As the old adage goes, if you don’t like the weather in New England, wait five minutes, it will change. New England certainly did not disappoint with its finicky weather as the Superhero Scramble made its Northeastern debut.
(**This is yet another long winded review, if you want the overall good/bad quick version, scroll to the bottom**)
Saturday morning we woke up bright and early to get ready to travel to Amesbury, MA for the race, only to find out that the race directors had delayed the start by three hours due to tropical storm Andrea dumping buckets of rain over the vicinity. I for one was thrilled with the delay. I would far rather have the race delayed rather than canceled altogether, and further, a three hour delay meant a predicted forecast of sunny and high sixties, versus the current pouring rain and low fifties. Plus, I got to go back to sleep for another few hours, and I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t a bonus.
|photo credit: New England Spahtens|
Unfortunately, the race was delayed even longer, and the elite heat/first wave of the day was delayed almost another hour, from 12:15 to just after 1:00 pm. While the delay certainly was unexpected and undesirable, I have to say that the staff and volunteers of Superhero Scramble did an absolutely fantastic job with the situation. This delay could have easily spiraled into a chaotic disaster, but everything about the race, from registration to the finish line, was impeccably done.
In it’s third year, Superhero Scramble has joined the big leagues of obstacle course racing by offering three different distance events. The New England event would be the shortest distance, a “Charger”” 4+ miles and 20+ obstacles. Like Spartan races, if you miss an obstacle, or choose to skip it, you must pay a penalty: 10 burpees and 10 super spins. What is a super spin, you ask? Here is Hobie Call, arguably one of the best obstacle course racers on earth, demonstrating:
|It is indeed as ridiculous as it looks.|
To enter the starting corral, you had to jump over a wall. I’ve seen this at other races before, but I think it is just a fantastic extra touch. Might as well know from the start what you are up against.
|Our friend, ninja Ryan, going the wrong way over the wall into the starting corral.|
Due to the multiple delays, it seemed that a large majority of racers went in the first few waves, therefore by the time we were in the starting corral, it didn’t feel overly crowded. Maybe 100 or so racers. Our wave started off with the emcee yelling “SUPER” to which we replied “HERO” a few times, then we were off. Obstacle #1 of the day (I consider it an obstacle) was to run up a decent sized hill, then down, then back up again. The terrain was pretty rugged, with a few retaining walls added in for good measure, and therefore, bottlenecks and single file lines ensued. Thankfully, these would be the only lines we would encounter all day.
|Many of the photos were taken with a GoPro Hero 3 (silver) worn by Geoff, so you will see a lot of my backside|
At the top of the last hill, we hit the first true obstacle: a cargo net climb up, across, and back down. This was where the race indeed bottle necked, and this was the longest I had to wait in line all day.
|Rolling across the net was far more efficient.|
After the cargo climb, it was time for some trail running. This is where the crowd thinned out, and where Geoff and I were able to put some distance between us and all of the participants in our wave. Unfortunately, this is where I also realized that the whole time delay caused me to completely forget that I skipped lunch. You would think after 31 years in this body, I would have learned how to deal with my blood sugar issues, but the excitement of the day got in the way. It was this early in the race that I realized I would NOT be pushing myself, instead it would be a battle of the blood sugar to just get myself to the finish line in one piece.
So anyway, there was alot of running on the first stretch, occasionally broken up with high barbed wire crawls: I was able to complete them either squatting very low or on my hands and knees. No belly/army crawling necessary. If you have ever participated in a race at Amesbury Sports Park, then you know the terrain and the trail. I recognized a lot of it from last summer’s New England Spartan Sprint.
Eventually we left the woods and came up to an obstacle known as the “Leap of Faith”. Due to recent, and unfortunate news surrounding the death of a participant at a recent Tough Mudder on an identical obstacle (Tough Mudder’s is called “Walk the Plank”), Geoff and I had discussed earlier the possibility of skipping this obstacle. When we got to the obstacle, however, I noticed how incredibly controlled the situation was. The water pit at the bottom, while still 15 feet deep, was significantly smaller in diameter. Two lifeguard at the top and one at the bottom were strict and diligent with the flow of participants: only two racers at a time could jump, and ONLY when told to do so by the lifeguards. Noting the extra precaution they were taking, combined with the fact that I was really hot and would love to cool off in some water, I decided to do the obstacle. When my turn came, I asked the lifeguard for one extra safety precaution, and requested I jumped alone. They obliged, and down I went. The water was refreshing, and in the end, this obstacle turned out to be one of my favorites. I’m glad I didn’t skip it, and I’m thankful for the Superhero staff for keeping us safe.
|The rings were incredibly slippery, as you can tell by the fact that I’m falling off of them…|
|Penalty Super Spins for the failed rings obstacle|
|Cement block carry|
|Sandbag carry – note how far I sank down into that mud puddle!|
|Despite what the look on my face might say, I was having a blast|
|Mother Nature’s contribution to the race: a flooded course|
|Series of over/under/through walls|
|Mud, mud, more mud|
|wobbly balance beam. Since there were no rules as to how to traverse the beam, I chose the safe route:
my butt. Made it across without falling in.
And then the worst obstacle of the day.
At other SuperHero Scramble venues, this is where the giant slide into a pool of water/green slime It looks like this:
At our location, they appeared to forgo the pool, and instead we got this:
|Please not the look of utter pain on my face.
Other than the slip-n-slide that left me with no skin on my butt, this race was awesome. The Superhero Scramble staff and volunteers put together a flawless race, especially considering the forced delay. The course was clearly marked, the obstacles were well staffed, there were little to zero waits at the obstacles. My only semi complaint would be a lack of originality: while this course was indeed FUN, every obstacle I encountered I had done before at another race. While I don’t necessarily suggest completely changing the obstacles (as I understand some obstacles, like barbed wire crawls, walls, and sadbag carries are almost an OCR necessity), I would have loved to see them a little more “Superhero” themed, even if it was only with creativity of signage. Something to make it feel different from everything else available on the obstacle course racing circuit.
On a scale of 1-5 of difficulty, I’d say this particular race ranked about a 3.5. The terrain (and mud) certainly added to the difficulty, and a few of the obstacles (such as The Beast) were certainly not for beginners.