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RIP Zombie Charge. Welcome Heart Challenge!

logoIt’s always sad when a race ends it’s run. Zombie Charge recently announced that they would be closing shop in 2016, having sold their assets to a new owner, based in Texas. As a result, the new owner doesn’t want to take on a New England race at such short notice.

It’s a nice way for them to exit the industry – being able to sell their brand on means the brand survives, the owners get some pay out, full refunds are being offered and ultimately, no one is screwed over.

10703930_499645776841518_9183629398207770869_nTo soften the blow for people who were hoping for more miles and more laps in #racelocal, two races have stepped up to the plate:

Samurai Sprint has deepend their discount for NES members to $30 off, giving you a $49 ticket price. This is held the same day as Zombie Charge (and many were going to try and hit both events anyway!)

PrintThe Heart Challenge – owned by the New England branch of the American Heart Association, and employing our good friend Fred Smith of Smithfest Events as their Course Director – they will be held two weeks after the Zombie Charge date, and are offering a team discount, and multiple laps. This family friendly event will be a blast – and a newcomer to the #racelocal Grand Prix!

11130495_681020575354205_1173332544034910407_oCheck them both out – and maybe we’ll see Zombie Charge come back to New England in 2017?

Thanks for the memories, Zombie Charge!!

(Full details on both Samurai Sprint and The Heart Challenge can be found in their events pages – join our community and click “events” to find more!)

 

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The NE Spahtens Show – Episode 5

This week Sandy, Josh and Paul talk about upcoming and recently occuring OCR events on their schedules – including Josh’s NJ Ultra Beast finish and Sandy’s epic 50 miles at Shale Hill’s newest event, Jill’s Folly – with a 6 hour road trip to the always popular Wason Pond Pounder in the middle!

We also discuss Hobie’s recent noise on the elite scene, Zombie Charge going out of business in New England this year, and controversial BFX rule changes.

Listener questions cover everything from how NES was formed to what being a member of NES means for us – it’s a good bunch of questions!

Thanks for listening! Remember to subscribe in iTunes, on Podbean, Stitcher and soon Google Play. Leave us a comment or a review – and if you have questions for next weeks show, leave them below!

What is the Cliff Jumper obstacle Sandy mentions? Check out Shale Hill’s tutorial video – they make it look easy!

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Featured Review: Zombie Charge CT

C'mon zombieszombiechargeThis was Zombie Charge’s second year in CT – but my first Zombie Charge. It was also the first time I’d done a flag capture style event – so getting up early on Saturday morning to drive nearly two hours to the back waters of CT seemed like a great idea!

You may be familiar with the format, from the now defunct Run for your Lives – you start the race with a flag football belt and three flags – as you move through the course and obstacles, zombies will attack – their intention is to snag your flags until you don’t have any left.

This results in both hilarious acrobatic moves – and lots of sprinting.

Which is exhausting work!

The venue for Zombie Charge was an old rock and stone quarry in CT – easy to find with a GPS, but I did nearly drive right past it – but once you hit the venue there were plenty of flag markings showed you where to go next – driving between giant rock mountains was kinda cool, and I imagine later in the day when they had zombies down there, it was even cooler – alas, I had to bail after the first wave of the day, so I was there too early for zombies.

Parking was super easy, and plenty of it – I thought $10 for parking was a bit steep, but it was super close, and these days it’s becoming an OCR norm, which is unfortunate for OCR fans.

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Check in was super easy – I had my bib number and waiver printed off like a good boy, so they handed me a packet, slapped a wrist band on me with my wave time on it, and gave me some instructions on how to redeem my beer and T after the race, which I promptly forgot entirely.

zcdjThe festival was good, even that early – a good DJ, cracking jokes and telling people whats coming up next can make all the difference if you want a fun pre and post race party. Zombie Charge had a few vendors there too – Unleashed and Playout Cards being the most notable for me, but there were some local folks, a haunted house and a local photographer with a green screen. We setup camp behind our Unleashed friends, but everything was easy to find.

