BattleFrog Tri-State: Mandatory Obstacle Completion … And Getting Lost

BattleFrog has a unique approach to Elite racing–you must complete the obstacle, or you DNF.  I love this concept as well as the two lap set up they use.  This allows a racer to get familiar with the course and really race the second lap.  BattleFrog also offers a nice prize purse to the top 3 finishers of each regional regular season race: $500, $250, $150 for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd respectively.  I had no idea what type of competition would be at a smaller regular season race like this, so I quietly had my eye on a top-3 finish.

Getting to the race from NYC is a breeze and parking is painless, although for a $10 fee.  We shuttle over to the start and work our way through an efficient registration process where we proceed to attach a total of 4 bracelets (one that was never used for anything).   One of the bracelets is for a free beer that we later find out is redeemable at a “local bar” that is actually a 20 minute drive from the race (most people are not fans of this!).  Once registered we have plenty of time and space to get a brief warmup in on some nearby trails.  I even find an old camp pavilion to get some pull ups and climbs in on the wood beams.  There is no line whatsoever for the port-a-potties, which also stay immaculate with a clean up crew going through them every hour on the hour.  All in all, I would say the organization for this “event” appears flawless, but as far as organizing a race, there’s some work to be done.  My overall feeling is that the money is spent on organizing the event for the masses and not making sure there’s a clear and standardized race for the competitors at the front.

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After a whole lot of hoopla from Coach Pain, we are off and I stick with the lead pack up a pretty steady climb (my Strava indicates about 250 feet in the first mile).  There were very few obstacles for the first mile or two, which allows for a good race to develop at the front.  I realize that 10 miles is not the shortest of courses and settle into a comfortably hard pace which has me running smoothly in 6th place.  I am hoping that a few of the guys in front got a bit carried away and will come back to me as the race takes its toll.  Most of the first 2-3 miles is on technical trail.  For those of you familiar with typical “east coast trail” it’s not so bad (I’d say a 3 out of 5), but still rocky and twisty enough to slow you down some.  I bought some new Inov8 X-Talon 212’s specifically for this race, but quickly found out I could’ve worn some road shoes.  I’m sure if there were more rain in the days leading up to the race it would’ve gotten really muddy out there, though.

Coming out of the trail, we reach the Platinum Rig that I’d heard so much about.  Fortunately one of the guys from the lead pack was struggling with this and I fly past him by completing the rig smoothly on my first attempt.  After some quick running I pull up to the 50 pound sandbag carry.  I looked forward to this obstacle as I routinely train with heavy backpacks on my back during my run commute.  I thought I might be able to actually run through this obstacle.  I quickly realize the trail is a bit too gnarly to run well, but I’m still sort of run/hiking through the woods at a nice clip.

And then disaster strikes.  I haven’t seen any flags for a few minutes.  Is this normal?  Perhaps they don’t mark all their trails as well as I’d seen so far.  I push on with the 50 pound bag on my shoulders.  Eventually I come across a flagged trail, and although I can feel that I am probably off course, I’m just relieved to be on the course.  Eventually I come to an obstacle where the attendant has no damn clue why I have a sandbag on my back.  He shows me where I am and I quickly realize that there will be no placing for me today.  I traipse back through the woods aimlessly, but heading in the right general direction.  Fortunately I run into a few others and get back to the start of the sandbag and I’m off and running.  I figure I should at least have fun and finish.  Strava tells me I ran an additional 1.1 miles, most of that with a heavy sandbag on my back.  I later learn that there were others who missed that turn as well.  On the next loop BattleFrog would have an arrow at the fork in question.  Thanks BattleFrog, good thinking.

After some typical rope climbs, a jerry carry, and more trails I find myself sliding down a slide into a lake and swimming.  Yes, swimming, like in water over my head.  I am no triathlete and have never trained to swim, so in a way I’m fortunate I wasn’t still “racing” any longer.  I roll over and float on my back and just kinda cruise doing some version of a back stroke (mostly I’m just floating on my back and treading water in the general direction of the other side).  Apparently most others can’t swim, because I’m not passed and I cover the 70 meters in what seems to be a reasonable amount of time.

