Tougher Mudder Championship Season – The Money Continues To Roll In

This morning, TMHQ announces even more money to their growing list of events with payouts. Tough Mudder which has always promoted teamwork and camaraderie first and foremost, (including very prominently in CEO Will Dean’s recent book release) is announcing additional dough to be won this year at their Tougher event series. It’s called, The Tougher Mudder Championship Series. 

For those that don’t know, Tougher Mudder is Mudder’s version of the “elite wave”. It’s the first wave of the day, athletes are chip timed, and there are penalties for failing obstacles. First one to the finish line wins. Anyone can enter once they pay an additional $20 fee on top of whatever they paid for the event. At the “regula” Tougher Mudder events, which were launched earlier this year, the payouts have been relatively small. Top men and women both take home $500 for first, $250 for second, and $100 for third. Money you will happily take home, but nothing one is going to get on a plane for.

The Tougher Mudder Championship Series begins with the “Regional Champioships” which payout nearly 4 X more. Men and women each win $2500 for first, $1000 for second and $500 for 3rd.

The World Championship pays $10k for 1st, $2,500 for 2nd, and $1000 for third.

The most interesting part of this series is not the payouts, but the timing. Rather than roll this concept out in 2018, Tough Mudder is launching it now. As in now, now. As in the first event is in less than a month.

Here are the dates and locations:

  • 10/7     Tougher Mudder East Championship at Tough Mudder Tri-State
  • 10/ 21  Tougher Mudder South Championship at Tough Mudder Carolinas
  • 10/28   Tougher Mudder West Championship at Tough Mudder Las Vegas
  • 11/4 – Tougher Mudder World Championship at Tough Mudder SoCal

In order to qualify for the World Championship, you must run in a Tougher at one of the 3 Regional Championships and finish in top 10. The other way is through a waiver application and list your athletic prowess for considerations. 

The obvious schedule conflicts for the most serious OCR athletes are the Spartan World Championships in Tahoe on September 30th, The OCR World Championships near Toronto, Canada on October 13th weekend, and of course World’s Toughest Mudder on November 11th.

Will the best in the business add any of these races to their training and racing schedule this late in the game to cash in? Or will this be a great opportunity for the athletes that hover in the 3rd-6th range at similar races to steal the show? As of press time, we had not reached any athletes to get confirmation on their attendance.

We also asked TMHW what the 2018 Toughest Championship Series will look like, and they told us it has yet to be set.

PS For a full accounting of all the money Tough Mudder events and dollars associated given out this year, we are confident Will Hicks and The World’s Toughest Podcast will have something up very soon.

Trans OCR Athlete – Derik Martin


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Trans OCR Athlete Derik Martin

Derik Martin was born Diane. He knew in his heart at a very young age that he was gay. In recent months, Derik decided to take hormones and had top surgery to begin the transition of becoming a male. Derik also happens to be someone that loves obstacle races.

Many questions are being raised about trans athletes. We as an industry need to look at these issues and address them. We discuss topics  including obstacles, changing tents, and educating race staff and volunteers.

Please listen in as we interview one of the first openly trans OCR athletes.

Todays Podcast is sponsored by:

Wetsuit Wearhouse – Save 15% using coupon code ORM on all purchases.

Show Notes:

New Trans and Allies Facebook 

Listen using the player below or the iTunes/Stitcher links at the top of this page. 

Warrior Dash Obstacle Collapse Investigation – Red Frog Responds

This morning, Louisiana based “The Advocate” released information regarding an investigation concerning the failure of an obstacle at last year’s Warrior Dash near Baton Rouge, LA. The obstacle named “Diesel Dome” collapsed at a race on October 8, 2016 and sent at least 11 people to a local hospital with various injuries.

The event and the investigation that followed has led to unprecedented actions in the OCR industry.

Local authorities who have issued arrest warrants on 5 workers connected to the event. According to The Advocate article:

“The warrants accuse the contractors of negligent injuring, and the employees of both negligent injury and engaging in business of contracting without authority.”

There have been at least 3 OCR related deaths dating back to 2011, the most famous being the 2013 drowning of Avi Sengupta at a Tough Mudder obstacle. However, there have never been warrants issued or criminal charges filed against anyone in association with these deaths. Nor have their been been criminal charges that have occurred following any injuries at any obstacle races.

