Whistler Toughest 2017 – Procrastination

The lead up to Whistler Toughest Mudder had most everyone anxious about the cold, particularly with the crew in Greater Vancouver. There was still about 2 meters of snow at the venue 3 weeks prior to the event. Our wolf pack at Vancity OCR did several wetsuit test runs to ensure all our equipment was appropriate.

Whistler Olympic Park, the venue weeks prior:

Come race day, the snow was all gone but anticipations about cold weather lingered. There were also some new concerns: bear warnings and food restrictions on course.

The low for the day was projected to be about 5 degrees Celsius – with the ice in Arctic Enema and potential wind chill this can be pretty cold.  Many dropped out of Tough Mudder in Whistler over the past 2 years due to hypothermia or simply being too cold to function. Dressing for the start became the dilemma. Dressing too little may mean wasting time by having to stop and put on a wetsuit. But the first lap, being mostly obstacle free with little to no water entry, can be disastrous if you overdress and overheat.

Like many others, I decided to err on the warmer side.  I had on a thermal base layer top and bottom, frog skin hoodie, merino wool, and neoprene socks, a 1 mm neoprene short sleeve and a farmer John with the top pulled down. I was really comfortable in the corral while listening to Sean Corvelle and didn’t quite realize that meant I would be getting far too hot once I started to run. That is exactly what happened. One mile into the course, I was sweeting buckets; I couldn’t wait to get dunked in the water – but there was none.

I bruised my knee badly in January and was not able to use my right leg for 2 months. Getting back to exercise was tough and when I did, progressing slow was even tougher. I have an irregular training schedule, cardio mostly when I commuted, often 3 days midweek. The other four straight days is often of strength conditioning by means of heavy lifting in manual work. Needless to say, I was not very fit going into this event.  I wasn’t expected to run very far but the feeling of being slow and the restrictive layers of neoprene made the experience more torturous. I laboured every step feeling like I was trudging through molasses. The heat also weighed me down. I have chronic neck pain and this was exacerbated by the tight hoodie. The heat, the lack of fitness and the constriction was all making me nauseous.

Around 2.5 miles into the course the elites came stampeding past. They spiked my adrenaline a little. God damn it! I am really that slow? They’re on their second lap already? I kept telling myself they are just very gifted and fit… they do this training thing full time… there is no fun and all pain in what they do… I am… “having fun”?

But really, I wasn’t feeling too badly for myself as I was in good company. I was keeping up with Warren Zamko who latter placed first in his age group with 30 miles. I was maintaining a decent pace with him up until Lumberjack (3 gut checkers, approximately 12” diameter logs suspended at 4’-5’ high). I usually get a big kick out of this obstacle and wish it was at every event, but I got my ass kicked so badly here. I bounced, slipped and slid off these evil logs – totally getting left behind. But thanks to all the Mudders around me I was pushed, pulled and thrown over. For the remainder of the event I resorted to using the braces. Skid Marked (an inverted wall) also sucked. Aside from the braces there was nothing to officially climb on.  They were just over 8ft and 1” out of my reach.  Thanks again to the camaraderie of my fellow Mudders, I was pulled and thrown over.  This night, I would be humbled.

Lumber Jacked with Warren Zamko and David Beaudry:

When I finally got to the pit, I kinda spaced out. The combination of the heat and the neoprene compressing my jugular were making me woozy. I asked myself if I really wanted to do this. I was hot and I wondered if I should remove my layers. I knew I potentially needed them to keep warm once I hit the water obstacles.  I would definitely appreciate them once I got wet.  I don’t like water; I don’t swim well; in fact, I’m extraordinarily good at sinking. What to do… What to do… I have to take a pee.

With an empty bladder and a few bites to eat, I started to feel cold… and that put an end to my procrastination.  I had intended to do some videos of the Vancity OCR crew, so I figured I better get that done before I decided to stop. Moving will get me warm. My fellow Mudders will get me moving.

As I puttered along, my body was starting to feel better and more responsive. Balls to the Wall wasn’t a big deal: it was a nice obstacle to get your body in gear and wrap your head around being up and off the ground. I helped someone out who was stuck there and instantly felt more empowered. I loosened up and started to warm up. I was feeling comfortable.

My chest got tense the moment I approached Funky Monkey. I don’t usually have a problem with this obstacle, why was I feeling so anxious? The bars were damp and I feared I might slip. I approached the ascent facing forward and felt my swing get a little out of control – so I quickly turned to my side and led with my right arm. That was much better. I got to the horizontal wheel and noticed the person in the next lane getting stuck. The wheel wasn’t rotating like it’s supposed to. I grabbed it, and swung back and forth to accelerate myself around to the vertical wheels and until I made it to the platform. I made it and I was still dry.

My nerves got more heightened as I neared Hang Time; this was my first time at this obstacle. I don’t like heights – and I dislike falling and having to swim even more. I jumped and caught the bar and cargo comfortably enough, but sliding down the cable felt much more difficult than what I have seen from others. I wasn’t sliding very well and had to push myself down the cable. Other people made the descent look so effortless and fun; Amin Menhadji seemed to just glide down. Perhaps my wetsuit was too sticky

Hang Time with Amin Menhadji:

My sinking sense of anxiety continued towards Snot Rocket.  I was mentally preparing myself for the cold water but it turned out to be relatively warm. The down spray of water was also weaker than I imagined and did not make ascending the sewer pipe difficult.

Snot Rocket with Amin Menhadji:

Next came Black Hole, which is Birth Canal in the race. I was not up for fully challenging myself and crawled along the edges of the tarps. Many people did this and I figure TMHQ should really block the easy way through with barriers of some sort; force everyone into the same challenge

Stage 5 Clinger was pretty straight forward but I have a few hiccups trying to get on top of the platform.  There was a 4×6 block on the vertical support beams that many used for the final ascent. It was very helpful.

Stage 5 Clinger with Amin Menhadji:

Mud Mile 2.0 had a similarly easy option. The flagging tape was so wide around the first 3 trenches most people simply walked that high path around. As I contemplated what to do, Trevor Cichosz came barrelling past running straight through the middle; good on you! The trenches were deep, but the walls were solid and allowed many footprint steps to develop; stepping out was a breeze; it just took longer than skirting.

My first round at Artic Enema was nasty. There was no ice but the water bit into your skin, luckily that took only a minute or so to settle. Later in the night ice was added but it did not feel as cold. Perhaps the air had warmed it.

Clearly, the conditions were much better than expected. By moving at my slower pace, I stayed very comfortable in my layers of neoprene. Running faster would have made things unpleasantly hot. I just didn’t feel the urge of energy to push. My knee was doing well… I guess I was lucky for not having the fitness to hurt myself. As I ran up to various other Vancity folks it was nice to hang out and chat along the route.

Pyramid Scheme was aided by ropes, as was the descent of Shawshanked.

Like at all Toughest events, Everest was combined with the Grappler. Fortunately, they allowed the rope to stay up as long as it was occupied. I have yet to master that Grappler technique.

Kiss of Mud was just a deep trench that you had to run down and out of. This had been the trench for walk the plank in the past.

With the surprisingly warm conditions, Blockness Monster was a joy to be in. Kong followed shortly as you approached the finish. Having your hands still wet from Blockness made Kong challenging for many. And some who fell off Kong later in the night slid into the opposing scaffolding, forcing this obstacle to close mid-way through the race.


Blockness Monster with Kirsten Hijdra, Shanny Shan, John Tai

It’s hard to say whether this was the most challenging of the Toughest courses thus far. But suffice it to say, when the hill up the ski jump opened, it added another element of difficulty. I only had time to do this once when I reached it at 5:30am. Running up the ski jump on all fours was a great way to give your legs a break.

Canada's Toughest Mudder - The Soul CrusherDespite socializing and taking many pictures and videos along the way, I did 20 miles in a pretty good time. There was nearly 90 minutes left when I finished my last lap. Not enough for a fifth, but if I hadn’t procrastinated so much, I probably would have managed. I felt disappointed I didn’t give it my all but I had fun taking it easy and was feeling great post race. When speaking with some of the elites, many said they would appreciate a nice and easy race. I am not so keen to always have the pressure to push but it would be nice to be as fast as they are. If there was anything to be learned this night it’s not to waste time procrastinating and to put your heart into every minute of every race. Don’t set your limits because you never know what it might be; setting it too low would only make yourself your most difficult obstacle.

John Tai

Canada’s Toughest Mudder Eh?

Why We OCR
The idea of running 8.5 hours through the night is simply insane. Now, let’s add some mud, obstacles, and freezing cold water to up the ante. Since Canada’s Mother Nature is a little more badass than most, let’s race on a cold morning filled with overcast skies and some rain. By the way, racers need to carry a whistle for protection against the bears that have been patrolling the venue… #whistlesinwhistler. Sounds like a great event, sign me up!

Why would anyone put him or herself through that kind of torture? While the answer is different for every one of us, we found ourselves at the starting line of Canada’s Toughest Mudder, in the land of maple syrup, extremely nice people, and harsh weather conditions. Let’s just say Canada didn’t disappoint.

Canada’s Toughest Mudder gave me some time to reflect on why I started running these races. My previous two races had some people judging my performances as failures. Remarks from people I barely knew began to shape my perception that I wasn’t good enough. While these comments were in the minority, I let then dictate how I thought about my performance. Instead of focusing on why I began to run these events in the first place, I was suddenly focused on external result. That needed to change. While it is nice to do well, it isn’t the reason I began running these events and isn’t the reason I like running them today.

Between Northeast and Canada’s Toughest Mudder, I thought about the joy of running with the Tough Mudder community centered on teamwork and camaraderie. I reflected on the “personal best” that Sean Corvelle so frequently discusses at the start line of a Tough Mudder. Even though I’ve heard his speech multiple times, I needed a reminder. I was out there to be my best and not for anyone else’s definition of success. So that was my focus going into this event, give it my best and enjoy the people that make this community so special. So my main question to you: Why do you run? What motivates you?

Check In and Start
As I pulled up to the venue on Saturday night, I was ready for over 8 hours of fun. I heard Whistler was one of the most beautiful OCR venues but my expectations were tapered once I realized I had to wait until sunrise to appreciate its full beauty.

Check in was noticeably less busy that previous events and I didn’t have to wait for my registration packet and bib. Looking at the numbers, only 250 people would make it to Canada’s Toughest Mudder, much less than the 750 that were at Toughest Mudder Northeast. The pit area was much less crowded however the energy was still high, as everyone anticipated a cold and intense event.

We rallied in the starting area, motivated by Sean Corvelle’s ever-present motivational speech that make any Tough Mudder event truly special. Coach T-Mud (Kyle Railton) continued to add motivation as we began to channel our inner spirit animal for 8 hours in the wild. After a few short minutes, midnight came and we were off.

Off Course
The course started off with some wide trails that quickly narrowed into technical terrain that was difficult to navigate in the dark. Under three kilometers into the race, the top 20 or so competitors were directed down a muddy path. We continued down about 1km until realizing that we had been directed the wrong way. So, we had to go back up that thick and muddy hill we just came down. So there we were, trying to work our way back for the better part of the next few laps. It was definitely a tough (some would say toughest…) blow to take at the beginning of the race, already feeling so far behind. It was hard to mentally get back into the game, but we had to press on. Luckily, Trevor Cichosz and I spent those early laps laps joking around and trying not to get lost. It was fun to see a lot of my friends out on course sooner that I would have without the misdirection, trying to see the positive in the error. Besides, I was there to have fun! After a couple laps, most of us had regained our positions near the front and Tough Mudder Headquarters (TMHQ) gave those affected by the mishap extra time at the end of the race to ensure a fair race for everyone. Although I don’t think the twelve additional minutes that group received fully covered the full effects of the misdirection, I was impressed by their ability to quickly make an adjustment. Kudos to you TMHQ!

On Course
Like the past 2 Toughest Mudders, the course was 8 kilometers, with 17 obstacles that slowly opened throughout the first couple hours. By the second lap, all of the obstacles were open.

The majority of the obstacles felt like they were in the first half of the course however that was probably due to the slower pace during the first few kilometers. After looking at the course map again, I realized the obstacles were well spaced out. The technical terrain and elevation gain in the first half of the course set up a quicker second half. I never felt like I was running for too long without another obstacle and thought the obstacles were well placed. The second half of the race had wider trails that allowed runners to open up a little more and get into a groove.

While the obstacles ran smoothly, one concern  involves the scope of what a volunteer can do at the Grappler on top of Everest. Typically, if you get the knot in the hold, the volunteer can help ensure the ball is in place. Let’s just say that there was no such assurance during this race. I am not sure what the official policy is for this obstacle is, but like the problem with Stage 5 Clinger at Philly, I think this should be clarified. Anyways, onto more important matters.

The obstacles at Canada’s Toughest Mudder did not disappoint. Hangtime (aka King of the Swingers on steroids) continues to be one of Tough Mudder’s signature obstacles. It provides a technical and physical challenge.  The transition from the T-bar to the cargo net, and then traversing down the rope makes this the most epic obstacle I’ve encountered.  Hangtime simultaneously taps into racers fear of heights, potentially ruining racers aspirations. Tracey Roberts, who traveled all the way from New Zealand, did not let Hangtime get the best of her thanks to the support from her Mudder team.

The obstacles were ordered in a very methodical way that made the entire course difficult yet enjoyable. Unlike Toughest Philly, Funky Monkey Revolution wasn’t placed 30 meters after Arctic Enema, making it much more manageable as the night progressed. Arctic Enema was very cold and shocked my body, even with Frogskins. This freezing cold obstacle was immediately followed by Operation. Personally, I thought this was a great combination. Shock the body with cold and then taunt it with the opportunity to be shocked by electricity, a well-played mind game by TMHQ.

For the most part, the obstacles ran smoothly throughout the race. Alisha Miller, first lady of the World’s Toughest Mudder and Ground Pounder PNW, decided that she would single-handedly shut down Kong once and for all. I don’t think even the World’s Toughest Mudder has done that yet, not too shabby for a first timer (take notes Carlo Piscitello). Kong was closed for the remainder of the race, however, we had a bonus obstacle quietly taunting us throughout the night (more on that later).

As the race progressed, sunrise came much sooner than any race to date. Unlike the other Toughest events where darkness consumed ¾ of the race, light began to illuminate the cloudy skies just after 0430. I guess that’s what happens having a race so far North close to the summer solstice. We were met with weird mating calls from grouse birds (a deep and haunting noise), bears, and many other animals. I could feel the forest come to life and enjoyed a boost from the natural wildlife.

Austin Azar Crushing the Soul-Crusher.

Shortly after the sun came the most EPIC change to the course, the SOUL-CRUSHER, the hill to destroy all hills, and apparently third place Shaun Stephens-Whale’s b!t+h (https://www.redbull.com/us-en/red-bull-400-has-record-breaking-debut-in-whistler). This wasn’t just any hill; it was the one you see for the Red Bull Race 400 meters, up a 37-degree incline. While Soul-Crusher sucked, it was also an incredible experience that I actually enjoyed (apparently I don’t have a soul for it to crush, muahaha). How many times in your life do you have the opportunity to run, or bear crawl, up something like that?

Overall, I thought that it was one of the most beautiful courses I have been to. Set on the location of the 2010 Winter Olympics, the Olympic Rings provided a perfect source of inspiration and motivation. Jon Copper’s bagpipes rang throughout the night, making the event even more special. Even though the weather was cold and overcast, you could make out the surrounding mountains covered in snow. It was quite the spectacle. The only thing that would have given me more motivation is Matty Gregg and Keith Allen rapping to me throughout the race, but I guess I have to wait for another time.

Summary
This was an incredible race with great energy from everyone who attended. I highly recommend this race to anyone who is interested in running a Toughest, just make sure to bring a wetsuit. There are also a ton of activities to do here before and after the race, making it a great destination for a race. Additionally, the Canadian’s are always so friendly, that it’s impossible to leave that race with a sour taste in your mouth. Overall this was my favorite course in my years of racing and I hope that they come back in 2018 for Canada’s Toughest Mudder again!

Thank you everyone who made this an incredible experience. I had a great time spending time with people on and off the course. Thank you Team Goat Tough for your support! Thank you Jeff Locke for crewing. Thank you Phoebe Brimer for covering the race (and cutting off my shorts mid-race… probably TMI). I hate you Keith Allen for continually haunting me throughout the race via people singing to me. Thank you Allison Tai for being an amazing hostess and reinforcing my belief that all Canadians are extremely nice and love maple syrup. Check out her OCR Gym, VANCITY OCR, opening soon in Vancouver, BC.

How Much Tough Could a Tougher Mudder Tough if a
Toughest Mudder Could World’s Toughest?

Photo Credit: Jim Campbell, Gameface Media (Tough Mudder)

Savage Race Pennsylvania 2017 – What A Skirmish!

Savage-PA-2017-PRO-wave

On fields where the combat normally involves paintballs, athletes from all over the country came to rise above the morning fog and win a different kind of battle. The threat of rain couldn’t prevent thousands of competitors from facing a difficult Savage course, head on. The terrain at Skirmish, located in Albrightsville, PA, was flat but technical, featuring rocks and tree roots on the majority of the race route.

Many attendees were returning Savages, ready for another challenge. Some came to earn their Syndicate medal, which Savage gives out for running multiple races in a calendar year. Others, like myself, hitting their first Savage of 2017. Those who had come to run their first Savage hopefully came prepared with upper body and grip strength.
Savage-PA-2017-Half-and-Half

PRE-RACE AND ARRIVAL

Savage’s site is very easy to navigate and, though races can get expensive, there are usually plenty of promotions. Many of them include BOGO half-off deals. Once registered, email communications keep you updated on wave times, bib numbers, course map, parking and more. This way, you’re check in is quick and there’s little concern come race day. In this case, the course map was available about five or six days ahead of the actual event.

Parking was pretty simple and cost $10 for standard and $20 for VIP. As with other Savage races, standard parking was within walking distance from the festival entrance, making it easily accessible. For me, this saved me the $5 for bag check. I was able to keep my bag in the car and carry my valet key in the zipper pocket of my running shorts.

Savage-Map-PA-2017

I arrived at about 8:10 am, 50 minutes before the SavagePRO wave, which is their competitive heat.  The line orter line was a bit longer than the last race I had been to (Maryland Fall 2016). But, as I later found out, there were 100 more athletes in the competitive wave this time around. Overall, it took about 10 minutes to check in and get my bib, still allowing me time to walk back to the car to throw on my trail shoes and bib, so I could warm up.

Whereas Maryland really only had one or two obstacles near the start line and festival area, Pennsylvania had about ten, including a “mystery” obstacle that I’ll get into later. Many racers took advantage of this layout and got in some practice before the race. About ten minutes before the start of each wave, runners were allowed into the starting corral.

Savage-PA-2017-Twirly-Bird

THE COURSE

I’ll start this part by mentioning that Matty T, Savage’s normal master of the starting line, couldn’t make this particular event due to a scheduling conflict. Luckily, Savage was able to secure Coach Pain to fill in his place. Though they have two very different styles of beginning a race, both are extremely good at what they do. I had also run an open wave later in the day and heard a completely different, but equally motivating, speech from Coach Pain.

The overall distance was just under 6 miles, which included 30 obstacles. Runners were greeted with an obstacle-free run of almost 1.5 miles to begin the race. By mile 3, only 9 obstacles had been attempted. This meant that the last half of the course smacked you with 21 obstacles!

Savage-PA-2017-Rig-Over-Water

Though I’ve only done a handful of races, this was definitely the toughest collection of obstacles I’ve faced. By the end of it, my biceps were drained of life. Savage found a way to take, what I thought was already a tough 2016 obstacle list, and make it even tougher. New obstacles like Twirly Bird compounded with two rigs at this venue ensured this would not be a cake walk. Not to mention that mystery obstacle, which was dubbed Half and Half by the end of the day. The front half was an inclined monkey bars, like you see in Sawtooth, with the back part a declined pole, as you see in Pipe Dreams. Did this mean there was no Sawtooth, then? Of course not! At the PA location, some of the obstacles are permanent and stay at Skirmish year-round. So, although racers didn’t get a chance to see the new Sawtooth setup, they were still climbing on it!

The only complaint I had about the course was that Kiss My Walls, during the Pro wave, had an extremely long line. It took roughly 5-7 minutes to even get one attempt. And, because Pro racers have mandatory obstacle completion and KMW is one of the tougher obstacles, it cost many competitors lots of time. Oddly enough, in the open heat I ran later on, there was hardly a line at any obstacle.

Savage-PA-2017-Kiss-My-Walls

THE FINISH

After racers complete the grueling course, they’re greeted with volunteers handing out medals, shirts and water. If you’re a “swag” kind of OCR junkie, Savage’s shirts are super comfortable and the medals are solid. Within 10-15 minutes, most times and rankings were available at the results tent. Though there were no actual showers (very common), Savage had several hoses and two changing tents set up a short walk away from the start line.

Each registration included a free beer, so that was available in the festival area after (and I guess technically before) the race. There were also beef jerky samples, a life insurance company, and food vendors set up in case you wanted to hang out afterwards. Savage also had two waves of their 0.5 mile kids race, called Savage Jr.

Results were posted the following day (Sunday). Runners also had the option of signing up for a program, called Pic2Go, that will automatically post pictures to your Facebook as they become available. Or, you could wait until Thursday when all the pictures would be posted on Savage’s site. Pic2Go could only post pictures where your bib was clearly visible, so some racers may have seen a few, while others would see upwards of 20.

This was only my second Savage Race, but there’s no doubt it will not be my last. Though the course presented racers with a legitimate challenge, the casual racer was still able to find a place to enjoy themselves with friends and family.

Savage-PA-2017-Finishers-Reflection

Photo Credit: Savage Race

Bonefrog New Jersey 2017 – Was it a picnic in the park? Technically it kind of was.

Bonefrog-NJ-Happy-Fathers-Day

I had the wonderful opportunity of running with CF Bane’s Army, a very well known face of BoneFrog on Father’s day weekend, Saturday June 17th, 2017. CF Bane’s Army is a mud and road running group dedicated to finding a cure for Cystic Fibrosis, and on this day we ran on behalf of a brave young Cystic Fibrosis sufferer named Conlee. Running for those who can’t. Please click on this link to learn more about this horrible disease, and what CF Bane’s Army with the help of the Lucosky Brookman Foundation are doing to raise awareness for a cure.

Bonefrog-NJ-CF-Banes-Army

The very first words that I can use to describe the Bonefrog New Jersey 2017 Englishtown course is, “It was like falling down a military themed rabbit hole and my name was Private Alice for the day.”

*Pre race packet pickup was available on Friday night before the event between 5pm – 7pm*

Their insanely fun signature obstacles were there, the venue specific obstacles were fun and challenging, the parking was incredibly convenient at $10 per car. They even had port-o-potties on the course (Thank you Bonefrog!), a very rocking festival area with quality foods stands, water stations on the course galore, and amazingly friendly military and non-military volunteers. They even had the fitness option of knotted and unknotted rope climbs with the good quality rope! So what was it about Bonefrog New Jersey that still has me saying, “What just happened? What was that? Did I like it? Was it a good touch or a bad touch?”, yet it strangely leaves me kind of yearning for more.

Speaking of bad touch, why does Bonefrog have zero changing tents? The only race series without changing tents, that makes no sense to me. While we are on the subject of what’s missing? Where’s Coach Pain!

Bonefrog-NJ-Rope-Climb

The course itself, where many other well-known races are held each year in Englishtown, New Jersey, was turned into a wonderland of crazy obstacles and even crazier people. If Bonefrog New England which I reviewed here was, “Hell on earth.” then Bonefrog New Jersey was an insane tea party picnic in the park literally, I’ll get to that part soon. There was definitely something crazy about this dirty Jersey course that I wasn’t sure if I was prepared to take on so soon after Bonefrog New England.

What Bonefrog New Jersey couldn’t make up for in extreme terrain, they made up for by completely and absolutely playing psychological warfare on your mind with a course that made me go, “WTF is this shit!” many times. The torrential downpour of rain that was on and off like a faucet made the obstacles much more muddy and slippery as well, so add +2 for difficulty thanks to nature.

Imagine being thrown into a whirlwind world of uniformed military men and women manning the obstacles and serving you water, monster trucks in the middle of nowhere,  running across racetracks and up curving motocross hills. Suddenly you are in the middle of a beautiful wonderland of lush green scenery, a secluded manmade beach that looks postcard perfect with a sailboat just sitting there. The scenenery once again changes abruptly into urban-ish areas as quiet as an apocolyptic film and just as creepy. Swamp-like land with shoe sucking mud awaiting unsuspecting racer’s shoes, oh and they made you run through a public park.

