Spartan Palmerton Sprint #2 – Enjoy the View

Spartan-downhill-sand-bag-carry-at-Palmerton

The hills are alive with the sound of Spartans!

Okay, maybe “alive” is a bit of an exaggeration. For the second weekend in a row, Spartan Race invited all those willing to climb the mountains in Palmerton, PA and challenge themselves on one of its most difficult courses.

The course, itself, was mostly unchanged from Sprint #1, so for more information on that, you can read my review. The only difference was a slight change in route coming down the mountain. This was due to a heavy dose of rain received the days leading up to the race. The previous route was too slippery, and almost certainly would have ended in numerous injuries. I was slightly disappointed that the obstacles weren’t switched up a little, to add something fresh for those returning from week 1. But, logistics for that may not have been possible.

Palmerton-Atlas-Carry

MAKING AN ENTRANCE

Since the course was pretty much the same, that leaves time to discuss a few other aspects of what to expect at a Spartan Race. Parking at Blue Mountain didn’t require a shuttle. Some lucky race-goers were parked just outside the entrance, while others had to take a brisk walk to check in. Volunteers and Staff were parked just on the other side of the lodge from the entrance.

Plenty of waivers were accessible for both the mountain and Spartan. Rather than forcing you to look up your bib number on a giant board of papers, Spartan allows you to either bring a predetermined barcode, or have the volunteer look up your name. Either are quick and makes check in even easier.

Ski-lift-view-at-Palmerton

ENJOY THE VIEW

Spectators had several opportunities to watch competitors, right from the festival area. Just before mile 3, on the far side of the festival area, they could watch Olympus and the Spear Throw. Back on the nearside, in the last mile of the course, the Bucket Carry and Barbed Wire / Slip Wall were in perfect view. Spectators could also walk up the hill near the finish line to watch the final few obstacles: Twister, Dunk Wall, and Fire Jump, then the finish.

One of the coolest parts about spectating at Palmerton is the ski lift. I’m not an avid skier, so I was a bit surprised at how long it takes to get to the top, despite making the trek on foot a couple times already. It’s a nice reminder of just how tall the mountain is. Once at the top, you can take a short walk over to watch the Atlas Carry and Cargo Net. Fair warning, if you don’t like heights, the ride down may be a bit unnerving.

View-from-the-top-of-Blue-Mountain

PALMERTON PHOTO FINISH

Once done on the course, again a plethora of post-race snacks were available. No organic milk this time, though! After receiving your medal and picking up your shirt, a nearby tent had several tablets where you could easily search for your time and rankings. Some of them seemed to have issues connecting to the server, but I only ever waited a few seconds until one freed up.

If race pictures are important to you, Spartan has you covered. Sprint #1 was on a Sunday and preceded by a Super on Saturday, so photos took a few days to get posted. Sprint #2 took place on a Saturday, with no race on Sunday. Photos and official results were posted on Monday. This is definitely one of the quickest photo turnarounds I’ve seen. Searching by bib number returned good results, but if you couldn’t find any, there was a time search option. You may be wondering why that’s helpful. Spartan is smart enough to place the checkpoints from Chronotrack at the same obstacles as their photographers. So, if you go onto Chronotrack or Athlinks, you’re able to see what time you crossed each checkpoint, and narrow your search for photos. Genius!

 

Palmerton-Walk-From-Ski-Lift-To-Atlas
Photo Credit: Adam Gori, Spartan Race

Savage Race New England 2017 – New England’s Most Anticipated Race

I had heard a lot of good things about Savage Race, and when I heard it was coming to Massachusetts I immediately got excited. Like other recent races this one was held at Carter & Stevens Farm in Barre. It is a relatively flat terrain with lots of fields, wooded areas, and cows. Parking was a short shuttle ride away and then a short walk to the actual registration tent. There were some lines for registration, and it took a little longer than expected but it was a smooth process.

SavagePro

The SavagePro heat started at 9am, with an athlete meeting to explain rules at 8:50am. Each SavagePro athlete was given a wristband. If an athlete could not complete the obstacle then they turned in the wristband. This was great format for the competitive wave. It put more pressure on obstacle completion.

Savage Obstacles

The course was muddy and rugged. There were a lot of opportunities for a twisted ankle. It was about half a mile before the first obstacle, the barbed wire. The second half of the course had more obstacles than the first. The quality of the obstacles was fantastic. They were more difficult than other races. They also seemed sturdier and felt safer. There were the usual obstacles that can be found at the majority of obstacle races: walls, a heavy carry, cargo net, fire jump, and barbed wire.

However, there were several obstacles I had not encountered before. The “wheel world” was such an obstacle, a set of spinning blue monkey bars that were suspended over water. I watched people attempt this one over and over again. The amount of water on the course, in forms of ice baths and “Davey Jones’ locker” stood out for me. I personally enjoy water obstacles and welcome swims, dipping under submerged walls, and jumping into water from great heights.

Savage-Race-New-England-Wheel-World

Savage Determination

It was refreshing to have unlimited attempts at obstacles and to see the perseverance and tenacity this brought out in the athletes. There were two Savage Rigs on the course, because one didn’t seem to be hard enough… Both sets of rigs were brutal and took a spectacular amount of upper body strength.

As I passed the final rig I noted a SavagePro athlete standing to the side. She still had her wristband on and this was the very final obstacle. It was clear to see that she had been at this obstacle for a long time. I was unable to complete it and as I left she was back in line to try again. The determination on her face seems to be what Savage Race is about.

Savage-Race-New-England-Rig-#2

Savage Aftermath

The course was approximately 7.6 miles long. Savage Race boats the “perfect distance” and I can’t help but agree. It’s long enough to wear you out and beat you up, but not too long. By the time you reach the finish line you feel like you deserve that medal and that beer.

The medals were superb and the t-shirt was soft and good quality. There were food vendors and a beer vendor, as well as merchandise and several companies giving out free samples. The festival area was buzzing as I passed other wet and muddy finishers all discussing the highs and the lows of the past couple of hours.

Overall I would strongly recommend Savage Race to anyone out there looking for a more unique obstacle race with a great atmosphere. I will definitely be signing up for the 2018 race.

Savage-Race-New-England-Shriveled-Richard

 

Savage Race FINALLY Arrives in New England

After many years of begging, bribing, kidnapping, and other forms of threat and intimidation, Savage Race finally agreed to invade New England with a pretty fantastic course on the “venue of all companies” in Barre, MA. Here’s the course map:

Savage New England Map_BOS17

If you’ve never raced in Mass, and aren’t familiar with Carter and Steven’s Farm in Barre, let me tell you it’s an ankle breaking, thick mudded cow farm, and steaming cow patties are an unofficial obstacle at every event. It is a swampy, stinky course and cows gather in groups and moo in protest as you run along. They do have an onsite brewery and ice cream stand though, and it really is a great place to put on tough events.

And this Savage Rage was tough. Savage Race follows the gold standard of mandatory obstacle completion for the competitive wave, called “Pro” at Savage. Pro racers received a nice wrist band.  We had to surrender the band if we couldn’t complete an obstacle, multiple attempts allowed. I can’t say enough about how great this is. More and more events with prize money have adopted it, with one notable exception, our favorite burpeepalooza.

Savage Obstacles

This course was crammed with familiar obstacles, many had a unique twist. There were a crapload of rigs. These guys love rigs, and it’s hard to argue with them. Rigs can be arranged in so many crazy ways and Savage Race definitely put some insane stuff out there.

Below is a pic of Tree Hugger. This was a wooden rig that required traversing square poles and logs with foothold cutouts. The early morning rain made the poles slippery. It was a challenging upper body exercise. Very creative and fun.

After a short run, we came upon Wheel World. I’ve wanted to try this for a long time. It’s a momentum riding obstacle, as long as you don’t fight the spins at all, getting to the last wheel isn’t so bad. However, scores of folks couldn’t quite make the dismount. Savage Race very cleverly arranged the solid ground to be just out of reach unless one let go of the last wheel at the height of the centrifugal pull. Lots of racers were left hanging desperately for a while before trying again. Wheel World was a blast!

Savages Overcome Fear

I like that Savage Race combines challenging obstacles with ones that require you to overcome fears. It’s really a great combination. This is an undervalued asset of our sport. The next article I am writing for ORM talks about this in specific, through the eyes of a man trying to conquer his phobia. Savage Race has Shriveled Richard (think TM Arctic Enema) and Davy Jones’ Locker, which is reminiscent of the high jumps into water that other races USED to offer. Kudos to Savage for keeping it!!  Thor’s Grundle, pictured below, had a high freak-out potential.

Savage Race really cranked it up in the last couple of miles, this awesome slide below, Colossus, was HUGE and epic fun. I wanted to do it 13 times. Rumor has it that Savage Race installed several permanent obstacles, including Colossus, at the farm. Pre-registration is open for 2018 already, in the cow patties.

Savage Grip Obstacles

The last mile-and-a-half had three very tough grip obstacles. It was a straight up gauntlet. Grip strength is my thing, but by the end of the third rig, I was running on fumes. Sawtooth came first.  The rungs were all wet. It is long. Not easy. I’m filthy in this pic thanks to a face first swamp pit fall. You shoulda been there.

Next up was the Savage Rig. This obstacle was a series of rings and thick ropes. It was easy to get tangled in this rig. This one was tricky.

 

The last obstacle was a brute named Twirly Bird, and it was one of the hardest obstacles I have personally attempted. Basically it is an alternating field of single flat handles, and loose clumps of thin ropes that they describe as a mop. Accurate. I watched a video on this one where folks wisely just used the handles by swinging big. Well, they adjusted the distance on this one forcing you to grab the mops too, as a result it was far more difficult. I would have fallen off if this obstacle was any longer. This was an impressive obstacle. It wouldn’t surprise me if Twirly Bird had a 90% failure rate.

I was very impressed with this event. Good medals, nice shirt, and very involved owner as well. I have only two complaints: the first one is that there are really too many events at this venue, but I get that it is hard to find space near Boston, so this one is forgiven. Secondly, handing out full size bottles of water at aid stations is wasteful. Buy some Dixie cups. Everything else was righteous!

Savage Race, I’m glad you’re coming back next year, cows and all. I highly recommend this event. See you then!

Spartan Race Palmerton Sprint #1 – Going Up?

Palmerton-Sprint-#1-Twister

Last year, I ran my first ever Spartan Race at the Blue Mountain Sprint in Palmerton, PA. Whenever I told someone that, their response was along the lines of, “Well, you picked a heck of a race to start with.” See, Palmerton has a reputation. The word infamous comes to mind. The climbs are long and steep. And, with an NBC Series Super only the day before, Sprint racers could expect a difficult course on Sunday.

THE FESTIVAL AND PARKING

Out of the handful of OCR races I’ve been to, Spartan has had the largest festival area. Although, it’s worth noting that I have not been to a Tough Mudder yet. And I’m not sure if Palmerton’s festival is larger because of the NBC race on Saturday, but there was plenty of space and plenty of vendors. I have heard that the line to park can grow long as the day goes, but early in the day it took no more than a few minutes to get in. Check in was simple as well and the lines moved quickly.

Palmerton-Sprint-#1-Elite-Men-Start

THE HILLS

Maybe “hill” is an understatement. Palmerton offers a straight up mountain course for anyone willing. The Sprint course only has one climb to the top of Blue Mountain, whereas the Super had two. This may lead you to think that the ascent on the course wouldn’t be too bad then. If you were there, then you know that’s wrong.

First off, my GPS watch thought the course was about half a mile longer than it was. I’m chalking that up to the climbs. Overall, it logged a total of 1,755 ft of ascent. On a course that was roughly 4.5-4.75 miles, that’s almost 400 ft per mile. Checking my splits, not a single mile averaged a descending number. In fact, each mile had over 125 ft of ascent. So, even when coming down the mountain, you were still going up. Mind blowing, right?

Palmerton-Sprint-#1-Map

THE COURSE

The layout of the course was pretty similar to 2016. Some thought that was going to be a negative, but with some of the minor route differences and new obstacles, I thought they improved on last year’s design.

Racers start out with a short climb up a snow tubing hill, followed almost immediately by a longer climb up a couple skiing hills. Almost the entire first mile is making your way up the mountain. Total ascent on the first mile is over 750 ft. The extended climb, with minimal obstacles, allowed for a spread out field.

Palmerton-Sprint-#1-Atlas-Carry

THE OBSTACLES

Spartan included many of its new obstacles, such as Twister and Olympus, plus several classics. One I expected to see, but didn’t, was the monkey bars. They were included in the section of the Super course that veers from the Sprint course, along with Z-Walls and a few others. The layout of the obstacles was pretty spot on. The hurdles and walls were mainly early, with the tougher obstacles coming after the mile-long climb to the top. Once the top was reached, racers almost immediately were faced with the Atlas Carry.

Palmerton-Sprint-#1-Ape-Hanger

A couple permanent Palmerton obstacles reappeared, of course, as well. First was the swim through Blue Mountain’s pond. A life jacket was optional for the Sprint (the day before it was mandatory for Super racers). Shortly thereafter, competitors had to try their grip strength on Ape Hanger, just shy of 4 miles in.

There were two heavy carries on the course: single sandbag carry and bucket carry. The hill that the sandbag carry was steep enough that many racers were walking. The earlier waves were told that it was a bit slippery from the overnight dew and were advised to be extra cautious. The Multi-Rig was all rings, but no bell. Instead, after swinging to the final ring, racers had to transition onto, then over the ladder wall. It didn’t add much difficulty, but was a nice little curveball to keep Spartans on their toes. Twister was saved for the final 100 yards, so that the only obstacles left on the downhill finish were Dunk Wall and Fire Jump.

Palmerton-Sprint-#1-Elite-Women-Finishers

THE FINISH

A volunteer awards you with a medal and even a hug as soon as you finish. One thing Spartan is great at is post-race snacks. Even though I didn’t plan on having much more than water, I grabbed each of three Clif Bar flavors, a banana, some organic chocolate milk and, of course, a cup of water. Once you’re done stocking up and leave the finisher’s corral, the finisher’s shirt pick-up is right there.

Another worthy note is that many Elite/Pro racers from Saturday stuck around for Sunday’s Sprint. Ryan Atkins, Ian Hosek and Angel Quintero took top 3 for the men, with Lindsay Webster, Rea Kolbl and Faye Stenning finishing on top for the women.

Photo Credit: Spartan Race

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Savage Race Pennsylvania 2017 – What A Skirmish!

Savage-PA-2017-PRO-wave

On fields where the combat normally involves paintballs, athletes from all over the country came to rise above the morning fog and win a different kind of battle. The threat of rain couldn’t prevent thousands of competitors from facing a difficult Savage course, head on. The terrain at Skirmish, located in Albrightsville, PA, was flat but technical, featuring rocks and tree roots on the majority of the race route.

Many attendees were returning Savages, ready for another challenge. Some came to earn their Syndicate medal, which Savage gives out for running multiple races in a calendar year. Others, like myself, hitting their first Savage of 2017. Those who had come to run their first Savage hopefully came prepared with upper body and grip strength.
Savage-PA-2017-Half-and-Half

PRE-RACE AND ARRIVAL

Savage’s site is very easy to navigate and, though races can get expensive, there are usually plenty of promotions. Many of them include BOGO half-off deals. Once registered, email communications keep you updated on wave times, bib numbers, course map, parking and more. This way, you’re check in is quick and there’s little concern come race day. In this case, the course map was available about five or six days ahead of the actual event.

Parking was pretty simple and cost $10 for standard and $20 for VIP. As with other Savage races, standard parking was within walking distance from the festival entrance, making it easily accessible. For me, this saved me the $5 for bag check. I was able to keep my bag in the car and carry my valet key in the zipper pocket of my running shorts.

Savage-Map-PA-2017

I arrived at about 8:10 am, 50 minutes before the SavagePRO wave, which is their competitive heat.  The line orter line was a bit longer than the last race I had been to (Maryland Fall 2016). But, as I later found out, there were 100 more athletes in the competitive wave this time around. Overall, it took about 10 minutes to check in and get my bib, still allowing me time to walk back to the car to throw on my trail shoes and bib, so I could warm up.

Whereas Maryland really only had one or two obstacles near the start line and festival area, Pennsylvania had about ten, including a “mystery” obstacle that I’ll get into later. Many racers took advantage of this layout and got in some practice before the race. About ten minutes before the start of each wave, runners were allowed into the starting corral.

Savage-PA-2017-Twirly-Bird

THE COURSE

I’ll start this part by mentioning that Matty T, Savage’s normal master of the starting line, couldn’t make this particular event due to a scheduling conflict. Luckily, Savage was able to secure Coach Pain to fill in his place. Though they have two very different styles of beginning a race, both are extremely good at what they do. I had also run an open wave later in the day and heard a completely different, but equally motivating, speech from Coach Pain.

The overall distance was just under 6 miles, which included 30 obstacles. Runners were greeted with an obstacle-free run of almost 1.5 miles to begin the race. By mile 3, only 9 obstacles had been attempted. This meant that the last half of the course smacked you with 21 obstacles!

Savage-PA-2017-Rig-Over-Water

Though I’ve only done a handful of races, this was definitely the toughest collection of obstacles I’ve faced. By the end of it, my biceps were drained of life. Savage found a way to take, what I thought was already a tough 2016 obstacle list, and make it even tougher. New obstacles like Twirly Bird compounded with two rigs at this venue ensured this would not be a cake walk. Not to mention that mystery obstacle, which was dubbed Half and Half by the end of the day. The front half was an inclined monkey bars, like you see in Sawtooth, with the back part a declined pole, as you see in Pipe Dreams. Did this mean there was no Sawtooth, then? Of course not! At the PA location, some of the obstacles are permanent and stay at Skirmish year-round. So, although racers didn’t get a chance to see the new Sawtooth setup, they were still climbing on it!

The only complaint I had about the course was that Kiss My Walls, during the Pro wave, had an extremely long line. It took roughly 5-7 minutes to even get one attempt. And, because Pro racers have mandatory obstacle completion and KMW is one of the tougher obstacles, it cost many competitors lots of time. Oddly enough, in the open heat I ran later on, there was hardly a line at any obstacle.

Savage-PA-2017-Kiss-My-Walls

THE FINISH

After racers complete the grueling course, they’re greeted with volunteers handing out medals, shirts and water. If you’re a “swag” kind of OCR junkie, Savage’s shirts are super comfortable and the medals are solid. Within 10-15 minutes, most times and rankings were available at the results tent. Though there were no actual showers (very common), Savage had several hoses and two changing tents set up a short walk away from the start line.

Each registration included a free beer, so that was available in the festival area after (and I guess technically before) the race. There were also beef jerky samples, a life insurance company, and food vendors set up in case you wanted to hang out afterwards. Savage also had two waves of their 0.5 mile kids race, called Savage Jr.

Results were posted the following day (Sunday). Runners also had the option of signing up for a program, called Pic2Go, that will automatically post pictures to your Facebook as they become available. Or, you could wait until Thursday when all the pictures would be posted on Savage’s site. Pic2Go could only post pictures where your bib was clearly visible, so some racers may have seen a few, while others would see upwards of 20.

This was only my second Savage Race, but there’s no doubt it will not be my last. Though the course presented racers with a legitimate challenge, the casual racer was still able to find a place to enjoy themselves with friends and family.

Savage-PA-2017-Finishers-Reflection

Photo Credit: Savage Race

Goliathon Obstacle Challenge – Evolve With A Cause

Everybody who’s ever ran an obstacle race has gone through a progression. The final phase in each persons cycle will lead them to their end game in OCR. Be it..

  • competitive racing with a goal of a podium
  • reaching out to every brand with a ™ symbol seeking an ambassador deal so you can promote yourself as “sponsored” on your athlete page that’s followed by the same people on your personal page friend list(they accepted the invite because they didn’t want to be rude than immediately “unfollowed” the page hoping you wouldn’t notice.
  • having a bad experience with one brand canceling a race and not offering a refund before you had a chance to experience some of the truly great brands out there(chances are if you’re reading this article, and know what ORM is, you haven’t ended on this path)
  • making an event a family fun time involving your kids whether as spectators or participants in one of the many kids race options

Or…..you’ve been lead to the final path that I have, by testing the waters of many brands, to find the brands that produce a race you truly find to be a blast.
I enjoy doing a Muckfest because the obstacles are just plain old fun.
I enjoy doing a Tough Mudder because the obstacles are fun and physically/mentally challenging
I enjoy Savage Race because the obstacles are fun, physically/mentally challenging and the “Pro Wave” mandatory completion option motivates you to try a little harder, push a little harder.. And in many cases with their obstacles.. Stay dry.

 

Guess what… There’s a race brand that caters to every phase of your OCR life cycle, in one event, not forcing you to engage in the aspects that turn you off on a brand. It’s the equal opportunity OCR life span event that gains popularity by word of mouth and social media with every event they put on…… If you haven’t heard the name(did you just get internet access?) I’ll introduce you to Goliathon Obstacle Challenge.

Recently they sold out an event at 1k racers. They could’ve had many more registered athletes but in the best interest of the overall athlete experience they opted to cap the event to minimize obstacle backups(which is an OCR athletes biggest pet peeve). Some were upset they didn’t get to experience this new form of OCR. So the amazing team at Goliathon revamped some obstacles(as they do every event) but this time added additional lanes to backup prone obstacles. By doing this it allowed everyone’s run to flow smoother from obstacle to obstacle while permitting more registrations….
It worked.

Their most recent event had 1,200 registrations. I was admittedly doubtful of solid numbers being that the always popular Tuxedo Spartan Race was on the same day. Next time I won’t question the ever growing following this brand is gaining with every event they produce.

Sounds like they’re doing pretty well… They are
Sounds like they’re very profitable(I  mean they’re selling out events and not sponsoring college football games)…
They’re not.
Normally that would be cause for concern… Not in this case .. Let me explain.

One of the most amazing things that draws me to this brand is the people behind it. Goliathon Obstacle Challenge is a 100% non-profit event.

OUR CAUSE
Our goal at Goliathon is to bring aid to those in need around the world. All of our proceeds to date have been sent to another non-profit organization called charity: water to bring clean, safe drinking water to people in developing countries. We have completed one water project in Bangladesh and have six other projects currently underway in Ethiopia, Nepal and Cambodia.

Taken directly from Goliathons website.

Ok, not everybody is moved by such a compassionate gesture in today’s society. I’m sure the growing number of registrations for each event isn’t because people want to do good in this world(im sure many are). So in order to continue on their mission of providing clean drinking water, the team at Goliathon must produce an event that will continue to grow, which brings me back to my original point.

Goliathon produces an event that caters directly to the elite athlete, that trains and honed their obstacle proficiency skills.

Goliathon produces an event that caters to the fun loving athlete that enjoys testing himself on obstacles their confident in completing

Goliathon produces an event for a family(ages 10+) to do together, laugh, have fun and bond.
Goliathon is not for the speed racer as an untimed event(use a local 5k for that) which is great as the sport seems to be veering towards the obstacle side of OCR with more brands adopting mandatory completion.

Goliathon has 3 tiered difficulties for each obstacle. If you pass, you collect a color coordinating wrist band with a point value. If you fail, you continue on to the next obstacle. These are not your standard obstacles. Yes, many brands have a rope traverse, but how many throw in random wooden poles and sliding pvc piping to navigate?

Everyone loves hanging rings… Rugged maniac has those, but Goliathons version leads you to a rope swing over water with a small landing platform required for completion.


Balance beam? Been there, done that.
Balance beam with random objects to navigate over, under without touching to be disqualified.. Followed by an angled leap to an incline board all over water?  Yes please.

Rope climb? Everyone has one.
Rope climb with a 40lbs chain around your neck that must be used to touch the bell for completion at the top?
Only Goliathon has that.

Don’t be scared… These are G2 and G3 variations.. There’s the fun for all warrior dash level variations of all obstacles for G1 difficulty.
As more athletes catch wind of this amazing, one of a kind event, the team registrations grow, the training specific for this event increases, and the team at Goliathon is continually evolving with the athletes, adding new tweaks and preparing new surprises for every event.

This event draws out the top Ninjas, Parkour athletes, and families looking to have fun. If you like obstacles, hate running, want to have fun, and support a good cause.. You need to try a Goliathon today.

Photo Credit: Goliathon