America’s Toughest Mudder West – TV Show Review

It seems that Obstacle Racing is finally moving into primetime TV. When I first started reviewing ORC events on that were shown on TV, they were usually not on the main network channels but instead shown on “Sport Channels” of the networks, the first “Spartan Ultimate Challenge” was on NBC Sports Channel. And the “Tough Mudder – The Challenge Within” on the CW’s, The Seed website. But Season 2 of  “The Spartan Ultimate Challenge” in on NBC mains channel and “America’s Toughest Mudder” is being broadcast on CBS. Obviously advertisers and networks are seeing the potential of these shows in regards to new customers and ratings.

The America’s Toughest Mudder – West is the first in a series of regional events in which the participants hope to win an elite spot at the 2017 World’s Toughest Mudder.  They also hope to earn some dollars for their effort. The 1st place men’s and women’s finisher will each get $5,000 and the first person to do 50 miles during the event also gets $5,000.

There was a brief overview of the 4 different regional events, starting in LA (San Bernardino) , Atlanta , Philadelphia, and Chicago.  Also being shown on CBS will be the Tough Mudder X prelim and finals events and ending with the World’s Toughest Mudder in Las Vegas, NV.

The schedule for the remaining shows is as follows (all times shown are Eastern Time Zone);

  • Sunday, July 30, 1:00-2:00 PM – America’s Toughest Mudder – South, Atlanta, GA
  • Saturday, August 19, 2:00-3:00 PM – America’s Toughest Mudder – Northeast, Philadelphia, PA
  • Sunday, August 27, 1:00-2:00 PM – Tough Mudder X Prelims
  • Sunday, September 3, 4:00-5:00 PM – Tough Mudder X Finals, Twin Cities, MN
  • Saturday, October 28, 2:00-3:00 PM – America’s Toughest Mudder – Midwest, Chicago, IL
  • Saturday, December 23, 12:00-1:00 PM – World’s Toughest Mudder, Lake Las Vegas, NV

Now what is a America’s Toughest Mudder event? It is an 8-hour obstacle event, starting at midnight and finishing at 8am, basically on overnight race. As someone that has done trail running at night as well as GORUCK Toughs (12 hours overnight), I can tell you from experience that night running is a totally different event. You are running in an environment in which your vision may only see a few feet in front of you. Also you have to contend with a lack of sleep during the events as well as nutrition and hydration needs.

Like almost every other OCR show that has come before, the show focuses on the elites. While I understand why, it was nice to see the short story on Jim “Da Goat” Campbell, who has completed , at the time of taping, 107 Tough Mudder events. Not an elite racer, just someone who enjoys the sport and enjoys helping those complete their first event. In fact it was mentioned during the show, for many racers, the camaraderie is what helps them to complete the course.

America’s Toughest Mudder is actually 2 sub-events rolled into one. For the first 4 hours of the event is basically a 5 mile “easy” course which provides an opportunity for many racers to rack up miles.  At the 4am switchover races move to the longer 10 mile course with more more challenging obstacles.

Early in the event we saw very little movement in regards to the top 5 finishers (the top 5 of male and top 5 of female, earn elite status at World’s Toughest Mudder.) At about 1hour 20 minute mark the leaderboard was as follows;


  1. Sara Knight
  2. Lindsay Webster
  3. Allison Tai
  4. April Harwig
  5. Tied for 4th – Alex Roudayna


  1. Ryan Woods
  2. Chad Trammell
  3. Glen Racz
  4. Ryan Atkins
  5. Zac Martin

Now I am not going to bore you with a mile by mile, or even hour by hour, recap of who is in what place. If you want to read a first hand review of the event, check out this article. Instead I want to talk about an obstacle I had never seen before, The Augusts Gloop. Basically you climb up a 14ft tube, that does seem to have footholds in it to help you climb. Seems easy enough…. but add a stream of cold water coming down at you at 120 psi, and this makes the obstacle a daunting challenge. Now remember the racers have already been running for 4 hours before they got to the “big boys” in regards to obstacles and they have to face this one. Racers are already tired and cold and this does not make things any easier.

