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Thanksgiving, and giving thanks …

rucksgiving2It started with a phone call. Adrian of OCR World Championship called me one morning to float a crazy idea by me … For the last few years, he and his buddies have ran around New York City handing out festive holiday cheer, and he wondered – would the New England Spahtens do something similar in Boston? Would this be an idea that could take off?

From such a simple phone call – an annual tradition has launched.

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What is Rucksgiving?

It’s simple – you get together, and ruck around your nearest city. Instead of bricks, you carry food. Blanket. Warm weather gear. Toiletries. You ruck around the homeless hotspots, or the shelters, and you find people who need things.

gooddeedAnd you wish them a happy holidays – because not everyone had a warm fire and turkey dinner this Thanksgiving, and it feels nice to spread some of that.

In Boston, we had over 40 people and kids participating. We spent a bit of time at the common – but the weather had driven the cities homeless population to warmer locations. We regrouped and rucked – hitting up a rehab shelter, and ultimately ending up at Rosies Place, a women’s shelter. Thank you to Amy for putting together the route, and all her work behind the scenes!

And we made a difference. We made an impact. Not on a global, world peace level – but locally, in our own community, we gave someone who needed it a new toothbrush. We gave someone a warm jacket to stay warmer this winter. We left boxes of diapers at the women’s shelter for the homeless children who needed them and we provided home made muffins and candy bars to people who may not have had a tasty treat in sometime. We listened to stories from some people, received hugs from others. We were especially touched when one of the little girls in our group gave her favorite blanket from her stroller to the shelter after hearing there was an 18mo old baby inside – proving that the biggest hearts can be found everywhere.


We covered five miles in three hours. We were cold, but thankful. This whole experience touched us all differently, but I like to think that when we all came home, we were even more grateful for our warm beds and our loving families.

We finished our ruck by splitting up – either heading home, or to Jillians, the venue for our first annual holiday social.

We picked Jillians for a reason – a centrally located, well known bar and pool hall in Boston – they were used to large groups and corporate style functions, and gave us a section of their floor and a bunch of pool tables. They also gave us awesome food, and I thank each and every person who picked up tickets to help us cover the costs for such a party! A wonderful night of giving thanks for our friends, meeting new friends – so many new faces came out, which was wonderful, and I hope I got to meet you all – we’ll be doing it again 🙂

Thank you to Unleashed, Battlefrog, FIT and Reebok for providing prizes for our raffle!

We had a wonderful day – and it was a fantastic way to spend time with our OCR community and family – from old friends having fun, to meeting new friends. I hope everyone had a good time, whichever activity you participated in, and I thank you – because without this community and the people in it, none of this could have happened.

If you missed this event – you don’t have to wait for the next one. This holidays make a difference to one person you don’t know. Find a soup kitchen and volunteer, or a homeless shelter and hand out blankets – don’t wait.


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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.


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.

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!



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 –

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Unleashed Obstacle Course training seminar




Aaron provided us with a review of the OCR training seminar, held on August 18th, 2013 at Unleashed in Warwick RI

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This past weekend, NE Spahtens Corrine Giordani, Sandy & Vince Rhee, and myself headed down to Unleashed Fitness in Warwick, RI to attend the only Obstacle Course training seminar that I’ve ever heard of.  I may be wrong on this being the only OCR training seminar I’ve heard of, but I don’t count a local class at Gold’s or Crossfit as being specific OCR training.  Besides, none of those places have all the fun toys or the trainers that Unleashed offers!

The session was billed as ‘How to prepare for an Obstacle Course Race’ including the 7 most common mistakes made preparing, training techniques to help build strength, boost endurance & flexibility, and unlock muscles hidden potential.  Also planned was to teach strategies for the big 3 obstacles – monkey bars, rope climbs and walls.  All sounds good, and learning new techniques is never a bad thing, whether a seasoned racer or going for your first race.

Upon arriving, we all signed in, received a copy of the power point presentation and met the 2 presenters, Unleashed co-owner and frequent trainer Kevin Roy and Todd Cambio of Precision Fitness.  Both Kevin & Todd are SpartanX certified, so they love OCR and deal with it daily – not something you get from you class at PlanetFitness.  Todd runs many of the short races, while Kevin is an Ultra Beast finisher and has finished the Peak50 as well as other ultra endurance events, so they practice what they teach.

