Tough Mudder Arizona 2017

Tough Mudder Arizona

Last weekend I had the opportunity to visit Arizona, so naturally I decided to take part in the 2017 Tough Mudder with friends I’d never met before in person. This is how most of my races go now. What did I learn? I learned that Tough Mudder is changing to rapidly become an even bigger hitter in the OCR world. Read more to learn why.

STATS AND STUFF

Event Location: Mesa, Arizona.

Actual course distance: 10.2 miles for the Full/Tougher Mudder Course

Weather: 26°C/86F, some gusty winds. Hot.

Terrain: Arid desert plateau. Minimal elevation gain/loss. Ground underfoot ranged from hard pack, powdery dust, sand, broken asphalt, desert brush, and some gravel. Oh, and mud… duh.

Events offered: Tougher Mudder (Competitive Full Course), Tough Mudder (Full Course), Tough Mudder Half, MiniMudder.

Getting there: The race takes place on the crumbling ruins of an old Nascar circuit, just on the south side of Mesa. It’s practically walking distance from Mesa Gateway airport, so it’s easily accessible. Cost of parking: $20 US.

Facilities: Porta potties in Mudder village and on course. First aid. Merchandise and food tents. Beer tent. Bag check. Rinsing area. Changing tents. ETC

Equipment needed: I ran in my Merrell All Out Crush OCR shoes, which were idea for the conditions because they drained exceptionally well. I took a hydration pack, and a couple of gels. The course chewed up my running socks and shirt a bit, so don’t go wearing your expensive duds.

Swag: A great quality tech running shirt from Merrell/Tough Mudder, a Tough Mudder headband. Brags.

IN DEPTH

Difficulty

The course for the Arizona Tough Mudder is very flat, which means it’s a suitable race for participants of almost any athletic ability. Obstacles are always optional in Tough Mudder, but some obstacle training and a background in running would make the experience a lot more fun. By entering the original Tough Mudder, you should find that slower pacing and the non-competitive atmosphere means that exhaustion doesn’t play as large a role as it might in other OCR events (shorter and competitive versions of the event are also available if the full isn’t to your liking). The biggest challenge by far in Arizona is the heat, which even in early April, can be considerably more than out of state visitors to Tough Mudder Arizona might be prepared for. 

Water

Multiple water stations were located across the course. Some of the water stations also provided 🍌 halves for participants. I counted at least five water stations. I brought a hydration pack, but didn’t really need it – call me paranoid – but this is the desert. I never felt thirsty.

Obstacles

If you’ve never done a Tough Mudder before, let me give you an introduction. The format of the original Tough Mudder is that of an event rather than a race (the new Tougher Mudder competitive wave with prize money is brand new in 2017), with the most popular iteration being the 10-12 mile distance, or the FULL Tough Mudder.  The obstacles found in a Tough Mudder are among the best in the industry, and while they may not always be the most challenging or punishing, they are always very well designed, very well built and amusingly named (See “stage 5 clinger” and “Snot Rocket”). While some of the obstacles are one person at a time kinda deals, many of them are team based, forcing you to work together. This is a critical part of the Tough Mudder. 

Tough Mudder Arizona

But don’t be fooled, these are not really easy obstacles;  it’s just that some of the obstacles are designed to mess with your amygdala more than your muscles. There’s a fear factor here, and the race designers play with almost all the phobias through a series of elaborate stunts and tasks. We get to experience the fear of heights, water, tight spaces, tight spaces with water, getting dirty, getting cold, being unable to overcome an obstacle, or even getting electrocuted in front of a crowd (not even joking). Welcome to the twisted sense of humor of Tough Mudder.

Yet it’s the simple things that put the ‘Tough” in Tough Mudder. Some of the most difficult sections of the Arizona course involved simple mud traps and pits. Best to be prepared for that. 

Tough Mudder Arizona

“Everest 2.0” requires speed and power to launch high enough to be grabbed by helping hands, but a relatively dry ramp at this event meant that failure was rare on this obstacle. For me, Pyramid scheme is the beating heart of the Tough Mudder experience and remains a stroke of pure genius. Why? The obstacle is designed to deliver muddy mayhem at every turn, and it requires massive amounts of teamwork to complete. Conquering it as a team results in a huge sense of accomplishment and multiple fist bumps. Just make sure you tighten the waistband of your shorts before making yourself part of the pyramid. Someone will pants you. It happens. Block Ness Monster is another highlight. This obstacle is just sheer bliss and entertainment value – note to course designers for next time – It’s much better when you can’t touch the bottom of the pool. But like I said earlier, it’s the simplicity of the setup that becomes the canvas for the adventure.

Tough Mudder Arizona

New or notable obstacles:

SNOT ROCKET/AUGUSTUS GLOOP
A vertical climb inside a tube, while you are being sprayed with water from above. This one looked pretty awful, but like nearly all of the water obstacles, it came as a welcome way of cooling off. 

Tough Mudder Arizona

BIRTH CANAL
A crawl beneath heavy, water filled tarps. This didn’t seem to require any kind of team effort and was not visible enough for any real spectator value. This obstacle should have been twice as long.  

