CMC Makes a Successful Return

CMC Race Start Brooklyn 2016

In 2015, CMC announced that it was suspending its popular hybrid race series. The organizers promised to come back, and they fulfilled that promise on Saturday with a successful reboot.

CMC Brooklyn - Shirt

The new venue in New York provided the race with some benefits as well as some challenges noted below, but the race’s theme has always been military (CMC stands for Civilian Military Combine).  The format of the race was the same: a “pit” of timed exercises, followed by a more traditional obstacle course race. The organizers brought in veteran ocr operations guru Garfield Griffiths, who has been behind several other noteworthy race designs including Savage Race and the OCR World Championships, as VP for Event Operations for CMC. He brought his A-game, and this bodes well for the race series going forward.  Additional familiar faces were “Coach Pain” Dewayne Montgomery, manning the microphone on race day, a perfect addition to the CMC family after his recent departure from BattleFrog, and Amelia Boone, who acted as TV announcer for the day.

CMC Brooklyn - Boone, Montgomery, Bijanada

CMC took over Fort Hamilton, an active military base located in Brooklyn at the foot of the Verrazano Bridge. Because of security and, more important, because of limited space on the base, free parking was located a few miles away at Coney Island, and the race provided a shuttle bus (for $10). By all accounts, this worked smoothly. In what might appeal to car-less New Yorkers such as myself, the base entrance is also a five-minute walk from a subway stop.

The race used the open spaces available on the base, but this urban outpost of the US Army is tightly packed. Most of the running was on asphalt, and you frequently got the feeling you were running through someone’s backyard. Apparently, not every military installation is as big as Camp Pendleton.

CMC Pit Brooklyn 2016

CMC distinguishes itself from other races by starting out with a CrossFit style workout, “the Pit”. While the Pit was optional, it appeared that most racers wanted to try their hand at this aspect of the competition. Three levels of participation were offered, under the labels “Alpha”, “Bravo” and “Charlie”. The Alpha movements consisted of bodyweight exercises: six burpees, seven box jumps and eight lunges; the Bravo level used kettlebells for swings, step-ups and lunges. The Charlie level, required for all the elite competitors, involved barbells. The goal was max reps in five minutes, and even the CrossFitters I spoke to were impressed by the workout. According to First place male finisher Alexander Nicholas, “there is no doubt that The Pit helps to truly define who are the greatest hybrid athletes.”

CMC Race Start Brooklyn 2016

The pit provided a solid warm-up for the main event: running through obstacles placed around the base.  First place female finisher Elise Fugowski said that “the race itself was super fun. It was mandatory obstacle completion (my favorite) [mandatory for the pros] with some heavy and difficult obstacles. The event is a great opportunity to put your athleticism to the test!”

Many of the obstacles were familiar to anyone who has completed an obstacle course race: four-foot walls, an eight-foot wall, wreck bag carries, using a rope to pull yourself up a slanted wall, and an assortment of rigs, some more difficult than others. However, one of the best things about this race was the way Garfield Griffiths took some familiar obstacles and put a new spin on them.

Some highlights:

  • Diamondback – instead of constructing a simple A-frame to climb, he placed the bars in such a way as to replicate the movements needed to climb an inverted wall, followed by the A-frame climb over the top, followed by an inverted wall to get back to the ground. This obstacle was creative, challenging and, with effort, do-able. I hear that this obstacle will be back at the OCRWC next month.

CMC Diamondback Brooklyn

  • Comrades in Arms – rather than have competitors carry each other, as in Tough Mudder’s Hero Carry, CMC has had 60-pound dummies made (complete with CMC branding on them). Racers had to pick one up (trickier than it sounds) and carry the dummy up and down a hill.

Comrades in Arms CMC Brooklyn 2016

  • Take the Plunge – In addition to testing racers’ strength, some of the obstacles tested their mettle as well. Among these was Take the Plunge, essentially a dumpster filled with four feet of water. This doesn’t sound so difficult – no Arctic Enema-style ice to deal with – but the dumpster was also covered with plywood, leaving about four inches of air, forcing racers to float on their backs to reach the end, like at Tough Mudder’s Cage Crawl, but more claustrophobic. It also provided a few moments to cool off, as the race took place on an unusually hot and humid day, and to clean off, as it followed the relatively tidy mud pit obstacle.
  • Spin Class  – The final rig had racers climbing a pole, and the jumping on to rings that were suspended from spinning wheels. Let’s look at the video of Matt B. Davis struggling with this obstacle one more time. Despite his cries of injustice, the obstacle did not “fail”; it’s just tricky.

The festival at the finish line was compact and provided a great view of the competitors in the Pit as well as the last few obstacles before the finish line. Racers got medals and t-shirts (it seems obligatory in race reviews to note the material of the shirt: good cotton, but not a high tech miracle fiber). There was beer and ice cream available, as well as a choice of food trucks. A hungry OCR industry expert noted that the pernil asado he got from one of the trucks was some of the best post-race food he had ever eaten.  CMC also offered a kids’ race of one mile, which was preceded by a kids’ version of the pit, complete with miniature kettlebells. I’ll repeat: MINIATURE KETTLEBELLS.

Kiddie Pit CMC Brooklyn 2016

Any time an event launches at a new venue, there are bound to be a few problems, some of which are worth mentioning. Part of the re-boot of the event included talk of the great new scoring system that was brought on board to calculate the winners through a complicated formula combining the pit score and the race finish time. After waiting for more than two hours for the awards ceremony – and with cash prizes on the line – it was announced that there had been a technical glitch and that the winners would be announced the next day. This was disappointing for the elites, though it probably did not bother the vast majority of competitors. A bigger gripe was that the race portion was advertised as 5 miles, but it turned out to be closer to 5 kilometers. I expect that the cramped quarters on the base had something to do with this, and at other venues with more elbow room, there will be more space to run between obstacles. A few of the obstacles shown on the course map did not make it from the map to the course itself, but given the heat of the day, I did not hear too many people complaining that the course should have been longer.

At a time when other races are paring down or closing up shop, it is encouraging that a solid operation has re-emerged. The hybrid format may be an extra hurdle for some racers, but it also brought in groups from gyms who used it as a goal for their training. Every local CrossFit box should make it a point to be represented at the next race. CMC has just announced dates for upcoming races in 2017, and OCR fans should be rooting for CMC to come to a venue near them.

Photo Credits: CMC Facebook Page, Garfield Griffiths’ Instagram, the Author

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Christopher Stephens

Christopher is an attorney, a middle-of-the-pack triathlete, a marathoner, an open water swimmer, and a recovering Jeopardy contestant. A native New Yorker, he trains in the rugged wilderness of Central Park and can sometimes be found swimming in the Hudson. He also bakes pies. Delicious pies.
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