My personal scheduling meant I couldn’t hang around much afterwards, but I was easily able to pick up my shirt, which was a nice quality mix-blend shirt, with a relatively subtle design on it – no sponsors, no dates – just a brand name and cool zombie face – while I have many bright colored, gaudy, cheap race shirts I’ll never wear, this will be one I’ll happily put into my rotation. I have no idea how the beer and food situation went, as I had to bail quickly, but I didn’t hear any grumblings.

The race itself was running to schedule – a 10am elite wave was the first one of the day, with them going out every 30 minutes after that until mid afternoon.

C'mon zombieszcjoeMy GPS clocked this race at a little over a 5k, and they made great use of the unique features available in an old rock quarry – several times found us scrambling up giant gravel mounds, or sliding down huge sand piles – sometimes requiring the aid of ropes (and genuinely needing them too, unlike some races I’ve seen!) – after we ran through the quarry a few times we moved out into the trails – never quite narrow enough to be considered single track, they were still technical – before finally opening up into fields for the last 3/4 of a mile or so.

The obstacles we encountered were mostly pretty standard. Several really big (like, 9′ or 10′) walls, some ladder walls, some truly tricky mounds of mud between trenches, and on particularly nasty fence laying flat over a muddy pool you had to partially submerge your face to get through. There were some wrecked cars to navigate and everything from rope webs to fallen trees – the final obstacle – the slide – needs it’s own special mention, because it was done well! Wet, wide – and while the final run off was fast and ended in a muddy mess, there didn’t seem to be the gravel issues that tore people up at SHS previously – in fact, I commend the race directors here – they approached me after my race, and asked how I enjoyed it – I mentioned that the slide had the potential to get messy and dangerous as the day went on, and they immediately grabbed more tarpaulin’s and stacked them up – just in case. If they needed them or not, I do not know, but they were there, and ready if they did.

Of course, despite this being an obstacle course race, it wasn’t *REALLY* about the obstacles. They needed to be there, and they needed to be good – but they get a pass for not being particularly challenging or technical or complex, because – zombies.

zcwireLike the now defunct Run for your Lives, and a few clones – you picked up a flag football belt at the check in. As you ran, volunteers made up like zombies would chase you, and steal a flag. The goal was to end the race with at least one flag to be considered alive. There was even a paintball station on course where you had two shots at a chained up live Zombie (a volunteer who picked the short straw) – one paintball to his nuts, and I had another flag!

Yeah. I didn’t keep it long.

There were approximately 160 total zombies, and they were everywhere. Sometimes, you’d see them clustered on a path, and you could dodge by them to save your flag. Other times they’d jump out and scare you, hoping for a quick grab of a flag. Frequently though, they would chase you – sometimes for some considerably distance – after a few chases down paths and a few ninja like (shut up) evasions, I was EXHAUSTED. Just totally shot. And dead.

The zombies were good. Dare I say, too good? I found myself gassed by a mile, and dead. Which meant that I had no real reason to keep trying, so I just jogged. I earned a flag back with the aforementioned nut shot, and promptly lost it on the next trail, also finding myself with a rolled ankle, which meant I had to walk past the next 3/4 of a mile of zombies with a shrug.

I know, I know. Zombies are aggressive, and this style of race is designed to get your blood pumping – and it did, and I had a BLAST – but I definitely didn’t feel like I had a chance of finishing alive in this case – and in conversations with zombies later in the race (those that broke character for a quick “keep it up!”) it was clear they weren’t getting much flag action either. Lots and lots of people in the first wave of the day were simply not getting through with flags.

zcslideThey were awesome though – well made up, with some great costumes – there was a mix of walking / grabby zombies (big shout out to the two older ladies in the quarry who couldn’t help exclaim “damn, they split up!” as Amy and I went opposite ways) and running zombies – my favorite was the young lady in the ball gown who knew I didn’t have any flags, but chased me for a few hundred yards anyway – in character the whole time!

