Merrel Down and Dirty CT – 2014


* From: Erin Loock

* Event Details
I warn you-I expect too much!

Getting to the park was easy and parking (only $5, yeah!) was simple with only a little walk to the venue. I loved how they had porta-potties not only in the big group but also scattered around since I super hydrated my little guys. It’s a pretty park of course next to the river with a huge playground for the kids before you even register.

Registration was quick and pretty lax. If I said I was Barney, I could have gotten Barney’s registration. Sadly, there were only XL shirts left which was a huge disappointment for me because I was really looking forward to my first performance shirt. It’s still super comfy and looks great, but covers my shorts so it may go to my husband. Otherwise we got a loose Merrell head wrap and Paul Mitchell shampoo. It would have been nice to not have to juggle my bib and schwag and have received it in a bag. The working at all the tables were people were very nice. I’m a huge eater so I was disappointed in the food. I always want more food though. It was definitely not a party atmosphere. Everything was just scattered around and things were hard to locate.

* Race Details
This is another race where you can hop in any heat without objection. There is only one little incline and you are done with that. Otherwise its a completely flat, well trodden course almost devoid of mud. The trail is very well marked with lots of volunteers to show the way and cheer you on. I felt like I was running a plain old 5k for a bit.
Some unregulated pushups and then flagged ropes instead of barbed wire while crawling through about 20′ of 1′ deep water. The obstacles were all very easy. (Was the Hercules Hoist really 50 pounds?) A lot of people like the slide of course. The end is the big mud crawl that truly covered every inch of me with muck.

My kids did the 1 mile race and I really think that could have been organized a bit better. There are 9 year old boys who could do who knows what and its a total free for all. Especially at the finish line. All of the parents were worried, waiting for their kids and the kids were wandering around aimlessly. But of course my boys loved it.

I probably won’t do it again unless I want to improve my time. I want to be challenged a bit more!

* Rating
Below Average


Name: Jeanine Peirce
Event Name: Merrell Down & Dirty
Event Details:
Parking was easy to get to and only $5. You walked some distance to the venue which would matter if you were running late. Subarus (sponsor) had on-site free parking. There were 2 course options 3 or 6 miles. Finishers received a nice tech shirt (women’s run on the large side) and a medal shaped like a dog tag. Registration was a very smooth process considering it was at 6 a.m. Bag check was free too. It was a 2+ hour drive from the Boston area. Hotels in area were $60/night.

Many vendors were on site: Subaru donating to Habitat for Humanity, Merrell, Paul Mitchel was doing $15 haircuts for charity (bonus to them for putting out Paul Mitchel shampoo at the post-race washing area), Larabar etc. There were also numerous food trucks.

Race Details:
I did this race to see if I could handle 6 miles with obstacles. I prefer obstacles to running by a long shot. This was a trail runner’s course. The trails along the river were filled with nice scenery-large trees, shade, ferns. Much of the running was done along trails covered in small, loose rocks (railroad beds). Some was on hills. There were a few easy water obstacles (climb under the net). A few sets of walls/hurdles. Military hurdles proved to be difficult for many. A variety of cargo nets. One used a single pole with connectors for footholds to reach the top and climb onto the cargo net. It caused a bit of back up because many racers hesitated before willingly throwing their leg over the crossbar while balancing on one foot. Hercules hoist-I did women’s weight easily so I gave the men’s a shot. That was harder and still doable. Volunteers did not know the weights of the bags. Balance beams at a staggered heights. The monkey bar alternative was a series of ropes hung overhead to grab onto as you walked across strapping below. This appeared easy, but I imagine it’s a height advantage. I would’ve liked to have seen the ropes used like monkey bars, without the strapping and over some water. Towards the end of the race there was an inflatable slide, knee deep water trough to run through, wall with rock wall holds, a soaped wall with rope to climb up on your stomach using on arm strength only and a longer trench of water/mud.

