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Featured Review: Boston Spartan Sprint 2014

What a special weekend. Fifth year for Spartan Race holding Sprints at Amesbury Sport Park, and our second birthday as a community in this format. NBC was invited to celebrate our birthday, which was nice, and even the weather co-operated!

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Biggest Team wave – Saturday

If you’ve done an OCR in New England, chances are, you’ve been to Amesbury Sport Park. Easy to find, and able to host thousands of people through a weekend. It’s slopes don’t look particularly challenging, but when Mike Morris, race director for this event gets his hands on it – yeah … so much for that. We had epic numbers of New England Spahtens come out for this event, and it was humbling, and inspiring to see so many team shirts – all weekend – all over.

Just like my last two weekends, I was unable to actually participate in the course itself – my ankle is getting better, but I’m not prepared to risk the NJ Super and VT Beast events – you can find a course recap from Mike and Nate below. Instead, I’m going to focus on the festival and NES experience.

As is common for the venue, parking was primarily handled with remote lots and bussing people in and out – this seemed to work smoothly, and the only time I saw backups for buses was late on Sunday afternoon, when everyone wanted to leave at once. This had the unfortunate effect of leaving volunteers, in another remote lot without a bus to get them back – I was able to rescue three Spahten ladies late Sunday from the heat – they’d been waiting out there for far too long. A point to note, I saw more local, cash only, opportunistic parking options pop up on the street than ever before – when the street was supposed to be restricted access only, this was interesting to see.

Like last year, Spartan had moved their start line to a point half way up the Amesbury slopes, leaving the entire flat, astroturf area open for festival – this is definitely the best way to use the space – while it was busy at the festival, thats kind of what you expect when thousands of people show up for an event – lines for things like food and drink moved well, and while you had to dodge people as you moved around, it didn’t feel cramped. As you’d expect, lines were busy during peak times, but never terrible, or out of control.

Registration and checkin moved smoothly – Spartan have this nailed own. If you were smart and brought signed Spartan and NBC wavers from home, you moved through quickly, received your packet with everything in it and were in. Recently, races have been strict about outside food and drink coming into the Sports Park, but fortunately Spartan didn’t come down too hard on this – a very good job, as thats a sure way to upset people – especially on a weekend as hot as this. It also helped ensure there were no backlogs or problems with access to the venue.

Sundays biggest team (plus volunteers on the course!)
Sundays biggest team (plus volunteers on the course!)

The festival was a well oiled machine, mostly. Biggest Team tent was tucked away between the registration and exit points, which was a little bit of a high traffic place, considering we had over 300 people, but we managed. Food and drink vendors were on the left, alongside the main building, and the typical fair for Amesbury – we’ve been in recent discussions with them about healthier options and you can tell they are starting that process – wraps and fruit available. Free beer was high quality – and this row was also joined by bag check, which I didn’t have to use once. There were plenty of bathrooms behind the main building alongside the host off station and power wash station – both out of site, and out of the way, which was much appreciated.

There was a distinct lack of vendors, something I noticed at the CT Sprint too – other than a large Reebok and Spartan gear presence – something that has improved dramatically in the past 12 months, there were some army / marine spots, an EMS tent row … and not much more. More on this in a moment.

10568960_10152215653166861_5812769597353389406_nThe finishers chute was entertaining, as always, and Spartan had setup a few obstacles at the bottom of the slope to watch – my personal new favorite being a heavy herculean hoist – the gravel bucket carry, the bridge – and part way up the hill, some wire crawls and incline rope walls – the spectator access went right to the top of the hill, and you had great views of the new tarzan swing and fire jump too. Kudos for good spectator access!

Amesbury had tubing and zorb rides going and the kids course was great – heading right to the top of the slope. My mini decided he was doing it this year for the first time ever – that was a blast, and I hope he got the bug early!