Is that a bad thing? Is it a negative to have aggressive zombies? I just think it needs to be dialed in a little bit – let us *think* we have a chance, and give the zombies later in the race a shot too. This kind of event lends itself heavily towards rolled ankles (check!) due to the super ninja evasion techniques we all perform – but thats the nature of this particular beast. At the finish line, we all got the same T and medal, so there wasn’t REALLY a big incentive to finish alive – maybe if there was, I’d be a bit more upset that I was dead in a mile? Either way – it’s presented here as simple feedback, not a complaint or a check mark in the “bad” box.

Either way – the zombies try hard, meaning you have to try harder. They look great, stayed in character as much as possible, and were mostly respectful of not causing accidents or grabbing more than one flag, but I did hear rumblings that some people felt they over stepped – again, par for the course in this style event, I think. Everyone is rushing, everyone is making split second decisions – if a zombie grabs more than one flag, or you bash into someone harder than intended – thats just gonna happen.

zcgirlzombies

Zombie Charge was also the final race in our #Racelocal Grand Prix series, and they closed it out in style – helping us with elite level timing (despite not normally doing timing) and shuffling people in and out of the waves they needed – big thank you to them for that!

I had a blast. I will be back! Thank you to the team behind Zombie Charge!

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#racelocal 2014 and Zombie Charge

racelocalAt the beginning of 2014 we launched our inaugural #racelocal Grand Prix – it’s goal was simple, get people running local obstacle course races. The previous year, we’d seen a lot of races around the nation go bankrupt, from Hero Rush to Ruckus to Run for your Lives, and people were starting to ignore the incredibly fun local events in favor of the larger Spartan Race and Tough Mudder events.

Which was a huge shame, as these local guys frequently work harder than anyone else in the industry, care more than anyone else in the industry and put on events that are incredibly fun, and people were missing out, big time.

It worked. We had 65 people sign up, and commit to attending at least four of the six events we were working with. Almost half of those were planning to run in the elite division and shoot for cash prizes.

So, coming soon we have Zombie Charge – which will be the final event in the 2014 Grand Prix … while we initially intended to do it again, with a race calendar packed with non-local races, it’s never worth going up against Spartan Race or Tough Mudder – so instead we look ahead to 2015, and making a year long Grand Prix that is even more bad ass than the one before it.

http://zombiecharge.com/

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 10.05.29 PMFirst, though, Zombie Charge. The rules for the elites are laid out, the zombies will soon be getting ready and the last race of 2014 will happen. Will Brendan of the FIT Pro team take the top prize – or will his team mates pip him with high placings amongst the Zombies? Will Unleashed trainer Kevin, or Speedo Guy Mario pip them and spoil a top series of placements? On the Women’s side, will Julie keep Unleashed athletes Corrine and Aurelie behind her?

We’ll find out soon enough – register for Zombie Charge!

When: June 14th
Where: Stonington, CT
https://zombiechargect.eventbrite.com/

Check our event page on Facebook for a huge community discount code too!

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Dear Race Director… Scheduling

I want to introduce a new spot, here on the New England Spahten blog – one I hope provides useful feedback and ideas to one of my favorite demographic in the OCR world – Race Directors.

Having spent the past year talking to various race directors in the region, and having being an avid OCR racer in the New England region since 2010 – I’ve seen lots of different things come, go, stick around and change.

Some worked. Some didn’t.

I plan on covering everything from marketing tactics, to the race itself – and some of it will be difficult to hear, some of it will be useful information. I would love to see feedback, conversation – even constructive debate from both the racers themselves *and* the race directors.

This week – in our first “Dear Race Director …”, we’re going to cover a very hot topic. Scheduling.

This weekend, in the New England region, there were no fewer than *six* obstacle course races.

SIX.

DOH-Homer-350x196

None of them will get the numbers they should have, because ALL of them were not only in competition with each other, but also with the super distance Spartan Race in New Jersey – the closest one of it’s kind, and a MUST event for anyone on the path to a Spartan Race tri-fecta medal in 2013.

logo

So – that’s six local events *and* the most popular, “must do” race within a days trip of the New England.

