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OCR Training at Xtreme Fitness

xtreme fitness logoXtreme Fitness Center is located in Hampton NH, and is owned by fellow Spahten Rob Gagnon.

You may remember him for his Spahten WOD posts. He has multiple credentials, with certifications in Personal Training, Kettlebells, TRX and Olympic Weightlifting. He is also working on his Spartan SGX Certification, and it was at an SGX workshop where I first got to really talk with him.

Right off the bat you can tell he is really passionate and knowledgeable about fitness and training, and particularly Obstacle Course Racing. It’s important to me that he is “one of us” (not a Spahten per se, but an OC racer) and not just an opportunist looking to cash in on the current fitness trend.

As it’s written in the bio on his site, he “can often be found running, jumping, climbing & crawling all over New England competing in Obstacle Course Races.” First-hand experience of life down in the mud can give you the best perspective on what’s really important to focus on when it comes to obstacle race training (ORT).

1495220_298640330343698_4348320835810964222_oSo why did I start with so much on Rob, and have yet to mention all the cool toys and obstacles he has?? Because cool toys only gets you so far – it’s the knowledge and effort that’s put into designing the programs and workouts that is truly worth something. The facility at Xtreme Fitness is very nice, and is perfectly sized for his needs. There are 6, 8, and 10’ walls, rings, tires, and ropes along with more normal functional gym equipment like pull-up bars, TRXs, kettlebells, barbells etc. (and now spin too for those looking for great crosstraining). There is also a small outdoor section that’s used in warmer weather, with miles of trails nearby that they will sometimes incorporate into their workouts. Normal gym routine at Xtreme Fitness revolves around 6-week strength and conditioning programs, including a bootcamp-style class called Xtreme Octane. Xtreme 10700290_298640387010359_3325176145296339030_oFitness also has Open Gym time when you can come in and practice obstacles or get in the WOD. While not OCR specific, Rob does include the use of obstacles in his classes, and focuses on many of the movement patterns needed to build strength for the obstacles (i.e. training grip and pull-up movements in order to succeed at monkey bars). While training on obstacles is fun, unless you are already good at them and are looking to perfect form, it’s the strengthening of movement patterns that will really get you long-term success at those obstacles. In other words, what’s the point of practicing monkey bars if you can’t even get to the second bar? You need to take a step back and build up specific strength first, and this is what Rob’s classes can really offer.

1795685_327021774172220_7521080291978042090_nOne Saturday morning, with a couple Spahten friends, I attended one of his Xtreme Fitness classes. Pre-workout, Rob led us through a thorough warmup and mobility session, which is a nice (and important) touch you don’t always find in bootcamps, too many of which are only designed to make you sweaty and sore. The workout itself consisted of about 8 stations that we rotated through 3 times, and included such exercises as tire flips, bear-to-crab crawls, TRX rows, sledgehammers, and the quad-burning plate pushes. Class then finished off with a core-busting circuit. It was a well-designed class, with all major muscle groups worked and many OCR movement patterns targeted. It was obvious the workout was created with a purpose in mind, which is necessary if long-term effects want to be achieved, and wasn’t just a random bunch of exercises thrown together.

Overall, Xtreme Fitness is an excellent facility with a highly knowledgeable owner, with great offerings for OC racers looking for a better alternative than their normal big-box gym, or those looking to make a field trip in order to get some OCR specific training in. There are plans for more OCR-specific classes and programs coming under the SGX banner, and I’m excited to see what Xtreme Fitness has in store!

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Featured Review: Renegade Playground Challenge NH 2014

Editors Note: Robert Gagnon has ran many OCRs, both local and national, and is owner of Xtreme Fitness in Hampton, NH. He is also a member of the New England Spahtens Elite Team, and placed fifth overall at this event.

renegadeplaygroundlogoParking: Parking was ample, well organized, on site and best of all FREE.

Facilities: The facilities were accommodating and totally adequate.

Check in: Check in was simple, organized and easy. I saw little to no lines and everyone seemed to know what they were doing.

Bag Check: They had a neat type of bag check where they had a mobile locker unit on site that was basically like the paid lockers you would see at ski resorts. Put your stuff in, put coins in, lock the door and take the key with you.

Wash Station: There was an adequate hose station for rinsing of. It was located on a paved area so once you were done hosing off, you were not stepping on muddy ground getting dirty again.

Changing station: There was a changing tent although I did not use it. I heard of no complaints about them. I do know some people used them (Dennis for one).

Bathrooms: There were not a ton of porta-potties, but I saw no lines so it seemed adequate.

Vendors: There did seem to be a couple vendors, but not many. One vendor had a corn hole game going and people seemed to be playing most of the day.

10502115_10202809824306324_5480554316653384364_nSchwag: The medals were upgraded this year and looked MUCH better than they ever have for RPC. The shirts were also upgraded to a nice tech fabric. They also gave a decent RPC pint glass. I saw a few instances of people randomly being given additional shirts, which they seemed to really like. They seemed to be pretty free with schwag so many people had no complaints about this and it was well received.

Race nutrition: Upon completing the race you were able to have bottled water and bananas and there was an ample supply

Beer: They purchased and provided Bud and Bud light, which seemed to not be too much of a hit (I don’t really drink so I didn’t care either way). Everyone was given 1 free beer. If you were on a team of 15 or more people you received 2 free beers and also got a team tent located very close to the beer garden (they called this VIP beer access).

10561738_10202809828746435_1436324409956806403_nKids race: I was not able to check out the kids race but know they had one. I did preview the course and can say that it was designed pretty much EXACTLY as the adults course (style and difficulty level), but just on a small scale.

Volunteers: There seemed to be ample volunteers both on the course and in the “festival” area. Most o f them seemed to know what was going on and were reasonably well informed. The negative, many of them smoked cigarettes and did so while volunteering. In fact, the very first group of volunteers as you entered the event seemed to be smoking so your first impression for a running/fitness event was actually a bit of a turn off. MANY people I spoke to mentioned this and were put off by it.

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The course

Distance: The first place finisher told me that his GPS had the race at 3.1 miles.

Terrain: Super flat. Although the race was an appropriate distance, they course designer decided not to take advantage of any of the woods that were part of the property. They elected to keep the entire race on the fairgrounds part of the property itself. The Rochester fair is technically a “state fair” so it has a very large open area that easily accommodated 3.1 miles of running, parking, and festivities area with room to spare. It IS very flat though so the running itself was basically easy which translated into a fast course (winning time was 22:30). Being a native of Rochester, I can say that there is also a fair amount of wooded property available but the course designer decided not to use them. My thoughts on why will be summarized at the end of the review.

Course marking: I found the course to be well marked and organized. I never came close to making a wrong turn and did not see or hear of anyone else having a problem either.

Difficulty: In some regards the course was difficult. It did have things that taxed you physically (soft sand and MANY mini dirt hills). From a technical stand point, the course was VERY simplistic and not difficult at all. Nothing really to mentally challenge or frighten for ANYONE. I saw a very small 7 year old boy complete the course. Shout out to you Calin! You ROCKED that course (finishing the last mile with just 1 shoe. He was so cute)!

10456817_723336161062006_1399558203083275112_nObstacles: There was a large A frame cargo net a bunch of 4’ & 5’ wooden walls (10 to 15 ish), 1 manmade wooden balance beam (with varying heights). 1 fixed height balance beam made by laying a telephone pole on the ground (over some dirt trenches) and 1 balance beam made from a log. There was a trench that you went down into that was filled with water and had 3 car tires hanging from ropes that you had to pass through. There were 2 large piles of hay bales that had to be navigated. There was a small wooden bridge that you went over at one part and then under at another time. This was ALL the wooden obstacles, NOTHING challenging, difficult or even really interesting. The A frame was really the best thing I guess. The ENTIRE rest of the course was comprised of MANY, MANY holes/trenches that were dug by a back hoe. The sand from the holes was piled up either at the beginning or end of the hole and required you to navigate over it. Frankly this WAS the course. This was what sucked the energy out of you. 10553569_723833684345587_7490684724615541172_nThe sand/dirt was soft and required you to expend energy in order to get through it. Some of these holes had water that was about knee deep. One of the holes had a dirt pile that was about 15’ high and they put a .003 mil piece of plastic in an attempt to make a slide (with no water). I was the 2nd person going through at that point and when I stepped on the slide I ripped a HUGE hole in it and basically destroyed in immediately. I couldn’t even attempt to slide down it because it was dry and destroyed from the huge hole I put it it. So all in all, to me the course was a bit of a disappointment. I know what goes into building a course and this took very little effort when compared to other races. They could have made some tractor pulls or bucket carries but didn’t. They could have made some muddy barbed crawls but didn’t. 10449532_724137767648512_1290637613575005722_nThey could have used some of the more hilly, wooded terrain but didn’t. My opinion is that they didn’t do this because they didn’t want to put the effort into it as doing so does take effort. I have no doubt that all the holes were dug in about 1-2 days with a back hoe. They stuck out 10-15 pre made wooden walls and set up the A frame cargo net and the obstacles were basically complete. 2-3 days tops would be my guess. 1 day to mark the course and boom, call it good. Again, it was organized, properly staffed and well marked. It just seriously lacked effort. I cant tell you how many people expressed this opinion to me. I literally heard a 1st time OCR female say “I get dirtier running at the beach and found it to be little to no challenge”. She was scared going into this event, oops! :/

I have really mixed feelings about this. I support RPC and want to see them do well. Frankly they did a lot right here. I’ve seen many races do a worse job on many fronts. However the bottom line is that people come to race/run on a cool course and this just wasn’t it. C’mon a 7 year old did it ALONE! Even with all the things they did right, I have to unfortunately give this a below average rating. Sorry RPC!  Put more effort into your course design and build-out.  You are charging average industry prices, you need to put out an average product.  Not a bunch of holes in the ground.

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Interview: Run The Apocalypse

Run The Apocalypse is a new race for the 2013 series, based out of Swanzey NH on August 31st – with the unique attraction of being able to pick your distance for the same price, you can run the 5k, 10k and 15k event – but pay the same price.

Of course, being a new race to the area, and being a first time race, rather than just start signing up for the event, I wanted to reach out to the race organizer, find out who they were and what they were about – and let them tell you what they have planned, and then let the Spahtens decide for themselves. First time races tend to have mixed results, with common problems being volunteers, and not enough preparation time to make everything run smoothly, so before you spend your money, do your research …

The Apocalypse Run is offering discounts in the form of rebates if a team grows – starting at team sizes of 100 – and he is also offering a free race to volunteers in an early morning wave, if you want to hang out and help out for the day. If you’re signing up to race, or to volunteer, let them know you’re coming from the New England Spahtens!

Over to Trent, the race director:

 

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Tell us a bit about the Apocalypse Run. What should we expect at the event (obstacles, distances, difficulty)?

Let me start by saying that I created Apocalypse Run out of my love for the sport.  My Son and I got involved a few years ago and drove from NH to Maryland for our first ever event.  It was a 5k zombie race – Run For Your Lives – their first ever event.  We loved it and felt like olympic champions after surviving with our flags.  Then we found Spartan race, Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash etc. and loved them all.  We Decided that we wanted a Trifecta Medal from Spartan so we did all three Spartan Races in a space of 6 weeks.  Then we decided that would not be hard enough, so the three of us on the team (My son brought a friend) created “Team Rock-it”  We carried 30 pound rocks in our hands during every step of all 3 races, even swam with them etc.

We created Apocalypse run and set out to make it different, more extreme than most other events, while at the same time appealing to beginners.  That’s where the 5k, 10k, 15k idea came from.  These days, I can run a Spartan Sprint without breaking a sweat, but for others, a 5k is intimidating.  So during my race, you can run 5k and call yourself a finisher, get the medal and the shirt.  But for no extra charge, you can simply keep going onto a new loop of the course that you did not see previously.  After the first 10k, if you want to continue, you can enter the last loop for a total of 15k.  But we choose sites that are challenging with hills and water.

We will have lots of obstacles but 5 of them are key.  They will earn a rubber wrist band at these which signify the 5 survival elements.  What if we were in a post apocalyptic wasteland?  Would you be able to obtain Food, Water, Fire, Shelter and Health?  When you swim across a lake to the island, do a stunt and swim back, you get the water bracelet, you run through a long fire challenge to earn the fire bracelet, My favorite is the shelter bracelet.  No big deal really, you just kick down a door, fight hand to hand with 30 mixed martial arts professionals and try to take a bracelet from them, then kick down another door to escape the shelter area.  A child could probably do it.  (A really big child after too much sugar!)

We will have some industry standard obstacles like barbed wire crawls and rope climbs, and then we will have new and exciting ones that no one has ever seen, like the door kick and our grenade toss etc.

For our first event in Swanzey, we have our first loop on and around the fair grounds property.  The second loop will be on and around Mount Huggins across the street from the fair grounds.  So you have to climb a mountain on a dirt path so steep, my Dodge Ram 4×4 groaned and slipped off.  I had to survey the mountain on foot because my truck could not make it 100 feet up the trail.

Finally, we plan to send runners on the last loop on a treacherous trail to and across a large lake. There’s an island in the middle where they will swim out, perform a stunt and swim back, then take a long run in waist deep water and navigate more water obstacles.  When I design an over under through, you might have to hold your breath a while.

 

Tell us about you and your team. What is your event planning / race directing background?

We have been to all the other races, and I have been to Parris Island and many other obstacle courses while serving in the Marine Corps.  I even ran the infamous “Mad Max” course in Quantico VA while stationed there.  That course is used by the FBI and the Marines in the area.  That was intense and complete with live fire exercise, real tear gas, smoke grenades etc.  So I am drawing from vast experience to create this course.

Our team began as a Father and Son exercise and has quickly grown to a dedicated staff of professionals, each with their own specialties to include legal, insurance and taxes, advertising and all the other essential areas.  We have carpenters and engineers and safety people.  Active duty police officers and active duty military.  People like that are all coming together to either join the staff or volunteer to help create and run the event.

This is our first ever event of our own.  But the core team has volunteered for years at Spartan and other races over and over as well as assisting in the creation and implementation of smaller charity obstacle courses to gain experience.

 

What are your plans after the event?

I am most excited to hand a large check over to my charity partner – Police Athletic League.  They have sponsored us and so has Radio Station Rock 101.1, the largest fm station in New England.

We will be planning future events and plan to travel the nation with one event after another.  I look forward to holding events in warmer places than New Hampshire.  I had to climb Mount Huggins in a snow storm to get gps coordinates to get my permits.

Let me know how many folks you can sign up and we can work out a discount for you.