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Episode 33 – Train 180

On this episode of The NE Spahtens Show, Paul talks to Dave Hooper – owner and operator of Train 180 in Nashua NH.

Train 180 have a gorgeous facility with a whole host of obstacles and training tools for you to play with – a full schedule of classes and a new open gym schedule. New England Spahtens wearing team gear get a discount on the drop in rates – call ahead for information.

Learn more about Train 180:


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New Years is coming!

The new year is fast approaching.  Many look at this as a time to set new goals or resolutions. You want to run faster, lose weight, gain muscle, wake up earlier, buy a house, etc. Then we have those who scoff at resolutioners saying don’t wait for the new year, start now, don’t wait, it gives false hope, etc.

Both of you are right and both of you are wrong. If New Years Resolutions work for you? Do it! If they don’t? Start when you are ready, don’t wait. We each deal with things differently. Instead of knocking what the other is or is not doing, let’s simply support each other in our goals all year long.

As for you gym goers. Frustrated when the gyms fill up in January? Anxious to see February roll around to get back your favorite treadmill? How about this year, you welcome the resolutioners who are committing to health. Say hello, ask how their training is going, interact. You might not remember what it is like to be the newbie at the gym, but I still do. It sucks. Even when you are a gym goer and start a new gym it sucks. People struggle enough to get in the door. Let’s keep them coming in the door all year long.

At the end of the day, whether your goals are fitness related or not, whether they start with the new year or not, I hope one of your goals this year is to do more of what makes you happy.

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Book Review: Spartan Fit!: 30 Days. Transform Your Mind. Transform Your Body. Commit to Grit.

Spartan Fit!: 30 Days. Transform Your Mind. Transform Your Body. Commit to Grit. by Joe De Sena and John Durrant is the newest book by Joe De Sena and is geared at getting you fit and ready for a Spartan Race, or life as De Sena would rather you look at it. 

41dirjom-nl-_sx331_bo1204203200_This took me longer to read and longer to write than I would have liked.  That said, I liked this book. There was a bit of wading to do to get through the life that Joe lives and what he has his children do and the unrealistic standards they seem to live by.  Life is about living, not simply surviving.

The book is broken up into sections covering how to get started, the history of Spartan Race and what is Agoge and how is it tied to the new event, examples of obstacles, the pillars of Sparta, a 30 day plan, recipes, options for the elite, and of course, making a case for the Olympics.

Once I got past the braggadocio of Joe De Sena and got to the meat of the book, I found it to be great. For someone who has never ran a Spartan Race or is a seasoned veteran, you can find something worth your time.  The plan is designed to need little to no equipment other than sandbags and things you can make.  It includes a warm-up, cool-down, options to make it harder or easier, and is laid out in an easy to read manner. There are examples of what obstacles you might face, how to execute them, and how to train for them.

While I didn’t take on the 30-day workout, what it offers is a great starting place, something to add-in to your current routine, or something to break you out of a funk!

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The cost of a Perfect Delta

Update 2/24/16

As Spartan add the hardware to their store, and after a few weeks of feedback – I wanted to add a couple of items to this article. Scroll down to find the TRUE, updated cost to getting your Perfect Delta.

What is the Delta?

Delta-Expanded-View-2Spartan’s infographic on the Delta isn’t very clear – so let me try to sum it up as best I can, with the information I currently have available (and thank you to Spartan HQ for fact checking and clarifying this post prior to publication).

12/1/16 update – Spartan HQ got back in touch post publication with some more updates to the pricing – I’ve noted these in the body of this article.

It starts with a flat piece of steel – called a “Circuit”, with space for three pie pieces, and three Delta Icons (more below). The pyramid – the Delta – you see in all the photos seems to be THREE of these Circuits, leaning against each other on a round base. You do not earn a single, solid pyramid. You probably have to buy the Circuits too – but details aren’t available on the cost.

You’re supposed to build your Delta with three Circuits – one for each of three types of Trifecta (Race, Endurance and Training) – but of course, feel free to fill it up with any pie piece you want, in any combination. They have cute names for some of the combos – if you have three Race Trifecta’s, then it’s a 3T Trifecta. If you have three Endurance Trifecta’s then it’s a Masters of Endurance Trifecta.

Those corner tab pieces (the Delta Icons) you’re supposed to be able to earn at each venue – but at time of writing, the help article describing these is poorly written to the point I have no real clue what they are or how you get them. Neither did HQ! Expect more information to come on these in the future.

I don't even know what this means ...
I don’t even know what this means …

If you have three Circuits – one from each type of Trifecta – this is called the Perfect Delta.

Lets analyze this Perfect Delta, and how much it’s going to cost you.

Note: I’ve given the cheapest prices we could find at time of writing, and listed our source. These will go up, of course, and worth noting, it doesn’t have to be done in a single calendar year. This can be picked up over multiple seasons.

UPDATE 2/24/16

Each “Delta Icon” is now listed at $5 each. $45 for a Delta’s worth of Icons, picked up at a venue (so, no shipping)

Also, the Delta hardware is now in the Spartan store and you can get it for the low low price of $125  – photos courtesy of Jeremy Reid, who got his in recently.

Race Trifecta:

A Sprint, Super and Beast. We’re familiar with these. Sprint pricing starts at $79 (Sunday in MA), $109 for a Super in MA and $159 to get your Beast in NJ.

You can get in cheaper with a regional season pass for $259, or volunteer and get free codes. Of course, you can make three Circuits up with Race Trifecta’s, and call it the 3T Trifecta, if you like – but thats not the Perfect Delta.

Total cost for a Race Trifecta: $259 (for the regional SP).

Update 2/24/16 – I was given feedback that I should include insurance costs in this total. Even if you use a season pass, you are on the hook for $14 per race insurance. So, $42 insurance too.

