TM Long Island 2017 Review & Team Spotlight: MUDCRO!

Tough-Mudder-LongIsland2017MudcroLeaders

MUDCRO

Running a world renowned badass race with one of the most badass teams on the planet, Sons of Mudarchy, or MUDCRO, for my first Tough Mudder ever was truly a one of a kind experience. Damn it feels good to be a gangst..errrr I mean mud runna. They also happen to be one of Tough Mudder’s favorite teams and the feeling is mutual. “Bleed orange” is a motto that many members of the Sons of Mudarchy like to say, and of course that means, “Run a Tough Mudder! It’s not as scary as you may think, especially with a team!”

The Sons of Mudarchy (MUDCRO) was born out of the love of the TV series, “Sons of Anarchy.” Edward Buonocore who is better known as “Papa Smurf” due to his patient demeanor, positive attitude, and his wickedly awesome Poseidon beard. His right-hand man and 2nd in command Gene Johnson and Matt Blakely first wore, “The Reaper” at a Tough Mudder event in Western NY in July of 2014.

This is where the similarities to the show end. There is no gun running (say yes to fun running instead kids!), drug dealing, pimping, murdering, or any other sketchiness going on. I make it sound awful but it truly is a riveting show, but I digress. MUDCRO is just a great bunch of mud running hooligans that want to squeeze every drop of happiness that life has to offer with no regrets and no what ifs.

Their primary goal was to run OCR events and have as much fun as possible. Along with the fun never stopping, MUDCRO has continued to grow here in the United States with chapters in NJ, Texas, Arizona, and the Badlands of SD. They also have a global reach with chapters in the U.K., Australia, Denmark, Germany, and Spain. The Sons have raised money and awareness for Cystic Fibrosis, our military, and T1D. They say that when you join MUDCRO you’re not just joining a team, you’re becoming part of a family.

Their teamwork and love show not only on the courses they grace with their presence but off the course as well. MUDCRO hosts and takes part in many other charitable events all throughout the year as one big happy family. It’s not all about racing or being a badass, a wannabe badass, weekend warriors, fun runners, and whatever else you may think about MUDCRO.

MUDCRO truly is what they affectionately call a “framily.” A cute mix of friend + family. Can’t choose your family? Now you can with a ‘framily.’

“So what does MUDCRO have to do with Tough Mudder, besides running the races?”

HISTORY OF SONS OF MUDARCHY

S.O.M was started when a couple of guys were looking for an identity for a team. While the T.V. show, “Sons of Anarchy” gave them the look and the value of brother and sisterhood, Tough Mudder provided the format and the spark for MUDCRO. They like to keep the core values of teamwork, camaraderie and the “no one left behind” mentality. To always have fun, remember to thank your volunteers, and to remember at one time we were those people on the course needing help and encouragement!

I’m sure some of you reading this have been helped by a MUDCRO team member when they were volunteering or racing at an event. On the course MUDCRO will help anyone who needs it. I have seen, and been a part of, Papa Smurf and the rest of what I like to call his “dysfunctionally functional village” as we helped each other over obstacles, while shouting words of encouragement and gratitude to the volunteers who sat or stood in the hot baking sun for hours in order for this event to happen. A heartfelt thank you goes out to all of the obstacle course racing volunteers worldwide. These events would probably be triple the price or they wouldn’t happen at all without you bunch, and we love and appreciate you for it.

Since 2014 MUDCRO has grown across the US, Europe, and Australia with each chapter keeping to those strong core values that have many racers wanting to don “The Reaper” on the course as well.  The founders just can’t help but smile when they think about doing their first Tough Mudder, to where the group known as the Sons of Mudarchy/MUDCRO is today.

While there are many teams, they just want to be the “Best Team on the Planet” by putting their money where their mouths are, the same motto as the Tough Mudder volunteers. Without Tough Mudder there might not have been a MUDCRO and that’s a sad thought to this racer and fellow MUDCRO member. I’m very proud to call myself a member of MUDCRO because of these wonderful people. Before experiencing running with MUDCRO firsthand, my husband and I just wanted to run our own race, be lone wolves together (I don’t know how that works either) and make a few friends along the way.

