Spartan Race – Palmerton Super/Sprint Weekend 2017

Spartan Race U.S. Championships Series – Blue Mountain Challenge

Ask any Spartan Racer what the most grueling event they’ve done in their racing tenure, and Palmerton is sure to be high on that list. After Killington and Tahoe, I’ve heard plenty of stories of racers dropping out during the dreaded double-sandbag carry Palmerton is famous for or succumbing to the heat on what has proven to be a very formidable mountain.

Palmerton, PA also just happens to be the 3rd stop in the Spartan Race US Championship Series – dubbed The Blue Mountain Challenge, which meant the stakes were higher than ever. If you came to watch the best athletes in this sport, you weren’t disappointed. Atkins, Call, Boone, Webster, Kolbl, Killian were all on site. Spartan Race continues to drive amazing live footage, along with an onslaught of social media presence around these big name races – something the OCR enthusiast in me truly can’t get enough of.

For myself, and thousands of other racers, this was simply a chance to experience a championship caliber course on a mountain that has proven it’s worthy of mention in conversations about the toughest Spartan Race venue.

Spartan Up Your Friday Night

Select Spartan courses have also been offering an Open House the Friday before an event weekend. Spartan also offered racers an option to “Spartan Up” their Friday night, which gave the public the perfect opportunity to come enjoy the festival, learn obstacle and training secrets of top coaches, and maybe even meet a few Spartan Pro’s. New obstacles like Twister and Olympus were available to try out, which helps runners get a valuable chance at trying an obstacle before they see it on race day. We also saw a “prototype” rope wall obstacle Spartan was trying out that didn’t make its way into the race itself but gave us a possible look at what may be coming next.

Ape Hanger was another obstacle that has only been seen in one other location – Lake Tahoe, for the 2016 Spartan Race World Championships. Combine the old school rope climb from the water, with a monkey bars / slash rig type feeling, and you’ve got the Ape Hanger. Here is hoping Ape Hanger finds its way to more events because it was an absolute blast.

Spartan continued the assault on racers bodies by building two of the most grueling carries seen so far this year. A double sandbag carry (mandatory to Elite & Competitive racers) down an aptly named ski trail dubbed “Nightmare” and a Bucket Carry that was so long, it extended into the festival area, where onlookers could cheer on runners, and share in the pain that is the Bucket Carry.

All in total, Palmerton saw 25+ obstacles over 6000+ feet of elevation change across the Super course and didn’t skimp at all on the Sprint course the following day. After completing both events on consecutive days, I’m starting to understand the groans I have heard from fellow racers any time the word “Palmerton” is mentioned. When you combine the presence of the obstacle course racing elite, NBC and Spartan Facebook Live coverage, with a course like this, it’s a recipe for success. I’ll be adding Blue Mountain to my list of must-do events going forward.

Photo Credit: Josh Chace

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

Or sign up for a Spartan Race now with codes:
ORM15 for 15% off
or
SPEAR10 for $10 off

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

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

Or sign up for a Spartan Race now with codes:
ORM15 for 15% off
or
SPEAR10 for $10 off

LeaderBoard Training – Coached by the Pros (Part 2)

LeaderBoard-Athletes-at-Chicago-Super

A plateau isn’t just a really tall, flat piece of land. It’s also where you, as an athlete, can find yourself if you get too comfortable in your training. Without the proper guidance, your body can become accustomed to the pace, distance, workouts, weight, and so on. Luckily, as I’ve found, LeaderBoard excels at preventing plateaus so that its athletes can continue their climb to the top.

If you’re unsure what LeaderBoard is, there’s an entire first article to explain just that!

ONE OF THE FAMILY

A common theme among LeaderBoard athletes is a sense of family. It may be a little cliche, but it’s true. Ean Caskey, a member of LB since the beginning, was surprised of the familial vibe. “Once you suffer alongside someone for months on end and share your highs and lows, you feel a certain connection and pride to be part of the team,” he said. The programming, along with Slack messaging, really keeps communication open. Not only can you see how fellow athletes are doing by checking out the WOD (Workout of the Day), but there’s always discussion on the workout itself. Everyone is there to support each other, which isn’t a common theme among training programs. Got a PR? Post it in Slack and just watch as everyone gives you a congratulations and various emojis.

