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Featured Review: Spartan Race, Citi Field (Stadium Series)

Citi Field is the second Stadium event Spartan Race has put on to date, and I wasn’t going to be able to attend – so I checked in with the team, and Kay offered to write a review for us.

Thanks Kay!

Also, check out our community reviews from the team: http://www.newenglandspahtens.com/spartan-race-citi-field-2013/

Citi Field

 

The first stadium series event of 2013 was held at Citi Field (where the Mets play) in Queens, NY. I went into this event thinking that it would be similar, if not the same, as the Time Trial held at Fenway Park in November. I was right, although there were some differences between the two, which I will detail below.

My only goal going into this was to decrease my time from Fenway, which I succeeded in doing by shaving ten minutes off of my time. I was able to run two laps, one with the Reload Fitness team, and one with James’ friend Mike, whom I had just met a couple hours prior.

The start line when I went through the first time was a mad house. They didn’t have anyone asking for wave times and putting those people in a corral like at Fenway, thus creating a huge mass of people at the start, which didn’t move for minutes at a time. We stood there for over an hour before we got up to the actual corral. The second time, there was hardly anyone there and we went right through.

For the most part, the obstacles were the same as they were at Fenway:

Bungee cord crawl – Up the ramps, like at Fenway. Over some, under others, seemingly endless and zaps all your energy.

Rowing station – Jump on the erg, if you don’t mind waiting in an epically long line, and row your heart out for 500 meter in less than two minutes. I burpee’d out on the first lap due to the lines, but made an attempt on the second lap, failing with one stroke left. I did not, however, fly completely off of the seat this time, so at least I made progress.

Ball slams – Lift overhead and slam down 20 times. Fifteen pounds for the women, not sure how heavy they were for the men.

Rope climb – On the first lap, only the women could use the knotted ropes. On the second go around, they told the men they could use the knotted ropes, but that they had to wait in the line (they were long as they only had 4 knotted ropes as opposed to 6 sans knots).

Jerry can carry – Again, some discrepancies between laps…first lap, everybody carried one jug, while on the second lap, the men had to carry two and the women just had to carry on. Up and down multiple flights of stairs. Saw lots of people emptying their cans out at the bottom and lots of people taking half empty cans to start with.

Hercules hoist – Higher than normal, like at Fenway. Not sure of the weights though.

Jump rope station – 50 times while trying not to get rug burn or whack yourself with the thick battle ropes.

Monkey bars – Not a solid bar, you had a smaller bar for each hand with a beam in the middle and some of them spun. Failed on the first lap with two rungs left, but nailed it the second time!

Sandbag carry – Not the giant, 60+ # ones we had at Fenway, just the normal pink for females and red for males. The line was huge for the women, so I just took the men’s sandbag both times, catching crap from the volunteers each time.

Pushup station – Hand release pushups in a hot, stuffy locker room. VERY small space that could fit maybe 20 people max.

Atlas carry – Pickup stone and carry maybe 25 feet away, drop it, do 5 burpees, then pick it up and carry it back to the start. Again, not sure of weight.

Hobie hop – Strap a rubber band around your ankles and hop up four flights of stairs. Once you get to the top, take off the band and go back down to the start. No lines during the first lap, huge line during the second lap.

Spear throw – Not sure what happened on my first lap, but the spear throw was broken, so everyone was told to just completely skip it. Line on the second lap was ridiculously long and I seriously thought about burpee-ing out of it to save time…and I should have since I failed it anyway and had to do 30 burpees.

Traverse wall – They tried something different this time, using pegs instead of blocks. However, they apparently didn’t realize how much longer it would take people to complete, so a few heats into the day, the normal blocks were screwed onto the wall. They kept the back two walls with the pegs, but lines were long both times I went through (I used blocks on both passes through) and I heard they ran out of pegs at one point.

Walls – Short walls, tall walls, over-under-through walls. You name it; they had it, minus the slippery wall, of course. The first wall you come to after the bungee cord nonsense at the beginning, maybe four feet high, had an unnecessary line on my second lap as they were only letting two people go over at the same time and if you needed assistance, you could only use the left side, and only the volunteer could help you, not a racer. Really?

Cargo net – Used a webbing instead of their normal rope cargo net. Loved it, but bottlenecks at the top where people were transitioning.

Box jumps – Don’t know the heights for men and women, but ten jumps. Couldn’t go over and back like at Fenway as they put the boxes right up against a fence.

Gladiators – ‘Nuff said!