Why does this happen? What is the possible explanation for this? We have 52 weekends in a year, why do events end up booking on top of each other like this?

Note – I am not making a comment on the quality of any of these events. Some of them, I wish I could have given my money to and run myself, but due to the scheduling, it’s not possible.

Lets look at the reasoning I’ve heard from more than one of the race directors –

“My venue was only available that date”

So … move venue? There’s plenty of them in the region, I’ve run many of them. The NE Spahten community can surely recommend a few. What would you prefer? A poorly attended race at your first choice of venue, or twice as many people and bump things a week.

“I’m not competing with the other events – my race has a different demographic”

No it doesn’t, not really. OCR is a growing sport, and the fan base is enthusiastic and persistent. We’ll run any and every event out there, even if we have to drive two hours to your little 5k beginner event. From the 5k foam fest with it’s inflatable fun, to the 8 hour endurance Polar Bear Challenge in deepest, coldest Vermont. The SAME people ran both in 2013, and are likely signed up again. When you tell us that you’re really only looking to attract women, or first timers, or locals all you’re really saying is you don’t understand what attracts us to the sport.

“My event is the best one, the others are crap”

Yep – I’ve heard this (or polite variations of it). Doesn’t matter. OCR is new, and people will sign up for the ones that looked interesting, or their buddies were going to, or they got a code for, or they signed up for first. If you’ve double booked yourself, you’re shut out already, and have to spend twice the marketing money to get your voice heard.

Of course, the only other likely explanation – and not one that anyone will admit to, is simply “I didn’t know”. Ignorance is bliss, and if you didn’t do your homework, picked the first date you thought was good, or your venue or vendors could make – then you lost out big time.

The information is out there, from national events listings to our own local events listing (http://www.newenglandspahtens.com/events) – there is no reason at all not to know what races are going on locally on any given weekend.

I’m not suggesting for a minute that a double or triple race weekend is the end of the world. Later this year, we’ll be running Ruckus in the AM and Panic in the Dark in the evening – rather than this being a disaster of scheduling, it’s going to be a pretty awesome day. But neither of them are pushing up against the mighty OCR power that is Spartan Race, and neither of them picked a weekend with almost a 1/2 dozen races going on. Pick your battles.

In the case of this weekend, six events lost out, because anyone who could attend, promote and be a participant in their event was in New Jersey.

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Zombie Charge – a little Zombie fun in CT

With Run for your Lives recently moving their event for it’s THIRD relocation, and moving their dates to coincide with several other local OCRs, I wanted to highlight the *other* Zombie guys in our region, who now find themselves taking on the more established – but apparently not better organized RFYL

We’ve talked to them before – but here’s a second look at Zombie Charge

Join team NE Spahtens – password “newengland” and use code Spahtens10 for $10 off your registration

Facebook event

(written in the Zombie third person :D)

C'mon zombies

 

 

Sept 7, 2013 – Zombe Charge will be (and stay) in eastern CT, just 5 miles from Foxwoods Casino.

Zombie Charge is new to the OCR circuit – but it was founded by 4 dedicated professionals with the goal of creating a internationally recognized brand for what a zombie run should really be.  Here’s what they’re not: they are not fly-by-nighters.  They are not in it to make a quick buck. They are not interested in putting on an event only to have people a.) not come back for another b.) ask for a refund or c.) say that was lame.

So what is Zombie Charge about?  First they are about the entire experience.  From the moment someone parks their car to the moment they leave, they will be having a great time.  They are about consistency.  Although each venue and location offers different landscapes, the obstacles will still be fun, challenging and many even unique. The zombies will be in character – the Zombie Charge way (what does that mean? Well, you have to register to be a zombie to learn how they help train their zombies). The volunteers are great and care.  They are about professionalism.  The OCR market is beginning to get crowded.  Zombie races are popping up all over the map – some offering far more than others.  Zombie Charge wants to be recognized as the best of the best.  They are about safety.  Although OCR can be potentially dangerous, maybe even more so with people (zombies) chasing after you, Zombie Charge is taking the appropriate steps to create the safest environment possible.

Right now Zombie Charge has opened registration in 2 areas.  Connecticut (New England) and Miami Florida.  We’ve received some inside information that they may soon be announcing 2 more 2013 zombie runs including Nashville TN and Houston TX.

Each course has 8-12 built obstacles depending on the terrain.  Each participant receives a tech t-shirt (one that you will want to wear even after the event), a medal, a beer and their Survivor/Zombie Head Buff.

They didn’t want to disclose too much of what happens at the event, wanting to leave some surprises, but did want to let our readers know they are taking their events very seriously.  They are OCR enthusiasts and event planners themselves and know what goes into the making of a solid event. Ever shoot a zombie?  Do you even know how fast some zombies can move?  Are you fast enough to outrun one? And what happens if you reach the finish line and you are infected? Well, Zombie Charge has special plans for those people!

Oh, check out their facebook page too (and other social media), they are very active on that and share some pretty funny “bleep.”facebook.com/zombiecharge @zombiecharge #zombiecharge

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Interview: Zombie Charge – New Race, Fresh Zombies!

New for 2013, Zombie Charge is (as you guessed) a Zombie Themed Obstacle Course race making its debut this year on September 7th in North Stonington, CT.  We had an opportunity to speak with one of the Race Directors and find out how Zombie Charge plans on bringing a new and refreshing take on the Zombie Themed Obstacle Course race.

zombieCharge_banner

Tell me a little about your organization and it’s background. How big is the team behind the idea?

Zombie Charge is an event created by Rising Sun Productions. It is new 2013 and the premier event will be September 7, 2013 in New England, specifically North Stonington, CT (about 5 miles from Foxwoods). The next event is October 19 in Miami, FL and we are in the process of planning Houston TX in Nov and Baton Rouge in Dec for this year.
We have 4 founders. How we all met and know each other is a longer story, but a brief bio of each is as follows:

Jeff Rizer, The Director.
Jeff, 36, has been a commercial insurance producer for 18 years. He was born and raised in CT and now raising his family there. Jeff is an avid mountain biker, triathlete and runner. Jeff is incredibly active in community youth wellness and athletics.

Eric Anderson, The Professor.
Eric, 35, has been part of 9 start-ups. Currently he is the CEO of a disaster restoration company in RI and the Chief Happy Guy of a social enterprise t-shirt company based in Providence and production out of Boston. He is also an adjunct professor at Providence College and teaches entrepreneurship and business management. Born and raised in RI, Eric and his family now live in eastern CT. He is an avid triathlete and enjoys mud-runs.

Bill Horgan, The General.
Bill, 33, is the President and owner of a leading pest control company based in RI servicing lower New England. Bill is a RI native and now raising his family there. Bill is hooked on CrossFit and when you meet him it’s pretty obvious. His triceps are huge.

Jason Aminsharifi, The Doctor.
Jason, 31, is our MD. He graduated with his BS at age 19 and continued working in several careers including a large pharmaceutical company before attending University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. He graduated this year and is working on an antidote for those infected with the virus. He is a born and raised Floridian and continues to live in Miami.

What made you want to organize an Obstacle Course Race / Zombie Themed Event?

Jeff and I (Eric) train together for races.  It’s a simple story, we were talking one day in his office about upcoming races and what races we might do together in the upcoming summer as he commented he received “another mud run flyer” in the mail.  Jeff is the director of a 5k race for a local non-profit and knows how much work actually goes into it.  Knowing this I simply stated, “why don’t we start our own race series?”  He replied, “Yeah, how about a zombie run?”  Two weeks later our website was launched and registration was open!
Since then we have all become obsessed with all things zombie.  There is a tremendous cult following and it is growing.  I can see why now.  We all dream about zombies regularly.  But this is shaping our company culture and why we will be creating a truly amazing and authentic zombie race experience.  It’s going to be so much more than another mud-run or obstacle course.  From the moment you are parking your car, you will be immersed in the experience, in the post apocalypse, zombie-infested world.

