HESCO BoneFrog Challenge Championship 2016 – Charlemont, MA

BoneFrog Championships - StartEarlier this year, Bone Frog Challenge announced that they would be putting on their first “Championship” series event where they would invite top finishers from their regional events, to compete in a “winner take all” event in the place where Bone Frog was born – Charlemont, MA. With entry numbers dwindling, the brass at Bone Frog walked back that announcement and transitioned back to a full featured event that all could register for. Could they put together an event on par with their past performance? Let’s find out.

Bone Frog grew to half a dozen events in 2016 – while other races were dwindling, Bone Frog is growing. For a race that does their obstacles and venues right, this is only good news for the OCR community. Finisher numbers don’t seem to be knocking socks off this year but with an improved social media presence combined with the signing of OCR UberNerd Dustin Dorough to emcee their events, they were positioned to make a splash up and down the east coast.

The year finished for Bone Frog right where it began – in Charlemont, MA. If you’re lucky, New England in October can be beautiful, colorful, and comfortably warm. We weren’t quite that lucky on this last weekend of the month. Temperatures barely tickled 40 degrees at starting time, which may be ok for some racers but that’s before you start plunging folks into ice cold waters.

Snow littered a brand new course for runners – each step, an adventure in balance and agility. Each obstacle, that much more difficult when your fingers don’t want to work. For the 66-ish runners lucky enough to choose the Tier 1 Race option, that means they’d be on both the 9-mile Challenge course before heading back out onto the 5K Sprint option – each with it’s own unique path throughout the day. Both of these distances pack a strong amount of obstacles in, many exclusive to this event – and both made sure that racers were waist deep in freezing cold waters early on, and then atop Berkshire East you were wading through chunks of ice as you navigated a second tormentingly cold pond.

The course did struggle at times to find itself. Figuratively and literally. Markings through the woods were few and far between which did lead to several lost racers during the day, myself included. One advantage to running in the snow? You quickly realize you’re off course because you don’t see anyone’s footprints in the fluffy white stuff as you forge ahead.

BoneFrog Championships - Course MapBoneFrog Championships - Black Ops

While it would appear that the draw of a Bone Frog “Championship” was not quite there this year, with under 700 racers attending this event, Bone Frog does everything right when it comes to their events. Adding details like identifying bands for Elites, to great swag, and a phenomenal home venue, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be looking to sign up for a 2017 race. They’ve debuted a new website, and next years brings even more new events in Washington DC, Texas, and Buffalo, NY.

BoneFrog Championships - Celebratory CupcakeBoneFrog Championships - Bling and Burgers

Personal Note: Nobody likes getting older. However, I was fortunate enough to celebrate my 37th birthday this weekend with some of the best people in the world – OCR people. Cheers to you all for being the best community around. PS. cupcakes at the finish line are as good as they sound.

Spartan Race: 2016 Killington Ultra Beast – Redemption

Everyone has that one event they look forward to all year. Kids look forward to Christmas. Matt B. Davis looks forward to Waffle House’s All You Can Eat Hashbrown Day and if you’re a Spartan Race enthusiast looking to cap your trifecta off, the Killington Beast is the pinnacle of your racing season.

If you were in Vermont last year, you know that the Beast of the East deserved far more pomp and circumstance than was delivered. For those that weren’t there, read my review of the 2015 Killington “Founders Race” here. Racers felt like they deserved better. Spartan made sure they delivered on that promise, with course designer Jason Barnes telling me “after last year, we owed it to you all”. With other big name races going under, it’s important that events listen to their customers’ feedback, and adjust course when necessary.

Photo Credit: Spartan Race Facebook Page
Photo Credit: Spartan Race Facebook Page

For the Ultra Beast runners, the weekend started on Friday with packet pickup. Early packet pickup is a simple convenience that should be offered to all racers. I received my pre-race email well before the event which included all details necessary to have a great weekend of racing. After hearing a lot of chatter on the course this weekend saying there was no communication about logistics beforehand, it deserves to be noted that Spartan did reach out to racers with plenty of time to prepare. There is always room for improvement in race logistics but the onus has to also in part be on the racers. Ultra Beast events have strict time hacks that must be made. This information was delivered beforehand and racers were told again at the start line before waves went off. Point, Spartan.

