A Day at the Ball Park – Spartan Stadium Series AT&T Park Sprint Review

Take Me Out to the Ball Park


AT&T-Stadium-Sprint-Stadium-View

Home of Major League Baseball’s San Francisco Giants, AT&T Park is situated in downtown San Francisco right on the San Francisco Bay with a beautiful view overlooking the water. This view was highlighted from the top of the rope climb; located in the stands above right field which overlooks McCovey Cove. Fun fact: home runs hit into “The Cove” are known, unsurprisingly, as “splash hits.”

AT&T-Stadium-Sprint-Rope-Climb

This was my first Spartan Stadium Race, but I had done my research beforehand as well as watched the Spartan live stream that morning. I felt prepared and honestly, most of the reviews that I had read of the Spartan Stadium Race Series indicated that they were the easiest of all Spartan race types.

This was an interesting race for me. It was the first race where going as fast as I could wasn’t my goal. My ultimate goal was to help a first time Spartan, and good friend, not only complete the course but actually enjoy himself. Running with my friend allowed me to really take in the venue and focus on how this race was laid out. This gave me a unique perspective on the course design.

Batting OrderAT&T-Stadium-Sprint-Obstacle-List

From my perspective, I thought it was a fast and furious course with few potential hang-ups. Once the Spearman was completed it was essentially a time trial for the rest of the course.

From the other perspective, and the focus of this article, I saw a course designed to exhaust untrained/new racers. Having the Spearman (the most failed obstacle) as the 2nd obstacle on the course, it was almost guaranteed that anyone who was not prepared for this race was going to be pumping out 30 burpees early on. Shortly after the Spearman, there were multiple low crawls up an incline and then the Z-Wall. For someone unpracticed in grip strength and balance, the Z-Wall can be a difficult obstacle. For these people, they are looking at 60 potential burpees within the first 5 obstacles.

The Z-Wall was followed by more stairs and then 20 slam balls before you could move on. While the slam balls aren’t difficult from a technique perspective, it really ramps up the heart rate. Moving on from the slam balls there were more low crawls followed by low crawls, and once again… Low crawls. It seriously felt as if we were going to low crawl from the very bottom of the stadium to the top (and we may have). Once we made it through all the low crawls we just had to clear the 8-foot wall before the sandbag carry.

Foul Ball 

In my opinion, the sandbag carry, which was really a Spartan pancake, was by far the most difficult obstacle in this race. Not because of weight or distance or any actual factor relating to the obstacle, but because of the DISGUSTING stench of the sandbags. These things smelt rancid. Even as I approached the sandbag carry I could smell them from a good ten yards away. At first, I thought I had come upon a group of Spartans that did not believe in personal hygiene, but I could not have been more wrong. The carry was only a short route and yet nobody wanted those things anywhere close to their body. That scent attached itself to any body part or piece of clothing that it came in contact with. I do not know what Spartan did to make them smell so terrible, but there were people at the end of this struggle that were on the verge of vomiting.

Once everyone’s stomach settled from the smell of the sandbags, we did some more stairs and approached the box jump obstacle. This was another obstacle that wasn’t necessarily difficult in terms of strategy, but rather conditioning. My one issue with this obstacle was the lack of coordination between volunteers. Some volunteers would tell Spartans to stand straight up after jumping on the box while other volunteers just let people do it however they wanted.

Seventh Inning Stretch 

Up and down some more stairs (it’s a Stadium Sprint – shocker, right?) and there was the rope climb. Really the only reason to discuss this obstacle was the view. I finished my rope climb quickly, but my friend was unable to make it to the top and had to do his burpees. Being the good friend that I am, I enjoyed the view while he did all his burpees. I actually did offer to do some for him, but he wanted to do it all on his own no matter how long it took, which definitely earned him added respect from me.

AT&T-Stadium-Sprint-Assault-Bike

After a couple of staple Spartan obstacles – the Atlas carry and Herc hoist – there was a brand new obstacle: the assault bike. This was another take your heart rate through the roof type of obstacle. Burn 10 calories and then move on. Simple enough, but being so close to the end of the course, a lot of people were already exhausted. Right around the corner from the assault bike was the jump rope. 20 revolutions to advance. The only caveat being that you had to have an exercise band wrapped around your ankles. This was more of a nuisance than any real added difficulty.

AT&T-Stadium-Sprint-Multi-Rig

The Multi Rig was next and turned out to be a tricky obstacle due to the fact that the rings/baseballs were hanging precariously low to the padding. Being 6’2” myself and my friend being 6’3”, this made things more difficult for us and it was crucial to keep our knees up and arms bent in order to complete this obstacle.

Sliding Into Home Plate

There were only a few more obstacles left to finish the race: the A-frame cargo, some military hurdles, a couple walls and then the gladiator. I have only been doing Spartan races for a couple of years now, but I have read that they used to have actually “gladiators” at the end of a race that you had to get past. Unfortunately, now they just have some punching bags hanging from a structure that you need to run through.

AT&T-Stadium-Sprint-Hurdles

Going back to my perspective, I found the course to really be too easy. I completed the race burpee free, and I didn’t feel like there were any true challenges. With that being said, I did enjoy it and would love to do another Spartan Stadium Race. Plus, the medals are really cool.

I did regret not being able to run the course as fast as I could. In hindsight, I could have run it earlier in the day and then run again with my friend. More importantl, though, I was able to introduce another person to Spartan races and he is already talking about signing up for his next race! No matter what time I could have run on my own, I consider this a far better result.

AT&T-Stadium-Sprint-Medals

Warrior Dash NY -The Heart of the Open Heat

I ran the Warrior Dash New York event this past weekend and I had a fun time.

For any experienced OCR athlete the words Warrior Dash and Fun should be synonymous at this point. But like any OCR it is what you make it and should be tempered by expectations.

Pre race excitement: photo courtesy Victoria Rose Skiff Pre Race Excitement: Photo Courtesy Victoria Rose Skiff

This was a shuttle parking event which sometimes deter me from doing an event all together but this was smooth and effortless. The volunteers kept the flow of cars into the parking field moving at a nice pace and the school buses used to shuttle were in abundance and constantly moving. After a 5 minute ride to the venue, it was time to check-in. Packet pickup was by last name and not bib number, which may have caused some delays for those whose last name began with an R/S. That particular line was massive where other letter lines were empty. Luckily an “N” wasn’t an overly popular last name when I checked in.

Warrior Dash has started a new registration this year which I personally was in favor of where others took issue. When you register, your fees include parking and bag check. So there was no stopping to pay for parking and bag check was expedited without having to pay on site. The now included fees is a debatable topic but I was personally a big fan of. Just don’t bring valuables as your bag really wasn’t secure in any way. I was able to freely walk into bag check after each lap to locate and utilize my bag without any volunteer to check that it was, in fact, my bag I was rummaging through.

Muddy Warriors Post Race: Photo Courtesy Meghann Kinsella Muddy Warriors Post Race: Photo Courtesy Meghann Kinsella

I ran 3 laps of their wooded, hilly course and in each lap had the opportunity to witness first hand, the heart and soul of OCR. After running the PA Warrior dash and multiple NJ warrior dash venues in previous years, this was my first run of their NY event. I was very pleasantly surprised with the terrain and venue itself. The PA/NJ locations were always generally flat and open area locations, containing minimal trail and elevation. The New York venue sent you uphill at several different points in the woods forcing you to actually slow your pace from the normal sprint of a warrior dash.

Participant coming down slide Participant Coming Down Slide: Photo Courtesy Gameface Media

The obstacles themselves were very do-able for anyone that has ever ran a Spartan Race, Savage Race, Battlefrog or any of the other big boys in the sport. When it came to the target audience of a Warrior Dash these obstacles could pose some challenges. One of the first obstacles(Fishermans Catch) encountered was a square wooden structure, with 5 or so lanes, each with varying overhead grip challenges. One lane contained all metal rings to traverse. Another lane was hanging ropes. A third option was a combination of rings,ropes, and slick straight bars. What made this obstacle even more interesting was the water spraying upwards from the base in all different directions with a rope netting underneath to maneuver across if you opted not to test your grip. Something like this was easily completed for the average OCR athlete but again, for open heat racers this posed a challenge, and a fun one at that.

There was wide balance beams with water shooting from the base, mud mounds that required assistance later in the day when the mounds were slick and wet. Multiple wooden climbing structures and a newer obstacle introduced last year called Pipeline which is an enclosed circular rope obstacle that requires most to lay down on their stomach or back and navigate through, being too narrow to stand and maneuver. It reminds me of a Chinese finger trap, in that you can’t apply pressure solely to the center of the roping as it would tighten around you.

Warrior-Dash-New-York-Pipline Obstacle “Pipeline“:  Photo Courtesy Gameface Media

At previous events the most popular obstacle, Goliath, would have a balance beam several feet in the air with water spraying up from underneath you, followed by a short climb up to the slide into a water pit(my favorite part). They seemed to of broken this up a bit having the balance beam with spraying water(mentioned earlier) in the beginning of the course, leaving Goliath a wooden beam climb up to the slides. Usually the most highly anticipated obstacle by all attendees. By my third lap the climbing section to get to the slides was blocked off. The volunteer redirecting racers stated the water level at the base of the slides became too low and they needed to fill it up. Goliath is the last obstacle prior to crossing the finish and without direction to go directly to the finish, participants were going around the slide, to the water pit, jumping in and making their way through the pit to the finish. Of course ,monkey see, monkey do, I jumped in and enjoyed being sprayed with 3 high pressure hoses as I made my way through a waist deep water pit. (I later saw unconfirmed reports that the low water level resulted in multiple lower body injuries to ankles and legs resulting in the closure of the slide). After doing the slide 2x already this was a fun change up to end the race.

image Muddy Love: Photo Courtesy Steve Longo

Throughout the day I witnessed many people with fitness levels not comparable to what you’d normally find at a Spartan Race or Battlefrog. It was very refreshing to witness large groups of people not in a rush, smiling, laughing and having fun. There were no egos and no sound of an “Aroo”. One woman whom I assisted in completing the mud mounds, if I had to guess in her mid 40’s and later told me this was her first race of this type, was so grateful for a helping hand and a encouragement that she referred to me as her “saving grace”. She was so happy, and so proud to accomplish a feat many reading this would find basic. Every time I run a Warrior Dash it reinforces the belief that the heart of this sport is in the open heat. This was a truly fun event and I look forward to running many more.

image Warrior Dash Medal Table: Photo Courtesy Gameface Media


 

Loki Run, Village Pillage

Down in the South of England – Thetford, Norfolk to be exact, there is a small company known as Loki Events. My friends and I came across them in our neverending search for virtual races; it’s fair to say that, upon finding them, the Loki Run virtual events are easily one of the most challenging & fun virtuals we’ve completed to date. So with that in mind when we saw that they had an actual event coming up, we took notice.

On Sunday, April 10th, 2016, they held a small, community-based obstacle race which they called the Village Pillage. Now as we were in the area for the first 2016 UK Spartan Sprint the day before we figured we should just make a race weekend and we signed up for it. The more mud the better, right?

With our small team, a mix of the Healthy Hibees & myself with my team RAW top, we had no idea what to be expecting. After an engaging Zumba warm up the individual runners took off for the midday start. The teams of four were held back to do a second warm up and we were then informed we had some extra challenges. This is where is gets interesting – the challenges were, throughout the course we had to carry two car tyres without letting them touch the ground (a lot trickier than it sounds) and more importantly, two raw eggs which had to be lovingly carried the full course – ever watched mighty ducks? I found myself repeating the mantra of “soft hands” throughout the race.

Loki-run-village-pillage-tyre-run

The tyres and the eggs made all of the obstacles a lot more interesting, but with a little team work we got there. The course was laid out at the back of the local high school and into the fields beyond. We started off with some standard obstacles, net crawls, tightrope crossing, inverted walls & some nice 6-ft walls. Also, some volunteers were dressed in sumo suits, (side note I need to stop telling people in those suits I’m going to rugby tackle them, some of them looked worried). Nearing the 1km mark, we broke free of the school grounds and ended up running through a wooded area. Time for another surprise. I can’t say I’ve ever come across a lucky dip obstacle before – ping pong balls in a bucket of water with a number written on each one. I drew no 26, so, at the next stopping point, we had 26 burpees at station one, then 26 squats at station two followed by 26 push-ups at station three.

Our next new obstacle experience was that of a slightly different nature, volunteers dressed up as sneaky ninjas playing a version of obstacle tag rugby. If they caught you, you could end up with 27 burpees, or 5 squats. The punishments varied; I think that depended on the person who caught you. We also had to swipe the tags from the ninja area.  So from the 5 ninja stations, we managed 4 tags & 3 punishments. It made for an interesting break in the 5k course. Emerging on the other side of the wooded area and we had pretty much circled back towards the start. Around 4km and we found the log carry slalom – a single log needed to be carried about this part of the course by two team members; so, with Egbert the egg in one hand and a log in the other we got it done. (Yes, I named my egg – and we also named the tyres). With the finish line in sight, our next obstacle was a mallet target throw, a lot easier than a Spartan spear throw that’s for sure. On to the final 10-ft wall and then a water slide under the very low to the ground finish line.

Loki-run-mallet-throwBoth eggs & tyres survived!

You could tell that this race was organised by a team who loves the OCR scene. The entire event had a large family type feeling towards it, with the extremely friendly marshals, enthusiastic race briefing and the overall atmosphere on the day. It seems that the race director has taken elements and obstacles from other events and combined them to bring a really great experience to the athletes. They may currently be a small company, but with the virtual races, promising race days and awesome bling I can see them becoming a company to watch out for.

Loki-run-village-pillage-team

Photo Credits: Geoff Herschell

Bone Frog Challenge – New Jersey: Race Review

Stepping up to the plate this past weekend, only three years old, is the relatively new Bone Frog Challenge and boy DID THEY BRING IT!

Bone Frog Challenge - Kevin on the Black OpsAs the OCR season begins to wind down, finding a good race is sometimes a hard thing to do, but Bone Frog was definitely a good find. Built by Navy Seals, this course felt very challenging, especially if you opted to take the Tier 1 Challenge – which is both the 9-mile course and the 5K course, which was pretty much a shortened version of the full course. Filled with obstacles, I encountered both at Spartan World Championship as well as OCR World Championship, Bone Frog tested my resolve to finish the course. As a relatively new company with no big sponsors, Bone Frog is very much making an impact and a course, which I believe is hear to stay.

THE FESTIVAL
The festival was nice and a good place to relax before and after finishing the course. While the race was held at Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey, they had a merchandise tent as well as some other vendor areas. Mostly, they used the resources at the venue which in opinion is all a good race really needs. For completing each distance, you received a cool Bone Frog medal as well as a finisher shirt. One cool thing I noticed was that you received a different color shirt for finishing each distance which is not something you see at other races, at least the ones I have been to which include Spartan Race, Rugged Maniac, Battlefrog, and Civilian Military Combine. Another cool aspect they have that I don’t see much of at other races is the Gym Challenge. In the Gym Challenge, you ran a course with a heavy weighted ammo box in which your team/gym had to carry throughout the course in addition to the obstacles on the course. More than that, at certain points along the course, your team would have to do certain challenges such as doing a cumulative set of 100 sit-ups with the ammo box on a few team members chests. Some of the other team challenges included additional push-ups, lunges, and squats.

THE RACEBone Frog Challenge - Billy under the wire
Now for the actual race itself. While I was impressed with the different obstacles they used, the course itself was similar if not exactly the same path as all the other races I have done there this past year. Obstacles were on par with those of the OCR World Championship, if not harder at certain points around the course. Below is my description of a few of my favorite obstacles during the race.

  • Rolling Thunder – 2 Horizontal beams 5’ high that are lined with low profile tires that spin as you jump over. Racers jump over the tires while the tires roll them back. Both tire hurdles are spaced 15’ apart so there is less room to run and jump for the second hurdle.
  • The Dirty Name – This is our version of the “Sternum Checker” that you see at other OCR’s however ours is authentic to the same obstacle that is at the Navy SEAL O’ Course in Coronado California. Racers navigate 3 logs that are at ascending heights and approximately 5’ apart. The lowest log is just above ground level while the top log is 9’ high. Racers jump from log to log and finally go over the last log, hang from their hands and drop safely onto the ground below.
  • Ammo Carry – This is what separates Bone Frog from other OCR’s. While most OCR’s these day’s have some version of a weighted carry, the Bone Frog Challenge has an authentic military style carry. Racers carry a .50 Caliber ammo can filled with dirt that weighs 70 lbs. Racers carry the ammo can a quarter mile while also navigating a low crawl that they must drag the ammo can through.
  • Black OPs – This is Bone Frog’s signature obstacle. This is the last obstacle racers attempt before crossing the finish line and it culminates what Bone FFrog is all about. Racers ascend a 15’ rope climb up to a platform. From there they jump up to monkey bars that are suspended 22’ in the air and angle upwards at a 2’ gradient. From there they cross 26’ of monkey bars before dropping onto another platform and descend down a large ladder to the ground. All of this is done while crossing in front of a 15’ x 15’ American flag. If racers cannot successfully navigate the monkey bars they will fall into the safety net below.

I would like to definitely single out that results were updated from the minute you crossed the finish line. It was great finishing and getting an unofficial result once I reached the timing tent.

Bone Frog Challenge FinishersMoving forward, Bone Frog plans to expand down south to Georgia and possibly a few other areas and then turn west in 2017. Bone Frog is currently looking for top tier athletes to join their family. So if you think you are tough enough, check out their website and sign up for their next race!

All in all, a great race with great obstacles but the festival could use a little bit more to keep racers occupied. I would suggest maybe a chin up competition or a rig to practice on.

Grade B