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So you signed up for 24 Hours of Shale Hell, now what!

24 Hours of Shale HellSo you bit the bullet and signed up for 24 Hours of Shale Hell or 8 hours, or some other race where you must go as many laps as possible in a given time period.  Your reasoning might have been a desire to challenge yourself to see what you are capable of or you might have been suffering from FOMO (fear of missing out) but at this point, the why matters a little less and the how matters a little more.

A 24 hour race takes a little more than just showing up.  Many of us can show up and fake our way through a 5k or even a 10k.  To go for 24 hours, you must pay attention to your nutrition, you hydration, your feet, and your body.  You also have to keep your head in the game.

where-magic-happensSet a goal.  It gives you something to push towards or something to push beyond.  The way you set your goal is your choice.  You are going to go as long as you can, regardless of how many laps that gets you.  You want to get at least 5 laps or more than 3 laps.  You might want to go the entire time and take less than 20 minutes between each.  Whatever will drive you forward.

Know your why.  This can be a part of your goal but doesn’t have to be.  You want to push yourself.  You are running in memory or honor of someone.

 

Stephanie Rios Bin Drop
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Rios

Head Games.  Your mind will try to tell you that you are too tired to go on, that you can’t do it.  Find a way to silence that voice.  That being said, listen to your body and stop before it gets injured.

 

Despite telling you to watch out for head games, if you decide you are done and have had enough, that is okay. Just make sure it is a rational choice and not an emotional “I QUIT!”

So now that your head is in the game you need to take care of everything else!

Stephanie Rios Food Bin
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Rios

Hydration.  Start early. Start now. If you normally drink 3-4 liters in a day, up that should be plenty.  If you drink less, up it.  While Shale Hill has 4 water stations on course, I encourage you to carry water with you in a bottle, a belt, or a hydration pack.  The last thing you want is to get dehydrated while running multiple laps in the hot sun.  If you like your water icy cold, bring a cooler with ice, don’t count on a venue to have it.  If you like having something mixed in your water, electrolytes, sugars, such as Nuun or Tailwind, you can pre-mix in liters or gallons and keep in your cooler ready to refill.

Stephanie Rios Food
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Rios

Nutrition.  Keep your tummy happy, don’t try new foods on race day.  If you know bean burritos give you an upset stomach don’t eat them the night before or during the race.  Make sure to consume calories during your run and in between your laps.  This can be in the form of gels and chews while on the course, or via tailwind,
but could also be real food, almonds and dried mangos.  When you come in to transition, in addition to refilling your water, make sure you to consume calories.  Eight to ten hours into a 24 hour even is not the time you want to bonk.  Bring more food with you than you think you will need.  Remember, food for fuel and food for happy.

Foot Care. Keep your feet dry and happy.  Change your shoes on socks as often as necessary to keep your feet dry. Apply Trail Toes or some other type of moisture barrier.  Powder your feet to remove moisture, drain blisters as they form to keep them from getting worse. Blisters are not your own problem, keeping your feet dry is imperative to keeping away maceration.  Maceration, if severe enough, can end your race.

Body and Chafing. Lube is your friend.  Inner thighs, where the waist pack or hydration pack rubs, shoulders, and especially between your butt cheeks.  Finding out you chafed when you get in the shower is not a pleasant experience.

Stephanie Rios Bin
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Rios

Gear List. Towels, headlamp(s), spare batteries, water, food, gels, hydration pack, water bottle, socks, shoes, two to three sets of running clothes, long sleeve, hat, sun glasses, tent, chair, first aid kit, foot care kit, sunblock, bug spray, and a roller if you want one. Don’t forget a bin or bag to hold it all and keep it organized!

That’s it! Oh, and remember to have fun.

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Review: Amphipod Trans4m Thermal Plus Run Gloves

From: Danielle Carrier
Product: Amphipod Trans4m Thermal Plus Run Gloves

This winter I knew I was going to need a new pair of running gloves that would work better for Winter OCR and still be comfortable for cold weather running. I went into my local running store and the owner recommended Amphipod Trans4m Thermal Plus Run Gloves.

These gloves have 4 levels of functionality. First there is the full coverage glove and mitten for total coverage. Level 2 would be just thumbs exposed to take a picture, send a text or to give a nice thumbs up for the camera. Level 3 is a fingerless glove. The mitten portion folds back snuggly to the hand and just fingers and thumbs are exposed. Level 4 is full hand exposure, a great feature for obstacle course racing. You can pull the whole glove off your hand and push it down on your wrist. This allows the runner to keep your gloves on but still be able to do the obstacles that require a full hand grip.

These gloves are very warm. They are fleeced lined, wick moisture very well, and are both windproof and water resistance. I used them for Blizzard Blast, Polar Bear Challenge and Winter Dash and never had a problem with cold hands. The Thermal Plus gloves run 45 dollars a pair and there is a slightly less warm version that retails for 40 dollars. These have been a great investment.

