NYC – City Challenge Obstacle Race – August 2nd 2015
By Walter F Hendrick (Sandy)
The City Challenge race was one of those races I have been looking forward to running all year. I enjoyed the course last year and looked forward to returning to Randalls Island this year to take part in the race event again.
- Pre-race MC:
The pre-race MC Ashley Ntansah did a great job all day motivating each wave of racers getting the ready to both start the race and even once they/we started and were exiting Icahn Stadium he was still on the microphone saying motivational things and encouraging the racers to kill the course and have fun.
- Festival Area:
You have to understand this course, both started and ended in Icahn Stadium, which is a full size stadium that has hosted sprinting events that have included the World’s current greatest sprinter, Jamaican Usain Bolt, who even at one point set at was the time a new world record in the 100m sprint on May 31, 2008. So back to my point, being a stadium with a track, multiple levels, a massive amount of stadium seats, and having the race start on the on actual stadium sprinter track and then finish back up in the stadium food/vendors section made for a different type of festival area, as some racers were down near the start, others where in the stadium seats, and some hung out near the finish/food/vendors area, but with that said, everyone I saw (and I was at the event from start to end racing all day) appeared to be having a great time and the above mentioned MC was able to be heard throughout the entire venue which helped keep racers and spectators having fun.
- The Course:
As mentioned above, the course started out on the sprinters track in Icahn Stadium and went for a brief sprint before turning and exiting the stadium and going out to Randalls Island grounds and for the start onto a black pavement walking path. The course stayed on a straight walking path for a bit and the first obstacle up was a series of “Police Hurdles” which, if I recall, where under four feet high metal barricades to jump/hurdle over. The course continued for a short distance more and came to the next obstacle “CKO Boxing Bags”, which is an obstacle with a lot of very heavy punching bags hanging that racers either had to maneuver around or do my method and ram/kick/punch through the heavy bags. The course continued on and one of the next obstacles up was an “8 foot Ladder Wall” climb, which City Challenge loves its ladder walls so this wouldn’t be the last of them on this course! This part of the course was in an area of Randalls Island that people come to hang out on a nice day (like this day was), so we had a lot of onlooker’s all day and later in the day they were setting up a very large party, so the area started to fill with more and more people after 12PM, which wasn’t bad at all, other than having to smell some amazing Spanish meals being prepared. Not that far after the ladder wall, was the next obstacle, the “Bear Crawl”, which wasn’t in water or mud (City Challenge doesn’t use/have any mud or water obstacles by design), but was on black tar pavement and we didn’t have to crawl just under barbed wire either.
The course made a slight turn to the left and started to go down a very slight decline and then turned and started to go back towards the direction we had just come from. Up next was another “8 foot Ladder Wall” obstacle and then a very short sprint later came a “Cinder Block Carry” which went up a slight hill and then back down and did a very challenging and long loop before finishing the carry and moving on to the next obstacle. Only a short distance away was the next obstacle, the “60 Kettle Bell Swings”, which was a kettle Bell swing for a total of 60 reps. This wasn’t so bad on my first few laps, but on laps four and five, this started to really burn both of my shoulders. I am happy that I was able to do a total of 300 kettle Bell swings in all on the day! The course went on a little bit more and at this point racers had the east river just to the right of us which was helping create a nice breeze on what was a sunny and hot day. Up next was another fun and challenging “8 foot Ladder Wall” and then the course turned away from the river’s edge and went into a more open area and the next obstacle up was the “Monkey Bars”. These monkey bars are not just one level of bars, and require racers to get to a higher bar I think at least twice, so this was a very challenging obstacle and even more challenging coming up so quickly after the above mentioned “60 Kettle Bell Swings”. A short distance later was another “Ladder Wall” obstacle and then came a fun and challenging “30 foot Cargo Net” climb and then it was off back towards the river and a short trail sprint and up next was one of City Challenge’s signature obstacles, the “Police & Taxi Car Jump”, which I always enjoyed and enjoyed even more this time because I was wearing my Icebug studded Zeal’s and had a chance to leave some claw marks on the cop car!
The course again turned away from the river’s edge and made its way to a “Sand Bag Carry” which wasn’t a very long carry, so at least for me, this was a nice both mental and physical break on a hot and sunny day. The course now went a short distance more and back into a very open area directly in the sunlight and up next was “Berlin Wall”, which was a very challenging wall climb with several options/versions: racers could use a rope and one section that had two notches in the wall to help get up and over this tall wall, another part of the wall had just the rope and one notched section to use, so this was a little harder option. If racers wanted they could also just scale the wall without using the rope for assistance. After the Berlin Wall, the course went a short distance and up next if memory serves me right, was another “8 foot Ladder Wall” obstacle and then after another very short sprint it was now time for the “Rope Climb” obstacle, which had versions both with and without knots. My only suggestion for improvement on the rope obstacle is to spread the ropes out more, most racers use a technique that involves using our feet to climb ropes and when they are too close together, it’s really easy to either kick or get kicked in the face by other racers on the ropes (both left and right) at the same time as you.
