Posted on Leave a comment

Featured Review: Tuff Scramblers – May 2018

Tuff Scramblers in Rehoboth, MA is a challenging, fun, and unique event. It is a 5k course spread over 140 aches with over twenty natural and man made obstacles that offers an experience you’re not likely to find at other events.

This race is a bit of a drive for me, but it’s a drive I’m willing to make because it’s such a great time. It is easy to find, clearly marked by signs directing athletes to the field to park. Parking was within a stone’s throw to where the Registration tent was.

There was a long back up at registration. It was very slow moving and when I got to the table, I was able to see why. There was only one person running the registration table. This meant that she was dealing with bib pick-up, wristbands, t-shirts, day of registration, and any questions. She was trying to be as efficient as possible, but it was clearly overwhelming for her. It is possible that volunteers slated for the Registration tent had not come, however it is something that maybe a volunteer from another location could have been pulled at least for the early morning rush.

From the registration tent, athletes followed along the dirt road into the festival area. To the left was the changing tents and showers followed by an area where larger teams had been given space to set up a meeting place. To the right there was a man creating chainsaw sculptures that were for sale – he was also responsible for making the pretty epic first place trophies for the elite wave. Also to the right was the makings of a bonfire, though wind deterred the Tuff Scramblers team from igniting it. There were tables set up by the Army,Air Force, and National Guards. There was also a large tent where participants could go to exchange their food and beer ticket then hang out while spectating other runners. The festival area is a low key setup, however it has excellent access to a bunch of the fun obstacles for spectating.

Tuff Scramblers has a course unlike any other I have ever seen. It incorporates trails that at times become single track, weave through the woods, through streams, then back out to the open layout near the festival. In the woods is where participants find most of the natural occurring obstacles. There are plenty of rock formations to scramble over, streams to trudge through, and rocky terrain to hop across. For the most part the course was well marked with pink flags, tape, and paint. However, there were a few who got turned around or missed a turnoff and accidentally cut a small portion of the course. I believe that it was early in the race around the first two hills in the woods, but after that point all the course markers were easily located. There were two water stations on course and the volunteers there were cheery and engaged with the runners as they made their pit stop.

As advertised, you will not find the typical rope climbs and walls at Tuff Scramblers that you may find at other races. Participants will find large sand and clay piles as well as two boulder piles to crawl over. There are walls and an a-frame made of large PVC piping, as well as concrete pillars to jump across. Much of the obstacles that can be found at Tuff Scramblers are created using construction materials. Another thing that should be noted that on this course you will get wet and you will get muddy. Whether it be through a pool of muddy water, of climbing some of the obstacles that have water spraying down at you. The race ends, bringing the participants through a small brook, with about thigh deep to waist deep water. Once you climbed out a bit down the way, there were two options to finish the race. Participants could choose to swim across the pond or take the land route. The pond had a downward slope before it got a bit deep. For someone of average height you could not just walk across. It then had a small incline back out and brought you straight to the finish line.

The shirts from Tuff Scramblers are one of my favorite race shirts. It is a soft tech shirt sporting the Tuff Scramblers name on the front. On the back has the date and location of the event as well as a statement that they proudly support the various branches of military and the EMS team that was present at the event. The medal ribbon displays the date and location of the event, which is always a nice bonus.

After runners finished they were treated to food and drink. You could use your Beer ticket to exchange for a beer or non-alcoholic beverage. As someone who does not drink beer, I appreciated this because I could exchange my ticket for an iced tea. Those who do enjoy beer had a variety of Narragansett beers that they could pick from. Runners get quite the treat when they finish Tuff Scramblers because they also get post-race food included in their registration. We got two sliders with either pulled pork or sausage and peppers, a salad, and a choice of two different types of baked beans. The food was excellent and really hit the spot afterwards.

Over all, despite a few very minor kinks between registration and course marking, this is still one of my favorite events. It offers such a unique experience and atmosphere. The shirts being my all time favorite, is simply a bonus.

Posted on 1 Comment

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

FIT

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.