No ladder walls, no tubes to hurdle, no ten burpees to start off. Reebok finally made an appearance at the merchandise table, though I was pleasantly surprised. They have some really new Reebok Spartan Race tech stuff: capris, sports bras, shirts, running shorts, etc. The Citi Field hoodie was nice too, not just because of the THUMB HOLES (Sorry, Vince, I HAD to mention them), but because of the general comfort of it, though the price was $10 higher than the same exact hoodie from Fenway.

Pros:

No mandatory burpee station
Longer course (so is the word on the street)
No mud
Medals were pretty rad
Not much running between obstacles

Citi medal
Cons:

No fast lanes like at Fenway, neither at exercise stations nor while traversing the stadium stairs
Ran out of bananas by 6:00pm (bit of an issue when you have heats going well into the night)
Discrepancies at obstacles during different heats (not sure if this is a Spartan issue or just due to uninformed volunteers stationed at obstacles)
MAJOR lines and disorganized as a whole
Timing computers were not manned by anyone and were down for HOURS
Expensive stadium food
Finish line area was really congested
Spectator viewing area was okay. Other than the finish line area (cargo net, box jumps, gladiators), you didn’t really get to see much, except for a far view of the sandbag carry. A bit crowded at times, but as a whole, the event was severely disorganized so I’m honestly not surprised. I think they overcompensated for the fact that they weren’t having a Sunday race at this location by overselling the event. TEN THOUSAND racers is a bit much, especially when you add all the spectators to that number. I was lucky to have been up in the Racetag suite for most of the day, away from the crowds, but just being down in the breezeway/stands between heats was enough to annoy me.

Liv did the .5 mile kid’s race, which I was really unhappy with. They didn’t have the course marked that well, part of which went through the stands in the spectator area, which meant that parents/spectators were literally on the kid’s course and refused to move, creating a giant, confusing cluster of chaos. I won’t touch on Liv’s performance, but I will mention that there were barely any obstacles for the kid’s race; the race consisted mostly of stairs, which is a little hard for 4-7 year olds. They ran out of the orange kid medals, so Liv ended up with the regular adult medal. I was more impressed with the mini course at Ruckus this past fall, to be honest. They seemed more organized at other races I’ve been to, so not sure if this is just because of the restrictions set by Citi Field or if they just didn’t utilize the stadium that well. I didn’t see the kid’s set up at Fenway, so I can’t compare the two in that respect.

In conclusion, I loved the course itself (and the bling), but I was really disappointed with the lack of organization on all fronts, especially with what I felt was a great set up at Fenway. I could have shaved many more minutes off of my time if I hadn’t been stuck waiting in lines. You should never have to burpee out of obstacles due to a wait. I really hope they employ the fast lane for the remainder of the stadium series events as it helps immensely, both with passing slow people on the stairs (which just wasn’t possible here with only two lanes) or breezing through the obstacles.

Either way, I’m excited for Citizen’s Bank Park in Philly in August!

Citi Spahtens

Also, I should note that if you complete all four stadium series events (NY, WI, PA, and MA), you will earn a Season Pass J Not sure if this has been made public knowledge to those who weren’t at Citi Field, so I figured I would pass the information along.

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“Challenge” Review: Tough Mudder Miami

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Tough Mudder has been taking lots of heat and deservedly so for changing the date of the Boston event.  Even more criticism has come their way by scheduling the New England Mudder on the same weekend as the Spartan Sprint at Amesbury.  Add their high prices paired with bully behavior and many Spahtens have written off Tough Mudder for 2013 and beyond.  In my opinion, that could be a mistake.

Here’s what you see and experience at a Tough Mudder:

  • Money spent on the festival area and the course
  • A lengthy 10-12 mile course that is pure fun other than electrocution
  • Take a break from burpee penalties
  • Mandatory assistance to/from fellow mudders
  • Excellent spectator access to obstacles at many parts of the course
  • A large variety of obstacles, with new and unique additions built for 2013 (see pics)
  • Humerous and motivational signage throughout the course
  • The best pre-race starting line pep talk
  • Very well supported courses with water, bananas, oranges, energy gel chews (6 stations in Miami, only 2 had just water)
  • Protein bars, bananas, beer, and water at the finish line
  • Schwag bag with tech shirt, protein bars and energy gels courtesy of CLIFF
  • Foil blankets (race temps were in the 50s, which is freezing for South Florida)

The Miami event took place on March 3rd & 4th at the Homestead Miami Speedway.  One week’s time made a huge difference in weather.  It was cold, cloudy and windy, the exact opposite of the Spartan super a week earlier.  Despite that, TM made good use of the venue both inside and outside the racetrack.  Athletes ran on the racetrack, pit stop areas, burm top, and the surrounding fields.  The festival area, start and finish were located inside the track.  Although there were no trails, the 11+ miles were extremely fun and loaded with approximately 25 obstacles that were a refreshing change to my recent Spartan runs.