A couple of large tents provided shade for the folks without a team tent, and the finisher shirt pickup spot was well clear of the hose offs, and letting people pick up before they went out to run, which is a good move everyone should replicate.

As mentioned, I didn’t get to hit the course. That didn’t stop me coming out for two days – because as many people have already discovered, and new folks are finding – it’s not always about the race, or the course, or the obstacles. Thats why we come initially, of course, and it’s our reason to be – but the thing that brings us back is the people. Seeing almost 300 of you lining up for the dedicated team wave on Saturday – listening to Dustin, the MC, as he announced us – on Sunday, watching so many familiar faces in volunteer shirts filtering in and out – events like this become about the people. I came out for two days, not to run, but to be with you folks. To see you do epic things. To hear the stories and struggles, and to listen.

With all of the fun and triumphs along the way – I was noting a trend, especially when compared to other events hitting the market. Very little interaction with Spartan staff and their biggest team and community happened during the event – while I understand it’s a tough, busy, grueling event to manage, swinging by to see if we were doing ok, or needed anything, or if there were problems would have gone a long way to making the community feel a little more involved – something BattleFrog did repeatedly last weekend, and the venue owners themselves. No presence from OCR specific vendors, just Reebok and EMS indicating that Spartan are focusing their market on new runners, with little motivation to keep repeat runners. Giving a 10*10 spot to Obstacle Racing Media, or OCR Gear or similar simply increases the participation Spartan has with the OCR community as a whole, and they had the space for it – but it seems thats not the intention from HQ these days, as they focus more on pulling in a fresh crowd, than keeping the existing fan base.

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However, we come to race, but we come back for the people – on this, a weekend I couldn’t even do the race, this has never been more true.

Thank you to the New England Spahten community – everyone who ran with our team name on your registration sheet help grow OCR in New England – and because of that, we can run these events, get our team shady corner, and help the OCR scene grow, build and improve.

Thank you to all the Spahtens who took time to volunteer – without you guys, these races just don’t happen. Thanks to everyone who swung by the team tent to say hi and introduce yourself, even if you weren’t part of the team yet!

Course break down, from Mike McKenzie


(Credit to Michael Foresto for the Garmin log)

My 4th Year running the Spartan Race at Amesbury, I have had the pleasure of seeing the sport continue to grow and the professionalism increase with each year. The course is always different, but always carries some staple Obstacles. Just when you think you’ve trained enough, Spartan makes sure it was not.

The Starting line starts half way up the “Amesbury Hill” which is probably a quarter mile long total. From the “final aroo” we are sent up the hill and immediately into the woods. Veteran racers now its imperative to be as close to the front and possible because they immediately put you into single track trail in the woods. With a Short section of Trail running its out into the open for some O.U.T. walls. (over, under and through) By this point the heat had already started to thin out and we were back into the woods for some open trail running. Spartan took full advantage of the extra land Amesbury had acquired as we did way more Rolling Hills in the trails than we had in previous years.

Now we hit was the Tractor Pull. Racers were required to take 2 cinder blocks attached to a chain and drag them around a small loop. There were not enough for everyone so there was a little bit of a wait here (maybe 20-30 seconds) take the two down and back across a line – failure to bring both back over the line was a 30 burpee penalty, and we were back out into the woods for some more rolling hill trail running. The Heavy trail running for the first 1.5 miles made sure the heat was pretty well thinned out at this point.

Now we hit the Inverted walls. These walls are angled towards you requiring you to climb up the back and over and we were back into the trail.

10329847_698163130272036_6896010634789233439_oNext Sandbag carry. For the Elite heat, 1 Spartan Pancake was not enough, Runners where required to take 2 bags down a steep hill and back up. It was short, but steep and fussing around with trying to get the right positioning with the bags added to the difficulty. I even hiked by 2 sandbags at the bottom with no runner, proving that the weight and steepness of this section was too much for some.

