The Terrain Race NJ reminded me once again why I love OCR and what attracted me to the sport so long ago.  My teammate and I pulled in to the massive Millville Motorsports complex and parked in the front row right by the venue.  Next to us, another athlete started his pre-race routine.  Or so I thought.

Team Pinelands Striders

Instead of stripping down to light racing gear on this perfect 65-degree sunny morning, he layered up with longies. I joked with him about it and then he quickly tore it all off and told us this was his first race, ever.  Perfect.  I asked him to join us.  He seemed relieved.

Just then, someone called out my name.  The Philly Spartans team walked by.  We chatted for a few minutes and they told us about the course.  They loved it.  Way better than what they expected based on what they read in last week’s report about Terrain Race Portland.  That made me happy.  I was looking forward to some good tune-up obstacles and an easy run on what I knew would be a very flat course.

A flat course from start to finish

The Course

We walked over to the starting corral while I tried to calm the jitters of our new teammate and first-timer.  All nerves disappeared after we cleared the first hurdle wall about one-hundred yards out of the gate.  Then this guy was all gas and guts.

Since this was not a timed event, we ran the course at an easy pace.  We stopped at each obstacle where I took a moment to provide techniques and tips.  Then he watched me go.  Then he launched.  The man was a natural.  That’s all I can say.  He was a very good student.  After each success, he thanked me for showing the way.  His mantra was, “Momentum, momentum, momentum.”  Yup.  He got it.

Lots of different techniques on the rig

Dispersed throughout the 3.5-mile course (measured on my Garmin) were many easy old-school obstacles like low crawls, tubes, balance beams, heavy carries, and of course, the gnarly thick-growth terrain itself.  But even better were the big obstacles well-placed along the course that took advantage of tactical readiness.  The Tarzan ropes came right after a mud crawl.  Wet, muddy hands were a sure chance for slipping off the ropes.  They were spaced about six feet apart.  This required a pretty good ape factor to make and hold the grab.  Most people didn’t.

The good news for this race was that it was not a race.  It was the perfect venue for first timers like our new friend.  No time pressure.  No penalties.  As many re-tries as you wanted.  The Tarzan ropes was the only obstacle he missed.  And they got tougher later on.

The final obstacle before the finish line

For spectators and production hype, the finish line approach had three good obstacles lined up.  The rope climb, the rig, and the vertical cargo net.  It was a very good setup that challenged a lot of people.  My teammate almost gave up on the rope climb but I coached him through the S-wrap and then he made it up.

Rope climb

There were two water stops on the course.  Both were well-stocked with cups ready-poured.  Same thing right after the finish line.  In addition, we got the medal and t-shirt.  All other nutrition cost extra.

The Bling

Expectations v. Reality

Which leads me to what most folks have wondered about with this race in 2019.  Was it really free?  No.  Back in January I could not resist the call so I paid the $17 insurance and venue fee.  The about two weeks ago I got pre-race emails telling me that parking cost $20 and packet pickup cost $5 on-site day of, free if you picked up on Friday.  That’s when I started wondering about getting nickel and dimed.  What else would they sneak in?

Bag Check $5

Nothing much really.  Bag check was $5, but that was no surprise as it has become standard at most races.  I didn’t use it since my car was very close.  There were a few post-race food tents and a truck.  As far as the festival area goes, it was clean, well-stocked with porta-loos, and had a few tents with giveaways.  Reign energy/recover drinks (never heard of them) offered 300mg of “natural” caffeine and other ingredients like BCAAs all rolled into one flavored drink.  Terrain Race offered a lineup of cornhole games for the kids and grandparents.

Spectator entertainment beanbag toss courtesy of Terrain Race

After the race, we hung around to take pictures, watch the racers, and chat up some other athletes.  By 10 am we were out of there.  A steady stream of cars continued to approach the venue, hopefully promising fulfillment of the 11,000 racers advertised by Terrain Race for the one-day event.  I sure hope so because, for the money, I still can’t figure out how they will survive another year.  But I hope they do because they put on a very good event today.  And easy, first-timer events like this are needed in our sport to keep the newcomers coming and the cash flow flowing.

A race to the finish

Terrain Race, you earned your 4 of 5 stars from Mud Run Guide.

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Rating: 4/5


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