Endurance Trifecta:

A Hurricane Heat, 12h Hurricane Heat and an Ultra Beast.

Hurricane Heats are $25 add-on’s to your regular heat, or $100 if you do it totally solo. Most people simply add this on to their existing race weekend though. $25 it is.

The 12 hour Hurricane Heat, if you can travel to one, will run you $150 (Taken from the Vegas event)

The only Ultra Beast on the calendar today is in NJ, and it starts you at $175 (if you want to run Women’s Elite, oddly, this is the cheapest wave – Opens and Male Elite were more).

No season pass for any of these events. You’re paying $350 for this trifecta, minimum.

Update: Season Passes CAN be used for Hurricane Heats – but there are “gotcha’s”. You can ONLY use a SP once per weekend. That means you can use it for both the Hurricane Heat and the 12H Hurricane Heat, but not the same weekend you do a race. To get a race, a HH and a 12H HH, you will be visiting Spartan on even more race weekends. Still. Included in your SP. $free

Ultra Beast – I’ve been assured by HQ that the Season Pass also qualifies you for a 55% discount on Ultra Beast, bringing the cost to $96.25 at a base minimum cost. I can’t find this documented on the Spartan website at time of writing, however.

So – IF you have a Season Pass, and IF you go to a race weekend for your Hurricane Heat, your 12H Hurricane Heat, and EACH of your three Race Trifecta events – you can get an Endurance Trifecta for as little as $96.25

Training Trifecta:

To get your Training Trifecta – the most expensive step on the Perfect Delta, you need to go through two courses, and one endurance event.

SGX training has been around a while now. To earn your piece of the Delta pie, you need to take a Spartan approved class. Coming soon is a single day, Spartan Obstacle Specialist class, for $395, that will be the simplest, quickest way to earn your piece of the pie. No prior personal training experience needed. Thanks to HQ for helping clarify this, it seems to be the most confusing piece of the Delta story.

SpartanX is something new, and appears to be an online course that will cost you $199 to complete (and you have to test out of it – I assume you need to pass that test). It’ll help you prepare mentally to be a Spartan.

Lastly, the Agoge – the “not a Death Race”, event. Offered in various time lengths, all appear to start at $375, but a Season Pass will get you $75 off this – again, I can’t find documentation of this perk, but HQ assure me it’s the case.

$669 for the Training Trifecta.

So – that Perfect Delta means you will almost certainly have to live the Spartan lifestyle – as it’ll cost you $1,653 at a barest minimum.

So – if you align all the stars correctly, and commit a full race weekend to a Sprint, Super, Beast – AND the Hurricane Heat and 12H Hurricane Heat – AND all five of these events happen to fall in a single region, then you COULD make your Regional Season Pass work hard, and get a Perfect Delta for only $1,024.25 (at present, I don’t see a single region with all these events – and the Spartan website doesn’t note some of these discounts – worth noting, this doesn’t include insurance, parking, gas, tolls, beer money, bail money and other sundry expenses)

UPDATE 2/24/16 – Plus $212 to buy your hardware and get your insurance! New total: $1236.25

As they say in the Delta description – Total commitment is the only true starting point.

I’ll be honest, when I started this exercise, I thought the end $ cost would have been much higher. While I used barest minimum pricing,  I think the knowledge that this can be earned over multiple seasons reduces the impact of the financial cost considerably. I think the biggest take away about the Delta is that you don’t actually earn a solid stainless steel pyramid – you earn panels – then assemble them at home. There’s going to be some disappointed fans out there …

Will you be trying to earn your Perfect Delta?

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My personal #racelocal recap, and the strangest FOMO ever.


These people…they make it all happen.

From late September of 2014, Paul Jones and I have been working hard on the 2015 #racelocal Grand Prix.  Everyone knows who Paul is, he is arguably, the face of NES.  Me?  Not so much, mostly by design.  I have always been a “behind the scenes” type, this is where my comfort level is.  I’m not a stranger to the Biggest Team tent, and a lot of you know me and have met me, but I’m much more involved in areas a lot of you will never know.  A “forced extrovert” is how I’ve always defined myself, I’m definitely on the quiet side.

Finally…Bone Frog!

But, boy…have I enjoyed watching this season.  Every time someone posted pictures of their medals, every time I saw someone in a #racelocal shirt.  Showing up at Killington and having someone race past me in a #racelocal “hoodie.” Reading the reviews of the races, seeing the pictures of the events I wasn’t able to attend, seeing the triumph at the ones I did.  Paul and I had so many “behind the scenes” talks about how proud of this community we are, supporting this effort.

As the races signed on and committed, everyone “behind the scenes” became more and more excited.  Amazing races like Pounder, Shale Hill, O2X.  You know the names.  I was stoked about all of them, and started checking ones off the list, what have I never done before?  Snow race.  Bone Frog.  Shale Hill.  My “to do” list went through the roof (and a  lot of it still remains).

I remember the days leading to this year’s Blizzard Blast.  I looked outside and, speaking to a friend on the phone, we both thought out loud “it might be a blast, but there won’t be much blizzard!”  It was warm, and very non-snowy, right up until a few days until the event.  Boy, did the weather change, just in time!

…and then it wasn’t!  More snow than we knew what to do with. It was awesome, and a sign of an amazing season to come! We raced, slipped, slid and slipped our way through six miles of fresh snow (that wouldn’t stop falling all year).  And, with that, #racelocal 2015 was off and running!


Killing it at Bold ‘R Dash!

I’ve wanted to do a Bone Frog for a couple years, this was going to be the year I would not be denied.  Setting out with my buddy Rob, I can’t think of a course that pushed and challenged us more.  Another unexpected weather day, yes?  So much for “60’s and raining,” by the time it was all said and done, we saw mid 80’s that day!  #racelocal was certainly an adventure this season.  I watched my wife crush Bold R Dash (I was sidelined with injury), same with FIT in April.  I was this (-) close to finally getting to Shale Hill (which will not elude me in 2016), only to be derailed by child care issues.  And, through all the races, I was able to do my “thing,” watch from the back ground and really enjoy all of your successes.

