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Playing in the Mud – Monday Memory – Make a Promise to Yourself…Live

The more things change, the more they stay the same. In this week Monday Memory, I look back at a post from August 20, 2016. It was about a month before the Killington Beast and I was at a crossroads in life. I needed to remember who I was and why I do what I do. I had many things happening in my life and I forgot to take care of me.

Funny thing is, like a circle, I am back right at the same point where I was when I wrote this. I remember where I was and how I felt. Re-reading this I can feel my emotions coming back and I actually had to stop a few times while reading the past article.

What I do, obstacle course racing is so important to my mind. It pushes me and after you read this memory, you will see why I will always continue to push you.

With that is mind, I give you today’s Monday Memory…Make a Promise to Yourself…Live.

Until the next time, be epic and Keep Playing in the Mud

August 20, 2016 – Make a Promise to Yourself, Live

Happy Weekend to everyone. Sorry, this may be long.

Believe it or not, most times I sit down to write I do not have an idea where I am going until I start typing and things just seem to flow. However, today is not one of those days. I knew all day what I wanted to tell you all about tonight and I hope…it sticks in your mind as some of it has stuck in mine.

Before that, whoever is heading to Runzilla tomorrow or hitting the course somewhere else, have a great time, be safe and crush it. You guys continue to inspire me and push me to be better, try harder and be on a path to success in anything I attempt. When I was younger, I didn’t always and I am lucky I changed.

People ask me all the time why I do obstacle course racing and why I subject myself to the walls, barbed wire, mud, mountains and all the other obstacles that we attack. I never really had a public answer except for that it is fun, it keeps me active and pushes me to do thing and overcome things I never thought I’d be able to do. When I was younger, I never thought I would be doing things like this. Before I go to the past, let me stay in the present.

Over the past few weeks, I have referred to some things going on in my personal life. Basically, my dad is ill. For a while, we didn’t know if there was a tomorrow. I am comfortable talking about this because there is only one person who I know in this groups and that person already found out by walking in on a conversation I was having with my mom. He has heart issues, circulation and breathing issues. He also has an infection and to try to get him back to health they started him on dialysis. Over the past three days, there has been a really good improvement and the corner has been turned. The thoughts of figuring out a eulogy has changed to getting him his own iPad to keep him busy while in the hospital and rehab over the next few weeks.

This is a guy who worked for so many years, countless hours so my family’s life can be as good as it can be. I will always be forever grateful. But in that time, he also neglected his health, his diabetes and basically taking care of himself. He went from a man who at 69 years old STILL played softball with me every weekend to a man that needs help standing up. This makes me angry. It makes me angry because it was selfish of him to not take care of himself and to ignore obvious signs. But, it also inspires me. It inspires me to take care of myself. It inspires me to make sure I go to the doctor’s when I am supposed to and it inspires me to workout, exercise, eat well and be as good of a person as I can be. Every year, our cardiologist (yes, we share one) gives me certain tests to see if I am starting to exhibit any of the symptoms my dad had. I tell him that I don’t have the symptoms and I never will. While I have no idea because you cannot predict your body’s future, I am doing everything in my power to be sure that I take care of this body I live in. I realize that there is only one me and I have to do everything I can to make sure that I am as good as can be for my family, my kids, my friends and for me.

For a while, I was not training or exercising. I spent too much time with my dad or working on my app. But last week, I realized that to be the man I want to be, I had to get back up off my ass and get back into the world. I am not training for CMC or the Beast. I am training for me. I am training for my future and I am training for my life.

Your life will give you every opportunity to succeed. Your life will allow you to overcome anything that you put your mind to. Your life will let you take control. Your life will show you signs along the path and show you where to go. It is up to you to take it. My fraternity had a saying, “You can take the path or look for the ride”. Stop taking the ride. Take the path. Take your life back and succeed.

Now, going back to the past. In 1995, I had heart surgery. I was 24. I had to realize I had an issue drinking. I ate anything and everything and before my surgery I was 300 pounds. I had to lose about 50 before the surgery and I did. Here I am a 24-year-old kid in a hospital room with this old guy who I had never met.

That old guy, I think about every day of my life. His name was Victor Sintiago. I was recovering from my surgery and out of nowhere he said to me, “Kid, I gotta tell you something. I have been watching you all day, people coming in and out to see you and that’s great. Don’t forget it. Here I am, about to have a quadruple bypass and I am alone. No one is here.” I asked him why.

“I have had a good life. I am a jazz musician. I have lived my entire life in bars and clubs. I’ve been eating, drinking and womanizing my entire life and except for my time down in the Big Easy, I never really had somewhere that I called home until now because I’m sick.”

He said all that to me and I remember it like it was this afternoon in my dad’s hospital room.

“Son, live your life. Don’t let things get so out of control that you forget to live. Friends, family, love…(he paused) that is what is important. Take all that with you so that you never, ever have to end up like me…in a hospital bed, dying, all alone”. He asked me to promise him that I would follow his words and I promised. We said our goodbyes that night as we fell asleep as he was scheduled first in the morning. I was awake when he left and he never came back. I never knew what happened to Victor Sintiago…but he made a lifetime of an impression on me in five minutes.

I have never written that down and I have rarely shared that with anyone. I remember his words clearly and while I realized long ago how important they were, sometimes I forget how powerful they are.

I train and I race because I can. I go into my garage at 30 degrees or 90 degrees because I made promise to a guy on a hospital bed in 1995 and continue that promise to my wife, my kids and myself today.

While I love the medals and I love the shirts. I love the good times that I have and I love all of the battle buddies I have ever shared a race with or my Spahten friends I have seen before, during or after a race…I love crossing that finish line. It is not just a race that I am finishing. It is a life I am winning. It is a promise that I am keeping. It is proving to myself that while life may be fragile, the human spirit is not and I can overcome anything.

Make that promise to yourself. Take the words of a dying man and really take to heart what they mean. Those words have shaped the person you all know.

Now…you know why this is so important to me, now you know why I race and now you know why I will continue to push all of you every day I can.

Killington is soon. Let’s live that mountain.



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Featured Review: Civilian Military Combine – Brooklyn 2016


CMC is back. Not quite from the dead, despite my prior eulogy. Unfortunately, circumstances meant I couldn’t attend, despite looking forward to it for many many months, so Eric Pharo offered to write his first Featured Review for us, as he was not only attending and racing, but volunteering too. Check their website for 2017 dates!

11222162_984326351640520_4269058241087746257_oSeeing as how this is my first featured review of any race, I ask you gentle reader for your patience and indulgence if it gets wordy or is otherwise not what you expected. I write it partly as a volunteer, but also as a racer as well. I shall endeavor to be fair but honest, and as detailed as my cooked brain will allow. Which brings me to my first comment about the race.

The 2016 Civilian Military Combine held at Ft Hamilton in Brooklyn NY was hot and sunny. Temps were upwards of 90F and the humidity was fairly soupy. But it didn’t keep the crowds of racers away at all. I was on one of the first few busses from the parking lot to the event, and after we got detoured from going to the wrong gate, we arrived in plenty of time for my volunteer shift. The parking lot was a short 20 min bus ride, and is located next to MCU Park, the home of Nathan’s Hot Dogs, and Coney Island (perfect for post race festivities! Thanks to Sandy for talking me in to at least walking to the boardwalk before heading home!)

20160910_084209Once on the base, signage pointing to the venue was obvious and the first thing you come upon when walking up to the venue was the huge registration tent. It was an all in one sort of deal where you register first in one of the several lanes to do so, and as far as I could tell, there was never much of a backup. Once inside the tent, there were tables and chairs where you could put on your bib, your timing chip, attach your bag check bands to your wrist and bag, and then walk a couple of feet to the bag check in the tent. They also had the merch tables with a good selection of shirts, etc in there as well, and even an engraving table where the vendor would engrave your finisher medal on the spot with your name and time for $20. Exiting the ten brought you in to the main festival area with the armed forces tables for recruitment, a large CMC inflatable tent with more tables and chairs for relaxing/preparing. There were 4-5 food trucks there along with a Sam Adams table where they had about 3 different beers on tap and were also holding an ongoing stein hoisting competition. This was where the finisher beer was located, though as a volunteer, it wasn’t obvious because our generic bib packet didn’t include the free beer ticket. There was a compression sock vendor and maybe a couple of others.

