Planning and Training for World’s Toughest Mudder Success

World’s Toughest Mudder is a BIG THING. You can’t just show up and wing it. Success at WTM demands both careful planning and intelligent training, which is what this series will be about. Before submitting these articles, I thought I’d ask a guy I know what he considers to be the optimal way of approaching WTM. The good news is that his approach and mine were essentially the same. The bad news is that he was super concise, so I’m here to expand on it and flesh it out into usable tools and guidelines. Oh yeah, here’s what he said:

Think through every possible detail/angle carefully, practice it, then systematically kick ass. – Ryan Atkins


PLANNING


I am not one for clichés, but I can’t put it any better than these, so here is a short list of planning clichés :

  • If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” – a bunch of memes
  • No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” – Helmut von Moltke
  • “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” – Mike Tyson
  • Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

When your plans meet the real WTM, the real WTM wins. Few things go exactly as planned. Mistaken assumptions chow down on your asses. The most brilliant plan loses touch with reality, and if you’re not careful you’ll follow it down the crapper.

World's-Toughest-Mudder-Planning-Invaders

OK, what’s the deal, Dobos? To paraphrase Hamlet: “to plan or not to plan, that is the question.” Well, the answer is a qualified “yes.” DO absolutely definitely plan thoroughly, but DO NOT place absolute reliance on your plan. Accept that your beautiful plan will start falling apart at some point during the event, likely much sooner and in more and shittier ways than you had anticipated. Make sure you are mentally and physically prepared for “plan B”, “plan C”, or just going into survival mode. Reality will not yield to your plans, so you must adapt to the actual circumstances at hand.

World's-Toughest-Mudder-Plan

The first step to planning is to understand as much as possible of what will go down in Atlanta next year at WTM. Do all the obvious things: watch videos of past WTMs, read race reports, go to WTM groups and pages online, look over maps of past WTM courses, etc. That will give you a good idea of what challenges will be presented to you. The other big thing you need to understand is exactly what you will be bringing to the show. Where is your fitness now? What are your strengths and weaknesses? How much improvement can you realistically expect in those by the time Atlanta rolls around? (That last refers to TRAINING, which I’ll come to later in this series)

World's-Toughest-Mudder-2016-course-map

As you can see, it’s very, VERY easy to get hopelessly buried in details, so you need to draw a line in the sand somewhere. Try to group things together into categories of challenges that you need to overcome for success.

The challenges presented by WTM can be boiled down to 3 big ones:
1. dealing with the cold and wet conditions

2. being on your feet and moving for 24 hours

3. completing as many obstacles as efficiently as possible

I have cleverly triaged those challenges in order of importance: 1 is to survive, 2 is to complete, and 3 is to perform. Number 1 can end your race prematurely. It has done so time and again, to rookies and veterans and elite racers. It is the first thing you need to figure out how to deal with because without it the rest of your grand plans are just so much fantasy.

World's-Toughest-Mudder-Cold-Wet-Tired

WTM Challenge #1: The Horrible Laws of Thermodynamics

Regardless of where and when WTM is held, it’s always cold. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check and monitor the weather forecast as race-day approaches, but don’t let it lull you into a false sense of security. Every single person at WTM this year – racers AND crew – knew that the single biggest challenge, the #1 reason for DNFs, was going to be cold. Just like it was last year and the year before, and so onto into the mists of prehistory. However, knowing the problem is only half the problem. You need a solution or, preferably, several solutions.

Problem: you’re cold
Solution: dress warmly, with layers and stuff. No problem, right?

Well…not exactly. The other thing every single person knew was that you would be wet for pretty much the last 22 hours or so. Therefore that bitchin’ fleece hoodie you got yourself, far from keeping you warm, will be worse than useless once it’s soaked. That’s why you see almost everyone wearing wet-suits from late afternoon through to well after sunrise.

Problems: you’re cold and wet
Solution: get a wet-suit. Problem solved, right?

Nope. We need to understand the basics of heat transfer, and exactly what clothing can and cannot do for you. Time for a thought experiment…

World's-Toughest-Mudder-Campfire

 

Take 4 identical water bottles. Fill 2 of them with cold water, and 2 of them with hot water. Now go dig up the toastiest sleeping bag you have. Bring out that 800 fill -40C rated monster, the one that has you sweating inside of 12 seconds if you dare crawl into it in anything warmer than -20 conditions. If you don’t have one, borrow from a friend.

Place one cold water bottle inside the sleeping bag way down at the foot end of the bag. Place a hot bottle up near the head end of the bag. Place the other 2 bottles a fair distance apart on the floor outside the sleeping bag. BTW, this is happening in your living room, so the ambient temp is around 22C. Go re-watch 2 hours of your fave WTM coverage, then come back and check the temperatures of the water in the bottles. What do you think you’ll find?