So, you may be asking yourself how I could have all these cool memories and still have this “strange FOMO.” Last year one of my best friends moved to North Carolina.  We planned a time for me to fly down and see him, coinciding with Spartan’s Beast weekend.  Bought my plane tickets, booked the hotel and the plan was set.  The #racelocal Grand Prix was scheduled to end weeks before this event, there were no conflicts.  I figured, great – I get to see a friend, and race. It sounds like a great weekend!

…And then Robb McCoy announced the fall FIT Challenge.  Now I was going to be missing something.  Now my weekend away wasn’t so clear and easy.  Everyone “behind the scenes” would be at FIT, except me.

My buddy Ryan and I, running hard in South Carolina.

I had an amazing time with my buddy, we had a great weekend; however it is really hard knowing that everyone it gathering at an event, except you.  An event you had a large hand putting together is going to be ending, there will be a lot of smiling faces, awards, laughs, memories…and I won’t be there.

It was a strange feeling, being at a fun event with a great friend and, yet, having this strange FOMO feeling at the same time.  While I was running with, literally, thousands (and thousands) of people in South Carolina and doing the exact obstacles I’ve done hundreds of times, my mind was wondering what you folks were doing.  I loved being with my friend, I wouldn’t trade that weekend for the world.  But I would be lying if I didn’t admit I wasn’t jealous, and I didn’t miss you guys.

I guess that is what #racelocal does to you.

I was glad to have Paul to talk after both races, yours and mine.  I loved seeing the pictures of the event, and the prize winners.  But, really, aren’t we all “prize winners,” everyone who ran even one #racelocal event?  I know that is how I feel.

My wife and Paul at FIT!
My wife and Paul at FIT!

And next season I am determined to not have the FOMO feeling again. I hope you avoid it as well.  How do you avoid it?  Pretty simple, something Paul and I have been working on since about October of this year..

#racelocal #strongertogether

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Featured Review: Shale Hill Weekend Training Camp

Editors note: Nicole recently attended one of the first weekend training camps at Shale Hill, and provided an extensive review of the whole experience. If you’ve never been, and you want to improve your game, make it a priority!

11891272_10103014698536852_8127605946703771630_nThis weekend, I spent five hours a day doing obstacle course training at Shale Hill’s weekend training camp. I had come up to Shale Hill for a training weekend with the NE Spahtens last summer — it was actually my first time on the course — and found the experience invaluable. I was excited to get more time on the course training and getting some suggestions for a couple of the obstacles that I have yet to really get down.

The Shale Hill weekend training camp costs $350, housing included, or $250 if you want to train without housing. For the price, you get to train with Rob, the owner of Shale Hill and an extremely excellent obstacle course racer and trainer, from 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. daily. As the Shale Hill site says, the camp will cover:

  • Obstacle technique (efficiency and movement)
  • One on one time
  • Training techniques for home use
  • Running gate assessment and shoe fitment

All training will be custom – based off the attendees goals and abilities. Full access to the course and gym outside hours.

Prior to the camp, the half dozen participants received an email with information and asking one key question: What do you want to work on this weekend? Because I’m apparently impossible at replying to anything with brevity, my reply email (minus pleasantries and logistical information) read like this:

My overall goal with the weekend is to lay the groundwork for my off season training so that I can be in top shape for racing come next summer. One thing I am particularly interested in doing is racing the full 24 hour event at 24 Hours of Shale Hell next summer. I’d be interested in talking with Rob about a training plan for that race. I see the 24 hour race as a goal race that can highlight my increased OCR-related fitness next year. Also, I’m probably looking to do the open division instead of racing journeyman next year — it’s time. Here’s a breakdown of the smaller goals that I see feeding into that bigger goal.

1. With the exception of the parallel bars, I have now made it through every obstacle at Shale Hill at least once. I would like to improve my consistency on a few obstacles: Tarzan ropes (which I’ve made during training but not on race day), tire swings, zigzag of awesomeness, and the 19′ rope climb (which I’m getting better at, so that might come off the list). Any suggestions for technique or muscles to improve so as to get more consistent on these obstacles would be great. I’ll work on doing more dips to get better at the parallel bars.
2. Carries. I struggled with the carries. In fact, my almost complete inability to make it through the log splitter is what’s keeping me in the journeyman division (as I like the option of taking a slosh pipe). I need to get better at this and would like to hear how I can train to be more efficient and effective with my carries. 
3. Figure out a training plan for 24 Hours of Shale Hell!

I was ready to head up to Benson and begin the work necessary to set the stage for the 2016 race season.

I arrived up at Shale Hill Friday night. The $350 included two nights (Friday and Saturday). Since I live around three hours away, it made sense to go up the night before. I would be sharing accommodations with the other camp attendees: Barbara, Louise, Wanda, Jim, and Marc.

Apartment 2The apartment at Shale Hill is outfitted with two rooms each containing two sets of bunk beds and two sleeper couches.There is also a full kitchen, so you can make all your food there. When the apartment is not in use for training camps and the like, it can be rented out for $150 a night.

After I arrived on Friday night at around 7:30 p.m., we decided to use some of the daylight left to us to go and look at one or two obstacles on the course. We started by heading over to the Zigzag of Awesomeness. It was Marc and Louise’s first time up at Shale Hill. Barbara had been up a lot. Jim had been up once last fall (so the Zigzag was new to him). Wanda had been up a few times but didn’t tend to race. All of us stood at the Zigzag when Louise gave it a try. I was impressed — it was her first time seeing it, and she made it across.