Naturally, the LeaderBoard family has members all over the country. So, although you may have had communication with several members, maybe you never met them. But when several members are going to be at the same race, usually dinner plans are made. Everyone gets together to hang out and share their race day stories, or whatever else may come to the table.

LeaderBoard-athletes-meet-for-dinner

 PUSH IT TO THE LIMIT

Remember that whole plateauing thing? Well, that can happen without you even realizing it. Sometimes, you just don’t think to add that one part to your workout that keeps your body guessing. Sure they can be tough. But, LeaderBoard athletes like Eric Aanerud, find that the parts he hates are actually his favorite. He explained that they are “the parts I would skip if they weren’t in there. It makes me feel like I have to do it. So I do. You get to the point where you stop asking questions and just do the work.”

I remember quite a few times thinking about how difficult a workout was, but realizing I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Not only is there a sense of accomplishment with the physical training, but it hones your mental strength as well. Jeff Shoaf, who has completed 27 races since 2014, appreciates this part of the training. “They help train your brain to keep going and not quit just because it gets hard or mentally boring,” Shoaf said.

Forrest-Bouge-Hangarang-Savage-Ohio

Forrest Bouge on his way to first place at Savage, Ohio

THE LATEST BENCHMARK RESULTS

Outside of running a race (which I’ll get to), the Benchmarks are a great way to measure progress. Since article number one, I was able to retest all five Benchmarks: the mile, carry, rig, 5k and personal trail BM. Though I expected to beat a few of my previous numbers, I hadn’t expected to PR all five. But that’s exactly what happened.

I didn’t destroy the old numbers, per se, but any improvement in 4-8 weeks is positive. First, let’s start with the rig benchmark, since I had been on the rig specialization leading up to the test. The first part of the test is a grip-alternating chin up, with the second part being a straight dead hang (without dismounting from the first part). Before, I had done eight reps of part one and 40 seconds of dead hang, which counted as two reps. That totaled 10 reps. This time around, I hammered out 10 reps of part one, but only 20 seconds of dead hang, or one rep. Overall, an improvement of one total rep.

On the bucket carry, the test consists of timed carries for the bucket, double sandbag and dumbbell, or farmer’s carry. I was fairly concerned that my total carry distance would go down, since I hadn’t been specializing in it. I was able to squeeze out an extra 15 meters combined. Again, not a large increase. But, considering it was not my specialization and definitely my weakest obstacle category, it was great to see that number go up.

Eric-Aanerud-Boise-SandbagEric Aanerud at the Boise Sprint

We all know in the sport of OCR, running is pretty much the most important part. So, I was really curious to see how those tests turned out. My previous 5k time, done on 4/22, was 23:50. Just about 2 months later, on 6/21, I ran 23:37. That’s only 22 seconds from my lifetime PR, and certainly a non-race PR. As for the mile, on 5/23 I ran a 6:26. Five weeks later, on 6/27, got that down to a 6:19, a lifetime PR.

The trail loop time trial that I discussed in the first article would be another test. The other Benchmarks I had only done one time previously. This was my third out on the trail loop. As of the last article, my time was 59:09, an improvement of 3:43 (previous 1:02:52). This time around, another time reduction, totalling 57:36. My GPS lost signal briefly, so the splits are inaccurate, but the overall time is correct. That means in just under 3 months (March 25 vs June 24), I’ve dropped over 5 minutes off my time!

EVERYBODY GETS A PR

Right, I get it. You’re thinking, “Well, Adam, anytime someone starts a new program, they see the greatest results early on.” And you’re right. Or are you? I looked at some of LeaderBoard’s longest trained athletes, those that have been there since early on. They surely must have leveled out their Benchmark numbers.

Caskey, who is in his fourth year of OCR, hit a PR in the rig during the most recent test, and both the carry and mile this past May. Shoaf also had bests in his mile and carry at the most recent testing. Aanerud almost had a clean sweep recently, PR-ing in all but his rig (due to an injured hand).

Kirk-DeWindt-wins-Chicago-SuperKirk DeWindt fire-jumping to victory in Chicago

Kirk DeWindt, who joined LeaderBoard July 2016, shortly after his first OCR, has also found recent success. He hit a PR in both the 5k and carry during the last round of testing. It’s worth noting that DeWindt was a collegiate All-American in the mile during his college years, so it may be a bit harder to get a personal best there. Forrest Bouge ran his first OCR two years ago and was in the first group of LeaderBoard athletes. He’s hit a PR in all his Benchmark in the past 6 weeks.