We made introductions around the room, the 16 attendees varying from just signed up for their first race to future DeathRacer Corrine and everything in between, then sat down for the PowePoint presentation from Todd.  A lot of useful information given regarding general training methods, some science background as to why you need to stretch, how you can never work your core enough, and of course, those 7 most common mistakes.  The Powerpoint lasted about an hour, which in my opinion was a bit long, but I’m much more excited to get onto the hands on; however much of the information is useful to someone not as experienced or hasn’t been on a gym/wod program.

Overall Powepoint grade: B/C depending on level of racer

Now onto some actual sweating!  Todd led the group on a series of exercises – everything from butt kicks, laps around the building to skips to crab walks and bear crawls, and then onto a large plank/pushup/core/burpee series.  No one was  dry after Todd was done with us, and my abs can attest today – coughing and sneezing hurt the day after!

Warmup/workout grade: A – great blood flowing, sweat inducing way to get moving

Kevin took over after this, letting us cool down a bit and went over gear, clothing, general race nutrition and hydration strategies.  All of us took a little bit from this, and each of us had a few pointers to add for new racers as well.  We all liked hearing Kevin’s idea on gloves – he uses and recommends kayaking/paddling gloves – specifically designed to grip when wet!

Gear review – A

Kevin then led us on a workout – a few laps around the building, and into a park down the street, over a few cement walls, some rocks and a great slippery wall substitute – up a metal slide and some burpees before back into the gym.  Kevin and Todd then demo’d multiple obstacles – walls, rope climbs, traverse ropes, monkee bars, and rappel walls.  We broke into groups and went thru each of the stations (ropes, walls, rappel walls, monkey bars) trying each station out – biggest key I got was keeping my shoulders ‘packed’ on the monkey bars, assuming I’m not able to keep the arms bent and 90 degrees for the whole span.  This section, unfortunately was a bit rushed time was running short and too soon it was the end of class.

Workout/playtime – B – simply because it was too short

The Spahtens then took advantage of Kevin’s generosity in staying after, as he had planned a whole circuit course for us all, but ran out of time.  He had 14 or 15 specific stations set up – the 4 of us taking turns on each circuit, the ones not actively on the training staying moving by burpees, squats, jumps, or high knees.  Circuits were tire flips, lay down inverted sled pulls, rope climbs – with knots, without knots, monkey bars, Hercules hoist, wall climb, rappel wall climb, traverse wall, dead man sandbag carry up & down a slope, cargo nets and a few others I’m sure I missed.  Basically, he ran us thru a ton of obstacles without letting us catch our breath, making fatigue a serious issue and the later circuits were that much harder.  If this circuit had been included in the original class, the whole class would have been A+ without a doubt.  That we stayed extra for it – it was almost better as it was just the 4 of us running the obstacles, and from watching people in earlier workouts, many would not have made most of the stations.

So overall day: A-

The information given out was very useful, both for the seasoned OCR participant and even more so for the less experienced racer.  Would I go to another session like this?  Most definitely, knowing just how much fun can be had, and if the circuit training can get worked into the class, it’s a no brainer to participate!

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Review of Unleashed Fitness Center

I decided to take a trip to Unleashed Fitness Center on my day off to see what everyone has been talking about.

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It’s a 6,000 sq.ft facility that is basically one large warehouse style room with the exception of restroom facilities.  It has cinder block walls and very high ceilings. The flooring is Rubberized everywhere other than a large strip of AstroTurf down the middle of the place, which is used for sled pushing and sometimes some running/sprinting drills etc.

Being a fitness instructor, I tend to look at details when I go into a facility like this.  I look at the quality of equipment they have to offer etc.  My first observation was that they have a little bit of everything.  In one corner they have some squat racks and flat benches along with Olympic Weight lifting bars and plates.  Along one wall they have various things from Kettlebells and MMA heavy/grappling bags to free standing heavy bags and plyo-boxes to foam rollers and medicine balls.  They also have a nice TRX work station, sleds for sled pushes/pulls and a couple stationary bikes.  In addition to these items, they have  6′, 8′ and 10′ wooden walls like those you would find at an Obstacle Course Race (OCR) with a slight modification to them in that there is a 2′ open space at the bottom of each one used for training on low crawls and various ground work etc.