We reached out to Red Frog, Warrior Dash’s parent company, as soon as possible for a statement. They told us:

“Our understanding from local authorities is that summons may be issued but there are no arrest warrants against Red Frog employees.  We’ve worked closely with the fire marshal’s office and investigators since the accident that occurred at Warrior Dash on October 8, 2016 and nothing we saw, read or heard during that investigation would warrant criminal charges. One of the employees being charged was not even at the event or involved with the planning of the event.  Therefore, we are eager to see the fire marshal’s report.  Since we have not seen the report, we cannot comment on it or the nature of any allegations against specific individuals”

ORM also reached out to several other race companies for a quote and/or their thoughts on how this may affect the OCR industry. Spartan Race CEO Joe DeSena told us “An incident like this is unfortunate and shines a spotlight on the how imperative build standards are for the Obstacle Racing industry”. At press time, no other race series chose to comment.

Below is a video from a 2016 Warrior Dash event with the Diesel Dome obstacle functioning properly.

Muddy Mortal Cancels

The event launched last fall as Muddy Muggle, and later became Muddy Mortal, cancelled all events and ceased operations as of this afternoon. Obstacle Racing Media has been looking into the validity of these events since late June, when we began to receive questions from consumers looking for answers from “postponed events”.

Event owner Jamie Guined launched FitGeek Events in late 2016 and began advertising their events in several cities. Each location event promised a weekend of activity including an obstacle race, costume contest, and several other Harry Potter themed events. (Full disclosure, ORM was paid for advertising Muddy Mortal’s calendar of events up until April of this year.)

The first Muddy Mortals were to take place this spring/summer in Dallas, Seattle, Temecula, and Flagstaff. Each event location was “postponed” by the event organizers for a variety of reasons.

Consumers were justifiably upset and began to ask for refunds. FitGeek Events created a form for participants to fill out in order to get their money back. Jamie Guined and FitGeek Eventes asked those that filled out the form to wait up to 90 days to receive that refund.

We reached out to Jamie at this point to find out the future plans for her company. She wrote back:

As we stated in our previous email reply:

1) We have not “cancelled” any of our currently scheduled events, but due to circumstances beyond our control, we did have to postpone the first events. 

2) All registered participants for the affected events have received communication from our company regarding their alternatives (including refunds, transfers, etc. on a case-by-case basis). 

Thank you for sending along the questions for our review so we had an opportunity to ensure that the correct information was published, rather than adding to the ongoing false information and libel. 

At the same time, Muddy Mortal closed registration on many of the events on the EventBee registration platform, and posted that they were looking for a new registration partner.

The next event was to take place August 11-13th at Colorado Off Road Extreme Park (CORE). We received word from CORE late on Sunday August 6th that Jamie Guined had not made final payment for the venue, and was looking to again postpone the weekend events. Word began circulating quickly about these new revelations on social media. 

By 11:00 am this morning, the Muddy Mortal Facebook page was down, Muddy Mortal’s website took down all of their events, and Jamie Guined had removed her LinkedIn page.

As of 7:00pm, the following message was available on the Muddy Mortal website:

Muddy Mortal Cancel Bankruptcy

Sadly, this is not the first time event owners have attempted to defraud customers with false promises. Many have experienced similar issues with Lozilu, or other fly by night themed races. The good news is that there is recourse for many through your bank or credit card company. A former bank claims department member in the racing community, Jeremy Lopez-Decot, gave specific language to use. He told us:

Please note you do NOT want to use the word “Fraud” … Fraud means a purchase that you did not initiate. Since you gave your card information to Muddy Mortal, this would be called a merchant dispute. You need to be honest that you indeed gave over your information but that the services promised were not delivered. You want to do this as soon as possible as there are time limits for you to be able to make a claim with the bank.

While many may not receive refunds, and many more are upset about a promised experience that never happened, we want to point out something you may not have thought of. Many of you helped shut this event down and saved hundreds or even thousands of victims a similar fate. Once upon a time, a company could continue to defraud people for months or years, even in the Facebook Age, because there wasn’t enough cross country chatter. By refusing to be quiet, or “only speaking positive” when something didn’t feel right, you helped speed up the process to put this company out of business.

A quick final note, we at ORM have received several phone calls and emails about people who were are aware of previous fraudulent activity by event owner Jamie Guined. We are currently pursuing this larger story. If you have any information about Jamie or any of these events, please reach out to us as soon as possible.Muddy Mortal Cancel Jamie Guined 2

 

Tell us your thoughts on the state of OCR here

When is consistent drug testing coming to OCR?

Drug testing has already arrived, but the major race series have not yet adopted it as promised.