Bonefrog-NJ-muddycourse

Bonefrog must have gotten a parks permit because suddenly we found ourselves running through children’s birthday parties, family picnics, old men fishing who were extremely agitated because we were scaring the fish away by diving into the water to complete 1 of the 3 swim obstacles. You absolutely have to leave all societal norms at the starting line to be a mud runner. I wish I was able to take a picture of these people hiding their children and the old men looking at us with their jaws dropped. You can almost see the question bubbles over their heads that said, “Are you doing this for fun or did you all lose a bet?”. So instead I will put it into 2 words. Bemused horror.

“Send in the clowns! Here’s your free entertainment folks!”

Bonefrog-NJ-Swinges-club

I’ll admit it was hilariously amazing! I’ve never seen anything like that in my life. That is definitely something that I didn’t even know was on my bucket list.

Bonefrog if you wanted to take your racers to the brink of insanity with the most amusingly oddest OCR course that I’ve ever run, you’ve done your job correctly in my opinion. My biggest complaint besides that damn grenade throw which I’ll get to in a bit, was the horribly marked course. Terrible lack of markings and mileage signs as well. Oh and little pink badminton birdiess or whatever those are do not help once they get stomped into the ground by other racers. The only mileage sign was a military volunteer that told us, “You’re at mile 4.9.” Great, now what if he doesn’t feel like talking?

Okay aside from bitching about course markers, Bonefrog Englishtown, New Jersey is a fast flat course even by road running standards which had about 40 obstacles for Challenge, a great place to go for the higher tiers such as Tier-1 and Endurance if that’s your thing. Some of the obstacles were not marked on the course so I wasn’t sure if some of them were even obstacles to be honest, and I don’t take Bonefrog’s course map seriously except to see the terrain, I am notorious for not reading course maps period. Bonefrog is notorious for sending out bogus maps anyways. See, mindfuckery. That’s the Navy SEALs for you right?

                                                                        I do not even know if this was the actual course that we ran!

Let me say that Bonefrog has the most amazing traverses in any of the race series that I’ve done hands down. Their Spider traverse on their New Jersey course aka, “The never ending cargo web of pain.” was hands down my favorite obstacle on this course. It was a loose shaky cargo net that looked like a mile long suspended tennis net. It turned you upside down, tangled you with what felt like no end in sight, it was great. Sometimes simple is the best, not always… but sometimes it is and this was definitely one of those times.

Speaking of the traverses, I was wondering where Bonefrog’s signature obstacle the river rope traverse was, but looking at the terrain there was absolutely nowhere to hang the ropes from. Sorry New Jersey, it’s a bad ass obstacle too!

Bonefrog-NE-RiverRopeTraverse                                                                             Just showing you what you missed in New England.

The worst obstacle is that dud of an obstacle the grenade toss. This time it didn’t even have a hula hoop target. There were hints of what could have been green spray paint or chalk. I don’t know, because the green paint/chalk blended in really well with the grass. I don’t know if this fellow racer was joking or not but they asked, “What are we supposed to do? Throw them at each other?”

I so badly wanted to say yes but the thought of being hit by one didn’t sound like a good idea to me. I told them that we were supposed to toss them. “At what?”, was asked so I said, “You’re supposed to imagine a target.” Stop trolling us with this obstacle guys! Seriously.

Bonefrog New Jersey was denser in high wall obstacles and balance obstacles than New England as well. Due to the extremely muddy conditions the group and I were extremely careful using our hands where we could on balance obstacles, and shoving each other’s asses (and sometimes naughty bits by accident) over walls. The Irish tables were MUCH higher than any big name race series that I’ve personally done and extremely terrifying, especially when covered in mud.

Bonefrog-NJ-Irish-Table

Another amazing obstacle was a water one which even my non-swimming ass thoroughly enjoyed. It was a series of huge buoys which you had to swim under and then crawl up onto a manmade beach. Great obstacle Bonefrog, more of these and fewer grenades please! It also gave you time to wash the mud off.

Bonefrog-NJ-Barrels

Many including myself hoped for a mud run and it was delivered on a silver platter by the dozens. The course was so muddy that sometimes you really do have to be careful what you wish for. There were even mud pits where if you stepped in the wrong spot you sank like a stone up to your waist. This is where running as partners, or in teams and in groups really comes in handy.

Bonefrog-NJ-Friends-That-Race                                                                                     Friends that race together, stay together!

Their obstacle Seat bars or better known as, “The green monkey bars that look like they are made from spare roller coaster parts.” Seriously that’s what a lot of people call them, has had a bit of a makeover. Instead of climbing up a cargo ladder to the bars, now it’s jump to the bars from a sketchy platform and hope you don’t fall off. It definitely clears the log jam but there’s like 4 lanes. Can there be a fitness option for these? One with ladders for amateurs, and the new design for the pros? Just a thought.

Bonefrog-NJ-Seat-bars                                                         Example of the ladders to the bars. This picture is from New England.

Get to the chopper, another grip strength obstacle that many including myself fail miserably at is still in my opinion, “Too damn tall!” Congrats to all of those that beasted this harder than nails obstacle. It takes serious grip strength and strategy to get through this one.

Bonefrog-NJ-Chopper                                                                         How does Justin T. Manning Make this look so easy?

