Last Updated on May 5, 2014 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP, CSCS
Last fall, Geoff and I had the opportunity to travel down to Exeter, Rhode Island, for the BoldrDash at Yawgoo Valley. It was an incredibly fun and challenging race; well worth the 3 hour drive South. So when we got the invite to come down to the Spring edition of BoldrDash, held on Scarborough Beach in Narragansett, RI, I was very excited and more than happy to make the trip.
Now I feel the need to preface this post with the following: I’m finding myself struggling to write this review. It is important to me to be as honest as possible with my readers, and give a completely unbiased review. On the other hand, it’s really hard for me to write anything negative about a race when I *know* for a fact that the people behind the race have their hearts invested 100% into this course and the obstacle course racing community as a whole. I am Facebook friends with the race director, and have seen her interact with the OCR community for the past year, asking for our input on various aspects of racing, and genuinely caring about the community as a whole. So it’s hard for me to point out some, in my opinion, glaring negatives…especially after giving a glowing review for their last event.
But the bottom line is there were indeed significant issues with the race that left me feeling disappointed, and I hope that this review gives constructive criticism that will help improve the race for the next season. But before we get into the positives and negatives, here’s a little run down of the course, and plenty of pictures of my backside(per usual), courtesy of Geoffrey and the GoPro.
We arrived to a very sunny, very beautiful Scarborough State park. Parking and registration was a bit confusing (as I’ll explain later), but we evntually got our bibs, checked our keys ($5 key check, no bag check but parking was close enough that it wasn’t an issue) and found our teammates.
Before the race started, we were instructed to grab a rock out of a pile near the starting corral. My friend Jessica spied me walking over and shouted “You better not disappoint me by grabbing a small rock!” I laughed and picked up the biggest one I could find.
The race started with running a good 200 yards or so across a sprawling grassy field and then back again, all while carrying our rock. This of course was easy for the first 200 yards, and a bit of a struggle for the second half. In trying to shift the weight of my rock, I nearly knocked the wind out of myself. I love when a race starts you off by sending you into the anaerobic zone, it totally sets the tone for a killer race.
After we ditched the rocks in a pile, we headed right down onto the beach. The first obstacle was a heavy bag carry with a partner or group of two or three.
Almost immediately after that was a potato sack hop. Nothing makes you feel like a little kid again quite like this obstacle. I laughed my butt off the ENTIRE time I was hopping…even more so when I managed to put a hole right in the bottom of mine. Don’t worry, I kept hopping despite the fact that my feet freed themselves.
A little further down the beach came the first real tough obstacle in my opinion: a bucket carry. We were to carry a bucket from the sea wall down to the ocean, fill it with water, run back to the sea wall, climb atop the wall, and pour the water from our bucket into a larger tub. Repeat for a total of three laps. I grabbed my bucket and ran towards to water. While others sort of hovered near the water line waiting for a wave to come near, my inner surfer girl shined through and I barreled right in to the water. My adrenaline was flowing, and so the water felt nice, not freezing (as I assume it probably was!) By my second lap, a huge line had formed of racers waiting for buckets. After I finished my third lap, the volunteers were now informing everyone to only complete two laps in order to try and thin out th eline. I was secretly glad I got all three laps in, as I welcomed the extra challenge.
And then the running began. We ran quite a ways down the beach until we hit the rocky shore, then we ran across that. Perhaps it was the sunshine, perhaps it was the salt air, perhaps it was the fact that I just really love to run, but I was giddy over this long stretch of running. It was breathtakingly gorgeous and quite difficult at the same time, with the constantly varying terrain. At this point in the race, we were able to pass quite a large number of people.
Eventually we came back up off of the beach to the grass and did a 180 degree turn to head back towards the start area. This is when things started to go downhill. Figuratively, of course, as the beach is flat. The rest of the race was full of standard (walls, crawls, etc) and unique obstacles. The problem came with the fact that we started going up onto the boardwalk and then back down onto the beach again. When on the boardwalk, it was sort of confusing to figure out exactly where we were going, as there were people everywhere and the course wasn’t marked well. Many times, we would be told to take a ramp and backtrack up the beach. I don’t mind the backtracking, more mileage is just fine by me. My complaint is that it wasn’t very intuitive, and I could see how it would be incredibly easy to miss obstacles. Further, on the stretch of boardwalk, there was zero separation from the spectators. Volunteers were constantly yelling and trying to get people out of the way who were obliviously standing on the course itself. It was really quite chaotic…and not the fun kind of chaos, but the frustrating kind.