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The swim @ Killington was almost twice as long as years past Photo Credit: Dan Parker, NES

Course Design is Key

loved this course. Loved it. My biggest gripe with mountain-style Spartan courses is that they’re simply turned into a Man vs. Mountain style event, with obstacles as the second class citizen. See: Spartan Race Montreal Ultra Beast 2016. This years Killington Beast was artfully designed, weaving technical climbs in between previously unseen sections of the mountain. The balance between runnable course and climbing was perfectly done, making sure obstacles were evenly spread out throughout the mountain.

The Spartan Death March is a tradition at Killington The Spartan Death March – Photo Credit: Dan Parker, NES

Time is a Valuable Thing

My goal this race was to beat Spartan’s time hacks. This meant that racers had to complete their first lap of the Beast course by 2:30pm. It gave Elite racers 8 hours to do so, and competitive/open a bit less. The course would then close at 9:30pm sharp, which meant for most, lap 2 would have to be even faster than lap 1. Looking at the results, this was most racers undoing. With a DNF rate of what appeared to be almost 50%, the strict time cutoffs proved more insurmountable than the mountain itself.

Takeaways

PROS
After 2015, Spartan Race completely honored what the Killington Beast should be. The mix of course design, obstacle balance (including a very lengthy swim through Lake Killington) ensured that all style of racer enjoyed the event.

Hydration. There were NINE water stops on the course, including two dedicated pack refilling stations. There was even a water table BEFORE the start line. After #Watergate last year, Joe D said they would get it right this year, and they did. Water was never a concern.

CONS
Time contraints. Again, Spartan did a great job of communicating the times that racers would need to be at certain checkpoints as well as being off the course completely. Racers were told in the Athlete’s Guide that the course closes at 9:30pm and that they would be pulled without question – and they were. By the hundreds. The 9:30pm cutoff is earlier than past years and unfortunately with start times going until 2pm, many racers were not given a fair chance to conquer this event. Some left the course angry, others crying. The Beast, especially at Killington, should not have start times after 12pm if you’re going to cut off the event at 9:30pm. That’s my two cents.

Volunteer abuse continues to also be an upsetting trend. I watched a racer verbally assault two volunteers after they told her she needed to keep her pack on for the Rope Climb. “Who made that rule up?! It’s never been that way at the other events!” Listen – volunteers are there to make this event happen. Some are giving up their own free time so that you can enjoy your event. They’re following instructions. You need to do the same. Stop giving them a hard time for it.

Summary

This event was a complete 180 from last years. If there was a model for effective course design, efficient communications combined with the perfect venue, this was it. Hands down my favorite Spartan Race this year. Having never been to Tahoe for the newer World Championships, I still think Killington is where it should reside.

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Tough Mudder Half – Northeast: A Tough Mudder Virgin No More

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Back in November of 2015, Tough Mudder announced the creation of the ‘Tough Mudder Half’. As described on the Tough Mudder website, the Half is “designed to test teamwork and grit on a 5-mile obstacle course without fire, ice or electricity. It’s all the mud with half the distance and the first step to joining a community of 2 million strong around the world.” Tough Mudder understands that there is a segment of racers out there that may not be ready for a full 10 – 12 mile event and thus, the Half was born – and it’s Northeast debut is where I found myself this past Saturday morning.

Until this summer, I was a Tough Mudder virgin. I’ve been running OCR’s since the summer of 2012, but in full disclosure, the thought of electrocuting myself, willingly, wasn’t quite as appealing as jumping over walls or conquering a rope climb. Over time however, I began to see the appeal – overcoming your fears in an effort to explore the true appreciation of the life we live. My only regret is that it took me this long to jump on the Tough Mudder bandwagon.

Tough Mudder isn’t concerned with how long it takes you to finish, but it is made very clear that they care that you DO finish.

