Blizzard Blast winter obstacle race was this past Saturday, and I have to say…I had a ton of fun! This was only my second obstacle race, and it was VERY different from the other one (Spartan Sprint Fenway). There were some big differences from a “traditional” OCR that made this event really fun and unique, and there were some particular moments of success that I’m going to hold on to for quite some time.

In the spirit of Motivational Monday, we’ll take a look at the race, the experience and I’ll also announce the rest of my season that I’m committed to so far! So far I’ve only run two races this year…and so far there are 19 more! Read on to find out what they are, and why Blizzard Blast sealed the deal and gave me the OCR bug!

Blizzard Blast…where to begin…

Well, I suppose the biggest difference between this race and every other obstacle race out there would be the SNOW. It’s kind of hard to miss that one. Usually when I’m talking about OCR’s (Obstacle Course Races) the terms “OCR”, “Obstacle Race” and “Mud Run” are interchangeable…but that certainly doesn’t work here. Believe it or not, this race actually wouldn’t work if it were warm enough for mud – there are a number of obstacles designed for snow (which I think is great). I was talking to the race director Fred a few weeks prior to the event (nice guy!) and he was very concerned there was going to be a warm spell and a lack of snow – I totally understand that worry having run the race! Fortunately, Massachusetts got about a foot of snow dumped on it c/o a conveniently timed blizzard.

As far as the race-day experience goes – overall I’d say it was a great experience. My mom went with me to spectate and cheer me on (it’s always more fun when someone goes with you!). We showed up at the designated off-site parking area an hour and twenty minutes before my heat and took the shuttle to the venue. I have a feeling the parking thing is going to be a recurring theme with obstacle races – I suppose it makes sense considering the type of venue you have to have for this sort of thing. This event was held at Four Oaks Country Club in Dracut, MA. A golf course ended up being a pretty great place to hold a snowy obstacle race, and you’d never know it was a golf course if nobody told you (and you didn’t know you were at a country club).

Registration was easy (as it should be) and we breezed through and hung out inside the country club. I ended up meeting a pretty cool guy – Jim from Edible Endurance. More on that in a later article. We also ran into my cousin John, which neither of us were expecting!

I proceeded to the starting area when my heat was up, and the very first thing I noticed after the gun went off was how incredibly different it is to run in the snow. I’ve never run in the sand before (I will soon…) but from what people tell me about that, running in the snow is pretty similar. It was strange to have the ground moving underneath me, dealing with the slip-factor, and navigating the bumps, lumps and mounds of packed snow vs. untrodden powder. That in itself added a 3.1 mile long obstacle to this race. I’m definitely glad I wore trail shoes for this, and I’m sure I’ll continue to thank myself for wearing them in future OCR’s.

There were a number of both natural and man-made obstacles – lots of climbing over things, a few balance-walks over walls, rocks, etc. There was a lot of trail running, which I liked – I felt like there was more actual running in this race than there was in the Fenway Sprint (which you may or may not like). I’m coming to find that depending on how many obstacles an event packs in to their distance, there can be hardly any running…the jury’s still out on which way I prefer.

As far as obstacles go, I have to say two of my favorite obstacles had to be the two sled hills. I learned something that day…sledding backwards holding on to a saucer for dear life is exhilarating (haha). I most certainly did NOT stay on the beaten path with that one…neither did a lot of other people though. There were some wall-walks, over-unders, a few wall-climbs, and a very interesting monkey bar setup made from empty beer kegs…that was the ONE obstacle I couldn’t do. That’s ok, I took my 5 snow angel penalty and moved on.

I think my most memorable moment from this race would have to be the 2 mile marker. The 2 mile mark was a 6 foot wall. As is often the case, there was a slight bottleneck. I waited patiently for the people there to navigate the wall, and they could tell I was waiting…from a distance…and figured out I planned to get a running start. They motioned me to go ahead, and I did. I promptly jogged up and hoisted myself up on top of the wall, and the guy trying to figure it out on the right side said “Yeah…that’s what I was gonna do…then I realized I’m a pussy.” – I definitely had a smile on my face as I was jogging away from that one, not because I was doing better than he thought he was, but because I was doing it, and doing it well.

I will say, I did get lost on the course for a minute. I’ve read some stories of people getting lost on a race course before and I COULD NOT for the life of me understand how you could possibly get lost on a race course. I now do. It was not their fault, by the way…it was totally on me. They said to stick to the yellow caution tape as it was the boundary for the course and marked the trail…aaaand when the trail took a hard right turn I cruised right by it. I think that little detour added about 5 minutes (maybe more) to my time, but that’s OK – I learned a valuable lesson…listen to the race emcee.

Oh…did I mention that one of the last obstacles was a Christmas tree carry? Yeah…get up to that one and there are two signs, one on each side of the course. Left side – “good news, only 0.25 miles left!” Right side – “Bad news – Christmas Tree Carry!”. I asked one of the volunteers if it was for the whole .25 miles and he confirmed my fear. I figured out REALLY fast that the best way to carry a pine tree taller than I am and still be able to run is across the shoulders (a lesson I learned from the Fenway Sprint – both hands across your back is generally best for a sandbag carry…or in this case a tree). There were some people dragging theirs, some people trying to figure out a good way to carry it, and I saw some pairs of people helping each other carry their trees team-style…and then there’s me jogging past them with a tree on my back. I actually heard a few of the people I passed make a comment as I went by of “wow” or “damn” or other similar exclamations either under their breath or out loud. Again, I smiled as I jogged on. To add on to the fun, the carry was across a very wide open space, and hurricane-force winds decided to kick up halfway through it, making the tree act like a giant sail…so THAT was fun…

I had another great moment of self-satisfaction…at the end of the Christmas tree carry you had to put your tree back where you got it…on the other side of a tall wall. While others were trying to figure out the best way to get their tree over the wall, I promptly flopped mine down off my back, picked it up, and hurled it over the wall with the greatest of ease. The others standing there just kind of looked at me sideways, and the volunteer standing there said “nice throw!”. Again, I smiled as I jogged away.