My husband had the pleasure of briefly chatting with one of Bonefrog’s staff regarding difficulty in courses and obstacles. Bonefrog is trying to find a balance of tough as nails while helping those new to obstacle course racing find their fitness levels and reach their goals. I think that they are doing a great job so far, and it seems many agree due to the number of cars I saw filling the lot. So if you’ve never tried a Hesco Bonefrog race, I highly recommend it. Who invented obstacle courses to begin with? The military of course, specifically Lt. Col. William M. Hoge  of the U.S Army.

Bonefrog-NJ-William-Hoge                                                                                                   Meet the father of obstacle courses.

Finally, I’m able to give a HUGE thank you to all of the men and women that not only volunteered their time to this race series, but who also continue to sacrifice for the U.S.A, and those that made the ultimate sacrifice. I hope that you Bonefrogs did 1 for Bart at 31 heroes or signed the Memorial wall if you have a loved one in the service. It’s not all fun and games at Bonefrog.

Bonefrog-NJ-MemorialWall

Photo credits: Hesco Bonefrog, CF Bane’s Army, Wikipedia

Savage Race PA 2017: Push it real good

I’m a competitive racer, and an unashamed elitist. I don’t care about medal shape or weight, t-shirt material or how much mud there is, and I don’t drink beer. That doesn’t, however, prevent me from understanding what the majority of recreational OCR runners are looking for. They are the bread and butter backbone (wait, that doesn’t work) of the industry and need to be taken care of.

Savage Race is one of the very few organizations that keeps challenging competitive racers by constantly but ever-so-slightly increasing the difficulty level, while also catering extremely well to the huge majority of people simply looking for a good time.

I ran a Savage in Chicago in 2016, and really liked it. Flat, fast running and fun, spectacular obstacles made for a good combination, but I found the obstacles to be on the easy side, compared to European races and that now-defunct frog-themed series. They kept showing new and more exciting ones on their very well-run social media, however, so I was eager to try another one to see how things had evolved. I wasn’t disappointed.Savage-Race-Pennsylvania-RegistrationAs always, check-in only opens at 8am, creating a queue of eager SavagePRO racers (almost none of them being actual pros, but that’s a can of worms for another time) for the 9am wave. Registration was a piece of cake (I think I may be hungry) though, so the always electric Coach Pain sent us on our way right on time, as the fog lifted on a cloudy but dry morning.

Savage-Race-Pennsylvania-FogWhen Savage described the terrain as “wooded”, they weren’t kidding! Most of the running we did was in the forest, dodging trees on soft, technical, unstable terrain with moss, rocks, branches and even the occasional plastic pallet. This slows down the track speedsters and is much more entertaining than just running on flat trails. A good thing too, since the first mile and a half was completely devoid of obstacles, with only a few thrown in until mile 3. Then things got properly relentless, packing around 20 obstacles in the last two and a half miles.

Savage-Race-Pennsylvania-Tree-HuggerI’d say about half a dozen of these were challenging for most people, many were easy on their own but took enough effort to really make a difference when running fast, and a couple were psychological trials, especially for those with a fear of heights. Around half of the 29 obstacles on course were large, impressive structures, contributing to firmly establish Savage Race as a major-league race series despite “only” holding 13 events in 2017. The accumulation of obstacles also caught out many racers lacking adequate grip strength and smooth technique.

Savage-Race-Pennsylvania-Mad-Ladders-ActionIt seems to me that Savage is using the same steady, progressive approach when developing obstacle difficulty as when expanding their event calendar. This is great because athletes don’t get discouraged, and get constantly challenged to increase their obstacle proficiency rather than giving up and going back to penalty-based races (SavagePRO uses mandatory obstacle completion). This is pushing the sport forward, making us better obstacle racers, not just better runners, and Savage should be commended for that.

Savage-Race-Pennsylvania-Half-n-Half-Action

Savage added this new bonus hybrid obstacle

At the same time, the large number of easier obstacles leaves recreational participants with a sense of accomplishment as well as the desire to improve, come back, and conquer those that defeated them this time. I saw a lot of teamwork and assistance between racers, Tough Mudder-style, when observing later waves making their way through. Spectators could also enjoy lots of action as the course repeatedly looped through the festival area.

Savage-Race-Pennsylvania-Colossus-Help

Something for everyone, then, as the generous cash prizes, challenging obstacles, age-group awards and well-run, fair racing brought in a slew of fast racers despite a Spartan Sprint being held in Boston simultaneously. Savage seem to be establishing themselves as a no-brainer option for obstacle lovers that value technique over brute force, fun & fast courses over sufferfests, clean racing over burpee controversies, and the solid race experience that comes with a professional outfit.

Oh, and the medal looks great, there’s a cool spinny Syndicate medal for repeat Savages, the shirt feels nice, there were plenty of port-a-potties, a free beer at the end, various food vendors (so hungry), a solid kid’s race complete with foam machine and a great atmosphere, especially with Coach Pain as the start line motivator. It think it’s fair to say that the 3000 racers on site got their money’s worth.

Savage-Race-Pennsylvania-Foam-Machine

Kids were playing there all day!

Highly recommended.

