Bonefrog Trident Washington D.C. Review

 

The Location

This past weekend I participated in the Trident category of the Washington DC Bonefrog, Challenge, which is the only Navy SEAL owned and operated mud and obstacle race in the USA. The challenge took place at the Wicomico Motorsports Park, which is a 300-acre family-owned and operated motorsports park in Southern Maryland that is near the Maryland International Raceway and Potomac Speedway in Budds Creek, Maryland.

The challenging course winds throughout the various trails throughout the motocross park, the wooded area surrounding the park, as well as an open area with various obstacles that were very accessible for spectators.

Why Trident?

For the Trident category, the race length was around 18+ miles and made up of four laps – starting with the Challenge (6 miles), Tier-1 (9 miles), and Sprint (3 miles).

I decided to participate in the Trident category because I really enjoyed racing in the Challenge category two years ago, and the Trident looked like it would be an adventure. Plus, the medal is pretty amazing!

The longest OCR distance I have raced in the past was about 12 miles, so trying to imagine 18+ miles with 100+ obstacles was both intimidating and exciting at the same time.

Motivation

I knew this was going to be a long and tough event, and my motivation to get from each obstacle to the next came down to reflecting on my personal journey over the years. During this time back in the summer of 2004, I was fighting for my life in ICU. One month after graduating high school, I was involved in a near-fatal car accident with a speeding truck that collided into my driver’s side door. I spent two months in ICU on life support, in a coma, underwent 14 major operations, resuscitated eight times, given 36 blood transfusions, lost about 100 pounds and spent three years in recovery. This was on my mind for inspiration during my preparation for this event, and also throughout the course itself.

The Obstacles

All participants had to make their way up and down the hills through the wooded terrain surrounding the motocross park. Some of the hills were steep enough where it was more efficient to come to a fast-paced walk up the incline.

There were about 100+ obstacles that were spread out along the course, with a bunch of the main obstacles being stacked pretty close to each other near the end of the loop. I felt that the high temperatures were an obstacle in itself that we were having to conquer throughout the long course as well.

The Trident included four loops (6 miles, 6 miles, 3 miles, 3 miles) and the first two laps were about conserving energy, trying to find shade when you could, and keeping your hydration at an optimum level the entire way.

Once we made it to the third loop, it was about getting to each obstacle, executing it to the best of your abilities, and then conserving your energy and run/jog speed accordingly.

The final loop was about utilizing the strength and energy you had left and getting to the finish line. After the challenge of the first three loops, and with the heat temps rising quickly at this point, it was encouraging to have the finish line in sight.

Some personal favorites from the obstacles included:

Chopper: This was a tough obstacle that involved swinging from ring to ring, followed by a series of rotating handles that brought you around to the next ring/handle. Grip strength and patience were both important components for this obstacle.

 

Black Ops: This was also one of my favorite obstacles from when I competed in the Challenge back in 2017 as well. This is the final obstacle of the race and involved a series of monkey bars that you have to climb up to, and there is a safety net underneath the bars in case you can’t make it all the way across. Not only were there a lot of other participants crowded around taking turns to go across the monkey bars, but there were a lot of spectators watching as well. It was very encouraging having all the cheering and support while going across the bars, and the big USA flag next to the obstacle was certainly a triumphant way to finish out a great race. With the Trident having four laps involved, there were four opportunities to get a great photo taken on this obstacle.

The Experience

This was the second Bonefrog event that I’ve participated in, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great challenge.

During each lap of the four laps needed to complete the Trident, the volunteers on the course were incredible and offered an abundance of well-needed support. The fact that they were out there on the course in the high temperatures with smiles on their faces was awe-inspiring to everyone competing, so again, a big thank you to everyone who volunteered and helped out along the course!

Bonefrog had everything that you would want in an OCR event: trail running, climbing, carrying, reaching, balancing, running and jumping, and sliding. All these types of movements took place in shoe stealing mud, slippery hills, and unforgiving uphill climbs.

It was truly a challenge from start to finish, and I felt that the obstacles were evenly spaced throughout the course to give the body time to recover and move on to the next obstacle successfully. Each obstacle was earned too because you had to really focus in on both strength and endurance throughout the course. Teamwork was also very evident on the course too because all the participants were helping each other.

Overview, preparation, and training/race suggestions

Similar to my experience in 2017, I found that key preparation for this event includes a well-rounded balance of trail running (hiking is very helpful too) up and down hills to help improve ascending and descending and also being able to balance your body weight.

Part of my training this season included two road marathons (March and May), one 50K ultra trail marathon (February), and a shorter distance OCR event (June). I felt with this amount of miles logged on the trails did help when it came to the 18+ miles of trail running in this event.

There were quite a few obstacles that required upper body strength and endurance, followed up with being able to pull your body up and over a few climbing obstacles, so incorporating into your workout routine pull up strength, climbing from bar to bar, and bodyweight exercises are a must. Hanging from a bar to increase grip strength and endurance is very important. I also recommend pull-ups, chin-ups, and being able to carefully move from one log to the next with increasing height.

During the race itself, the Trident and multi-lap participants had access to a shaded tent where they could set up their bags/coolers to help them restock any hydration/nutrition needed during the event – this was very helpful especially with the high temps that day.

The Atmosphere

First off, there was a great open area for spectators to offer encouragement to their friends and family. This was well needed especially on this day due to the extreme heat, every little bit of encouragement and support was well appreciated.

Not only was there a great support system out on the course with the other participants, but the military presence, from the staff to the volunteers was truly inspirational.

From start to finish, the atmosphere was a combination of adrenaline and patriotism. This was a challenging event that I was glad I participated in and extra glad that I had plenty of training in also.

Big shout out to the Bonefrog team, and all the volunteers who made this event possible – truly a great course that I highly recommend!

F.I.T. Challenge-July 2019

Introduction

Often times when we look at races, we are too busy looking to make judgments about the race rather than appreciating all of the work and effort that goes into each event. We see names for race directors, and there are many names that can be recognized immediately like Trail Master Hammond or Mark Ballas, but more often than not, the name is just a name, or even, not noticed at all. Being a race director is a lot of work, and to be honest, like many of you reading this article, I don’t really know how much works goes into being a race director. When Robb McCoy of F.I.T. Challenge asked me to come up and see part of the action, I did not think twice before accepting the invitation.

Background Information

Robb McCoy-Race Director and Owner

Before I had the opportunity to meet Robb and the gang, I had reached out to him with questions. F.I.T. Challenge is known for winning the title of “Best Small Race Series” by MudRun Guide, but unlike many other races, F.I.T. Challenge does not plan to travel in the near future.

When I originally started talking to Robb, I asked him if he would ever consider expanding his series to some of the southern states. His answer was clear-not anytime soon, because when balancing being a father, and a full-time teacher, it would simply be too much to have the race travel.

As a teacher myself, I immediately became intrigued by the process of this race. I honestly couldn’t imagine balancing creating this race as well as managing a classroom and a family. Not only hosting a race but one that continues to win awards and have its own following that is more passionate than the following of larger series.