ropewall

We immediately approach what appears to be the signature BattleFrog obstacle–Tip of the Spear.  I’ve never done this before and my first try is an epic fail as I’m unfamiliar with the technique used to swing from rope to rope.  I blast my shin on the bottom of the wall and it swells immediately.  I wait in a line.  This was new to me and I didn’t like it one bit (“I am obstacle course ‘racing’ here, people!”).  On my second try I make it through after learning the swing technique.  I would later learn that the side I went through had upside down hand holds, so instead of the grooved side with good grip being on top, that was on the bottom.  We had only a flat inch to grip, and I thought this was a bit weird, but assumed it was to make it harder.  This bothered me, because BattleFrog must have learned about this, realized it was too much work to fix now and simply let their well paying racers go through anyways, providing an unfair advantage to anyone who went on the other side.  All things considered, this was a difficult obstacle for me.  I expended a ton of my grip strength messing around with this and dealing with their upside down handholds wasn’t helping!

kerritipofspear

With lap 1 complete I tear off on the trail running section, only to learn that there are hundreds of open athletes on these single track trails.  For the most part I am able to sneak past them all while incessantly calling out “on your left, on your right” and people probably wondering why in bloody hell was I going so fast.  Sure I was way out of contention for a podium spot, but I was still moving along and having found my rhythm I wanted to finish as fast as I could.  I love to run trails more than any other thing, the more serpentine and technical the better.  To just continue to push forward despite all sorts of natural obstacles brings me my greatest joy and this was no different.  I run through the remainder of the course and although it was much harder on my grip strength the second time around (I had to set the jerry cans down every 10 feet this time), I was able to finish reasonably unscathed and in 12th place with a time of 2:17.

Post race I quickly learn that there is no beer.  Boo.  I only get a banana and a water at the finish, so I have to buy a burger from the grill for $12.  I linger at the finish for a while, waiting for my girlfriend to finish.  I talk with a bunch of others from the elite race and quickly realize that I wasn’t winning this race even if I didn’t get lost–Matt Kempson and Ryan Kempson (yes, brothers) went 1-2 and they weren’t just going to “come back to me” like I thought might happen.  I quickly learn they are quite good at this OCR thing, absolutely tearing things up this year and winning many other events.  Third place was a nice guy I met from Binghamton who just happens to have in his backyard, a 150-acre obstacle course training compound (I wonder how much that would run me in Astoria, Queens).  Jarret Newby, founder of Newbsanity, is a great guy and an insanely fast runner (former collegiate 800 runner), so I find myself feeling better about getting lost.  If you’re in the Binghamton vicinity, check out Newbsanity; I’m sure Jarret would be glad to have you.

bfpodium

I am waiting much longer than I anticipated for Kerri to come through and start to get legitimately worried.  I run out on the course a bit to see if I can find her.  Eventually I run into her and learn that she was held up at the rig for about an hour.  Sounds about right, I think to myself.  She was racing elite as well and absolutely would not give up without completing it.  And this is what I love BattleFrog (and her!), the mandatory completion of obstacles.  She finished hours after the 1st place woman and still got 5th overall!  Apparently not many people can finish this race, so just for her to complete all the obstacles is a significant victory and I’m so proud of her for her determination to get that rig.  I am sure you will see more of her at the finish lines and possibly podiums of these events.  She likes the mandatory completion element of BattleFrog as well–obviously.

usbattlefrog

After grabbing our bags at bag check and getting our finisher’s photo, we shuttle back to our car and head over to the bar for our free drink.  Place is understaffed, service took forever, food is great, though.  We catch up with some new friends we met on the course, share stories about how we could have done things differently, better.  Most of us are sure we can do better.  And just like that, the grip of obstacle course racing sinks deeper into us all.  Driving home I can already tell we will be back for more.  Both Kerri and I are overall pleased with how BattleFrog does things, despite their poorly marked section that sabotaged my race and drilling in handholds upside down.  I am confident they can get that straight for my next one.  Oh, and hopefully a post-race bash at the actual finish line!

UltrAspire Speedgoat Hydration Belt

UltraSpire Speedgoat
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The UltrAspire Speedgoat Hydration Belt is an excellent option in the lightweight waist carrying hydration market.  Inspired by the speedgoat himself, Karl Meltzer has teamed with UltrAspire to create a quality product that any runner can benefit from.  Boasting 37 ounces of hydration split in two 18.5-ounce lightweight bottles, this belt is perfect for runners looking to carry both water and their favorite carbohydrate drink.

speedgoatfront

 

UltraSpire Speedgoat Features

  • Angled holsters for easy access 18.5 ounce lightweight water bottles
  • Mesh zippered back pocket for stowing a small jacket
  • Elastic/mesh side pocket for used gel wrappers
  • Zippered side pocket
  • Quick access front straps that can be used for stashing a layer of clothing or Z-poles
  • Adjustable sizing that pulls as tight as you need it for minimal bouncing

