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Superhero Scramble – the future

shslogoI really can’t look into the future, and I have no insider knowledge for whatever counts as Superhero Scramble HQ these days. This isn’t a judgement of character or life style choice.

This is simply about a race that has been to New England twice now – put on some fun times for us – and is still accepting New England cash to come back in 2015.

My recommendation has to be that you should not register.

As many of you know, they recently had venue issues with the tri-state event. Lots of issues. Two (at least) venue relocations, and ultimately a full cancellation. Refunds WERE offered, and if you got one, I’d love to hear from you, because I didn’t.

However, the New England event we saw in 2014 was fantastic. It didn’t show a company in trouble. They pulled out everything they had and the course was both challenging, well built and well marshaled for safety. The festival was jumping – although much of that may have been to the Sports Park staff and crew, as we’ve seen in previous races.

At the time, I remember having to explain to people – especially new runners – that despite the gloss and shine of the New England event, it wasn’t always that way. In other regions, events were being relocated, rescheduled and “postponed” (which is OCR Race speak for “canceled, but you aren’t getting your money back” – at least in my personal opinion).

SHS NE 2014 - Biggest Team
SHS NE 2014 – Biggest Team

In fact, a common turn of phrase was that Superhero Scramble was a Florida race, with a New England event. They seemed to do well in their home state, but struggle everywhere else outside New England, where we saw their best side, and brought good turn out.

Thats changed. Recently they postponed their Central Florida event, scheduled for next January – due to low numbers. Even more recently, the North Florida in November 2014 event was “postponed” for the same reason. “Compensation” will come – but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

This means Superhero Scramble, the well polished event that used to bring out the elites, pay out prize money (eventually) and showed us a great time just a few months ago has now postponed ALL events scheduled for their home state, have nothing on the calendar for 2014, and are postponing events as far ahead as January 2015 for low attendance – but still have registration open for New England 2015 next June.

Again, my personal recommendation is to not register.

This doesn’t even take into account the recent bizarre shopping rewards program they recently announced – which is so out of left field I’m not sure what they expected the OCR community to think of it …

shs

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Featured Review – Superhero Scramble MA 2014

287868_182950378437119_1255117_oSuperhero Scramble returned to Amesbury Sports Park for their second time – and in the weeks leading up to the event, I was a little nervous and reserved.

2013 wasn’t a great year for SHS. Several events were rained out, the Amesbury event included. Hit hard by the weather, and a particularly poor choice of setup for the Super Slide meant that while we enjoyed our day, we will always remember that damn slide, the large delays in getting waves out and obstacles that were missing.

They made up for all that this weekend.

Pre-race communications were a little slow. I don’t think we got our bib numbers and race day waivers until Friday, but they did arrive and did have the pertinent info in them. Amesbury Sports Park is a venue we all know and love of course – easy to find, incredibly accommodating and professional – it’s a smart choice for traveling races, as much of the heavy lifting is done for them already.

Arriving on race day, the registration tents were right by the shuttle bus drop off and easy to find – oddly (and mentioned by many others), they simply handed you your race day stuff individually, rather than a packet or envelope – it was a bit tricky juggling our gear, bibs, pins, timing chip and two wrist bands, when a simple envelope would have kept everything together. A small pedestrian bridge brought you over the course and into the main festival area.

GPS Data: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/515816619
Click for full GPS data

The Festival

Bag check was available, and seemed well staffed until the end. I didn’t have to use it, so I didn’t pay too much attention.
The Schwag tent was well stocked – I didn’t browse the gear, but did appreciate that we could pick up our finishers shirts early and stuff them in our bags, meaning one less muddy thing to deal with! The shirt is a nice design and feel, but doesn’t fit me (despite getting my normal size) – ho hum.
As biggest team, we had two 10*10’s on the grounds for shade – which was essential with the temps getting well into the upper 80’s and no natural shade on offer.
Superhero Scramble brought both the start and finish lines right into the festival area, which made for some fantastic spectating! The final Beast wall was right in the middle of the festival, and next to the biggest team tent – so having something to watch and interact with was fantastic, and we ended up helping SHS with people on the wall much of the afternoon!
The start line had it’s own 6′ wall to hop, and was easy to find and see.
On the opposite side of the finish line, a stage and band/DJs were playing music at perfect “not drowning out conversation” levels, a tent for people eating was setup, good local beer (Harpoon!) running their own contests (but not selling their steins – BOO!), and typical Amesbury Sports Park food vending.