OFF TO THE RACES

Now, that part that really matters to some people. How does training with LeaderBoard improve your racing? Shoaf, who had mentioned the benefit of mental toughness, has seen an increase in his ability to race through fatigue. It’s paid off in races as recently as the AT&T Stadium Sprint. Last year, he finished a respectable top 38% in his age group, top 32% of men and top 29% overall. This year, however, he rocketed up to the top 21% in both his age group and gender, plus top 18% overall.

Bouge has improved from a top 15 finisher to a top 10 finisher, with two podium finishes so far in 2017. Caskey was a top 10 finisher prior to starting LeaderBoard. So, with LB training, he’s now consistently challenging the podium spots. “The last three races I’ve been in 2nd for a large portion of the race,” he said. “ Last year that would have made me nervous and think to myself that I was going too hard. Now I feel like I belong there, and confident that my training will keep me moving forward.”

In 2016, Aanerud ran his first season as an Elite Spartan. His placement ranged anywhere from 15th to the mid-60s, and a 77th place finish at Spartan World’s. This year, his worst finish is 25th, with the majority being between 6th and 15th. Most recently, he finished 8th in Boise. DeWindt has also found success since joining LeaderBoard. He won back to back races, his first wins, at Spartan Race Chicago in June, and finishes top ten in most races he competes in.

 

Ean-Caskey-Chicago-RigEan Caskey making quick work of the rig in Chicago

I don’t get the opportunity to run a lot of races, so my main comparison is between Savage Maryland in the fall of 2016 and Savage Pennsylvania a few weeks ago. Though my overall placement wasn’t quite as good, I put that blame on my own inexperience and not my training. At the 2016 MD race, there were a total of 188 racers in the competitive heat. In 2017, the PA race had 256 racers. Unfortunately, in PA, I waited too long to get in the starting corral, and started the race towards the back. This resulted in more cattle jams and even a five-minute wait in line before a first attempt at an obstacle. That obstacle, however, was Kiss My Walls, which took three attempts in Maryland, but only two in PA.

At both races, I was able to finish the SavagePro wave completing all obstacles. To me, the difference was the new obstacles for 2017. The 2016 race had one rig. Savage PA had two rigs, plus an obstacle called Twirly Bird, which is essentially another, more difficult rig. The upper body demand was much higher at the PA race. Though I obviously can’t say for sure, it would’ve been very difficult for me to finish 100% obstacle completion had the Maryland race been as tough. This year, I even had enough energy to run the course again, in an open heat, a few hours later with some friends. Something I know I wouldn’t have been up for last fall.

BLUE MOUNTAIN CHALLENGE

Palmerton gets its own category for a couple of reasons. First off, it fully reinforced the family aspect of LeaderBoard. A group of members got together Friday night, before the Super. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it. At the Super, I had the chance to meet almost all of the LB athletes that came out to compete, which was around 15. Saturday night, the group got together again and this time I knew I couldn’t miss out. After hanging out for a couple hours to chat about races, honeymoons, training and much more, it felt like Thanksgiving dinner with the family (minus the OCR talk). We all even had a chance to catch up with our fearless leader, Brakken.

Sunday I was running the Sprint and ran into several LB members after my race, including Brakken. Everyone asked how I did, talked about the course, and congratulated me on my result. Speaking of, I went into the race hoping to qualify for the age group bracket of OCR World Championships. Even though I know I most likely won’t make it to the race, to say I qualified would be an accomplishment. To do this, I needed to finish top 20 in my age group in the Competitive heat(s). I researched last year’s top 20 times and set the goal of 2 hours. Well, I blew that out of the water. My final time was just under 1:37, good enough for 28th overall and 3rd in my age group. The 1st and 2nd in my age group were 1st and 3rd overall, so any better than 3rd would’ve been tough.

