Sunday, June 16, 2013

Run Ruckus 2013 (Boston) Review

2012 was the year that I discovered obstacle course racing (OCR) and Ruckus was the first "real" (meaning non-locally organized) OCR I ran. It was awesome and kind of set the bar for all of the others that I did. Sadly, this year's Ruckus is a mere shell of its former self. I came away disappointed and wanting more of the old Ruckus.

Ruckus has been held at the Marshfield fairgrounds each year, and it's a good venue. The venue is designed to handle large numbers of people, so parking is not an issue and it's never really crowded. However driving down Rt. 3 is a bit of a pain on a beautiful Saturday morning: Lots of people heading down to the Cape and the lane drop is a real bottleneck.

We had to ask for directions several times after parking—there were no signs directing people to the registration area. Registration was a bit of a pain. In the past, it was organized by last name. This year it was by bib number, which was emailed a few days in advance. Unfortunately they decided to hand out the t-shirts at registration instead of waiting until the finish line as they did last year. We were wearing our NE Spahtens drill shirts, so we ended up having to carry the shirts with us. Fortunately I was wearing a hydration pack and (barely) had enough room for both.

Upon entering the spectator and vendor area, we had to again ask for direction to the start line. There were no signs or anything. This is a bit of a recurring theme.

Once we found the start line, we saw that it was divided into five sections, based on how fast you think you'll run the course. Unfortunately this meant there were 5x the number of people at the starting line as compared to last year. They staged us so that each group started two minutes after the previous one. In the end, our 11am start time was closer to 11:15 because we were near the back. Also of note, last year everyone had to climb over a platform to get to the start line. A good way to start an OCR! This year was just line up in the right place. If you could even find it.

I enjoyed the running part of the race. It was almost all trails, which the past week of rain gooped up rather nicely. Unfortunately all of the water stations along the way had run out of cups, or water, or both! I believe their first wave was at 9 AM and we started at 11 AM. It's hard to believe that they ran out in the span of two hours. Also there were empty plastic cups littered all over the ground. Recycling containers would have been very welcome instead of the mess we saw.

The obstacle part of the race was rather unremarkable. All of the signature Ruckus obstacles we have come to expect were missing: Gorilla Bars, Ranger Bar, Lobster Traps, Air Loops, Normandy Spikes, Twisted Fences, etc. Their obstacle page lists all of the fun things that we didn't do.

At the end, Mt. Ruckmore was a joke. Last year the slide was built up on a multi-level platform of cargo containers. Each runner had to go under, over, around, and through in order to get up to the top, then the slide was very high and very fast. Loved that! This year it was a giant inflatable slide, much like the one used by Foam Fest. When did Ruckus go from setting the standard to copying a lesser race?

After the finish line we received a beer glass instead of a medal. This is the first year they didn't have medals, and with the number of first-timers running with the Spahtens, a medal would have been nice. My wife was really looking forward to getting one!

Once in the vendor area and beer garden, we discovered that the free cup of beer was Coors Lite. Blech! Last year they had Harpoon come in with a choice of brews. Very disappointing that they didn't source a local microbrewery once again.

I wanted to sign up for the Ruckus Fearless 5k in November, but now I don't think I'll waste my money. I'm also going to think long and hard about going next summer when there are so many other events in New England around the same time.

It's a shame that Ruckus has fallen so far in such a short amount of time. It almost feels like a different company is running it now—the web site is different and the logo changed.

Sadly, I have to give Ruckus a grade of "C" for 2013.