20160910_084427After all of those vendors, at the far side of the festival area, there was a main stage with Coach Pain motivating racers in the Pit. The Pit was a part of the race that is unique to CMC, and has you competing AMRAP of 3 cross fit style exercises (depending on which level of those exercises you chose; Alpha, Bravo, or Charlie) in 5 minutes as you can do. Alpha was basic with only bodyweight exercises, Bravo used kettlebells and box jump boxes, and Charlie used barbells for the deadlifts and lunges. The Pit is not mandatory, but it seemed like the majority of racers chose to do it anyway. From the Pit, the Start corral was a few steps away and you had to get over a 4’ metal wall to get in. Then the Start line DJ got you going and off on your way. There was always loud music to keep the adrenaline pumping and add to the fun. On to the course.


20160910_084445As the race director, Garfield Griffiths advised us, even if you don’t see marking tape everywhere, you’d see little yellow flags marking the course, so keep them on your right at all times and you won’t get off course and lost. For the most part that held true except in the few points where I almost missed a turn or two because of the lack of flags, tape, or directional arrows. Here’s where things get a little fuzzy for me. Due to volunteering all morning in the bright sun with only the water I brought with me in my Nalgene bottle (they never did bring us the water or food we were promised. Maybe I somehow missed that the in the briefing meeting at the beginning of the day?), I was already a little overheated and slightly dehydrated.


I will try to remember as many of the obstacles as possible, but will at least hit the highlights though they won’t be in any particular order. There were the traditional walls of varying height to go over, a rope climb, 12 ft rope wall, A frame cargo net climb, and of course a slip wall or two. One of those “slip” walls was actually an angled rock wall, and yes it did have multiple sections all connected together but some sections were harder than others. Many obstacles had this option, but not all due to the very nature of them. You could choose which section you wanted to try based you’re your ability and comfort level. And that’s another point to bring up.

20160910_084619There were NO penalties or ANY requirement to do ANY obstacle you could not complete or were not comfortable with. I availed myself of that option on a couple of the obstacles such as the ones that had rings like Spin Class (the last obstacle), and I believe the Ranger Ropes both of which were essentially “rigs” as we all know them. Ranger Ropes had you climb up a rope then transition to a horizontal bar, then transition to 3 rings, then to another horizontal bar, then hit the cowbell. I suck at rings for some reason. I can do ropes, monkey bars, and horizontal bars, but rings and other things that dangle (get your mind out of the gutter people!) stymie me. Spin Class had you climb a swinging metal pole, transition to the first of three rings, each one hanging from a spinning overhead horizontal wheel, to a set of descending swinging monkey bars. I had no problem on the pipe, but slipped off the second ring, and then I stepped over to the monkey bars and jumped up to grab them to finish the obstacle.

14231768_1167097480030072_2519850617352216419_oDiamondback was a cargo net stretched over a metal frame which when viewed from the end looked like a diamond shape. But you crawl on the net on the diamond’s sides, so you go up the reversed angle on the bottom of one side over to the angle away from you to the top, down the angle away from you on the top of the other side, and then down the reversed angle on the bottom of the other side. It’s a unique obstacle I’ve never seen before, but a great challenge!

Irish Tables was simple in design and construction but not too easy in execution. It was two appx 8’ vertical posts about 8’ apart with a 6”x2” beam nailed flat across the top of them spanning the distance between. Since there was no wall, you had to jump up and muscle up yourself to the top and swing over to the other side and drop down. Again, doable, but quite challenging for the upper body!

The wreck bag carry made full use of the slide of a short but steep berm on the base facing the highway where you had to follow the path up and down the hill appx 6 times and then take the bag back to the start of the obstacle along the flat road. While there was negligible elevation gain throughout the whole race, Garfield made full use of these short but steep hills to burn out any energy you might have had.

20160910_084636Speaking of hills, after the wreck bag, there was the Comrade In Arms where you had to carry a 70+ lb dummy around a loop that was NOT as short as I thought. I was pretty spent at that point and had trouble just getting the dummy in a fireman’s carry position on my shoulders and the 50’ I thought was the carry turned to at least 3 times that length. I so wanted to put my friend down, but was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get it back on my shoulders if I did.

The mud crawl was short in length, appx 50 to 75 feet, but had two options. On the left was the knee deep squishy mud many of us have experienced at Barre, and on the right was the muddy slurry also experienced at Barre. There was non barbed wire over the top to help keep the front of the body firmly in the mud which was actually refreshing given the heat of the day.

Immediately after that crawl was the next obstacle which I believe was called Take The Plunge, a dumpster lined with tarp and filled ¾ with water and plywood covering the top of the container. That left about 12-18 inches of space for you to cock your head to the side and walk through the refreshing muddy water, and I do mean it was refreshing.
Another obstacle had you climbing up two shipping containers stacked pyramid style. Then from the top you traverse a small diameter pipe while holding on to an overhead cable. It wasn’t as wobbly as I expected, and I don’t’ have too much of a fear of heights, so while skill was involved, the challenge for some people as I noticed was the heights issue.

20160910_114135The Rigid Ladder had you climb up the side of a narrow ladder built in to the typical metal tube framing you see for many obstacles and rock concerts. From the Facebook posts Garfield had posted, I was afraid we’d be climbing up the smooth tubes rungs of this “ladder”, but the ones he had us climb had ridges cut in to them like a regular ladder, so I felt much safer. The Ladder had safety in mind with cargo netting stretched across the bottom a few feet off the ground in case anyone fell. As a firefighter, I kept my slight fear of heights at bay on the way up and down by focusing right in front of me and using a slow steady pace. Being a petite male, my challenge at the top was making a smooth transition to the other side of the ladder with my short legs, but I managed that successfully.

The Raised Bear had you traverse small diameter telephone poles laid 2’ off the ground perpendicular in front of you spaced about a foot apart, but there was netting maybe 3’ above that to force you to keep in the bear crawl position. It was another good challenge.
For those of you who have done the Weaver at Shale Hill, CMC included its own version on a somewhat smaller scale. This one was only 3’ off the ground, and it used metal pole in an A frame set up. As is with Shale, you go over the first pole and then hang on to the next one with arms and legs as you go underneath it, reaching up for the one after that to go over it, and so on up to the top of the A frame and then back down the other side. Very challenging, but I loved it! I’m so thankful I learned how to do that at Shale Hill! Many people at CMC couldn’t quite figure out how to do it.

20160910_084344Another obstacle that I’ve seen at a couple of Spartan races is a wobbly log walk where you have to walk from end to end across a horizontal log with nothing to hold on to. God I hate that for its simple appearance but deceiving level of difficulty. I have a decent degree of balance, and was able to complete this one but only with slow shifty stutter steps across with a couple of bounding leaps at the end to keep from falling off. Not graceful, but I did it. This is why I don’t’ dance, people! Yet I’m called Billy Goat on course bounding up and down mountains. Go figure.

The last obstacle to mention is the Step and Repeat, the 2nd to last one which was an American Ninja Warrior style challenge where there’s a short 2’ wall on your right and left, each one angled away from you that you have to put your feet on and hop from one side to the other if you you’re short, or for you sequoias, you can just walk on the walls without having to hop. About 8’ later you transition to two monkey bars overhead but that are spaced 3-4 feet apart. So you basically have to leap from one to the other with your arms, or again for the gorillas in our midst, you can just reach for the 2nd one and ring the cowbell, then move on to the Spin Class final obstacle. After that, it’s a short sprint to the finish line where the illustrious Robb McCoy is waiting with microphone in hand cheering you on to get your medal and bananas and water. Then it was just a few short steps to the festival area to get your tshirt. The tshirt was kind of plain. I got a large and it was just loose enough to be comfortable but not like I was swimming in it. The medal was spectacular! It honored the 5 branches of our military with 5 stars, and the colors were lovely. I remember voting for this design earlier this year when they reached out for us to vote on the design.

