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

ULTIMATE ATHLETE GAMES, Tuxedo NY, 10/18/14

I thought long and hard over the rest of the weekend about whether to even do a post on this event.  The format was far from what I ever run, and it didn't appear that mud was even part of the equation.  But, at last, I figured it did still qualify as some sort of obstacle race, just one very different from the majority of OCRs we know and love.  It was really for that reason, that I wanted to check it out in the first place.  A new style of racing, hopefully more focused on the obstacles and perhaps in a direction more suitable for the growing TV exposure of the sport, was what appeared to be advertised.  American Ninja Warrior meets running?

1.  COURSE-  I'll lump them together, but there were actually three courses in total to run.  Labeled "Speed" (shortest course), "Agility" (medium), and "Strength" (longest), the task was to run all three as fast as possible (obviously!) within a one hour period, for a combined total elapsed time that would rank you in a time trial among all racers. The concept alone, I thought was outstanding.  Their development and execution of it, however, was poorly done.  Going just by the titles of their courses (which were all VERY short), you'd think those fitness elements would be the focus on each, or at least incorporated. Nope! The only thing that separated them seemed to be distance (1/4 mile, 1/2 mile, and 3/4 mile- I'm estimating).  There was no more strength in the Strength race than any of the other two parts, and obstacles were so sparse that the day belonged completely to the fastest sprinters, as this was also on a completely flat lot, and not the mountain across the street where Spartan's Tuxedo Sprint visits every June.  I'd love to see this event become what it could be, a test of the "ultimate athlete", but only 139 racers showed up to vie for that title!  And with my total racing time being in just the 12 minute range, I can't say that it was worth my gas and tolls to compete in something that short.  GRADE = C

2.  FESTIVAL-  As I mentioned, less than a couple hundred racers were all that descended on Tuxedo this weekend, so the party was a little self-limiting.  I also don't know what they would have done should ten times that number have been present.  There was really no activity other than to keep checking scores and get the swag (see below) and beer that was part of the deal.  And grabbing a copy of their headline sponsor Men's Fitness magazine doesn't seem like my kind of post-race fun. With all the hype of an obstacle heavy event (really not so) I could have seen lots of contests being a hit as the crowd, although small, was very athletic and competitive.  GRADE = C

3.  SWAG-  Although no finisher medal like usual [insert sad face] the takeaways were still pretty solid.  But to fair, I 'm not sure what kind of medal would have been worthy from doing an OCR that only totaled about a mile and a half.  I ended up getting multiples of some of the sponsor sample prizes from their tables, not knowing that on my way out we would also get them in our swag bag, which was an actual drawstring sack.  The wicking tech material tshirt was probably the best part of the souvenirs. For the fastest racers, trophies went to the top 3 overall and winners of each race distance time for both male and female, along with the champion taking home a giant cardboard check for $2500 (and hopefully also the regular size one to go with it!).  GRADE = B


OVERALL GRADE = C

MERRELL DOWN & DIRTY, Bronx NY, 10/5/14

It's fair to say I know this race pretty well, as I've hit this one up for 5 consecutive years now- the only event I've been able to keep that streak alive for.  So obviously I like coming back to the Bronx in October for more than just Yankees games (though sadly, not this year for the Bombers), as this will probably be a mainstay for me every Fall as the OCR season is closing out.  I know they have been doing more marketing for their events this year, and it did feel like they had drawn a slightly bigger crowd than in the past, a good sign I'll be back again to make it 6 years running at Pelham Bay Park.

1.  COURSE-  They haven't changed their blueprint in all the times I've run this 5k (they also have a 10k course), save for a few obstacles switched around or added.  So you can go back to read what I've said about this event from past years (here's links to: 2013, 2012, 2011), and see that maybe their success has been based on that consistency. My overall favorite part of this race is the park itself, which begins and ends along Orchard Beach, a hidden gem of calm (and surprisingly warm) water and beachfront that is as much fun to wade through during that last quarter mile of the course as it is also a ritual for many to take a quick swim (aka body bath and pre-laundry rinse) after the race.  GRADE = B

