Ruckus Boston (MA) - June 2011
June 4th 2011
The Event: It’s a 4 mile obstacle course run part on-road and part off-road. They don’t want to be known as just another mud run. In their words, “We are not a trail run or mud run - we build obstacle courses.” They also offer a Mini Ruckus Challenge for children.
Getting There & Parking: Luckily the Marshfield Fair Grounds are easily Google-able. I didn’t see a single sign after getting off the highway, which appears to be par for the course for these events thus far. The traffic was pretty bad approaching the event. I was almost late for my heat because of the unexpected delay. You can’t blame event organizers for that though.
What you can blame them for is charging $10 for parking with no warning. I checked my emails from Ruckus Sports, and I couldn’t find any mention of it. This was the first time I encountered charged event parking, so it caught me off guard. They should have warned people ahead of time, so they could carpool if they thought it necessary or perhaps brought a little extra scratch for beer and food.
EDIT: Looks like I got it wrong about the wrong about the advance notice for the charged parking. I apologize to Ruckus for the misinformation. Apparently an email was sent out explaining the $10 charge. That bumps this section up a half star, but the overall rating remains unaffected. Charged parking is still a change from the norm. Thanks for the feedback!
Check-in & Logistics: Despite the traffic, I still had time to stretch a little before my heat. A smooth as silk checkin process was to thank for that. There were plenty of waivers available, and the alphabetical check-in stations were clearly marked in Ruckus style. I don’t see how it would have been better beyond somebody giving me a massage while I waited in line.
The Schwag: Ruckus Sports is now following the philosophy that the good schwag is for finishers. Upon finishing, you got a nice medal and a very nice dry fit t-shirt. It is easily the best quality shirt that has been given out at any event I’ve been to. That quality comes with a price though. I got on Tough Mudder for a tiny Dos Equis logo on the back of their shirts. Well, the back of the Ruckus shirts have more in common with a Nascar car than any other shirts I’ve gotten thus far. Still, it’s a very cool shirt that I won’t mind sporting at the gym.
At registration, you also get a goody bag filled with body cremes, ice packs, heating pads, MetroElectro water coupons... Seeing a theme here? They also gave you a $500 gift card to some site that charges a 9% service fee on top of all items purchased. It’s tough to say if you’d make out ahead since I haven’t seen any of their gear in person. On top of that, there was the typical finish line fare. Metroelectro waters, bananas, bagels, chips... There were plenty of vendors giving out protein and recovery drinks too.
One huge improvement from last year was the free beer!
The Race: As always, this is the actual important part. This is more of a typical “race” than any other events I’ve been to. Where other events have DJ’s pumping you up at the start line, Ruckus expects you to be pumped up to compete already. There isn’t much in the way of starting line action beyond the announcer letting you know how many minutes until the start. I decided to have a little fun, so I was dressed as John McEnroe all in white complete with tennis racket.
The starting whistle sounds, and you are off with the pack of other racers. You go through a few twists and turns before coming to the first obstacle: The U-Turn Net. You had to crawl under the net and around a corner in order to get out. It sounds simple enough, but this was the first indication I was going to be in for it a little. My wig and tennis racket proved to be a bit of an impedance. After a short trail run, the real fun starts as you approach the Down and Outs. It’s basically a series of muddy pits broken up by loose dirt mounts you have to crawl up in order to get out of the current pit and into the next one. Ruckus is the only place I’ve seen these, and they are truly ass kickers.
After those, you go on a lengthly trail run through the back of the fair grounds. Over the course of the run, you come to some tires to run over, tunnels to crawl through to a nice and muddy water pit, another net crawl, and the uneven walls, which are angled walls. You have to climb up the straight side and then slide down the slant to the next one. By this time, my scalp felt like it was going to melt from the heat under the wig. I was quite relieved to see a water station, grabbed a water, and quickly proceeded to dump it on my head. This was a ritual I became familiar with at every water station, and this course was amply supplied with them for only a 4 mile race.
Once you are through the long trail run, you hit a series of obstacles. The first was Walk the Log, which was basically a series of downed telephone poles over a water pit. You had to balance your way across without falling in. I guess it didn’t matter if you did because next up was a muddy water pit you had to run through. The water was a pleasant luke-warm temperature. I’m not saying I’d have a pool party in it, but it didn’t hurt to go through. That was followed up by another mud pit. I was told that the Commando Rope Crawl was initially there, but it was taken out because it broke. I saw the same thing happen last year, so Ruckus needs to figure out that obstacle or take it out of the rotation. I’d feel bad if an early runner got screwed out of the Championship Heat because of a slower time due to that obstacle.
That brings you to another signature Ruckus obstacle, the Normandy Walls. They are essentially those hedgehog anti-tank barricades the Germans put on the beach in Normandy. By the time I got to these, the herd had thinned out considerably, and I was at the tail end of leading pack. Some nice gentleman decided to pass me, cut in front of me, and take my exact line on the 20’ wide Normandy Walls obstacle. I swallowed the impulse to “accidentally” trip him with my tennis racket, and I hopped over the walls quickly in order to cut him off at the trail head. A little extra motivation is never a bad thing mid race.
After another modestly distanced jog which brought you through a few more crawling nets and a series of short walls, you get to the cargo nets. Now these nets were utter chaos. Forget trying to be polite on these things. I earned myself a few kicks to the face for pausing near the top to let people that were there first to swing their legs over. Ironically it wasn’t those people that kicked me. It was the people climbing up my back in a super rush that did. I get it. It’s a race. I wanted a good time too, but come on. I ended up picking up the same tact after the second net just to minimize my time in that mess. Ruckus, I love those cargo nets, but you guys really need to widen them out.
The nets were followed up with the monkey bars. I didn’t really mind the fact that the rungs rotated, but I guess a lot of people took some brutal falls due to it. Come on folks. If a guy with a racket and wig can do it, you can too. The monkey bars led you into the ranger bars. Things got a little foggy at this point due to my internal head temperature being at the very least 127 degrees Fahrenheit from my wig, and that is obviously not an exaggeration. All I know is there were some 8’ walls and tire mounds thrown in there.
They also had their “mystery obstacle” of Air Loops, which was basically ropes hanging down from a structure with footholds. You had to make your way from rope to rope in order to successfully navigate the obstacle. I wasn’t a big fan, but at least they are trying new things. That finally brings you to the finish area. You hop like a gazelle (I’m positive that’s what I looked like) over a 4’ wall and climb up a series of dirt mounds and through a couple of tire and Normandy Wall filled trailers.
Finally you crest the last hill, and if you’re like me, take the tennis ball out of your pocket to hit into a relatively safe place trying not give any small children a concussion, and sprint down the other side to the finish about 44 minutes after starting. It definitely takes the cake for a short course. Some of the obstacles were top notch while others were a little ho-hum and could be improved upon. Ruckus Sports seems to take it seriously though, so hopefully they will improve them for next year. I know this is a worse rating than last year. The course is definitely improved, but I’ve been around the block a little more and have other things to compare it to. There was never a moment where I felt I had to dig deep.
The Verdict: Ruckus once again delivers on a great course. This event definitely has more of a race feel than other obstacle racing events, which also have a bit of a party vibe. Ruckus is all business. It’s not a bad thing. It’s just different. I still love the idea of a Champions Heat, and I feel other short race events could emulate Ruckus in this regard. One area where Ruckus could emulate other events including road races is with the addition of course or mile markers. They can help a great deal in terms of a racers properly pacing themselves.
They have a cool kids course, plenty of food, and a free beer always helps with post race festivities. With some improvements to some of the obstacles and a few more ass kicking series of obstacles like those Down and Outs which would force runners to deal with a little bit of misery, I’d say Ruckus would be hard to beat in terms of a complete event. One thing that was kind of confusing was that there was barbed wire last year, there is barbed wire in Ruckus Sports logo, yet there was no barbed wire to be found race day. What gives?
If there is a Ruckus coming close to you, you’d be a fool not to sign up. Ruckus Sports, I’d love to see you step up your game to take this type of thing to the next level. For a list of Ruckus Sports events, goto: http://www.runruckus.com/index.html
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