At this point, the course made a u-turn and came to a water station that was just next to the next obstacle on the course, the “Inverted Wall”, which I think should be renamed to be called the “Inverted Ladder Wall”. I have done a lot of inverted walls this year at my previous OCR’s and I have to say, this was one of the more challenging ones I have done to date. Because the inverted section was not a solid section of the typical plywood, but rather ladder wall sections, it made this a much harder obstacle to climb up and over. At this point, the course started to exit the wide open area and up next was a “20 foot Cargo Net” climb, which was a nice challenge at this point on the course. Just after the cargo net climb, the course went over a short bridge, which was sort of cool and a nice little mental break to look around and take in the scenery. After exiting the bridge, the course made a sharp left turn on a walking/running/bicycling path and I have to say this should have been considered an obstacle as well. Even though this section of the course wasn’t that long, on several of my laps I had to avoid oncoming riders going pretty fast on their bicycles, which was interesting. After a short distance on the walking/running/bicycling path, the course made a turn to the left and came to the next obstacle, the last “8 foot Ladder Wall” on the course! A very short distance after this was a second “Bear Crawl” and this time the crawl was through small wood chips that could leave some bruises for sure! This section of the course was very surreal for me, as it was just under a massive overpass that had vehicles of all sizes traveling on it and it was really cool to hear them. This is an experience racers can only probably get at a few obstacle course races anywhere in America. The only two that come to mind, are City Challenge and the new City style Tough Mudder course and that is because they both use this same venue (City Challenge used it first).
At this point the course had a short sprint and turned to reenter the stadium and just before entering was a person with a water hose ready to spray racers with cold water to cool them down. I took advantage of this on all but my last lap and it was pretty funny because by lap # 2, the volunteer was just handing me the hose and stepping aside to not get soaked as well (lol). Just after this, it was back into the stadium and right away time for the next obstacle, a “Water Jug” carry up to the stairs for the bleachers and then across a row of seats and back down. Just about anytime I come to an obstacle like this, I consider it a mental and sometimes physical break and it’s a chance for me to reset myself for the rest of the course. I enjoyed getting up to the top and then jogging back down on all of my laps on this obstacle. After the jugs, it was time to go back up the stairs and to a walking platform and then right back down to the bottom and, you guessed it, then back up to the top and back to the same walking platform. At this point, was the next obstacle which was another City Challenge signature obstacle, the “Heavy Jump Ropes” challenge, I suck at regular jump ropes, so this was a PITA for me, but I was able to get her done on each and every lap! After this, the course went down two flights of stairs and turned to the finish line where racers were greeted by several awesome volunteers all day (I loved these ladies) and handed one of the best finisher medals in the OCR world!
- Overall Feelings:
I was raised in NYC and grew up about seven to ten city blocks from a walking bridge (I don’t think they allow people to walk over it anymore) my friends and I used to use to get on to Randalls Island. Looking back at my childhood, being raised in NYC back in the 70’s and 80’s and being a latch key kid, was like growing up in the wild, wild West and we had some good and crazy times on Randalls Island, so I always enjoy the chance to go back as it brings back memories of a world that no longer exists for most. My friends and I didn’t play video games all day or sit on Social Media, for the most part almost all my close friends were really good on skateboards and BMX/Freestyle bicycles and we had free reign to the entire Manhattan Island and we would go have fun and get in trouble all over. I am still in touch with some of those childhood friends and just writing this article and thinking about life brings back memories of many good times and some bad times.
- The Schwag:
The schwag is a really nice white City Challenge shirt, and as I already said above, one of the nicest finisher medals in the business.
- Overall event rating:
The course was well built with a lot of challenging obstacles, the volunteers and staff were all top flight and polite, registration went fast and smooth, the schwag is bad ass, the begins and ends in a stadium that has a great history, Randalls Island for me holds a place that brings back childhood memories. The only few area’s I could say could be slightly improved are: one more water station (I suggest this for most OCR events), the rope climb modified to be a little safer, and maybe one or two less 8 foot walls replaced with something new, but I do know City Challenge has and is adding new obstacle pretty much at each event. Based on the above information and that I have been instructed to use a rating system that is in increments of .25’s, the course/event was well above a 4.75 so I am rating it 5 out of 5 stars!
- Final Thoughts:
I enjoyed City Challenge and I can’t wait until next year’s race/event on Randalls Island as I will make sure to attend/race that one. If you are interested in running a City Challenge Race, check out one of there other races either in Hoboken NJ or Miami FL later this year.