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?!?

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

BATTLEFROG SERIES Championship (16k), Sorrento FL, 12/12/15

With the way this OCR year was going for me, I wouldn’t have ever expected to be here in Orlando doing my fifth BattleFrog of 2015, much less qualify and be here for their season finale World Championship elite race.  All kinds of hype has come from this series lately, which I’ve been touting ever since doing my first BF at 2014’s NJ race.  But even around their home base event in Miami three weeks ago, the news of their title sponsorship for college football’s Fiesta Bowl, and the buildup to this season ending event with $60k in prize money (and a total of a cool $1M over the entire year!) had the whole OCR world looking forward to what this major player might have in store.

1. COURSE- Without a doubt the big buzz at the course, and for the thousands following on social media, was the Platinum Rig obstacles that would pretty much make or break every racer’s day in Central Florida.  Not one, but TWO, stations made it incredibly hard to have a perfect run without any fail (unless your last name is Atkins of course). Even so, with the multiple re-attempts for some going on a half hour or longer at each, fatigue and grip deterioration became a huge storyline. And that’s of course all in addition to the 5 miles of running and 30+ other obstacles to contend with each lap!  The Elite championship heat had two full laps and mandatory completion of every obstacle, and it looked like less than a quarter of the starting field was able to do that- including myself who had nothing left for the neverending 80 foot long rig with ropes, long and short metal poles, monkey bars, and rings. Moving on from that (if you were able to!) most obstacles were the same editions from our previous BFs.  Their signature Delta Ladder (large A frame climb), 60 Degrees (inverted metal pole ladder), and Tip of the Spear (combo of wall traverse with ropes, balance beams, and wall traverse with just fingertip grip boards) all made their appearance. And of course the grind-it-out strength obstacles like Wreck Bag and Jerry Can carries were there too.  We got an entirely new obstacle in a slanted traverse wall with rock climb hand holds and 2’x4” boards at the feet, but it didn’t seem to be too much trouble for most competitors. I might have thought there would be more water, as Miami was a frequent swim/wade type of course, but wasn’t the case in this much dryer part of the state.  Overall, famed Race Director Christopher “Beard” Acord delivered on a course certainly worthy of being called a championship.  GRADE = A

2. FESTIVAL- If I had more time to hang around (in other words, not wasted so much time attempting the Platinum Rigs over and over again!), I might have had the chance to enjoy what was a beautiful day in the park.  I thought the layout could have been a little more spectator friendly to showcase the more exciting obstacles, but those were still accessible from about a 100 yard walk or so from the festival. Cleverly, the merchandise tent was your only entrance and exit to the race, so you had no choice but to peruse their growing inventory of awesome BF apparel and souvenirs.  I even got myself an early Christmas present with one of their beach towels.  GRADE = A

3. SWAG- I didn’t get to keep the one souvenir that really meant something to me, that white Elite wristband for (not) completing all obstacles.  But the two prizes at the end were somewhat of a consolation.  This championship event produced unique medals for both Open, Elite, and Xtreme heat racers, and a brand new commemorative shirt that’s finally different than my others.  Throw in the several Kill Cliff cans I had on the way to the airport and a bookbag full of Jack Link’s beef jerky sample packs, and the misery of 4 hours of running toward a DNF was made a little better.  Still want that wristband though!  Oh well, there’s always next year!  GRADE = A


BATTLEFROG SERIES (16k), Hialeah FL, 11/21/15

Back in The 305 for what what BattleFrog labeled their "Miami II" event at this very same venue from the first one in late February, it had become one of my favorites of the year and just reinforced that now.  A few differences popped up as the format of their elite race has since changed since that past event, but nonetheless gave me one my most challenging and fun races of 2015.

1. COURSE-  So, lets get those big differences out of the way first.  Most obvious was that the race distance has changed since last winter- no longer 5k open heat and 15k for elites. The course is now an 8k (5 mile) for all, but elites do two laps, and the Xtreme is a max laps challenge by cutoff time.  Therefore you can surmise that the race has become even more difficult for anyone doing extra laps, meaning you'll hit ALL of the obstacles more than once (and elites have mandatory completion or face DQ).  I believe the February race was the last to offer that 15k Elite heat, but of course that was a continuously different layout for that distance.  While there were plenty of potentially alligator-lurking swim sections on course, my favorite Tyrolean traverse didn't make its reappearance this time, maybe because that same spot seemed to be much lower water level than in February. BattleFrog (as with several other OCRs) have become known for the very difficult Platinum Rig obstacle that has either claimed numerous competitor's wristbands for failing, or simply held up racers for even hours until being able to figure out the way to traverse this ninja warrior-esque playground. Now imagine having to do that twice (at the end of each lap), in addition to each 5 miles of running and all the other heavy grip work that you're forced to endure.  Nasty, but just the way we want it!  GRADE = A

2. FESTIVAL-  Just like last time, rain was in the forecast but held out until about mid day, so the morning race and hours of post-party were spared before the downpour.  A lot of great vendors either had samples or heavily discounted product for sale, and Kill Cliff drink brand was the best of them with $10 tshirts, $2 shades, and as many free cans of beverage as we wanted!  And with the DJ doing his thing all day and Coach Pain pumping up the crowd, the atmospshere was pretty hyped- nice job that BattleFrog did with the whole scene.  GRADE = A

3. SWAG-  Every time I pick up one of these shirts, I appreciate more the quality that they hold, with little details on the green stitching, small branded BF tag, etc.  Though its the 4th tee I've picked up this year, I also give this series huge credit for being one of the few that also has a ladies fitted version, a rarity in OCR.  I'll still give them a little sh*t for the fact that these elite heat medals continue to be last years style that say "15k" (just short of the actual 8k + 8k that equals 16k haha!), but oh well the weight and design is still way above so many other race series.  I am guessing that since the championship race in a few weeks will be giving away a totally new medal (and shirt), that 2016 will hopefully then have an updated and more "accurate" design.  Hoping to also keep another orange elite wristband for every obstacle completed at that Orlando race, which so far luckily I've been able to accomplish in all 4 BattleFrogs I've done this year.  GRADE = A



When I did this race a year ago (well actually about 14 months ago, as they held 2014 CBP race in September), I had little time to soak in any of what happened in this brief stadium Sprint.  This time around with no urgency to head back North, I got more out of the 30 minutes on course and some down time before and after it, without the stress of flooring it up to Vermont for a race the next day.  I always think of stadium Sprints as more like going to do a workout than a race, but they're nonetheless still lots of fun even though they're over so quickly.

1.  COURSE-  While the only-a-decade-old glittery Phillies’ ballpark can’t compare with last week’s visit to historic Fenway, Citizen’s Bank Park seemed to offer a little more race for your entry buck, clocking in close to a half mile longer than Boston.  That explained most double-race customers’ finish times being 5+ minutes longer than last week. Generally, these stadium Sprints are all the same, but Fenway was shorter than most in part because it is (as far as I have seen) the only race that is run entirely inside the confines of the arena.  This Philly race, along with CitiField and Tampa, stretched into adjacent parking lots areas for a few obstacles and some extra running.  The biggest shock for myself and probably hundreds of others (or more!) was to experience the only time I have been unable to complete the Herc Hoist, asbent of the usual barricade fence for pulling leverage.  I’m pretty sure I heard even the overall winner and Spartan Pro Team member Brakken Kraker failed this obstacle.  Again, the spear throw was the more durable but now half-the-size archery bullseye target, which didn’t help my already dismal ~50% stats there.  GRADE = B

2. FESTIVAL- Being two months later in the year than 2014’s CBP race, morning temps in the 40s weren’t too condusive to a real happening afterparty.  It surprised me that this event was scheduled so late in the Fall- as their home team’s dead last-place NL East finish certainly didn’t suggest they would have had playoffs in the City of Brotherly Love this year.  Either way, I grabbed a banana and Clif Bar for the post-run breakfast, but it was probably too early for that festival beer.  I'm sure other Spartans may have had no issue there though?  GRADE = C

3.  SWAG- Maybe my most favorite part of doing Spartan stadium races is the commemorative medal we get at the finish, which is different than the "ordinary" Sprint medals throughout the year,  Shirts are standard issue as always... and the souvenir list really ends about here though.  I've still yet to purchase a unique venue tshirt or any other merch, but some of them are really nice if you're willing to drop another $25 or so on top of your already exorbitant race weekend costs.  I'd love to know which is everyone's favorite special edition shirt they've picked up.  GRADE = B



It's almost hard to believe this is already the 4th year Spartan has dropped into Beantown, which also marks my 3rd time running it here. I missed last year's freezing cold race that was probably reminiscent of the frigid inaugural 2012 time trial event which literally had frost on the exposed upper deck areas.  But this time around, the more pleasant New England fall weekend weather was just as it was the last time I came up after the Red Sox' 2013 World Series championship. Boston is just a great city to visit with an amazing ballpark to be in, even if you're a Yankee like me ;)

