DekaStrong Hosted by Underlying Strength (PA)

Sometimes, a competition is more than just an event. 

More than just a time on a stopwatch. 

More than just a challenge of fitness. 

After almost a full year of cancelled races and virtual challenges, being able to compete in-person is a gift. It’s that void you’ve been feeling ever since the last time you went head-to-head with someone who wasn’t on a computer. DekaStrong offered a chance to fill that void this March with a gym-hosted event in Yardley, Pennsylvania.

DekaStrong-Yardley-Row

Deka What? 

Underlying Strength, which opened at the end of 2016, had the opportunity to host one of DekaStrong’s first ever events. DekaStrong consists of ten fitness stations with no running in between. Deka, an affiliate of Spartan Race, also offers the DekaFit and DekaMile, both of which include a specified running distance between stations. DekaMile and DekaStrong share the same stations. DekaFit has mostly the same, with a couple that are slightly different.

 

DekaStrong Stations (Men’s Weight/Women’s Weight):

  1. 30 x Spartan RAM Alternating Reverse Lunges (55/33)
  2. 500m Row
  3. 20 x Box Jump Over/Step Over (24” for both)
  4. 25 x Medicine Ball Sit-Up (20/14)
  5. 500m SkiErg
  6. 100m Farmer’s Carry (60/40)
  7. 25-Calorie Assault Bike
  8. 20 x Dead Ball Shoulder Overs (60/40)
  9. 100m Tank Push/Pull
  10. 20 x Spartan RAM Burpees (44/22)

DekaStrong-Yardley-Farmer-Carry

Just How Tough Is It? 

If you want the short answer, DekaStrong is a kick in the ass. If you don’t at least have some familiarity with the stations, you’ll probably struggle. Unless, of course, you’re already a really well-rounded athlete. 

 

The best way to help you prepare is with a lot of metabolic conditioning and HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training). Even with those, however, you’ll still want to at least have a few runs with each exercise required. 

 

Obviously, some of the stations are harder to train for than others. Not everyone has access to the necessary equipment to specifically train for DekaStrong. That’s what makes Deka-Affiliated gyms, like Underlying Strength, an extremely useful training tool. You can get somewhat ready with a lot of equipment that a normal gym has. But to really prepare, and ultimately succeed, finding an affiliate would be a tremendous advantage. 

DekaStrong-Yardley-Assault-Bike

What To Expect

If you’re familiar with Spartan Races, you might be expecting a lot of the same at a Deka event. Gym-hosted DekaStrong events, however, are different from what you’d find at a Spartan Race in many ways. 

 

First, there is no chip-timing. Not really a huge deal since you have a volunteer that stays with you throughout each station to count your reps and keep your overall time. It doesn’t exactly make you a CrossFit Games athlete, but you may feel like one. Although, since all heats are open at the gym-hosted events, there aren’t any awards. 

 

Next up, the swag. The DekaStrong shirts are 100% cotton, unlike most Spartan finisher shirts, which are polyester or at least a combination of the two. There’s also no finisher medal, but you do receive a wedge piece. 

DekaStrong-Yardley-Medicine-Ball

One of the bigger differences from a normal Spartan event is really the photos. This may not be the case at every single Deka event, but at least the gym-hosted events don’t include free photos. Luckily, Underlying Strength organized and funded photos and videos for the event. Photos became available for purchase a few days after the event. 

 

DekaStrong is really a photo-friendly type of event because of the stations, so hopefully Deka makes the decision to fund them in the future. It’s worth noting that the local companies Underlying Strength used for photography (Wanderlove/Yardley) and videography (5Cents Media/Philadelphia) did an absolutely fantastic job. 

 

One of the biggest benefits to a DekaStrong gym-hosted event is the price tag. Most Spartan races are at least $100, if not more. DekaStrong is a very financially friendly option at $39.99. Which more than likely explains some of the areas where you’re not getting the same type of take home swag with each registration. Overall, for the amount of money spent, it’s completely worth pushing yourself to see just how fast you can complete the event. 