BoneFrog
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!

 

Bold
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.

Ryan
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

Posted on 1 Comment

The Kids Are In The Game!

Benson Bear

Soon, the 2016 #racelocal Grand Prix will be on us.  Walls will be climbed, heavy things carried, miles will be run, mountains will be scaled.  There are medals to be earned.  One of the items we are very excited, and very proud, to announce about ~this year’s~ 2016 Grand Prix is it’s not just for *you* any longer.

It’s time to get the kids into the game!

A few early details for you: Some races will have a minimum age requirement, some will not.  Some will have a minimum age requirement, and require the child to run with their parent.  But this year your children are going to have the ability to run, crawl, jump, get muddy, and #racelocal right along with you! FULL details are coming very soon!

MaAlong with the registration information, there will be information about how to register your child for #racelocal as well.  While you are earning swag for your races, so will your child (or children). Oh, wait…you didn’t think we’d save all the cool stuff for the big kids, did you?  Oh, no…we have a lot of very cool things lined up just for the kids division!  The more they race, the more they earn!

What could be better than spending the day together, racing, and earning cool swag?  That’s what we thought, too…nothing!  Which is why we’ve put this whole thing (and prizes) together!

Racing should be able to combine all of your passions together, and now it can.  We told you the 2016 #racelocal was going to be bigger and better than ever, and we mean it.

Now, look – medals and prizes are fantastic, we all enjoy earning them.  We have all crossed a finish line with friends, our battle buddies. Imagine taking on a race with your family! Helping each other on the course, building memories as you finish the race together; those would be memories which would stay with you, and your family members, forever!  Ultimately this is the big goal, to bring us all together.  #racelocal #strongertogether

FIT

We hope you have questions, and we hope you’re as excited as we are! Keep your eyes peeled, more information will be coming soon!  All questions will be answered soon!

Posted on Leave a comment

Featured Review: Tuff Scramblers 2015

TuffScramblers_WITH-TAGIf you live anywhere near Rehoboth and have yet to attend a Tuff Scrambler, you are seriously missing out on a great local race! As one of the first really muddy local events of the season, this is one you should never miss.

Joe, Carinda and the rest of the crew – made up of family, volunteers, and family volunteers – always do a great job of keeping registration moving, making sure there is plenty of water available at the water stops, and recording official finish times at the finish line. There is typically a decent turnout for this race, and this one was no different!

11013528_850644525023895_4561042389603460885_o

Previous reviews have been written on this event and they detail the course, so I won’t bore you with the specifics. (You can go here to check out last October’s review.) For those who are new to OCR and Tuff, this is a flat yet technical 3 mile course. There are walls and various other things to traverse, a cargo net climb, and plenty of things to crawl under, but there are no heavy lifting obstacles. In fact, there are very few obstacles that a single person could not complete on their very own. Joe didn’t have time to add to his ever changing course after the crazy winter we endured around here. As a result there was really only one change this time around – after exiting the wooded trail for the first time there is a hill of sand and then the mud crawl. After the mud crawl there used to be another mound of dirt. This mound was knocked down and turned into a mud hole instead, with 2 deep areas, which kept participants and spectators guessing all day long. Where are the deepest parts? Where are the shallowest parts? This was a great addition to an already great course.

10397195_850652611689753_4445747497661691968_oIn previous reviews, there has been mention of the course markings. In the earlier days there were definitely some places where extra marking was needed. I can remember having to stop, look around, and figure out where to go. For this event there was never any doubt. There was tape everywhere! In the middle of the course, where all the spectators can hang out and watch a multitude of obstacles, the traffic cones were even replaced with tape. I can honestly say, there was no shred of doubt where to go! I think they have this solid now, with miles upon miles of tape used to mark the course..

Post race, the tent was set up for free noms and a free beer (both a part of race registration). I opted not to use either of my freebies, but from the line looping through the tent I would say the fare options were favorable and many were taking the opportunity to have a yummy lunch!

