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24h in Shale Hill...oups Shale Hell  

Eric Sirois's picture

The weekend of August 26 was Shale Hill's mythical 24-hour race: Shale Hell. The organization that was to hold an enormous festival earlier this summer had changed its plans and deferred the holding of this event to next year, but still wanted to offer something to its followers this summer by holding the 24-hour edition as in past years.

What is this race? It is quite simple: You are given 24 hours to complete as many laps of the 10k course as possible. An eight-hour edition was also available, but the majority of participants were registered for the 24h. The Shale Hill course is considered one of the most difficult in America with ten kilometers, but is also a paradise for obstacles lovers. Indeed, a total of 70 completely crazy obstacles are spread over the course and will give a challenge to the most experienced racer. The event was friendly, because no podium or prizes were offered for the best performances. The participants on the spot were really there to enjoy the course and test their limits. The race was still a qualifier for the World Championship Obstacle Course (OCRWC) for the eight-hour edition, while the 24-hour format was a qualifier for the Enduro 24h which will take place in Australia in June 2018.

Shale Hell was offered in an all-inclusive format: running, camping and parking. The runners had their tent installed not far from the parking lot and the starting line. A bbq was available for those wishing to use it as well as portable toilets lit all night long. Upon registration, you were given a sweater, a few stickers and your race bib.

The morning of the race, a mandatory meeting for the racers one hour before the start was animated by the race director to explain the rules. The operation is simple: A large board with the participants names and number corresponding to the completed lap is displayed in the barn. When a racer finishes his turn, he must enter his time of arrival and the number of obstacles missed. Same thing when he leaves for a new lap, he must enter the time of his departure matching the timer available in the barn. Apart from those registered in the Mandatory Obstacle Completion (MOC) division, different penalties must be completed for each missed obstacle. Unlike the winter race, the token system is not used and the penalty must be made at the obstacle. The penalties were preset for each lap:

  1. Spider push-up: Quantity marked on the obstacle, otherwise 30
  2. Spider push-up: Half of quantity marked on the obstacle, otherwise 15
  3. 30 jumping jacks
  4. 20 lunges
  5. No penalty
  6. Sing your national anthem
  7. 10 jumping jacks
  8. 2 Spiderman push-ups
  9. Wait five minutes
  10. 10 push-ups
  11. No obstacles lap
  12. Surprise! (Back to number 1)

In addition, for certain obstacles such as the great traverse wall, the missed obstacle counts for only one obstacle in the end, but the penalty must be applied for each missed panel. Since there are five panels in the wall, there was a fairly high repetition rate in the case of a failure. The course remains the same with the exception of the barbed wire in the field. This crawl has been replaced by an unusual Irish table (like everything in Shale Hill). Indeed, this famous table of a height of six feet six inches was composed of a 6x6 instead of the traditional 2x8 or 2x10. This made the task much more complex and the technique to get over it totally different.

The third lap was special since it had to be done in the opposite direction. Not only the course but also the obstacles. For example, the Tarzan ropes, it was first necessary to get over the wall and then try to cross the ropes. The uphill monkey bars were downhill monkey bars and so on. The sun caused some annoyance to some runners who suffered a little heat stroke and had to take a little more time at the encampment before returning on the course. Two medics were present throughout the duration of the event, but had no major injuries to treat. Certainly, some good blisters, but nobody came out of the course on a stretcher. There were five water stations along the route and five bonfires were lit in the evening. These were maintained by the organization as well as by the runners passing there. For safety reasons, the pond traverse was closed at nightfall.

An event with a family flavor that was a success despite the few participants. Two racers stood out from the crowd by successfully taking on a major challenge: Successfully complete the most laps by completing all the obstacles: Steven Beckwith (4 laps) and Peter Korade (5 laps) supported each other to accomplish this feat. If you are an obstacle fan, I highly recommend one of the races organized by Shale Hill. The next one will be the Polar Bear Challenge to be held in February 2018 or the first edition of the Shale Hill Festival in the summer of 2018 that will not leave you indifferent!