* From: Danielle Carrier
* Event: Benson Bear Obstacle Challenge
* Date: 2015-08-16
* Event Details
Since joining NE Spahtens a little over a year ago, I constantly heard go to Shale Hill. After a year of hearing amazing things I decided to see what the hype was all about. Set in Benson Vermont, Shale Hill was approximately 4.5 hours from my parents house (near New Haven CT). The drive was easy and Shale Hill was easy to find. We stayed overnight the day before, there are plenty of places to stay overnight within a short drive to the venue. Parking was a short walk up to the barn where registration took place. There wasn’t specifically a bag check but we were able to leave our stuff in the barn off to the side. Registration was quick and smooth. We got a little bag with some stickers and a choice between a gray or white t-shirt. There were some hoses for washing off, a free burger chips and beer after you finished as well as chocolate milk, bananas and water. The medal was a nice, heavy medal. Good size and quality race bling. Shale hill gives runners the ability to run
competitive, with a penalty of 25 spiderman push ups for failed obstacles, or journeyman (no penalties). After a quick speech from Rob about safety on the course and some things to look out for we lined up at the starting line. Standing at the start line looking over the course was an absolutely breathtaking view.
* Race Details
This race had both a 5k and 10k option. I ran the 10k course. The course was a 10k course full of 50+ man made obstacles and plenty more natural obstacles. As someone who is easily intimidated, I expected to fail everything. Much to my surprise, a lot of this course can be done by racers of all different ability levels.
One thing that immediately set this race/course apart from other races I have run is that you never run for a long time without encountering some type of obstacle. For fairly standard obstacles, there were walls of varying heights, 3 different heavy carries (split log or slosh pipe, straight log, and bucket carry), haybales and tunnels to climb over, tires to flip, tires to drag and a rope traverse over a pond. There were a couple of different barbed wire crawls, one of which was extremely muddy.
The other thing that really sets this course apart from other races I have run is the obstacles that are unique to Shale Hill. Many of these obstacles are the reason I was hesitant of racing at Shale Hill. These obstacles are what made this race the greatest experience I have had racing to date. I failed most of them (thankfully I ran Journeyman division). It isn’t just a rope climb, it is a rope climb to a ledge and then slide down a ramp. There is the Zig Zag which is a uphill pipe traverse with a step down to another level, climb back up and come down a rope. I could go on and on about all the amazing different obstacles on the course. It was more satisfying to try these obstacles and partially complete them then to “succeed” at another obstacle I have done a million times. I even attempted the warped wall at the end, something I thought I would never have a chance to do.
The volunteers and staff on the course were the best I have encountered at a race. They were all very enthusiastic and encouraging. I also found it amazing that Rob kept popping up to make sure everyone was doing okay and getting through the course okay. I have never seen that from a race director.
This single race has shown me more about my abilities, my strengths and my fears. In one 4 hour long race on the course I felt like I accomplished more then all my other races this season. I look forward to returning to the course and see what I can improve upon next time I race.
Grab a friend, race Shale Hill, you will NEVER regret it.
* From: Amy Lillis
* Event: Shale Hill Benson Bear
* Date: 2015-08-16
* Event Details
Parking at Shale Hill is so easy. There’s a well marked field and a short walk up the hill to the barn. There are 2 porta-johns, a men’s and women’s changing room, and hoses to clean off with after the race. Every racer got a free burger, chips, beer, and chocolate milk after the race. Entry comes with a t-shirt.
The best thing about the venue, though, is the Butler family. They make a point to know every runner at their event. They greet everyone by name and always try to be sure everyone has everything they need. Rob drives around the course during the race to check on each racer and provide encouragement. Where else can you find that?
Yes, Shale Hill is a long drive. Don’t let that stop you from experiencing the magic.
* Race Details
Shale Hill is a fixed course. One might think that this would mean that running it more than once or twice would be boring. Not true! Rob is constantly “improving” the course. He’s always adding new obstacles, and there is nothing really easy here. Even the obstacles that I can do successfully every time require mental and physical engagement.
When I first started racing at Shale Hill, the course was around 5 miles and maybe 30 obstacles. I was able to finish in around 2.5 hours, which included time to figure out how to manage a lot of obstacles I’d never seen before. Now, it’s over 6 miles and 60 obstacles. I finished this time in 3 hours 16 minutes. It was the first time I have done the whole course truly on my own. Yes, I met up with some teammates and other racers out there and we helped each other a bit, but I ran my own race so I could see what I am capable of. I have a lot of work to do, and Rob knows how to show me where my weaknesses are.