11270494_850652745023073_2425915685002007643_oCleaning up was a breeze. There were hoses and shower stalls available – one each for men and women. While I was sad the horse trailer changing stations were gone – part of the charm of having a race on a farm – they were replaced with more spacious tents. The tents were great, except for the fact that there were open seams facing the general public and so you had to be careful you didn’t end up in *that* corner, just in case the wind blew the wrong way.

IMG_9004Another nice change: Bling! Yes, you read that correctly. I did like the pint glasses, but in my house we have enough race pint glasses to have replaced our drinking glasses with nothing but pint glasses. It looks like Tuff has joined the ranks of giving out finisher medals. Bling fanatics, rejoice!

Pros:
– Organized
– Nearly flawless course marking
– Larger teams get tent space (like we did!!)
– Continuing trend of safety color tech shirts for finisher shirts
– Bling in favor of pint glasses

Suggestions for Improvement:
– More volunteers needed on course, specifically at the obstacles

Posted on Leave a comment

Featured Review: Tuff Scramblers – October 2014

TuffScramblers_WITH-TAGRegistration: We always arrive a little earlier than when registration opens, so we went along to set up the tent and they were ready for us when we returned. We were ready to go in 90 seconds!

10736117_10152360055191604_701623884_nBling: Tuff is one of the few races that doesn’t offer a medal. They do offer a pint glass to pair with your tech shirt. The pint glass was the same we received in the Spring.  The tech shirt was a lovely hunter orange (great for running visibility!), but I was a little sad to see the running mud man no longer a part of the design.

Vendors: Unleashed, Air National Guard, Below the Waist, and a log carver

Food: Included in registration was a free meal and a free beer. The food options were all tasty – pulled chicken, pulled pork, potato wedges, and a salad. The free beer was Naragansett and this time even offered Octoberfest in addition to Lager and Light.

 

If you’ve done a Tuff Scramblers before, then you know what to expect and what standards are met for each event.  This stationary course never fails to challenge, and it is always fun to see what new obstacles Joe implements.

We brought about 25 people to this event, and with other events happening on this very same day in our back yard this was a great little group.  We were large enough to once again be offered a tent area, and also be allowed to bring 2 tents along with us.

According to my GPS, the course checked in at just shy of 3 miles.  Do not let this deter you from doing this in the future as these three miles are on technical and mostly flat terrain, offering a challenge even to a seasoned runner.

The course generally remains the same, see my previous review here.

True to form, Joe implemented a new obstacle.  Out near the stair climbs and over unders there was placed a cement cylinder with perforations just large enough to be hand holds and foot holds!  It was set on its side forcing you to climb the circumference of the tube and get yourself down the other side.  This was a great addition to an already fun and technical course.

water and it was a diagonal approach to the finish line.  There was muck.  It was deep at points.  I have to say this was a nice little change up and I’m glad they were able to put something in place to utilize the pond, even if it did mean a dirtier than usual finish!

Additionally, the Elites had to run 2 laps of the course rather than just one.  Personally, I love this idea!  However, the elite field was a small number. This was a little disheartening for the organizers, and I’m sad to see it wasn’t more well embraced.

Tuff Scramblers remains on my schedule for next year.  It continues to be a great course and will be included in #racelocal.  Another change was due to Mother Nature not giving the farm enough rainfall recently.  The traditional end of the race brings you through the pond and to the finish line, but the pond was really quite low.  As a result the course went further down the bank to a point where there was some

 

 

Posted on 5 Comments

Tuff Scramblers and Unleashed

Unleashed in Warwick RI, already one of our favorite indoor training venues for obstacle course racing recently announced that they would be partnering up with the folks over at Tuff Scramblers, one of our favorite fixed venue courses.

unleashedtuff
http://www.unleashedusa.com/outdoors-at-tuff.html

It makes sense – Tuff Scramblers, despite being a fixed venue with permanently installed obstacles only ran two events per year, and Unleashed, despite having amazing indoor facilities, was lacking in the mud and terrain.

http://unleashedusa.com/

I reached out to the Unleashed crew, and asked them some questions.


– How do you plan on using the venue?

