emPowered OCR – Lancaster’s First Stadium-Style Obstacle Race

emPowered-OCR-at-Clipper-Magazine-Stadium

 

A well-run local obstacle race is a great find. A well-run local obstacle race that’s for a good cause is a gem

 

emPower Training Systems and The Mighty Mehal Foundation teamed up to bring Lancaster, PA its first ever stadium-style obstacle race. The 3.25-mile course took place in and around Clipper Magazine Stadium, home to the Lancaster Barnstormers. 

 

A lot of local “obstacle” races I’ve experienced tend to be more of a glorified mud run than obstacle race. emPowered OCR was a true obstacle race that challenged competitive athletes while ensuring new racers would have a blast. There were even family waves so parents could run the course with their kids instead of watching them run a smaller course from the sidelines.

 

Inside-Clipper-Magazine-Stadium

For A Cause

A lot of people use obstacle racing as an escape from the ordinary day to day. But some people use it to get through their own personal obstacles. emPowered OCR was created to help those people, with all proceeds benefiting The Mighty Mehal Foundation.

 

The foundation was created in honor of Shaun “Mighty” Mehal and provides scholarships to qualified applicants who are entering a recovery house in Lancaster County. 

 

Free Free Free

We all know how most of the larger races go. Need to park? That’ll be $10.00. Might even have to take a shuttle. Want to bring your grandma so she can cheer you on? Open up that wallet. 

 

Pretty much the only thing you needed to pay for at emPowered OCR was your registration and bag check, if you needed it. Parking was provided in the stadium lot and spectators were free of charge. There were even plenty of free samples from local and national vendors. 

 

As with the larger events, each registration included a tech shirt, finisher medal and a free beer for anyone over 21 years old. 

emPowered-OCR-course-map

Course Design

The course was designed by the co-owner of emPower Training Systems and personal trainer, Josh March. The distance came in right around 3.25 miles and featured 23 obstacles. Clipper Magazine isn’t as big as a major league stadium so, unlike those, it wasn’t all stairs. Most of the course took place just outside the stadium, with the last quarter-mile or so being inside. 

 

In the competitive waves, the majority of the obstacles were mandatory completion. Racers were given an extra band at registration and had to take it off if they were unable to complete an obstacle. Two obstacles did have a penalty loop, in addition to mandatory completion and one had a burpee penalty. 

 

For the “Strike Zone Challenge,” If you missed the strike zone net, you were required to do 15 burpees. Unfortunately for competitive racers who missed, the burpee obstacle was shortly after, which added another 15 reps in the hot sun (I speak from experience).

 

There were two carries out on the course, bucket and sandbag, which surprisingly had the same weight for men and women. It felt like the weight would be a little light compared to other men’s carries and a little heavy for women. The bucket carry was about a quarter-mile, while the sandbag weaved up and down the stadium steps. 

 

emPowered-Peak-Obstacle

No Easy Task

For anyone looking to challenge their grip and coordination, that was well taken care of. Several obstacles required bell ringing. “Because I Was Inverted” required traversing upside down across a steel beam from one end to the other. The “Y-Wall” was a fun mix of relatively easy rock holds out to a pair of hanging metal tubes. 

 

“emPowered Peak” almost seemed similar to Spartan’s Olympus due to the requirement to go from side to side on an angle. Unlike Olympus, though, there wasn’t much to grab. The obstacle was made up of vertical 2x4s that required careful transitions and shoes with some grip. 

 

Perhaps the toughest obstacle of the day, though, was the Barnstormers Rig. According to March, it turned out to be a band killer among competitive racers. It required transitioning between rings, baseballs and even a baseball bat in order to ring the bell at the end. And because it was late in the race, many of the athletes already had fatigued grip. 

 

A-look-at-emPowered-OCR-rig

What’s Next?

According to March, the race was a great success and they’re already in the works for a 2020 race and potentially a second event. With around 450 total participants, emPowered OCR definitely has the potential to become an annual event, with some expansion.

They do plan to keep the competitive waves mainly mandatory completion, which personally I love. There were a few hiccups with the registration process, but plans are already underway to improve the process for next year. They’re also looking into a more OCR-equipped timing system as this year’s timing was not set up to show 100% completion and non-completion among competitive racers. Instead bands had to be manually checked among the top finishers. 

emPowered-OCR-top-finishers

emPowered OCR was a fantastic race and the team did a really great job running the event. At no point did I feel like this was a first-year race. It’s definitely one that will be on my calendar for 2020 and beyond!

 

Photo Credit: emPower Training Systems, Jesse Keim, Kevin Peragine Photography, Lindsey Makuvek

Spartan Race: CitiField Sprint – Stadium, Stairs and Rope Burn

Spartan Race CitiField Monkey Bars with Ruck REFACE: I don’t identify as a Spartan, I’ll never say Aroo! I don’t care about a trifecta, and I rarely do Spartan Races out of my 30+ OCRs yearly. To me,  Spartan is the same at every venue, every year with minimal changes other than marketing strategies I.e. Delta, new medals, new shirts. I’ve done several ski resort venue Spartan races but this was my first stadium Spartan. I went into it with minimal expectations, as I’m all about mud and water for an OCR. Knowing I’d leave dry and generally dirt free was out of the norm for me.Spartan Race CitiField Infield

The fun started with the drive. My buddy opted to drive to this race since I drove Pennsylvania to Rhode Island the previous week for a race. We got to CitiField where the GPS said “2 minutes to destination”. That “2 minutes” turned into 20 with multiple u-turns until finally finding the parking entrance. One nice aspect about this race(and I’d assume all stadium races) is that parking was on site and a short walking distance to registration. After locating waivers, check-in was quick and effortless.
Spartan Race CitiField ObstacleAfter walking through the metal detectors and having my bag searched by security, it was a quick escalator ride to the main floor with all vendors, bag check, restrooms (not as nice at BattleFrog’s) and start area. One thing I’ve found Spartan is always consistent with is a quick and smooth bag check. After that, it was off to the start. Having never done a stadium race, I went into it with minimal expectations and understanding the build restrictions limiting the obstacles that would be used.

I won’t go into a walk through list of all obstacles(the course map lays that out), but Spartan made very good use of the areas they were allowed to utilize. Stairs, stairs and more stairs, mixed in with water jug carries up and down the stairs adding to the sandbag carry through the bleachers. Multiple sections in the stadium corridors that had walls to climb, and short jogs through the field level hall walls had you going through nearly every part of the stadium,including the visitors locker room, throughout the sprint distance course (which nobody agrees on actual distance).Spartan Race CitiField Course Map

Two of the most post race talked about obstacles turned out to be mainstay obstacles you’ll find at every Spartan race. The Herc  Hoist (using sandbags) and the Rope Climb were hot topics of conversation at the event and afterwards on social media. Usually you hear squabbles about varying weights on the Hoist as a result of weather conditions (water soaked into the bags); this time, it was not having any gates to stand behind/assist in the lift. Smooth pavement gave very little traction and the inability to find a center of gravity to perform the lift. The Rope Climb was the most talked about obstacle of the day. Not doing Spartans often, I didn’t think much of it until the chatter began. It appears as though(unconfirmed) the rope was much thinner for this event then others and a different material. Many people were complaining and posting pics of blisters from this one obstacle. Turns out I lost a nice chunk of skin on my middle finger after completing the climb. To me, these obstacle variances were welcomed and not an issue as its something Spartan doesn’t normally do, make changes. Will the new ropes stay? We’ll find out soon enough.

image

I enjoyed my first stadium race as the scenery alone was something to see. Will I do one again? Probably not. I miss my mud and water, but I’m always open to try something new. Spartan certainly came through with some very nice new tees. The material seems different than previous years, and though I don’t Aroo, I will rock the tee. The medal was also on the higher end that you’ll see for a race. The lanyard is specific to the venue with very nice graphics depicting the NY Mets (go Phillies) logo for CitiField. Swag always seems top notch from Spartan, another compliment to their excellent marketing.

