January obstacle course races are hard to come by in New England. Enter Blizzard Blast, a five mile winter-themed race that takes place in January at Four Oaks Country Club in Dracut, Massachusetts, put on by SmithFest Events. Blizzard Blast does a good job of filling a niche – the affordable entry-level winter race. At between $40 and $70, it provides good value.
Four Oaks Country Club is a nice place to have a winter race. The entire club is open for post-race meals and as a pre- and post-race hangout. There is ample room for storing your bag and changing. Post-race, there is free chili or soup, and though selection was limited and you had to wait in a line, the price was right. The one big minus to the location is that parking, which costs $10, is offsite and about a 10 minute bus ride away. Getting to the race went smoothly; however, on the return trip, the wait for the bus was almost 20 minutes. Other than that, logistics were pretty effortless. Check-in was a cinch.
The course was 5.5 miles of rolling hills. This year was void of snow and lots of the running was on the concrete golf cart paths around the club. The course also integrated some trails that were in wooded areas adjacent to the golf course. The one real downside to the course was the obstacle placement. Blizzard Blast is advertised as being a 5K race; however, last year it clocked in at 5.8 miles and this year it clocked in at 5.5 miles. The first 2.5 miles of the race contained only one set of obstacles – an over and under wall. The vast majority of the obstacles were jumbled together at the end. I would love to see this race as a more obstacle-dense 5K.
Blizzard Blast had around a dozen and a half obstacles. The obstacles were in keeping with the race’s winter theme and featured a pine tree carry, a holiday lights crawl (instead of a barbed wire crawl), and a hot chocolate stop mid-race. The race is sponsored by a beer company and kegs proliferated. There were two styles of keg hoists and a keg carry. The featured obstacle of Blizzard Blast is Keg Kingdom. This obstacle is made up of suspended kegs that the racer must swing from, followed by a set of monkey bars. Swinging from kegs is tricky (they move in unpredictable ways!) but also fun and unique.
The swag from Blizzard Blast includes a long-sleeved cotton t-shirt and a really nice finishers medal. For those who like to collect medals, this one would make an excellent addition to your collection.
Bottom line: Even with its faults, I’ll keep going to Blizzard Blast because it’s a race during a time of year when there are very few things on my calendar OCR-wise. It’s a good opportunity to play outside in the winter and a great opportunity to get to see friends that I see less often than I wish during the colder months. If this race was instead in a busy month like May or July or very far away from my house, I might skip it. That being said, I like how the obstacles are different from what I see elsewhere and have an entertaining twist that adds up to a good time.
Have I signed up for the 2017 Blizzard Blast yet? No. Will I? Very likely, yes. It’s fun. It’s a race anyone can do, and with all the miles of running without an obstacle, friends are key to the experience. So, yes, 2017, I’ll be there.
(Photo credits: Blizzard Blast and Caley McGuane Photography)