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Featured Review: Savage Race, Maryland

As we’re all aware, Savage Race had an awesome showing here in New England – and Steve was immediately interested in heading down to their Maryland event to find out if that showing was a fluke. As you’ll read, it certainly wasn’t!

This past weekend I ventured the 5.5 plus hours down to Kennedyville, Maryland to participate in the Savage Races Maryland fall race. The venue was easy to find. Parking was $10 and on site. A short 2-3 minute walk brought you to the entrance/check in, passing 8 port-o-johns. A premium parking option was also available for $25, and basically got you within feet of the entrance/check in area. After check in you walk thru the merchandise area into the festival area. The festival area was neither too big nor too small. The start line was on one end and the finish was on the other. In between there was a stage, two different BBQ vendors, a shaved ice vendor, the ubiquitous beer tent, a gear drop for $5, the Syndicate tent, a Krave jerky vendor, some extra obstacles to test yourself on, about 25 port-o-johns, and a few more location specific vendors.

Our start time was 1pm, though we went off closer to 1:20pm, due to the awards ceremony. We were given an apology because they only had one DJ at the venue this weekend, as the second one was still in Florida dealing with the hurricane. Pre-sendoff speech was given to get everyone in the correct frame of mind and we were off. The terrain was different from what I am used to, most areas had room enough for 3-4 runners to run side by side. Hardly any single track or technical trails here, folks. It was mostly run on grass and well-worn trails. We started on grass and ran for about three quarters of a mile before we encountered our first obstacle. This was the longest we had to wait for an obstacle for the entire 6.5 mile race. The terrain was well used; including flowing river beds on more than one occasion and to good effect.

The obstacles: what can I say? All were well built, sturdy, and fun. Some of the obstacles we did see were: Shriveled Richard (little kid in me is laughing even now), sawhorses, slippery incline, Big Ass Cargo, Sawtooth (the distance between the last bottom sawtooth rung and the top rung to start the downwards monkey bars made this one of the hardest monkey bar rigs I’ve attempted yet), Hangerang, Lumberjack Lane, Davy Jones Locker (fun, fun, fun), Wheel World, Colossus, and the Savage rig, among others. A few that we didn’t see in Massachusetts included Twin Peaks, and a unique slip wall with slats that you can grip or wedge yourself up to the top. Savage Race has shown great innovation and originality in their obstacles that make them incredibly refreshing among big brand races.

After about 6.5 miles the race was over, smiles on everyone around. You were given a medal, a shirt, and a bottle of water for crossing the finish line. Headed over to the Syndicate tent to pick up an amazingly huge spinning medal and corresponding state pins, for completing two races (for me it was Massachusetts and Maryland). We cleaned up and changed, however the one small gripe I have, and it is really small, is that the changing tents and the showers were too far away from the festival area. You had to walk to the other side of the parking lot, the furthest point away from the festival to clean off and change. But like I said it is a small gripe. Then we headed over to the beer tent for the free beer, which was Coors light, but you could “upgrade” to Blue Moon for $1 if you preferred. Additional beers were available for a nominal price. We hung around the slowly ending festival for a while where I ate pulled pork tacos and Beef brisket nachos from one of the food vendors and was very happy I did, while enjoying our beers and the atmosphere.

All in all I had an amazing time at the Maryland Fall Savage Race; great race, great company, good food. I would recommend this race and venue to anyone. I am looking forward to next year’s Massachusetts race, and possibly a few others. Great job Savage Race!!

Do you want to run the 2018 Savage Race in MA with the New England Spahtens? Scan the QR Code, or click and join us!

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Featured Review: Savage Race 2017

New England is – for lack of a more appropriate word – a mature OCR market. Many big names had their start here, then moved onto other regions, and our local OCR game is strong.

Which means it’s a rare thing for us to be able to enjoy a new brand, and rarer still when that new brand is already established, already developed and has a following we’ve not really had chance to be part of.

Savage Race finally arrived in New England.

This has been on the cards for some time. They’ve been trying to get a foot hold, and for whatever reason, it hasn’t happened, since 2013. After talking to the people at Carter & Steven’s Farm last year – they had a venue – and Saturday we got to see what they were all about.

For many races – reviews like this start on the morning of the event – but with Savage Race, we got to not only have founder and CEO Sam Abbit on The NE Spahtens Show twice in the lead up, but we also got to sit down for dinner with him and his team on Thursday night – a great chance to get to know the people who make Savage Race happen. We also swung over on Friday to setup a couple of popup tents, and enjoyed some Stone Cow Brewery beverages, BBQ, met more of the team and Farmer Phil took us on a tour of the farm in his Cool Bus – a 6 wheel, 30 seat off road monster.

Got bus? Cool bus!

So pulling into the venue on Saturday morning, a place I personally know well from many ice cream runs and prior events – we already felt that sense of familiarity that many events still don’t have. Parking was off site, and while there was plenty of local parking in people’s front yards, there were zero reported problems with the remote lot and the shuttle buses – a short ride to the venue and a walk down the main entrance road – and into the Savage Race experience.

Check-in opened later than we’re used to, and many of us showed up well before they were letting people check in at 8am. The lines moved quickly though, and no one missed their wave times – and into a big, open space of a festival. Can I just say – having seen a couple of other brands using the same space – THIS is the way to do it. For the other races, the festivals were cramped, with large tents dropped in the middle and stepping over guy ropes all the time – Savage had a huge open space – stage and finish line at one end, all the vendors forming the outer border. Open, spacious, easy to move around in. Also welcome, compared to other large brands – Savage were incredibly flexible with helping us as biggest team. We were grouped into a single wave, with flexibility for anyone who needed to simply hop in, no hassle. We were given our pick of spaces in the festival and early (the night before!) access to setup any number of tents we wanted.

Very *very* refreshing from a national OCR. This kind of easy going, athlete first nature is usually only seen on the local scene. Kudos, Savage.

The perfect obstacles, the perfect distance.

Big claims – claims that they put on all their marketing, their shirts and even the medals. And, claims they backup on the course, too.

Clocking in at around 7.5 miles, the distance was attainable by everyone – and took us to area’s of Carter & Steven’s Farm we’ve rarely, or never seen. The terrain was the expected gnarly, tricky trail – open field, wooded trail and lots and lots of mud. No elevation to speak of, which I, frankly, am fine with. A water stop every couple of miles (three total) and tons and tons of water available (all in bottles, which caused some comment – but they do recycle them!).

And, those obstacle. Oh boy.

There are two kinds of obstacles I don’t excel at. Rig style obstacles and water obstacles. Savage Race love both kinds. Of course, I wasn’t running Pro, which means I didn’t have a band to keep – and there are no Open wave penalties, so I knew I could pick and chose. In the Pro wave, there was a roughly 50/50 split between those who kept their bands, and those who did not.

But no penalties in Open waves is the way to go. You do what YOU want. What YOU are comfortable with – and other than some teasing from your buddies, it’s your race to run how you want.

Of the signature obstacles we did see – the Savage Rig, Shriveled Richard (which I actually enjoyed!), Davey Jones’ locker (15’ jump into a 15’ pool – no thanks!), Collosus (nope, nope, nope) – we also saw Twirly Bird, Wheel World, Squeeze Play, Pole Cat (loved this one!), Big Cheese – one of the more unique walls out there, Tree Hugger, Hangarang, Mad Ladders (nailed it!), Saw Tooth, Barn Door, several Mud ’n’ Guts crawls, Block Party (one of the only pure strength obstacles out there) – and a few more surprises.

See the full list – http://savagerace.com/obstacles/

On top of that – they were well spaced, incredibly well constructed – we had one back up early on, a result of a larger than normal Pro wave and our larger than normal team wave leaving so close to each other – it was quickly resolved once our team wave moved through.

At the finish line, a neat finisher shirt in a nice material, an awesome medal – and if you wanted to do another lap, a second medal, a huge spinning Syndicate medal and an MA state pin.

Not the finisher shirt, but the swag tent was epic too

All the usual stuff – great beer from Stone Cow Brewery, great food from Carter & Steven’s Farm and other vendors, Inov-8 were present and a well stocked Savage Race gear store – each handled well, flowed quickly (with the exception of bag check, ten minutes before our wave – I went twenty minutes before and was in and out in moments). Great volunteers (many of them NES members – thank you for giving up your time!).

(the kids race was great too!)

And, as I sit here on Sunday – not even 24h later – results have been sent to my inbox, many photos are ready (with more to come, we’re assured).