1. COURSE-  For the most part, these stadium series races have become so increasingly similar, being able to predict the understandably shortest distance of all Spartan's courses and what obstacles to expect (or not) as they'd fit into these cramped sports arenas.  Many GPS measurements clocked in around 2.3 miles total with a lot of that obviously being stair climbs or just sprints down long hallway sections. The name of the game is hard and fast, as the track speedsters and CrossFit athletes will flourish at this style of race. Many of the "obstacles" (too many, IMO) as we've seen in stadiums are quick fitness stations of 20 rep exercises, making it feel more like a CrossFit workout than a traditional OCR.  And as I've griped before, this style of racing allows just too much cheating whether intentional or not, to be really considered a fair way of racing.  And as you can imagine, no mud to speak of other than the dry warning track dirt, doesn't get me as excited as the other outdoor events.  GRADE = B

2. FESTIVAL- I was able to attend both race days but see little difference in the post race vibe, even though Sunday must have been quite a smaller turnout with a more condensed heat schedule.  Either way, the reason for that is simply because the festival at the race can't really exist due to the space limitations.  So as I've seen in CitiField and Philly stadium Spartans, at least Spartan tries to organize offsite local restaurants and bars to do the hosting. You'll just of course end up spending a lot more cash than you planned that way.  GRADE = C

3. SWAG-  The toss up here is that you'll get the same old gray tee that any other Spartan Sprint gave out for the year, but the commemorative Fenway Park medal with unique designed and dated lanyard is a great souvenir.  On top of that, the best "swag" you're really getting is the experience of full  access to one of sport's true historic landmarks, with hopefully some awesome pics against the Green Monster in left center field!  GRADE = B


SPARTAN BEAST, Killington VT, 9/20/15

It's become one of the most loved/hated OCR events on the planet (along with their very infamous Director "EffNorm" Koch) because of the brutal course design over one of Vermont's largest ski mountains, that has easily produced the longest average Beast finishing times and probably the longest recovery periods to follow!  And as anyone who's been around Spartan for at least a year knows, their 2014 World Championship last September set a bar so high that our sore legs may have trouble ever reaching again, especially since this course is no longer (at least for 2015) their season ending finale.  As the big money race moves to Lake Tahoe in a few weeks, I think some of Spartan's attention had already too.

1.  COURSE-  Only in the few weeks leading up to the Killington weekend, Spartan dubbed this as a "Founder's Race", which I had previously thought referred only to the first event at a new location. Obviously this wasn't so, as it's my 4th year doing this Beast race, and it goes back even another year to 2011.  But, I guess a more appropriate definition started to develop as an explanation for the design of its obstacles- using more of the natural elements (and of course the nasty steep landscape of the mountain) rather than so much of the high-budget apparatus-heavy technical obstacles?  What this equated to was really not much of any improvement to the previous course, just with possibly some extra of those evil wooded trails and tough, technical bouldering climbs or tree branch grabbing declines. What was noticed, though, was the subtraction of several of its more amazing obstacles that this race became known for!  All year long their two water obstacles, the over-the-pond Tyrolean rope traverse and the unforgettable swim to the rope ladders and Tarzan swing under the entrance bridge, has given every Spartan Racer nightmares on how to both endure the cold VT lake and try to avoid being the 90%+ who were faced with failure burpees.  We did get a consolation in two shorter rigs with rope swinging, but no 50-degree water below.  I'm still in shock over what they considered their two rope climb obstacles, as a hanging bell from around 9-10 feet overhead wasn't out of reach for many to just jump and slap it in the air.  And the memory test disappeared on Sunday for at least the earlier heats, so all those that stashed Sharpies in their pants got a relief there, too.  Most would say the toughest parts or at least most time-consuming, were the multiple heavy carry obstacles- with two sandbag carries, two log carries (though free to choose as small and light as you wanted), and a gravel bucket carry- though none of these were quite as bad as doing the much longer double sandbag carry/drag from last year! Two spear throw stations were cut down to only one, as a final pass/fail right before the finish line fire.  As Facebook complaints made us well aware this weekend, and whether it falls into this "Course" review section or not, water stations apparently has some troubles with supply during parts of each day.  I'm mixed on choosing which side to argue for, but even though the race is supposed to be primarily self-supported and advertised as a tough-natured and extreme event, the organizers should be able to provide the appropriate aid as a safety issue, for the amount of racers on the mountain.  Despite any negatives, and a few let downs from always expecting just more and better from the birthplace of Spartan Race, its the only event I believe every year being worth the 10 hour round trip drive, and still can't find it in myself to give them any less than the top score for this category.  GRADE = A

2.  FESTIVAL-  This was one of the most confusing setups to find what you were looking for, and thankfully the base ski lodge was open to basically avoid hanging outside during the early morning chilly pre-race hours.  You almost needed a map just to navigate where to go, more than for even the winding endless 14 mile race around the mountain! First stop always includes the bib and registration tents in the parking lot, but now Merchandise Central has followed it out there too, just in case you need more Spartan gear on your way in or out!  Although a lot of people had trouble finding the bag check area, it was the best arrangement of any SRs this year, housed self-serve in an indoor, upstairs conference room, which eliminated long waiting lines and exited right to the showering area.  Start and finish lines were on opposite sides of a tunnel- so you'd have to choose which you wanted to watch, since couldn't see both. But most of the excitement was around the finish, and had a long spectator aisle to catch the last 100 yards of the race.  GRADE = B

3.  SWAG-  For the slight bad news, though it didnt affect me and might have been resolved when Joe DeSena arrived on Sunday, I know a lot of people rightfully complained when they ran out of Trifecta medals the day before.  I think the same happened last year too?  Shouldn't that be planned for, especially since I'm going to assume a Beast is usually the final (third) piece racers attain, and would be collecting their completed trifecta status' here?   This was only my single Trifecta for 2015, so no extra medal for me.  No worries though, as the finisher medal is amazing and easily the best of Spartan's year (we'll see if Tahoe tops it).  Chromed out and a commemorative design above the other Beast green medals with special lanyard and date on both parts, it made my 4+ hours of racing hell worth it all.  UltraBeast'ers got an equally impressive souvenir that reminded us of a few years ago with their glow in the dark medallions, as well as an exclusive finisher shirt that does trump the other race versions.  I'm just thrilled for a record two weeks in a row, since doing the NJ Super, I have some new color tee-shirts to throw in my own wardrobe rotation!  GRADE = A


SUPER SPARTAN, Vernon NJ, 9/13/15

Year Four at Mountain Creek was a throwback to a few years back- with a few course tweaks, a few native black bear sightings, and now more than a few extra racers and hoopla due to the NBC coverage of Saturday's race. But even while the 2014 NJ Super was one of my favorites of last year, this race left me with wanting a little more from this place.  Maybe that was due to Spartan's focus shifting toward the following weekend in Killington VT and even the Championship a few weeks later in Lake Tahoe, but many would rate this one as just "semi-Super" compared to the past editions.

1. COURSE-  We'll never again get the incredible course we found in the very first 2012 NJ Super, which included portions of neighboring Action Park, but each year since they have made up for it by building out one of the most difficult mid-distance Spartans here in Vernon.  The mountain itself is a legit ski resort and plenty of up-and-downhills were worked in, but I can't recall there being as much gravel road straightaway running before, which is typically not SR's (or Norm's!) style.  The three heavy carry obstacles were all much more manageable than it's seemed before- though the log carry was apparently shortened on Sunday due to dangerous/slippery trails.  We did get the modified Tyrolean Traverse (over dry land) that has appeared in a few events this year, but it's just not the same as going over a terrifying chilly lake- yes, they even had that here in 2012, the first TT I had ever seen.   And speaking of water, I don't know what happened to the mainstay lake swim that has always been a fun and refreshing part of Mountain Creek, as that section was reduced to a short knee deep walk on the shoreline. A lot was made of the very long decline barbed wire crawl near the end, not so much because it was difficult to roll downhill, but that it led to many dizzy racers right up to the already high failure rated MultiRig (rings, bar, Tarzan ropes) that was literally a tease from 100 feet away of the finish line, that is, if you didn't get stuck with the failure 30 penalty burpees first.  GRADE = B

2. FESTIVAL-  Mostly copy and pasted from last year due to the limited narrow space to place a festival here, but how long did it take everyone to find the new port-o-potty location, hidden in a far corner (but close to the start and finish line)?   We also noticed a revamped merchandise tent that now resembles a full-on mobile storefront, complete with a "bouncer" to make sure you were entering with clean shoes and no beverages in hand lol.  Still a tough setup to relax anywhere after the race with little seating or shade coverage, so my post race downtime was short.  Food offerings looked varied and tasty but a little expensive at around $10 for a sandwich. And while the BBQ pig roast smelled great, I could see it being a bit of a turnoff for those vegan's or animal lovers in the crowd.  Either way, until they allow the base lodge to open up their doors and house the exhausted racers and their fans, this is getting to be a tighter squeeze each year. GRADE = B

3. SWAG-  Your eyes do not deceive you- that color is blue and finally I have a new shirt to keep in 2015!  Besides the color, obviously the design is what would be expected, though an idea Spartan could take might be to have some enhancement on the shirt/medal for those 6 events per year when NBC is filming, just as a special souvenir and marketing ploy for the cameras?  But I won't complain, I'm just happy to be filling the next piece of the Trifecta, with just the Beast green still to collect.  GRADE = B


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


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


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


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