My only negative issue was the two obstacles that provided electric shocks.  The crawling “Electric Eel” zapped me 6-10 times and the “Electroshock Therapy” took out my buddy.  The shocks appeared to be much stronger and more  frequent than my last TM.

I too was disappointed that the 5/11 Boston event was moved to another date.  I negotiated pre-approval with my wife and I was ready to book travel pending the venue announcement.  I’m not a competitive runner, so the TM suits me well.  You get a solid distance to thoroughly enjoy conversation-paced jogging with your crew and fellow mudders.  The TM is a great event to share with friends, teammates, and comrades over a few hours.  My advice:  Do a TM when it makes financial sense and never regret the decision.  You will have a fantastic time with your mates.  I look forward to seeing many of you at the Ruckus!

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Featured Review: Brian Bill Memorial Challenge

Brian Bill Memorial Challenge - Logo

Our service men and women are owed a huge debt for their service to our country. They fight for the freedoms that we often take for granted. CPO Brian Bill made the ultimate sacrifice in August 2011 and the Memorial Challenge was created in his name. All donations and proceeds will go towards a scholarship in his name. The NE Spahtens were honored to take part in this event

BBMC-Banner

The race was brought to my attention about two months ago. At that point, I wasn’t too sure about doing a winter race as the cold is often the biggest obstacle for me. My fingers and toes do not stand up to cold even a little bit. A friend of mine is a Norwich graduate and has been talking about doing a race for the last year, but couldn’t quite pull the trigger to sign up. So, I decided to run the race and get him to do it with me. He could overcome his nervousness about doing a race and I could overcome my aversion to the cold. It was a win/win for both of us.

Registration was easy. The only down side was the Corporate Challenge team sign up. You had to register a minimum of six people all at once in order to qualify for the discounted team rate. That isn’t the way we are able to work, so we all signed up as solo runners and then I sent a list of the team members to the race director so that we could all be placed in the same heat. The level of responsiveness was out of this world and our team was set. As is becoming a bit of the norm, the NE Spahtens were the biggest team there with 12 runners.

BBMC-Group

About half the team drove in the night before and the other half drove in the morning of the race. Parking was a smooth process and free, which is becoming a rarity with races. Norwich has a large military student population and cadets were on hand everywhere to answer questions and guide the civilians like us who weren’t familiar with the campus. Registration was quick and efficient. Registration bags included bibs, timing chips, t-shirts, coupons for a local sporting goods store, beef jerky samples, and hand warmers! Personally, I thought the hand warmers were spot on! Given the forecast highs of 18F, they were a really thoughtful bit of swag! It was also a nice touch that each participant was asked to sign commemorative posters to be given to Brian’s family and race sponsors. It seems that everyone was going to get some gifts to take home.

Once we were registered, it was time to enter The Village. There, we had our own assigned area just for our team to gather and leave our bags. There were also sponsor booths and a few food sales booths. Coffee and hot chocolate were available which is always appreciated on a cold morning. Shale Hill was well represented with a booth complete with pull up, dip, gym nasties, and pushup pipe stations. There was a DJ and a mini Zumba warm up every 30 minutes. The best part of all of this? It was all indoors! We were able to warm up and stage inside, which was a huge benefit given the fact that it was less than 10F outside.

BBMC-indoor run

We were scheduled to stage at 9:30 for a 9:45 heat. The beginning of the race was a neutral start on an elevated track above The Village. Once around, down two flights of stairs, and then outside to begin what turned out to be a 5.75 mile race. Prior to the start, we were asked to carry any spikes or traction devices for our shoes until we were outside, which was easy and something I should have remembered for the end of the race (more on that later)! As the informal captain of the team and the resident “Mama Hen”, I was asked to lead the group through the neutral portion of the start. I’ll have to work on being a little quicker next time as it was difficult for a couple of the speedier members of the team (yes, I’m talking to you, Corrine!) to not fly ahead. All in all, it was a fun way to start. Of course, half of us stopped immediately after going outside to strap on our Yak Trax and such which led to “Wait, they’re stopping already?” being overheard from a spectator. Obviously, the commenter wasn’t about to run almost 6 miles through the snow!

