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Robb McCoy joins Bone Frog Challenge

#racelocal and the New England OCR scene just got a little bit more awesome.

11073578_834434089963608_275746813643007483_oWe’re excited to be the first to announce that Robb McCoy, evil mastermind behind FIT Challenge – is joining the Bone Frog Challenge team as a Race Co-Ordinator for their expanding 2016 season!

What does this mean?

FIT Challenge is going no where!

Robb is still the owner and operator of one of the best short course OCR’s in the region, and it still operates independently – but along side his duties as “Chief Bicep Officer” of FIT, he will now also be working along side the Bone Frog Challenge crew, leading their road crew as they expand down the east coast in 2016.

The decision to bring Robb onto the Bone Frog team was easy. He is an incredible asset to any OCR and his involvement in Bone Frog’s growth will be instrumental in bringing us to the next level. His first hand knowledge of obstacles as well as OCR operations is where we will be utilizing his skills. We could not be more proud to welcome him into the Bone Frog family” – Brian Carney

With races already announced for Carolina Adventure World, South Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia – and of course the annual return to the best mountain in Western MA – Berkshire East – and more to be announced – Bone Frog is growing, and doing it the best way this industry knows – organically and with the best people in the sport involved.

I couldn’t be more excited to join Brian and the Bone Frog team. Aside from the absolute top notch events Bonefrog produces, their values as an organization are second to none. I’m honored to be a part of their expansion as a company and can’t wait to get on that mountain in May!” – Robb McCoy

(oh, and there are some other well known names from our local community joining his team, such as Scott Sweeney, already volunteer co-ordinator at FIT, will be the new Bone Frog Challenge volunteer co-ordinator- another superb choice).

Congratulations to everyone – we think this is an awesome move – and #racelocal is only going to be even better, as a result!

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The Best Of – 2014 New England OCR

A recent Facebook Poll of the New England Spahtens was run to determine the top five favorite OCR events in our region.

As we ALL know, polls are not science, and the wording used was “favorite”, which is subjective. Also, Facebook polls allow you to vote on multiple entries – but only one vote, per entry.

All that being said, I think the list is pretty representative of the New England Spahtens, and with good reasons – so, here’s your top five favorite OCR events in the New England region.

Note – the poll is still active and receiving votes, so the results you see *now* maybe different to the results I saw when I started this article. In fact, I’d bet on it.

bonefroglogo5) Bonefrog Challenge

A relative new comer to the scene, Bonefrog landed with a big splash – putting on a longer distance, obstacle heavy format for the true OCR enthusiast. Bonefrog puts on solid, challenging courses that have very quickly become fan favorites. Attracting Elites and average Joe’s, with a Navy Seal theme and inspiration, this series is also owned and operated entirely by retired Seals.

With a #racelocal Grand Prix event in western MA in May, Bonefrog wants to expand – so keep an eye on their calendar for races as they open up.

Next Race – May 2015 – REGISTER

EURO - Polar Bear4) Polar Bear Challenge at Shale Hill

This was my personal pick – 8 hours to run as many laps of the famed Shale Hill course in the snow, in February. I’ve done this event twice now – and countless other events at Shale Hill, and never managed more than a single lap in that 8 hour window – but with an amazing family welcoming you by name, another challenging course thats perfect for the enthusiast, or the weekend warrior looking to push themselves – Shale Hill is world class, and in our backyard. Every event is going to be on the #racelocal calendar!

Next Race – February 2015 – REGISTER

fitchallengelogo3) FIT Challenge

It’s easy to spot why FIT Challenge is a New England Spahtens favorite, and staple in the #racelocal Grand Prix. Race Director Robb is active in the community, from participating as a fellow athlete at events, to answering any and all questions people bring up prior to his races. A good choice of past venues, all in an active region of New England. On race day, people are treated well, with large amounts of community space, the best pricing and treatment rarely seen anywhere else. The FIT course is usually around 5k, and while a solid course in it’s own right, it’s the family and friends treatment that puts FIT above many other similar races.

Next Race – April 2015 – REGISTER

Fenway sandbag2) Spartan Race – Fenway Park

Despite the frigid cold and packed ball park, Spartan nailed it with Fenway. A fun, but challenging course, a space set aside for the biggest team, and a full street taken over by the festival outside. As a community we saw a huge turnout, which was handled as well as can be expected on race day, and you couldn’t turn anywhere without seeing a Spahten shirt, even if they were supporting other communities. Massive volunteer turnout, both in the days setting up, all day on race day and during tear down showed what this community was all about.