Tiffany-Palmer-and-Brakken-Kraker-at-Palmerton

Tiffany Palmer and Brakken Kraker at Palmerton

The rest of the LeaderBoard crew had equally impressive performances. Several Saturday racers finished in the top 35, which is especially difficult at a US Championship Series race. Two of LB’s female athletes finished top 25 (Tiffany Palmer 15th, Katie Huber 23rd). Many of those who didn’t run the Elite wave finished as some of the top racers in their age group for the Competitive wave. This was also impressive as the athletes registered for Competitive was larger than usual for Saturday’s race. On Sunday, Palmer and Huber returned for the Sprint, finishing 4th and 7th, respectively. Had Lindsay Webster, Rea Kolbl and Faye Stenning not stuck around from Saturday, LB may have had themselves a 1st and 4th podium showing.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

Since the first article, a few things have changed at LeaderBoard. There is now a Standard and Pro program. The Standard is essentially everything I’ve experienced at half the cost of what it was. The normal cost now provides Pro, which includes a higher level of personalization. What does that mean? Closer contact with your LeaderBoard coaches, including 6 “Pro Chats” per year plus all the communication that comes with Slack. This personalization will help with individual athlete’s goals, such as a faster 5k time or getting better at hill running.

With this, however, Robert Killian is no longer one of the two Pro coaches at LeaderBoard. But, as unfortunate as it is to lose a great athlete like Killian, current coaches Brakken Kraker and Zac Allen have proven that they are more than capable of getting the best out of their athletes.

Does LeaderBoard require a certain level of commitment? Of course. Any training program does. Some days I had to do part of the workout during my lunch break and finish the rest later at home. But, tailor it to your schedule. If you can only fit in a certain amount of time, fit it. The more you can follow the program, however, the better your results will be.

Remember, everyone can start out with a seven-day free trial. LeaderBoard also added a pretty sweet referral system. If you are referred to the program, you receive $30 off your first month. Once on the program, if you refer someone, you receive $15 off your next month. Head to www.leaderboardfit.com to sign up!

Brakken-Kraker-at-Lambeau-Stadium-Sprint
Photo Credit: Spartan Race, Savage Race, LeaderBoard, David Martineau, Tiffany Palmer

Spartan Race Minnesota Sprint 2017 – The Hills Are Alive!

Spartan-Race-MN-Start-Line

When someone says “Minnesota”, what’s the first thought that comes to mind?  Snow?  Ice?  Mall of America?  Well, we have all those things, but we also have one more thing: Spartan Race.

Spartan Race came back to Welch Village for the 3rd year in a row, about 45 minutes south of the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.  Welch Village holds some of the steepest ski hills you can find in MN, and Spartan uses those their advantage (and to other’s dismay).  Registration was a standard setup, with the bar-code scanning making the process easy and quick to deal with.  The festival area was stocked with the normal Spartan merch stands and the venue’s concessions filling up everyone with good food and beverages.    The festival area was spread out across the entire field, with the main stage being on the opposite end of where the start line / biggest team tent area was located.  This proved to be a drawback later on, with the messages being relayed by the DJ at the main stage not being heard at the other end of the festival area.  Minor issue, but I digress…

In past years, the course has hovered right around the 5-mile mark in length.  Between the longer distance, hills totaling over 1200 ft in elevation gain, temperatures hitting 90+ degrees, and high humidity… to say that this was a challenging Sprint course would be an understatement.  That was not the case this year.  Temps hitting the sweet spot and Spartan shaving over a mile off past year’s setups (clocking in around 3.5 miles), it was a noticeable difference for those that had been there before.  Opinions were mixed on this, as having a shorter course was deemed either welcomed fully or seen as a slight disappointment.  Different strokes, different folks.  In my view, if the race seems shorter (reading between the lines: easier) then push harder.

Obstacles were standard for Spartan.  One difficult stretch was the spear throw and rings. These were located right after the dunk wall, making for a difficult time of completion and many burpees were enjoyed.

Spartan-Race-MN-spear-Dan-Stowe

Spartan-Race-MN-rings-Dan-Stowe

Otherwise, enduring the hills was a main focus of everyone.  The start line started uphill, after the rings — hill, after doing some other stuff – hill.  The bucket carry at the Minnesota Sprint carries a certain ill-tasting flavor in my mouth, as it’s straight uphill.

Spartan-Race-MN-bucket

Please note: She moved the bucket off her shoulder right after this picture was taken.

This part of the course had many people questioning their life choices up to that point, but all was forgiven it seemed when they got to the top and saw the camera guy (funny how that works, huh?).

Spartan-Race-MN-bucket-smile

Overall, it was a fantastic event at a venue that can really bring the pain for a Sprint distance.  Hills, green everywhere (both with the trees and the local North Star Spartans team that was 150+ strong!) and a bunch of Minnesota nice made for an excellent time at one of the premier events on the Minnesota OCR calendar.  Next time you think Minnesota, don’t think cold.  Think AROOO!

Photo Credit: Spartan Race

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

Or sign up for a Spartan Race now with codes:
ORM15 for 15% off
or
SPEAR10 for $10 off

Should I Fib To Let My Kid Race OCR?

I cheated at the Spartan Sprint in Virginia. I’m probably not the only person that cheated at an OCR this weekend, but I might be the only one writing about it. And <<spoiler alert>>, I will probably do it again.
I did all my burpees. I didn’t cut the course (it was very well marked). I paid for premium parking, although they never asked me for proof. I ran in my assigned wave (and watched a Spartan official/volunteer ask a racer to leave the corral after he snuck in to run with friends a half-hour before his assigned time). I didn’t receive any assistance on Twister or the monkey bars. My bucket was filled up to the holes on the side of the bucket.

So, what did I do? I claimed that my 12 year-old was 14 so we could run his first big OCR together. For those that say “That’s doesn’t count” or “Everyone does that”, go ahead and skip to the next article. It is cheating and it is a big deal. And if we want the sport to grow, it’s something that needs to be discussed and addressed.

“I don’t care, I don’t have kids” – Just the fact that you know about ORM means you care about OCR. No sport will have sustainable growth without engaging children and teens in an appropriate manner, (except maybe Beer Pong. Hmmmm… “Milk Pong”?). Baseball has tee-ball. Football has Pop Warner. Soccer has a bajillion levels from 4 year-olds to over 50 leagues.

And let’s go ahead and get the “You’re a bad/unsafe parent” stuff out of the way – my son and I train every week at a Spartan SGX gym. I have run in ~50 OCRs from local mud runs to WTM with a healthy variety of Savage, Rugged Maniac and Battlefrogs along the way. I know my son’s ability and I have a decent idea of the types of risks that accompany the different obstacles.

Gym-Training
Finally, yes – maybe I could’ve applied for an exception (google “Milla Bizzotto”), but I didn’t because I am lazy and the application would have tipped them off since I would’ve tried to sneak him in anyway if they said no.

This is an important issue because we need to challenge our kids in order to get them to love the sport as much as we do. If there’s any chance that OCR will be in the Olympics, it won’t be Hunter or Hobie or Faye or Amelia on the podium. It will be someone that’s probably 12 right now. And I don’t want to have to make the choice between telling the truth and sharing the sport I love. Integrity is a delicate concept with a very slippery slope – how do I tell him that lying about his age is okay but doing only 25 burpees isn’t? If you think this is all easy and it’s a simple matter of knowing right versus wrong, then I congratulate you Mr/Mrs Safe Driver for never going 27 in a 25 and for reading EVERY Terms and Conditions paragraph before signing.

Before I actually make some recommendations, I want to commend Spartan Race for doing a great job in this area. They do the best job of the more established brands of providing options and challenges for non-adults. (Although my son does NOT agree that his free post-race Capri-Sun is equivalent to my free post-race beer.) Also, the volunteers were AMAZING. They cheered him on as he ran through and gave him clear and specific obstacle instruction – I’m not sure if they were supposed to make accommodations for him, but they did. He was allowed/directed to the women’s Atlas stone, women’s herc hoist and only filled his bucket halfway (which still kicked his butt). The other racers also cheered him on. I am so proud to be introducing him to a sport where a 12 year-old can be passing a 30 year-old and hear words of encouragement as she/he is being passed.

Here’s the landscape right now: Grades are based on the variety and challenge of offerings from ages 6 to the “adult” race.

  • Spartan Race – Grade: B+. They have a ½-mile race for ages 4-8. A 1-mile for ages 9-13 and sometimes a 2-mile for 11-14 year-olds. Then the adult races open up for you at 14.
  • Tough Mudder – Grade: C. TM has Mini Mudder. A 1-mile race for 7-12 year-olds and then you can run the 5k and the Half Mudder if you are 14. At least I think so. They hide this information and apparently change it depending on venue. Want to turn a kid off of OCR? Tell your 16 or 17 year-old that they are running TM Kentucky with you and then you get a message 12 hours before the race saying that the venue won’t allow racers under 18. Yep, that happened last weekend.
  • Savage Race – Grade: B. Savage Junior Race is a ½ mile course for those 12 and under. Then you step right up to the 6 mile course at age 13. So it’s pretty much like going straight from tee-ball to the minor leagues.
  • Rugged Maniac – Grade: C. Only one race offering. Must be 14 to compete.
  • Warrior Dash – Grade: B. Only one race offering. Must be 10 years old to compete.

