Ruckus appears to have been doing a lot of surveying this past year – at least, that’s the reasoning given for many of our favorite obstacles not being present, and the lack of medals for the finishers – of course, for those of us who have run every race they’ve held, we haven’t seen these surveys, so I’m not sure *who* they were talking to. What it led to was a large amount of disappointment in their fans, and a race that was very different from the fun, innovative races they’ve held in years past.
But, in more detail …
Ruckus runs one of the “good ones” – with their history going back to the start of this crazy sport in 2010, and their expansion into other territories giving them a chance to expand and develop quicker than an annual local race – they have given us some really fun, really good events, with some innovations in both obstacles, course design and the event itself.
This past Saturday, the New England Spahtens were excited to hit the fourth year of races held by Ruckus – coming off their smaller, but still excellent Fearless Fall 5k at the end of 2012. Expectations were pretty high, and for the first year the Ruckus crew seemed interested in working more with their fans – even going as far as starting a small street team.
We had a team heat of 11am, with many of our crew getting there early so they could run a clearer course, and many bringing their little ones (me included) to run the very excellent kids race that Ruckus put on – the weather was awesome – mid 70’s and sunny.
The venue, Marshfield Fairgrounds is the same venue that Ruckus have held all their events at – it’s easy enough to find, and the parking is fairly easy, if a bit chaotic your first time as every flat piece of land – from front lawns to the fire station gets in on the act charging $10 to put your car there – none of them are much more than a short walk to the venue, so it’s ok, and no one is gouging – it’s simple enough.
Primarily nothing more than a big parking lot, with some grassy spots and a series of pretty good trails in the woods and parking lots – one thing Ruckus has done an incredible job of, is making their event and their venue different every year. I’ve never run from the same starting line, I’ve never finished in the same place, and they’ve never used the same venue layout.
We had purchased our tickets early – during a deal that let you buy two adult tickets and get a free race entry for the mini-Ruckus. Our little one isn’t quite ready for the big mud yet, so we ended up just collecting his bib and shirt. Our check in process was pretty straight forward – show ID, hand over waver and tell them our bib number. We received a bib with chip (from Racemenu), a wrist band good for one free beer (with an X on your hand to prove age), and a very nice T shirt, which is probably one of the nicest race T’s I’ve had in a while.
Then, things started getting a little … out of character.
Bag check, which was OUTSIDE the main event area, and apparently run by one 14 year old boy was so backed up … I stood at the rail waving my bag to him for 10 minutes before giving up and taking it with me. The entrance had security doing bag content checks – slowing things down and ignoring us as we walked right by with our bags – then we got into the event proper.
Tips for a smooth checking – great registration process, rubbish bag check, security on the entrance? Really? And please – porta potties as soon as we arrive!
Once in, you walked right into the pretty rad looking kids race. Seriously, this looked awesome. My little one wasn’t interested, but at least one of the 6 year olds on the team did 6 laps all by himself – nice job! The kids T Shirts were nice too – my son was thrilled to have a shirt the exact same as Mommy and Daddy’s. Plus, the kids got medals – some got the metal, cool medals we all covet, others rubber medals. More on this shortly.
Vendors were good – B Good did the food, and this is ALWAYS a huge plus. Good, healthy, local food should be a requirement at an active, healthy pursuit like this. The Earn Your Crown T Shirts were awesome, brought one home. Zico Coconut water giving out free samples, which proved to be fantastic, because the only hydration for sale was at the B Good tent, and consisted of $2 water bottles or sports drinks – my son was not interested in boring water (and $2 is a bit much just to watch him pour it down his shirt), and we’re not quite ready for him to be drinking organic versions of gatorade … but Zico Coconut Water to the rescue! Free beer is always welcome, but three years ago we complained because only Coors Light was on offer, and you fixed that with local breweries in the past two years. Back to Coors Light this year, and it was missed. Ps, I don’t think anyone bought more beer.
Spectator access is one of the highlights of Ruckus – they have a great course layout, and our family members and non-racing team mates were able to see pretty much anything and everything. In past years, we had access to the bleachers which improved the view even more – would love to see those back – but overall, spectator viewing and access is second to none. $20 a head though? While these charges are becoming common, they never feel justified.
Big black mark for hiding the porta potties all the way at the back. Took us a while to find those, and many of the team had driven in from long distances to race.
The race itself – of course, this is the reason we’re here. Ruckus has a reputation for being one of the best races in the area for new runners, and a great challenge for veterans. Unfortunately, they fell flat this time.
We’ve had some awesome innovations and challenges from Ruckus in the past – air loops, ranger bars, monkey bars, lobster pot tunnels, big. ass. cargo. nets. Crawls under the spectator (see through) viewing bridge, wall jumps to get into the start line (way before Tough Mudder and others did the same thing) – the first outing of Mt Ruckmore last year was the first time I saw such an epic, intimidating, involved obstacle used as the finish piece – and the slide was fantastic and appropriately intimidating and fun. Many of these obstacles grace the front page of the runruckus.com website today.
None of them were present – and the replacements didn’t cut it. The entire event seemed to consist of walls, both short and tall (with ropes and a nice ledge at the back), lots and lots of trail running – then, three miles later you hit the fairgrounds and the large concentration of obstacles.