Obstacles that need improvement: 1) Tires: these were stacked in alternating piles of 2 and 3 tires. Step on through. I wish ocrs would get more creative with the tires or abandon them. 2) Crawling Tubes: 2 camo play tunnels connected on a flat surface. 3) Sandbag carry: 50lb women, 80lb men over a very short, very flat surface. Absolutely would have been a better use of these on the series of hill climbs on the 6 mile course.

In the end, I proved I can run 6 miles, my race, my pace and in last place for my age group. I definitely am an “obstacle” course runner, not a trail or road runner. If I run it again next year, I would turn it into a trip and hit Six Flags on the way home to make the 2+ hour drive fully worth it.

Overall average rating.


From: Nicole Sibley

Event Details
I ran in the 7:00 a.m. 10K wave of Merrell Down & Dirty obstacle race at Riverside Park in Hartford. I had gotten a great deal on this race through LivingSocial, the course was a 10 minute drive from my father and step-mom’s house, and I was going to get to connect with some of the NE Spahtens. For these reasons alone I signed up. I knew that Down & Dirty is kind of an introductory obstacle course race, so I wouldn’t have to do much training. I could just go out and have a fun day. And that is exactly what happened.

Parking was about a five or ten minute walk from the venue site. It was a bit of a haul, and you had to cross the highway, but I didn’t find it to be a problem. I was just glad that we didn’t have to take a shuttle from the parking lot to the venue. Also, parking was a great deal at only $5 versus the $10 to $15 prices you can see at other obstacle course races. For example, parking at Tough Mudder this year was $10 if you got it in advance or $15 if you got it day-of.

Merrell Down & Dirty really won points all around for being very affordable. Spectators were free (versus $30 or so at other events like Tough Mudder and Spartan Race) and there was no charge for checking a bag (versus $10 at other races). This meant that Down & Dirty attracted a lot of family and guests, and had more of a family-friendly vibe than a lot of other races I’ve been to. I know that some of the Spahtens brought their kids along for the kids races later in the day. You could have Down & Dirty be an event for the entire family.

When I arrived at the registration tent things moved very quickly. I had my waver filled out and was instantly given my bib number, swag bag, and participant t-shirt. The volunteers here, and everyone I dealt with throughout the day, were great. I was able to get my bib and get my bag checked in around ten minutes. I did a quick check of the course map and headed to the starting corral.

Race Details
The 10K (6.2 mile) course began by taking us up a very short hill, more like an embankment. The course overall was very very flat as it went along the Connecticut River. This was one of only a few time we headed up and down the embankment to add some “hills” into the run. The second set of “hills” was at around the half-way point of the race were we went up and down the embankment three times. Either way, it was a very short hill and took around a a minute or less to climb. This was true later in the course as well.

The obstacles were spread fairly evenly throughout the course. There were twenty obstacles in total. The overall difficulty level was not high — as I said before this is a very approachable beginner-friendly race. The 10K distance was not too long feeling and not too short. I think that the 5K would have felt a little too easy for me. This was overall a fun race. Because the obstacles were fairly quick to do, most of the time was spent trail running through the woods along the Connecticut River. The trails were very well marked and you could run along at a fairly good clip.

Here is a list of all the obstacles with descriptions and my notes about the experience with each. I have them in the order that we see them on the map; not that we encountered them on the course. (The last mile or so had the obstacles in a slightly different order on the course than on the map.)