We would like to use this venue as an outdoor training facility. There’s great technical trails for longer runs and the obstacles open possibilities for many skill and technique building drills. With all of the races and the rising number of participants we feel the community needs more training and preparation for the races not only for the competitive edge but also for injury prevention.

– How much access do Unleashed members have to the venue?
They will have the same access they would have at Unleashed indoors. Access to classes, special events, private scheduled functions all with our trained and highly certified coaches.

– What changes do you have in store for fans of the Tuff Scramblers series?
You can only imagine the possibilities and additions that can happen with two great creative thinkers with a true love of the sport. I can’t divulge anything specific, but be assured any changes would positively effect the OCR venue and the experience of the racers.

– Whats next for Unleashed? (World domination!)
Yes!!! At least national domination!

tuffmonkeybars

tufflogo

Then, I followed up with some questions for the Tuff Scramblers owners:

– What does this mean for the Tuff Scramblers venue and events?
Our events will go on as usual, twice a year, in May and October. However this may give us the opportunity to create some new obstacles that can be implemented at future races.

– Will you be opening up to training for people outside of Unleashed?
All participants will have to go through Unleashed to register and it will be pre entry only.

– What changes will you make as you transition from a twice a year race, to a year around training facility?
We do not plan on making many changes to our venue as a whole, but I will continue to try and create different obstacles that I feel would be interesting and challenging and ones you normally wouldn’t see at other races.

Unleashed plans weekly outdoor training courses at the Tuff venue, and is extending the same generous $5 discount they do at their main facility when you register. You can find more information, and pre-register your place here – http://www.unleashedusa.com/outdoors-at-tuff.html

Posted on 1 Comment

Featured Review: Tuff Scramblers, May 2014

Tuff Scramblers is a stationary course built in Rehobeth, MA. 2 times a year they hold races on the course, once in the Spring and once in the Fall. This particular race was part of the inaugural Grand Prix. #racelocal

216423_215256861820563_765745_n

Parking: They changed this up a bit for this race, but I believe it was for the better. Elites, Volunteers, VIP team tent (if you were responsible for bringing the tent) were all able to park in the lot located on site. Everyone else was asked to park at a lot about 1/2 mile away. It is an easy and quick walk to the other lot, but also a shuttle ran in a timely fashion. The reason for the change, was to allow the shuttle bus a better turn-around situation.

10255542_652443044844045_6954630052041409109_o
Registration: We arrived a little before 8, but at 8am registration was easy, organized, and uneventful. This isn’t a surprise, as I have never had an issue with registration.

Bling051714Bling: Tuff is one of the few races that doesn’t offer a medal. They do offer a pint glass to pair with your tech shirt. Both the glass and the shirt design changed this race.

 

Vendors: Unleashed, FIT Challenge, Air National Guard, Muscle Milk, Below the Waist

Food: Included in registration was a free meal and a free beer. The food options were all tasty – pulled chicken, pulled pork, potato wedges, and a salad. The free beer was Naragansett. I’m not much of a fan of beer, but I did drink close to half of it.

Now, that we have all that out of the way, let’s talk about the course.

If you’ve never done a Scrambler before, Joe (the RD, and the mastermind behind this course) is really great about tweaking things for the next event. This was my 4th Scrambler, and while I generally know what to expect, I love that there is always a surprise!

Prior to everything kicking into high gear, Joe chatted with us to let us know he made the course longer and apologized for not making a lot of the changes he had planned due to the crazy winter weather.

From the starting line we took off into the woods and looped around to tackle a couple dirt mounds. Then it was back into the woods again, emerging to find another dirt pile, a mud pit bear crawl, and another dirt mound. The pit was new for the Spring 2013 race. It started off with just netting and no real supports to keep you from accidentally popping up between the netting strips. In the Fall race it had metal pipes holding the netting up, and many people earned some eggs on their noggins from smashing into them. This time around I was happy to see the pipes were swapped to PVC, but there were straps and rope used to keep the netting from sagging between the pipes. I saw a number of people struggle with having to duck under the ropes/straps and not eat mud in the process. I wonder if using some smaller PVC and tying the ends of the netting to it might be a better idea. I loved the challenge of ducking, and I enjoy the evolution of this obstacle.

