Goliathon – A New Contender in OCR? (Race Review)

Whether you are planning to be a ninja or a spartan, Goliathon is an event you don’t want to miss for either conquest. Being one of the newest and, quite honestly, hardest events I have participated in, I find this event to be one of the most incredibly challenging and entertaining. Goliathon is an event that brings a different take to obstacle course racing and ninja training events. Its mission is to raise money for Charity Water: a non-profit that funds projects to distribute easier and more efficient means of sanitary water conditions all over the world. To date, they have raised over $60,000 and for this event alone, approximately $25,000.

Over the course of four miles, I had to take on twelve obstacles, each with three tiers of difficulty.  Many kinds of people attended the event. Some were elite OCR runners who you may see at a Spartan or Battlefrog event while others were beginners who do these kinds of events for fun or with family and friends. We also have our “Davids” who have completed all twelve obstacles at the G3 (expert level). We were also lucky enough to have some American Ninja Warriors and past “Davids” attending such as Captain NBC (Jamie Rahn) and Jedi Markowski.

Davids of Goliathon V

After interviewing one of the twelve co-founders of Goliathon, Doug Horton, I found out a little bit about the history of the event. The event initially took off in April 2014 and brought in 550 people. They had set the event for April and November but decided to keep the dates closer to warmer weather in May and October of each year going forward. Doug and a few of his pals had done a few obstacle races like Spartan and Tough Mudder and, as part of their training, they decided to start building obstacles in their backyards. They actually decided to make them harder and more complex than what you would see on course. After a while, they got the idea that they could create their very own obstacle race.  Doug also stated that almost every week, the bunch would have a meeting to discuss what the next steps would be in developing the race. The direction of the obstacle building was done by Paul Stone, a co-founder of Goliathon and the owner of the company, Emerald Windows.  Eventually, they came up with the idea of tiered obstacles (G1, G2, G3) from easiest to hardest respectively. It took a lot of imagination, creativity and hard work to make these obstacles. Thanks to Paul and the rest of the co-founders, we had a terrific event.  Considering that Pinnacle Parkour, a ninja training academy where people go to work on obstacles you may see on American Ninja Warrior, is in the same neck of the woods, people like Jamie Rahn and Jedi Markowski were also able to build the PPK Ninja Killer obstacle that you can see in the video posted further below.

Goliathon V Start.

Just to give an example, one of the obstacles had you climb a rope. For G1, the rope was knotted and the bell was about halfway up the full length of the obstacle whereas G3 you had to climb an unknotted rope with a 45-pound chain draped on your shoulders and once you reached the top, you had to hit the bell with the chain…the point being that it was a lot harder than the average obstacle. That was just a taste of the range of obstacle difficulty but I will get to that later on.

Slippery Wall Money Scruffy Mudders

Another cool topic they had discussed was a “Try the Obstacle Day” approximately one month prior to the event. On these days, you would have local athletes and staff helping you through the obstacles so you get a chance to practice on them…something that you can’t do on race day as one of the rules is that if you fail on your first try on any level, you do not get a band that signifies points that would be tallied at the end of the race. On these practice days, they normally get about a hundred to two-hundred people.

Now on to my personal review.

All in all, this was an amazing experience. This was the fifth event to date dubbing it “Goliathon V”.  Me and my team, Scruffy Mudders, were hyped up to get through this event with the best score possible. I will say it was a little different for me as I am used to running hard through the course but as this was an untimed event, we took our time and it probably took us close to 4 hours to causally walk/jog to each obstacle. One of the first obstacles was a 40 to 80 pound water jug carry around a closed loop. It wasn’t as hard as you would think but the fact that you had to balance the two 40-pound jugs on a metal bar and avoid touching them to the ground was something that made it a little trickier. Next up was the Slippery Wall Monkey obstacle as we had to basically rock climb from one floating wall to another and get though a bunch of monkey bars. Unfortunately, I slipped off the last one before getting to the end which cost me a band. We had a rope climb with varying difficulties but I picked the G3 one which required climbing up a rope unassisted with a chain draped on my shoulders. From there, we approached Circus Maximus 2.0 which was kind of like being at a circus as you had to swing from ring to bungee to ring to more bungees to rope swing over a trench of water to the finishing platform.  This was definitely one of the hardest obstacles. Only a few people from our team made it through to get the G3 band. We got to the PPK Ninja Killer obstacle that had some ANW crew there to help people get through it. This was definitely one of the more advanced obstacles to take on in G3. I actually decided to do the G2 version as it looked a smidge easier. The Ninja Killer is three slanted boards that you have to jump on and stay on without touching the floor to a bunch of platforms where you have to balance on to a rig that depending on your level would have different obstacles on it. One of my favorite obstacles was the Hangman obstacle that had you climb up an 8-foot wall and swing about 5 ropes to devil steps. If you have a chance, look up Goliathon on Youtube as every year this obstacle varies in how it is set up. I can talk all day about how awesome the obstacles but I can leave that to you.

Circus Maximus 2.0 Grant.

If you go onto their site, they have a bunch of videos with tips on how to get through all of them.

Moving forward, I would love to see the company evolve while also keeping the mission of helping people’s lives. Goliathon is also a qualifier for OCR World Championships and will have their next event October 1st, 2016. If you sign up by May 31st, you can get the early bird special using the code SUPER.

PROS: Great cause, great obstacles, reliable staff, festival was enjoyable.

CONS: Only have one chance for a band at each obstacle (doesn’t mean you can’t still play on it if there isn’t a line of people)

GRADE: A

All pictures by Alexander Sallahian.

Bone Frog Challenge – New Jersey: Race Review

Stepping up to the plate this past weekend, only three years old, is the relatively new Bone Frog Challenge and boy DID THEY BRING IT!

Bone Frog Challenge - Kevin on the Black OpsAs the OCR season begins to wind down, finding a good race is sometimes a hard thing to do, but Bone Frog was definitely a good find. Built by Navy Seals, this course felt very challenging, especially if you opted to take the Tier 1 Challenge – which is both the 9-mile course and the 5K course, which was pretty much a shortened version of the full course. Filled with obstacles, I encountered both at Spartan World Championship as well as OCR World Championship, Bone Frog tested my resolve to finish the course. As a relatively new company with no big sponsors, Bone Frog is very much making an impact and a course, which I believe is hear to stay.

THE FESTIVAL
The festival was nice and a good place to relax before and after finishing the course. While the race was held at Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey, they had a merchandise tent as well as some other vendor areas. Mostly, they used the resources at the venue which in opinion is all a good race really needs. For completing each distance, you received a cool Bone Frog medal as well as a finisher shirt. One cool thing I noticed was that you received a different color shirt for finishing each distance which is not something you see at other races, at least the ones I have been to which include Spartan Race, Rugged Maniac, Battlefrog, and Civilian Military Combine. Another cool aspect they have that I don’t see much of at other races is the Gym Challenge. In the Gym Challenge, you ran a course with a heavy weighted ammo box in which your team/gym had to carry throughout the course in addition to the obstacles on the course. More than that, at certain points along the course, your team would have to do certain challenges such as doing a cumulative set of 100 sit-ups with the ammo box on a few team members chests. Some of the other team challenges included additional push-ups, lunges, and squats.

THE RACEBone Frog Challenge - Billy under the wire
Now for the actual race itself. While I was impressed with the different obstacles they used, the course itself was similar if not exactly the same path as all the other races I have done there this past year. Obstacles were on par with those of the OCR World Championship, if not harder at certain points around the course. Below is my description of a few of my favorite obstacles during the race.

  • Rolling Thunder – 2 Horizontal beams 5’ high that are lined with low profile tires that spin as you jump over. Racers jump over the tires while the tires roll them back. Both tire hurdles are spaced 15’ apart so there is less room to run and jump for the second hurdle.
  • The Dirty Name – This is our version of the “Sternum Checker” that you see at other OCR’s however ours is authentic to the same obstacle that is at the Navy SEAL O’ Course in Coronado California. Racers navigate 3 logs that are at ascending heights and approximately 5’ apart. The lowest log is just above ground level while the top log is 9’ high. Racers jump from log to log and finally go over the last log, hang from their hands and drop safely onto the ground below.
  • Ammo Carry – This is what separates Bone Frog from other OCR’s. While most OCR’s these day’s have some version of a weighted carry, the Bone Frog Challenge has an authentic military style carry. Racers carry a .50 Caliber ammo can filled with dirt that weighs 70 lbs. Racers carry the ammo can a quarter mile while also navigating a low crawl that they must drag the ammo can through.
  • Black OPs – This is Bone Frog’s signature obstacle. This is the last obstacle racers attempt before crossing the finish line and it culminates what Bone FFrog is all about. Racers ascend a 15’ rope climb up to a platform. From there they jump up to monkey bars that are suspended 22’ in the air and angle upwards at a 2’ gradient. From there they cross 26’ of monkey bars before dropping onto another platform and descend down a large ladder to the ground. All of this is done while crossing in front of a 15’ x 15’ American flag. If racers cannot successfully navigate the monkey bars they will fall into the safety net below.