<Spoiler Alert>Let’s start with the easy ones: outside the sleeping bag. Both of those should be pretty close to room temperature. Heat always travels from warmer to colder, so the hot bottle will have lost heat to the room, while the cold one will have absorbed heat from the room. Both bottles will be around 22C. Easy peasy. Now, what about the sleeping bag?

At first blush, it’s tempting to assume that the ones that were in the insanely warm sleeping bag would be warmed up. Sadly, first blush is dead wrong in this case. What you’d actually find is that the cold one stayed quite cold – much colder than room temperature – and the hot one stayed quite hot – much warmer than room temperature. This is because a sleeping bag is simply a thermal insulator. It neither heats nor cools, it simply insulates whatever is inside it from whatever is outside.

World's-Toughest-Mudder-Thermodynamics-Batman

Clothing, including wet-suits, are the same: they generate exactly 0 heat. None. Zilch. Bupkus. SFA. If you’re freezing and throw on a 20mm wet-suit with a dryrobe over top, it will NOT warm you up. At least, not quickly enough.

At this point, you may be asking “why wear anything at all?” Well, the reason wearing insulating clothing works is because your body is constantly generating heat. Even if you’re curled up in the fetal position in your crew tent, your body is still generating heat because it needs to keep things at around body temperature in order to function properly. In the above scenario, you will slowly warm up as the heat generated by your basal metabolic rate gets trapped inside the dryrobe/wet-suit combo until you eventually get toasty warm. You need to know how to speed this process up, so keep reading.

There are several ways to warm yourself up much faster. The most enjoyable one is called “shared body warmth”, and all I’ll say about it is that you had better know your crew very, very well. The most effective strategy when you are in your pit is to ingest something hot, like a bowl of hot oatmeal or steaming cups of coffee or soup. The next pit tactic is to pour hot (not scalding – be careful) liquid into your wetsuit. The most important way may be less obvious, but it is the most critical because you can do it throughout the event: MOVE.

World's-Toughest-Mudder-Sufferfests-Cold-Guy-at-Tough-Guy

The only way you can move is through your muscles doing work. Human physiology is laughably inefficient, and most of the feeble trickle of chemical energy that we manage to generate in order to move gets wasted as heat. This heat builds up until your core temperature starts to get too high, and your body starts dumping it by pumping blood (essentially like radiator fluid in this scenario) out to your skin and limbs. Your clothing traps some of this heat, creating a progressively warmer micro-environment right next to your body surface and voila: you warm up!

Your body knows this even if you don’t, and has come up with a fantastically inefficient pattern of muscle contractions to cope with cold stress. Inefficient at moving, but super-awesome at generating heat. It’s called shivering. Shivering is ok, but it’s exhausting and makes things like Operation hilariously impossible. Your goal is to spend muscular energy moving forward, not jittering madly in place, so work on moving forward as hard as you can. Conversely, if you know that you’ll be forced to go slowly, whether from exhaustion or injury, then dress more warmly.

Even with all of the above dialed in, there is still a big make-or-break challenge related to overcoming the wet coldness: the wetsuit. The next (much shorter) article will delve into the hows and whys and dos and don’ts of WTM wetsuits.

World's-Toughest-Mudder-Wetsuit-Crack-Memecenter.com

2018 Toughest Mudder Dates And Venues Announced

Tough Mudder has announced the dates and venues for the Toughest Mudder races for 2018.
March 3: Toughest Mudder West: Los Angeles
May 5: Toughest Mudder South: Central Texas
May 12: Toughest Mudder Midlands: UK
June 2: Toughest Mudder Midwest: Michigan
June 16: Toughest Mudder Scotland
June 23: Toughest Mudder Northeast: Boston
2018 Toughest Mudder Schedule
March 3: Toughest Mudder West.
In 2017 Toughest Mudder West was held at the Los Angeles venue at Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino. Tough Mudder is moving to a new venue for 2018 at Polsa Rosa Ranch. Polsa Rosa Ranch is a popular location for movie filming. Among movies that have used the ranch are Titanic, The Lone Ranger, and Windtalkers.
May 5: Toughest Mudder South.
Last year Toughest Mudder South was held near Atlanta. The 2018 race will be held at the Central Texas venue, about an hour outside Austin, Texas. More on Atlanta later.
Toughest South Webster Finish
May 12: Toughest Mudder UK: Midlands.
This date and venue was already announced, but with the new North America dates announced we now know Toughest Mudder Midlands will be held one week after Toughest Mudder South. In 2017 Toughest Mudder Philly was one week after Toughest Mudder UK and Sara Knight suffered an overuse injury that bothered her for the rest of the Toughest races that year. Knight was one of the “Four Horsemen” that ran all six Toughest Mudder races in 2017.
June 2: Toughest Mudder Midwest
The 2017 Toughest Mudder Midwest race was held outside Chicago. In 2018 the Midwest race will be held in Michigan, about an hour north of Detroit and a little over an hour west of Sarnia, in Ontario, Canada. With no Toughest Mudder Canada announced yet, this may be the closest Toughest for Mudders north of the border.

Allison Tai Toughest Chicago

June 16: Toughest Mudder UK: Scotland
Along with the Midlands UK race, this date and venue were previously announced. Like Midlands, this race is separated from another US Toughest race by one week. Toughest Mudder Northeast will follow Scotland one week later.
June 23: Toughest Mudder Northeast
The sixth and (as far as we know) final Toughest Mudder of the year will be held on June 23rd. In 2017 the Northeast race was held outside Philadelphia. In 2018 it will be held at a brand new venue: Boston.
Toughest NE Funky Monkey
With the exception of Toughest Mudder Midlands, every Toughest Mudder in 2018 will be at a brand new location. Even though the West race is “in” Los Angeles, it’s at a new venue. The Boston venue for the Northeast race is new to all of Tough Mudder. Scotland is an entirely new venue for Toughest Mudder, and Michigan and Texas are returning Tough Mudder locations, but brand new for Toughest Mudder. Even if you ran every Toughest Mudder in North America last year, every race in 2018 will be at a new location for you.
What about World’s Toughest Mudder 2018?
Several months ago Matt B. Davis noticed the 2018 date for Tough Mudder Atlanta was later than usual. Much later. In fact, Tough Mudder Atlanta will be held three weeks before the weekend WTM is usually scheduled for. In the past Tough Mudder Vegas has been held two to three weeks before World’s Toughest Mudder. WTM has been held on the second weekend of November in Las Vegas for several years. With Tough Mudder officially announcing 2017 will be the last year in Vegas, Matt connected the dots and predicted WTM 2018 would be held in Atlanta. After a recent appearance on Fox News Will Dean, the CEO of Tough Mudder passed on some info to a member of the WTM community. He wouldn’t give the exact location, but Dean said next year’s WTM would be on the east coast, and it would be warm. Toughest Mudder Atlanta was widely considered the warmest of all six Toughest Mudder’s last year, and even in November, Georgia should be a warm venue. Even though there are arguments against Atlanta (it has a terrible airport) it looks like the site of World’s Toughest Mudder 2018 will be Atlanta, Georgia.

Motivational Mudders: America’s Toughest Mudder Midwest

Competition Vs. Camaraderie?

To be honest, I didn’t know what to initially think of the Toughest Mudder series. Besides World’s Toughest Mudder once a year, Tough Mudder always emphasized teamwork and camaraderie over course time. Finding your personal best and having fun were two of its distinguishing characteristics from other races and I didn’t know how this new series would effect Tough Mudder’s culture. I was worried that the inspiration and motivation I drew from these events would be overshadowed by competition.

But there I was, pulling into the final race of the 2017 Toughest Mudder Series. The stage was set. Five races down, one to go. Coming into this race, I sought out inspiration and motivation from my fellow competitors. I wanted to find something more than just competition at these races. I could only hope that the Tough Mudder culture and the spirit would be upheld.

Starting the Day at Toughest Midwest

As I arrived at the festival area, it was filled with welcoming hugs, hellos, and nervous energy as people prepared for eight hours of racing at the Rockford International Airport. Toughest Mudder Midwest had the highest registration and it was obvious as the energy was immediately palpable. I noticed a mix of first time and repeat Toughest competitors. There were even a few people who attended all six Toughest Mudder events including Jim “Da Goat” Campbell, Melissa “Sharkbait” Dugan, Sara Knight, and Mark James.

Mark James, Sara Knight, Melissa Dugan, and Jim Campbell.

Whether athletes were out there for a podium spot, earn WTM contender status (25 miles) or experience an event unlike any other, everyone was equally excited and nervous for what the night would bring.

As we prepared for the race, it was noticeably warmer at the start line. With a chance of thunderstorms looming in the distance, we weren’t sure how long these near ideal conditions would last. Every endurance event brings an element of the unknown and I was all too aware that conditions can quickly change. While elevation gain would not be a factor in this race, I knew Tough Mudder would have a few surprises for us along the way

Countdown to Midnight

As the countdown to midnight began, we were shuttled away from the pit area, giving many competitors a chance to warm up to the start gate. Surrounded by tall fields of grass, we were isolated in our own little world. Sean Corvelle inspired us like only he knows how to, with a riveting speech about achieving our personal best and overcoming our obstacles on the course and in life. His spirit is behind every one of these events as he reflects on the inspiration he draws from the community. Just like that, the tone was set and we were ready for what the night would bring.

Sean Corvelle at the Starting Line

The countdown ensued and just like that, we were off.