10265471_652442611510755_5689491503165079984_o

From this point it is a blur. I don’t ever remember a course, no matter how many times I run it. I know there was lots of mostly flat wooded trail, with rocky technical terrain (which is always fun and challenging). A few more mounds to climb, the wall of boulders to negotiate, the metal plate wall, the barrel hop, stone pillars, the log climb overs, balance beam, cargo net, vertical tubes, hay bale “marshmallow” tower, PVC a-frame, and monkey bars.

Newly added was a 6 ft PVC wall, with straps to help get you over. This was great! I had a couple of people in front of me so I used the time to figure out my plan of attack. Also, the newly added trail brought a new, and giant, boulder to get up and over. As I approached it I definitely said out loud, “Well, this is new!” as I negotiated a way up and over!

This course has always been fun and challenging, and I don’t believe this will ever get stale.

I ran with the team in the 11am heat, and I think toward the end of my race I bumped into the heat before. As a result there were some bottlenecks at the last major obstacles. Normally this wouldn’t be such a big deal, but this was my final Grand Prix race, so time mattered a little more. The cargo net had about 10 people climbing it with 3 deep waiting to tackle it. The vertical pipes were 2 people deep waiting, but while some people struggled others didn’t, so the wait wasn’t too long. The Marshmallows were easily 8 deep waiting, and there was also a line at the monkey bars. I blasted through all of these as fast as I could when it was my turn, but I easily burned 5 minutes waiting in lines at the end of my race. This race has definitely grown over the past 2 years, so it might be time to start looking into expanding obstacles to accommodate more racers. Granted, there were definitely other times where these bottlenecks weren’t present and therefore I may have just hit these obstacles at the peak time of the day.

Cleanup: Being that this race takes place on a farm, the changing rooms are horse trailers which always makes me giggle. They supply a couple shower stalls, and 6-8 free standing hoses. When I ventured over to the cleanup area it was a buzzing place. The ladies trailer had a line, as did the hose off area. I opted for an additional plunge in the pond and then changing my outer layers behind a tent, which I could have done anywhere since I decided not to strip completely.

Timing: For the first time ever, Tuff Scramblers used a timing company. Gone are the days of a volunteer at the end guessing your start time. The timing company used was Racewire, and as with anything new there were some issues. I checked the time sheet and didn’t find my name on the list. This was easily fixed by having a chat with the guys running the booth. I gave them my bib and my estimated finish time. They assured me that they were jotting down the bibs that didn’t beep, and hypothesized that the water crossing was killing the chips. No big deal. They will get the timing situation squared away I am certain. (UPDATE: Tuff Scramblers has already started handling this issue. They were not pleased with Racewire and are investigating their options going forward.)

It is evident this race is becoming more popular, and therefore more people are participating. We *officially* brought 40 people to this event, with many others running Elite or with another team. I am looking forward to seeing how this event continues to grow!

This was another great race put on by Tuff Scramblers and I can’t wait for the next one in the Fall!

image

 

Posted on 1 Comment

Featured Review – Tuff Scramblers Fall 2013

740356_10151991141105159_377435001_o
Tuff Scramblers is a smaller (but growing!) OCR held in Rehoboth, MA – though their website makes reference to the fact that they may be hitting the road or creating some new locations.  They hold 2 events a year – one in the spring (usually May) and one in the fall (usually October).

*********************************************************

This was my 3rd Tuff Scramblers; my 2nd of the fall race variety.  In 2012 I was still recovering from a broken hand so I couldn’t take on the course in all it’s glory, but I did what I could.  I also remember it was REALLY chilly.  This year the weather was much more cooperative with highs near 70 degrees and no injuries to speak of to hinder my abilities.

