Bonefrog Buffalo – the Endurance Unicorn

When I landed in Buffalo, the tallest things I could see were the overpasses and the racing temps were forecast in the low 80s.   Saturday’s Bonefrog Endurance was going to be an easy day. I’d never raced a Bonefrog before, but logging 5 laps around the course to secure the coveted gold frog pin felt inevitable. After all, I’d completed an Ultra Beast, ran a sub-4 marathon, done a SealFit 20X, and all kinds of crazy stuff… how hard could it really be?

I was an overconfident moron about to get exactly what he deserved.

Hard Lesson #1: The course doesn’t care how badass you think your race resume is; neither does the blazing sun, or its evil sidekick “humidity.”

The race was held at Kissing Bridge Snow Sports, about an hour drive from Niagara Falls #racecation. As I drove by all of the upstate NY homes on the way there, I felt really poor. But when I arrived at the festival area, the sea of OCR shirts and GoRuck packs powered a really welcoming feel. Logistically, everything at the race was on point. Parking, bag check, knowing where to go, etc.. Bonefrog is owned and operated by Navy SEALs, and their race execution shows it.

While Buffalo itself may be flat, the hills at this ski spot were legit and the Bonefrog crew used them like tools of evil to make us feel special throughout the day. The race crew set the tone at the 8:30 starting line: No lollygagging or hype, just “get after it” and off we went. There were zero downhill teases at the start, just a shot straight up the hill at inclines ranging from 15%-30%.

Somewhere around the first climb, I started to appreciate how hot a day in the mid-80s can feel when your heart rate’s already jacked. The 90% humidity helped make it feel extra awesome. As a guy from Alaska, it was slightly uncomfortable but I figured courses usually just have a few of those climbs so I’d be okay.

Spoiler Alert: there were still 7 more climbs to go.

At the top of the first climb, we came to an obstacle unique to Bonefrog. It’s like a chest-high hurdle you have to jump over, only its covered in car tires. No problem, I’d seen pictures and had a plan. I’d run towards it and jump to hit it at a 45-degree angle going up… The tire would rotate with the force of my body and carry me over. #Easy day. Wrong! I ran, jumped, then stuck to the tires like I was on flypaper and came to a dead stop. Although I eventually made it over, it wasn’t dignified.

Hard Lesson #2: Being good at other OCRs doesn’t impress the obstacles you’ve never seen.

No worries, there are always hiccups. After a nice downhill running section, I saw a rope climb at the base of the hill. I started to smile as I visualized this obstacle to be owned.  As I was running and picturing my triumph to come, I tripped on the wet grass and did a sliding faceplant down the hill.  I made the rope climb, but with wet hands and a bruised ego.

After the rope, it was back up and down another hill with a few assorted obstacles in between. There were mainstays like walls to climb, tire drags and a carry; but the real fun came when we hit the bottom of the hill again.

Something I came to appreciate throughout the day was how much different this race series was from the other OCRs I’ve done. The Bonefrog obstacles mercilessly beat your grip strength down like your forearms owe the race director money.

I’d seen pictures of the obstacle below. None of them warned me that the bars roll.  The extra movement adds something.

 

I’d done a traverse under bouncy nets using only my hands before, so I thought this would be easy too… Only these grips bounce and roll.  I fell, and it hurt.

Seriously, one of the easier obstacles wound up being an unknotted rope you jumped to like Tarzan so you can swing across a pool of water. At most races, that’s considered a hard one.

No worries, it was bound to get easier right? Wrong. The unshaded climbs continued, and then I ran out of water! I thought my 18 oz bottle was overkill; I should have brought my camelback (and salt for that matter).

Eventually, the festival area reappeared with a gauntlet of clustered obstacles that guarded the finish line like grip strength sucking sentinels.

 

These were tricky, but the one I’d read about the most was “Get to the Choppa.” A few reviews said it was hard, and since it’s so high the fear of falling is quite real. No worries, I had a foolproof plan to get through this one safely: Don’t fall.

Seriously, just suck it up. If falling scares you, do a Color Run. Bonefrog’s run by SEALs, not Disney characters.

Is the Choppa hard? Yes. The plan I had to rotate from blade to blade like a trapeze artist fell apart the second I grabbed hold. That thing turned me around and twisted my arms like pretzels. Thankfully, the fear of falling powered my intense death grip to those blades until I was finally able to kick the bell.