BBMC-outside run

The course was fantastic! There was a good mix of the obstacles that we’ve come to expect – over and unders, low crawls, cargo net climb, tyrolean traverse (which I successfully completed not once, but twice for the first time ever!), sled drag, and weighted hoist – as well as some great PT style obstacles – duck walk/crab walk/bear crawl, overhead press, quick punches, step ups, dips, pull ups, pushups, and hanging knee  tucks. There was even a paint ball sniper station that had Corrine really excited and me shaking my head and asking, “You want me to do what?”. Add in the mountain itself and it definitely tested every aspect of the runners’ fitness. Every obstacle had at least one volunteer stationed and explaining exactly what to do. They also were there to charge penalties for any failed obstacles. Each runner was given three chances to successfully complete an obstacle before a penalty was assessed. The penalty at most stations was burpees, but there were a few other options tossed in to keep us on our toes. There were small, well tended bonfires spread out along the course in case anyone needed to warm up, as well as several water stations. The water stations posed more of a challenge for the volunteers though as they were the ones tasked with trying to keep them from freezing! All in all, I was incredibly impressed with the volunteers as all of them knew exactly what they were doing and had an encouraging word for everyone who passed. I don’t think it would be possible to run a race any better than they did.

BBMC-runoutside

The race finished inside The Village just below where it started. As we ran in, we were asked to ring a bell to signify a runner coming to the finish. Of course, I was so intent on ringing the bell and finishing that I completely forgot the spikes I still had on my shoes. Turns out, they don’t help much on a hardwood floor – I think I managed two whole steps before ending up flat on my back! My apologies to my teammates who were worried that I hurt myself when I didn’t jump right back up. I figured I was already down, so I might as well take the time to remove the spikes before trying again to get to the finish line. Then, one last set of ammunition box overhead presses and a short sprint to the finish line where we received a medal and turned in the dog tags that we wore during the race. The dog tags ended up being an integral part of the commemorative sculpture presented to Brian Bill’s family at the conclusion of the event.

BBMC-outsiderun

Included in the pre-race communication, was the schedule for the day. The last wave of runners was released at 12:30 and they were expected to finish by 3:30. Unfortunately, the racers finished quite a bit earlier than predicted, and The Village cleared out more and more as the afternoon wore on. The awards, raffle, and closing ceremony were not scheduled to start until 4:30. Even though they did start about 15 minutes early, there were very few people still there for the end. This would be my only criticism of the entire event. Somehow, the schedule needs to be redone so that there is still a large group of people there for the end. Corrine, Vince, and I stayed because we were sure that Corrine was going to place in the Solo Women’s Division. We are very glad we did since Kandice Fogarty and Marcie (Casavant) DiStefano also placed in that division. On top of that, the NE Spahtens placed second overall in the Corporate Challenge! Winners received given gift bags and awards, which was a really nice touch. Now, we just have to figure out what to do with the team awards that we are starting to earn!

BBMC-Medal

I will definitely do this event again next year. It was one of the best run events I have been to and it benefits a great cause. I hope that everyone else will consider running it too.

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Arizona Spartan Sprint Review 2/9/2013

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The second Spartan race of 2013 was held this weekend at the McDowell Mountain Park in Fountain Hills, AZ.  Spartan HQ changed the venue just a few weeks prior to the event for a “more challenging course”.  As a result, logistics also became more challenging due to a 30 mile ride to parking, a 25 minute bus ride (each way) to the venue, and a 45 minute wait to board a return bus.  It was time to STFU!
The 4.7 miles sprint meandered through single-file trails littered with loose rocks of all sizes. Flat ground was rare and there were two steep hill climbs both up and down. My knee-high socks protected my shins from the desert scrub brush and the brutally sharp gravel I encountered on the crawls. The 47 degree temperature chilled my FL bones once I became water-logged during the last mile.

Obstacles:

  • Under/Over
  • Over Under Through
  • Concrete carry with 5 burpees (new to me)
  • Walls of 6′, 7′ & 8′
  • Log Hop (obstacle formerly known as Stump Traverse)
  • Monkey Bars
  • Pancake/Sandbag Carry (appeared shorter than expected)
  • Wall Traverse
  • Tractor Pull
  • Spear Throw (my only failed obstacle)
  • Rope Climb
  • Mud Mounds & Water Trenches
  • Cargo Net
  • Mud Crawl under barbed-wire (long on a bed of super sharp gravel)
  • Slippery Wall (no running start due to mud/water trench)
  • Fire Jump
  • Gladiators

I thoroughly enjoyed the desert terrain and panoramic views from the hilltops.  Cloudy skies and the cold temperatures were not ideal, but it’s part of the adventure.  Many obstacles had improved signage with descriptions.  The Reebok name was ubiquitous and omnipresent.  The festival area seemed a little tight and chaotic, but all the usual tents/booths were represented.  Bag check was a total mess.  It was drastically understaffed and many Spartans including me were permitted to retrieve their own.  Growing pains with volunteers at new venues are to be expected.

I’m looking forward to meeting NE Spahtens at the Miami Super, only 13 days away and 30 degrees warmer!

