• Challenge offers diversity but demands preparation
    By Linda Freeman
    CORRESPONDENT | January 27,2013
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    Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff File Photo

    Chris Keller gets a winter training run in Montpelier’s Hubbard Park.
    Professional athletes no longer have a corner on the market of competition. Furthermore, the definition of competition has expanded to include friendly events involving reachable goals for individuals of all abilities. Even more, many competitive events honor finishers as well as winners. And more still, an increasing percentage of athletic and/or recreational events are designed to support a worthy cause.

    For example, on Sunday, Feb. 17, the Brian Bill Memorial Challenge will be held at Norwich University in Northfield. Jean LaCroix of East Montpelier is working in conjunction with Norwich University to organize, promote and produce the event.(For more information, see www.spartasynergy.com.) “There is good energy in the planning,” LaCroix said. The event has wide appeal connecting military, civilian, athletic and local communities.

    Brian Bill graduated from Norwich University in 2001 and went on to become a Chief Special Warfare Officer (SEAL) who, in 2011, was killed in action in Afghanistan. The Brian R. Bill Memorial Scholarship to Norwich University has been created in his memory. Proceeds raised by the Challenge will support the scholarship fund.

    “The course itself is to be a combination of Paine Mountain and Norwich University campus,” LaCroix said, “with 5½ miles of trails and 28 obstacles.” Think Spartan. Much like the races that have grown in popularity over the past few years in which participants run, walk, climb and crawl across fields, over walls, through mud, fire, water and goodness knows what else, the BBMC challenges participants in a similar way but with a cold-weather, Vermont outdoor winter twist.

    Though endurance is the name of the game, fun and safety are significant components. The course will begin and end in Plumley Armory on the NU campus. This is good news for participants (who can warm up indoors and shower after) and for spectators (who can enjoy observing the athletes in dry warmth as they visit vendors and concessions while waiting for their finisher to arrive).

    When LaCroix says the course is user-friendly to many populations, he means it. After a Zumba warm-up in Plumley, 17 waves of 20 to 30 racers will leave the start every 15 minutes and begin their circuit at a pace and past obstacles designed to complete their warm up and prepare them for a strong, empowered 2½ hours or so. Climbing the trails on Paine Mountain to the base of the old lift tower will test strength and motivation. Looping around and back down then crossing the campus to the existing obstacle course adds variety and an opportunity for spectators to do a little cheering. Obstacles are designed as both physical and mental with modifications available at each station.

    Individuals, teams of two or corporate teams (minimum of six) are being registered, many coming from out of state.

    “People need diversity,” LaCroix said. “That’s why this type of event is so popular.”

    In order to be able to participate in an obstacle race, does one need to be a well-conditioned athlete? Yes, if you want to compete for a timed finish but no, if you simply want to tease yourself with a goal, have a good time and safely complete your endeavor.

    First and foremost, you need to be working on endurance. Maintaining a pace that pushes you for over two hours needs a little preparation. Endurance is built through engaging continuously in any aerobic activity through increasingly longer periods of time, thus enduring.

    Strength training and agility are helpful. You can prepare yourself by practicing more than just running and lifting. Add tasks to your training that require you to bend, reach, climb, crawl, push, pull, carry and regain balance.

    Lastly, you need to consider the weather. Trails will be well-packed prior to the event, but who knows what will happen if the snow falls throughout the previous night. Mud, ice, cold and changing conditions could all add to the challenge of the day. Dress appropriately. Layer so that you can accommodate the sweat you will generate headed up the mountain and the chill you will feel descending the trail. The type of shoes you is up to you. Snowshoes or studded soles of some sort might give you traction on the icy stuff, but keep in mind what you will do with them when you deal with each obstacle. As LaCroix said: “Be ready for the weather. Don’t just come in your sneakers and your tutu.”

    Building an event that is inclusive is a marketing bonus. While the tough guys and gals will be hard charging, the average Joes and Joans will have the opportunity to reach their own individual levels of achievement. The important part is to get out there and do something.

    “It’s easy to stay inside in the winter,” LaCroix said. “The Challenge provides a winter goal, another way to get people outside.”

    Though the Brian Bill Memorial Challenge is just one of many events peppering a Vermont outdoors activity calendar, it is a unique one. Perhaps now is a good time for you to kick the February blahs and find a new way to add that spark of adrenalin to your fitness life. “Winter is an obstacle on it’s own,” LaCroix said. Add that to the course design and you have a blueprint for a memorable day in the winter of 2013.
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