It never felt crowded, which was a bonus – but people did have problems finding the wash off and changing area’s, which I believe were on the opposite side of the staff parking lot – this is something I’ve heard before at the venue, and could probably do with clearer marking.

Biggest team
Biggest team

The Course

10256116_664058033682546_3512878157510169626_oSuperhero Scramble knocked this one out of the park. From a couple of switchbacks on the tubing slopes right out of the gate to thin the pack, to keeping their obstacles out of the trails (beyond a few easy things, like tire steps and wire to navigate) – I never felt like the single track trails were crowded – and when we did break out of them onto the open fields, there were two or three or more big obstacles to navigate before heading back in for some running.

And those big obstacles were well done. From clones of obstacles people know at Tough Mudder (leap of faith and artic enema) to Spartan Race (rope climb / cargo net and several barbed wire crawls) to staples of the OCR industry (big walls, small walls, over under through walls) – there were some that were easy, some tire steps or trenches to duck under – and some where physically tough, like Superhero Scramble’s unique climbing walls. One point on the course we hit the Sports Parks sand pit, and had a pretty typical breeze block drag and sandbag carry, and it reminded me how spoiled we’ve been with Wreck Bags at recent races – the sandbags were already falling apart and super light – definitely not much challenge there. Of course, when you also have ring swings and tarzan rope swings – there were plenty of tough obstacles to go around.

Superhero Scramble also do something unique with many obstacles having two options – one easier, one tougher. Inverted walls and the climbing walls, knotted ropes and straight ropes, regular big walls and walls with steps – and others providing the newer runner with a way through the course that still let them accomplish the obstacle, but without the danger and fear factor of the harder side. I think this is a fantastic approach to giving an introduction to OCR for new runners.

The slide was done right! Last years slide was a terrible choice on the part of SHS – and we knew they wouldn’t try it again – but it was great to see that they did bring their traditional super slide in, and put it right at the top of the ski slope! Due to space, the slide wasn’t as big as it’s been at other events, but it was considerably better than the 2013 effort 🙂 Well done, SHS!

Conclusion

Superhero Scramble have a solid event crew, and put on fantastic courses. We loved their use of the terrain and the obstacle build. Knowing they had an overlap with Warrior Dash from the previous weekend, it was double impressive that they were able to make use of some things left behind by WD, but change them up enough that they were worthy of the much more challenging SHS course.

However, it’s not all peaches and cream. They left their volunteers hanging, again. This happened last year too – with volunteers being stuck out on the course considerably longer than they signed up for (in some cases with no hydration, nutrition or shade, as they weren’t expecting to be there that long) – and they only just made the volunteer wave. This is a pretty common problem for traveling events who have little to no “base” they can use when they come to a new region, but it’s an important point to note if you do chose the volunteer route.

In other regions, SHS continue to struggle to get a foot hold. Events with less than 1000 finishes, cancelled and rescheduled / relocated events (in some cases, multiple times) – we’re fortunate in New England that Superhero Scramble has a good date, with a solid venue – and after this weekends race they helped boost their reputation as a really fun time that provided enough of a challenge to go back to every year.

A week ago, I wouldn’t have pre-registered for 2015. After this weekends race, I did. But I did pay Active the extra $7 for race insurance, just in case.

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Featured Review: Superhero Scramble Tri-State 2013

 

Superhero Scramble impressed us with their professionalism under adverse conditions in Amesbury – putting on a great OCR, despite torrential rains that washed away much of the course, and a slide that turned into something quite dangerous that was ultimately shut down.

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However, it did leave us thinking we hadn’t seen Superhero at their best. We missed signature obstacles and atmosphere, and for as fun as the event was, we needed to give them another spin.

The Tri-State Charger course was it 🙂

This past weekend, the New England Spahtens migrated to the Platekill Mountain in New York state to find out what we had missed.