Robb informed me that he started his athletic career with football many years ago after his dad had bought season tickets to watch the Patriots, whose stadium was very close to where he grew up. After watching many games, he had been inspired to take on the sport himself, and that’s when a life-long passion ignited. He played through high school and in college, and he continues to pursue that passion through coaching varsity football at the school he teaches at. While he was teaching, he got his first-hand look at OCRs with Spartan and Tough Mudder and decided that he would attempt to create his own race in the area.

Additionally to teaching, coaching, and parenting, Robb works many other jobs as well. McCoy F.I.T. is the name of his company, which is the technical owner of F.I.T. Challenge, and they serve as business consultants to other brands that are popularly known in the OCR Community. Have you ever heard of Wreck Bag or Fierce Gear? Both of those companies are partners with McCoy F.I.T and have worked closely with him to gain success.

Robb claims to have never only worked exclusively as a teacher. He has also coached kickboxing at gyms, taught Wreck Bag exclusive classes at gyms, and been the general manager of an Olympic Weightlifting Gym. So, after teaching a full day each day, he would go over to the gym and work in a management position. He credits much of his success as a small business owner to the experience of managing this gym, as he claims that his boss gave him as much control as he wanted, and he was able to get a feel for which systems work for him, and which ones are flops.

Now when he is not teaching, coaching, or fathering his two children, he is seen around the community doing regular, everyday things. Mostly he is working to benefit others and his community, and of course, I doubt he will ever be able to live down modeling Wreck Bags for the local YMCA.

Aaron Farb-The Everything Guy

Farb, who is almost exclusively referred to by his last name, is known for having many different titles around the F.I.T. Community. When I asked him what his official title was, he laughed. The other members of the crew made other references, such as “The Everything Guy,” and “The One Who Does Everything.” Robb refers to Farb as his right-hand man. Regardless of what his title is or isn’t, Farb plays an extremely important role in F.I.T.

Farb completed the first F.I.T. Challenge back in 2013, and once it was over, he offered to volunteer. After that Farb attended just about every F.I.T Challenge and has offered to volunteer extensively for each one. Eventually, he just became a hard-working part of the team. Now his roles vary, but he is extremely hands-on with the experience. He is part of the building team, will mark the course, check on obstacles, and run whatever other errands he needs to in order to get things done.

When he is not working on things for F.I.T, he is a pharmacist. Additionally, he is in school for nursing, and engaged and busy with wedding planning.

Larry and Ginger Cooper-Full Potential Obstacles

Larry and Ginger Cooper own their own brand, called Full Potential Obstacles. If you’ve raced in the northern part of the country, you have probably seen them traveling at races like City Challenge, Indian Mud Run, and they have previously made appearances at OCRWC. They are most known for their obstacles like the “Destroyer,” a staple for F.I.T Challenge since 2015. Larry and Ginger are from New Jersey and drive with their truck and supplies to come build for races. In this instance, Larry and Ginger drove 6 hours to come build for F.I.T., and they came immediately to the race location to build for several more hours.

Larry does not consider his business a job, but a hobby that he does for enjoyment. When he is not traveling for races, he works in Commercial HVAC. He told me that he loves the job because ever since he has been a kid, he has found much pleasure in taking things apart and fixing them to be better. Larry says he was once offered an office job in his position but turned in down because he did not like the idea of being inside.

Ginger also keeps busy with work when she is not pairing with Larry on building obstacles. She works as a dental hygienist and a personal trainer. She loves both of her jobs, stating that she has some of the best bosses she could ask for. Ginger is almost always smiling, and when she comes to F.I.T. Challenge, she takes on many different roles such as registration, check-in, and selling merchandise, just to name a few.

Out of curiosity, I asked the couple how they got into OCR. Ginger used to play soccer in school, and then afterward began training for half marathons and full ones as well. She fell in love with running. When she met Larry, he absolutely hated running. Because of his love of rock climbing, being hands-on, and being outside, the two agreed that OCR would be a hobby to collaborate their passions, and they have not looked back since.

Jen Lee-Everything Else

In addition to asking Farb what his title was, I asked Jen as well. She also laughed when I asked her, and said: “I pretty much do whatever needs to be done.” Jen has been with F.I.T. for many races now, but mostly takes on roles such as registration, selling merchandise, among others. Also, Jen is part of the build team, and very proud of the fact that F.I.T. presents a female build team along with Full Potential Obstacles. Jen is often the one who puts her foot down in the group to people who are trying to take advantage of Robb’s generosity.

In addition to working with the F.I.T. franchise, Jen is a personal trainer and a single mom of three daughters. Each morning before school, after she drops her oldest daughter off at the high school, she takes her younger daughters to run at a local park. Now, her daughters have built a love for running, and even her 11-year-old daughter has completed 8 laps at the F.I.T. Ultra for the last two years. When she’s not working as a mom, she is caught working twelve-hour workdays every day as a personal trainer/physical therapist at a nearby facility.

Scott-Volunteer Coordinator

I did not have the opportunity to meet Scott during the span of this race. I don’t know much about him other than he is the manager of volunteers, he helps in the building process, and is a member of the team at Bonefrog.

Challenge Preparations

Although I had the opportunity to work with the F.I.T. crew for many days, I had not seen all that went into building this course. I arrived on Wednesday, which was 3 days before the race was to be held.

3 days before the race (Wednesday)

Upon my arrival, after meeting with Mr. McCoy at the airport, we went straight to meet with Robb’s supplier for medals, obstacle mats, shirts, and other gear. His name is Mark, pronounced “Maaaahk” with GO EAST. Mark seemed to have a very “open door” policy with his clients, especially Robb. The two have been a pair since 2014, working on many races together. Maahk walked us around his office, which contained a warehouse with everything that he makes in it as well. Many people don’t know that the F.I.T Challenge uses the same supplier as Spartan Race. Not only that, but this pair works really well together. Robb will just walk in, pitch an idea, and they go from there. There is a laid-back relationship there that is still very professional, but because it is friendly, things end up getting done more quickly.

In this instance, Maahk walked us around his facility and showed us several of the products used to design what is used in F.I.T. and other races. Because Maahk and Robb have such a close relationship, Maahk is willing to work with Robb on providing additional gear that may be unused from other events. Rather than throw it out, it is recycled and used at F.I.T. For instance, the tape that is used to mark the course is a printed green that Spartan Race decided not to use.

FIT Challenge

Another supplier that works with F.I.T. Challenge is Wreck Bag. As previously mentioned, Robb had been a business advisor to them in the past. We originally went in to grab a truckload of wreck bags to use for Saturday’s race, but we stopped in to talk with the owners as well. They laughed and joked very casually, and told me stories of how they have been working with Robb for a long time, which led to both bad and good, but all very funny, stories of their past. The team mentioned that they are very thankful for Robb and how he has helped jump-start their business, and they are proud supporters of F.I.T. They mentioned that they are working on a new product, which may be released later this year, and if it is, the next F.I.T. Challenges may be one of the first, if not the first, OCR to get their hands on this new product. They wanted to speak with Robb and show Robb designs of their new product, and while they did so, I had to step out of the room (sorry guys!).

After loading an F150 truck bed entirely of wreck bags, weighing 25 lbs each, we were off to the racecourse. We emptied the pile of wreck bags onto the course, where they would be used that weekend. Then, it was time for the first adventure of marking the course.