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Superhero Scramble Race Review #Miami January 12, 2013

The Superhero Scramble set up camp at Amelia Earhart Park in Hialeah, FL, which I consider to be the Amesbury of Miami.  It has become the venue of choice for the 3-6 mile obstacle course events.  There’s onsite parking ($10) just off the entrance, which provides a very short walk to the festival area with car access if you need it.  The various lakes, open fields, and extensive mountain bike trails provide the necessary terrain for quality runs.

Registration and bag check ($5) appeared smooth for those who used them.  I took advantage of offsite packet pickup, which always speeds up race day.

The festival area included sponsor tents, merchandise, a live band, and access to the final handful of obstacles.  I did not take advantage of the bevy of local food trucks, but was impressed with their menus.  Grass-fed beef & bison burgers and other gourmet fare were available.  The large shade tents provided for spectators were both smart and effective.

The Superhero Scramble did not disappoint those who came to see costumes.  They were ample.  My kids liked Gumby most and everyone from the Hall of Justice was represented.  There were also a few villains and many teams in non-hero themed matching outfits.

The race kicked off a midst a green smoke grenade.  Here were the obstacles I conquered:

  • Barbed wire crawl
  • Pile of tires to traverse
  • Water crossing via tunnel
  • Leap of Faith jump into lake
  • Water crossing via wire balance
  • Rock climbing walls 10′ or 5′
  • Net climb up a trail hill
  • Pair of 8′ walls
  • Over under through walls
  • 5 gallon bucket of water carry
  • Rope climb with thick rope and generous knots between a pair of double stacked shipping containers
  • US Marines section with 10 burpees, low crawl, baby crawl & 15 reps of ammo box press
  • Cargo net suspended by a pair of double stacked shipping containers
  • “Hell Freezes Over” small fire jump immediately followed by a low crawl through freezing water
  • Steep angled wall climb with knotted and unknotted rope (your choice)
  • Water slide into green slime with questionable viscosity
  • Mud crawl under very low barbed wire
  • Run into a US Marine holding kickboxing pad

I had a wonderful time running with an unofficial team of veteran runners and first timers.  The Superhero Scramble course was not outside the box, but was loads of fun.  I strongly recommend you add the Superhero Scramble to calendar in 2013.  They look like they are gaining traction in the OCR world.  Go experience the scramble for yourself June 8th in Amesbury.

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Tough Mudder Review: Tampa, FL

The first aspect of the Tough Mudder worth mentioning is that it’s a challenge not a race, so Mudders are not timed.  Many time themselves and peg the benchmark at 3 hours for the 10-12 mile challenge with 20+ obstacles.  I ran with a buddy who suffered a minor bone contusion and we finished around 2:50.  I would categorize our speed as comfortable and conversation-paced  jogging between obstacles and occasional walking around the 5 aid stations.  All aid stations had ample water and a few had bananas, one had Sharkies energy gummy sharks (yum).  Some of my favorite obstacles were:

  • Arctic Enema:  Ice plunge with ample cubes
  • Cliffhanger:  Large mound of slipper mud
  • Berlin Walls:  8 feet plus, some required Mudder comradery
  • Hold Your Wood:  1/4 Log or large wood block carry
  • Funkey Monkey:  Monkey bars
  • Everest:  1/4 pipe charge
  • Trench Warfare:  Trench crawl with partial blackness
  • Walk the Plank:  15′ jump into water
  • Mud Mile:  There were several, but only one had lots of fun mud
  • Electricshock Therapy:  One of two that shock you.  High voltage, but low amperage prevents electrocution.

I experienced no wait at any obstacle and thoroughly enjoyed my experience during the 11+ mile challenge.  The difficulty level was low to moderate.  There were no penalties for failed obstacles, but the distance could wear on those who didn’t train for high mileage courses.  The Tough Mudder should be on everyone’s To Do list for 2013.  The 2013 schedule can be found here:  Tough Mudder 2013

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Featured Review: Warrior Dash, South Florida

The Warrior Dash recently roared into South Florida with tremendous success.  Thousands of Warriors lined up to conquer bad-ass obstacles during an “insane” day.  The atmosphere was festive as evidenced by the costumes, team shirts, thumpin’ music and ample eye candy.   Loads of friendly staff were available to get warriors checked in and off to the starting gate.

The Warrior Dash is an extremely well run and fairly priced event, but the obstacles are reasonably easy and rather tame.  This company has ample experience in the obstacle course race business and executed over 40 events during the 2012 calendar year.  From an organizational and event planning point of view, they are far superior to most local mud runs.  The Warrior Dash is a terrific opportunity to introduce new people to the sport who can participate in an entry-level obstacle course race.  One of their strengths is they know exactly who they are, which is a 5K event with approximately a dozen diversified obstacles.  To date, the Warrior Dash has not attempted to clone other OCR companies.  They have stuck to their formula and they do it rather well.