After 2 hours and 57 minutes, I hit the final obstacle at the finish line. Bonefrog’s finish is unique, and it either moves you or it doesn’t. You climb up a rope and then swing across monkey bars with a ginormous American Flag at your side. Personally, this finish was worth the trip by itself and the pic they get of you at the end is better than any medal I have in my case.

 

And that’s why I suppose you love this crew or don’t. They bring you old school OCR, and they do it with heart. On the course, you’ll do 31 burpees, one for each KIA service member listed on a board. Later, you’ll climb a steep hill in the blazing sun and then get to write the name of a loved one on a wall. And after gutting out the obstacles and terrain, your final memory of the course is swinging triumphantly by a huge American flag.

So, did I get the gold frog pin? Not a chance. The challenge course was 8 miles, had 30 obstacles and over 3k feet of gain and loss. There were only 2.5 hours before I wouldn’t be allowed to start another lap. I was so far away from my five lap goal that I called it a day and went out for Gelato with my wife. The remaining sprint laps were 3 miles, 20 obstacles and about 1,700 feet of gain and loss each. I don’t think anyone completed four of those to bag a gold frog pin that day.

Hard Lesson #3: Bonefrog Endurance is not the Battlefrog Xtreme reincarnated. It’s better but harder. If you fail to give this series the respect it deserves like I did, they’ll eat your lunch.

Unless your name’s Ryan Atkins or one of those elite racers, be happy with 3 laps as a respectable goal on a course like that.

About five minutes of edited video from the course, set to Tuba music, is available on Youtube at Click Here

Elevation Profile for the 8 Mile Challenge Course

2017 Bonefrog Washington DC

The Location

Last weekend I participated in the Washington DC Bonefrog, which is the only Navy SEAL owned and operated mud and obstacle race in the USA. The challenge took place at the Wicomico Motorsports Park, which is is a 300-acre family owned and operated motorsports park in Southern Maryland that is near the Maryland International Raceway and Potomac Speedway in Budds Creek, Maryland.

The challenging course winds throughout the various trails throughout the motocross park, the wooded area surrounding the park, as well as an open area with various obstacles that was great for spectators.

The Obstacles

The race length was around 8 miles and involved over 30+ obstacles that were placed throughout the muddy terrain.

Some personal favorites from the obstacles included:

31 Heroes: Reading aloud each name of the 31 fallen soldiers on the bulletin board, followed by a burpee. This obstacle was early on in the race and really hit home because it was a big reminder that this was more than an obstacle, but a time to reflect on those who have sacrificed so much for our freedom.

Black Ops: This was the final obstacle of the race and involved a series of monkey bars that you have to climb up to, and there is a safety net underneath the bars in case you can’t make it all the way across. Not only were there a lot of other participants crowded around taking turns to go across the monkey bars, but there were a lot of spectators watching as well. It was very encouraging having all the cheering and support while going across the bars, and the big USA flag next to the obstacle was definitely a triumphant way to finish out a great race.

The Experience

Bonefrog had everything that you would want in an OCR event: trail running, climbing, carrying, reaching, balancing, running and jumping, and sliding. All these types of movements took place in shoe stealing mud, slippery hills, and unforgiving uphill climbs.

It was truly a challenge from start to finish, and I felt that the obstacles were evenly spaced throughout the course to give the body time to recover and move on to the next obstacle successfully. Each obstacle was earned too because you had to really focus in on both strength and endurance throughout the course. Teamwork was also very evident on the course too because all the participants were helping each other.

Preparation for this event includes a well-rounded balance of trail running (hiking is very helpful too) on hills to help improve ascending and descending, upper body strength, balancing your weight, pull up strength, climbing from bar to bar, and bodyweight exercises are a must. Hanging from a bar to increase grip strength and endurance is very important. I also recommend pull-ups, chin-ups, and being able to carefully move from one log to the next with increasing height.

The Atmosphere

As soon as I arrived at the venue, I felt like I was a part of something special. First off, there was a great open area for spectators to offer encouragement to their friends and family. Not only was there a great support system out on the course with the other participants, but the military presence, from the staff to the volunteers was truly inspirational.

From start to finish, the atmosphere was a combination of adrenaline and patriotism. This was a challenging event that I was glad I participated in and extra glad that I had plenty of training in also.

