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Featured Review: Civilian Military Combine – Brooklyn 2014

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

cmcdogtagNYC CMC – 9/27/14
Lisa Siedlarz

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Featured Review: CMC Urban Assault 2013

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

http://www.newenglandspahtens.com http://www.rt2photo.com CMC Brooklyn. Sept 2013

More photos | CMC Website

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

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

 

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

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

Lets get into the meat of the review.

The Venue.

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

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

The Event.

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

My favorite piece though – the five biggest Crossfit boxes (the five biggest teams of the day) also had their own space, right there. Some of them used it to sell their box and box t shirts – some used it as nothing more than a place to gather and hang out – and one used it for inflatable jousting tournaments (for charity). Why doesn’t EVERY event out there promote and encourage their biggest teams like this? Such a simple thing – set aside a small piece of space and let your biggest fans and biggest promoters get some fun times in. Great move.http://www.newenglandspahtens.com http://www.rt2photo.com CMC Brooklyn. Sept 2013

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

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

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

 

The Race.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


http://www.newenglandspahtens.com http://www.rt2photo.com CMC Brooklyn. Sept 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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