We also decided to head over to the Tarzan Swing. I’m able to make it through this obstacles with increasing consistency. Rob had provided training tips when I was first up at Shale Hill last year, and after a year of practice, I found I was finally able to make it through most of the time. I shared some of the instruction I had received and did a small demo on the Tarzan Swing. We all took turns trying it out and practiced getting the feel of the movement through the air.

Tarzan swing

After, we decided to head back for an early night and some rest. We had five hours of training the next day, and we didn’t want to tire our hands out already.

Saturday morning, I got up, went down to the Benson Village Store for some coffee and an egg bagel, and then headed back to Shale Hill to meet in the gym at 9:00 a.m. for day one of training. We were also joined by Sarah, who was coming to train for the morning in preparation for her first Spartan race next weekend.




We started by going around and talking a bit about our goals for the training weekend. The group contained people who were all fit but had varying levels of experience with obstacle course racing. I talked about how I was hoping to use the weekend to set the stage for my 2016 training, to get some take-away’s for training on my own, and to get advice for training for next year’s 24 Hours of Shale Hell race.
After getting a feel for our goals, Rob did a bit of talking about obstacle course racing in general and how to train in the gym so as to gain skills that would help you on the course. He began by detailing the ABCs for approaching obstacles (Accelerate towards the obstacle, use a Burst of energy to get through, and Complete the obstacle). Rob also gave us information about how to do training in the gym with ropes and recommended that we all get some rope to carry around the gym with us for all purposes. Having strong hands and good grip strength and endurance is key to success in obstacle course racing and getting your hands used to having ropes in them is a good first step.
From there, we headed out on to the course to begin practicing rope climbing and going over walls. We all had a chance to try the s-hook and the j-hook for rope climbing. I use the s-hook for ascending ropes, as I prefer how stable it is; however, it’s not ideal for coming down — the j-hook is designed for repelling and is faster and less likely to give you rope burn. I did a bit of practice on transitioning from the s to the j-hook while we all did our rope climbing.
Rob also showed us the most efficient way to go over a wall. He’s a fan of running at and then up the wall, a technique I had seen before. He also likes to roll over the wall, putting his stomach over and then rolling the legs along the side, instead of sitting up on the wall. I do okay with running at the wall but definitely needed to practice getting over the top without sitting up. This was a good opportunity to do so.
Next up was the Rope Ramp. This gave us the opportunity to do a bit more practicing with rope climbing, something especially useful for the newer folks.
Rope ramp
From there, we headed over to the jungle (the area at Shale Hill in the woods with lots of climbing obstacles). We took the chance to talk about trail running and downhill running. Rob talked about his strategy: Look for flattest path between objects on the trail by sighting far ahead for level ground. While Rob emphasized keeping your torso upright and movement minimal when doing most running, when trail running he said it often made sense to stutter step and have arms out to side for balance.
He also showed us the most efficient way to run downhill by planting the foot (not heel) and using your quads. Finally, we discussed the best way to seamlessly vault a log, planting your foot on the side on the log nearest you, instead of directly on top of the log and moving over the log in a crouch, trying to keep your head from bobbing up at down. All of these efforts conserve energy for later in the race.
Up next were the climbing obstacles, the Linkin’ Logs and the Ladders. We more or less just practiced going up and down the Linkin’ Logs, with Rob reminding us how to properly angle our feet in the cutouts and sight upwards, dragging our feet along the logs and feeling for the next grove instead of looking down. I enjoy the Linkin’ Logs, and it was fun to get to play around a bit on them and see everyone else be successful at this obstacle.
Linkin' Logs
At the Ladders, Rob demonstrated a few different approaches for speed and efficiency. There was the option to grab the rope right above the step, put a knee on the first rung and then climb normally. Alternatively, you could climb the side, which would make the ladder move less. I’ve used the sideways technique before with smaller, metal ladders, but I personally doing a more traditional climb to work better for me with the Shale Hill ladders.
From the Ladders, we made our way to the Great Wall, a five paneled six part traverse wall. At Shale Hill, you start on the first traverse wall and don’t touch the ground until you’ve made it across all five panels and the balance beams or overhead beams that connect the walls. In general, you start on one side and stay on that side, alternating between walls that have you holding blocks and standing on blocks and other easier walls that have you standing on a railing and using blocks for handholds. I’ve been pretty successful on the Great Wall lately, so while Rob introduced the wall to others, he told me to go ahead and complete it using the foot and hand blocks side all the way along.
Great wall
I had to stop and shake my arms out a couple of times, but I made it. Rob then provided instruction about the fastest way to make it across the overhead beams that connect two sets of the traverse walls. He recommended leaning out as far as you could, swinging and almost jumping your hands to the end of the beam. I tried twice, and this is definitely going to take some practice, but you cannot beat this technique for speed.
Great wall 2
The Heinous Hoist was up next. I find hoists a bit challenging, and Rob’s pointer on this was very helpful for me. He recommended grabbing the rope high and then dropping down into a frog squat using the entire weight of your body to move the object up. As you do this you almost jump back up and quickly go up the rope with your hands using momentum to help you move the object. This strategy works much more easily than what I had been doing (which was grabbing the rope high and then walking back in a squat to bring the weight up). Rob’s technique uses a lot less energy and is much faster. I will be doing this at all future races.Hoist
Our final couple of obstacles before lunch were the Alcatraz Wall and the Balance Beams. We were all pretty successful here.
We even practiced playing around on speeding through the beams at an (almost) run. Plus, some people, though certainly not me, were doing them backwards!
From there, we headed back to the gym for lunch and a quick selfie and team photo with Sarah who had to head back home.
Balance beamDuring lunch, Rob took time to do more instruction about how to train at the gym for obstacle course racing success. Some of the exercises and tips he shared included:
  • Bicep curls where you roll the weight out to fingertips
  • Alligator crawls
  • Farmers carry (for which he recommended using a weight with lip on one side and carrying weight plates almost to failure)
  • Roll-outs
  • Rope walk downs, in which you stand and hold a rope then lean forward towards the rope and walk your planked body towards the floor
  • Tricep pull downs with a rope
  • Putting a regular rope around a dumbbell and doing curls and the like that way
  • All ropes, all the time
  • Do hundreds of reps instead of a small number to build muscular endurance instead of bulk
Rob also highlighted the importance of keeping your feet happy and showed us how to wrap vet tape around your ankle and the top of your shoes to keep out pebbles.
After lunch, we headed back out onto the course to hit up the Zigzag of Awesomeness. I struggle on this obstacle a little bit and was glad to get some practice in. We reviewed doing the obstacle the traditional way, ascending the poles, and also did the obstacle in reverse. The purpose of doing the obstacle backwards was to give us a feel for the best way to pendulum our body left and right as we moved our hands along the pole. Rob also emphasized reaching far apart so as to move most quickly.
I chatted with Rob a little bit about how I am not the best at this obstacle and he recommended working a bit on getting my hands stronger. I also think a piece of this is focus. The one time I completed this obstacle, I was super focused and also did not let any doubt creep into my mind. I need to maintain that mentality.
Zigzag 2
Next up was the Tarzan Swing. I had done some demonstrating on this obstacle the night before, so Rob let me go first and show him what I had told the others. I made it all the way through. Others then took turns practicing as Rob gave pointers and showed the different methods you need to tackle the obstacle when you use the knotted versus unknotted ropes.Tarzan swing 2
We had taken a while with lunch and also spent a good amount of time on the Tarzan Swing, since it’s a very challenging obstacle for people. It was time to head back.
Warped wall