The elevation profile pointed to every sign that this would be a fast course and it lived up to the expectation. In TMHQ’s attempt to slow us down, we quickly encountered a river crossing known as the Kishwaukee Krusade. With no way around it, the river crossing was the only obstacle open from the very start. As the obstacles began to slowly open, it was clear that without epic hills of LA or Whistler, the double mud mile of Atlanta, or the cold from the UK or Philadelphia, that this was going to be a fast course. It held true throughout the race.

Obstacles

The flat fast course was mitigated by the obstacles, which slowly opened until 02:00 am. It was clear that TMHQ wanted to keep us wet, with multiple water obstacles scattered throughout the course. “Operation” had a shockingly (pun intended) long penalty, enticing competitors to at least attempt it. Arctic Enema was placed right before Funky Monkey, making it cold and wet for the grip-strength intensive obstacle. Everest 2.0 and the Grappler both had ropes that competitors could use, but the slippery slopes of the quarter pipe still left them difficult to complete.

Competitors

The race provided plenty of room for competition. Ryan Atkins dominated in his usual fashion and Allison Tai stayed well ahead of the competition throughout. The competition between second and fifth place was heated throughout the race as athletes continued to change places throughout the night. Amidst the competition, I was searching for inspiration to keep me going throughout the race. These races are difficult, period. No matter who you are, whether you are going for 50 miles or 10, everyone is out there trying to find their “personal best”. It is the very thing that Sean Corvelle preaches at the starting line, yet is something that is often hard to reach. I looked to my fellow competitors for inspiration and luckily found it throughout the night. Amidst the dark of night, competitors brought the light.

Men’s and Women’s Top Five.

Inspirational Athletes

Dan Kosick was one such athlete. With his sights set on 25 miles and contender status at WTM, he fell just short at the Toughest Mudder Northeast. Even though he knew he didn’t make it, he completed the final lap just minutes past the 08:30 am cut-off time. As I saw him finish, the look of defeat covered his face as he crossed the finish line. I was proud of what he accomplished, but it was clear he wasn’t satisfied. That defeat turned into motivation as he returned for another shot at 25 miles at Toughest Midwest. Throughout the race, his no-quit attitude resonated in his voice as he continued his relentless forward progress. This time, the course would not stop him. He overcame disappointment at Philly to complete 25 miles in less than 8 hours to earn contender status at WTM.

Jesi Stracham, a wheelchair bound athlete, took on the course with a team of friends throughout the night. I saw the definition of teamwork portrayed throughout the night with her group. She proved that Tough Mudder is more than physical ability as her spirit and determination propelled her and her team to complete 15 grueling miles of the Toughest course.

Yancy Culp (often referred to as Yancy Camp), a legend within the OCR community, is another example of using racing as fuel to overcome life’s challenges. After battling cancer over the last year, he credited obstacle course racing as giving him a purpose to stay healthy throughout the chemotherapy process. He didn’t let cancer stop him from crewing at World’s Toughest Mudder in 2016 and even though he didn’t compete, it served as one of the most defining events of his athletic career. He knew he wanted an event to circle on the calendar for 2017 and chose to tackle Toughest Mudder Midwest. It was during the race that he found the joy of running and competing again. He wasn’t out there to win, but rather enjoy the process of racing and living life to the fullest. While he said the Tough Mudder community inspired him throughout the race, he is an inspiration to all of us.

Billy Richards was another inspirational individual as he carried the American Flag throughout the entire event. Every time I saw him and the flag on the course, it gave me chills. It is one of many ways Billy shows his patriotism. After serving as a United States Marine from 1999 to 2003, Billy decided to honor our military and law enforcement by carrying the American Flag in every race he does. So far, the flag has traveled with him to over 150 races, including four 100 mile ultra marathons (more information on his endeavors can be found at the link under the photo).

For more information click here.

Inspired By The Midwest

If I took anything from Toughest Midwest, it is that this is an awesome community, filled with amazing people. I came to the Midwest looking for inspiration and I found it.  While this race is a competition, it is much more than that, filled with incredible stories of everyone who accepts the challenge of completing 8 hours through the night. The final race in the Toughest Mudder series was a memorable one and only time will only tell what next year’s Toughest series brings. One thing is for sure; the finale at World’s Toughest Mudder is destined to be the best one yet. I’ll see you in the desert one last time!

 

Photos Courtesy of Melissa Dugan and Tough Mudder

Tough Mudder Takes on Michigan

Tough Mudder arrived at a new Michigan venue last weekend, and they showed the Mitten this year’s crop of new obstacles. Mudders were impressed on both counts.

I visit Michigan every June to take part in a bacon festival and to visit my college roommate Adam and his family. When I saw that Tough Mudder Michigan was going to be on the same weekend, I knew I had to make take advantage of the scheduling. Until now I have only done Tough Mudders in the northeast (Englishtown, Jersey City and Coatesville) and in cold to very cold weather. A summer Tough Mudder in the midwest? Sign me up! Plus, I decided to see if Adam would be interested, and sure enough, he expressed enthusiasm about joining me.

I was hoping that doing a Tough Mudder with someone who had never done an obstacle course race before would help me see the event through fresh eyes. In some ways, Adam and I are very similar: we are both finishing up our fifth decade, we both exercise enough to keep the doctors at bay, and neither of us will be on a podium any time soon. We also share a certain approach to the world. He is a professor, but he nearly blew his job interview at Michigan State by explaining that it would be much more appropriate for the Athenians to be the school mascot rather than the Spartans, what with it being an institution of higher learning and all. He got the job anyway. So what would the professor make of Tough Mudder?

At first I was worried he had not done his research about the race. As we approached Kiss of Mud, the barbed wire crawl, he grimaced: “They sanitize this mud, right?” Yes, of course, that’s a thing, sure. I made it clear at the start that the obstacles weren’t mandatory, there would be no burpee punishments for failing, and we were here to have fun. When we approached Hero Carry, I offered to take him on my back the entire way rather than have us switch after half of the distance, as is the design of the obstacle (I’m a good deal larger than Adam). All the same he insisted on carrying me.  Skidmarked (the slanted wall) was a challenge for him (“You’re taller than me, so it’s easier for you.”), and as I tried to give him a boost over the wall in Tough Mudder teamwork-style, he managed to kick me in the head and knock a lens out of my sunglasses (no permanent damage done to either).

I explained the psychology behind the obstacle design, and I think he appreciated the concept. Still, when we approached Everest (the slippery quarter-pipe ramp), he declared that it was another obstacle that discriminated against short people. All the same, when he was able to get to the top on his first try, he conceded that there was a certain satisfaction in facing something that seemed impossible and overcoming it.

He didn’t enjoy Block Ness Monster nearly as much as I did. I still see it as the pinnacle of Tough Mudder’s obstacle innovation program, the perfect combination of challenging technique, strength, teamwork and plain old fun. I think Adam was put off by the muddy water, which was relatively deeper for him than for me.

I recently spoke to Tough Mudder’s course designers, asking them about how they calibrate the difficulty of the obstacles, and they explained that they shoot for a level that allows a certain percentage to conquer the obstacles on the first try and encourages those who fail to want to come back again to complete what feels like unfinished business. We got to Funky Monkey, with its monkey bars and spinning wheels, and I had low expectations for myself. I have lousy grip strength, and I only made it a few bars across before falling in. As I paddled across to the exit, I watched Adam swing his way across from the bars to the wheels, only to slip on the last bar before reaching the other side. I praised him for his performance, and I told him that he could try again if he wanted. No, he said he would come back next year and get the entire way across. It seems that the evil geniuses at TMHQ know exactly how to manipulate our emotions. Well played, TMHQ. Well played.

Despite this being his first obstacle course race, Adam had no trouble getting through any of the remaining obstacles. He griped at Ladder to Hell (“again, what about us short people?”) but it did not slow him down, except that we both have issues with the theological misconception of the obstacle’s name. I worried that he might balk at Arctic Enema’s ice bath, but it turned out that the operation had run out of ice – the only operational hiccup I noticed on the course that day, and since we were in the last heat on a warm Sunday, not altogether surprising. What was meant to be a shock to the system turned out to be a refreshing dip on a hot day.

I got the feeling that, in general, he did not really approve of the level of dirt we were getting exposed to, and he actually said out loud that it would be great to get a shower, and sure enough the next obstacle was Augustus Gloop/Snot Rocket, this year’s biggest new blockbuster obstacle. Participants have to climb up a tube while a strong shower of water pours down from above. The net effect is that the hand holds/foot holds on the side of the tube are slippery and you end up having to keep your eyes closed, so you can’t see the holds and you aren’t sure how far from the top you are. It was challenging and disorienting, a little scary and highly successful as a new obstacle.

Having given him the option of skipping obstacles, I was surprised that the only time he took me up on this was Pyramid Scheme, where participants have to form a human pyramid to scale a slippery wall. Perhaps this was just too much close contact with too many wet and dirty strangers? I also told him that I was willing to go along with any medical history he wished to concoct in order to skip Electroshock Therapy. At our age, friends don’t pressure friends into subjecting themselves to 10,000 volts. All the same, he ran through and was more frustrated than pained that he got shocked.

An audience waits for the next electrified face-plant

Will Adam start searching out other obstacle course races to try in the future? Probably not. However, he will definitely be bringing his son next year, when the boy turns sixteen and will be eligible to run with the grown-ups. And he will definitely conquer Funky Monkey next time.

