Spartan Race Announces 2018 Global Championship Series

While the eyes of the OCR world were focused on the Blue Mountains in Ontario this past weekend for the OCR World Championships, Spartan quietly teased us with details of a possible global competition on their Instagram account.

History will be made. Will you be a part of it? 🌎 #spartanrace

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This morning, Spartan Race revealed the 2018 Spartan Race Global Championship. A worldwide competition, leading up to the Spartan Race World Championship in October of 2018. The Championship field will need to battle through one of 15 different National Series events in countries such as the USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Northeast Asia, and more. The top finishers in the National Series will be invited to compete in one of five (5) Regional Championships –  North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, South America, and the Middle East. The best of the best will then go on to compete in Spartan Race’s World Championship in October, next year.

Qualifications:

  • Regional Championships: Men and women must finish top 10 in any regular season or National Championship Series event in their respective category
  • World Championship: Men and Women must finish top 10 in a National Championship Series event or a Regional Championship in their respective category

Race formats, dates, and locations will be announced at a later date.

The Global Championship Series also offers open-heat competitors the opportunity to race on the same grounds as
some of the best athletes in the world, along with limited edition medals and shirts.

With Spartan Race’s reach rapidly expanding across the globe, this move will put the top athletes from across the world against each other, for OCR enthusiasts to watch live – it’s a Spartan Race fans dream come true.

Killington, VT – Did Spartan “Tame” the Beast of the East?

“A Killington Beast that’s only 13 miles? INCONCEIVABLE!” – Vizzini (I am convinced he would have said that if The Princess Bride was an OCR)

New Norm™, Jason Barnes has become Spartan’s newest ambassador of pain and misery, but he may have inadvertently sent the OCR community into a complete uproar when he said in a Facebook Live video that the Killing Beast would “only” be 13.5 to 14 miles.

Background on the Beast

Killington, VT is the Home of the Beast. It’s Spartan’s birthplace in every way. It housed their first ever event, and it is the Church in which legions of racers pay mental and physical penance to each year. Killington is and always will be the Beast of the East. So how could Spartan Race dare cut this course back to a measly ~13ish miles?! It’s easy to see why the Internet was in an uproar. Even after the event, it would seem that this year’s Beast was “easier” than past events. Let’s just look at the finishing times:

Spartan Beast – 2015
Elite Finishers:

1 Jesse Bruce 2691 34 M 3:28:05
2 Matthew Kempson 9310 25 M 3:42:46
3 Junyong Pak 8662 37 M 3:46:12

Spartan Beast – 2016
Elite Finishers:

1 Matthew Kempson 2722 26 M 3:32:48
2 Ethan Nedeau 3903 43 M 3:38:28
3 Benjamin Rodkey 4692 27 M 3:39:18

Spartan Beast 2017
Elite Finishers:

1 Francis DiSomma 2819 27 M 3:04:41
2 Brent Trail 5013 30 M 3:08:23
3 rskempson13 2464 28 M 3:09:20

 

A time of 3 hours 4 minutes won the Elite Heat at the Beast on Saturday. Is the Beast becoming passé? Has the #RoadToTahoe taken a detour around Killington, VT? If you go back to 2015 and ready my review of the “Founders Race” held in Killington, you also heard me talk about how scaled back the challenge of Killington was that year.

Man vs. Mountain

No matter the combination of obstacles, or the inclusion of the legendary swim to Tarzan Swing under the bridge, it’s not the distance that puts the “kill” in Killington. It’s the mountain itself. Racers come to Vermont from every corner of the US and beyond to leave their mark, and blood, and sweat, and tears, on that mountain. Even if Spartan has a misstep with obstacles or water supply, there will always be all 4,236 feet of that mountain, and Spartan knows how to use it. Faster finishing times simply meant more elevation crammed into smaller spaces – including a bucket carry that was unrelenting at times.

Olympus at the base of the Death March – Photo Credit: Tony Martinez on Instagram

Summiting The Beast

The Death March at Killington is like no other. It’s over 1 mile of straight up marching where seemingly every step is a foot or more in elevation gain. The sun can bake you as you climb or the winds can chill you as you ascend higher. No matter the weather, you’re in for a challenge. There were two subtle differences this year, that welcomes racers to the “top” of Mount Killington.

First – we were detoured away before hitting the true peak of Killington. A first for Spartan, not utilizing the very summit on its course. Second, a familiar group of New England Spahtens who decided to skip racing, and instead take it upon themselves to welcome each competitor to the top with hugs, candy, cookies, or a simple high-five to brighten their day. Faces changes from misery, to elation. Tears of pain turned to tears of joy. Clif Bars and GUs were traded in for Starburst and Snickers. It was truly a community supporting a community and it was the perfect way to start your descent towards the Finish Line after a long 11+ miles into the course.

The treats awaiting racers atop the mountain

Killington will always be the home of the Beast. While it may no longer be home to Spartan’s World Championship, it is absolutely a staple in most racers calendar each year. It may not attract the star power of the OCR world as it did in years past, but it still continues to deliver an experience that is the perfect balance of pain and pleasure.

Until next year, Killington.

Fit Four Spartan OCR Neo Grip Gloves

OCR Neo Grip Gloves
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Inevitably the question of whether you should wear gloves to an OCR event will come up in your circle of friends. Official Spartan Race glove provider, Fit Four offered me the option to try some of their newly introduced OCR Neo Grip Gloves. Unlike tradition full coverage mitts, the Neo Grips are minimalist in design, geared towards protecting you from painful callouses while allowing you a wider range of motion throughout your race.

Spartan OCR Neo Grip Gloves Features

Added cushion and anti-slip grip protection for OCR races  – The added grip these gloves provided really proved useful on obstacles like the rope climb, Hercules hoist, and plate drags. They provided a cushioned barrier for my hands, while not sacrificing the grip strength I’ve built up.

Original patented 4-finger minimalist gloves design – Can gloves without straps stay in place? How effective can such a small gloves be? The gloves hold tight around your hands without the need of straps or velcro. Their compression fit keeps them in place while navigating obstacles, running, trudging through mud or swimming. Having your fingers and palms free allows me to keep these on through the race if necessary but they’re also easy enough to slide off, should I want to tuck them in my pack when not in use.

Spartan OCR Neo Grip Gloves Usage

Admittedly, I have only worn gloves to more easily navigate mud crawls. I’d slip them on to keep my hands protected as I rolled under barbed wire, etc. I had never considered gloves for the obstacles themselves. I’ve spent a few weeks using Fit Four’s OCR Neo Grip Gloves and there’s definitely a place in my gear box for these going forward.

I found the gloves to be both comfortable and durable. Their four-finger compression fitting wrapped the most vulnerable parts of my hands, like a tiny neoprene wetsuit. The gloves were well built and tough, but their minimalist design ensured I lost no effectiveness in my grip, even bolstering it during certain obstacles. They’re easily removed while running, should you rather attack the next obstacle with bare palms – but I’ll warn you – after wearing these, you’ll wonder why you have gone this long without them.

I’ve taken them to multiple OCR events as well as my local obstacle training gym, and I’ve found them to be helpful in both race and training situations.

Spartan OCR Neo Grip Gloves Durability

Fit Four has developed these gloves using double-stitching to ensure durability and effectiveness during a Spartan Race. The compression fitting holds well while in use, and the neoprene design ensures that your hands can still “breathe” while wearing them. Small pieces of the foam lining have started to fall apart after repeated use, but this is mostly in spots where there is excess material and I have seen no change in the usability of the gloves because of this.

Spartan OCR Neo Grip Gloves Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Simple, minimalist design
  • Superior callous protection
  • Form fitting without the need for velcro or straps
  • Open design allows for a good balance of protection as well as freedom of movement

Cons

  • Underside of gloves can bunch up and fold over during obstacles like Rigs and Monkey Bars
  • Open design can allow mud and rocks to gather easier than traditional gloves
  • Small pieces of material have pulled away, though no impact to usage

Spartan OCR Neo Grip Gloves Conclusion

While any pair of gloves will not replace the need to continue to work on grip strength training for obstacle races, Fit Four has found the sweet spot with the Spartan OCR Neo Grip Gloves for users who trust their grip but want to protect their hands and callouses during a race. These gloves are small enough to tuck into your pocket during a race and easy to put on and pull off without having to stop, which makes them a great addition to any race day supply list.

 

 


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Josh Chace

Josh Chace has been an obstacle and endurance race enthusiast for the last five years. He is a 2017 Team MudGear Athlete and is a co-host of the New England Spahtens Show podcast.
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Spartan Race – Palmerton Super/Sprint Weekend 2017

Spartan Race U.S. Championships Series – Blue Mountain Challenge

Ask any Spartan Racer what the most grueling event they’ve done in their racing tenure, and Palmerton is sure to be high on that list. After Killington and Tahoe, I’ve heard plenty of stories of racers dropping out during the dreaded double-sandbag carry Palmerton is famous for or succumbing to the heat on what has proven to be a very formidable mountain.

Palmerton, PA also just happens to be the 3rd stop in the Spartan Race US Championship Series – dubbed The Blue Mountain Challenge, which meant the stakes were higher than ever. If you came to watch the best athletes in this sport, you weren’t disappointed. Atkins, Call, Boone, Webster, Kolbl, Killian were all on site. Spartan Race continues to drive amazing live footage, along with an onslaught of social media presence around these big name races – something the OCR enthusiast in me truly can’t get enough of.

For myself, and thousands of other racers, this was simply a chance to experience a championship caliber course on a mountain that has proven it’s worthy of mention in conversations about the toughest Spartan Race venue.

Spartan Up Your Friday Night

Select Spartan courses have also been offering an Open House the Friday before an event weekend. Spartan also offered racers an option to “Spartan Up” their Friday night, which gave the public the perfect opportunity to come enjoy the festival, learn obstacle and training secrets of top coaches, and maybe even meet a few Spartan Pro’s. New obstacles like Twister and Olympus were available to try out, which helps runners get a valuable chance at trying an obstacle before they see it on race day. We also saw a “prototype” rope wall obstacle Spartan was trying out that didn’t make its way into the race itself but gave us a possible look at what may be coming next.

Ape Hanger was another obstacle that has only been seen in one other location – Lake Tahoe, for the 2016 Spartan Race World Championships. Combine the old school rope climb from the water, with a monkey bars / slash rig type feeling, and you’ve got the Ape Hanger. Here is hoping Ape Hanger finds its way to more events because it was an absolute blast.

Spartan continued the assault on racers bodies by building two of the most grueling carries seen so far this year. A double sandbag carry (mandatory to Elite & Competitive racers) down an aptly named ski trail dubbed “Nightmare” and a Bucket Carry that was so long, it extended into the festival area, where onlookers could cheer on runners, and share in the pain that is the Bucket Carry.

All in total, Palmerton saw 25+ obstacles over 6000+ feet of elevation change across the Super course and didn’t skimp at all on the Sprint course the following day. After completing both events on consecutive days, I’m starting to understand the groans I have heard from fellow racers any time the word “Palmerton” is mentioned. When you combine the presence of the obstacle course racing elite, NBC and Spartan Facebook Live coverage, with a course like this, it’s a recipe for success. I’ll be adding Blue Mountain to my list of must-do events going forward.

Photo Credit: Josh Chace

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Montreal Sprint/Super Weekend Canada

After having my ass handed to me last year, I returned to Mont Owl’s Head this past weekend looking to take a far more cautious approach to a mountain that defeated over 90% of Ultra Beasters in 2016. Thankfully, Spartan Race Canada took mercy on us as well, moving this weekend to a Sprint/Super combination – opting to push their Ultra Beast event further north to Quebec City, in August – want to join me there? Register with Code: ORM15 for 15% off!

If you’ve avoided travelling outside of the US for a Spartan Race – The “Montreal” event is a great way to dip your toes into the Great White North. It really could be called the Northern Vermont Sprint/Super because by the time you’ve put your passport away after passing through customs, you’re arriving at Mont Owl’s Head. Also, if you’re familiar with the peaks of Vermont, or New Hampshire’s White Mountains, then you’ll be right at home here. Owl’s Head has a small base but steep climbs comparable to mountains twice its size.

“Though she be but little, she is fierce”

Owl’s Head totes one of the steepest climbs I’ve experienced in my OCR days and we couldn’t escape that climb, even on the Sprint course. About two miles in, after hitting a brutal combination of Olympus, Monkey Bars, a Platinum Rig, and a grueling Bucket Carry where racers were filling their buckets with dirt and rocks, we were tortured with a slow climb to the top of the mountain – about a 1,700 foot climb all in. The reward for climbing the mountain, and subsequent descent, is a view like no other – A gorgeous lake spanning for miles and the Appalachian’s in all their glory. You had plenty of time to drink it in, as you navigated the Tractor Pull through a slick and muddy path atop the mountain. You also had some time to really open up your legs on the back half of the Sprint – something that was severely missing in last year’s event. Long winding downhills made for some nice speed before bringing you into a finishing gauntlet made up of the Spear Throw, Rope Climb, Hoist, Barbed Wire Crawl, Rolling Mud, Dunk Wall, and A-Frame Cargo Net – all within 100m of the finish line.

Combined, the Sprint and Super had approximately 5,000 competitors and the venue handled them well. Small lines at registration were quickly moved through and Spartan made it a point to bring in far more bathrooms than last year, a common gripe among attendees. Finisher shirts seem to have gone universal in North America as there’s no Canadian flag or indicator that you’ve done a Canada Spartan.

All in all, I really enjoyed this weekend, especially getting back to short course racing where you can really test your lungs and legs. It’s been some time for me since I’ve started running longer distance events, and it was refreshing to cross the finish line while it was still light out.

Were you back at Montreal for redemption after last year? I’d love to hear about it – leave us a comment below!

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.