As usual, I’m not going to do a step by step recap – I’ll let my video do the talking – but the standout moments (good and bad).
- I loved the balance beam over the airbag – this was zero challenge to anyone used to such things (and a joke in comparison to the wobbly, cold water affair at Superhero Scramble) – but still, balance beams over an airbag!
- I enjoyed the three 45 degree walls – these were easily the biggest challenge of the day – with no ropes to help you get up and little padding to coddle you when you slid down. Of course, for many new runners it was simply too much and they walked by (which is fair) – but for some it was far too much and they got injured, resulting in the one challenging obstacle of the day getting shut down.
- It seemed every time we went up a cargo container, there was a steep – and sometimes precarious drop off the other side – loose car tires don’t make a good landing pad!
- We only did one large cargo net – Ruckus used to be known for the epic, 15′ cargo nets … I miss those. The cargo nets over the mud crawls right by the entrance were good fun, but little challenge, too slack, and more of a bottle neck than anything else.
Then – the awesome, amazing, epic Mt Ruckmore! At some point between the 2012 debut, and the 2013 showing, it seems Mt Ruckmore got married, let himself go a little, stopped going to his CrossFit gym and took up competitive hotdog eating … it went from a maze of cargo containers and suspended cargo nets – that had you looping in and out and around, under suspended people and through tire filled containers – before a two story climb to a scary cargo net, to a fantastic two story, fast slide down to the finish …. and this year, we had it’s inflatable, cuddly cousin who gently delivered you to the finish mat, at a respectful and courteous velocity.
Yeah. This is what we got in 2012.
You can watch the edited version of the 2013 race to see what we faced this weekend …
Believe it or not – I’m trying not to be too negative. We had several new folks to obstacle course racing in the team, and on the course there were many people clearly pushing their comfort zones. For those folks, this was reported to be a great experience, full of challenges outside their normal day to day life – and frankly, any chance to climb walls and cargo nets with the New England Spahtens tends to be a life changing, rewarding experience. I just wish there was more. The Ruckus I’ve raced since 2010 innovates. That doesn’t mean “makes harder”, it means “makes more fun” and is something that sets you apart from the other races. In 2013, there are a LOT of other races. Many of them are doing the “lots of walls, trail running and climb a net or two” thing as well as Ruckus did today, for 1/2 the price. This market is getting increasingly competitive, and the attendees are getting increasingly aware. Innovation is good.
Tips for a better race – Ruckus has some great obstacles in it’s arsenal – huge cargo nets. Air loops. Lobster trap crawls. I’m sure they have more ideas, and more talent to build these ideas – put them to work.
To confound things – on Sunday, the “dangerous” incline walls had ropes to make them easier, one of the cargo containers was full of tires, and they had a crawl net out in the trail running portion of the course. I wonder if they simply ran out of time on Friday night?
I loved the shirt. A 100% synthetic, light weight shirt. It’s not “tech” material, but it’s not cheap cotton like the Fearless Fall 5k event. Plus points that the kids race shirts matched.
Then – the medal situation. I have a collection of 4 medals – one from each Ruckus. I have three medal holders, and I proudly display my medals and dog tags and head bands from races.
Days before the event, it was noticed that the race packet said there would be no medals – but instead we’d be getting a pint glass. As a team, the general consensus was that this was a terrible idea. Who the heck cares about a pint glass? We’ve all got a million pint glasses, but no one has a Ruckus 2013 race medal … apparantly there was a survey done to discover people wanted pint glasses instead – but no one on our 800 person strong team – many of whom have ran in previous years – appeared to have been on that survey – or agrees to it. Glasses break (several onsite). Print on glasses fade in the dishwasher. Bling is bling. I *really* hope they consider bringing medals back for the fall race. It will be a make or break choice for large numbers of people. To further expand on MedalGate – there WERE medals. I have one. A nice, solid metal Ruckus Charger 2013 medal. It was given to the kids for each lap they ran, and one was donated to me (thank you, Steve) – later on, I noticed the kids had rubber medals too – some kids one of each, or more. Medals existed, and the demand was there.
Ending on a positive note – a big shout out to the volunteers. Ruckus had more volunteers than I’ve ever seen on a course – ably aided by the National Guard. Despite them running out of water on course (inexcusable when it’s 80f), the volunteers were always present – I saw and heard of several medical emergencies – from a heart attack on course (update posted to FB – he’s ok), to broken legs on the slatted 45 degree wall, to someone hurting themselves on the bigger 45 degree walls so much they shut them down – and at all times there was a volunteer close by to aid them. Oh, and more water at the hose off station, please. 2 hours in a car covered in mud … not pleasant.
Ruckus – you’ve rocked our world. After three years of solid, innovative events that we recommended to anyone (indeed, your 2012 summer race was the race I chose to introduce my wife to this sport) – to a mis-step in 2013.
The course needs to be more interesting, and some of your signature obstacles need to be seen again. The venue layout needs some tweaking, and you have some logistical issues to resolve. You’ve nailed these in the past, and it shouldn’t be too hard to get back on track with it. Brand new runners loved your event, but don’t turn off your veteran runners – indeed the very fan based of your brand …
Fearless Fall 5k is in November – I’m signed up – and I’ll be racing with interest.