DekaStrong-Yardley-RAM-Burpee

How’d They Do?

Considering everything that continues to go on with the global pandemic, Underlying Strength did a phenomenal job hosting its first event. Because of COVID restrictions, they did have limited wave sizes, but sold out with a total of 64 registrants. Gym owner and certified fitness trainer, Sid Turner, said that was more than they expected when they scheduled the event. 

 

We are still down about 25%. With more people choosing to workout at home, the fitness industry has definitely taken a shift,” he explained. “However, events like Deka create an energy that no at home workout will ever be able to replicate. With that being said, Things will shift back, we just have to keep bringing the noise!”

 

If you missed out on this event, Underlying Strength intends to host many more events to come during the Spring, Summer and Fall seasons. There’s even a DekaMile already on their schedule for this May. 

 

Because it’s a smaller facility, and some of the stations need to be outdoors, there won’t be any competitions in the colder months. But you can still train there to get yourself ready for the next event. 

 

If you’re nowhere near Yardley, just mask up and hop on a plane. Or, you can check out Deka’s website for all event dates and locations. 

Deka-Strong-Yardley-Tank

Photo Credit: Wanderlove (@discoverwanderlove)

 

Video coverage of last year’s DekaFit Jacksonville, Florida

 

Spartan Announces New Standardized Distances in 2020

In January of 2019 David Watson, VP of Product at Spartan talked with Matt B. Davis on the Obstacle Racing Media podcast about changes that were happening in the 2019 season. They talked about the US National Series and qualification guidelines for athletes. During that conversation, Watson also teased a change to the distance of Super events in that conversation.

Spartan then sent out surveys to participants in May of 2019, asking their opinion on the idea of changing Super distances from 8+ miles to a more standard 10K distance.

Standardization – Good or Bad?

We’ve heard the word “standardization” a lot this year – most notably around standardizing the obstacle set that would be at each race distance. Spartan has now gone live with their next iteration of standardization beginning in 2020 – Standardizing the distances of events.

So the 2020 Spartan events now look like this:

Sprint / Stadion 5K
Super 10K (formerly 8+ mi.)
Beast Half Marathon (21K)
Ultra 50K
Trail 10K / 21K

The Spartan website has not yet been updated to reflect these changes. We have seen the 2019 Spartan medal preview however, which removes the word “Sprint” altogether, in favor of the new 5K distance.

View this post on Instagram

@spartanrace New Sprint Medal!

A post shared by Obstacle Racing Media (@obstacleracingmedia) on

Why the Change?

Spartan’s reasoning behind this change was two-fold; First, the distance is much more recognizable with other running events all over the world. Second, according to Spartan, surveyed participants wanted this change. They wanted “less running and more obstacle density.” It also will help first timers, and Sprint participants to step up easier to a Super as their next achievement.

Personally, I like the change if for no other reason than it makes sense in terms of effort vs reward. Supers are now twice as hard as a Sprint, and Beasts are now twice as hard as Supers. That makes sense. Also, any move to the metric system is a positive move.

Feedback from the Fans

The real question is – what do you think about the change? Social media exploded with both positive and negative comments in regards to the change. Looking at the Instagram post announcing these changes, we’ve got a few examples of how people feel about a 10K Super distance:

“I LOVE it! ?” says Spartan Pro Nicole Mericle

@isaac__88 disagrees by stating “Super should of stayed at 8 miles. People that want less should find other races or step their game up!!”

@aka_rhino seems concerned about his or her apparel consistency going forward, “Glad I got my 8+ mile super in so my hoodie is true to its word!”

At first it definitely seemed that the overwhelming opinion was against the change, but there has been a large amount of support for the change recently as well.

Let’s hear your thoughts – How do you feel about Super’s being moved to 10K distance?

 

Jack Bauer – Spartan Tahoe Picks


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Jack Bauer comes on to discuss the mens’ and women’s field for The 2019 Tahoe Spartan Championship.

Todays Podcast is sponsored by: 

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Make your picks here.