They have a VERY nice 36′ monster rack with a cargo net on one end and monkey bars all along the length at the top.  The rack/rig has varying heights on each end which creates a high degree of difficulty for training on monkey bars like one might find at Tough Mudder But steeper (see picture).  Along one side of the rig they have some suspended rings for various work like muscle ups.  Along the length of the rig they have some suspended ropes for practicing rope traverses like those found in many ocr’s.   Between the rig and the wall you will find a rope ladder and 4 suspended ropes each with varying degrees of difficulties (knots, no knots, fat rope, skinny rope, nylon vs. hemp etc.).


The owner, Kevin Ford tells me they have plans to add a rock climbing wall along the length of the room in the future so people can work on those skills and grip work.

Basically this place is set up to allow someone to train for MANY different things.  Outside adjacent to the building is a small playground with some various concrete walls and playground equipment as well as a larger block retaining wall.


I talk about these things because they are all things that can be and ARE put to use for training in various circuit style workouts.  The combination of all these things is pretty fantastic given that it’s all in the middle of an urban environment.  The quality of the equipment is very good too.  Nothing looks or feels cheesy or unsafe and the atmosphere is professional and clean.  Now for the important part, the people.


I had a chance to work directly with Kevin Ford (one of the owners) and train on one of his evil circuits for about an hour and a half.  He is welcoming and incredibly professional and knowledgeable.  He holds multiple certifications including ACE Personal Trainer as well as Spartan Group-X Certification.  In addition to that, he is a beast of an athlete and loves to compete in triathlons and OCR events so he can offer first hand insight.

They offer several different types of boot camps and fitness classes as well as “free time” options, all of which are very affordable.  If you are a member of the NE Spahtens you get discounted rates as well!

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All in all, I would rate this place and it’s people very highly.  My experience was top notch. I would even say I’d make the 2.5hr drive from NH back to play again!  If you want to work on some specific OCR skills like wall or rope climbs, monkey bars, rings etc. OR just want to sweat it out with general fitness work, you can get it at Unleashed.  Give them a try.  You will not be disappointed.



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Ultra Beast training at Unleashed

Unleashed opened it’s doors this weekend, with an open house on Saturday (Reviewed here), and Ultra Beast training on Sunday. Elite race team member, Corrine, headed there – and this is what she found.

The UltraBeast Bootcamp is designed to get you ready to for the nasty terrain of Killington or just about any other OCR with mountains and tough hills. The class is led Kevin Roy of Unleashed. Kevin is an experienced OCR Racer and Ultra Runner.Last year Kevin finished the Ultra Beast in 9 hours.
We started our day with a quick warm up in the bleachers at Cranston West High School. We did up and downs on the steps really fast then it was off to the trails. Between the Phenix Ave and Route 295 in Cranston there is huge number of wooded hilly rocky trails. It’s not a park or place a lot folks know about so it was just our group on the trails.Kevin has used the trails to train on for years so he knew exacty where to send us so that we got the most out of our run.
During the first part of our run Kevin did a great job evaluating our abilities and getting an idea of how to set the pace for the class. Throughout the run he would offer some helpful tips on how to better handel downhills and other difficult terrain. We learned how to move both fast and safely on the trails.Mixed in with the trail run we got to do some rock climbing, push ups, burpees,squat jumps and vertical jumps. All good stuff for OCR training
When our 8.5 miles were done and after a good bit of stretching it was back to Unleashed for some obstacle training. At Unleashed we did some training on techniques to get over the 8 foot and 10 foot walls, rope climbs, tyrolean traverse, monkey bars, and hellicoper ladder.
This was a fantastic class. You got a chance to train in all difficulties you will face in a hill or mountain heavy OCR. If you are looking to improve this class will help get you there.
The UltraBeast Bootcamp  is held on the last Sunday of every month. Be sure to check it out in August.
 I found the bootcamp very challenging and a much needed workout to get ready for the UltraBeast. I was exhausted after the trail run but in a good way. I got the satisfying feeling of “Oh my god that was hard, but I got through it and I want to do it again”
You can’t get ready for a big race like the NJ Super, Beast or Ultra Beast by just running 15 miles on the street. You need a class like this. This class pushed me to my limits but did not just beat me down and feel like I would never be ready to race. I felt it was good to face the hard stuff here so that there will be no surprises come race day.
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Unleashed Open House – Bonzilla reviews