I arrived at Amelia Earhart Park outside of Miami an hour prior to the first wave.  Parking was a stiff $20, but check in was easy and bag check was complimentary.  I ran the 10:00AM wave as well as the 11:00AM wave.  During my second wave, I was approached by many fellow warriors commenting on my insanity.  I explained to them that I joined a team on Facebook called the New England Spahtens, who welcomed me in and accepted me as one of their own despite my home zip code.  I further explained that New England Spahtens are a pack of challenge junkies who share a passion for obstacle course racing.  The obstacles I encountered were:

  • Junk Car Traverse
  • Two Water Crossings (one with logs, one with a capsized catamaran)
  • Incline Wall
  • Wall Traverse (giant hand holds and a ledge for feet)
  • Three Crawls  (two with mud and barbed wire, one with sand)
  • Mud Mound
  • Giant Trench
  • Cargo Net
  • Two Rows of Fire Jumps

Although it was not the “craziest freakin’ day of my life”, I had a fantastic time simply having fun, while burning calories and getting filthy fit.  The Warrior Dash has a partial 2013 schedule that can be found here:  http://www.warriordash.com/locations.php  Expect a full 2013 schedule to released soon.  When the Warrior Dash comes to your town, be sure to sign up, take a few friends and indulge with reckless abandon.

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Featured Review – Renegade Run

One of the founding goals of the New England Spahtens was to promote, grow and support local races as much as we do the big national series – if not more so. This runs risks of course – a small event isn’t going to have the big production values of a Spartan Race, and the course and obstacles won’t always be as challenging, as grueling or as epic. Regardless, we’d always give them a chance, work with the race director, provide our input and suggestions where welcome – and always provide our feedback.


Type One LLC on Facebook
Type One LLC Renegade Run website

So, when Type One LLCs inaugural event – Renegade Run – hit the radars, I reached out to the race director Tyson, and asked him if he’d be open to a large group of Spahtens showing up, running his race, and showing our OCR love.

Not only was he all about it – he got us a great deal on race entry, and was super flexible when the 10:30 heat sold out, getting several NE Spahtens in anyway. This was what made me really excited to work with Type One – they were super responsive, engaged in a pre-race interview, helped us out with registration costs, and seemed to be genuinely interested in what we were doing. Oh, and we raised money for an excellent cause too.

Type One was founded with the sole purpose and objective to increase public awareness and to find a cure through research for Type One Diabetes.

Race day came around, and it looked like we would have a good showing of Spahtens in the 10:30 wave. I was bringing my wife and father along with me, and Google Maps claimed it would be close to a two hour drive, so we hit the road early. Google lied, and it took us more like an hour and 20, and Wompatuck State Park was super easy to find. Being so early, we had no trouble finding a parking spot either, and we could literally spit on the start line from our parking spot. Oh, and parking was free, which is increasingly rare at bigger events.

Type One LLC had scheduled this event over thanksgiving weekend. In New England. That means it was going to be cold at the very least, and of course, it was cold. Like, really cold. Happily, registration was indoors – broken into alphabetical lines by last name, they flowed really quickly – we were in and out in minutes, clutching a baggy with our race bib, pins, voucher sheet and a really nice tech blend T with the event logo on the front and some sponsors on the back. In my usual tradition, I’m wearing it on the following Monday back at the office, and it’s a nice shirt – it’ll go into my “regular wear” rotation (which is more than I can say for some much much bigger events shirts …)

10:30 rolled around, and we headed out from our warm corner in the building to the start line in the parking lot. It was clear, quickly, that the New England Spahtens had almost locked out the 10:30 wave – we had Spahtens on the start line ready to run for time, and Spahtens at the back jumping up and down trying to stay warm. Type One had a team of cheerleaders doing their thing for us (and looking very cold doing it!), music, an MC – a shout out to our own Shannon Lynne who was running on her birthday – a quick countdown, and we were out.

I made the mistake of trying to keep up with the front runners! I’m still recovering from a bad sprain I picked up at Fenway, and was running in my trail shoes (Inov-8 x-talon 190s) – and the first half of the course was all nicely paved path – one comment from another Spahten was that I sounded like a horse, clomping along in my cleats! We already knew that the obstacles weren’t there to break us, just to slow us down – so when we hit the collection of normandy walls, we hopped over the middle and were through. Next up, a nice series of wooden horses to duck under, and crash barriers to climb over – this was where I aggravated my ankle for the first time, and lost the front runners.