Savage Race – New England has waited a long long time to experience what you have to offer, and now we have it, you’ve got a new group of fans. I’ve just done something I never do – and registered for a race a year out – and registered my entire family.

See you back at Carter & Steven’s Farm, July 14th 2018. Click the very cold Robert and his Shriveled Richard to join us.

2018 event – team NE Spahtens

Got your own opinion? Leave a score right here – http://www.newenglandspahtens.com/community-reviews/savage-race/

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Featured Review: Bone Frog Challenge Fall 2016

 

With thanks again to Nicole Sibley for sending in our Featured Review for the fall 2016 Bone Frog Challenge!

 

bonefroglogoThis year’s Bone Frog Challenge could be summed up in a few sentences.

  1. It was cold.
  2. We did a lot of trail running.
  3. We got lost.
  4. We crawled under a bunch of stuff.
Suffice it to say, it was a sufferfest. Of course, four sentences is hardly the sum of the story. Let’s get into it.
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Bone Frog Challenge typically takes place at Berkshire East in Charlemont, Massachusetts in May. The 2015 Bone Frog will likely go down as one of my favorite races of all time with over fifty obstacles stretched over a 15K course. The race was meticulously executed. This spring, I took place in the race again and also enjoyed it. As a result, I was quite excited to see they had a fall 10K championship race planned for late October. I signed up right away.
14725721_1233367860070227_5091417190265808907_nFast forward a few months. Suddenly the championship was a standard 9 miler. The October race would be another Bone Frog Challenge. I had been excited for the shorter course, but this struck me as fine. They didn’t have enough racers, I presume, to support a championship — it would be too challenging for people to qualify. (I had signed up for the open wave, for which you did not have to qualify.)
The weather in New England is a fickle thing. Thursday I drove home in a swarm of snow. We got around 3″. Bone Frog posted pictures on Facebook of Berkshire East with obstacles covered in snow. Bone Frog’s course features two water crossings. All I could do was shake my head.
The morning of Bone Frog, I left my house at 7:00 a.m. to make it to the venue for my 9:00 a.m. wave. I live fairly close — less than an hour away — and it was an easy drive. Parking ($10 per car) was a breeze. The turn out was a lot less than for the May event, making both parking and registration a snap. Volunteers were plentiful down in the festival area and on the course. The weather was dreadful, and these people are real champions!
14925464_10208574776465017_1562675363023460515_nI connected with my fellow Spahten and good friend, Matt Puntin. Cool things about Matt include almost everything (i.e. He has obstacles in his backyard!); however, today’s cool thing was that he’d agreed to run Bone Frog with me, despite the fact that I am quite a bit slower. I was seriously off my game during the race, and having Matt with me was key to finishing. Having a good battle buddy makes all the difference.
The weather in Charlemont was unfortunate. It was damp, at times rainy, and in the low to mid 30s. There was snow on the mountain. Everything was slippery and wet. The saving grace, was that there was no wind, but this was still going to be a rough day.
Our 9:00 a.m. wave was pretty small. There were a lot of fellow NE Spahtens. Some others had chosen to do the Tier 1 Challenge, which involves doing the 9 mile Challenge course followed by the 3 mile Sprint course. They had taken off about 15 minutes prior. We had some brief announcements — a good thing in the cold — and then we were off!
The 9 mile course was almost a reversed version of the course in May with stripped down obstacles. Of the Bone Frog Challenges I’ve done, this will not rank as a favorite. I’ll go through the course map and some of the obstacles to give a bit of a breakdown of the course with my feedback.
bone-frog-fall-2016
The course featured around three dozen obstacles; however, this included a lot of repeat obstacles:
  • Four wire crawls and one net crawl
  • Two sets of tires to hop through
  • Two sets of tires on horizontal logs to go over
  • Two water crossings
14591722_1179930705428607_2705936112028398904_nThere were also a number of walls, but I consider walls an OCR staples, and these walls were all different heights so I’m good with that. The wire crawls were absolutely miserable. They were through snow. I couldn’t feel my fingers at a point, and my elbows and knees got soaked through. I should also add that I elected to not enter any of the water. I was frozen enough from the crawls and would not have been able to make it through the course if I entered the water. The first water crossing was the fifth obstacle and was chest high. The second was at the top of the mountain, where it was around freezing temperatures. I acknowledge two things about my electing to skip the water: I had a slightly different race experience and that experience was less hard. I am less strong for doing this.
I should remark that I was definitely having an “off day.” The course did not engage me, I was very uncomfortable, and my performance was lackluster. I am deeply effected by the cold, and I had a challenging day.
14939600_1237149296358750_8614942482441229949_oThere was a lot of trail running during the course. The trails were great. They were technical. The terrain was slippery and people were sliding all over; however, the paths were interesting. There was a lot of climbing up and down the mountain, but there was equally a lot of cutting across the mountain on single track trails. A problem though was that the trails were not as well marked as they could have been. I have never gotten lost on a course during the day. (And only once gotten ever so slightly off course — missing less than 50 feet — during the night.) During Bone Frog, we got lost twice. The second time, we ended up having to cut across the mountain and underneath the mountain coaster at Berkshire East. Yikes! Also, for the third time, I wished that the course had mile markers.
The low turnout, while bad for Bone Frog, meant that there were no hold-ups at the obstacles. The course moved smoothly. While there weren’t any new obstacles I can name, there were a lot of fun ones from the past. I’m a fan of the Solar Walls, which are two huge walls of at least 15′ with a rope to climb them. My hands were frozen from the crawl right before, so I had to use my legs around the rope to make sure I didn’t slip down. I also like Slide for Life. Here, you climb through a hole in a platform and then go down a traverse rope. This is unique obstacle and fun. I have to get a boost to reach the hole in the platform, but then I’m good to go.
14591874_1180029218752089_2876643097850789831_nI should mention that many Bone Frog obstacles are not short-person friendly. I cannot reach on Slide for Life, Swingers Club, Get a Grip, Drunken Monkey, or Black Ops. I also have yet to complete Swingers Club and Get a Grip, both of which are obstacles where you swing from hanging grip to hanging grip. Drunken Monkey, peg monkey bars at varying heights, I have made. Today, I was able to climb up and grab a bar, but this left me unable to get to another. Also, they were super wet, and I kind of fell half off. Matt seemed quite alarmed, and I did not elect to try again. I have made Black Ops at my first two races but did not complete it today. I made it up the rope climb but did not attempt the monkey bars, which were dripping wet. I couldn’t feel my fingers at this point, and was doing my best to just keep moving and make it to the end. Like I said, I did not have a fantastic race and did not make a number of obstacles I normally would have.
There were a few carries — the Ammo Carry for the first obstacle and the Wreck Bag Carry. Both were very short and manageable. I even found them easy. This was a great relief! I enjoyed a number of the cargo climbs and, as always, had fun on the walls. They have a number of thru walls, which are a nice way of mixing it up.
I ended up finishing this race in just over three hours. It was my fastest Bone Frog yet, due entirely to the reduced number of obstacles and zero wait time due to low turnout.
14906964_1179930842095260_6307701073490838827_nAll and all, I would give this race a 3.5 out of 5 stars. (Though I would give having Matt as my battle buddy five stars for sure.) The course was less diverse than I might have hoped, with lots of repetition, and the obstacles were less interesting than in the past. I have never gone off course before and found the markings to be a bit lacking. That being said, the volunteers were great and we got an awesome medal and t-shirt. (Though I still miss the shirts from 2015, which were the best finisher shirts ever and even came in curvy fit!) The weather, which is no one’s fault, definitely put a damper on the day and made the race a whole lot less fun. Still, no matter what, Bone Frog has some really great obstacles. I’ve seen them several times now, and might be a bit jaded, but I don’t take for granted the good work that they do.
I won’t be able to make the May race since I’m running the Vermont City Marathon the following weekend. However, I look forward to doing Bone Frog again soon. It’s a #racelocal favorite, and while this fall’s race was not their strongest showing, I’ll be back.
Got your own opinions? Leave a community review and ranking – http://www.newenglandspahtens.com/community-reviews/
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Featured Review: OCR World Championships 2016

Big thanks to Josh Chace, co-host of The NE Spahtens Show, for our 2016 Featured Review of the OCR World Championships!

ocrwcheader

It would be incredibly difficult to cover every aspect of the OCR World Championships in one review. I’m going to give it my best shot but I can almost guarantee I am going to miss something. If you can’t get enough of this event like me, or you want to hear more reasons about why you should go in 2017, here’s a few shows you can listen to all with great content:

NE Spahtens Show Podcast:
Episode 17: Adrian Bijanada intro
Episode 19: OCRWC Preview Show
Episode 20: OCRWC Post Event Review
Episode 21: Adrian Bijanada Post OCRWC Interview

This is now the 3rd year that Adrian Bijanada and team have hosted the OCRCW and their first year doing an event outside the US. After two years in rural Ohio, the OCR Worlds headed north. This year’s event was held in the Blue Mountains in Ontario, which was a spectacular location for a prestigious event such as this.

Venue:
The Blue Mountains had everything this event needs to be successful. Amazing accommodations in the form of on-site hotel rooms, chalets for teams to rent, AirBnB’s, and plentiful on-site parking. Restaurants, shops, and more all within the venue made for a great atmosphere before during and after the races. You were constantly running into athletes that you were lined up next to earlier in the day. I can’t say enough good things about where this event was hosted.

Race Options:
Unique to this year’s event, Adrian and team offered FOUR different races you could choose from:

3K Short Course – a fast and fun sprint style course packed with over a dozen amazing obstacles which allowed runners to test their speed and agility while spectators got to catch them at almost every turn.

15K Full Course – The one for all the marbles. A 9+ mile races that carefully balanced challenging climbs with fast runnable terrain, while challenging racers with almost 50 unique obstacles, built in partnership with races like Savage Race, Dead End Race, Indian Mud Run, Warrior Dash and more. This event is like no other and that’s proven year after year by the legions of international athletes that show up.

Team Relay – a 3-person team event broken into sections including: Speed, Strength and Agility. Having never done a relay event before I really enjoyed the camaraderie and challenge of this event. Running not only for yourself but for your teammates adds a whole new dynamic to obstacle course racing. I’ll be sure to do this one again.

Make-A-Wish Charity Run – Not to exclude anyone, Adrian and team offered an “open course” to anyone who participated in the Make-A-Wish wave. This was a “fun run” where we took back out to the Relay course and had the pleasure to race alongside Ryan Atkins and Suunto, Lindsay Webster and other elite athletes all while having fun on the obstacles and enjoying some great international conversation, as opposed to suffering through the event.

All in all it was a grand slam selection of races put on by the OCRWC team. Four totally different events over the course of three days and they went off with only a few small hiccups. An amazing feat if you think about what goes in to changing these courses overnight.

Swag:
It doesn’t get any better than this, folks. There isn’t a race out there that gives you swag like the OCRWC. The medals are amazing. And they had a unique one for each event you did. You got finisher shirts for each event, and a Make-A-Wish exclusive shirt that I absolutely love.

One thing that I really loved that Adrian and team did that I loved and can’t speak highly enough about – each competing athlete got an Athlete Badge, which gave you exclusive access to a private staging area where you could get ready for your race. Think of those Olympics athletes you see before their competitions, hanging out together before being artfully paraded to their starting corral. It truly made each athlete feel like they were on the world’s stage. It also gave you unfettered access to the gondola should you want to preview what was in store for you in the races ahead. We were also given bands that you only got to keep if you conquered all the obstacles on the course that day. To hear more about these, a huge topic of conversation, check out the podcasts linked earlier in the article.

The purchasable swag for OCRWC is amazing as well. They have some great shirts, hoodies, and more. I grabbed an OCRWC buff, a poster (which includes the names of EVERY racer on it) and some Mud Gear socks, which stood up well to all four events last weekend.

Summary:
There’s nothing like this event. It’s an amazing experience all around ‘ I can’t say that enough. As a fan of the sport, I love that I get to see some of my favorite athletes at their best. And as a competitor, I get to experience the challenge of obstacles that you don’t see anywhere else. This truly is the OBSTACLE course racing world championships. You do not want to miss any part of this event. If you’re a runner, you owe it to yourself to be here. If you’re just a spectator or a fan of the sport, there is no better way to experience it.

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Featured Review: Rugged Maniac 2016

Big thanks to NES Ambassador Dennis for this review!

New Rugged Maniac Logo_212x124_thumbIt’s no secret that Rugged Maniac is my favorite race series. It has been around awhile for good reason, it’s FUN. I should say right here at the beginning that I skipped a few obstacles due to an injury, but was still able to do many.
The venue for the event is a motocross track in Southwick, Ma. There is plenty of parking, so no bus rides. Parking is $10.00 per car. I did hear about a couple of incidents where the volunteers parked cars in such a way that people were blocked, this really should not happen and I’m sure will be addressed at future events. There is NO FEE for spectators and the layout of the course allows for many great spots for your friends and family to watch.

14457342_10154123891429794_1708187393376344319_nRegistration is pretty straightforward, go to any table and you are assigned a bib number. There was a an backup on Saturday but the staff put all hands on deck and cleared the backlog in plenty of time for people to enjoy the rest of the day. Rugged Maniac does charge extra if you want to be timed, if you were one of those you were directed to another table to pick up your timing chip. Honestly, if you do want to be timed, be certain to sign up for the first or second wave. There are sometimes backups at a few obstacles as the day progresses. Most of us what have done more than 1 or 2 of these events don’t even bother with the timing chip. Remember what I said about it being FUN.

Bag check is free and is handled well. Volunteers attach part of your bib to the bag, security checks your bag, and then you put your bag away, so you know right where it is. When you leave, security checks your bib number against your bag. If you lost your bib on the course, they were able to take care of it as well.

14469430_1778652095736717_1824046403171154652_nThe festival itself, well let’s just say that Rugged Maniac knows how to throw a party. The other thing is that after you do the course, you are not so beat up so you can have FUN at the party. The vendors were either pertinent to the event and were providing enough samples to make it worthwhile or were charities worth supporting. The Marines were there with their pullup challenge once again, and as an old Army vet I was compelled to talk smack. Lucky for them I was nursing an injury. Harpoon Beer was there again this year and this year had a cider offering for those people who prefer that option. There is a bouncy house for the kids that was busy all day long with happy faces. Pie eating and beer-stein holding contests. Food court included some pretty good food, served hot and fresh by the VFW. The “showers”, (cold) were available as well as a changing area.

Now let’s talk about the course itself, I’m including the course map so I’m not going to list them all but just say they are well built and some are fun and some are challenging enough to make you feel like you have accomplished something. The only backup I saw this year was the Warped Wall and that was maybe 5 minutes. There was one obstacle that more than one person felt was placed wrong. The Ninja wall were so close to a water obstacle that they were very slippery with mud. I saw more than one person wipe out.

This year’s finisher’s medal was definitely a step up. The T-shirts had both a men’s and women’s cut. Race pictures were a little disappointing this year. There didn’t seem to be as many photographer’s on the course as in previous years.
Overall, this is an event to be on your calendar. I have already signed up.

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Featured Review: Spartan Race – MA Super 2016

Shaina has ran many obstacle course races, and has been a New England Spahten from the beginning – one of our Ambassadors, she ran her first Competitive wave at the Super this past weekend. Thank you for contributing this Featured Review, Shaina!

13962766_10153664899452212_8758883322380532839_nSpartan once again held their “Boston Super” at Cater & Stevens Farm in Barre, MA, despite the venue being over 70 miles away from Boston. This may be quiet inconvenient for many as the venue is far away from accommodations that would be plentiful in the actual Boston area. Spahtens have learned to take over Camp Colbrook which is quite close to the venue and a decently price d campground with plenty of amenities, such as a pool and a bar. The venue itself is a beautiful farm complete with a BBQ hut, homemade ice cream and the new Stone Cow Brewery (which is GOOD!). This makes it a great venue to actually bring family. The farm also provides a BBQ in the festival area along with ice cream and stone fired pizza (which is delicious!). One issue with the venue is the lack of elevation mixed with the lack of good footing due to most of the course outside of the woods being cow pastures. Because the New England Spahtens were the biggest team both days we got our own tent which was thoughtfully placed a bit away from everything else, purposefully so others were not using the tent as a refuge and waste disposal point.

You’re biggest team wave for the @spartanrace Super at @carterandstevensfarm – gooo! #nespahtens

A video posted by New England Spahtens (@nespahtens) on

Communication prior to the race is good as we got our pre-race e-mails over a week ahead of time,
letting us know about off site parking and costs. We even got an e-mail the day before with a heat
advisory and recommendation to bring water. The course had at least 4 waters stops, but the heat was
harsh and many of us brought nutrition and electrolytes in our water. If you didn’t bring your own
hydration and weren’t elite, you were wrong and probably had a rough time! This is more of an
endurance event and Spartan is kind enough, thanks to insurance policies, to provide a lot of water and
even Clif Shot Blocks (a sponsor) during the race. If you plan on continuing with races like this be sure
you get yourself prepared!

13923892_10208588740649771_8452938472734898646_oGoing into this race I was a bit apprehensive. I like longer distance races, however, I would rather them on the mountain or in the woods, especially with the heat. Running is not quite my thing and I knew that going all out would be what much of this race was and it was my first time running competitively. I was not mistaken in my assumptions. The first two miles were very light on the obstacles, which also happen to always be the worst running miles as legs are warmed up. During those miles there were hay bales, a couple of 5 ft walls and a gut check . People’s legs cramped up pretty quick, though it did spread the field out a bit. Soon after we were on the cargo bridge, which is Spartan’s opening gate as you walk into the festival area under the bridge on stacked up cargo containers as racers are passing over. The rope climb came next, which has changed from the tall, wet ropes you have to climb up from water, to much shorter distance ropes due to going from nearly 3 feet of piled bark mulch. This led to the very short sandbag carry and almost right into the spear throw (curse you spear throw).

I’m going to cut in at this point and put in my own personal 2 cents. The spear throw is where this race
turned irritating for me. I joined the competitive heat to see where I would stand against people there
to race fully and completely. The open heat is great, however the rules are lose and standings are just
for show in many instances. Elite and competitive follow the same rules, must try every obstacle with no
aid, and only once, and must do 30 burpees if you fail. The spear throw is where people started skipping
burpees as there was no one there to ensure these were getting done (here and any burpee zone). It is
where I saw racers “helping” other racers complete their burpees also. How is that competitive? Go
here https://spartanrace.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/211871038- What-you- need-to- know-about-
running-Elite- Competitive- for more info on the rules of the Elite and competitive heats. If you are out to
race with your friends and family for a fun time, do it in the open. Why does this bother me? Because
people I saw do this came ahead of me. In some instances, this could have been the difference between
being a OCRWC qualifier and not. If you cannot do the obstacles and burpees then think of the other
racers and go to open.

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Biggest Team block was presented to Steven Blais for his work with Team RWB, NES and being generally an all around awesome dude.

All racers should read the athlete guide to know what they are getting themselves into and what the rules are. Year after year we see people falling over with cramps and dehydration, slipping with improper footwear, even simply wallowing in the cotton shirt they wore. A simple read of the website and athlete guides may solve many of these problems! Just be prepared when you toe that start line, or defer defer defer!

Back to the race itself… The multi-rig was next in line and myself and many others were too sweaty and sandy from spear burpees to even attempt, though many attempts were futile due to the evilly place base balls mid-rig. The race rolled on after this with all the same that we expect from Spartan. The barbed wire crawl went into the rolling mud hills back and more barbed wire to the dunk wall (a bit of a change I guess?). There were walls that were tough due to the muddy conditions after a stormy night, an A-frame, atlas stone, bucket carry, and Stairway to Sparta, followed up by a sled you got to walk and pull and a sled you got to pull up a hill. Then another long back and forth through the woods, putting those miles in that we paid for to get that coveted middle of the Trifecta blue medal. The race ends with a slope wall and a fire jump that was a bit iffy for me after going all out on the last mile of trail runs.

The race overall for me was OK. I think I was miffed at the competitive aspect and let it get to me too
much at points and got very angry about all the running and the lack of obstacles, though this Super did
come for me after 5 laps of Shale Hill obstacle awesomeness the weekend before. No, Shale obstacles
are not practical for a company that is moving around the US and needs superfast turned around. I’ve
worked quite a few builds, and actually cut and built some obstacles. It’s time consuming, expensive and
very tough. However, this course didn’t even have Monkey Bars. Tough Mudder seems to be able to
come up with new obstacles quite often. I will Spartan would be a bit more innovative and more
obstacle focused since they are the leading “obstacle” race.

13920011_10154479798263338_7069176112264020872_oI must speak a bit to the Spartan Kids’ Course in my review since my kids were surprised with their own OCR on Saturday. I did not plan for them to do the race since our past experiences with the Spartan Kids’
race was less than thrilling, more of a trail run and left me with kids wondering why they didn’t get cool obstacles like Mom. On my volunteer build shift my friend and I were thrown in with the Kids’ Course build crew and spent the day building mini Spartan obstacles- even a rope climb for the oldest kids! I couldn’t let my kids miss this awesome course and they truly had a blast. Had we not had to leave they probably would have done more than one lap each.

If Spartan chooses this venue again for a Super I probably will return. I’ll return for the farm, for the kids’ race, for the well-done festival area, and of course the Spahtens. I will volunteer again because I really love doing it, and therefore I will race again. My expectations, however, will remain the same, and Spartan seems to be happy that way. Hey, it’s the most cost effective, right?

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Featured Review: Bone Frog Challenge New England 2016

bonefroglogoThis weekend, I took place in my second Bone Frog Challenge. Bone Frog is a 9 mile obstacle course race (with a 5K option and Tier-1, the 9 miler, plus the 5K) that takes place annually at Berkshire East in Charlemont, Massachusetts. At around 50 minutes away from my house, it’s my home town race and one of my favorite races of the year. This race is owned and run by Navy SEALs. A positive vibe permeates the race, which does an excellent job at paying homage to those in the armed forces and, at the same time, provides the rest of us with an enjoyable challenge.

venue

Last year’s race was my favorite individual race of the year. (I say that so as not to compete with the wonderful racing I did at Shale Hill via my season pass last year. Both Bone Frog and Shale Hill are my favorite.) The race featured over 50 obstacles all of amazing build quality, the course was well-marked and well thought-out, the logistics were smooth, and when you crossed the finish line a former Navy SEAL draped a medal over your head. In my mind, those men deserve medals, so it’s an honor or get to meet a former SEAL in person and have them rewarding you for something that, for me, is a hobby. Suffice it to say, this year’s race was no different than last year’s. I had a blast.

Saturday was the prefect day for obstacle course racing. The weather was in the mid to upper 60s, meaning it was comfortable without being hot. The sky was overcast, which while certainly less exciting than a sunny day was helpful for keeping the temperature down and the sunburn at bay. Charlemont is a close drive, about 50 minutes west of my home in Amherst, so I was able to sleep until 7:00 a.m. before heading out for a pleasant drive into the Berkshires. Parking at Berkshire East is a snap. It’s the standard $10 you pay for race parking everywhere, and it’s onsite. No buses needed. Spectators are free at Bone Frog Challenge, which means that unless you purchase swag, the parking fee is all you need to spend for the day.

start

Check-in went very smoothly. There was a bit of a line, but that line moved very fast, and the volunteers were ultra organized. There was one volunteer making sure that everyone had their waver and ID out so that by the time you made it to the front of the line you were organized and the volunteer getting your packet could move like lightning. I couldn’t have waited in line for even five minutes, which is excellent for a race with a couple thousand people in attendance. The other area where the race was well organized was in having a good number of portable toilets. There was a bit of a wait last year, but they increased the number and, again, I only have to wait in line for a couple of minutes. I cannot image how hard these sorts of logistics are to nail down — Bone Frog has my respect for their eye-to-detail and high level of organization.

13243708_1051823098239369_3836953699555823705_oAfter checking in, I headed over to the NE Spahtens team tent. There was no set team wave time for Bone Frog, so I was hoping to find some friends to run the race with. As is so often the case with the Spahtens, my battle buddy was just a friend I hadn’t met yet. I ended up meeting Jennifer Daley who provided an extremely great person to take on Bone Frog’s 9 mile course with. We were very evenly paces and had similar skills on obstacles. Plus, she was a lot of fun!

After getting our gear ready (I highly recommend a hydration pack and nutrition if you’re doing the full 9 mile race or Tier-1), we headed over for the 9:30 a.m. wave. Announcement were brief and at exactly 9:30 a.m., we were off.

 Bone Frog 2016 New England Course Map
The course was packed with 40 obstacles. This was around a dozen fewer than last year. While I will say that I definitely missed having those extra twelve obstacles — they definitely added to the fun and difficulty factory — this is still a top-notch race. Some things that set the course apart from other races are the excellent build and the good obstacle distribution. May races fall prey to having most of their obstacles jumbled at the bottom of the mountain. I get that this is a logistical issue; however, somehow Bone Frog has tackled it, as they have good obstacle distribution along the trails at the top of the mountain too. This is key for a racer’s enjoyment. Bone Frog does a great job utilizing every inch of elevation Berkshire East has to offer. Sure this isn’t Killington, but some of us don’t want to hike uphill all day. The amount of hiking up brutal hills is just enough (actually just a little more than enough) at Bone Frog. This is paired with some really excellent trail running. Miles 7 though 8 are along some especially nice trails. We had a great time running that stretch of the race — it was beautiful and not so technical that the average trail runner couldn’t keep a decent pace. It felt nice to stretch our legs and run along the trails towards the end of the race.

