* From: Ben Millina
* Event: Brian R. Memorial Challenge
* Date: 2014-02-22
* Event Details
The event was held on the campus of Norwich University in Northfield, VT; home of the nation’s oldest private military academy. I did notice some registration hiccups with this event on the ACTIVE registration site in the weeks prior. We had a team discount that was displayed on the first registration page on ACTIVE of “Spahten Team” and “Spahten Individual”. This was unusual-especially seeing as how there was less than 20 of us. It was very confusing to navigate that page. Registering under the “team” meant inputting everyone’s name, so doing the “individual” seemed to the way to go. But doing “individual” meant the full discount was not applied for some reason. The norm is usually the “join a team” drop down menu within the registration for the event within ACTIVE, and then a discount code to be applied.
There is apparently only a Facebook page for this event, and no associated website or other electronic media promotion or information. There is also apparently no search engine listing or promotion either. Doing a Google search for “Brian R. Bill Memorial Run” brings up his obituary and a few other related news events to his tragic loss as the first few hits. The Facebook page also seems to be lacking in a few details. In my experience thus far, most races have an individual website devoted to the 5Ws and the H of the event, as well as a Facebook & Twitter, etc pages devoted to promoting the event. In the future I wouldn’t mind seeing the registration part being a little easier to navigate and having more information on a specific website.
Aside from the little registration issues, this was an excellent event overall. Parking was more than adequate; it was also FREE which seems to be a rare commodity at events. There was a very nice opening ceremony, speeches, national anthem, and presentation of colors which kicked off the event. It was very moving & touching to be a part of. Brian’s parents gave an very heartwarming speech about his life; including his youth, life at Norwich, accomplishments as a Navy Seal, the tragic Chinook helicopter crash which took his life in August 2011, and why they made this memorial event in his honor. The Corps of Cadets Color Guard looked very squared away, and their drill movements were precise and in line.
The opening/closing ceremonies, start/finish line, vendors, gear staging was all in the gymnasium-the Plumley Armory. For an event of this size that seemed more than adequate. There were restrooms in the venue down the hall adjacent to the pool and that seemed adequate for the amount of persons in attendance. There was enough room for facility use as well as changing. The only complaint amongst Spahtens was that last year we had our own private corner in the gym area for us & our gear; this year we did not. There was one vendor selling food afterwards that I did not try. There was also two masseuses with chair tables that was a nice touch. And fellow Vermonter Shale Hill was on hand to sell IceBugs at a discount which was also very much appreciated. There was also a rep from USAA trying to get sales leads from veterans, etc & one other schwag table from Norwich selling other memorial t-shirts from Brian R. Bill Memorial Run, stickers, posters, etc. The proceeds from these sal
es (as well as a portion of the race fees) went to to the Brian R. Bill Scholarship Fund. For finishing, each athlete received a cotton tee depicting the event, and a very nice, shiny set of dog tags with the event name, details, and date engraved. I thought this was a very appropriate and nice alternative to your typical bling.
My only complaint (as with most races-this has yet to catch on…) is the lack of “clean food”. But it was cool-several of us had a Paleo Snack Party afterwards in our little corner of the gym 😛
* Race Details
The course was just over 5 miles, appx. 2/3rd of which was up and down a mountain with high elevation gain and in the ice, snow, and slush. The other third was on the mainside of campus. Most of the obstacles were military inspired. The first obstacle out of the gate was a 100 yd. sled pull on the football field-from the end zone to the 50 yd. line and back. There were ammo can carries, ruck carries (ALICE Pack) with mock-rifle carry (all the feel and weight and feel of the real deal without the functionality). Also included were real burlap sandbag carries & team railroad tie carries. For the sandbags there was also associated exercises such as crunches, pushups, and squats with the bags. The campus has a permanent military obstacle course set up, and we used a good portion of that. It was Vermont in the middle of this winter we’ve had, so a small portion of the items were skipped. This course was a military inspired course through the snow, slush, ice and mountains. It prov
ided excellent & varied terrain of all sorts. Some parts were wide-track and groomed, others were single track with deep snow.
I thought the event was spectacularly challenging overall. There was an abundance of fun and danger at every turn. Even the running portion throughout the mainside roads were ice-slicked and slippery which only served to add to the fun. There were some parts with a bit of flooding as well. This event even had an interesting paintball challenge as well. I was surprised to see the paintballs working-they have a tendency to be very finickey in the cold.
Some of the walls in the mountain woods seemed a bit rickety; but I thought this only served to add the fun. They seemed to be impromptu assemblages of framework and plywood. The whole course had elements like that. The tyrolean traverses were not nice, pretty, tightly wound ropes of nylon-they were frayed and abused ropes that been through many miles of towing, pulling, and other such employments long before they saw my hands. At the summit of the mountain (and the only water station) there was a clean and press. But instead of kettlebells it was military 5 gal. gerry cans. It was like the feeling you get when you go to a sweaty, dirty, danky, home garage gym vs. a “GloboGym”. Those kinds of things incorporate the aspect of “mental toughness” that you cannot really put a price on.
I would give the race a 8.5 out of 10. The only thing I would have added to the course were monkey bars and a rope climb…and perhaps an associated military exercise penalty-I would vote for Hello Dollies >:o)
There is a copy of the race map & obstacles here: https://www.facebook.com/BrianBillMemorialChallenge/photos/pcb.631299110270821/631298946937504/?type=1&relevant_count=2
* From: Tom Kelly
* Event: Brian Bill Memorial Challenge
* Date: 2014-02-22
Background, Brian Bill was a Navy Seal who died in Afganistan. He was also an Alumni from the same College I graduated from 25 years ago. This is the second time they have held this race to honor his sacrifice and fund a scholarship in his name.