After taking some time for some R&R, the training group decided to take advantage of our time at Shale Hill and access to the facilities there and head back out on the course. We hit up the Loom and the Tire Swings for about an hour and a half and played around. We went back to the apartment in time to all take showers and then get ready for the cookout over at Rob’s house that evening.
The cookout was a great way to wrap-up the day and enjoy some socializing and downtime. As always, Rob was an amazing host. We had plans to do a bonfire and roast some s’mores but ended up being tired and decided to head back to the apartment for a good night’s sleep before our next training day on Sunday.
Day two of training, I awoke to a second day of perfect weather. Rob had intimated that we’d be having some “celebrity” trainers coming. I had been excited to learn that it would be none other than Jason and Heather Moss, both members ofTeam Sinergy, experienced obstacle course racers, and all around fantastic trainers and athletes. I have done a bit of training with Rob at this point, so getting to train with Heather and Jason was a fabulous opportunity to get a different take on some of the obstacles and learn different techniques. Benefiting from the expertise of a variety of different athletic trainers proved to be likely my favorite part of the training weekend.
Again, we met up in the gym at 9:00 a.m. Jason started us out with a boot camp inspired warm-up and then Heather led us through a stretch. It was very nice to see their two different coaching approaches, which worked to complement each other very well. Jason has a no nonsense “Just do it” approach, which I really enjoy. Heather offers a more encouraging take. The balance of the two is really effective. They are both great at showing you various approaches for tackling obstacles. Jason is tall and can take advantage of that on some of the obstacles. Heather is more around my height, and I found it extremely helpful to get advice from her as a result. Techniques that work for taller athletes like Rob and Jason are sometimes a bit more of a challenge for shorter athletes like me, and so Heather’s versions of things proved very useful.
We started our day on the course out at the wall and rope again and had a chance to practice our skills. Heather also modeled a different approach to getting over the wall — instead of running at the wall, she stands next to it and jumps to reach the top before walking up and then rolling over. I had some success with the running method, but it’s not 100%, so Heather’s approach was great to see and will be what I do in future races.
Next up, we headed over to the Pond Traverse. Jason demonstrated the below the rope technique and Heather showed us how to do the traverse above the rope. I tend to favor both methods — doing the top technique to the middle of the rope and then transitioning to below. I practiced both ways. I very rarely fail the rope traverse. (The only time I’ve failed in the last year was at Tri-Obstaclon.) I am definitely getting faster though. Honestly, going as fast as possible makes this obstacle easier. Limit your time on the rope was the key message.
Pond traverse
After the Pond Traverse, we headed down to Gut Check. Of all the obstacles, I think this one gives me most pause. I always just climb up the sides, which is not the proper way to do this obstacle at all. One is supposed to jump from the lower log to the upper one, like you can see Heather doing in the picture below. Heather talked with me a bit about this one and how to really power off the bottom log. For the first time, I did both Gut Checks (that’s right there are two of them) and made it over. I had to scramble a little bit to pull myself over the top log and scraped my arm a bit, but I now understand now key it is to jump hard off the bottom log. This will never be a favorite obstacle, and it will always make me kind of nervous with the potential for bruises and scrapes, but if I keep practicing technique, I should be able to do it properly soon.
Gut check
We headed over to the Rope Ramp where we did a bit more rope climbing and talked about running form some more. Jason talked about mid-foot striking and how proper running form will help with endurance. He also reiterated some pointers from earlier about hill climbing and downhill running. For climbing hills, you want to keep your torso upright and act as though you are climbing stairs. For running downhill, he mirrored what Rob said the day before about the importance of sighting ahead.
From there, we headed into the field where we got to do some work on the Double Ups and the Cliff Jumper. Everyone did really well on the Double Ups. Some people even modeled a fancy dismount with a flip.
I really like Cliff Jumper, so I was excited to get to look at this obstacle. I have no trouble getting up, but I am fairly Double upsinefficient coming down, since I use a rope on the back of the obstacle, do an s-hook and slowly lower myself. Jason showed me how to just lean off the top and climb down the wall on the other side without the rope. This looks surprisingly easier than what I was doing. Good tip!Cliff Jumper
We headed back to the barn for what was supposed to be a quick lunch but ended up being an hour of chatting about OCR World Championships in Ohio this October and the sport of Obstacle Course Racing. It was a good time to socialize and digest, but it took away time from training. I’m hoping that for next year, the Shale Hill camp considers doing training from 9:00 a.m. – noon, breaking an hour for lunch, and then training again from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. As it was, with the 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. training window, we really only ended up training for four hours instead of five because of lunch. Splitting things up might allow for a less compacted afternoon of training and time for chatting during lunch.
Once lunch was finished, we ran the approximately one mile out to the Loom. We had practiced some there the other day, and I am pretty efficient on the Loom, having spent a good amount of time on this obstacle at our NE Spahtens training weekend last year, so I could have skipped this one. However, it was a good opportunity for others. I ran through the Loom a couple of times because it’s always good to repeat and train.
It was almost 1:30 p.m., so we made a quick trip to the 11′ wall and the 19′ rope climb. There is no real trick to the 11′ wall, according to Jason — just walk up and over. We had done a lot of rope climbing at this point. I did a quick trip up and down. Some others did the same. A few people had kind of roughed up hands at this point and decided to save their strength for the next obstacle, the monkey bars.
Wall and ropeSince everyone in the group was able to make it across the horizontal rotating monkey bars, a lot of time was spent on the uphill monkey bars. I had never reallyMonkey bars devoted any time to them since they are not required for women running in the open division. However, it was great to see how people worked on this obstacle. The key seems to be doing them backwards so as to use the strength of your back to lift yourself up and along. The rungs are pretty widely spaced, so for someone with a shorter wingspan, you find your self almost doing a pull-up. Heather did an amazing demonstration and a number of people in our group made it impressively far on the uphill monkey bars. I decided to try, and was able to make it to the third rung. While this isn’t an obstacle I think I’ll ever have to do, it’s always fun trying new challenges and getting the feel for new things. I might come and play around on this one more in the future.
The day was winding down, so I asked if it would be possible to go over to the Log Splitter Carry. One of my goals for the weekend was to get some work in with the heavy carries. Jason said we could, so we headed over there.
The Log Splitter is my nemesis and part of the reason why I have been running in the journeyman division. Since this had to change, I needed to figure out a solution for the Log Splitter. This was my chance to get some pointers for how to select a log, do the carry, and train for success.
Log Splitter
Heather gave me a great demonstration for the carry. She told me how to select the longer, thinner logs for a slightly lighter log but also emphasized the benefits of taking slightly shorter logs which I could holder underneath with my hands. (The thinner logs, while lighter are quite long and you cannot grasp them underneath.) She demonstrated how to stand the logs on the ground with the strap separating them and then how to squat down to pick up. To do this, you put your head under the strap and then stand with a flat back using the strength of your legs. The band between the logs should be positioned, as much as possible, on the meaty part of your upper shoulders and back instead of on your neck.
Log splitter 2
I tried with the thinner logs and then the thicker shorter logs, until I got the feel of it. Getting the logs on my back properly and efficiently made a big difference. The other two women in the group decided for their last activity of the day to go and do the Tarzan Swing again. Heather took them, while Jason and the other two men joined me for a loop of the Log Splitter Carry. This was my second time doing the carry, and I was much more successful than at Polar Bear. Not only did I not hurt myself, but I managed the weight well, kept good form, and kept moving at, what is for me, a descent pace. At the end of the carry, I thanks Jason for letting me practice. This was what I came to training camp for — to get solutions to the obstacles I struggle with the most.

