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

SPARTAN SPRINT, Barre MA, 8/30/15

It's seemed like an eternity since I last ran a Spartan (or even any competitive OCRs, not counting LI Tough Mudder a few weeks ago) since going back to mid-summer with the Palmerton Sprint in July, or then a week later coming right here to Barre for BattleFrog MA. I think this was the only time I have been to the same venue for two different race series in the same year, so it was interesting to see how the two races would use the terrain and obstacles to fill each of their 5 mile courses.

1. COURSE-  I could have even made it a three time visit to Carter and Stevens Farm but missed the Spartan Super weekend in June.  I heard comparisons of this Sprint to both that Super course as well as the recent BattleFrog, and was surprised that the concensus seemed to say this might have been the best of the three?  I'm partial to BattleFrog only because the Elite race had to do two laps of the 8k/5mile course, which makes for a different dynamic to the race.  One thing can be said for all the races that have been here- they're about as flat as you'll find. The directors have tried to counter that fact with incorporating lots of grip strength tasks, to slow down the speedsters and add that challenge on obstacles (to also risk retries or penalties for failures).  Whichever race camp you favor, everyone would have to agree that the versions of the heavy obstacles (Wreckbag/sandbag, and Jerrycan/bucket carries) were a little tougher and longer for BattleFrog.  That was a relief at Spartan, where those usually kill lots of time and take beating on your hands and forearms.  I love the wooded trails of this venue, which most sections were plenty wet and sopping mud.  But Spartan also added a little too much of the "open field" running parts in the hot and dry sun that were just boring and unneeded, maybe only to reach the same length that BF had for their race.  Sorry if this review isn't very detailed or imaginative, but there honestly wasn't really anything that stood out from past SR's except for the first time I've done their log farmer carry, which was also short and not really all that tough.  In my opinion, all the obstacles could have easily been fit into a 4 mile race (instead of 5), still "qualified" as a Sprint, and made it a little more fun of a course. GRADE = B

2. FESTIVAL-  Again, to compare the two events I've attended here, both BattleFrog and Spartan had very big and spread out festival areas, almost to the point that it seemed "far" (after racing two laps of each for 10 miles of course haha) to walk from the finish line to the showers to the beer tent to... etc etc.  And don't get me started on the shuttle bus system again- definitely the worst part of doing (any?) race in Barre.  Especially when their VIP parking areas had well enough space for a lot more vehicles that didn't pay the whopping $40 to be close to the race.  Despite that negative, I did enjoy the scenery (but not those farm "scents" though!) at this setting as most other city-folk and suburbanites would.  It's a pretty landscape, and one I don't get to take in much except for a few weekends a year.  GRADE = B

3. SWAG-  Believe it or not, I have only done Sprints so far for all of my Spartan Races in 2015, and still have one more with Cornell this coming weekend (hoping maybe it could be a unique shirt for their first college classic event?).  But even if not, I can at least promise to finally show you a different tee the following week with the NJ Super.  Just getting a little sick of the color red already, and so are the friends and family I've given all my duplicates to haha.  Bring on the blue!  GRADE = B


OVERALL GRADE = B

TOUGH MUDDER, Old Bethpage NY, 8/16/15

It's been about two and a half years since I ran my last Tough Mudder back at 2013's Miami event, but when they announced this OCR behemoth was coming to pay a visit to my home turf on Long Island, I cleared the weekend's schedule immediately to make my triumphant return.  I was always surprised that our population-dense suburban area had never hosted a truly major obstacle race before (besides Spartan's CitiField race), but the gift of so many people is also a logistics curse- for space, traffic, and expenses- and it unfortunately continues to be a local OCR deadzone.

