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Obstacle running: Bristol man won’t take the easy path

BRISTOL — Who is that group on Mount Abe running with weights on their backs and determination in their faces?
It’s probably Brian Ladeau and Team Sinergy, a group of Vermonters hooked on obstacle course racing.
For the past four years, Ladeau, a 45-year-old Bristol resident and the owner of Otter Creek Custom Framing in Middlebury, has been running, hiking and lifting his way through some of the toughest obstacle courses around.
Ladeau said the passion started out as a dare among gym buddies.
“We were working out, we were lifting heavy, we didn’t really run,” he recalled. “We saw this Spartan Beast race in Killington and said ‘Hey, let’s do it.’ And we went into it like a deer in a headlight.”
Ladeau completed that first race with long-time friend Steve Beckwith, a Middlebury resident. They finished the race in eight-and-a-half hours — the same race they finished within five hours this past year.
Locally, Ladeau trains with Beckwith and a crew of between six and ten other athletes. However, this group often heads to Shale Hill Adventure in Benson, a 10-kilometer course with more than 60 obstacles. Shale Hill is also home to Team Sinergy, the larger group founded by Shale Hill owner Rob Butler.
Ladeau and his Addison County group can also be found on the trails of Mount Abraham, Camel’s Hump, Mount Mansfield and Killington Peak, bounding up in preparation for the rough terrain common in obstacle course races.
A typical week in Ladeau’s training consists of one day of trail running, one day of carrying either sandbags or weighted vests, a couple days of obstacle training at Shale Hill, plus a lot of hiking, lifting and stretching.
Ladeau, who recently ran six miles with a 25-pound weight vest, isn’t afraid to push himself.
“Shale Hill is probably the hardest course you could possibly train on. It’s harder than any race that you could do,” he said.
And Ladeau is not competing in easy races. Last year he completed 16 different obstacle course races, including a number of Spartan races: Battlefrog, an 8-kilometer military-style race; the HESCO Bonefrog, a 9-to-12-mile race with more than 36 obstacles created by Navy SEALS; and most significantly, the OCR (Obstacle Course Racing) World Championships.
Athletes must qualify for the OCR World Championships, to be held in Toronto from October 14 to 16 this year. In his first OCR World Championship race in Ohio last year, Ladeau hoped to finish in the top 50 percent for his age and gender group, 40- to 44-year-old men. He finished in the top 10 percent and hopes to do the same this year, although he will be competing with the 45- to 49-year-old group.
Ladeau and his training group are all focused on the world championships, a three-day event that starts with a short course, 3-kilometer race Friday; highlights a Pro-Championship race on Saturday; and finishes with a team race on Sunday.
“Right now all of us are geared towards OCR World Championships. That’s our big focus. There’s a few on our team that haven’t qualified yet, and that’s their goal, to qualify,” Ladeau said.
Ladeau grew up in Bristol and as a student, he played baseball and basketball. He’s been working in framing since 1990 and has owned Otter Creek Custom Framing for the past 12 years. Training for obstacle course races is a crucial part of Ladeau’s physical and mental health.
“I do it to stay in shape and also, it’s sort of my way to deal with life in general. Just getting exercise, lifting weights, running,” he said. “It’s just a mental thing, earbuds, and you’re going. It’s a way of dealing with life … this is my way.”

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