Jeff and I arrived really early – around 7:30am.  I think there may have been 6 cars in the on-site lot at the time we arrived.  Needless to say, parking was not a difficult thing at all.  Since we were one of the larger teams, we were offered a spot to set up a tent and essentially make a home base for all of us to gather when we weren’t racing, or watching, or taking in the sites. We found our spot and set up the tent, then hung around by the traditional campfire we’ve come to know and love at this event.  The tent area was conveniently located right across the way from the campfire, and gave a reasonable view of the ending leg of the race.   This was a great way to make use of this little section of land and I think there were a total of 6 teams who were granted the opportunity to use this perk.  I thought this was a nice touch!

IMG_1010

Once we were set up, we headed back to registration.  It was still really early and volunteers were accumulating at this point.  Registration was a breeze.  No lines for Jeff and me.  Since we were recognized we didn’t even need to show ID.  We collected our tech shirts (ladies received pink, and gents received gray – however I understand you could trade colors later in the day if you had a preference for the other color) and pint glasses (which, I discovered have the date on them!) as well as our bibs and free drink coupons (we opted not to get meal coupons at registration so these weren’t included).

1375711_10151655163546604_16547148_n

The festival area had plenty going on.  The Air Force had a presence.  Reebok brought their store on wheels and had various shoes and workout attire for sale.  B-Low The Waist had a tent set up.  Core Power was offering samples right near the finish line.  Unleashed set up camp right across from our tent and was using the Salmon Ladder as a contest to win a free spring race.  There was also a food/beer tent.  The DJ was set up closer to the Starting Line but all of the speakers were aimed at the festival area, so there was never a time you couldn’t hear him – unless you clearly weren’t paying attention.

The spectator areas are among the best anywhere.  I was able to watch our elite team run through a number of obstacles without having to move too far from where I initially entered the spectator area, from this one location I was able to watch nearly 8 obstacles be traversed.  The course is set up in just a way that all the boring trail running (let’s face it, it isn’t as exciting to watch someone negotiate technical trail now is it?)  is left out of sight for the spectators, but several times they end up in a rather large clearing where really all of the actual obstacles are set up.  There are a number of photo opportunities and (from the runner’s perspective) it’s awesome to have random people, as well as teammates and family, cheering you on.  I honestly don’t think there is another race out there that has this level of accessibility to the course.

At the Starting Line there was an MC clearly announcing everything we needed to know about the course.  Heats seemed to be heading out a couple minutes early, if not exactly on time.  Since each heat was separated from the next by about 45 minutes, the heats had plenty of time to move through the course without the next heat being hot on their heels.

The course always surprises me.  Sure, the layout isn’t going to change drastically, but I can honestly say that each of the 3 times I’ve participated in this event, the course has had upgrades or changes.  The course start was the same as it was in the spring, but different from where it was last fall.  Each race, the evil mastermind race director adds some new level of fun and crazy to what already exists.  This time around was no different.  You can always count on the pickle barrel hop, and the pillar hop, as well as the balance beam and over-unders.  When you sign up for a Tuff Scramblers race you can count on some mud to muck through, ant hills to climb, and rocks to traverse.  This time around we encountered a pipe a-frame to conquer (think an A-frame ladder wall, but instead of wood use 5 or 6 inch PVC pipe) and, to add a little extra difficulty, we were being sprayed with water from the top.  Also, for the first time ever the hay bales were stacked 4 high – and let’s not discuss how the monkey bars were being sprayed with water too!

860898_10152303275854552_868474192_o

I’d also like to mention the course marking situation.  This year course marking was the best yet!  Both times previous, I lost the trail in the middle of the woods.  On the most technical parts I would focus so much on my foot placement that I’d miss a turn and when I looked up to see where to go I found myself spinning in circles looking for some tape or an arrow.  This never happened on the course this time.  The course was marked so well that I never questioned where I needed to go – even when I was deep into race brain!

There were plenty of water stops along the course.  I actually had to tell a young volunteer that I didn’t need any water at one of the stops.  It was great that the volunteers were standing at the ready with cups of water in hand, so they could just pass them off to racers as needed.  While I didn’t need all the stops, the weather was perfect for a comfortable run, it was good they existed.  The water stop at the finish line was visible to finishers.  Our very own Corrine was volunteering at this station too which was a bonus!