– Mud pit: Standard pit filled with muddy water. You have to get low and slide under flags. Most other obstacle course races would have you going under barbed wire, so this was a bit easier. It was around 7:10 a.m., when we did this one, so the water was a bit chilly, but the mud was very smooth and not too rocky. No cuts on the limbs from this obstacle.
– Low Crawl: Crawl through a pool of water underneath a cargo net. I’ve actually never seen a net paired with a water obstacle, so this was kind of neat. The traverse was short and the net was not heavy, so it was easy enough to get through.
– Give Me 20: Drop down and do 20 push-ups. They even had a nice mat for us to do them on. I cranked out 20 push-ups in full plank and continued on my way in a snap. Not very exciting — I would give this “obstacle” my lowest ranking since I basically do push-ups every other day during my workouts.
– Marine Hurdles: These were five foot high hurdles. I have not seen hurdles at this height, and they were great for someone my size. I was able to jump and pull myself up and over without too much difficulty.
– Military Walls: These were your classic OCR walls with a-frame support but shorter. They were probably also five feet, like the hurdles, but in this case you had a wall to support you (instead of just a hurdle). These shorter walls is an example of how Down & Dirty is beginner friendly, as pretty much anyone should be able to get over a wall this height. I was able to jump the three of them without much trouble; the same as the Marine Hurdles.
– Cargo Climb: Climb up a cargo net, then over a hurdle and then down the net at the other side. The hurdle at the top was open, so this wasn’t too bad. As with all the cargo nets, the rope was a bit wet and muddy meaning that things were slippery (as usually is the case) and you had to be careful.
– Balance Beams: For this obstacle we had to get up on a beam that must have been around three or four feet in the air. We walked that beam, got on a higher one, and then stepped down to a third lower beam. When I got to the balance beams the volunteer at the obstacle told me that I had picked one with a slightly wobbly high beam in the middle. I decided to stick with it, and he was definitely correct. The middle beam was wobbling a lot, and I almost fell off at one point.
– Monkey Cross: This was a very interesting obstacle! We had to step from strap to strap grabbing ropes above our head. I was running with another Spahten at this point, and it was a good thing because I was way to short to reach the ropes overhead and needed someone to help bring them down to me.
– Tires: Tires on the ground, some stacked two high. The double height ones meant I had to go a bit slowly — plus I was doing this to avoid the poison ivy.
– Jim’s Jungle Gym: This was a new obstacle for Down & Dirty and a lot of fun. We had to climb up on a pipe with foot holds and then climb down a cargo net. Again, we had to remember “slippery when wet.” I actually found that my road running sneakers, which are usually terrible for OCRs, where great on this obstacle and I had less trouble than others.
– Ladder Wall: Climb a giant wall made of rungs like a large ladder. Not too challenging here.
– Tunnels & Original Hurdles: The tunnels were like those plastic tubes you might have played in as a child. These were followed by a couple of short walls.
– Sand Bag Haul: For this the women had to carry a 50 pound sand bag up and back a length of the course. The distance we had to go was very short, and I was happy because that is a lot of weight for someone my size. I think that a photographer took my picture at this point, and I can’t imagine it will come out very flattering.
– Colossus Climb: We climbed net along the back a giant inflatable slide and then slid down the front. This slide was fast, and I flew down. There was nothing at the bottom, so I kind of tumbled off. I wish that there had been more of a flat bit at the bottom so I could have landed on the inflatable bits. I flailed around quite a bit to keep from hitting the ground hard.
– Heavy Hoist: For this obstacle we had to hoist a 20 pound (for women) bag up on a pulley and then lower it. The weight certainly feels a bit heavier on the pulley, but this was still a snap.
– Water Crossing: There was a pool of water. We walked in and then out.
– Monster Climb: This was one of the more exciting obstacles. We had to climb up a cargo net, roll over a net, climb again, roll again, climb down, roll, and climb down again. The structure they built for this obstacle was impressive looking, and it was neat to get up so high.
– Rock Wall: Let’s do some bouldering! For this obstacle we used climbing wall techniques to climb the wall and then got to use stairs on the backside. The hand and foot holds were we, so even through I’ve done rock wall climbing a few times, this was hard. I actually had a foot slip out and was holding myself just by my arms at one point.
– Slippery Mountain: Using just your arms and lying on your belly, you had to pull yourself up and inclined wall. The wall was, as the name of the obstacle suggests, slippery with soap. I was able to get a good grip on the rope, and the wall was short, so things worked okay for me here.
– Mud Pit: The final obstacle actually took place after you ran across the line that scored your timing but still before the finish line. It was a giant pit of mud that you had to crawl through keeping low and under the flags.

