is huge. HUGE. I can’t state this enough – if you’re a member of NES, and you make use of these facilities, please keep them clean, make sure the RD and staff and treated right – because we don’t always get them, and they make our lives so much better.
As people wandered in and out to do their elite waves, early waves and such – time ticked on to our noon biggest team photoshoot – kudos to Vince who left him home with bronchitis for this – he’s on the road to recovery, and needed to get out – but thank you! Onesies on! Team assembled!
I promptly headed to the start line – FIT Challenge RD Robb McCoy was assisting with the start, and sending waves out promptly – not more than a few minutes, and I was off – with my tail wagging away behind me, and the sweat starting to build inside my fleece dragon suit.
Lets be totally frank – Blizzard Blast is an event designed for a snowy day, with cold temperatures. Last year, we slid and slipped our way through the course, crossing frozen golf greens and more. A full five obstacles were 100% designed for the snow – including the super fun sledding.
We had none of that. Because of the total lack of snow, the course had to be rerouted to stay on paths or wood trail – no crossing golf greens, no snowy sledding down the hill, no snow angel penalty. It led to a course that was 5.5 miles long – but definitely felt obstacle light. We got to the first obstacle about a mile in, and the next group of obstacle a further 1.5 miles in – after that, it felt more like an OCR, less like a trail event. I don’t think anyone expected this circumstance – but if I was to pick – I’d cut out the first two miles, and have a much more condensed, 5k course with a better concentration of obstacles. An OCR needs obstacles more than it needs distance.
The obstacles we did have were fun – a few walls (one was super wobbly though!), a nice keg carry right in front of the lodge windows, a wrist burning mini keg hoist (wrap the rope around a small stick), and a full hercules hoist with double kegs on the trail – the thin wet rope proving a pretty big challenge for many. The dreaded peg board climb (still can’t do it) and a short rope climb that was low enough not to be too challenging, although lots were struggling (knots and no knots were available).
We also saw the teeter totters – after witnessing a nasty fall on these (at another venue), I skip these unless I have my studded icebugs on – and having a fleece onesie around my ankles didn’t help – call it an educated decision after 6 years of OCR – I can see when I’m putting myself at way more risk than it’s worth! Right next to the teeter totters was a very awesome hot chocolate station – so while my race partners went over the totter – I enjoyed a hot coco with marshmallows. Very nice too!
Some more time in the woods – a paintball shoot, a football throw – both nailed easily, then a traverse wall to tire “monkey bar” rig that was pretty cool – before we hit the infamous christmas tree carry. Fortunately, my tree was considerably lighter than last years, which blew – and I spent 1/2 the carry proclaiming how much I loved my tree before we got to drop them off, and crawl through some open windows on abandoned cars, into a foam block pit in the middle – again, my giant dragon tail getting in the way … then onto Keg Kingdom, a much improved version over last year – I got a few kegs in this time, but ultimately, rigs are not my strong suit.
Blizzard Blast provides awesome swag, and a top notch social experience for members of the biggest team. Multiple laps were handled smoothly, logistics are all squared away and smooth. With snow on the ground, there would be few complaints – but without snow – people noticed the lack of obstacles in the first part of the course, and it was mentioned. 2017 – a shorter course backup plan may be in order to negate this.
However, 2016 Blizzard Blast gave us a stellar start to the season – we certainly sweated in our suits and earned our bling!
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