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

MUDMANX, Holmdel NJ, 7/19/14

I've known the team from MudmanX for a while now, and they've always been good to me (maybe because of my nickname?) over the last 4 events I've been to.  While they are still in their developing stages, and haven't quite yet exactly figured out their "schtick" in this ever-changing OCR world, a lot of new things have come from these guys in 2014 that have me excited about the direction I hope they're steering toward.

1. COURSE-  This was their first time setting up at the PNC Bank Arts Center, a small venue concert theater in Northern NJ, and it made me unsure of if this was going to be similar to the bunch of Spartan Race stadium series such as CitiField or Fenway Park.  While this race did center around the building, it actually did not go inside at all and mostly avoided what I figured would be lots of rows of stair climbing or that type of running through seat sections.  In fact the only similarity this had was the several parts of the race that were on paved roads around the venue's perimeter (which I honestly was not a fan of, being more of a trail runner myself).  When we did go off-road for the course, which required the elite heat to do two full laps of their 3.5 mile design, it was a fast pace on mostly flat fields, or again, pavement. It's weird to say, but I enjoyed the toughest part most, which was probably the slow stretch of mucky ravine in a wooded section that provided more than 6" deep of thick mud and followed then by the one steep dirt uphill that was your escape route.  Overall, obstacles weren't very difficult, and they weren't focused on the "4 Elements" as they have in the past.  They also took out the electric shock wires, which I don't think anyone had too much of a complaint on haha. The one big wish I have is that at least for their elite heat that they'll establish rules and obstacle penalties, as all other races (for awards) have put in place.  Here, it was a free for all and a lot of varying interpretations on how to run through it.  But again, to be a competitive and tough race, or more of a family affair fun run... remains to be seen.  Grade = B

2. FESTIVAL-  I actually liked what they had going on, while it lacked big name vendors or exciting games and contests for the crowd, the local feel was in effect (and that's sometimes a nice break sometimes from the DJ'd-out, big screen, in-your-face propaganda show that are at the big races).  There were a lot of tents with giveaways, while they were as random as deodorant sticks or swag from a local radio station. But there was also plenty of picnic table seating, a cleaner than usual hose/shower area, and plenty of beer to go around- which the  owner Jay was also very generous to hook everyone up with.  Grade = B

3. SWAG-  This category is where MMX has changed the most, but I see the new options as an improvement from 2012 and 2013. Previously, finishers received a branded headband, but the entire world even outside OCR knows that pretty much "belongs" to Tough Mudder.  So, rather they have moved to a dogtag medal for everyone that crosses the finish line (yes, though CMC and Merrell do, as well), but it's still an upgrade I think.  I also like that there are now a number of age group categories for awards with special medals (which I took 1st for what could be called their 35-70 "Old Man" division lol) beyond only having the top 3 overall men/women.  Shirt design has also changed as the race has toyed with their logo several times, but I'd like to see if they could get away from the "warning sign yellow" for their next generation? It's unique, but just doesn't go with my shoes.  Grade = B


SPARTAN SPRINT, Palmerton PA, 7/13/14

For those of you Spartan Racers out there who have become familiar with some of the courses and the event's planners, you were either licking your chops or biting your finger nails realizing that this PA Sprint would be one of several designed by the infamous Norm Koch this year.  Known for creating hours of torture and endless uphill hell, fans of Norm got exactly what they hoped for out of what most would agree is Spartan's most difficult short course.  The rest who maybe hoped the legend wasn't true, pretty likely had a miserable and crushing day.

1. COURSE-  This course, which I also ran in 2012 and 2013, has had a unpredictable pattern in its design, unlike some other races that have changed very little.  No, unfortunately the size and inclines of Blue Mountain haven't altered in the last few years, but the course length has been the major fluctuation.  This year's path was reported at 5.3 miles, more like the 2012 race, but much more than a year ago when it was for some reason cut at least a mile less.  I looked back at my times from these years, and saw last year was nearly a half hour faster than either the year before or here in 2014.  Maybe there was a demand for "more"?  Whatever the case, this course had some of the most grueling uphill battles with sandbag and rock bucket carrying, and just some awful incline trails themselves.  I don't think much new appeared in PA, and although the slip and slide was gone, my favorite section of lake traverse was the most welcoming cool-down few minutes of the entire course.  Grade = A

2. FESTIVAL- This year I didn't hang around too long after racing both days, but there was no shortage of others who did.  The weather held out and the action from NBC on Saturday drew a packed house of both racers and spectators.  Sunday was still a good turnout, but maybe a little less without all the cameras rolling on day 2.  One thing to note was that the festival area seemed quite divided with its setup- half near the start and half near the finish line, which were close but not right in the same area of the base lodge.  I guess as race numbers have grown, this festival has had to expand as well. It did make it a little difficult to decide where to call camp, and then to find friends who might be scattered around.   Grade = A

3. SWAG-  Same deal as the previous 2014 Spartan Races have been, but that's to be expected for at least another 5-6 months I would guess.  I've now got so many dark gray finisher shirts (and don't get me wrong, they're nice and of decent quality), that I just pick one up for a friend in their various size with each future race I'll go to. I also have yet to even do a Super or Beast this year, so my Trifecta medal pie is nothing but red so far.  Looking forward to September when I'll be able to put it all together.  Grade = B


SAVAGE RACE, Albrightsville PA, 6/28/14

One of the last "big" veteran nationwide OCR series that I hadn't gotten to do yet, I was as thrilled afterwards as I was leading up to it. I was glad to connect with the co-founders Sam and Lloyd, who were extremely gracious, interested, and available to make sure not just myself but the thousands of others racers that day were having a great time.  These guys have designed a perfect blend of competition and entertainment wrapped into an obstacle course race, and I'm just hoping that their series will soon be able to expand to other parts of the country, as most of their schedule this year and prior have been a little outside of my Northeast corner.

1. COURSE-  Part cross-country running trails, part thrill-ride obstacle stops.  While this 4.5 mile course was almost entirely flat as we zoomed around the Skirmish Paintball property, the challenges that were both large-scale and adrenaline-pumping were what make their grade here.  The premier 3 or 4 obstacles, including a 20 foot high jump into a muddy pool of water, an up/down/up/down monkey bar "Saw Tooth" climb, and their highlight half pipe "Colossus" that then finishes with a super slide on the other end, were all located at the center of the party area.  This handful of obstacles were so much fun and accessible that I went back after to do them ALL again after my race was over, which was even welcomed by the staff and volunteers- a sign that they're not just looking for your entry fee in exchange for a timing chip and tshirt, but that they want you to get as much of the race experience as you can out of that registration.  That attitude deserves lots of kudos!  Grade = A

2. FESTIVAL-  As I mentioned above, watching from the sidelines was like a front row seat to the amusement park of OCRs.  Great views from lots of spots, and was glad some friends and I got to take fun pics and video of obstacle shenanigans post-race.  A few vendor village tents provided just about the only shade on this very hot and sunny June Saturday, so that might be an area to improve on (at least my sunburned shoulders suggest that).  DJ'd music and food for sale, and the one free beer (which I forgot to have or give away), made for a fun party among what seemed to be a generally young and fit crowd.  I might have also liked to have seen some (unless I missed them) interactive games and contests that are always a sideshow compliment to the race itself and sometimes a fun chance to win merch, race entries, or just purely bragging rights.  Grade = B

3. SWAG-  Your finisher shirt and medal were both high quality and nicely designed, but generally standard level now for a race of this size and name.  I love the fact that this event, like last week's Merrell Down and Dirty, focuses mainly on awards for age groups, which allows many chances for competitors to win prizes (top 3's) among the many divisions.  These placing medals were a much heavier and thicker version of the finisher version, almost like an Olympic Games edition, in gold/silver/bronze.  Top overall trophies were an impressive looking plaque-mounted and engraved battle axe, given only to the #1 man and woman in the elite wave.  Grade = A


MERRELL DOWN & DIRTY, Hartford CT, 6/22/14

I've said it before, and I'll say it once again with this now being my seventh Down and Dirty race... this series is built on its very consistent product as well as its reputation for being a family friendly and all-abilities event.  It was as if I warp-zoned to exactly a year ago this weekend, as nothing really changed from their 2013 event, save a few minor tweaks.  For the most part, that's a really good thing (I came back, didn't I?), though perhaps it doesn't leave a whole lot for The Mudman to Report on ;)

1. COURSE-  I think the course might have been set up here from last year and just left untouched lol.  From what I could remember, almost every path and turn was the same, and even my chip time was within 10 seconds of my 2013 finish!  Hartford's Riverside Park is almost totally flat except for the one 50 yard incline in the first minute of the race, so almost all times (for both the 3 or 6 mile race options) are uncharacteristically fast for an obstacle race. This year did have a heavier sandbag carry compared to last year, and there was also a sandbag pulley hoist that might not have been there before.  The mud was as muddy as ever, especially the last finish line pit, which I know has become their trademark ending.  Still my favorite obstacle, the two story cargo net climb blocks near the last 1/4 mile, made its return appearance to be the only real high climbing element.  Grade = B

2. FESTIVAL-  Even though the entire race day is short- heats only running until 10am or so- the morning is filled with fun to do and see while you wait before or after your race.  Merrell shoes and Subaru are the main sponsors and dominate the festival area with tents and giveaways (or to purchase shoes available on site).  A number of contests and games are spread between the morning's awards ceremonies, including the military pullup contest which always draws a big crowd of spectators.  If that's not for you, its fun enough to just spend hours watching the racers trudge through the grande finale mud pit on their way to the finish chute- no one, adults or kids alike, leaves without being completely covered in muck!  Grade = A

3. SWAG-  While they no longer give you the sandwich, chip, and soda lunch that Merrell had in years past, they did step up in the snack department with a brown paper bag filled with Lara Bars, orange, and gummy fruit chews, plus a water bottle.  But what's really worth bragging about is the actual event swag, both at registration and post race.  Everyone gets one of their awesome tech tees (I recommend getting a size larger than normal though as they tend to run small/short), a stretchy headband thingamajig (which is awesome in colder months), and then a sweet dogtag finisher medal.  In addition, I again was lucky enough to pull out a first place finish in my age group (and first overall!) to earn a Merrell gift certificate that came with a newly designed gold medal for the placement (last year's top 3 medals were a larger version of the finisher dogtag- much nicer this year!) Grade = A


SPARTAN SPRINT, Tuxedo NY, 6/8/14

Before we dive into the review, indulge me for just a few minutes to reflect on my history of this particular event... the Tuxedo Sprint has been a special race for me going back to 2011, and through this past weekend it's a course I have run on 8 different days since then.  I'm from New York, and with the exception of CitiField, I have also been proud to call it my "home" race.  That inaugural 2011 event, when Joe DeSena and I first met and had an insightful half hour one-on-one chat about this new sport of OCR, was also the first (and only) Spartan Race where I achieved one of my greatest race accomplishments of making it to their podium, for a 3rd place Elite heat finish.  Needless to say, that now extinct Spartan engraved sword which I walked away with that day, remains one of my most prized possessions especially due to the incredible difficulty that's evolved to reach that level now.  That 2011 event was also the birth of this 3 year old diary known as The Mudman Report!  Over the next two years, I worked for Spartan Race as it's Tri-State Local Ambassador ("head" of NY/NJ Street Team) and then Race Manager for Tuxedo, helping to bring this small initial event of only a few thousand to its current level of the biggest attended (and only two-weekend event) that Spartan Race holds, another accomplishment I am proud to say I was part of.  For so many reasons, I look forward to coming back to this race each year, both to see the changes it goes through and to feel the special place it holds in my heart from the beginnings of my racing, and really of OCR as a whole.

1.  COURSE-  I love the shocked look of rookie Spartan Racers who come to Tuxedo for this little "sprint" of only 4+ miles and even moreso the crushing surprise of well-trained athletes, who each can't understand how it takes them sometimes several hours or more to finish.  While Tuxedo Ridge is not truly among the other big ski resorts of the Northeast that Spartan visits, like Killington VT or Mountain Creek NJ, the design of this particular course draws many comparisons to them when it comes to the actual race.  Naturally, few can run uphill as comfortably as flat ground, but Tuxedo has always provided a brutal path of up and downs, not just in number of trips but also their placement/sequence along the race.  Add in having to carry a sandbag or large tree log, or pull a cinder block there, and the game certainly changes even more.  This year added maybe two new obstacles that really stood out, namely the cargo net monkey bar traverse over a waist deep water pool, and a new take on a high vertical wall where foot/hand hold steps were only found above maybe the 6 foot height, and which began by standing in water first.  Some of the order of repeat obstacles made for a different twist, such as the spear throw now following the evil 100-yard Tuxedo uphill rocky barbed wire crawl, and the traverse "rock climb" wall shortly after the main rope climb and uphill hike, which left most legs wobbly or cramping before you got to it.  The one obstacle, gladly, that did not make an appearance here was the log hop, which has been known to ship many off to burpeeland in addition to some good bruises if they fell off.  GRADE = A

2.  FESTIVAL-   The scene after the race has improved here year after year.  Perfect placement of the most exciting obstacles and finish line near the festival area, as well as excellent sideline paths for spectators to see even more, has made this a very fun race to watch if not to participate.  A number of tents have sprouted as well, which was great because luckily the weather was perfect for all four days and the sun would have baked anyone stuck for a long time without shade.  The ski resort offered food for sale at its base lodge, not unreasonably priced either.  I also liked that SR has a handful of "obstacle challenge" contests open to everyone, though it's usually the Elite racers that clean those up as well.  The only issue I see as this race grows is soon running out of space for people to hang out, but I'm sure that's a good problem Spartan will want to have if Tuxedo actually gets any bigger. GRADE = A

3.  SWAG-  Like the previous Spartan Race's this year, finishing this course gets you a double souvenir- a ribbon with a medal for both the Sprint race and a red piece of the Trifecta pie, which is a different color for each level completed (blue for Supers and Green for Beasts are the others).  I ran 3 out of the 4 days, improving my time each successive race- but unfortunately I had to miss the "big show" on the second Saturday (7th), where NBC was filming for an upcoming piece on Spartan, surely lending the feel of last September's VT championship. It will be interesting to see what comes of this TV coverage, but even the carry-over to Sunday added some extra excitement to what I consider the official start of the Spartan "summer" season.  GRADE = B


BONEFROG CHALLENGE (Sprint), Charlemont MA, 5/17/14

I have luckily already picked a few outstanding races this year which I hadn't tried before.  The last two, including the Viking Obstacle Race a week ago and this one, were both each in just their second events ever. The Bonefrog got a lot of buzz in 2013 because of it's difficult 9 mile course with many hardcore obstacles, and this year introduced the addition of a shorter Sprint course which shared much of the trails and tasks of the longer version.  Though still in early stages of expanding, I expect their reputation to draw many more racers looking for the extreme in toughness for an OCR, as well as cash and unique "trophy" prizes for the top finishers among the elite heats.

1.  COURSE-  The Sprint was listed at 4 miles, but I would bet it had to have run at least 5, as no one was able to come even close to under an hour finish time.  There was pretty much everything you could ask for in an OCR race, and I'm sure the "full" race provided even more!  I didn't get a total count on the obstacles, but I was pleased that there was so much upper body work involved, such as a number of monkey bar/ring crossings and heavy uphill carries, that distinguished this as NOT being a runner's course.  The inclines of these Berkshire Mountains and the many times we had to climb them is also what crushed a lot of speed demons.  Add in some of the coolest water obstacles, like a balance beam log followed by floating dock jumps and a swim in a pretty chilly pond, as well as an always-fun slip and slide, made for a refreshing race (or the opposite for the folks cramping from the fatigue and cold water).  The only minor flaw was that the high number of obstacles made it hard for the race to provide enough volunteers to man all these stations, and some tasks/penalties therefore weren't explained or supervised.  Either way, I saw no one that went through either the long or short course finish with any looks of disappointment.  GRADE = A

2.  FESTIVAL-  A great location for an event like this, and especially with the start and finish lines right at the base lodge of this ski resort. It helped that weather cooperated, but it was nice to see how many racers and spectators hung around for hours after the race, enjoying the natural setting, the sights of the race, and grilled food sold on site. A handful of vendors lined the festival area, including the OCR Gear tent that provided anyone who qualified here for the OCR World Championships, their earned tshirt and drawstring bag.  GRADE = A

3.  SWAG-  Can't do much better than this.  A unique tshirt (which is just as cool on the back), and easily the nicest medal I have taken home from an obstacle race so far, rivaling just about any major marathon swag.  The Mudman did his thing this weekend and was also able to come away with the first place overall "paddle" that went to podium winners.  All in all just a top notch event, and even cooler to have done this race (put on by US Navy SEALs) on Armed Forces Day, May 17.  GRADE = A


VIKING OBSTACLE RACE, Greenville NY, 5/10/14

If you read my previous week's Report on the High Rock Challenge, with it's local charm and beyond great efforts to make its participants really happy (and hopefully coming back!), then this race did it even better! In only it's second ever race built on the Sunny Hill Resort, a family owned summer-rental getaway property in upstate NY, the 5.6 miles of trails and 30 or so permanent obstacles were incredible, leaving me to proclaim this event quite possible as the "best obstacle race you've never heard of (yet)."

1.  COURSE- I'll admit that I did try to preview what this race was about from a few YouTube videos and blog writeups that were out there, but still I came in a little skeptical because quite often these family-owned small-name events fail to satisfy, especially for someone like myself who can safely say is a veteran of doing these races.  I have never been so pleasantly surprised though!  I'm not sure what the total acreage of Sunny Hill is, but it seemed we must have ran through several counties during this hour-plus of not just great running trails, but parts that included several ponds or streams, numerous quick bouldering maneuvers and a bunch of hopping/ducking through the naturally fallen trees.  Throw in some of the most unique wooden-structure obstacles, designed with the help of OCR mastermind Rob Butler (of Shale Hill VT fame- another stop this summer!), and we truly have a top notch challenge.  The sheer scale and different take on some of these climbing obstacles, like a combo pole and rope climb or the longest wall traverse I've ever seen (my fingers were literally numb from all the gripping after!) were a step up from even what I've done at Spartan's or Mudder's.  There were some borderline scary heights as well, as another rope climb to around 25 feet and several cargo nets or ladders walls that reached the same altitude certainly made you be secure with your hand holds!  It didn't stop there either, as the low-element aspects like a few tree log balance beam obstacles (which were also slippery and another even underwater) sent a lot of people falling and subject to some burpee time, akin to the Spartan Race penalty system.  GRADE = A

2.  FESTIVAL-  Now I can't say that this afterparty was a raging kegger or anything on par with Tough Mudder's wild fame, but this is where the true nature of the resort/race hosts came out, as they treated everyone like they were a guest in their home (which literally might have been the case, as racers could actually stay for the weekend too). A fantastic BBQ lunch buffet was put out for the crowd, including burgers and hotdogs and a number of salads.  They even had a DJ to entertain during this lunch picnic, where everyone was welcomed to stay as long as they wanted for the afternoon, and encouraged to tour around the property to see all the great amenities the resort has to offer- two golf courses, many sport courts, swimming pool, etc. It was this hospitality that I wish I could give an even higher grade for, but it has at least made me decide I want to come back and visit, regardless of it being a race weekend or not (the obstacle course is also available for year round training sessions for a very low fee).  GRADE = A

3.  SWAG- Once again, like last week's race, the little-known event puts out a great souvenir package.  I can now say I have my first lime-green and purple tshirt, which I'm more likely to wear than the pile of black or grays from other races, but the really sweet take-away was the unique "woodallion", a finisher medal like I've never seen before.  So well done overall, the only shame being that this race hasn't yet gotten the word out.  But also like High Rock Challenge or other local races, it may be that fact that keeps it to a quality we don't want to share (too much) with the masses?  GRADE = A


HIGH ROCK CHALLENGE (Solo), Staten Island NY, 4/27/14

Surprised it took me this long to do this event, now in its 14th year as New York's (and among the country's) longest tenured adventure races.  Until last year, it had only been run as a team event, as duo's had to complete the race side by side, sometimes even literally tethered to one another as they ran and negotiated obstacles and mud. I opted instead for Sunday's "Solo" competition, which was around 4+ miles of Staten Island's Henry Kaufman Campgrounds, but without having to share the fun with a partner ;)

1.  COURSE- As the team race measured around 7.5 miles, the individual course came in at just over half of that, at least according to my legs. Most of the running was along flat and pretty clear hiking trails, but there were several gradual inclines that snuck up on the racers at a few points, and some excellent use of natural water spots throughout the park.  This was definitely a fast race, benefitting the cross country runner, but obstacles such as the ranger rope (cable) crossing over a pond and several minutes of single track in a foot deep stream slowed everyone down.  The rest of the obstacles were standard type climbing walls, monkey bars, and low crawls under netting or through large drain pipes, but the most challenging was probably the final “lily pads” of floating platforms above inner tubes, which forced almost everyone to take to hands and knees rather than risk falling in the drink right before the finish line!  I also have to mention how friendly and helpful the staff and volunteers were at this race, but that’s probably to expect from being such a seasoned veteran in the adventure race world.  GRADE = B

2.  FESTIVAL- Being that I had to race Sunday’s event due to other obligations on Saturday (as is often the case), I have no doubt that the previous day's afterparty was a much bigger deal than here (well, there must have been like twice as many people anyway, being a duo-team race).  But, regardless of the Sunday attendance, everything was still available for an afternoon of music, grilled food for sale, and for me- a little extra monkey bar practice time for fun.  GRADE = B

3.  SWAG- The trend seems to continue- sometimes the smaller name and local races give away the best stuff!  A really nice quality tech souvenir shirt and well designed finisher medal/bottle opener were a surprise to me, though probably not a shock for those regulars that have been doing the HRC for years. Top 3 overall men and women also walked away with trophies for their efforts (2nd place for me!). Everyone also got a string cinch sack bookbag (not shown) as well as complimentary bagels post race.   Part of me hopes this race would get bigger, but the intimate nature is something nice that is to be appreciated too.  GRADE = A



It's strange to say that my first three obstacle course races of the year (Spartan's Tampa Sprint in February and now both days of the CitiField race) have all been inside sports ballparks.  The unique type of venue has been quite popular for OCR runners, and it's surprising that only Spartan has really ventured into this style of race course (so far).  Back for it's second year in the NY Met's stadium, they made it a two day event this time, likely due to the many complaints that racers had from the logistical nightmares that happened in 2013.

1. COURSE-  Not much changed other than the placement or order of some of the obstacles, but a few things of note did disappear from this race (and maybe future Spartan's?) as we've known them before.  The stadium series courses have always relied heavily on fitness obstacle stations, and to the delight of many but my disappointment, the rowing ergometer didn't make it into this race.  I know that last year the roughly 30 or so machines they had available just wasn't close to being enough for the masses that went through the race, so it might have been ditched for that reason.  But even bigger news was that the staple, or even trademark, of Spartan Race "gladiators" at the finish line was now replaced with a row of heavy punching bags to weave through instead.  Granted, this aspect of the race never really meant much as far as being any real test of strength or fitness, and it certainly became softer in the last year or so... but, it no doubt was the definitive ending and last battle before Spartan victory (and medal) were obtained.  My next SR isn't until late May, but their other races around the country before that will show if this obstacle is truly history, or was just on a road trip, like the Mets.  Grade = B

2. FESTIVAL-  There never really is one at a stadium, so I shouldn't explain it all again.  I said to a friend as we were looking out from the upper levels, "Why not have these adjacent empty parking lots filled with picnic tables, a DJ, and some contests to make THAT the afterparty?" But no, the only option is field level ballpark seats or to walk around the hollows of the ballpark.  Tampa did it better for sure. Grade = C

3. SWAG-  The one thing you can be sure is a winner at the stadium series are the unique medals, as Spartan once again did a great job with giving everyone a commemorative CitiField one (redesigned- orange instead of last year's blue- the Mets colors), as well as an attached Trifecta piece which was of course the same red pie slice as any other Sprint race.  SR is sticking with the headband bibs again, but did also give everyone a paper version with no safety pins, as they did not want those littered throughout the stadium. I'm not sure which way they are going with shirts (reverse shown in picture), as this one was the same exact look as the one I picked up in Tampa but a different material that was lighter and stretchier.  Overall, I'd say it is an improvement though I wish the shirt also could have been race specific like their medal (as they had done in 2012 Fenway). Grade = A


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

Recently, I was lucky enough to be asked by Reebok to try out a new model of sneaker specifically made for the obstacle course race athlete. We all know that Reebok has done quite a bit to develop footwear and apparel for CrossFit, and now it seems they are venturing into the same idea toward OCR's, on the heels of their (already turned one year) partnership with one of the industry's leaders, Spartan Race.  The only shoe I've tried (trained and raced in) that might be similar is the popular Inov-8 X-Talon 190 shoe.  So, much of the review may be a comparison to that.  I am by no means a professional critic with gear, but I know whats works and what doesn't.  So without further ado, here is what Mudman thought...

1.  FIT/FEEL-  Of course any shoe needs breaking in, but a day of wearing them around the house made the Reebok's cozy and ready to go.  I wore them once for a training trail run and once for the Tampa Spartan Sprint, which was a hybrid stadium and outdoor race.  After both, there were no signs of discomfort which new shoes can surprise your feet with. No aches, blister hot spots, or the like.  The size 9 (ahem, potential sponsors if you are listening- that was a size NINE), fit fairly true, as I prefer a slighly tighter feel for racing.  I noticed, compared to the Inov-8's (also a size 9), that the actual length of the Reebok's were a good half inch longer, and wonder if over a longer run or race if that would be noticeable.  Overall, these were very soft and comfortable, despite much of the upper being a plastic mesh material. GRADE = A

2.  FUNCTION-  These are called the "All Terrain" shoes since the obstacle course racer will need to be going through a huge variety of surfaces and/or inclines, much of it being wet, muddy, or sandy.  The Tampa Spartan Race was a great test to the shoe's name, since it had performed great on my trail run but now would also have to be fast on hard, dry concrete for at least a mile or two of ramps and stairs inside the stadium.  A little of my worries did come true, as pavement was not ideal for any type of cleated sneaker, needing something to grip where there wasn't anything.  As the rest of the race progressed to dirt and grassy fields, everything was as promised- a solid and stable footing which also didn't feel too "sticky" or annoying to drag through the mud and wet parts.  A key feature I noticed was the drainage system of holes along both sides of the shoe, which allowed water to quickly exit with the first several steps out of the pit, rather than lugging the extra weight around for a while as I'm used to.  I haven't yet used these for any serious inclines or hills, which will be key come summertime as most of my races will be on mountainous terrain.  I'm interested to see how they will perform going up a ski trail the opposite way, though I don't have any doubts in that area due to the number and arrangement of their lugs.  GRADE = B

3.  FASHION-  When I pulled these out of the box, I have to say I was pretty excited about the look of the Reebok's.  Really cool colors, and not obnoxiously bold or bright (like the "other" shoe in the pic!).   If not for the lugs on bottom, I could see wearing these for any sport or even just being casual, but that's just me.  Not much else to say on the styling, but most of the time this summer these kicks will be covered in mud, so you may not even notice how good they actually do look. GRADE = A