Beyond the personal story of triumph over adversity, what else did the course hold? One of my favorite innovations was that the final two obstacles, Kong and Electroshock Therapy, were set up next to each other, and TM arranged seating so that an audience could watch as Legionnaires (those who have completed a Tough Mudder) tried to swing dramatically across Kong from ring to ring at a great height, or as first-timers ran through Electroshock Therapy and, not infrequently, face-planted. In the past I have been doubtful about the value of charging spectators at these events, but I think that for $20, I wouldn’t mind sitting for a few hours watching people try to get through these obstacles.

Who wouldn’t want to watch this all day?

I also noticed on the course a group of participants in matching outfits, all wearing spiffy Merrell compression gear and Merrell shoes. It turns out that Merrell, a Tough Mudder sponsor, is headquartered in Michigan, and they brought a large and well-dressed cohort. They also had several promotional tents, including one selling shoes, and, for some reason, a hula-hoop competition. Fun for all ages.

When I spoke to participants during and after the event, one opinion was unanimous: by moving the event to this new location (Koenig Sand and Gravel in Oxford, MI), TM offered a much better experience. The previous location, Michigan International Speedway, offered none of the change in terrain that made for a more interesting run. The logistics worked well; on the Sunday, with a smaller crowd, all parking was on site, but the people I spoke to who ran both days told me that the shuttles to off-site parking worked as promised.

My overall impression is that Tough Mudder continues to provide a challenging and entertaining day out. At the finish, everyone was smiling, and even on the course, people seemed happy. Of course, that could have been Midwestern optimism as the local default attitude, and as a New Yorker I can have trouble seeing through the regional cheeriness and good manners. All the same, I’ll let that Michigander worldview take hold and declare that Tough Mudder is delivering a great product. I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with next.

Midwestern teamwork at its finest.

Tough Mudder Introduces New Obstacles for 2017

Tough Mudder has released details about the new obstacles for 2017, and it is clear that they will keep Tough Mudders wet, disoriented, and dangling in midair. Which is how Tough Mudder likes it.

Most of these obstacles will debut at World’s Toughest Mudder, which takes place this weekend outside Las Vegas, and those who are curious are bound to get glimpses of the new obstacles during the copious live feeds that will be broadcast.

In the meantime, you can also see many of the obstacles in this dramatic video: 

Once you have picked your jaw up off the floor, you might want to know more about the individual obstacles you just saw. The most impressive is called Augustus Gloop. Why is that name familiar? If Johnny Depp is your WIlly Wonka, then you will remember this:

However, if you go old school Gene Wilder, try this instead

Sadly, this obstacle does not involve a river of chocolate. Rather, Mudders will climb up a tube while water rushes down at them. I spoke to obstacle designer Eli Hutchison, who explained that while the tube itself will not be difficult to climb, the force of the water flowing down will make it feel like you can’t breathe. “Just keep your head down”, he advised. Thanks, Eli.


auustus-gloop-top

august-gloop-4
Another brand new obstacle is called Reach Around, which requires participants to climb almost 20 feet in the air to a point which requires some problem-solving to get past a point before climbing back down. This obstacle combines both the need for upper body strength as well as the need to overcome a fear of heights.

the-reach-around-3

The remaining two new obstacles are the latest updates on successful obstacles from the past. Arctic Enema was originally just a dumpster full of ice water separated by a fence, requiring you to dunk yourself completely to emerge at the other side (and originally it was called “Chernobyl Jacuzzi”, but that’s another story). Version 2.0 introduced in 2015 forced Mudders to slide into the ice under wire fencing, preventing you from hesitating on your way down. The latest version, Arctic Enema – The Rebirth, replaces the fenced-in slide with a tube, reminiscent of the old obstacle “Boa Constrictor”. The catch? You’re supposed to go down the tube head first, which means you get more submersion, more cold, and a greater element of fear. Well played, Tough Mudder.

beta-testing-2016-sep-451

Also updated is Funky Monkey. This was originally just a monkey bar climb over water, and it was updated to add a transition from monkey bars to a pole. If you have finally mastered this skill, in 2017 you get to try Funky Monkey – The Revolution, which adds moving wheels to the mix of items you need to grab to get across. This innovation may or may not have its inspiration from the American Ninja Warrior courses.

Legionnaires, those who have already completed a Tough Mudder, will have more options this year as well. Three obstacles will feature Legionnaire Lanes, where an obstacle has been adapted to be just that much tougher (and get an even more aggressive name). You might call these versions “enhanced”, with the same meaning as “enhanced interrogation”. Augustus Gloop will become Snot Rocket, and Legionnaires will have to approach the entrance to the tube through a wire covered pool of water, reminiscent of Cage Crawl, with only a few inches of water between you and the fencing. The Legionnaire Lane for Reach Around is called Stage 5 Clinger and will require you to climb to the top at an even steeper, more technical angle. Birth Canal has been adapted as Black Hole, requiring you to crawl under heavy bags of water, but this time in complete darkness (WTM insider alert: this obstacle will not be present at Vegas this weekend. Now you know!). Finally, instead of Electroshock Therapy, Legionnaires will be able to opt for something called Kong, which will require you to swing from ring to ring high in the air. The twist is that the rings are spaced farther and farther apart as you cross the obstacle.

mind-the-gap-5

Tough Mudder has shown that it can innovate by introducing new obstacles and keep the event fresh by updating old ones. The focus is on making obstacles that are challenging, but entertaining.I know that I can’t wait to give Augustus Gloop a try. Even if no chocolate is involved.

Bonus: You can hear the podcast with the entire conversation between Eli, ORM’s Matt B. Davis and myself, here.

Tough Mudder Press Release:

BROOKLYN, NY (November 10, 2016) – Tough Mudder Inc., the leading active lifestyle brand, announced today its new obstacles for the 2017 event season which feature four new challenges – a new Legionnaire finish obstacle (for participants who have completed at least one Tough Mudder event) and three Legionnaire-only features. Select new obstacles will debut at World’s Toughest Mudder, the grueling 24-hour extreme endurance race presented by Cellucor, on Saturday, November 12 at Lake Las Vegas at 12 p.m. PST.

Fans can watch the world’s leading ultra-endurance athletes take on these new challenges for the first time and compete for a $100,000 grand prize by viewing the Tough Mudder/CBS Sports’ World’s Toughest Mudder Livestream at ToughMudder.com.

The new 2017 Tough Mudder obstacles are:

New Extreme Obstacles:

  • Augustus Gloop – Participants must enter into a chest-deep pit of water before ascending up a vertical tube. As they attempt to ascend through the confined tube, they must fight off a cascade of water gushing down on them from above.
  • Funky Monkey – The Revolution – A literal “spin” on Tough Mudder’s classic Funky Monkey obstacle. Participants test their upper body strength to complete this challenge while transitioning from monkey bars to traverse a series of revolving wheels – all while dangling over a water pit.
  • Arctic Enema – The Rebirth – Participants slide down a confined, dark tube head first into an icy pool of water, navigate across one section and must submerge themselves yet again under a wall to escape this freezing vessel of ice water.
  • The Reach Around – Playing upon one’s fear of heights and one of the most challenging obstacles on the course, this nearly 20 feet tall obstacle forces participants to climb up and go beyond vertical in an inverted 45 degree angle to overcome it.

For those who have completed a Tough Mudder event, known as Legionnaires, Tough Mudder is providing new challenges – in the form of special Legionnaire-only lanes to enhance their experience in 2017. The lanes will be new twists on classic challenges, as well as an all-new Legionnaire-only finisher obstacle that will test participant’s upper body strength and fear of heights.

Enhanced Legionnaire Lanes:

  • Snot Rocket (Augustus Gloop Legionnaire Lane): Before attempting to enter the vertical tube of this kicked-up Augustus Gloop, participants must pull their way through a steel fence-topped trench while floating on their back with only a few inches of air between water’s surface and the fence.
  • Black Hole (Birth Canal Legionnaire Lane): Participants must crawl and push their way through a confining gauntlet of 100 lb water-filled barriers suspended above them in total darkness.
  • Stage 5 Clinger (The Reach Around Legionnaire Lane): In addition to scaling one of the tallest and toughest obstacles on the course, Legionnaires will have to come up with a new strategy to navigate across a now 90 degree angle to reach its peak.

Legionnaire Finish Obstacle:

  • Kong: Taking Legionnaire finish obstacles to new heights, literally, this giant, 30-foot obstacle will have participants swinging like Tarzan, traversing from one floating ring to another with increasing distance between them.

“The 2017 enhancements set a new standard of excellence in obstacle innovation and showcase the physicality and intensity which makes Tough Mudder unique,” said Will Dean, CEO and Co-Founder of Tough Mudder, Inc. “The mental and physical challenges participants experience is ­­­­what makes Tough Mudder the industry leader. We remain committed to exploring and engineering ways to present new challenges and increase obstacle difficultly to keep our events fresh and exciting. We look forward to welcoming thousands of new and returning participants to Mudder Nation in 2017 to face these challenges together.”

Deemed as “probably the toughest event on the planet,” Tough Mudder tests teamwork, while pushing pushes one’s physical abilities and mental grit limits. With more than 2.5 million participants to date across four continents, Tough Mudder events challenge people across a 10-12 mile course featuring 20-25 signature obstacles.

