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

A Salute to Service – Spartan West Point (2017 Honor Series)

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West Point

Duty, Honor, Country. The motto of West Point Military Academy are words to remember and words that were ever-present at the West Point Spartan Sprint.

At the handful of Spartan Races I’ve been to, honoring the military was always part of the event in some way. Aside from having, in my opinion, one of the coolest medals in OCR, the Spartan Honor Series took that to the next step. Not only were several current members of the military present and/or racing, but many veterans were able to come out as well.

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COURSE

The race was located at the Lake Frederick Recreation Area, which is a 25-minute drive from the West Point Academy, but still owned by the military. The course was just over four miles and included over 1,000 feet of ascent. The terrain featured plenty of uphill climbs and downhill runs through semi-technical wooded trails and a few gravel paths.

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Obstacles weren’t any different from normal Spartan races. There weren’t any military-themed obstacles. It would be awesome to see Spartan incorporate some sort of military tribute in an obstacle or two for 2018, but to keep races consistent, I can see why they may not.

One surprise was seeing Olympus within the first mile. Generally, it’s in the last half of a course. Because of this, I did notice some small lines later in the day. As a note, I ran the Elite Male wave and didn’t necessarily have to wait, but did have to start before another person finished. At the Sprint in Palmerton, the lane was fully clear when I began.

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FINISH HIM!

As is becoming the norm, many of the obstacles were saved for the end of the race. The first half featured seven total obstacles, with the second half having fifteen. The last half-mile had eight of those fifteen!

I’ve noticed a lot of Spartan races lately have a sort of, “gauntlet” at the end of the race. I mainly notice them at races with a time trial, which makes sense. The time trial requires a lot of obstacles in a short distance. Logistically, it’s easier not to move those obstacles for the next day.

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There was no time trial the night before West Point. Yet, the course designer saw fit to have the Bucket Carry followed immediately by Twister, with the Rope Climb just around the corner. After a quick Rolling Mud, racers then hit Atlas Lift, Multi-Rig (all rings), Spear Throw, and Herc Hoist, all within a few hundred yards of each other. And before the finish, a pretty long barbed wire crawl that included a slight turn, slip wall and, of course, fire jump.

COMPLAINTS

The main complaint I saw from other racers was the parking situation. Personally, I had no issues since I ran in the first heat. I arrived at the parking lot, which was 20 minutes from the race venue, at 6:00 am. Got right in, and walked right onto a bus. I hung out a bit after the race and went to catch a bus back around 11:00 am. Again, no wait. That was not the case for some later racers.

On my ride back to the parking lot in the late morning, I noticed quite the traffic jam going the opposite direction. In that traffic jam were shuttles going to the venue. As we pulled back into the lot, I could see a long line of people waiting to board shuttles to get to the race. Later, on social media, pictures showed long afternoon lines waiting to board buses back to the parking lot. Some racers said they waited over 2 hours just to get on a bus.

This was my first Spartan, and second OCR race ever, where parking was off-site. As much as an inconvenience as it may be, I’m not sure how much control Spartan has over traffic. It is definitely something they can look into, though, if they decide to go back in 2018.

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WHAT SPARTAN DOES BEST

I’ve now done a total of four Spartan races. Every single one has challenged me both in the course layout and obstacle order. There are always plenty of water stations and post-race snacks. The Honor Series medals are absolutely fantastic and a must, if you’re into that sort of thing. The finisher shirts, however, were your standard Sprint finisher shirts. It would be cool to see an Honor Series finisher shirt, but the venue shirt made up for it!

Spartan is really good at getting people race photos. The pictures were up Monday, less than 48 hours after the race finished. As I’ve mentioned before, a helpful hint to finding all of your pictures is to use Chronotrack. The Chronotrack checkpoints are each at photo spots. Find what time you crossed that checkpoint, then search the photos for that time frame. That’s an easy way to get each of your pictures from the various stations.

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SHOULD SPARTAN GO BACK?

I absolutely hope Spartan goes back to West Point next year. I usually only go to races within an hour, or so, but it was easily worth the 2+ hour drive. Lake Frederick makes for both great terrain and even some scenic views during the race. If Spartan can improve the parking situation, they really have a keeper.

What did you think of the West Point Sprint? Leave a comment below!