Next Race – November 2015? – Registration not open

beastmedal1) Spartan Race – VT Beast

The Grand Daddy of all Spartan Beast events. This particular rendition was overly long, criticized by many for having almost all of it’s obstacles in the last couple of miles, and having too many “carry heavy things” obstacles – and despite that, it topped the rankings for the most popular event of the calendar year – showing that no matter what the internet experts think, the general OCR population is still in love with the Spartan Race suffer-fests. The VT Beast takes your Average Joe and puts them out of their comfort zone, testing themselves somewhere they never thought they’d be, and Killington holds a dear place in many hearts as a result. Time will tell if removing the World Championship, and adding a Beast in New Jersey will help, or hinder the VT Beast.

Next Race – September 19th – REGISTER

Of course, this isn’t the most comprehensive, scientifically deduced list out there. You may not see yours on it, and you may not agree with it – but, it’s clear that in New England, in 2014, Spartan Race provided the highlights for the most – but with three solid choices right behind them, and many other solid choices in the Grand Prix -New England leads the country in quality and choice for OCR.

Which races do you think we missed? Which races are you already registered for?

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Featured Review: Bonefrog Challenge, May 2014

Hannah Hawley hit up the Bonefrog Challenge this past weekend, and wote up our featured review – thanks Hannah!

1378750_554312277975792_108139996_nOn Saturday I made the drive down to East Berkshire Ski Area in Charlemont, MA for Bone Frog Challenge. An OCR billed as 9+ miles with 36+ obstacles inspired and designed by Navy Seals.

I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting into and was a 50/50 combination of excited and terrified. Parking was free and easy and it wasn’t long before I was signing my waiver and in line to register. They had split the registration into two lines, which meant the line was the longest I have ever had for packet pickup. Simply breaking it into 4 lines instead of two would have only required another volunteer or two and would have sped up the lines. The person who was checking me me in gave my bib number to another volunteer who went to get my packet which was in a handled bag and included a flyer for the photographer, a flyer for the fall Bone Frog, t-shirt, a water bottle, and bib and timing device for my shoe. I really liked getting my shirt before getting muddy.

There were plenty of picnic tables outside on the porch for people to gather around and wait for their wave to start and more table inside. The small contingency of Spahtens had made their home at one of the outside tables. I met some new to me Spahtens and enjoyed catching up with those I already had met. The bathrooms were located inside the lodge, far nicer than port-o-lets!

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With a wave going every 15 minutes and the first quarter of a mile going right up the mountain, we were spaced well enough to not have any long waits at any of the obstacles and like every course that is held on a ski mountain, we spent a lot of time going uphill and down. There were some of your more traditional obstacles: walls, barb wire crawls, rope climb, etc. Then there were some more unique obstacles, at least in my experience: balance beam over water out to rafts to hop across and then a dunk in the water all while being blasted with wind and water from a snowmaker, a wall with rope climb up to monkey bars with a rope to climb down, barbwire crawl on your back, super high ladder walls, crawl across inner tubes floating on the water, and more.

The most unique was a touching tribute to the 31 Seals who lost their life when their helicopter went down, we had to read each name out loud followed by a burpee. There was a volunteer, it wasn’t clear if he was a Seal or not, who was encouraging us to say their names loudly, to not give up, to push through.

I lost count of just how many obstacles I encountered. The course was crazy muddy after the rain of the night before which made the course all the harder on the legs. We were in the sun, in the woods, up and down the hill, over and over. We ran under the solar panels at the top of the mountain, past the windmill, watched zipliners cruise overhead. The course was beautiful but a bit buggy, I wished I remembered to wear bug spray.

There were volunteers at every obstacle and all had a smile. They knew what the penalty was and were happy to provide us with the details should we fail the obstacle or simply want to skip it. If it weren’t for the volunteers, Kevin and I would have gotten lost. The Sprint course and Challenge course overlapped and the orange tape made it hard at times to follow. If it weren’t for a volunteer at the obstacle we just left, we would have ended up off course and onto a trail that was not part of the course. She knew it and was able to direct us very clearly to stay on course. While I was very happy to not have gotten lost, I was very bummed to hear that others did get lost on course. They even had two volunteers stationed at one of the monkey bars as it had to be closed down as they didn’t have enough water under it to be safe and didn’t want to trust just a sign to keep people off the obstacle and safe.

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We were told that there would be 6 water stations on the course, two of them with food. While there were 6 stations, only 4 of them had water by the time we got to them. The food was various protein bars, granola bars, candy, and Frog Fuel, an aptly named energy gel. I had my camelbak and while I didn’t need to have it, I was glad I did.

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Coming in to the finish, there was another wall/rope climb combo with incline monkey bars that were so high up, they had a net to fall into should you slip. If you couldn’t do the obstacle, you walked around, rang the bell, and did 10 burpees before crossing the finish line. After finishing my burpees, I crossed the finish line, getting my medal and thanking the Seals. I stood visiting with some familiar NE Spahten faces and meeting some new ones, watching as racers attempted the final obstacle. It was incredible to watch, that after 9 miles and 40+ obstacles, some people still had the strength to complete it.
The band was just getting started as I went to find the cold water hoses to rinse off before hoping in the car and heading out.

I can’t wait to tackle this race again!

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Featured Review – BoneFrogChallenge

BONEFROG Challenge 2013 ~ No Gloves but Erect Nipples

by Craig Copie Copeland

BoneFrog-Logo-200x200

 The BoneFrog was held for the first time this year as one of the new entrants into the OCR market. I hope that they stick around as they did most of it right and made it an event that I would suggest people make an effort to attend. We had a good team of NE Spahtens turn out for this event including a couple of new members 9 in total plus some as part of the reload fitness team as they were sponsoring. Adriane took photographer and could be spotted all around the course so it was suck in and smile as you never knew where she would pop up.

The timing for a 9+ mile/36 OCR may have put many off with the Beast/Ultra Beast coming up and admit I was wondering a few months ago before my training went into a reverse gear. I really needed this and glad I did it for many reasons including the first reason I signed up. It is owned, designed, volunteered and run by real Navy Seals. The course challenged and was designed for spectators and catered to any participant that got in trouble (all trails had bike access), the obstacles were solid and I mean solid, diversity in the terrain, elevation changes and placement of obstacles was well planned out. Being a Navy based OCR there were many rope based exercises and hence the need for gloves; there was water, it was cold and hence the other reference (although Dawn did create one of the most commented FB shares in NES history related to this).

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The event was held in the Berkshires at Mt Thunder Rd (Interesting was that the mud was more glacial in nature). Parking was free at the base camp so no need for a bag check. You could leave your keys at a service desk if required. The ski lodge being the main facility provided all needed facilities including food, shelter and bathrooms with more outside. A shower area was outside but thanks to advice I was able to use the warm water inside. Check in was simple and easy where you were provided 2 timing tags ~ one for shoe and one bib. It also included your T-shirt upfront, nice and thick cotton print plus a few freebies like a massage and a car freshener for your car or bag.

I know that they had to pull back on some of the areas around the products and what they were able to include as they did not get the number of contestants that were really required to push this event to the next level. That being said they never skimped on the core obstacles (there were a few tire runs thrown in), the support crew and even listened to the social communities and added medals that were handed out by original Navy Seals from different periods and were welcome to talk to. If they had got 3-5K people I do think that they would have had issues scaling wide enough to cater but as we got in first we got it good.

The BONEFROG race: It started with the US Marine Rifle creed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2G551KpNnA0 and we were off for the 9+ miles all around the mountain in a clover leaf type fashion covering the mountain. There were 36 Obstacles over the 9.2 miles all made solid. Each obstacle had a different penalty although they were not overly enforced. Here are some highlights from a perspective have done a few of these now:

• The rope climb had no knots and the bell was hung out in the middle so a good stretch

• There were plenty of up and over logs so you needed technique

• 10ft walls takes a team

• The log walk and hanging cargo net over water was well done and wet

• Slip’nslide was a bit timid but was not dangerous so fine

• Please stop throwing tires on the ground and calling them an obstacle

• Hanging monkey swing was unique

• The rotating tires on the pole was deceptively hard

• Rope climb and Repels into the Solar field (This was my favorite part of the day, very scifi)

• Navy Seal confidence climb with traverse was for real

• Boat bridge was harder than anticipated and took lots of energy and tweaked my knee

• Make the barbed wire harder and the fire bigger

 

 

At the end, this event earned a Haka as it provided me the challenge I needed. If I was to give this an OCR star rating it would get a 4 stars for the following. Basics were well catered for, terrain use was well planned and good mix of elevation (lose some for not doing one on the coast being Navy, hope to see next year), spectator friendly, not over crowded but needs more to give me confidence that it will continue, obstacles were very well constructed but would have backup issues if a few thousand more attended, safety and response was paramount even down to the forest trail runs, they had saved some funds on the medals but had bling and real Navy seals handing them out, the beer offered was good local beers, ablutions and water/GU stops matched the crowds. They did not separate out the results from the Elites and the Open with the problem being that they are controlled differently and have did not have consistent rules. I was a little disappointed with the pricing of the swag but it was explained that this could not be discounted due to the numbers and the priority being put into the course for the racers. I would say this course was similar to the NJ Super and good for those wanting to make a change from the short course OCR’s.