For those who have not experienced Tough Mudder, it is difficult to describe the appeal of this event, but I think it can be narrowed down to a few simple things: teamwork. camaraderie. conquering your fears, and of course, physical achievement. Tough Mudder isn’t a Spartan Race. It’s not a Savage Race or Battle Frog. There is no timing chip.   Other races would rather see you defeated (See my Montreal Ultra Beast review);  however, Tough Mudder wants to see you succeed. I’m guessing the brass at Tough Mudder doesn’t care about saving a few bucks on swag that they don’t have to issue out for folks that DNF. Quite the opposite. Tough Mudder has you swimming in swag from the moment you enter the festival area.TM NE Full and HalfCheck in is simple. Show your confirmation code, email, or phone number and you’re assigned a bib on the spot. No packets to be stuffed, no bib numbers to look up. Bag check is a very affordable $5 USD, which comes with a huge covered, secured tent that is manned all day by members of “Mudder Nation”. Your path to the start line isn’t without encouragement, that’s for sure. You’re given the choice of pre-workout drinks by Cellucor, one of Tough Mudder’s premier sponsors, and another sponsor, Merrell, is also onsite in case you pull a “me” and forget your shoes on race day. You’re taken then into a starting corral where you’re warmed up by the Tough Mudder deejay – a good way to get your blood flowing and get yourself amped up for an awesome day of conquering obstacles.

From the shoot of Tough Mudder Northeast, you were met with a few simple flats to get the nerves out, before heading into a few mud crawls and inverted walls. Again, the main theme of Tough Mudder being teamwork ensures you’re not going to run into many “hotshots” who want to blow past you in order to hurdle an obstacle with speed and precision. I’d consider it more a “You go, I go” mindset. I quickly learned that, before I got myself over any obstacle, it was my duty as a newly indoctrinated Mudder to get someone else over the obstacle first. It started simple with 10-fingers at the walls, to letting folks stand on my shoulder to get over the Mud Mile. It got better and better as the course went on. Tough Mudder’s obstacles are amazing enough to conquer solo but even more rewarding when you see others do them by your side. At one point, I found myself hanging upside down, my feet being held by two girls I had never met before, just so I could help one Matt B. Davis get up Pyramid Scheme – a slick wall requiring teamwork in order to scale its face. That favor was then returned as other Mudders helped haul my ass up Everest 2.0 – a signature obstacle for Tough Mudder. It was shortly after Everest that the Half course broke off onto its own track towards the finish line. You had a real sense of achievement in the obstacles you conquered during the Half without having to completely overcome those fears that may have kept you from registering for a Full – however, I can’t imagine anyone finishing this race and not immediately wanting to sign up for another event, especially since they tease you with views of Electroshock Therapy and other great obstacles as you cross the finish line.

Tough Mudder Great Northeast Pyramid Scheme with Josh Chase

I had the chance to interview finishers of the Half, and the common theme was quite prevalent: “Awesome.”, “So much fun!”, “The camaraderie on the course was amazing!” Look for the video here on ORM, coming soon but don’t wait that long to register for the next Tough Mudder Half in your area – the list of upcoming events can be found here.

If you’re still on the fence, know this: Tough Mudder takes care of its racers. There was never a concern that I would be without hydration on the course. Five to six water stops were intelligently placed throughout the Half and Full courses, complete with huge buckets of water that could easily serve 12 – 15 racers simultaneously. If you needed energy to continue, there was also Cellucor Aminos, bananas and fit bars to get you through to your complimentary beer the end. Other events could stand to take a few pages out of Tough Mudder’s book when it comes to on-course nutrition and hydration.
SUMMARY
Overall, the Tough Mudder Half Northeast was an amazing race. The racers I spoke with on Saturday shared in my enthusiasm for this particular event, and Tough Mudder as a series. I’ll absolutely be back.

To hear more on my Tough Mudder experience, check out the New England Spahtens Show podcast, where myself, Paul Jones and 21-time Mudder finisher Sandy Rhee discuss this weekend’s race and all things OCR.

Spartan Race Montreal Ultra Beast 2016

Spartan Race Montreal StartTwo hours east of Montreal, towering above Lac Memphrémagog, in Mansonville Quebec, lies Mont Owl’s Head. A relatively humble resort in a small town just north of the US and Canadian border. The challenge this giant presented however, was anything but humble, as plenty of would-be Ultra Beasters would find out this past weekend.

Spartan Race Canada is not part of the US-based Spartan experience that I’ve become so accustomed to. Sure the premise is the same: Sprint, Super, Beast, Ultra Beast, etc., but there are variations of the brand that you will only see in the Great White North. First, the Platinum Rig is the premier obstacle partner of Spartan Race Canada. If you ran the last Spartan World Championship Race in Killington, VT back in 2014 or the highly-toted OCR World Championships, chances are you’re familiar with the Platinum Rig. For those who are not, it’s an interchangeable rig design that often includes rings, hanging ropes, monkey bars, cargo nets and any combination there of, sure to give even the vets no choice but to work on their burpee form 30-times over. Platinum Rig also had other obstacles on site that I had not seen in any US-based race.

Second, the sign-in process is a hair different. You bring your receipt info (or mobile-based QR code) to a table, they assign you a bib and timing chip on the spot. No needing to hunt down your bib number online beforehand. Simply show up 90 minutes before your wave, and voila. The timing chips they use, provided by UK-based Trumin Sports, are attached to your shoes, as opposed to those awkward wrist band devices we have grown accustomed to in the States.

…the all-too-common trend nowadays is the predictable fight between Spartan Racer and the terrain: not the obstacles.

Festival entertainment, sprawling vendor alleyways, and start-line traditions all remained the same.

While each Spartan Race course is different, the all-too-common trend nowadays is the predictable fight between Spartan Racer and the terrain; not the obstacles. Their apparent recipe for success? Find a mountain. Hack a course up and down it in relentless fashion, and pack the obstacles into the last leg of the course for a truly cramp-inducing sufferfest. Mont Owl’s Head reaches 2,480 feet above sea level (or 756m if you’re doing as the Canadian’s do). The goal for Spartan this weekend was to punish you straight out of the gate, that much was clear. From the gun, racers were met with an 800ft climb up one of Owl Head’s ski slopes. Turning the corner and hopping a few 4-foot walls took you back down that same 800ft slope, before turning right back around and going back up – the only change of scenery being the racers behind you following in your footsteps as you walk beside them, on the other side of the Spartan Race trail tape. We did this again and again throughout the day. In the first 5km of the course, you were exposed to approximately 2,800ft of elevation change and three laughable obstacles – 4ft walls, hay bails, and two walls that you were supposed to jump over without touching. No challenge there. Once you came down again, you had an inverted Platinum Rig waiting for you at the bottom of the slope.

elevation profile for Ultra Beast course

Elevation Profile for Ultra Beast

The Ultra Beast racers was treated to a 2km loop off of the regular Beast course that did have a Platinum Rig Weaver-style device. If these names sound obscure it’s because there was no course map in the festival area, so I am shooting from the hip on the names. This, in my opinion, was the most innovative obstacle of the day. You had to “weave” under and over bars and logs, as you scaled up the Rig. Hard to visualize and equally hard to complete. From there we had an ammo box carry that led us into the woods into a winding trail of switch backs – a place where seasoned veterans could truly excel.

After that short relatively flat section of the Ultra Beast loop, it was back into climbing and descending mode. Between miles 5 and 10 of the course you were simply hiking up or down the mountain with nothing more than a military-style camouflaged cargo net crawl thrown in to break up the monotony. It wasn’t until you were back down near the festival area that you were met by obstacles such as the Hercules Hoist and Rope Climb. Carry’s found their way into the latter half of the course in the form of the Spartan “Waffle”, a slosh pipe, tire flip, drag, and carry. Once again, staples of the Spartan Race we known and love, but woefully unoriginal – even less so, considering they were simply tossed in towards the end of the race to “break” perspective finishers. And break them, it did. Of the quoted “750 registered racers” in the athlete’s guide, only 125 of those finished the Ultra Beast.

Spartan Race Montreal Climb        Spartan Race Montreal Running Spartan Race Montreal Rig       Spartan Race Montreal Robe Climb
The latter half of the race housed another Platinum Rig obstacle with vertical bars/logs that you needed to grip onto and traverse without touching the ground. Another Canada specific obstacle that surely bested the unfamiliar racer. Monkey bars, a balance beam, and one final traditional Platinum Rig style obstacle stood in the way of the finish line.All in all the mountain was truly the obstacle to conquer this weekend. If you need any more proof of that, you simply need only to look at the finishing times of the Super , held on Saturday. Jesse Bruce finished in a time just over 2 hours 12 mins- a mark that is rarely seen for a 9-mile Spartan Race.

The trend of simply throwing in an obstacle between miles of climbing has become an all too easy excuse for Spartan to justify a resist in innovation. Want a harder race? Find a bigger mountain! Can’t find a bigger mountain? Let’s find more ways to send racers up and down this one! While I was unimpressed with this common theme, I was impressed with the adversity racers continue to put up against the course designers. I continue to watch in awe as competitors meet these challenges head on and with incomparable success. Jesse Bruce for instance took not only the podium at the Super on Saturday but also for the Ultra Beast on Sunday. Bravo.

Myself? I DNF’d the course around Mile 15. My first ‘Did Not Finish’. The mountain won this battle. I just hope the next Ultra Beast I try (I’m looking at you Killington) will challenge my obstacle prowess as much as it does my ability (or inclination) to simply walk up and down a mountain repeatedly. You can do better, Spartan.

Spartan Race Montreal Josh ChaceIt looked so easy from behind the Start Line

Photo Credit: Josh Chace

HESCO Bone Frog Challenge New England 2016

If you haven’t run a Bone Frog Challenge before… you’re doing OCR wrong.

I could simply end the review there but for those of you who still aren’t convinced, let me spend the next 840 words changing your mind.

Former Navy SEAL Brian Carney’s HESCO Bone Frog Challenge, now in it’s fourth year, has attracted the likes of OCR heavyweights Hobie Call, Junyong Pak, Amelia Boone, Cody Moat, Josh Chace and more. Why haven’t you heard about it? Well, if you’re an OCR enthusiast and not just a single brand-loyal racer (Spartan AROO’er, Mudder, or that other Frog), hopefully you have. Nestled deep within the Berkshire Mountains of Western Massachusetts, the HESCO Bone Frog Challenge started in 2013 and then expanded to several other locations in the last few years – also launching the Bone Frog Championships, a 6-mile obstacle intense course for  all the marbles at the end of the year. Now when I say “obstacle intense”, I mean that HESCO Bone Frog Challenge has some of the most challenging and original obstacles in the industry today, hands down.

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Before we talk obstacles, let’s look at the choice of distances offered. HESCO Bone Frog Challenge has expanded it’s offerings in the last few years in an attempt to draw the hardcore OCR enthusiasts as well as capture the folks new to the industry. In New England this past weekend, they offered the following race options:

Sprint – 5K
Challenge – 9 Mile
Tier 1 – 12+ Mile

I opted for the Tier 1 course because I can not get enough of Bone Frog’s obstacles. From their extra-high sternum checker (appropriately named the ‘Dirty Name’ because people are constantly swearing as they round the corner towards this thing) to the highest monkey bars you’ll ever do (also conveniently placed directly in front of the festival area for maximum exposure). Bone Frog crams 40 great non-filler style obstacles into their Challenge and 20+ into their Sprint. You get the usual rope climbs, hoists, wall climbs and more but intertwined between those staples in OCR are some amazing hurdles. A tyrolean traverse over a freezing cold lake – that was only after two previous submersions atop Berkshire East. Great upper body testers like handhold monkey bars, some Ninja Warrior style grip traverses that have still defeated me after 3 years and walls that range from A-frame style, to traverse and inverted options – but it was the Stairway to Valhalla that deserves honorable mention today. Each mountain course typically has what the racers like to refer to as a ‘Death March’. A hike that looks like a crowd of zombies from The Walking Dead is slowly walking up, single file. Last years Stairway was only about 350 feet and started more than halfway up the mountain – well Robb McCoy (of F.I.T. Challenge fame), who was brought on as Co-Race Coordinator this year, decided that this needed to be stepped up a notch or twelve. If you don’t know Robb, know this: Robb McCoy loves hills like I love post-race McDonald’s cheeseburgers (see):

And Robb uses every foot of a hill to beat, batter and bully his racers – in a good way, of course! The Stairway to Valhalla this year started at the base of the mountain and went straight up 800 feet of elevation and over half a mile in distance. If you opted for the Tier 1 race, you had the dubious distinction of climbing this beast twice. Thanks Robb. My calves look epic now thanks to you.

