Rugged Maniac Long Island 2018

I have been running Obstacle Race thingies for about 6 years now and while I once wrote a review of Rugged Maniac from a spectator with kids perspective I had never run one before…. until last weekend!  How did it come to be? How was it!? Give us the low down!

How did it come to be?

Well, generally I run the race that must not be named when it is in Long Island but since I am doing #zeroeventsin2018 I chose to run Rugged Maniac which was roughly 40 minutes from my house. As it were, my 13-year-old niece is up visiting New York for 2 weeks and I thought it would be cool to have her run her first Obstacle Race on her vacation.

I quickly checked their website and made sure that age 13 was good to go (it was) and found a deal on Groupon and snagged her a well priced last minute registration. We got her some Swiftwick socks (Aspire 4), trail running shoes (Saucony Excursions from DSW), and took her on her first trail run before throwing her to the wolves on Saturday. We were all set!

How was it!?

I am a firm believer that as long as the race doesn’t royally screw up by not delivering what they advertise, having insanely long lines or putting participants in danger that “How was it?” is a very subjective answer. If you are going to Rugged Maniac to race “elite” you probably will have a much different take on the race than someone who brought his 13-year-old niece to her first race. I had an exceptionally good time and I will tell you why.

Easy things they got right:

Registration was easy. You can choose any lane and while I was secretly worried about my niece not having an ID even though the website said she didn’t need one there was no issue getting her squared away at registration. PHEW. I love that they give the shirts out at registration because you can wear them without getting them dirty after the race. Also, Swiftwick is my favorite brand of socks and I was SO FRACKIN EXCITED when we got coupons for a free pair of Swiftwick socks.

Extras that I enjoyed:

We got there a touch early and my parents and children were at the event in addition to my wife and niece. We scoped out the festival area and were able to kill time by looking at merch (reasonably priced), the event photo booth setup (not reasonably priced), and doing pull-ups to win hats (Marine and Army booths). I missed the kids’ bouncy house that they had at Rugged Virginia 2 years ago, but my kids behaved and the spectators enjoyed themselves. I didn’t ride the mechanical bull, but that probably would have been fun too. Lastly, the Harpoon Beer was tasty. I actually picked up a sixer of the UFO White at the supermarket later that day after trying it as my free beer. #sponsorsuccessstories

The Low Down

I really enjoyed Rugged Maniac and it was an incredible experience having my niece run her first race and seeing her enjoy herself as well. After she completed obstacles that she wasn’t sure she could she threw around words like “feeling accomplished” which I vividly remember from many of the races I have run. It’s a great feeling that causes the bug. In fact, she already asked if we can do it again when she visits next year.

The Obstacles

Rugged Maniac has a good mixture of semi-challenging, fun, and easy obstacles. They also gave you thick, nasty, and STANKY mud that is a staple at any fun race. If you are a seasoned obstacle racer chances are there aren’t any obstacles that you would struggle completing, but if you are new to these events and don’t have familiarity with rings, ropes, and moving monkey bars they can be challenging. Could they add a few wreck bag carries in like they used to have and add some weight to the hoist? Sure, but even without them, it was still a good time.

Conclusion

There was a time when I was a snob about Obstacle Races and I am happy to say those days are behind me. If you are rolling up to a Rugged Maniac to win and you have complaints about the obstacle difficulty you probably should show up to some other races to throw down. My whole squad enjoyed themselves and it appears that my mom, dad, sister, and brother-in-law will be lacing them up for their first race next year! #spectatorsuccessstories

 

 

Spartan Race Ultra and Trifecta Weekend Kimberley BC

Spartan Race is famous for heart pumping ascents and joint-snapping down-hill scrambles, but this time they may have pushed it a little too far at their new venue in Kimberley BC.

 

Excitement was in the air on the first day of the Spartan Race Trifecta weekend in Kimberley BC. The first race of the weekend was on Friday night, the Sprint. Although I wasn’t racing the Sprint, my husband and I went to watch our fellow Spartans, partake in the camaraderie, and cheer on friends. After watching the elite men and women take over an hour to finish the Sprint, I knew that the Ultra was going to take all day – what I didn’t know at that time was how rough it was going to be.

There was plenty of rumble room in the starting corral for the Ultra the next morning – 124 people in total started the race across all three heats – elite, age group, and open.

The start of the course shot into the woods for a brief scramble up and downhill before returning to the festival area to show off a thru-wall, the A-frame cargo, and the Hercules Hoist. After waving a final goodbye to the spectators, the course made its way uphill and out of site. Shortly into the climb was the Rig – which was entirely made of rings at varying heights, this proved to be quite difficult for many.

 

Most of the Kimberley BC Beast and Ultra Beast was either a steep incline or a steep decline that made obstacle placement difficult. Some obstacles did not even make an appearance at this race. Including Twister (due to a deal with platinum rig in Canada), mud mounds, or any type of water obstacle for that matter, and Bender.

After the Rig was the first climb to the top of the mountain and along that climb was a 6ft wall and sandbag carry and inverted wall. At the top of the mountain was the rope climb and then our legs were given a chance to get loose on the first and most runnable downhill in the entire course. This section was probably my favorite because it was a gradual mountain biking downhill with banked turns that allowed us to get our feet moving with some real pace.

The second hill was brutal; at some points, it was hands and feet climbing and it had me seriously questioning whether or not I would be able to complete the second lap of the Ultra. There was a lot of groaning and swearing to happen at this point in the race and it got worse as we summited and realized that log carry was at the base of the hill and that the descent was so steep and full of cut-off low-lying bushes that made it practically impossible to run down. This was beyond frustrating for someone who loves downhill running as much as I do. After quickly completing the log carry, we found ourselves running even further down the mountain. At the bottom, we reached the Tyrolean Traverse and a water station and then immediately headed back up a scramble section of hill to a filler obstacle, the Log Drag.

There were another descent and a flattish running section before the Beasts’ and the Ultras’ courses split. Ultras continued to run until we encountered an uphill barbed wire crawl at the base of ascent #3. This ascent was truly a soul-crusher (especially on lap 2) and the worst part was, there was no water station at the top. We reached the top and immediately turned back down the hill until we hit the second log carry and met back up with the Beast’s course for yet another ascent and final summit of the mountain. At the top was a long over-due water station, 8ft wall, and a volunteer excitedly yelling, “You’re only a mile from the real summit!” …

Luckily that mile turned out to be relatively flat running along the ridgeline and not just another mile long ascent.

At the official summit was Stairway to Sparta and another water station before the long and well deserved downhill to the finish… I mean… halfway point.

After Z-walls and Olympus, we reached a new obstacle, “Wrecked.” This obstacle was built with the idea that racers would throw a sand bag 8ft in the air over a wooden board and the bag would slide back to the racers via a slanted wall BUT the obstacle was unapproved by the Higher-Ups in the world of Spartan Corporate and Jonny Waite changed the obstacle on race day. Instead, racers completed “Wrecked” by doing a “Clean and Press” 5 times.

Next up was the 7ft wall, Tractor Pull, Plate Drag and then Monkey Bars. Right after Monkey Bar,s the course crested the hill to the festival area and we rolled down through barbed wire. Hopefully, you weren’t too dizzy after the barbed wire because Spear Throw was immediately after you stood up and every one was there to watch! Bucket Carry was next, but it was a pretty short little hill, and then we made the final descent to the Slip Wall and Fire Jump. Ultras however did not go over Slip Wall; instead we branched to the left to hit the transition station before going back out on course for the second lap.

Spartan Race structures their Ultra to be complete mind games by making the course two laps of one hellish Beast course. In the transition tent, I seriously debated not going for a second lap because the first lap’s climbs were absolutely terrible. But, after sitting in transition for awhile and listening to other people’s stories about how they dropped out, and how I might have a good chance at the podium for this race, I made my way back out on to the course.

The second lap was completely mental. There were few people out on the course at this time because the Beast heats stopped going off mid-morning, (I started lap two at 1:45pm) the midday heat was intense, and all I could think about was making the cut-off points. I ran most of this lap alone –I could barely see the person in front of me or behind me type of alone, until I reached the last cutoff point and found my two wonderful teammates sitting there! The rest of the race turned in to a hike with friends. We took our time, enjoyed the course, met some people, and eventually finished at about 9:30pm.

Kimberley Ultra runners gained 13,000ft of vertical climbing over 31 miles. The first place male took over 8 hours to finish it, and the first place female took over 13 hours to finish it.

Although I would run this course again next year, I think that there are some aspects of this venue that need revision. Being that this is the first year Spartan hosted at Kimberley, there were some hiccups. The course was lacking in running sections and challenging obstacles, there were no Trifecta weekend medals for those that did three races, and the Sprint experienced unprepared water stations in the heat of the day.

I look forward to seeing how Kimberley will change for next year, and I cannot wait to run this mountain again!

Kimberley Spartan Race Trifecta Weekend Review

Spartan Race Kimberely (13)

Spartan Race returns to the Canadian Rockies.

KIMBERLEY, BRITISH COLUMBIA

6 months ago (or thereabouts) Race Director Johnny Waite was scouting the location for this race on a snowmobile. Back then, temperatures could have been as low as -31ºF. Now, it’s mid-July and in this part of Canada, it can be almost as hot as Southern California.

Kimberely mountain

This a place of uncompromising toughness; a landscape in which only nature’s toughest endure – the grizzly bear, the moose, even the goddamn wolverine. It’s under those conditions that Spartan Race Canada delivered one of the toughest events ever.

The Sprint, for example, was an intense 9 kilometer trip up and straight back down the mountain in scorching temperatures. The Spartan Super, at 16 kilometers, had more elevation gain than most of the mountains in the Canadian Rockies. The Beast and Ultrabeast were among the hardest courses based on distance and climbing ever devised for a Spartan Race. I have stats to prove that claim but forget all that. Instead, let’s just say that 4 hours into the race I used a volunteer’s phone to send this text to my wife.

Text Kimberley

Let me break it down for you in terms you might appreciate. This was Spartan Beast that was so steep that I will unashamedly admit to finding and using someone’s lost ski poles to help me climb the hill. This was a race weekend where I watched a fellow elite heat racer give up on racing and begin desperately foraging for berries on the hillside for energy mid-race. “Oh boy, that was hard” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Spartan Race Kimberely (18)

The standard set of obstacles were in play on each day of the event and if you’re interested you will find maps and lists here. If you are familiar with Spartan Races, you will instantly know what to expect – obstacles like the Tyrolean traverse, the sandbag carry, and the bucket carry etc. Spartan Race Canada tried something new this year, and attempted to include an innovative wreck bag push obstacle. That idea was unfortunately reduced to 5 wreck bag clean and jerks by Spartan Race Corporate. It was still cool, but it is a real shame that Spartan Race Canada doesn’t have full autonomy over what to include.

One of my favorite obstacles on the Beast was the sled pull, and this one was set up on a slight incline making it extra difficult (still got it though). The Platinum rig was all decked out with various levels of rings that required careful planning and that 90 degree single arm lock to complete (yup, failed that one). I also succumbed to the Z wall, as a foothold block was really out of reach for my stubby legs and a leg cramp made it ugly (you know one of those ones around the corner?) It’s a frustrating one to fail but such is life.

Spartan Race Kimberely (14)

The climbing was brutal.

For the Beast, we ascended ski run after ski run before heading back down to the main fire road to connect to the next climb. One final climb put us up onto the top of Vimy Ridge, and apparently, the views of the valley were spectacular, but my legs were so beaten down that sightseeing was the last thing on my mind. The course eventually began to drop into the resort area with the final quad busting descent through the desert-like dust of the North Star ski run. Apart from a thrilling mountain bike switchback trail (which was probably the highlight of the race for me), there were few sections of the race where it was possible to actually run – instead, it was mainly hiking. Obstacles were spaced pretty evenly and there were 9 well-stocked water stations along the way. Despite that fact scuffles and misunderstandings over water allowances marred the day for some on Saturday’s Beast and Ultrabeast.

Mud and water were conspicuous by their absence – a technical challenge posed by the limitations of the location was given as the reason for this. On that subject, (not that we often drink water on course) if you intend to run the Spartan weekend at Kimberley, a hydration pack should be strongly considered.

It is possible you should also take fuel with you unless you are really good at picking saskatoon berries quickly! You should expect high temperatures, and you should definitely expect to run low on water or to need some hydration between stations. Many people I saw out there were very unprepared for fuel and water.  You can see more about the effect of temperature and exercise here with additional guidance here and here to determine how much water you will need. Google it and ask someone who knows what they are talking about. Test and repeat before race day.

Spartan Race Kimberely (2)

Back to my race… As I crested the top of the ridge, I took a reading from my watch. I had gained 1980 meters or 6496 feet over the 15 kilometers I had covered so far. Yeah, it was steep. Eventually, I saw myself slip back further and further into the middle and then the back of the elite pack, slowing to a hobble and finally a walk. This didn’t suit me well, and my pride was dented pretty hard when my legs couldn’t keep up with my ego. I was failing at something I usually did OK at. The finale of the race was a downhill barbed wire crawl, the spear throw, bucket carry, slip wall and finally the fire jump.

I was done.

It was a strange feeling for me to walk into the finishing area feeling like I hadn’t enjoyed myself. I almost feel ashamed of myself for thinking that, but most of the time was spent wanting the whole thing to be over. My own pride and lack of preparation were my own problems for sure and I can’t blame everything on “problems with the course.” Many people came more prepared than I was and had a far better experience out there, however, I felt a little better about it when I realized that it wasn’t just me who had a rough day on the mountain. It was steep. Very steep. So steep in fact that it became difficult to enjoy for quite a few people. The scale of the task ahead of people was massive. Racers who finished all three events for the weekend had covered a total distance of 46 kilometers and accumulated a total elevation gain of 4200 m or 13780 feet! A massive congratulations to everyone who made it!

Kimberely Spartan Glenn

But there were enough people who had problems that Spartan Race Canada took note.

Spartan Race Kimberely (6)

“This is why I’ll never run Spartan again” – Some random

“This is why people say, “never again” and actually mean it”.

– another anon

Or even simply, “Eff Johnny”

– quite a few people actually.

Spartan Race Kimberely (17)

Spartan Race Kimberely (19)

Despite this vocal group of people, 94% of people who started the beast course actually finished, while 45% of those who started the Ultrabeast finished. This is just about right for the difficulty level Spartan are aiming for, but the question for me remains on will be how many finishers and non finishers will return for more next year?

How many will feel like they don’t want to go through this again? How do we ensure volunteers don’t end up making up their own rules about water allowance and obstacle safety? For the open heat and first time racers, do the memories of the suffering fade and get replaced with the desire to conquer the event next year? If things do change, do we then feel more shortchanged if the event isn’t as hard next year? And what was that log drag obstacle about exactly?

Spartan Race Kimberely (15)

Johnny reached out to me to discuss these things, so we went Live on the Facebook feed for Obstacle Racing Media.

Spartan Race Kimberely (8)

As it turns out Johnny approached the issues people had with the race in a very contrite and considered way, answering questions for almost an hour. He took full responsibility for the problems with the course design, and promising changes – but at the same time took steps towards reshaping expectations about what a championship weekend would look like.

What’s clear is that Spartan Race Canada (and Johnny Waite himself) has things to learn in this new venue and he seems eager to go about applying the feedback provided by the participants to form a better race for everyone. I don’t think we as consumers should form a committee to decide how a race should set up.

In fact, we need to apply a little bit of the STFU principle and find ourselves in all the suffering, etc. We (I myself) HAVE to be more prepared in order to enjoy these tougher ones. A Beast at an alpine ski resort should be difficult for everyone – both professional athlete and first-time participant should expect to be tested and we should be prepared to leave it all out there on the course – otherwise what accomplishment is there?

Spartan Race Kimberely (20)

Despite that Spartan Race Canada can improve with constructive feedback, I’m full of ideas (mainly ideas I have stolen from other smarter people). My recommendations for Spartan Race Canada and participants in the event are detailed below.

Spartan Race Kimberely (16)

Glenn’s ideas on how to make a truly incredible OCR experience:

(and stolen ideas that I have claimed full credit for).

  1. We’re getting better at obstacles and some of these are getting stale. Focus on making more unique and novel experiences – push Spartan Race Corporate to get those innovative new obstacles approved. I still have a blueprint for a pegboard traverse… that would make a sick obstacle.
  2. Bring back some mud – look to the past races for elements that gave joy and entertainment to participants and spectators – as we discussed, mud and dirt is still part of the experience.
  3. Water obstacles add dynamic elements to an otherwise ordinary race. Water obstacles (even without mud) add that much needed cooling element for summer races. We need a dunk wall. A wade pool. A water slip wall. I found myself almost wishing for an arctic enema ice pool on Saturday.
  4. Photography. Part of our identity as Spartan Racers is tied up in that image of us, muddied but determined. Quality, timely photography makes us feel awesome about ourselves and proves our accomplishments. This was much improved at Kimberley over Red Deer!
  5. Create sections that are exhilarating to complete – obstacle couplets, multiple walls, balance beams, narrow singletrack, weaving through tight tree sections, creating simple level changes, swinging obstacles, direction changes, climbing, rope descents and natural obstacles all stand up well in any race.
  6. Continue to support volunteers with things they need to perform the tasks set for them. Specifically offer shelter from the elements, written instructions and explicit rules regarding water provision and obstacle safety.
  7. You probably don’t need to film burpees for anyone outside of the top 15 runners.

Spartan Race Kimberely (3)

In conclusion, it’s fairly obvious that a race doesn’t just have to be harder to be better. A truly incredible and epic race involves a strategy of variety and laying the groundwork for racers to experience adventure, competition and memorable moments in a balance worth coming back for. If Spartan Race Canada can adjust that balance next year, I think it will be a classic.

For this race, in particular, I should add that we should celebrate our volunteers who spent many hours in the heat and sun to ensure we could participate safely in this event.

I also want to congratulate the effort put in by our top athletes who showed tremendous courage, effort and stamina to battle extremely hard on one of the toughest Spartan Race weekends ever. Our Elite racing group sometimes don’t get acknowledged enough for the hours and hours of hard work they put in to compete in places like this. You should all be very proud of yourselves.

Spartan Race Kimberely (1)

Finally, for this one I think we can all celebrate crossing that finish line, or hell, even stepping up towards it. Until next year.

Spartan Race Kimberely (11)

Photo credit: Spartan Race Canada.

Dirt Runner’s Warrior Rush The End of an Era

Since 2011 Dirt Runner, located in Marseilles, Illinois has hosted many memorably significant events in OCR. Many of us in the Midwest ran our first Spartan Race here. Many of us caught the “Spartan Rash” one year when the course had its barbed wire crawl through a poison ivy patch.

One of the very last Battlefrog races was held here, along with many smaller events that Dirt Runner put on throughout the years, but not anymore. Dirt Runner has now joined King’s Domain in Ohio and The Battlegrounds in Missouri as permanent OCR locations that have closed their doors. Warrior Rush, held on July 14, was the last event ever held at this iconic location and even though registration numbers were low I just had to go. This location was always my “home” course and I’m going to miss racing there, so I just couldn’t pass on climbing up that hill made up of logs jutting out of the ground one last time.

Known for having some of the most physically demanding obstacles in the area DR’s Warrior Rush didn’t disappoint. The 3.6-mile course stayed in large part around the festival area, avoiding all the nasty ravines and steep crawls on along the back half of the property, which was totally alright with me. I’ve spent enough time over the years carrying sandbags up and down those steep slopes! Ok enough with me reminiscing and onto the event! The Warrior Rush event featured four different levels of competition to choose from. Elite and Open class which required just a single lap to be completed, along with a 6-hour and 24-hour division for those who enjoy the multiple lap option.

DR started off their last event with a brief trail run through what was once the kiddie course. Although the kiddie part ended very abruptly as DR turned one of their old kid obstacles into a super challenging rig consisting of hanging ropes and rings suspended from above at varying heights. Failure on this obstacle in the Elite heat meant 100 burpees, and this obstacle proved to thin out the herd rather quickly.  After completing this grip killing obstacle the next section of the course ran along a mowed path cut through the former parking area for larger events as this section of the property was now overgrown with prairie grass.

I’ll call this segment of the course “walls and carries” as many different sized walls were placed along this stretch separated by the different types of carries. These carries consisted of cement blocks, tires, logs, and buckets. High stepping through a set of car tires started athletes on their way out of the prairie grass and into the timber, but not before a series of incredibly tight low crawls through metal tubing. The rain from the previous night made this trek slick and I found getting up to speed to be very difficult. Racers got a small taste of the terrain change here as hills and cutbacks became the norm. A set of monkey bars were set up along this section of the course as were the rolling balance logs and a series of sternum checkers set at varying heights. A delta ladder and inverted wall were also nestled in along the trail as athletes now started to make their way back to the festival area.

 

A spear throw was the first obstacle that greeted athletes upon their return to the festival area. Following that up a short distance away was a rock climbing wall and a traverse across the very first Z wall, rumor has it that Spartan stole this twist on the wall traverse and used it as their own. At this point, DR played on a racers fears now as a combination of swimming and heights were required using the pond and cargo net on site.

Racers had to climb up a wooden ladder and then jump into the pond.  Then a short swim over to a floating dock needed to be completed before climbing onto a floating dock. After crossing over the dock it was back into the water for another short swim to a vertical cargo net suspended 25 feet over the pond suspended by a wire. If you had an issue with heights then this was not the obstacle for you.  Upon getting to the top I found that the net would wobble back and forth like crazy, and I found myself almost too frozen to continue as my fear of heights almost got the best of me. Once you negotiated the cargo net it was back into the drink for a short swim to the other side as a set of inverted walls and delta ladders awaited you upon getting back on dry land.

 

The last section of the course, located entirely inside the festival area, really took it out of you as all of the obstacles were virtually right next to one another. This obstacle gauntlet started off with a semi tire flip for distance. Once complete, an athlete then picked up that same tire for a farmers carry over the same distance. A stairway of tractor tires now needed to be climbed over as the first “stair” consisted of a single tire and the last consisted of four. A balance log over a moat could then be found immediately after dismounting the tires.

The weaver was presented to races next followed by another cargo net climb and a series of over-unders made out of timber. Another set of high knees was again required as rows of car tires were now laid down on the path to DR’s version of Tip of the Spear. The setup for this fan favorite consisted of three sections separated by a set of overhead pipe traverses.

The first section required an athlete to cross using only rock climbing holds, whiles the second and third consisted of suspended ropes. Atlas Stone carries took center stage as the next obstacle in the gauntlet followed up by a moat crossing and low crawl. No trip to DR would be complete without a climb up their slip wall. From there only a rope climb and barbed wire crawl separated a racer from their well-deserved bling!

Warrior Rush ended up being what you expected from an OCR held at Dirt Runner.  The obstacles were tough as DR always likes to challenge you. The parking and pics were free as DR never liked to nickel and dime you to death, and the comradery afterward was outstanding as always. I for one am going to miss bringing the family here as every one of my family members have competed here at some point in time. While Dirt Runner has officially closed their doors fear not, as their popular functional OCR series The DRX Games will take their show on the road for events in Ohio and Wisconsin later on in 2018.

Spartan Race Palmerton – They are who we thought they were!

Let’s start this adventure down memory lane with a quick backstory. The Spartan Super in Palmerton this past weekend was my first time stepping foot on a Spartan course since a stadium race in 2016, my first time on one of their mountain courses since 2015, and this was my 3rd time running the Palmerton course. See, the Blue Mountain venue is sort of a home course for me. It’s only 90ish minutes from my house, I’ve been there for winter activities, it’s a nice drive up, and it’s truly a beautiful place. You may be asking, “well why the hell did you skip the last couple years then?”. The answer to that is simple; I wanted to scale back how often I was racing, and honestly was a bit bored of Spartan Races. Blasphemy, I know.

Spartan Race Blue Mountain

With that out of the way, I was excited to get back out there on the mountain and see where the day would take me. I wasn’t going there to “race” and had no expectations going into this other than being excited for a nice sunny day on a mountain with my wife. On the ride up, we were discussing the course/venue over the years and talked about all the epic sandbag carries up/down the double black diamond slopes, the swim across the pond, and the ever so popular chairlift that terrifies me and my fear of heights. I was curious to see how the event and course had changed since my last go of it, or if I was in for a new experience.

Before getting into the race, and to save both my time and yours, here’s the quick and dirty of what Spartan Race did really well.

  • Registration, parking, and bag check were all a breeze.
  • Festival area was well spread out and they had several sitting areas for spectators in the shade.
  • They had a water station every mile given the 90+ temps and they even had the snow machine spraying mist on the course and in the faces of chairlift riders (still not enough to make this guy get on it). Well played, Spartan.
  • Sponsors – Clif and Body Armor were great. There were Clif Bloks at one water station and having Body Armor at the finish on a super hot day was great.
  • Post race food – Impossible burger! They had the famous plant-based burger for all us non-meat eaters. Normally the only stuff I get to eat after events is beer and french fries, totally not a complaint, but having a plant-based burger option was extremely appreciated.

Spartan Impossible Burger

Race time!

Spartan Palmerton Course Map

The race started as expected, straight up the mountain for about a mile’s worth of climbing. At the top, we grabbed a sandbag and went down those double black diamonds, then came right back up. Did another obstacle or two, and proceeded to run down the mountain. Then we did something different and hiked up the mountain, but this time in the shade! Yay shade! This was the fun and more technical climb of the two. We got to the top, did a few more obstacles, and then started our descent back down the mountain. Noticing the trend here? This continued but with shorter climbs and more obstacle density toward the last two miles of the course through the finish. In the last mile or so we had 12 of the 26 obstacles including ape hanger, rope climb, bucket carry, and inverted walls.

Spartan Palmerton Obstacle List

Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the obstacles. I’m a fan of twister, the rig, ape hanger, and even the old-school staples like the carries and rope climb. I have fun doing all of those obstacles and they certainly give you an extra challenge, but this race was exactly what it’s been for as long as I’ve been coming here. Sometimes when on course I felt like I should have just signed up for a mountain trail race and occasionally picked up a rock to carry for a bit. Other times I appreciate the fact that without this event I’d likely not be out playing on a beautiful mountain and acting like a kid on a really steep playground.

Spartan Palmerton Bucket Brigade

The race was everything I had known it to be before as well as everything I expected it to be now, and THAT’S OKAY! Spartan Race isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel here. They know the formula that works and they deploy it annually in Palmerton to borderline sold-out crowds that keep coming back for more. This race is one of the best venues out there, and the experience you get is exactly what I wanted it to be.

Spartan Palmerton Rope Climb

I’m usually not one to throw an overarching theme on something complex like an obstacle race, but when you ask me if there’s one thing that sums up my day in Palmerton, it’s a line from legendary NFL Coach Dennis Green  “They are who we thought they were!”, and this time that’s a good thing.

Tough Mudder London North: New Venue, New Obstacles

Considering the venue had a last-minute attack of the English disease that is NIMBY’ism (not in my backyard).  The local council decided to pull the plug on the traffic management arrangements, 48hrs before the event was due to start.  Add all this to the fact England was playing in the World Cup quarter-final, it is fair to say Tough Mudder HQ really had the odds stacked against them.

Believe me, the knives were already being sharpened by a few, as we rocked up and faced a 15-minute walk to the Tough Mudder village in temperatures already 77 at 7 am.

Podium PlacesCredit Tough Mudder

Once arriving at the village, the atmosphere was surprisingly light, there was a buzz of anticipation that only a new venue can create.  Rumours had already been circulating that the venue had laid down the law.  No holes to be dug, no mud brought in and no fun to be had at all (that last one is me being petulant but accurate nonetheless).

This led to a bunch of unheard obstacles listed on the course map, Hydrophobia, Kinky Tunnels, Next Level and hanging out.  Oh and the return of the dreaded Electric eel.  Not forgetting the return of electroshock therapy at the finish.  Tongues were most definitely wagging all the way to check in.

So, checked in by the usual awesome Volunteer crew and of to the warm-up and start line.  Where we were warned against the heat and told to hydrate at the water stations regardless of thirst.  Truly good advice, in fact, I was wearing my marathon vest with 2x 500 ml bottles and iso gels just in case.

We were off and on our way to my 16th and Julie’s 3rd TM full.  The first half Kilometer sprint was a nice warm up to kiss of mud followed a similar distance to skid marked.  The usual suspects followed bail bonds, water station, hero carry, Water station and Everest.

 TMHQ really had not left anything to chance with the water stations.

Water station Number one was sensibly giving out 500 ml bottles, not a cup full.  I was beginning to realise I was dragging my vest and water round for no actual reason.  Still, none else had one so I must be the cool one, right?  Right?

Yours Truly Focused on EverestCredit: Tough Mudder

Before we knew it mile 2 and Boa constrictor.   Which if you’re knocking on the door or in my case over 6 feet and built like a Greek god (so I’m told by my ego anyway), is a real struggle to get up the other end of the two angled pipes. Added to the deeper than normal water this was a real test and was welcomed.

A real treat was to follow though,

I honestly think I skipped like a kid would with excitement the last few feet (Greek god for real).  Face to face with the new hydrophobia, which is a 40-50 feet pool 15 feet across.  With three half submerged plastic sewer pipes which you had to duck down and swim under.  Now I’m a real water baby (Poseidon clearly), so this was a breeze, in fact, a lot of fun.  I was surprised however how many had a real fear of going under the pipes.   I found myself stopping at each pipe reaching under and joining hands, with more than a few nervous mudders and pulling them through.

Cooled and buzzing from hydrophobia, we plodded on through miles 3 and 4 passing 5-6 other usual obstacles and at least 3 more water stations.  On to Next Level which is Giant A hole parachuted in from the 5k events.  Love this obstacle. Who doesn’t love a 25 feet high cargo net with a 15 feet cargo net roof to traverse I know I do and again the fear factor was introduced to a lot of my fellow mudders.

Blue lap done we were into the Orange loop and fired over Cage craw and Arctic enema we hit the dreaded electric eel.

Which I am sad to say courtesy of the metal holding me together, following a motorcycle accident I am medically exempt from.  Electric eel back with a BangCredit Tough Mudder

Stood watching mudders being stung from the audible cracks, each time a wire bit them.

Sounded like a really pissed off wasp, followed by at best a yelp.  Or at worst, language your grandmother still doesn’t know you use.  I can promise you just watching was making the fillings in my teeth on edge.  Aside from hanging out, which is a longer lower version of Kong the last 4 miles flew by with Funky monkey, Kong infinity amongst the highlights.

Stunning Location For London NorthCredit John Donnelly

So, what am I reporting back to you?

First and foremost. I was magnificent obviously! even completing the head shoulders, knees, and toes challenge, before touching down on Funky Monkey and Kong infinity.  The course you say? Apologies, well it was it must be said it was short, 8.5 miles.  The ground was rutted and a real ankle twister  Plus the weather was punishing.  All of that is an aside if I’m being brutally honest.

TMHQ really knocked this out of the park.  Great new improvised obstacles, the return of a dreaded classic.   All nicely buried deep into 24 great obstacles.

All shoehorned into some stunning English countryside.  The course truly felt like OCR not a run with a few obstacles thrown in.  [Read more…]