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Featured Review: Thunder Run, May 2014

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Thunder Run

In a time of exploding growth of the OCR community, a little rotary club in NH decided to throw it’s hat into the ring in an effort to raise community awareness and funds for its club.  They immediately went to work utilizing their network of resources as well as reaching outside to the OCR community for various suggestions, which I believe really paid off.

The day of the race was surrounded by uncertainty.  A pretty large weather pattern was racing through the area from the day and night before threatening to make it a pretty messy day, if not a total wash out.  We literally had a pretty large thunder storm which seemed to be appropriate, given the name of the race.  It looked like the rain may not stop in time and although the race would happen, the festivities would certainly be dampened and basically ruined.

Parking and the festivities

Arrival at the race was basic.  It was certainly easy to find since it was a very large and well known race track.  On the back part of the property was a motocross track, which was to be the site of the race.  The problem was that once you pulled into the main parking lot it was not 100% obvious where to go to find the Thunder Run.  However, this was not a super huge problem, just an inconvenience.  Once we made our way to the rear of the property you were greeted by one of many parking attendants who guided you to the parking area.  Parking was ample and free!  Once you parked you made your way to registration where you picked up your race packet and T-shirt.  I arrived early so there was no line, but throughout the day, I did not notice any issues with check in, nor did I hear of any complaints about problems with it.  They seems relatively organized and timely with respect to handing out packets.  From there you were directed to the changing tent located in the vendor area.  There was no bag check which is something most people are used to having however you were able to park so close that it wasn’t really a problem and I didn’t hear of any complaints from anyone regarding this matter.  The vendor area was pretty close to the starting line and from there you could oversee the entire 1st mile of the race.  There was a booth with a good local restaurant offering free beef chili.  The next tent over was the beer tent where they served Seria Nevada beer (a pretty decent micro brew).  Like most races you received a free beer and each beer after was only $2!  The next tent over had free Yogurt, poweraid, O.J. And water.  The next tent had Access Sports Medicine who was giving away T-shirts for their company as advertising.  Next to the changing tent was a firetruck that was available to rinse the mud off the racers.  Nearest the starting line was a DJ tent that also included a live band, which was entertaining and good.  This was basically the extent of the festival area. it was adequate but not extensive.  In the years to come, there will certainly be room to expand upon this to include more vendors and activities creating a better festival area.

Thunder Run Band

Thunder Run Beer Tent

Thunder Run Changing Tent

 Thunder Run Finish Line

The race:

