XX Race – Indoor OCR near Philadelphia

A-look-at-XX-Race-obstacles

What’s great about OCR is that everyone is there for a different reason. Some want to improve, while others just want to finish their first race. Either way, you train so you can conquer the biggest and baddest races out there. You do hundreds of pull-ups, hours of dead hang, maybe even throw in some rock climbing. But, come race day, the obstacles catch you off guard and you find yourself doing burpees. Why?

Sometimes, the best way to practice for obstacles is to do obstacles. Novel thought, right? The problem: Not many people can afford to spend hundreds of dollars and drive hours away weekend after weekend in an attempt to get better. The solution: XX Race.

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THE RACE

The XX Race is (mostly) an indoor obstacle race located at iMETTLE in King of Prussia, PA, just outside of Philadelphia. While most races take place at a specific venue once or twice each year, iMETTLE is an OCR gym. So, they hold an XX Race as much as twice each month. Registration gets you in the race. No fancy shirt or free beer, but at just $30.00 per adult, it’s well worth it. Each racer runs a lap outside, which is just shy of a quarter mile. Once done, they come inside and complete an obstacle. Then, it’s back outside for another lap before hitting the next obstacle. There are a few outdoor obstacles as well (tire flip and sandbag carry, for example). A water station is located inside, allowing you to grab a drink after pretty much any obstacle.

Waves begin at 8:00 am and go off as quickly as every five minutes from then on. About 1-4 racers can begin during each wave. The race does not currently have a competitive heat, though there are plans to add one in the fall or winter. Racers can still write their name and time up on the whiteboard to see who posted the fastest race. There are also plans to add a competitive team competition with mixed indoor endurance.

Because it’s more of a friendly competition, iMETTLE allows you to do their penalty (Captain Americas), or the penalty of a race you’re training for (burpees, penalty lap, mandatory completion, etc.). If you’re unsure what a Captain America is, they’ll give you a visual explanation on race day, but essentially you walk your hands out, do a pushup, walk them back and stand up with your hands over your head. Ten of these is the penalty for a missed obstacle.

After all the adults are done, the course is altered and a kid’s race is held at noon.

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THE OBSTACLES

The obstacles were one of my favorite parts of the XX Race. It was a nice, even mix of what you normally see at many outdoor races. There were also a few cardio killers, such as the assault bike, row machine and SkiErg, to get your heart rate up. For those who enjoy spear throw practice, there wasn’t one set up at this race, though I heard it has been at past races. But, part of the difficulty of the spear throw is concentrating on form with an accelerated heart rate. Enter a basketball free throw shot.

For grip, they had monkey bars set up along with three (yes three) possible rigs. One of the rigs gave you the option of ascending a peg board instead, in case you thought that would be easier. There was even a rock wall traverse with the middle section extending out to make it that much harder. A few rope obstacles included iMETTLE’s version of the Hercules Hoist, Tyrolean Traverse, and, a gym class favorite, rope climb.

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No buckets were involved at this particular race, but plenty of sandbags were, the sandbag carry being the easier of them. Others were a bit more diabolical, the first of which included a roll of the dice and some math. Racers roll two dice, multiply the numbers together, and have to do that many sandbag burpees. I lucked out and only had to do five (5×1). Others were not so lucky. One of the last few obstacles was essentially a sandbag sled push. I’m not sure on the exact yardage, but it was long enough that my legs felt like Jell-O when running the lap after.

The final obstacle was a warped wall. Though you may not see it at a lot of races (yet), it’s still a fun one to try. There were four different heights to choose from and no mandatory lane, so racers were able to try whichever one they felt comfortable with. Once finished, athletes were free to go back and practice on any obstacles they wanted, as long as they weren’t impeding current racers.

Most obstacles only allowed one person at a time, though there were a few that had several pieces of equipment set up to allow for multiple racers. Despite this, there were only a couple times I had to wait for someone to finish. One big benefit of having most of the obstacles in close proximity to each other is that, if you want, you can always skip an obstacle if you don’t feel like waiting. Then, on the next lap, go back to the obstacle you skipped.

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BEYOND THE RACE

Because iMETTLE is an OCR gym, the XX Race is just a small sample of what they have to offer. As you know, the sport of Obstacle Racing requires training unlike any other. Competitors are very much considered hybrid athletes, which can be difficult to train for. That’s why they offer both OCR Training and Hybrid Training classes, which focus on both strength and conditioning, as well as obstacle-specific training. iMETTLE has also hosted a Spartan SGX workout, with more planned for the future.

Outside of the current offering of classes, a Bootcamp will soon be introduced. It will be a four-week challenge that will not only train an athlete’s function fitness, but also their mental toughness. Additionally, there are OCR workshops on the horizon, which will discuss race preparation, nutrition, hydration, and hands-on obstacle training. iMETTLE is even in the early stages of OCR Performance Testing, which will serve as a measuring point for athletes in order to track their progress.

For more information on upcoming classes and to register for the next XX Race, visit www.imettle.co.

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Photo Credit: iMETTLE/Vincent Naftal and the author

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spartan-NJ-UB-2017-Twister

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Spartan Race Tri-State New Jersey Super

The Reebok Spartan Super: This is our middle distance course. With a longer distance than the Sprint and more obstacles, the Super will test your endurance, perseverance and grit. The 8+ Mile Super packs more than 25 Signature Spartan Obstacles through tougher and more rugged terrain. The Super is the test en route to your Spartan TRIFECTA.

Spartan Race Tri-State New Jersey Super

The Reebok Spartan Super: This is our middle distance course. With a longer distance than the Sprint and more obstacles, the Super will test your endurance, perseverance and grit. The 8+ Mile Super packs more than 25 Signature Spartan Obstacles through tougher and more rugged terrain. The Super is the test en route to your Spartan TRIFECTA.

Rugged Maniac New Jersey

Rugged Maniac is returning to Raceway Park on July 9th and 10th with 25 epic obstacles and 1 rockin’ party! Here’s how it works: Register for the race and you’ll get a chance to run our 3-mile course where you’ll climb towers of shipping containers, rocket down a massive water slide, crawl through underground tunnels, leap over fire and experience some BIG new obstacles! As if that weren’t awesome enough, before and after you run you’ll get to party with thousands of other maniacs in our day-long festival where you can ride mechanical bulls, pretend to be a kid in our adult bounce houses, dance your butt off in the festival and enjoy lots of new games and activities! Beer will be flowing from our friends at Harpoon Brewery so be sure to snag one (or two) while you enjoy an awesome day outdoors! So what are you waiting for? Grab your friends and register now before your preferred start time sells out!