Best of 2011
I was posed the question in a comment which race series did I like best this past year. To date I have done Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, Rugged Maniac, Run For Your Lives, Renegade Playground Challenge, Tough Mountain Challenge and the Shawnee Peak Challenge (Precursor to Ruckus). As many of these races do not appear on my schedule for 2012 I thought I would give a little recap on my experiences with each race.
These are my opinions alone, and many of the races may have gotten better since I ran them. I look forward to trying more races in the future and finding the next one to “blow my mind.”
SHAWNEE PEAK CHALLENGE (2010)
The Shawnee Peak Challenge was held in the fall of 2010 at Shawnee Peak Resort in Maine. This was the first race that the now popular series RUCKUS put on. Unfortunately, this race did not come back to Maine in 2011 due to a small turnout of less than 500. The race however was challenging and utilized all the mountain had for terrain as well the obstacles were fun and challenging.
It was a chip-timed race, which I lost in the tires on course due to a poor tie for them. I went back and pulled a timer out of a chip I thought was mine but realized when I finished I had picked up someone else’s chip. After the initial race, the top racers were invited into the championship heat in which they got to run the course again for the top prizes. Since this event no longer runs there isn’t too much to write about it.
TOUGH MTN CHALLENGE (2011)
Tough Mountain Challenge, another independent smaller race put on at Sunday River Resort in Maine. This year they had almost 1000 competitors signed up. I had a great time at this event the weather was extremely hot so many competitors did not show up on race day. However, weather aside, the course was challenging and fun. They used a lot of uniquely alpine and ski resort themed obstacles; i.e. running through snow guns spitting out water, traversing over a net above one of the ponds used in the winter to catch skiers who might fall off the lift, and a couple of the terrain park elements into the race. I enjoyed this one. No finishers medal, except the top three men and top three women overall got sweet belt buckles. Also this race was not chip-timed but they recorded results as racers finished.
The only bummer about this race was the course markings, coming out of the culvert pipes it was hard to tell where the race went and a few of us went through extra pipes and had to figure our way back onto the course. Also you did not get to pick your wave time which they have already changed for 2012. You can read my full recap, Tough Mountain Challenge Race Report. Also this race was the race I met the folks behind wickedmuddy.com which was really fun.
I am not returning in 2012, due to other races I am focusing on and the fact that a 5K is just too short a race for me to really enjoy. However, if you are looking for a reason to head to Maine in July it’s a good one!
RENEGADE PLAYGROUND (2011)
A newcomer to the Obstacle Race world. The best way to describe Renegade Playground Challenge is grassroots. It was fun way to kick off the 2011 race season. I would say it wasn’t the most challenging race of the year and it’s more of just a fun run obstacle course. But if you are looking for a way to get into the world of Obstacle Racing this race is a great one.
For me this race was one to check off, I did it, and move on. The organizers were helpful and obstacles were a good for a first attempt. The course was just over a 5k and again I have my sites set on the longer ones next year so this one is going on the shelf. For the full recap, Renegade Playground Challenge.
RUN FOR YOUR LIVES (2011)
I was at the inaugural race for Run For Your Lives, Darlington, MD, and they seem to be trying to capture the latest craze in all things zombie. The race left a lot to be desired and was pretty lackluster. There were problems with parking and transportation. The event was great, great vendors, good entertainment, overall a good party. The race however was a different story.
You wear a flag football belt and people designated as zombies try to grab the flags from you. It sounds fun in theory but once the race started it got dirty and people were pushing out of the way of zombies and zombies were basically tackling people. It was basic instinct that took hold, fight or flight, I am fight. The obstacles themselves were actually pretty lame, the zombies made it more challenging but overall this is one I am not headed back to. The distance was a 5K.
The marketing was great, the hype was great but the race didn’t deliver. It was a chip-timed race and not sure if there were awards afterwards. The focus was on the party by the organizers. If you are looking for a different kind of race not too challenging this one is for you, it does have a killer after party. I actually never wrote a post about this event as it left a sour taste in my mouth. Hopefully, the races will be better in 2012, but not one I am returning to.
RUGGED MANIAC (2010)
I went to Rugged Maniac in Southwick, MA. The majority of the course was run on a motocross track and was great for spectating. The obstacles had nothing that really stood out. It had the walls, the tires, much of the same that is standard for most races. The venue was a bit disjointed to get around. Really this one was just another race that is neutral in my books. It is a lot like the Renegade Playground as it is a great into to racing and a great way to try out the sport but not one of the standouts for the 2010 season.
I did enjoy running it and again it was under a 5K so it’s a fairly short race. As stated above this next year I am looking at the longer distances unless it’s trying out a new race series. I believe this race series has improved but I keep looking forward as many others peaked my interest more. It seems their races have gotten better since they started but not one I will be returning to.
WARRIOR DASH (2010 & 2011)
Warrior Dash has their races pretty dialed in. They do well with the event and the race is ok, again the course is not very challenging. I have done the race twice in Windham, NY and the terrain is a large factor and gave the race any sort of challenge. The terrain is 1/2 up the mountain and 1/2 down with the obstacles mixed in.
Again, the obstacles are standard fare, although Warrior Dash does have the fire jump and the mud crawl at the end for spectators to see which is a bonus for the crowds. It also has the results streaming on large TV’s next to the finish so this year when I finished I knew I had to stick around until the end of the day. This sticking around was a bummer as I waited over 5 hours for the awards before I went home. But I can’t complain about a trophy. Again it isn’t one I am jumping to get back into in 2012 but they do a great into to obstacle racing and there is something for everyone at the race.
TOUGH MUDDER (2011, 2012?)
Ok down to what most would consider the big two and the rivals of the Obstacle Racing World. Tough Mudder I had two experiences with in Vermont and in New Jersey for World’s Toughest Mudder. My experience in Vermont was very good, the course was 10 miles long and we covered a lot of vertical. The obstacles were challenging, the only one that required help when I competed were the Berlin walls, my 5’4″ self has a hard time on walls over 10 feet tall. This race challenged you with the elements, the cold never bothered me but I heard reports of the opposite from many. The electroshock is not that bad and it makes the race series unique.
The only real downside I saw with this race was that I thought I was going to a race, and really Tough Mudder is just about finishing and teamwork. This is fine but I thought with the top 5% qualifying for World’s that this was a race. It was not chip timed and times were self submitted for WTM. Some talked about lines at obstacles but I did not encounter any.
World’s Toughest Mudder
This race was different. Yes it was a Tough Mudder, the course was not too much harder than a traditional Tough Mudder. In fact I felt the course in Vermont was more challenging especially with terrain than New Jersey. But this one was a race, we were chip-timed, had several check points to go through and the stakes were high. However, the X-Factor that made so many drop including myself was, the weather. Cold temperatures – below freezing, mixed in with nearly frozen and iced over water equaled a lot of hypothermia. I had my issues with this race going into it as organization was not very good. However, the event went off pretty well, except for the rules changing mid-race. If I do another Tough Mudder again it will be a World’s Toughest Mudder and try through a Wildcard spot which were not hard to come by this year. I made it to daylight before dropping but this was my only DNF of 2011.
My experience of Tough Mudder was the motivation to start this blog and my experiences with World’s Toughest Mudder were really a transition point in my competing. You can read through the recaps; Pre-race, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, After the Race. I would say anyone can make it though a Tough Mudder, it will be hard but you can opt out of any obstacle. WTM is something you need to be physically and mentally prepared for, this is a legit race, its not for the weekend warrior. It’s a true test of endurance and this year how your body can handle the cold.
SPARTAN RACE (2010, 2011, & 2012)
When it comes to obstacle racing I think if you are looking for a race, a true race their is really only one option, Spartan Race. Spartan Race is a race and it makes no apologies for it. It is a true race that brings out true athletes. I have done all three distances in the two years that I they have been in existence.
(5K) is a good entrance into the world of Spartan and Obstacle Racing. It is definitely harder than any other 5K Obstacle Race I have done. Spartan Race he’s unique obstacles that are theirs and theirs alone. I personally still think this race is too short for me I am a distance runner and its hard to literally sprint between obstacles. I have done sprints in Burlington, Vermont (the first ever Spartan Race) and in Amesbury in 2010. Anyone can do a Spartan Sprint and it will probably be the hardest race you have done if it’s your first obstacle race. But anyone can finish it.
The Super is a 8+ mile race and it incorporates all the obstacles of a sprint and more. My personal favorites when you get to the longer distances include the sandbag carry. The Super I did this year was the World Championships in Glen Rose, TX. This is where I finally masted the Traverse Wall. I like these longer races and its a good jump from the sprints. As always terrain makes a difference. Recap from Texas, Part 1 & Part 2.
So far only one Beast has been held and I can say hands down this was the hardest and most challenging Obstacle Course I have EVER competed in. The distance was over 12 miles of gnarly terrain in Killington, VT. Not only did it combine tough obstacles, but they also seemed to be strategically placed to tax you at just the right times. A standout was the phrase we had to memorize. At the end of this race I was so in a daze I barely knew my name, it took all that was in me to race this. Race recap from the Beast, You Just Got Chicked.
I think a big difference between Spartan and many of the competitors is it is a race first and a party second. They have worked to make it more of a festival for the participants and each race seems to have more, but as some other organizers put the party first Spartan Race really thinks about the athlete and puts the athlete first, the beer and party comes second. They are also the only race series that if you fail on an obstacle you have a penalty in the form of burpees, all the other races you keep going that I have completed no penalty. This is a truly unique factor of Spartan Race.
At the end of the day all Obstacle Races will be fun and it depends what you are looking for in your event. It’s really about getting outside, stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new. Everyone asks which race was the hardest of 2011, I hear it all the time. For me the hardest race, taking out WTM because that was different, was the Spartan Beast. It offered me the most all around challenge. It is the race that instantly was a HAVE TO for 2012. So as for my 2012 season. I am willing to try new races out and see how they stack up, but at the end of the day I like a race that cares about the race so I had to go with Spartan. Although, I would make an appearance again at World’s Toughest Mudder and try to crack that nut!
As I have said before it’s all about what you are looking for in a race. Try them all see which one suits you best. They will all give you mud, most barbed wire, some high walls, some more mud and a smile on your face at the end of the day. Happy racing in 2012.