As I mentioned before, the race featured 40 obstacles. Here’s my standard obstacle-by-obstacle breakdown. The couple of obstacle I have forgotten, I have left blank — sorry.

Bone Frog 2016 New England Obstacles
  • 1. Hurdles: Jump across some muddy trenches.
  • 2. Low crawl: Wire crawl. They used normal wire instead of barbed wire and the ground was not too rocky.
  • 3. 1st phase wall: Lower high wall — probably around 5′.
  • 4. Walk the plank: Walk across a wobbly balance beam. Meanwhile, exercise balls hang encapsulated in nets right along your path.
  • 5. Hell box
  • 6. Rope climb: Standard rope climb. Probably around 12′ to 15′.
  • 7. Ammo carry: Carry an ammo box along an uphill, then downhill loop. The ammo boxes, fortunately, came in two sizes, so the smaller folks, like me, could choose wisely. Also, at the top of the hill was a sign that featured six symbols on it. We had to memorize these six symbols and then recall the at obstacle #14, Mind Games.
  • 8. Night crawler: This obstacle featured three increasingly high “thru” walls. Last year, this entire obstacle was handled a bit differently. The entire thing was covered in a heavy black drape making it dark as night. People had to pass glow sticks along and provide directions so that everyone could make their way through. I was kind of sad to see that gone for this year, since the 2015 obstacle was one of the more inventive I’ve encountered.
  • 9. Stairway to Valhalla: 800 feet of elevation is less than half a mile. This was far longer of a climb than last year hoistand brutal. There were people camped out all along the climb who basically were not making it. One poor woman was dry heaving, another couple of people were felded by cramps. This climb was no joke. It reminded me of the lengthy uphill march at the Killington Spartan Beast. Midway through the climb, there was a net that you had to crawl under.
  • 10. The Kraken: A cargo net climb, then a roll across a cargo net, followed by a net down.
  • 11. Slide for life: We ended up doing the 25 burpee penalty and bypassing this obstacle based on the long wait. Last year I stuck it in there and waited in line, but I just didn’t want to again. This obstacle you have to hoist yourself through a hole in a platform. Once you’ve pulled yourself up and through, you then descend back to the ground via a rope traverse.
  • 12. Reverse wall: Wall at a 45 degree angle towards you. If I jumped high, I could grab it, which was great.
  • 13. Solar walls: Two back-to-back tall walls that you had to climb up and down with a rope.I would say these were pretty tall — definitely 12′ or more.
  • 14. Mind games: Here was where you had to recall the six images from the Ammo Carry. We remembered them and were able to go on to the next obstacle.
  • 15. 31 Heroes:This obstacle memorializes 30 fallen Navy SEAL officers and one K-9 officer. We did burpees for each person, saying his name. I think this obstacle is an excellent example of how Bone Frog does an excellent job honoring our men and women in uniform.
  • 16. 2nd phase wall: Slightly taller than the 1st phase wall. Probably around 7′.
  • 17. Seige wall
  • 18. The Punisher: This was a tall wall that you climbed with the help of a cargo net. At the top was a bar to grab and pull yourself through before going down the other side.
  • 19. Rolling thunder: Tires suspended horizontally on a pole. You had to jump really high to get over them. There were two sets. I am, in all honesty, not very good at this one. I try to stay to the side where there’s a chance of getting to grab the pole that the tires are on. Otherwise, my height tends to be a disadvantage and I roll right off.
  • 20. Mike & Murph: This obstacle seemed new from last year. We climbed up a ladder wall, then down a net. Then we reverse it.
  • 21. Deck of cards: I didn’t recall this obstacle, so I crowdsourced it. Per my NE Spahten friends, this obstacle ended up getting cut from the race.
  • 22. Cargo net: This was a huge cargo net — very tall — probably 20′. There was a bit of a wait at this one, but we stuck it out.
  • 23. Sand bag carry: We had to fill our own sandbag before carrying it on a loop through the woods. Filling a sand bag is kind of a challenge when the dirt you’re working with is just soil dug from the ground. I managed to increase my bag-filling speed by shoveling in dirt from a couple of people who had just emptied their sandbags.
  • 24. Water crossing: Brr! We had to wade across a snow pond at the top of the mountain and then wade back across again. By wade I mean that I had to swim in the middle. Okay, we swam. It was cold.
  • 25. Jacobs ladder: Ladder wall.
  • 26. Window walls: A through wall. This stretch was marked by some nice trail running. It was great to have a few obstacles to break up the trails!
  • 27. Tire roll: This was another set of tires on a horizontal pole. Basically, it was the same as the earlier Rolling Thunder obstacle.
  • 28. Spider wall: A traverse wall. I like this one because it has finger grips. Last year, this was down at the bottom of the mountain, so it was nice to have it here up at the top.
  • 29. Tire drag: These tires were heavy. I actually had to have Jennifer help me. She’s strong from cross fit.
  • 30. Swingers club: Yikes! My first of three failed obstacles of the day. This obstacle was American Ninja Warrior-style. It featured balls suspended on ropes. You had to swing from small ball to small ball. I had trouble reaching these and even more trouble getting going. I was actually disappointed at the number of obstacles I did fail this year. Last year’s Bone Frog was likely more challenging; however, this year I failed three obstacles to last year’s one. I have been doing a lot of running lately, but OCR season is upon us, and I think I need to hit the pull-up bar more.
  • 31. Sprint 31 Heroes: This was the 31 Heroes obstacle for those doing the Sprint length distance. For those doing the full 9 mile challenge, we did not end up doing 31 Heroes again.
  • 32. Get a grip: This was the obstacle I failed last year, and I failed it again. Hanging from poles were ropes with plastic handles attached. You had to swing from one to another to get across. The handles moves a lot. This will always be a tough one. If I was more handy and didn’t live in a condo, I’d say I should build one of these in my backyard.
  • 33. Traverse: Rope traverse across a snow pond at the bottom of the mountain. Like last year, they had you traverse the rope part way and then drop into the water and swim. I may have slightly “cheated” and gone a bit past the half way point on the rope because I didn’t want to get into the cold water.
  • 34. Hell’s gate: This was a great obstacle and new from last year. There were a nine closely packed walls of increasing height. You went over the first and then under the next, as the “overs” got taller and taller. This was a lot of fun. People did get bunched up and I was pretty cold waiting after I just got out of the water, but it was a good time.
  • 35. Water crossing: I was not super pleased to get back into the water; however, it was not an option. We had to wade into the water, which came up to chest height. In the middle there was a large ammo box we had to climb over. I was so cold at this point I was basically inept. In my flailing efforts, I hit my ankle enough to leave a bruise. I get it. Navy SEALS — water. Still. So. Cold.
  • 36. 3rd phase wall: The tallest basic wall yet. I’m putting it at 9′, though with my short person status, perhaps I am over exaggerating.
  • 37. Dead weight
  • 38. Drunken monkey: Instead of standard monkey bars, this featured a board with staggered pegs on either side. I had a blast on this obstacle last year (once someone lifted me up so I could reach it), yet this year, I failed it. Not pleased. Pull up. That’s all I have to say. On it!
  • 13268038_1051921574896188_6954103294714583909_o39. Dirty name: Similar to gut check at Shale Hill, this obstacle had a lower log from which you had to jump and then pull your self over a higher log. In this case, two were stacked. I am waiting for this obstacle to leave the OCR scene. It’s a menace and people are hurting themselves and bruising ribs on it all the time. I climbed up the side supports — hey, I want to live to race another day.
  • 40. Black ops: Very few things scare me. Black Ops scares me. This obstacle had you climb up a rope wall and then traverse a set of monkey bars before landing on a platform and climbing down a ladder. Here’s the thing. The monkey bars are really high up and below them is just this net. This obstacle is the last one, and it’s smack in front of the spectators. Last year I nailed it — there is video evidence. Still I was scared. I made it up the wall with the rope no problem. A volunteer was ready to lift me up to the monkey bars. I was seriously ready to just roll across the lower netting, but he encouraged me. I made it across, but I was shaking. Seriously, I never shake. I cannot think of any other obstacles in OCR that scare me, and I cannot say why this one does, but it definitely does. I tried for an early dismount and alarmed some volunteers who though I was going to fall back on the platform. I was super happy to climb down on shaky legs, find my battle buddy and run across the finish line!