2.  FESTIVAL-  Once again, even as the first weekend of October in NY has started to signal cooler weather settling in, they got another gorgeous sunny day to give all their participants and spectators a great Sunday of racing.  Things have changed a little over the years with the party and setup, namely the food that was offered.  Racers still did get a snack bag with trail mix and tangerine, but that's a far cry from a few seasons ago when they included a burger, chips, and drink for everyone.  I'm not sure all of what was for sale, but I did see a few people with chicken fingers and french fries- not exactly my post-race meal of choice though.  DJ music has replaced the live bands that we also remember from a couple years back, but my biggest surprise was the absence of their usual emcee (for those who know him, the Johnny Knoxville clone), who has always did a great job of keeping everyone excited and informed of the day's events.  GRADE = B

3.  SWAG-  I knew the same souvenirs from their race I ran in Hartford CT in June were coming my way.  Luckily this time in NY, unlike last year, we also got a big bag to store the goodies that came with registration- Paul Mitchell samples, Lara Bars, elastic scarf handband, and more.  The shirt was again the same black tech material (though each year has been a different color), and they remain among my favorite race giveaway shirts- simple, nice looking, and comfortable. And out of the dozens of race series I've tried out, these guys still do their prizes and awards ceremony the best.  There are two event distances, several categories in each, and then 5 year age group divisions on top of all those, which leaves plenty of medals to give out.  GRADE = A


OVERALL GRADE = B

MUDMANX, New Egypt NJ, 10/4/14

With a name like this event has, there has to be one main thing to expect: no, not that I would be there haha, but that there will be some serious MUD action going on!  Mother nature helped ensure that with early morning downpours, and combined with the dirt motocross track at New Egypt Speedway that this course centered around, this was one of the dirtiest and sloppiest races I've done in some time.  Cheers to all my Mudmen and Mudwomen out there (including one of my fave racers Marcy, who was volunteering at the merch tent today)... this was certainly one for you!

1.  COURSE-   Having done a few OCR's that center around a race track (such as Englishtown NJ's Tough Mudder and Battlefrog Series, just as examples), I figured this could have had a lot of the same direction, going around in circles on a paved oval.  But my eyes lit up when I realized this was a dirt track instead, transformed into a total muckfest with all the extra rain.  Yes, parts did venture off to either gravel roads or a quick excursion in the parking lot for a couple obstacles, but the majority of the 3.5 miles went through the very muddiest (or even calf-deep water) sections imaginable and some very cool narrow trails that were cut through the adjacent forest land.  Much of the obstacles that MudmanX has put out in past events were there again, and the toughest of those were made even more tricky due to the weather.  It looked like only a few were able to have success on the hanging rope handle traverse, and either way you'd fall or then wade through some thick mud after on your way to the finish line.  You could tell that the venue allowed a lot of freedom for the race organizers to dig and build, as I really enjoyed (?) the underground tunnels and hilly dirt mounds that became a leg destroyer for anyone predicting an entirely flat runner's course.  Inside the track arena, where both the start and finish were housed, the mud was incredibly slimy and never allowed anyone to do more than just plod along, as it constantly threatened to take your shoes from you at any point.  GRADE = A

2.  FESTIVAL-   The rain was a blessing for the race (in my opinion, see above) but of course not so much for hopes of having a great afterparty, as it was also a bit cooler than recent weather has been and most of the local runners predictably went home for a hot shower afterwards.  The huge bleacher area could have done well on a sunny day, which gave open views of racers during all parts of the course.  Unfortunately, the loyal partiers could only take to the small covered tent area behind the grandstand, which did have a fun backyard picnic feel but then left no way to observe the other hundreds of muddy folks trudging through the course.  The free beer and good tunes seemed to make up for that though.  GRADE = B

3.  SWAG-  I picked up one of my best hauls of the year from this race, being my 3rd completed MudmanX of 2014, following their July 19 NJ event and their August 9 NY race.  With that accomplishment (besides another I'll mention in a minute), I achieved their Superfecta status and got a commemorative medal and tech tee shirt (shown below).  Needing to do 3 of their 4 events of the year for that, the last opportunity for any Superfecta hopefuls out there is the NJ MudSpooktacular on 11/8.  So, in addition, I represented the Mudman name well and also ended up taking 1st overall in their elite heat!  The extra swag, besides their standard dogtag finisher medal and tshirt, was an additional medal, some great vendor items (not shown), and an envelope with just some cold hard cash, which can never hurt ;)  GRADE = A


OVERALL GRADE = A

SPARTAN BEAST, Killington VT, 9/21/14

And just like that, according to the ancient calendar of Joe DeSena, we are already now into the year of 2015.  Saturday's Vermont Beast World Championship (and Philadelphia's stadium) race closed out the official season, crowning their annual kings and queens of Spartan Race in front of thousands of fans, as well as TV cameras which will broadcast their coverage on NBC's lineup in mid-November.  Like last year, regardless of which day you could attend, this was a can't-miss race and pretty much the only thing on the minds and social media of any OCR fan this week.

1.  COURSE-  Anyone who began to pour over the Facebook statuses of its participants could start to pretty easily recite the lines, which typically began "The hardest race I have done...", and justifiably so. I've said that for the last few years that I've gone, and this year only superseded what myself or anyone else had written about it in the past. It's simply the longest, most physically grueling, most mentally challenging, and at times also the most emotionally draining event in OCR.  And for those that can't get enough of that type of thing, the Ultra Beast returned for the sicko's (and I mean that in the nicest way!) who wanted TWO laps of this torture.  What's great about this particular race is that it's one which is literally talked about year-round, not just because of it being the finale of another race season, but the endless memorable moments, obstacles, and locations throughout Killington Mountain that are felt by everyone who completed the course.  This year added a few new items to the Beast menu, courtesy of mastermind Norm Koch, beginning most noticeably with approximately 2 extra miles and at least several thousand feet more elevation gain (GPS tracking has varied a little on those exact stats) from 2013's VT Beast.  A couple new gymnastical (new word, trademarked by me) obstacles were introduced that were difficult but also among the most fun, as the Canadian-borrowed Platinum Rig and another hanging horizontal pole traverse were only completed by the better American Ninja Warrior enthusiasts.  The weather was kind to us this September, and the several famous water obstacles that made their return (lake Tarzan swing and Tyrolean Traverse) weren't as terribly frigid as we all seem to remember.  And whether you were an elite or open racer, you're burned with the visions of nonstop killer uphills and heavy tasks that came all-so-close to making you quit- but hopefully you didn't! And three final words to add, if this all wasn't enough already: double sandbag carry.  Ouch!  GRADE = A

2.  FESTIVAL-  I can only imagine the atmosphere that I missed on Championship Saturday, with supposedly 10000 athletes and 17 countries represented all in this quiet ski town in central Vermont. Plus the exciting fact that many of the top finishers were non-American and non-Spartan Pro Team, I'm sure only fueled the crowd that must have loved the underdog efforts.  They had a great setup, a different location than before, which allowed access to the nearby base lodge and a solid vendor village, all near the adjacent parking as well.  Even though Sunday wasn't the "money race", the action of having the day 2 Beast, UltraBeast, and also the Sprint races running concurrently, still brought a lot of spectators and lots of great athletes to celebrate.  GRADE = A

3.  SWAG-  For everyone there, this weekend was about getting through the toughest race of their year and getting the coveted Beast medal.  To my delight, VT offered their best version of that with a new commemorative World Championship edition, which is my favorite Spartan medal to date!  On top of that, a huge percentage of racers were also going to complete their Trifecta (or second, third, etc), as everyone also received the green slice of the pie.  Spartan apparently also now sells a collectible frame to store the completed amulet, but those were sold out at the merch tent by the time I finished racing on Sunday.  The shirt you see is unfortunately not from this weekend (from July's Ottawa Spartan Beast), as I had hoped they'd come through with something better than the standard issue tee that has littered all of our drawers by now.  Either way, the medal dominates this category and still ensured the event a perfect report card, an improvement from 2013.  GRADE = A


OVERALL GRADE = A

SPARTAN RACE CITIZEN'S BANK PARK, Philadephia PA, 9/20/14

The last official day of Spartan's 2014 race season (coinciding with their VT Beast World Championship running at the same time a few states away), this was the opportunity to do my 4th different SR stadium race in the last year (Fenway Park, Tampa, CitiField were the others) as well as make a push in the overall points rankings that ended Saturday.  And if the stars aligned, the plan would be to head up to Vermont and run that Beast race the next morning also, getting both the shortest and longest courses that Spartan has to offer, all in the same weekend.

1.  COURSE-   I've never been a huge fan of theses stadium races, just mainly because there's very little bang for your buck beyond the coolness factor of running around and having the same access to parts of these team arenas that the pro athletes do.  Of course they're going be on the shorter end of most OCR's we'll find, but often even a 5k is hard to squeeze into the far corners of a baseball stadium. Here in the City of Brotherly Love, that was certainly the case as most of the course was typical for this type of sprint, but a good 3/4 mile or so had to be added out in a boring flat parking lot jog to make it closer to that desired distance. Not much else to mention that was spectacular, but CBP did let us have a little more field access with several obstacles on the infield (covered in tarp to protect the precious dirt of course) as we neared the last minute or two before the finish.  GRADE = B

2.  FESTIVAL-  Also something that never works for these stadiums is how to have a great party atmosphere post-race, or even during it for the spectators.  I high-tailed it out of the park immediately after the race, not because of this reason, but due to getting back to work in NY that afternoon.  Either way, at 8am those days of breakfast beers and such are way behind me!  As usual, the best spot around a Spartan stadium event is going to be wherever the downtown action might be in that particular city.  None of those are operated or even promoted by Spartan or the arena they're renting out, so it's word of mouth or a local hookup to find those on your own.  GRADE = C

3.  SWAG-   As mentioned, the best swag is really the experience of setting foot in every section and players-only spots of the ballpark, but these stadium races also carry one of the most expensive pricetags for entry and the physical souvenirs don't match up well enough in my opinion.  I do love the finisher medals that have been a special commemorative edition at each stadium, and you also take home a red Trifecta piece as this is considered a Sprint (though I think they should be a separate category).  But the t-shirt, well, you know all about that by now.  All I can say there, thankfully, is we're almost in 2015, and pray for new shirts!  GRADE = B


OVERALL GRADE = B

LONG ISLAND ADVENTURE RACE, Calverton NY, 9/14/14

Right about this time last year I did my first local (Long Island NY) obstacle course race at the Rugged Run for Respect, an easy and not super competitive race for charity.  This event looked to offer more of the same style racing, but had a lot of extra fun and games, literally, thrown in that wasn't expected. In between last week's NJ Super Spartan and next weekend's VT Spartan Beast, this race was a great tuneup, and nice to just have only a quick drive on the LI Expressway.

1.  COURSE-  Anyone familiar with my neck of the woods knows Long Island is pretty flat, which for the few races that come here, that means some pretty fast-paced running.  This 3.8 mile course out on the Eastern parts of Suffolk County was exactly that, though I was surprised the field wasn't more flooded with cross-country tracksters. What I loved, as I'm not one of those 5 minute miler guys, was the variety of really unique (though not extremely difficult) tasks and obstacles that slowed down the pure runner even on these super flat trails.  This race offered as much physical tasks (rope climbing, mud crawls, monkey bars, and a cool American Ninja Warrior stretching plank traverse) as it did some fun, carnival-like "activities".  This was the first event I have seen the likes of a frisbee toss, sledgehammer nail drive, bubble bath pool, and several slippery slides.  While not the toughest or most grueling race, they had a great combo to give both elites and rookies lots of what they wanted.  GRADE = B

2.  FESTIVAL-  I didn't hang around very long, as they unfortunately decided this year to not give out awards, but it looked like by the amount of cars still in the onsite lot that a lot of folks were spending some of their Sunday afternoon listening to the DJ's catalog and munching on the food truck options right in the middle of things.  The viewing and party area was set up to see probably the best string of 4 or 5 obstacles on the whole course, which also gave the racers a solid cheering section toward the finish.  GRADE = B

3.  SWAG-  Before all you swag collectors get on me right away, hear me out.  I commend this race for actually doing something unique- instead of giving everyone a typical race tshirt (which they did also have for sale in nearly any color you wanted), they offered a choice of either a drawstring bag or army-style hat at registration (both shown below). At first I was a little bummed, as I fully admit to my own tshirt-whoredom, but then thinking about how many shirts I wear once and stick on the shelf- the tactic made sense and gave me something different for once.  At the finish line we also got a shiny chrome finisher medal as well as a branded pint glass (not sure if they were selling beer?), so another unique souvenir to bring home!  GRADE = A


OVERALL GRADE = B

SUPER SPARTAN, Vernon NJ, 9/7/14

Each year this has been among my favorite Spartan Races, though every September it has been just a little different from the previous years, going back to its stellar 2012 debut.  Now that Action Park has reopened on Mountain Creek's resort, I hoped some of their "rides" and infrastructure that was abandoned in 2013's race might make their return, but no luck.  Either way, this Tri-State Super still provided a great day of obstacles and challenging trails, as well as being really one of the only closeby opportunities for us Northeasterners to achieve that middle distance blue Trifecta piece.

1. COURSE:  Quite a few year-old deja-vu moments from this weekend's NJ Super, though the dream was playing in reverse.  Literally, much of the course direction was backwards including the start and finish lines. What happened between might be just delirium to some, as the 8.5 miles of inclines and super quad-killing downhills might just be worth erasing from our minds and sore legs now!  Like I mentioned, the fun park slides and ledge jumps didn't grace us with their presence this time, but a couple extended water sections did let the racers splash off and cool down, as late summer temps were in the 80s (cooler on Sunday than the previous day).  I noticed that, whether its a trend or not, this was another SR where some of the strength/carrying obstacles (sandbag, log, gravel bucket) seemed a little easier than its been, or at least the carrying distances were shorter.  No complaints from anyone there I'm sure!  My favorite part was the featured section around mile 6 in front of the festival area, where four of the most popular obstacles were up close for spectators to cheer on their friends.  That wasn't easy on the hands doing the bucket brigade, traverse wall, rope climb, and then spear throw all in a stretch of just 100 yards, but it sure was the most fun and challenging portion unless you were one of the unlucky to succumb to that potential hell of burpee row.  GRADE = A

2. FESTIVAL:  Nearly identical to their previous NJ races, though again the start and finish were placed a little differently.  You might have thought this event was down in the Carolinas (it will be next month) with the massive BBQ and pig roast set up, though I didn't get to try any of the grub- which did smell amazing.  It got pretty crowded as the afternoon approached, and without access to much inside the base lodge, it was tough to find seating or really anyway to just hang out without bumping elbows.  One more year of growth and I can see the crowd having to move uphill just like the racers.  GRADE = B

3. SWAG: Of course I already knew what shirt I was getting at this finish line- old news once again. I guessed my 2/3 full Trifecta amulet would be complete now, rather than getting any additional commemorative medal like in 2013. But it was only last week as I prepared for my first triplet this year, that I learned there would no longer be Trifecta shirts given out like I collected last year (see TX Beast Report).  And then when I saw the merchandise tent selling the equivalent of that shirt here for $35, I nearly vomited my figurative slice of delicious blue Trifecta pie!  I stopped taking my finisher shirts months ago (this one below is from who-knows-which race I did earlier in the year), so I was at least hoping to display something different for you with a new top.  But hey, if anyone wants to sponsor the next Report, you'll get to see what Trifecta gear is on their merch shelf [serious offer- contact me for details].  GRADE = B



OVERALL GRADE = B

MUDMANX, New Windsor NY, 8/9/14

I had a "MudmanX family" reunion only 3 weeks ago at their Jersey Shore event at the PNC Bank Arts Center, but it was great to meet up again so soon.  Already I was glad to see some suggestions of mine and other racers' being put into effect from back at that race, and also to see improvements for this particular course that MMX (and myself) have visited this Cousin's Paintball venue for 3 years running.

1. COURSE- While mostly flat, the type of running terrain is so varied that it you will get a little taste of almost everything here.  What I probably liked most, as my race was a late 9:30 start for the first wave of the day, was the constant in and out of shaded areas.  It was easily in the 80's already and getting hot, so any break from sun exposure was a gift, particularly because our competitive heat was running two laps of the 5k course.  There was water scattered throughout the trails, but the best sections were in the last 1/4 mile (of each lap) and were the most refreshing yet at the same time probably the most challenging.  Loved the plywood lily pad hop and waist high pond hurdles, though they gassed me more than any of the running.  The majority of the other obstacles were fairly simple and easy, and I wish they had kept a few more of those from the NJ event last month.  I'll take credit (and apologize at the same time) for them now instituting a 10 burpee penalty for failed obstacles- something that I think is necessary at any OCR at least for the competitive racers, only because cash is at stake and no penalties leaves a lot of wiggle room for bypassing or not fully completing what you're supposed to do on course.  The runner-types were glad to see virtually no heavy tasks (sandbag carry) and the gymnasts only had their moment on one bar-hanging traverse.  Besides that, it was trail running with some rolling hills, but along the way a nice splattering of muddy stops- none better than the last low crawl that nearly took my shoes.  Grade = B

2. FESTIVAL-  Set up a little differently than 2013, as the giant party tent area was now where the start and finish line resided.  It would have been good to have it today, as most of us got a little sunburn on the shoulders without much shade besides a few closeby trees.  As usual, the US Marines were there to hold their pullup contest and group warmups before racing.  It seemed like last year there were more vendors with samples, so I hope they can pick up some more in the future, like they did 3 weeks ago at PNC.  Either way, the free beer was all that seemed to matter to most of the participants after crossing the finish line.  Grade = B

3. SWAG-  For what is still a smaller series compared to the industry giants, both the competitive and fun runners get quite a good amount of "free" stuff.  Their developing Elite heat has always awarded money (which I became $200 richer by grabbing 2nd overall!), but upgraded medals are given out to age group top 3's as well, all in addition to a dated finisher dog tag souvenir.  Shirts stayed the same as the year's earlier races, so I just took the opportunity to donate this one to a friend.  This may be my last MudmanX of the year, but I'm still interested to see what goodies come with completing their Superfecta (3 out of their 4 Tri-State area events).  Grade = B


OVERALL GRADE = B

BATTLEFROG SERIES (15k), Englishtown NJ, 8/2/14

Though the similar name and common background of its Navy SEAL founders have sometimes caused a mistaken identity with BoneFrog Challenge (a race I also did, back in May), this event has done the same as it's cousin in making a real name for itself in just its first year.  Both offered several choices of distance and provided a very tough and obstacle dense course, which was a refreshing break as some of the more established and bigger races have been doing the opposite lately. Beyond solely the course and participants' tasks along it, their true military theme with live demonstrations, obstacle dedications to the fallen, and actual soldiers throughout the course gave it the most credibility toward that claim than I've seen or felt before.  Hooyah!

1. COURSE-  Every inch of the 9 miles covered in their longer race seemed riddled with an obstacle, supposedly 51 in total- unheard of!  It bothers me when races jack up their obstacle count with lots of small stops and simple climbs or crawls to just inflate stats.  That was NOT the case here, as almost every one was a legit challenge, with some that could even take several minutes to complete (or fail!).  There are almost too many to name and describe, but there was basically no aspect missed- heavy carries, running, swimming, climbing, crawling, vertical, horizontal- you name it.  Plus, easily the muddiest course I have EVER done (and the Mudman naturally favors that part).  In fact, some of the more simple tasks were made nearly impossible due to the amount of slippery mud.  Walls, balance beams, and ropes caked in the slimy muck tested your balance and grip strength well more than if they were clean and dry.  Such a great mix of speeds to the race, as pace slowed on rolling motocross hills, then fast on some of the flat and dry parts, then again slowing for a swim or two.  As fatigued as I was, and this was also after running another 5k OCR hours before, I was excited all along the race getting to do more and more of their unique and creative obstacles, and not just go through the motions of an extended trail run that too often is in style.  I'm just going to say now that this was perhaps the best course I've done this year, and look forward to what they are announcing is even bigger and better things to come.  Grade = A

2. FESTIVAL-  If you read my previous Report on the NJ Warrior Dash from the same morning, then you know why I was hours later than originally planned on getting to BattleFrog.  I want to mention, on the heels of that fact, that the entire staff here was amazing and considerate of my situation (which I think I wasn't the only one WD screwed things up for).  While I missed the last 15k heat, they had no problem and even encouraged me to still go run at my leisure or even join their volunteer and staff wave in the afternoon.  I've seen other races literally shut down shop after the last gun goes off, but BattleFrog's entire course and festival (including music and vendors) were still alive for hours after.  Some of the crowd had dispersed, of course, following the excitement of their loaded Elite race in the morning, but that didn't stop every one I saw that afternoon from keeping the same great upbeat attitude.  Loved that- even if someone wasn't running for time or awards, they were still given the same experience (during the race and after) as the stars who were on the podium earlier.  Grade = A

3. SWAG-  I came away with more Kill Cliff cans than I know what to do with (don't worry- I'm still a VPX guy), but that may have been my luck of being one of the last to still be in vendor village that afternoon. As for the real souvenirs... shirts were what you see here, nothing mindblowing; but the medals are super nice and heavy with a logo that for some reason I think is one of the most badass in OCR.  They also had a merchandise tent with tons of other higher end apparel and branded accessories, which maybe at my next BattleFrog I'll look to pick up their stickers or a wristband.  Definitely a race worth repping if you ask me.  Grade = A


OVERALL GRADE = A

WARRIOR DASH, Morristown NJ, 8/2/14

Since the popular NY Warrior Dash I had done the last four years at Windham Mountain surprisingly got moved to a different location, I thought I'd try their other Tri State area event (much closer to me anyway) and do this New Jersey one I missed in 2013.  So, I had planned it out perfectly, to do the Elite heat here and then attempt to try my first two-race day by then finishing the new BattleFrog Series 15k race an hour away at Raceway Park (home to many other races including the NJ Tough Mudder).  While the mission did get accomplished, it wasn't without some huge snags and headaches along the way.  Not sure if the stats still hold up to defend their title of "World's Largest Obstacle Race Series", but for all you fans of the fuzzy helmet... keep calm and read on:

1. COURSE-   I felt bad for the residents of Morristown NJ, who were likely as frustrated with the Warrior Dash logistics manager as all of their racers were.  Parking was offsite a few miles from the actual race venue, but I've never seen a simple shuttle bus system become as mucked up as I have here.  Not enough buses, massive lines waiting for them, and worse traffic than Thanksgiving Day through this little residential town made for quite a lot of pissed off Dashers (equally for both going to or coming from the race).  It nearly caused me to miss both my competitive heat here and then close the window on getting to BattleFrog in time.  So, all this for a 5k "OCR" that took me under a half hour?  The course was mostly flat except for one steady paved road incline, and a short water crossing that confused a lot of racers on the cargo net dock section (and from what I heard, there was a SERIOUS controversy involving the lifeguard/safety personnel who supposedly refused to help a struggling swimmer).  I can only say there was one legit obstacle, their new centerpiece "Goliath" that climbed two stories up to a not-very-smooth slide down toward the finish line.  If you check out WD's website and hoped to do the no less than 25 highlighted obstacles there, you'd be surely disappointed- I don't even think half of them came to this event.  Grade = C

2. FESTIVAL-  Granted I didn't have a lot of time to stay and play at the party since I needed to head out to race #2, but I killed a half hour waiting for the awards ceremony which never happened (more on that in a minute).   Despite it being a cooler day with off and on rain, it seemed like the Shock Top beer garden area was picking up in attendance (again, I was also there in the earliest parts of the morning still).  They had a good stage area with rocking music soundtrack and then a live band that would play, but I do have to say as it faced right at the main hangout area, the speakers were so uncomfortably loud and may have been driving people away from that end of the festival. I'm sure the party really got going later, as it usually does at a WD, provided people were eventually able to get there from the parking site.  Grade = B

3. SWAG-  The fuzzy Viking helmet doesn't really do it for me as much as it did when I got my first one in 2010, but it's become their kooky trademark that a lot of folks still enjoy, so I can't knock it too much.  I was happy they returned to a real finisher medal from the silly bottle opener souvenir they gave in 2013, so that was an upgrade.  They have had a very different tshirt every year, and while this year's isn't breathtaking, at least it's a new design and slogan from the other 4 I've picked up.  Now here's where this category turned bad... chip timing is no longer at their events, so all racers must self-time themselves if they are interested- BUT it seems like an oxymoron to have an elite heat, with awards and qualification for their "world" championship without it, no?  I do like that they set the awards to only apply to the early competitive heats (which they had two, separate ones a half hour apart) instead of combining the entire day and having to wait 8 hours for your standings.  We were told that the top 3 of each heat would be collecting a custom metal helmet, which I know they had given out last year to not just overall but also age group winners.  Well, as I came in 2nd place and then waited around, they not only didn't have those prizes available at the time, but decided to altogether skip having an awards ceremony or any recognition of the winners- and I still don't know why.  As a small consolation, they gave us a $30 merchandise credit and a WD beer mug, but said to contact their customer service who would be able to make things right.  I will say, in the past, their company (Red Frog Events) has been great about responding to issues and is very accessible by phone or email, so I'm hoping to upgrade this mark to a "B" if things are addressed and indeed taken care of.  Stay tuned, Warriors.  Grade = C


OVERALL GRADE = C