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

NOTE: Starting 2016, I will only be doing a full writeup for NEW events that I have not yet done before, and will continue do various gear and OCR equipment reviews. Please use the search box to read up on any past topics you might be looking for.

GOLIATHON, Mullica Hill NJ, 5/14/16

Despite just 5 events in their young history, a great philanthropic cause that deserves even more attention than it gets, and a capped registration around 1000 racers... this event in southern NJ has made quite a name for itself among both the OCR crowd and gymnast-ninja types in the Tri-State area.  With a unique format that takes the usual pressure off of chip times and failed obstacle penalties (ie, burpees, 8-count bodybuilders, or the like), Goliathon was a refreshing and fun event beyond what I could have expected.  Regardless of how many wristbands and points you came away with, everyone got to take on some of the most creative and challenging obstacles out there, and enjoy watching their teams and fellow David-wannabe's do the same.

1. COURSE-  Unlike most of the other hundred obstacle races I've done (yup, this was career #101 in the books!), the only other familiar feel to this starting line might be that of a Tough Mudder, where the clock doesn't really matter, the obstacles are the real bread and butter, and you know you're about to load up with at least a week of great Instagram videos- @themudman77 is guilty as charged haha. However, as you slowly and confidently approach each of the dozen obstacles on the course, the nerves of a BattleFrog or Spartan Race rig quickly get your adrenaline flowing! The course was setup over almost 4 miles of varying terrain, ranging from dense forest trails to steep sand hills, but most runners took their time hiking through it all to save energy for the obstacles. The catch, and how this is all scored, is that every station offers three levels (labeled G1-G2-G3) with increasing difficulty and points (plus a wristband souvenir) available if done successfully.  You get one attempt (except for a few final Wall climb obstacles that allowed 3 tries), but have to weigh the choice of completing an easier level, versus the risk of failing a harder version and then receiving zero points.  It's almost too difficult to describe each of the 12 obstacles on this course, as many were a combo of various scaffold rigs- with multiple parts of balance, hanging/swinging, and strength elements- built to test any type of well-rounded athlete.  My favorite, even though I admittedly fell off in the last few feet of the G3 version, was their incredible Hangman obstacle (number 10 of 12, in order on the course), which looked like something straight out of American Ninja Warrior. With just a 100 yards to go, the last test, called "Over the Moon", was the classic ode to ANW's Warped Wall, with the toughest version being an unheard of 17'6" height!  The reward upon success (which I thankfully achieved on my 3rd and final try), besides those points and wristband, was a gratifying slide down into a muddy pool of water below, the only time you'd get dirty and soaked for passing an obstacle! GRADE = A

2. FESTIVAL-  From the moment you drove into the parking lot and approached the registration area, to finally crossing the finish line and swag pickup tent many hours later, you are greeted in a way that was immediately obvious to all attendees that the staff cares deeply about your experience here.  For what Goliathon lacks in size and marketing resources compared to the big races, they make up for with genuine quality people and attention to detail.  I can't tell you how many of their staff and volunteers were just so very engaging and friendly, almost like they were on your racing team- and were equally happy for your successes and sympathetic for your misses.  I'm sure they have many repeat customers for this very reason, and I'm hoping myself to be right there for their next one on October 1st.  GRADE = A

3. SWAG-  The same theme about top-notch quality extends to the gifts you get to keep from this race.  The initial swag you get can only be earned, as you can pick up as many as a dozen rubber wristbands for completing each of their obstacles along the course.  After the last of these is done and you cross that finish chute, you're awarded an impressive medal that rivals any big OCR series, and the t-shirt is even nicer than many of the other race giveaways.  Lastly, I'm happy to boast our team of wild, rambunctious donut-devouring obstacle racers called the "Scruffy Mudders" also took a 3rd place overall podium spot, and picked up an extra medal (not shown) for that accomplishment! GRADE = A