Out of Sandbag hell and onto more technical terrain trail running, with the occasional knee deep section of mud. After some MORE hills we come out to the Monkey Bars. These bars varied in height. Which caused a lot of runners to burpee unable to transition to the various heights. Now we go for more Trail around to the top of the Amesbury Hill for the Rope swing. Very simple one shot to grab a rope and swing across a water pit. I heard later on this proved pretty challenging for some runners even in the Mens and Women’s Elite who if they didn’t dismount the rope on the first try found themselves dangling with no where to go but the 30 burpee penalty pit.

10582931_698163716938644_4757103342607325914_oDown the steep hill of Amesbury to perform in front of the Spectators was the Hercules Hoist. Exact weights I am not sure of, Reports of Men’s being anywhere from 100lbs to 120lbs were heard. Hoist completed you were on to the Bucket carry. Men Elite were required to fill a Black bucket to the top with gravel and then carry it Up the Amesbury Hill and back down. No handle, and you were NOT allowed to put it on your shoulder. Bear Hugs or Finger tips. The Bruise across my belly and the other runners will let you know that this bucket was HEAVY. Once you brought it back down a Volunteer would check your bucket to ensure it was filled. If not you were given a 30 burpee penalty on the spot.

Moving on you immediately went up the wood ladders over the entrance to the starting line and down the other side and back up the hill. Midway up the hill was a small section of Barbwire immediately followed by slopped rope walls (no soap this year!) and we continued up the Hill and off to the right for 8ft walls and then the Vertical Rope climb. Vertical rope climb rope was changed up, Thin Nylon rope required more grip strength more challenging to get a grip on with your feet. Lots of Burpees going on here.

Now we hit the Spear Throw which is had several runners in the burpee pit for failure. After a successful sink of the spear I moved onto the barbwire crawl. Oh whats this? Its dry… uncommon for Spartan Race barbwire crawl. This should be easy, Oh wait.. its dusty, hard, rocky and long. After a never ending section, we moved onto MORE barbwire crawl.. except this time it was wet and muddy. As I continue to roll we hit the submerge wall. Were you have to go under the water to get under the wall. Its simple enough but im sure is a freak out for some. We Run back to the top of the hill and around a turn to the infamous Fire Jump down the amesbury hill to the finish. This was my first race with no Gladiators at the Finish, but happy and friendly volunteers getting you medals, congratulations and bananas is ok by me.

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Venue: Amesbury Sports Park

UPDATE 11/8/14

Since we published this review, and Amesbury Sports Park hosted the 2014 Spartan Race, it’s safe to say, things have changed. Putting courses through conservation land, and a lack of correct permitting (both on the park of ASP *and* the town’s lack of enforecement) has put the venue up for sale and an end to all OCRs hosted there. A late Oct edition of a local paper details the situation in a little more detail.

http://www.salisburymass.com/forums/ttc.pdf

Article hosted on NES

** original article **

amesburysportparkroundlogo2010 was my first trip to the sports park – it was Spartan Race’s second event ever, and the OCR craze was kicking off – but we didn’t really know it then.

We also didn’t know MaryCarol, the venue owner, and we had no idea how pivotal the location and her support was going to become for the region and the exploding OCR scene over the next four years.

Here we are, half way through 2014 – and I have no idea how many events I’ve attended there. From Spartan Race, Civilian Military Combine, Warrior Dash, Superhero Scramble – along with her other locations in the region, MaryCarol has hosted all the national events in some form or other, and the quality of venue and support offered is clear – they keep coming back.

Amesbury itself is fantastic for races – with it’s dominant tubing slope offering fantastic spectator viewing of what usually ends up being the most dramatic portion of the races, to huge open fields that support digging for big obstacles and water pits – the park also offering a few miles of single track trail, some wooded regions suitable for trail blazing, a couple of small creek crossings and even a sand pit. There’s enough variety, that despite four years running multiple events here, I’ve yet to run the same course twice – every event owner who comes in puts some unique spin on their course.