Unleashed Indoor Obstacle Fitness & Functional Training Center recently opened in Warwick, RI, and this Saturday, 7/27 they advertised an open-house with a back-to-back smorgasbord for their classes.  The first class of the day was taught by Kevin Roy, titled “Obstacle Course Fit.”  It promised an hour-long circuit that would include a hard workout and practice on lots of technical elements on their cage and other internal elements, including 6’, 8’, and 10’ walls, ropes of various  lengths and widths (for those who are unsure if this makes a difference, thicker ropes are harder and also help build grip strength).  A heavy duty “cage” type set up with lots of monkey bars, including ones at pretty steep angles, Tyrolean traverse ropes, a Hercules Hoist, low and high rings, and cargo-nets.  The only things that seemed missing on that contraption was a series of swinging rings (a la the Superhero Scramble rings obstacle), although that may be a personal fear-based desire on my part to figure out how the hell to do those things without my grip failing.


I was also interested in getting a taste of Kevin’s coaching style.  He’s one of the first group of folks trained and certified as a “Spartan Group X” trainer.  I don’t actually know much about this particular project by Spartan, but based on my experience with them my presumption was that the folks that went through their program were going to be experienced and serious trainers, and also have some really concrete experience and insight into knowing what helps to make OCR races better, stronger, and more successful.

I gathered from Kevin that this particular Open House class was significantly bigger than most of his OCR classes, at least to-date (there were 17 of us).  He started out with some dynamic stretching and a light jog over to a local playground was we did a couple of laps, climbing over some natural and playground obstacles, and intermittently doing burpees.   The fitness levels present in the class were clearly diverse, from at least one elite level racer I spotted to those who clearly found even the warm up extremely challenging.  Kevin did a great job of keeping the group together but also making sure everyone kept moving, and also kept a really positive vibe going the whole time.  Lots of fun, and since I am what I’ve taken to calling a “gently aging athlete,” I really appreciate taking the time for a significant dynamic warm up before getting down to the more brutal business.

After jogging back to the gym Kevin began placing people at stations, initially outside the gym, using some of the natural and man-made landscape (using a concrete walls that had some grooves that could be used as foot and hand-holds to drill a traverse wall, using a lower barrier that was still high enough to have to be scrambled over, a section for folks doing squats, sprints, etc), and then inside the gym.  The stations inside the gym included jumping on and over progressively higher boxes (not sure of the height, but the highest was no higher than 3 feet), doing laps with a heavy sandbag, climbing over 6’ and 8’ walls (folks were welcome to attempt the 10’, but I only saw one fellow try and he couldn’t do it although he was over 6’.  Kevin, who’s no taller than me at 5’8” was able to do it to demonstrate, which I found super impressive).  There were also stations all around the cage contraption: practicing the Tyrolean Traverse, doing ring-dips, practicing the Hercules Hoist (make it harder by lying down and keeping your head on the ground…ouch!), climbing the cargo netting, practicing on an unstable floor-to-ceiling rope ladder, a knotted 1.5 inch rope, an unknotted 1.5 inch rope, and unknotted 2 inch rope, and an unknotted 1.5 inch rough hemp rope.

Kevin had all 17 of us on one station apiece and every few minutes would have us rotate to another stations and element.  17 folks spread out over the whole gym (including outside it) are a lot of folks to wrangle, and Kevin did a great job, being clear, encouraging, enthusiastic and giving some solid technical instruction.   In fact, he was basically running around the entire space for the whole hour, doing his best to be everywhere at once and very nearly succeeding.  I had a ball and was dripping with sweat after about 10 minutes on the stations.