That said, there were a lot of fun, unique obstacles that I really enjoyed. I wont go through all of them, but here are a few highlights:
Eventually we were directed off the beach and back onto the grass. At the fall BoldrDash, I LOVED how the very end of the race was just a massive field full of obstacles. It flowed well, and was one last tough push to the finish. However, at the beach race, the field full of obstacles felt like a disorganized mess. There were spectators all over the place and lines at almost every obstacle. I was fine with the fact that I had to wait behind beginners who were hesitant on the cargo nets and high climbs, as this was certainly a beginner friendly race. I won’t lie that I was more than mildly irritated with standing in line for almost ten minutes for some obstacles. It totally kills the mood of the race in my opinion (and I started getting cold)
We finished, were given a medal, and some post race snacks (more on that below). Grabbbed our keys from the key check where we scored a BoldrDash car air freshener (so unique!) and called it a day.
So without further ado, in summary:
– Free parking!
-Free for spectators…and easy for spectators to view the majority of the race.
-THE BEACH! Running on the beach is one of my favorite things in the world. Obstacle course racing on the beach? Even better. The view was spectacular. The terrain incredibly challenging. It was an awesome change from the mud and mountains associated with most OCR’s.
-Unique, fun obstacles (as mentioned above).
– Varying obstacles based on ability: almost all of the walls had multiple options based on your fitness and comfort level.
– Race specific medal instead of just a generic “BoldRDash” one. Us medal “aficionados” appreciate it 😉
-The race was held at a public beach, thus there was a TON of parking. However, there were no signs directing us as to which parking we should choose, therefore we ended up on what I assume was the back end of the venue. We wandered around for quite some time looking for registration. As it turned out, there were signs pointing to registration, but we couldn’t see them until we were on the complete opposite end of the venue.
-The course marking was horrible. I called out to nearly every volunteer after each obstacle “where do we go now?” The race did not flow intuitively; numerous times we were told to back track. Many people I talked to after the race told me they think they actually missed obstacles, because they didn’t realize they were off course. When finishing an obstacle, it was sometimes confusing as to which direction to head next.
Suggestion: (because I hope the RD does read this!) brightly colored sidewalk chalk on the boardwalk to alert runners of u-turns, or just to let them know they are going in the right direction.
-Crowd control was virtually non existent. The course was WIDE open. This is great for spectating purposes, but it is awful for runner safety. I had numerous near collisions.
I realize that this was on a public beach, so you can’t stop people from wandering (and I wouldn’t want that…having tons of spectators was awesome!) However, some sort of barricade, even if it is caution tape, would have solved this problem.
-Lines at obstacles. Sure, this is sort of unavoidable, especially later in the day. But here’s what bothered me:
1) The race was timed. I do not see the purpose of wearing a timing chip for a “fun run”, especially when there are 10 minute waits at obstacles. We were having a strong race, passing people left and right, only for them to catch up to us at the very end when we had to wait in line for numerous obstacles (we had caught up to the back of the previous wave). I would have rather just NOT had a timing chip and an eventual placement. I know this is a sort of silly complaint, but it really does bother me that my finishing time nowhere near reflects my effort and actual race. I guess I really should start racing the elite wave.
2) We were all given colored wrist bands to indicate wave times. No one ever checked those wrist bands, so in theory, you could have run at at any time. Further, it was stated before hand that you must pay $15 to switch waves, and $15 to run the course a second time. In theory, this would help prevent bottle necks and people jamming up the course by running the wrong wave or running two or more laps. But again, no one was enforcing this at the starting line.
Minor gripes, that clearly come with racing later in the day (but that shouldn’t be an excuse, I suppose):
-Out of t shirts in my size. You didn’t pick up your shirt until after you picked up your keys, so it wasn’t necessarily an issue of showing up early. Also if you signed up after a specific date, you had to pay $5 for your t-shirt. I understand the reasoning for inventory purposes, but it seems a little odd that you have to pay MORE to sign up closer to race day, but get LESS by way of goodies. Solution (on my part): register earlier.
-At the finish line the only options were coconut water (no plain water, I hate coconut water) and KIND bars which were chock full of nuts (I’m not a fan, and unfortunately many people are allergic). I realize that’s me being a food diva, but plain water and something standard like a banana or an orange slice would have been awesome.
This was indeed a fun race, and a great one for non competitive or first time racers. An obstacle course race on the beach is a unique experience, and one that I was really happy to participate in. However, as an experienced racer I cannot help but point out how very disappointing the lack of direction and the frenzy of spectators on the course was; it really took away from the experience for me.
Thankfully, however, this could be an easy fix for next year. Having had a previous stellar experience at BoldRDash, and knowing that the race has been successful in the past, I have no doubt that the race director and staff will take these concerns seriously and rectify them (in fact, a post race email has already gone out addressing the concerns). Therefore, I would have no hesitation in recommending this local race series to future participants.
For more info on upcoming BoldRDash races, check out their website: www.boldrdashrace.com