The last obstacle was some mountains of snow you had to go up and over, and I sailed through them with that finish-line-in-sight adrenaline burst. I actually ran into someone right over the finish line because I was so amped up on momentum! Got my medal and proceeded to enjoy a post-race beer. While I was standing there with my mom I even ran into a friend – a member of my Masonic Lodge (Chris Qubeck) came up and found me! He’s the one in the picture up above. We found my cousin after the race too.

All in all, I’d say this was a great experience! I had a ton of fun, and I learned new things about my body and my abilities. This was such a unique event, and I STRONGLY encourage anyone and everyone reading this to run it next winter! You won’t find anything else like it around here, that’s for sure. The race company, Smithfest Events, also has another race – Panic in the Dark – it’s a nighttime obstacle race (headlamp required!). I’m looking forward to checking that out.

So, how is this a Motivational Monday post?

Did you notice how many times during this recap I mentioned jogging away with a smile on my face? During this race, I was “that guy”. I have NEVER been “that guy”. I was running by people who were walking, who were huffing and puffing. I was motoring on when they were resting. I was running with a tree on my back while they were struggling to walk with it.There were so many moments of success, so many smiles of self-satisfaction…of accomplishment

I was the guy I looked at in my first races and said “you’re nuts”.

This race sealed the deal for me – I am now an OCR fiend. I love it! I love the feeling of accomplishment when I haul myself over a 6 foot wall. I love the satisfaction when I come out the other side of an obstacle unscathed, and I even appreciate the moments where I fail an obstacle, analyze how it went, and learn how to approach it next time (as I take my penalty burpees/snow angels/whatever).

It’s all about progress. It’s about getting out of your own way and just going for it. If I can make this change, go the distance and accomplish things like this…anyone can. Seriously! Try it! Find a race, register, and train. The human body is a pretty amazing thing – it’ll do whatever you train it to do, it will go the distance. As long as you train, fuel and prepare properly… when you keep asking more and more it will perform for you. It will not happen overnight. It will not happen in a week. Over time, if you keep plugging away at it, you’ll be able to go farther, go faster, jump higher, last longer. You’ll be able to get over that wall without taking ten fingers (a two-handed boost from someone). You’ll cross the finish line and feel like a million bucks because you did it, you conquered it, you have achieved success. That guy that called himself a pussy at the 6 foot wall? He wasn’t a pussy…he was out there doing it. And next race, he’ll have a little easier time getting over that wall. Progress.

You can do this.

Below is my season so far for this year. If I’m currently sponsored for a particular race I’ll list the sponsor as well. Some sponsors are “silent”, and don’t want any advertising…they just want to help me spread the message that if you lose your limits you can make it happen. Pick a race. Join me. Let’s tackle this thing together.

  1. 34th Annual CCRR Winter Fun Run – 1/5/14 – Bourne, MA (SportClips Falmouth)
  2. Blizzard Blast – 1/25/14 – Dracut, MA – (Silent Sponsor)
  3. Winter Warlock 5K – 2/16/14 – Plymouth, MA (Cape Cod Nutrition Corner)
  4. Frosty Knuckle 5K+ – 2/22/14 – Salisbury, MA (Eclipx Salon)
  5. Hyannis Half-Marathon – 2/23/14 – Hyannis, MA
  6. SmuttyPalooza 5K – 3/8/14 – Salisbury, MA (Eclipx Salon)
  7. Pace To A Pint 5K – 3/15/14 – Plymouth, MA (Cape Cod Nutrition Corner)
  8. Fool’s Dual Challenge – 4/6/14 (Silent Sponsor)
  9. Mass Mayhem 5K OCR – 4/12/14 – Blandford, MA (Silent Sponsor)
  10. Herring Run Classic 5K – 4/19/14 – Plymouth, MA (Cape Cod Nutrition Corner)
  11. Spring Classic 5K – 4/27/14 – Cambridge, MA
  12. BoldrDash Beach Race – 5/3/12 – Westerly, RI (Silent Sponsor)
  13. Lovin’ Life 5K – 5/4/14 – Mashpee, MA (SportClips Falmouth)
  14. Newburyport River Run 5K – 6/1/14 – Newburyport, MA (Eclipx Salon)
  15. Falmouth Flag Day 5K – June ’14 TBA – Falmouth, MA (SportClips Falmouth)
  16. Superhero Scramble 5K OCR – 7/6/14 – Amesbury, MA
  17. Narragansett Summer Running Festival Half-Marathon – 7/13/14 – Easton, MA (Cape Cod Nutrition Corner)
  18. Falmouth Road Race – 8/17/14 – Falmouth, MA
  19. 20th Annual Run To The Rock Half-Marathon – 9/6/14 – Plymouth, MA (Cape Cod Nutrition Corner)
  20. BoldrDash Mud Race – 9/13/14 – Exeter, RI (Silent Sponsor)
  21. Michelob ULTRA Boston 13.1 Marathon – 9/14/14 – Suffolk Downs, Boston, MA (Silent Sponsor)

That list is still growing, by the way.

Get out there and accomplish something great! If I can go from where I was to where I am now running all those races on that list (and more!) then there is NO reason you can’t do the same! Lose your limits, change your life.

See you on the other side.