When the hour was up he led us through a bit of dynamic and static stretching and then invited anyone who wanted to do a bit of a workshop on the Cage.  He demonstrated a course through it where he went underneath hand-to-hand on the monkey bars the entire length (including two significant sections of pretty steep up and down angles), then bear-crawling over the top (more challenging than you might think when tilting downward), and then flipping onto the underside when reaching the end and going on one Tyrolean Traverse half-way, then switching, mid-climb, to another and continuing.  He then coached and encouraged all of us to take a turn and play on it.  By this time my already modest grip strength was flagging, but I crawled around that thing for an additional 20 minutes or so until I don’t even think I could do a hang, let alone a pull-up or two lengths of monkey bars.  I left extremely happy and sweaty.

Kevin has what sounds like some great plans for some additional elements, including getting a real traverse wall up, which will be a neat addition.  He also said that at present his OCR group classes are generally a lot smaller, closer to 5-10 folks generally, which allows for a lot more individualized work and technical coaching.  He also does a more conditioning based class at the gym (Ultimate Conditioning Mix), and a monthly trail running outdoor workout he calls “Ultra Beast Trail Run Workout,” which is a 10-mile trail run with obstacles and challenges worked in, aimed at helping folks get ready for the Spartan Beast, or similar longer races.

On top of all that Kevin is offering a special rate to his group classes to the NE Spahtens—They’re generally $15, but if you were a piece of NE Spahten gear it’s only $10.  For the time I had, an absolutely fantastic deal.

I’ve been on the lookout for a resource to work into training that has  some high quality instruction and capacity to practice some of the more technical elements present in Spartan Races and other OCR’s that are similar, like Superhero Scramble.  After a first taste of what he has to offer, Kevin Roy’s obstacle course race training offerings at Unleashed are most definitely in the running!  I’m most certainly heading back and highly recommend you get down there and check it out.

Check out  Unleashed at and Kevin Roy at

Tell him the Spahtens sent you!

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OCR Unleashed …

New England is a great place to be, if you’re like us and a fan of obstacle course racing.

We have the best races born right here. We have the best races held right here, and clearly, we have the best team and community.

We also have the most amazing training facilities. From our own community sources training, to the wonderful Shale Hill Adventure Farm – and at the opposite end of the region, Unleashed in Rhode Island.


Unlike Shale Hill, Unleashed is an indoor venue – so those of you who can’t stand the cold of a Vermont race in February will be pleased 🙂 They have a 6,000 sq/ft facility and they are focussed heavily on obstacle course racing – with monkey bars, ropes, walls – everything. Private and group classes, they are also Spartan Group X certified – so they know what they’re doing, and are certified by the best.

Even better – this coming weekend they have an open house, with free OCR training going on – if you’re in the area and aren’t at a race, I’d strongly encourage you to throw your Spahten shirt on and go check them out.

Open Day – July 27th

We have a full day of OCR / FUNCTIONAL TRAINING classes going on!! Also we will have most of our training/coaching staff on hand to help people with anything they want, race and general nutrition, OCR questions, hands on obstacle training and instructions from our staff including two who are CERTIFIED SPARTAN GROUP X COACHES!!

We will be having 3 actual 1hr classes 

8:30am OCF (obstacle course fit)
9:30am bootcamp mix
10:30am a crazy mix of EVERYTHING UNLEASHED has to offer!!

Lots of venders have singed on to be there for info and specials Preform better, go nuts peanut butters BOLD R DASH RACE and more!!!

We have lots of cool and exciting toys to play with climbing tops, cargo net, traverse rope course, 36ft incline/decline monkey bars,turfed area with sled pushes and pulls, hoist ropes. 6ft, 8ft and 10ft walls to go over and under!! Much more including an outdoor training area that will be adding to the fun.

They have big plans too – with Ultra Beast 24h bootcamps, an OCR seminar on the 18th of August, challenge days – it’s worth following them on Facebook, as it sounds like they have big plans, big ideas, and are putting them into action.

Even better – mention you are part of the NE Spahtens group when signing up for class, and the usual $15 drop in rate will be $10! Huge thanks to Kevin Roy for making that happen!

I’m looking forward to heading down there for some training and fun one of these days (you know, when there aren’t races happning)