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Interview: Shale Hill

EURO - Polar BearBy now, you shouldn’t be a stranger to Shale Hill – described as the “Obstacle racings Field of Dreams” by Margaret Schlachter of Dirt in your Skirt in her article – and raved about by everyone who visits and trains there, they truly are a must visit for the OCR enthusiast who wants to push themselves and see what they’re about.

This coming weekend, we’ll see the third rendition of the Polar Bear Challenge – an 8 hour long endurance event – as many laps of the course as you can make in that time window. It sounds horrific – especially when you consider that the temperatures will be low – but with Journeyman divisions that allow you to take it at your own pace, complete what you can, and skip the penalties at the end – it’s accessible to pretty much every level of OCR athlete.


We reached out to Rob and Jill, the venue owners, and asked them a few questions – both about the Polar Bear Challenge, and Shale Hill itself – check them out.

– It’s no secret that Rob can’t stop building … how many obstacles per lap should we expect this weekend?

* If you count every hurdle and effort within some of our obstacles, then you’re looking at 80+ efforts per lap!

– Some are straight forward – flip a tire, climb a rope – others a less so … what obstacle do you consider the most challenging?

* Top 3: Tarzan Swings, The Great Traverse Wall, Uphill Monkey Bars (but the whole damn course is challenging!) – However, I believe the new horizontal pipes, warped wall and log splitter carry are going to be game changers on the course this season.

– How many laps will win Polar Bear 2015?

* Jill – 4+….we’ll see. The conditions play a big part. We have a lot more snow and ice this year than the last two years. This will slow one down considerably to be more careful.

Rob – My prediction is 3 with current conditions.  It will be key to go with no penalties.  the penalties are going to play a major role this season.  they are made to be fun, but they are going to add a considerable amount of time to your lap.  the key is to push to be part of the Shale Hill “No Penalty Club”

– Who’s your favorite to win it?

* Now now, we don’t say this out loud, do we!!?? We wouldn’t want to jinx our leaders from last year 🙂 We’ve got last year’s winner, Dave Olsen, returning and a great field of uber elite athletes attending…but, there is an unknown field of Canadians coming to make their debut here at SH and I think they’re here to deliver some serious competition!

– With more unique endurance events on your calendar, is this the niche you are looking at in 2015?

* Yes. We are seeing a great interest in non-traditional races across the board. Although the marketplace may be smaller for unique and interesting adventure/OCR races in general, there really aren’t a lot of options out there unless you are willing to travel. So, we’re keeping it local, attracting the endurance athlete that is looking for a change in scenery. So, why not run on SH’s wicked tough obstacle course for 24 hours. Or, shake up the traditional boring road triathlon with our TRI-OBSTACLON™. And the surprising interest and excitement over our Obstacle Relay Challenge! We were blown away by how much fun we had hosting it, but also with energy and excitement of only running a 1/3 or our course at full throttle with teammates. Offering these unique races seem to be catching the attention of athletes out of state. Enticing them to come see what Shale Hill is all about and experience how wonderfully hard we are 😉

– Rob recently ran the course, daily for 30 days – tell us about that experience?

* Jill – I’ll let Rob answer this one 🙂 But, I could give you good account of what it’s like to mow SH for 120 days straight 😉 Does that count?

Rob – Running Shale Hill for 30 days in a row is an experience like no other.  I did this to prove a point.  I have always said that your body will do what you tell it to do.  If you make something routine, your body will adapt and deal with it.  I experience in then first week that I hurt, my hands and legs and arms were sore.  I failed the tarzan ropes on day 6 because I just simply could not hold on any more.  Driving that day, I could not hold onto my steering wheel.  Then I witnessed something incredible,  I woke up on day 7 and my hands were fine…..never failed another obstacle for the next 23 days.  On day 20 I ran a 1 hour and 17 minute lap with little effort and was not pushing for a fast time.   I ran the next 10 days all at a sub 1:18 time and was not pushing to do it.   My body and mind just simply knew what I was going to ask of it and it just did it.  I was no longer sore, my hands were like leather and I was strong, all over strong.  I had lost all the unnecessary weight that we tend to carry around.  i was streamlined and efficient and smiling while I did it.  I will do the 45 days of Shale Hill this summer and I think that my body will once again adapt and just simply do it.  Out of all the training activities that are out there today, I am convinced that grass roots obstacle training of your mind and body makes you the strongest.

IMG_9765– Where is the hot tub kept? We want a “soak in a hot tub” obstacle!

* A hot tub can mean many things…be careful what you wish for!  🙂

This weekend I’ll be going for my third spin of the Polar Bear Challenge. It ranks up there as one of my favorite events in the season, thanks to it’s mix of physical challenging obstacles and inclement weather. If you think it’s “too cold”, then you wear more clothing. If you think it’s “too hard” then you run Journeyman. If you think it’s “too far”, then you have your priorities wrong 🙂

See you at Shale Hill!

1 thought on “Interview: Shale Hill

  1. Nicely done Paul Jones!! Thanks, thanks, a million thanks 🙂

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