In addition to the Live Stream of World’s Toughest Mudder, CBS Sports will premiere its series of programs on the World’s Toughest Mudder in December. Viewers can tune into Road to the World’s Toughest Mudder on CBS Sports Network on December 15 at 9:00 PM EST for a behind the scenes, in-depth look at the obstacles, the competitors and preparation leading up to the grueling 24 hour competition. On December 25 at 2:00 PM EST on CBS, viewers will get to experience all the excitement, drama, agony and joy from the 2016 World’s Toughest Mudder. Immediately following the World’s Toughest Mudder program, CBS Sports Network will host a post-event roundtable World’s Toughest After at 3:00 PM EST, featuring the winners and top competitors.

For more information on the 2017 Tough Mudder obstacles, World’s Toughest Mudder, the Tough Mudder CBS Sports special or to register for an event, visit ToughMudder.com. Join the conversation by following Tough Mudder on Twitter at @ToughMudder or Instagram at @Tough_Mudder.

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About Tough Mudder, Inc.:

Founded in 2010 with the launch of the Tough Mudder event series of 10-12 mile obstacle courses, Tough Mudder Inc. has since grown to become a leading active lifestyle company. The brand includes Tough Mudder Half, an obstacle challenge bringing the thrills of Tough Mudder to a 5-mile course; Mudderella, an obstacle course series created by women for women; Fruit Shoot Mini Mudder, a custom event for children ages 7-12; Toughest Mudder Series, the eight-hour, overnight competition series; World’s Toughest Mudder, a grueling 24-hour endurance competition; and an extremely vibrant engaging social and digital destination for leading fitness, nutrition and wellness content delivered across multiple platforms. The Tough Mudder family of brands and online community is united by a commitment to promoting courage, personal accomplishment and teamwork through unconventional, life-changing experiences. With more than 2.5 million participants to date, Tough Mudder Inc. will produce more than 120 events worldwide in 2016 across five continents, including Asia through its partnerships with Seroja and IMG. More than 20 of the world’s leading brands are sponsorship and content distribution partners, including Merrell, Old Spice, Shock Top, Cellucor, Volvic, Jeep, Britvic, L’il Critters, US Army, Virgin Active, Olympus, Bosch, Live Stream, The CW and CBS. To join the conversation, follow Tough Mudder on Facebook at facebook.com/toughmudder, on Twitter @ToughMudder, and on Instagram @Tough_Mudder.

World’s Toughest Mudder

Known as one of the most extreme endurance events in the world, the World’s Toughest Mudder event, presented by Cellucor, is the only competitive event that Tough Mudder, Inc. hosts in 2016. Competitors are eligible to win a total of more than $170,000 in prizing, including a grand prize of $100,000 for teams that complete at least 100 miles together. Like all Tough Mudder events, World’s Toughest Mudder encourages Mudders to work together, help one another overcome obstacles and push past their physical and mental boundaries. While competitive in nature, World’s Toughest Mudder is about finding one’s personal limits and putting teamwork to the test, and hundreds of participants take part in the event as a team. The course is a grueling, five-mile loop featuring diverse desert terrain, steep hills, mud pits and more. Prizes are awarded to participants who complete the most miles within 24 hours, and the team of two or more that completes 100 miles together wins $100,000. Competitors take on 20-25 of Tough Mudder’s most challenging obstacles including The Cliff, Human Operation, and Gut Buster, in this 24-hour, timed event to be deemed the toughest man, woman and team on the planet.

Tough Mudder PR Contacts:
Angela Alfano
(703) 447-5629
Angela.Alfano@ToughMudder.com

Jodi Kovacs
(732) 597-2094
Jodi.kovacs@toughmudder.com

Tough Mudder announces another TV show for 2017

Tough Mudder CW

Tough Mudder announced another new TV show premiering in 2017. The six episodes of the yet untitled show will follow a team of regular people as they train and prepare to run a Tough Mudder together. The first five episodes will air on CW Seed, the CW’s digital network with the season finale airing on The CW. The CW network is co-owned by CBS and Warner Bros.

Tough Mudder has already announced plans with the CBS Sports Network for TV coverage of World’s Toughest Mudder. CBS Sports Network will air three shows previewing, showing, and recapping World’s Toughest Mudder this December, as well as coverage next year of the Toughest Mudder series. For more information on the CBS Sports Network shows check out this article by Matt B. Davis.

The CW show will not focus on the elite athletes of World’s Toughest Mudder. It will highlight “everyday heroes” with inspirational stories of people who have overcome challenges in their life and found community through Tough Mudder.

Everest CW Article

Coming on the heels of Spartan’s disappointing reality/competition show some may dismiss the CW Tough Mudder show. However, anyone who has heard Sean Corvelle at the start line of a Tough Mudder knows they are standing next to people battling cancer, dealing with PTSD, fighting obesity and any number of other struggles. These people, just like Jim CampbellRyan Atkins, and anyone else who “earns their headband”, are all a part of the Mudder Nation.