It’s traditional for Mothers Day weekend that Mom gets to stay in bed, receive flowers and chocolate. To put her feet up, and relax for the day. Maybe she gets a gift to a spa, for a massage and mud treatment.
How boring is THAT?
Well, except maybe the mud treatment …
New England Spahten moms? Well, they’re a little different.
For mothers day weekend, I took my wife, mom to my mini, to Sunny Hill for our second trip – and we raced the Viking Obstacle Race.
And we had a blast. Again.
Oh man, did we have a blast.
To recap, for those who haven’t hard of the Viking Obstacle Race and Sunny Hill. Imagine an all inclusive resort – comfortable rooms, three wonderful meals a day served family style, inclusive of child watch – all on a venue that just so happens to have a 5+ mile obstacle course of a quality and standard that makes “The Big Three” look like toys.
You can read the review of the 2013 experience Beth and I had right here –
Going back was a no brainer for us. There is no other race offering the package Sunny Hill can offer. We were joined by several New England Spahtens and their families, and 100 or so athletes from the New York region and beyond joined us.
As with 2013 – Viking Challenge ran waves every 20minutes, with tens of people per wave. They had listened to feedback from the previous event, and moved the start / finish line and festival complex to the huge pavilion in front of their lake, which was not only picturesque, but made a bit more sense – oh, and it also added a loop of about another 1/2 mile to the end, and a few additional obstacles and mud.
The obstacles at Sunny Hill are hard. No two ways to put it. They have built a course that will challenge you and make you fail some things. For some people, this is going to be out of their comfort zone – but if you are into obstacle course racing as a hobby, and would like to develop your skills – this course will challenge you in ways you can’t appreciate until you’ve tried to get down Odin’s Ladder without a fall, or up a 20’ rope when you’re exhausted.
It’s a big differentiator. When you’re used to running races that are geared towards giving everyone a shot at finishing – regardless of age or ability – or traveling events that bring the same obstacles to a different mountain each season – eventually the OCR fan and enthusiast starts to need something more than laps of a family friendly 5k – and Sunny Hill is less than a three hour drive from my house and can provide that experience in spades.
Thats not to say you need to be athletic, or experienced to have a good time at the Viking Obstacle Race – the course has little elevation change, and it’s terrain varies widely, from open trail to rocks to boulders. The obstacle difficultly varies a lot too – from simple 5’ walls and log carries, to straight forward ladder walls, cargo nets and crawls, to technical and complex monkey bars or multi faced traverse walls. Some of the obstacles are simple – get on your belly and crawl under a fallen log, hop over some boulders – but the real genius is in the complex, technical obstacles of varying difficultly – Odin’s Tables have you go up a steep wooden slope, then transition to a 20’ rope decent. They have something *like* a Spartan slip wall, but it’s 16’ long and on a really steep angle. Balance beams? Lots of them, with a tyrolean traverse in the middle.
Because we were coming out of winter, and some heavy rains the course was pretty slick in places – especially on the wooden balance obstacles – one particular log had much of it’s bark stripped off during the elite wave, and for anyone not racing in studded Icebug’s, it was slick enough to send more than one person tumbling, and caused a couple of people head to the hospital for observation (everyone was ok and back at the site the same day, or home the next morning) – the rough and tumble nature of OCR in full effect. It was clear that Sunny Hill has a good, solid emergency plan – the experience of being a resort showing through.
5.5 miles, 35 obstacles and 2 hours later we were back at the post race party, and it’s clear again that the Sunny Hill crew are welcoming everyone into their home. BBQ under a huge pavilion (as much as you like) a free Stella or Bud or wine, a DJ, free professional photos, at least two kiddie play parks within view. I had the chance to run back to my room, shower, change, and get back in time to watch my wife cross the line too. Free kid watch was awesome – and knowing we could leave mini with Sunny Hill staff for a couple of hours while we got muddy made our day very enjoyable!
The course itself is well marked (except I ran past *three* markings for one turn – totally my own fault), and the volunteers are amazing. They are made up of Sunny Hill staff and the family, so they were considerably more invested in the experience than many volunteers we see at races – not only did they offer encouragement for everyone coming through, guidance on the obstacles, but they were enforcing the 25 burpee penalty for people who missed or failed or bypassed something – even helping to count them out if you were tired enough to not be able to count (yeah, me), and the volume allowed. It’s also worth noting that for this event, Sunny Hill put on a great elite race too – those hoping to win had their own wave, rules (well enforced), money on the line and cool engraved hammers for prizes. End result was a photo finish with very little in it for the lead guys! Well played!
So – the Viking Obstacle Race is a great race – and if you wanted to just show up at the venue, run the race, and head on home after you would have a great time. For many though, the Sunny Hill experience goes on for longer – with comfortable accommodation within walking distance, family style dining included for three meals a day (with great food!), entertainment in the main office and during peak seasons on rides they take all over the course – the value of making this an extended weekend away is just awesome.
Sunny Hill offers a course that will give you a challenge at any experience level, but welcomes the entire family in for the weekend. You will be fed, entertained and run ragged on the course. They plan a fall event for 2014, and it’ll be going on the Jones calendar!
Photos courtesy of Bob Mulholland – http://obstaclecourseracephotography.zenfolio.com/