SPARTAN BEAST, Vernon NJ, 5/1/16

A year ago, my initial regret of missing the very first Beast course here at Mountain Creek vanished as quickly as the hype that built up for it. For one, the cash I took home instead for winning the absolutely awesome ABF Mud Run that day helped my personal guilt ;) But mainly, all the discussion of that Beast being a letdown and no other news besides there still being some ski season snow left on the trails (for one barbed wire crawl section, whoop-dee-doo!), didn't make me second guess my race choice back in 2015. BUT... in comes Stormin' Norm Koch, his den of black bear pals, and (for Sunday) a lovely weather forecast of pouring rain and 50 degree temps...and now we can possibly compare this to the annual VT Beast hellride!  Quite a way to celebrate (?) my 100th career OCR hahaha...

1. COURSE-  I've only been to this venue for their NJ Super the last 4 Septembers, so the different season did offer a new feel for Vernon NJ. I guess a warmer Spring didn't leave any of the snow available for Spartan to make us crawl through this time, but make no mistake it was still there just in the form of very sloppy wet (and extremely slippery) trails, which this course seemed to find every damn inch of to "run" in. I might have to say this was the single muddiest race I've EVER done, but that's obviously considering it also was a full 15 miles worth if it, and all courtesy of Mother Nature.  The water sections I would have dreaded most were surprisingly not as awful as the "Ball Shrinker" name they gave the waist-deep lake traverse.  I cant quite give this race the same evil factor as Killington when the heavy carries (log, bucket, and only a single sandbag!?) were just slightly less sadistic here than in VT.  Really nothing else new besides a silly sewer drain pipe to jump and roll over, and an option for a ladder style Tyrolean Traverse, which appeared few people wanted to try since it would be slower.  Either way, you got every penny worth of the signup (double that for 2 lap UltraBeast'ers) plus lots of aches and pains to follow as good souvenirs this week. GRADE = A

2. FESTIVAL-  Most of the action was shut down on Sunday due to the weather, but I've always liked the layout at Mountain Creek.  Spectators at the "base" area got to see racers hit at least 4 legit obstacles- the popular Multi-Rig and Rope Climb mid race, and the Herc Hoist and A-frame cargo right at the finish.  Being another 4-5 miles longer than the Super thats held here, it's tough to squeeze in more obstacle viewing, but they got most of the exciting ones covered for the fans at least.  I do think that the Spear Throw (while I hate it as an "obstacle"), should always be right there for spectators to watch, but here it was about 2 miles uphill before the end. GRADE = B

3. SWAG-  The new logo cut-out finisher medals are pretty awesome, and being well received after a redesigned 2015 medal was a nice change to the several years of almost identical versions before that.   The included Trifecta pie piece looks to be the same as what we had last year- actually I'm curious if it "fits" with previously earned pieces to make a multi-year completed puzzle?  I was also happy that I grabbed my green shirt so early in the year, as it might be my only Beast for 2016, but that remains to be seen...  GRADE = A


Quick note: as you might have noticed a few weeks ago from the CitiField Stadium Spartan Race, this year I will only be doing a full race review for events that are new for me, which I have not done before in past years. I will however still post a "swag" pic for every race, and continue to do gear/equipment review articles.  And you can always use the Search feature to look up other races or topics you want to read up on.  Happy 2016 OCR season, and thanks as always for checking out my site!

GEAR REVIEW: Reebok All-Terrain shoes - Super OR (and) Thrill

It's been a while since we heard from Reebok's line of obstacle-race-centric footwear, but this Spring will see TWO new models hit the shelves!  The first is a revamped edition of their Super racing shoe, which as we know, has had questionable durability on our rugged trails and obstacles, but hopefully improved in this "OR" version. The other is a new style to come out, which should also "Thrill" ;) those looking for a less minimalist and smoother ride for races and training. I'll try to compare these to Reebok's earlier OCR shoes, but also feel free to read through my earlier articles on those, which are hyperlinked here:.