As obstacle course racing emerges as a sport, there are many good things that happen: bigger prize purses, more TV coverage, prominent sponsorship deals. However, with these benefits come responsibilities, in particular the need to keep the sport free of performance enhancing drugs. Some say, nothing would kill the sport in its infancy faster than a drug scandal, and the major players in OCR have all announced plans to keep the sport clean. And yet, most of these plans are still theoretical rather than actually operational.

One organization stands out in its efforts to maintain high standards: from its inception the OCR World Championship  made it clear that winning athletes would be tested for performance enhancing drugs. When OCRWC founder Adrian Bijanada announced this requirement, the response was overwhelmingly favorable. He faced some questions from athletes who were worried about complying with the rules, which allow for therapeutic use of some otherwise banned substances, but by following the World Anti-Doping Agency’s In Competition standards , he gave the community clear and well-established guidelines to follow. A few wondered if this added expense was going to inflate entry fees, but the added cost per athlete is minimal. Using a respected service for this event costs in the mid-four figures, a sum that is spread across thousands of participants and, when compared with other budget items, falls well below such things as t-shirts and portable toilets.

Why did he take the lead? OCRWC has been seeking to establish itself as the world championship for a new sport, and around the world, sports follow these rules. In order to be taken seriously, organizers need to behave seriously. Anti-doping is part of what is expected. For the last three years, the majority of the athletes on the podium have been tested. Happily, every athlete he tested has had clean test results. This reflects a common refrain I heard when speaking to athletes and organizers as I researched this article: there are no rumors circulating about athletes taking performance enhancing drugs. In this regard, OCR stands out from many other major sports (like cycling, track and field and baseball). I expect that everyone in the sport would like to keep things this way.

So what are the other major races doing about this? Last year Tough Mudder announced that for its marquee event World’s Toughest Mudder it was going to include as part of its rules the requirement that participants race clean. When it announced that WTM was being supplemented by a series of feeder races, Tougher Mudder and Toughest Mudder, it also included the requirement that those eligible for prize money make themselves available for drug testing. Nevertheless, at the last WTM and this year’s Tougher and Toughest Mudder events, no drug tests have taken place. What happened?

I spoke to Nolan Kombol, Tough Mudder’s Senior Director of Product, and he told me that TM has been working on a drug testing policy for several years. As is their corporate style, the program is being rolled out in phases, first by announcing the policy last year, with the next phase being limited testing, probably at this year’s WTM, and finally having full testing of all the prize-winning athletes at some point next year.

How did Tough Mudder decide to implement a drug testing policy? Nolan emphasized that this was not in reaction to what others were doing, but rather it was to keep in line with industry standards. This sounded a bit contradictory, so I asked him to clarify which industry he meant, and he explained that he wanted Tough Mudder to line up with other athletic events; Tough Mudder shares a medical director, Stu Weiss, with the New York City Triathlon and the New York City Marathon. Both of these events straddle the line between attracting professional athletes as well as high-performing amateurs, and both are mass participation events, so there is plenty of common ground. Another motivation was simply to keep the participants safe. One way to discourage athletes at a 24-hour event in the deserts of Nevada from taking excessive risks is to prohibit the use of drugs that can endanger the user’s health. This seems like common sense. Tough Mudder also consulted with previous successful athletes who had won titles at WTM, and their response was enthusiastic.

Spartan Race, the other major player in OCR today, made a major announcement last September that it was partnering with USADA (the US answer to WADA).

Interestingly enough, WADA, not USADA, testing is mentioned in the Spartan General Rules and Athlete Conduct section of the current Spartan race rulebook, which was most recently updated in May of 2017.  (If we go back further, Spartan first mentioned WADA testing as far back as 2014).

Of all the race series operating today, Spartan has the highest number of athletes taking home checks, and Spartan reserves the right to test any of these athletes for performance enhancing drugs. Spartan sees itself as a mechanism for bringing OCR to the Olympics, where drug testing is the norm. However, in the time since Spartan announced this policy and added this provision to its waivers, ORM have yet to hear reports of a single athlete being tested. ORM contacted Spartan Race, but after several weeks of promises to provide a staff member for comment, it has not made anyone available. Given Spartan’s brief bromance with Lance Armstrong , the most notorious doper on the planet, it is curious that Spartan has not made good on its promise to test athletes.