Racer Spotlight: Unmasking CF Bane

Many of you may have seen, “That D-bag in the elevation mask.”, or maybe even rolled your eyes thinking, “Oh look, another guy playing Batman.” if you’ve ever seen him on the course.

Well shame on you if you have ever thought that, and for the record it’s a silicone airtight cosplay mask, not an elevation mask. CF Bane cannot breathe comfortably while he’s wearing the mask, which is almost all of the time since entering the OCR circuit.

Bane-City-Challenge
Why does he do this?

Bane runs for a truly amazing cause that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. I’m talking about Cystic Fibrosis (That’s what CF stands for in CF Bane, just in case you weren’t aware.), a debilitating lung disease where most sufferers do not live past the age of 40. Their quality of life is extremely challenging every second of the day due to their inability to breathe comfortably. Breathing, something that you and I might take for granted.

Bane-Cystic-Fibrosis-Life-Expectancy

CF Bane wears the mask in order to simulate the sensation of not being able to breathe in honor of these young people who leave us too soon.

Whether it’s running a road race, a Tri-Athlon or tearing up an OCR course, CF Bane has garnered a lot of positive attention and popularity due to his hard work. Even one of OCR’s favorites Hobie Call was so intrigued, he approached the intimidating looking man in the mask at last year’s Atlantic City BoneFrog to ask what it was all about.

Bane-With-Hobie-Call

Photo credit: Jonathon Bivens

This is a snippet directly from the Lucosky Brookman Foundation , a group of philanthropic attorneys who has unleashed CF Bane onto the racing circuit in order to be Cystic Fibrosis’s ultimate Super villain.

“We were inspired to try to see what it felt like to have Cystic Fibrosis. Through the unwavering support of the Lucosky Brookman Foundation, the idea for running with the mask was born. As CF Bane runs, he sometimes struggles to breathe, to finish the race, and take each step. His luxury is one that those with Cystic Fibrosis do not have; he can remove his mask at any time. CF Bane’s struggle is temporary.
CF Bane was born to illustrate to the world through wearing a memorable mask in part what it is like to live with CF. It’s meant to try to provide a tiny glimpse into the struggles of living a life with CF. Sometimes concepts and struggles are hard to imagine. The mask serves as a stark reminder to everyone that the struggle is real. Everyone deserves to just breathe.”

Bane-CF-Girl

CF Bane with a brave sufferer of Cystic Fibrosis.

Click here for more information about CF Bane and the LBF.

CF Bane vows that he will fight Cystic Fibrosis until a cure is found, or until he breathes his last breath. I was lucky enough to run the Boomer Esiason 4 miler through beautiful Central Park on April 1st, as a part of his nationwide Army. I asked him what it feels like to be the face of the fight against CF in the OCR community. He replied,”CF Bane doesn’t see himself as the face of Cystic Fibrosis. My army and I, along with the backing of the Luckosky Brookman foundation see ourselves as a way to help spread awareness about the dreaded disease. There are so many amazing people fighting CF that are the faces. CF Bane simply wears a mask with no holes to show the public how it feels to not be able to breathe.”

Bane-Army-Boomer-Run

CF Bane has been fighting CF on the OCR courses since 2014, running over 30 races and many miles to date in that stifling mask. This year he also runs with a purple flag, the color of Cystic Fibrosis awareness. Those that run with him, have run with him, or have seen him on the course all agree that he struggles mightily to breathe in that mask. It is a task that many of us would not want to take on.

If you want to see CF Bane and his Army in action, they will be running the BoneFrog challenge in New Jersey on June 17, 2017. Say hello if you see him, he doesn’t bite… or he might if you bother him while he’s on an obstacle. I make no promises.

Bane-Bonefrog

As if BoneFrog couldn’t get any more intimidating with Norm “EffNorm” Koch as the new head designer for their courses, CF Bane is now also a BoneFrog race Ambassador. This has earned him the adorable nickname, BaneFrog.

BaneFrog

Yes the code works for all 2017 BoneFrog races!

When Bane isn’t running, He loves spending time with his kids at their sports, taking them to playgrounds, and playing Pokémon GO. Bane really does play Pokémon GO, I didn’t just throw that in there to be cute. Bane also enjoys Hooters, not for the pretty ladies in orange shorts, but because he’s an avid fan of wings and owls.

So keep your eyes on this incredible racer as he kicks Cystic Fibrosis right in the jimmies.

Now let’s take the mask off of this man so that he can just BREATHE.

Bane-Unmasking

Photo credits: Poly Poli, BoneFrog race, City Challenge race, Jermone Gonzalez, Ryan Sorenson, Jonathon Bivens, newhealthguide.org

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

Bonefrog New England Spring 2017 – If hell is easier, I’d rather go there.

Bonefrog-NE-Welcome“Harder than hell.” states Bonefrog’s ads.

On a cold Winter’s day, sometime back in December of 2016, yours truly was making her 2017 OCR list and Bonefrog New England Spring was a definite must. The only obstacle course owned and operated by the NAVY Seals? Count me in again! I ran the Bonefrog Challenge last year at the beautifully scenic Berkshire East venue, and rolled my ankle right after Stairway to Valhalla so I had to finish the next 7 miles injured, but it was still an amazing time, with their well-designed obstacles, enthusiastic racers, and volunteers pushing me through the pain. This injury lasted all throughout 2016, however, so I definitely had a bone to pick with this frog.

As I sat there looking at the Tier options, I must have had a brain fart, because all of a sudden, I was signed up for the Open Tier-1 wave.

Bonefrog has 4 Tier choices: Sprint (3+ miles), Challenge (8+miles), Tier-1 (12+ miles), and Endurance (New this year,) which is Tier-1 and then you run the Sprint course as many times as you can until you drop dead presumably. You get a green frog pin for every lap of the sprint that you finish, a special Endurance medal, and the coveted Golden Frog, if you can do 5 extra sprint laps! Norm was proud to tell us that he didn’t think anyone got the gold frog at this event.

Bonefrog-NE-Endurance-Bling

Tier-1 is Sprint + Challenge, so you get to do all of the obstacles, some of them twice. No going back at this point; so I pulled up my big girl pants and said, “Bring it on Bonefrog, gimme everything you got!”

I must have spoken too soon because shortly after that, Bonefrog announced that the OCR torture master himself, Norm “EffNorm” Koch was now their new head course designer. The word that came out of my mouth when that was announced? It wasn’t fuck… it was, “FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!” I’m sure anyone that has run a Norm Koch mountain course knows why.

As Bonefrog New England approached, the pictures and videos of intimidation started lighting up the internet. Norm with his machete and that sardonic grin of his, Bonefrog showing off their new obstacles, pictures of Stairway to Valhalla (which btw no picture that I’ve ever seen has done it justice of showing the actual steepness and distance of this death march), along with the NAVY Seals promising you an ass beating that you’ll enjoy.
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My fellow OCR people let me tell you that I was NOT mentally prepared for what they had in store for us this year. Once the map was released and I saw that long stretch of nothing between obstacles 12 and 13, I pretty much started shaking in my boots. Berkshire East is already known as Bonefrog’s toughest course because it is all mountain. Who loves extreme death marches up mountains? The head course designer of course!

Bonefrog-NE-Course-Map-2017

So on Friday, May 19th I and a car full of other mud running hooligans headed up to Charlemont, Massachusetts to, “GET THAT DAMN MEDAL!” and to “Make that course our bitch! RAWR!” A lot of shit talking from nervous racers, because had we known what we were in for, that car would have been quieter than a funeral. We set out on Friday because Bonefrog offers packet pickup the night before. I personally think that other race brands should also offer this option.

Early packet pickup is picking up your bib and timing chip the night before the race. They also have a cocktail and pasta night social where racers and Bonefrog staff can mingle; you also get to see and try some of the festival area obstacles. Early packet pickup is free, pasta and beverages are not. The pasta dinner last year was around $13 per person and you were offered a plate of pasta with or without meatballs, a mixed green salad, garlic breadsticks and chocolate chip cookie brownies. Unfortunately, we did not make it in time for the food, but we did make it just in the nick of time to get our race packets early, which saved us a lot of time in the AM and allowed us more sleep. You might even get a glimpse of EffNorm!

Bonefrog-NE-EffNorm

The parking situation this year at Berkshire East was such a vast improvement over last year. Not only was it shuttle parking in 2016, but they did not have enough shuttle buses for the racers and spectators so many racers missed their early wave times. This year parking was onsite and they rented some farmland next to the venue so it was all within a short walking distance. Free parking for volunteers and $10 for everyone else.

The morning festivities at Berkshire East started beautifully with the singing of the national anthem as a member of the Navy Seal skydiving team soared his way across the mountains and over the festival area with a huge flag and colored smoke. It was a truly amazing and awe inspiring sight.

Bonefrog-NE-Parachute

Then it was off to the races as the Tier-1 elites thundered their way through the starting line and veered off left into the mountains. This is where it kind of gets funny at the starting line, btw where was Coach Pain? I don’t know if Norm wanted to see the fear on our faces for himself or what but he was the starting line, “Pump up” man. I am laughing as I write this because while Norm Koch is a brilliant Course Designer, he doesn’t make a great starting line emcee. Sorry Norm but I think you know it too. He is unintentionally funny however. The vollie wave was the next to go out and Norm was like, “Ok, have fun. All 5 of you.”

Bonefrog New England could really use some volunteers everyone. If you’re looking for a solid race with great people please consider volunteering for this brand. You do have the option of running and volunteering on the same day. Click on this link for more info on volunteering for Bonefrog at www.bonefrogchallenge.com/volunteer.

Then it was my turn as Tier-1 Open wave. After Norm showed us a grenade for a new grenade toss obstacle and told us he’d see us sometime in the afternoon, it was off into the mountains we went. The course has been changed, for the harder and better in my humble opinion. Everyone’s favorite obstacles are still there. Like their fun-tastic spider traverse wall, drunken monkey, river rope traverse, tree rope traverse, walls, cargo nets, Black Ops etc…

Bonefrog-NE-Starting-Line

Let’s start with the short list of things that I was not impressed with this year.

Where’d the rope climb go? How can you have a military obstacle course without a proper rope climb? Bonefrog also had the good climbing rope too, that nice sturdy climbing rope with knotted and unknotted options, bring it back, please!

The barbed wire crawl didn’t have real barbed wire. It wasn’t even metal. Come on now.

The grenade toss. Toss a grenade into a hula hoop. Really? A hula hoop? Maybe it would be more interesting if the target was better like a doorway structure, or better yet get rid of it all together. It was a dud in my humble opinion.

Bring back the memory test because that was one of the signature things Bonefrog was known for, their hard memory test. If you failed, you had to go back and re-read a sign until you got it right.

The line was too damn long for the new green monkey bars called, “Seat bars.” Many racers, including myself, opted out of this one due to the bottleneck with a 25 pushup penalty for some and 25 squat penalties for others. Yes, Bonefrog has penalties ranging from 25 pushups, squats, burpees and jumping jacks.

The new rotor obstacle, “Twirly Bird” was too damn high and it had a huge failure rate, I personally did not see 1 person complete it. I think that it was high enough where it should have been placed over a water pit or something. Norm, however, did explain after the race that it was due to the wrong length of beams being sent and that it was meant to be lower. I saw one guy land flat on his back from that height and it was not pretty.

Bonefrog-NE-Twirlybird

Porto-potties for the racers on the course would be nice, it’s not easy going long stretches especially as a female, or if you have to take a dump mid-race to just drop trow in the middle of the course since there are not any good places on the course to do so. In the festival area, you have indoor and outdoor potties so no complaints there.

Now on to the good stuff!

Speaking of not pretty, that long stretch of nothing I mentioned earlier between obstacles 12 and 13? It was definitely a long stretch, but it wasn’t nothing. It’s called the Punisher. This is where Norm’s talents and skills really shine through and why every OCR racer has a love/hate relationship with his courses. He bushwhacked a death march with his machete that is more than twice the distance of Stairway to Valhalla up one of the most tree and rock dense areas of the mountain that he could find. Stairway to Valhalla makes you question life, The Punisher makes you question your sanity. I think the name of it should be changed to Tree Hugger (Sorry Savage race) because that is how you will be getting up and down this crazy death march, by hugging onto trees for dear life.

I don’t know how many reading this have seen the Barkley Marathon documentary (I highly recommend it if you haven’t, it’s on Netflix) but there’s a scene where you see people throwing their whole bodies up and onto a plateau while clinging onto trees. That’s Bonefrog’s Punisher in a nutshell and you get 3 long soul crushing peaks of it. What are we being punished for anyways? Someone take away Norm’s Netflix account so that he can’t watch the Barkley anymore.

On my second loop, yes Tier-1 not only got to do Stairway twice but the Punisher twice as well. So that’s 4 death marches total if you are going Tier-1, and 6 death marches minimum if you go Endurance. The Sprint people were shocked that they had to do this mother of all death marches along with Challenge and Tier-1 because in the past Sprint was much easier than the other tiers simply put.

Bonefrog is known for a lot of mindfuckery with fake maps, intentionally leaked false course information and the Punisher was NOT marked on the map for the Sprint course. Surprise!

Bonefrog-NE-Punisher

As for the Tier-1 experience, it was VICIOUS; when I heard at the starting line that Tier-1 would be doing Stairway to Valhalla twice, which I was afraid would happen, but I trekked on starting with the Challenge portion where most of everyone’s favorite and fun obstacles are like the Swinger’s club. It’s a Tarzan rope over water. Lots of fun if you make it, and into the drink if you don’t. It was much improved this year with a longer distance to swing over and a deeper water pit.

Bonefrog-NE-Swingers-Club2

The balance beams aka Walk the Plank this year was really tough, not only were they set over a rocky stream, it was on a fairly steep incline. Elites were only allowed to use their feet, open wave was allowed to use hands and feet to make it across. I personally saw 2 people lose their elite bands on this obstacle. I am usually really good with balance obstacles but I used my hands and feet for this one. The idea of dropping into a stream full of rocks was not appealing to me. Otherwise, it’s a solid obstacle that showed me that my balance can always be improved upon.

Hell’s Gate, which was introduced last year, has had a bit of a makeover, instead of over and then under the walls, it’s now all over the walls. It’s still a lot of fun however and it does prevent potential trampling in such an enclosed space.

The Challenge side of Bonefrog had a good mix of terrain and obstacles. You had a little bit of everything from flat RUN FREE trails, to the arduous death marches, wonderful woodland scenery, and through an area with dead trees that was hauntingly beautiful. Last year it was just up Stairway and across long stretches of flat trails with one long downhill. So much about this course has changed and for the better IMO. Much more challenging and the scenery alone just feels enchanting.

After a merciful stop at a porta potty before taking on the Sprint side of Tier-1, and I 100% admit that it took a lot for me to get back out on that course while smelling BBQ cooking, hearing the cheerful laughter of people who had just received their medals, the music pumping away. The temptation of Black Ops which is the finisher obstacle staring me in the face, seductively whispering for me to settle for a Challenge medal or a DNF. I ignored all of that and got back on that course to get that Tier-1 medal and to show the course and myself who is the boss of me.

Bonefrog-NE-Festival

Now the Sprint side of the course had some of the fun obstacles like the river rope traverse that everybody loves getting their pictures on, where you have the option of doing a full rope traverse, dropping into the frigid water and then swimming a few yards to shore, or you had the express lane option of a lower rope which you used to just drag yourself through the water.

Bonefrog-NE-RiverRopeTraverse

The Sprint side had to do the hardest obstacles like the death marches that the Challenge side did but they had no flat portions. NONE, ZIP, ZILCH, NADA unless you consider slight grassy inclines that are few and far between flat. You were either going up at all times or down muddy, rocky, leafy declines. After my 2nd trip or should I say crawl up Stairway my hip flexors really started feeling it. Every step was torturous and when a kind vollie (that’s short for volunteer) gently let me know that the Sprint had to do the Punisher as well, I took a moment to lay down on a sparse patch of grass somewhere between that water station and the Punisher, and a lone tear just rolled gently out of my right eye like that old Native American Chief in the no littering ads of the past.

Bonefrog-NE-Stairway

Bonefrog made me cry, there I said it.

At this point in the race, the only ones that were on the mountain were a few other Tier-1 and Endurance racers. I saw maybe 2 racers wearing Challenge bracelets but it was mostly Tier-1 and Endurance out there. This is at the point of the race where you start seeing some shit while racing against the clock so that you don’t DNF. The point in the race where you have gone so far, yet that finish line seems as far away as it was at the starting line. You go past the racers that have had enough and quit halfway up the Stairway or the Punisher and they tend to say, “I tried guys.” and all you can do is smile back and say, “Good job.”

This is where you also start making promises to yourself that you won’t give up. You limp helplessly by the poor guy that a volunteer is taking care of because his ankle is broken. You share your energy snacks and chocolates with those out there suffering with you, yet not tasting a thing except the anticipation of the finish line. You ignore the pain, the voices of self-doubt, your screaming joints, you ignore everything except those that are still sticking the course out with you motivating each other with chants of, “Big gold medal, big gold medal, big gold medal.”

Finally, after another round of obstacles in the festival area, you are brought back around to Black Ops and it was such a beautiful sight to see, but it’s one more obstacle to finish and a big one at that. With my hips pretty much dead at this point, I needed help from the wonderful vollies to get up the rope wall, but once I was on the bars, I flew past it’s spinning rungs and got that Big Gold Medal! That’s what makes Black Ops challenging, it might look like an innocent slightly inclining set of monkey bars, but the rungs in the middle spin so if you don’t move fast you will fall off right into the net.

Bonefrog-NE-BlackOps-View

Bonefrog ran out of Finisher shirts at The New England race and rumor has it, it’s because there were a lot of same day registrations that they weren’t prepared for, so I hope you wrote your bib # down on the T-shirt list if you didn’t get one. Bonefrog says they will be in the mail.

Speaking of shirts, Bonefrog offered a nice selection of shirts ranging between $15 – $20 at their merchandise booth. I wasn’t leaving without some kind of Bonefrog t-shirt.

Bonefrog-NE-Merchandise

As we were leaving Norm Koch was there looking very pleased with himself and relaxed knowing that he took an already tough as nails event and made it even more challenging.  He did ask my husband if he thought that the Punisher should be longer to which my husband said, “Yes.” So EffNorm and Eff you my dear hubby for that. You don’t tell that man a death march should be longer.

As for who won the race between me and Bonefrog New England, let’s just call it a draw since we both got what we wanted from each other. I got my medal and the mountain got my tears.

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Thank you Bonefrog for putting on another great event. Here’s a standing ovation to the racers, spectators, staff and volunteers (All 5 of you guys lol). I’ll be seeing you again at Bonefrog New Jersey!

Photo credits: Bonefrog Challenge, Phil Poli, Poly Poli

Train Like a Pro: Robert Killian

Robert-Killian-2017-Spartan-Pro-Card

Success came early in Robert Killian’s Spartan career. In his fourth Spartan event, he won the 2015 Spartan World Championship. Most of his success from that race can be traced back to his first event, a Spartan Beast he ran four months earlier in Breckenridge, Colorado, where he placed 3rd overall. Breckenridge is known for having a high elevation gain and being one of Spartan’s toughest races.  “When I did that race, I kind of was like, ‘Okay, this must be what all the races are like. This is how I have to prepare,’” he recalls.  Because of Breckenridge, Killian immediately began running more mountains, carrying everything from sandbags to logs, and increasing his grip strength.

Although, at the time, he’d only run in four Spartan races, that doesn’t mean he was inexperienced. Before ever attempting a Spartan race, Killian had already won numerous triathlons, competed internationally on the Army Biathlon team, and won both the individual and team categories of the military division at the Ironman World Championships in Kona. He was also named 2010 Army Athlete of the Year. 

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Killian has served in the United States military for about fifteen years. During that time, he was able to participate in numerous competitions, gaining experience moving through obstacles. Though they were urban obstacles, Killian had to learn how to properly navigate terrain, move through windows and tunnels, repel, and even climb chain ladders. “It just kind of became second nature,” he explains. “We’d do it so much that once I was introduced to OCR on a normal course, it was just a combination of all the running and orienteering that I had done in the military.” 

After winning the World Championship, Killian joined the Spartan Pro Team and was able to use 2016 as the first year he could dedicate to being a professional athlete. In the inaugural Spartan U.S. Championship series, he finished 2nd overall and never finished worse than 3rd in any of the five series races. When it came to the 2016 Spartan World Championship race, he narrowly missed defending his title, placing 3rd, under three minutes behind winner Hobie Call. Six weeks later, Killian and partner, Chad Trammell, placed 2nd at World’s Toughest Mudder, completing a remarkable 100 miles in 24hrs. Outside of OCR, Capt. Killian won the 2016 Best Ranger Competition with partner, Staff Sgt. Erich Friedlein, becoming the first National Guard duo to do so. 

Robert-Killian-Cycling

To maintain such a high level of performance, Killian continues to focus on cycling, swimming, mountain running and cross training. Many days, he does what he refers to as “power hours.” “Every hour I take five or ten minutes just to do one OCR task,” he explains. This includes carrying a sandbag, spending time on his rig, and climbing his rock wall. In order to help prevent over-training, Killian sticks to workouts that involve what he would see in a race.

The below workout is one that Killian includes in his training program on LeaderBoard. He uses it to practice throwing the spear and performing heavy sandbag carries during stressed effort levels. You will want a station set up for the spear with two or three spears and a 40-pound sandbag (or bucket) ready to go. For more information on LeaderBoard, stick around at the end of the article.


Robert-Killian-Spear-Throw

WARM UP

  • 5-minute progressive warm up jog. Start easy and build up to a moderate pace.
  • Dynamic Drills (10-15 minutes)
    • Two or Three 50-Meter Strides – Run just shy of max speed for the allotted distance.
    • High Knees – Concentrate on ensuring your knees are getting at least as high as your waist. Make sure that you stay on the balls of your feet.
    • Butt Kicks – While keeping your upper body straight, run while bringing your ankles up to touch your butt. Try to keep from kicking your whole leg back. Your knees shouldn’t pass behind your body.
    • Skips – Like high knees, try to get your knee to come up to your waist. While one knee is up, the other foot should “skip” off the ground. Alternate between left and right legs.
    • Walking Lunges – Step out with one foot, keeping the knee at a 90-degree angle. Try not to let your opposite knee touch the ground. Bring the back foot forward so that leg is now the front leg, again, keeping your knee at 90-degrees. Don’t let it pass in front of your toes.
    • Karaoke – Move side to side, crossing your trailing foot in front of the other, then behind it. Allow your hips to twist as you go. Alternate going to the left and then to the right.
    • Progression Sprints for 100 Meters – Slowly build up speed until you are running at almost a full sprint.
    • Jumping Jacks – Start with your feet together and hands at your sides. Bend slightly at the knees and jump a couple inches off the ground, bringing arms up above your head and your legs out to the side. Jump again and bring your arms and legs back to the starting position.
    • Side to Side Ski Hops – Stand feet together, bend at the knees and bring your hips back so that your torso is at about a 45-degree angle. Bend your arms like you would if you were holding ski poles. Jump up and to the left. As you’re jumping, allow your arms to come up, bringing them back down when you land. Repeat to the right.

Robert-Killian-Sandbag-Carry

MAIN SET

800 meter runs should be performed at a 10k race pace. Do 10 penalty burpees for each missed spear throw.

  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw.
  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw followed by a 200-meter sandbag carry.
  • Rest two minutes.
  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw.
  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw followed by a 200-meter sandbag carry.
  • Rest two minutes.
  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw.
  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw followed by a 200-meter sandbag carry.
  • Rest two minutes.

Writer’s Tip: Try to maintain the 10k pace, especially early on. You may be tempted to run the first couple 800m at a quick pace.

COOL DOWN

  • 5-10 minute light jog or walk. Then stretch the major muscle groups.
  • Go for an easy one-mile run.

 

Robert-Killian-and-his-son

 

Writer’s Note: Thank you to Robert for providing this workout. You can follow him on Instagram and Facebook.

Check out past Train Like a Pro articles:

LeaderBoard is where Killian and fellow Spartan Pro Team member, Brakken Kraker, coach elite athletes. Anyone can sign up for a free LeaderBoard Takeoff, to get an idea of how the program works. During the two-week Takeoff, athletes will complete five “Benchmark” tests. After completing a few of these tests, the athlete will be invited to a one-on-one chat with either Kraker or Killian in order to personalize his or her training.

After the Takeoff is complete, you can book a free seven day trial of either one’s program, plus a discount after the trial is up. The full program is personalized and includes a community chat, so you can communicate with other athletes or the coaches at any time. For more information, go to www.leaderboardfit.com.

For those just getting into OCR, or looking to take the next step beyond an open heat, Killian recently introduced his 12-week SGX program on LeaderBoard. Included in the program are detailed workouts, instructional videos, plus technique and pacing tips. Athletes also receive discounts on gear, nutrition products and non-elite wave races. To sign up go to https://leaderboardfit.com/signup-sgx/.

Photo Credit: Robert Killian, Spartan Race, NBC