(men's / women's)

1.  FIT/FEEL-  The slightly new name, which the initials I'll guess stand for Obstacle Racing, are the third generation of Super's to hit the market since their debut 2 years ago.  Still a narrow fit as you might want for racing, so as not to have much wiggle room or allow space for debris to enter.  The first thing that I noticed out of the box was the change to the speed lace system that the Thunder's (and any Solomon brand shoe) used.  I'm personally not a fan of these, but if the idea is more ease and speed of tightening the shoe, I won't knock it too much- especially since the type of thin material laces they had before didn't usually hold a tie too well. We can also notice that the tongue seems to have more attachment to the upper than the earlier version, as my high arches always caused it to slip to the outside instead of staying put. The major gripe of past Super shoes has been their notorious lack of durability, sometimes not even lasting a single OCR without getting a hole somewhere (usually near the pinky toes)!  The upgraded Cordura coating should be a huge improvement on that, but it remains to be seen as we go through the 2016 race season.  Lastly, this new model is again among the most lightweight shoes out there, so no worry about heavy plodding feet even after a wet or muddy section.  GRADE = B

2.  FUNCTION-  I haven't yet tested these in an actual race, but the features clearly resemble those of its Super ancestors and will likely work as well.  The most notable of course is the H2O Drain which was probably the most crucial thing to ever happen to "OCR shoes" (from those original 1.0's). Great traction from the bottom tread as always, though the general design including smaller rope-climbing teeth around the arch, has become a standard from many other brands of obstacle race shoes now.  I quickly noticed that the lugs near the heel have grown a little bigger than before, but not sure what the reason other than possibly helping with downhill grip?  GRADE = A

3.  FASHION-  Flashy as ever, and isn't that the style now?  I suppose the graffiti paint drip design fits for the intended use of getting them splashed (with mud), though likely not the vibrant neon colors like these unless you're are wearing them for a "color run" race.  In that case they'd always come out looking like new! These would be pretty cool for an everyday shoe if not for the cleated bottom that doesn't work for anywhere but the trails.  GRADE = B



(men's / women's)

1.  FIT/FEEL-  Though these are a whole new species of shoe, I put them a little more in the hybrid race/training category, along with the aforementioned Thunder 2.0's or even the little-known All-Terrain Wild's. These Thrill's are easily my favorite of Reebok's All-Terrain series so far, combining a more cushioned feel with an excellent "racing" bottom tread that allows me to go a little further off-road. I don't think these would qualify any more as a minimalist shoe, but they are still lightweight enough to not feel bulky.  I have a slightly wider foot, and these definitely don't give me the tight squeeze of the Super versions.  There is a Terrain Support heel clip that also should keep you strapped into the shoe a little better, even after all those twists and turns.  The laces are back to thicker strings, and have not let me down and come loose yet.  Either way, I always double knot anyway just to make sure.  GRADE = A

2.  FUNCTION-   Like I said above, they borrow a similar tread from the Super shoe lineage, and even add multi-directional lugs for ascent/descent.  They are also spread apart so mud shouldn't get caked up between too much.  Water port H20 Drain holes on both sides will prevent a flood inside, but I'd still wonder if the thicker cushioned upper might hold a little extra water than the other shoes.  Underneath, a solid rock guard makes uneven and gravel trails an easy run.  And on the topic of durability once more, the rubberized coating should add more years to their life, if not at least repel some mud from sticking to the shoe.  GRADE = B

3.  FASHION-   I don't know how many color options will become available, but the simple black and neon color combo's are pretty without being obnoxious.  The matching two-tone lace colors is a nice touch as well. I almost don't want to let these get dirty lol.  I'll look forward to the evolution of this model shoe, as I can see this being a popular choice for it looks, comfort, and versatility.  GRADE = A



Side by side men's (OR vs Thrill)

Side by side women's (OR vs Thrill)

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