Bone Frog got a little extra boost of exposure this year thanks to Mr. Hobie Call. You may recall that Hobie challenged Ryan Atkins  earlier this month (and took the title of UnBFeated away from Mr. Atkins in quite an upset). Never satisfied, Hobie then moved on to challenge 2x reigning Bone Frog Challenge winner Junyong Pak and wouldn’t you know it, he handily slayed that dragon today as well.

13260062_10100643111022330_100897026324349499_n Photo courtesy: Yvette Tetrault on Facebook

All of this made for a great day at Bone Frog Challenge and hopefully a day worth inspiring more racers to attend in the weeks and months to come. I promise you, this is an event worth marking on your calendar – they’ve got five events left in 2016, seen here: http://www.bonefrogchallenge.com/events/

The event wasn’t without it’s small share of logistical missteps: unfortunately UPS decided not to drop off the race shirts until after the course had shut down, so racers will be getting those in the mail in the follow days/weeks. Beyond that, Bone Frog has mastered the parking, festival, spectator areas and food/vendor balance at a relatively small resort at Berkshire East. What they do have is an AMAZING mountain full of challenging terrain and a staff that truly loves building some of those most amazing obstacles in the industry. They were also all over the course throughout the day calling in requests for more water at plentiful water stops, and there to help out the few that needed medical attention.

To top it all off, at the end of the race, you are handed your medals by a tried and true Navy SEAL – for me it was from a gentleman who had served from 1977 to 2006. Bone Frog really knows how to pay respect to the folks who share the race’s namesake. Bravo. In summary: A++++ would do business with again!

HESCO Bone Frog - Finish Line

HESCO Bone Frog - Course

HESCO Bone Frog - Obstacle

Bone Frog Challenge Discount Code

Bone Frog Challenge Discount Code

Spartan Race Ultra Beast – Vernon, NJ

Ultra Beast Finishers Belt Buckle

New Jersey can now officially be known for it’s Beasts. Whether it be the Spartan Race event this past weekend, or the bears that inhabit Mountain Creek Resort in Vernon, NJ – as both have now gathered quite the following. This event has quickly become an early season favorite for a large number of racers in the Northeast as waiting all year for Killington just wasn’t going to work any longer.

From last years snow-covered barbed wire crawls to this years bear-filled trails, Mountain Creek continues to be a great location for Spartan Race Director Norm Koch to inflict exceptional levels of pain on his racers; for me that pain came in the form of the Ultra Beast, a 2-lap sufferfest spanning almost 32 miles and 11,000 feet of technical elevation change.

As strong as the course was, the event itself wasn’t without logistical issues as our start was delayed by 40 minutes by (depending on which story you believe) “bears on the course”, the “inability to safely get volunteers to their stations in a timely manner” or a potential OCR-saboteur who “replaced Spartan Race marking tape with a competing companies tape”? Scandalous.

Registration and Gear Check were smooth as silk for Ultra Beasters, as we were required to get our bibs the night before – something I think they should adopt for all racers to ease the morning rush of folks getting to the venue. I didn’t have a chance to check out Merch or Festival Food as I was on the course before most of that opened.

Man vs. Mountain
Beast and Ultra Beast events are, first and foremost, endurance events. They are designed to have you on the course from the wee hours of the morning to the waning hours of the night. The actual obstacles are almost a welcome break to the miles and miles of climbing and descending the rugged mountainsides. And they were rugged. Spartan took no liberties with the paths we took around the resort. The first 2 miles were effectively a straight up / straight down route with a log carry at the top and a rig / rope climb. I felt it all over immediately and I was only one-fourteenth of the way through the event. The reward for completing those obstacles was another climb up the mountain to meet an uphill barbed-wire crawl, sans snow.