1. COURSE-  Now, if you haven't been to Long Island before, keep in mind that we are at sea level and at best have "mountains" that scorch the sky at a whopping 300-400 feet of altitude lol.  Everything is flat here, and the Old Bethpage Village Restoration was no different for nearly all of its stretched, winding course.  GPS readings clocked the event at right around 8 miles- not the 9+ that they listed, and certainly not the 10-12 miles that are typical for TM's.  The fact that they went shorter with the course was actually good, but to be honest I think they could have even cut out another couple of miles of unnecessary runs. Some parts were literally a trail that you'd end up only finding a water station a few hundred yards down that road, and then to return running the same path just on the opposite side of the cones.  I think the design of their running sections could have also been a twofold strategy- to obviously inflate the distance to approach their typical length, and to also give a winding tour of this beautiful 200+ acre colonial town of 19th century homes, farms, and businesses.  I know there was a lot of controversy with them holding the event in this open-air museum, for fear of damage to the historic lands and buildings.  But since most of the running stayed on already established trails or roads, and came nowhere within even 10 yards of a structure, the protesters should be at ease now. Unfortunately, I'm going to guess that they were also limited on digging and making any changes to the grounds, as this was the least muddy Mudder I've ever done.  From an obstacle standpoint, where they are often among the pioneers of creative and Fear Factor invoking tasks, they went light as well.  The best obstacle was undoubtedly their "King of the Swingers" Tarzan trapeze swing to hit a bell dangling way ahead above a deep pool (which you'd drop to, even if you missed).  Both their signature "Everest" quarter pipe run and "Funky Monkey" bars had new 2.0 versions, but to me they seemed a little easier than the originals.  I had heard about special Legionnaire-only (repeat Mudder) access obstacles, but they did not exist besides a very quick "Dead Ringer" traverse at the end, and that was just as an option to skipping their famed Electroshock Therapy.  A few other new ones also made their appearance, but weren't even worth mentioning. Overall, it just didn't feel up to par for the big guys' first visit to Long Island.  GRADE = B

2. FESTIVAL-  I forget a lot of how Tough Mudder used to set up their festival village, but they certainly have expanded, and this was the size of an entire parking lot (hmm, ideas...?).  Maybe the extra mile or two on this course was actually included in touring around the many tents and sponsor tables haha.  We did run into one problem that has become a pet peeve of mine- since no on site parking was available (more on that in a minute), you had to bring with you everything you needed for post-race, and that also meant a $10 bag check fee.  They did have good, but cold, shower stations set up, but then really no comfortable place to lounge around unless you wanted to wander off into the Park. So, getting to the site was done by one of two ways for these 10000 Mudder runners, but both received a lot of complaints.  The LI railroad offered "free" (or, somehow included in your entry purchase I'm sure) rides to a nearby train station, but then of course you had to take a shuttle school bus the rest of the way.  The majority parked at not-so-nearby Nassau Coliseum, which wasn't free, and then had a looooong bus ride to the event in Old Bethpage.  Maybe I'm just being picky because I live so close, and actually had a longer total commute than if I drove directly on my own.  I don't know, but either way, I hope something better is figured out as they plan to return here next summer.  GRADE = C

3. SWAG-  I DO remember at my last Tough Mudder in 2013, walking away with a nice Under Armour sweat-wicking finisher shirt.  So why, after TM went back on their earlier decision of NO shirts in 2015, did they revert to giving a cheap cotton style like the one I got at my first TM four years ago??  Cellucor seems to be their major sponsor now, so we did also get a nice surprise mini gym towel from them.  Supposedly the Shock Top beer tent was a popular post-race stop, but I still have my green ticket for anyone that wants it for your next Mudder. And while a lot of OCR diehards out there still give them flack about the headband (instead of a medal), they need to know that it's always been their trademark gift, and as supposedly 2 million Mudders have now crossed the finish line, it also wont be changing anytime soon (read: ever!).  This event was also special to me, not just because it was 20 minutes from home, but that I finally got to officially join Mudder Legion and pick up my rainbow of overdue souvenirs from now finishing my 4th of their events (#1 Tri-State NJ 2011, #2 Poconos PA 2012, and #3 Miami 2013).  GRADE = B


OVERALL GRADE = B

GEAR REVIEW: Reebok All-Terrain Super 2.0 (OCR) shoes


Just in time for the end-of-summer championship OCR season, Reebok dropped their surprise upgrade of the popular All-Terrain Supers shoe with their 2.0 version.  It's chocked full of little tweaks to the original, adding a bunch of upgrades that we saw in their trail (but less mud-friendly) series All-Terrain Thunders that I reviewed in May.  So when the good folks at Reebok shipped me a size 9 of these bad boys, I couldn't wait to try them out.  Here's what I thought:

1.  FIT/FEEL-  These Super 2.0's might be better named "Super-Sprints" or some variation because they seem to have the DNA of both sets if they were its parents.  The original All-Terrain Supers that debuted a year and half ago were Reebok's first real venture into OCR (besides their under the radar "Wild's" that never really took off), and became a standard at races everywhere, and not just Spartan who helped launch them.  They had great grip for the mud ahead, which was the main goal, but were a little stiff compared to what Inov-8 had out with their X-Talons and other trail running models.  So then the Sprints were born and were more of a minimalist feel.  However, that thinner upper resulted in less durability as a lot of owners were returning them shortly after with holes and tears.  Now the new Supers have a hybrid upper- the thin skin of the Sprint but instead of the plastic mesh stiff structure that kept the Super 1.0's more sturdy, they borrow the Thunder's TerrainSkin rubber coating from the laces all the way down to the sole.  It takes nothing away from it still feeling soft, but should no doubt give the shoe a longer lifespan and definitely keep more water from seeping in (which the Sprint did little of).   Like each of the Reebok's I've tried out now, these also were true to my usual size, though they are narrow compared to a traditional sneaker, but thats probably to be expected for any trail shoe.  GRADE = B


2.  FUNCTION-  The lineage to the first Supers is clear.  Besides the different colors, you can't tell the bottoms apart, with identical arrangement of lugs for solid grip on muddy and uphill running (whereas the Sprints has more and smaller cleats, maybe suggesting to be better on "more shallow" mud?).  We also get the same rope climbing arch with little teeth to assist with holding on to the wet slippery ropes. The well-known H2ODrain feature is again present, a virtual outlet for water to expel from the shoe after a swim or puddle jump.  As for protection from the tough terrain and gravel (and obstacles), the sole has a legit rock-shield and a newer toe guard at the front end, a nice upgrade that will make you realize the beating your tootsies had been getting otherwise before.  GRADE = A



3.  FASHION-  Love the snakeskin camoflage design of these and probably couldn't imagine a better style to coordinate with the badass nature of obstacle racing.  If it's too hardcore for your look, they do come in a number of other colors and patterns.  For me, one of the biggest positives will also be the ease of cleaning (helped by the rubber coating) but also with this design, as I think these could be still looking like new after a dozen of the muddiest races.  My prediction is that you will see these at races soon by the wave-full.  So just like your chip time, don't be last!  GRADE = A


OVERALL GRADE = A

BATTLEFROG SERIES (16k), Barre MA, 7/25/15

I'm wondering if the little farm village of Barre MA is becoming the epicenter of OCR in 2015, as at least 3 major race weekends (Spartan twice, and now BattleFrog) are being hosted here.  Of course I'm kidding, but it does seem like an an odd and out-of-the-way replacement to the now-closed Amesbury resort that served for years as Massachusetts most frequented racing venue.  This being my first visit I wasn't sure what to expect as New England terrain can be about as varied as it gets.  Even from the offsite parking lot a few miles away (more on that later), it was hard to tell if we would get some of the viewable mountains or just totally flat plains that both surrounded this quaint colonial town.

1. COURSE-  Well the clear verdict came in as the latter of the two choices above, almost totally flat except for one mild incline in the first 1/4 mile (and then of course repeated on the extra laps for Elite and Xtreme racers).  However, despite the level nature of the course, it was anything but a speed race as so much technical running on muddy trails or dried mud sections were tough on weak (or injured, in my case) ankles and anyone lacking proper the footwear for it.  And, you can also guess what some other sloppy areas were also due to, as this was a farm with cow pastures.  As for the OCR stuff you want to know about, I've been satisfied after each of my three BattleFrogs this year (including February's Miami and June's Tri-State), but I'm keeping a close eye on a trend that has left me still a little nervous.  The best part of BF has been the number of true obstacles, and they were absolutely on top of the world in this category last year.  There are still some great strength challenges (double jerry can carry!) and skill tests (Platinum Rig, in any of it various setups), but with only a total of 22 obstacles on this New England version, the score is beginning to approach just average compared to their former stellar selves.  GRADE = B

2. FESTIVAL-  BattleFrog usually has one of the biggest scenes surrounding the spectator area, and this edition was true to that claim. So much so, that I almost needed a map to navigate around after crossing the finish line- possibly also due to my delirium after running two laps of the 8k course!?  Every which way was something different to see or visit, and vendor village had some great products for sale, including the same Wreck Bags that we hauled around in the race. Their own BF branded merch tent seems to be expanding as well, in case your t-shirt and medal (see below) weren't enough souvenirs.  And though I won't factor it into the grade this time, the shuttle bus system was a little disappointing, making it almost not worth going to your car (to change clothes or drop bags) before you were ready to totally call it a day.  Might have lost some post race partygoers because of it, but that's an individual choice I guess.  GRADE = A

3. SWAG-  I'll stick to my guns on giving them grief about the mislabeled (read: last year's overstock of 15k) medals that are still being given out to the Elite racers who have actually run a total of 16 kilometers.  That point bothered me so much that I was almost tempted to do the Xtreme race this time just to get a "correct" medal, which by the way is one of the industry's best if you haven't seen yet.  I've always liked the shirts, and wanted to point out (as you see below) that BF has the option of a different ladies cut style, not something many races offer.  And lastly, as I've been lucky enough to boast about it now for my third straight 2015 BattleFrog race, the coveted Elite orange wristband was mine to keep after getting through every obstacle twice- something less than half of participants were able to accomplish.  Sorry Beard, not this time, Sir.  GRADE = B

OVERALL GRADE = B

SPARTAN SPRINT, Palmerton PA, 7/18/15

Returning to a race that has crushed me and so many others every year since 2012, I was almost relieved with my decision to only do PA weekend #2's Sprint course and not the previous weekend's "EffNorm" designed Super as well. Either way, racers who did any of Palmerton's three race days got just what they had hoped for out of one of the toughest OCR venues in the Northeast.  Missing the NBC action could have also been a good choice too, as I might not want to see my annual Blue Mountain agony shown again on national TV this September!

1. COURSE-  Every year this course changes, as I've described in the previous Reports of 2014, 2013, and 2012.  The biggest differences have been in the actual length of the Sprint, ranging anywhere from 3.5 to over 5 miles.  Like other years, the first two miles were the most grueling, almost all uphill, leaving most at a walking/hiking pace within a minute or two. An early morning thunderstorm also left the course (and all its obstacles) a little more wet and slippery for the morning heats, I'm sure leading to that very excuse if burpee penalties resulted for anyone.  I know we have also had the same water crossing on Blue Mountain in the past, but it seemed much deeper (now a full 100 yard swim) maybe due to that rain?  No more tractor (cinder block on chain) pull through the muddy lagoon, as that obstacle seems to be disappearing from the circuit recently.  This course also had the first time I've seen a Tyrolean (rope) Traverse over land, though it was short and not too difficult. For the most part though, the other key elements were there where we left them last July- the steep sandbag carry and endless bucket brigade, and now an even longer down-and-up barbed wire crawl that still has me a little dizzy from all the rolling.  GRADE = A

2. FESTIVAL-  One of the better setups for a Spartan afterparty, with lots of areas to plop down your bruised and beaten selves after competing the race. Or, if you hadn't had quite enough, Blue Mountain had their ski lifts running so you could take in the course from a bird's eye view as well.  My one issue is with the festival area was the limited selection of food offered (which was also difficult to find, hidden in a far corner), though I did personally enjoy my pulled pork sandwich with rice and coleslaw for $10. Maybe the show was smaller being weekend #2 and only a one day race, but there looked to be a packed house so there could have been a little more variety.  I'll also mention, since I don't care for my post race "free" beer, anyone that would like a pint on me just needs to ask, as I've got a growing stack of coupons now. GRADE = A

3. SWAG-  Yeah, you've seen this shirt and medal before, haven't you? Well, I might as well extend the same beer offer to you readers out there too, since I've already collected at least half a dozen or so of these myself.  As for the medal, that's mine, and you gotta earn your own!  I can't wait until I can do the NJ Super in September and finally have (and show you) a different version of these giveaways.  Even if they'll just be blue instead of red.  GRADE = B

OVERALL GRADE = A

RUGGED MANIAC, Brooklyn NY, 6/27/15

Hello. My name is Kevin (aka Mudman), and I am... an OCR addict.  I am ashamed of something I did today, and I can now admit I need help. This morning, I decided to ignore my mistakes of the past, fueled by my need to race, and ran my third Rugged Maniac event held at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn NY.  I regret not going back to re-read those Mudman Report's from 2011 and 2013 on this same race, which could have potentially shifted this pattern of addiction.  I cannot undo what has happened now, but I will hopefully learn from this very poor decision and try to move on with my obstacle racing career, along with the help of my friends...

1. COURSE-   There were several things that brought me back to run this event, besides just being a race "addict" with no other events planned for the weekend:  a) it was local enough with only a half hour drive on the Belt Parkway;  b) I had a free entry from a friend's transfer- they definitely made the smart choice, if they didn't know already; c) my curiosity to see if their "Shark Tank" investment may have just possibly turned this awful race around.  So it's been two years since I was here, and I know I had pledged not to return, but what's done is done.  And what was done regarding the improvement of this race course, was just about NOTHING!  It is just a terrible location to have any adventure type race, unless you like running endlessly up and down flat boring paved airfield runways.  So what was done with Mark Cuban's massive $1.75M influx- more and better obstacles?  They list a total of 25 on this 3 mile course map, but even if there were that many (and it seemed doubtful), none but really the final three-story climb/slide was worth talking about.  The obstacles were so spread out you almost forget it was an OCR, and the poor excuse or two for mud were just some hosed down dirt sections.  Every task was short and simple, with even first timers joking about how easy this was.  If you've ever done another OCR somewhere else before, my advice would be to avoid the letdown and not come out to do one of these.  And so let me tell you one more thing that is finally DONE: me, doing this race, ever again.  This time, fo' realz!  GRADE = D

2. FESTIVAL-  Every event that visits this venue must have the same cookie-cutter festival area allowance.  It's actually not a terrible set up if you just want to drink and get your cornhole game on, but the separate gated off area makes you feel like you are in a time-out from the other action.  Unless certain rules of this park are preventing a more spread out design, I don't see why they want to segregate the party from the rest of the race scene.  It's just about impossible to be part of both at the same time, which kills the spectating aspect.  If they do improve anything on that front here, I'll be telling you from some other event I've signed up for at Floyd Bennett Field, but even that's not too likely.  Hasta la vista, Brooklyn.  GRADE = C

3. SWAG-  If there is any glimmer of a single shining moment, and maybe this becomes their Shark Tank legacy (?), they did make one improvement by now offering finisher medals, and decent ones at that. But that's really where the excitement ends.  Timing chips now are an extra $10 charge if you want to be recorded, but the branded shoelace tie chip is somewhat of a unique soiuvenir (not worth ten bucks, but still).  The t-shirt is really just breaking even on their past swag.  I'm showing the back because the front is just plain with their "I am a Rugged Maniac" phrase.  And due to all that you've read in this Report, I can say I wont be: a) wearing this shirt; and b) ever be calling myself a Rugged Maniac.  GRADE = B


OVERALL GRADE = C

BATTLEFROG SERIES (16k), Englishtown NJ, 6/20/15

If there ever were the highest of my hopes for an event, it might be for this one. BattleFrog has exploded on the OCR scene in so many ways over the last year- major prize money for each event and season series (like Spartan race has done), an announced championship at the end of the year (like several others have also done), and of course the ESPN coverage of their college challenge just a few weeks ago.  But as BF is reaching their Terrible Two's early, they have also been through some growing pains- canceling all Sunday events for the year, changing their 5k or 15k course options to now running laps of an 8k, and the general worry that maybe they have tried to expand just a little too quickly. Either way, two things are certain at BattleFrog:  1) they will always put on a solid race with lots of obstacles, and 2) some guy named Atkins will come down from Canada to swoop up the victory.

1. COURSE-  The question for me here is, do I compare this race generally to all the other races I do, or compare it very specifically to last August's 2014 Tri-State event at Raceway Park?  The switch to (elite heat) running two laps of an 8k was a big change from a straight 15k course.  Each lap this year had around 32 obstacles to contend with, and doubling that made for "more" than the 51 reported in last years race.  Having to do a few of the more grueling tasks a second time, after an hour or so of fatigue later, was probably the toughest part of the new structure.  At least a combined mile's worth of each lap had us carrying a Wreck (sand) Bag or a single Jerry (water) can, so the second time around seemed to drag on those, almost literally!  I know the rope traverse, aka Tyrolean, was another critical point that cost some elite's their wristband due to diminishing grip, especially on the final pass.  That spot, along with the Normandy Jacks and Platinum Rig, also were the couple major congestion areas where the participants (especially the Elite's and Xtreme'rs who were doing multiple laps) ran into traffic logjams that briefly defeated their idea of racing a quick, unobstructed course.  It's a small mention, but I do applaud whoever was responsible (Mr. Acord?) for finding the absolute muddiest parts of Englishtown's wooded trails-  one section that was close to a quicksand muck death trap if you stood less than 5 feet tall.  Hella fun though! What I missed most from last year were a few of my favorite obstacles toward the finish line- no monkey bars or quarter pipe (or paintball shooting, even if it was just for fun).  Apparently the venue wasn't very accommodating with time for their build, and some things just had to be left out.  Even with any of the negatives, and I include those frequent pavement running sections (hate!) in that, this course was still better than most of what you'll find on a typical OCR weekend.  GRADE = A

2. FESTIVAL-  I didn't get to peruse the vendor area for very long, as I wimped out to hide under a tent during the late morning rain.  It did seem more condensed, but that design helped to provide some good viewing areas for the new Platinum Rig climbing obstacle and the famed Tip of the Spear which became the finale on this course.  One thing I certainly wasn't thrilled with was the different parking arrangement, across the street in a grassy part of the woods.  Parking right on site last year was great to be able to hit the car for your change of clothes after the race, but I think this distance might have hurt the party scene, since some people my not have wanted to walk the half mile and then come back (again, too, in the rain).  GRADE = B

3. SWAG-  I ran the Miami BattleFrog this February, so I assumed to be picking up the same souvenirs again from that race.  T-shirt of course was identical as expected, but it's one I like and was glad to grab a second one (planning on 5 for the year) to give away.  My new favorite swag among probably all OCRs this year is the Elite band bounty that is yours to lose, if you should have to give it up to the Course Marshalls from not completing an obstacle. Individually numbered to your bib from that race, it's also a symbol that you truly passed the course without fail, if you manage to keep it til the end!  On the downside of this year's prize basket, and you know I'm picky, receiving the same "15k" elite medal was kind of a cheap move that a lot of people caught on to, since this event no longer has any 15k course (as of about 3 months ago). It's not that running the extra kilometer was that much more of an effort to deserve a better medal, but we realize that this was simply a way to pass off the inventory of old awards (albeit nice and high quality) that were no longer accurate.  From what I saw, the Open heat 8k medals had no distinction of that on their actual medallion, just on the lanyard?  I'll be at their New England race next month, but if the same thing happens, this mark again won't get the "A" they really should be earning.  GRADE = B

OVERALL GRADE = B

VIKING OBSTACLE RACE, Greenville NY, 6/13/15

Last year this course would probably have won my Best Surprise of the Year award, as I took a shot in the dark on some friends recommendations to try it out.  It was the very first permanent-built OCR I'd done, and the quality of not just the 5+ mile race but also the experience as a whole, has made this one I'll likely have on my schedule every year.  And this time around, their inaugural team competition also pulled in a few of my racer friends from AL1VE Magnetics to challenge the best that would show up.

1.  COURSE-  Very little was changed from the year before, but that's probably what myself and most returnees were hoping for anyway as this permanent course satisfies just about every OCR want and need.  I still have yet to visit the Shale Hill VT course, but the man who designed both this Viking Race and his Benson Bear Challenge are the brainchild of Rob Butler.  From the reputation of both of these events now, it's clear his focus on creative and challenging obstacles are what he'll always bring.  As I mentioned new for 2015, the team challenge option put a whole different spin on getting through this tricky course, as coed teams of 3 or more raced together, helped each other complete obstacles, and as an added bonus for Flag Day, carried a homemade team flag the entire distance (and not letting it touch the ground). Without going heavy into describing all the obstacles again, read up on last year's Viking Report, which easily earned this top grade once again. GRADE = A

2.  FESTIVAL-  I won't lie- during the nearly hour and a half it took our team to finish the race, at least a dozen times I must have caught myself daydreaming about the amazing lunch that we knew was waiting for us at the end.  As good as the course is, the post race picnic BBQ is one of my favorite summer OCR moments.  Unlimited buffet style burgers and salads (and believe me I can eat!!!) were the perfect treat after burning all those calories.  Everyone was treated like a family member and welcome to stay and relax for the afternoon. We luckily got another gorgeous day in the Catskill Mountains to race and then recover at Sunny Hill Resort, which I'm hoping to plan an overnight stay for my next visit.  GRADE = A

3.  SWAG-  Still the only wooden medal, or woodallion, I've ever come across, so major uniqueness points again.  They upgraded their t-shirt to a dri-fit material, so that automatically bumps up its spot in my shirt rotation.  What I was most excited about, and didn't know before the race, was that our team's tough come-from-behind victory earned us Viking's very first "Top Clan" (fastest team) flag to take home!  Each member of our squad also got a souvenir pack of a branded pint glass, stretchy buff, and bracelet.  The takeaways were fantastic, but still the best Stuff-We-All-Got was a great race day at a reasonable price, and where else do you get a big hug from the resort owner when you cross the finish line?   GRADE = A


OVERALL GRADE = A

SPARTAN SPRINT, Tuxedo NY, 5/30/15

I won't make you suffer again through the long, sentimental intro I gave in 2014's Tuxedo Report (hint: go back and read it!), but longstoryshort, this is probably the Spartan Race I look forward to the most every year.  It came from a humble beginning four seasons ago to now being the biggest event they put on all year (4 race days over two weekends), helped on of course by its relatively close proximity to the dense NY/NJ legion of Spartan's out here.

1.  COURSE-  Each year Tuxedo Ridge surprises us with slightly more difficulty and distance, leaving finishers fooled by how they were somehow slower than the year before (usually).  Of course as I'd tell anyone you can never truly compare any OCR time to another besides only maybe that same exact day, and even that can change with weather or course modifications.  But I digress, this year the Sprint was a hair under 5 miles, so most returnees saw an extra 15-30 minutes on top of their 2014 race. There was plenty of uphill work as there always is here, with the worse being their famous barbed wire crawl (two, actually) and a very long sandbag carry, which apparently was shortened a bit on Sunday.  So again, most chip times were pretty different if you ran back-to-back days.  A few of the strength obstacles were gone, such as the tire flip and the atlas stone carry with burpees, though neither have been much of a game changer. I'm not sure if the traditional monkey bars are gone for good, but the newer Multi-Bar rig has become a regular sighting- an American Ninja Warrior style traverse, with 4 swinging knotted ropes between two horizontal hanging metal poles.  That obstacle seemed to be the biggest cause of penalty burpees, especially Sunday when there was more wet mud to limit grip.  GRADE = A

2.  FESTIVAL-  It's been a pretty consistent setup every time but as I mentioned last year, the growing crowd has forced some of the party to now move partly up the hill from just the base lodge patio.  The hot spot is the beer garden next to the epic barbed wire crawl, where there was also the debut of the Spartan Rig demo, an SR branded monkey bar set up with ropes and other climbing attachments to play on.  Perhaps we will face that in an actual race soon, as we have already seen Platinum Rig before in OttawaVermont, and possibly some other locations.  I kind of like that the festival now has a few spread out areas, so you can spend some time in each and still get a good view of some key sections of the race.  The only spot I'm not a fan of (for spectators) is the start line, which is about a 100 yards or so down a dirt road, in a secluded corner of the mountain.  GRADE = A

3.  SWAG-  No different that any of the takeaways from the few other Sprints I've been to so far this year, like Charlotte or Citifield Stadium. But I was really hoping the race bib controversy was a fluke and we'd get those treasured numbered souvenirs back. No dice, as the registration envelope (shown below) again now serves as that memento, and likely is how that will be from now on.  Warning- if you want to keep that for a wall decoration, do NOT wear it during the race as it isn't waterproof and will become just a soggy shredded piece of paper by the end.  As for medal and shirt, you know the deal... same old, same old.  GRADE = B


OVERALL GRADE = A

GEAR REVIEW: Reebok All-Terrain Thunder (OCR) shoes


Last year, I gave my Report on Reebok's debut footwear for the obstacle race athlete with their All-Terrain Supers, which have since become one of the more commonly seen shoes at OCR events around the country. The were followed shortly after with a more minimalist, but seemingly less popular, Sprint version that had frequent issues in durability.  Fast forward to Spring 2015 and the good folks at Reebok were nice enough to send me the new All-Terrain Thunder 2.0's to play around with and let everyone know what I thought of them.  There are some new features and ones they brought back as well, and its almost hard to keep track of all the literally trademark* named add-ons that you'll discover all over these.  So without further adieu, here's the breakdown...

1.  FIT/FEEL-  Even just by plain sight, you could tell these would have a much more comfy feel than its Super/Sprint predecessor "racer" style. I'm not sure that the Thunders are really meant for quite the same type of regular OCR beatdowns anyway, most obvious because of the significant added FoamFusion* cushion that looks more akin to typical road racing sneakers.  But they would be sure give a much smoother ride for navigating rocks, tree roots, and such on trails.  Overall, they also just have a much bulkier (heavier?) appearance, but their 8.8 oz weight will surprise you just how light and airy all that bulk actually is. Maybe the biggest surprise I found was their new speed Lock and Load* system (think Salomon SC's) that replaces the traditional laces the other All-Terrains had, though I will admit I have never been a fan of this style.  The lace/wire gets pulled tight to fit, and then the long excess slack needs to be tucked into the shoe's very thin tongue, which might be a task in itself.  GRADE = B


2.  FUNCTION-  The whole idea behind these new All-Terrain shoes is to be extra comfortable and protect against the elements of off-road running, especially with the extreme nature we find in muddy obstacle races. Like their Sprint/Super cousins, the Thunders have both similarities and differences with their older relatives.  You see a much less pronounced tread than in the other shoes, which might have me question how well they'll do on steep muddy uphill climbs when I want some aggressive lugs to dig in.  That same H2ODrain* feature returns to imply these could also deal with being soaked and shed water well, which was probably the best thing the older models had going for them. A big upgrade is the molded rubber DirtShield* along the forefoot and laces, though I'd need more time to see how it performs on actually keeping debris out of entering the top of the shoes.  And the same goes for the main composition of the shoe's TerrainSkin* upper to see how this does against even smaller grit and sand.  I see these being a good option for flat and fast shorter races, and of course for trail run training. But the biggest test still remaining will be how durable these shoes are after many miles of muddy mayhem.  I should trademark* that last line?  GRADE = A



3.  FASHION-  As the trend of super-bright flashy colors is rampant across all types of sports footwear (ever watch an NBA game and see a player NOT in crazy glowing kicks?), these shoes certainly wouldn't fit into the boring meat-and-potatoes category of shoe flair.  I know these come in several designs and color patterns, including a few Spartan race logo'd models, but these fluorescent yellow/green ones are probably the most attractive IMO.  I might even wear these for regular workouts or CrossFit, because you can really never have too much neon there haha.  And why not be able to even rock these casually with a pair of jeans?  Ok, maybe I went too far.  GRADE = A


OVERALL GRADE = A

And for those Reebok fans that thought these weren't "busy" enough, here are a few other options to consider... HOT!!