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Superhero Scramble 2014, making use of the tubing slope

For spectators, the astroturf at the bottom of the slope never gets muddy, and even when I’ve raced in storms, you only have some standing water to deal with – they can see right up the main hills, which if the event director is smart, they have several obstacles here for people to watch. Sometimes, they’ll let you up the slope, or into the open spaces – but this varies race to race.

All kinds of trails - from single track, to gravel roads
All kinds of trails – from single track, to gravel roads

The ancillary support offered is great too – satellite parking at remote sites, with buses to bring you in is rarely a big deal (although sometimes they can get backed up, depending on the race and time of day), and the sports park offers various beer and drink vendors – depending on what the event director wants to spring for (hint: racers prefer good quality beers … none of this coors light crap, please and thank you!), and they usually cater the food themselves, selling it on a ticket system. I’d love to see this food selection have more variety and healthier options – especially considering the active, athletic crowd – but the prices are fair for an event, and food is delivered quickly. We have brought in our own healthier choices when we know a burger and fries wasn’t going to cut it post race.

However, thanks to this venue, national race series have a known entity in the region. MaryCarol and her crew will ensure that everything in their control goes smoothly – which sometimes can be the difference between a poor and a great race. It’s REALLY easy for a half decent race to screw up with food vendors, or parking, and customers walk away with a miserable experience – and thanks to the wealth of experience at the sports park, a race that isn’t from New England knows they can rely on her for this stuff to go well, and focus on doing there thing.

Amesbury Sports Park is one of the big reasons why New England is so attractive to traveling races, and a big reason why we have such a high quality of OCR experience.

Thanks MaryCarol and crew!

Fields and fields of mud!
Fields and fields of mud!
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Featured Review: Spartan Race – MA Sprint

Where do you begin when you want to recap a weekend like we just had?

For me, it kicked off way before August 10th actually rolled around. For weeks now, the admin team behind the New England Spahtens has been working with the Spartan Race staff, co-ordinating member signups, transfers and all the other countless little things that goes into making sure all the registrations that were from Spahtens were put in the right places, and counted towards our biggest team efforts. Blog posts were written to help people find their way through this, and help new folks understand what was going on. Countless questions, referrals back to the blog posts, more questions … believe me, I was ready for this race weekend!

Our final tally for registrations was 271 Saturday, and 54 Sunday – which I understand to be the biggest team Spartan Race has ever had!

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Friday night, I headed up to Amesbury. For me, it’s about an hour and a half drive with no traffic, so I had booked a room at a nearby hotel for Friday evening. Getting to the venue late afternoon gave me a chance to drop off a bunch of the stuff I had for our biggest team – some banners to put up on the tent, 6 boxes of Snap Infusion SuperCandy‘s that were donated to help us fuel the team through the weekend (and, as usual, we devoured in short time – huge thank you to Snap Infusion for that!!) – catching up with a few of our community members who were giving up their days to volunteer and do everything from stuff packets, to build crew at the event was awesome – I unloaded, setup, and then with the end of the volunteer shift we headed to the Amesbury Ale House for some dinner, some beers and back to the hotel.

I had signed up for the Hurricane Heat – so my “ohmygodO’Clock” alarm kicked off and we headed over to the venue – one big advantage to the HH is you get local parking to the race, less than a mile down the road. Spartan staff had already started screwing with us and changed the mandatory black top requirement into a blue top at the last minute – which was fine by us – instead of the “Buddy Carry Ready” black shirts we had picked up, we switched into our team drill shirts – I’d estimate a good 1/3 of the HH had New England Spahten drill shirts on that morning – we were out in force.

Other mandatory gear, the usual hydration and nutrition, “a small rock” and a blindfold. We never used them – damn you, Spartan! Meeting in the parking lot, burpees are the usual start to the HH, along with getting into a team of 20, creating a team name (Junior Varsity Ninja Death Squad was re-born!), and lining up.