To reiterate, the obstacles were not terribly difficult, but they were well-executed (by which I mean they had good build quality). There were many volunteers all along the course who were always ready to help on any obstacle were people were having difficulty. Because of my short stature, I was offered help a few times, but was able to manage myself. The obstacles were fun and quickly tackled. All in all, an entertaining time.

I finished the six mile course in 1:21:12. This time was faster than I was anticipating. I run a 10K road race in around an hour. I anticipated taking a lot longer on this course considering that it was on trails and I would have to stop for all the obstacles. This speaks to the speed at which you can do the obstacles, which are not complex. The top finishers were doing the course in 45 minutes or so.

While Down & Dirty won’t go down at the most epic race I’ve done, it was a fun time. I got to enjoy a hobby of mine, on a great day, for a very reasonable price, at a good location, and with people I like. I’m 50/50 if I might do this race again, mostly since the obstacles were a little underwhelming. I would probably do it again if my family wanted to and if I could get a good deal. After all, not everything has to be the hardest challenge in order to be a good day.

Below Average


From: Bob Landman

Event Details
Riverside Park, Hartford, easily viewed when getting onto 91 N from 84
Parking( bear/bare with me here) in advance of the race they sent out email that subaru owners get preferential parking, i know ive done this before, just usually showed my fob if was driving the honda. sent them an email saying i am an owner, described vehicle i owned but explicitly stated id be driving the pilot, they still sent me the parking pass. however the volunteer, ill say didnt find that acceptable, and i wasnt going to get overly aggrevated , found the regular parking . the walkway over the hwy was similar to the offsite parking at the old yankee stadium , had to get up and over the parkway, probably half mi walk, lets say a good warm up.
Registration, cheryl got there before me and had already procured bibs and tags, not sure if she had to show ID or not but had them,…. i did not wear my bib , just timing chip, but really , anyone could have just jumped in , not paid and run, just not gotten the post race swag, tech tshirt, bandanna ( which was given when you picked up the bib)
Vendors :as usual subaru paul mitchell, …also larabar and a few others …….There wasnt explicit markings on the NES tent and only found out from Sean G after the event where it was, and at that point it was kind of barren..
Post race: I have been spoiled by 3 previous merrills at orchard beach, ny, so i was used to bbq, burger, bag of chips and water… ( there were other food vendors there and beer, we didnt patronize ) also bagels and oreos by the millions…. here it was a bag with a bite size larabar, tangelo( i think ) and bag of trail mix.. ( meh and double meh)

Race Details
10 K race: started in usual merrell fashion, waves according to what you thought your pace was…..but really if you just want to show up and run you could have, no formal/ informal corral system….. race started with run the length of a football field and then up a hill round a corner and then back down……did some pushups , 5 foot walls… the 5k then split off, there was some trail running-, mud pit, water pit to wash off mud, cargo nets including one interesting variant where the ascent was vertical with the only footing on the pipe connector, unstable bilevel balance beams , herc hoist with thing nylon ropes, inflatable slight, vertical wall with rock climbing wall handholds, their version of the slippery wall and their signature mudpit at the end, with easier to wash off mud than what they have in the Bronx( other 3 merrells). Post race dog tag medal, little larger than previous years. There were plenty of volunteers to cheer you on and
assist racers with obstacles, The course was well marked second only to how well the course in Sunny Hill was marked… Relative to other OCRS not difficult obstacle wise, glad i got it for the groupon rate. We got our burger, and sweet potato fries later in the day…



* From: laurel

* Event Details
This race was a few minutes from my house, so i couldn’t pass it up. Packet pick-up on Saturday was quick and painless other than the insanity in the parking lot, which isn’t anyone’s fault. Race schwag was good including a technical shirt and headband type thingy. My friend couldn’t pick up her packet on Saturday (and you aren’t allowed to get anyone else’s packet), but she had no trouble day of.

