The American Ninja Warrior Experience – Fans and Competitors: Come One, Come All

If you are a fan of American Ninja Warrior…
If you have a favorite Ninja…
If you train at a “Ninja Gym”…
If you love being challenged by new obstacles…
If you like racing against the best of the best, American Ninja Warrior Experience is for you. Fans and athletes of all ages and ability levels – spectator to pro – are welcome.  This is an immersive event with something for everyone.  Pssst…your kids (and you) can meet your Ninja heroes.  With the backing of NBC and Universal Brand Development, American Ninja Warrior Experience is sure to be high quality, challenging, and fun.

Here are the down and dirty details:

I know. I know.  Those aren’t a lot of details.  How much will it cost?  Which Ninjas will be there?  Is there swag and bling for competitors?  Obstacle Racing Media is in contact with Tom McCormack, Senior Vice President of Live Events at The ATS Team, and we will bring you the answers to these questions and more as they become available.  For now, you might want to revisit your Fall 2017 OCR calendar, especially if you live in/near Atlanta or Houston. This new brand in the OCR market is sure to be an event worth attending and fun for the entire family.

Read the full Press Release below.


NEWS RELEASE

NBC AND UNIVERSAL BRAND DEVELOPMENT COLLABORATE WITH
THE ATS TEAM TO LAUNCH

AMERICAN NINJA WARRIOR EXPERIENCE

Touring Obstacle Courses From the Emmy®- Nominated Hit NBC Series Challenge
 Fans of All Ages to Test Their Own Ninja Skills

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif, MAY 22, 2017 – NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior” (ANW), the premiere obstacle course competition series that is revolutionizing sports entertainment, is coming directly to fans through an immersive live event experience geared for the whole family, it was announced today. Created in close collaboration with NBC, Universal Brand Development and The ATS Team, the specialists who design and build the obstacles and courses for the show, the American Ninja Warrior Experience will give fans of all ages an opportunity to test their “ninja skills.” Tickets for the American Ninja Warrior Experience will go on sale in June, with the first event scheduled for the fall of 2017.

Bringing together the show’s fan-favorite obstacles including, the Warped Wall, Quintuple Steps, Salmon Ladder and many more, the American Ninja Warrior Experience allows participants of all fitness levels to compete against friends and other athletes on a multi-stage adult open course. The best adult open course competitors can even earn a chance to run in the Pro Course Competition against the best Ninja Warrior athletes in the world. Pro-athletes also will be offering tips and tricks during adult workshops. Event attendees also will have the unique opportunity to be spectators and watch the best-of-the-best compete in pro-competitions.

Youth competitors will have a chance to get up-close and personal with professional athletes while they learn proper obstacle techniques during one of the many workshops held throughout the day. Kids also will revel in the fun of competing on two youth open courses, which will feature smaller versions of the obstacles seen on TV with varying degrees of difficulties.

“We’re incredibly proud to announce our partnership with NBC and Universal Brand Development. Together, with a groundbreaking show, we will bring the American Ninja Warrior Experience to cities around the country and give people of all ages the chance to compete on the official obstacles from the show,” said Tom McCormack, Senior Vice President of Live Events at The ATS Team. “This is set to be the authentic and fun, family friendly ‘American Ninja Warrior’ fan festival that audiences have been asking for.”

“Now in its ninth season, ‘American Ninja Warrior’ has become a national sensation, with millions of adults and children tuning in every week,” said Carol Nygren, Vice President, Worldwide Live Entertainment, Universal Brand Development. “The show inspires everyday people to test their own athletic abilities at home, and we’re excited to collaborate with NBC and The ATS Team to build the American Ninja Warrior Experience for the fans, bringing some of the show’s most popular obstacles to participants of all ages and all fitness levels.”

For additional information visit www.ANWexperience.com

About American Ninja Warrior
Now in its ninth season, American Ninja Warrior has become a national sensation with over 6 million people tuning in every week to watch incredible athletes and ordinary people alike challenge themselves mentally and physically on the most daunting obstacle courses ever seen on TV. The series has become a fan favorite for families and young adults spurning an entire athletic community to train year round for the show, build their own backyard courses and participate in American Ninja Warrior style competitions. Season 9 will air on June 12 on NBC.

About the ATS Team
The ATS Team is an international entertainment specialty company with offices in Los Angeles, Atlanta, and London. Our work can be seen in 193 countries. With complete entertainment industry solutions we offer development, production services, set construction, challenge and stunt design rigging, underwater and high angle life safety, camera solutions, special effects, and staging/truss rentals for all aspects of live and pre-recorded productions. Current clientele includes Netflix, NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, Hulu, Amazon, Disney, and many more.