The rest of the HH took us about 3 hours. It consisted of all kinds of things – from a road jog back to the venue, buddy carrying each other up and down the Amesbury slopes, carrying two sandbags up and down the slopes, moving the wood for the fire pit 3’ to the left, rope climbing, burpees, burpees and more burpees. Climbing the incline wall with no ropes was pretty awesome too. By far, the highlight of the HH was the team “race” – through the mud trenches, over the incline wall, looping around to the barbed wire crawl, with 100 burpees on the line for the team who came in last – happily, that wasn’t Team Ninja, but I didn’t see the burpees being enforced (I was already planning how we got around the “100 burpees” penalty if it was us … they didn’t say “100 burpees” *each* …)

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It also seems that for many, the biggest fail of the HH was the PT / Group X trainer portions. In the right settings, I’m sure his speech and his style is motivating and inspirational – but for the HH, we were signed up for group based challenges, and to do the course backwards / sideways / upside down – holding a bridge position and planks for 30 minutes. then burpees and jumping pushups (actual time is unknown), while someone tries to pump you up is actually quite de-motivating – and for me, I was very happy, both times, when it was over. Unfortunately, the second time, it was over because the HH was over – we collected our HH T Shirts (nice, Reebok cotton shirt) and dog tags, took some photos.

Feedback to the Spartan team has been provided, and I will be running it again in 2014, if I have the chance. You should too, there’s nothing else like the hurricane heat, and the 2012 hurricane heat remains one of my favorite OCR events.

Total time for the HH was around 3 hours, and we were done well before 9am, leaving a pretty good window of time before the team heat. This meant I could hoof it back to my car, change into my spare clothes, hydrate a bit, and get back to the venue in time to find my wife and friends getting off the shuttle bus and checking in.

As has been mentioned many times, we were the biggest team – this meant that we had over 270 people register for the event, and Spartan provided us with an awesome, spacious tent – this became mission central, bag drop, meeting area, kids play area – our entire weekends festivities were based out of this 20*20 drop off zone, and we couldn’t have had a good time without it!

As is usual for Amesbury Sports Park, the shuttle buses from the parking lot were plentiful and smoothly run – getting your bib and registration was fast and smooth.

This was the first Spartan event since Reebok became a major sponsor that I had been to, despite a few New York races, nothing else has been close enough for the Spahtens to get to – and it was pretty evident from the festival area that things were very different now. In an effort to make as much space as possible, the start line had been moved half way up the slope, so every inch of flat surface at the bottom was used for tents. Most welcome was the addition of an eating area – those without a team tent to hang out in could sit down in the shade and relax a bit. There were two merchandise tents fully stocked with high quality Reebok shirts and clothes. among other things, several sponsor tents, physical challenges, with the showers, finishers shirt pick up and potties moved around to the back of the main building – they used every square inch available to them, and despite it being crowded at times, I didn’t have to line up for any significant time, and was able to get anywhere I needed to go.

10:15 was our assigned team wave – and we had wanted to get a group photo at the start line – unfortunately, trying to get the ~250 official starters in one place at one time was pretty much impossible, and having a steep hill to contend with – we’ll have to chalk that one up to experience!

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Spartan have a new MC (or at least, new to us) – and he spent a rather long time talking and motivating – which would have been great, if I could hear him, and if he let us out on time- instead we ran late, which meant the 10:30 “regular” wave merged right into ours and things were pretty crowded. I missed listening to the Dropkick Murphy’s, I missed the AROO AROO AROO chant …

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I was running the team wave with my wife Beth, and our friend Liz, and a buddy, Kenny. Liz was our “newbie” for the race, having never done anything like this before – our job was to get her through the obstacles and to the finish line – and we did it 🙂 The course was a relatively short course this year, roughly 3.2 miles – but the obstacles were challenging, with some new ones to me. I particularly liked the inverted incline wall, and the extra heavy herculean hoist. The “gamble” on course was a hyped up option between a longer, flatter route, or a steeper, shorter option – we took the steep option and it wasn’t particularly challenging – but even so, the distance difference was something like 0.1 miles. No big deal.

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The new tire pull/drag was fun, and I spent quite a bit of time at the 8′ wall helping women and shorter folks over it. I made it up the rope both times (HH and the team wave) too. I do have to give credit to the course designer – they put a large bridge at the foot of the mountain – climb a wooden ladder to get up two cargo containers, then walk across a slatted floor, before climbing down. I didn’t give this thing a second thought, but apparently it was a huge obstacle for many folks – enough so that they had to create a “slow lane” to the side to prevent the people who were scared out of their gord from slowing up traffic – I never would have guessed!

Ultimately, the biggest reward was when we crossed the finish line with Liz, truly earning her first Spartan medal – turns out, she’s’ a beast when it comes to the strength stuff, having no problem with the hoist or the tire stuff – and she looked like she was having WAY TOO MUCH fun in the barbed wire crawl 🙂

Beth had a slight run in with one of the gladiators, and ended up at the medics getting an ice pack -big shout out to them for the job they do out there – patching up us crazies! Apart from being stiff, there is no lasting damage, thankfully. Spartan had moved the t shirt pickup to another spot on the venue, right by the showers – this genius move meant that we could finish the race muddy, then go hose off *then* pick up our t shirts – small touches like this make a huge difference in the experience, and show why Spartan Race are leading the sport.

The rest of Saturday was spent hanging out in the tent. NE Spahten team mates were everywhere you looked – whether they were heading back out on the course for yet another go, shopping in the merch tent, eating some food, or simply enjoying each others company. Ultimately, though, it was time to head home, pick up our mini, clean up our clothes and get some much needed food.

Courtesy of Andrew Fogarty
Courtesy of Andrew Fogarty

Sunday was another race day. I had picked up a living social entry to the Sunday event, and wasn’t sure if I was going to use it. I’d scraped myself up pretty badly at an event a week prior, and with the hours spent out on the course on Saturday, things were pretty crusty and red looking – going back through the mud didn’t seem like the brightest idea in the world … regardless, we made sure we were onsite and checked in with plenty of time before the 10:30 team wave – this wasn’t a dedicated wave, with “only” around 50 people on the Sunday team (still the biggest team of the day, by far), but again it was a sea of blue Spahten drill shirts.

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We actually transferred my ticket to Beth – which was smooth – and I came in on a spectator pass. We brought our mini with us this time, and I was *very* grateful to see that not only were there other young kids there, but someone was smart enough to bring a blanket, bubbles, paper and crayons for them! It was the difference between us having to leave early, and getting to hang out all day in the end.

The team tent was much quieter this time – we had space to stretch out our legs, park our butts, and actually have conversations – while the team went out for their second (and in some cases, third, fourth or more) race, I stayed back, played with kids and talked to new folks.

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One of the most impressive things I found was the number of people who were running their first OCR, or their first team event. That was awesome to see – bringing new people from the region into this sport is why we exist, and the more people who introduced themselves to me during the day, the more I was sure that we were doing it right.

Beth’s team came in with epic stories of buddy carrying their injured off the mountain and over the finish line, covered in mud, and overcoming fears – amazing!

This was our one year birthday. A year ago, two guys met and thought that if they combined their two small teams together, we could have something cooler – and thus, the New England Spahtens, with it’s original 100 or so members was born. We entered this weekend with 1,000 members of our community, and every single person on the course this weekend noticed us. Sure, there were other teams out there, but it’s the Spahtens who were unfailingly helpful, kind, supportive and best dressed 🙂 Along with that, it was Spahtens who provided large portions of the volunteer staff for both the build crew, pre-running, course and venue staff, sweeper heats and even today in the break down crew. This is an amazing resource that smart race directors are paying attention to and tapping into.