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The Kids Are In The Game!

Benson Bear

Soon, the 2016 #racelocal Grand Prix will be on us.  Walls will be climbed, heavy things carried, miles will be run, mountains will be scaled.  There are medals to be earned.  One of the items we are very excited, and very proud, to announce about ~this year’s~ 2016 Grand Prix is it’s not just for *you* any longer.

It’s time to get the kids into the game!

A few early details for you: Some races will have a minimum age requirement, some will not.  Some will have a minimum age requirement, and require the child to run with their parent.  But this year your children are going to have the ability to run, crawl, jump, get muddy, and #racelocal right along with you! FULL details are coming very soon!

MaAlong with the registration information, there will be information about how to register your child for #racelocal as well.  While you are earning swag for your races, so will your child (or children). Oh, wait…you didn’t think we’d save all the cool stuff for the big kids, did you?  Oh, no…we have a lot of very cool things lined up just for the kids division!  The more they race, the more they earn!

What could be better than spending the day together, racing, and earning cool swag?  That’s what we thought, too…nothing!  Which is why we’ve put this whole thing (and prizes) together!

Racing should be able to combine all of your passions together, and now it can.  We told you the 2016 #racelocal was going to be bigger and better than ever, and we mean it.

Now, look – medals and prizes are fantastic, we all enjoy earning them.  We have all crossed a finish line with friends, our battle buddies. Imagine taking on a race with your family! Helping each other on the course, building memories as you finish the race together; those would be memories which would stay with you, and your family members, forever!  Ultimately this is the big goal, to bring us all together.  #racelocal #strongertogether

FIT

We hope you have questions, and we hope you’re as excited as we are! Keep your eyes peeled, more information will be coming soon!  All questions will be answered soon!

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Featured Review: BoldrDash on the Beach 2015

boldrdashWhile this was a bit of a drive for me, I had so much fun last year that it was worth the drive to run it again.  Who wouldn’t want to race on the beach!

The weather was scheduled to be beautiful but was chilly on the car ride in.  Scarborough Beach was easy to find with GPS.  I followed Sandy, aka Mama Hen, and Vince in to the parking area.  Parking was free but that they were accepting $5 donations for Meeting Street and in exchange you would given a BoldrDash air freshener.  I did not donate so I do not know what the air freshener is like.  It was slightly awkward to have it listed that they were accepting donations.  Personally, I would much rather have it state that the parking was free, or that parking was $5 per car with all proceeds being donated to Meeting Street.   Parking was plentiful and an easy walk to registration and to the start and finish line.groupstart

Registration was located under one of the shelters to the side.  It was not in the middle of the start/finish zone, the location seemed to work well.  What didn’t work well was the different lines for registration but people didn’t realize this and so the line was really long.  Picking up my packet was easy but instead of having all of my bibs ready to be paid for, the volunteer had to send me to another line.  So after waiting to pick up my packet, I had to wait to pay for my bibs.  While they had me on the list for the requested number, when I asked about prepaying and if I didn’t run them all did I come back to this table to get my money back, I was told I wouldn’t be able to get my money back.  This was not what we had been told but since I knew that I was only going to run a max of two extra laps, I decided to just pay for both of them and worry about the details later.  Luckily I didn’t have to worry about getting my money back as I did run both of my extra laps.  Not everyone has been so lucky.  It was time to move on to another line to wait to pick up my t-shirt.  I opted for the technical shirt, which feels great and I love the design, I likely won’t wear it as it is white.  Not the first race to have white shirts of course but lowers the likelihood I will wear it.  Unfortunately, registration was not smooth and does not earn a thumbs up from me.  That being said, I loved the concept of emailing the RD and getting on a list for multiple laps and having them available at the finish line so that I didn’t have to traipse all over to get my additional bibs.

start3Despite the struggles and frustrations with registration, the course was fantastic.  The start was a short walk from the finish line and festival area.       We started out on the grass, with a short down and back that at first felt like a waste but I was soon grateful for the chance to warm up before grabbing a bolder to carry down and back over 3 different walls.  While there appeared to be a few backups by simply walking in between the walls meant that I didn’t have to wait.  The next obstacle was deceptively challenging!  A boulder attached to a chain.  At first glance it appears that it will be easy but the boulders really don’t do anything other than give you a something to hold on to.  The chain was heavy!  Dragging it up the hill and back down was hard.  A spider crawl, which I don’t remember from last year.  At first I tried to go  in the middle option but the walls were too far apart for me to reach!  Luckily the other sets were closer together and I could complete the obstacle.  It wasn’t anything I had ever seen before which made it fun, for the first lap.  Simply energy sapping on the 2nd and 3rd.