So who should attend the Shale Hill training camp? The short answer: Anyone interested in obstacle course racing. The long answer: I would highly recommend the camp for anyone wanting to go to Shale Hill for the first time. I think it’s very helpful to go to Shale Hill and do a couple of days of training where you can get a feel for the obstacles before doing a race there. Sure this is not a requirement by any means, but the obstacles at Shale Hill can be technical and having someone run you through them with detailed instruction is very helpful. The camp is also great for anyone new to the sport of obstacle course racing. Rob is an experienced, patient, and detail-oriented teacher. He will teach the proper technique that will allow you to be successful in the sport. Learning good skills early-on is key for building a good base.

For next year, I’d love to see Shale Hill offer “leveled” camps for beginner, intermediate, and advanced training. This would provide a great opportunity for athletes at similar places in their training to work together and learn from each other. It would also mean that people who are learning techniques for the first time would be grouped together and not feel rushed as they practice skills. Similarly, it would allow people who have already mastered the basics to spend more time working on more technical areas and improving skills in the margins to improve speed and efficiency. No matter your level of experience, Rob has something to teach you, and he is good at customizing training to the individual once he sees your level of experience. Having the training weekends (or weeks!) broken out by experience will allow athletes to have a more catered experience.

I got some good training tips from the Shale Hill camp — the weekend in Vermont was a great investment — I look forward to talking with Rob more about a training plan for next year and to begin training for a good 2016 season. I think the training weekend, plus the training I’ve done up at Shale Hill on my own this year, has resulted in some nice improvements. I plan to do some scaling back of my training this fall (to coincide with the start of my classes for my Master’s) and then will begin training in earnest again in early winter with some base building and then more systematic training in the spring. I look forward to having a good plan to do that and think the training weekend has gotten me off to a good start.

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Featured Review: Shale Hill Relay Challenge

relayracemedalAfter wrapping up the Saturday at the MA Spartan Race Super and enjoying a beer, I headed home to pick up the family and we jumped in the car to head north, and 3 hours later we arrived at Shale Hill.