So – two days of racing, with many days of volunteering. Over 300 team members who were out on the course over the weekend, being unfailingly helpful, kind and supportive – we introduced all levels of people to both the sport, the Spartan brand, and our own community – and we formed memories, and made stories, and new friendships.

If you saw us out there, and want to get involved, it’s easy. We don’t have membership requirements or costs – we’re a community of OCR fans who want to run, support and love this crazy wall climbing, mud crawling, trail running weekend sport. Join us.

community

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Featured Review – Civilian Military Combine (CMC)

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I have been a fan of CMC ever since discovering it last year via a flyer at our local box. It looked so  scary and exciting combining Crossfit and OCR. I wanted to try it last year but was unable to go. So imagine my excitement when I found out they were able to secure Amesbury Sports Park for their inaugural New England Mountain Assault. I knew nothing was going to stop me from attending. So did this race live up to my expectations?

Oh. Heck. YEAH!!

Pre-Event Communication:

This has become more important lately to many people. They did not disappoint. They sent out an email with your bib number, wave time, pre-race info, waiver and parking info. They even sent followup emails reiterating race day info and clarifying the parking situation to ensure that people had all the information they needed.

Parking:

Parking was at the Seabrook Greyhound/Casino. The lot was divided up into race traffic and casino traffic. It was a bit tricky to find as the GPS didn’t really know exactly where it was, but once there, it was very easy to park. Parking was $10, which seems to be the standard now. Spaces were plentiful and bonus, they had porti-potties there for those who came a fair distance, meaning you didn’t have to wait until you got to the venue. They certainly got bonus points for that one. The busses seemed plentiful and smooth to get to the venue, but we caught a ride with a friend who graciously dropped us off at the venue.

Registration:

Registration was a breeze. They had it broken up by last name, and when we arrived there were no lines. We got our bib, timing chip, and beer ticket there. We got the schwag at the end. They did have extra waivers for anyone that didn’t print it out, but most people had their waivers ready. I can also attest to the ease of same day registration as one of our team came up that day to race. They were very quick to not only register him but actually get him into the team heat.

Bag Check:

Bag check again was easy and quick. Bag Check was $5, but it gave you a $5 credit to the merchandise tent so if you took advantage, bag check was essentially free. I really enjoy when races do this. In my mind it’s a win/win for me, and I’m more likely to spend money at the merchandise tent with that voucher than I am without it.

The PIT:

They had a great set up for the PIT. They had roughly 40 or so stations set up. They were uni-sex set up, meaning they had plates to add onto the bar for the men, and the two kettle bells, one at the prescribed men’s weight, the other at the prescribed women’s weight. They had wooden platforms to do the push presses and kettle bell swings. I need to take this moment to give a HUGE shout out to the PIT judges. CMC partnered with Crossfit Full Potential in Newburyport, and they all gave up their Saturday to come and judge for us. They were awesome!! The judges I saw were cheering on the competitors and seemed to want everyone to get every last rep. The workout was a 7 minute AMRAP (As Many Reps (Rounds) As Possible) of 7 Burpee box overs, 7 Kettlebell swings (44lbs for men/26lbs for women), and 7 push presses (75lbs for men/45lbs for women).

After you finished the PIT, they had water for you, and you lined up in the starting chute for the race. You were given 2 minutes to recover, then you were off.

The Course:

In a word – WOW!!  They really made use of the terrain there, far more than I’ve previously seen. We started the race going up the tubing slope (yes, most of us were still recovering from the PIT, and felt like we were miles into the race when we hit this first incline). There was a wall obstacle about half way up the tubing slope. This was only a 5 foot wall but it was made challenging by being on an incline. At the top there was a Ladder Wall. These are ladders with wide spaced rungs so are definitely challenging. One of the main plusses CMC did here was they *made* their own trails, so you were dodging natural obstacles like tree branches and rocks. These were really narrow single track paths they created so it was tricky to allow faster runners to get by but I never saw a bottleneck on the course nor at the obstacles.1053233_490082521080099_1858570637_o