I drive a Subaru, so we were able to park super close, which was incredibly convenient.

I’ve done races here before as part of the Hartford Riverfront Scramble Series. It’s right along the river, in a nice wooded area that feels isolated from the rest of Hartford. There were plenty of porta-potties, although one row had no TP.

Vendors were what i expected – the sponsors all had their tents and a few local companies had tents, but i didn’t see much else. There were a few food trucks, but we just got beer (which they were running low on by the time we got there).

We didn’t get the food or water after the race as we weren’t up for waiting in line. It didn’t look impressive.

Cleaning up stations were great – lots of hoses for folks to use and changing tents to put on clean clothes after. Would have loved to see a little more organization for the hoses, but it wasn’t a big deal. Some didn’t work.

* Race Details
We did the 5K option, having not done any obstacle courses in 2 years and getting back to running and fitness in general. For us it was a fantastic choice. I can see why the more seasoned veterans were not in love with it all, but as a novice it was a blast.

Although we were signed up for the 10am wave, they released folks in smaller bunches, meaning we hardly ever waited at obstacles. The race started with a very steep hill, and then running back down it, but otherwise the course was relatively flat (just small bumps and hills). Obstacles in no particular order:
* Ladder wall – looked really intimidating and in fact two girls just walked around it without trying as we got there. I am 5’2″, and found it difficult to get my foot on the first bar but was able to get my knee on and push/pull the rest of me up. Once i was up it was easy enough.
* Push ups – I was thinking it was 10, but it was 20. It wasn’t awful or exciting, but certainly a good reminder i should be doing push-ups much more regularly!
* Mud Pit #1 – This was cold watery mud and early in the course it was rather bracing, but easy enough, you had to go under flagging.
* Low Crawl – This was another shallow pit with a net over it, forcing you to crawl through. My friend and i almost lost our very fashionable headbands and she lost her bib on this one. It was easy, just not totally comfortable. The path after this was very slippery. Some woman just walked over the net, which i thought was kind of rude – do the obstacle or walk around it, ya know?
* Tubes & walls – Crawling through the tubes was physically easy-peasy, but warm, dark, long tunnel was a little mentally uncomfortable. Again with height (and not being totally agile/fit) i had a little trouble with the walls and my friend helped me hoist my knee high enough to get over.
* Sandbag carry – I named mine after my toddler nephew, as he’s a bit heavier. This wasn’t bad at all.
* Heavy Hoist – Again I named the weight after my nephew, but this could have been closer to my baby niece. Intimidating but not hard.
* Water pit – slippery but fun! Cold, muddy and deep enough to make sure we were gross.
* Colossus Climb – This was a very tall looking inflatable with a cargo net to climb up and a ladder to slide down. The size of the net was a little tricky for me, but it was do-able. The slide was SO FAST and i felt like there could of been a little more protection at the bottom.
* Monster Climb – This had me both winded and scared. It was towards the end of the course and i was an awkward height for it. Rolling over the flat sections was definitely the way to go, even if it was awkward. The height was impressive, but i never felt like i was actually going to fall and die or anything. It was just intimidating.
* Rock wall – exactly what you would think. I haven’t done one of these since middle school, but it’s not rocket science.
* Slippery mountain – i was not sure i would be able to do this one, but i was! It’s a steep slope that is covered in plastic and soapy water requiring you to pull yourself up with rope. Despite not being super strong upper body wise this was do-able, but not easy.
* Final mud pit – this was actually after the timing line, but before the finish line. It was long and flags enforced you to stay in the mud. It was pretty long and we were well coated in mud afterwards. Which is sort of the point, right?

For reference, on Thursday i ran a 5K race at the same park (some of the same trail even!) in 37:48, we did this course in 49:46, and were able to complete every obstacle.

* Rating

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