We loaded up backpacks with arrow signs, and a few rolls of green tape to tag the trees with. Then, it was time to trudge on. We got into the field at Diamond Hill Park, and then we trudged up the hill. “Oh, so the first climb is right away?” I asked.

“Yep!” He said, excitedly.

We made our way over and up the hill, and as soon as we made it to the hill, it started storming. We pressed on anyway because regardless of Wednesday’s weather, the race would still be on for Saturday.

He assured me not to be shy about using packing tape because he does not like to worry about people getting lost on the course. He assured me no matter how much you mark a course, we could pretty much count that someone would manage to get lost. By the time we had gotten there, only a few obstacles of the course had been up. They had set up the Gibbons Experience much earlier in the week with the intention to allow people to attempt (see photo below). The first obstacle of the day was going to be the low crawl, which had already been set up with a bungee-type cord strung around trees going down a hill.

Gibbons at FIT

When we made our way down the hill, we talked about the layout of the course. The first climb had been pretty rough, the descend down the backside equally as difficult, and he informed me that there would be at least two more big climbs in the 3-mile course. He said he enjoyed having the layout set up that way because it makes the run more interesting.

Roughly an hour later, and 2/3 of the course had been marked. It was time to call it a day.

We went back to Robb’s house and attempted to eat dinner. It was difficult to hold a conversation with Robb, not because of his mannerisms, but his phone was buzzing constantly with e-mails and social media messages related to Saturday’s challenge. Most of the messages made the same comments: “Are you sure you want to have the race go on even though it’s going to be hot?” and “I can’t make the race now because it’s going to be hot, can I defer my race entry to April?”

F.I.T. has a transfer policy of transferring your race entry to another as long as it is at least ten days out, so to cancel 3 days out did not go over well. Many people asked if the day was going to be transferred to a different date–sadly, what can be difficult to recognize is that having a race costs money, the venue costs, to build obstacle costs, so it is not so easily pushed to another date. So although many of us look at upcoming races and think that it’s easy to transfer, we have to remember that it is not always so easy, and they may not be able to book the same venue.

In addition to receiving numerous calls from race day participants regarding their registration, Robb was also busy answering calls from companies for the race. He had received calls from the city government asking him to renew his entertainment license, which he completed earlier in the month. He had worked out arrangements with companies to deliver ice, as well as an ice bathtub for the athletes. He had arranged for Emergency Medical Treatment certified staff would be on-site to assist in injured athletes. These were just a few of the accommodations that were provided for his athletes. He had spent days prior working endlessly to build relationships from these companies, and have more than enough ice and water supply to last even the 12-hour runners. They also provided lots of baby pools, completely filled with ice, on multiple areas of the course and festival throughout.

Water at FIT

Earlier in the day, he had posted a message on Facebook informing participants of all of the measures that F.I.T. was taking to arrange for help regarding heat earlier in the day. Many of the people who responded to that message were very thankful that those accommodations had been made.

2 days before the race (Thursday)

We began our day by visiting Rev’d, a local spin class that Robb visits prior to work in the day, and it served as another reminder of how at the end of the day, Robb is just another normal person. The gym is located near the Patriots Stadium, where he reminisced on old football-related memories.

By 6:30, it was already back to work. His kids were dropped off, and even though the kids were there, he still had to review the names and bib numbers and get ready to send out the race day informational e-mail. Then, it was back to the race day location to build more obstacles.

FIT McCoy

When we arrived, Larry, Ginger, Jen, Farb, and a few volunteers were there to help build the obstacles. Larry and Ginger keep the same building equipment for the Destroyers and Devil’s Playground each time, so all there was was to be patient and listen to Larry’s instructions. Others went off to build some of the obstacles that are not completed by Full Potential, such as the floating walls. Once all of the obstacles were just about complete, it was time to go back out and complete the final portions of the course marking.

Destroyer Build 1Destroyer Build 2

One thing that I appreciate about Robb is that whenever a group of people gets together to work with him, he is very accommodating. He let everyone who stayed to work on the course stay with him, and he feeds his volunteers who work on build days. Additionally, volunteers who work on build days are provided with race-day vouchers to compete.

By the end of this day, the course had been pretty much set up with the exception of last-minute course markings. On this day, many more people were sending e-mails and messages regarding having their race entry deferred. I asked Robb if he was unsure whether or not people would drop from Saturday, and he said that he felt confident that the usual no-show rate would remain the same.

On the way home, Robb pointed out his first venue to me. The first F.I.T. Challenge took place on a smaller, flat field. Participants circled and winded through a flat field, ran through trees, and in the back, many of the original obstacles were provided by a local CrossFit gym. The original F.I.T. Challenge had roughly 1,300 participants, due to advertising on Groupon.

One day before the race (Friday)

By the time I had arrived on Friday, the festival area had been mostly set up. Robb and Jen both brought their children to help fold the finisher t-shirts and help out where they can.

FIT Festival

All that was left to do was organize merchandise, hang up signs and flags, and get ready for race day registration. Calls were still coming in regarding trading out registrations, and the answer was still no. Some fitness groups came to sign their teams up, and a few more came to register and collect their gear. Every single runner received a mug, a head buff, a tech shirt, and each runner was supposed to receive a collapsible cup that was going to take the place of having cups at water stations. The problem was, although the cups had been ordered three months in advance, they had not been shipped on time. Robb received an email at roughly 2:30 in the afternoon saying that they were finally shipped in, but they could not be sent out for delivery, and someone needed to go pick them up. We were able to go get them and they were ready on time, but it was a close call!

At registration, a few people showed up to get their gear ready for the next day. Most of the runners who came were ultra runners, who were starting early in the morning. If ultra runners completed the ultra in both April and in this race, they received a plaque for being an “ultra-ultra” runner.

Ultra Ultra FIT

Another unique piece of F.I.T. that i have not previously mentioned is that anyone is able to run. There are no kids races at F.I.T. In hte past they offered kids races, but there were not enough participants to justify continuing to offer the,. Instead, there is not an age requirement to run. That’s right–that means if you’re a parent of a kid who wants to run adult courses, F.I.T. is a good option for you.

The day of F.I.T. Challenge

On the day of the race, Robb was difficult to locate because he had been trying to meet as many of his participants as he could. He found me, I asked him if he was nervous, and he said “Nope. If you do things right, there’s nothing to worry about on race day. It’s just a waiting game.”

One thing that is interesting about Robb as opposed to things I’ve seen in other races. I have seen many people hang out with race directors after races, drink, and be friendly, but not quite like the way that people try to be friendly with Robb. Robb is very nice, and unfortunately, many of his participants try to squeeze out opportunities to take advantage of him, without recognizing the difference between that and being taken care of. The first example is from the people who stayed at his house and dipped as soon as they completed their lap. It’s not fair to him, and I don’t think that is going to stop until he puts down and tells people no.

The second case of people trying to take advantage of Robb was, and Jen, who worked parking in the morning, knew ahead of time that people would do this, was with parking. Parking at the venue was $10. However, people would pull up to Jen, and say “I know Robb,” expecting to get out of paying. Jen’s response back was hysterical and simple: “I know Robb, too. That will be $10!” It is frustrating that people at this race feel like simply saying that is going to provide them with a discount, or something for free. Additionally, it is good that Jen was working parking, because someone from another OCR media organization came without alerting F.I.T. ahead of time, with a homemade name badge declaring he needed to be allowed in for free due to his position. He paid the $10.

The main F.I.T. crew had gone to their stations. The startline announcer “Blaze,” was ready to go. Jen and their friend Adam were at parking, Robb was circulating, Larry was at his obstacle “The Devil’s Playground,” , Ginger was working merchandise, and Farb was circulating, checking for safety and to help the runners. The volunteer coordinators were nowhere to be seen. Somehow, the volunteers made it to their stations. I actually think it was Farb who told them where to go.

The beginning of the race meant Robb was explaining rules to the ultra runners himself. At one point there were some technical difficulties with the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner, and Robb immediately came up with the solution of a moment of silence, but the team was able to get the problem fixed right away. When the elite runners were up in the minutes following, Robb made the announcements for them, and then went immediately to the Gibbons obstacle.

The Course

FIT Start

The start line was placed on the bottom of a discrete hill, that led right away into a sharp curve on a flatter surface. Some volunteers were sitting at a picnic table,  giving words of encouragement before the first climb was coming. After you made your second turn, roughly 300 meters into the race (by my calculation, which is not an exact measurement in the slightest), it was alright time to ascend the first climb of the day.

The first ascend, although rocky, isn’t a terribly long one. As long as you can keep your feet moving, you’ll be up in no time. At the top of the hill, the course veers to the left, to reach a rockier peak. While Robb and I marked the course several days prior, he showed me part of the mountain that was not on the course. Although the course veers left, to the right, there is quite a view. F.I.T Challenge is held at Diamond Hill Park, and the first climb is, well, Diamond Hill. The top of the hill contains a marvelous view. This section of the park had previously been a part of the course, but after receiving some feedback on the descent, that portion had been removed.

After you continue going up the hill and through some rocky areas, you eventually hit a downhill. The downhill is also home to the first obstacle: the low crawl.

Low crawls can be interesting because there are a lot of different ways that crawls can be established in a course. The F.I.T. Challenge team chose to take a bungee-like material and wrap it around the surrounding trees. Although the bungee material was strapped on fairly low to the ground, the give of the cord made the obstacle doable for athletes of all sizes.

FIT Low Crawl

Following the downhill was a nice, flat run. Initially, the terrain was slightly rocky, with a two to three-person width. Then there was a simple cargo net climb that was fairly sturdy. Greeting runners afterward was an overgrown single person track. The ground here split in certain areas, adding some tricky footing on a trail that otherwise would have been relatively simple. Coming up soon were the first looks at the major obstacles.

Once you came out of the woods, there was an inverted ladder-type wall. There was a volunteer when I ran through, and I imagine she was there the majority of the run as well. Following that was the opportunity to run through a circle of trees, right into the rope climb. It was a short rope with several knots in it, making it a less than difficult rope. Underneath the rope was squishy, F.I.T. branded safety pads. Once you turned around, it was right to the pegboards. The pegboards slightly varied in height, and athletes were allowed to choose whichever one fit their comfort accordingly. Robb informed me a few days prior that athletes are allowed to wrap their legs around the tree for support.

FIT Pegs

A few more steps in the woods led athletes to the monkey cargo net. I had never seen one of these before coming to F.I.T. Many athletes began their attempt through this obstacle using an inverted-crawl-type method, while others attempted to monkey through. However, to monkey through was slow and taxing on grip, so many who began using that method did not follow through for the duration of the obstacle. Next up was the Gibbons Rig.

FIT Monkey Cargo

 

FIT Monkey Cargo 2

The Gibbons Rig contained a few different elements. The first one obviously, the Gibbons’ brackets. On the far right lanes, there were 6 brackets, separated by 3 feet each. The middle lanes contained 9 gibbons brackets, each 2 feet apart. The final lane on the left was just monkey bars. Following the gibbons (or monkey bars, depending on what you chose), there was another monkey bar, and then a cargo net to go up and over.

FIT Gibbons

Originally, when the rules were set, the elites were required to complete the side on the far right. Then, the rules changed so that the elite women could choose which lane they wanted to complete. And then the rules changed again, saying that both male and females could choose whichever Gibbons lane they wanted to complete. Robb was mandating the obstacle and made those calls based on feedback he received from athletes. The issue with this was that the volunteer coordinators failed to relay the message to their volunteers as well, so when the volunteers who were present were asked what to do, the information was not consistent.

Following the Gibbons Rig was an extremely dry slip wall. I wore my VJ shoes and was able to run all the way up easily. The slip wall originally had crooked steps on the back, but the day before the race, it drove the build team so crazy that they re-did it. (F.I.T. crew please forgive me for using this picture…I did not take another one after it was adjusted! ) Immediately after that was a tunnel crawl.

FIT Slip

Twisted tape made you think that the Destroyer  2.0 was coming up next, but it was actually a series of over/under/through walls. Following was another shorter ascend into the woods.

Running through some rocky terrain led athletes into their next obstacle: the first ladder wall. It was built very sturdily into the trees and did not seem to cause athletes many issues. Follow the downhill and you will reach the second ladder wall as well as a two-sided vertical cargo net. A series of volunteers waited at this area to greet athletes. Following that and you met face to face with a relatively tall Irish table.

After working through several more areas where you could actually run, you finally winded your way back to the Destroyer 2.0. Many of the elite runners had a difficult time, not with the “destroyer” portion of the obstacle, but the tires at the end. The tires were still a little slick from the morning dew. Following the destroyer was a run up a hill, with wreck bags at the bottom. Both men and women were expected to carry the 25 lb bag. People could grab a second bag if they didn’t feel like 25 lbs was heavy enough.

The interesting piece of the wreck bag carry was that, not only did you have to carry it up a hill (because let’s face it, usually when we see wreck bags, we can expect to see hills), but you had to carry it over F.I.T.’s teeter-totter obstacle as well. Elite athletes had to carry it with them over the obstacle. Open wavers, Ultras, and Multi-lappers did not. Then, it was up the hill, down the hill, a turn to the right, and already time to put the bag back in the pile.

Then, it was time to go over two tire hurdles (also seen in other races as Rolling Thunder) and on to the floating walls. The floating walls that were in the woods here were the shorter walls, with the back facing toward the runners. People could climb the ladder on the back of the wall to scale the obstacle. But, when athletes made it to the top and were turning their way down the other side, the wall turned horizontally with them. Very scary, but a unique and exciting take on a standard wall.

FIT Rolling Thunder

Then it was time for more running in the woods. This new trail looped you to the backside of where the herd of volunteers was located earlier, and runners were greeted with another tilting floating wall. This time, the wall was taller (I’m short and my perception of height isn’t always perfect,) and if I had to guess, I would assume it was 7 feet. Unlike the other floating wall, this one had the wall side facing you, so unless you were confident in your jump, it was more difficult to get to the other side.

More running later, and there was a cargo net climb. The net on this cargo shifted with movement, so competitors going through this obstacle had to slow it down to ensure safety. Luckily, the camaraderie of this race is outstanding, and many of the contestants were willing to hold it still for the next person.

Many more rocks later, and you came across the “OS” hill. Unlike the other climbs of the day, this hill was going down. The dirt on this hill, with the mixture of its trees and rocks descending down, will make you realize why people call it the “OS hill” really quickly! There was a sharp turn at the bottom and a little bit more running until the trail opened up and you could see the last two obstacles.

Next up: the Devil’s Playground. Man, this is one that I had been thrilled to try for ages. Although it looks like a shorter version of the Stairway to Heaven from Conquer the Gauntlet, this Full Potential Obstacles creation certainly is not. What makes this obstacle difficult is one, you have to start from almost sitting, and also, in between using the planks to grab, you have to alternate your hands onto the bar that is holding the plank as well. It is an extremely difficult obstacle, but one that will certainly keep your training on your toes…and completely humble you if you haven’t.

FIT Devil

The Devil’s Playground was the appetizer for Full Potential’s first award-winning obstacle, the Destroyer, and then it was on to the finish.

FIT Destroyer

Breakdown/Other Race Day Shenanigans

Afterward, I noticed how everyone on the crew was kind of scattered. I didn’t see many of anyone else until it was time to come to other obstacles. The only person I had seen during that time was Larry posted at Devil’s Playground, eagerly waiting to tell people that they could not use their feet while climbing up. Once the top finishers came, Robb and Farb were waiting at the finish line to distribute medals.

At the end of the day, there were several different media sources who were there looking to get attention. Unfortunately, some of the people who were there were looking to cause some trouble. At one point I saw Robb being interviewed by someone and the interviewer said while recording Robb’s response, “a lot of people didn’t like the layout of the course, because they said the trees made it feel like heat was being trapped, what do you have to say to that?” Let me tell you, I was on that course. I was on site all day, and I spoke with many participants and volunteers. Not a single person actually said that. It was just an instance of someone trying to cause problems.

The breakdown began that afternoon, and ultra lapping competitors were told that they were then having to do obstacle-free laps at 2:30. But, there was another problem. Originally, the ultras were told they were not going to have to start obstacle-free laps until 3:00. During the race, some people went around told athletes obstacle-free laps started at 2:00. Someone else said that the obstacle-free laps started at 2:30. Regardless of who said what, nobody said anything to the volunteers about what time the obstacle-free laps started. So, when runners came through and started asking whether or not they needed to complete obstacles, they weren’t sure.

I notified Robb right away, and he let the substitute volunteer coordinator know so the message could be passed on. But then, another problem came. Some of the volunteers were told to take down some of the course markings. They started taking down ALL of the course markings…even though there were runners still on course. Luckily, at this point, the runners who were on course had been on course for 8 hours and were relatively familiar with where they needed to go. Some were not. A few runners claimed to have gone off course. Some used that in order to cut the course significantly.

The breakdown of many of the other obstacles was fantastic. A group of recruits from a local army base came and were incredibly willing to help. Many of the volunteers who had signed up to help with breakdown left early on in the day, and never came to work their volunteer shift. After Jen’s suggestions, the volunteers who did not show up for their volunteer shift were sent a bill for their race.

The breakdown of obstacles with Larry was excellent. If I could recommend to a race company to use Full Potential Obstacles, I would not just on the fact that his obstacles are great, but the breakdown of those obstacles is quick and painless as well. He and Ginger have a system that is unbeatable.

Lessons Learned

From working with Robb for the last several days, I learned a lot about putting on a race.

One, I learned how important it is to have built connections in your area. Robb had made connections with local printing companies, the parks, and rec department, and gyms in the area, just to name a few. I don’t think that Robb would have the success that did if he had not built connections. The connections he built are important also because they are a reflection of the job that he has put in. I know that those connections would not be as strong if he was not a strong leader.

Two, I learned it is important to have a strong team. I know that F.I.T. is often identified as Robb’s creation, and although it is primarily Robb’s, Farb, Jen, and the Coopers are phenomenal at filling in the pieces and putting it all together. Not only that, but there are people there who celebrate the victories with you, and can help bring you back up when you feel like things aren’t going the way you imagined they would. Also, I know that the un-successes could have been prevented with a stronger volunteer coordinator, and I am looking forward to more F.I.T. adventures where the entire team will be together.

Three, I learned just how important it is to build a community involving your event. 100s of people were asked during this event what their favorite part about the race is, and the first thing that all of them said was that it was because the community was so kind and loving. You are not going to have the same feel at large races. Even though the course is exceedingly challenging, people find a way to bond over this event time after time… to the point where they feel as though they all have very personal relationships with Robb.

I learned how important it is to have good volunteers. Because a community like this is so in love with the event, there were several good volunteers who were excited to be a part of the event. Seeing how helpful the Army Recruits were was really encouraging. Additionally, because they were so thrilled to bring such a large group and get to be helpful. The participants in that event are going to have really strong leadership skills from continuing to come and give up their time to be a part of a community event so willingly.

Lastly, I confirmed my belief that directing a race, while working full-time is really challenging. All of the people who put on F.I.T. are those who give up so much of their time so that they can build something that unites a group of people while giving them an experience they’ll never forget. The fact that these people can do so much and still be able to unite a group the way that they do is pretty damn inspiring.

So, if you have heard about F.I.T. Challenge and you’re not sure if it lives up to the hype, take my word for it, it does. It pairs unique obstacles with interesting terrain, and to add a cherry on top, a supportive community. It is definitely one to mark off on your bucket list!

FIT Podium

Top finishers of single-lap elite wave:

Men:

1st-Jarrett Newby

2nd-Jeremy Goncalves

3rd- Javier Gutierrez

Women:

1st-Cassandra Ohman

2nd-Jennifer Dowd

3rd-Kristen Cincotti

 

Conquer The Gauntlet – Continuum

Brand new this year Conquer The Gauntlet has added a multi-lap competitive race format to their events that they call the CONTINUUM.  Being a fan of the difficulty of CTG courses and always looking to push myself further I decided to sign up for this Suffer-Fest when CTG came through my home state of Iowa.  If you’ve never done CTG before they are known for their tough obstacles consisting of a lot of hanging grip obstacles, including their 98% failure rated Pegatron.  One lap of this 4-mile 25 obstacle course is hard enough so I knew doing multiple laps was going to be intense.

What is the Continuum?

CTG has always been a “Bands Not Burpees” race series, requiring 100% obstacle completion to be considered for a podium or ranking for OCRWC.  The Continuum, however, is what I will call a “Bands AND Burpees” race, requiring competitors to complete all but the 4 hardest obstacles to be considered for the podium.  The 4 obstacles you could fail are all major hanging grip obstacles; Pegatron, Stairway to Heaven, Tarzan Swing and Cliffhanger.  If you failed any of these you could do 15 Atlas burpees AND 15 Thrusters (12 for Women), each using a 20lb medicine ball for the weight.

CTG_Continuum_Penalty

The Race

As a continuum competitor, we started with the Elite wave first thing in the morning (you are running the Elite race as well as Continuum). The morning had brought a small amount of rain to the course softening up the ground and slicking down some of the obstacles.  There was a good half-mile run up to the first obstacle giving people time to space out a bit, though there were some bottlenecks at the 2 creek crossings.  Feelings were riding high through the first obstacles as everyone was flying through the pole traverse, slip wall and A-frame cargo.  At a mile and a half, the first Burpeeable obstacle came up, The Tarzan swing. A rig of alternating handholds (including vertical pipes, ropes, rings, and a steering wheel?!) attached to ropes.  Most were quickly through this. The real struggles didn’t begin until after mile 3, the last mile, “The Gauntlet”.  It started with Stairway to heaven which had been made slick by the morning rain, then a short run to Z-beam which gave your arms a break while making sure your core was nice and “warmed up” for the punishing, soul-crushing Pegatron which is a total upper body killer whether it takes you 1 try or 10.

CTG_Continuum_Walls

A quick run through a tube and crawl under some wire brought you to the Walls of Furry usually 5 Eight-foot walls back to back but it was only 3 walls this year, at first I was upset that the number was reduced but by my final lap I was just fine with it.  Then straight to the Cliffhanger monkey bars and a splash through Torpedo and lap 1 was over.

Lap 2

This is where the real race began. I shouted my Bib number to the volunteer at the finish line to record my lap time (there were no timing chips) and a quick stop at the pit area for continuum racers to change out my water bottle and I was off on lap 2.  The pit area was just a 6×6 canopy where racers could put coolers or bags, etc with gear for their multiple laps.

After completing lap 1 my spirits were high though I knew I had spent too much time at Pegatron and was behind where I wanted to be.  I knew that speed was necessary but endurance was going to be the key factor and I was confident in my endurance.  Lap 2 went amazing up until just before the final brutal Mile.  At Smooth Criminal on lap 1, I had smashed my shin on the corner of the platform on the final jump opening up a nice cut and giant goose egg bruise.  So on lap 2, I chose a different lane only to do the same thing to the same spot on my shin opening another big scrape and swelling my entire lower shin. Thankfully I was able to hold on with one arm and make it to the bell.

CTG_Continuum_Criminal

This was the first time I walked; I didn’t want to walk at all coming into the race but this was not fun.  The heavy carry was shortly after this which gave me a good excuse to slow down and let the Tylenol I took pre-race ease the pain.  I was then able to pick it up and run to Stairway to Heaven which was still slick and I fell on the last step twice.  It was time to set pride aside and do some burpees and thrusters.  (I have to say I’ll take 30 normal burpees over 15 atlas burpees and 15 med ball thrusters any day.  The added 20 lbs aren’t much at first but it starts to drag you down and works both your legs and your upper body far more than the normal spartan penalty.)  Pegatron only got 1 good effort out of me before I turned to the burpees to save time and precious grip strength.  Thankfully Cliffhanger was still a quick 1 try go for me and lap 2 was in the books a bit faster than lap 1.

CTG_Continuum_Barrells

Lap 3

Lap 3 began the same as lap 2 screaming “69” (my Bib, and favorite number), grabbing a new water bottle and some more Gu and running off feeling pretty decent.  It was lap 3 that things started getting difficult.  The Tarzan Swing was still a quick 1 try pass, but it was the mandatory obstacles that became the problem.  Penalties on Stairway and Pegatron were foregone conclusions but More Cowbell (rope climb) could not be bypassed.  After so many people had gone through, the ropes were covered in mud and a big jump was required to get high enough to have a decent grip on the rope.  Lap 3 ended with multiple falls on Cliffhanger, an obstacle I thought I would never fail.

CTG_Continuum_Cliffhanger

Lap 4

After my failure on cliffhanger, I didn’t feel great but exchanged my water got more Gu and started Lap 4 alone.  On all the other laps I was either being passed by elites or passing open runners, now the trails were silent save for my thoughts (and random weird songs I’d sing).  The mandatory obstacles became more difficult.  Belly of the Beast an underside cargo net climb was exhausting.  Great Wall of America a 12-foot wall with no ropes and only the support braces and 2x4s at 4 and 8ft was a scary contortion act of sheer will power to get over. Sitting atop the wall I knew this would be my final lap.

CTG_Continuum_Belly

On the last mile, I caught up to the final wave of the day.  It was so nice to be with people again giving and getting encouragement.  Though I knew I would be doing many burpees my spirits were lifted and my resolve strengthened.  I hit the water on Stairway, burpees. I dropped instantly on Pegatron, burpees. Cliffhanger I wanted it so bad but my grip was gone burpees.  I jogged into the pit “69!” looked at my watch 4:48.  The rules for Continuum state that you have 5 hours to start your last lap.  I talked to the volunteer keeping the times and was told I was in 3rd place but there was one other person on their 4th lap.  I exchanged my water one last time got more Gu and waited to see if 4th place was going to make it in the next 12 minutes and challenge me to one more lap.  Thankfully that did not happen.

CTG_Continuum_Podium

All the Extras

In addition to the extra laps you get to run, competitors received a nice big Continuum medal and a wrist band.  You also got a giant bib vest similar to what you get at a Toughest Mudder event except that these were made out of normal paper bib material.  I only saw two people actually wearing them on course, everyone else chose instead to go with the far less cumbersome Sharpie on the skin style.

CTG_Continuum_Stairway_Bib

Room for Improvement

The one issue I found most disappointing, was the lack of professional photographers.  On course I only noticed two people shooting photos.  Both of which were not using SLR cameras and seemed to just be volunteers.  While going through the race days photos the lack of pro photogs was apparent in the quality.  The volunteer at Smooth Criminal while not a professional photographer was one of the most enthusiastic and positive volunteers I’ve ever encountered so kudos to him.  Unfortunately, none of the shots he was taking were uploaded to the race day picture page.  ☹

I think my only critique of the continuum race itself would be a need for better prize money for competitors.  The top male and top female each get a custom wooden plaque (which is nice) and $100, which is less than the cost of entry for the continuum (unless you sign up a year in advance) Though this hasn’t really been a problem yet as every winner in the 3 races so far has been a CTG Pro Team member, and has thus raced for free.  I do think more people would be willing to compete if they at least got a free race out of winning.  It would be nice for 2nd and 3rd place to receive some type of award, a special plaque or medal, or even just some CTG swag.

Final Thoughts

I’m very glad to see another company offering a multi-lap event that is competitive, as there are so few out there, we really need more of this.  Would I do this race again? Hell yes, I’d do it again. Taking the challenge of a regular Conquer the Gauntlet course and multiplying by 4 was a great challenge.  If you like to do Spartan Beasts but want some more damn obstacles, here you go.  One of my favorite parts of this race, which make it unique, was the mandatory obstacles which became harder and harder each time and had the potential to stop your race.  But my favorite thing was being able to run with members of my team.  As a competitive runner, I don’t get to see my team that often on course and doing multiple laps brought the opportunity to give and receive encouragement to/from all my open wave team members.  Thank you.

CTG_Continuum_Smile

Photos Courtesy of: Conquer the Gauntlet and Suzanne Peer

Spartan Race Palmerton Super and Sprint Weekend 2019

Spartan-Super-Palmerton-Course-Section

 

“This is insane!” 