Have you organized any other races, of any variety? If so, what have you offered?

Jeff is the only member that has been a race organizer before, that’s why he’s the director.  But Jeff and I have lots of race experience and friends who do also.  We know what works and what doesn’t.  Where to put our efforts and what is needed to make a kick-ass event.  Jeff’s organizing experience helps tremendously on all the back-end stuff that no one really thinks about.

What are your goals for 2013?

Our goals for 2013 were originally just to have the New England race. Oh how things change so quickly.  We now have registration open for New England in September and for Miami in October. We will also be announcing Houston TX November and Baton Rouge December very soon! So for 2014 our goal is to have 10,000 participants between the 4 locations.

Tell us more Specifically about The Zombie Charge. How Does it Compare or Differ from other known themed Races like Run for Your Lives? 

So if you haven’t realized just yet, there will be a few big differences.  We care about the entire experience, think about Universal Studios or a Hollywood movie set. We have an entire story that will be told – some before the event and some during.   We are going to make this experience authentic.  From the set, the course, and especially the zombies.  Our zombies will receive special training on how to “play the part” so the runners feel like they are in a real post apocalypse world.  Some will charge (chase) and others will walk or crawl.  Some even are trained.  Similar to other zombie runs, our runners wear a flag belt and have to try and survive with at least 1 flag. If they lose them all, they still have time to avoid being permanently infected, but they are on the clock! And at the finish line they will be required to visit the “infected”  decontamination area before joining the survivors.
Another big difference will be the venue selection and the obstacles.  We are working on securing some major sponsors, but in short our obstacles will be legit.  They will provide challenge, but more importantly will be fun…not lame like some others’ courses.

Tell us about the Zombies, Are We talking “Night of the Living Dead” or “28 Days Later”? 

This is a great question.  There will be a mix, but have you seen Zombieland? Zombies are encouraged to come in costume and we will have professional make-up artists at the event with all the tools to make awesome zombies.  More than just blood splatter too!  In our story, once a person is bitten and become infected, they begin slow – think The Walking Dead. As they age and get more kills, their strength and speed increases and they become Chargers.  Chargers are faster than humans and don’t get tired.  They’re endurance is better than the best marathon runners.  Our course will have a mix of Walkers and Chargers – so come prepared!  We recommend running with a team and thinking about team survival strategies, protecting those with fewer flags or even using decoys and distraction techniques.  All zombies are sensitive to sounds too, so a blow horn or shouting will certainly draw their attention towards you!

Do you have an official Zombie Charge website? 

www.ZombieCharge.com – watch soon – should be a new site released in about 10 days!
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
@zombiecharge
Remeber to use hashtag #zombiecharge
we will have an RSS feed and tumblr going shortly!

Where do you see the sport of Obstacle Course Racing going in the future?

Oh man, another great question we’ve thought and talked a lot about.  It’s not a fad or a craze. We are still on the upward slope of it’s popularity, the problem (or not) is each year company’s have to one up the previous year.  I think we are going to see some pretty insane obstacles. Think about the first few events Spartan Race or Tough Mudder had and their obstacles and look at them now?  But I think it will continue to grow in popularity and days of the typical 5k are going to be considered “boring”.  Maybe not for all, but for many.
I think many races are getting a little too expensive and we may see people getting priced out – so companies need to keep it realistic.  Some even pass the cost of insurance and registration fees on to the participant at the end of registration.
For Zombie Charge – we are going to make the course challenging enough for the hard core obstacle course runners but more than the challenge will be the overall fun experience, this will open the door to challengers at all levels.  Who knows, maybe we will have our own dusk or night-time zombie run before you know it!  Or maybe the ultimate zombie run for hard core competitors one day.
Many Thanks to Eric @ Zombie Charge for taking the time to answer our questions. Sounds to us like its going to be a very story driven immersive experience. Registration is currently Open for the September Event – Check out the Teaser video we pulled from the website www.zombiecharge.com below: