Shadey’s Rugged Run 2017 Review – Lancaster, PA

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For the past several years, a class of senior sport management students at Lancaster Bible College has put on an obstacle race. This race not only ensures you need a clean change of clothes, but gives back to the community. This year’s class was no different. The proceeds from this weekend’s event were split between the school’s athletic department and the Penn State Hershey Children’s Miracle Network. As a part of the latter, each wave was introduced to a brave little girl named Madeline. Hearing her story and the obstacles she’s overcome in the just over two years of her life, helped put into perspective the real reason everyone was there to race.

As for the name, it’s not called Shadey because there are lots of trees providing shade, or because they’re dishonest (quite the opposite). It would have to be spelled shady, anyway, for those keeping score at home. Shadey is short for Ebenshade. J. Martin Ebenshade and his wife were local farmers who eventually donated their land, which is where the school is currently located. So, sticking to the school’s roots, the course navigates through the old and current farm land, and is named Shadey’s Rugged Run.

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Parking for the event was $10 per car, which is pretty standard across obstacle races. What isn’t always standard, however, was that spectators were totally FREE. Registration included the race, a tech shirt (100% polyester), a drawstring bag, and a handful of coupons for local retailers. Additionally, several vendors offering free samples were set up in the small festival area. This included organic tea, milk, nearby OCR training, a bounce house for children and even ice cream. A local Greek food truck was also there for anyone who wanted to grab a meal. Registration was simple and quick, with little to no line throughout the day.

The event had an optional dry bag check. Luckily, the parking area was close. So, as long as you could protect your car keys from the mud and water, this may not have been needed. During online registration, racers had an option to rent a shower for $5.00. If declined, but you changed your mind on race day, you could still purchase it the day of the race for a slightly higher $7.00. Everyone had access to a fire hose that allowed for quick clean off, and both a men’s and women’s changing tent.

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The day began with a timed competitive wave at 8:00 a.m., with non-timed waves running every 20 minutes from there. This helped prevent bottle-necking at obstacles. Speaking of obstacles, there were 17 total obstacles and just over 3 miles of terrain. Like many other well-designed courses, the first few obstacles were well spread out, which also helps with obstacle congestion. Of the 17 obstacles, over a third of them were in the last mile or so.

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The course map had been available on the event’s website (www.shadeysruggedrun.com) weeks in advance of the race and was almost completely accurate. The only two minor differences were the tire carry (listed as a log carry) and the location of the mystery obstacle. The mystery obstacle turned out to be a rope traverse over water. Competitors had to grab a rope above them, stand on another below them, and make their way across. Though some of the low ropes lost a little tension at times, this obstacle proved to be a terrific addition to the course.

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Some obstacles were designed to create a bit of a challenge. This includes the previously mentioned tire carry, plus a steep hill climb, cargo net and a tire wall. Others were designed to get you plain old dirty or wet, like a dumpster dive into water, mud pit crawl, and giant mud holes. There was even a giant downhill tarp slide slicked with water and soap (added slip for extra speed) to give the course an extra element of fun. “Leap of Faith,” a fan favorite, consists of climbing up onto one of two platforms and plunging into a pool of water.

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Overall, the course had been extremely well marked, with a string of ropes on each side running almost the entirety of the race. This should not be understated, as most of the time, events benefit from well-marked trails. As this race took you through fields and farms, marking can be difficult There was a little confusion in the competitive wave with course direction, which is not uncommon at races. Unfortunately, one racer made a slight wrong turn and most of those behind followed. In this case, that wrong turn would have been somewhat difficult to prevent. The only negative would be on some of the volunteers, who did not seem to know the correct direction racers should have been going.

Luckily, this issue was quickly fixed by the crew and the following waves seemed to run smoothly. Additionally, the staff and volunteers were extremely apologetic and offered all those affected to jump in any upcoming wave to run the course again. This is an excellent quality to see in an event. Issues are going to happen, that’s racing. But it’s how an event, and its crew, responds to those issues that determine how well-run it is.

Shadey’s Rugged Run is a great race for the OCR newcomer, or a veteran looking for a weekend race. The competitive wave provides an option for anyone that wants to test their skills against other racers, while the open heats are a great introduction into the world of obstacle racing and mud runs.

Photo Credit: Shadey’s Rugged Run and the author

Spartan Race Tri-State New Jersey Ultra Beast 2017 – Too Easy?

As it got closer to the 2016 Tri-State New Jersey Ultra Beast at Mountain Creek Resort, participants found out that the course had been rerouted from the previous year to include an additional 1,000 ft climb. Although this year, complaints filled the air that the course included less elevation gain and was too easy. In 2016, Francis DiSomma finished the Beast course in 2 hours 55 minutes with a whopping 21 minute lead on second place. However, this year the first 16 finishers of the Beast course beat his time. Could this have something to do with Norm Koch leaving Spartan Race? Possibly, but it does seem indicative of an easier course. It was a true Ultra Beast nevertheless: 2 laps of the Beast course covering over 26 miles with 60 obstacles on rugged New Jersey terrain. For those who had been attempting an Ultra Beast for the first time, it was plenty challenging; but for Ultra Beast veterans, there was no comparison… except for the brutal bucket carry right at the finish.

The first heat of the day was delayed 30 minutes and immediately I was having flashbacks to Killington. As soon as we were given the go, racers took off, running up the mountain for the first of many times that day. I jogged for about a minute and dialed it back to a power hike knowing it wasn’t worth wasting the energy. Throughout the entirety of the first lap, I was jockeying back and forth with a few people who insisted on running the climbs, but I wasn’t worried. I kept telling myself that the first lap was the warm-up and that the race didn’t begin until the second lap. I spent a lot of miles distracting myself by meeting other racers, talking about our past experiences and how the obstacles were going that day. Since it rained briefly before the start of the race, the monkey bars were pretty wet when we got to them, causing many racers to slip and start the race off with 30 burpees. For many, it was also the first time we encountered Olympus and Bender.

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All of this made for good conversation and I soon realized that I was actually enjoying my time spent on the mountain, rather than just grinding it out and psyching myself out. On the steep climbs, I took it slow and steady and began passing a lot of people, apparently more than I realized. I was having a fantastic race. The tyrolean traverse and herc hoist, amongst others, had never felt easier. I even made it over the 8 ft wall on my first try with no assistance – a new best for me!

By the time I came down the mountain to the final 3 obstacles – the bucket carry, twister and rope climb – I was one of the first 20 females. The bucket carry was the longest and steepest one I’ve ever done and in my opinion, it was the most challenging obstacle on the course. Completing it was quite the task in of itself, but I had also developed a splitting headache over the previous hour.

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By the time I finally got to the twister, my headache had grown to the point where it hurt to look up into the sun to see the handles. I quickly fell and that’s when it really hit me. I was in so much pain that it took me about 20 minutes to do my 30 burpees, occasionally laying on the ground for a few minutes. Needless to say, I was no longer in the top 20, but by some miracle, I completed the rope climb and still finished my first lap in under 4 hours.

Once I got to the drop bin area, I just wanted to lay down and close my eyes for a moment. This quickly attracted the attention of the medics and I thought it was all over… again. I was about to be med-dropped. They brought me to the medical tent and gave me water and medicine, but nothing helped. They determined I wasn’t dehydrated and that it was just a migraine. All I could do was wait it out, but they urged me to pull myself from the race. I was beyond frustrated that this had happened. I’ve never felt so fresh coming off of a Spartan course as I did that day. My body felt amazing but I could barely open my eyes. TWO AND A HALF HOURS LATER, it finally started to ease up a little. In a rage that a mere headache was holding me back from completing this race, I decided to just go back out and see what happened. I ate some chips, filled my hydration pack, grabbed my headlamp, and went back out on course for lap two.

Within minutes, I felt amazing again. The fact that I was back out on the course re-energized me. I was quickly passing other Ultra Beast racers who said that their legs felt dead. I even began passing Beast racers who had just begun their first lap. Not long after, I had even caught up to some people I was running with in my first lap. I was cruising! The obstacles went exactly the same as they did in the first lap, although I probably did the bucket carry faster the second time. I failed the Multi-Rig, Olympus, & the Spear, which were all in a row, as well as the Twister, both laps for a grand total of 240 penalty burpees. All in all, I still finished the second lap in about 5 hours.

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I could have actually put up a decent time if it weren’t for the amount of time in between laps, and that bothers me, but in comparison to what happened in Killington, I was just glad to finish. Although I am now the proud owner of a Spartan Ultra Beast belt buckle, and many have congratulated me on earning my redemption, I’m still planning on getting back out to Vermont to give it another shot. In all honesty, the courses do not compare; and in my mind, the medals do not bear the same value. The 2017 Tri-State New Jersey Ultra Beast had 1,046 finishers whereas the 2016 Killington Ultra Beast only had 204. Which medal would you rather own?

How To Get Your Office Mate To Try An Obstacle Race

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Intro

Forget Tough Mudder’s Funky Monkey 2.0, Savage Race’s Tree Hugger, or whatever rig Spartan throws at you. We all know the biggest obstacle can be getting that office mate of yours to actually try an obstacle race. We at ORM, always want to help where we can. So we’ve devised a foolproof plan. Get ready to recruit your new team with these unstoppable objection overcomers!

Objection Number 1:

“I did that shit in the military”.

Objection Overcomer: 

“Awesome. Thanks for your service. Now, here are a few ways an obstacle race is different”

  1. You will not have to carry any heavy weight as you did in the military (unless you choose to).
  2. Some of these races donate to military causes.
  3. No asshole yelling at you to “Get the fuck down off my obstacle!”
  4. Medal and hugs at the end.

Objection Number 2:

“I injured my ______________ (pick a body part) back in  1997/high school/college/Nam”. (Circle One).

Objection Overcomer:

“Awesome! Has a doctor told you in the last week that you couldn’t or shouldn’t exercise?”

“No?! – I didn’t think so.”

“Yes? – Get a new doctor!”

“Ok, now that we’ve cleared that up. Let me get my cell phone out and show you some photos”.

“Here’s picture of Amy. She’s missing a leg, and she does obstacle races”.

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“Didn’t do it for ya?!….Ok, here’s my pal Noah, he’s missing a leg AND an arm. He does OCR”.

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Not that one dummy! This one!

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“Oh shoot, almost forgot…another dude I know. His name is Todd. He’s got 3 less appendages than you or me, does this kind of thing all of the time.”

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“Anyhow….Do you think it would be harder for you and your “little injury” to do an obstacle race than these folks?”

Objection Number 3:

“I have to lose ___ pounds first” (fill in the blank)

Objection Overcomer:

“Awesome. No you don’t. You can start today. Why wait?!?!?”

“Besides, you aren’t losing those those pounds any time soon.”

“You been walking around with all of that extra weight saying “one day I’ll diet”.

“Why would you magically do that now, without anything to motivate you? 

“Nothing changes if nothing changes!”

“Look, here’s my BattleFrog discount code to make it even cheaper!

“Shit, I mean, here’s an awesome discount I found on Obstacle Racing Media to save you a few bucks even”

Objection Number 4:

“I saw on the news that I will get diarrhea/break my arm/get a weird eye infection/die (circle one) if I try a Warriors Dash”

Objection Overcomer:

“If you believed every fear mongering thing you saw on the news, you’d never open your front door!”

“The mainstream media loves to pump you full of fear so that they can sell you more Ovaltine and Chevrolets!”

“Fuck that shit. Get out there and do an obstacle race!”

Conclusion

All right, I’ve done my part. Wish there was 5. Got stuck on 4. Print this out right now. You were about to go on a coffee break anyway. Grab that mate at the cube next to you. Tell them you got something to talk about.

 

 

Spartan Race SoCal: Rocky Pala Raceway

On September 17-18, 2016, Spartans conquered a new venue for the Spartan Race SoCal Sprint and Beast races: Pala Raceway.

For several years, Vail Lake in Temecula has been the go-to location for not only Spartan Race but also Tough Mudder. However, all events got the boot by the new Vail Lake owners and now there is a new stomping ground for SoCal Spartans. After trading Malibu for Castaic Lake as their Los Angeles race venue, they should be used to change by now. So what’s the deal?

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Photo Credit: Spartan Race Start Line Photo Credit: Spartan Race

The start line might have been up a solid incline but beyond that, not much climbing was required. The Sprint course offered merely 600ft of elevation gain and, from reports, it appears that the Beast only had one bigger hill thrown in for good measure. The race was mostly narrow single trail covered in rocks, gravel, and sand, which made the surface very technical. The rest was the exact opposite: right on the motocross track with all those lovely little steep ups and downs. Where usually bikes fly through the air, Spartans were fighting against their burning quads and calves. It definitely was a very fast course for those who were sure-footed and nimble.

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Vail Lake had much more and steeper climbs and descends, however, the mostly broad trails and roads made it far easier to navigate them safely. By the way, local media was still worried about the heat taking out runners. Two years ago a Sunday race had to be canceled less than 24 hours before the start time.  In turn, the one and only “Hurricane Heatwave” was created.

Water stations were plentiful and other than a dog getting abandoned in the parking lot (who does that?!) on Saturday no unusual heat related mass casualties occurred. If you were wondering why Spartan staff had a dog out on the race course during the Sprint, now you know why.

Sprint racers were surprised to find a trail run instead of an obstacle course race for most of the event with a high obstacle density towards the end. The bucket carry was very tame and a sandbag carry was absent. A last minute emergency forced course designers to get creative and course markers to work long hours. Sadly, the terrain did not give them much to work with and the available space for obstacles on course was very limited. At least the mud mounds before the slip wall right before the finish line gave runners a welcome cool down at the end.

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rig

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When the dust settled, the majority of racers appeared to be happy about the venue change. Not many miss the stinking mud of Vail Lake or the long inclines and steep descents of the hills around it and are just glad about a change of scenery… Not having to walk .75 miles from parking to the race venue along a road might also play a part in the increased satisfaction.

Weights N’ Dates

Something else that popped up at the SoCal Spartan Race was the Weights N’ Dates dating app with cleverly designed stickers for the male beauties and female beasts. While I personally have not  looked at the app, I would imagine it could help OCR addicts to find people to carpool to races with. If you pay for lunch, maybe they will take cool pictures of you for social media!

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SoCal Podium Winners

beast-winners Spartan Race Pala SoCal Beast Winners

sprint-winners Spartan Race Pala SoCal Sprint Winners

(All pictures were taken by the author unless specifically mentioned otherwise)


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Spartan Race – Killington Ultra Beast 2016: No Small Undertaking

The 2016 Killington Ultra Beast was no small undertaking. Two laps of one of the toughest Spartan Races on the map is not a feat to be taken lightly. One of the most challenging aspects of the Ultra Beast for me was knowing on the first lap that I would have to complete everything in front of me not only this time, but another. And when I dared set foot back out on that monstrous course for lap two, I already knew every last detail of what waited ahead.

I had never raced at Killington before, let alone attempt the Ultra Beast, but I figured why not. I know I could do the beast. Let’s push it a bit here.

My drop bin was prepped long before we arrived at the venue emblazoned with the words “You ran FIFTY MILES… You got this.” I was surrounded by family and friends, words of encouragement and good food leading up to the race. I was ready. Nothing much was different from any other race.

Saturday morning, my friends picked me up and drove me to the venue. They dropped off my bin so I could go directly to the start, being the only one in the 6 am heat. Standing around waiting, I got to talk to many friends I wasn’t expecting to see at the start, but I felt like I was in a daze. After a 15 minute delay and then 10 minutes of explaining the rules and singing the national anthem, we were finally off by about 6:25. Consequently, the cutoff times were all pushed back 30 minutes.

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From the very beginning, racers got spread out based on power hiking ability. The course started with a 1,000 ft ascent and from just those beginning miles, I was already thinking about lap number two – how much I didn’t want to do this twice. I knew it was far too early to think like this and I redirected my thoughts to each step, one by one.

It didn’t take long before I realized I was somewhere near the front of the pack. I could count the women in front of me: three. I wasn’t moving like I normally do through the obstacles though. I felt extremely sluggish through the first barbed wire crawl and practically powerless on the vertical cargo net. Something wasn’t right, but I knew I had to get it done; so I opted to keep my eyes on the women who kept passing me on the obstacles. I made sure I passed them back on the runnable portions of the course as well as the climbs seeing as that’s my strength.

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When we neared the festival grounds, my pace improved greatly, that is until I stepped into the lake. For the remainder of the swim, I was gasping for air because the water was so frigid. I climbed the ladder and made it to the top but chose not to go across the Tarzan Swing since one of the ropes was not knotted and I knew I would slip. I climbed down, swam the rest of the way across and completed my 30 burpees. Back in the lake, rocks and sand in my shoes, and then finally back on solid ground for some more power hiking – rocks and sand still in my shoes because I wasn’t taking them off.

Almost more treacherous than the ascents were the knee shattering and ankle rolling descents. If we weren’t hiking through dense woods on extremely technical “trails” then we were on the ski slopes. Usually, I’d be cheering myself on at this point because downhill running is another strength of mine and typically where I would make up a lot of time, but not on this course. A few steps into each descent and I could feel the pressure building up in my knees. I decided to go swiftly, but not too daringly, at a jog.

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I missed the spear throw… SHOCKING. And then a few obstacles later, I made it to the final and easiest object on the multi-rig, the pipe, but just could not shift my left hand forward. I fell. 60 burpees right there at the end before I could get to my sweet salvation: potato chips, sour patch kids, and chocolate covered espresso beans. But why was I so out of it?

After the multi-rig, just before the slip wall (one of the final 3 obstacles), was an exit off to the left which brought us to the transition area. As I entered the transition area, there was a woman holding white bibs. She proceeded to hand me one and said congratulations, you’re in seventh. That was probably the first smile I cracked in several hours. I was extremely proud to be amongst the top 20 females, but I also knew how exhausted I felt. I long thought about stopping here, but it wasn’t what I set out to do. I needed to get back out there for another lap.

After 5 minutes of searching for my bin, which I just couldn’t seem to locate, others began to help and ultimately found it for me. I was greeted by my water, Gatorade, Clif Bars and Bloks, gummy bears and other treats as mentioned earlier. I also had a med kit, towel and extra socks, none of which I used. Very unlike me, I couldn’t be bothered to take my shoes off. A racer nearby took a massive container out of his bin and asked if anyone wanted a peanut butter & jelly. He must’ve had ten sandwiches! So yes, I ate one. I refilled my hydration bladder and packed my race vest with all of my new morale-boosting snacks as well as some solid calorie foods and I was off.

We set out on a short trail run beside the start chute which quickly reconnected to the course. It was there that it was apparent who had just begun the course and who was on lap two. The Ultra Beast participants jogged or even walked as Beast participants sprinted on by. But for the first time this race, I was running with people I knew. And as we approached that first climb once more, we got down on our hands and knees, crawling forward. Before long, I was by myself again and moving slower than everyone around me.

All of the obstacles were textbook Spartan with no real surprises. The course started off with some of the easier obstacles and proceeded to diminish your spirits and crush your soul as you went along. But by lap two, nothing was easy. The Bucket Brigade must’ve taken me 20 minutes the second time around. And at the Tarzan Swing, I barely made it up the ladder at which point my grip was fried. I reached out and grabbed the first rope and then let myself drop into the water. “Well, my headlamp’s gotta be dead now…” And it was.

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The burpee area was a mud pit by now and I was thankful we were getting back in the water afterwards. Upon exit of the lake, I took out my Ziploc baggie filled with sour patch kids and espresso beans, drained the lake water out, and ate the espresso beans. It only took 6 miles at a snail’s pace to realize that this would give me the boost I needed. The power hiking expert me was back.

As I climbed up through Norm’s trails in the woods once more, I was soon stuck in a very slow-moving line. I used every opportunity to climb rocks and tree roots just to pass people. Many cheered me on saying, “You go, Ultra Beast,” but I replied “More like ultra idiot.” Although I was completing the obstacles with the most ease I had all day and really began to boost my pace as I watched the clock tick down to 6:30, I was only at the plate drag. Regardless, I sprinted down the mountain to the sandbag carry, got it done as quickly as possible, and sprinted toward the cutoff. I heard a stranger say good for you for finishing strong just before I reached the rope climb… 15 minutes too late. I topped it off with a smile and a heel click, just what I said I’d do when I finished, but it wasn’t long before my timing chip was cut off and I could no longer hold back the tears.

We had 15 hours to complete the course twice. We had to be out of the transition area by 2 pm, giving us exactly 7.5 hours per lap. I completed my first lap in 6.5 hours and despite the extra hour, I still didn’t make it. Approximately 28 miles into the 32 mile Ultra Beast and all that remained from that point was the Death March with a number of obstacles back down at the base right before the finish. The Race Directors knew that racers wouldn’t make it to the finish by 9:30 pm if they didn’t get through the rope climb with at least three hours left to complete the final 4 miles. I knew if I could catch my friend and my mom doing the Beast I would make the cutoff, but I never caught up to them.

As I returned to my drop bin, I received consoling words from friends as well as strangers, none of which seemed to help. Still now, I’m not quite sure how to explain exactly what it is I’m feeling, but one thing I know for sure is that I earned my DNF.

I watched headlamps line the mountain slopes as racers completed the final ascent and descent while I waited by the fire. Everything about it was remarkable: from the simple beauty of the lights to the incredible challenge Spartan Race put in front of us on such a magnificent mountain. Although what stands out most is the physical and mental resolve of the competitors who took on, and more so those who were able to finish, the 2016 Killington Ultra Beast: no small undertaking.

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Photo Credit:Kevin Donoghue, Bill Durando, Spartan Race, Justina Rosado


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Civillian Military Combine – Introducing an OCRWC Obstacle

From start to finish, the Civilian Military Combine (CMC) was an event that truly had options for everyone to challenge themselves or just have a fun time. As a one of a kind hybrid obstacle course race and fitness competition, CMC provided options for the elite obstacle course racer as well as the weekend warrior, and even kids too. For those seeking a challenge, CMC’s Diamondback obstacle was announced as an OCRWC obstacle for this year – a true testament to their innovative and tough obstacles!

THE PIT

Having a CrossFit background, The Pit was one of my favorite parts of the day. CMC is advertised as a hybrid obstacle race series because of the 5 minute AMRAP (as many reps as possible) style workout before the race. With divisions for all abilities: Alpha – bodyweight, Bravo – kettlebell, and Charlie – barbell, it truly is for everyone. After 5 minutes of burpees, lunges, and other exercises, racers get 5 minutes before queueing up and hitting the course.

CMC-The-Pit

The first elite wave went off 30 minutes behind schedule, which set the rest of the heats back. The number of racers waiting outside The Pit quickly grew to a crowd and those in front went in for the next heat, regardless of wave time.

THE COURSE

The majority of the course was grass, weaving around the buildings on base and making use of every last hill. One particular slope was used for the Wreck Bag carry which had racers ascend the hill four times. Small portions of the course crossed paved roads and sidewalks and even some small sections of stairs.

Course marking seemed sparse in one particular section of the course that was crossed several times. A little extra tape or spray paint would have gone a long way in directing racers, but after a few heats, volunteers made sure racers knew where to go.

THE OBSTACLES

Racers seemed particularly pleased with the obstacle innovation. In addition to the typical obstacles such as the 8-foot wall and rope climb, CMC added in a few that threw even your seasoned obstacle racers for a loop. The first worth mentioning is Diamondback, which has now been revealed as an OCR World Championship obstacle. Diamondback begins and ends with inverted climbs on wide bars which makes this twist on a classic obstacle that much more challenging! The bars were quite wide and fairly spread out testing both your grip strength and flexibility.

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Other notables include a wreck bag carry with 25 and 50-pound options, as well as a dummy carry later in the race which was an awkwardly shaped 60 pounds for everyone.

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The mud pit was quite small and there was only one, but with the wire hanging just over the mud, you had to get low and dirty.

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Thankfully immediately after, there was a refreshing dip in a dumpster of water covered with plywood, forcing you in, but also rinsing you off.

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There were two different rigs, the second harder than the first. One was similar to Spartan’s and the other was unlike any other rig I had ever seen. The first began with a rope climb to a floating bar. From there you had to swing across 3 rings and traverse another floating bar before hitting the bell. The second rig was the last obstacle before the finish. It began with a climb up a free hanging pole. From the top of the pole, you had to grab a hold of a ring which spun freely on a wheel. Two more of those and you’re on to floating monkey bars before hitting the bell.

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THE REWARD

After crossing the finish line, racers received a hefty gold finisher’s medal which definitely delivered a sense of pride in your accomplishment. Although the finisher shirts were cotton, they were a military coyote color with a simple CMC Finisher logo on the front, an American flag on the sleeve, and came in a wide variety of men’s and women’s sizes. The festival grounds offered several food options including food trucks and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, as well as quite a few popular OCR merchandise vendors, such as Obstacle Guard.

The course seemed to be about a mile shorter than expected, but it was overall a really fun event. It was a hot and sunny day in New York and everyone said they were glad to see CMC make a return and hope they do again in the future.

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