What I truly loved about this race, was the use of terrain on this mountain. It’s taken my body 2 days to recover to the point where I can actually type this without grimacing but I really enjoyed scaling Mountain Creek, navigating the trails on the backside of the mountain as you traveled along one of it’s many lakes, leading us over a dam in the river and under some drainage tunnels. The overwhelming majority, from my conversations with racers out on the course, is that this year was much harder than last year and a quick look at the winning time this year of 4:04:45 by Cory Sweetman vs. last year’s winning time of 2:50:44 by Drew Jett. Thankfully this year though, we were blessed with much better conditions, at least on Saturday. This mountain is making a name for itself. It’s got everything Spartan loves to showcase in it’s terrain – steep and rolling hills, lakes and ponds, and plenty of mud. For me, creative use of a venue is a huge plus, especially when your obstacle creativity seems to be somewhat… underwhelming.

We'll miss you, Dustin!

Breaking Up The Monotony
Spartan Race is known for it’s obstacles: the rope climb, the bucket brigade, and the log carry. That damn spear throw (1 for 2 this weekend – I’ll consider that a success, especially since my successful attempt came on my second lap at hour 13, when it was needed most). While these obstacles are all very well known, they’re also now getting stale. The only “new” obstacle they’ve really added to change up their events is their custom rigs. This weekend it was a ranger bar, to monkey rings, to Tarzan swings. They didn’t even have the decency to raise it more than 6 feet off the ground – sorry, tall guy problems. They’ve also changed their rope climb to an “above ground” version meaning no more pools of water underneath – simply hay bails and mulch underneath you, so you better control your descent once you ring that bell, with your hands of course, definitely not your feet!

For Spartan it’s clear that the push is to TV, whether it be in the form of the upcoming Spartan Race Ultimate Team Challenge, Spartan Race’s NBC coverage, or the lofty goal of landing this sport in the Olympics some day. Spartan needs innovation and not in the form of the Spartan Delta. While on the mountain it’s clear that plenty of people are still psyched to get their Trifecta’s, others were completely unaware of things like the Delta, the Hurricane Heat or the Agoge (man that word irks me and I don’t know why). While Spartan has the largest social media presence of most of the big-named races, they seem to be the worst at providing actual content worth paying attention to. One positive though is it seemed like they had a larger than average number of Ultra Beasters on the course Saturday, an event normally reserved for those who had truly trained (or were truly nuts) for such a task. Perhaps this is the result of people getting bored with the same obstacles over and over again?

Finish Line Dunk Wall

Why Do We Fall?
I completed the Ultra Beast in 14 hours 23 minutes. Approximately 13 hours of that was spent in a very dark place. If you’re like me, you spend a great deal of time during these “sufferfests” doubting yourself. We all tell ourselves we don’t belong here, that we’re not strong enough to finish or that we’ll never make it. But then something happens. Each step you take represents a small victory over our mental hurdles, propelling us towards the greater goal of self-realization. The mountain had plenty of ups and downs as did I this Saturday and it’s allowed me to understand why we put ourselves in these uncomfortable situations; It’s so that when we fall, we can learn to pick ourselves back up and get back out there. For me that feat was only achievable through belief in ones self and my friends. Without them, this event would have been very different for me but instead I will hold the Ultra Beast in very high regards. To me, it’s what Spartan Race really should be about. Not just brute physical fortitude, but testing ones self against all odds, and overcoming physical and mental adversity in order to understand what you are truly capable of. This is what the Ultra Beast is and if you have a chance, I would recommend trying it. Fail or succeed, I guarantee you’ll take something positive out of the experience.

Done - In every way possible

On a personal note: I was amazed and disappointed at the lack of respect people had for the course and the event this weekend. Litter is always brought up and continues to be an issue, but for me, the thing that really got to me was people leaving their gear everywhere. Shirts, hoodies, string backpacks (Why did you even bring that?!) and hydration packs were left everywhere on this course – that’s just rude. Stop it. You carried it in, carry it out! Also, if you’re starting a Beast at 2pm, and you don’t have a headlamp, you should be pulled off the course. Saying “They’ll have to drag me out of here if they think I’m coming off the course” is dumb. You were given instructions just like I was. Follow them.