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

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

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

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

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

TOUGH MUDDER 5k, Old Bethpage NY, 8/22/18

This is the now fourth year that Mudder has come to visit my home on Long Island, but a new shorter 5k distance has been added to the list of courses along with their "Full" (which I did their first year in 2015) and "Half" (ran in 2016 and 2017).  The appeal for me with the new 5k was NOT because of the difficulty of this course, haha, which is almost entirely flat and generally unexciting, but due to another new feature called the Repeat Offender program- by doing at least two different course lengths in a two year span, you enter that club and receive extra swag, which I'll describe in that final section below.

1.  COURSE-   Having done the longer versions in past years, and realizing that less distance usually also equates to fewer obstacles, I wasn't expecting much from the 5k.  But I can tell you that the consensus for this years event in general (all lengths) was a decline in quality from the few years prior.  And that was certainly more true about the new 5k, having very little to even live up to other race series 5k distances.  I want to say that they claimed around 10 obstacles for this short course, but at least three of these obstacles (actual, listed, "named" on map) were nothing more than a foot deep puddle of water- nothing else to it!  Now we're down to maybe 7 obstacles, which is barely worth calling it an OCR.  But also, those still considered 5k obstacles were NOT the big scale exciting ones that you might possible be getting in the Half or probably getting in the Full.  Thankfully, one of my faves, the Blockness Monster, was accessible by just a quick detour off the 5k to share that Half course obstacle.  GRADE = C

2.  FESTIVAL-  I'll assume that numbers must be growing for this location, and with the same size festival area each year, it just seemed pretty chaotic.  Very overcrowded, even for this overcast Sunday morning, it felt like a carnival with your mind spinning just even trying to find key landmarks like bag check, showers, or even the start line.   That being said, if you wanted to spend the time to navigate around, there were no shortage of vendors and activities to keep busy post run.  GRADE = B

3.  SWAG-   Merrell is back making their great quality t-shirts for finishers, thought the 5k edition looks exactly like last year's heather gray Half shirt (the one from this year's Half was blue instead).  I got to pick up a new design headband for the 5k distance, and then also the multicolor 2x "Repeat Offender" version for doing the two races between 2017 and 2018.  And in a few months when I do the Tougher Mudder (Full) Tri-State in a few months, I should then also get that extra swag for the 3x level.  GRADE = B


OVERALL GRADE = B


Previous year events:

2017: http://mudmanreport.blogspot.com/2017/07/tough-mudder-half-old-bethpage-ny-72317.html

2016: http://mudmanreport.blogspot.com/2016/07/tough-mudder-half-old-bethpage-ny-72416.html

2015: http://mudmanreport.blogspot.com/2015/08/tough-mudder-old-bethpage-ny-81615.html

RUGGED MANIAC, Calverton NY, 7/21/18

I havent even been near a Rugged Maniac in years due to disappointing experiences at the handful of previous ones I've run (at Aviator Park in Brooklyn).  Much of the poor quality of those events has been due to that venue, which I've never been shy in saying is likely the worst OCR site in the whole world!  All my earlier Rugged Maniacs (plus a Terrain Race, Civilian Military Combine, and even my first ever Spartan Race in 2010) have been held at this converted airstrip location- a totally flat mostly pavement course, which is just plain underwhelming.  So this time at another frequently rented out venue on the east end of Long Island, I figured I'd see what was new as they visit my home turf.

1.  COURSE-  The struggle of Long Island OCR life is that we have nothing of the mountain range inclines of the nearby upstate Catskills or parts of northern NJ, so we have to race and train with what we have.  In Calverton NY, which has also hosted Survival Race and a number of other events, of course we're essentially dealing with flat farmland terrain.  So racing here is fast, where the pace of the top racers is around twice as speedy compared to a typical mountain course.  This race clocked in right around 3 miles distance, and since most of the obstacles (some were inflatable type) also cater to the beginner to mid level athlete, there was not much to slow anyone down.  They didn't really get too adventurous until about the last quarter mile, where a gauntlet of about 5 larger scale obstacles were the most fun and challenging.  My favorite, Off The Rails, was a rope hold zip line to hit a bell over water, which felt great to drop into with the hot sun we had here on race day.  GRADE = B

2.  FESTIVAL-  Rugged definitely gets points for the interactive picnic style games (corn hole etc)  that kept a lot of kids entertained in front of the grand stage.  There looked to be at least 3 different pullup contests going on- maybe a little overkill- as several branches of armed forces had vendor booths with that, plus the official on stage contest too.  And unfortunately, or maybe fortunately (?), I missed the most interesting festival challenge of all as they had a state fair type pie eating contest! Hope the flavor wasn't mud pie haha.  GRADE = B

3.  SWAG-  The finisher shirt was a comfortable soft cotton feel, with a decent logo design (this was the back), not specific to the date or venue though.  I remember when Rugged Maniac didnt even have medals, but now their finish line prize is at least up to par with most other race series.  GRADE = B


OVERALL GRADE = B

BONEFROG CHALLENGE, Charlemont MA, 5/19/18

This New England ski resort has now become what I'd call my favorite race venue of the year- the "Beast of the East" in the Berkshire Mountains of MA, where Bonefrog has held their original race series every year since 2013.  I made it here for the 2014 and 2017 Sprint events, but decided to step up to the Challenge (pun intended- that's actually the name of their mid distance race) as I did also for last July's NJ course.

1.  COURSE-  While last year featured the sadistic trail blazing skills of Norm Koch, his absence in 2018 didn't make this course any easier, as the steep hills are almost hard to avoid on this mountain, especially when trying to pack in 6 miles (note- previous year Bonefrog Challenge races had been slightly longer at 8 miles).  Throw in a solid 40 obstacles along the way and you're in for a legit race well worth my 4 hour drive.  The best of their lineup were mostly featured around the main festival area, where an upgraded Chopper rig foiled a lot of racers, and the late morning rain made their Strong Hold rig that much tougher.  The new caving ladder ascent called Ship Boarding was a final vertical climb test right before their famous ending Black Ops monkey bar traverse at the finish.  GRADE = A

2.  FESTIVAL-  The setup has remained the same year after year except for moving the registration and bag check tents back outside, rather than in the base lodge like last year.  Vendors are placed perfectly to meet race finishers and their spectators all in the small, but central area right in front of the lodge.  Always one of the best setups for parking as well, directly adjacent to the course only a minute's walk away, making it easy to go back for a change of clothes or to drop stuff off at the car.  GRADE = A

3.  SWAG-  Lots of new stuff this year, including totally redesigned medals, now in hexagon shape but varying size depending on the race distance you complete.  The ribbon also corresponds to that race.  Shirts are all shades of gray, but slightly different based on those four race options.  But as in many mandatory completion OCRs, the top swag to leave with is the one they issue you from the start- the elite wristband- which is yours to lose unless you successfully pass every obstacle on course.  GRADE = A


OVERALL GRADE = A

TITAN RUN, Center Moriches NY, 5/12/18

The two previous times I've raced the local Long Island based Titan Run were both in the Fall season at their 4H camp location in Riverhead, back in 2016 and 2017.  This spring time race in nearby Center Moriches was a new location for me, but proved to be just as impressive (and just as rainy, at all three so far!) as the others.  I think any of the attendees who have done a fair amount of bigger OCRs will agree- this event is dollar-for-dollar, one of the best you can find.  And we Long Island natives are lucky to have it right in our own backyard.

1. COURSE-  The trend of most events on my race schedule, filled with all the big series names you know of, is that costs have gone up while the actual race and obstacles have remained stagnant or even dwindled.  Not so at Titan, where entry comes to (after plenty of opportunities on discount offers) to price out in the $50-60 average range, an almost unheard of amount among mainstream events.  And where the news gets better is that while the race itself sits on the shorter end, around a 5k distance, there was a total of over 40 obstacles!  Thats more than a dozen obstacles per mile on the course, also unheard of!  Sure, you wont see gigantic structures with multistory climbs and water slides, but the obstacles are as creative as any other brand.  My personal bias is with the favorable nod to the ninja warriors- having a warped wall, salmon ladder, devil stairs, peg board, cliffhanger, and a few other hanging rigs.  And then there's an axe throw- need I say more??  GRADE = A

2. FESTIVAL-  The bigger number of vendor tents set up even despite the lousy weather told me the race must be growing each year (owner told me they actually saw a +30% increase from last race).  Fresh hot food was available and lots of sample giveaways from all their sponsor companies if you visited their tents.  Parking was a few minutes walk from the main race area, which wasn't an issue other than the lot (read: grass yard) being pretty small, so they might need to expand as more runners sign up for the next one.  GRADE = B

3. SWAG-  Medals were introduced last year, and they improved on that souvenir with a dated and more decorative camoflage ribbon this time.  When you register, a finisher shirt is a modest $5 add-on option, well worth the price to come away with some new garb.  Other merch was available in the festival tent, all reasonably priced as well.  GRADE = A


OVERALL GRADE = A

SPARTAN WINTER SPRINT, Greek Peak NY, 3/10/18

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

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

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

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


OVERALL GRADE = B

OCR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS, Ontario CAN, 10/13/17

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

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

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

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


OVERALL GRADE = A