IMG_1045

Getting clean is sometimes a challenge after these types of races, but I think they are well on their way to having the market cornered on this front.  While I didn’t utilize the facilities, I did peek at what they had available.  In the spring there were 2 semi-private shower stalls available to clean off.  These stalls were wooden frames with shower curtains and a hose.  The failure was that once clean, there was nowhere else to go to get changed.  Also, the line for these showers was probably about 5 deep all day long.  This time there were 4 stalls (2 for the ladies and 2 for the gents) and they had wooden doors.  Changing rooms were made available in form of horse trailers – which I found hysterical and appropriate being that we were on a farm!  I even heard a rumor that the water was warm (not hot, but also not cold).  This detail wasn’t exactly confirmed.  I did ask around and heard mostly that it wasn’t cold – but we’ll go with it all the same.

IMG_1008

All in all, this event is always well organized and fun.  I’d expect nothing less from the organizers.  The bonus is that it happens to be one of the closest races to my house I’ve encountered to date.

PROS:
* Awesome Course Markings
* Improved post-race cleanup
* Team Tent area
* Festival area
* Spectator area
* Organization
* Dated Pint Glasses

Possible Improvement:
It is really difficult to find any negative points for this event.  While chatting with others, I heard a couple people lament that they couldn’t purchase food.  It seems if you didn’t pre-purchase a food coupon at registration then food wasn’t an option.  While this does allow for quantities and food supply to be managed, it frustrates the individuals who just can’t make that decision so far in advance.  Maybe this can be modified for the future.

 

 

 

 

Posted on 4 Comments

Feature Review – Tuff Scramblers

Tuff Scramblers are a well liked, local operation – and we brought a group of Spahtens to their event in May, 2013. Sandy write us a fantastic review, and you can bet we’ll be back!
If you also attended, we’d love to get your feedback too – it only takes a few minutes – http://www.newenglandspahtens.com/submit-a-race-review/
logo
Tuff Scramblers has held four events prior to Saturday. Unfortunately, timing did not allow me to run either of the two in 2012 and I had never heard of them in 2011. After running on Saturday, this makes me very sad. They put together a great event!

We arrived fairly early in the day and managed to get one of the last two parking spots in the on-site lot. This was very convenient for us, but after talking with other team members, the remote parking would have been almost as easy. The remote lot was a mere half mile from the venue, which made for a fast and easy walk. If you didn’t feel like walking, they ran a shuttle bus back and forth on a really quick and convenient schedule. Most that I spoke to took the bus if it happened to be there and walked if it wasn’t. Either way, parking was easy. There was a $5 fee per car, which seems to have become the standard. I’m fairly certain, this was to offset the cost of running the bus all day.

Check in was in a very small area, but since this isn’t an outrageously large event and the starting heats weren’t overcrowded, it went very quickly and smoothly. You turned over your id and they handed you your bag, your drink/over 21 wrist bands, a pint glass, and your t-shirt (a nice tech tee in whatever size you requested when you signed up). It took less than a minute to be all set to go. They also had a bin full of samples to hand out where you could take what you wanted. This would be easy to abuse, but I only saw people taking one of each available sample and leaving what they didn’t want. Personally, I like this because I was able to leave behind the things I know I didn’t want which kept them from being wasted.

Spectator check in was equally as easy. Passes were $5 each unless you brought two food items to donate to the local food pantry. I love this! I will gladly bring a bag of food if given the option and Vince said there was already a bit of food in the truck when he brought his to the check in table.

There were a few tents set up for vendors and I remember seeing the Army, the Air Force, B-low the Waist (apparently a game that has been going on since 1929 that involves secret hand signs and slug-bug like punching that I simply can’t fathom being fun at all (but then again, I don’t think I’m their target audience!)), and Muscle Milk were all there. Muscle Milk had free samples available for everyone which was nice. There were also a few physical challenges that people could choose to participate in – a salmon ladder (if you don’t know what this is, check it out on YouTube – http://youtu.be/T0Vd74et8ss ) and a push up station where you had to put your feet on a suspended board while you used suspended rings as handholds. This one looked like a great challenge and I meant to do it. Unfortunately, I remembered about 10 minutes after we left.