I would like to definitely single out that results were updated from the minute you crossed the finish line. It was great finishing and getting an unofficial result once I reached the timing tent.

Bone Frog Challenge FinishersMoving forward, Bone Frog plans to expand down south to Georgia and possibly a few other areas and then turn west in 2017. Bone Frog is currently looking for top tier athletes to join their family. So if you think you are tough enough, check out their website and sign up for their next race!

All in all, a great race with great obstacles but the festival could use a little bit more to keep racers occupied. I would suggest maybe a chin up competition or a rig to practice on.

Grade B

Spartan Race – New Jersey Super 2015 – Race Review

Welcome to the Spartan Race New Jersey Super 2015!  Welcome to HILLS!  Welcome to TIRED LEGS!  Welcome to SMILES and TEARS at the finish line. For many people in the Tri-State area, this is one of the yearly races that is a true test of determination, courage, and athletic ability. In my experience, it is a bit emotional. A lot of people in the area come from doing the Tuxedo Park Spartan Sprint to the New Jersey Super, since the venue is only about thirty minutes from that race venue, and its very close to the border óf New Jersey and New York. For many beginners, this is the first time they are running a difficult and lengthy distance. On average, the race takes about three hours to complete. This year was no different. Overall, this year was a challenge against the mountain and against self.

THE VENUE

Spartan Race - Pig Roast at NJ SuperLike years past, the New Jersey Spartan Super was held at Mountain Creek in Vernon, New Jersey. This has been the site of the New Jersey Super for the last few years and is overall a great venue for an obstacle course race.

THE FESTIVAL
If you came for just the race and left, you definitely missed out on a lot fun attractions in the festival area. There was a new and shiny merchandise store. It’s presentation was a lot nicer than the tent that has the merch just hanging up. It looked a lot more professional and more accessible. Plus, there was a lot of Reebok Spartan merch that I have not seen at previous races. If you are looking for that 2x Trifecta hoodie, you came to the right place. If shopping wasn’t your thing, you could always play on the rig. While waiting for friends and family to finish the course, you could “hang” for a bit or practice your rope climb. I saw a lot of kids playing on it and swinging from bar to bar better than some of the athletes (I kid though)! You had more traditional areas such as the finisher shirt pick up, main stage, podium, and Panasonic area where you could film yourself in a 2 second video slowed to the time of about 15 seconds. And what Spartan Race in New York would not be complete without the epic pig roast (see picture above)! Truly, a Spartan’s appetite was present at this race.

 

Kid on RigTHE OBSTACLES (The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly)
There were A LOT of obstacles on the course and perhaps many of them you know. Rather than go into each obstacle on the course, I narrowed it down to my top ten picks including challenging obstacles (those of which may have been near other ones to make it harder aka dunk wall), different obstacles (those that may not be on the usual course), and easy obstacles. Before I get to that, I definitely want to give a shout out to the amazing team who decided to make the course more creative and pile burpees upon burpees on many participants. I also want to say that the course was a lot tougher according to a bunch of participants I spoke to, mainly due to the steep incline for the first half of the race and the steep incline of the second half of the race in addition to the line of obstacles set up in their path.

  1. Swim – I have to start with this one because it was a joke of an obstacle. It may have been from the scare of a storm in the area but rather than an actual swim across the lake that they normally do, they just had people walk or run through the shallow, knee-deep portion. It took literally thirty seconds to cross and continue uphill.
  2. Walls featuring Rolling Mud + Dunk Wall – Definitely a pace killer, this combination of obstacles slowed a large group of runners down since they were right next to each other. The runners had wet hands and if you weren’t a 6-foot giant, then you really had to focus on gripping the top of the 6-, 8-, and 10-foot walls to get over.
  3. Monkey Bars – Another killer of Spartans, this was an obstacle that ended with a lot of burpees. Because of the water from previous participants and the weather, there were many slips, falls, and splats on this obstacle.
  4. Bucket Brigade – Everybody’s favorite obstacle made an appearance at this race. If memory serves, it was in the same place as the previous year but made higher.
  5. Rope Climb – A traditional obstacle at Spartan Races, the rope climb looked to be a challenge. You had a choice of knotted or straight climbs. For elite, you had to use the straight rope climb.
  6. Hay Wall – This one was not necessarily tough, but it was set before a steep incline. Once you jumped over the four feet of hay, you better have hoped you stretched your legs well enough.
  7. Sandbag Carry – Another hike up the mountainside with either a 40lb trademark sandbag for men or 20lb bag for women.
  8. Log Carry – Surprisingly short and easy if you ask me.
  9. Downhill Barbed Wire – A bit different than what I am used to; people were forced to crawl downhill toward the finish line under the barbed wire. For me, it was the first time, and I thought it was pretty easy, with the exception of pointed rocks bruising every part of my body that wasn’t already bruised from the rest of the race.
  10. Rig – The last obstacle before the fire jump and finish. If you defeated this monster, you are definitely on your way to being an elite athlete.

Spartan Barbed Wire Crawl.

Spartan T-Wall NJ.

 

Elite FinishersOverall, I liked the race – with the exception of twisting my ankle halfway through. Some words of advice though, WORK ON GRIP! It helps a lot with obstacles that may have slip. And run incline if you have some hills near you. If you don’t, find some stairs.

Grade: A

All pictures by Alexander Sallahian.

Spartan Race – Cornell University Sprint – Review

Imagine a field full of college freshman at a prestigious ivy league school in upstate New York. Now imagine a bunch of Spartan Race obstacles covering about 3 to 5 miles of farm grounds. If you were at Cornell University this weekend, you don’t need to imagine.  It was definitely a trip for some people, as I met not only students from Cornell who were volunteering and racing, but also people who came from Connecticut and Boston! We even had the founder of Spartan Race and alumni of Cornell University, Joe DeSena himself, grace us with his presence. I, myself, was there early to help with handing out finisher medals and Big Red Chocolate Milk Protein at the finish line.

The Venue
Let’s talk about the venue. We arrived at Cornell University, but the actual location was on farmland about 1.5 miles away from the university buildings and such, and for some, just getting to the location was jokingly the first obstacle they had to overcome. The actual venue was unique to the everyday Spartan. It was grassy, flat, and dry (minus one drop of mud, but we will get to that in a bit). The weather was hot and dry and definitely a challenge come mid-day. Overall, the area itself was nice to look at, but you could see why Spartan decided to not allow this event to count toward the rankings and didn’t officially include a podium.

The Festival Area
Again, this was a bit unfamiliar to the average Spartan but still ended up being satisfactory. Beyond the registration tent, there was not much to look at. There was a merchandise tent with some cool new Cornell Spartan shirts as well as the usual other merch. There was no beer tent, which did have some racers disappointed. Obviously there was the traditional water and banana stands along with finisher tees and medals. The rest of the area was pretty open to view all the racers. You could see the hurdles toward the finish line as well as the initial run in the beginning.

The Obstacles
Cornell Spartan Burpees

For this section, I am only going to go over the most unique or difficult obstacles (keep in mind, I do most of my races on the east coast). Some of the ones I will not go into detail on were the 4-foot and 8-foot walls, net rope crawls, Z-Wall, as well as one mud trench at the beginning of the race. And of course, we have to start with a round of burpees…

Barbed Wire Crawl
With the exception of not having any of the barb on the wire, it was definitely a tough part of the race given many students don’t usually crawl under wire, unless it’s coming back from a Thirsty Thursday, but this barbed wire crawl was definitely worth noting, as it was a lot longer than most Sprint crawls.

Spartan Wire Crawl at Cornell

Code
Not all races have this, but at some of Spartan Races, we have to remember a code word followed by a 7 digit number. Only twist this time was that the code was upside down, and although most of the open heats were not asked the code, according to some rumors, you also had to remember the code backwards.

Tire Carry
I don’t see many of these obstacles anymore, but it was nice to carry 1 or 2 or 4 up a tiny part of the course as a way of breaking your momentum from the constant running you had before.

Football/Spear Throw
I’m assuming that Cornell didn’t want to risk a spear through the heart of one of its students; so unfortunately, the spear throw was not included in this event. As a replacement, they had people throw a football through a tire….Touchdown?

Bear Crawl
Not aware of how many Spartan Races nationwide have a bear crawl, but I will say, it slowed a lot of racers down…especially having staff members watching for butts too high in the air.

Sandbag Carry
Definitely a lot more deceiving at a race that is mainly flat; the staff did a great job finding the one downhill part of the venue to put the sandbag carry on. It was a lot longer, with more twists than other sandbag carries. I would consider this to be a quad burner as they had a lot of short uphill and downhill portions.