The signup. This is the worst part of the race. For some reason it is built toward teams signing up in mass. I have found it very hard to form a Spahten team unless I know everyone who is going to be on the team. They need to do it like the spartens where you form a team and anyone who wants to join that team clickies the little box. Getting information from the group is not like texting Aja and having an answer in a few days, it was like pulling baby teeth. Slow and annoying.
Parking was not a problem except for the sheet ice in the Vermont parking lot in winter, you know it will be there and you deal with it(ICEBUGS).The Armoury where the race starts is over a hundred years old but more then meets the needs, lots of room, clean bathrooms, plenty of vendor space.
Vendors and swag.
If you read the spahten page, every one who runs in the winter appears to have caught the ICEBUG. Several reasons for this epidemic, both are superior. Service and quality. Jill Butler does ice bug a special service when she sells a pair of shoes, She not only stands behind them, but in them as well. And Icebugs pulled their weight and more. Winter race, ice, mountain= not one fall with my bugs.
Knotty Shamrock, an alumni owned pub supplied food. I like big sandwiches and lots of meat. They gave me a veggie wrap and corn chowda. One request, pay it forward to the Brian Bill fund. They did this because I had no cash. Well, being a big hungry guy with a long drive I thought MCDee’s in Rutland, but they filled me with some good grub. As soon as I found the atm, I donated extra just because of the Knotty Shamrocks quality and attitude.
Swag, this is charity event so I was not looking for any, I think I got a sticker.
Lastly the team, Thank you for all being patient for the reg and team time issues. Next year I would love to see a double heat for 20-30 spahtens!
I thought this year was easier then last, probably due to warmth!
6ish miles of basic military obstacles, you drag, carry, ruck, crawl, and climb your way across campus. Either Im in better shape, or the team motivated me, because nothing bothered me. I would like to see more use of Marine Corps O course(obstacle), and harder events on the mountain. Most of the days runners are tomorrows warriors and they could push it up a notch(not a Butler course, but Hero rush or Spartan sprint style obstacles would be nice). One water satiation was missing, but if a potty break was needed, there were the barracks around 1.5 to 2 miles. Nice warm bathrooms! and cadet clean!
I’am bias to this race as a service member and Alumni but I heard no bad remarks except registration. Thanks to all who came to this and I encourage everyone to take a Norwich moment next winter and race Brian Bill, and to Paul Jones for the discount code/team code. The Race director really needs to fix this.
* From: Sandy Rhee
* Event: Brian Bill Memorial Challenge
* Date: 2014-02-22
* Event Details
It’s always interesting to review the same event two years in a row. You can’t help but make comparisons. I was fortunate to be at the Brian Bill Memorial Challenge in it inaugural year in 2013. It was a great, well run event and I looked forward to the 2014 race with much anticipation. In many ways, it met that anticipation. In some it didn’t.
Parking was fantastic, on site, and free, which is always a welcome perk. The facilities were comfortable and spacious, but this is where the differences between the first and second years started to become apparent. Physically, they had not reserved any space for large teams to hang out and gather all of their stuff together. We were okay with this as we all grouped our stuff where we could find a space, but the set-aside area was definitely missed. There weren’t as many vendors available this year. They did have Shale Hill there with the Ice Bugs, but that was really the only big vendor available. They also didn’t have their physical challenges booth set up like last year where people could cheer each other on through PUPs (push-up-pipes) and dips and pull ups. USAA had a table and they were selling some Brian Bill merchandise at another table, but that was just about it. One food vendor had a couple of soups available, but I didn’t see the coffee and hot chocolate that was there in 2013. There wasn’t much variety for food and no really healthy options.
Schwag was fine. We each received a t-shirt and commemorative dog-tags, but nothing else. No medals, but the dog tags were a higher quality than 2013.
The biggest difference was the atmosphere. 2013 was a party! There was a lot of excitement! Great music played by a DJ! Zumba for warming up! A feeling of excitement in the air as the heats were called to the staging area to get ready! 2014 was flat. There was no excitement in the air at all. There was music, but it was a playlist just playing in the background. There were no warm ups with Zumba or anything else. Whoever the race director was, must not have been too excited about the race because everything just felt tedious. I think that we (NE Spahtens) did more marketing and talking about the event than they did! It just felt like everything was mailed in and the folks running it just really didn’t want to be there.
* Race Details
On the course, things were different. There were cadets at every single obstacle giving encouragement and instruction. Every bit of feeling the hall lacked was made up for on the course. And, the course was good! In 2013, we left the staging area indoors and immediately headed to and up the mountain. The course was basically a figure 8 with the mountain loop first and then a flat loop around the main campus. 2014 was still the figure 8, but the order was reversed. This time, they absolutely beat you down on the campus with sled pulls, ammo carries, heavy rucks, pushups, pull ups, sit ups, squats, and such and THEN sent you up the mountain. Many of the obstacles were very PT based as you would expect during a military style race. Some people didn’t like that, but I thought it was very appropriate given where we were and how the race was advertised. All the obstacles they did have were pretty well built with the exception of 3 walls up on the mountain. Those were a bit shaky, but certainly not dangerous. I wish they had incorporated a lot more of the on-campus ropes course they have there, but we really didn’t get to do much on that. This is my only real complaint about the course itself. Overall, it was a great race that really tested your strength and endurance.
If I were just judging the race itself, I would give this an Above Average rating. However, I give the indoor staging/festival area a Below Average rating. So, this averages to Average. I DO hope they do this race again next year. If they do, I will definitely sign up and encourage everyone on NES to sign up as well. However, they need a new Race Director. Someone who is actually excited about what they are putting out there. Someone with enthusiasm that can be felt by the participants. I don’t think they got the response or the numbers they were hoping for this year. But, I feel that was entirely their fault and entirely (and easily) fixable.