You came back down and did the double bucket carry obstacle around a fence. This was not really a hard obstacle – weights were easily manageable.  Over another wall ladder, then came one of my favorite obstacles. An inclined wall ladder climb up the side of a cargo container to go across some ranger ropes to another cargo container then down a swinging fireman’s pole. This was seriously fun and I would’ve happily done this one a couple times.  Then more running, more 5 foot walls, then on to another crowd favorite – a water slide. They did a great job on this obstacle. CMC dug a trench, filled it with hay (so no rocks!!) and took you down to a pit of water. You then climbed over a dirt hill into a deep pit of water that was filled with hay. That made the walk across the water pit quite difficult, as the hay was extremely waterlogged and heavy. This was a really neat touch that made me think “Why has no one done this before?”

Another dirt hill climb, more running then to a low crawl. This was a bit tricky as it was pretty easy to pop out the side of the netting. It seemed part of the challenge was staying under the net in the obstacle. At the end of this crawl was the Mud Pit from Hell. DEEP, sticky mud that you sank into – at one point I sank hip deep and literally was stuck. Some kind team members pushed and pulled me out, and I managed to keep my shoes in the process.

 

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Lots more trail running, made entertaining by all the rain we’ve had in the days up to the race, followed by another low crawl then a surprising obstacle in the form of a massive boulder to climb over. This was a really cool use of the natural terrain, and I salute CMC for using the boulder and not having us simply run around it.

More running, more walls then finally down the tubing slope to come in to the final obstacles – some 5 foot walls, a wall ladder, and a signature obstacle of the swinging ladders. These narrow ladders were on a pivot point – the ladders tipped as you climbed up them and then tipped the other way as you came back down. They were securely bungeed so there was no risk of the ladders tipping too far and dumping people off. Finally an unusual cargo net crawl. The cargo nets were strung about a foot and a half or so horizontally. The bottom net was strung loosely so it made it very tricky to roll or climb to cross. There was a support to navigate half way through then another net to cross to get to the finish line.

One note here – all of their obstacles were well built. Walls, ladder walls, and the swinging ladder walls were all made of steel and felt secure when you climbed on them. Big props to CMC for construction.

Another note – the course volunteers were awesome! Very friendly and encouraging.

Water stations were plentiful and were reasonably well stocked with cups and water, or had someone that was stocking as needed.

 

 

 

 

Schwag:

As usual you got a t-shirt, and you also received custom dog tags and a silicone finishers wristband. The t-shirt was a nice one, and the dog tags had the date and a great quote on them.  I wish they had the drawstring bags they had at other events, but overall nice schwag.

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Vendors/Afterparty:

They had a few vendors there, and hopefully next year can get even more. While small, CMC really tried to have a decent after party. They had decent beer for those who drink beer (Sam Seasonal). The venue has an interesting system for food and drink. You bought tickets – each food item/drink item required a certain amount of tickets. This meant you only had to have cash to get the tickets and the food vendors didn’t have to try to deal with cash transactions. This seemed to keep things flowing pretty well. I do wish they had some healthier food choices (something for us in the Paleo crowd) and not just burgers and pizza. So a tip for next year CMC – invite B. Good, Steve’s PaleoKits, or have some allergy friendly options there for the allergy crowd. 🙂

The timing system was great and you could see your scores right away. This was a really nice touch and if there was any questions or concerns, you could easily talk to the timing folks who were right there accessible.

Porti-potties seemed plentiful and easily accessible.

The only minor issue I saw with the after party was the changing tents. They were quite a distance from the finish line and you had to cross a bit of the course to get there. The spray off area was nice, however, the tents weren’t labeled as men and women. While it doesn’t seem like much it would’ve helped avoid confusion.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this event. It was well run, well organized and to date, one of my favorite events. I will definitely have this one on my race calendar for next year and am looking at doing more of their events this year.