TS Start

There was a DJ running music throughout the day and someone would periodically come on the loud speaker to warn you what wave was coming up soon and tell you when to start lining up. The DJ lowered the music a few minutes before each scheduled wave so that the announcer could thank everyone and remind us why we were there (donations were made to the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation) and about the expected teamwork on the course (if you see someone in need, be sure to help). A quick 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO and we were off!

The course was great! We looped around in open grass fields and went across the festival area several times. This was great because it brought spectators right up to the action. They had the course well marked off, and even though spectators were able to cross the path of the runners, I didn’t see or hear of anyone getting in a runner’s way. They had a cattle gate very close to the start of the race that actually held the people back until the last runner passed at the beginning of each wave. I thought it was fun to see them all packed up behind the gate as we went out. The trails through the woods had a good mix of small hills, small stream crossings, and mud. They also had a lot of rocks. I mean A. LOT. OF. ROCKS. For seasoned trail runners, I’m sure this was pretty easy stuff. For those used to only running on well groomed and obstacle free trails, this was a bit of a challenge. I pushed myself to go pretty fast until the second time I almost rolled an ankle – and after that, I took the really rocky areas a bit more slowly. This served to reward those who train in those terrains while punishing those who don’t. Again, I think this is a good thing.

The obstacles were more varied than I have seen in any other race. They had some standards such as a low crawl through mud, over/unders, a cargo net, pipes used as balance beams, and monkey bars. They had good use of natural and man-made terrain such as tall dirt/mud/rock hills, some boulder hills, a slippery mud wall with a rope assist, and a short swim. Then, on top of all that, they had some really unique obstacles as well. First, there were giant concrete filled barrels spread across a small pond where you had to jump from one barrel to the next frogger style. Then, there was a second, similar obstacle with concrete pillars of varying heights to jump across. There were two “walls” made up of large PVC pipes stacked on top of each other that were a little tricky because they were so slippery. And, finally, there were large tubes  positioned at about a 45 degree angle that had water cascading down inside that you had to crawl up through to the top of a hill. To make this possible, there was a rope hanging down through each tube to help pull yourself up, but there was not much room to maneuver inside! I definitely give them an A+ for creativity on their obstacles!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our photographers were able to capture just about every obstacle on the course as they were mostly very centrally located around the festival area. The runners did the trail portions in loops away from the center in order to get the distance in. This made it extremely spectator friendly and added to the enjoyment of everyone. I give them an A+ for this as well. In addition, each wave was sent off 45 minutes after the previous one. This allowed the fastest runners in each heat a fairly free course through most of it. They would catch the slowest runners of the previous heat, but not until pretty close to the end. There was virtually no wait at any obstacle which is impressive!

I only had a couple of negatives to point out for the day. First, the water at the finish line was not obvious and we had to search for it a while before finding it. Turns out it was close, but not well marked and easy to miss with people standing around unintentionally blocking it. They also ran out of water before the last heat even started. If they restocked again later in the afternoon, I missed it as each time I walked by it was still empty. Second, there were no recycling bins for all the beer cans and plastic bottles that were consumed in the festival area. It is possible that they contract with a trash company who will sort it all out off site, but if that is the case, it wasn’t made known. And finally, they had four semi-private shower stations available (which was not a negative at all!) but there were no changing tents anywhere. This meant that if you were needing to change, you were taking up a shower area and keeping others from using it all the while. I would love to see the same shower area with two small changing tents nearby for men and women. As it was, we made due holding towels for each other as we hid behind a tractor on site.

These are very minor negatives for what was a great day! Overall, I have to give this event an Excellent rating. They have announced a fall event for October 19 and I am very excited to participate again this year. I hope we will have a large contingency there!

Team Photos