GORUCK Tough: Sleepy Hollow Halloween

GORUCK Tough: a 12+ hour team building endurance event. Participants carry weighted rucksacks, cover 15-20 miles and do whatever the cadre tell them to. Events are often jam packed with heavy carries and PT (physical training) exercises, such as squats and presses with your ruck. Every team must have an American Flag as well as a team weight. Halloween events are done in costume.

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Our event started at 9 pm at Peabody Field in Sleepy Hollow, NY. From the very beginning, we could tell it would be a cold night. However, no one was complaining about the cold during the welcome party.

THE WELCOME PARTY
The event began with a bear crawl down the hill in front of us to a soccer field. We then had to sprint down the soccer field and back. Once everyone returned, we performed a drill for advancing on enemy lines across the soccer field. “I’m up, they see me, I’m down.” Beginning on our stomachs, we popped up, sprinted as far as possible for about one second, and then dropped to the ground.

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Upon arrival at the other side of the field, we formed 4 ranks and were told to complete 100 ruck thrusters, a squat to an overhead press. We also had to repeat every rep we did not complete together as a team. When the cadre felt that people were really cheating, we all had to hold our rucks over our heads for 10 seconds and restart if anyone dropped. By the time we got to 100, we had probably completed about 150 thrusters, counting all the reps we had to do over, and held our rucks over our heads for a total of 2 minutes. But it didn’t end there. The cadre told us to continue the exercise until they said so and we didn’t stop until we got to 200. With the same rules in place, we probably completed around 300 thrusters total.

Next, we had to bear crawl back down to the other end of the soccer field. Some people really struggled with this, especially after all of the thrusters. While we waited for everyone to make it across the field, we formed 2 ranks and cheered them on. One participant told someone else what to do (a huge no-no) and he then got a lot of individual attention. He was brought back to the far end, and from what I could see, he did lunges, burpees, and thrusters. On his way back down the field, not only did he bear crawl, but he also had to do the “I’m up, they see me, I’m down” drill. In the meantime, the rest of us had to hold our rucks over our heads waiting for him.

Upon his return, he apologized to all of us. The welcome party had ended. A few people already dropped out from the event, but I don’t think many, if any, dropped out after that.

THE MAIN EVENT
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We were a large class with 3 cadre so we got broken up into 3 groups.  (Side note: I do miss the days of smaller classes, where by the end of the night you knew everyone’s names, but with the inceasing popularity of these events, small classes seem to be few and far between. Breaking us up into smaller groups works too, but it’s not the same.) One group ended up carrying a log and a bunch of sandbags, the largest weighing 120 lbs, as well as 2 team weights, each weighing 25 lbs. One group, amongst other things, went in the water in the middle of the night to do hydro-burpees. They  forgot to take their team weight with them from the start point which is why the other group had 2.

My group carried our team weight and 2 of the most massive logs I have ever seen at one of these events for 2 miles. We had a 45 minute time hack, but it took us 2 hours and 15 minutes. This was probably the most miserable part of the event for me. We all took turns and tried to help as much as possible, but the log was so short and wide that we couldn’t get many people on it at once. Those who were carrying it were carrying a ton of weight. Additionally, it was extremely awkward to carry because it was so bulky, which is ultimately why it took us so long. Surprisingly there was no punishment. We were right near the water when we dumped the logs and everyone thought we were going in, but we didn’t. I personally believe it was only because we were running way behind on time.

We began rucking for quite some distance with no additional weight and hopped 3 different fences to get where we were going. We arrived at Sleepy Hollow Middle & High Schools where we met back up with the other 2 groups.

At this point, we were given a substantial break to refill our hydration bladders as well as share paranormal activity stories. Once the break ended, we split up into 2 new groups.

The group I was not in ended up going in the water, which meant that some people ended up going in twice. By some Halloween wizardry, my group did not go in the water. We knew that our cadre was looking for a way to get to one particular pond from where we were, but it wasn’t working out and he was wasting a lot of time so he decided to scratch the idea. He told us that he’d rather spend time doing quality things with us. So at the end of the event, there were people that had been in the freezing water once, slightly bitter people that had been in twice, and then a few lucky ducks like me that hadn’t gone in at all.

What our group did instead was travel a substantial distance carrying multiple casualties (designated people that had to be carried) as well as the smaller log, the 120 lb sandbag, and a team weight. Cadre Cleve spoke to us on many occasions about keeping our heads on swivels, staying quiet, working together, and tactics to help us complete our missions more efficiently, which definitely added value to our experience.

We arrived at Rockefeller State Park Preserve and learned how to tie swiss seat harnesses. Once the cadre and a few GRTs established a single rope bridge, we boosted each other up, locked in with carabiners, and traversed the bridge. This was definitely the highlight of the event for most.

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ENDEX
Cadre Cleve told us that the other group was ready to wrap up the event and the other cadre were wondering where we were. Once we finished up with the rope bridge, we began hustling toward the endex. Once we met back up at the start point after those final few miles, we were given a few closing words, lined up in ranks one more time, and were patched. The event ended right around 10 am: 13 spooky hours.

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Although I did not, some went on to complete the GORUCK Light that same day and even the GORUCK Scavenger the next. At the Light, however… EVERYONE went in the water. I think I left just in time!

Photo Credit: Jirina Harastova, Deanna Dawn, Jessica Madura, Delilah Talbot, Alex Stavdal

Spartan Race Tuxedo NY Sprint 2016: The Bottleneck

Spartan Race returned to Tuxedo, NY this past weekend. This Sprint is one of Spartan Race’s most popular race venues, reflected by the fact that they offer 4 race days, over two weekends, as opposed to the usual 1-2 day event. Spartan pulls from the densely populated New York City commuter region to attract new racers, and keep once-annual and addict racers coming back year-after-year (or day-after-day). It is probably a safe assumption that Spartan Race makes a large profit, based on a single build and teardown for two weekend’s worth of revenue. High volume of participants is the name of the game for Spartan, and this location is a prime example. However, Spartan needs to up their game in a big way, to keep up with the throughput that a high attendance race produces.

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Spartan Race responded towide-spread complains about obstacle and water backups after last year’s Vermont Beast with new wristbands with start times printed on them to reduce racers jumping waves, and a competitive heat to give people an opportunity to run the course without as much backup while avoiding clogging the elite heats. It is clear after Tuxedo, that these measures were not enough and/or appropriate.

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First, let’s talk about the barbed wire crawl. Tuxedo’s trademark has become the uphill, rocky, insanely long barbed wire crawl from hell. It is difficult. It hurts. It makes people bleed, as proof from the bloody rocks. It is going to slow people down. And when the path is only wide enough for 6-8 people (crawling, not rolling) is a giant bottleneck. If the obstacle was simply made at least twice as wide, there would be no issue. The course designers ensured the crawl was miserable, and succeeded. However, having to lay or kneel on large sharp gravel (because you are waiting on the person in front of you, who is waiting on the person in front of them, and so on…) gets to be uncomfortable and certainly decreases the fun factor significantly. My estimate is that it took me 10 minutes to creep/pause/repeat along the rocky 50ish-yard length of the barbed wire crawl, and the overwhelming crowd consensus deemed that an unacceptable pace.

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At another point in the course, Staff and Volunteers were holding up anyone passing on the course. Runners were instructed that they had to wait to continue on because there was a bottleneck leading up to the vertical cargo, less than 100 feet ahead. So a mass of 75+ spartans waited to pass 10-20 at a time, to then wait again at the obstacle, only steps beyond. This is another case where an obstacle that could accommodate more racers at once (twice as wide) would solve the problem. And two separate, yet shorter, waits for the same obstacle does not make it any less annoying.

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Along with the obstacle backups, there was also a significant, and typical, amount of slowing due to technical single-track trails, that Spartan loves to mix in whenever they can. And if all this didn’t convince you that Spartan was unprepared or the volume of attendees: just look in the porta-potties, let’s just say I’m glad I was there for day 1 of 4. I do have to give them credit, as the logistics for parking, registration, water stations, medals, finisher swag, and pictures all ran efficiently and seemed to be properly staffed.

In the end, the Tuxedo Sprint was another event where Spartan needs to spend the fraction of time and money to make some of the more cumbersome obstacles appropriate for the masses in order to keep those customers coming back for more.
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Goliathon – A New Contender in OCR? (Race Review)

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

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

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

Goliathon V Start.

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

Slippery Wall Money Scruffy Mudders

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

Now on to my personal review.

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

Circus Maximus 2.0 Grant.

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

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

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

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

GRADE: A

All pictures by Alexander Sallahian.