Tough Mudder Arizona

KONG (Legionnaires only-so run another Tough Mudder and come play on this bad boy)
An impressively​ tall ring set. Although it looks cool, this is the far less interesting alternative to Electroshock Therapy. It’s presence is likely there to challenge the Tough Mudder timed event participants since electroshock therapy isn’t a suitable finish for a race I guess.

Tough Mudder Arizona

SHAWSHANKED
Think Andy Dufresne crawling his way to freedom and dropping into the muck of the sewer (this is a very literal interpretation).  A narrow horizontal tube and rope crawl, terminating in a headfirst drop into a pool of muddy water. The intimidation factor of this made it a great addition to the Tough Mudder experience. Make sure you hold your nose next time. 

Tough Mudder Arizona

Notes on the Tougher Mudder Competitive wave:

Those running the competitive wave will have found themselves much more challenged by obstacles that are meant to be completed with a more willing set of team-mates. It’s a pretty exciting addition, but I couldn’t make it to the race in time to run competitively. Plus, I had my awesome team THE ANGRY RACCOONS to run with. 

Safety

Safety on course was great. Tough Mudder has developed a solid protocol for safety and ensuring the obstacles on offer are sturdy and well tested so at the minimum, I would advise you to bring sunscreen, listen to the safety briefings, and read the signage. More than once I saw people entering deep water and needing to be rescued by very experienced looking lifeguards, but everyone was warned multiple times about the risks at Tough Mudder. The heat was probably the thing to be most concerned about at this particular event.

Turnout

HUGE. It wasn’t too hot. It wasn’t too difficult so I saw a lot of people on course clearly enjoying themselves. The staff seemed happy to be there. There were plenty of laughs. If you’re in Arizona, definitely check it out. 

CONCLUSION

Tough Mudder still manages to keep the incandescent appeal of the obstacle course alive and well in Arizona, and it is refreshing to see a company being progressive and thoughtful towards its participants. There’s buzz and movement there. Why? They have lowered the bar of entry to the Tough Mudder by expanding the shorter entry level events, and yet maintained the spirit of the original Tough Mudder. But that’s not all (this is sounding like an infomercial), TM has moved into a new arena of highly engaging competitive races that seems to hold up well against the other major players in the sport.  In short, Tough Mudder is becoming one of the most broadly appealing and interesting series of OCR events worldwide. 

I’m VERY excited to see Tough Mudder continue to make inroads into the race calendars of more pro and competitive obstacle course racers.

Your move Spartan…

The Angry Raccoons

Photo Credit: Gameface Media and Tough Mudder

Savage Race Florida Has Serious Beef With Their Racers!

Savage-Race-Mens-Pro-Start

Thanks to the Florida Women’s Cattle Association, Savage Race served up protein packed, amazing post race bites of some of the most well seasoned, succulent rib eye and NY strip steaks. That sure beats the traditional bananas and protein bars for this racer!

I’m getting ahead of myself however, so let me run down the basics before getting to the true meat of Savage Race, the obstacles. The heart-pounding, well-designed, and amazingly fun obstacles that had thousands of Savages from 37 states descend upon Florida to run the very first Savage Race of 2017.

The parking situation: Savage Race Florida did not have VIP parking. It was $10 to park at the venue with a first come, first serve situation in order to get the best spot. The parking area was close enough to the venue with a short walk to the entrance, where a friendly volunteer handed you a course map.

Savage-Race-Course-Map-Volunteer

What about the Port-o-potties? There were portable crappers in the parking area and the festival area as far as the eye can see. So, if you had to do race rule #1 (Take a dump before the race), there was no wait before or after the race. They also had 2 portable crapper stations on the course right around miles 3 and 6. As for the cleanliness? You’ve seen worse. Much much worse, trust me on that. Post race is where you start asking, “Mud or poo?”

Savage-Rage-Venue-Porta-Potties

Registration and packet pickup: Simple and hassle free. Just make sure that you have a valid I.D., your bib number and a signed waiver.

Savage-Race-Registration-Volunteer-Packet-Pickup-Tent

Bag check: $5 (each bag) to check your belongings, and if you needed to get something from your bag after checking it, like a second packet for your Savage Syndicate lap, or if you simply forgot something they will not charge you again. Your belongings were kept behind long tables where very friendly but watchful volunteers and security made sure your things were safe.

Savage-Race-Bag-Check-Tent

Savage Syndicate Program: There seems to be some confusion on how this works. It’s very simple folks: run 2 paid laps in 1 calendar year and you get a big, spinning medal to go with your 2 regular medals. You can run 2 paid laps on the same day like I did and BOOM, you too can walk around like King or Queen shit though the festival area with your neck laden with bling. You also get a state pin, and the best part? All Savage Races that you run after becoming a Savage Syndicate: you get the regular medal and another Syndicate spinner medal with that state’s pin, without having to run double laps at the same venue.

Savage-Race-Syndicate_Kevin-LaPlatney

Savage Race Pro Kevin “MudMan” LaPlatney, Owner of Obstacle Athletics with his Savage Race Syndicate Bling (Gold Medal not included)

Water stations: There were 3 water stations on the course spaced every 2 miles, and Savage Race is still keeping the water on ice. So when you are handed your own personal water bottle, it’s nice and refreshingly cold. They spoil their racers, unlike another race brand (which shall not be named) that tends to run out of the water and is warm enough to make tea with.