Warrior-Dash-Kids

How do I recommend we fix this without boring our kids or lighting our pants on fire? AND without asking companies to operate at a significant financial loss? Here’s some starter ideas:

  • Parent/Chaperone Waivers – Have a special waiver for parents that want their kids to be allowed to race before they meet the age requirement. Maybe you even require the parent to run with the child.
  • Skill Requirements – Does your 13 year-old want to run with the 14 year-olds? Fine, here’s a special area with three obstacles they must safely complete before they can be allowed to the starting line.
    Race Progression – Underage? No problem, just successfully complete the course that’s appropriate for your age first. (i.e. do the 2-mile kids before you are allowed to do the Sprint).
  • Scalable Obstacles – Let kids fill the bucket half-way, make it half-way across Twister, stand 5 feet closer for the spear, or push the atlas stone across and back.

The best answer is likely to include many of these – special waivers, obstacle tests, and scalable obstacles. Of course it would be better to have 5 levels of different courses and different obstacles, but that’s not financially feasible for companies that don’t even have enough money to sponsor a college football playoff game.
In closing, I am comfortable with what I did, but I hope I didn’t open Pandora’s Box. We’ve had some good conversations about this topic and I think he is happy that I am writing this article to bring some awareness to the age/challenge gap in OCR. He had a TREMENDOUS time at the race. He is hooked on OCR and is already asking about other races this summer. Sorry, buddy, no WTM for you this year. You’ll just have to be happy as my pit crew again.

Father-and-Son

Montreal Sprint/Super Weekend Canada

After having my ass handed to me last year, I returned to Mont Owl’s Head this past weekend looking to take a far more cautious approach to a mountain that defeated over 90% of Ultra Beasters in 2016. Thankfully, Spartan Race Canada took mercy on us as well, moving this weekend to a Sprint/Super combination – opting to push their Ultra Beast event further north to Quebec City, in August – want to join me there? Register with Code: ORM15 for 15% off!

If you’ve avoided travelling outside of the US for a Spartan Race – The “Montreal” event is a great way to dip your toes into the Great White North. It really could be called the Northern Vermont Sprint/Super because by the time you’ve put your passport away after passing through customs, you’re arriving at Mont Owl’s Head. Also, if you’re familiar with the peaks of Vermont, or New Hampshire’s White Mountains, then you’ll be right at home here. Owl’s Head has a small base but steep climbs comparable to mountains twice its size.

“Though she be but little, she is fierce”

Owl’s Head totes one of the steepest climbs I’ve experienced in my OCR days and we couldn’t escape that climb, even on the Sprint course. About two miles in, after hitting a brutal combination of Olympus, Monkey Bars, a Platinum Rig, and a grueling Bucket Carry where racers were filling their buckets with dirt and rocks, we were tortured with a slow climb to the top of the mountain – about a 1,700 foot climb all in. The reward for climbing the mountain, and subsequent descent, is a view like no other – A gorgeous lake spanning for miles and the Appalachian’s in all their glory. You had plenty of time to drink it in, as you navigated the Tractor Pull through a slick and muddy path atop the mountain. You also had some time to really open up your legs on the back half of the Sprint – something that was severely missing in last year’s event. Long winding downhills made for some nice speed before bringing you into a finishing gauntlet made up of the Spear Throw, Rope Climb, Hoist, Barbed Wire Crawl, Rolling Mud, Dunk Wall, and A-Frame Cargo Net – all within 100m of the finish line.

Combined, the Sprint and Super had approximately 5,000 competitors and the venue handled them well. Small lines at registration were quickly moved through and Spartan made it a point to bring in far more bathrooms than last year, a common gripe among attendees. Finisher shirts seem to have gone universal in North America as there’s no Canadian flag or indicator that you’ve done a Canada Spartan.

All in all, I really enjoyed this weekend, especially getting back to short course racing where you can really test your lungs and legs. It’s been some time for me since I’ve started running longer distance events, and it was refreshing to cross the finish line while it was still light out.

Were you back at Montreal for redemption after last year? I’d love to hear about it – leave us a comment below!