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Guest Blog: Shale Hill Adventure – review

A few days ago, New England Spahten Tom Kelly paid a visit to Shale Hill Adventure – the location of the Polar Bear Challenge later this month. I wanted to share it, with some photos, and *now* I’m getting nervous!

To sign up: (make sure you mention your with the New England Spahtens to get a discount)

To join in with the Spahten community: event

Before reading this please take the following quiz:

1.what does shale hill have in common with Zombieland?
Answer: Rule 1 CARDIO!
2. What is worse then Burpees?
Answer: a foot of snow!
3. What is harder then a Spartan?
Answer: A man in Vermont who builds an obstacle curse for other like minded souls

Before I can give a report on Shale Hill Adventure I need to give you a little info about me to put this in perspective  I’m 45y/o and 30 lbs overweight. I have done 4 OCR events, a local mudrun, a zombie run, a hero rush and a Spartan super. This is my first blog, and my first winter run.

I found out about Ortc Vermont or Shale Hill Adventure through the NE Spahtens Facebook page. Its approximately 1 hour from my home in Saratoga NY, and probably 3-4 hours from Boston and NYC. I had a plan of going with 5 coworkers who have signed up for a Spartan race but have never done an OCR. This was to be a baseline measurement of fitness and desire, until no one else showed up leaving me solo. The ride from Saratoga to Benson Vt is straight forward route 4 to route 22. One hour on the road and I found myself in the parking lot, alone. Rob Butler, the owner and creative mind behind this showed up right after I got out of the car. Because I was the only one I got a personal tour and training session with Rob.

Rob turned out to very nice, outgoing and in shape. This was important as I quickly found out. While I was short of breath, he was able to carry on the conversation for the two of us. This made the course go by quickly. A short run through the snow followed by a sandbag climb left me wiped out. Did I mention the 30 lb fat and the foot of snow. Rob kept his eye on me while I wheezed like under tuned bag pipes, but I drove on.

The obstacles came next. It started with the basics, small walls, hay bales, barbed wire. By this time my energy was fading. I was able to walk the course but not try the big stuff. Rob was explaining the different types of obstacles and layouts for the different seasons. This is not a course you will get bored with. It is going to change by moving or modifying the obstacles for continuous challenge. He is also going to make Shale Hill a family friendly activity center where you can bring everyone. There will be horseback riding, mountain biking, a full gym so you can do the course while everyone else is being active.

And, about these obstacles. There is a new measuring stick for tough and it’s made in Benson, Vermont. I don’t want to scare anyone off as I’m still 30lb overweight and drained from the snow. At the Spartan super, with no experience, I was able to do a lot of the obstacles. Here, you need to be in good shape and dressed appropriately(more on this later). The bad boys in the jungle (a section of the course) will challenge the experienced racer. While completely doable, they can intimidate the out of shape middle aged man. I am using these as motivation and plan on beating them in warmer weather. Four stick out in my mind, the climbing wall, the monkey bars, the Tarzan swing and the anaconda. These will be my nemesis. They are superior to anything I have seen in the military or on the internet. Rob was actually building more as I was driving home.

As I was pushed for time and out of energy, we proceeded through the rest of the course while he told me about various events he is doing. The Polar bear challenge will be tough, real tough with snow added. Unfortunately, I have to work that weekend and will not be able to attend. Then he has a four race points challenge with prizes. It should be a busy year for him and his family. Rob is a man with a vision, and has the energy to achieve his goals.
If you are willing to travel hundreds of miles for a name brand race then you really need to go here first. Here you can train at low cost on harder events with great people, and the only thing you will miss is a big guy at the end with a padded stick. 200 miles from Boston, maybe 260 from NYC, no problems, no parking fees, no spectator fees, this is a no brainer. I’m looking forward to a) being in better shape to tackle this, b) Having the family there having fun, c) coming back several times to see my improvement and d) watching Rob and his family grow the Shale Hill Adventure.

PS Clothes for this. I ran in Army combat boots and combat pants with polypro long underwear, a cotton shirt under a wicking shirt and heavy fleece coat. Hat was not needed as I quickly overheated(if it is windy bring one. Fleece was to heavy, boots had no traction in snow but kept feet warm. My hands stayed warm but I did little in the obstacles. The pants with thermal underwear were to hot and limited range of motion. Please read the blog by Ellen Duffy, frost on the ground.

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