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For those of us living in central MA, or western MA the drive wasn’t terrible – personally I had a 3.5 hour drive time, but elected to stay at a hotel half way there on Friday night, because several of the team were running the early morning elite wave, and I wanted to be there to see them off. Staying in a town called Coxsackie (no, really, we couldn’t make it up), it meant our drive to the venue was around an hour – seems there weren’t many hotels near the ski resort, and when we rolled up in the AM and lost cell signal 15 miles away, it became apparent why – this was one remote ski resort!

The New England Spahtens had once again brought biggest team, and this time, our team tent was up and ready for us right after registration (which was smooth all day) – we had great views of the mountain, the finish, the cargo net climb / rope climb and a very short walk to the final leap of faith / fire pit / Beast wall / super slide complex – couldn’t have asked for better. The entire venue was fairly compact, and rather disconcertingly, I was told that this was because this was the only flat ground on the whole course … and there wasn’t a lot of *that* … oh boy.

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Parking was easy, and close, and $10 a car. No buses to worry about. Registration was really simple, as we were there early enough and prepared enough that we just walked up to our bib number isle, picked up our wrist band, bib, pins – showed our ID to the beer guys to get our proof of age band – and we were in.

No vendors at the event, other than the Superhero Swag tent – which has to be one of the better swag tents. I truly don’t mind paying for shirts that are cool looking, and OCR related!

The start line was a short uphill walk, with a 6′ wall to get into the corral. Waves at this event were pretty small, I suspect they would have preferred to have attracted a lot more people, but with the OCR elites racing at the mid-west Spartan Race, they couldn’t put money on the line here – still, rumors of a 6 mile course with brutal hills had brought out a bunch of competition, and looking around the elite starting corral at 9am, it was clear from the chiseled abs and flesh on show, these guys were ready for this.

The Spahtens had fielded an elite team – with some confusion on the part of registration we had a few people we weren’t expecting too – but with a bunch of guys, including our usual Jeff, Mario, new guy Joe – the Ladies – Heather, Jessica and Corrine – they were ready to go. The usual amp up by the DJ, snow maker sprinklers turned on, and BOOM – they were off.

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As spectators, we could see a few obstacles – but most impressively we could see The Hill. From the ground, at the foot, approximately the 1mile mark, you did a cargo net, with a run up to a barbed wire crawl, then it went up. And up. And up. Ultimately, this one, single stretch uphill was mapped as approx 1500′ of elevation change, in a single 0.5 mile stretch. That means it was steep. Very steep. Elites were walking, slowly.

Then they vanished for a while. I got to watch some of the elites come into the final complex before my wave, including Spahtens, Joe Benoit – but then it was my turn.

By the way, those guys ended up taking second place mens *and* womens team prizes – how awesome are they?!

Pulling up the new Spahten sleeves, strapping on the camelbak and lining up with my team mates, it was our turn.

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I’ll not lie – I struggled that first couple of miles out – especially the hill – it was pretty brutal, with little chance to rest. If I’m going to hit Killington this year, I need to work on that stuff – but the reward was at the top. The views were amazing.

Click me!
Click me!

Once we got to the top, it was a series of steep trails, up and down, split up with obstacles – we had rope climbs, many 10′ walls – all of which were immediately followed by 5′ walls – the ring swing obstacle over dry land was the only obstacle I failed and had to superspin/burpee. The balance beams were also over dry land – and these suckers are deceptive. Slightly uphill, they wobble like crazy to the end – made it though!

Using their natural terrain well, Superhero made a course that dipped down into an old quarry full of lose rocks – picking up our own rocks on the way in (pick your own size – I would have liked to see a “standard” here), it was a nasty clamber down, around and back out.

Then onto the decent and into the final complex – this time, Superhero had been able to put their obstacles in a much more traditional fashion than they were able to at Amesbury – we hit the leap of faith obstacle (I will admit to walking this one), then a short run up into the woods to loop back around – over the fire pit to the Beast.

The Beast is a 16′ incline wall with ropes. Last time, I was soaking wet, and came off the damn thing three times – also watched several people break ankles, smash noses and other assorted injuries – this time, with things much drier, it was a different ball game, and I made it up the Beast nicely. Then a small ladder to climb to the top of the superslide – this is where I overcame one of my fears of submersion in water, and let go – this slide was pretty epic – easily the fastest slide out there, with a pretty substantial gap between the end of the slide, and the top of the water – yes, I went under, yes, it freaked me out, but it was done.

A short barbed wire crawl (and photo op), then through the two guys with padded bags to the finish line.

All told, this was just over 6 miles per most GPS’s, with the first two being massive elevation change – and absolutely brutal. For those who didn’t make it, I’d compare this to the NJ Spartan Super in 2012 – the climb was longer, and steeper (but, fortunately, only once).

Also, Superhero lucked out with the weather. We’ve had a heat wave for the past several weeks, with severe storms scheduled for the day. Apart from a downpour first thing in the AM and late in the day, the weather was mid-80’s, breezy up on the mountain and absolutely perfect. I’m glad I had my camelbak, due to the distance, but there were three well stocked aid stops, plenty of volunteers and everything ran smoothly.

So – thats it for Superhero until 2014 for the New England region. I’d say that Amesbury was good, but clearly they had weather and similar issues, but Tri-State was redemption. We got a good glimpse into what they do at every other event, and yes, it’s left us wanting more. Signup for 2014 in both locations is available, teams are started, and early bird pricing is about as good as it gets. We are campaigning for more of course – with Mario setting up a page to bring their middle distance Intimidator to the New Hampshire region – you can support this by liking and sharing this page:

https://www.facebook.com/BringSuperheroScrambleIntimadatorToNewHampshire

GPS Log (most GPS’s placed it at over 6 miles)

Full race footage, courtesy of Jeff Wohlen

 

We’re coming back, clearly. This was a fantastic event, which kicked our butts and was a ton of fun. Not too long of a drive to be a day trip, if you wanted it to be. Members of the community can get the details and discounts right here – https://www.facebook.com/events/541348949236264/

Many more photos on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.500171063404578.1073741849.371692119585807&type=1&l=fad515eb35

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Superhero Scramble – Team Spahten

You may be aware that one of the leading obstacle course events (Superhero Scramble) in the world is coming to our back yard. In two weeks.

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You may be aware that they are one of the leaders in TEAM based racing, something Hobie Call and many many others are confident is the future of competitive OCR events.

So we’re putting some people forward for the Scramble Gamble. A team of men, and a team of women will race competitively for a shot at the cash prize!

These guys will take on the course in the Scramble Gamble wave at 9:15am – if you can be there to cheer them on, we’d love it! The team heat is currently looking like it’s at 11am, and many of us will be volunteering for the afternoon before going back out for the 8pm night wave – it’ll be a long day full of SUPER.

Join the NE Spahtens team – we’re the biggest of the day. You know you want to.

Team NE Spahten - Men
Team NE Spahten - Women
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Super Spahtens!

Superhero Scramble wall

In around a month, we’ll be bringing the biggest team to the MA Superhero Scramble. We also want to bring fastest team, and are looking for people to field as a team (or two) in the money winning Obstacle Racing League, and shoot for the Scramble Gamble prize money.

What this means to you:

  • If you’re a quick runner, or think you have a chance of helping the team average finish time be the best of the day – send jeremy@nespahtens.com your race resume or athlinks profile. Specifically, we’re looking for ~5k OCR and road race times.
  • You should have an NE Spahtens race shirt or T Shirt, and should wear it during the race and any podium or official photographs taken after. If you don’t have one – we can see about getting you a loaner.

We are looking for guys *and* girls for this – there are team, and mens / women’s prizes available!

We’ll pay for your $30 additional entry into the Elite Wave (you are responsible for your own race entry, if you don’t have it already) – but any prize money you win will be yours to keep. If you want to race later in the day, or in the night wave, you’re on your own for that entry..

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How much money is on the line?

First place team – $2000
Second place team – $1000
Third place team – $500

Keep in mind, you will also be eligible for individual prizes on top of this.

First place male / female – $1000
Second place male / female – $500
Third place male / female – $250

To apply – send an email with your race resume to jeremy@nespahtens.com by May 24th, 6pm. Team announcements will be made by May 28th – Race day is June 8th!