YAY: Awesome obstacles, fun course, well run operation

NAY: They may not have a race near you (yet)

Photo credits: Sebastien David

Goliathon Obstacle Challenge – Evolve With A Cause

Everybody who’s ever ran an obstacle race has gone through a progression. The final phase in each persons cycle will lead them to their end game in OCR. Be it..

  • competitive racing with a goal of a podium
  • reaching out to every brand with a ™ symbol seeking an ambassador deal so you can promote yourself as “sponsored” on your athlete page that’s followed by the same people on your personal page friend list(they accepted the invite because they didn’t want to be rude than immediately “unfollowed” the page hoping you wouldn’t notice.
  • having a bad experience with one brand canceling a race and not offering a refund before you had a chance to experience some of the truly great brands out there(chances are if you’re reading this article, and know what ORM is, you haven’t ended on this path)
  • making an event a family fun time involving your kids whether as spectators or participants in one of the many kids race options

Or…..you’ve been lead to the final path that I have, by testing the waters of many brands, to find the brands that produce a race you truly find to be a blast.
I enjoy doing a Muckfest because the obstacles are just plain old fun.
I enjoy doing a Tough Mudder because the obstacles are fun and physically/mentally challenging
I enjoy Savage Race because the obstacles are fun, physically/mentally challenging and the “Pro Wave” mandatory completion option motivates you to try a little harder, push a little harder.. And in many cases with their obstacles.. Stay dry.

 

Guess what… There’s a race brand that caters to every phase of your OCR life cycle, in one event, not forcing you to engage in the aspects that turn you off on a brand. It’s the equal opportunity OCR life span event that gains popularity by word of mouth and social media with every event they put on…… If you haven’t heard the name(did you just get internet access?) I’ll introduce you to Goliathon Obstacle Challenge.

Recently they sold out an event at 1k racers. They could’ve had many more registered athletes but in the best interest of the overall athlete experience they opted to cap the event to minimize obstacle backups(which is an OCR athletes biggest pet peeve). Some were upset they didn’t get to experience this new form of OCR. So the amazing team at Goliathon revamped some obstacles(as they do every event) but this time added additional lanes to backup prone obstacles. By doing this it allowed everyone’s run to flow smoother from obstacle to obstacle while permitting more registrations….
It worked.

Their most recent event had 1,200 registrations. I was admittedly doubtful of solid numbers being that the always popular Tuxedo Spartan Race was on the same day. Next time I won’t question the ever growing following this brand is gaining with every event they produce.

Sounds like they’re doing pretty well… They are
Sounds like they’re very profitable(I  mean they’re selling out events and not sponsoring college football games)…
They’re not.
Normally that would be cause for concern… Not in this case .. Let me explain.

One of the most amazing things that draws me to this brand is the people behind it. Goliathon Obstacle Challenge is a 100% non-profit event.

OUR CAUSE
Our goal at Goliathon is to bring aid to those in need around the world. All of our proceeds to date have been sent to another non-profit organization called charity: water to bring clean, safe drinking water to people in developing countries. We have completed one water project in Bangladesh and have six other projects currently underway in Ethiopia, Nepal and Cambodia.

Taken directly from Goliathons website.

Ok, not everybody is moved by such a compassionate gesture in today’s society. I’m sure the growing number of registrations for each event isn’t because people want to do good in this world(im sure many are). So in order to continue on their mission of providing clean drinking water, the team at Goliathon must produce an event that will continue to grow, which brings me back to my original point.

Goliathon produces an event that caters directly to the elite athlete, that trains and honed their obstacle proficiency skills.

Goliathon produces an event that caters to the fun loving athlete that enjoys testing himself on obstacles their confident in completing

Goliathon produces an event for a family(ages 10+) to do together, laugh, have fun and bond.
Goliathon is not for the speed racer as an untimed event(use a local 5k for that) which is great as the sport seems to be veering towards the obstacle side of OCR with more brands adopting mandatory completion.

Goliathon has 3 tiered difficulties for each obstacle. If you pass, you collect a color coordinating wrist band with a point value. If you fail, you continue on to the next obstacle. These are not your standard obstacles. Yes, many brands have a rope traverse, but how many throw in random wooden poles and sliding pvc piping to navigate?

Everyone loves hanging rings… Rugged maniac has those, but Goliathons version leads you to a rope swing over water with a small landing platform required for completion.


Balance beam? Been there, done that.
Balance beam with random objects to navigate over, under without touching to be disqualified.. Followed by an angled leap to an incline board all over water?  Yes please.

Rope climb? Everyone has one.
Rope climb with a 40lbs chain around your neck that must be used to touch the bell for completion at the top?
Only Goliathon has that.

Don’t be scared… These are G2 and G3 variations.. There’s the fun for all warrior dash level variations of all obstacles for G1 difficulty.
As more athletes catch wind of this amazing, one of a kind event, the team registrations grow, the training specific for this event increases, and the team at Goliathon is continually evolving with the athletes, adding new tweaks and preparing new surprises for every event.

This event draws out the top Ninjas, Parkour athletes, and families looking to have fun. If you like obstacles, hate running, want to have fun, and support a good cause.. You need to try a Goliathon today.

Photo Credit: Goliathon