In fact, may of the known obs that we have seen at regular TM events seem to be modified for this event. The Berlin Walls added an additional protrusion you had to climb over. King of the Swingers had you swing over to a cargo net. So while racers may be a “pro” at the normal TM events, these changes added to the challenge of this event.

At 6am the sun started to come up. Nothing rejuvenates a racer more than when the sun comes up, you can see things better, a sense of warmth comes over you, and in this case, the racers knew that only a couple of hours remain. Lindsay Webster was the lead female racer and Chad Trammel was the lead male race at this point of the event. But Ryan Atkins had moved up to 2nd place and was gaining time on Chad. Only 10 minutes separated the two as the 7am hour approached.

It was during the last hour that Chad could not maintain his lead and Ryan was able to pass him and take the lead.

In the end it was Ryan Atkins that not only won the men’s event but was the first to do 50 miles. This earned him not only the $5,000 prize money for being first place male, but an additional $5,000 for being the first to do 50 miles in the event. Ryan’s wife, Lindsay Webster, held on to win the women’s division and the $5,000 prize.

Out of 336 starters, 264 completed the course. The top 5 finishers were;


  1. Lindsay Webster – With an impressive 40 miles completed
  2. Sara Knight
  3. Allison Tai
  4. Kayla Kobelin
  5. April Hartwig
  6. Tied for 5th – Alex Roudayna


  1. Ryan Atkins finishing with 50 miles
  2. Chad Trammell also with 50 miles
  3. Glen Racz
  4. Austin Azar
  5. Mark Jones

Overall the pace of the show was good. Will give kudos to the advertisers that had commercials during the show as many were businesses that I as an Obstacle racer would want to do business with.  As I mentioned, the show was focused on the top elite racers, but that was expected. During the TM commercial shown I saw footage of Noah Galloway and I am pretty sure that during the show I saw footage of a local racer when the show was talking about the obstacles in general. It was at about the 19  minute mark, the person was coming out of a water obstacle. Need to try to grab a screenshot.

There is one thing I do not like.. actually it’s the way the show is distributed. You can watch the show on cable or satellite systems, but in order to watch it on the CBS Digital website you need to have a an account of one of the 8 systems shown in the screenshot below. I have a HULU account, but apparently it requires a LIVE TV account. So in order for me to watch this, say on the road via my tablet, I would have to shell out $39.99 per month for the LIVE TV version of HULU? Don’t think so CBS.

In closing, being an older racer myself, 60 years of age, I want to give a shout out to the oldest racers at the event. Bill Redmond, oldest male at the age of 67, completed 15 miles, and the oldest female racer, Lynn Pittman, 50, also completed 15 miles. There were a total of 13 racers, male and female, over the age of 50 in the event. Job well done to them all.

Next up, America’s Toughest Mudder – South. Looking forward to the show from my home turf of Atlanta.

Photos Courtesy of CBS Sports, Tough Mudder 2017, and Gameface Media, Inc. All rights reserved


The Ultimate Beastmaster

Ok boys and girls.. What do you get when you cross American Ninja Warriors with the Olympics? You get The Ultimate Beastmaster, a new show available only on Netflix. Premiering on February 24th, this show came across my radar so I decided to see what it was all about and share my findings with you all. One of the first things I noticed was that Sylvester Stallone is the executive producer of the show. Hmm, why does this not give me confidence?

Basically we have contestants from 6 countries, Brazil, Germany, Japan, Mexico. South Korea and The United States. But wait, there’s more.. the show has 6, count’em 6, county-specific versions, each with their own hosts. So not only do we as the US audience have the US hosts, Terry Crews and Charissa Thompson, but we snippets of the host from the other 5 countries, Anderson Silva and Rafinha Bastos (Brazil); Seo Kyung Suk and Park Kyeong Rim (South Korea); Ines Sainz and Luis Ernesto Franco (Mexico); Hans Sarpei and Luke Mockridge (Germany); and Sayaka Akimoto and Yuji Kondo (Japan.)

There are 4 levels of the course within the “Beast.” And yes, the course from the outside looks like a giant chinese mechanized dragon. The contestants move thorough the levels by finishing among the top at each level. Level 1 starts with 12 contestants (2 per country) and the top 8 finishers move onto Level 2. The top 5 contestants from level 2 move onto level 3, also known as the Energy Pyramid. And the top 2 contestants from that level move onto the final level 4, known as the The Power Source. With all scores wiped out at this level, the person that scores the most points during this level wins the title of Beastmaster.

The Beastmaster’s from each episode meet in the season finale in the hopes of becoming “The Ultimate Beastmaster.”

The athletes come from various sports; triathletes, rock climbers, gymnast, military, an NFL player, parkour athletes, who I would think would excel on this type of course, crossfit instructors, Olympic swimmer Ed Moses from the 2000 Summer Olympics where he won a gold and silver medal (and at the age of 35, one of the oldest contestants on the show), and yes, even an Obstacle Course Racer, Shaun Provost, seen in episode 1.

The first thing I DID NOT like about the show is the fact they they released all 10 episodes at one time. Really Netflix, while that may be good for shows such as Daredevil and Luke Cage, it does not seem like a smart move to give viewers the ability to skip all 9 episodes and get right to the season finale.

I have never been a fan of the American Ninja Warrior shows, finding them a bit too cheesy for me. But the Ultimate Beastmaster is cheesier than the Hickory Farms kiosk at the mall during Christmas. The host do nothing for the show other than to act as glorified national cheerleaders. And having 6 different hosts teams (yes, we see all 6 of the county host teams at various times throughout the show) just added to it. And to have the water colored red and called “beast blood.” Seriously!

Another thing that irked me was that during some of the shows, some of the contestants who started later in the flow of  the 1st level knew they had enough points to advance so they purposely failed an obstacle. While this may seem like a strategy for keeping healthy for the other levels, I felt like as an audience member I was being cheated in some way. I mean just imagine if an Olympic runner started to walk during a race because he know that the other contestants had fallen down and gotten hurt and he/she they did not have to push themselves.

But there were some things I did like; the design of the obstacles themselves; challenging at first and getting progressively harder at each level. And a contestant could get “Point Thrusters” along the course, each worth 10 additional point, so this could add to their point lead which came in handy if they failed the last obstacle on each level. One of my fav obstacles in the show was the “Mag Wall.” Basically a climbing wall, but some of the holds are attached magnetically and subject to “falling” off the wall, thus dropping the contestant or making it harder for the contestant to complete the wall. Another fav of mine is the “Prism Strike” on level 3. Here the competitors must hold onto the rope handle as it swings through a curved track. And if they are good enough, they can snag some points at the Point Thruster along the track.

Was the show worth watching all 10 episodes? NO! I felt that I wasted the first 9 hours I spent watching the show leading up to the final. You really do not form a relationship with any of the contestants while watching the show. And despite my earlier comment about Netflix making all 10 episodes available at once, if you are interested in the show, watch episode 10; you see all the obstacles and only have to endure it for 60 minutes.

If you are a Netflix member, you can watch the show here.

All images courtesy of Netflix.

CW Presents: “Tough Mudder – The Challenge Within”

Spartan Race has done TV specials as has Battlefrog Race series so what makes this show about Tough Mudder different? It is not about elite racers but instead focuses on 3 average participants, each overcoming their own personal obstacles. And that right there was enough for me to look forward to the show. I have battled many things in the past 12 years so seeing these 3 participants as they struggle with their lives allowed me to bond with each of them.

Now if you have been watching the TM shorts on the CWSeed, you already know their stories but lets do a review:

  1. We have Bobby and his brothers Brandt and Jimmy who hail from NJ. Bobby suffers from MS and we learn how as brothers they have always been there for each other and how this is so important in their Tough Mudder experiences. Click here to learn more about Bobby.
  2. We have Mirna from Georgia. A health scare is what prompted her to start running and doing OCR’s. blog called Fat Girl Running. Here she provides inspiration and motivation to many people who felt that their size was a hindrance to them running and doing OCR’s. Click here to learn more about Mirna.
  3. And finally we have Denise, a veteran from NH who is struggling with injuries she received during the first Gulf war. She hopes that the upcoming Tough Mudder will bring a bit closer to overcoming her anxiety. Click here to learn more about Denise.

In tonight’s show, we follow the 3 participants as they come face to face with some of the challenging obstacles in the Tough Mudder event held in Englishtown, NJ.

As with any Tough Mudder event, we see the the emcee, Sean Corvelle, as he motivates the crowd at the start line. There are only a couple of race emcee’s I know that do this well, and Sean is among the best. He introduces the 3 participants, Bobby, Mirna and Denise, and gives the crowd a brief overview of who they are, and why this race is so important to them.

So we begin at obstacle #1, Rain Man. Basically a trough full of water but covers with fencing so that only about 6-8 inches of space exist between the top of the water and the fencing. This can be claustrophobic for some racers and here Bobby gulps in some water and panics a bit but all make it through.

Next up, the Birth Canal. This obstacle is water in plastic troughs that leave just enough space between the bottom and the ground for a person to crawl through. In some cases not even that much room. Many racers, including Mirna, feel out of their comfort zone doing this obstacle.

We see Denise tackling the next obstacle, the Hero Carry. For her it is a throwback to her days in the military. We then come to one of the tougher obstacles for Tough Mudder, the Pyramid Scheme. It is a slanted wall that requires you to crawl, walk or slither your way over your teammates and other participants to get to the top. Mirna has some concern that her being a large person may be a hindrance on the obstacle. This obstacle also poses an issue for Denise who suffers from PTS and being in a large group can trigger her symptoms. She gets to the top but her fear of height kick in and she begins to panic. Mirna, who has completed the obstacle sees this and begins to offer words of support. Denise is able to make it down and thanks Mirna for her support. Hearing that Mirna is running it alone, she invites Mirna to join her team for the rest of the course.

Obstacle #6 is the Funky Monkey, a favorite of many Tough Mudder participants. This is not really a team obstacle as it requires the individual to cross a pool of water on what are essentially monkey bars. But add mud and water to the bars and they become even more challenging. During this obstacle, Bobby suffers a mild episode due to his MS and falls into the water. As he climbs out he is given words of support form his bothers as the head to obstacle #7, the Mud Mile.

The Mud mile, while not a mile in length, can seem like 40 miles to the participants. It consists of sections of ankle thick mud and pits full of water and mud that you have to climb out of and over into the next pit. It is here that we learn a bit more about Mirna as well. It was her concern over her health after a health scare that prompted her to start running. She started with 5k’s and then 10k’s and eventually got to running marathons, completing a number of them. She then transitioned over to doing Tough Mudders. This is a very familiar story for many OCR racers, such as myself. A desire to get your health under control has been the motivation for many. As Mirna completes the Mud Mile, she is united with her family who have come to cheer her on.

As we jump ahead on the course we get to Obstacle #12, The Arctic Enema. Best way to describe this obstacle is imagine you are jumping into a lake in the middle of winter, and there are is ice on the lake. Yup, your system takes a shock as the cold water and ice hits your body. The best ways to overcome this, as Denise states, is “Mind over Matter and don’t panic.”

Next up is the Balls to the Walls obstacle. Basically a wall climb using a rope. By now we see that Bobby is starting to feel the effects of his MS. Bobby who is supported by his brothers Brandt and Jimmy, have always been there for each other. We see Bobby struggle with a test with his physical therapist and how MS is affecting him now and how it will in the future. What transcends from this segment of the show is one of the basic foundations of Tough Mudder: Camaraderie.

We are getting to the end of the event as our 3 participants hit obstacle #17, King of the Swingers. For Denise, this is a major obstacle to overcome. Not only is she high up on a platform, but she must run out, catch the swinging bar and then try to ring the bell before falling into a pool of water. Her fear of heights is evident by the look on her face as the panic begins to set it. As mentioned earlier, Denise, as mentioned earlier, is a Iraqi war veteran who is suffering from PTS. One of the affects from PTS is her lack of comfort in large group situations. She also suffered injuries in a tank accident, one that she does not really remember except for recalling the sounds of the event. This, as we find out during the show, is a cause of her fear of heights.

As we get to Everest 2.0, obstacle #19, we can see that all of our participants are starting to feel the affects of the course. Bobby comments that he is seeing folks without diseases dropping like flies does not bode well for Bobby and his ability to complete this obstacle (and the course.) He makes an attempt but just cannot grasp the hands of his brothers who are waiting for him at the top. By the now the crowd is starting to chant his name, “Bobby! Bobby!, Bobby!” as he makes a second attempt to make it. He grabs the hands of both of his brothers but looses his grip on the left hand. His right hand is firmly gripped onto his brother hand as they slowly manage to pull him up and over the top of Everest 2.0.

And we finally reach the end of the course and the final obstacle, the dreaded Electroshock Therapy. This is probably the only obstacle that I fear when I run a Tough Mudder. We see others getting “zapped” as they attempt. With anywhere form 1,000 to 10,000 volts going through those wires, it is enough to make you question your sanity. Electroshock Therapy’s amperage is at about 10 amps, putting a shock from that obstacle on par with getting tased (about 14 amps). Not a pleasant feeling. But Bobby and his brothers, as well as Denise and Mirna all successfully complete the obstacle and event.

So as all 3 of them complete the event, I can recall my first Tough Mudder and the sense of accomplishment that came over me. I am sure that many of you reading this felt the same way. For me as a reviewer, the high point of the show was seeing Sean put the Tough Mudder headbands on their heads. Especially Bobby who has just completed his 10th Tough Mudder, while suffering from the affects of MS. We saw Denise overcame her inner demons to complete the event and Mirna has shown to use all that your shape does not define you or your abilities. Kudos to Bobby, Denise and Mirna for all you have overcome and for showing us that everyday people can be heroes on the course.

Tough Mudder Short #5: Finish Strong

As I mentioned in my previous review, there are a total of five shorts, 6-7 minutes long, available for viewing on the CW Seed website. These shorts are a buildup to the television airing of Tough Mudder: The Challenge Within on Valentines day. The final short previews the 3 participants the day before the Tough Mudder event in Englishtown, NJ.

A brief overview of our three participants; Mirna is from GA and despite being a large person, wants to show others that your size should not be a hindrance to your goals. Bobby is a 50 year old NJ man trying to battle MS with the support of his brothers. And our 3rd participant is Denise, a veteran from NH who suffers from PTSD from injuries she received in the first Gulf war who is uncomfortable around large groups of people.

We first see Mirna as she receives a call from Sean on her computer. Sean mentions that one of the cool things he loves about his job is to call and speak to those that inspire him, and Mirna is one of those people. Mirna’s goals are for her family to see her doing things that look impossible and to motivate them, as well as others. As we leave Mirna she is giving her son and hug and getting into her car.

Next we see Denise as she is out for an evening walk the night before the event talking to her husband, Patrick. She is discussing how this TM is going to be different than others she has done, especially the new obstacles. When asked by Patrick what she is looking to get out of it, she states that she wants to get out of her shell. To overcome her fear of people and that she does not feel normal around people.

And finally we see Bobby and his brothers. Bobby is getting things packed for the event, deciding on what headband to wear and the shirt his brother and him will each be wearing. As is tradition with him and his brothers, the night before they gather around and have a drink. We leave them as they make the toast and have that drink.

The final scenes of the short are at the start of the NJ event as they and other TM’ers are being inspired and motivated by the TM emcee, Sean Corvelle. There are brief glimpse of each of them, as well as the crowd as Sean get them pumped up for the days run. As the short ends, we see the participants beginning their run with the traditional Tough Mudder orange cloud of smoke.

The CW will air the TV broadcast of Tough Mudder: The Challenge Within, on February 14th at 8pm ET/7pm CT.  Check your local listings for the CW channel on your cable or satellite system and look for my recap of the show shortly thereafter.

As a reminder, you can watch the 5 shorts on the CW seed on Apple TV, Roku or your smartphone by using the CW Seed app.

Tough Mudder: The Challenge Within

Well it was only a matter of time before Tough Mudder would create a show about it’s events, for the TV audience. I mean Spartan Race and BattleFrog have done it. But unlike Spartan Races which are on NBC or BattleFrog Races on ESPN, they are going about it very differently. Yes, TM did launch 3 shows around the World’s Toughest Mudder last year, but this is their first show to focus on the “standard” Tough Mudder.

The first 4 episodes are not actually on TV, but like many shows in this new digital era, are instead presented as a series of 5 episodes or shorts, each about 6 – 7 minutes long, on the CW Seed site. CW Seed is the CW’s digital home for many of your favorite CW shows as well as original content such as the Tough Mudder shorts. 

Currently there are 4 episodes available on the site, the 5th episode will be available on 02/13.  There will be a “final” episode that will air on the CW Channel on February 14th at 8pm ET/7pm CT. But lets look at the first 4 shorts…

Each of the shorts begin with Tough Mudder Emcee, Sean Corvelle, talking about what TM is and what it is not. Now if you have ever done a TM in which Sean is the Emcee, you know he brings a high level of energy to the event.

In Episode 1: Overcoming Obstacles, we are introduced to Johnny Hartnett, head of construction for TM. Together Sean and Johnny go over a few of the obstacles that TM is known for. We see the Pyramid Scheme, an obstacle that requires a team effort for the racers to complete. We have the Arctic Enema, basically a dumpster full of ice and a fave of many TM racers. Add some cold weather to the mix and it makes this obstacle challenging for many folks. And we finish with the Frequent Flyers obstacle, an obstacle that seems to instill fear for some and a strong sense of accomplishment for others, especially if you ring the bell.

But the real purpose of the episode is to introduce you to the three featured racers; each being highlighted in the upcoming shorts. We are introduced to Bobby, a 50 year old man from NJ who is suffering from the effects of MS -Multiple Sclerosis. Mirna, a teacher from Rabun Gap, GA who does not allow her weight to hold her back. And Denise, an Iraqi war veteran from New Hampshire suffering from PTSD.

As I mentioned, each episode is only about 6 – 7 minutes long. So after the opening sequence, we have about 5-6 minutes to learn more about the features racers. Just enough to allow us to understand what motivates each of them and the personal obstacles they have endured getting to where they are today.

In Episode 2: Mud Brothers, we are introduced to 3 brothers from Freehold, NJ as they get ready to do their 10th Tough Mudder; Bobby, who we were introduced to in episode 1, and his brothers Brandt and Jimmy. Bobby suffers from MS and we learn how as brothers they have always been there for each other and how this is so important in their TM experiences. We see Bobby struggle with a test with his physical therapist and how MS is affecting him now and how it will in the future. What transcends from this episode is one of the basic foundations of TM: Camaraderie. You will need the support of your team, and if you are a solo racer, other racers, in order to overcome many of the obstacles, such as the Pyramid Scheme shown in episode 1.

In episode 3: Fat Girl Running, we meet Mirna Valerio from Rabun Gap, GA. A health scare is what prompted her to start running and doing OCR’s. She started with 5k’s and then 10k’s and eventually got to running marathons, completing a number of them. She then transitioned over to doing Tough Mudders. This is a very familiar story for many OCR racers, such as myself. A desire to get your health under control has been the motivation for many. In 2011 she started a web blog called Fat Girl Running. Here she provides inspiration and motivation to many people who felt that their size was a hindrance to them running and doing OCR’s. The message that I came away with after watching this episode; “Size does not define you and your ability to accomplish things in life.”

And finally in Episode 4: Invisible Wounds, we learn more about Denise, a Iraqi war veteran from Manchester, New Hampshire who suffers from PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. We start this episode with Denise speaking to her therapist about how she has not done an OCR in almost 18 month. She mentions that she prefers to be alone but feels happy in the mud. When she left for Iraq shortly after 9/11, she had a 6 month daughter and after returning 18 months later (one of the longest deployments for a Reserve unit) she had to rebuild her relationship with her daughter, who was now 2. She suffered injuries in a tank accident, once that she does not really remember except for recalling the sounds of the event. We see her dealing with the anxiety of dealing with public situations. Again, as we see her talking to a teammate Scott, it is the camaraderie that she feels during the TM that helps to motivate her. She hopes that the upcoming event will bring a bit closer to overcoming her anxiety.

So there you have it. This series of short episodes is a welcome change from the Spartan Race and BattleFrog TV shows. While those shows seem to focus more on the elite or professional racers, the Tough Mudder show introduces us to everyday men and women overcoming the challenges that life has placed before them. It is something that the journeyman racer can relate to and this helps the viewer to form a bond with them.

Episode 5 will be up on February 13th so look for my recap then.

You can also watch the CW seed on Apple TV, Roku or your smartphone using the CW Seed app.

History Channel’s – The Selection: Evolution 8 Recap

Evolution 8: March of Tears

As we start the 8th and final episode of the show, lets do a brief review. In episode 1 we were introduced to the 6 instructors, all with special ops backgrounds, and the 30 candidates. During the past 8 weeks, we saw many of them drop for various reason. Many of them became fan favorites such as candidate #30. Unfortunately, he just could not handle the swim and dropped in episode 2.  We saw the sisters, #8 and #9 also drop in episode 2. The show started with 7 female candidates and we saw the final female candidate #3 drop in episode 6. We were told of the backgrounds of some the candidates, ranging from a firefighter to OCR racers, and that the group consisted of various ages, with our oldest candidate, #11, being 45 years old.

We learned, though the interview segments of the episodes, what motivated each of them to do this. Many of them started out strong but just could not handle the mental and physical punishment they had to endure. When all was said and done we are left with 5 candidates going into tonight’s final evolution. If you want to read more about the instructors and candidates check out their bios here.

Because some of the episodes occurred overnight as we begin episode 8, we see it is day 10 of the selection.  Candidates #2, #11, #12, #17 and #19 remain to face the final evolution. The candidates are told that this is is the start of FTX, Field Training Exercises. This will be utilizing many of the skills they have been taught in the past 10 days in order to successfully complete the evolution.

The candidates are loaded into a helicopter and are first told they will be dropped at a LZ (landing zone) but like a true mission, things can change in a moment. They are told there has been a change and that will be doing a helo-cast approximately 1 mile off shore from a height of about 20 feet. Awaiting them will be a zodiac to take them to the next portion of the mission. Now remember, while they did a couple of evolutions in water (both beach and pool) nothing really prepared them for a drop of 20ft into the ocean. In fact I thought they would have to swim towards shore, not get into the zodiac. So overcoming any fear of heights they all safely made the jump and got into the zodiac.

We see them next heading to shore where the instructor Haggerty is awaiting tells them they have 3 hours to build a hide-sight to conceal the boat and themselves. Failure at this would mean a drop for them all. They appear to do a good job at this and at this point we see an unknown person approach the group and tells them to move out and head over to a van where they put on blackout googles and a hood to be taken an undisclosed location.

Once they arrive they are promptly placed into wooden boxes, similar to the resistance exercise they experienced in episode 4. Candidate #12 was placed in a box by himself while #17 and #19 were put into a box together as were candidates #11 and #2.  The goal of this portion of the evolution is to attempt to escape when the time is right. We see that candidate #11 has the ability to slightly lift his lid despite having a carabiner on the clasp holding it shut. He is able to unscrew the carabiner and after discussing it with his mates (they are talking in a low voice) they decide to wait for the proper time to escape.

After about eight hours of being in the box, and getting some rest, they decide that now is the time to escape. It is now day 11 and about 7am in the morning. While they had no idea where to escape to, they make their move. Candidate #11 is able to screw loose the carabiner and release his team mates. They are seen scurrying up a nearby hill when they are called back by Instructors Bowen and Kuntz and told to come back. Oh shit… What next??  Fortunately they are told that they completed this segment of the evolution. Next up is the evasive aspect of the evolution; they need to get out of enemy territory.

We now enter what will be, unbeknownst to the candidates, the final challenge of the episode; the evasive portion, which consists of a long distance ruck march. The candidates will be carrying 55 lbs. of gear on their back as they begin a march of undetermined time and distance. While we the audience are told that it is a 16.5 mile march with about 1000 ft. in elevation change that must be completed before sundown, the candidates don’t know this and this adds to the mental aspect of the challenge, the unknown. They have gone 27 hours with little or no sleep and the starting temperature for the march is 90 degrees.

As they start, they of course are looking strong and go out as a group. But soon the heat and distance starts to take it’s toll. There are checkpoints, basically ammo cans, along the route that each candidate must go to and retrieve a slip of paper with their number on it. Along the way there is talk about what to do with slow team mates, should they drop them? As they get farther along the group spreads out into 2 group; lead group consisting of candidates #12 and #19 and the trailing groups consisting of candidates # 2, #11 and #17.

About 12.5 miles in, the heat gets to about 104 degrees and they are facing a 1/4 mile climb of about 900 ft. to the top of a hill and checkpoint #4. An instructor is there to make sure they hydrate and to let them know that the toughest part is still to come. At this point candidates #2, #11 and #17 decide to rest a bit and re-hydrate. Here #2 is heard saying that he is going to keep going.. gotta try.

It is here that candidate #17 decides to turn in his patch. The heat and uncertainty of the march just was too much for him. He has done well, despite the issues he faced in episode 7 and receives some well deserved accolades from the instructors.

By now candidate #12 has moved to the front of the pack and you can see that he is struggling. At this point the instructors are wondering if they will have a “Black Class”, a class in which no one finishes. We finally see instructor’s Bowen and Kuntz on the side of the road as candidate #12 approaches. He is told to drop his rucks and you can see that he is wondering what is next. It is at this point he is told he has completed the Selection. The tears of joy are obvious on #12’s face.

Candidates #2 and #11 are seen struggling on the climb but finish that part of the march. And once again we see instructor;s Bowen and Kuntz on the side of the road, this time as candidate #19 approaches. He too is asked to drop his ruck. Candidate #12 comes over and congratulates him but he still does not know that the journey is over. Finally he is told that he has successfully completed the Selection. A look of shock comes over his face.

As the final 2 candidates make their ways to the end, doubts on the part of #11 start to set it. While he will not leave #2 behind, it appears that he just might quit.  Candidate #2 keeps them both going and eventually we can see them as they near the finish. They both seem relieved to see the instructors and candidates #12 and #19 waiting for them. It is obvious by candidates #11 voice, when told that they have completed the Selection, that he is both surprised and shocked that it is finally over.

Lots of hugs and congratulation between the candidates and the instructors. As they finish the episode, and the show, we hear for the first time the instructors refer to the candidates not by a number, but by their names. Congratulations to the final 4 candidates;

#2 – Cliff Braun

#11 – Christian Griffith

#12 – Ryan Kent

#19 – Logan Nagle

And so their grueling 11 day trip to hell and back has finally ended. We have seen these 4 men overcome many demons, issues and doubts to make it across the finish line. Well done my friends.  And a shout out to Christian Griffith, aka #11, “How Does It Feel Old Man?”

Read recaps of previous episodes here:

Watch the episodes here.

Final Words… I want to say thank you to the editors of Obstacle Racing Media for allowing me the opportunity to write and share the recaps and to A&E Networks and the History Channel for allowing me access to the episodes prior to their airings. And a big thank you to, the readers’. I hope you enjoyed them.
All photos courtesy of A&E Television Networks  ©2016 A&E Televisions Networks