Is setting up drug testing something that is difficult to do? Adrian Bijanada doesn’t think so. While he credits his team for their hard work, he also pointed out that arranging for drug testing was simple: “We decided to do it, and then we did it.” Compared with Tough Mudder’s multi-year approach to rolling out a policy, Adrian did a little homework, checked some references, and found a reputable vendor to provide drug testing services at his event. Testing is not a major expense, and while it is a sensitive issue, the community reaction has been positive, and all the tests have been negative. When a small (if dedicated) operation such as OCRWC can work hard to keep the sport clean, the major operators have few excuses for any delay in their drug testing programs.

Savage Race FINALLY Arrives in New England

After many years of begging, bribing, kidnapping, and other forms of threat and intimidation, Savage Race finally agreed to invade New England with a pretty fantastic course on the “venue of all companies” in Barre, MA. Here’s the course map:

Savage New England Map_BOS17

If you’ve never raced in Mass, and aren’t familiar with Carter and Steven’s Farm in Barre, let me tell you it’s an ankle breaking, thick mudded cow farm, and steaming cow patties are an unofficial obstacle at every event. It is a swampy, stinky course and cows gather in groups and moo in protest as you run along. They do have an onsite brewery and ice cream stand though, and it really is a great place to put on tough events.

And this Savage Rage was tough. Savage Race follows the gold standard of mandatory obstacle completion for the competitive wave, called “Pro” at Savage. Pro racers received a nice wrist band.  We had to surrender the band if we couldn’t complete an obstacle, multiple attempts allowed. I can’t say enough about how great this is. More and more events with prize money have adopted it, with one notable exception, our favorite burpeepalooza.

Savage Obstacles

This course was crammed with familiar obstacles, many had a unique twist. There were a crapload of rigs. These guys love rigs, and it’s hard to argue with them. Rigs can be arranged in so many crazy ways and Savage Race definitely put some insane stuff out there.

Below is a pic of Tree Hugger. This was a wooden rig that required traversing square poles and logs with foothold cutouts. The early morning rain made the poles slippery. It was a challenging upper body exercise. Very creative and fun.

After a short run, we came upon Wheel World. I’ve wanted to try this for a long time. It’s a momentum riding obstacle, as long as you don’t fight the spins at all, getting to the last wheel isn’t so bad. However, scores of folks couldn’t quite make the dismount. Savage Race very cleverly arranged the solid ground to be just out of reach unless one let go of the last wheel at the height of the centrifugal pull. Lots of racers were left hanging desperately for a while before trying again. Wheel World was a blast!

Savages Overcome Fear

I like that Savage Race combines challenging obstacles with ones that require you to overcome fears. It’s really a great combination. This is an undervalued asset of our sport. The next article I am writing for ORM talks about this in specific, through the eyes of a man trying to conquer his phobia. Savage Race has Shriveled Richard (think TM Arctic Enema) and Davy Jones’ Locker, which is reminiscent of the high jumps into water that other races USED to offer. Kudos to Savage for keeping it!!  Thor’s Grundle, pictured below, had a high freak-out potential.

Savage Race really cranked it up in the last couple of miles, this awesome slide below, Colossus, was HUGE and epic fun. I wanted to do it 13 times. Rumor has it that Savage Race installed several permanent obstacles, including Colossus, at the farm. Pre-registration is open for 2018 already, in the cow patties.

Savage Grip Obstacles

The last mile-and-a-half had three very tough grip obstacles. It was a straight up gauntlet. Grip strength is my thing, but by the end of the third rig, I was running on fumes. Sawtooth came first.  The rungs were all wet. It is long. Not easy. I’m filthy in this pic thanks to a face first swamp pit fall. You shoulda been there.

Next up was the Savage Rig. This obstacle was a series of rings and thick ropes. It was easy to get tangled in this rig. This one was tricky.

 

The last obstacle was a brute named Twirly Bird, and it was one of the hardest obstacles I have personally attempted. Basically it is an alternating field of single flat handles, and loose clumps of thin ropes that they describe as a mop. Accurate. I watched a video on this one where folks wisely just used the handles by swinging big. Well, they adjusted the distance on this one forcing you to grab the mops too, as a result it was far more difficult. I would have fallen off if this obstacle was any longer. This was an impressive obstacle. It wouldn’t surprise me if Twirly Bird had a 90% failure rate.

I was very impressed with this event. Good medals, nice shirt, and very involved owner as well. I have only two complaints: the first one is that there are really too many events at this venue, but I get that it is hard to find space near Boston, so this one is forgiven. Secondly, handing out full size bottles of water at aid stations is wasteful. Buy some Dixie cups. Everything else was righteous!

Savage Race, I’m glad you’re coming back next year, cows and all. I highly recommend this event. See you then!