Well, I finally decided to join the masses and give it a go in my first obstacle course race. And since I love a crazy fitness challenge, winter sports, and am always looking for different workout during the chilly months, I figured why not start out with a winter obstacle race?
So, to “break the ice” if you will, I jumped into the “Blizzard Blast”5K Winter Obstacle Run, held just over the border in Lowell, MA at Shedd Park and Fort Hill. The race, the only winter obstacle race in New England, had an 80’s theme (always classic) and the registration fee was $45 (not bad) for “..the most fun you’ll ever have in the snow!” There were no blizzard conditions come race day, but the “Blizzard Blast” race lived up to its namesake for me. What a blast!
I was rested and ready to roll for my first obstacle course race on Saturday. Temps were pretty chilly in Lowell and with the wind, it felt like 10-15 degrees. Good blizzard conditions. But with the adrenaline pumping (and thermal gear on) I was all warmed up and ready to face the obstacle course “unknown,” and get in a good workout.
“Blizzard Blast” Race Pre-game
- Race Gear: I went with an UnderArmour thermal turtleneck base with a long-sleeve t-shirt over that, and North Face wind pullover as my top layer. I had running thermals on underneath wind pants, and wool running socks. To keep the extremities warm, I wore my Nike Pegasus back-up running shoes, light running gloves, sunglasses and an L.L. Bean winter beanie underneath my trusty blue running hat. I was good to go.
- Race Food/Fuel: I hydrated with a sports drink and water, snacked on a banana and a granola bar, and popped 15-20 EnergyBits closer to the race start time. I was feeling good, hydrated and fueled up.
I was in the 12:30pm “heat”, although we had to wait a bit since start times were a bit delayed out on the course. When the call came we hopped on our yellow school bus over to the starting line at about 12:50, ready to have a blast! First up was a big snow pile we had to hurdle over right at the start. We all hopped up and over and we were off!…
“Blizzard Blast” Course Highlights
- One of our first obstacles was carrying a Xmas tree around a loop, tossing it over a wall and carrying it back to the pile. Very funny, festive and easiest to carry over your head, one-handed, I found. (Except I swallowed some pine needles, not very tasty).
- There were various piles of snow, ice and fences to navigate over and around on the first mile or so, which made me feel like I was back in the old neighborhood in Brighton running from “the big kids” on winter afternoons.
- Next up were a succession of large ladders to scale up and down, which I handled easily like a wild monkey (lots of practice climbing trees and fences back in the day – I am old school after all). This was followed by a hop in and out of a dumpster filled with piles of packing peanuts, which was much harder than expected. (I slipped and almost fell down inside the dumpster).
- After a good amount of icy hill running and a couple of slippery log walks, we had to run through a school bus with sledding saucers hanging from the ceiling, simple, but different and fun. I loved how the school bus was built right into the course and the snow piles.
- The back to back hurdles towards the end of the course included an iced down hut you had to hop in and out of, but everything was encased in ice, so it was treacherous to grab any of the rails. I almost went down there.
- One of the final obstacles was pure fun! We had to run up a snowy/icy hill with an inner tube and then sled on back down. Let me tell you, I was MOVING coming down that hill and had a blast, while almost taking out a spotter and another racer. It was tough to stop that tube!
Of course, being a race, I was trying to catch the guy in front of me, so I raced through the final tunnel obstacle and turned the corner for the finish at “top” speed. Then I decided to shift into another gear to catch this “guy” at the finish. Well, the finish line came up much quicker than expected, so I just caught up to him at the line (and yes, maybe I pulled my hamstring in the process – had to sell out). I always finish races with a sprint. How you finish is how you feel!
My time for my first obstacle course race?: 31:21. Not bad, not great. I was hoping for sub 30:00.
But I can tell you I had a blast at the 2013 “Blizzard Blast” obstacle race. And it was a great cardio and interval workout, actually a much better fitness challenge than I had expected. I was “good sore” all over after crossing the finish. It really was a fun and intense fitness challenge, and a funky course, and fun 5K race. I had a blast.
“Blizzard Blast” Race Post-game
- Race Swag: The finishers medal was very cool and the “Blizzard Blast” long-sleeve t-shirt is one of my new favorites!
- Race Food & Fun: After the race, back “at the hall” was a winter’s feast of (FREE) homemade chili, chowder, chicken soup, kabobs, beers and hot bevvies to warm you right up, and some great live acoustic music too. Good feed and good times! There was a post-race “Blizzard Blast” agility competition (which I skipped). And it was a great/fun crowd of racers and volunteers, and was well run and organized too.
I am glad I finally “broke the ice” for my first obstacle course race at the 2013 “Blizzard Blast.” I loved the hilly course and the obstacles were challenging and fun, and I got a great cardio and interval workout in too. This was a good change for me and a very different fitness challenge from endurance races and 5/10K’s and circuit training workouts. I mean when are you running with a Xmas tree over your head?
It was good to switch it up and test myself in this winter obstacle race, and I am still feeling the post-blizzard “burn” today. I would definitely recommend the “Blizzard Blast” if you’re looking for a winter fitness challenge and some fun in a (hilly) 5K race. I give it two icicles up!
Admittedly, I will need to do more interval training to better prepare (and get sub 30:00) for the next obstacle course race I tackle… and I’m certain it will be a warm weather race, maybe a Hero Rush or a Spartan Race this spring. Time to get down and dirty maybe? Game on.