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Photo Credit: Donna Langeraap

Spartan Points Series Champs And Payouts

At the end of December, we published BattleFrog’s first ever points series and payouts. Today, we are publishing the latest from Spartan Race and their point series. Although Spartan has been handing out end of the year prizes and awards since 2012, it appears with all the bruhaha of Tahoe and the rest of the championship races, it was never announced who took home their end of the year loot.

Some results were what most OCR fans expected:
Top Elites: Amelia, Rose, and April are the top three women. Cody, Atkins and Brakken are the top three men.

Some results, on the other hand,  were surprising:
Yuri Force and Spartan OG, Elliott Megquier both finished ahead of Hunter McIntyre.

Also, the top 3 men in the Stadium Point Series are dudes you probably haven’t heard of:
Welcome to the Big Time Kiaran, Randall, and Jeremy.

Have a peek back at those BattleFrog payouts, there are very few names on both the Spartan and BF lists, especially near the top. Is this because The Battlers want to avoid The Spartan Pro Team? Or, has it just been a matter of racers choosing one horse and riding that one all year? It will be interesting to observe as BF jumps from 15 races to 44 in 2016.

Final Spartan standings and cash payouts are below. Along with the cash prize, everyone on these lists receives a Spartan “Series T-Shirt” and “Spartan Series Hoodie”.

Spartan Stadium Point Series

M

1

1271

KIARAN MCCORMACK

$4,000.00

M

2

1260

RANDALL BRACE

$3,000.00

M

3

1167

JEREMY ANDRZEJEWSKI

$2,000.00

F

1

1267

KARLEE WHIPPLE

$4,000.00

F

2

1105

ROBIN FONTAINE

$3,000.00

F

3

838

JACKIE LANDMARK

$2,000.00

 

Elite 2015 Standard Point Series

M

1

1530

Cody Moat

$4,000.00

M

2

1498

Ryan Atkins

$3,000.00

M

3

1497

Brakken Kraker

$2,000.00

M

4

1492

Chad Trammell

$1,300.00

M

5

1492

Ryan Kent

$1,200.00

M

6

1489

Robert Killian

$1,100.00

M

7

1481

Isaiah Vidal

$1,000.00

M

8

1477

Glenn Racz

$900.00

M

9

1460

Matt Novakovich

$800.00

M

10

1458

Ryan Woods

$700.00

M

11

1439

ian deyerle

$600.00

M

12

1427

Matthew Kempson

$500.00

M

13

1419

Yuri Force

$450.00

M

14

1418

Elliott Megquier

$400.00

M

15

1414

Hunter McIntyer

$350.00

M

16

1407

Ben Kinsinger

$350.00

M

17

1406

Ian Hosek

$300.00

M

18

1402

Miles Bartlett

$300.00

M

19

1387

Nathan Palmer

$300.00

M

20

1378

Victor Quezada

$200.00

M

21

1374

Mark Batres

$200.00

M

22

1372

Stephen Vassallo

$200.00

M

23

1371

Francis DiSomma

$150.00

M

24

1365

Brian Gowiski

$150.00

M

25

1363

Austin Azar

$150.00

M

26

1353

Junyong Pak

$100.00

M

27

1349

Chris Schapman

$100.00

M

28

1347

Ivan Santana

$100.00

M

29

1342

Brian Hoover

$50.00

M

30

1339

Charles Vassallo

$50.00

F

1

1524

Amelia Boone

$4,000.00

F

2

1498

Rose Wetzel

$3,000.00

F

3

1491

April Dee

$2,000.00

F

4

1470

Kio Paul

$1,300.00

F

5

1465

Alex Roudayna

$1,200.00

F

6

1457

Jackie Rust

$1,100.00

F

7

1451

Jackie Landmark

$1,000.00

F

8

1450

Kate Cramer

$900.00

F

9

1430

Laura Lunardi

$800.00

F

10

1415

Orla Marie Walsh

$700.00

F

11

1402

ashley seeger

$600.00

F

12

1382

Lauren Casavant

$500.00

F

13

1372

Cassidy Watton

$450.00

F

14

1362

Stephanie Clements

$400.00

F

15

1354

Laurel Shearer

$350.00

F

16

1343

Taylor Witkiewicz

$350.00

F

17

1341

Tiffanie Novakovich

$300.00

F

18

1339

Charlotte Curtis

$300.00

F

19

1335

Jolene Wilkinson

$300.00

F

20

1331

Kathleen Lanphear

$200.00

F

21

1326

Debbie Koch

$200.00

F

22

1323

Jenny Tobin

$200.00

F

23

1322

Ember Shmitt

$150.00

F

24

1309

Terra Jackson

$150.00

F

25

1298

Sue Luck

$150.00

F

26

1298

Jodie Fleming

$100.00

F

27

1297

Stephanie Hochman

$100.00

F

28

1276

Allison Tai

$100.00

F

29

1261

Melissa Berke

$50.00

F

30

1260

Deidre Nims

$50.00

F

30

1260

Deidre Nims

$50.00

Editor’s Note: We realize there are a few typos/errors in these charts. We’d rather get this great info out to you at 98%% correct than not at all. Spartan promised us corrections are on the way.

 

 

 


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Spartan Race at Citi Field: A Mixed Review

“You will be: timed, ranked, judged”.  This is the motto that has been infamously touted on signs at the entrance to Spartan Race venues in the past; a motto that has held this race series in a class of its own among countless other obstacle course races and mud fun runs that seem to be springing up overnight.    A sign warning all participants that Spartan races are

competitive, not just for the elites, but for every single one of us who steps up to the muddy starting line.  Spartan Races were designed to test the physical and mental toughness of all participants, regardless of age, gender, or fitness level.   At any given time during an event, Spartan Race founder Joe DeSena might be found on the course yelling at participants to move faster and push harder, reminding them that this is a race, and not a hike through the woods.

Spartan-Citi-Field-1

For the weekend warrior, there are alternative obstacle course races that offer a mud run experience.  An experience that often includes long lines at obstacles, the option to skip over parts that push you outside of your comfort zone, and a party atmosphere.  However, the reputation that precedes the Spartan Race is exactly that, a race, an uncomfortable challenge, and not simply the “experience” that is provided their competitors.

As an avid obstacle course racer, this competitive edge and high standard of racing is what I have come to expect, and love, from the Spartan Race group.  Today I am highly disappointed to report that, for the first time ever, Spartan Race did not meet these expectations.

The 2013 Reebok Spartan Sprint at Citi Field was held on April 13th in New York City, at the home of the Major League baseball team, the New York Mets.  After a successful time trial race at Fenway Park during the fall of 2012, Reebok Spartan Race has created a Stadium Series that will cover four ballparks for the 2013 race season.   As one may imagine, the logistics of an obstacle course race inside of a baseball stadium are vastly different from the muddy, wooded trails that are often synonymous with Spartan racing.  However, despite the lack of terrain, mud, water, and fire, the Spartan race directors still brought a fantastic physical challenge.

The three mile course began in staggered waves, with 15 racers starting every minute or so.  The stadium series takes many of the obstacles Spartan Race is known for, alters many of them for the venue, and adds in many new challenges.  On the course at Citi Field, participants took on the usual over, under, and through walls, rope climb, Herculean hoist, sandbag carry, and spear toss.   Added in were functional training style exercises that had to be completed by repetition and/or time.  Slam ball tosses, heavy jump rope, box jumps, and hand release pushups were among the fitness challenge obstacles.   A 500 meter row on an air rowing machine was to be completed in two minutes or less. In true Spartan-mental-toughness style, racers saw their required distance decrease on the screen as they rowed, with absolutely no reference to time. Once you completed your 500 meters, you were shown one of two messages on the screen: “AROO” with a congratulations indicating you had completed the task, or “BURPEES”, meaning you didn’t make the two minute cutoff, and must do your burpee penalty.

There were changes in some of the more familiar Spartan Race obstacles as well.  The cargo net climb was now made of webbed straps instead of rope.  Earlier in the day, the Traverse Wall was reportedly using removable pegs that the racer must move from hole to hole for their hand grips (by the time we made it to the traverse as the 11:15 am heat, all but one wall had the original block hand grabs).   The traditional monkey bars had been replaced with opposing single hand, smaller, bars that rotate when grabbed.  The degree of tautness varied, but you didn’t know until the bar started spinning in your palm.  Word from Spartan Race staff was that racers and volunteers had renamed this obstacle “burpee bars”, as most people failed this obstacle and had to do their penalty 30 burpees.

Spartan-Citi-Wait

Lines form at rowing obstacles

Covering three miles without leaving the confines of Citi Field meant only one thing: stairs, and lots of them.   At many points during the race participants were running up and down large access stairways, as well as the actual stadium stairs and rows after rows of seats.    And this, from the very beginning, is where I realized this would not be a race for time.    I had a very hard time passing the crowds of people who chose to walk up the stairs, or even on the flat rows of seating.  Being a race rule follower, I felt it wasn’t appropriate to jump “off course” to try and pass these people.   Numerous times I yelled to runners ahead of me “hey guys, mind if I pass?” to which I almost always received zero response.

And it was fortunate for my internal competitive drive that I resigned the idea of a fast race early on, because as it turns out, everyone I was able to pass would eventually catch up to me in the massive lines we had to stand in at the obstacles.  The lines at the rowing machines were at least 2-3 people deep, resulting in at least a 5 minute or more delay.  I encountered a line of about 8 ladies ahead of me at the rope climb (fortunately, there was a minimal line for the men’s rope, without the knots, so after impatiently waiting a few minutes on the women’s side, volunteers let me ascend a men’s rope instead).   There was a wait for the atlas carry, congestion at the sandbag and water jug carries, and the stairwell for the Hobie Hop.  The worst offender however, was the traverse wall and spear throw.  After rounding a corner in a hallway deep within Citi field, I came to a bottleneck at an exit door to a parking lot.  So much of a crowd, those of us towards the back had no idea what was going on ahead.  The ten to fifteen minute (at minimum) wait for my turn at the traverse wall made me very happy I had my long sleeve shirt still tied around my waist to keep me warm from the unexpected premature cool down.   After finally completing the traverse wall, we waited in another line for at least 5 or more minutes.  Volunteers told us we were welcome to skip the wait and obstacles all together, do the penalty burpees instead, and be on our way.   In my honest opinion, that should never be an option.  Spartan Races are about the obstacles and challenges.  A 5k race with intermittent burpees thrown in is not what any of us signed up for.

I am overcome with mixed emotions coming out of the Reebok Spartan Race at Citi Field.  The course itself was fun, and I imagine without the crowds, would have been very challenging. I thought the organization and execution was excellent, and that the race directors and staff had done a great job at bringing the Spartan Race series to a non-traditional OCR setting.  Packet pickup was easy, the atmosphere was amazing; with live feed from the course on the massive big screens, and great music.  There were plenty of restrooms, a large merchandise table with plenty of the new Reebok Spartan gear, and baseball style food concessions.  And the race specific medals were a nice touch, one I’m happy to have in my collection.

The number one problem, that in my opinion completely ruined my race experience, was the overcrowding on course.   As a fitness professional, my dream is to see everyone on this planet become physically active, and have fun doing so.  As an obstacle course racer, I am happy to see a sport that means so much to me become so wildly popular.  As an athlete who likes to challenge herself, and who has come to expect a certain standard of race quality from Spartan Race, I was highly disappointed.

Looking at the numbers between the Fenway park race and the Citi Field race show a staggering difference.  The Fenway race, which was considered a huge success by numerous racers and staff, had a total of 5,579 finishers spread out over both Saturday and Sunday, according to Spartanrace.com.   The Citi Field race had 10,038 finishers, and the race was only held on Saturday.  That is almost double the number of participants, over the course of one day instead of two.

Being that this is a new venture for the Spartan Race series, and only their second attempt at a ballpark stadium race, I will give them the benefit of the doubt, and hope that the overcrowding situation will not become a regular occurrence.  Otherwise, the only thing I “will know at the finish line” is that this experience felt more like every other generic OCR on the circuit and not the immense challenge I’ve grown to love.

Complete results from this race can be found here.

Heather Gannoe is the woman behind RelentlessForwardCommotion and one of our favorite people. (No, really, we mean it!)


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Photos courtesy of Spartan Race and Amanda Ricciardi.