The obstacles: Oh my, where do I even begin? Savage Race surprised many of their Florida regulars with the course set up this year. The first mile was a nice long run without any obstacles. You heard that correctly my fellow Savages, a Savage Race where they didn’t bombard you within the first ¼ mile with obstacles. How is this a good thing some may be wondering? It builds up anticipation, and you get a nice warm up mile to get the blood flowing before they start slamming you with obstacle after obstacle.

Savage-Race-Shriveled-Richard-Obstacle

Once you hit their first obstacle named Barn Doors, which is a wooden fence that you climb over the obstacles start coming at you quickly in true Savage Race fashion. Barbed wire crawls, mud pits, cargo nets, high walls, their signature obstacles like Sawtooth, Shriveled Richard, Wheel World, Colossus, Davy Jones and much more are spaced so that once you are done with one obstacle you are just a stone’s throw away from the next one.

On my first lap I did notice that the Squeeze Play obstacle which was placed over a mud pit was closed. Of course, the first thought that came to mind was, “GATOR IN THE MUD PIT!” but that thought quickly went away as I ran towards the always intimidating Sawtooth. On my second lap Squeeze play was placed over dry ground a few feet away from the mud pit which had red lettered caution tape, so it kind of confirmed to me that there was a “GATOR IN THE MUD PIT!” There is no official confirmation on that however, and it could just be all in my head.

Savage-Race-Mad-Ladders-Obstacle

Savage Race threw many racers for a loop when they placed Colossus a few obstacles before the finish line. I heard quite a few Savages wondering, “Colossus isn’t last?” Oh no my friends, they placed it right before Teeter Tuber making crawling up the rubber pipes extra challenging and fun because the insides were SAF (Slippery As F*ck).

Savage-Race-Colossus-Obstacle

Speaking of challenging, the hardest traverse wall in OCR, “Kiss My Walls” just got even more challenging. Savage Race upped it up a notch by adding fencing in between the tiny rock climbing pegs. Still no step stool for us shorties, sorry my fellow vertically challenged pals.

I’ll touch briefly on their 2 new obstacles that many were wondering about, Mad Ladders and Twirly Bird, since nobody had even seen a picture of these two before the race. Mad Ladders consists of rope ladders and loose cargo nets which you traverse across. Sounds easy? Far from it as you’ll be spun around and tangled up.

Twirly Bird? No propellers involved, but it’s the rig to end all rigs. Oh you thought trying to hang onto tennis balls was hard? Try hanging onto shredded ropes with tiny individual knots. You better have the grip strength of a silverback gorilla to get through this one.

Savage-Race-Twirly-Bird-Obstacle

All in all it was 28 great obstacles (no heavy carries allowed) packed into a 6 mile course.

Savage-Race-Runners

Festival area: After jumping over the fire and getting your precious medal and finisher shirt, Florida Savages were treated to what seems to be every OCR racer’s favorite post race beer Shock Top. For those that do not drink, your beer ticket was treated like you just handed off a $100 bill.

The food stalls worked much like a carnival where you bought tickets at a booth and various food and drink items cost x amount of tickets. $10 for a sheet of 10 tickets was how it was sold. The fare was burgers, chicken gyros, chicken on a stick, roasted corn on the cob and other carry around friendly foods.

Savage-Race-Food-Stalls

There was a nice large main tent where people were enjoying food and drinks giving it a very cool Oktoberfest vibe. There were plenty of canopied tables scattered throughout the festival area as well giving people a nice view of the stage where they held pushup contests. Hats off to the Savages that participated because this Savage could barely hold her burger up after the race.

Changing room and showers: You mean garden hoses and changing tents. The garden hoses should have a sign next to them saying, “Obstacle #29” so cold! The changing tents were secure, clean and roomy.

Savage-Race-Changing-Tents-Venue

Exit through the gift shop: Savage race has the best prices for gear and still continues to do so. Good selection of shirts, compression sleeves, headbands and if you buy 2 shirts you get a venue specific shirt for FREE!

Savage-Race-Gift-Shop-Tent

The best next race deal around: For $75 you can buy a voucher for upcoming Savage races at any venue. That price includes processing fees and the mandatory insurance, but wait there’s MORE! You also get a Savage race wristband, a “Train Savage” t-shirt and decals.

Savage-Race-Voucher-Swag

Thank you Savage race for putting on an amazing event yet again, the first race of the year was incredible and this Savage is looking forward to even more fun at Maryland Spring on April 29th.

If you’re still on the fence about trying a Savage Race, it’s time to get off of that fence, grab some friends and jump into the mud or water pit because it’s time to get SAVAGE AF!

Savage-Race-First-Timers

Photo Credit: Kevin “MudMan” LaPlatney, Poly Poli, Savage Race 

Tell us what you think of Savage Race, leave a Review Here.

Or see the Savage Race Near You:
Find A Race


Rise of the Sufferfests – What I Loved & What I Didn’t

Let me start off by saying if you love OCR then you need to see this movie.

Rise_Of_The_Sufferfests_7

It’s a ‘must see’ for those of us who would describe ourselves as being part of a ‘community’ rather than ‘oh yeah, I did a Warrior Dash once’…

If you google ‘running documentaries’ you will have a myriad of selections to choose from. There are several documentaries that are purely about specific races, there are even trail running film festivals, but there are no documentaries on OCR…until now.sufferfests-viewing-party

If for nothing else, you need to see this movie because it’s the first. And I don’t mean download it or wait for it on Netflix. You need to attend one of the showings, pay the $7 and shake Scott Keneally’s hand for being a pioneer in this community or have a viewing party with your local OCR group. Just like everyone reminisces about the first Spartan or Tough Mudder and how different things were, going to a Rise of the Sufferfests party/showing will be something you will realize later on (if not immediately) that it’s a significant milestone for OCR. And I’m confident this will be the beginning of many more things to come from Scott Keneally.

What I Loved

If you’ve done OCR to any extent then you know what it means to suffer brutal calf pain, wasted grip strength and throbbing forearms as well as hypothermia and electric shock. Scott does an A+ job at catching some of these moments. In fact, I’ve never seen better examples of hypothermic shock than what you see in Rise of the Sufferfests. You feel it. You remember it, because it happened to you before too.sufferfests-cold-guy-at-tough-guy

Another great thing Rise of the Sufferfests explores is the psychology of why we choose to do such crazy things. The movie features interviews with a variety of sociologists and other authors that give insight into the rising popularity of our cult of insanity…except as Rise of the Sufferfests points out: OCR isn’t a cult…because cults are small…and OCR is not small.

The coverage of the history of the Tough Guy challenge founded by Mr. Mouse is not only interesting, but downright necessary if you’re going to understand the origins of OCR and Mr. Mouse himself, along with his marketing techniques is every bit as noteworthy and interesting as his event. It’s truly where it all began and the Tough Guy challenge is the Torah of OCR.

The profile of Hunter Mcintyre is absolute gold. Not because of his accomplishments, but because the film shows in a brief segment how he has evolved as a person through OCR. Starting out as only a competitor and then taking on the role of a personal trainer has had a great impact on him, and that’s what we love about OCR: how it changes you.

sufferfests-matt-scott-hunter-mcintyre

It made me angry. The film also explores outsiders opinions on why we choose to endure such crazy suffering in our spare time. Some of the theories are silly and some of them such as the ‘white privilege’ argument just made me angry. I have this on the list of things I love about the movie because Scott, being a good journalist, didn’t only choose to include data and experts that would flatter his personal opinions but also included insights that offer a counterpoint. That’s what a good documentary does, it challenges your personal beliefs.

What I wished was different

If you haven’t seen the movie yet, stop reading.

Seriously.

Just stop reading now. I want you see Scott’s vision unfold without any prejudice and it’s worth your time and money to go see it.

Okay..

Only us who’ve seen it are reading still right?

As a videographer and editor I always watch movies and documentaries and have opinions about how I would’ve did it differently. If I was doing a documentary on OCR I certainly would’ve told a different story, but that’s not the type of thing I’m interested in critiquing here. Rather, there’s a few different things that I would’ve done as an editor/videographer to help Scott capture the story HE was trying to tell a little bit better.

Perhaps the biggest thing was the flow of the film felt a bit ‘off’. At first it seemed like it was a documentary about Tough Guy and it’s influence and impact on what we now know as OCR, but then it shifted gears and it felt like it was more about the sociological reasons that drive OCR, then it felt like it was a documentary about Scott and how he evolved as a person through OCR, then it seemed to become a documentary about making a documentary, then it was about a man wanting to be a better role model for his newborn son. As one friend told me “I wasn’t sure what the goal of the movie was”. All of these things certainly had a place in the film, but none of them were held together very well by a single idea and I kept having to adjust my expectations on what the main point was exactly.

Too much narration. Yes, it needed narration, but there was simply too much of Scott explaining how he felt and what he was experiencing rather than showing it, to the point it felt more like an audio book than a film at moments. Scott is a brilliant writer and one of my favorite OCR articles of all time was written by him about his experience of DNFing a Spartan Sprint, but somehow it didn’t translate as well in the movie. In the future I would like to see Scott get better at verbalizing what’s going on in his mind at the moment he’s experiencing it and capturing it on film. I think that as a writer he probably was thinking “I can put all of this into words so much better if I can just have a moment to reflect”, but doing so is much less powerful in film. Just the visual of a few painful burpees, a disjointed sentence filled with expletives and a hangdog expression with the caption “DNF” would’ve said so much more than a clean voiceover after the fact would. And it wasn’t just this one scene, almost the entire film misses these opportunities.sufferfests-matt-and-scott-qa

Missing key figures/events/places. Yes, we all have our favorite OCR athletes, and having Hunter and Amelia were certainly excellent, if not necessary choices, but it seemed like a few people were missing. What about Hobie Call? He was synonymous with Spartan Race in the early years, Hunter has even referred to him in the past as “the Master”, yet I can’t remember whether he was even mentioned in the entire film. What about Norm Koch? Chris Accord? Certain race directors have become almost like celebrities in this community, but no mention. No mention of Shale Hill or the myriad of other obstacle focused gyms on the rise. Sure, Hunter’s gym is mentioned, but his is kinda small potatoes compared to Shale Hill. No Pak? No Atkins? Noah Galloway? No Albon? And while all of the sociological authors and experts were important to the movie, it seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time on them, especially when you consider the list of people important to defining the OCR community who were left out. Don’t get me wrong, I love A.J. Jacobs and have read a couple of his books, but there was a lot of A.J. Jacobs in this movie.sufferfests-norm-chris-garfield

In the end I want Scott be as powerful as a filmmaker as he is a writer. I think the story Scott was trying to tell was about his experience with OCR and how it evolved him as a person, the intellectual data he gathered along the way and how he used it as a tool to be a better man for his son, I just don’t think he glued all of those elements together as good as he could have to his personal story. I wish he would’ve kept a video journal of his progression. I wish somebody was aggressively pointing a camera in his face throughout some of the more notable races (not just at the end of the race)and he was forcing himself to talk about what he’s thinking and feeling, or at least capturing some of the nervousness in his face as he faced newer challenges and the laughter and joy in his expressions as he reached his goals towards the end. A couple people have anonymously told me they felt the movie was too much about Scott, but I strongly disagree; it just didn’t give us enough reason to root for him and care about how well he did at the end of the movie because we didn’t clearly understand from the beginning what his goals were and didn’t see enough of the ‘visual evidence’ to feel connected to his joys, struggles, hard work and disappointments along the way.sufferfests-scott-and-laura-messner

While it fell short of a few of my expectations, it was still a good movie and I was glad I invested my time to watch it. It was an amazing feat for someone who just did his first film and I hope to see more from him in the future.

Order this movie on Amazon here.

Order on iTunes here.

The Future Of OCR : Acre Breaker Adventure Race

Now that I have your attention, let me explain. I stumbled across this event on a random email I received from a newsletter that generally lists road and trail races, not OCRs. I usually quickly browse the emails prior to deleting on the off chance an event piques my interest. To my surprise I found an OCR listed in the email. First thing I checked was distance to my house…1 hour 17 minutes. For anyone that does OCRs regularly that’s like a drive to the grocery store for many of us as opposed to the standard 2 hour drive. I got excited and decided to dig deeper into the event.

What I found out was that this was the first event by this brand. It advertised 12 obstacles in a 4K. They offered several varying options such as 4K individual, 4K team of 2, 8k(2 laps of 4K course) and 8k team of 2. Included in the marketing was the fact that you will get muddy – I was sold.

Upon arrival, there was a2-minutee shuttle ride to an open corn field where registration was held. Quick and easy check in and packet pick up, organized, FREE bag check and off to line up for my heat. I was registered in the 9am wave but got there just after my heat went off, giving me a 30 minute stroll around the start area until the next heat(9:30). The event was untimed but had a running clock at the finish line so you could gauge your total time with a little math.

Acre-Breaker-Mud-Pit

After a quick rundown by the emcee, my heat was off and running. First obstacle we came to was a small drop into an ankle deep water/mud pit. If you’ve read my reviews, you know I’m all about getting muddy and wet. Never been a fan of stadium races for this reason but hey.. variety, spice of life and all that. This was a good start for what I hoped for not having any expectations going into it.

Acre-Breaker-Hay-Crawl

Next came the super fun(sarcasm font) sandbag carry. I was pleased to find something like this in a new race, telling me they had a decent idea about what to include in an OCR. This carry was on minimal elevation but involved, what seemed like, unlimited down and back paths with the “back” section going slightly uphill. Later in the course, I also came up on a bucket carry. All racers, male and female, filled the bucket 3/4 full and walked a loop.

The course included some standard crawls, one between hay bails(pictured above) positioned to allow a very narrow space to crawl through. With my slender frame it wasn’t as easy as I’d expected, causing me to wonder how a person with a stature larger than mine would navigate it, along with a barbed wire crawl (which I love seeing a new race use barbed wire). There were also several unique obstacles, which were a very pleasant surprise for a first-time event.

Acre-Breaker-Drumroll

One unique obstacle was a plastic drum filled and sealed with liquid inside. The objective was to roll the drum uphill to a designated row of hay bails. With the shifting liquid and uphill trajectory, this was no easy feat, especially once you got further uphill. The most interesting part was the trek back down with the drum. The weight of the liquid and downhill path provided a challenge in itself to keep the drum under control while not speeding downhill without you. This was definitely fun as it’s a change of pace, but I could certainly see this (or the path at least) being altered for future events to avoid injury risks of speeding barrels.

Acre-Breaker-Cage-Traverse

We’re beginning to see some companies use metal caging or fencing in their obstacle setups now (think Savages “On The Fence”) so it was definitely exciting to see this utilized at a new race. Even more interesting was the type of fencing. This obstacle featured a thin wire fencing and a decent distance required to traverse sideways without touching the top of the fence or feet to the ground. The thickness(or lack thereof) in the fencing definitely could shred some hands up… I loved it.

Acre-Breaker-Ladder

Another interesting obstacle was labeled a “fence climb”, which proved difficult for many new racers (who comprised the majority of the event) as the transition from the second to last to the top board was a distance apart, making the “over the top” transition quite steep… Again.. Loved it. There was a metal, box-shaped frame towards the end which was odd in setup, and seemed like a random add in obstacle as opposed to a planned one. It required a climb to the top and traversing along a thin metal pole to the other side where you drop down…(picture a random enclosed bus stop along the side of the road and climbing on top and across it).

Acre-Breaker-Metal-Climb

My favorite obstacle of all which was towards the beginning of the event was a water crossing. Chest high depending on height, on a morning that I woke to see 37 degrees out. It was mid 40’s by race time but this was COLD…. LOVED IT! I was admittedly a little confused by the direction to cross as I was redirected by the volunteer, causing a much further walk through the water, which I was certainly ok with.

Acre-Breaker-Water-Crossing

The race wrapped up with a fire jump, then being told I came in first overall in my heat and directed to collect my award. A very pleasant surprise as it seemed the first overall male and female of each individual heat and each team wave was awarded a very…. Unique…. Award.

image

Yes, if you can’t tell that’s a raccoon skull mounted to a plaque. Certainly the most interesting award next to the cement brick received from the “Down & Dirty”(RIP) Brick division races. But instantly a favorite to be displayed(my wife told me areas of the house I can NOT display it) 😂. The medal was a standard gold circle with brand logo on a red/white/blue striped ribbon. Early registrations received a T-shirt and beer stein.

Back to my original proclamation that this could be the future of OCR. The event was filled with, what seemed to be, a largely local gathering of participants from the area and community. The Race Director informed me they expected around 100 participants, they closed at around 250.. That’s awesome.. They now plan on future events. One for super bowl Sunday(not sure that’s the best date for optimal attendance) and looking at possibly 4+ in the next year. From a first impression and attendance, they easily could succeed with some adjustments and possible tweaks for future events and here’s my suggestions.

Emcee – as opposed to standard course briefing everyone loves some pre-race hype to head on course all pumped up.

Elite heat- I’m all for the current awards per heat. They may want to look at condensing that to one competitive wave for cost purposes but if they choose to do each heat with awards, that’s an EXCELLENT promotional point to increase attendance of medalwhores(which encompasses 80% of this sport)

Additional obstacles- The RD expressed expanding to additional and more challenging obstacles. The easy recommendations are of course rope climb, rope traverse(over the water crossing maybe?) rig, and of course, monkey bars

All about the volunteers- the volunteers were good, but we all know volunteers are the heart and soul of any event, and equally capable of making or breaking an event.

Possible chip timing?(first heat?)*see elite heat, but again, 110% for keeping awards per each heat

Photos- this is a big one for 98% of participants. I know it may not be cheap but someway of establishing photographers at the most unique obstacles. There were pictures taken by a local photogrpaher(all pics featured in review) but pics were minimal. I didn’t see any from my heat and was in the second wave of the day.

Marketing- I’m not sure what type of local advertising was done, obviously enough to pull 200+ people and myself through a local email blast, but it was clear the normal OCR junkie contingent of racers you’d normally find at an event were not present. Marketing through OCR focused outlets(Obstacle Racing Media….for example 😉) would certainly increase the exposure of the brand to the right demographic.

All in all if a local brand can start up, follow the right path and athlete devoted business practices can succeed. That’s a great sign for the future of our sport. I’ll certainly be rooting for this brand as those behind it truly seemed to want to learn and succeed.

Savage Race Maryland- Got Grip?

Anytime you go to a race you leave thinking one of two things. Either how great of a time you had and how much you enjoyed the race. Or something turned you off, be it a bad showing on your part….bad weather .. lines at obstacles ..your favorite pants ripped… forgot where you parked leaving you to walk for 20 minutes with your hand above your head, holding your keys trying to decipher if that’s your car horn or someone else’s. Rarely does someone walk away from a race, driving home and think to themselves… “Wow, that course layout and obstacle placement really elevated that race to another level”. Well today was that day…getting savage at Savage Race.

Savage-MD-Finish-Line

We all know by now what to expect from a Savage Race. They’ve set themselves to a high standard that’s known by many from experiencing an event first hand, hearing someone rave in a social media setting, or reading a previous review. They’ve accepted the challenge of doing what needs to be done to exceed the standard they’ve set for themselves by adding fresh, innovative obstacles each year. They’ve also instituted an award program(Syndicate) to incentivize repeat registrations with a medal that appeals to the medal whore in all of us and providing world class customer service with a personable feel.

So going into this event, I knew what obstacles to expect. I was aware of the medal I was receiving. I wanted more, as we all, of course, want more than expected to be satisfied. To accomplish that, I opted for the Savage Pro wave. I didn’t care about my time. To be honest, I wanted the cool blue Savage Race wristband that was given to Pro Wave participants to determine 100% obstacle completion. Complete all the obstacles and keep the band. Fail an obstacle after unlimited attempts and surrender the band.

Savage-MD-Sawtooth

The course map was released a week prior to the event, so on this rare occasion I took a look at it. Immediately I noticed the obstacle placement was arranged to raise the level of difficulty. I also noticed a 30% chance of rain at the time of Pro Wave, with the likelihood of rain increasing throughout the day. Savage loves grip strength based obstacles.. Which I’m all about, you can keep your heavy shit, that doesn’t appeal to me. But with their array of grip based challenges(ascending/descending monkey bars over water, hanging horizontal cage traverse over water, rotating wheel traverse over water, rig) any additional moisture would certainly increase the level of difficulty.

Fortunately the weather held off for the first wave but as I previously mentioned, obstacle placement would play a huge factor in the outcome of this race(and ultimately if I kept my cool blue wristband…because that’s what’s truly matters). For example Davey Jones Locker(15ft. Jump into 15ft. deep water) was located just before Sawtooth(hardest monkey bars in OCR IMO). So, jump in water.. Soaking wet.. Now climb monkey bars=increased difficulty.
Savage-MD-Richard
Shriveled Richard,(ice bath) my personal favorite, is usually found at the very beginning of the course as the first obstacle. Some have complained that this setup causes backups as you sprint off the start line, only to come to an obstacle with very limited flow through that only 4 competitors can attempt at a time. Not to mention hesitation by many from nerves of jumping into a dumpster of ice water causes longer wait times and ultimately wait lines. I have only ever seen this obstacle located anywhere other than the beginning on a Garfield Griffiths course design in Pennsylvania the previous year. This was a welcomed alteration but again, interesting placement. Shortly after exiting the ice bath, when your grip is compromised from the cold, you come upon Wheel World(series of 5 consecutive rotating wheels positioned over water). Another new obstacle that isn’t overly difficult but the placement ups the ante.

Savage-MD-WW

In previous years, Savage Race would close out your day with Colossus(warped wall followed by 24ft of a near vertical drop on a water slide). They felt compelled to mix it up this year placing a rig with varying holds and grips, just after colossus… But wait … There’s more … they added another challenge to go along with the rig. Savages newest obstacle “Tree Hugger”. A rotating series of wooden and metal poles that you’re required to traverse through without letting your feet touch the ground or the plastic bases of the wooden poles. The word I got from previous events was that this obstacle had 12 lanes, that followed a sequence of metal/wood/metal/wood/metal/wood poles to traverse. It seems they switched it up this event by making it 6 total lanes with 12 poles to traverse(6 wood/6 metal).

Savage-MD-Tree-Hugger

So now, in order to cross that finish line, you must make your way through a rig that consisted of, in order, 2 ropes, 2 close handed grips, one horizontal straight bar and bell for completion. Followed by a long lane of metal and wooden pole traverses. While still dripping wet from the water slide. Stand alone, these obstacles are doable, yet challenging for many. Add in the placement factor and decreased grip strength from water obstacles and you’re in store for a challenge.

Savage-MD-Rig

More so than anything this was just the tweak I was hoping for, but not expecting when I had originally registered. A great course design is just another way Savage can keep you on your toes and not grow complacent with the high standard of execution we’ve all come to expect from the brand.

P.S. It began to rain shortly after the first couple waves making some obstacles near impossible.

P.S.S. Matty T killed it at the start line as usual.

Savage-MD-Startline

P.S.S.S…. Excellent Portashitter to registrant ratio. Clean, well maintained, and solid TP supply.
4💩💩💩💩 out of 5💩💩💩💩💩 rating

P.S.S.S….S? ….. Mission accomplished … See… Cool blue

Savage-Bracelet

Tell us what you think of Savage Race, leave a Review Here.

Or see the Savage Race Near You:
Find A Race


Spartan Race Canada: Sun Peaks Beast Review

“A Wizard is never late, nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he means to.” – Gandalf, The Fellowship of the Ring.

I’m a little embarrassed that I had to resort to such desperate measures as I did on the Spartan Race Canada Sun Peaks Beast, but these were desperate times. I wish it were a fable, or a tale, but it’s true. All of it. Read on to see how the Western Canadian Spartan Series brought me to my knees – quite literally – on the slopes of Sun Peaks.

Sun Peaks

As a venue, Sun Peaks is the crown jewel in the Western Canadian Spartan Race Series. Sun Peaks Ski resort offers plenty of natural substance as a race location, and while it maybe not quite as picturesque as Montana, Sun Peaks offers the greater challenge. The single loop Spartan Beast course had roughly 1500m of elevation gain, while the Montana Beast had closer to 1200m.

The resort itself has reasonably priced accommodation on offer if you are visiting for the race (hooray for the off-season); our two bedroom chalet slept four of us comfortably, had two bathrooms, a kitchen and a hot tub for about $CAD 200 per night. More thrifty visitors would be advised to bring food with them to avoid paying inflated prices at the restaurants and pubs in the village – although the food and atmosphere was really great since a lot of race participants were able to stay and socialize after the race. Note: the city of Kamloops is a 45-50 minute drive down the valley one way which is a little far for a post race dinner, or maybe more pressingly, it’s an awfully long drive to Kamloops to get cleaned up post race. Stay where the party is. Stay up in Sun Peaks.

The bad part? Sun Peaks is a PITA to get to and if I ever go again, I would have to be flown in. That drive was almost prohibitively long, especially considering the numerous viable locations available around the province of Alberta, which is much more central for everyone in the Western Canadian catchment. Selfishly, I’d love to see a race out at Lake Louise Ski Area, Nakiska, Sunshine, West Castle Mountain, Crowsnest Pass or even Bragg Creek, and I believe it would draw in more people from around the western provinces.   

So back to my story:

After 11 hours of driving in the rain, I stumbled into my chalet at Sun Peaks Ski Resort in British Columbia. It was too quiet. Where was everyone? Then I realized my mistake; it was actually an hour later than it appeared (we’d crossed a timezone as we wove our path through the Canadian Rockies) so It made sense that my apartment full of Albertans were already in bed for an early start. I was the last to arrive, and I was being way too noisy. Quietly does it then. 

Morning arrived with the normal check-in, last minute bag drop and run to the toilets. With the Ultra Beast already underway, I stood at the base of the Mountain staring up at its crisp, yellowing outline against the bright sky wondering what was ahead. I knew it was going to be cold. It already was; frost was subliming into mist on the start line chute rails as it filled with elite heat competitors and their breath hung visibly like a cloud above the chute. It was -3C, yet there is always at least one elite with his shirt off. I wasn’t taking any chances though. Two layers for me!

20160924_072956

Soon we were running and power hiking our way up the mountain. You know the drill. It’s a Spartan Race…. so I’ll spare you a play-by-play. Instead, here is the highlight and low-lights reel.

Rolling Mud – The rolling mud was not very… muddy? No big deal. It wasn’t missed! It was freezing cold out there!

Log Jam – This obstacle was a series of logs that were to be crawled under. It was also a crossover point for the racecourse. The obstacle was intended to be tackled on the ascent only but some volunteers were telling runners descending the hill to go through the crawl again. The crawl was very tight and many people had difficulty squeezing between the ground and the logs, creating a bottleneck even on the elite heat.

sun-peaks-beast-1

Balance Beam – One of the first obstacles on the course. Once again volunteers were suggesting racers take off their shoes to complete this obstacle since it was icy. Nearly everyone who removed their shoes failed the obstacle.

sun-peaks-beast-6

The highlights – Obstacles were more widely spaced and less stacked than in previous races this year, and all of the heavy carries were long and challenging. Really challenging. The climbs were incredibly steep in places, eventually reaching a crunchy, snowy summit and a breathtaking view of the resort and valley below. Once we had reached the summit of the mountain, the course unexpectedly dug deep into the back-country of the resort along miles of mountain bike trails that delivered a rewarding rooted, icy, muddy patina underfoot. We were treated to two sandbag carries, including an extra long 50lb sandbell carry. The overall highlight for me was moving into the downhill single-track, then hurtling down the main double black diamond ski run, stopping at half a dozen obstacle stations on the way down. I ran that hard – really hard.

sun-peaks-beast-8

sun-peaks-beast-9

Then it happened.

As I ran down the hill, I saw it. The stairway to Sparta obstacle stood like a steaming gateway into heaven. It was just within spitting distance of the finish area. As I ran towards it, my legs were starting to cramp up. “No worries”, I thought. This would be over soon. I climbed it carefully, pivoted over the apex and turned around lowering myself down to the ground. I was almost done, but then horror struck.sun-peaks-beast-4

The course markings turned west. West was bad. West meant we were going back across the mountainside and into the woods again. As we began climbing the hill once more, and the cheers from the arena faded along with any hope of an easy finish, I began to lose my running form. The dull pain that had been growing in my hips and knees suddenly built into a crescendo of pain that drowned out every other concern I had about finishing the race. I had descended the mountain too quickly. Like a diver trying to reach the surface without thinking, I had given myself the spartan racing equivalent of ‘the bends’. To make matters worse, my painkillers had fallen out of my pocket way back on the bucket carry.

Now I was just shuffling my feet. People who I had passed earlier were catching up to me. They patted me on the back, “keep going dude”.

I tried to keep walking, but my body was grinding to a halt. I wasn’t tired, just in a lot of pain. With just two miles to go, I dropped to my knees and sat on the side of the trail and watched as concerned runners passed me by. At this point I should offer a special thanks to Nancy Loranger, and Adam Mowat who gave me the push to stand up and keep going. Feeling encouraged, and enraged by what was happening to me, I stood up and tried to walk a little further. It was really no good. Again I crouched on the trail and took my buff from my head – almost defeated.

Was I really going to come all this way to do this? To give up and DNF? It crossed my mind more than once.

Then I saw something next to me on the ground – a gnarled stick. I grabbed it and stood against it. It was strong. I wasn’t going to give up on my last spartan race of the year without a fight.

Leaning heavily against it I began pushing myself along, trying to take as much weight off my joints as possible. Like Gandalf the Grey, I made my way through the forest. I took a hammer gel, and washed it down with what remained in my CamelBak. I was pushing hard down into the ground with the staff now, almost like I was steering a gondola through Venice, punting through a river of pain and disappointment. It must have looked very odd, but I didn’t care. I really didn’t. I just had to finish. Emerging from the forest, I could hear the festival area again. I strode faster and faster towards the slip wall with my stick.

I tossed the stick to one side to complete the obstacle and as I came down the other side, it was clear that the pain had cleared out of my joints almost as quickly as it had begun. The volunteers looked at each other like they had just witnessed a miracle as I ran back into the forest, leaving the staff in their outstretched hands.

I ran the rest of that race like Lazarus. I was back from the dead. I’d love to say that like the great wizard in Lord of the Rings, that I arrived at that finish line when I intended to, but it just goes to show – some of the best adventures have unexpected conclusions.

Glenn sexy

Final thoughts


sun-peaks-beast-3

The Sun Peaks Beast gets a perfect score for providing an unparalleled experience to run in the Canadian Rockies. Great obstacles, huge slopes, big payoffs. This was the kind of quality spartan race we’ve been hoping for to round out the series.  I know others of you had struggles and race stories to tell too.  You can check out the winners here. Congrats to all of you who ran. Please leave a comment and discuss what your spartan race story was like!

sun-peaks-beast-5

Gandalf