Muddy Warrior Run 2017

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Before heading down to Chicago to tackle the Toughest Mudder, I made a pit stop outside of Rochester, MN and ran the Muddy Warrior Run.  The Muddy Warrior Run is a 5K locally-run OCR that’s very well-produced and designed, with some great obstacles and excellent use of the terrain at their venue.

Festival Area:

Everything was close together and easily accessible, with some food and nutrition vendors sprinkled throughout.  There was ample seating for people to hang out, and the bathroom/shower situation was solid.  Registration was done and over with quickly and smoothly.

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Venue:

The race venue is about 1 ½ hrs. from the Twin Cities, on the NE corner of the Rochester area.  From the parking area (which has lots of room and within walking distance to the registration tent), it looks like just a grouping of trees in the middle of a wide-open field.  This misled yours truly to think there wasn’t going to be much in fun terrain for this course.  Boy, was I wrong!

Course:

The race started off with a very energetic emcee getting all the racers pumped up and ready to tackle the course.  After getting all pumped up, we were off!

Leading up to the race, there had been some rain, and it was still raining on & off throughout the course.  This made the “muddy” part of the Muddy Warrior Run easy to live up to!  Big clumps of mud stuck to me as I crawled out of the barb wire crawl & headed into the trees.  This is where I ate my first impressions of the venue, as it opened into some great double-wide track through creek beds, roots were strewn all over the trail, and some decent inclines.  My watch gathered around 600 feet of elevation change in roughly 3.5 miles (not sure how accurate that is, but that’s what I’m going with!) so the course designer made use of every inch they could!

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Obstacles of Note

The log station, where we had to do 15 squats with the log & the Form Enforcer right there making sure we went deep enough on the squats (she was great!).  There were the normal walls to climb over but threw in a tall wall climb over and a traverse wall for a little bit of spiciness.  A couple of the most fun ones for me were the base jump into a pool of water, the straight pipe rig towards the end of the race, and the spear throw.

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Muddy Warrior Aftermath

After talking with some people that had done the course in previous years, they said this year’s course was much tougher than past years.  I also learned that the competitive wave people had bands, which meant it was mandatory obstacle completion.  They also had cash prizes for the top 3 overall, which is always great incentive to have the fast athletes show up.  Overall, everyone had mud on them, smiles on their faces, and phrases of “Can’t wait to do this again next year!” filling the air at Muddy Warrior Run!  Another great locally-run OCR in Minnesota is done and in the books!

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Steeplechase Challenge 2017

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Another weekend, another excellent locally-run OCR in the books for the great state of Minnesota!  This time, my adventures took me to the hilly Zumbro River valleys of Mazeppa at an event called the Steeplechase Challenge.

This is a new-comer to the local OCR scene, as this is only their second year of holding this weekend-long event.  The event focuses on the charity Toys For Tots and brings in donations for the local chapter.  There’s a 5K or 10K distance to choose from, with plenty of families and weekend warriors alike tackling the course either Saturday or Sunday.  Registration and festival area are within walking distance of the parking area, as everything is on-site.  Everything was clearly marked and easy to get through.

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Course / Venue:

The venue is hands-down one of the best in MN.  The family that runs this event owns about 170 acres of pristine Zumbro River Valley beauty at the Steeplechase Event Center (hence the race name), hills and all.  The site used to be an old ski resort and chair lifts are still standing to this day but not functional anymore.  This paves the way to some truly fantastic trails, mud, hills, single-track (even through what was dubbed ‘Rock Canyon’ where rock boulders had to be climbed over uphill) and… more mud & more hills.  Anytime you can do an OCR in Minnesota and get over 1200+ ft of elevation change in a 10K (watches varied, so I’m going with that number as an average) is a huge plus.  I’ll let some of the photos do the talking:

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Obstacles:

One of the standout obstacles was the addition of a 300-foot water slide, which everyone young to old enjoyed (some of them multiple times, I ran the 10K on Sunday and was told a woman on Saturday went up/down the slide 11 times!).  Some fun random ones: hitting a tractor tire 10x, hitting a junked car with a sledgehammer (seriously more fun than you’d think!), and a spear throw that was longer than a standard Spartan Race distance.  There were some challenging ones as well, with the signature challenge (other than the terrain) was the log carry up to a shorter but very steep climb towards the end of the 10K distance.  Talk about a quad burner!

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The obstacles themselves may not be as technically challenging as other races, but the terrain/venue/heavy carries back up the ‘Challenge’ claim in full.  It’s a great feeling to see both young and old, newcomers to veteran racers enjoying some of the best that MN has to offer when it comes to OCR racing.  See you again in 2018!

 

Photo Credit: Author

Spartan Race Minnesota Sprint 2017 – The Hills Are Alive!

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When someone says “Minnesota”, what’s the first thought that comes to mind?  Snow?  Ice?  Mall of America?  Well, we have all those things, but we also have one more thing: Spartan Race.

Spartan Race came back to Welch Village for the 3rd year in a row, about 45 minutes south of the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.  Welch Village holds some of the steepest ski hills you can find in MN, and Spartan uses those their advantage (and to other’s dismay).  Registration was a standard setup, with the bar-code scanning making the process easy and quick to deal with.  The festival area was stocked with the normal Spartan merch stands and the venue’s concessions filling up everyone with good food and beverages.    The festival area was spread out across the entire field, with the main stage being on the opposite end of where the start line / biggest team tent area was located.  This proved to be a drawback later on, with the messages being relayed by the DJ at the main stage not being heard at the other end of the festival area.  Minor issue, but I digress…

In past years, the course has hovered right around the 5-mile mark in length.  Between the longer distance, hills totaling over 1200 ft in elevation gain, temperatures hitting 90+ degrees, and high humidity… to say that this was a challenging Sprint course would be an understatement.  That was not the case this year.  Temps hitting the sweet spot and Spartan shaving over a mile off past year’s setups (clocking in around 3.5 miles), it was a noticeable difference for those that had been there before.  Opinions were mixed on this, as having a shorter course was deemed either welcomed fully or seen as a slight disappointment.  Different strokes, different folks.  In my view, if the race seems shorter (reading between the lines: easier) then push harder.

Obstacles were standard for Spartan.  One difficult stretch was the spear throw and rings. These were located right after the dunk wall, making for a difficult time of completion and many burpees were enjoyed.

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Otherwise, enduring the hills was a main focus of everyone.  The start line started uphill, after the rings — hill, after doing some other stuff – hill.  The bucket carry at the Minnesota Sprint carries a certain ill-tasting flavor in my mouth, as it’s straight uphill.

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Please note: She moved the bucket off her shoulder right after this picture was taken.

This part of the course had many people questioning their life choices up to that point, but all was forgiven it seemed when they got to the top and saw the camera guy (funny how that works, huh?).

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Overall, it was a fantastic event at a venue that can really bring the pain for a Sprint distance.  Hills, green everywhere (both with the trees and the local North Star Spartans team that was 150+ strong!) and a bunch of Minnesota nice made for an excellent time at one of the premier events on the Minnesota OCR calendar.  Next time you think Minnesota, don’t think cold.  Think AROOO!

Photo Credit: Spartan Race

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Hammer Race 2017 – Spring – Hammers Up!

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Have you ever wondered to yourself:  “Man, it would be a blast to run through the forests, hitting things with a sledgehammer, run through nasty brush and climb over moss-covered rocks!  But where?”

Well my friend, I’d suggest you keep reading.

The Hammer Race is a locally run obstacle course race outside of Rochester, MN (approx. 1 ½ hour drive south from the Twin Cities area). While you don’t need much obstacle technique to get through the 10K course, you do have some very technical trail running filled with twists, turns and hills, along with some walls and tires.  By the way, while navigating all this, you’re carrying a sledgehammer (we’ll get to that later).

The race is run by a group of dedicated people from a local CrossFit gym.  The venue is at a local campground that runs alongside the beautiful Zumbro River area.  As far as the festival area goes, that’s not the main focal point of this race.  Aside from the local chapter of the Spartan Race street team having a tent set up, it has the grassroots feel that I want at a locally-run race. Within the main clubhouse, there was registration/waivers to sign.  I got there about an hour early and breezed through check-in.

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There was an elite wave, couple of teams that ran together and then a couple of open waves to start the race.  They went through a race briefing (which side are the flags on? THE RIGHT! Be aware of your hammer, don’t hit anybody. This was said many times.) and after a few battle cries of “Hammers Up!” we were off!

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Remember when I said you’re carrying a sledgehammer through this entire race?   The main prerequisite for running this event is BYOH -Bring Your Own Hammer-.  Most runners bring a 8-10lb sledgehammer, but some run with larger weights because they’re animals! That one thing sets this race apart from your normal obstacle course races.  One thing to remember:  You’re holding an awkward 8 pounds while running through dense, thick brush that’s barely cleared, rock beds covered in slick moss & climbing up hills that are surprisingly steeper than you’d expect for southern Minnesota.   This race is challenging.

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One of the other perks of carrying the hammer (other than feeling like a total bad-ass doing it!)  is hitting the logs down the chutes.  These are sprinkled throughout the course, with a gauntlet of logs and tires to hit at the final stretch.  Hearing the THWACK-THWACK-THWACK of hammer hitting wood can bring a smile to your face as it echos through the forests. When you hear that, you know what’s coming next!

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Another obstacle that stands out is the “Black Door”.  The Black Door is a large section of the course that’s roped off with caution tape on either side. Inside this section, there’s a black door hidden which, when found, will put you back onto the race course.  You can’t go outside the tape, there’s no other way out, you just have to find the Black Door.  This is a great way to break up the course & most of the time forces you to partner with other racers to find it.  I won’t give away too much in details, but I heard from others it took them upwards of 8-10 minutes to find that door.

Overall, this is an excellent, challenging locally-run race that brings to the forefront some of the best that Minnesota has to offer with the local OCR scene. It’s one I personally look forward to each year, and is a staple on many local racers calendars.  I was told by the race director that some exciting new changes will be coming for the Hammer Race in October… can’t wait to see what they have in store!

Stay tuned this year, as I’ll be at more locally-run jewels that make up the crown of Minnesota OCR.  Until then, hammers up!

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