The balance beam supported by chains was just as challenging as I remembered.  teamworkAnother new obstacle!  A wall scale to a cargo crawl and down a firemen’s pole! It is much easier going down the pole than it is going up it.  I was starting to get a bit worried we had spent so much time on the grass but that was soon to be remedied as we were sent down to the beach and a 100# Wreck Bag carry.  Sandy and I carried it together but my two additional laps I had help getting it on my shoulders and proceeded to carry it myself!  The tire horse.  I can’t get the ups I need in the sand, so this one I crawl up and over.

A sandy crawl under a platform that runners later in the course were traversing with buckets of water.  The drill Sargent they had working this was encouraging them to dump water on us and yelling at us to get our butts down under the cargo net in the middle.  It was good fun.  I stayed dry on lap bldrdsh wreckone, but laps two and three both involved water fights with other NES members.  Which admittedly felt great in the hot sun.  From there we went on to one of my favorite sections.  We just had to navigate along all the rocks.  I know it tears peoples fits up and can lead to a lot of rolled ankles if not careful but I really enjoy rock hopping and find that I can maintain a fairly decent pace!

The volunteers on course have thus far been great.  One even got a great jumping shot of me and she didn’t even realize it till after the shot was taken.

Tires, a wall that was super slick from the salt and sand and I needed to use the supports to get up and jumpover with a little help from my friends, even crawling up Michael on my last lap and then helping to haul him and his ruck up.  Sandbag carry, of course Sandy and I take the 50# option, why would we take less?  A wall with three options for getting up and over.  No help, some kickers and grabbers, and a full ladder style.  Was a great way to still do the wall even once tired.

Balance beam with slosh pipe.  Was great that the volunteers offered to bring the slosh pipes back to the start for us but on the third lap none of the slosh-pipes were at the start and so people just ran up and over the balance beam.

The buckets, woman grab one, men grab two, there were different sizes.  I grabbed two for each lap.  This was totally brutal on my hands as the handles are so thin.  Water fights did ensue!

Over under through, with a 50# buoy.  I downgraded to the 35# for the 2nd and 3rd laps.  BuoyI believe it was in this obstacle that I lost my FitBit.  I looked briefly on laps 2 and 3 but couldn’t find it.  I know other people helped look for it as well.  Very sad!

Tire hop, similar to the log hop but stacked tires with wood on the top.  They wiggle and sink and are super fun.  I get a lot of enjoyment from these, a little more than I feel is truly necessary!  On to the slant wall, again with different amounts of help.  As the day wore on and the sand and salt built up on the wood, it got slicker and slicker.  First lap I went with the harder, but not hardest, option, and by the end I was using all the help I could get.  Sliding down the backside was a bit scary as I was afraid of falling.  Silly irrational fears!

slantSomewhere between the buckets and slanted wall was a tire drag. Through the sand. With different weighted tires.  Blue rope was the lightest, the first two the heaviest.  They were heavy but I did them, all three laps!  The sand and the rope chewed up my hands though.  Between the swelling, the heat, the friction of the sand.  Ouch.

On to the monkey bars.  It was only at FIT Challenge a few weeks ago that I managed to get the monkey bars on my own.  I even did the larger spaced ones with help on the upwards bars.  At the Beast, where the bars are thicker, I did all but the highest up on my own, that one up I needed help.  But BoldrDash? I DID THE HARDEST UP AND DOWN MONKEY BARS!!! ALL THREE LAPS!!! WITHOUT HELP!!! Okay.  Sorry, not sorry.  I did it on my own and its one of the proudest moments I have ever head at a race.

topofwallParallel bars that I fell off of and so used my legs to help get through, a tire wall up and over, and then it was the dreaded potato sack.  I am actually pretty efficient at hopping in a sack but all the jumping brings out the calf cramps like nobodies business.  I had to miss this obstacle on lap two as they were taking someone away in ambulance.  I haven’t heard an update but he was alive when taken away and have been thinking of him a lot.  I don’t know the details but it was certainly scary.

The tire swing, maneuvering from tire to tire without touching the ground.  I have a great method but wish the ropes were a little thicker as they continue to sackjumptake a major toll on my hand.

Finish line! Fruit, chia bars, bottled water.  Was great to cross the finish line and be able to stuff my face with something.  Certainly made a difference in getting back out for my multiple laps.  They took my timing chip, handed me my medal, and right there was my next bib.  It took just a minute to get and I was able to be off again.

I sadly didn’t get to enjoy any of the festival area or see what was around for vendors but there were plenty of porta-potties and that was all that mattered at the time!

 

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Featured Review: Ragnar Relay (Cape Cod 2014)

Huge thanks to Jeff Wohlen from the NE Spahten Mens team for this review of the recent Cape Cod Ragnar Relay!

76864_459595874402_4865546_nIntroduction
Ragnar Cape Cod is relay road race that runs from Hull, MA to Provincetown, MA on May 9 and 10 2014. Teams of 12 (regular team) or 6 (ultra team) took on a course that was broken down into 36 legs. Members of the regular teams each ran 3 legs while members of the ultra teams each ran 6 legs. The legs varied in length from a little over 2 miles all the way up to 13 miles. For regular teams, each runner took on between 12 and 22 miles of running.

Our team of 12 was broken down into 2 vans. Van 1 covered legs 1-6, 13-18, and 25-30 while van 2 covered legs 7-12, 19-24, and 31-36.

I was runner 2 in van 1 so this review will be written from that perspective. This means I only saw half the course and will be relying on accounts from members of van 2 to fill in the blanks.

Registration and Checkin
The registration process for van 1 was at the starting line in Hull. The captain was asked to sign in and fill out an informational sheet that included a cell phone number so the team could be contacted in an emergency or if they need to be disciplined for a course violation.

The informational sheet was then brought to the safety gear check where a volunteer made sure the van had 6 reflective vests, 2 working headlamps, and 2 flashing colored lights to wear on a runners back. After the volunteer checked off our gear, we were sent into a 15 minute safety briefing. Here everything rule and safety related was explained along with how violations will be handled. Each team was given 3 “strikes” and then they will be disqualified. If a team violates a major rule like drinking on course they would be immediately disqualified and kicked off the course.

Once the safety talk was done we picked up our van number sticker, bibs, slap bracelet (the runners baton), swag bag, a copy of the Rag Mag (maps, rules, etc), and an optional case of bottled water. After collecting the goods we got our tech t-shirt and headed back to the van so runner 1 could take off.

For a very complicated check-in process it flowed very well and they managed to keep the confusion to a minimal level. Part of the reason this process went so smoothly was that Ragnar did a great job of communicating with the teams prior to the race. They sent out numerous emails and provided a “Race Bible” to explain all of the required items and what to expect on race day. Most teams that we saw were very prepared for the race. Our only complaint was picking up the shirts at the start gave us something else to not lose and find space for. It may have made more sense to give these out at the end.

The Race
Ragnar staggers teams starting times based on the average 10k mile time of the team. This information was collected when we registered and a few weeks before the race we were given a time. Each starting time included about 20 teams. After the racers were in the starting corral, the MC announced each team and hyped the crowd for the start. This is not a chipped time event. The teams are timed based on the difference between their starting time and finishing time.
Unlike a normal road race, Ragnar does not shut down roads or put up a lot of course markings. The general rule of thumb is to follow the direction of a course marking sign until you see another sign. Most of the time these signs either pointed you in the direction of the course, told you to run on the road or sidewalk, indicated that there was only 1 mile remaining, or gave some humorous inspirational advice. The course markers all had a blinking red light attached which made it very easy to find the next marker in the dark. There were a few times the marking signs were confusing or got accidentally bumped by a passing runner but overall it was a very easy system to follow.

10329880_649937885094561_6942815632275004316_oMost of the major intersections had a police detail to help runners cross the street. This was especially true at night. There was one situation at exchange 4 where there was a major intersection with no detail and it caused some runners to wait a long time or chance getting hit by a car. This seemed like it needed a lot more attention to be truly safe.

Between each leg were exchanges where the baton was handed off. The current runner enters the exchange and slaps the bracelet on the new runner who exits the exchange. The exchange corrals were taped off areas and only the next runner was allowed to wait in there. The rest of the team could watch from outside the tape. The exchange process could have been very confusing but as the runner approached the exchange, a volunteer radioed ahead to the exchange and the team number was yelled out. Once that happened the next runner jumped into the exchange and got ready. There were a few times where we couldn’t hear the next runner or they didn’t yell at all but these were few and far between and most of the time the runner could be seen from a distance anyway.

Most of the exchanges were straightforward but there were a few times where the incoming runner and the outgoing runner had to go the same way. This led to a few almost collisions. There were also a few exchanges where the outgoing runner didn’t exactly know where to go. Both of these things could have been fixed with a little more signage. Overall it was a very smooth and painless process.

About 1/3 of the race took place at night (6:30 pm to 6:00 am per Ragnar rules). Once nighttime began everyone in the van had to wear a vest whether they were running or not. The active runner also had to wear a headlamp and a blinking light on their back. This led to some awesome views on straightaways of dozens of red lights running in a row.

Downtime
Unlike most races, Ragnar has quite a bit of downtime. Most of it comes when your van has completed its current batch of legs and the other van is on course. For us these breaks were 3 to 5 hours long. During the breaks we stopped for food at a restaurant or parked at a major exchange and relaxed/tried to sleep. A major exchange is one where van 1 ends and van 2 takes over. These are normally bigger to accommodate double the number of vans and they contain more things to do. Many of the major exchanges had sponsor booths giving away samples of anything from drinks to beef jerky. Many also had vendors selling larger quantities of the items being sampled.

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The later big exchanges offered places to sleep and shower. These were in high schools where runners could place sleeping bags on the gymnasium floor and locker room showers were opened for use. Other major exchanges offered tent cities where sleeping could be attempted. We chose to try and sleep in the van at a major exchange parking lot to mixed results.

The only major exchange problem we had was at exchange 24 which was really small for the amount of activity it received. They offered an alternate spot about a mile away to relax and once we were within an hour of our starting time we were allowed into the actual exchange. The configuration of the lot was odd and resulted in a chaotic scene. We parked at the opposite end of the lot from the exchange and didn’t actually get to see our runner off because we didn’t think there would be time to walk back to the van, navigate our way through the chaos of the lot, and make it to exchange 25 in time.

10321652_649939168427766_6378085206149463416_oAnother unique downtime activity was decorating vans. You were free to decorate your van to suit the personality of the runners inside along with “tagging” other vans to let them know your team was there. It was a lot of fun to see the various ways teams decorated their vans along with the crazy ways other teams tagged those vans. We saw tags that varied from simple magnets slapped on other vans to a team impaling marshmallow peeps on antennas. It was crazy, creative, and awesome all at the same time.

The Finish
The finish in Provincetown consisted of a giant inflatable finish line and a large festival area. While the final runner was out on the course the other runners made their way to the finish area to be there for the completion of their journey. Most of the teams waited several hundred yards from the finish line and watched for their runner. Once the runner got to them, the entire team would finish together. This led to some epic and emotional finishes as teams that have pushed themselves to the limit complete their journey. As teams approached the finish, the finish line MC would call out the team name and number. From there a Ragnar photographer would take a team picture and a volunteer would give all of the team members their medals.

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NE Spahten Co-Eds coming to the finish

The festival area consisted of many of the same vendors found at the other exchanges giving out samples along with a free massage tent (tips were welcome). There was also a large inflatable building that sold Ragnar merchandise. They handled the merchandise situation better than just about any race I’ve ever attended. While we were free to buy anything in the merchandise tent, they were also making it known that we would receive a code via email to get free shipping in their online store which contained all of the same merchandise. This allowed people to look and try things on but purchase later at the same price. There was no need to buy more stuff on the spot only to have to find room for it in the van. I have already received my code and used it to buy a hoodie in the store. I wish more races did this because many times at the end of a race I don’t have time to get merchandise or the merchandise I want is sold out and not available online.

10298214_649161148505568_4920112878961563581_oAlong with our bibs we received coupons for a free beer provided by Sierra Nevada, a free burrito from Boloco, and a free bowl of chowder. The food and beer was found off to the side of the main festival area on the other side of a gift shop selling local Provincetown merchandise. They had a fairly large tent with tables and chairs setup that allowed people to enjoy their food in a relaxed environment. There weren’t a lot of food options available but the options we had were of a very high quality and definitely welcome after 192 miles.

There were several options for parking at the finish area. There were parking lots close to the finish line that charged a nominal fee but they also had a free lot about a mile away that came with a free shuttle.

Conclusion
This was an event unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. The amount of effort required to put on an event of this magnitude must be mind blowing. After seeing how epic a Ragnar event is, I have no problem with the $1200 team registration fee. As a team though, we did have an issue with the way volunteers were handled. Each team had to provide 3 volunteers or pay an additional $120 for each volunteer under 3. We felt that after spending $1200 on the race the threat of another $360 fee was excessive. This is not a knock on the volunteers themselves. Every volunteer we came across was friendly and awesome even when they were stuck directing van parking at 2:30 am. The volunteers deserve a lot of credit for how awesome this event was.

It took us all of 2 legs to realize we want to run this race next year. Ragnar did several things to the New England Spahten Men’s team. It challenged us in ways we have never been challenged before. It made us push each other to accomplish new personal records beyond what we thought was possible. Most of all though, it made 12 guys lifelong friends by giving them an unforgettable experience.

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“Challenge” Review: Tough Mudder Miami

Tough Mudder has been taking lots of heat and deservedly so for changing the date of the Boston event.  Even more criticism has come their way by scheduling the New England Mudder on the same weekend as the Spartan Sprint at Amesbury.  Add their high prices paired with bully behavior and many Spahtens have written off Tough Mudder for 2013 and beyond.  In my opinion, that could be a mistake.

Here’s what you see and experience at a Tough Mudder:

  • Money spent on the festival area and the course
  • A lengthy 10-12 mile course that is pure fun other than electrocution
  • Take a break from burpee penalties
  • Mandatory assistance to/from fellow mudders
  • Excellent spectator access to obstacles at many parts of the course
  • A large variety of obstacles, with new and unique additions built for 2013 (see pics)
  • Humerous and motivational signage throughout the course
  • The best pre-race starting line pep talk
  • Very well supported courses with water, bananas, oranges, energy gel chews (6 stations in Miami, only 2 had just water)
  • Protein bars, bananas, beer, and water at the finish line
  • Schwag bag with tech shirt, protein bars and energy gels courtesy of CLIFF
  • Foil blankets (race temps were in the 50s, which is freezing for South Florida)

The Miami event took place on March 3rd & 4th at the Homestead Miami Speedway.  One week’s time made a huge difference in weather.  It was cold, cloudy and windy, the exact opposite of the Spartan super a week earlier.  Despite that, TM made good use of the venue both inside and outside the racetrack.  Athletes ran on the racetrack, pit stop areas, burm top, and the surrounding fields.  The festival area, start and finish were located inside the track.  Although there were no trails, the 11+ miles were extremely fun and loaded with approximately 25 obstacles that were a refreshing change to my recent Spartan runs.

My only negative issue was the two obstacles that provided electric shocks.  The crawling “Electric Eel” zapped me 6-10 times and the “Electroshock Therapy” took out my buddy.  The shocks appeared to be much stronger and more  frequent than my last TM.

I too was disappointed that the 5/11 Boston event was moved to another date.  I negotiated pre-approval with my wife and I was ready to book travel pending the venue announcement.  I’m not a competitive runner, so the TM suits me well.  You get a solid distance to thoroughly enjoy conversation-paced jogging with your crew and fellow mudders.  The TM is a great event to share with friends, teammates, and comrades over a few hours.  My advice:  Do a TM when it makes financial sense and never regret the decision.  You will have a fantastic time with your mates.  I look forward to seeing many of you at the Ruckus!

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Featured Review: Peak Snowshoe Challenge

If you haven’t made it up to Pittsfield VT for some strange reason.  Go.  Even if its just to meander through the mountains and grab a sandwich and smoothie at the General Store.  Most people however venture to the north country to challenge themselves and because they’re nuts.

This time, for the first time, I got to drag my wonderful wife Kristin along.  I won’t say she “loved” it but she worked hard, kept going, never complained and finished.  Her first 10k, first anything since our second child, first snowshoe race (and mine however we have plenty of experience on them) and our first over night away from children and dogs in almost 3 years.

We headed up Friday to stay at the Trailside Inn.   Many Sphatens and Storm Chasers bunked here thanks to the efforts of Jennifer Sullivan.  I highly recommend this place and will probably be looking to use this as a place to lick my wounds in June, but I digress.  Initially we stopped in at the General Store for packet pickup.  Kristin checked out the joint we grabbed some goodies and stepped off, bib’s in hand.  With some extra shwaggage  consisting of:  high quality t-shirt, Peaks beanie, moral patch, sticker and coupons.  Not a bad get pre-race.

I loved our accommodations and would go into the lovely evening that we had but this isn’t dear diary and none of  you care.  Brass tacks here!  So race day:

When we arrived at Amee Farm (no this is not the link to the farm, its across the street, figure it out) home of the Death Race, to participate in the Peaks Races Snowshoe Challenge, runners were lining up.  Racers were there for the Marathon distance: 4 laps, the half mary: 2 laps, and the 10k:  1 lap.  With over 300 registered racers this would be the largest snowshoe race in the United States.  Ultra distance runners, 100 miles, had started the night before at 7pm and conveniently for us were braking  trail and packing down the snow.

It was a super positive atmosphere.  When your at one of these races your home.  Lots of familiar faces and everyone is of the same mind.  Get it done.  Everyone has their own idea of how to accomplish that so it really doesn’t matter what your level is.  I didn’t get to see much of the pre-race activities due to interpersonal differences of opinion.  Regardless it was positive, with a slight chill in the air, a bit overcast, and a few flakes on the wind.  You couldn’t really ask for better.

There was a small briefing by Peter and off each racer went by respective distance heats.  10ks being last and me at the end of them.  There was plenty of snow on the ground making snowshoes convenient but not entirely necessary do impart to the sheer numbers of people packing it down.

The course is on a mountain all to familiar to Death Racers.  I should note that there was a Death Race training camp going on at the same time as the race from the evening before.  Some crazy people; Nele, Patrick, Andrew, and Eric were participating in that camp and then did the 1/2 marathon after.  Because why?  Well because why not!  The trail was narrow single track mostly up hill but not “killer”.  Most of the people I saw were really in it for the sheer enjoyment of it.  I myself was trying it just to see some of the area before its thrust upon me in June.

We wandered and ambled through switch backs and long stretches.  Delayering as necessary.  I had chosen to forgo a “boot” or even gortex for my feet and used my old standby innov8s.  They were perfect.  As we climbed we were passed by those doing the greater distances.  To say some phenomenal athletes were blasting by us would be an understatement.  Most looked as fresh as the moment they started, but none showed any real sign of fatigue.  Stepping off trail to let them by, as proper etiquette dictates, was always met by sincere gratitude but also with words of congratulations and encouragement by them!  Here they a’re knocking out 2, 4, and 15 loops and they’re telling us good job?  Humbling, very humbling.  I think that is the most pervasive atmosphere at these event’s.  Attitude is checked at the door.

At what I believe to have been the half way point which may actually have been, it really was no relief.  At this area the “aid” station was pretty picked over but we were last, and it was remote.  Also we planned self sufficiency and felt the “runners’ need it more.  So we trudged on.  More up hill, more switchbacks.  Then an almost primeval area aptly named the “labyrinth”.  It was not  till then that we could confirm that we were in fact plateauing.  A stone cabin at the summit built by the efforts of Death Racers came into view.  here an even more picked over aid station.  Afterward it would be the decent.
Descending in snowshoes is a tricky enterprise at best.  If your not paying attention you’ll be eating snow quickly.  If you are paying attention it just takes a little more time.  You have to trust your equipment and you need huge quads.  As we descended it donned on me that Betsy had a little flask of what she likes to refer to as Captains Reserve.  In this case was Glenkinchie scotch.

GLENKINCHIE 12 YEAR SINGLE MALT SCOTCH 

Glenkinchie is a light, delicate whisky; Sweet and creamy with a subtle floral fragrance.

This subtly sophisticated Lowland single malt is a superb pre-dinner drink; try it taken straight from the freezer.

Well now, look at that it just happened to be pre-dinner and the temps were below freezing.  There really is nothing like a good scotch to warm the bones, lighten the senses, and add an extra pep in your step.  It certainly took my mind off the miles.  There were a few spills and chills on the way down but our little group trudged ever forward.  Kristin not imbibing. might have done well do to so if only to lessen the pain of double blisters which she endured without a sound.

Finally at river elevation we could see Don Deavney cheering people on.  No longer lounging in the “monkey” bridge over the river Don was still smiles and encouragement.  Crossing back over the bridge and into the homeward stretch I finally ditched the snowshoes, which was instant relief.  My snowshoe bindings are designed to go over stiff mountaineering boots not soft running shoes.  The design which at first blush appears excellent but in retrospect is uncomfortable and probably is why the company no longer uses it.

Meeting up with Spahtens at the finish line was excellent!  An unexpected medal at the end was a nice bonus.  A huge cup of most excellent vegetable soup was very well welcomed.  Some opportunities to socialize were taken and at least one photo was snapped.  But as parenting duty call’s as it always will it was back in the truck an headed home.

This is a great Race and a great time.  Although we couldn’t stick around for after festivities we felt excellent and accomplished.  I highly highly recommend this race.  Take the time and make a weekend out of it.  On the way home stop off in Lebanon NH and visit the 7 Barrels Brewery.  Kristin and I annihilated a plate of chili nachos, sandwiches, and a shepherd’s pie.  I’m not ashamed to say we could have done more damage to the menu.  Nothing like a post race hunger.

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Miami Spartan Super 2/23/2013

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Read the team reviews!

The second Spartan Super of 2013 arrived in North Miami this weekend. 80+ degree temps, high humidity, ample sunshine, and a powerful  UV index were in abundance.  This event holds unique importance to me because it marks the one year anniversary of my introduction to obstacle course running.  I didn’t participate in Miami Spartan 2012, but some friends did.  Their pictures ignited an obstacle race Google search and I quickly went from beginner to enthusiast.  Now, a year later, I was eager to meet a handful of robust fellow enthusiasts representing the NE Spahtens who made the journey seeking tropical spartan glory.

Oleta River State Park requires a 5-10 minute shuttle from a separate parking location just like Amesbury. The shuttle bus actually drove under a cargo net bridge created by the stacks of two by two cargo containers. Athletes were rolling over the top of the net as shuttles passed through underneath.  The festival area seemed tight and chaotic at times, but any tent/service I needed was utilized in a timely manner. Free samples of coconut water, protein bars/drinks, etc. we’re notably absent or were hidden.

The 8.3 mile course highlighted the South Florida inshore ecosystem of bays, estuaries, mangroves, seagrapes, pine, bamboo, and limestone. Several miles of mountain bike trails meandered through the forest. Here’s the list of obstacles in order thanks to a spectator map:

  • Under over under over walls
  • Water crossing via bay
  • Over under through walls
  • Monkey Bars
  • Water crossing with buoy line
  • 7 foot walls
  • 6 foot walls
  • Rolling mud (trenches)
  • Tractor Pull
  • Sandbag carry
  • Cargo net bridge
  • Atlas lift (lift large chuck of concrete, walk, 5 burpees, lift and return)
  • 8 foot walls
  • Tire flip (three over and three back)
  • Hercules hoist
  • Bucket hoist (repel down embankment, fill three homer buckets, spill H2O, climb back up)
  • Rope climb
  • Traverse wall
  • Mud crawl under barbed-wire
  • Slippery wall
  • Gladiator pit

Spectators had excellent access to the final five obstacles as well as a walking trail to view others.  I was pleased to complete all of the obstacles with zero penalty burpees.  I did complete 30 “team” burpees for the two locals I ran with.  I also learned a valuable lesson:  Don’t make Spartan races any harder than necessary.  For example, I chose the one XL tire because I was impatient.  The body strain nearly left me with a soprano voice and sent me to the OR to repair soft tissue tears.

I found it difficult to  partition my time among several local factions, the traveling Spahtens, and my family.  I look forward to seeing new and familiar Spahtens as we travel around the globe seeking new challenges.  Thank you to Keith (solid man), Nele (Naila-friendly beast), Corrine (sweet soul), Tom (proud dad), Ellen (cat who swallowed canary smile), Betty (saw her for a second), and Yvette (self-proclaimed bag crasher).  I’ll see you at the Ruckus!

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Arizona Spartan Sprint Review 2/9/2013

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The second Spartan race of 2013 was held this weekend at the McDowell Mountain Park in Fountain Hills, AZ.  Spartan HQ changed the venue just a few weeks prior to the event for a “more challenging course”.  As a result, logistics also became more challenging due to a 30 mile ride to parking, a 25 minute bus ride (each way) to the venue, and a 45 minute wait to board a return bus.  It was time to STFU!
The 4.7 miles sprint meandered through single-file trails littered with loose rocks of all sizes. Flat ground was rare and there were two steep hill climbs both up and down. My knee-high socks protected my shins from the desert scrub brush and the brutally sharp gravel I encountered on the crawls. The 47 degree temperature chilled my FL bones once I became water-logged during the last mile.

Obstacles:

  • Under/Over
  • Over Under Through
  • Concrete carry with 5 burpees (new to me)
  • Walls of 6′, 7′ & 8′
  • Log Hop (obstacle formerly known as Stump Traverse)
  • Monkey Bars
  • Pancake/Sandbag Carry (appeared shorter than expected)
  • Wall Traverse
  • Tractor Pull
  • Spear Throw (my only failed obstacle)
  • Rope Climb
  • Mud Mounds & Water Trenches
  • Cargo Net
  • Mud Crawl under barbed-wire (long on a bed of super sharp gravel)
  • Slippery Wall (no running start due to mud/water trench)
  • Fire Jump
  • Gladiators

I thoroughly enjoyed the desert terrain and panoramic views from the hilltops.  Cloudy skies and the cold temperatures were not ideal, but it’s part of the adventure.  Many obstacles had improved signage with descriptions.  The Reebok name was ubiquitous and omnipresent.  The festival area seemed a little tight and chaotic, but all the usual tents/booths were represented.  Bag check was a total mess.  It was drastically understaffed and many Spartans including me were permitted to retrieve their own.  Growing pains with volunteers at new venues are to be expected.

I’m looking forward to meeting NE Spahtens at the Miami Super, only 13 days away and 30 degrees warmer!

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Superhero Scramble Race Review #Miami January 12, 2013

The Superhero Scramble set up camp at Amelia Earhart Park in Hialeah, FL, which I consider to be the Amesbury of Miami.  It has become the venue of choice for the 3-6 mile obstacle course events.  There’s onsite parking ($10) just off the entrance, which provides a very short walk to the festival area with car access if you need it.  The various lakes, open fields, and extensive mountain bike trails provide the necessary terrain for quality runs.

Registration and bag check ($5) appeared smooth for those who used them.  I took advantage of offsite packet pickup, which always speeds up race day.

The festival area included sponsor tents, merchandise, a live band, and access to the final handful of obstacles.  I did not take advantage of the bevy of local food trucks, but was impressed with their menus.  Grass-fed beef & bison burgers and other gourmet fare were available.  The large shade tents provided for spectators were both smart and effective.

The Superhero Scramble did not disappoint those who came to see costumes.  They were ample.  My kids liked Gumby most and everyone from the Hall of Justice was represented.  There were also a few villains and many teams in non-hero themed matching outfits.

The race kicked off a midst a green smoke grenade.  Here were the obstacles I conquered:

  • Barbed wire crawl
  • Pile of tires to traverse
  • Water crossing via tunnel
  • Leap of Faith jump into lake
  • Water crossing via wire balance
  • Rock climbing walls 10′ or 5′
  • Net climb up a trail hill
  • Pair of 8′ walls
  • Over under through walls
  • 5 gallon bucket of water carry
  • Rope climb with thick rope and generous knots between a pair of double stacked shipping containers
  • US Marines section with 10 burpees, low crawl, baby crawl & 15 reps of ammo box press
  • Cargo net suspended by a pair of double stacked shipping containers
  • “Hell Freezes Over” small fire jump immediately followed by a low crawl through freezing water
  • Steep angled wall climb with knotted and unknotted rope (your choice)
  • Water slide into green slime with questionable viscosity
  • Mud crawl under very low barbed wire
  • Run into a US Marine holding kickboxing pad

I had a wonderful time running with an unofficial team of veteran runners and first timers.  The Superhero Scramble course was not outside the box, but was loads of fun.  I strongly recommend you add the Superhero Scramble to calendar in 2013.  They look like they are gaining traction in the OCR world.  Go experience the scramble for yourself June 8th in Amesbury.

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