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NORAM 2019: Stratton take 2!  

Eric Sirois's picture

During the weekend of August 9th, 10th and 11th, the Stratton Mountain Resort in Southern Vermont hosted for the second consecutive year the Adventurey North American obstacle course championships. The race is already a few weeks old, but the editing of the photos taken during the event took up a good part of my time and I had to take time off with the family! The format of the weekend does not change compared to the last years: four races over three days of competition.

As soon as you arrive at the venue, you notice the changes made on the course. A portion of the route passes directly into the village where there are restaurants and shops. The Urban sky is also just before the arrival and in the village itself. Several obstacles are visible for spectators in the "festival" area. On the other hand, there are not many kiosks that normally enliven this area. The registration system works very well and the wait is minimal thanks to the good work of the volunteers.

The first day of activity that is reserved for the sprint of 3 kilometers gives rise to great battles. As always, the start is made 8-10 runners at a time. The rules are explained by the chief referee before each wave to limit confusion. Given the format of the starts, some runners will stay a good half hour in the start corrals to wait their turn. Apart from the wait that can be long, this format forces the participants to give the best of their performance since it is impossible to know what one runner will do in another wave. We know the real winners during the presentation of the podiums.

The race route begins like all the others by a climb to create a certain space between the runners. The first "real" obstacle is Valkyrie, a new obstacle for this year. It is a big structure with rings where the athletes have to go up and down the structure. Then it's the section of the wreckbag carry to go down to a gauntlet of obstacles: The Northman Race Gaffe followed by Kempson Design's Underdog (another new obstacle this year, but that is basically just a rig) and Skull Valley. No floating monkey bars in Skull Valley this time, but rather the Force5 bars that were used for Skitch last year. After these three obstacles of upper body was the one everyone was apprehensive of: Gibbons. Another Machiavellian idea of ​​Force5 to test participants. It is a series of brackets in which one must deposit a stick of wood to make its way to the bell. It looks a bit like monkey bars, but you have to carry the bar with you. A video is available on our Facebook page if you want a better idea. Thereafter the course sends the athletes to the famous Stairway to Heaven where it is forbidden to use the inside of the steps, elbows or other techniques facilitating the ascent. These rules will be removed for the 15k race. Subsequently, the rope wall, an interesting balance obstacle before descending to the bottom of the mountain for the end of the course.

The last obstacles of the course are pretty easy: Little Black Swamp Runner that requires some flexibility, Over under Force5, Swiss Tricky, Car jacked, Urban Sky and the final wall. Urban Sky that we find in a new version without the platform to rest. For the pros, VeeJay Jones finished first with a 23 second lead over Ryan Atkins. VeeJay took control of the race with a risky but ultra-fast passage in Underdog. When in third place, Aaron Newell came to take his place on the podium on the final wall when he was face to face with Samuel Hébert. A real photo finish that relayed Samuel to the fourth position. On the women's side, Lindsay Webster finished first with a 41-second lead over Nicole Mericle. Third place goes to Michelle Warnky, who started in another wave, but completed the course 18 seconds faster than Tiffany Palmer. Proof that the result of the first wave doesn’t absolutely ensure a place on the podium in this race format.

Saturday is as usual the main event of the weekend with 15 kilometers of racing and 40 obstacles. This time there are regular departures that are given for each age group as well as the pro-category. Some of these groups were practically empty and only had about ten athletes. The beginning of the day didn’t look too good at first sight. Even if the weather forecasts were good for the day, big clouds overhang the mountain and encompass the summit. There have been some short showers during the day. The top of the mountain was literally in the clouds for the first waves. The competitors of the wave pros had to negotiate with an air filled with water and intense cold condition for this time of the year. We limited our photo coverage of the pro-waves on top to just thirty minutes since our hands were freezing!

The first climb seems endless. Indeed, it's a good 3.8km climb to the first interesting obstacle (skitch). Follow the Force5 rig which was under the big tent last year and the "low rig" before going back down the mountain. Some runners were surprised by a hornet’s nest in the ground during this descent. The descent took us to half of the mountain where was among others a rig and a farmer carry. Then the runners continued the rest of the descent towards the series of obstacles present in the festival area. For this 15k race, the Underdog configuration had been changed and now included two vertical suspension nets under which the racers had to go. The route deviated from the 3 km after Stairway to Heaven to send the runners higher up the mountain. Further on we found another group of obstacles including Trapeze, Triumph (a mixture of big cargo net and dragon's back) a second rig, a rope climb (halfway), a hoist and a makeshift ladder climb.

The rest of the circuit returned to join the layout of the previous day from the balance beam. During the day of Saturday, there was also a small competition on the sidelines of the event in the festival area: Epic Interval Championship. It was a crossfit-style series to be completed in a specific time. The number of repetitions allowed to accumulate points and in the end win the duel against your opponent. Since there was not much to do in the festival area, this competition offered great entertainment until the podiums were presented. The latter have also been pushed back by half an hour to give some racers the chance to finish their race. Some age groups did not had a complete podium for the lack of runners having passed all the obstacles. For the pros, Ryan Atkins goes back on the top step of the podium followed by Aaron Newell and Ryan Woods. A great comeback for Woods, who seemed very happy to return to the championship following the unfortunate events of the Blue Mountains that had kept him out for a year. For the women, Nicole Mericle and Lindsay Webster exchanged their position of the 3k since Nicole was ahead of Lindsey by a little over two minutes. Rose Wetzel takes the third position twelve minutes later ahead of Rachel Corigliano by just eight seconds!

If the previous editions of the team races and the charity event left significant memories thanks to the weather and its torrential rain, the chance was this time on the side of the organizers and runners. Once again, the Sunday’s team race was extremely popular. By the way, the event was sold out in advance and more than 25 teams were waiting and hoping to have a place! Always one of the events generating the most adrenaline for the runners who push themselves thoroughly for their teammates. Small novelty for this edition, the three members of the team had a small portion of the course to do together in addition to the final wall. The team met at the Tricky Swiss to wait for the athlete taking care of the technical portion and had to progress to the City Challenge cars and complete the Urban sky before completing the last wall.

1- Spartan Lions, 2- Cobra OCR, 3- Team Valhalla OCR

1- Optimism Courage Resilience, 2- iCore ft. The Crew OCR,  Team Shogun Sports

1- Fun Size, 2- Quads of Fury, 3- Oscar Mike

From my end, I think the Adventurey team led by Adrian Bijanada can once again be proud of the event they delivered. The team responsible for the course did a great job to balance the obstacles and the race. The festival area was a little empty, in my opinion, but the presence of the village and its nearby restaurants still supports some of the activity. There was a lot of obstacles easily visible to the spectators and the use of the village adds an interesting element. For merchants, the store did not seem to offer anything new compared to last year, but what was given to the runner (sweater and medal) was, in my opinion, very well designed. Are there things to improve? Certainly, because it is rare that everyone is happy. Personally, I would like to see a tightening of regulations concerning certain obstacles. I was surprised to see that we allowed the use of the feet in the second rig. What about the famous chicken wing technique on Gibbons? There were also some injuries due to this technique (dislocated shoulders, biceps tear and multiple contusions). It remains to be seen if this will be allowed at the next edition or even at the world championships to be held in London in October. In summary, a nice weekend of obstacle course as we like them, a course with a good level of difficulty to offer a certain challenge and a beautiful bunch of passionate of this wonderful sport!