20160910_153134Overall, it was a GREAT race with an excellent variety of challenges to keep things interesting but not bore you nor make everything too hard. The volunteers where informative, helpful, and had good directions and attitude and sense of humor. I was most thankful for the guy who was literally directing racing traffic on the top of a berm where the course crossed itself and the direction you had to go in was not clear otherwise. There was no other way I could think of to manage that spot, but the guy who did it was great about pointing which way to go depending on the direction you were coming from.

The festival area was laid out and marked very well (though the location of the free tshirt tent didn’t seem logical and the sign wasn’t as obvious to see as I thought it would be). The showers and changing tents were right next to each other on the grass and near a paved path, so no muddy feet between the two. There was plenty of medical staff on hand with a very obvious first aid tent along with roving medics in atv’s. They announced earlier in the day that CMC would be back again at Ft Hamilton next year 2017, so if you didn’t try it this year, DEFINITELY put in on your schedule or OCR Buddy for 2017!

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Featured Review: Civilian Military Combine – Brooklyn 2014

Editors note: Lisa was attending CMC after breaking ribs on a wall at the Pocono’s event earlier in the year. After conversation she offered to write the featured review for this event – and knocked it out of the park. Thank you, Lisa!

cmcdogtagNYC CMC – 9/27/14
Lisa Siedlarz

The race was held at the Aviator Sports Park which was a very cool facility. As the CMC was going on outside, inside there was a hockey game, a gymnastics class, and an arcade just to mention a few things. The park was very easy to get to with ample FREE parking! (Thank you I-95 for cooperating!) The parking lot was so close to the event that when you pulled in you could see the pit. In fact, my friend and I were so mesmerized watching the pit that we forgot to pay attention to where we parked. No worries, we did find the car by remembering what view of the pit we had.

The “security” at the gate was very laid back. They simply asked if you had any glass in your bag, and if your answer was no, they waived you through. Registration was pretty easy, just a short wait to get your packet. The bag check, however, had a very long wait. Like close to 10 minutes long wait. The folks working the check were very nice, and even let us get our water and money out of our bags when we learned our start time was delayed. More on that later. The bag check cost $5.00, but when you retrieved your bag, they gave you two $5.00 merchandise coupons. Fair enough.


Festival Area
The festival area provided great spectator views of the course and Pit. Spectators could also walk across the course to view many of the obstacles. Surprisingly the festival area was dog friendly. So dog person that I am got to pet and love up several awesome dogs, one of which was 4 year old blind pit bull. He kissed me. Heehee.

There were vendors for energy drinks and foods, and a couple for swag. Sadly I waited until after the race to get a Brooklyn CMC t-shirt and all they had left were men’s XL. So I didn’t get to use my merchandise coupons. Lesson learned.

There was a giant military vehicle available to explore and mug up for awesome photos. They let you climb on the truck and pose with a variety of big guns while their professional photographer took pics. The pics will have the CMC logo on it, or you can buy the photo logo free. I like the idea of having the CMC logo – bragging rights. And frankly in the photo I saw of us we look bad @$$, so the CMC logo is icing on that bad @$$ness.


The food and drinks were surprisingly inexpensive. $2 for a bottle of water, $5 for a chicken sandwich. The food, however, was in no way gourmet. I forced myself to eat the chicken because my body needed the fuel, but the chicken was kind of icky and dry. I used 5 packets of mustard just to liven it up, and by the way, opening mustard packets was in and of itself an obstacle.

It was a surprisingly hot day for so late in September. At least 80, more like 85, and not a cloud in the sky. The Aviator building was air conditioned, so on such a hot day, it was a welcome relief to have somewhere to go to escape the sun and cool off.


The Race
Unfortunately the race was behind by about two hours. As I understand it, about 500 additional people showed up that morning and registered. I’d also heard that something had happened in the morning to cause a delay to the start. Two hours is an awfully long delay, especially when your food intake and hydration is based on a presumed start time. Throw in the high heat, and hydration becomes a real issue. This is where the energy drink vendors came in real handy. Muscle milk took away my hunger pangs. Other than that, I didn’t mind the delay too much because I got to hang out with and get to know some really great Spahten team mates.

10629258_728031733936651_512652499224368309_oI am a crossfitter, so I am no stranger to a 5 minute AMRAP. However, a 5 minute AMRAP in the sun in that sort of heat is a bitch. The judges were from a local crossfit box and were clearly mindful of the heat factor. My judge thoughtfully put my water in the shade, and after 2 rounds, he encouraged me to take a moment as I still had “two and a half minutes left.” I was thankful for that permission and I did take a moment before I finished Bravo with 74 reps.

A thing I really love about the Pit: You have four skill levels to choose from. So if you are recovering from an injury or new to lifting, you can choose Alpha or Bravo. If you are more experienced, there is Charlie or Delta. I chose Bravo because I tore a calf muscle in April doing burpee over box jumps. So not wanting to repeat that movement, Bravo allowed for straight on burpee box jumps. I will say that shoulder to overhead with a kettle bell is a bit awkward. But I got over myself.

10551446_10152695113855781_5947047855447402873_oWe had about 5 minutes tops to catch our breath before the race started. It was a much needed break with plenty of water. We were even offered energy drinks. Then we were off and running onto a very flat course. Runway flat. I would say maybe half of our race was running on old runways. So flat and HOT. As I said, heat was a big issue that day. But CMC was awesome. They had people driving around in little carts handing out bottled water. I think I consumed 3 bottles over the course as well as stopping at the hydration tables. The course was about four miles long, so that tells you about the sweat factor and the need to stay hydrated. An aside – I can’t stress enough BUY A CAMELBAK if you plan on running longer courses. It’s in your best interest.

The obstacles were awesome. There were lots of various walls: inverted, ladders, rope A frames, and the shorter metal walls that were wicked hot when you touched them – thus encouraging you to get over them faster! They had a pretty cool traverse wall that had two levels of difficulty. It’s the first traverse wall I ever completed. Yes! But I will say, it made me a little nervous because the drop was pretty far, and while there was water in a ditch beneath it, it was clear that the water level had dropped significantly. So a fall could mean an injury.

10644571_10152695096510781_2925925434223252917_oThey had a cool cargo net climb incorporated with monkey bars. I tried the monkey bars, but the diameter was much thicker than I am used to so I fell off and down onto the cargo next. While I didn’t see this, I heard that people were crawling over the cargo net at the same time that people were trying the monkey bars. If that is true, that could be disastrous if someone fell onto a person below.

I also liked that they had a variety of ropes to try at the rope climb, some with knots, some with out. I chose the knot free rope with my trusty S hook climb. They also had 2 options for the sand bag carry, 25# and 50#. This lady did 50, though it did get heavy towards the end.

The barbed wire crawl was awesome. Beach sand! No cuts, bruises, or scrapes. My favorite obstacle, however, was a high wall that had rock climbing hand and foot grips. The wall was quite high and intimidating but it was doable. I just had to suck it up and try. The decent on the other side was a ladder.

The final obstacle was this neat Cargo net climb onto a sort of Ranger Rope/Balance beam over a container that ended with a fireman’s pole slide. The pole sort of wobbled as you went down. Fun!

One other note about the course: there were photographers all over the place! I expect there will be awesome photos to commemorate a successful race.

10660308_10152798322133338_7129138340457934047_nRace Swag
Upon completion we received a nice CMC Dog Tag that is race specific. We also received a fitted CMC America’s Race cotton T, and a Vitamin Shop drawstring backpack with coupons inside for 20% off.

Suggestions For Next Time
My first suggestion is to figure out what happened to cause the delay and work towards tightening that up. I had done the Pocono’s CMC back in May and they also had a delay though it was shorter, just about an hour. As I said, I wasn’t terribly bothered by the wait, but if someone had a post-race commitment two hours could be terrible.

