Savage Race FINALLY Arrives in New England

After many years of begging, bribing, kidnapping, and other forms of threat and intimidation, Savage Race finally agreed to invade New England with a pretty fantastic course on the “venue of all companies” in Barre, MA. Here’s the course map:

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If you’ve never raced in Mass, and aren’t familiar with Carter and Steven’s Farm in Barre, let me tell you it’s an ankle breaking, thick mudded cow farm, and steaming cow patties are an unofficial obstacle at every event. It is a swampy, stinky course and cows gather in groups and moo in protest as you run along. They do have an onsite brewery and ice cream stand though, and it really is a great place to put on tough events.

And this Savage Rage was tough. Savage Race follows the gold standard of mandatory obstacle completion for the competitive wave, called “Pro” at Savage. Pro racers received a nice wrist band.  We had to surrender the band if we couldn’t complete an obstacle, multiple attempts allowed. I can’t say enough about how great this is. More and more events with prize money have adopted it, with one notable exception, our favorite burpeepalooza.

Savage Obstacles

This course was crammed with familiar obstacles, many had a unique twist. There were a crapload of rigs. These guys love rigs, and it’s hard to argue with them. Rigs can be arranged in so many crazy ways and Savage Race definitely put some insane stuff out there.

Below is a pic of Tree Hugger. This was a wooden rig that required traversing square poles and logs with foothold cutouts. The early morning rain made the poles slippery. It was a challenging upper body exercise. Very creative and fun.

After a short run, we came upon Wheel World. I’ve wanted to try this for a long time. It’s a momentum riding obstacle, as long as you don’t fight the spins at all, getting to the last wheel isn’t so bad. However, scores of folks couldn’t quite make the dismount. Savage Race very cleverly arranged the solid ground to be just out of reach unless one let go of the last wheel at the height of the centrifugal pull. Lots of racers were left hanging desperately for a while before trying again. Wheel World was a blast!

Savages Overcome Fear

I like that Savage Race combines challenging obstacles with ones that require you to overcome fears. It’s really a great combination. This is an undervalued asset of our sport. The next article I am writing for ORM talks about this in specific, through the eyes of a man trying to conquer his phobia. Savage Race has Shriveled Richard (think TM Arctic Enema) and Davy Jones’ Locker, which is reminiscent of the high jumps into water that other races USED to offer. Kudos to Savage for keeping it!!  Thor’s Grundle, pictured below, had a high freak-out potential.

Savage Race really cranked it up in the last couple of miles, this awesome slide below, Colossus, was HUGE and epic fun. I wanted to do it 13 times. Rumor has it that Savage Race installed several permanent obstacles, including Colossus, at the farm. Pre-registration is open for 2018 already, in the cow patties.

Savage Grip Obstacles

The last mile-and-a-half had three very tough grip obstacles. It was a straight up gauntlet. Grip strength is my thing, but by the end of the third rig, I was running on fumes. Sawtooth came first.  The rungs were all wet. It is long. Not easy. I’m filthy in this pic thanks to a face first swamp pit fall. You shoulda been there.

Next up was the Savage Rig. This obstacle was a series of rings and thick ropes. It was easy to get tangled in this rig. This one was tricky.

 

The last obstacle was a brute named Twirly Bird, and it was one of the hardest obstacles I have personally attempted. Basically it is an alternating field of single flat handles, and loose clumps of thin ropes that they describe as a mop. Accurate. I watched a video on this one where folks wisely just used the handles by swinging big. Well, they adjusted the distance on this one forcing you to grab the mops too, as a result it was far more difficult. I would have fallen off if this obstacle was any longer. This was an impressive obstacle. It wouldn’t surprise me if Twirly Bird had a 90% failure rate.

I was very impressed with this event. Good medals, nice shirt, and very involved owner as well. I have only two complaints: the first one is that there are really too many events at this venue, but I get that it is hard to find space near Boston, so this one is forgiven. Secondly, handing out full size bottles of water at aid stations is wasteful. Buy some Dixie cups. Everything else was righteous!

Savage Race, I’m glad you’re coming back next year, cows and all. I highly recommend this event. See you then!

Tough Mudder – The Great Northeast

Tough Mudder is one of the most frequently reviewed events. I’ve officially run more of theirs than any other company’s races now. This weekend was a reminder as to why. I ran both days with our own Matt B. Davis, and we both remarked frequently upon why Tough Mudder remains unique.

Tough Mudder Great Northeast Saturday finish

On Saturday, when we reached Everest, there was a big crowd as always. After we all made it up, we noticed there was a huge team attempting this famous Tough Mudder obstacle as well. All but one of them had made it up.  She was perhaps 5 feet tall and in her late 50’s. She made 5 gallant attempts, but was unable to reach the top. Her team and she were all first timers and they reluctantly began to leave. Matt and I stopped them and told her that we would get her to the top. Her team rallied, and we built a human ladder from the bottom and lowered a guy from the top. She climbed us and reached the top of Everest. Her face was unforgettable. I’ve no doubt that neither her nor her team will forget that moment. As Matt and I high-fived and jogged off, I told him that he could get to the top unassisted if he wanted.

We returned to Tough Mudder the next day, and Matt easily crested Everest unassisted for the first time, as did Rise of the Sufferfests’ Scott Kenneally. He also completed Tough Mudder’s Funky Monkey 2.0 for the first time. Here’s my point, Tough Mudder is an event of firsts. The team and the veterans, both achieving milestones they won’t soon forget.

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Helping others through the course at Tough Mudder is an expectation. It is part of the pledge we all give before each wave. It is viewed as a responsibility, but in reality it is a gift. Many of us have been in OCR for years and run hundreds of events. They get old after a while. That’s just a fact. But, for me, being given the opportunity to help someone accomplish a feat they thought was beyond their capability, is worth a thousand podiums. At every Tough Mudder you will see Legionaries sitting atop Pyramid Scheme and Everest, or in the water at Blockness, helping dozens of runners complete these team challenges before moving on. At World’s Toughest Mudder, you may have been helped up by Ryan Atkins or Junyong Pak, even with $100k on the line.

Tough Mudder Great Northeast Pyramid Scheme with Josh Chase

Tough Mudder’s biggest obstacle, King of the Swingers, is another such opportunity. At three events is a row, I have been witness to the stark fear that obstacle inspires in those afraid of heights and deep water. Now, if you are lucky enough not to have a phobia, then it’s likely you don’t understand the fear people face up there. If you do have one, then you know these folks are literally paralyzed with fear. That they can’t move, or even open their eyes at first. Sometimes they can’t even climb to the high platform Tough Mudder erects at KotS at all. But, each of these three times, the same thing happened. The crowd, the fellow runners, the volunteers, everyone cheered them on enthusiastically. There was no impatience or frustration. My good friend Yvette stood up there for 15 minutes, crying, shaking her head, and repeating “no, no, no!” and then, she jumped! Thunderous applause.  I had the same experience at Long Island with another woman who finally leaped and caught the bar after about 10 minutes of sweating it out. I watched her run off into the woods with her hands in the air yelling “Yes, yes, yes!” Tell me that’s not a beautiful thing.

Even when there is a failure, as there was with my third friend, he now knows what it looks like. He’s determined to try again. That’s the kind of thing that brings people back. Now you add in the tiny cramped tunnels (that I loathe), the freezing Arctic Enema, the dark crawls, the voluntary waterboarding of Cage Crawl, and you realize that Tough Mudder really does have something for everyone. Really the only thing missing is an obstacle wherein a bucket of spiders is dropped upon you. I know where you can get spiders wholesale, so let me know.

There is nothing like Tough Mudder in North America. Don’t be a dingbat, go run one.

The Sunday Team The Sunday Team

Photo Credits: Tough Mudder and Matt B. Davis

Tough Mudder Long Island 2016

Tough Mudder Long Island was a really great event. It was 90+ degrees, and the course was around 10 miles through a wooded area with some rolling hills, about half of which was in the sun and half on far cooler trails. I thought the heat might dissuade some folks, but the event was mobbed. I ran early and was treated to Sean Corvelle’s patented brilliance and a short speech by the CEO of Team Rubicon, Tough Mudder’s new American Charity partner since they kicked Wounded Warrior to the curb. They are a pretty cool organization that gathers veterans together and sends them to assist the needy at natural disaster sites around the globe. This organization reminded me of Eric Greiten’s book “The Heart and the Fist.”

Tough Mudder Kiss of Mud Long Island

The course was quite a lot of fun. This year Tough Mudder is really hitting it out of the park. This event forced teamwork like never before. They are adding more obstacles to each course that you just can’t do alone. The Mud Mile was a great example of this. I’m 6’2″ and the mud pits were taller than me, with water up to my lower chest. Early in the day, you couldn’t get out of those suckers without help. It was really awesome. The water felt great and we were all completely covered in mud. It reminded me of the old days. I removed a rock the size of an acorn from my sock afterward. Mud Mile

At Mt Snow, they had a 4-6 person log carry wherein you had to feed the log through holes in a wall at various heights, and carry it over another. Even the inverted walls at Tough Mudder are tough unless you have a very strong upper body. I really love this aspect of their events. It forces you to focus on others and not try to be such a badass hauling ass all over the place with your sponsor tattoos peeling off.

