F.I.T. Challenge-July 2019

Introduction

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

Background Information

Robb McCoy-Race Director and Owner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aaron Farb-The Everything Guy

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

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

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

Larry and Ginger Cooper-Full Potential Obstacles

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

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

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

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

Jen Lee-Everything Else

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

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

Scott-Volunteer Coordinator

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

Challenge Preparations

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

3 days before the race (Wednesday)

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

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

FIT Challenge

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

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

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

“Yep!” He said, excitedly.

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

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

Gibbons at FIT

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

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

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

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

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

Water at FIT

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

2 days before the race (Thursday)

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

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

FIT McCoy

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

Destroyer Build 1Destroyer Build 2

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

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

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

One day before the race (Friday)

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

FIT Festival

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

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

Ultra Ultra FIT

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

The day of F.I.T. Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

The Course

FIT Start

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

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

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

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

FIT Low Crawl

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

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

FIT Pegs

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

FIT Monkey Cargo

 

FIT Monkey Cargo 2

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

FIT Gibbons

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

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

FIT Slip

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

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

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

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

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

FIT Rolling Thunder

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

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

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

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

FIT Devil

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

FIT Destroyer

Breakdown/Other Race Day Shenanigans

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lessons Learned

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FIT Podium

Top finishers of single-lap elite wave:

Men:

1st-Jarrett Newby

2nd-Jeremy Goncalves

3rd- Javier Gutierrez

Women:

1st-Cassandra Ohman

2nd-Jennifer Dowd

3rd-Kristen Cincotti

 

Spartan Race Palmerton Super and Sprint Weekend 2019

Spartan-Super-Palmerton-Course-Section

 

“This is insane!” 

“What the f***?!” 

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

 

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

Spartan-Palmerton-Start-Line

Parking and Festival

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

 

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

 

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

Spartan-Palmerton-View-From-The-Top

The Sprint

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

 

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

Spartan-Palmerton-Sandbag-Carry

Sprint Obstacles

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

The Super

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

 

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

 

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

Spartan-Palmerton-Hercules-Hoist

Super Obstacles 

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

 

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


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

Spartan-Mountain-Series-Super-Medal

The Medals

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

 

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

 

 

Photo Credit: Spartan Race, The Author

Spartan Winter is Here – Greek Peak 2019

Greek-Peak-2019-looking-at-the-finish

Playing in the snow is in our blood. As adults, we dislike the snow because it makes driving to work inconvenient. But growing up, snow days were the best. Spartan Race lets you relive that childhood excitement with its now third annual Winter Sprint event at Greek Peak Mountain Resort.

What makes this a Winter Sprint? Every single inch of the course is covered in fluffy white snow. The temperature at this year’s race was in the high 30s, but it was mostly sunny so it felt even warmer. That was basically a heatwave if you consider the first year Spartan was at Greek Peak, they dealt with single-digit temperatures and below zero-degree wind chills.

Greek-Peak-2019-Bridge-Crossing

Parking and Registration

General parking this year was off-site, with two options. One of which was in Cortland, for racers coming from north of the venue. The other was about 15 minutes west of the venue, in Dryden. There was a VIP option for $30 which got you right on-site in Greek Peak’s parking lot.

As with last year, registration was inside, which made sense after the first year’s temperatures caused equipment malfunction at the outdoor registration tents. Spartan does registration really well. The earlier you arrive, the shorter the lines. But even later in the day, it didn’t seem like the lines were too long. As far as I could tell, everything was moving smoothly.

Greek-Peak-2019-part-of-the-course

Early or Late?

I ran my first lap in the Elite wave, mainly to get done in time for my second lap. At most races, running Elite or Age Group is an advantage. You’re one of the first groups on the course, which means no obstacle lines, a less sloppy course, cleaner obstacles and, in the summer, more favorable temps. At a Winter Sprint, it’s almost the complete opposite, with the exception of obstacle lines.

During the Elite wave, which started at 9:00 am compared to 7:30 am that you see at most Spartan races, the air temperature still remained under 20-degrees. Most of the running was through several untouched inches of snow. The only footprints came from racers ahead of me and volunteers/staff who helped put the course together.

Greek-Peak-2019-A-frame-Cargo

Later in the day, I ran in the 10:45 wave. The sun was out a bit longer and temperatures made their way into the 30s. It did help a bit that I was already warmed up from the first lap, but there was a definitive difference in the air temperature before and after the Elite wave. On the course, lots of the previously untouched snow was now packed down, which made running a bit easier. There were still plenty of areas that made it difficult because, well, snow is still snow.

I didn’t notice the obstacles being anymore wet or slippery between the two waves. One thing that remained true of later heats was the lines. I’ve definitely seen worse, but there was at least a little waiting at obstacles like the Spearman, Monkey Bars, and Multi Rig.

Greek-Peak-2019-women's-bucket-carry

The Classics

Speaking of obstacles, I was a bit disappointed to see that none of 2019’s new obstacles made the trip to New York. Seeing recent posts of Helix, 8’ Box and Beater made me anxious to give them a try. Other newer obstacles like Olympus and Twister also missed the trip.

I do understand that the snow and cold weather probably makes it pretty difficult to set some of the obstacles up, so it’s easier to stick to ones that have stood the test of time. Hopefully, in the future, maybe one or two newer ones will be brought out. I will say though, there is something special about trekking up and down the slopes with all the classics.

Greek-Peak-2019-Winter-Medal

Not Your Average Spartan

Greek Peak Winter Sprint is truly a unique experience. And a unique experience deserves unique swag. Last year’s finisher shirts added long sleeves to the standard sprint finisher shirt. This year, Spartan added a nice twist. The shirts have a similar design to the usual 2019 Sprint finisher shirt but, in addition to having long sleeves, had a nice light blue color, really making it look like a winter race shirt. The Spartan Winter medal was distinct as well, with the same light blue coloring and a few frozen pieces “missing” from it.

Photo Credit: Spartan Race, The Author

Shamrock OCR Campground-Spartanburg, SC

What is Shamrock?

There are so many beautiful things about obstacle racing. However, an abundance of training grounds is not one of them. I live in the Upstate of South Carolina, and there are hardly any places to train. The nearest ninja gym is probably four hours away, and how many other places have obstacles? My training typically consists of low elevation (because that’s all we have) trail runs and Yancy Camp in a traditional gym, with some additional runs, rock climbing, and weight lifting here and there. Although I feel like Yancy Camp has made me a lot stronger, one thing that I lack is exposure to the obstacles. Or, at least I was lacking that until I heard from a man named Donovan Brooks about Shamrock.

Who is Donovan?

Donovan Brooks–a high school English teacher in Spartanburg, is also the builder and owner of Shamrock OCR.

Now, if you are a member of various facebook groups in the South Carolina/Georgia area, you may have seen Donovan post on groups offering to come up to play. If you’re not, don’t worry, you’re still invited to play.

Donovan opens his backyard of dreams to the public on Sundays at 9:00 until 12:00, completely free of charge. I REPEAT: YOU COME HERE TO TRAIN COMPLETELY FREE OF CHARGE. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. When he reached out to me, especially once he made it clear to me that it was free, I couldn’t not go. So one Sunday I popped by a little after nine to check it out for myself.

I pulled in to Donovan’s driveway and was greeted immediately by his girlfriend, who ran over to my car with a really big smile on her face. She made sure to make me feel very welcome before I even got out of my car.

 

What do they have at Shamrock?

By the time I finally got out and ready, I got the grand tour. I noticed there were many different hand-built obstacles to choose from, including a Herc Hoist (Spartan), a multi-rig, Olympus (Spartan), the z-wall (Spartan), an 8-foot wall, and of course, a target for everyone’s favorite.. the spear throw.

He also had several pre-made obstacles that you may see including tires for tire flips, sandbags, brute force sandbags, a rope, and some spartan pancakes. All of these things were of course surrounded by a single-track trail and a nice, cool creek to jump into after the workout.

One thing that I’d like to say is that, although Donovan is not a certified SGX coach, he’s been in the OCR game for a hot minute. Basically, what I’d like to say is that Donovan knows how to handle obstacles. He is really good about showing you ways to be successful in obstacle completion, without sounding like he is better. The thing is; the obstacles that Donovan builds are actually way more challenging than they are in races. So, when it comes to race day and you’re really tired, you can man-handle these obstacles like a champ. Shoot, I even had Donovan help show me a different way to throw a spear, and I nailed it easily in my race after that!

However, you haven’t quite made it until you have completed the 300 challenge.

The 300 Challenge

Oh, God, this was one of the toughest things that I have ever done. I’m pretty sure Donovan actually does this so that he can laugh at people.

One part of OCR that is a crucial piece of training is strength training. Which means, carrying around a bunch of heavy shit. For what honestly feels like no good reason sometimes.

And, this situation is absolutely no different.

The 300 Challenge focuses on 3 different heavy carries: farmer’s carry, the bucket carry, and a sandbag. For one mile.

I would write about what it is more, but you may just have to come to find out!

What else can you do at Shamrock?

A typical day at Shamrock starts with a little trot around the property in order to get warmed up. After all, safety is important! Followed by that, we will get together and focus on an obstacle. Donovan is usually pretty good about stopping by and showing us around, or, if we are working toward getting through certain obstacles more efficiently, we will discuss form and technique. We’ll spend some time working on the obstacle together.

Followed by this is a workout. Donovan will use the obstacles that are there and try to incorporate them the best he can. One thing that they like to use is called the Warrior Board Game. We’ll play either as a team or solo, and he will replace come of the commands with completing obstacles. Of course, no OCR preparation would be complete without an obscene amount of burpees, too!

 

 

Once the main set is complete, it’ll be time to revisit that obstacle from before, or, a different obstacle. After all, you’re not going to hit obstacles while you are feeling fresh. You shouldn’t train that way either.

Oh yeah, did I mention that he has a creek behind all of this? You know what that means?

Yes-you guessed it, you may as well bring flip flops because there is a perfect opportunity to take a little ice bath right there! For free! In nature! WITH FRIENDS! It does not get much better than that.

Of course, Donovan also does not mind if you just want to come and play on obstacles.

My thoughts…

The biggest thing that I have enjoyed about Shamrock has been the community. Most of the people who attend are just people looking to make themselves better. Sure, there is some friendly competition, but most of it is that we cheer each other on, even when we really are not feeling like moving forward. Everyone is very positive, and I know that is the atmosphere that I look to be a part of. Going to Shamrock each week really is one of the highlights of my weekends!

So, if you enjoyed what you read, please keep an eye out for one of our posts on Facebook, so that you may join us one Sunday also!

Bonefrog Charlotte 2018

Introduction

Ah, the Bonefrog. It is unique but very well known through the OCR world as the only OCR that is run and operated by the Navy SEALs. It’s an incredible opportunity for people who are looking for more challenging obstacle races than the typical Spartan or Terrain race.

With Bonefrog, there are 4 different ways to race. There is the endurance race, challenge, Tier 1, and sprint.

  • Sprint: 3 miles with 20-ish obstacles.
  • Challenge: 6 miles with 30-ish obstacles
  • Tier 1: Challenge + Sprint, so 9 miles with 50-ish obstacles.
  • Endurance: See how many laps of the challenge course you can complete.

On the day of the race, participants at each level are given a different color paper wristband. The color of the band is dependent on the race that they are doing. For instance, I was doing the challenge race, so I received a red wristband. Participants in the Tier 1 race received blue. Endurance and sprint were other colors, too. That way the volunteers could help out the people in the easiest, most appropriate way.

Disclaimer: I ran the challenge. My description of this course is going to be focused on the challenge. I am less familiar with the layout of the sprint course, so I will be going off what some of my friends told me.

Pre-Race Preparation

I had never done a Bonefrog before, and I wasn’t really prepared for what was happening. Registering online was easy, and I will say that they did a great job of posting a map online in ample time for athletes to view and prepare themselves. I was being a total wimp and decided just to brace myself and enjoy the ride. Whichever type of athlete you are, Bonefrog will accommodate. The race was on Saturday, but I’m fairly certain that they released the course map by that Tuesday. It made my friends who do prefer to check out the course map very very happy.

This particular Charlotte Bonefrog was hosted at Porter Farms. If you do the Charlotte Spartan races, this venue is all-too-familiar. You can expect a relatively flat course, and some cows to stare at you. You may also want to expect to be on the lookout for cow-pies; the most horrid obstacle of them all!

Arrival/Pre-Race

Now, this race took place on the same day as the World’s Toughest Mudder which was only a few hours south. I wasn’t exactly expecting there to be many people there. I was shocked by how few people were in attendance. My friends and I were competing elite and showed up maybe 40 minutes prior to the first heat, and it maybe took us 4 minutes to wait in line, pay ($10), and park. It was insane.

The festival area served its purpose. It was small but spread out. There were certain things that you noticed immediately: the finish line, the port-o-Johns, and black ops. There was a bag check provided (just like most races, it is $5), but there was also a tent that had tables. With their being so few people there, most people left their backpacks on these tables. Granted I don’t typically advise that, but if you have a friend who is willing to watch over your belongings, then you have to do what you have to do! The smaller atmosphere made it really easy to find friends and wish everyone else good luck.

They called all of the elites to the start at the same time. That meant all endurance, Tier 1, and Challenge athletes arrived at the start at the same time. There is not an elite division for the sprint, which I thought was interesting. We were not sure how this was going to work with all of us running different divisions. I looked to my left, to my right…I only counted 7 women with wristbands. Wow, there was really nobody there!

They ended up splitting us all up. The endurance athletes were up first. There were maybe, MAYBE 15-20 men in this division, with zero women. This was very unique and interesting. Up next: Tier 1. This was probably the largest group, at a whopping 3o-40 people. A few women went up, but not many. Then it was time for the Challenge. They gave us about 5 minutes between each elite division. We were greeted and motivated by the ever-wonderful Jarian Rich (who was rocking a red, silver, and blue sparkly beard; which I imagine is no coincidence with Veteran’s Day), and then it was showtime.

The Challenge Course

And we’re off! The start was a lot of fun. It started going on a downhill, instantly you could hear people talking about how fun it was and comparing it to the Charlotte Spartan Race. Then the sounds instantly turned to squish squish squish. I failed to remember that it had rained all week. Oh, boy! Listed on the map as the first obstacle was the Rolling Thunder. Rolling Thunder is one of those obstacles that Bonefrog is known for; it’s a simple, yet super obnoxious and frustrating obstacle that I’m pretty sure is only designed to get on people’s nerves. But, before that, there was a slight dip in the trail and an unmarked wire over the dip. Running by you’d just hear people go:

“ACK! ….Wire!”

Which was immediately followed by a

“Huh? ACK!…WIRE!!!!”

Although it was a little frustrating, it was kind of funny. Then it was onto Rolling Thunder. It seemed like there were two of the obstacle; the men ran to the one on the left, while the women were using the one on the right. There was no rhyme or reason to it. I saw a woman use the side, and I asked if we were allowed to. The volunteer said that the women were allowed to, while the men were not. I shrugged and made my way onto the next part of the course.

Bonefrog Rolling Thunder

After a little run, we came across a 6-foot wall. It wiggled a little on the top, but it was easy to get over.

We kept running through some muck (which, at the start line they announced they removed a water obstacle, which I was very thankful for), and up a hill and we were back near the festival area. We ran into most of the men who had left in one of the earlier divisions here. There were three stations: bar dips, burpees, and pull-ups. The first station: do 19 dips, calling your number out loud. I’ve never seen this in a race before, but holy smokes it was not pleasant. Next up: 31 burpees. I’m pretty sure we were supposed to call out names while we did our burpees, but I could not see them so I said the numbers and was not corrected. I don’t know what it was about these 31 burpees… granted, I’ve gotten all too familiar with them during Spartans, but right after dips, these suckers hurt. Next up: 7 pull-ups. Sweet; I love pull-ups. They had us do pull-ups in front of the pictures and names of fallen Navy SEALs. Rather than count the number of accomplished pull-ups out loud, we said their name. This, I thought, was fantastic, unique, and totally appropriate for Veteran’s Day. I also really appreciated that the men and women were expected to complete the same amount.

Next up was a rig. It wasn’t anything particularly scary, just some squishy thing on the bottom. The squishy thing looked like a ball, and the ropes stretched a little when you grabbed it. As long as you had a hand on the rope, you were good to go! Followed by that was a rope swing, which was…interesting. I’ve never seen anything like this. The volunteers were really helpful: they provided lots of tips on how to make it easier.

Then was The Krakken. I was really surprised by this obstacle; I was really impressed with how tight the strings were that comprised the obstacle. Bonefrog made it pretty sure that I couldn’t have fallen through the top even if I wanted to. One of the next obstacles was called Get a Grip. No obstacle has scared me as much as Get a Grip ever has. Remember how I said it was really muddy? Well, it was extra muddy underneath this obstacle. If you slipped off the rig, you slid in the mud. I saw a few men hit their heads. I saw one guy slip and fall before even leaving the step to reach the rig. He fell onto metal. The fall was long, too. This obstacle terrified me. Many women struggled. Sooner than later, it got crowded. People got kicked if there were two people on it at a time. It was not super enjoyable. I would like to try it again if it were not so high, or not with such an intimidating, slippery, and dangerous fall.

This was followed by more running, and obviously more obstacles. There were some frustrating moments, like weird course markings which resulted in me going up a 7-foot wall backward, but throughout the course, I still had fun. There was a lot of opportune time for running, and a lot of opportunities for slipping in mud, too!

There were certain things about this course that I enjoyed. I really enjoyed the Brute Force Bag carry. They had us go through walls with openings, and the openings got higher with each wall. Other than this and a hoist-like obstacle, there were no heavy carry races in this race.

When we hit the back area of Porter Farms (which I had never seen before,  so this was fantastic) there was a long stretch where we didn’t see many people. There were so few people that I actually went off-course for several minutes, and accidentally took some other people with me. In another instance was a big tarp laying on the ground. I asked the guy next to me if we were supposed to do anything, and he said no, so we went on. I much later learned that we were supposed to go UNDERNEATH this tarp…there was no volunteer to tell us! We also came across the only balance obstacle, and a few other cool ones in the back.

After a while, we came across some other things in the back also: all of the open sprint runners. It’s honestly like they came out of nowhere! It went from being a calm, race with people who it was easy to become close with to being really crowded. There were lines for obstacles, and it made it more difficult to pass through. Running on certain trails openly and easily turned into weaving. Although I like running around people, the fact it got so crowded so quickly caught me really off-guard.

Other obstacles in the back area included some rope climbs, a log obstacle that made you have to go through a wall once you climbed, and some other unique obstacles.

I came up to one obstacle that I really wanted to attempt all day. I don’t know what it’s called, but I know that you have seen pictures of it, if you’ve seen Bonefrog pictures at all. It’s the green monkey bar thing. A friend of mine had spent the whole week volunteering, and he assured me that there was going to be a rope there to climb before you got to the green grabby part. Except, when I got there, there was no rope. I was greeted at the obstacle by a man similar in height, and he was stressed. Even with the step, he and I couldn’t reach to even attempt the obstacle. Since I had already lost my band, I just had to move on.

Bonefrog-NJ-Seat-bars

The Chopper was a cool obstacle. This one wasn’t long; there were three of the spinny parts, each one separated by a ring. I haven’t seen anything like it.

There was a large A-frame, then Black Ops for the classic Bonefrog finish. I was really impressed again, by how sturdy the A-frame was. I felt very safe. I think it would have been difficult to get hurt. Black Ops made me sad…I couldn’t reach it! I wish they had some kind of step to be able to reach it for us…really really small folks. Either that or ladies, if you’re a tiny titan like me, be prepared to jump.

Volunteers

The volunteers at this race were fabulous. There were so many unique obstacles and the thing with unique obstacles is that they can be difficult to figure out what you have to do. Volunteers were spectacular about providing instruction for newcomers. They were really paying attention to what the athletes were doing. If you volunteered at the Charlotte Bonefrog this year, you did a fantastic job, and we appreciate you!

Overall Thoughts

The Bonefrog is an OCR that requires more strength than your typical, bigger name OCR like Spartan, Terrain, or Rugged. They feature a lot of unique obstacles that require the grip strength of a monkey but the courage of a tiger. I’d say if you are considering Bonefrog as a first OCR, you may want to try something else first. Not because it’s a bad race by any means, but, it is going to be more challenging, and you may want to get your feet wet first. Overall it was a great time; I personally enjoyed the smaller feel because I felt like I got to know the people that I was running against a little better than usual. If you’re looking to challenge yourself and feel a little sore the next day, Bonefrog may be the race for you!

 

Spartan Dallas Beast 2018-Muddy Miles and Cramping Calves

Dallas Spartan Beast 2018

On October 27th, 2018 Spartan held the annual Dallas Beast to nearly maxed out waves for all times. The course had to be cut down a few miles due to flooded areas. This didn’t stop Spartan from putting racers calves through mile after mile of foot groping, sloppy goodness. Of about twelve and a half miles nearly sixty percent of those miles were sloppy bogs or slick, muddy rocks. A fun cramp-inducing time was had by all on a well put together course in beautiful Glen Rose, Texas.

Muddy Miles on Muddy Miles

Due to frequent rain in the previous week many of the trails on Rough Creek Lodge’s ranch were a muddy mess. From the beginning even the fastest group of elites were not moving their quickest as we were pulling our feet free from mud constantly. This added an extra endurance element to an already endurance heavy event. Later on in the race, many suffered from severe burnout, muscle fatigue, and debilitating calf cramps.

Spartan ingeniously utilized the hills on the ranch. Competitors proceeded up and down them both with and without sandbags. Steep, rocky descents coupled with mud spelled potential disaster for anyone not closely watching their feet and controlling their body. I personally throttled myself down a bit on these downhills to avoid injury. Slick rocks can come out from under you in a heartbeat.

The venue was beautiful to look at as always. Rough Creek Lodge never disappointing on the views that you get to see at the top of those hills if you take the time to look around. The festival area was also set up very nicely and the starting line was again by the beautiful church on the property. The weather was absolutely optimal with a pretty still 58-degree start for the elite men and a slow warm up to around 70 as the day went on. Compared to last years freezing temperatures the weather was absolutely amazing.

The Obstacles

I would like to preface by saying that there were no mile markers at this race.  Some areas were cut due to flooding. I found this to be a good thing as it kept me focused on the task at hand rather than how far I had to go. However, this also prevents me from stating an approximate location for all of these obstacles. I would like readers to know that between each of these obstacle portions were long, long bouts of running through mud and rough terrain. Spartan did a great job of throwing great combos of obstacles at racers. Each section seemed to have an intended aspect of skill to attack and I really appreciate the thought that went into this design.

As previously stated, Spartan has an optimal venue for such a flat area in Texas and they utilize it well. The first majorly taxing obstacle was after the z- wall in the form of a sandbag carry up a steep hill and back down. This put a decent little burn in the calves especially after running through all of that mud. The spectator route was superb. It allowed spectators to see many of the most entertaining obstacles. Compared to last years Dallas Beast, Spartan did a superb job on the spectating end of things.

Climb

The slick mud made the slew of climbing obstacles far more difficult. These included: stairway to Sparta, Bender, the 8-foot wall, and the inverted wall. The first real grip tests came in the form of the Tyrolean traverse (which was hanging far too low in many lanes people were dragging their backs). The next grip obstacle was Twister following Bender. I do appreciate Spartan placing this obstacle out of the mud for the most part as it is so grip-heavy. However, there were many Spartans plunging face first into the mud for burpees at this notoriously difficult obstacle. If the strength and endurance is not still present in your shoulders and hands, it can be a real killer.

Lift

The next obstacle heavily affected by the mud was the Atlas carry.  I’ve never had trouble with an Atlas carry.   However, the first ball open this time around was a mud-covered concrete lump of fumbling, back-straining hell for me. I was picking it up out of a very large divot caused by the soggy ground and it was slicker than a freshly born calf. Finally, I had the good sense to look up and see a dry ball had became open and moved through no problem.

Spartan knows their obstacle placement game as after the Atlas Carry came the Hercules hoist and the Yokohama tire flip. For those of you who aren’t aware, Spartans tires are heavier than most. Getting under these 400 lb tires when they are sunken deep in mud is no easy feat. Though the requirement was only to flip the tire twice. Many chose burpees instead. I, however, found that once I worked my way around the tire and found a good place to get under it the rest was simple.

Later on, came another short sandbag carry followed by an equally short bucket brigade. Some elites were shouldering the buckets. Volunteers were not correcting them.  This was unfortunate considering that immediately afterward many grip obstacles followed. This allowed them to salvage their grip for later on.

Hang on!

The plate drag was a muddy, sticky mess that added difficulty. The grip gauntlet afterward sapped the last bit of strength left in Spartans as they neared the finish. The multi-rig, Olympus, and the rope climb were nearly back to back to back.

The spear throw, slip wall, and fire jump where spectators could get a great view of finishers coming in as the annoucner did a great job as well. The finishing area and the number of spectators were very impressive.

 

 

Aside from some minor issues, the Dallas Beast was a fun and challenging experience. Many racers suffered horrible cramps. This was due to all of the mud eating away at their endurance mile after mile. It was truly a suffer fest for many. I feel they will all return next year with a new determination.

Great merchandise, attractions, and people filled the festival. Spartan did a superb job of making the awards ceremony very central. There was also a great festival for racers to enjoy afterward. This was a big leap from the lackluster festival area last year. I would certainly recommend running the Dallas beast if you are in the area, or if you would like a Texas-sized challenge.  Spartan created a great race.  They utilized the venue to its utmost potential. Aroo!