 

Photo Credit: Spartan Race

See Spartan’s Joe De Sena in New York

 Joe Desena China

Joe De Sena (he’s the one on the right), the founder of Spartan Race, will be hosting a panel on fitness and nutrition in New York in late September, so if you’ve been aching to see the man in person, this is your chance. We even have a discount code we can offer. One caveat: while the press release we were sent doesn’t actually say that you will have to do burpees, I strongly suspect that this might happen. For more details, check below.:

Joe De Sena, Spartan Race founder and CEO,

 Hosts the Ultimate Fitness Break at

NYC’s Ad Week Leadership Event

This is the advertising and marketing industry’s largest annual event that attracts more than 100,000 agency, media and client/brand executives over five days in September.

Joe’s life-changing panel:

Spartan Fit: Taking Your Performance in Athletics & Life to the Next Level

Monday, September 25 at 10:15 AM

NewGen Stage at  Lucille’s
237 West 42nd Street, New York, NY

Joe will share his methods on how to become Spartan Fit:

How you can take your performance (both in athletics and in life) to the next level through better fitness and nutrition, along with tips to strengthen your mind as well as your body.

Joe will also lead attendees in an invigorating Spartan SGX workout (special workout clothes not required!)

Spartan hosts more than 1 million people annually at its obstacle races around the globe.

Spartan’s founder and CEO, Joe De Sena, is a life coach, fitness guru and adventure racing legend who completed the Badwater Ultramarathon (135 miles), the Lake Placid Ironman ( 140.6 miles) and a 100 mile trail run in Vermont in one week.

Other Special Offers: 

  •  A season race pass and $500 in Spartan merchandise will be awarded to one lucky attendee.
  • First 25 attendees to sign up will receive a copy of De Sena’s New York Times Bestseller.
  • Ad Week is also offering a 25% discount on the regular ticket price for YOUR READERS to attend this leadership event and see Joe in-person.

Discount Code: 25SPARTAN17AW

https://newyork.advertisingweek.com/register/?v=25SPARTAN17AW 

ABOUT SPARTAN RACE, INC.

Spartan Race is the world’s largest obstacle race and endurance brand, and the first in-sport to feature timing and global rankings. With more than 200 events across more than 30 countries in 2017, Spartan Race will attract more than one million global participants offering open heats for all fitness levels, along with competitive and elite heats. The Spartan Race lifestyle boasts a community of more than five million passionate social media followers, health and wellness products, training and nutrition programs, and a popular NBC television series, which has made obstacle racing one of the fastest growing sports in the world. Spartan Race events feature races at three distances, 3+Mile/20+ Obstacle “Sprint,” 8+ Mile/25+ Obstacle “Super” and 12+ Mile/30+ Obstacle “Beast,” culminating in the Reebok Spartan Race World Championship in Lake Tahoe, Calif. Visit http://www.spartan.com for more information and registration.

Spartan Race – Citi Field Stadium Sprint 2017

Saturday, May 13th, the sun rose… we think. Queens was experiencing a Nor’Easter so we don’t actually know; but when Spartan has a date on their calendar, you’d better expect that race to be held no matter what the weather does.

With stadium races lacking mud, the rain actually provided a nice substitute for the 2017 Spartan Race Citi Field Stadium Sprint. It added an additional challenge for racers, not only on outdoor obstacles such as the monkey bars and rope climb, but also with every step they took throughout the wet stadium steps. While I have completed many Spartan Races, it was my first stadium race, and I had a blast! I don’t know what took me so long to do one, but I already can’t wait to do another.

Unfortunately, stadium parking was $12, but that’s really my only complaint about this race.

The Course
Racers were released in heats of 15 every minute. The course was well marked with tape completely blocking off any possible wrong turns, as well as volunteers directing racers around sharp turns. As to be expected, the course included a ton of stair climbs and dizzying zig-zags throughout the benches. With the start line in the stadium, the finish line on the field, and the course everywhere in between, you could almost always hear music playing. If you’re like me and used to only hearing music as you approached the festival grounds, you were probably pleasantly surprised.

The Obstacles
There was no multi-rig! There were monkey bars, however, strategically placed in the rain. Between that and the spear throw, I did more burpees than expected.

Spartan Race Citi Field Sprint 2017 - Monkey Bars

If you failed the monkey bars or the Z-Wall, both of which were outside, you had to do your burpees on the pavement in the rain. It wasn’t really that big of a deal, especially if you’re used to doing burpees in mud and on rocks, but it was pretty comical. All racers had to do at least 5 like that, even if they completed those obstacles, since the atlas carry was also outside.

Spartan Race Citi Field Sprint 2017 - Atlas Burpees

As per usual for this race, one obstacle was 25 hand-release push-ups. I didn’t know that going into it and found it pretty cool that we were in the Mets locker room! I also wasn’t expecting the four over walls to be inside the stadium.

Spartan Race Citi Field Sprint 2017 - Over Walls

Another obstacle that took me by surprise was 20 skips with the most massive jump rope I’ve ever picked up. I was not alone as the rope crashed into the back of my head or fell out of my hands numerous times before I completed the obstacle.

The main challenge at the sandbag carry was maintaining your footing, just like the rest of the race, as you tried to move quickly since it wasn’t particularly heavy.

Spartan Race Citi Field Sprint 2017 - Cassidy Watton Sandbag Carry

“”Sandbag carry” in a stadium is really a sandbag sprint. I wish they’d put a real heavy carry in a stadium.. or a heavy sled pull or push? Anyway, given the super cute look on my face, this still hurt bad.” -Cassidy Watton

To finish it off, the last three obstacles were about 100 meters from the finish line: 30 box jumps, the wet rope clime, and the CKO punching bags. After all those stairs, I don’t think anyone enjoyed the box jumps; but knowing how close we were to the finish, it was hard not to go fast.

The Finish Line
Across the finish line, we received our stadium specific medals and upon return into the stadium, we got our Clif Builder’s Bars and bananas. I’m not quite sure why there were no FitAIDs being given out, but it was definitely missed. On our way back out to the parking lot, we picked up our 2017 Sprint Finisher shirts.

I think the main reason I enjoyed this race so much was because I was able to operate at max effort the entire time. Unlike the longer Spartan Races, there is no pacing involved. I was breathing heavy the entire time and I was always trying to catch the girl, or even the guy, in front of me. There’s no doubt that it’s fun to go fast.

The Training
A lot of people ask me what my training looks like. The answer is a lot of things… especially since I wasn’t even training for this particular event. I run an exorbitant amount of miles, do CrossFit and yoga, cycle, and ruck. But if you want to know some specific things that might help you in this kind of race, here they are: running and sprinting, stair climbs, lunges, box step-ups and jumps, burpees, hand-release push-ups, pull-ups, monkey bars, rope climbs, and sled pulls. A little bit of all of that will surely help you tackle your next Spartan Race stadium sprint!

Photo Credit: Citi Field, Spartan Race, Kirin Hartstrong, Emilie Jones

GORUCK Tough: Sleepy Hollow Halloween

GORUCK Tough: a 12+ hour team building endurance event. Participants carry weighted rucksacks, cover 15-20 miles and do whatever the cadre tell them to. Events are often jam packed with heavy carries and PT (physical training) exercises, such as squats and presses with your ruck. Every team must have an American Flag as well as a team weight. Halloween events are done in costume.

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Our event started at 9 pm at Peabody Field in Sleepy Hollow, NY. From the very beginning, we could tell it would be a cold night. However, no one was complaining about the cold during the welcome party.

THE WELCOME PARTY
The event began with a bear crawl down the hill in front of us to a soccer field. We then had to sprint down the soccer field and back. Once everyone returned, we performed a drill for advancing on enemy lines across the soccer field. “I’m up, they see me, I’m down.” Beginning on our stomachs, we popped up, sprinted as far as possible for about one second, and then dropped to the ground.

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Upon arrival at the other side of the field, we formed 4 ranks and were told to complete 100 ruck thrusters, a squat to an overhead press. We also had to repeat every rep we did not complete together as a team. When the cadre felt that people were really cheating, we all had to hold our rucks over our heads for 10 seconds and restart if anyone dropped. By the time we got to 100, we had probably completed about 150 thrusters, counting all the reps we had to do over, and held our rucks over our heads for a total of 2 minutes. But it didn’t end there. The cadre told us to continue the exercise until they said so and we didn’t stop until we got to 200. With the same rules in place, we probably completed around 300 thrusters total.

Next, we had to bear crawl back down to the other end of the soccer field. Some people really struggled with this, especially after all of the thrusters. While we waited for everyone to make it across the field, we formed 2 ranks and cheered them on. One participant told someone else what to do (a huge no-no) and he then got a lot of individual attention. He was brought back to the far end, and from what I could see, he did lunges, burpees, and thrusters. On his way back down the field, not only did he bear crawl, but he also had to do the “I’m up, they see me, I’m down” drill. In the meantime, the rest of us had to hold our rucks over our heads waiting for him.

Upon his return, he apologized to all of us. The welcome party had ended. A few people already dropped out from the event, but I don’t think many, if any, dropped out after that.

THE MAIN EVENT
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We were a large class with 3 cadre so we got broken up into 3 groups.  (Side note: I do miss the days of smaller classes, where by the end of the night you knew everyone’s names, but with the inceasing popularity of these events, small classes seem to be few and far between. Breaking us up into smaller groups works too, but it’s not the same.) One group ended up carrying a log and a bunch of sandbags, the largest weighing 120 lbs, as well as 2 team weights, each weighing 25 lbs. One group, amongst other things, went in the water in the middle of the night to do hydro-burpees. They  forgot to take their team weight with them from the start point which is why the other group had 2.

My group carried our team weight and 2 of the most massive logs I have ever seen at one of these events for 2 miles. We had a 45 minute time hack, but it took us 2 hours and 15 minutes. This was probably the most miserable part of the event for me. We all took turns and tried to help as much as possible, but the log was so short and wide that we couldn’t get many people on it at once. Those who were carrying it were carrying a ton of weight. Additionally, it was extremely awkward to carry because it was so bulky, which is ultimately why it took us so long. Surprisingly there was no punishment. We were right near the water when we dumped the logs and everyone thought we were going in, but we didn’t. I personally believe it was only because we were running way behind on time.

We began rucking for quite some distance with no additional weight and hopped 3 different fences to get where we were going. We arrived at Sleepy Hollow Middle & High Schools where we met back up with the other 2 groups.

At this point, we were given a substantial break to refill our hydration bladders as well as share paranormal activity stories. Once the break ended, we split up into 2 new groups.

The group I was not in ended up going in the water, which meant that some people ended up going in twice. By some Halloween wizardry, my group did not go in the water. We knew that our cadre was looking for a way to get to one particular pond from where we were, but it wasn’t working out and he was wasting a lot of time so he decided to scratch the idea. He told us that he’d rather spend time doing quality things with us. So at the end of the event, there were people that had been in the freezing water once, slightly bitter people that had been in twice, and then a few lucky ducks like me that hadn’t gone in at all.

What our group did instead was travel a substantial distance carrying multiple casualties (designated people that had to be carried) as well as the smaller log, the 120 lb sandbag, and a team weight. Cadre Cleve spoke to us on many occasions about keeping our heads on swivels, staying quiet, working together, and tactics to help us complete our missions more efficiently, which definitely added value to our experience.

We arrived at Rockefeller State Park Preserve and learned how to tie swiss seat harnesses. Once the cadre and a few GRTs established a single rope bridge, we boosted each other up, locked in with carabiners, and traversed the bridge. This was definitely the highlight of the event for most.

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ENDEX
Cadre Cleve told us that the other group was ready to wrap up the event and the other cadre were wondering where we were. Once we finished up with the rope bridge, we began hustling toward the endex. Once we met back up at the start point after those final few miles, we were given a few closing words, lined up in ranks one more time, and were patched. The event ended right around 10 am: 13 spooky hours.

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Although I did not, some went on to complete the GORUCK Light that same day and even the GORUCK Scavenger the next. At the Light, however… EVERYONE went in the water. I think I left just in time!

Photo Credit: Jirina Harastova, Deanna Dawn, Jessica Madura, Delilah Talbot, Alex Stavdal

Spartan Race Tri-State New Jersey Super

The Reebok Spartan Super: This is our middle distance course. With a longer distance than the Sprint and more obstacles, the Super will test your endurance, perseverance and grit. The 8+ Mile Super packs more than 25 Signature Spartan Obstacles through tougher and more rugged terrain. The Super is the test en route to your Spartan TRIFECTA.