We then had a series of smaller obstacles – some balance beams with ropes across them (really liked this one!) and a series of webbing ropes to navigate – also an unofficial obstacle of some dog walkers, who hadn’t realized they were walkin head on into a pack of crazed Spahtens, before we turned off the pavement and into some trails – cue rolled ankle #2! I really backed off the throttle now – no race is worth aggravating an injury for.

The trails turned out to be a ton of fun – some steep hills, some tunnels to pull yourselves through, some pretty technical terrain – then we were crossing a road – throwing yourself over a big pile of soft hay bails (are you reading this, Rebel Race? SOFT hay!), then the finish line, where I met a bunch of the guys I’d been tailing for the first part of the race.

My finish time was quick, and a check with the GPS watches showed that the total race length was more like 2.8 miles – maybe a generous 5k, rather than the 4 miles advertised, and if I had one piece of criticism, this would be it. We had expectations of fun obstacles coming in, but certainly front runners were expecting to pace for and hit 4 miles, so to be finished so quickly was a bit of a disappointing moment for them.

I turned around and started walking back up the course to find my dad and wife – and run in with them – my dad passed pretty quickly, then my wife came in with another Spahten – she lost a contact at the second obstacle, and basically ran the whole race 1/2 blind, and with no depth perception – hard core! Of course, I immediately rolled my ankle AGAIN and had to hobble back in 🙂

The post race party was the spot that Type One showed they mean business. They had some excellent caterers bring in brats, burgers, mac and cheese, ribs, more cookies than the entire event could eat and some good hydration choices. They also had this served in a heated tent, and opened up a large meeting room for folks to hang out and stay warm – hugely appreciated, and the reasons so many folks hung out.

Tyson read out the awards, and top 5 men and women won pretty good prizes – the Spahtens represented well here too 🙂

In conclusion – Renegade Run isn’t going to test your limits, nor is it going to bust your balls – but it has the pleasure of being the last race of the season, run in the cold weather (and maybe worse conditions in the future?) and is the perfect price to bring out the large groups. Extremely well run, and apart from the hiccup of the distance being under delivered – something I strongly suspect won’t happen in the future – this is going to end up being a permanent fixture on the New England Spahten calendar, simply for the fun factor. Good job, Tyson, and the crew at Type One! See you in 2013, and thank you for hosting the Spahtens!

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Featured Review: Spartan Race Fenway Park 2012

The Spartans are coming! The Spartans are coming!

To Fenway Park?

Spartan Race have been promoting and talking up the Fenway Park stadium event for some time – this was a two day “Time Trial” event, entirely contained in the confines of the oldest baseball stadium, on the year of their 100th birthday, and I’ll admit, right up until I saw the feedback coming in from the Saturday runners, I was skeptical. See, I’m an expat, and have zero relationship or history or interest in baseball, the Red Sox or Fenway – to me, it sounded cramped, busy and gimmicky.

I am happy to say, I was wrong. Spartan did this one right. I ran Sunday, and brought my wife and my dad along, and met up with a good group of New England Spahtens, both before, after and on the course. I ran 1 and three quarter laps – with my first 11:30am heat finishing with a 54min finish time, and my second 1:30pm wave ending when I rolled an ankle on the jump ropes – sending me on my first ride to the medics. Ice pack, ibuprofin, and I can walk on it today – seems to be just a sprain.

The Venue

Fenway Park – clearly very easy to find. Less easy to park. We took the Riverside green line into town – and in both directions it was easy, reliable and got us where we wanted to be with far less fuss than I expected. Once you arrived at Fenway – they had the check-in booths and merchandise stand in a parking lot across from Gate D, which helped keep one of the big bottle necks of the weekend away from the event itself. For us, it was a simple process – running very smoothly. They did have the wrong names on our packets, but the bib numbers were all that mattered. Right here we also found the innov-8 stand, merch stand and race day info tent.

Once we were bibbed up, we headed over the street to Gate A – they did a bag search, tagged us, and let us into Fenway. This was my first experience in the ballpark, and my first thought was how cold it was – the concrete surrounding us had kept the ambient temperature lower than it was outside, in November, in New England. We got walking to warm up, checked out the start line, finish shoot, and a few spectator viewing spots, before heading up into the stands. It was clear immediately – Spartan had made great use of the venue. Every inch of stairs, seats, viewing platforms, warm up tracks … all working well as an OCR. They had a very professional setup with multiple wireless cameras broadcasting to the jumbotron, so they were able to cut around the different obstacles and show you plenty of live footage.

My one big “huh?!” was that they didn’t (most likely *couldn’t*) use the grass itself. This huge patch of field, the iconic “baseball stadium” landmark was half covered, fenced off and unused. I’m sure this isn’t Spartans fault – they could have easily put some low impact stuff out there that wouldn’t have torn the precious grass up badly.

Given the obvious limitations of being in a cramped venue – Spartan did a great job of utilizing the space they had and marking the course well.

The Course

We all knew going in that this wasn’t going to be a typical Spartan Race. Information in the weeks prior had been confusing / limited – likely by design. Was it going to be a one mile race, or a full 5k sprint? How would they provide mud and water obstacles? How was the time trial start going to happen?

Lining up for the start, it was already clear this would be unusual. They were pulling folks out, ten at a time and lining them up. Some burpees or jumping jacks or other PT while they got the previous wave up the ramp – then you were off. This worked fairly well, and I definitely didn’t see a single bottle neck during two laps – but one complaint would be that the first obstacle – a ramp up with some low ropes to go under – the starting MC had folks at different times of day doing different things .. sometimes he let them run up, other times I saw two person “wheel barrows” – others, bear crawls. This needs to be consistent, especially considering the competitive nature of the Spartan series.

As usual, I won’t attempt an obstacle by obstacle review here – you can watch Jeff’s GoPro footage if you need reminding.

If I had to describe the obstacles though – it was like  Crossfit met Spartan. We went from PT style stations – row 500m’s in 2mins, do 20 hand release push ups, atlas stone carries with 15 burpees in the middle, ball slams – all the way through to very recognizable Spartan obstacles, the spear throw (missed both times), traverse wall (nailed it both times! first time ever!), cargo nets, big walls, the longest herculean hoist I’ve ever seen and the shortest rope climb I’ve ever seen.

Mostly, these PT stations went really well – the volunteers did a great job explaining them to folks who didn’t know what a hand release push up is, or how the ball slams worked – but there were some sticky points. The rowers were set to all kinds of different difficulties – I don’t know how someone was expected to hit 500m in 2mins when the resistance was set to 1 or 2 – and no one was moving down the line resetting them all to a much more sensible 5 or 6 (I did that myself the second time through, and got it with TONS of spare time). The ball throw – there simply to incorporate baseballs – was a carnival game, but you didn’t win a fluffy animal. I personally got taken out by the jump ropes – and heard from the medics that a lot of other folks had joined me that day – it was probably the most casualty causing obstacle all day, purely because it was such an easy obstacle to be injured by – one mis-step and you were rolling your ankle in ways it shouldn’t go, and game over.

Of course, Spartan put on great obstacles and place them well – for those who made it through the ropes you immediately faced the most epic Hobie Hop ever – up 5 or 6 flights of stairs … there were many folks walking this one in the end! The over / under / throughs that bracketed the rope climb and hoist were really well placed, and another Spartan staple.

Of course, the obstacle I loved to hate for the day – the damned sandbag carry. These were true sandbags, not the pancakes we’ve gotten used too. The route you had to carry them was long, winding, and went through the stairs, chairs, up and down – I had to rest more than a few times when I went through. Oh, and it was placed right at the end. Nice call, Spartan. nice call.

The Schwag

Of course – for many folks the race is as much about what you earn at the finish line and take home. Bragging rights.

There was an awesome medal – right up there with the quality of the trifecta medals, and above the quality of the usual finishers medal – it looks great on my medal holder 🙂

The finishers T shirt – finally, Spartan have learned from feedback and provided a race specific shirt, and it looks awesome. Quality feels nice, but my XL is a bit of a frankensize – fits great in the shoulders, fits loose everywhere else. Still, I’m wearing it to the office – my “monday after a race” tradition 🙂

One real oddity – the race bibs included a beer ticket. Usual Spartan Race stuff … except the folks at the beer counter wouldn’t honor it – saying it was illegal to give away alchohol in the state … um, it’s not being given away – Spartan are buying. Of course, I’m sure the $8:50 per beer price tag had something to do with this …

Special mention to the Race Menu team – they had booths setup with touch screens to look up your times, then print them off immediately. This was awesome. So much better than the “piece of paper on the side of a tent” method! I really hope we see more of this.

Conclusion

This was a very *very* well run event. The whole day was slick, the time trial format worked well, the PT stations blended in fairly well with the usual Spartan obstacles. Rumor has it that there will be a specific Stadium Series for Spartan Race in the future, and judging by this, the very first one, it’ll be a huge success. It opens up the world of OCR to a new crowd (I saw many folks only there because of the venue, who loved the OCR itself in the end). Some small changes to the operations of some stations and this will be a huge draw for Spartan, and something their competition isn’t doing (yet) …

I’m going to give this event a four and a half out of 5 Spahten rating 🙂

Also, check out our Team Reviews – and submit your own!

http://nespahtens.com/submit-a-race-review/spartan-race-fenway-time-trial-2012/