Hurdles
One of the final obstacles was jumping over a bunch of hurdles in place of the fire jump.

The Verdict
Overall, I found the event to be worthwhile but only if you didn’t make much of a commute and didn’t expect much out of the festival. I met a lot of nice people, and it definitely had a good effect on the students and faculty at Cornell. Again, if you are looking for a traditional Spartan Race, this was not for you. If you are a fan of Spartan and wanted a cool looking medal then this was a great event to attend.

Grade: B+

Cornell Spartan Sprint Medal

Krell Adventure Games – Review

You wouldn’t expect to find marshmallows, climbing rope, and spaghetti strands in the same place at an outdoorsy race except that is exactly what you found at Krell’s Adventure Games. Last weekend a friend and I competed as partners at this race next to a farm in the middle of the Hudson Valley area in New York and we did not have any idea of what to expect. Having competed in a multitude of racing events this year involving climbing ropes, being electrocuted by hanging wires, crawling under barbed wire, and carrying 100 pound sandbags, I had the impression that this was going to be an easy race as it is not your normally promoted obstacle race that makes you sign a death warrant. Boy was I wrong!

The Johnny Sileno Wishes for Wellness Foundation is the charity that receives raised funds for pediatric cancer research. The event alone raised over $1,500 dollars for the charity and we had approximately 135 participants and 4 divisions to compete in: All Male, All Female, Co-Ed, and Family.

In developing the Krell Adventure Games, the goal was to create the next step in obstacle racing, and something that could appeal to everyone.  As opposed to having a set course, you can choose the order in which you do the challenges, how much of the course you want to do, how fast you want to go and how hard you want to push yourself (and your teammate). It’s kind of like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book where you are the main characters.  Unlike some races, it will not put you through electric shocks, but it will challenge you both physically and mentally. The team that wins will possess a combination of fitness, problem solving ability and the ability to work together. You can expect some of the traditional obstacles like walls and ropes, but that’s about it. There are plenty of new and different physical and mental challenges that will require good strategy and teamwork added to every race.

OBSTACLES!

(Spoilers ahead)
Not only was it challenging from a physical standpoint, it was taxing mentally as well.  A lot of the obstacles looked easy from reading what they were on the map you are given when you start out or looking at the pictures on the website from previous years but when it came to actually getting to the obstacle location and figuring out what to do and how to do it, it took some time to figure out the best strategy and trust in your partner. Some obstacles were even prerequisites to get to others further along the course. Here are a few that I thought were among the hardest and most tactical in where they were placed.

The first challenge my partner and I faced was called the Lego Challenge. It involved one partner waiting on the other to run to a location on the map and find a structure that they could only describe with words to the other partner waiting back at the obstacle area and who had to build it out of a few Legos laid out, exactly how the structure was laid out on the course.

The next challenge was about a mile away and made one partner wander blindly in a roped off area while your partner gave you directions. As a reward for completing the obstacle, you received a bag of spaghetti strands to be used later in the race at another obstacle. I will not say what obstacle it was used for to keep up the mystery.

Next we tackled some rope climbs and descents that felt like it was a page out of Bear Grills survival guide.

We had to get into a paddleboat and get across a lake and back to find the places to click our trackers into.

Trivia and riddles were among the hardest to solve.

One obstacle had you handcuffed to your partner and walk a tightrope from tree to tree. You can say balance was key but for my team, having a guy around 6’2 and another 5’7 was not exactly easy to do.

There were many others including a bean bag launcher and slingshot as well as solving a problem involving a 5 liter and 3 liter water jug. Again, I don’t want to give too much away if you are interested in signing up for a future race.

If you signed up for the competitive wave, you were ranked based on the number of challenges completed as well as the time they were completed. Both partners had to make it to the finish line and also had to make it before three hours were up. Otherwise you would start losing points.

VERDICT

Overall, it was a very rewarding experience. It makes you take a break from these races with electric shocks, barbed, wire, and 20 foot rope climbs and instead challenges you with many challenges that change from tactical to mental to physical. It kind of reminded me of a more intense camping trip with boy scouts considering you have to know where to go when all around you is forest and trees and how to rely on your team mate to complete the challenge. It is a new way of looking at obstacle racing. In my opinion, there could be a few harder challenges physically but other than that, I would say it is worth checking out.Krell Adventure Games Finshers and MedalBalancing on rope with partnerTangram Puzzle [Read more…]