After each mud run or obstacle race I compete in, you'll get my review and grades for each event to help you decide which ones you might want to sign up for. The following categories will be discussed:

1. COURSE- the design, venue, and setup of the race itself- how creative/ adventurous/ difficult the obstacles were, and obviously... how was the MUD?!?

2. FESTIVAL- all the fun beyond the actual race- the social atmosphere which usually includes food, beer garden, dj/ music/ concert, contests, vendors, and more during the after-party

3. SWAG- the included goodie bag and prizes up for grabs- all the "free" stuff that comes with price of entry and the quality of awards, shirts, and other giveaways

Feel free to use the search box to read up on any past topics you might be looking for.


I was actually signed up to do this Winter Sprint last March but bailed after the weather reports predicted snow and single digit temperatures on that race day.  It was a little warmer this year, so I couldn't resist the novelty of actually running down slopes right next to downhill skiers!  In the Northeast, it hasn't been uncommon to do an early season event in April or even May, and still see some scattered unmelted spots of snow on the peaks of our race mountains.  On this particular weekend at Greek Peak, still fully operating in ski season, almost every inch of the 4 mile race was at least ankle deep in the white stuff.

1. COURSE-  The first race of the season for me, but also a first in a few other ways, as I kicked off my 9th career year in OCR.  This was the only time I have not run Spartan in the elite (earliest) heat and I had concerns about how the new Age Group system would work.  Being released later on caused many areas of congestion when catching up to slower racers that began ahead of us.  And also with only narrow single track of marching carved in the snow, passing became an extra effort to sprint in the knee deep powder on the trail sides. The snow also made for more challenging obstacles besides the actual trails, as either numb fingers or slippery holds seemed to send many more racers to the burpee zone.  This then of course also slowed things down and caused some backups at these obstacles too.  I had a tough time with (but did compete) the Atlas Carry, as the stones were caked with snow and made picking them up very hard.  The technical grip obstacles like monkey bars, rings traverse, and Olympus seemed to also claim a lot more victims with frozen hands (or gloves that probably made it even tougher to hold on).  And by the time I got to the Spear Throw, my fingers were so numb that my pathetic throw attempt sent me to join the band of other racers doing their penalty.  GRADE = B

2. FESTIVAL-  Off and on snow showers was a pretty and surreal atmosphere for a short while post-race, but eventually most needed to find shelter from the cold, which just wasn't well-provided.  It seemed most directions the race finishers went, they were being sent elsewhere.  The primary spots of retreat were either the base lodge restaurant (but had to sit and eat), the volunteer headquarters (restricted to only race day staff), or the registration room (which was overcrowded enough with the lines of people collecting their sign up packages).  So, the last option was to head to the car and start the drive home or back to the hotel.  I've done other races at ski resorts, and seen much better setups for those wanted to get inside, especially when its so cold out.  GRADE = C

3. SWAG-  Let's be honest- the main reason I even signed up for this event was for the commemorative souvenirs, which we expected to be as cool (no pun intended) as last year's snowflake Winter Sprint medal and special edition long sleeve shirt.   We did again get a long sleeve, but the design is no different than this year's typical black Sprint tee.  But the best prize was perhaps what I'd now call one of my favorite Spartan medals ever- similar to the new 2018 design but with powder blue coloring and a unique glass see through window insert that really make it a beautiful piece to admire.  GRADE = A



With so many raving reviews from race pals who went to Blue Mountain last October, this became one of my absolute must-do races for 2017.  And gladly so, as you'll read below, this was one of the best overall OCR experiences I've had to date.  I'm selfishly hoping it may return to my nearby Toronto area (and not a much longer plane trip to Europe or even further away) to do this again, but no matter where it ends up I'll be unable to resist at least considering going back for it again.

1. COURSE-  Easily the main reason I was sold on doing OCRWC (and also regret missing last month's "American version" USOCRC) was the general premise that this event would be comprised of many of the world's best races, who would contribute their most popular/ interesting/ difficult obstacles and work together to all be part of the same course.  Definitely a format I'd never experienced, and certainly intriguing due to the unknown possible offerings from some of the UK's or Canada's widely known OCR events, which I had never done before.  I'm also a huge proponent of the mandatory obstacle completion style of competition, by which every obstacle must be done (with unlimited retries allowed) in order to qualify for rankings.  Here, wristbands were on the line for surrender if injury or inability prevented ultimate incompletion at any stage of the race.  Being somewhat of a ninja warrior wannabe (insert shameless plug for my Long Island-based gym Obstacle Athletics!), I loved the multiple rig type obstacles that used all kinds of grips, holds, and attachments including some from our good friends at Force5.  There was even a solid rig taken literally from the grave of the defunct BattleFrog Series that brought back great memories of 2014-15.  Among my favorite other obstacles was the Urban Sky, though I wish it had not been broken up into three separate stages and rather been one long continuous rig.  I loved the two-floor Floating Walls from Indian Mud Run, which was a solid combo of the staple ANW obstacle with a couple cargo net climbs mixed in, leading right into "the best finish line in OCR".  The unpredictable factor on course was the frequent rain we had throughout the weekend, which made every uphill climb and heavy carry that much more difficult and slippery.  Either way, and even though it might have made hanging grip tough, it added more of a challenge and also an ode to the days when we called these events "mud runs."  So, with a supposed 46 obstacles over the full 15k course (there was also a shorter 3k version on Friday), it's hard to beat a stat like that, truly keeping the "O" in OCR.  GRADE = A

2. FESTIVAL-  And with all the talk of the amazing race course design and layout on this beautiful Canadian ski resort, we also need to include the rest of weekend atmosphere, which of course was thrilling to have the top OCR athletes on the planet all converging on the same place at once.  The energy was as close to an Olympic village feel as I could imagine, with strong pride felt no matter which of the 67 represented nations you were from.  So cool to see the foreign (to me) flags and jerseys constantly passing at every step you took, and the friendly camaraderie that followed despite the culture and language differences.  One of my favorite things about the festival was the tshirt trade area, where anyone as able to submit a race shirt or other OCR swag for a credit to then use for one that someone else gave in- a great way to pick up souvenirs from events around the globe (and get rid of extras you had from your own collection).  GRADE = A

3. SWAG-  I know I'm gonna take some heat for this grade, but hear me out first.  This was my first time at OCRWC, and yes the giveaways were indeed solid offerings.  But there are some important comparisons I want to bring up.  I do like the black triblend finisher shirts, but they look almost identical to last year's, just with a bigger logo and wording.  I suppose I was expecting something different to "wow" us (especially if this might be the last year here in Canada?).  On the other side of the coin (play on words forthcoming here), the medals were something I hope they actually might have replicated from last year, or from the related USOCRC in September.  Those versions looked like true Olympic quality souvenirs, and these rather plain designs were IMO a step down from those.  Plus, the spinner-style insert can be a hit or miss, and when many racers had to exchange for a new one the next day because their maple leaf pieces were missing or fell out, it clearly wasn't the best choice.  My favorite take home was the personalized athlete ID badge, which wasn't a guarantee unless you registered early enough.  Besides that, as mentioned before, the wristbands kept for 100% full-course obstacle completion were a great trophy to show off if you performed well enough to keep them, and meant the most.  Not shown (yes, because I still have them on!), but I was able to keep the bands from both the 3k and 15k races I did, something that only about half of racers were able to do.  GRADE = B


SPARTAN SPRINT, Killington VT, 9/17/17


Previous year events:


SPARTAN SPRINT, West Point NY, 8/26/17

The only other Spartan "military" race I had done was back at 2014's Tampa Sprint, which doubled as a stadium series event as well.  Though that day changed my life, as I met my fiancee there, the race itself was otherwise less memorable.  Besides a few theme-adjusted obstacles, like an ammo can carry instead of a bucket, the dream of a truly military bootcamp-inspired course was less than expected.  With this new West Point event, I kept hopes that we might get that real feel of Army blended with Spartan.

1. COURSE-  Contrary to what most thought, the venue was not actually on the famed West Point campus but rather next door at their lakeside property.  Also a surprise at least to me, was the lack of elevation since this area is smack dab in the Adirondacks- think Bear Mountain, Storm King, Breakneck Ridge etc.  The course had rolling hills, but no typical mountain (ski slope grade) trails that we're used to from Spartan, just like the nearby Tuxedo Sprint each June.  As far as obstacles went, no surprises besides an odd ordering which caused some trouble for a lot of racers.  One of the first stations was Olympus, a slow sideways wall traverse, which got jammed up quickly from those who sprinted out the first 1/2 mile.  It seems Spartan's methodology now also leans toward putting a number of grip strength obstacles in a "gauntlet" row- as the bucket carry, Twister, and rope climb were consecutive stops toward the end.  Still, no major Army presence in the race except for a good number of cadets racing themselves.  GRADE = B

2. FESTIVAL-  I didn't get to hang around long to check out the afterparty, but by 8:30am nothing too exciting was going on.  From what I hear, I'm pretty glad I did leave so early as the shuttle bus catastrophe had later runners waiting up to 2 hours to get back to their cars (parked 20 minutes away, no onsite parking).  GRADE = C

3. SWAG-  I decided not to fork up the $30 for it, but the West Point venue shirt was one of the nicer ones I've seen.  So instead I just collected my 5th Sprint finisher shirt of the year.  The best takeaway was definitely the commemorative medal, with unique design for the military race series.  GRADE = A


SPARTAN SUPER, Kane'ohe HI, 8/6/17

Well, after a mere 130 races in my OCR career, so far I'd say it would be hard to find a more beautiful venue than this one Spartan used for the Hawaii Trifecta weekend that included every race distance on the list.  Short of jumping molten lava flow or swimming with turtles, the course was just as spectacular as could be imagined.  Visiting these islands has been a lifelong dream of mine, and getting to do an obstacle race here (two actually- Sunday's Super and Sprint), was just the icing on the cake!

1. COURSE-  Set on the island of Oahu's sprawling Kualoa Ranch, famous for numerous movie location filmings (most notably Jurassic Park of course), parts of the course might have felt like you were Hollywood dreaming and not actually running through one of the most storied and spiritual places on earth.  While the tall green sheer mountain cliffs weren't part of the run inclines (thankfully), there were enough other types of terrain to adequately crush runners legs, mine included as the heat had my calves cramping up for most of the Super course.  My favorite section was the waist deep river run, just a quarter mile in from the start, which was an instant relief from the hot morning sun.  Obstacle wise, not much was a surprise or new from the 2017 season.  It also seemed like the bulk of them came right near the festival and finish area, as a gauntlet of failures might have made the last hundred yards feel like a hundred burpee miles.  GRADE = A

2. FESTIVAL-  This was a great set up, where the pre-race weekend Spartan Luau was also held on Friday night, right in the center among the giant walls of green mountainsides on almost all sides.  As mentioned, many of the final obstacles were on view right from the festival, and a handful of others were also a short walk from there.  One big gripe I had was the transportation "issue" on Sunday, when they announced over the loudspeaker (at around 10am) that the shuttle buses were already no longer running- which meant over a mile walk back with tired legs and all our gear to the parking lot on the other side of the ranch.   GRADE = B

3. SWAG-  Same shirts as all of 2017's other races (I did both Super and then Sprint), and same medals except for a very cool commemorative ribbon specific to these Hawaiian races.  Not sure if I was expecting to "get lei'd" at the finish line haha, but it would have been cool for them to do something more festive for this race, as it's also clearly a "racecation" for all of us mainlanders (and many Aussie's) who came to run here.   GRADE = A


TOUGH MUDDER HALF, Old Bethpage NY, 7/23/17


Previous year events:



CITY CHALLENGE, New York NY, 7/15/17

I'll be the first to admit I had major skepticism on what this race would be like, though they seem to be a steadily growing series based in the big market NY/NJ tri-state area.  Of course, my first anxiety starts by the fact that it is not a mud-centered OCR, which you might guess (how? haha) is something I usually gravitate toward.  I rarely run any type of road race, so the fact that this 3 mile course was primarily on pavement also had my ankles and shins a little worried.  But all in all, I was pleasantly surprised with the overall product that I had intended to do in years past, but had not yet toed their line until now.

1. COURSE-  Again, not my usual style of mountain graded, puddle stomping fun.  But with a decent number of (but mostly fairly easy) obstacles over the 5k distance, they get a thumbs up for keeping it from being purely a runners course- which there were quite a few of that mold at this non traditional OCR.  Elite heat has really only one significant task difference, besides requiring mandatory obstacle completion to continue onward, at the early cinder block carry station.  Being forced to carry not one but two partially filled cement blocks was a huge difference maker (and probably crushed the pure runner types who haven't done that type of training).  For the most part, the course was well staffed by volunteers and marshals, which had been a complaint in their past races.  The only hiccup might have been the ending run (and sandbag carry) through the stadium stair sections, where some turns were not marked or instructed, and even went right through the spectator areas, as that had the potential to be messy for those competing.  GRADE = B

2. FESTIVAL-  A good number of vendors, everything from other race series like the New England based FIT Challenge, to several branches of the Armed Forces, had some challenges and contests to collect swag.  As mentioned above, even though the race was confusing at the end going through the stadium, it was a great way for friends and family to spectate right in the middle of the action.  I also went back and cheered later racers, which was a blast!  GRADE = B

3. SWAG-  For the medal collector, this was a great add.  I liked their spinner style and the design itself, which I believe was created by OCR super-addict Sandy Hendrick.  The shirt is top quality tech material, but thank goodness there was no mud at this event after giving out white shirts!  And though I usually don't consider it true swag, their racer bib is actually one of my favorites I've worn.  I'm still waiting to see what other stuff might get sent out (OCRWC qualify!) after taking 3rd in the Elite race, as they didn't end up holding an awards ceremony on race day.  GRADE = A


SPARTAN SPRINT, Palmerton PA, 7/9/17


Previous year events: