Friday, July 31, 2015

BattleFrog Race at Barre, MA.....Race Review

Well, having finished my post on The People Behind the OCR events, I wanted do what I had originally started...which was my review of the BattleFrog Race at Barre, MA.  This BattleFrog race was my first stop in the Summer of OCR series.

Most of the races I will be volunteering for a couple of days on the build during the week, then running on Saturday.  However, because of the timing and the distance....Miami to Barre....I would be volunteering as an Elite Course Marshall in the morning, then running that afternoon.  This particular arrangement is something I've never done before, so I was very interested (read: anxious) to see how that played out.  And even though I normally try to get to the venue for the early heats, I've never done it after camping the night before.

So at 5am, I arrived at the volunteer parking and after some last minute second-guessing about what I would need, jumped on a waiting shuttle bus to the venue.  Since running the The BattleFrog Miami I was curious to see how this race compared...particularly with the recent changes at BattleFrog, which included a new CEO.

My first impression was a good one...the festival and registration areas in Barre were certainly much better organized than in Miami.  Of course, seeing things from the perspective of a volunteer is different than seeing it as a pure racer.  But it does offer some insight that you don't get as a racer.  I have to say, working the course as a volunteer was a great experience overall.  Not to mention that we were located at the final obstacle...just in front of the finish line.  Not only did we have the opportunity to experience some of the festival atmosphere, but the racers knew that after our obstacle, they were done!  Which made for some very happy...although very tired...racers.

It's a little hard to compare the courses least in terms of difficulty.  In some ways the Barre course seemed more gruelling, but I have to factor in the eight hours of standing around prior to running.  In Barre, there was an opening run through the woods leading to a relatively short rope climb.  A few walls to scamper over at different points, along with several inverted walls...which can be brutal when you start to cramp up!  And a double vertical wall to climb just near the finish.

Of course they had a the "delta" style climbs...included one that was inverted...which for some reason at this race, I was completely baffled trying to make the transition over the top.  There were also long water can and sandbag carries.  Both tough challenges in the heat...particularly after a long day in the sun.  New (to me at least) was the sand bag itself.  A two handled job that I felt made the carry quite a bit easier...which is just fine! 

There were definitely some obstacles noticeably missing from the Miami course.  Some of those more memorable BattleFrog obstacles were the Dirty Name (which was much easier DRY)...but the 'scissor' monkey bars were not and the ramp climb at the end in Miami was modified into a ladder climb and slide at Barre.  One thing that wasn't missing this time were the photos!  As you can see from this post, there were several photographers out on the course...including one that cleverly took up residence under the delta ladder for some candid shots.  And kudos to the photographer at the finish!  Apparently he also ended up at that post for the entire day but stuck to it and delivered some great memories for the late day finishers....even going the extra mile to get a shot of me finally ringing that damn bell on the obstacle I'd been working all day!

Overall, the course was good....but if they do hope to move up into the top echelon of OCR events, they still have to work on their game...which no doubt is item number one for the new CEO.  One big thing they will need to work on is the volunteer scheduling.  That is, getting them to show up!  Having worked on one race as staff, I realize that relieving volunteers can be a real fire-drill.  However, apparently, they were so short on the pm shifts, that several obstacles had to be shut down.  This also resulted in many of us being an hour late getting off, which caused them to delay the volunteer heat almost an hour to accommodate us (not so great for the others but much appreciated by those of us that stayed at our posts until the last minute!).

Then, there were the great people I met.  Volunteers like me for the most part.  Some with stories like mine too, that OCR had been the wake up call to get in better shape.  Others that just found another outlet for their competitive nature.  Several from the racing group, the New England Spahtens.  Even a couple, Lynn and Greg, who it turns out have their own race, BoldrDash.  Another race added to my wish-list!

My next stop will be the Tough Mudder in Andover, NY on August 1st.  Then I'll be heading to Pittsburgh, PA for another BattleFrog.  Looking forward to both, as I've never run a Tough Mudder before and I really want to see how this next BattleFrog shapes up.

What have your race experiences been?
Please share them with us here and I hope to see you at one of the future races! 


Thursday, July 30, 2015

The People Behind the OCR Events

Having arrived at my next stop after the BattleFrog race in Barre, MA, I know should be writing about that race.  But the more I thought about my experience there and at Andover. NY for the upcoming Tough Mudder, I decided instead to write about some of the people behind the race scenes.

Not that I won't write about the race.  But so many unexpected (and pleasant) things happened since I hit Barre that I felt I wanted to share some of those first.  I believe most people in the OCR community will already be nodding their heads about how tight the relationships can be.  Not just that common bond of racing itself.  Even more, it's about sharing the experience of pushing yourself beyond what you thought were your limits.  Then pushing those limits back again.

Beyond that bond between racers though, there's also an atmosphere surrounding the events that extends to the volunteers, the race staff and even the venue operators.  Having worked for Disney, my recent experience shares that same feeling of everyone just being happy about where they are in that moment (ok....maybe not so happy when you're dying out on the course...but I digress)  What was pleasantly surprising though was how much that seemed to carry off the course as well.

My first big shout-out is to Camp Coldbrook in Barre, MA.  Most of my 'accommodations' on this trip will be camping.  And my expectations for these sites are at the bare minimum...bathrooms and showers hopefully!  But Camp Coldbrook was a gorgeous facility that included internet-wifi...and a pool!  Most importantly though, the staff there was to someone that really just couldn't quite get their s**t together that week.

Having experienced the enthusiasm and cooperation from staff and volunteers at previous races, I expected this race experience to be a good one.  Even these expectations were greatly exceeded in every way though at the BattleFrog event!  Not only were the volunteers and the volunteer staff upbeat and friendly, this extended out to the festival vendors too. 

It's no secret that one of my disappointments (ok....major disappointments) at the Miami BattleFrog race was not getting my post race beer!  Sorry, that's just a given for me.  This race I wasn't really sure what would happen either.  Not only because....well....sometimes s**t just happens, but I was also wearing a "Kid's Race" bib, which surprisingly doesn't have a free beer ticket....go figure!!  To my ever lasting thankfulness...the beer guy did the right thing and I got my much needed celebratory beer.

Shortly afterwards I headed over to the merchandise tent...armed with a copy of a photo which was literally "just something to hand them"...that was supposed to get me my bonus as an Elite Marshall that morning.  Not only was this piece of paper about as official as a note on a napkin, they were busy as hell trying to close up the tent.  I admit, my expectations were NOT high.  Again though...wearing my Kid's Race bib, the merch manager helped find some decent swag in my size...X-dumb I believe.... and took my wet-nap copy in lieu of other financial payment.

The thing about these last two experiences is that however minor they were, either incident would have marred my day, personally.  And the difference was the people.  Both of these individuals were looking to make things work out to the best.  And believe me, with all the little coordination issues that day, to me this made it a memorable experience in the end.

To my amazement, this not only continued on to the next event, the Tough Mudder event in Andover, NY at the Tall Pines ATV Park, it even kicked up a notch.  This venue offered camping on their website, which meant that I would be able to camp on the same property as the race....excellent!!  Only, unbeknownst to me (and apparently unbeknownst to their website) the park itself, as well as the associated camping was closed for the event week.  The word suck came very, very quickly to mind.

Remember though...this is an upbeat and happy post!  So first, I was directed to speak to the Tough Mudder people, as they were in control of any potential camping for the duration.  The guy everyone seemed to point at when I approached a group at the base camp was Colin ( well as correct name...not guaranteed).  He was either with the build or course crews so...believe it or not...he was actually pretty busy....again, go figure!  But Colin took a minute to understand my plight and agreed to check it out and get back to me around lunchtime.  That being fairly important (to me anyway) since I was 'campless' at the moment and was supposed to report in to these same guys the next morning as a build volunteer.  And...surprise-surprise...he did!!  Unfortunately, due to inevitable and understandable insurance requirements, the answer was no...but he did get back to me....

Meanwhile, I had run into Joe, co-owner of the ATV Park (which was not quite as amazing a coincidence as it sounds, since I was physically and mentally parked outside the ATV Park office door).  Now here's a guy with half a million different things on his mind taking the time to tell me "Hey, don't worry, if they can't do it, we'll find you a place right here...we can even put you up at my mom's property just up the road".  To say I was a bit stunned...and amazingly an understatement.  

So in the end, I was just overwhelmed with the people surrounding this OCR 'family' that I have somehow taken up with in this strange life turn.  Different races...different venues...different states...different people...but always the same results.  Never too busy or too big to take time to help out someone...a total stranger in most cases...but a member of the family all the same.  So thank you....campground guy....merch manager....Colin....Joe....and everyone else that's lent a hand so far in my ongoing OCR journey...

Please share your similar experiences within this OCR community of ours!!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Summer of OCR....Part 1...?

Monday evening (July 20th) was the beginning of what should be around six weeks of OCR immersion!  Those plans include two BattleFrog races, two Tough Mudders and two Spartan Races.  This will be a chance to not only get some great comparisons of the current level of each race, but will give me a chance to see some of the new(er) faces of OCR.  And with the popularity of the sport soaring and prize monies going up over the last 12-18 months, it's no surprise that competition has increased as well.

First up Saturday (July 25th) will be the Massachusetts BattleFrog race.  I'll be marshaling the elite race in the morning and running in the afternoon.....'god willing and the river don't rise'!  After that I'll be heading to western New York for a few build days and running the August 1st Tough Mudder.  Following that up with the same schedule is the Pittsburgh BattleFrog race on August 8th.

Working on the builds will give me some real insight into the differences between the races...behind the curtain...(but for anyone expecting any 'expose' writing...sorry, that's not my style...just looking to get a feel for how it all comes together).  It will also give me a little breather on race day.  I'm not a big fan of running the same day you work...and I need all the help I can get!!  The next race will be the Long Island Tough Mudder on August 15th...a homecoming of sorts...and hopefully a chance to race that Saturday with a buddy of mine.  Something we've been unsuccessfully trying to arrange for a couple of years now.

Finally, the last up will be two Spartan races....where I cut my OCR teeth, so to speak.  First (hopefully, as I haven't had my specific days confirmed yet) is the Virginia race on August 22nd and then the Asheville race on August 29th.  I'm really looking forward to the Asheville race in particular since they announced it as a possible venue a while back.  Again, I have friends and family in the area that I'm hoping I can convince/shame into running with me.  And if Spartan lives up to it's rep...with this terrain, it will be a brutal course.

Coming to a close this first week, living on the road has been pretty much the challenge I had expected.  I'm already getting into some sort of routine and the travel time will be less of a challenge from here out (the initial trip was from Miami to Mass!!).  Surprisingly, the biggest challenge has been finding time....and internet get my blog written...which reeks of irony.  So that will have to work itself out quickly too!  Looking forward to the adventure of the next few weeks....

Are you going to be at any of these race venues?
Say hello if you see me...and I would like to hear about your experience! 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Nutrition and Health…Week In Review for July 18, 2015

ICYMI….Here are some of the best-of-the-best articles and posts from this week on Nutrition and Health

 What would you like to hear about each week?  Pass me the word and I’ll do my best to bring you exactly what you want to see for Nutrition and Health!!

OCR and Fitness…Week In Review for July 18, 2015

ICYMI….A lot going on this week in OCR and Fitness.....Here are some of the best-of-the-best articles and posts from the previous week on OCR and Fitness

What would you like to hear about each week?  Pass me the word and I’ll do my best to bring you exactly what you want to see for OCR and Fitness!!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Lessons Still Not Learned....Why People Don't Really Care What You Think!

It's a known fact that people don't seem to learn from the experience of others.  Unfortunately, sometimes it appears that people don't even learn from their own experience.

In reading this article, Mac’s Muddy Mailbag #4 , I was reminded of an incident way back at the beginning of Spartan Race.  We were all relatively new to Facebook when they had posted an 'inflammatory' remark.  Inflammatory remark in the sense that it was intended to begin a real conversation on the topic, but was very controversial.  This was also a time when you got real-time, direct responses from 'the top level' of Spartan Race.  I challenged the wisdom of making such a remark (having watched dozens upon dozens of people stating on the post that they were unfriending them and many more probably just did it).  I was told that this was a normal part of the Spartan open up discussions on hot topics while they ran through their morning routines.  Apparently though, they realized that social media worked a bit differently than small group dynamics.  A nod to Spartan Race....those types of posts never appeared again.

Why is it that companies or individuals don't seem to learn that expertise or renown in your field doesn't give any special privilege to spout off with your personal opinions on anything?  Personally, I don't really don't give a s**t about what you think regarding anything outside your area of expertise.  And frankly, no one else appears to either...not in any good way.

For an individual, this can be extremely detrimental to their image...and like the Spartan Race example...they will lose fans.  If you're trying to build a following and potentially turn that into a paycheck, you may want to rethink that strategy.  Image is everything today!!  It doesn't mean you can't have just means that no one really cares what they are, as long as you keep them to yourself!!!

While for an individual...particularly if they're not looking for or don't need to maintain a following...this isn't a major issue.  Different strokes and all.  But for a company, where image means means money...and money means staying IN business...this is just downright stupid!!

We all know, it takes years to develop a reputation or an image.  What we also need to know is that we're always just a post away from destroying it.  Or at the very least, giving ourselves a serious...and unnecessary...setback.  You cannot separate what you say personally from how you or your company are perceived today.

Image and perception are everything!  Good pieces of advice I've followed for many, many years now is never to write (or post) in anger...or in any other highly emotional state.  And ALWAYS keep my personal opinions out of the public arena.

Use your self-discipline to back away and think it through.  Keep the personal out of the public view.  Remember...anything you put out anywhere on the Internet today, could end up everywhere on the Internet a heartbeat..and forever! 

What's your take on posting personal....and controversial...opinions?
  Have you had or seen any examples yourself?

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Nutrition and Health…Week In Review for July 11, 2015

ICYMI….Here are some of the best-of-the-best articles and posts from this week on Nutrition and Health

 What would you like to hear about each week?  Pass me the word and I’ll do my best to bring you exactly what you want to see for Nutrition and Health!!

OCR and Fitness…Week In Review for July 11, 2015

ICYMI….A lot going on this week in OCR and Fitness.....Here are some of the best-of-the-best articles and posts from the previous week on OCR and Fitness

 What would you like to hear about each week?  Pass me the word and I’ll do my best to bring you exactly what you want to see for OCR and Fitness!!

Friday, July 10, 2015

OCR...Growing Pains, Competition, Money and Egos

One thing I never envisioned when I decided to run my first OCR (Obstacle Course Racing) event back in 2011 was the way it would permeate my life in general.  It has taught me lessons...both good and bad...about racing, training, limits (or the lack thereof), people and most of all, about the birth of a sport...and about the birth of an industry.

The number of times in one's life where new sports come into being are limited.  To somehow be a witness to, even a participant in, these beginnings are rarer still....and something I'm still relishing.  Although the vast majority of my own personal experience has been with Spartan Race (soon to change dramatically!), much of the growth and change in the sport as a whole has been in the form of race formats,  various "championships"...and even a fledgling sanctioning body.

Back in the beginning, no one knew who Hobie Call or Amelia Boone were. A time where I could speak to Joe Desena on (and about) the Tuxedo course without realizing who he was.  And then there was a thing called Spartan Radio...or was it Spartan TV.  Where they produced weekly multi-feed Skype-type broadcasts, hosted by Carrie Adams, with interviews and odd challenges...usually performed by Todd Sedlak as I remember.

To me, one of the major turning points of OCR going from a fringe sport for these strange and unusual athletes was the Spartan Race Times Square demonstration event.  Unknown to most of us until early that morning, not only was this a major demonstration to the world of this new sport, it also was the announcement of the Reebok-Spartan Race affiliation (although painting the Reebok-Spartan Race logos on all the apparatus was kind of a clue something was up).  To say that taking part in this event as a volunteer was exciting would be an understatement in the extreme.  Maybe like being at the first Super knew it was big, but who knew just how big it would get....and how quickly.

What started out though, as a way to "pull people off their couches" has become a battle of OCR mega-races vying for dominance among racers, fans and sponsors and even talk of an Olympic sport.  Spartan Race, Tough Mudder and Savage Race are generally considered to be the top three race promoters right now.  BattleFrog Series is another race series vying for a long term presence in the field (and have actually put together their College Championship event on ESPN, which is the first major TV-friendly OCR competition).  However, they have recently run into challenges that have caused many, many other entrants into the sport to come up short.

Today, these OCR behemoths are each trying to become the preeminent racing model, although it does seem that there may be room for several models to least for now.  There are even places like Shale Hill Adventure that cater specifically to OCR style training with a view towards expanding your "limits" both physical and mental...just as OCR does.  And I haven't even mentioned Crossfit (another Reebok affiliated fitness company), which has it's own style and spin on pushing one's limits.  Or Civilian Military Combine, which is a marriage of the Crossfit and OCR concepts.

Change is inevitable though...the one constant in the universe.  In the beginning, these races encouraged teamwork and be active for health's sake and showing people that their limits are much more in their heads than in their physical abilities.  Now, however, we see the battle of egos and business models vying to control and direct the future of OCR.  Elite racers competing for ever-growing prize money.  Companies competing for the ever growing hordes waiting to test their abilities against these challenging courses.

So where will OCR be in the future?  Obviously no one knows for certain.  I think it's safe to say though, that OCR is here to least for the foreseeable future.  The lure of potentially huge profits will see to that!  There will be more alliances, more new races, more failed races, more innovation, more drama and the best part for the rest of us mere racers....more racing!!

 What is your experience with OCR and where do you think the future of OCR lies?

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Nutrition and Health…Week In Review for July 4, 2015

ICYMI….Here are some of the best-of-the-best articles and posts from this week on Nutrition and Health

Top Anti-Inflammatory Foods, Herbs, and Spices

Rockin’ Well In Jericho (disclaimer...shameless plug for my son Mike!)

What would you like to hear about each week?  Pass me the word and I’ll do my best to bring you exactly what you want to see for Nutrition and Health!!

OCR and Fitness…Week In Review for July 4, 2015

ICYMI….A lot going on this week in OCR and Fitness.....Here are some of the best-of-the-best articles and posts from the previous week on OCR and Fitness

Rockin’ Well In Jericho (disclaimer...shameless plug for my son Mike!)

What would you like to hear about each week?  Pass me the word and I’ll do my best to bring you exactly what you want to see for OCR and Fitness!!