Safety is the next thing to consider. So perhaps have a way to keep the water flowing at the traverse wall. And have a volunteer at the monkey bars to make sure there is no overhead and crawl happening at the same time.

Otherwise I think the event was a huge success and I look forward to next year.

My Take Away
I had an awesome time. I can’t stress that enough. My teammates were great. The obstacles were challenging. There was never any back up at the obstacles, so you kept moving. I got to meet a couple of the race organizers, who were super friendly. Everything about this day was top notch. I really love the CMC races. I’m thinking next year might be a season pass. If you’ve not done a CMC, you need to put it on your bucket list. Sooner than later.

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Featured Review: Civilian Military Combine MA 2014

cmcdogtagI love that Civilian Military Combine comes to New England – their second visit this past weekend – because it lets me introduce people to one of my favorite OCR experiences without them having to drive up and down the east coast.

Of course, once they’ve done it, they WANT to drive up and down the east coast 🙂

Coming back to Amesbury Sports Park for their second year, and bringing a bigger and better festival, a pit with easier and harder options – *and* a course with more obstacles, and ramping up the difficulty levels – the 40 or so New England Spahtens who came along with us had yet another wonderful day becoming combiners!

My day started on the West coast – I was flying in on a red eye flight from California, with a 6am EST landing time at Logan and a drive straight up to the sports park – despite only getting two hours of sleep, I was there before anyone, and had the team tent setup by the starting chute before the crazy started 🙂

As the festival setup, it was pretty clear that CMC were putting together one of the better festivals the sports park has seen. Superhero Scramble – same venue, two weeks prior, had zero vendors. Spartan Race, same venue, has zero vendors. CMC? They brought Red Line, OCR Gear, Wreck Bag, Zoo Bell, Muscle Milk, a granola bar vendor (I forget!), some military charities, Custom Fit Meals – and their own excellent range of CMC swag – and I’m sure I’m missing some. Point being – this is well put together, with plenty to see and do – bring some money to spend on some new toys and gear.

Parking was local to the venue for once, and ran $10 per car – car sharing is obviously encouraged. Food service was handled by the venue, so if you’ve eaten at a Sportspark event, you’ll be familiar with the ticket system, and food. Thankfully, there was more than just beer on offer – something so rare! While the free beer was a Coors light (BLAH), it was possible to buy something drinkable, and get some cider or wine too – very welcome!

Plenty of room to walk the vendor tents, plenty of room to stretch out by the team tent – with the glorious weather of the day, it was a pleasure just to hang out!


10373052_672067136214969_6740334479298065669_oThe pit for 2014 has been modified – and while I’d already done a CMC and was familiar with it – many of the CMC vets were coming to it for the first time, and of course many new combiners were coming to it for the first time. Picking your division (something you don’t have to do until the moment you meet your judge), everyone has 5 minutes to run as many repetitions as possible of their chosen workout. I stuck with my usual Charlie division, giving me 5 overhead presses (75lbs), 7 burpee box jump overs and 9 overhead kettlebell swings at 44lb. Check out the entire Pit range here – the Alpha division is perfect if you’ve never stepped foot in a gym, and Delta is for the people familiar with heavy Olympic lifts.

I came out with a score in Charlie of 77 reps, which beat by previous 2014 CMC by 1 whole rep, but gave me a new personal record – considering how exhausted I was (and fading fast!) I’ll take it!

Once you’re done with the pit, you head to the start line for a brief 90 second rest, then you hit the course hard.

CMC didn’t mess around! The course immediately took you up the most technical section of the Amesbury slopes, and off into the field .. as is typical of my race reviews, I won’t be doing an obstacle by obstacle break down, as the course will only change next time – instead, holy walls!

Lots of walls. Not just little 5 footers, but big, technical walls. Reverse slope walls. Rope walls – the majority of the walls we hit were north of 8′, which is amazing. There were a couple of barbed wire crawls, one in the sandpit most races have us drag things through, the other in the horrible clay pit originally dug out for Warrior Dash, where it was soft and comfortable, also used by Superhero Scramble, where it was deep, and you could float through. Not here – at CMC is was rocky, technical and way more challenging!

Our good friends Lindon Fitness and their excellent Wreck Bags were a staple – 50lb bag on the shoulder (25lb for ladies) and up and down the hill twice, with a 5′ wall thrown in your path, before climbing THROUGH the final cargo net complex and back into the trails – this one messed a few people up, as by this point they were right by the finish line, but still have over a mile to go in the single track trails 🙂

The use of the venue was excellent – it’s nice to see that no matter how often I run here, races do something new every time – I’ve never ran the same course twice – and this remains the case. PLenty of technical trail running, including several stretches with no trails at all – just forging through trees and underbrush, with most of the bigger obstacles kept in the fields that support their size.10498569_677893558950469_6982703225358463067_o

I didn’t see a single backup during my run – and with two water stops, they were well supported. As others have noted, the maps showed this would be a 5.5 mile course, but GPS logs disagree, with milage coming in between 3.8 and 4.1 – depending who you talk to. Things like milage and obstacle counts, it’s ok to over deliver, but definitely don’t under-deliver – we were quite excited to run a 5+ mile event at Amesbury, so for it to come in at the more traditional ~4 mile caused a few comments.

It’s really nice to see CMC changing things up every time too – the past few races, they’ve had some variation of the “brooklyn bridge” obstacle – two towers of cargo containers, with various ways to climb up – ranger ropes connecting them – and a hanging pole to get down. This was missing at Amesbury (and missed!) – but in it’s place was a huge frame of cargo nets – you climb up a section, then across, then up again – to find yourself faced with raised monkey bars to navigate – before a down, across, down to the finish line. I’ll admit – I hate monkey bars, and by this point I was smoked – so I took the sissy way out and navigated the cargo nets instead …

Also missing was the Devils Dick ladder – I’d have loved to see something equally unique replacing it – CMC are well known for their solid steel obstacles, and as most of the big walls are (understandably) wood constructions, the steel obstacles are becoming fewer.

Of course, I’m not complaining – climbing walls, rope walls, an awesome slip and slide – CMC is not short on quality obstacles by any stretch, and changing things up is a good thing – four or five miles, the course wasn’t short on fun, or challenges – and that first climb alone, after the pit, was brutal!

Personally, despite PR’ing in the pit, I struggled on the course. Poor nutrition, rest and hydration (the result of coast to coast travel) meant that around half way my calf cramped up bad, not really freeing up until the last section of single track trails – by which point I’d already had to walk a bunch of big walls, and limp through the wreck bag carry – but, finish I did – even if it wasn’t pretty 🙂 The great quality shirt and awesome dog tags my prize for the finish 🙂


CMC have a few more events, and NES will be at most of them – from Brooklyn (a short day trip away) to longer roadtrips to Virginia (perfect if you love mountains!) and DC in December, there’s plenty more time to earn some of your own dogtags.

See you soon, CMC!

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Featured Review – Civilian Military Combine, PA 2014

cmcwhitelogoCivilian Military Combine launched their 2014 season with a “Mountain Assault” event in the Camelbak mountains of PA this past weekend – and a small, but mighty team of New England Spahtens made the road trip, took on the pit, raced the mountain and came away with our dog tags – CMC put their best foot forward and launched what looks to be a fantastic year.

For those who’ve never come across CMC before – it’s a race of two parts. First, you take on the pit – and receive a points score. Then, you take on the race – and get a second points score. These are totaled and ranked. It’s a unique system that means a fast runner isn’t going to be able to “run away” with the the overall win – as the strength based pit will level the playing field, allowing for the stronger – but maybe slower guys to get a great shot at glory.



The Venue

This is CMC’s home. They launched their first event ever here in 2011, and have had an event here ever since. Camelback Mountain Resort is a water park – and had plenty of accommodation for an event like CMC. From free, easy to access parking, to local hotels (we stayed at The Chateau Resort which was barely a minutes drive away), to plenty of open space for great vendors, onsite food, real bathrooms and lockers. CMC always put on a solid festival area – there were vendors of clothing, equipment, food and drink, army, national guard and marine booths – as well as some military charities, local chiropractors and CMCs own merchandise tent.

Of note was Wreck Bag – a New England company who hit the OCR scene only a few months ago – they make heavy sandbag alternatives for training and carrying, and we first saw them (and fell in love with the gear) at FIT Challenge II and BoldrDash – we’ll be seeing them at all CMC events in 2014, and it was fantastic to see that by the time we left in the afternoon his tent was almost cleared out of all the stock he brought with him.


Being a water park, CMC made use of several of the onsite facilities to turn them into obstacles – more on those when we talk about the race.

The Pit

IMG_6447The pit is always evolving – and I think the 2014 pit is the most accessible yet. For 2014, the pit is a 5 minute long AMRAP (As Many Repetitions As Possible) – but you can pick from four different divisions. Beginners and folks who have trouble with heavy weights (due to injuries or simply lack of training) can opt for Alpha, which is 100% body weight movements and easy for anyone to pick up. Those athletes who have weight lifting or crossfit experience can try for the Delta, which throws serious load at you, and looked exhausting. You only ever get ranked against people in your own division, so there’s no benefit to scaling down.

Personally, I went for the Charlie pit – which is closest to the 2013 pit many people will be familiar with from last year. This involved five minutes of the following cycle:

5 shoulder to over heads with a 75lb bar
7 burpee over box jumps with a 20″ box
9 American (overhead) kettlebell swings with a 40lb bell

IMG_6466I came away with 76 repetitions, beating my training run by 4. My judge was friendly, loud enough I could hear him count and kept me on track when I forgot how to count to five … hey, it happens! As usual, the pit is a little cramped, but they had made improvements to how people flowed in, and you could see the judges had been trained to clean up their stations after each athlete, so equipment wasn’t scattered all over the place. I felt like I had more room to move than I did last year, and that was welcome.

It’s a common misconception that you need to be a Crossfit athlete to do this. My father – who hasn’t picked up a barbell, seen a kettlebell, set foot in a gym, let alone a Crossfit box in his 61 years came in first for his division (first responders) doing the Alpha pit – which meant sit ups, burpees and box step ups.

Anyone can do this – *you* can do this.

Once your five minutes is up and you’ve signed off your score, you file out to the start line for the course – with a water stop. You get a minute or two of rest, then off you go.

The Course

I had already been told ahead of time that the course was one of their best. CMC love this venue, and know the mountains well. Being a waterpark, the first thing they do is run you into a wave pool – at the deep end there was a cargo net to climb out, and a ton of lifeguards around the pool side, all holding long floats and watching the action closely – which was reassuring, as my short wife and her equally short battle buddy were struggling with the depth of the waves, and despite me being able to get them to the ladder (which was right next to the cargo net), when I looked at my video later, a lifeguard was right next to us the whole time and was ready, in case we got into trouble, i didn’t notice it much at the time though, and have to tip my hat to CMC, this was a fun/scary way to start the race 🙂


As usual, no blow by blow obstacle break down – watch the video for that – but what followed next was 5.5 miles and two hours of time on the mountains. We carried a 50lb wreck bag around some steep ski slopes, climbed the signature metal ladder walls, a unique rock climbing incline wall, culvert walk through, several 10′ walls back to back, with several reverse incline walls back to back following those. The signature metal 5′ walls were in abundance, and usually right next to deep ditches, meaning the 5′ wall was now a 6 or 7′ wall.

There were some really unique obstacles too – a man made mud crawl under wire, a great slip and slide – at one point we heard rumor of a “snow crawl” … in May? Sure enough, a mud crawl pit that was actually filled with real, honest to goodness snow. That was tough on the knees and hands, and led into a huge pile of snow to climb over.

There were some hanging cargo nets – another signature CMC obstacle with their Brooklyn Bridge cargo container setup – ending in hanging firemans poles, which I’ve never seen anywhere else, right at the end a very cold lake crossing (with a rope for us non-swimmers) – ending in the solid steel “Devils Dick” wobbly ladder, then a serious slog through an artificial river that smoked your thighs as you tried to “sprint” to the finish line, which was right at the edge of the water.

The terrain was fantastic too – very reminiscent of the NJ Spartan Super with it’s use of ski slope climbs, bushwhacking, single track trail, and even a period where we moved up a small river. I heard that last year they actually hit up the summit of the mountain, and while we didn’t do it last year, we did do a lot of climbing, and we kept at it right up until the last possible moment.

Considering the length of the race at 5.5 miles, this was very generously supported. Easily five, if not six water stops. Volunteers helping in areas the course markings may not have been so clear (but the markings were fantastic in general) and every water obstacle, from the slip and slide, lake crossing, wave pool and the final river had plenty of life guards who were actively monitoring the obstacle – by that, I mean they were walking the shores and sides, walking with an athlete until they left – and NOT sitting in a deck chair, working with their tan and waiting for someone to call out in trouble. Impressive and reassuring.

The Schwag and stuff

CMC has great schwag. Some of their events I’ve run have had location specific T’s as the give away, but that was not the case this weekend. It’s still a nice T, but I love event specific shirts 🙂 The dog tags though – these are high gloss, event specific tags. People who podium get gorgeous gold tags. These were picked up at a tent off to the side, and handed to us in a promotional drawstring bag to keep them clean. Free beer with the wrist band we picked up at check in, but sadly it was only Coors – even more tragic when we drove past a local brew pub on the drive in, just minutes down the street. I would have loved to see a local brew as an option, even if it wasn’t the free beer.


Food was being vended by the venue and was mostly your usual fried /grilled / reheated affair. They’ve had amazing food vendors in the past (Brooklyn’s event, with a paleo kitchen and hot meals was best), so we did miss those.


CMC puts on a great event. No other way to put it, really. The owners and staff are welcoming and friendly. They recognize and welcome their regulars – from Crossfit boxes to OCR communities. The judges in the pit and the volunteers on the course are well trained and enthusiastic, and their obstacles are well built, challenging and fun. The pit is unique in this world, and the way you are ranked and scored means it’s equally as important to your elite or podium folks as the course itself. No mountain goat trail runner domination here!

Say "Hi", Niko!
Say “Hi”, Niko!

They also encourage and promote teams and community – and we have some amazing discounts available for New England Spahtens interested in trying CMC at the New England event – I strongly recommend people take advantage of those, and come try something fresh in the OCR world.

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Featured Review – CMC Mid-Atlantic Mountain Assault 2013

What can I say about CMC Virginia? It was EPIC! But how can you put into words the Pit, followed by nearly 7 miles of sloppy soggy course, lots of water, and “a small hill”? That’s what I’m going to attempt to do here.


As I’ve posted before ( and as Paul has posted previously ( Civilian Military Combine is one of our favorite race series. I really love the fact that this challenges you both from a strength perspective as well as endurance. I wanted to do this race, but at the time no one else was signed up from the team so I put it on the back shelf. Imagine my surprise when the race organizers extended an invite to the team to race! How could we say no to that? A small but mighty group of us drove down, braving rain, floods, and sinkholes on the highway to Bryce Resorts. I have to say the rain played a major factor on the course. More on that later, though.

As usual, parking was a breeze, and from what I could tell was free. Registration was smooth and very efficient. We were all checked in in a matter of minutes. Bag check was also well organized, and was the normal going rate of $5.

We arrived a bit later than we anticipated so straight to the warm up staging area we went. I warmed up a bit and within seconds it was go time.

CMC Virginia, Oct 2013

As with Amesbury and Brooklyn, the Pit was a 7 minute AMRAP of burpee box jumps over a 20″ box, push presses (75lbs for men and 45lbs for women) and American Style kettle bell swings with a 44lbs kettle bell for men and a 26lbs one for women.. CMC once again offered up a Scaled Pit option which was box jumps or step ups on the 20″ box, push presses at 45lbs for men and 26lbs for women and Russian style kettle bell swings with the same weight as the regular Pit. There was also an option to simply run the course and skip the Pit all together. I competed in the Scaled Pit. And as usual, it kicked my tail. Then we recovered for 2 minutes, then off onto the course we went.884413_550988978307595_1405324373_o

One thing I want to note here. In other events, we knew who the Pit Judges were. They were usually all from a local Crossfit Affiliate, and the CMC guys went and trained with them and worked with them to ensure excellence in judging. This time, I’m not sure where the Pit Judges hailed from. Also from discussions with other people, the judges seemed a bit inconsistent. For example, the Motivator (the guy who talks to everyone about the Pit and gets us all fired up) gave a tip on how to do the burpee box jumps faster. One of our team was told it was illegal and she could not do them that way. Personally I had a fantastic judge. It was just a bit of a different feel that I got versus previous events.

This course was a bit different. For one, it was their longest course to date, almost seven miles.

I am still attempting to wrap my brain and emotions around the course.


I honestly can’t remember the entire course (there was some variation from the map above) , so this is going to be the highlights and ones that stood out, in order to the best of my memory. We started immediately with the sandbag carry. Literally it was mere feet from the start line! Right after that was the balance logs. They were stripped of bark to make them more challenging. I seem to recall a wall in there and then the first of several water crossings. I am not sure whether to call it a tyrolian traverse or simply a rope traverse. It had rained several days prior to the event and during the event, so the water was higher than usual I think. The crossing consisted of pulling yourself along the rope to the other side, then looping around the tree to take a second rope and go back over to the original embankment. From there, a culvert tunnel crawl awaited. This was the tunnel under a road that they turned into part of the course. The glow sticks in the tunnels was a fun touch. There was one unexpected obstacle – the dodging of golf carts and golfers who were out braving the elements at the driving range. We came up on our first set of walls. They always have several of the metal hurtles back to back. I admit after the first couple sets, I start to view the wall/ hurtle placement as just sarcastic, as they seem to never end! For those that love walls, this was a wall climber’s delight.

Another neat use of the terrain was the tunnel obstacle. They dug out three tunnels all with some sort of curve in them. They were pitch black, but a lot of fun. A very funny incident was where a racer was yelling at his team (and anyone else there) to get through the tunnels like ground beavers. Apparently this what groundhogs are called in Virginia. This was a source of amusement for Sean Gifford and I and it became a battle cry throughout the rest of the course.


At some point in here, the swinging ladder obstacle appeared. This is one of my favorite ones and I really wish they had more than just the one there. Then the next water obstacle came up – the log crossing. This was a log attached between two giant buoys. There were about 7 of them or so in a row with ropes on either side to pull yourself along (if you needed it) to get to the log to go over it. (I suppose you could have gone under but most folks went over). Where the first log was the water was a bit deep, but the water got progressively shallower. This had potential to bottleneck but I didn’t see any issues there. From here there was more trails, more sarcastic walls and hurtles, then we got to a neat water crossing. We went over a metal ladder then into a stream where we got to go under a bridge and upstream for bit. There were racers who were coming back around, so we knew we were going in a loop, but no idea how big the loop would be.CMC Virginia, Oct 2013

At some point in the course there were two old style army trucks parked side by side with about a 10 foot gap between them. It was the old “pick up truck” style, with the open back. The idea was you climbed up one of the back wheels, into the bed, then back down again, then back up into the second truck and out again onto a huge dirt pile. This was a really random obstacle. Not particularly challenging, but just a bit of fun and definitely gave a nod to the military feel of the event.

I did like instead of the usual mound of tires, they again went with the terrain and piled up a bunch of boulders and rocks for us to climb over. This made it a bit more of a challenge, given the rain/mud factor. Due to race brain, I can’t remember all of the obstacles at this stretch, but I know there were tons of tall walls both in and out of the streams that we weaved in and out of, more of climbing ladders (love!), and trail running. It was in here where we found a broken wall. The rain probably softened the wood slightly. A side support was separating from the boards, making the top board very wobbly. To their credit, they responded very quickly to try to fix it. I do remember the mud bog, as it was one where you could pick how muddy you wanted to get, then climbed up a rope to the top of an embankment. At some point we looped back under the bridge (in the water crossing). There was a second rope climb after another water crossing (just a small wading stream crossing) up a very steep embankment. They had two volunteers there on climbing harnesses to help you out if you had any trouble. This was challenging, but extremely doable and felt completely safe to do. Once we got to the top however, there was kind of a “WTH?” obstacle – a random black pipe that was laying across the path. There just didn’t seem to be any reason for it. It wasn’t secured in any way, it was just… there, almost like it was accidental. We went over the top of it anyway, and carried on.

This was where the volunteers told us we just had a “small hill” to go up. Um, yeah, a black diamond hill. The trail was a bit gnarly given the amount of rain, but there were trees and roots to get up. There were these weird bridge type obstacles that I can’t pinpoint why they were there. I couldn’t tell if they were part of the resort or built for the course. They had a slatted angled wall to get up to the bridge part. Once at the top of the trail, we looped around and came down the ski slope itself. This was a pretty easy descent. This was where I saw another lame duck obstacle. I think it was supposed to be a water slide. You had to climb up some hay bales then there was some tarp down and a small puddle at the bottom, then hay bales to come out of the pool back onto the trail. The tarp had been covered with hay and was not wet in the slightest. The pool at the bottom was roughly mid calf deep at best. I’m guessing there’s a story behind this, but it seemed a bit lame at that point. Personally, I think it would’ve been better to remove it in my opinion rather than leave it there. From there we went through more stream beds, to a metal ladder climb, then on to one of their main signature obstacles – The Brooklyn Bridge. This is the two cargo containers where you climb up one container, them up the second, go across a cable traverse then down one container to the swinging fire poles. This is still one of the scariest, but exhilarating obstacles they have. It’s always slightly different, and with the metal being wet, the poles were much faster to slide down to the fluffy pile of hay. On to the second signature obstacle, the horizontal cargo net, to the end.

Full disclosure – this course kicked me in the head. I can make excuses, but I simply wasn’t prepared for the terrain, and the mental obstacles I had to overcome here. I have an enormous phobia of water, so the water crossings made for some serious mental challenges.I went into what I called “Death Race brain” where your body simply takes whatever its last instructions were and continues to perform them. In this case, it was to simply keep going.  The only thing that would snap me back was seeing an injured person and stopping to help them. When I crossed that finish line, I felt a rush of emotion and just cried. I needed a few moments alone to compose myself. This race was far more epic, taxing, and brutal than any race I did this year, or any race to date for that matter. And I LOVED it. I cannot wait to go back next year and revisit this terrain and really go for it. I seriously am looking at how I can hit all the CMC events next year.



I will say the rain played havoc with the metal obstacles and made the terrain really treacherous in some places, particularly on some of the really steep trails, and the one traverse we did on the side of a hill. If it was dry, I think that bit of the trail would’ve been far easier than it was. As it was, we simply went down to a “”ledge” where they had cleared the trail , and went across the hill there. On the metal ladders, I do wish they had some grip tape on there to make the footing a bit more secure. Yes the rain made them slick, but given the amount of water crossings I think they would’ve been wet anyway.

The after party and vendor area here was small but again seriously fun. The CMC guys really want to fire up people and keep them engaged. The DJ was awesome. I always love the DJ they hire. Not one has disappointed. I do wish they would have a choice of cider or beer for those of us who don’t/can’t drink beer. Frankly most races could take a tip here!! It would make it feel more inclusive for all racers, so that we can ALL celebrate, rather than having to wait until later. Once again, Sean Rogers put the MASTER in Master of Ceremony. CMC really couldn’t have hired a better person that is so involved and has such an ability to fire up the racers and the spectators. Always a pleasure to hear him behind the mic.

I need to give a special should out to the course volunteers here. The volunteers were phenomenal!! They were so engaged and involved and were really enthusiastic. They really seemed to care about the race and were out there cheering us on like there was no tomorrow. CMC always have such great volunteers. This is definitely a plus. It’s not a bunch of kids playing on their cell phones, they are people who really are there for the racers.

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Featured Review: CMC Urban Assault 2013

There is a good reason why Civilian Military Combine has become one of my favorite obstacle course race series – and despite their being several local options, and a great argument for a rest weekend – I still headed to Brooklyn, NY to take on the CMC Urban Assault Challenge this weekend. CMC Brooklyn. Sept 2013

More photos | CMC Website

CMC is a unique event. If you aren’t aware by now, you start your race in The Pit. This is where you complete a 7 minute long AMRAP (As Many Reps As Possible) of a three movement workout. Full details are in other reviews and on their website –

The Pit judges were from Crossfit Revenge - and were awesome!
The Pit judges were from Crossfit Revenge – and were awesome!


This is designed to test your strength in a way no other event I’ve ever participated can. It’s a full body workout, and if you do it right, you do it to exhaustion. Then you line up for the race itself, to test your endurance.

It can’t be overstated – this strength workout is fantastic, and everyone should do it. CMC recently offered a “race only” option that a few walking wounded take – and the Urban Assault was also the first time they offered a scaled option, for folks who struggle with the regular weights and movements.

Lets get into the meat of the review.

The Venue.

Aviator Sports Park was our venue – in Brooklyn, NY. Roughly a 3.5 to 4 hour drive for us, we stayed at a hotel the night before to make the morning a little less chaotic – so we only had a 10 minute drive there. The venue was super easy to find, and good signage brought us to the massive parking lot right next to the event grounds. Free parking is always welcome! The CMC event venue was spacious – easy to get to registration, best vendor village I’ve come across at an OCR, great spectating at the Pit and easy access to walk to major portions of the course if you needed.

The course itself was totally flat. My GPS reads a total of 42′ of elevation change, and much of that was on the obstacles themselves. A flat course meant the winds coming off the water was a bit chilly in places, and anywhere the course was open was totally a runners course – fast times were expected.

The Event.

CMC did fantastic. Firstly, the vendor village was awesome. They had tons of great vendors – very few of them feeling out of place. There were vendors from Crossfit equipment manufacturers, food and drink and supplement vendors, clothing and apparel vendors, energy drink and even chocolate milk vendors.

My favorite piece though – the five biggest Crossfit boxes (the five biggest teams of the day) also had their own space, right there. Some of them used it to sell their box and box t shirts – some used it as nothing more than a place to gather and hang out – and one used it for inflatable jousting tournaments (for charity). Why doesn’t EVERY event out there promote and encourage their biggest teams like this? Such a simple thing – set aside a small piece of space and let your biggest fans and biggest promoters get some fun times in. Great move. CMC Brooklyn. Sept 2013

The food was fantastic. We’ve become so used to getting junk food after races – burgers, fries, hot dogs, pizza – that when something different is offered, it’s so welcome. CMC partnered with Caveman To Go – a New York based company offering paleo foods delivered. For CMC, we pre-ordered a hot meal, and at any time during the day we could go over and pick it up. Sitting down to warm chimichurri beef steak and parsnip puree after a race was absolutely fantastic. In our New England region, there are options with companies like B-Good who offer fantastic farm raised beef burgers, and more – yet we keep getting the same pizza, soggy burgers and fries. Time to step this game up, New England.

The beer, an equally important part of many people’s races, was not so good, with Bud or Bud Light. Worth the free beer ticket, and not much more. It looked very much like this was venue provided.

Music was pumping, crowds were mingling and it was very much possible to hang out here most of the day without getting too bored. We ultimately left around 2pm to hit the road.


The Race.

The reason we’re all here. CMC is broken into two pieces – the Pit and the Race. Strength, then endurance.

https://www.newenglandspahtens.comhttp://www.rt2photo.comCMC Brooklyn. Sept 2013

The Pit is a 7 minute AMRAP. This time, they mixed it up, and started us with the burpee box jump, then the kettle bell swing, then the push press. I did the standard Pit and scored my lowest score yet, with 96 on the record. Beth did the scaled division, due to a shoulder injury – the 45lb push press was subbed with a 26lb KB press, then a Russian KB swing, and box jump, with no burpee – she scored well into the 150’s! Our friend Chris also had an injury, and took the third option – sitting the Pit out entirely and waiting for us by the start line.

At the end of the Pit you line up, grab some hydration from the table – offering up both water, and some companies products – and 2 minutes later, you go off on your run.

https://www.newenglandspahtens.comhttp://www.rt2photo.comCMC Brooklyn. Sept 2013

The Race was a flat, 5k course. Right from the gate you were running easy trails with some of CMCs signature all steel walls to break things up, before hitting a sandbag carry – just some tube sand, and they appeared to be breaking open just like any other time we get to tube sand carries. Without trying to remember every obstacle in order – and I didn’t run with my GoPro (which I regret) – it’s easy to say that the first mile and a half was fairly open, flat and mostly a runners course – but the obstacles were heavy and thick for the second half of the event.

And what obstacles! At previous CMC events, we’ve seen fantastic quality all steel constructed walls, ladder walls and wobble ladders – along with some great two story high cargo containers with balance ropes and hanging pole descents. All those guys were here – but they had brought out some really nice wooden obstacles too – as well as some new, and innovative challenges. CMC Brooklyn. Sept 2013

There were a few wooden high walls, with a step to get up for the ladies. There were several really steep A walls to climb up with a rope – with the same for the descent – these were quite tricky to get down again! There was an incline ladder wall that was super tough – I’ve only seen it’s like at a Spartan (and this was tougher). There were some ladders to the top of double stacked cargo containers, then climbing over some piping that the course ran through – on the top – super fun! Even some monkey bars right out of a cross fit box – which became only my second set of completed monkey bars at an OCR ever (yes, I have problems with monkey bars!).

We had a couple of prowler pushes that caught many people unfamiliar with them out, and a long, muddy wire crawl that looped around in a couple of circles, and through a water jammed pipe. We even had a really neat dumpster dive water obstacle to chill you off. The finale was a cargo net and rope climb, with the awesome horizontal net to finish.

As I said, the final mile and a half was *really* obstacle heavy, with somewhere in the region of 30 obstacles – if you wanted to make up time running, this wasn’t the place for it to happen.

Of course, these reviews aren’t here to blow sunshine up anyone’s ass – and no race is ever pulled off without a hitch. For as amazingly constructed as CMC obstacles are, there were a couple of spots things needed some work.

The wire crawl was WAY too loose, and the wires they used (not barbed) were laying in the mud by the time I got there – it became a bit dull simply lifting them up to put them over your head.

The dumpsters full of water wasn’t really clear if this was a spot to wade through, or a balance beam across – I saw both, had no one telling us which way to go. I ended up jumping in and wading.

Course markings were a little vague in spots. Right at the beginning, after the sandbag carry, we saw a couple back tracking having gone wrong somewhere, and when the wire crawl took a turn left to over a dirt mound, people were turning right and going back on the portion of the course they already did.

I heard some complaints about the A walls being too tough – especially on the way down again – this didn’t really bother me though.

The biggest problem, in my opinion, was with the second to last cargo net. A solid steel structure, with webbed netting to climb up, over the top and transition right into a knotted rope to come back down. The nature of the structure meant lots of people were getting their feet twisted in the structure at the top – and with no platform or place to move onto, getting onto that rope was a serious challenge that could go horrible wrong if you got it wrong. Fortunately, many people were coming down the support beams – using them like ladders – rather than trying for the ropes and falling 15′ or so. While I made the ropes – it was a hairy moment, and I think the entire obstacle should have been reversed (rope climb UP, them onto the cargo net DOWN).

This needed to be turned around ...
This needed to be turned around …


Across the finish line, and picking up a pretty awesome race specific T that I’ll actually wear again and again, my Urban Assault CMC dogtags and some hydration.


I said it before – CMC continues as one of my favorite race series. The challenge of the Pit is unique, and everyone interested in testing themselves and their limits should do it – then the courses themselves are always a great time, with some solid obstacles that continue to impress.This event was CMC’s biggest event yet, and while the Pit area had a constant crowd, the venue didn’t feel cramped, the music was pumping and motivating, but not over powering.

I know CMC is growing – and doing it organically, naturally and slowly – unlike many other OCR series who are running into their own problems. Hopefully, this means they will be around for the long haul, and I know I’ve got no hesitation in recommending them to the entire New England Spahten communtiy – I will certainly be actively seeking them out more and more in 2014.

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Featured Review – Civilian Military Combine (CMC)


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 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 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.



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.






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.



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.

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Training for CMC

Civilian Military Combine is coming! One of the more unique and rewarding events on the calendar, CMC requires you to test your strength to it’s limits before heading out on a course to test your endurance. No silly costumes here, it’s all business, all pushing your limits – and hopefully finding those limits were WAY further than you expected.

The Strength portion comes from The Pit – a 7 minute AMRAP (As Many Reps As Possible) workout that cycles you through 7 push presses (75lbs for men, 45lbs for women), 7 kettle bell swings (40lbs for men, 26lbs for women) and 7 burpee box jump overs (20″ box). It’s brutal – and fun!

On Sunday, we got the chance to work with Rich Borgatti of Mountain Strength Crossfit in Winchester, MA – he opened his facility out of hours and invited us in … there, we got the opportunity to warm up, work on technique for each of the Pit elements, then run through a timed and judged Pit session.


If you’re interested in Civilian Military Combine – check out the video’s we shot of the Pit workout – and remember, you have a 5 mile OCR immediately after 🙂

Paul running through the first set (camera stopped!)

Nate running through the full WOD (his first time!)

More photos

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Featured Review: Civilian Military Combine – USS Intrepid

Any time you sign up for a new race, you immediately try and compare it to your previous races. Is it entry level like a Warrior Dash, or tougher like a Spartan, or will be it be as long as the Beast, or short, like a Sprint.

For the Civilian Military Combine on the USS Intrepid – none of that helped. In a sport that is rife with copycats and one up-manship, the CMC is something totally different, and as a result – nothing else out there today can compare to it.


For those who aren’t familiar, I’ll recap – CMC is both a strength and an endurance test – designed to let each and every competitor push their own limits.  Costumes are explicitly banned. This isn’t a fun run – it’s designed for the kind of person who is genuinely interested in testing what they can do – the same kind of people who tend to find their way into our little community.

It’s a two stage event – The Pit, then The Course.


The Pit is a 7min AMRAP (As Many Repetitions As Possible) – which means for 7 minutes, you cycle through the following movements:

  • 7 * Push Press (45lbs for women, 75lbs for men)
  • 7 * Kettlebell Swing (26lbs for women, 40lbs for men
  • 7 * Burpee Box Jump Overs (do a burpee, jump over a 20″ box)

The weights are accessible, and regardless of your own physical abilities, this is designed to test your strength and leave you exhausted. It really works.

Almost immediately after, you hit The Course (which will differ at each event) – on the USS Intrepid, we had a short, sprint course of approximately 1/2 mile, looping around the pier in the shadow of the ship, and at one point, looping under the amazing wingspan of the British Airways Concord!

Of course, don’t think of this as a 1/2 mile run – in that distance, CMC had managed to cram 30+ obstacles! They had many many 5′ walls. Many many 10′ ladders, four or five cargo net climbs, a sandbag carry, a bucket carry, a tunnel, a horizontal cargo net, monkey bars, an amazing tilting ladder and a weighted prowler push. In Amesbury, we’re expecting a longer, muddier, hillier course 🙂


Those are the cold, hard facts – but was it any good?

Oh yes. The road trip down from central MA with Nele, Ben and Patrick was much quicker and easier than I expected, and we were at the venue before 10am. For the athletes, check-in was super smooth. We got an envelope with our timing chip, wrist strap and bib. For the spectators, and any time we had to work with venue staff , things were a little less organized – but the CMC side had their act together.

The venue was the entire pier in front of the ship – and they had brought in vendors from local Crossfit boxes, Crossfit suppliers (2pood!), Army and Navy and National Guard booths were onsite too, as well as a well stocked CMC schwag tent selling a range of T’s, hats and hoodies.

Everyone’s packet had a wave number on it – and as the day progressed, they call out your wave, and you have to line up to hit The Pit with the others in your wave. This process was new to me – and worked well – each wave had only four people in it – and the New England Spahtens made up wave 128, 129 and 1/4 of 130 – and it would turn out we’d be some of the last waves of the day, before the top 100 heat.

Lining up in a warm up area that had barbells, kettlebells and boxes to play with, when your wave was called, you would be moved out into a row in the Pit – introduced to your judge (all of who were sourced from local box, Crossfit Revenge – no bored teenage volunteers playing on their phones here!) – The day’s MC, Sean Rogers (who also happens to be one of the minds behind CMC) would count you down, and you’re off!

Now - lets address this here and now - The Pit is a Crossfit style workout. The equipment and standards and judges all come from Crossfit worlds - but don't try and use "I don't do Crossfit" as an excuse - the whole aim here is to push you, challenge you and exhaust you. There are videos released ahead of time showing you how to run through the pit, what standards the judges will use. Nothing here is exclusive to Crossfit, and I think I may have been one of only three or four members of our team who had ever stepped foot in a Crossfit box. Crossfit may help you, but you can still lift a bar, swing a kettlebell and do burpees.

I finished my 7 minutes exhausted, with 105 reps, all told – and I know I can do better next time. Your “wave” was then moved to a water stop, and a start line, and you were lined up – then, with very little rest, we were released onto the course and immediately into the prowler pushes. I did pretty well here, and felt good coming off them, and into a sandbag carry – which went up a couple of flights of stairs, down and back a landing, then downstairs again – it was here that people started passing me :p

After dropping the bag, we hit the wobbly ladder – this was a tall ladder, on a hinge, tied down with a bungee cord – as you went up, and came down, it would move and bounce under you – so awesome. Oh, and monkey bars after this – I made those!

Then, the 5″ walls, cargo nets and 10″ ladders started. Really, they didn’t stop – a bit of a break for a bucket of water carry under the wings of a Concorde, and close to the finish line, a tunnel to crawl through – before the final obstacle, a horizontal cargo net to navigate.

A point to note – we’re used to seeing wooden obstacles. At best, made of scaffolding poles. The good races use heavy duty wood and bolts and everything feels sturdy and safe, the worst races use cheap wood and small fixtures, and you know they own’t last more than one event, if that. CMC used solid metal construction EVERYWHERE. The walls, solid metal, with smooth pipes at the top. the cargo nets, solid steel. The ladders the same. Everything was so incredibly high quality, the monkey bars (which were sourced from a well known Crossfit supplier and designed for super heavy duty gym use) looked right at home alongside them all.

Crossing the finish line was a rush – the course was short enough to get your adrenaline pumping, but not long enough to burn it off – without exception, we were all shaking and buzzing afterwards, and it took a while to settle down again!

The schwag was a neat drawstring bag, unique, high quality, CMC Intrepid race T, a silicon bracelet – which I immediately lost 🙁 – and a really nice, lacquered dogtag and chain, also unique to this event.


The other huge point to note – the coverage of this event was amazing. They had so many professional photographers from our friends at Nuvision, along with a huge number of people doing video. Access to take our own photos was second to none, and spectator viewing was incredible, thanks to the short nature of the venue and course.

We were excited (well, most of us were) when Spahten Steve DellaCroce qualified in the top 100, and was able to go on to run the course again – I’m not sure he was quite so excited … the end result, we got a Spahten in 49th place 🙂


In conclusion – CMC Intrepid was a fantastic event. Well run. Super challenging and testing. Great memories and great schwag to let us relive those memories. I would easily rank this as one of my favorite events of all time, and I’m already signed up for Amesbury, MA on June 29th.

Many more photos on Facebook (Thanks to Vince Rhee for these!):


Code MA100410 for 10% off any event. Join team NE Spahtens if you register for the New England Mountain Assault!