Our service men and women are owed a huge debt for their service to our country. They fight for the freedoms that we often take for granted. CPO Brian Bill made the ultimate sacrifice in August 2011 and the Memorial Challenge was created in his name. All donations and proceeds will go towards a scholarship in his name. The NE Spahtens were honored to take part in this event
The race was brought to my attention about two months ago. At that point, I wasn’t too sure about doing a winter race as the cold is often the biggest obstacle for me. My fingers and toes do not stand up to cold even a little bit. A friend of mine is a Norwich graduate and has been talking about doing a race for the last year, but couldn’t quite pull the trigger to sign up. So, I decided to run the race and get him to do it with me. He could overcome his nervousness about doing a race and I could overcome my aversion to the cold. It was a win/win for both of us.
Registration was easy. The only down side was the Corporate Challenge team sign up. You had to register a minimum of six people all at once in order to qualify for the discounted team rate. That isn’t the way we are able to work, so we all signed up as solo runners and then I sent a list of the team members to the race director so that we could all be placed in the same heat. The level of responsiveness was out of this world and our team was set. As is becoming a bit of the norm, the NE Spahtens were the biggest team there with 12 runners.
About half the team drove in the night before and the other half drove in the morning of the race. Parking was a smooth process and free, which is becoming a rarity with races. Norwich has a large military student population and cadets were on hand everywhere to answer questions and guide the civilians like us who weren’t familiar with the campus. Registration was quick and efficient. Registration bags included bibs, timing chips, t-shirts, coupons for a local sporting goods store, beef jerky samples, and hand warmers! Personally, I thought the hand warmers were spot on! Given the forecast highs of 18F, they were a really thoughtful bit of swag! It was also a nice touch that each participant was asked to sign commemorative posters to be given to Brian’s family and race sponsors. It seems that everyone was going to get some gifts to take home.
Once we were registered, it was time to enter The Village. There, we had our own assigned area just for our team to gather and leave our bags. There were also sponsor booths and a few food sales booths. Coffee and hot chocolate were available which is always appreciated on a cold morning. Shale Hill was well represented with a booth complete with pull up, dip, gym nasties, and pushup pipe stations. There was a DJ and a mini Zumba warm up every 30 minutes. The best part of all of this? It was all indoors! We were able to warm up and stage inside, which was a huge benefit given the fact that it was less than 10F outside.
We were scheduled to stage at 9:30 for a 9:45 heat. The beginning of the race was a neutral start on an elevated track above The Village. Once around, down two flights of stairs, and then outside to begin what turned out to be a 5.75 mile race. Prior to the start, we were asked to carry any spikes or traction devices for our shoes until we were outside, which was easy and something I should have remembered for the end of the race (more on that later)! As the informal captain of the team and the resident “Mama Hen”, I was asked to lead the group through the neutral portion of the start. I’ll have to work on being a little quicker next time as it was difficult for a couple of the speedier members of the team (yes, I’m talking to you, Corrine!) to not fly ahead. All in all, it was a fun way to start. Of course, half of us stopped immediately after going outside to strap on our Yak Trax and such which led to “Wait, they’re stopping already?” being overheard from a spectator. Obviously, the commenter wasn’t about to run almost 6 miles through the snow!
The course was fantastic! There was a good mix of the obstacles that we’ve come to expect – over and unders, low crawls, cargo net climb, tyrolean traverse (which I successfully completed not once, but twice for the first time ever!), sled drag, and weighted hoist – as well as some great PT style obstacles – duck walk/crab walk/bear crawl, overhead press, quick punches, step ups, dips, pull ups, pushups, and hanging knee tucks. There was even a paint ball sniper station that had Corrine really excited and me shaking my head and asking, “You want me to do what?”. Add in the mountain itself and it definitely tested every aspect of the runners’ fitness. Every obstacle had at least one volunteer stationed and explaining exactly what to do. They also were there to charge penalties for any failed obstacles. Each runner was given three chances to successfully complete an obstacle before a penalty was assessed. The penalty at most stations was burpees, but there were a few other options tossed in to keep us on our toes. There were small, well tended bonfires spread out along the course in case anyone needed to warm up, as well as several water stations. The water stations posed more of a challenge for the volunteers though as they were the ones tasked with trying to keep them from freezing! All in all, I was incredibly impressed with the volunteers as all of them knew exactly what they were doing and had an encouraging word for everyone who passed. I don’t think it would be possible to run a race any better than they did.
The race finished inside The Village just below where it started. As we ran in, we were asked to ring a bell to signify a runner coming to the finish. Of course, I was so intent on ringing the bell and finishing that I completely forgot the spikes I still had on my shoes. Turns out, they don’t help much on a hardwood floor – I think I managed two whole steps before ending up flat on my back! My apologies to my teammates who were worried that I hurt myself when I didn’t jump right back up. I figured I was already down, so I might as well take the time to remove the spikes before trying again to get to the finish line. Then, one last set of ammunition box overhead presses and a short sprint to the finish line where we received a medal and turned in the dog tags that we wore during the race. The dog tags ended up being an integral part of the commemorative sculpture presented to Brian Bill’s family at the conclusion of the event.
Included in the pre-race communication, was the schedule for the day. The last wave of runners was released at 12:30 and they were expected to finish by 3:30. Unfortunately, the racers finished quite a bit earlier than predicted, and The Village cleared out more and more as the afternoon wore on. The awards, raffle, and closing ceremony were not scheduled to start until 4:30. Even though they did start about 15 minutes early, there were very few people still there for the end. This would be my only criticism of the entire event. Somehow, the schedule needs to be redone so that there is still a large group of people there for the end. Corrine, Vince, and I stayed because we were sure that Corrine was going to place in the Solo Women’s Division. We are very glad we did since Kandice Fogarty and Marcie (Casavant) DiStefano also placed in that division. On top of that, the NE Spahtens placed second overall in the Corporate Challenge! Winners received given gift bags and awards, which was a really nice touch. Now, we just have to figure out what to do with the team awards that we are starting to earn!
I will definitely do this event again next year. It was one of the best run events I have been to and it benefits a great cause. I hope that everyone else will consider running it too.More photos Community Reviews