About Universal Brand Development
Universal Brand Development globally drives expansion of the company’s intellectual properties, franchises, characters and stories through innovative physical and digital products, content, and consumer experiences.  Along with franchise brand management, Universal Brand Development’s core businesses include Consumer Products, Games and Digital Platforms, and Live Entertainment based on the company’s extensive portfolio of intellectual properties created by Universal Pictures, Illumination Entertainment, DreamWorks Animation, and NBCUniversal cable and television.  Universal Brand Development is a business segment of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, and part of NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ: CMCSA).

###

CONTACTS:

THE ATS TEAM
Tom McCormack
SVP, Live Events
tom@ANWexperience.com

NBC
Traci Saulsberry
818-777-6649
Traci.saulsberry@nbcuni.com

Leslie Schwartz
818-777-3233
Leslie.schwartz@nbcuni.com

Kevin Castech
818-777-4816
Kevin.castech@nbcuni.com

UNIVERSAL BRAND DEVELOPMENT
Lauren Purnell
818-777-9311
Lauren.purnell@nbcuni.com

 

The Complete Guide to Toughest Mudder

I can picture it now… The Tough Mudder team is held up in a room trying to figure out what kind of event they can come up with to both bring together their most devout followers from the World’s Toughest Mudder (WTM) Community as well as possibly entice the average Joe racer to consider THE most epic of obstacle race down the road. If you were to create a “Baby” WTM experience what would it look like? What can we do that is more badass than a Tough Mudder and kind of resembles that 24 hour sufferfest but is something doable for most people and how do we include the most unique pieces of WTM so that we have a totally different event that people want to both participate in as well as interesting to watch on TV? Well you need to have this event go for a long distance or time in order to elicit a similar effect as WTM. You also have to have that unique component of darkness so it’s going to have to be at night. Lastly, we need to make sure we up the ante on the obstacles because those are our staple! Throw all of those things together and you come up with…Toughest Mudder?!?! While the name may not be all that original, the events are and I think they will bring a whole new experience to the sport of OCR!

Ok so now we have this awesome new event that’s going to attract a lot of new people to our sport but if these virgins step into these races without proper education then what you could end up with is a train wreck of athletes who show up ill-equipped and unprepared for what lies ahead of them. Such was the case after WTM moved to Vegas where this race was basically a new environment to everyone. In order to avoid issues that could occur from confusion for what will be necessary in the seemingly warmer environment of the Nevada dessert like the often asked question “do I need a wetsuit?” World’s Toughest Mudder Facebook Community Admin, Keith Allen, came up with the idea that maybe I should write both a Nutrition and Thermoregulation Hack to help people prep for WTM. I feel that these have a been a great help to many a competitor so when I heard about some of the difficulties after the premier of the Toughest Mudder series I figured this series needed its own “manual” so-to-speak. The following is more of a guide than it is an article and it is based on my five years of experience at WTM as well as my varied knowledge from within the sport of OCR since I began my involvement back in 2010. When necessary, I have also sought out input from others in the field whom I respect and I feel can add some valuable information. There are many ways to approach a race such as Toughest Mudder but it’s my hope that this piece will be a reference and at least help guide you as to how you might take on Toughest Mudder.

Toughest Mudder is NOT WTM!
For those who have participated in WTM and are now doing a Toughest Mudder, let’s get something straight right off the bat. You pretty much cannot approach these two events the same at all. Your pre-race prep, gear selection, nutrition, and most of all your racing pace/ tactics will pretty much be entirely different. Sure, you will most likely have everything that you need but how you utilize the gear and your race experiences will only slightly resemble WTM. I will try to break things down as best I can so you can be ready for what you will face at Toughest. Remember, for many participants WTM is more of the ultimate sufferfest. Toughest Mudder, on the other hand, is a full-fledged OCR!

Another key thing to realize about Toughest Mudder versus WTM is the difference in the environmental stresses between the two races. One of the most difficult aspects of WTM is the thermoregulation issues that can go on with each participant. The human body can adjust to being too warm; the body can also adjust to the cold. However, when you ask your body to quickly switch from being warm to being cold all while you are fighting overall fatigue it can sometimes mean flirting with a medical DQ due to hypothermia. God help you if you make the mistake of going from overheating in a wetsuit to actually removing that wetsuit rather than just venting it or taking it down. This will, most certainly, not end well as the body is now in “heat loss mode” and before it can readjust you will be hypothermic which at WTM often means your race is over. The Toughest Mudder races are different because you will start the race at night when the temps have already dropped. Therefore you will start cold and since the race ends not long after sunrise there will not be much change in temperatures overall. This means you will most likely never need a wholesale gear change, but only slight changes which will help out immensely. This is why having flexibility in your gear is much more important at these events but I will go more into this in the “Gear” section below.

APPROACH TO RACING
Race Day Prep: Toughest Mudder starts at 12am. Pretty much no participant is used to this. Most of us race early in the morning and even WTM started at noon in 2016. With this night start you have to be careful how you approach your daily nutrition as the wrong choice of a food that is difficult to digest during the latter half of the day could land you in the Port-a-Potty early in the race. To avoid this scenario you might want to consider flipping your daily diet upside down so that you are eating your typical pre-race foods closer to the event.

I would also plan on getting to the event location as early as TMHQ will allow you (9pm?). Remember that this event is new to Tough Mudder as well so expect things to go a little rocky for the time-being. Getting there early will also allow you a better staging area for your food and gear.

Remember this is an eight hour event so you should be able to run a lot of this race. Three time WTM champ and winner of the inaugural Toughest Mudder race, Ryan Atkins, actually recommends your pace for Toughest be “comfortably uncomfortable.” This is basically what exercise scientists call a high Zone 3/ low Zone 4 on the Heart Rate Zone scale. For a simple general calculation for using your heart rate (HR) to pace you can use this formula:

 (180-your age) + 5 to 10 = Heart Rate Goal in beats/min for the race

This type of pacing should allow you to run a lot and keep you moving as long as you are taking in the proper nutrition. Ryan told me that he thinks your best bet is to “shoot for even splits for your lap times.” Combining your monitoring of your HR and checking your lap times should keep you going at a decent clip and allow you to properly gauge whether you will reach you distance goal for this event.

One of the other major differences between WTM and Toughest Mudder is the “pit” area… or lack thereof at Toughest. The pit station we have become accustomed to at WTM has been reduced to a small area inside a tent within the festival area. This tent also serves as the participant gear tent for the regular Tough Mudder so this all sounds like a major pain in the you know what. Given the fact that this is actually off of the course tells me you need to plan on making limited trips to this stage area. If you have a pit crew then have a list prepared for him/her ahead of time so that person knows what to bring you and have him/her meet you at the proper spot to hand off your gear and nutrition. This will greatly speed the process and decrease the congestion in the staging test. I plan on using my Hydration pack to carry enough nutrition so that I will only need to pit after every other lap.

GEAR SELECTION
Depending on the location of the Toughest race, you could springtime rainy weather, summer time warm weather, or a feeling of nip in the mountain air of Whistler. My recommendation is to maybe not bring ALL of your gear…but bring more than you think you will need. It’s better to have it and not use it than to wish you would have brought something. If you are purchasing gear for these events I am a big fan of versatility. The more ways you can use an item then more value it will bring to you. As an example, there is pretty much no point in having a 5mm full wetsuit for a Toughest Mudder unless you plan on walking the entire thing on a cool night. A good plan is to have clothing that you can vent or partially remove should you get hot or if there is a portion of the course where you remain dry and don’t need the extra insulation. Items such as a quick drying windbreaker, possibly a front zip short wetsuit, and a Neptune Thermoregulation System all allow you to use them in a variety of temperatures and in a variety of ways to provide you a lot of flexibility during a lap to make sure that you stay comfortable. The Neptune allows you add chemical body warmers (you can choose how many you need based on the environmental exposure of the event) and easily wear a jacket over it to help keep you covered. Should you get hot you simply open your jacket to vent the heat. Worst case scenario you can dump the body warmers mid lap. Another item that is recommended by WTM vet Keith Allen is the Hyperflex 50/50 Polyolefin Top. “This shirt/vest can be layered over the top of a base layer to help keep you warm during the coldest portions of the race and then quickly removed between laps should you get too warm or it can be worn by itself depending on your needs.” The one downside is that this top cannot be vented so you still risk overheating mid-lap but at least it can be quickly removed in between laps if necessary.

Certain items can present issues based on their design. The problem with using something like Frogskins is it cannot be vented nor easily removed. In fact, Battlegrounds Battle Corps racer and WTM vet, Leah Hensley, told me “I wore my Frogskins during one of the races at the 2016 OCRWC and one of the biggest issues was the lack of venting and how freaking hard it is to get on and off. It’s so damn tight you can’t even lift the shirt to get air in to vent it!”

The point of reviewing this information is to understand how your plan to use your gear to keep you moving at the fastest pace possible. I have listed some of the items that I recommend you have for this event as well as some that I don’t recommend below. This is not a complete gear list by any means but it’s a start!

Recommended

NOT Recommended

  • Full wetsuit over 3mm
  • Frogskins Top
  • Insulated clothing of any kind that will hold excess water
  • Gloves (they usually don’t improve your grip)… and they make dry obstacles wet! L
  • Neoprene socks (these won’t insulate your feet as well as Medium weight Smartwool socks will)
  • Sunscreen… The race is at night!!!

NUTRITION
The old saying goes “you are what you eat.” In regards to racing, what you eat before and during an event can definitely determine whether you have a good race or a bad one. The key thing to understand when it comes to race nutrition is that you must find what works for you. This means it’s a good idea to trial and error, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider what “Science” says as well when considering what and when you should be consuming your nutrition! J

Research shows that the average endurance athlete can absorb about 200-350 calories/ hour while exercising (assuming they practice eating while training). If you are following the guidelines of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, this will equate to 40-50 gr of carbs, 10 gr of protein and 5 or so gr of fat (about the content of a Cliff Bar) per hour. The fact that these events are only 8 hours versus the 24 hours at WTM means you can get away with eating less but I would still use this as a goal for each lap. I also recommend at least some of this food be taken in during the lap and then loading up in the staging area.

Some key points to remember prior to the event:

  • Start carb loading about 5 days before the event. Take in a 30-50% more carbs that you have been eating. I even utilize a carb depletion phases during training to allow my body to adjust to fueling in this state. I do this again starting about 13 days out and then at 5 days I start loading.
  • On the day prior to the event make sure that you eat a lot of carbs while limiting your excess fat at every meal. Please be careful on the portions on both Friday and Saturday during the day prior to the event. The last thing you want is to miss-time your bowel movements and have to hit the head during the event. You also want to up your electrolyte content on the day prior to the race since the Sodium/Potassium pump system has a correction period of about 18 hours. The morning of the event should include a high carb and low fat meal. Fat not only slows the absorption of the meal, but it also can cause gastric distress during exercise leading to “the trots.” Fat, however, is not the only culprit of digestive issues during exercise. Keep in mind that single source sugar can also cause problems so try not to eat too much fructose or sucrose at one time before nor during the race. This is the reason that products like Gatorade and Tailwind utilize two forms of sugar in their products. Another thing to consider is the fact this event starts in what is basically the middle of the night will throw most people off so I think you might almost be better off flipping your meals on the Saturday of the race. For example, my dinner (with my usual race day breakfast foods) will be around 8pm. Then I will have a Clif Bar around 10pm and my 32 oz of Gatorade from 11pm-12am when the race begins. This is the same routine as my normal race morning.

Keep in mind, you must eat and drink constantly throughout the event in order to keep fueled. If you wait until you are hungry or thirty to replenish then you have already failed!!! It takes a minimum of about 18-24 hours to replenish your muscle glycogen stores after strenuous exercise much less while you are still moving when your digestion isn’t all that efficient during exercise.

Some key nutrition/hydration points during the race:

  • I suggest having an electrolyte drink either in your hydration pack or at least as your main source of fluids in the pit. Liquids absorb quickly so this will help you immensely. Tailwind seems to be the most highly recommended for this purpose. During the pit stops, have a plan with about what you need to eat so you get enough calories. You will get less hungry as you become more tired. This is a natural effect as your body is trying to conserve digestion energy to keep you moving figuring that you will eventually stop to fuel but as endurance athletes we can’t stop moving. You simply have to keep eating! Again, this is where calorically dense foods and engineered foods help you get in those calories.
  • Due to the higher level of intensity during this event versus WTM it will be much more difficult for your digestive system to do its job. This is the reason most ultra distance runners resort to liquid only nutrition such as Tailwind. I recommend that Toughest Mudder participants limit their “real food” intake to avoid the increased possibility of having issues. Instead, I believe it is more prudent to rely on “engineered” foods because these supplements will not only be easier to digest and provide less bulk but they are also easier to carry and faster to ingest. I will include a list of recommend types of nutrition at the end of this section.
  • As far as hydration goes, your body needs about 8 oz of water every 15 minutes (1 liter per hour) during exercise. The easiest way to ensure you get this is to have a hydration pack but as long as you drink when you can then you will be fine. I drank about 35 oz per lap (14 laps in 25 hours) last year at WTM and my level was spot on for me. A great gauge on this is how often you urinate. If you are doing so once a lap then cut back on the fluids. If it’s like once in the first three hours then you want to pick up the pace!

Nutrition List

  • Liquid Options
    • Gatorade
    • Tailwind
    • Hammer Nutrition
    • Cytomax
    • Endurox R4
    • Acclerade
    • CarboPro
  • Gels/Gummies
    • AccelGels/ GU/ Boom
    • Clif Blocks/ Gatorade Chews/ Sport Beans
    • Apple Sauce/ Fruit Sauces
  • Energy Bars
    • Clif Bars/ Powerbars/ Complete Protein Cookies
    • Granola Bars/ Nutrigrain Bars/ Snickers Bar
  • Other options
    • Beef jerky
    • Pickles/ Pickle Juice/ Pickle Juice pops
    • Mustard Packets
    • Hammer Salt Tabs
    • Hammer Perpetuem Solids
    • Stimulants- Cellucor/ caffeine pills/ Monster/ Red Bull

Remember that every person is different in how they like to approach a race. This guide represents a coherent approach toward tackling Toughest Mudder. Take this collection of information and use it as a base to develop a plan of attack as you prepare for the Toughest Mudder events. It is my goal to help prepare you so that you can give your best effort out there when the rubber hits the road… or trail in this instance.

Good luck and Godspeed!

Hobie Call Back On The Spartan Pro Team

Hobie Call will once again, be back on the Spartan Pro Team. Sources close to Spartan have told ORM that an announcement will be coming later tonight. Hobie joins Amelia Boone, Ryan Kent, Faye Stenning, and several other rising stars on the Pro Team.

For 2 plus years, Hobie and Spartan Race grew up together and affected our sport the same way Michael Jordan and Nike did. Each athlete pushing the brand forward, and each brand propelling the athlete into bigger stardom.

In early 2013, Spartan and Hobie parted ways as Hobie went on to pursue sponsored relationships with other races. First was Extreme Nation, then BattleFrog, followed by Atlas Race.  All 3 race series are now defunct. When Atlas died (for the 2nd time) in May 2015, Hobie retired (sort of) and said he was no longer going to continue to do OCR full time, and would go back to focusing on HV/AC work to support his family.

He continued to show up to the occasional high stakes race, and shocked the industry when he won last year’s Spartan Race World Championship, becoming the first and only 3 time winner in the process.

Will Hobie return to dominance? Is this his last hurrah?

We’d love to know your thoughts in the comments.

*Photo Credit – Spartan Race.

 

Safety Standards Heading to Obstacle Course Racing?

Terrain-Race-Chicago-Cargo-After

“I know I signed a waiver, but this is still safe, right?”

I expect I am not the only person who has gone to a race, seen an obstacle and wondered how safe it really is. Was it something that looked like it had been assembled hastily, or was it something sturdy that is cleverly designed to look like it is less stable than it really is? The whole point of the sport is to get people outside of their comfort zones, but no one wants a race to end with a trip to the emergency room – not the racers, not the race directors, and certainly not the organizations that are trying to build the sport up.

Another question I find myself asking at races is “How can this obstacle possibly be insurable?” Unfortunately, as a lawyer I tend to see far too much of the world through the lenses of liability and litigation. As the sport of OCR has grown from practically nothing to a major industry in less than a decade, more participants and more dollars being spent has meant that more lawyers have gotten involved, often with the effect of making things less fun for everyone. Sorry about that.

Nevertheless, it is in the best interest of everyone involved to keep the risks of OCR in check, and to make sure that the sport challenges us, and even sometimes scares us, but that it doesn’t hurt us (at least not too much). This is why races are coming together around the idea of implementing safety standards.

For most organized events, there are industry standards about what preparations must take place to make sure the event is safe enough for everyone to enjoy and to make sure that in the event something goes wrong, the problems can be addressed quickly. Some of these precautions we take for granted: the lifeguard at the swimming pool. Others we may not even notice: your garden variety 5K will have lots of safety measures in place, even though most racers will never be aware of, say, the medical staff hanging back ready to react if someone gets hurt.

Sometimes these safety measures are put in place because local laws require them – the health code that mandates testing the water quality of a swimming pool, or a building code that requires enough fire exits for a concert venue. For other events, it can be an insurance company that mandates how much safety planning has to occur before a policy gets issued (those medics at the 5K). The regulations and insurance policies have all been developed over decades of trial and error, and people in those industries know what to expect. The organizer of the local triathlon will know that the insurance carrier requires so many water safety staff per 100 racers or medical personnel with radios every so many miles on the run course.

OCR is brand new, and therefore decades behind in developing standards that race organizers and the companies that insure their events can rely on. To make up for lost time, a number of the largest race companies approached ASTM International to put together safety guidelines. ASTM is a non-profit that brings an industry’s constituents together to agree to safety standards. These standards turn into guidelines that insurance companies and government agencies can then turn to when issuing policies, granting permits and drafting regulations, though ASTM itself goes to great lengths to make sure that they play no part in that role, in order to maintain their independence. For more on how ASTM is involved in recreational safety, you might watch this helpful cartoon.

How do the standards come to be? Interested parties are invited to draft standards. The drafts are circulated to the committee of people who have volunteered to assemble the standards, and ASTM facilitates the process. The committee then asks for comments. Based on those comments, they tweak the rules, lather, rinse, and repeat until a consensus is reached. ASTM then publishes the rules, putting them out in the world for the industry to rely on. The drafters meet twice a year, and at least very five years the rules are reviewed to make sure they work in the way the drafters hoped. Any unintended consequences get ironed out, and any previously unforeseen needs are addressed.

What does it mean for race organizers? Once the standards are agreed to, insurance companies can require that races comply with the standards in order to have policies issued. This may sound intimidating, but practically speaking it can benefit both sides. Insurance companies want to avoid risk. When they can minimize risk by requiring the insured races to implement features that will minimize potential harm, they can charge the races less for those policies.

Tough Mudder Block Ness

How deep is that water?

It’s not easy to make an explanation of insurance policies entertaining, but I’ll try with some made-up examples: if a race has water crossings on the course, that makes it more expensive to insure, because when you put people near water, there is a risk they will drown. The standards might say that, if the water is no deeper than three feet and the crossing is less than twenty feet, at least one safety monitor must be present to make sure the racers do not trip and accidentally drown (you can drown in as little as six inches of water! Lawyers worry about this!). However, if a water crossing is more than three feet deep, then the organizers need to have, say, two safety monitors at the crossing, one equipped with some kind of buoyancy life-saving device. This means getting more staff and more equipment and paying a higher premium for the riskier crossing on the course. At the same time, the race that has the shallower water crossing will pay a smaller premium, because the standards show that the crossing is less risky. The standards give the insurance companies something to work with, a technique to determine which races are bigger risks and which are smaller risks. This benefits the race organizers because, without the standards, the insurance companies would have simply categorized both races as equally risky, and they would have charged higher rates accordingly.

How do races try to work with their insurance carriers? They approach ASTM. Here’s a statement the Big Three issued:

“Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, and Warrior Dash are currently working together with other interested stakeholders in ASTM International, a globally recognized standards developer, to help formulate obstacle course racing industry standards. As industry leaders, we recognize the need to harmonize standards and provide guidelines to existing and new event producers to ensure that the industry continues to make participant safety a top priority. We invite and encourage other OCR producers, operators and safety leaders to help with this process. Anyone interested can contact ASTM International F24 Staff Manager Katerina Koperna at kkoperna@astm.org.”

When I learned that the main drivers behind the move to implement standards were the big three races, I was worried that they would draft the standards in such a way as to make it difficult for other operators to enter the market. While the big races have been great for getting OCR into the mainstream, the early days of the industry showed that the companies behind them were willing to play a little dirty (poaching race venues, etc.), and I thought the standards could discriminate against the mom-and-pop races, as well as new races that help keep innovation alive. ASTM is aware of this risk, and they told me: “having a standards development process in place is helpful to entrepreneurs and small businesses that want a seat at the table.  Our process is open to them, and anyone can submit what are called ‘negative’ votes that must be addressed before the standard is published.” The standards can help these smaller races, not only by making insurance easier to come by, but also in providing guidance in how to create a safe obstacle course. As new races popped up all over the country, the wheel got reinvented over and over again as course designers tried to figure out how to build safe course, not always successfully. If a new course designer can rely on published standards, he can build an obstacle he knows is safe. Trial and error isn’t always the best way to design an obstacle, especially when error can lead to a trip to the hospital. Finally, if a small operator doesn’t have the ability to design and build a course that meets with basic safety standards, maybe that operator shouldn’t be in the business of organizing obstacle course races.

muddy-red-deer

Defying certain death on the monkey bars

What does this mean for racers? For starters, it means safer obstacles. We all want to feel like we cheated death by pulling ourselves across the monkey bars. We don’t want to go to the hospital after an A-frame collapses . It can also mean lower race fees, if lower insurance costs get passed along to the racers. It can mean that new races aren’t as much of a gamble, as their organizers can rely on the standards as guidelines for safe obstacle construction. I worry that it might lead to some cookie-cutter standardization of obstacles, but that is something that can happen even in the absence of published standards.

The process of drafting the standards is long. What does it mean for the sport today? It means that you should get involved. Anyone can send the committee suggestions: ASTM values openness as part of the process, and the more people who get involved, the better the end product will be. An ASTM spokesman told me about the father of a hockey player who was concerned about his hockey-playing son’s safety and got involved in drafting the new standards for neck guards. People who work first hand with any product are going to understand the pros and cons even better, and this is why I would suggest that racers get involved. Elite racers, who are hoping to make a living on these courses, have even more reason to get involved, not just to offer their personal expertise, but to have an influence on making their workplace – the obstacles – a safe place.

No one wants to remove all the risk from OCR, and these standards will not prevent the cuts and scrapes that show up as pictures on social media every Monday. The standards will not prevent some more serious injuries either. While the races keep very quiet about this data, anecdotal evidence suggests that the biggest cause of race injuries is when racers take bad landings off 8- and 12-foot walls. Racers get so involved in how they are going to get to the top of the wall that they ignore the importance of a soft landing, and twisted ankles are one of the main reasons racers need medical attention. Risk and the perception of overcoming risk are at the heart of the sport – otherwise we would all be running 10Ks every weekend, right? Keeping that risk at an acceptable level, by implementing industry standards, is a good thing for us all.

Tacoma Mud Run Fire Jump

Will fire jumps still be OK? Get involved and find out.

 

Here’s ASTM’s press release on the subject:
Proposed ASTM International Standard Will Support Land-Based Obstacle Courses

ASTM International’s committee on amusement rides and devices, and its subcommittee on adventure attractions are developing a standard that will provide guidelines for building and operating obstacle racing courses. Anyone interested in helping develop this standard is welcome to join and get involved.

The obstacle course racing community has grown significantly in recent years. Designers, owners, builders, and operators could benefit from this proposed standard, currently known as the work item: “New Practice for Design, Construction, Operation, Inspection, Safety, and Maintenance of Land-Based Pedestrian Obstacle Courses” (WK54714).

The scope of this proposed standard also includes removing obvious hazardous conditions by logically applying existing standards and model codes.  Also according to its scope, this standard will not address attractions such as ropes courses or zip lines, nor will it purport to address all of the safety concerns associated with the standard’s use. (It will be the responsibility of the user of the standard to establish appropriate safety and health practices prior to use.)

This animated video shows other examples of ASTM International standards that help support safety of recreational activities.

ASTM Committee F24 on Amusement Rides and Devices Next Meeting: October 11-14, 2017, Scottsdale, Arizona, USA

Media Inquiries: Dan Bergels, tel +1.610.832.9602; dbergels@astm.org

ASTM Staff Contact: Katerina Koperna, tel. +1.610.832.9728; kkoperna@astm.org

Release #10282

March 22, 2017

The Ultimate Beastmaster

Ok boys and girls.. What do you get when you cross American Ninja Warriors with the Olympics? You get The Ultimate Beastmaster, a new show available only on Netflix. Premiering on February 24th, this show came across my radar so I decided to see what it was all about and share my findings with you all. One of the first things I noticed was that Sylvester Stallone is the executive producer of the show. Hmm, why does this not give me confidence?

Basically we have contestants from 6 countries, Brazil, Germany, Japan, Mexico. South Korea and The United States. But wait, there’s more.. the show has 6, count’em 6, county-specific versions, each with their own hosts. So not only do we as the US audience have the US hosts, Terry Crews and Charissa Thompson, but we snippets of the host from the other 5 countries, Anderson Silva and Rafinha Bastos (Brazil); Seo Kyung Suk and Park Kyeong Rim (South Korea); Ines Sainz and Luis Ernesto Franco (Mexico); Hans Sarpei and Luke Mockridge (Germany); and Sayaka Akimoto and Yuji Kondo (Japan.)

There are 4 levels of the course within the “Beast.” And yes, the course from the outside looks like a giant chinese mechanized dragon. The contestants move thorough the levels by finishing among the top at each level. Level 1 starts with 12 contestants (2 per country) and the top 8 finishers move onto Level 2. The top 5 contestants from level 2 move onto level 3, also known as the Energy Pyramid. And the top 2 contestants from that level move onto the final level 4, known as the The Power Source. With all scores wiped out at this level, the person that scores the most points during this level wins the title of Beastmaster.

The Beastmaster’s from each episode meet in the season finale in the hopes of becoming “The Ultimate Beastmaster.”

The athletes come from various sports; triathletes, rock climbers, gymnast, military, an NFL player, parkour athletes, who I would think would excel on this type of course, crossfit instructors, Olympic swimmer Ed Moses from the 2000 Summer Olympics where he won a gold and silver medal (and at the age of 35, one of the oldest contestants on the show), and yes, even an Obstacle Course Racer, Shaun Provost, seen in episode 1.

The first thing I DID NOT like about the show is the fact they they released all 10 episodes at one time. Really Netflix, while that may be good for shows such as Daredevil and Luke Cage, it does not seem like a smart move to give viewers the ability to skip all 9 episodes and get right to the season finale.

I have never been a fan of the American Ninja Warrior shows, finding them a bit too cheesy for me. But the Ultimate Beastmaster is cheesier than the Hickory Farms kiosk at the mall during Christmas. The host do nothing for the show other than to act as glorified national cheerleaders. And having 6 different hosts teams (yes, we see all 6 of the county host teams at various times throughout the show) just added to it. And to have the water colored red and called “beast blood.” Seriously!

Another thing that irked me was that during some of the shows, some of the contestants who started later in the flow of  the 1st level knew they had enough points to advance so they purposely failed an obstacle. While this may seem like a strategy for keeping healthy for the other levels, I felt like as an audience member I was being cheated in some way. I mean just imagine if an Olympic runner started to walk during a race because he know that the other contestants had fallen down and gotten hurt and he/she they did not have to push themselves.

But there were some things I did like; the design of the obstacles themselves; challenging at first and getting progressively harder at each level. And a contestant could get “Point Thrusters” along the course, each worth 10 additional point, so this could add to their point lead which came in handy if they failed the last obstacle on each level. One of my fav obstacles in the show was the “Mag Wall.” Basically a climbing wall, but some of the holds are attached magnetically and subject to “falling” off the wall, thus dropping the contestant or making it harder for the contestant to complete the wall. Another fav of mine is the “Prism Strike” on level 3. Here the competitors must hold onto the rope handle as it swings through a curved track. And if they are good enough, they can snag some points at the Point Thruster along the track.

Was the show worth watching all 10 episodes? NO! I felt that I wasted the first 9 hours I spent watching the show leading up to the final. You really do not form a relationship with any of the contestants while watching the show. And despite my earlier comment about Netflix making all 10 episodes available at once, if you are interested in the show, watch episode 10; you see all the obstacles and only have to endure it for 60 minutes.

If you are a Netflix member, you can watch the show here.

All images courtesy of Netflix.

Norm Koch Leaves Spartan Race

Norm Koch Spartan Race

Norm Koch has been a familiar face at Spartan Race since 2012. Many of us encountered him at the first ever Spartan Ultra Beast in Killington, VT. in September of that year. Back then, he was one of the only full time race directors at Spartan. He was known to design courses that tested athletes in ways that surpassed their limits. He is a visionary in the realm of obstacle course design and execution.

Participants developed a love, hate relationship with his particular style of torture.  In turn they birthed the battle cry , “EFF NORM!” This infamous cry became the racers mantra and echoed through courses (and Facebook) around the country.

His Spartan journey began as an early participant (and finisher) of the now defunct Death Races. He soon began working for Joe, and grew shortly thereafter into an iconic race director. He informed me yesterday that he is leaving Spartan Race.

These are his words:

So its finally happening, I will not be representing Spartan moving forward. My opinions and ideas are mine and mine alone. Muhahahah

I would like to thank most of the Spartan Staff for the opportunity to work with everyone on the team. We have had some good times. I will miss the build crews and a few of the office people. The best has been meeting all the volunteers and competitors. It’s been so cool to find so many like-minded people.

I do love seeing everyone at races no matter what the race series is. I am looking forward to being more supportive of OCR community.

• I would say I’m leaving Spartan, not OCR.

• My ideas and Spartan have changed, I feel an inability to make the changes that I wanted to due to the size of the company

• Everyone knows I’m proud of being part of Spartan since the early days and help shaped its growth over the years.

• I love Spartan and it will always be a part of me, literally my calf tattoo is representative of my Death Race participation – The good old days.

• This is not me leaving the sport moreover me looking to do something new.

• I would love to do something like designing courses for existing series and working with their brands to offer signature courses,

Starting a new series where I have complete creative control over the process is my goal. Any investors feel free to hit me up…. hahahaha.