 

UltrAspire Speedgoat Usage

I received this belt a few weeks ago from the guys at ORM before an 18-mile trail run, on the Long Path with ORM writer Dario, just outside of New York City. I put it on as soon as we hit the trailhead and immediately noticed the secure fit.  The front connecting mechanism is different than most belts I’ve used in that there is no clip, just a hook-through system that actually works really well.  The seatbelt-style material pulls extremely tight and stays in place nicely.  With the two 18.5-ounce bottles filled to the brim, I noticed very little bouncing, which is a significant factor when running fast on some gnarly trail, which is what I was about to do.  As with all waist belts there is always going to be some bouncing, but at no point was it a hindrance as I made my way along this technical trail at paces up to 6:45 per mile.

I’ve since taken this pack to Breakneck Ridge, another great trail we New Yorkers like to escape to.  Breakneck is one of the most technical climbs in the country in fact, and I did 10 miles and 2 ascents of the famous Breakneck Ridge hike which gains 1,200 feet in under a mile!  This belt was perfect for this kind of running, because it allowed me to have my hands free for scrambling up the rock face, while offering me quick access to both my water and my carbohydrate mix.

During my Breakneck run, the temperature warmed up and I was able to take off my windbreaker.  I tried to stuff it into the back pocket that UltrAspire claims fits a small jacket, and even though I was wearing the lightest windbreaker I’ve ever owned, I couldn’t fit it into the back pocket.  Fortunately the convenient little straps on the front belt worked out nicely as I just hooked my jacket through them and ran unhindered for the rest of the afternoon.

My biggest gripe about this product is that there is nowhere to stash my iPhone 6.  In fact I couldn’t even fit an iPhone 4.

speedgoathook

 

UltrAspire Speedgoat Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Lots of hydration!  37 ounces is about as good as it gets for waist belt hydration.
  • Two separate bottles allows for mixing nutrition in one and water in the other.
  • Secure fit that is barely noticed even at fast speeds.
  • Zippered side pocket for gels is a nice touch that many waist belts don’t have.

Cons

  • Difficulty getting bottles in and out
  • Back pocket is too small for a jacket, or an iPhone.
  • Bright teal colors a bit loud for my liking with no other color options
  • Push/pull nozzle takes some getting used to, as the amount of water sprayed is very inconsistent.

speedgoattop

 

UltrAspire Speedgoat Conclusion

For me personally, the lack of iPhone storage is too significant of a factor as I do most of my long trail runs with my phone, but other than that I loved the product for its utilitarian purposes of carrying a lot of water efficiently.  I would, however, use the UltrAspire Speedgoat in a well-supported race environment.

 



Holler

Joe Murphy

The Human Animal at Eat
You can find Murph (The Human Animal) running through NYC parks (or down the middle of Broadway battling it out with cabbies) doing handstands and climbing things at opportune times.

On weekends he will be in his natural habitat running up and over the mountain of the day, eating turkey sandwiches and Jujyfruits to fuel his wild adventures.
Holler

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Spartan Race Tri-State Beast — Sunday Mud Day

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I have been training for obstacle racing all my life without even knowing it.  Obstacles are omnipresent in our lives.  As a regular ultra runner and first time OCR competitor, I can really see the benefits of this type of racing; the ability to see the cold, hard obstacle staring back at us.  Overcoming obstacles gives us the feeling that we can overcome anything.  At the Spartan Race Tri-State Beast on Sunday, it wasn’t even the manmade obstacles that were the real problem, it was the mountain and mother nature’s decision to rain on our parade.

There were clearly two mountains for me to conquer on this day. There was the one perched 50 miles east of my Astoria apartment in Vernon, NJ called Mountain Creek Resort, and there was the one I had to climb just to get there. I registered for this race months ago with the hope of competing for a podium in the elite field. I had been training hard since January. I had already PR’d in both the 50k and the marathon in the same race (3:34, 2:54 respectively) in the late winter. I took up bouldering at the gym 3 days a week to improve my grip strength. My fitness was reaching new heights all the while packing on some extra upper body muscle, and then disaster struck.