What a difference a great team can make to the mud running experience however, and I can see why Tough Mudder is a good training ground for those wanting to branch out a bit from other races that they like the most, such as another well-known race with never ending death marches, heavy carries like orange buckets full of rocks instead of Orange Kool-Aid, and insane terrain.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words and in this case, Tough Mudder’s obstacle named “Pyramid Scheme” which is the infamous slip wall where you need a team or to have another team temporarily adopt you (it is totally possible to run Tough Mudder alone or with a smaller group) is where MUDCRO’s teamwork really shined. Let’s just say that if we were on the NBC Spartan show, we would have won the slip wall. The camaraderie everyone from those that were anchors to those that were grabbers went off without a hitch. Beautiful job team MUDCRO, and this is truly an amazing team building obstacle.

There were a few obstacles that were, “lone wolf friendly” but to truly experience a Tough Mudder, bring your friends. As a matter of fact bring your friends to all of your races… because if you’re fun-running, it’s much more fun with a team. A true team, not just drive there together and ditch them on the course. That’s no fun.

One of the scariest obstacles that day was Kong, coming at you with a 15 feet high drop if you failed, no teammate can help you here and with rings not being my strong point at all. Let’s just say that you do get the wind knocked out of you when you hit the giant air mattress below. Tough Mudder still has not replied to me regarding why it wasn’t placed over the traditional water pit, but I do believe it’s due to New York state or venue restrictions about digging too deep. It’s probably the same reason that one of their signature obstacles called, “King of the Swingers” wasn’t at the Long Island venue. Falling into a giant air mattress is no fun so I need to work more on rings.

ToughMudderLongIsland2017Kong

A few people did say to me that running the Long Island course is like a Tough Mudder lite. For those that are going, “How can a TM be lite? Looks pretty scary to me.”

Yes, there were definitely some scary obstacles such as Kong, or torture obstacles like Electro shock, but other than that you had your slip walls, 2 of them including Everest 2.0 which now has the fitness option of a rope, much like Savage race’s Colossus. I truly appreciated this because I am not good at running up slip walls unless it involves a rope. The thought of bashing my head into the lip of the wall isn’t really appealing, and having teammates push you up is not the same. That kind of defeats the purpose of the slip wall in my opinion, so the addition of the rope is a great touch.

Tough-Mudder-Long-Island-2017-Everest-2

Speaking of fitness options, this is where Tough Mudder is great regarding obstacles. There are signs and lines for Tough Mudder Legionnaires at various obstacles, and a line for first timers where the obstacles were very challenging but nowhere as hard as the one on the Legionnaire line. No, you don’t have to be a Legionnaire to be in that line. They are just the same obstacle as the first timer side just modified to be harder. For example monkey bars instead of an inverted wall and then a climb up to a high platform on an obstacle called, “Reach around”.

Tough-Mudder-Long-Island-2017-Reach-Around

What is a Tough Mudder Legionnaire? It’s when you run 2 Tough Mudders within 1 calendar year. Click here for information on Tough Mudder’s Legionnaire program.
The Funky monkey may be one of the most fun and rewarding obstacles that I have seen outside of American Ninja warrior. Watching people beast this obstacle is so satisfying!

As for Arctic Enema, we went out at with a later wave so it was mercifully not ice cold because they do stop pouring ice in at a certain time or if they run out. So it was not bad at all. I’ll probably hate it when it’s full of ice because not only do you slide down a tube into some chilly ass water, you have a second to catch your breath before having to go under fencing where you are boxed in with no room to stand, and then finishing by going under a tire wall. I can definitely see why this would suck if it were colder.

Tough-Mudder-Long-Island-2017-Arctic-Enema

Electro Shock therapy. FUCK THAT SHIT, I skipped it big time and I regret nothing. Another popular race series that is known for being, “Navy SEAL tough” issued a statement on their page last year on why they do not use electrocution obstacles on a course. They stated, and I don’t quote verbatim that, “Electrocution obstacles serves no purpose aside from humiliation” and I agree with that sentiment.

As for Tough Mudder racers not caring if you skip an obstacle. Yes, they do care. Other Mudders will side-eye you (aka give you dirty looks) for skipping electro-shock therapy. Ask me if I give a shit though. Actually, don’t because you already know that answer. I walked by that obstacle like, “Yeah, go ahead and try and make me fuckers.” Bad attitude I know, but seriously fuck Electro Shock therapy.

Tough-Mudder-Long-Island-2017-Electroshock

You see this? Yeah! FUCK THAT!

Let’s get to my personal favorite Tough Mudder Long Island obstacles.

The Blockness Monster. You’ve seen it in ads, pictures, and you’ve seen it on TV, yes it is as fun as it looks. No, you do not have to be a good swimmer to do this, the water is not that deep, 5 feet at the deepest point I believe the lifeguard said. Yes, I could stay in there all day.

The block itself is just that, a huge rectangular clock that forms an upside down V hump mimicking pics (real or fake) of good old Nessie the Lochness Monster. It’s like jumping onto a 4-foot platform, turning around and then grabbing the platform as you come down keeping a constant rotation of the block going. Some of the most fun was pulling the block down for people on the other side, and then try and get out of the way before they slid into you. Lots of fun, this one definitely lives up to the hype.

Tough-Mudder-Long-Island-2017-Blockness-Monster

Augustus Gloop aka the Snot rocket. This one is a lot of fun. Have you ever wanted to climb out of a sewer like a Teenage Mutant Ninja turtle while water poured down on your head? Me neither, but this obstacle was surprisingly a really good time. There were two fitness options there so I took the first-timer one since it was my first Tough Mudder ever.

It’s a tall straight tube (about 15-20 feet up?) with a clear plastic window that is just there for lighting, you can’t see much with the water pouring down on your head anyway. You basically wedge yourself into the side of the tube and there were little side grips in which to pull yourself up and out with. I have no idea what the Legionnaire side was like. It probably was missing the side grip holes, please post in comments if you feel like schooling me on the Legionnaire side of Augustus Gloop.

Tough-Mudder-Long-Island-Augustus-Gloop

The heroes carry, I only liked this one because I hate heavy carries and I make no secret of this. As a matter of fact I, do believe I complain about heavy carries in every article, but with the encouragement of my MUDCRO teammate, I carried my 160-pound husband piggy back style with great success and ease. This is the only reason I am putting it at number 3 because I was afraid of not being able to find a partner that I could carry. The thought of dropping someone and potentially hurting them was definitely on the forefront of my mind, and not only overcoming this fear but finding out that I’m way stronger physically than I give myself credit for felt really good. People over buckets? Not up and down a ski slope though.

THE CONS

Hey you, an article with no bitching? Did Tough Mudder do that great of a job with everything? The answer is, “NO!”

Let’s start the bitching off lightly. They had plenty of port-o-potties on and off the course and yes, they were clean. There were water stations galore. The water stations were awesome, some even had sports drinks and water, others were just water, some were food and water like bananas and protein bars. People, including myself, were joking about how this race has more aid stations than they do obstacles.

I’m kinda annoyed with that. The long boring stretches of road and trail are boring, very boring. This is why you need a team as well, you want people to talk to in between what seemed like miles of no obstacles. Good thing there were actual trail snacks on the course.

Yes, Tough Mudder Long Island had legitimate trail snacks. Not the kind that comes in a bag with granolas and carob chips. There were wild berry bushes and peach trees dotted all along the course. Between the aid stations, the wild berries and the peaches… I think this might be the only race where I ingested more calories than I burned.

I think it was boredom eating though, because yes Tough Mudder your obstacles are awesome, but why are you so cheap with the amount of them on the course? What was it, 9 miles and 18 obstacles? That’s 1 obstacle every 1/2 mile. Seriously fellow runners, bring your friends or join a team if you are running Tough Mudder. I can’t recommend that enough. It helps with the no obstacle for miles blues. I almost wished for an orange bucket of rocks even with a team. Almost, I didn’t say I actually wanted one.

Tough-Mudder-Long-Island-2017-trail

Nothing for miles! This looks like a half assed death march to me.

Parking

Their parking situation was ridiculous according to my friend who took their shuttle. The parking lot for this event was a 20 minute ride down the highway, quite a few towns away from the event. So for this venue the lot is extremely far, it’s still $10+ to park, but the shuttles are plenty and they run regularly. Just get there earlier than planned for a long ride, and hope that your shuttle doesn’t hit NY leisure traffic.

Bag check is not secure. It’s walk in and walk out with your own bag situation. No kind volunteers and security staff members babysitting your bags and only allowing entry to authorized persons. Tough Mudder just lets you walk right in, and walk right out. Sure they check your bib number to the number on the bag, but nothing is stopping anybody from rifling through your bags while in a crowded tent with other racers and 2 people at the entrance and exit. They charge $10 for this! Weaksauce Tough Mudder, really weak. That’s easily fixable though with a more secure bag check program like the other brands.

On the brighter side, Tough Mudder does not serve race piss, aka Coors Light, anymore. It is now a Guinness Blonde, much to the delight of many racers.

Other than the miles of no obstacles, bag check being lax and expensive to boot, along with parking and shuttles being too far from the venue, the obstacles are definitely worth a try. Did I mention to bring a posse? Like these guys. They look like a lot of fun to run with too.

Photo credits: Louis Liquori, Poly Poli, Tough Mudder

Racer Spotlight: Unmasking CF Bane

Many of you may have seen, “That D-bag in the elevation mask.”, or maybe even rolled your eyes thinking, “Oh look, another guy playing Batman.” if you’ve ever seen him on the course.

Well shame on you if you have ever thought that, and for the record it’s a silicone airtight cosplay mask, not an elevation mask. CF Bane cannot breathe comfortably while he’s wearing the mask, which is almost all of the time since entering the OCR circuit.

Bane-City-Challenge
Why does he do this?

Bane runs for a truly amazing cause that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. I’m talking about Cystic Fibrosis (That’s what CF stands for in CF Bane, just in case you weren’t aware.), a debilitating lung disease where most sufferers do not live past the age of 40. Their quality of life is extremely challenging every second of the day due to their inability to breathe comfortably. Breathing, something that you and I might take for granted.

Bane-Cystic-Fibrosis-Life-Expectancy

CF Bane wears the mask in order to simulate the sensation of not being able to breathe in honor of these young people who leave us too soon.

Whether it’s running a road race, a Tri-Athlon or tearing up an OCR course, CF Bane has garnered a lot of positive attention and popularity due to his hard work. Even one of OCR’s favorites Hobie Call was so intrigued, he approached the intimidating looking man in the mask at last year’s Atlantic City BoneFrog to ask what it was all about.

Bane-With-Hobie-Call

Photo credit: Jonathon Bivens

This is a snippet directly from the Lucosky Brookman Foundation , a group of philanthropic attorneys who has unleashed CF Bane onto the racing circuit in order to be Cystic Fibrosis’s ultimate Super villain.

“We were inspired to try to see what it felt like to have Cystic Fibrosis. Through the unwavering support of the Lucosky Brookman Foundation, the idea for running with the mask was born. As CF Bane runs, he sometimes struggles to breathe, to finish the race, and take each step. His luxury is one that those with Cystic Fibrosis do not have; he can remove his mask at any time. CF Bane’s struggle is temporary.
CF Bane was born to illustrate to the world through wearing a memorable mask in part what it is like to live with CF. It’s meant to try to provide a tiny glimpse into the struggles of living a life with CF. Sometimes concepts and struggles are hard to imagine. The mask serves as a stark reminder to everyone that the struggle is real. Everyone deserves to just breathe.”

Bane-CF-Girl

CF Bane with a brave sufferer of Cystic Fibrosis.

Click here for more information about CF Bane and the LBF.

CF Bane vows that he will fight Cystic Fibrosis until a cure is found, or until he breathes his last breath. I was lucky enough to run the Boomer Esiason 4 miler through beautiful Central Park on April 1st, as a part of his nationwide Army. I asked him what it feels like to be the face of the fight against CF in the OCR community. He replied,”CF Bane doesn’t see himself as the face of Cystic Fibrosis. My army and I, along with the backing of the Luckosky Brookman foundation see ourselves as a way to help spread awareness about the dreaded disease. There are so many amazing people fighting CF that are the faces. CF Bane simply wears a mask with no holes to show the public how it feels to not be able to breathe.”

Bane-Army-Boomer-Run

CF Bane has been fighting CF on the OCR courses since 2014, running over 30 races and many miles to date in that stifling mask. This year he also runs with a purple flag, the color of Cystic Fibrosis awareness. Those that run with him, have run with him, or have seen him on the course all agree that he struggles mightily to breathe in that mask. It is a task that many of us would not want to take on.

If you want to see CF Bane and his Army in action, they will be running the BoneFrog challenge in New Jersey on June 17, 2017. Say hello if you see him, he doesn’t bite… or he might if you bother him while he’s on an obstacle. I make no promises.

Bane-Bonefrog

As if BoneFrog couldn’t get any more intimidating with Norm “EffNorm” Koch as the new head designer for their courses, CF Bane is now also a BoneFrog race Ambassador. This has earned him the adorable nickname, BaneFrog.

BaneFrog

Yes the code works for all 2017 BoneFrog races!

When Bane isn’t running, He loves spending time with his kids at their sports, taking them to playgrounds, and playing Pokémon GO. Bane really does play Pokémon GO, I didn’t just throw that in there to be cute. Bane also enjoys Hooters, not for the pretty ladies in orange shorts, but because he’s an avid fan of wings and owls.

So keep your eyes on this incredible racer as he kicks Cystic Fibrosis right in the jimmies.

Now let’s take the mask off of this man so that he can just BREATHE.

Bane-Unmasking

Photo credits: Poly Poli, BoneFrog race, City Challenge race, Jermone Gonzalez, Ryan Sorenson, Jonathon Bivens, newhealthguide.org

Bonefrog New England Spring 2017 – If hell is easier, I’d rather go there.

Bonefrog-NE-Welcome“Harder than hell.” states Bonefrog’s ads.

On a cold Winter’s day, sometime back in December of 2016, yours truly was making her 2017 OCR list and Bonefrog New England Spring was a definite must. The only obstacle course owned and operated by the NAVY Seals? Count me in again! I ran the Bonefrog Challenge last year at the beautifully scenic Berkshire East venue, and rolled my ankle right after Stairway to Valhalla so I had to finish the next 7 miles injured, but it was still an amazing time, with their well-designed obstacles, enthusiastic racers, and volunteers pushing me through the pain. This injury lasted all throughout 2016, however, so I definitely had a bone to pick with this frog.

As I sat there looking at the Tier options, I must have had a brain fart, because all of a sudden, I was signed up for the Open Tier-1 wave.

Bonefrog has 4 Tier choices: Sprint (3+ miles), Challenge (8+miles), Tier-1 (12+ miles), and Endurance (New this year,) which is Tier-1 and then you run the Sprint course as many times as you can until you drop dead presumably. You get a green frog pin for every lap of the sprint that you finish, a special Endurance medal, and the coveted Golden Frog, if you can do 5 extra sprint laps! Norm was proud to tell us that he didn’t think anyone got the gold frog at this event.

Bonefrog-NE-Endurance-Bling

Tier-1 is Sprint + Challenge, so you get to do all of the obstacles, some of them twice. No going back at this point; so I pulled up my big girl pants and said, “Bring it on Bonefrog, gimme everything you got!”

I must have spoken too soon because shortly after that, Bonefrog announced that the OCR torture master himself, Norm “EffNorm” Koch was now their new head course designer. The word that came out of my mouth when that was announced? It wasn’t fuck… it was, “FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!” I’m sure anyone that has run a Norm Koch mountain course knows why.

As Bonefrog New England approached, the pictures and videos of intimidation started lighting up the internet. Norm with his machete and that sardonic grin of his, Bonefrog showing off their new obstacles, pictures of Stairway to Valhalla (which btw no picture that I’ve ever seen has done it justice of showing the actual steepness and distance of this death march), along with the NAVY Seals promising you an ass beating that you’ll enjoy.
null

My fellow OCR people let me tell you that I was NOT mentally prepared for what they had in store for us this year. Once the map was released and I saw that long stretch of nothing between obstacles 12 and 13, I pretty much started shaking in my boots. Berkshire East is already known as Bonefrog’s toughest course because it is all mountain. Who loves extreme death marches up mountains? The head course designer of course!

Bonefrog-NE-Course-Map-2017

So on Friday, May 19th I and a car full of other mud running hooligans headed up to Charlemont, Massachusetts to, “GET THAT DAMN MEDAL!” and to “Make that course our bitch! RAWR!” A lot of shit talking from nervous racers, because had we known what we were in for, that car would have been quieter than a funeral. We set out on Friday because Bonefrog offers packet pickup the night before. I personally think that other race brands should also offer this option.

Early packet pickup is picking up your bib and timing chip the night before the race. They also have a cocktail and pasta night social where racers and Bonefrog staff can mingle; you also get to see and try some of the festival area obstacles. Early packet pickup is free, pasta and beverages are not. The pasta dinner last year was around $13 per person and you were offered a plate of pasta with or without meatballs, a mixed green salad, garlic breadsticks and chocolate chip cookie brownies. Unfortunately, we did not make it in time for the food, but we did make it just in the nick of time to get our race packets early, which saved us a lot of time in the AM and allowed us more sleep. You might even get a glimpse of EffNorm!

Bonefrog-NE-EffNorm

The parking situation this year at Berkshire East was such a vast improvement over last year. Not only was it shuttle parking in 2016, but they did not have enough shuttle buses for the racers and spectators so many racers missed their early wave times. This year parking was onsite and they rented some farmland next to the venue so it was all within a short walking distance. Free parking for volunteers and $10 for everyone else.

The morning festivities at Berkshire East started beautifully with the singing of the national anthem as a member of the Navy Seal skydiving team soared his way across the mountains and over the festival area with a huge flag and colored smoke. It was a truly amazing and awe inspiring sight.

Bonefrog-NE-Parachute

Then it was off to the races as the Tier-1 elites thundered their way through the starting line and veered off left into the mountains. This is where it kind of gets funny at the starting line, btw where was Coach Pain? I don’t know if Norm wanted to see the fear on our faces for himself or what but he was the starting line, “Pump up” man. I am laughing as I write this because while Norm Koch is a brilliant Course Designer, he doesn’t make a great starting line emcee. Sorry Norm but I think you know it too. He is unintentionally funny however. The vollie wave was the next to go out and Norm was like, “Ok, have fun. All 5 of you.”

Bonefrog New England could really use some volunteers everyone. If you’re looking for a solid race with great people please consider volunteering for this brand. You do have the option of running and volunteering on the same day. Click on this link for more info on volunteering for Bonefrog at www.bonefrogchallenge.com/volunteer.

Then it was my turn as Tier-1 Open wave. After Norm showed us a grenade for a new grenade toss obstacle and told us he’d see us sometime in the afternoon, it was off into the mountains we went. The course has been changed, for the harder and better in my humble opinion. Everyone’s favorite obstacles are still there. Like their fun-tastic spider traverse wall, drunken monkey, river rope traverse, tree rope traverse, walls, cargo nets, Black Ops etc…

Bonefrog-NE-Starting-Line

Let’s start with the short list of things that I was not impressed with this year.

Where’d the rope climb go? How can you have a military obstacle course without a proper rope climb? Bonefrog also had the good climbing rope too, that nice sturdy climbing rope with knotted and unknotted options, bring it back, please!

The barbed wire crawl didn’t have real barbed wire. It wasn’t even metal. Come on now.

The grenade toss. Toss a grenade into a hula hoop. Really? A hula hoop? Maybe it would be more interesting if the target was better like a doorway structure, or better yet get rid of it all together. It was a dud in my humble opinion.

Bring back the memory test because that was one of the signature things Bonefrog was known for, their hard memory test. If you failed, you had to go back and re-read a sign until you got it right.

The line was too damn long for the new green monkey bars called, “Seat bars.” Many racers, including myself, opted out of this one due to the bottleneck with a 25 pushup penalty for some and 25 squat penalties for others. Yes, Bonefrog has penalties ranging from 25 pushups, squats, burpees and jumping jacks.

The new rotor obstacle, “Twirly Bird” was too damn high and it had a huge failure rate, I personally did not see 1 person complete it. I think that it was high enough where it should have been placed over a water pit or something. Norm, however, did explain after the race that it was due to the wrong length of beams being sent and that it was meant to be lower. I saw one guy land flat on his back from that height and it was not pretty.

Bonefrog-NE-Twirlybird

Porto-potties for the racers on the course would be nice, it’s not easy going long stretches especially as a female, or if you have to take a dump mid-race to just drop trow in the middle of the course since there are not any good places on the course to do so. In the festival area, you have indoor and outdoor potties so no complaints there.

Now on to the good stuff!

Speaking of not pretty, that long stretch of nothing I mentioned earlier between obstacles 12 and 13? It was definitely a long stretch, but it wasn’t nothing. It’s called the Punisher. This is where Norm’s talents and skills really shine through and why every OCR racer has a love/hate relationship with his courses. He bushwhacked a death march with his machete that is more than twice the distance of Stairway to Valhalla up one of the most tree and rock dense areas of the mountain that he could find. Stairway to Valhalla makes you question life, The Punisher makes you question your sanity. I think the name of it should be changed to Tree Hugger (Sorry Savage race) because that is how you will be getting up and down this crazy death march, by hugging onto trees for dear life.

I don’t know how many reading this have seen the Barkley Marathon documentary (I highly recommend it if you haven’t, it’s on Netflix) but there’s a scene where you see people throwing their whole bodies up and onto a plateau while clinging onto trees. That’s Bonefrog’s Punisher in a nutshell and you get 3 long soul crushing peaks of it. What are we being punished for anyways? Someone take away Norm’s Netflix account so that he can’t watch the Barkley anymore.

On my second loop, yes Tier-1 not only got to do Stairway twice but the Punisher twice as well. So that’s 4 death marches total if you are going Tier-1, and 6 death marches minimum if you go Endurance. The Sprint people were shocked that they had to do this mother of all death marches along with Challenge and Tier-1 because in the past Sprint was much easier than the other tiers simply put.

Bonefrog is known for a lot of mindfuckery with fake maps, intentionally leaked false course information and the Punisher was NOT marked on the map for the Sprint course. Surprise!

Bonefrog-NE-Punisher

As for the Tier-1 experience, it was VICIOUS; when I heard at the starting line that Tier-1 would be doing Stairway to Valhalla twice, which I was afraid would happen, but I trekked on starting with the Challenge portion where most of everyone’s favorite and fun obstacles are like the Swinger’s club. It’s a Tarzan rope over water. Lots of fun if you make it, and into the drink if you don’t. It was much improved this year with a longer distance to swing over and a deeper water pit.

Bonefrog-NE-Swingers-Club2

The balance beams aka Walk the Plank this year was really tough, not only were they set over a rocky stream, it was on a fairly steep incline. Elites were only allowed to use their feet, open wave was allowed to use hands and feet to make it across. I personally saw 2 people lose their elite bands on this obstacle. I am usually really good with balance obstacles but I used my hands and feet for this one. The idea of dropping into a stream full of rocks was not appealing to me. Otherwise, it’s a solid obstacle that showed me that my balance can always be improved upon.

Hell’s Gate, which was introduced last year, has had a bit of a makeover, instead of over and then under the walls, it’s now all over the walls. It’s still a lot of fun however and it does prevent potential trampling in such an enclosed space.

The Challenge side of Bonefrog had a good mix of terrain and obstacles. You had a little bit of everything from flat RUN FREE trails, to the arduous death marches, wonderful woodland scenery, and through an area with dead trees that was hauntingly beautiful. Last year it was just up Stairway and across long stretches of flat trails with one long downhill. So much about this course has changed and for the better IMO. Much more challenging and the scenery alone just feels enchanting.

After a merciful stop at a porta potty before taking on the Sprint side of Tier-1, and I 100% admit that it took a lot for me to get back out on that course while smelling BBQ cooking, hearing the cheerful laughter of people who had just received their medals, the music pumping away. The temptation of Black Ops which is the finisher obstacle staring me in the face, seductively whispering for me to settle for a Challenge medal or a DNF. I ignored all of that and got back on that course to get that Tier-1 medal and to show the course and myself who is the boss of me.

Bonefrog-NE-Festival

Now the Sprint side of the course had some of the fun obstacles like the river rope traverse that everybody loves getting their pictures on, where you have the option of doing a full rope traverse, dropping into the frigid water and then swimming a few yards to shore, or you had the express lane option of a lower rope which you used to just drag yourself through the water.

Bonefrog-NE-RiverRopeTraverse

The Sprint side had to do the hardest obstacles like the death marches that the Challenge side did but they had no flat portions. NONE, ZIP, ZILCH, NADA unless you consider slight grassy inclines that are few and far between flat. You were either going up at all times or down muddy, rocky, leafy declines. After my 2nd trip or should I say crawl up Stairway my hip flexors really started feeling it. Every step was torturous and when a kind vollie (that’s short for volunteer) gently let me know that the Sprint had to do the Punisher as well, I took a moment to lay down on a sparse patch of grass somewhere between that water station and the Punisher, and a lone tear just rolled gently out of my right eye like that old Native American Chief in the no littering ads of the past.

Bonefrog-NE-Stairway

Bonefrog made me cry, there I said it.

At this point in the race, the only ones that were on the mountain were a few other Tier-1 and Endurance racers. I saw maybe 2 racers wearing Challenge bracelets but it was mostly Tier-1 and Endurance out there. This is at the point of the race where you start seeing some shit while racing against the clock so that you don’t DNF. The point in the race where you have gone so far, yet that finish line seems as far away as it was at the starting line. You go past the racers that have had enough and quit halfway up the Stairway or the Punisher and they tend to say, “I tried guys.” and all you can do is smile back and say, “Good job.”

This is where you also start making promises to yourself that you won’t give up. You limp helplessly by the poor guy that a volunteer is taking care of because his ankle is broken. You share your energy snacks and chocolates with those out there suffering with you, yet not tasting a thing except the anticipation of the finish line. You ignore the pain, the voices of self-doubt, your screaming joints, you ignore everything except those that are still sticking the course out with you motivating each other with chants of, “Big gold medal, big gold medal, big gold medal.”

Finally, after another round of obstacles in the festival area, you are brought back around to Black Ops and it was such a beautiful sight to see, but it’s one more obstacle to finish and a big one at that. With my hips pretty much dead at this point, I needed help from the wonderful vollies to get up the rope wall, but once I was on the bars, I flew past it’s spinning rungs and got that Big Gold Medal! That’s what makes Black Ops challenging, it might look like an innocent slightly inclining set of monkey bars, but the rungs in the middle spin so if you don’t move fast you will fall off right into the net.

Bonefrog-NE-BlackOps-View

Bonefrog ran out of Finisher shirts at The New England race and rumor has it, it’s because there were a lot of same day registrations that they weren’t prepared for, so I hope you wrote your bib # down on the T-shirt list if you didn’t get one. Bonefrog says they will be in the mail.

Speaking of shirts, Bonefrog offered a nice selection of shirts ranging between $15 – $20 at their merchandise booth. I wasn’t leaving without some kind of Bonefrog t-shirt.

Bonefrog-NE-Merchandise

As we were leaving Norm Koch was there looking very pleased with himself and relaxed knowing that he took an already tough as nails event and made it even more challenging.  He did ask my husband if he thought that the Punisher should be longer to which my husband said, “Yes.” So EffNorm and Eff you my dear hubby for that. You don’t tell that man a death march should be longer.

As for who won the race between me and Bonefrog New England, let’s just call it a draw since we both got what we wanted from each other. I got my medal and the mountain got my tears.

Bonefrog-NE-Tier-1-medal

Thank you Bonefrog for putting on another great event. Here’s a standing ovation to the racers, spectators, staff and volunteers (All 5 of you guys lol). I’ll be seeing you again at Bonefrog New Jersey!

Photo credits: Bonefrog Challenge, Phil Poli, Poly Poli