I crossed the finish line in 4:08:34 having had a wonderful time all around. What a great day and a fantastic race!

Beyond what I’ve said already, here are some pros and some things I wish would get adjusted for next year.

Pros list:
– Amazing volunteers. Two people carried our hydration packs and everyone was super encouraging. Bone Frog has the best volunteers of pretty much anywhere. Hats off to these fine folks!
– Back-ups were much improved over last year. I probably spent an hour or more waiting in line last year. This year the lines were limited. We probably didn’t wait for more than 15 minutes total. The only thing that had a line we decided was too long to justify waiting for was Slide for Life. It had a wait last year too. Last year I did make the decision to wait in each and every line, but this year I was less than keen to do that since I had done the obstacles already. Still it’s a bummer since the obstacles are what we come here to do.
– Great finishers medal. Plus getting a medal from a retired Navy SEAL is very meaningful. Bone Frog also had great t-shirts in 2015. They had super soft women’s fit t-shirts. Alas, this year’s shirts were delayed in customs. Bone Frog is going to mail them out to everyone. Since last year’s shirt is pretty much one of the only OCR t-shirts I wear, I cannot wait for this year’s shirt to arrive.

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Wishlist for 2017:
– Please add mile markers. We don’t all want to bring a GPS watch, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have interest in how far along we are in the course.
– Bring back some of the awesome obstacles from 2015 that were missing this year. I loved Operation Red Wings from last year. This was a stretch with around eleven obstacles back-to-back. It was basically the best thing ever, and I missed it this year!
– There are a number of obstacles that are kind of high up. I had to rely on the kindness of some taller gentlemen to help boost me up to reach a few of the hanging obstacles. Just a few more inches down would be a big help. I know of other shorter women competitors who felt the same way.

I am already signed up for the next Bone Frog Challenge in my area, the fall Bone Frog Championships on October 29 at Berkshire East. 6 miles and two dozen obstacles — I am looking forward to it.

Want to leave your own review, or see what the community thought? Click here for our community reviews, and contribute your own views!

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Featured Review: BoldrDash in the Mud 2016

 

This past weekend was the busiest weekend of the year, and I was tied up with Ragnar Relay, and couldn’t get to other events. Huge thank you to Amber Galindo, who was able to provide a featured, detailed BoldrDash review, their last at their “mud” event that has been their home since the beginning! (UPDATE: The links to this post reference “beach” incorrectly – this is the mud event!)

 

BoldrDash 2012 Logo Use ThisThe weekend of May 14-15, 2016 found many of us Spahtens facing the difficult choice of which race or races we wanted to choose from due to the overwhelming amount of options, not only #racelocal, but National as well. I chose Bold R Dash in the Mud for my race – Part of #racelocal and put on by our own Lynn Hall. This event was slated as the final Bold R Dash in the mud at Yawgoo Valley, and boy did they pull out all the stops! I registered myself for the adult course and my daughter for the kids’ race.

I haven’t been able to participate in the Bold R Dash mud events in the past due to scheduling conflicts, but I’ve been a longtime fan of their Bold R Dash Beach event and thoroughly enjoyed the Winter Dash premiere this year. The Mud event is in a category of its own even amongst its sister events.
Let’s start with the pre-event details. Communication about this race was fantastic. I registered back in November during the premiere/Black Friday special to get the lowest price, but in true #racelocal fashion, the event was cross-promoted at other nearby #racelocal events with promo codes always available.

In true Amber form, I also had lots of questions and Lynn and team responded very quickly each time. Answering questions on the event page, Bold R Dash page, via Facebook chat, or via email – they were sure on top of things.

12938198_1195451477134328_2851748817183432138_nOne other cool, new feature – we – the adoring fans – got to vote on obstacles for this event. I loved this feature that Lynn and team put out. I’ll get to the obstacles later, but I somehow suspect EVERY obstacle made it in…so not sure if my vote really counted or not, but it was fun anyway and a cool idea in my book.

Preliminary event day details were sent out on May 11 with your bib number, waiver link, and a note that more details were to come. Promptly on May 12 the further details arrived with reiterated bib number and waiver links. I got two emails that looked exactly the same for my registration. I emailed to double check on my daughter’s race and got a prompt reply from Lynn explaining the email vendor glitch and answering my questions. I figured that was the case, but not worries and better safe than sorry.

For the crazy multi-lappers among us, details were posted on Facebook well in advance (May 5). Based on timing of my race vs. the kids’ race, I didn’t expect to be able to multilap, plus I had another event the next day. The deal was you let them know at registration and paid in advance for $15/lap – It covered timing, insurance, and an additional medal for each lap and multilappers were to get a checkered wrist band that would be unique to them for multilaps. Then you had to check in at the finish line/timing to get their chip reprogrammed and off they went. I can’t speak to the actual experience, although I did hear a couple team mates dislike having to pay in advance vs at the end, but not minding too much since it went to charity.

FB_IMG_1463335738675Let’s move along to race day. Following the instructions from my email, I arrived about an hour early, easily found parking right in the main lot, paid my $10 and went inside. It was a little hectic with a lot of people there, but I found my spot in the registration line pretty easily – I knew my bib # and had my waiver – I listened! Quickly got my bib and ankle strap timing chip and then dropped off my daughter’s waiver for the kids’ race – they were great about letting me drop it off so my husband or I could get it later.

Swag wise, we got a nice orange finisher t-shirt and in traditional Bold R Dash fashion, it was a nice quality shirt. Love it.

I met up with my friend to check out the event area and wait for our heat. This was her first “real” race, so I can provide triple perspective for you. Lots of stuff going on in the event area, plenty of port-a-potties – never a long wait, bag check, changing area, rinse off area, and plenty of post-race refreshments for finishers. You could also see a good cross section of the race right from the main area, which was cool.

20160514_132445Before I get into the obstacles – let me just tell you about an unplanned obstacle – the HEAT. Man was it HOT and SUNNY. I’m not a good runner when it’s warm and it was already close to, if not at 70 degrees by our 9:40 start time. Yikes for someone prone to overheating – so I knew I’d be taking it even easier.

We lined up for our 9:40 start time. The volunteer leading the start line was full of energy and fun. We started promptly, getting a quick chance to say hi to some elite runners as they continued on the race course that ran past the start line (They were now 45 minutes in and still going, which should have been a warning of things to come!) and off we went.

There were so many obstacles I frankly couldn’t remember them – but once again, Lynn pulled through and sent me a map. The course started off smooth and then went into our first gentle incline. We hit the Balance Beam on Chains (1) which had a little back up with everyone going to the chained versions, so we opted for the pipes to not wait in line. After that was the Boldr Run (2). Carried rocks up and then down the hill, then ran down and around for the Crawl Up/Roll Down & Sandbag Carry (3). We bear crawled up on tires and then got to a Sandbag Carry. At this point, my newbie friend was having some troubles, so in true Spahten fashion, I did her Sandbag Carry for her. Not overly heavy or a long distance, but it was up and then down again.

13112768_10207945036495841_6001177090876225324_oAfter some rest and water for her, we continued down the Roll Down, bear crawling, rolling, and scooting under the strings. Saw lots of people roll all the way down and get dizzy, and we didn’t want to join them. After that it was down, around, and up some to the Tire Swing (4). Having done this obstacle at other events, I was prepared and it was fun as always. No back up when we got there, which was great.

Then it was time for a big climb with obstacles mixed in. The heat was already starting to get to me here. Log in Woods (5) was an easy climb over a suspected log, Rope Climb (6) that now that I know the technique I mastered, onto a Tarzan Swing (7) which we saw at Winter Dash and was again fun, and then onto an 8 ft. wall (8). Up to a Cargo Net Crawl (9), and lots of Over/Under/Through Walls (10). Around here was the first water stop if I remember correctly and boy did I need it. Given the heat, I kind of wish there were additional stops. We had also past the mile mark at this point.

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Heading back down was another wall – 6 Ft Wall (11), down and down and down the hill more to the Inverted Wall (12) right back along the Tire Swing, and then a rope, ladder climb (13) where I had a good photo op and posed, and then up around, down, and up again to the Cargo Tube Crawl (14). Then we got to head up again (because where else would we go) and do more walls – 4 ft. walls (15), and then down a little to the Partner Slack Line (16) that I remembered from the Winter Dash finish line. And then up again to the A-Frame Wall (17), down to the Spider Traverse Wall (18), and up to a tire pull (19), up more to the Tire Jump (20), and a cross again near the water stop so you could get more water.