“What the f***?!” 

“You’d think they’d run out of hills!” 

 

These are just a few of the things I heard while out on the course this weekend during Spartan’s Super and Sprint weekend at Blue Mountain Resort in Palmerton, PA. If you’re new to Spartan Race or OCR, you may have even heard how challenging Palmerton is. Year after year, regardless of course design, the slopes at Blue Mountain are sure to remind you just how punishing they are. 

Spartan-Palmerton-Start-Line

Parking and Festival

As you pull into the parking area, you get a good look at just how large of a mountain you’ll have to deal with. Luckily, all parking is on-site, which means no shuttles! This is a big plus for a lot of people as shuttle lines are known to move slowly.

 

This year they did switch up the festival a bit, compared to previous races at Blue. The new setup flowed a lot nicer and even left them room for a large merchandise tent. Usually, the merch is just back behind volunteers and staff who are up in a trailer. They still were, but adding to it was a large open area with more shirts and gear, including shoes and clearance items.

 

Once through the tent, it was your pretty standard Spartan festival area. Changing tents were off to the side with a row of hoses. The food and beer tents were nearby, along with a row of vendors. Something a bit new was that Spartan had a section open for some obstacle lessons and tips. 

Spartan-Palmerton-View-From-The-Top

The Sprint

I know the Sprint was Sunday and the Super was Saturday, but we’re going to work backward. Palmerton’s Sprint hit just about 3.6 miles, which is on the shorter side for a Spartan Sprint. Just because it was under 4 miles, though, doesn’t mean it was easy.  In that 3.6 miles, they managed to add in over 1,400 feet of ascent. Over 1,000 of that was in the first mile alone. 

 

The course was pretty much straight up the hill, down and up a double black diamond for the Sandbag Carry, a few obstacles at the top, then back down for the rest. 

Spartan-Palmerton-Sandbag-Carry

Sprint Obstacles

If you just ran the Sprint on Sunday, unfortunately, you didn’t get to try the new obstacles for 2019. This is only the second Sprint I’ve run this year (March – Greek Peak), but much like the first, they stuck to the classics.

 

During the one-mile climb to the top, the only obstacles were Hurdles and Overwalls, which is pretty standard. After the Sandbag Carry, there was a mini-gauntlet with Z-Walls, Atlas Carry, Rakuten Rope Climb and Monkey Bars all at the peak. During the descent, the only obstacle was the Inverted Wall. Then, toward the bottom, you had standards like the cargo nets, Spear Throw, Bucket Brigade, and Barbed Wire Crawl. 

 

As with past years at Palmerton, there was a Water Crossing, though it was more of an out and back, rather than crossing as they used to do. Apehanger, an obstacle at very few venues, was in the Super but left out of the Sprint.

 

I know Spartan wants to use the Sprint as the gateway to more races, so maybe they are continuing to make them a little more basic as to not scare newcomers away. Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing Apehanger, a rig with more than just rings, or some brand new obstacles.

The Super

The Super on Saturday was almost 5 miles longer than the Sprint, coming in around 8.25 miles. The total ascent was over three times as much as the Sprint, forcing racers to climb over 3,100 feet. 

 

Usually, the longer races include everything in the shorter race, with one extra area. Not this year at Palmerton. There were three extra parts on the course for the Super versus the Sprint. And Spartan didn’t waste any time. They deviated just over a mile into the race, right after Z-Walls, when runners thought they were in for a nice break back down the hill. 

 

Instead, the downs were followed by several steep ups along the way. Let me put it to you this way, the first steep climb up took almost exactly one mile, and had over 1,000 feet of ascent. By the time racers reached the bottom, they had hit almost 3.5 miles and faced over 2,000 feet of ascent. 

Spartan-Palmerton-Hercules-Hoist

Super Obstacles 

On the Super course, runners got a look at several new obstacles, including Pipe Lair, The Box, and Beater. Olympus and Twister are two other obstacles that had been included in most Sprints but were only in the Super course. 

 

The Rakuten Multi-Rig consisted of several rings, a bar, then more rings before the bell. I’ve seen ropes in the past, but they were left at home for Palmerton. The Luminox Hercules Hoist was in both races and at a heavier weight than if it were just for a Sprint alone. It was super late in the race and sat at the bottom of a muddy hill, making it feel even heavier. 


One thing that stuck out to me about the obstacles, overall, was the amount of grip needed. A lot of times, they leave a couple grip heavy obstacles out, but they all made an appearance in Palmerton. 

Spartan-Mountain-Series-Super-Medal

The Medals

Since Palmerton is part of the Spartan Mountain Series, both Sprint and Super finishers received a Mountain Series Medal. It’s probably one of the best looking medals I’ve seen Spartan dish out. The mountains on this year’s Mountain Series medals stand out and really make the 2019 medal blow away the 2018 medal. 

 

Honestly, I don’t think it’d be a bad idea for Spartan to include some homage to the Mountain Series on the Trifecta medals as well. If you finish the Palmerton Super and Sprint, plus the Killington Beast, that is one tough Trifecta. Compare that to running some of the more flat courses to get your Trifecta and it feels like the mountain courses should get some extra love. 

 

 

Photo Credit: Spartan Race, The Author

Spartan Dallas Stadium Race 2019

Spartan Dallas Stadium Race 2019

A Spectacle of Competition

On June 22, 2019 Spartan held their annual Dallas AT&T Stadium (Stadion) race.  The grand spectacle of the event and the huge turnout left this Spartan with a very different feeling than normal.  This year being my first Stadium Race, I didn’t know what to expect. What I walked away with was a great experience and a newfound love for the short, intense ride that is the Spartan Stadion.

As stated, this was my first Stadium race.   I cannot speak in comparison to previous Stadium races in any state, let alone Texas.  I can say that Spartan did what I feel their goal should be, and that’s created a course full of fun and challenge in order to both attract and bring back new participants who may have never even thought of participating in a Stadium race.

Are You Not Entertained

Much like the Greek namesake (Stadion stems from the Greek Stade) from the point racers walk into the stadium they feel as if they are preparing for a competition of epic proportions.  From the layout of the outside portions of the course, to the set up of vendors, to the display of obstacles on the field, to the imagery on the Jumbotron I felt as if I were in a modern version of some type of Ancient Greek Games.  For the first time in a long time, Spartan made me feel that twinge of excitement that so many feel on their very first race day. The festival area was full of fun both outside and in, and there were plenty of primo areas for spectators to either sit in the stands or walk on the turf to see the competition up close.

3…2….1….GO!

Speaking of the competition, start-up went very well for my age group.  We were carefully broken up into waves of 15 in order to prevent congestion on the short course especially since the assault bike would be our first obstacle.  The one and only Yancy Culp explained the rules of his new Ram Roller Burpee obstacle to us quite fluently. We were allowed to ask any questions, and released on a 3..2…1… GO!  Even without brush and mud, there’s still potential to get lost in a stadium, but Spartan did a great job, of course, marking throughout.