Pyramid Scheme, as you know if you tried it this year, is straight up impossible alone. The larger water pit and the lack of any grippable sides, ensures that you’ll be living the Tough Mudder pledge. It’s not easy with a group either. It is harder to beat than Everest for just about everyone. But man it’s fun! The last couple events, I have hung out at the top of both this one and Everest helping folks get up the damn things for quite a while. It is my favorite part of Tough Mudder.

Pyramid Scheme Long Island

I forgot how much fun everyone has at well run Tough Mudder events. I lost track of this for a couple years running competitively everywhere, but this year I’ve run just about every race with my young son, or with a first timer, and I’m having such a blast, that I feel stupid for waiting so long to adopt this approach. It is still great running as fast as you can once in awhile, but I’m loving this stopping to smell the OCR roses stuff.

King of Swingers and the Blockness Monster are my two favorite obstacles at any event. They are like amusement park rides. I hit the bell on KoS this time, after going 0 for 12 at WTM, and a volunteer yelled out “That’s 13!” Almost everyone continues to miss it. If you want to hit the bell, you have to grab onto the t-bar with completely straight arms and hang on to that thing until the apex of it’s arc, quickly reaching out as far as you can with one arm. This obstacle rewards practice. I was running near a woman who screamed in triumph after jumping and swinging. It is a very high platform and it was a great reminder that OCR still really challenges people.

Blockness Long Island

Blockness is possible alone if you’re tall and lucky, but it’s so much more fun as a group. This debuted as “Roll the Dice” at World’s Toughest Mudder last year, and it has become a favorite for everyone. I know I always want to hang out there for an hour. Great innovation. The water was deep and cold as well. They did a good job spacing these water obstacles out to cool you off regularly, and the water stations were numerous. This was especially important given the open course and blazing heat. Cellucor still tastes like crap though. Blue syrup. It does the job, however.

Blockness Long Island

Arctic Enema wasn’t very cold this time around, it was hot out, but throw more ice in there for cripes sake. We pay good money to get smacked in the face with an ice hammer, and ice is cheap, give us our pain! On that note, Cage Crawl is murderous this year. Tough Mudder has very intelligently started this obstacle off with plenty of space between you and the cage, but the further you go, the less space you have to breathe. I am convinced I’ll drown every time I do this one. However, when (not if) you panic, just grab the fence and press your face against iup against the chain link fence. You will be able to breathe and compose yourself.  It’s torture. Love it.

Cage Crawl Long Island

I’m happy I made the trek down there for this one. There were some lame aspects. My hotel was 4 miles from the site, and I was asked to drive 10 miles in the opposite direction to take a 25-minute shuttle back. I just hopped in a rideshare instead and was there in 10 min. The end of the course was anticlimactic. I think they arranged it differently as the Tough Mudder Half was happening on Sunday, but Electroshock was off by itself  in the last 1/2 mile with very few spectators, and the finish line was hidden away also with few people watching. That’s worth fixing.

Go run one!

F.I.T. Challenge 6

Editor’s note: Joshua Grant does many obstacle races with his son Callan, age 8. For this review, he and his boy did 3 laps together (completing every obstacle), so they take turns writing about their experience in this review. 

With the many local events around the country going under, you know there’s a good reason that some remain strong. Man, do I regret not attending a F.I.T. event sooner. This event was really  special. Robb McCoy, the race director, has made quite a name for himself over the last few years for running unique, difficult, and very smooth events and was recently hired by Bonefrog. From what I saw, Robb is involved with his events at every level. The guy personally builds his podium awards in a woodshop. These awards don’t just go to the jack-rabbit slims out there burning up the course, but he also gives one to every single person who manages 3 or more laps of the this very tough 5kish course on a knobby little mountain in Rhode Island, Diamond Hill. Robb is in his shop right now cranking them out as about a 100 people earned one. Rewarding people for perseverance as well as speed is a great trend. It fits perfectly with their motto: “Fortitude, Integrity, Toughness.”

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This race is on the cutting edge and delivering what we want as racers: flexibility, challenge, and awesomeness. As evidence of that, I’m writing this review with my son Callan, 8 years of age. Robb allows kids on the full course, if their parents think they can hack it. I love this. I know some people don’t like seeing kids out there, but the kids that come to a course like this tend to be better at most of the frigging obstacles than the rest of us.  I’m not going to belabor this point. Kids in races is an article on it’s own. His portions will be in italics and are in his own words.

Hello i’m Callan Grant I decided to do the F.I.T. Challenge to practice for a race called Infinitus. The F.I.T. Challenge is a very hard, fun, and creative race. It is a race that can be run multiple times/multi-lap. There are some hard obstacles like the destroyer wall, horizontal cargo net, Wreckbag and log carry. They used good resources like picnic tables that you crawled under.12987165_1223803757631506_1574789101898328123_n

It was great seeing the Destroyer again that many of us loved at OCRWC. It was just as tough. Robb also introduced a very challenging floating wall that pivoted vertically, kind of a wall sized see-saw. Very unique and difficult. The rig had an extremely challenging lane with tight crimp grips on a swinging board and skinny Tarzan ropes, and a double lane of various monkey bars for regular folks. The course as a whole is significantly harder than a Spartan and is on par mile per mile with OCRWC. Ask around. This course is for real.

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I ran the race with my dad. After they say “go” you have to climb this huge hill after that you go down hill and then going up a different side of the mountain and down through the woods. The first obstacle is a ladderlike thing that was just nailed into two trees, you needed to get over it and run to the next obstacle. 

This event made great use of the rugged terrain sending us up and down the relatively short mountain relentlessly. This made multiple laps even more of a challenge. One runner managed 6 laps. Last lap had to start by 1pm from an 8am start. Impressive. It also shows the evolution of the race. The inaugural event had a fastest time under 19 minutes. The fastest time this year was just under an hour.

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There was a tire jump thing that you had to get over and you had to do it twice. Once my dad threw me in the mud accidently on the other side of the second tire jump.

This is true. I gave him a little push and he went face first into the mud. The course was very obstacle dense. There was a fairly long uphill low crawl. Lots of iteration on walls. There was a nasty section with an under climb on horizontal cargo net, followed immediately by peg boards and a rope climb. Lots of folks were taking breaks around there.

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Then the log carry came in, first I carried a big log but the other time I carried a small log, you had to go up a hill and then go down it and put the log down.  Then the horizontal cargo net, what you had to do, you grab a few squares ahead and kick your feet up and crawl upside down to the end and hit the bell. The sandbag carry was very hard for me because of the size of it. I carried the 25 pound bag, AND IT WAS AS TALL  AS ME!!! You had to get up a hill, kick a bell and come back down the hill and put it down.

The two carries were uphill and challenging. Callan carried roughly half his weight and it damn near crushed him. He started crying on the third lap while holding the Wreck bag, but refused to stop, drop it, or accept help. The destroyer wall was at the bottom of the Wreck Bag carry and the kid had a moment of elation at the top of that wall every time. That’s a great feature of this event. It breaks you, then builds you back up.

The destroyer wall was hard for me, I had to get a boost to the first handhold and jump to the next one and then get over the wall.Then the second to last obstacle the rig there were two choices monkey bars or a 5.11 ( handholds that you can barely hang onto) a lot of people chose monkey bars like me. When you got to the end of the rig there was another cargo net to get over and after that a slanted ladder to get over and then run to the finish.

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The finishing stretch had a great set of obstacles with another floating wall, some unique takes on over unders, a tall muscle-up double log obstacle similar to Sternum Checker, followed by Atlas stones, the rig and a final inverted wall before crossing the line. If I were looking for an alternative to the big names, I would travel a great distance for this race. Like Bonefrog, they are doing OCR right. F.I.T. gave us some great swag with a headband, wristband, special bracelets for elites and multi-lappers, a nice t-shirt, and a quality medal. F.I.T has a fall event planned. Make the trip, you won’t regret it.

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The Spartan Cruise- Welcome to the Bahamas!

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My family and I attended the Spartan Cruise after scoring a free ride. I admit to a strong bias against cruises as well, so I reckon these two facts canceled one another out. After being on the ship for 20 minutes I was ready to leave. I like to keep an open mind about things. The cause of my distress was the first buffet exposure. After sampling the fair, I was sure I’d lose weight on the cruise. Then I found the soft serve machine. I decided to gain 20lbs instead. Truthfully, every meal after the first was quite good. There were six different restaurants on the Norwegian Sky where you could eat with no additional cost. They had turkey burgers. If that isn’t enough to convince you to go next year, then you need to take a hard look at your life.

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Our room was tiny and efficient. It reminded me of Japanese Capsule hotels with a bit of extra width and a toilet. I loved it. From our porthole we had a lovely view of forklifts loading mattresses onto the ship. These must have been the extra soft ones shipped in for the Spartan Pro Team. The hallways on the ship were so long that you first think it is a trick or a scene from The Shining. However, this floating resort was staffed with the nicest, most professional, attentive staff I’ve seen anywhere. There were staff of all sorts everywhere on the ship ready to help you with anything you needed. It was a top notch experience.

Right off the bat there were a series of speakers and training sessions with all kinds of fitness folks famous in our circles and beyond, and a great sail away party. This was hosted by Joe De Sena and consisted of all passengers completing forced burpees and being informed that booze was prohibited and that celery would be the only menu item henceforth. There were a number of small pools on the top decks and four hot tubs arranged like leaves on a clover. For some reason, one of these hot tubs had 30 people in it at all times. The partying on the ship was a bit subdued the first night as we steamed towards Stirrup Cay and the first Spartan Race in the Bahamas.

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In the morning we were taken out in stages on tenders to the Cay. It was sunny and in the high 80’s, so those of us from Boston were perfectly prepared. At the start of the first wave it was announced again that the top 50 men and women from the day would win prize money. The field was tremendous. Albon, Atkins, Vidal, Yatsko, Pak, Kraker, Blegg, Wetzel, Watson, Kent and many others toes the line. There were also a number of elite athletes from other sports including Ninja Warrior, ultra-running and parkour.

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The race was just over three miles and it was very well done in terms of the terrain and obstacles. Spartan added a Lily Pad obstacle which is similar to the Island Hopping seen at World’s Toughest Mudder. Most of the old favorites were represented. There were some excellent single track trails through tropical forests and along shark infested canals and natural rock formations. It was a very picturesque race, certainly the most beautiful Spartan race I’ve done to date. There was a great deal of swimming, more than I’d seen in SR over the past few years.

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Unfortunately, there were two big problems. The first is that course refs were not present throughout the heats. As everyone was eligible for prize money, everyone should have been held to the same standards. Secondly, there were two out and back sections on the course both of which were easy to miss accidentally or “accidentally,” and each of which could save you five minutes or more. As the elites finished in around 30 minutes, such an error could make a huge difference. Personally, this did not take away from my enjoyment of the course or the day as a whole. There was a great atmosphere on the Cay throughout the day as the race went on. We learned that the gates we saw in the canals were to keep the sharks out. However, the race course took us in the water on both sides of the gates, so they were actually keeping the food in as well. We also learned that drunk people suck at Jenga, no matter how big the pieces are, and that no one can traverse around an entire hut using only their hands when the shingles are a thousand degrees. Later, as we headed back on tenders to the ship, Paul of Mud and Adventure was attempting to swim back and climb the anchor chain back into the ship. Sadly they were intercepted by canal police on a jetski who suggested they hitch a ride unless they wanted to be eaten by hammerheads.

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That night on the ship was great fun. There was an entertaining award ceremony and auction, hosted expertly by Matt B. Davis himself, and Isaiah Vidal (Men’s winner) donated his entire purse of $3,000 to purchase an item in support of Project 431, an effort to help get kids off the couch and into healthy lifestyles. Very generous! After this, all kinds of fun broke out. There were parties all over the boat from the casino, to the theater, and of course the endurance hot tubing continued. Michael Wardian made his first attempt at breaking the world record for a 50k on a treadmill. Yes, his first attempt. There was some late night arm wrestling also, but of course they waited for me to go to bed first.

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Sunday morning we woke up to the news that we’d be unable to head out to the island due to rough seas. There was some initial disappointment, but folks made the best of it. The entire day aboard the ship was a festival. There were handstand demonstrations, parkour tricks, more arm wrestling (with me this time), yoga, and lots more soft serve ice cream. 30+ people remained in that hot tub. Michael Wardian successfully beat the 50k record on his second attempt. Quite amazing!

The ship had a fantastic kid’s zone that our son didn’t want to leave. It was free until 10:30pm and really made it easy to enjoy the ship without worrying whether your son is walking on a railing somewhere. Definitely expect to pay for drinks throughout the trip. And take out a second mortgage if you wish to use Wi-Fi aboard. The good far outweighed the bad on this trip and I would definitely do it again. Give it a shot if you have some extra loot and don’t freak out if you don’t get a special medal and t-shirt. It’s just stuff, right?

*Photos By: Spartan Cruise and Joshua Grant

Catch ORM’s video recap of the race here:

The Spartan Race Cruise culminated with a Sprint in the Bahamas, in addition to running on unique terrain and swimming in the ocean, they also surprised us with a smaller target for the spear throw, what do you think–does size matter?

Posted by Obstacle Racing Media on Wednesday, March 18, 2015

996057_10202014975552640_848933464_nJoshua was the 2013 Winter Death Race winner with Olof Dallner, 2014 National 90kg Arm wrestling Champion, 2x Spartan Ultra Beat finisher, 2x Worlds Toughest Mudder 60+ mile finisher.