13226803_1298902576806476_4446376773062428742_nAt this point I was in rough shape. Walking and still close to overheating. It was just getting hotter and not a lot of wind. And all the hills. Wow. I thought FIT prepared me for this, but not with the heat/hill combo. We had just passed mile two and guess what was next? SLIP N SLIDE (21). Seriously, I was a little nervous about this, but it looked so fun and guess what, it was! And getting soaked in cold water was just the ticket to give me the energy boost I needed.

At this point all the obstacles pretty much blurred together. It was lots of ups and downs with a heavy dose of obstacles. The next thing I remember was running along the start line where I had seen those elite runners at the start of our race, we looped around and then I totally thought we were lost because we came to a river – but no, we got to walk down the river – I’m short so it was between upper thigh and waist deep, but nice and refreshing. The map Lynn gave me says here is mile 3 and we are up to obstacle 25.

Then we got to go up and up and up some more with a mud crawl in Bob’s Barrel’s (26), the weighted pulley (27), and then the tire ring toss and tire traverse (28 & 28A). At this point it was 11:10 and I was getting seriously worried about making the kids race with my daughter. The volunteer at obstacle 28 was kind enough to let me use her phone to call my husband so I could let him know – Awesome volunteers!

944352_10151501332714093_1680717015_nSo off we went again through trails and of course up and up to the Potato Sack (29) with an awesome Spahten volunteer who made this obstacle I hate tolerable and distributed Starbursts – Yummy candy, yay! Then we got to do the Trench River (30), climb a wall (31), do a downhill/uphill bucket carry (32), climb the tire wall (33), and then we paused for a photo op again – lots of photographers on the course. Can’t wait for the pics! Lots of short distance, but heavy incline up and down with obstacles mixed in and finally at the Monkey Bars (36). Bold R Dash has my favorite Monkey Bar Rig – 3 levels of difficulty – normal, thick bars, and inverted – so of course I went for inverted and nailed it. Yay again.

Onto the final stretch which culminated in a crawl through a mud pit (37) to the finish line. So fun and while I’m not a huge fan of mud, it was enough that you experience it, but didn’t come out covered in muck. At the finish line you turn in your ankle strap timer and get your medal. The medals were nice heavy, die cut medal. Love it.

I don’t have a GPS watch, but I heard the final distance was about 4.4 miles.

Which was good, because it was 11:43 and I had to run with my daughter to get her on the kids course in the 11:40 heat. So here’s your kids course review. They thankfully let us start a few minutes late.

20160514_121322My 6 year old wasn’t a fan of the climbs, but loved the obstacles. I think it was a lot of hills for the younger kids, but saw some awesome Spahtkins out there. They had their own course here with scaled down obstacles for kids. It ran along the adult 31-37 obstacle and had some walls, tubes, and monkey bars – my daughter’s favorite. She trudged her way through and then we headed back down the hill to some more walls and balance beams and finally the kids course ends in the same mud pit as the adults – so she crawled through the mud and got her own medal. She was proud!

Final thoughts. This was epic. I feel like Lynn and team pulled out all the stops for this course. The volume of obstacles, the terrain of the course, and the fun of the party – all awesome. Very well organized and run. I will say that I wouldn’t consider this an all abilities course like I believe I saw it advertised. It’s a good course for people who train and challenging for people who have not. Partnered with the heat, it would be difficult for someone who wasn’t experienced. It was definitely way harder than the Beach and Winter race due to the elevation changes. After seeing my friend, I personally wouldn’t recommend the Bold R Dash as a first race, but it’s definitely a great race for someone who has experience easier OCRs and wants to step it up or for those who are experienced and want to have fun and get challenged. I honestly can’t imagine how anyone multi-lapped it. I don’t think I could have!

I’m already signed up for their Rocky Point race debut and I sincerely hope they find a new home for the mud race in the future so we can live it again.

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Featured Review: FIT Challenge VI

Featured Review provided by Niki Leonard!

12983970_1223786367633245_4042024135233288105_oSaturday many of us, over 200 actually, Spahtens found ourselves back at Diamond Hill Park in Cumberland, Rhode Island to attempt the 6th FIT Challenge, put on by one of our own, Robb McCoy, with the assistance of Aaron Farb and Scott Sweeney. The course is a roughly 3.5 mile course, this year sporting around 40 obstacles, and multiple steep climbs up the “hill” to get a total of approximately 1000 feet of elevation gained throughout the race. This is a race with a history of challenging all fitness levels and our expectations were, yet again, exceeded.

12976863_1026538087434537_3067915853513334222_o

12977245_1223786460966569_8668604565435259688_oThe morning was cool and crisp as I headed to the course for the 8:10 start for multi-lappers. With this course being so close to where I live I was lucky to leave a bit later than most and arrive an hour before start. Parking was $10, however, with the earlier arrival, I was mere steps from the start line. It was easy to find the registration, get my bib, and find the multi-lap tent where I set up my drop bin and changed into my race shoes before dropping my changing bag (and brownies) over to the team “tent” (no tent was yet set up at this time in the morning, as the area is designated for us, but the tent is ours to bring) area for when I was finished. Everything was easy to find, easy to get to, and in the middle of the excitement. Fred Smith was at the start line getting everyone ready. There were plenty of vendors, and an amazing paleo food truck offering food all day. The venue even has running toilets!

12961340_1223789367632945_5307750161171682029_oThe elite men set out at 8am sharp after Robb challenges anyone to beat this course in under 45 minutes, followed by the elite women at 8:10am, who were also pumped up by the duo of Fred and Robb. Finally, at 8:10, me and about 100 of my newest friends got our multilap bracelets, a challenge to do more than 5 laps, never mind 6, and off we went. Throughout the day I could hear Fred doing an awesome job of pumping up the racers in each heat, and Robb, Scott, and Aaron could be found throughout the course making sure everything ran smoothly. This also included giving me hugs every time I saw one of them! The course was full of volunteers, and they were some of the most supportive volunteers of any course I’ve been on.

12957634_1025865820835097_6732159135716748193_oUnfortunately, I kept accidentally turning off the GPS on my watch, so I don’t have accurate elevation or distance. However, most people with the higher tech watches seemed to have something closer to 3.8 miles and over 1000 feet of elevation. We saw a new larger version of the Destroyer, which had its own small team helping and coaching people over. We saw all of Novembers new obstacles back, as well as some new creations; the monkey cargo net traverse, and a floating 12 foot wall (which basically became an inverted wall by the time you reached the top), which were both incredibly innovating and challenging. The first half the race had way more hills than obstacles, whereas the second half had more obstacles than hills. The race was extremely challenging through and through, but nothing was impossible. The course is meant to challenge you to try everything, but there is no penalty if you couldn’t do something. Also, what was nice, was if you were a multi-lapper, you were allowed to cut any back-ups at obstacles. I didn’t actually need to use this incentive until my third lap and only on the obstacles on the first half of the course, which tells you the course was well spaced out.

13002470_1025865804168432_2362046597193212489_oThe swag at this race was amazing. A gorgeous finishers medal, which looked clean and crisp, as well as a higher quality t-shirt. The t-shirt, again, wasn’t offered in extra small, so unfortunately will be hard for me to wear comfortably, and the text on the back was a bit too dark, however, the softness and great front graphic will ensure that it will be loved by almost everyone. Multilappers got a pin for each additional lap completed to add to their medal’s lanyard as well as a really cool patch. Those who completed 3 or more laps had (or will receive) a wooden “trophy” signifying the amount of laps completed. Over 250 people chose to multilap this event, versus the 50 who did in November, so unfortunately the trophies ran out, particularly for those who completed 3 laps, however, their name and contact information was taken so that it can be sent them later.

12961305_1223792237632658_1305860694978636668_oMulti-lapping at this even was a cinch. We had our own covered tent area to keep our dropbins, we had our own 2 volunteers to assist us and keep us on track. Equipped with a cool FIT Challenge silicone bracelet, we had the ability to “cut” any line at any obstacles. When you finished a lap, you headed over to the multilap volunteer’s table, which was against the multilap tent next to the start line. You check in with them, tell them you’re going out again, and they’d mark you down for another lap. Get whatever you need, head over to Fred and let him know you’re going again, and if he gives you the thumbs up, off you went. Originally they had you swapping bibs each lap, but due to the unexpected numbers of multilappers, the same bib ended up being used after lap 2 for all additional laps. When you were all done running, you grab your cash ($10 per extra lap), then head over to the volunteer table, pay up your divvy, and in return you got your pins and your patch, and any awards you may have gotten.

12961213_1025195287568817_1520714528005170547_oThe turnout was amazing. The weather, while chilly in the morning, was amazing for most of the race. The venue was great, and the obstacles were outstanding. I think Diamond Hill deserves an award for most hated hill to climb. Robb and his crew surpassed everyone’s expectations for a good race. He’s a director who will listen and make sure everyone is taken care of. I haven’t heard a single bad thing about this race and I don’t expect to either. It is my personal favorite local 5k races, and I expect I’m not alone in saying this. If you have yet to try out this race series then you are missing what OCR is really about. Check it out!

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Featured Review: Wicked Mud Run

Wicked Mud Run is a central MA based OCR held on the venue used by Elevated Training – we sent Nicole along to check them out!

wickedmudrunlogoThis Saturday, I headed to Shrewsbury, Massachusetts and Ski Ward to represent the NE Spahtens at Wicked Mud Run. It was one of my first media gigs, and I was very excited. Judging by the Facebook event, the team was going to have a small turn-out, but I was planning for fun nonetheless. The sun was shining. It was cool and comfortable. It was the perfect day for a 5K obstacle course race!

I arrived at Ski Ward about an hour before the scheduled team heat. As per the email sent to race participants, parking was free. (Spectators too, which was nice because it looked like some people brought their kids.) Ski Ward is, in the words of the British, “wee.” It’s more of a bunny slope than a ski mountain. In keeping with that, there was a small dirt parking lot in front, and then a small lodge at the foot of the hill that served hamburgers, ice cream, and beer. The parking was steps away from the festival area. You could leave you bag in your car easily. They also provided a free bag check, which is what I did, having no place to leave my car keys otherwise. These nice little perks – free parking, free spectators, and free bag check – definitely provided a good impression.

After getting out of my car, I headed into the festival area to pick up my bib. Here I hit a bit of a snag. The registration and bib pick-up line was long and slow moving. At one point, they even had to take people who were doing the 11:00 a.m. heat and have them cut to the front of the line so that they’d make it to the starting line on time. As it was, the first and second heats ended up starting a few minutes behind, though nothing serious. Spending a fairly long time at registration at a pretty small race is kind of a hassle and could have been avoided by having more volunteers at registration. (That being said the volunteers that were at registration were awesome! Sorry you guys were so overworked.) On the plus side, I got to spent my time in the registration line chatting with fellow Spahten Marc, who was volunteering, so I cannot say that I had anything other than a pleasant wait.

Wicked Mud Run FestivalAfter receiving my bib, I decided to walk around the festival area. It was very small, but the booths that were there were interesting. There was a bag check that was giving out Honest Tea. Zoobells was there – these kettlebells are seriously so cool, and I really want to get some; the koala is extra adorable. There was also a local obstacle course racing gym. The tables were limited, but it was a nice assortment of small and local businesses. The festival atmosphere was enhanced by a live band that was playing on the far side of the starting coral.

 

Soon, they called our wave. I stepped into the chute with a couple of other Spahtens. There were some brief remarks, music played, a horn sounded, and without much fanfare, we were off.

 

The race started with a short wall of around 4’ followed by a climb up the hill. There was a small backlog at the wall but nothing serious. I quickly rolled over the wall and begin jogging/hiking up the hill. Next up was a ladder wall. It was short – probably around seven or eight feet, but it was given some interest by having the rungs on the far side of the ladder wall be on a diagonal.Wicked Mud Run Start

We then entered a stretch of wood with some trail running. The terrain was nice featuring some rolling hills with rocks and logs mixed in. It served to keep things a little bit interesting. In the woods, we encountered an inverted wall with a net attached. I was running with fellow Spahten, Shaina, who is a regular at Elevated Training. She mentioned that normally the inverted wall and the net are two separate obstacles. Today, for Wicked Mud Run, they were conjoined to aid people with the wall and make things more beginner-friendly.

After the climbing the net and sliding down the inverted wall, we headed down the hill to a very short rope climb. The climb was maybe 8’. Max. I did the j-hook and two pulls up and I was to the top. I dropped down and was ready to slalom my way back up the hill.

 

From this point, I do not exactly recall the precise arrangement of the obstacles. I remember doing a slightly taller 7’ wall as well as some short hurdles. I fondly remember doing a set of monkey bars, which served as my favorite obstacle of that day! For this obstacle, there were two lanes. One was just widely spaced monkey bars – around a half dozen of them. The other, featured a horizontal bar, from which you had to transition to around three or four monkey bars. I chose the latter and had a blast on this obstacle. I had to get a good swing going to make it from one wide monkey bar to the other. After the monkey bars, was a taller eight or nine foot wall. All of the walls featured kicks and were very manageable.

Ski WardFrom there, we came upon the traverse wall. The race had two traverse walls. One was a standard short traverse wall. The second was a zig zag traverse wall. I chose the second one. The blocks on the wall were actually pretty far apart and getting around the corner was a challenge. I really liked this one!

Next up was the mud portion of Wicked Mud Run. We had to wade through a couple of muddy trenches that went up to my belly button. This was more water than mud though, and I didn’t get terribly dirty during the race, which is fine as far as I’m concerned. Then, it on to another pair of trenches of similar depth, this time with a pair of logs in each that you had to go over or under – I chose over. Following that was a sandbag carry. I usually dread carries, but this one was a short out-and-back a not very steep section of hill. Plus, the sandbag was probably 15 or 20 pounds at the most. I was happy to be able to jog the down section of the hill.

From there, it was another set of watery-mud pits (which were seriously nasty) follow by a small angled wall with a rope. This wall and rope climb was short – probably around 7’ and fine, even with wet shoes. Next, we headed a short ways back up the hill before descending to a slip-n-slide. I’ve been wary of slip-n-slides since 2013 and the Superhero Scramble’s disastrous slip-n-slide in Amesbury. However, the one at Wicked Mud Run was nothing to worry about. It was short and not that steep. A friendly volunteer with a hose, who was manning the obstacle, told me to run and dive. I apparently didn’t run and dive hard enough because I ended up like a beached whale about midway along the slide. I had to paddle my way forward, as another volunteer recommended soaping the entire obstacle. (Yes, this was entertaining.)

From there, it was a very short run to the finish line, which I crossed after around 50 to 55 minutes out on the course. I was handled a very neat medal. (Though no t-shirt – those cost extra.)

Wicked Mud Run Medal

Honestly, the biggest challenge of the day was finding some place to change out of my wet race gear and into clean clothing. With no changing tent and no rinse station, this proved a bit of a logistical problem. I ended up hiding out in some random ski boot rental location at Ski Ward to change my clothing and try to towel off. (I had a lunch date with a friend and had to look at least somewhat like a normal person! #ocrproblems)

This race, appropriately, seemed to attract a lot of first time obstacle course racers. As I traveled through the course, this made sense. The course was, for lack of a better word, friendly. There were no serious climbs, though we went up and down the hill at Ski Ward around four times. The obstacles were small and simple. Only one or two provided any real challenge in my mind. (Note: To be clear, I race at Shale Hill. A lot. My sense of what is normal may be warped by this.) Ski Ward is home to Elevated Training. I would have loved to see Wicked Mud Run partner with them and use even more of the Elevated Training obstacles in the course. Fixed obstacles, like the rope traverse that Elevated Training has, were bypassed in the Wicked Mud Run course to provide a more beginner-friendly experience. Again, I speak of this as a “criticism” only as someone who has done a fair bit of obstacle course racing. For the person doing their first race, Wicked Mud Run is a good bet – it’s not too challenging, the course is well laid out, and everyone is very friendly and encouraging. I cannot think of many courses where I have been cheered on as much as I was at Wicked Mud Run. The volunteers were simply stellar about this.

Wicked Mud Run does need to sort out some of its details. Registration was a big inconvenience. So was having nowhere to change. These sound like small criticisms, but they are key things and need need to be handled well.

Bottom line: This race was not for me. It’s for the newbie obstacle course racer trying their first race. I had an okay time. My enjoyment was enhanced by the cool people on the course. The obstacles, for me, were a bit simple and easy. Yes, I do a lot of obstacle course racing and prefer challenging course, so I am coming at it from that perspective. All that being said, I definitely think the registration snafu needs to be addressed if this race wants to attract a larger crowd. At around $30 to $40 per person, this race is a bargain and good for first-timers wanting a very beginner-friendly race. Would I travel out to Ski Ward for this race again? Probably not. But then again, it’s not for me, is it?