Clear Instruction (every time please)

My only complaint would be some volunteers at some stations assuming we knew what to do at every station,  Many stadium obstacles are quite different, and if you’ve never done them, you need instruction. For example, at the heavy jump rope.  I had to ask how many, to which I was told 15. I commenced jumping, but I wasn’t told until after I had already completed 5 jumps that I had to do them with a red band around my feet (which made no difference in my jumping ability.)

The same applies to the plank/push-up walk. When I saw this small wheeled device, I had no idea how to proceed and I had to ask a volunteer exactly what to do. When elite and age group competitors are in race mode, their minds are on moving forward. I know it may be monotonous, but volunteers need to continually repeat the instruction.

Obstacles

On the note of the obstacles, the course layout and variety of obstacles were extremely pleasing. I summed this race up to many as “lots of great obstacles punctuated by stairs.” From pipe lair to the balance beam, to the jerry can carry all of the obstacles were strategically placed and very well lain out and executed. The course designers did a great job placing obstacles like the jerry can carry, rope climb, box jumps, and the new ram roller burpee pit back to back in order to test participants grip and stamina right to the end.

For All to See

Many of these obstacles sat on the stadium floor and followed by the ring rig and the gauntlet. This made for the most spectator-friendly venue I have personally ever seen at a Spartan Race. Keep in mind this was my first stadium race, but I could see that Spartan put a lot of work into making it an exceptional event.

I would like to take a moment to discuss the Stadium exclusive obstacles. The assault bike station was first and is something that could EASILY cause a huge cluster. Spartan did a great job with each bike preset to a 15 calorie countdown and ready to go. Breaking up the waves into 15 at a time allowed everyone to easily find a bike. I also think it was wise to make this the first obstacle. It went much smoother than I anticipated.

How Strict are We Talking?

The next exclusive was the heavy rope which I enjoyed, but simply wish for better volunteer participation. Next came the jerry can carry up the parking ramp and back which I found to tax a quite different type of grip given the small handle holes. I enjoyed this one. The next exclusive was box jumps. My only qualm here is that I feel it needs to be made clear if full extension (i.e. standing up completely erect) is necessary as it is in a CrossFit competition. I saw many age group competitors performing without this full extension which allows for a much quicker jump. 

A Great Ending

Yancy’s Ram Roller burpee pit seemed to go off without a hitch and I found it a welcome addition. The men had to perform a burpee with the 55-pound roller and extend it fully overhead. The women used a 35. The reps were 15 for elites and age group and 10 for open racers. The roller offers a slightly different movement than a sandbag burpee because of how rigid it is. I found this to do a great job of sapping any leftover oxygen or energy. I believe it is a great challenge and should stay in the repertoire for future races.

After the race was over, there was quite a bit to do in the festival area both inside and outside. Spartan organized the kid’s races well. Booths had plenty to do even if they were just being sneaky about getting your email. The Spartan merchandise tent ran very well and transactions flowed professionally and expediently.

Excellent Use of a Great Venue

These Stadium races are something that Spartan has exclusivity with. They have the wallet and pull to rent out these stadiums.  It is wise of them to use that to their advantage by creating an excellent event. They pull in racers who want to try something new, or who just don’t like mud. They can also bring in sports fans who just want to run in the stadium. This event was a prime example of Spartan doing what they do best.

The elite waves went without a hitch from what I could tell. Ryan Kent and others seemed quite pleased with the level of difficulty brought on by this race. At the end of the day, if the elites are happy and the gen pop are it has been quite a successful event.

http://www.spartanrace.com

 

Muddy Princess – Atlanta – June 2, 2019


The Muddy Princess is a relatively new race in the OCR world. This race could fill the void for a female-centric race since Dirty Girl closed for business.

The lead up to the race was filled with workout suggestions, vendor promos, and race day info. The pre-race communication was second to none. There were also two different ways that you could sign up. There was a regular entry, which included a goody bag and a medal. VIP allowed you to get entry into a VIP area, multiple laps, and a t-shirt.

The race was held at the tried and true Georgia International Horse Park on June 2nd. This is the location for many an OCR (Spartan, Rugged Maniac, etc.). The festival area was about average with several food trucks, face painting,


The chute was standard fare, but also had an emcee who went through exercises so the corral could warm up. My group left in the 9 am corral and it was pretty crowded. This was an issue throughout the race. More on that later.

The actual race was a 5k with 18 obstacles. The premise is that a newbie and an experienced woman could participate and also have a good time. The Horse Park does allow for some flat land as well as some fun hills. There is a lot of tree cover, so it was mostly cool. I raced with my normal OCR crew. We all have at least 10 races under our belts and brought along two little girls who have also raced before. We all felt comfortable with completing this race.

 


The first obstacle was two mud pits. This was the first area of backup. People were jumping in and a lot of people were pushed over or down into the mud. The volunteer didn’t do much for crowd control.

 

After that, there were some standard obstacles: a balance beam, seesaw, net and crawls, a few wall climbs, a tire climb, and more mud! If you want mud, this is the race for you. There were a lot of familiar obstacles from other races. One was the rolling hills that Spartan uses. It was the same with the exception of the actual dunk wall. Fenced In (with netting over the mud pit versus bars) and Grey Rug from Rugged also made an appearance. The spacing between the obstacles was pretty good. There was an opportunity for there to be a few more before the finish line. There was a crossing with chain links that was difficult but fun. There were lots of encouraging signs also dotted throughout the course.


The volunteers really kept you going with a lot of encouragement and help. One interesting fact was that the reality show, “The 7 Little Johnstons” was shooting an episode. Elizabeth is a fast runner! She did a phenomenal job. The filming did make it a bit awkward at times as they had to film as well as participate. The participants largely ran around them or waited as they filmed. The film crew was never in the way. It did get a bit frustrating when a Muddy Princess volunteer coordinator body blocked me from using an obstacle and told me I had to wait five minutes so they could film. Needless to say, there were a few words back and forth.

It was nice to have friends and family at the last obstacle before you made it to the finish. The medal was standard and the goodie bag had some interesting items that varied from protein shakes to feminine products. The latter was new to me, lol!

I think that this race could have a bright future. From what I heard, this race is relatively new to the U.S. and they are testing the waters. I would do this race again given a few things:

  • Clear signs for the obstacles – either name the obstacle or obstacle number. There was a lot of confusion among the participants as to how many obstacles were on the course.
  • Clear mile markers.
  •  A more organized registration in the festival area. The VIP line was just as crowded as general. I actually finished my registration before the VIPs did.
  • The rinse off station was actually nice and had tall walls to change clothes, however, the water pressure was slow.
  • The price point was a bit high. I think offering both VIP and general entries by $10 would allow more people to possibly sign up.
  • Some of the staff had issues with interacting with the participants. I had two run-ins with one and I also heard of a few other people having a similar interaction with the same person. I hope this was just a one-off and not indicative of how the race is managed.

 

Could this be the next Dirty Girl? Yes, it could if some of the recommendations were implemented. The best part about female races is the comradery. You get the same in other OCRs but with women only it’s different. The volunteers and participants were amazing in how they supported each other with words, hugs, high fives, and a shoulder or leg if necessary. I would most certainly do this race again in a different location just to see if there are any differences.

Photo Credit:

Sean White