Two weeks ago while running my last long run for this race I rolled my ankle with a half mile to go in the Breakneck Point Trail Half-Marathon. I gingerly finished that race in a respectable 6th place and proceeded to the obvious: RICE. I did everything I could to heal this ankle. I tried one run of 4 miles, which only put the healing process further back. I thought I would have to pull the plug on the Spartan Beast for sure. Then I remembered an old story of Scott Jurek winning (and setting the course record) at the Hardrock 100 on a severely sprained ankle. I googled it and found out exactly what he did for his ankle. He wrapped it tightly in ACE bandages and then applied a very stable boot over that. I did exactly that and decided to just get out there and see what happens.

dopebreakneck

We manage to arrive at a rainy Mountain Creek just before the elite wave starts, but still have to be shuttled over to the registration, which is an effective and seamless process. I am trying to still make the elite wave just in case the ankle miraculously feels good (hey, I’m an optimist). As a first-time Spartan, I am thrilled by the fact that there is no race bib. I race a lot of ultramarathons, some just as hairy and muddy as this Spartan Beast, and I always have to contend with having a visible bib on my outermost layer at all times. This makes peeling layers off as the day gets warm an obstacle in itself, especially when you can be out there for 7 or 8 hours for a 50 miler! The Spartan headband is genius and it cheers me up for a moment—one less obstacle. I head over to the start to find out what is going on exactly, only to learn that the elites have already gone off. No one can give me an answer if my chip time will count against their times. Most say they think so, but I tend to have my doubts.

I end up running with the competitive wave and I’m not too upset about that. I mean I do have my ankle wrapped in a pound of tight materials that are going to fill with water and mud and act as a ball-and-chain all day. And my ankle doesn’t really work, which doesn’t lend well to all the chatter I’m hearing about the “muddy footing” along this course. We do the signature “a-roo” and we’re off running up the first of many climbs, and just like that all my anxiety subsides, I’ve conquered the first mountain of the day. Then I realize, I’m running. After 2 weeks off I am actually running; my smile couldn’t be any bigger.

Spartan Race NJ Beast - Barbed Wire
The second mountain’s reality sets in quick, and I’m walking. With the familiar hands-on-quads death march I make my big jab steps, each one deliberate so as not to aggravate the ankle. There are so many rocks that each step has to be absolutely perfect. I accept that this is going to be a long, cold, rainy day and get my mind ready to push through the infamous pain cave. I won’t bore you with a play-by-play of all the various obstacles—there’s a lot—and which was the hardest—bucket brigade hands down—but I will tell you that this course is brutally disturbing. It’s covered in mud every step of the way. There’s just as much rock scrambling as the Breakneck Point race I did 2 weeks prior. At least Breakneck had jaw-dropping views of the hudson from 1400 feet. This course was just mean. This course had me traipsing through chest deep muddy water, and waist deep quicksand. This course had me sliding on my butt down long stretches of muddy, rocky mountain. This course had me grabbing every single tree on the way down steep pitches to save myself from disaster. On this rainy Sunday, this course was dark and devilish.

Spartan Race NJ Beast - Rig
But I live for this shit. Nothing gets me going more than conquering my fears and overcoming obstacles. It is my first formal OCR, but like I said I’ve been training for this all my life. Slowly, relentlessly I begin picking people off from the earlier elite waves. Any stretch that is flat I open up my stride a bit and mow them down. The thrill of competing floods my veins once more and despite two weeks of inactivity and an immobile ankle, I am somehow near the front of this competitive wave. I continue to push hard to the end, slipping off many of the obstacles I would have been able to do had it not been so wet, doing the dreaded burpees with cramping quads. I can’t even do the hercules hoist at the end, because my hands are so numb. More burpees. These ones seem to take 5 minutes or more. Then a cargo net climb, dunk underwater beneath a wall, and the signature fire leap to the finish line. I get handed all sorts of delicious nutrition (I ran out of gels hours ago), a medal, a t-shirt. I check the results. 4:19 and I got 3rd place in the competitive heat. I couldn’t believe it. The course checked out to be 14.8 miles with nearly 5,000 feet of elevation gained!

My girlfriend is waiting for me with open arms, and this is my biggest complaint on the day: she is shivering and wet. Apparently she and all the other spectators were forced to leave the heated lodge and had to sit outside in the cold all day while waiting for their loved ones. We all spent $20 or $25 on a spectator pass for them, and for what? The course only loops back through one time at mile 2. So for over 3 hours in my case (5 or 6 hours in many others) our spectators had to just wait. There was very little spectating. Come on Spartan Race, spartan up and take care of my people!

Cold and happy to have my first Spartan Beast completed. With my girl, Kerri Driscoll, who braved it out waiting for me in the cold, mud and rain.

Two days later as I type this up before I head off to my crappy day job, I can’t help but let my mind meander along the course, remembering stream crossings, huge mud pits I traversed without thinking twice, or a hellish muddy rock scramble down a steep pitch. Then I think, what if I had just done this here. What if I did this obstacle this way and not done the burpees. What if I didn’t have to stop to get the rocks out of my shoes. What if I had two good ankles. And just like that I realize I am hooked. I will be back when my ankle heals, and I’m gonna get after it for real.

Boku Super Fuel – Body Mind Lift

Boku Super Fuel – Body Mind Lift
3.8 / 5 Overall
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Boku is a relatively new company with a great line of healthy products to replace your normal supplements with Boku Superfoods. I’m going to tell you all about their Boku Superfood protein in this review and what makes it stand out from regular protein supplements.

bokusuperfuel

Boku Super Fuel Consistency

A slightly grainy consistency, but nothing bothersome.  It goes down very smoothly.

Boku Super Fuel Flavor

This is where I was thoroughly impressed with this product.  Despite being so ridiculously healthy, this mix actually tasted really good.  The impressively rich taste comes from its cocoa, vanilla bean, and maple syrup flavor.

Boku Super Fuel Usage

This is great to supplement a healthy diet.  I like to use it in the morning to energize my day, sometimes even as a quick, running-out-the door breakfast.  I mix a 30 gram serving of the powder with about 10 ounces of cold almond milk.  After shaking vigorously in my shaker bottle with shaker ball, I find the powder has completely dissolved and I can enjoy my shake.

Boku Super Fuel Nutrition

superfuelnutrition

Boku is known for their stellar ingredients, so it’s no wonder this product is pure and super healthy.  Using only certified organic vegan and kosher ingredients, this product packs a punch in the most natural way possible.

Boku Super Fuel Verdict

I definitely like this product as a morning supplement before my runs.  Buyer beware, it does pack a ton of fiber into one serving (14g), so it may take some getting used to, especially before runs.  All things considered, I would use this daily to get the right nutrition with minimal calorie consumption.

 

 

Use code BOKU139 to save 15% off at their store.

 



Holler

Joe Murphy

The Human Animal at Eat
You can find Murph (The Human Animal) running through NYC parks (or down the middle of Broadway battling it out with cabbies) doing handstands and climbing things at opportune times.

On weekends he will be in his natural habitat running up and over the mountain of the day, eating turkey sandwiches and Jujyfruits to fuel his wild adventures.
Holler

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Boku Super Protein

Boku Superfood Protein
3 / 5 Overall
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Boku is a relatively new company with a great line of healthy products to replace your normal supplements with Boku Superfoods. I’m going to tell you all about their Boku Superfood protein in this review and what makes it stand out from regular protein supplements.

protein-jar

Boku Super Protein Consistency

It feels gritty and doesn’t fully dissolve.  The consistency was similar to my usual protein shakes other than the gritty texture.

Boku Super Protein Flavor

It tasted like and had the texture of sand, but it’s tolerable for a non-vegan like myself and even started to grow on me the more I used it.

Boku Super Protein Usage

I mixed a 30 gram serving of this protein powder with 10 oz of cold Almond Milk out of the fridge.  Using a plastic shaker bottle with a shaker ball, I shook vigorously for about 30 seconds until all the powder had dissolved (or so I thought).  When I took my first sip, I could feel the grittiness of the shake. I got it down, but the taste was not pleasant and the texture a bit bothersome.

Boku Super Protein Nutrition

2.0

nutrition-facts-protein-2.0-1.26.2015

Excellent amount of fiber and high vegan protein source achieved with the most natural ingredients.

Boku Super Protein Verdict

I would recommend this product to anyone who needs ample protein and isn’t necessarily looking for something tasty.  It’s  a great product for those who put natural ingredients above all else and don’t mind a little grittiness in their shake.  This is something I would get over the taste and drink daily if the cost wasn’t so high.

Use coupon code BOKU139 to save 15% off at their store.

 


Holler

Joe Murphy

The Human Animal at Eat
You can find Murph (The Human Animal) running through NYC parks (or down the middle of Broadway battling it out with cabbies) doing handstands and climbing things at opportune times.

On weekends he will be in his natural habitat running up and over the mountain of the day, eating turkey sandwiches and Jujyfruits to fuel his wild adventures.
Holler

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