The first mile of the race actually took place on the motocross track, which was unique and difficult at the same time.  The worst part of the motocross track was that before the race they graded the track in an effort to smooth out the ruts made by the motorcycles.  The problem was that the dirt was pretty loose and with all the rain it made it VERY sloppy running.  Mostly stepping in ankle deep mud for about one mile straight!  This was a very challenging aspect to the race and that is generally welcome.  The not so great part was the uneven footing from the motorcycle ruts under the mud.  After running a half mile on the track you jumped over a jersey barrier and went off the track where you proceeded to a short cinder block carry.  The block carry was pretty easy and could have been slightly longer since it was on flat ground but it was not the end of the world.  You dropped your block off and continued out away from the race track for about 1/10 of a mile where you did a 180 turn and came back toward the track.  Along the way you went through a 3′ culvert crawl, then over another jersey barrier and back onto the course for another ½ mile of the muddy motocross track.  As you were about to leave the motocross track you were greeted by a mud crawl that was basically a water crawl because of all of the rain we had it created a large puddle of standing water, where many interesting belly flops could be witnessed!  Out of the mud crawl you were directed into a large ditch filled with chest deep cold water where you came upon a series of 5 telephone poles blocking the way.  You had the choice to go over or under the poles.  If you went under, you went completely under water.  Once you came out of the water, you had to run atop 5 more telephone poles like balance beams in a serpentine fashion.  From there you ran into the middle of a dirt lot where you ran around a barrel and headed out to the rear of the property past a water station and over to the next obstacle.  The next was a series of 4 ditches that were wide enough to jump over that had dirt piles on the back side of them that you had to climb over. The next obstacle was certainly one of the most talked about and was borrowed from Tough Mudder (I may or may not have had influence on this).  🙂  This obstacle was a zig zag trench dug into the ground and covered with plywood.   You had to crawl through the tunnel, but because it was a zig zag you could not see through it and it was totally dark.  The unexpected thing was that due to all the rain, the tunnel filled up with water and when crawling through you were chest deep in water making it pretty scary and unpleasant.  This along with a rope climb was the most skipped obstacle.  🙂  From there  you ran about 1/10 of a mile through a cleared area into the woods along a man made trail.  There were a couple spots with downed trees that crossed the trail that had to be navigated, a mini river that had to be crossed, then a couple man made ditches to cross before coming to a 15′ rope climb with 3 ropes (1 with knots, 2 without).  After the rope climb you went through more man made trails that led you through an approximate 100 yard section of swampy area.  In this area you had to either go over or under 2 downed trees.  After coming out of the swamp and woods you were making your way back to the starting line, at this point there was about one mile left.  Making your way back you came upon a series of 5 or 6 jersey barriers then another that had a steel fence panel that was like a ramp going up and then down the barrier.  After navigating the barriers you came upon a bunch of over and unders, I believe there were about 5 overs and 5 unders, although it seemed like about 50.  From there you had a short run to bringing you to some mini hills then a 5′ wall and then an 8′ wall with a cargo net on the back side that was stretched out away from the top of the wall to the ground.  The easiest way to navigate it was basically to roll down the net onto the ground.  From there a short run to another 3′ culvert crawl and onto a mini ¼ mile motocross track that you had to again follow.  This track was not muddy (thank God)!  After this track you had the largest hill climb of the race where you ran a mini loop at the top of the hill and made your way to the finish line which was completed with a fire jump.  You were greeted with a pretty decent finishers medal and finish line photographer.  All in all it was a fairly challenging run.  It was flat but challenging.  It was harder than say a Foam Fest but easier than a Spartan Race.

  Thunder Run Race Track 3Thunder Run Race Track 2Thunder Run Race Track

The race was pretty well marked and had a good amount of volunteers.  Just about every obstacle was manned with volunteers accept jersey barriers, the 5′ wall and 3′ culvert crawl, which was really not needed.  All in all, for a brand new race, this went pretty smoothly and was an over all hit.  The sun did end up coming out at about 10am and it made for a pretty nice morning and afternoon of fun.  Everyone who attended the race seemed to have a good time and was challenged.  There is room for improvement in the festival area and ticket sales (they had 105 participants).  However, I believe they really want to do this again next year and will start promoting and selling earlier next year.  They seemed to deliver pretty well and I’d say this race was at least average, if not slightly above especially given that it’s a 1st year effort.  Nicely done Epping Rotary Club!  

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New Race – Thunder Run NH

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Thunder Run NH is a new event, held at the New England Dragway Grounds, in Epping NH on May 17th 2014.

I had the chance to have a phone conversation with the team behind the event – and I think they may be one worth keeping your eyes on, and if you aren’t already scheduled to be at Tuff Scramblers, Bonefrog or CMC that day, check them out.

It’s not uncommon to talk to Race Directors when they are early in the planning for their events – but what is uncommon is for them to be so open to input. The team behind Thunder Run have read all the community and featured reviews and clearly are absorbing what it takes to put on a good event.

With plans for running this annually, they were very interested in hearing what they would need to do at every level. From how many volunteers they will need, where they should put their water stops, how important medals and schwag are to the finishers and more.

They had some great ideas for their obstacles – the venue is a motor speedway, so natural terrain will be used heavily, and they had some interesting ideas about scaling different sizes of obstacles.

So – while they have a lot of work to do – May isn’t very far away after all – they do show promise at this early stage. If you run the event, be sure to leave a review!