Shale Hill is like mecca, for obstacle course racing enthusiasts. We’ve talked about it at length, and I’m a huge fan, but in case you’re coming here for the first time …

Shale Hill is a fixed venue obstacle course in Benson, VT. An easy 3 hour drive from my house (4 from Boston) – the star attraction is a 10k course packed with over 60 well constructed, challenging and technical obstacles – and it’s not designed to be a course that you complete in full – in fact, the owner and designer, Rob Butler, specifically adds things that are hard to finish – with a tag line of “Train harder than you race”, if you can get even slightly comfortable on the Shale Hill course, there is quite literally nothing on the OCR scene that will scare you.

This particular visit was for the 2nd Relay Challenge – a three person attack on the Shale Hill course. Co-Ed teams could sign up as competitive or not (Journeyman division), and with a baton, you broke the course into three segments, and had at it.

Now, for comparison – if you’re new to Shale Hill. There are a lot of obstacles. On Saturday, I ran 7 miles and had roughly 20 Spartan obstacles. On Sunday, I ran 1.3 miles officially, and hit as many obstacles – and they were significantly tougher obstacles too. This was an exhausting weekend, to say the least!

Athlete briefing

As is common for the venue, parking is free and a short walk from the main registration barn. We had stayed onsite the night before in the apartment so our walk to registration took seconds, and once we had our teams sorted out and shuffled – with Nicole, Tonya and myself making up a Journeyman team – we drew straws to pick our legs. Tonya (Shale Hill newbie) got leg 1, I got leg 2 and Nicole got leg 3 – each one being roughly 2 miles.

Rob explained the rules – with the heavy overnight rains, obstacles were going to be slick. Many people chose to go out in pairs with their team mates for no other reason than to ensure runner safety – then he handed out the relay batons.

Nicole finishing her leg with the "baton"
Nicole finishing her leg with the “baton”

Gee, thanks Rob. Heavy, long bolts with short loops of rope were handed out. While this was better than the pool noodle and balloons of last year, the bolt was long and heavy enough to be a pain, and the rope short enough many of us couldn’t loop it anywhere convenient. Typical Rob shenanigans 🙂

Tonya and Nicole took on leg 1, and I headed over to the rope tower obstacle to wait for them to come through, along with a group of other slightly nervous leg 2 runners …

Leg 2 transition
Leg 2 transition

and here they come! They had to complete the tower before they could hand off, and we made the snap call to all go on together. Nicole still needed to get to her transition and Tonya hadn’t seen the course yet – so into the woods we go.

Off we go!

This leg of the course is short – but full of extremely technical obstacles. I got the rope ladder, abacus rope wall, lincoln log and others – falling off every single section of the damn traverse wall, and those damn coffins proved too physically and mentally tough for me, that day. Moving through to the hoist – which while *technically* not heavier than the Spartan hoist the previous day, I had to do it 6 times, and the footing was incredibly slick – I found the best technique to be locking the rope around my wrist, then walking it backwards, rather than actually pulling with my spent and burned arms.

And, that pretty much burned me out. I couldn’t keep my grip on the tall slanted wall, couldn’t keep my grip on the double bars – and I didn’t even get on the tower. For me, it was now a case of simply getting to the transition and handing off – I was very happy to finish the cargo net towers, slide down the ramp, and get rid of the bolt to Nicole for her third leg.

At this point, I grabbed my camera bag from my wife, who was volunteering, and trailed after Nicole and Tonya who were absolutely beasting the course – all the way to the finish line.


Shale Hill is a challenging course – no doubt about it – but that challenge is the reason I keep going back. I’ll never complete every obstacle, and thats why I go back – it’s been a long while since I did the lincoln logs – but I nailed it this time. It’s been a long time since I failed the two bar over obstacle, but I didn’t have it this weekend.

As is usual after a race here, chocolate milk was flowing, people were hanging around and chatting – with it’s more intimate numbers, Shale Hill is the most social venue I’ve run into – and time with friends post event is always special.

With a 2015 calendar full of cool races (a triathlon with an OCR? Halloween race?) and a bunch of week long and weekend training programs going on – I can only encourage you again to make the trip and visit Shale Hill – it’s worth it!

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Savage Games

10258893_607716789328534_6039632274048691163_o Savage Games is a new, monthly competition being held at Brooklyn Boulders in Somerville, MA. This two hour event has a ton of obstacles, and a competitive format – that covers everything from walls, to parkour to ninja warrior – and a ton of “in between” stuff too. In it’s last couple of months it’s already become a huge hit with members of the New England Spahtens – so we wanted to gather some reviews and feedback from people who’ve been – and why you should check them out!

From Stephen Rodericks

Last year spartan race had three free workouts, the second and third ones were held at Brooklyn Boulders in Somerville . This is a pretty cool rock climbing gym. they are pretty close, not far off of the pike, and there is a free parking lot around the corner from there (20 dane st) it is about a three minute walk, but get there early so you do not miss a spot, the lot is not that big. pretty recently they have started a new monthly event, taking place the first Saturday of every month. I just did the March one and it was a blast! You register online up to the day before, and it is 25 dollars, at the facility it is 30 dollars, then do the typical wavers and check in. The event goes from 8am to 10am, and they run down what obstacles they have, how to do them, and explaining the point system. they have volunteer counting points, and give out a prize for first place. You compete in teams of four, as best as can be accommodated, and you choose your teams when you get there. Us Spahtens had 10 people so we were the only two groups that had 5 people, so they scaled our points down 20% to make things even with everybody else. There were close to 30 stations (obstacles) and they had different influences, some were parkour, some were ninja warrior, and some were ocr.

some of the obstacles were:

10974350_617759251657621_6781584965592229567_oNinja warrior walls (4 hanging walls with grips near the top and you have to transfer to all 4)
Cargo Net Climb
Short walls (run down and back going over 3 foot walls)
Getting your team up on a small platform without touching the ground
Parkour monkey bars (it had a pipe traverse and monkey bars and such, no touching the ground)
Parkour wall set up (going over various heights of walls)
Balance beam type metal contraption
Tire Hoist
Tire Flips
Handstand (free standing got 1 point, against a wall for 30 seconds equaled a point)
Yoga block pass (lying on your back, gripping with your feet pass end to end each round to the start is a point, and this was for all 4 people)
Rope Climb (knotted and no knots)
Rings (spaced far apart, and kind of high off the ground maybe 6/8 total)
Buddy Carry
2 person Heavy Carry (100 lb dumbbell)
Hop up stairs, bear crawl down
Selfie Station (with funky wigs and costume pieces)
Up a rock climbing wall
Spear throw
Broad jump
ninja warrior short leaping walls (usually seen at the beginning of the first level, but smaller)
Traverse Rope
Salmon Ladder

I am Sure I am missing some of obstacles, but you get the idea, loads of fun! they are still early on in creating this kind of an event, and they are making changes from previous ones from what i heard. But it was so much fun, and for me it is much closer than it would be to go to an ocr, and much cheaper, and you can meet new like minded people there. I forgot to mention that each station you only get 3 rounds to get as many points as you can. They encouraged you to help out your teammates as needed, and explained what you could do and what was against the rules. Overall it was a very fun, and well pit together event, full of a unique mixture of fun and challenging physical activities, one that i have not seen elsewhere. If you ever find that you do not have a race to go to on the first Saturday of the month, as long as this is going on you should give it a shot, i know ill be going back next month. My team came in third, and we had such a blast, laughing the whole time, and still challenging ourselves. That is also a part of the appeal of this event, The woman that was explaining to us all what we were doing was wearing a funky plastic tube wig on her head that lit up. So think Goofy, Challenging, Parkour, Ninja Warrior, OCR, and an A.M.R.A.P. style workout/challenge and you have a fairly accurate summery of Savage Games. And it is worth it to check it out.

From Marc Ford

11026255_627874613979418_4542654292558913222_o* Event Details
savage games is held at Brooklyn Boulders, a rock climbing facility, in Somerville. Parking is limited. The facility is primarily for rock climbing, but has taken on several other avenues, such as parkour, obstacle course and American ninja.

* Race Details
They created an intense competition that incorporates them all. The event starts at 8am with some announcements, warm up and a run through of the stations. You compete in teams of 4 and go in order through the several challenging station non stop for 3 minutes per station accumulating points. The stations include traverse ropes, cargo nets, monkey bars, wall climb, rope climbs, tire flips, carrying weight, tire pulls, bear crawls, balance beams, buddy carries, salmon ladder, over under areas, core and even a selfie component. The pace is intense, the music is booming and the energy is electric. The winning team gets an event tshirt and a prize that can range from an OCR entrance up to a month of free classes at Brooklyn Boulders. The obstacles are challenging and you can typically get assistance.

* Rating

From Nele Schulze

10982147_627875430646003_7281540324491052715_o* Event Details
Parking is a slight hassle because you have to park about a 1-2 min walk from the venue. Not a huge deal, just unexpected. The facilities were GREAT. They have a coffee shop, lots of climbing facilities, loads of water fountains etc. No schwag unless you win (or purchase)

* Race Details
2 hours broken down into 3 mins on each obstacle with 1 min to transition to each area. The obstacles were very good ranging from rock climbing, body weight exercises, obstacles, ninja warrior style obstacles, and parkour obstacles. Some obstacles were easy (eg selfie station) and others were pretty darn tough (eg salmon ladder). There was about 25 different obstacles to move through during the 2 hours.

* Rating

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What it takes to be an inspiration.

inspire2Just what does it take to inspire someone?

Not necessarily as much as you might think.  It will differ for each person.  You might not even realize that you are being an inspiration.Everything that you do can be inspiring to the right person.

Did you share a recipe that was healthy?  Someone might have seen it and decide that looks good and takes a step to cook a meal at home instead of going out.  Guess what! You just inspired someone.

Did you post a photo of yourself at the gym?  Someone might have seen it and decided they were going to do something active.  Guess what! You just inspired someone.
Did you do something that pushed you outside of your comfort zone?  Did you shout it to the roof tops when you finished?  Someone probably saw it and probably decided to do something else to step outside of their comfort zone.  Guess what! You just inspired someone.
I know that running a marathon or an ultra marathon is inspiring.  So is running a 5k when you couldn’t run 30 seconds a year ago.   You know what else is inspiring?  Walking a 5k even when you are worried people might be looking at you.
Anything you do that pushes you is inspiring.  Remember that what you are doing could be inspiring someone, just as you are being inspired by others.
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Introducing The Loft – OCR training in Tilton, NH

10351601_1531947257050158_6885141024263860539_nThe Loft has just landed on the scene, and they look like they’re worth investigating if you’re in that region.

What are they?

Part of a much larger fitness facility, The Loft is their dedicated OCR center – located in Tilton, NH at the Tilton Sports Center

New England Spahten community member, Jessica attended and sent us the following feedback –

Spacious parking, friendly staff, very clean facility

This is just what this area needs!!! The loft has done a great job of accommodating the OCR world by having a great indoor training space with a lot of variety.
The loft would be great for a beginner just trying out OCR’s for the first time or would be great for a seasoned pro who wants to perfect their technique.
It has obstacles that range from The American Ninja Warrior-like warp wall and Salmon Ladder to standard cargo nets, walls and monkey bars.
The loft has staff that are involved in OCR’s so it’s nice to have real world experience on site to help you work on obstacle technique and efficiency.
Overall the Loft is a great asset to anyone looking to improve their fitness and raise their OCR training up a few notches.
If you are looking for a great place to train this winter, The loft is your answer!!!

Check them out –