Afterwards I was able to talk to Brian and he was open to talk about the good and the bad. He did expect to get more people and put all he had into making sure that this event still took place with high class obstacles. He explained that he had to drive costs out in some areas such as the lifts for spectators and the clothing but that is understandable. When asked if he will be here next year when the NE Spahtens show up in force as the biggest team will we be looked after, his answer was “100% will he be here and of course we will be if we are the biggest team”.

NE Spahtens at the first BoneFrog: Copie, Tom K, Betty G, Adriane W, James M, Hung N, Alison H, Nele S, Mike C, Sean G, Sarah K, Eric M

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Dear Race Director… Scheduling

I want to introduce a new spot, here on the New England Spahten blog – one I hope provides useful feedback and ideas to one of my favorite demographic in the OCR world – Race Directors.

Having spent the past year talking to various race directors in the region, and having being an avid OCR racer in the New England region since 2010 – I’ve seen lots of different things come, go, stick around and change.

Some worked. Some didn’t.

I plan on covering everything from marketing tactics, to the race itself – and some of it will be difficult to hear, some of it will be useful information. I would love to see feedback, conversation – even constructive debate from both the racers themselves *and* the race directors.

This week – in our first “Dear Race Director …”, we’re going to cover a very hot topic. Scheduling.

This weekend, in the New England region, there were no fewer than *six* obstacle course races.

SIX.

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None of them will get the numbers they should have, because ALL of them were not only in competition with each other, but also with the super distance Spartan Race in New Jersey – the closest one of it’s kind, and a MUST event for anyone on the path to a Spartan Race tri-fecta medal in 2013.

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So – that’s six local events *and* the most popular, “must do” race within a days trip of the New England.

Why does this happen? What is the possible explanation for this? We have 52 weekends in a year, why do events end up booking on top of each other like this?

Note – I am not making a comment on the quality of any of these events. Some of them, I wish I could have given my money to and run myself, but due to the scheduling, it’s not possible.

Lets look at the reasoning I’ve heard from more than one of the race directors –

“My venue was only available that date”

So … move venue? There’s plenty of them in the region, I’ve run many of them. The NE Spahten community can surely recommend a few. What would you prefer? A poorly attended race at your first choice of venue, or twice as many people and bump things a week.

“I’m not competing with the other events – my race has a different demographic”

No it doesn’t, not really. OCR is a growing sport, and the fan base is enthusiastic and persistent. We’ll run any and every event out there, even if we have to drive two hours to your little 5k beginner event. From the 5k foam fest with it’s inflatable fun, to the 8 hour endurance Polar Bear Challenge in deepest, coldest Vermont. The SAME people ran both in 2013, and are likely signed up again. When you tell us that you’re really only looking to attract women, or first timers, or locals all you’re really saying is you don’t understand what attracts us to the sport.

“My event is the best one, the others are crap”

Yep – I’ve heard this (or polite variations of it). Doesn’t matter. OCR is new, and people will sign up for the ones that looked interesting, or their buddies were going to, or they got a code for, or they signed up for first. If you’ve double booked yourself, you’re shut out already, and have to spend twice the marketing money to get your voice heard.

Of course, the only other likely explanation – and not one that anyone will admit to, is simply “I didn’t know”. Ignorance is bliss, and if you didn’t do your homework, picked the first date you thought was good, or your venue or vendors could make – then you lost out big time.

The information is out there, from national events listings to our own local events listing (http://www.newenglandspahtens.com/events) – there is no reason at all not to know what races are going on locally on any given weekend.

I’m not suggesting for a minute that a double or triple race weekend is the end of the world. Later this year, we’ll be running Ruckus in the AM and Panic in the Dark in the evening – rather than this being a disaster of scheduling, it’s going to be a pretty awesome day. But neither of them are pushing up against the mighty OCR power that is Spartan Race, and neither of them picked a weekend with almost a 1/2 dozen races going on. Pick your battles.

In the case of this weekend, six events lost out, because anyone who could attend, promote and be a participant in their event was in New Jersey.