Watch live coverage of Tahoe here.

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Listen using the player below or the links at the top of this page. 

OCRCrossfit Tahoe Throwdown Challenge 2019

Watch Facebook Livestreams for this event here!

From the mind of Hunter McIntyre, something very special is taking place in two weeks in Tahoe.

As most of you know, OCR’s Hunter took on The Crossfit Games back in August as a wildcard entry. While mixing it up with the best of the world in Crossfit, he asked some of them to meet him on his turf at this year’s Spartan Tahoe Beast.

We aren’t sure exactly what is happening as of this printing, but we are going to go ahead and call it the OCRCrossfit Tahoe Throwdown Challenge 2019.  Update 8:47am – **This just in. Spartan is officially calling this event – King Of The Mountain. (I prefer our original title)

Here is what we do know:

3 OCR Athletes and 3 Crossfit Athletes will take on The Spartan Beast course in the morning. That’s 13 miles plus 30 obstacles at elevation. Then in the early evening, the men will compete in a WOD style workout. At the end of the day, we add up some form of scoring from the 4 workouts plus the Beast and crown a winner.

On the OCR side we will have:

Hunter – The Bulk Pony Himself. Is there anything else we need to say?

Bulk Pony

 

 

 

 

 

Isaiah Vidal – The Slightly Bulkier Pony. Bit of a tornado that has scrapes with Hunter, Atkins, and AirForce Ken over the years. With over 80 OCR podiums, he has more than any other American.

Isaiah Vidal

Matt Kempson – Another bulky little meatball. – Recently won the Epicly Epic Alex/Cassidy Cash Showdown at NorAm. Also recently known as the inventor of the Kempson Obstacle.

Matt Kempson

On the Crossfit Side:

Chandler Smith – Former wrestler at West Point. 15th in this year’s Crossfit Games.

Chandler Smith

 

Sean Sweeney – Known as The Crossfit Cowboy (do Crossfit stars have names like Ninjas?) – Can deadlift 565 pounds.

Sean Sweeney Crossfit Cowboy

Jacob Heppner – Makes videos with his dog. 2nd to Hunter in 2018 Tough Mudder X. 3rd in the world in The 2019 Crossfit Open. Multiple top 10 finishes at The Crossfit Games.

Jacob Heppner

 

September 16, 2019 Update: 

2 females have been added to the mix.

Corinna Coffin –  Corinna won Tough Mudder’s TMX in 2017 and was the runner up in 2018. She was a Crossfit Games Team athlete 2018. This year, she came back to race Spartan Stadion Series and finished 2, 1, 1 in consecutive performances.

Emma Chapman – Her team, Central Beasts, won the Strength In Depth competition, then placed 5th at the 2019 Crossfit Games. She also won the Tough Mudder TMX in 2018 and appeared on Million Dollar Mile earlier this year.

Along with the individual scores, we are being told there will be some form of team scoring tallied, with the 4 CrossFit athletes versus the 4 “Spartans”.

We posted a conversation with Hunter last week to explain more about this concept.

 

Spartan North American Championships – West Virginia Beast 2019

Obstacle-Gauntlet-in-West-Virginia

If there’s anything Spartan Race does well, it’s finding one of a kind locations for their races. Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia proved to be the perfect place to not only put on a Trifecta weekend, but host the 2019 North American Championship race. 

The Venue

Summit Bechtel Reserve is absolutely perfect to host an event like this. Those unfamiliar with West Virginia’s terrain were greeted with numerous climbs that ended with gorgeous views. Elite and Age Group racers had to qualify to take part in Saturday’s Beast, while everyone else could run in the Open waves. In total, the Beast ran about 14.4 miles with close to 2,900 feet of ascent. Anyone unfamiliar with West Virginia’s terrain were greeted with numerous climbs that ended with gorgeous views. 

Climbing-the-Mountain-in-West-Virginia

This was only my second Beast ever and happened to be the last piece to complete my second Trifecta ever. My first Beast was the 2018 Ohio Beast held at the Southington Off-Road Park. That venue was very flat with altering terrains, while West Virginia is mostly trail but a good variation of climbs and descents. 

 

The West Virginia race was definitely more difficult, but if I was left with a choice between the two, it’s an absolute no brainer. No matter what distance you want to do, West Virginia is a must race. 

Spartan-Trifecta-Weekend-in-West-Virginia

Why A Beast?

Maybe you’ve only ever run Sprints because 5 miles seems like enough. Or you’ve done a Super and are wondering if you should take the next step up. So, before we get into the specifics of the course and the obstacles, let’s talk about why a Spartan Beast at all.

 

I would recommend everyone set out for a Trifecta at least one time. If you would rather stick to shorter races, great! But there’s something special about running over a half-marathon with obstacles. 

 

On top of that, the open waves are more spread out than the shorter races. This is great for people who want to get in some running between obstacles. Granted, the climbs and some obstacles do still get jammed up some in open heats. Despite that, even some of the more narrow trails had space between runners. 

The-Views-at-the-North-American-Championship

Oh, The Obstacles!

Outside of what I needed to get a Trifecta in 2018 and 2019, I usually stick Sprints and the occasional Stadion (Stadium). But the way Spartan has moved over the last year or two, you see a lot of the same obstacles. So at that point, the more Sprints you run, the more you’re just looking at the venue itself and the course design. Don’t get me wrong, I love the short distance of a Sprint, but I also love obstacles!

 

If you really want to be exposed to Spartan’s full gauntlet of obstacles, you absolutely positively must run a Beast. This year’s West Virginia Beast had 38 obstacles, many of them I haven’t seen since last year’s Beast in Ohio. Though I didn’t run the Sprint and Super on Sunday, they each had 20 and 31 respectively. 

 

There’s really no room to complain about what obstacles Spartan had because, well, they pretty much had them all (Though I wish they included that Twister/Monkey Bar combo this year). The Beast threw at you everything from the Yokohama Tire Flip to Helix to Tyrolean Traverse and even a Spartan helmet-shaped Bucket Brigade course. The Beast even included a nice little swim late in the race. 

Ryan-Woods-finishing-Helix

Quite A Warm-up

If I had one complaint about the race, it’s that parking was incredibly far away from the festival. Our heat wasn’t until around noon, so 10:30 am seemed like a good time to arrive. But we still ended up on the outskirts of parking. I’m not sure exactly how far of a walk it was to the festival from our car, but I would guess it took around 10-15 minutes. That’s a great way to warm-up for the race, but made the walk back pretty daunting. 

 

Spartan could add a few shuttle stations throughout the parking area. This would allow small shuttles to take racers to the festival entrance. Though parking and bag check were both free this year, so the there would probably be some trade off. 

North-American-Championship-Spartan-Medal

Ya’ll Come Back Now, Ya Hear?

The venue is great. The area around the venue is gorgeous. Southern hospitality is a real thing. Biscuits and gravy are everywhere. There’s a lot to love about going to West Virginia for a couple days. Not to mention the North American Championship Beast medal all Saturday finishers walk away with. 

 

I told myself after this year I would stick to short races and not need more Trifectas in the future. But as long as Spartan keeps coming back to Summit Bechtel Reserve, I have a feeling that so will I.

 

Photo Credit: Spartan Race

emPowered OCR – Lancaster’s First Stadium-Style Obstacle Race

emPowered-OCR-at-Clipper-Magazine-Stadium

 

A well-run local obstacle race is a great find. A well-run local obstacle race that’s for a good cause is a gem

 

emPower Training Systems and The Mighty Mehal Foundation teamed up to bring Lancaster, PA its first ever stadium-style obstacle race. The 3.25-mile course took place in and around Clipper Magazine Stadium, home to the Lancaster Barnstormers. 

 

A lot of local “obstacle” races I’ve experienced tend to be more of a glorified mud run than obstacle race. emPowered OCR was a true obstacle race that challenged competitive athletes while ensuring new racers would have a blast. There were even family waves so parents could run the course with their kids instead of watching them run a smaller course from the sidelines.

 

Inside-Clipper-Magazine-Stadium

For A Cause

A lot of people use obstacle racing as an escape from the ordinary day to day. But some people use it to get through their own personal obstacles. emPowered OCR was created to help those people, with all proceeds benefiting The Mighty Mehal Foundation.

 

The foundation was created in honor of Shaun “Mighty” Mehal and provides scholarships to qualified applicants who are entering a recovery house in Lancaster County. 

 

Free Free Free

We all know how most of the larger races go. Need to park? That’ll be $10.00. Might even have to take a shuttle. Want to bring your grandma so she can cheer you on? Open up that wallet. 

 

Pretty much the only thing you needed to pay for at emPowered OCR was your registration and bag check, if you needed it. Parking was provided in the stadium lot and spectators were free of charge. There were even plenty of free samples from local and national vendors. 

 

As with the larger events, each registration included a tech shirt, finisher medal and a free beer for anyone over 21 years old. 

emPowered-OCR-course-map

Course Design

The course was designed by the co-owner of emPower Training Systems and personal trainer, Josh March. The distance came in right around 3.25 miles and featured 23 obstacles. Clipper Magazine isn’t as big as a major league stadium so, unlike those, it wasn’t all stairs. Most of the course took place just outside the stadium, with the last quarter-mile or so being inside. 

 

In the competitive waves, the majority of the obstacles were mandatory completion. Racers were given an extra band at registration and had to take it off if they were unable to complete an obstacle. Two obstacles did have a penalty loop, in addition to mandatory completion and one had a burpee penalty. 

 

For the “Strike Zone Challenge,” If you missed the strike zone net, you were required to do 15 burpees. Unfortunately for competitive racers who missed, the burpee obstacle was shortly after, which added another 15 reps in the hot sun (I speak from experience).

 

There were two carries out on the course, bucket and sandbag, which surprisingly had the same weight for men and women. It felt like the weight would be a little light compared to other men’s carries and a little heavy for women. The bucket carry was about a quarter-mile, while the sandbag weaved up and down the stadium steps. 

 

emPowered-Peak-Obstacle

No Easy Task

For anyone looking to challenge their grip and coordination, that was well taken care of. Several obstacles required bell ringing. “Because I Was Inverted” required traversing upside down across a steel beam from one end to the other. The “Y-Wall” was a fun mix of relatively easy rock holds out to a pair of hanging metal tubes. 

 

“emPowered Peak” almost seemed similar to Spartan’s Olympus due to the requirement to go from side to side on an angle. Unlike Olympus, though, there wasn’t much to grab. The obstacle was made up of vertical 2x4s that required careful transitions and shoes with some grip. 

 

Perhaps the toughest obstacle of the day, though, was the Barnstormers Rig. According to March, it turned out to be a band killer among competitive racers. It required transitioning between rings, baseballs and even a baseball bat in order to ring the bell at the end. And because it was late in the race, many of the athletes already had fatigued grip. 

 

A-look-at-emPowered-OCR-rig

What’s Next?

According to March, the race was a great success and they’re already in the works for a 2020 race and potentially a second event. With around 450 total participants, emPowered OCR definitely has the potential to become an annual event, with some expansion.

They do plan to keep the competitive waves mainly mandatory completion, which personally I love. There were a few hiccups with the registration process, but plans are already underway to improve the process for next year. They’re also looking into a more OCR-equipped timing system as this year’s timing was not set up to show 100% completion and non-completion among competitive racers. Instead bands had to be manually checked among the top finishers. 

emPowered-OCR-top-finishers

emPowered OCR was a fantastic race and the team did a really great job running the event. At no point did I feel like this was a first-year race. It’s definitely one that will be on my calendar for 2020 and beyond!

 

Photo Credit: emPower Training Systems, Jesse Keim, Kevin Peragine Photography, Lindsey Makuvek