Rugged Maniac Northern California: A Formula For Fun

Rugged Maniac has certainly always stuck to a formula of fun and there was no shortage of that in NorCal on Saturday. Race day, May 26th, started out a little colder than a typical day in the east bay. It had been raining the day before the race and left the grounds slightly damp. This didn’t deter any of the soon to be runners as they filed into the venue from the nearby parking lot. The first waves of the day started off with a drizzle and cool breeze. After a while, the sun broke through the clouds, making for a warm but comfortable afternoon.
Rugged Maniac The Accelerator 3.0
As I entered the festival area I was greeted by music and dancing creating the vibe of walking into a big party. Multiple prime food trucks and vendor tents lead me in towards the main stage where competitions were held throughout the day to entertain the crowd. Guests were encouraged to participate in pie eating, beer holding and pull up competitions. For those not there for the race but to support their friends and family, the event offered free entry to the festivities. This made for a real spectator friendly event with something for everyone.
Rugged Maniac Beer Holding Contest
The festival area was set beside the start and finish line and was overlooked by the grand finale of obstacles, Mount Maniac. This mammoth is actually made up of two back to back obstacles, the Warped Wall and Accelerator. In order to climb this beast, you must first run up a quarter pipe and then reach out for some helpings hands. This is a great opportunity for some teamwork because it is customary to then turn and be the helping hand for others. This obstacle was the pinnacle of the race and it caused many people to pause before trying to complete it. The Accelerator, an enormous inflatable slide, was built off the back of the Warped Wall taking participants even higher before they came barreling down at breathtaking speed for a photo finish.
Rugged Maniac The Warped Wall
I caught up with a couple at the finish line as they were receiving their medals and looking extremely happy. They introduced themselves as Tim and Renee Hennessy and said they had loved the course. They weren’t as cold at the finish line as they expected but that might have had to do with an obstacle malfunction at the Accelerator. For a portion of the day participants were asked to climb off the Warped Wall and go around to the finish line. This left them dry at the end of the race instead of having the traditional dunk in the water at the end.
Rugged Maniac Tim and Renee Hennessy
Overall it was a flat and fast course with terrain over both gravel and grass. The first mile and a half was mostly running but punctuated by some strength based obstacles like Sled Dog and Pull Your Weight. On the second half of the course the obstacles became grander. One such obstacle was the new fan favorite Off the Rails. Here participants were required to use their momentum to swing out over a pool of water while hanging from a small rope on a zip line and ring a bell. No matter how far out they were able to swing everyone ends up in the water which extended far past the bell.
Rugged Maniac Off the Rails
Over the 3-mile, 25 obstacle course, there was a fair share of inflatable obstacles that play up the element of fun. Most runners couldn’t help but stop and enjoy them, just like kids on a playground. I saw many people do exactly that on The Crag, a large inflated staircase with a top of pillars to crawl through. Even with the playfulness, Rugged Manic had options for the more serious participants too. They offered a competitive wave and Rugged Maniac X, multi-lap options.
Rugged Maniac The Crag
Just like my fellow participants- I found myself becoming more childlike as I ran, climbed, crawled, and bounced toward the finish line. It was over too soon and left me ready to sign up for another one.  Except, next time, I’ll be bringing a group to my next Rugged Maniac because it makes for a perfect introduction to the life of OCR.Rugged Maniac Finisher Medals

Frozen Fun on The Local Level: Beat The Bitter 5K

A Frozen Festival

North Liberty’s 3rd annual Beat the Bitter 5k-ish Obstacle Run took place on the frozen tundra of Penn Meadows Park.  200 people gathered to take on the course which was put together by the North Liberty Betterment Group as part of a week-long winter games festival, which included curling, outdoor ice skating, snowmen building contests, ice carving and more.  Free coffee and hot chocolate were provided to keep runners and spectators warm before and after the race.Beat_The_Bitter_Winners

The Course

The temperature was right around 30 degrees at the start of the race providing some freezing cold air in the lungs without too much bitter cold on the face.  The course was set up with racers running around the perimeter of the city park, doing 3 laps.  Obstacles were to be run on the first and third laps and no obstacles on the second lap, so as to avoid any bottlenecks at obstacles for competitive runners.  With 9 obstacles on each of the first and third laps, the race felt obstacle dense.  When you finished one obstacle you could see the next one coming up in front of you.  With a total of 18 obstacles, you got more than you would on a tough mudder 5k.  The obstacles weren’t as hard or as big as a tough mudder but for the $20 entry fee, you definitely got your money’s worth.Beat_The_Bitter_Tires

The course started with the polar potholes, a grid of shin-high 2x4s that you had to high step through, then moved onto a set of 3-foot walls, and quickly into a short crawl through a rather large irrigation tube.  The obstacles became more difficult at this point with a climb over a six-foot hay bale and under a low crawl then a series of strength obstacles.

Beat_The_Bitter_Heavy_Carry

The heavy carry I thought showed a lot of creativity on the part of the organizers, utilizing the resources they had.  You had to pick up a 40 lb large rubber parking stop and carry it down and back 100 meters.  They were decently heavy and slightly awkward to carry with them bouncing around in your arms or over your shoulder. Almost immediately after the carry was a tire flip followed by the “Everest Death Zone” a plywood A-frame you needed to climb over. Beat_The_Bitter_Everest

 

Not far off was the third strength obstacle in only 0.3 miles, the Iditarod pull.  A sled-pull made from kids snow sleds laden with sandbags that we had to pull like dogs.  After this gauntlet of muscle burners, my legs were on fire.  The final obstacle was a balance run on old light posts before running a 1-mile lap with no obstacles and then doing it all over again before finishing.

 

The Bling

Every Finisher received a customized Beat the Bitter medal and the top three men and women got winter headbands as well.Beat_The_Bitter_Bling

Race Local

For being a small event of 200 runners put on by a local community enrichment group in a small town in eastern Iowa, this race went beyond my expectations.  I am extremely happy to see small local events embracing obstacle course racing.  There are always a million and three different 5ks that this or that local charity put on but there is a growing number adding some obstacles and by doing so, adding more fun to the “fun run.”  I will definitely be coming back to do this race next year (and maybe learn how to curl).

 

Photos courtesy of Justin Smith and Beat the Bitter

Loki Run, Village Pillage

Down in the South of England – Thetford, Norfolk to be exact, there is a small company known as Loki Events. My friends and I came across them in our neverending search for virtual races; it’s fair to say that, upon finding them, the Loki Run virtual events are easily one of the most challenging & fun virtuals we’ve completed to date. So with that in mind when we saw that they had an actual event coming up, we took notice.

On Sunday, April 10th, 2016, they held a small, community-based obstacle race which they called the Village Pillage. Now as we were in the area for the first 2016 UK Spartan Sprint the day before we figured we should just make a race weekend and we signed up for it. The more mud the better, right?

With our small team, a mix of the Healthy Hibees & myself with my team RAW top, we had no idea what to be expecting. After an engaging Zumba warm up the individual runners took off for the midday start. The teams of four were held back to do a second warm up and we were then informed we had some extra challenges. This is where is gets interesting – the challenges were, throughout the course we had to carry two car tyres without letting them touch the ground (a lot trickier than it sounds) and more importantly, two raw eggs which had to be lovingly carried the full course – ever watched mighty ducks? I found myself repeating the mantra of “soft hands” throughout the race.

Loki-run-village-pillage-tyre-run

The tyres and the eggs made all of the obstacles a lot more interesting, but with a little team work we got there. The course was laid out at the back of the local high school and into the fields beyond. We started off with some standard obstacles, net crawls, tightrope crossing, inverted walls & some nice 6-ft walls. Also, some volunteers were dressed in sumo suits, (side note I need to stop telling people in those suits I’m going to rugby tackle them, some of them looked worried). Nearing the 1km mark, we broke free of the school grounds and ended up running through a wooded area. Time for another surprise. I can’t say I’ve ever come across a lucky dip obstacle before – ping pong balls in a bucket of water with a number written on each one. I drew no 26, so, at the next stopping point, we had 26 burpees at station one, then 26 squats at station two followed by 26 push-ups at station three.

Our next new obstacle experience was that of a slightly different nature, volunteers dressed up as sneaky ninjas playing a version of obstacle tag rugby. If they caught you, you could end up with 27 burpees, or 5 squats. The punishments varied; I think that depended on the person who caught you. We also had to swipe the tags from the ninja area.  So from the 5 ninja stations, we managed 4 tags & 3 punishments. It made for an interesting break in the 5k course. Emerging on the other side of the wooded area and we had pretty much circled back towards the start. Around 4km and we found the log carry slalom – a single log needed to be carried about this part of the course by two team members; so, with Egbert the egg in one hand and a log in the other we got it done. (Yes, I named my egg – and we also named the tyres). With the finish line in sight, our next obstacle was a mallet target throw, a lot easier than a Spartan spear throw that’s for sure. On to the final 10-ft wall and then a water slide under the very low to the ground finish line.

Loki-run-mallet-throwBoth eggs & tyres survived!

You could tell that this race was organised by a team who loves the OCR scene. The entire event had a large family type feeling towards it, with the extremely friendly marshals, enthusiastic race briefing and the overall atmosphere on the day. It seems that the race director has taken elements and obstacles from other events and combined them to bring a really great experience to the athletes. They may currently be a small company, but with the virtual races, promising race days and awesome bling I can see them becoming a company to watch out for.

Loki-run-village-pillage-team

Photo Credits: Geoff Herschell