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.

Tough Mudder- Atlanta 2015

Prologue:

5:25 AM, Atlanta – What the hell? Was I drunk last night?! This race bag looks like it was packed by an amateur! No change of clothes, no trash bag, no packets of GU.

6:45 AM, Fairburn – “Take a right” she said. “You have arrived at your destination” she said. “Oh yeah Google Gail? Then where in the hell am I, and why do I not see one flippin’ Tough Mudder sign?!”

6:46 AM, Fairburn (I think) – I see a sign that reads “Purple Spectator Route.” Confusion permeates the car like my friend’s fart from 10 minutes ago. Stopping in the middle of this gravel road seems the best course of action. I take a pull from my delicious smoothie (I would like to thank TretschStretch Smoothies for giving me the fuel I need to race at peak performance.) and ponder our predicament.

6:47 AM, Random gravel road – I turn around, go a few yards and turn into a gravel drive and pull up to two barns. A mystery man appears from nowhere. “You here for that Tough Mudder?” “You bet your sweet ass orange headband we are!” “Go back down that road, veer right at the next fork. You’ll see it”

6:49 AM, Random gravel road – We are on the right track! I see Funky Monkey through the trees!

6:50 AM, Fairburn – Pull into a spot in a grassy field. We have not gone through the official parking entry. We are completely on the DL, but alas, it does not matter; I paid for parking online.

6:58 AM, Forever Fields – Will we ever get to Mudder Village? It’s cold. I fear we did not bring enough supplies for the journey.

7:01 AM, Endless gravel road – All hope is lost. We must now ration our dwindling resources. I take smaller sips of my prerace 20oz. of Dunkin’ Donuts magic elixir (Tretsch runs on Dunkin’).

7:03 AM, Endless gravel road – We make out the faint outlines of tents on the next rise. Glory! The end, or the beginning really, is in sight.

7:24 AM, Mudder Village – Starting to herd the cats, I mean team members, as they trickle in. It’s cold but the sun is fast rising from its slumber. It’s going to be a spectacular day. Time for a warm up jog.

7:45 AM, Mudder Village – Bag check separates me from my money. I get to place it in a horse stall myself. This will prove to be a prescient move.

7:53 AM, Mudder Village – As we head to the starting line, we run into two late arriving teammates. They have to bail on starting with us as they will not be ready in time. I am extremely bummed as I was looking forward to these two knuckleheads joining us for much merriment.

7:55 AM, Starting line area – 8:00 am wave has been closed. Shit! Can’t complain though, it’s not the one any of us were assigned to anyways. We are a team of bandits, so we gladly enter the warm-up zone for the 8:15 wave. We are still missing two teammates. In no time we are invited to enter the starting corral. I’m pretty excited. My FIRST Tough Mudder!

Observations on the run:

1. This M.C. is hilarious. His banter is a welcome change from the last two Saturdays of serious chest thumping, blood pumping rah-rah. Hey, our missing teammates, and they have brought a friend! We are now 6 scruffy men and 3 refined ladies.

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2. The surrounding rolling fields are beautiful. Look at all those fucking hills………..
3. We immediately get all up into these rolling fields and my legs let me know they are not happy about being abused for a fourth week in a row. Power walking the hills are the rule of the day.
4. We cross over what looks to be a fun subterranean crawling obstacle.
5. Kiss of mud starts things off with an easy barbed wire crawl. That first layer of filth going on smoother than a mineral mud body wrap at Spa Sydell.
6. Look at that glorious lake! Picture perfect with the early morning sun highlighting the mist coming off the surface of the water. OOOO! Look at that tree fall going into the lake! Can we climb it?
7. Pitfall is where the mirth starts as I lead the team into a watery, muddy pit and immediately drop waist high into a hidden hole. This obstacle is perfectly named. I can hear the laughter of my teammates behind me. It’s gonna be a good day. I’m grinning like a jackass eating cactus as I exit at the opposite end.

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8. The bucolic setting is invigorating as we continue running along the lake on a flat gravel road. Images of genteel afternoons spent in Burberry tweed whilst pursuing the equine arts trot through my mind.
9. Hey look there’s Balls Out! 8 foot+ A-frames with thick ropes, spaced 4+ feet apart, and hanging from the top; this is a variation on last week’s tip of the spear. I stay low to get as much rope as possible to run to the next rope. I wish the A-frames had been longer.

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10. The first hydration station appears up ahead. Never have I seen such huge coolers. Multi-spigoted monsters sitting on spindly steel legs; the stuff of nightmares for any football coach. We get our cups and go to the “trough”, I get some water and then decide to try the electrolyte drink. Fucking nasty doesn’t even scratch the adjective surface in describing this blue liquid. It seems like some fearsome combination of pedialyte, the horrific Robitussin from my youth, and the milking of Satan’s anal glands.
11. Hey look a dumpster! Bonus obstacle. The volunteers yell at me, my teammates laugh.
12. Into the woods we go. Time for some trail running! UGH! And hills!
13. Warrior Carry appears in the middle of nowhere. We are an even number of men, but an odd number of women. And then just like that a lone female, mysterious in her old school aviators, happens upon us just at the right time. We assimilate her like the Borg. Any animals still around are surely scared off by our general foolishness and horsefuckery, all at maximum decibels. All manner of carrying styles are employed.

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14. We come out of the woods after a beautiful but hilly and long trail run into an open field with a substantial hill leading us to Mystery?
15. It is a mystery. It’s a mystery as to why they didn’t put water into these pits dug into the ground. It’s a mystery why they didn’t make them wider. It’s a mystery why they bothered hauling a huge ass water tank up that hill.
16. More running. More beautiful surroundings. And then off in the distance, the faint sound of a bell. YES! King of the Swingers was nigh! THE obstacle I had been waiting for after watching stupid numbers of hours of TM YouTube videos! The team was very excited.
17. It is ginormous. A wonderful bricolage of wood, scaffolding, steel and plastic sheeting. I quickly climbed up to the platform 12’ (?) up. Holy crap the tiny little handle bar at the end of the swing bar looks even tinier in person and it’s WAY further away than it looks in the videos. There will be no leaning over and grabbing it; this is a full-on-you-gotta-commit kind of jump. Why do I hear calliope music in my head? Enough standing around…JUMP! Grip is good! Swinging….wheeeee! Release! Go for the bell! Now, here is where I messed up. I swing at that bell as if I’m Hakeem Olajuwon swatting the very soul out of John Starks. So as the bell makes the pretty, tinkling sound of success, I’m tumbling toward the water in my best imitation of a rag doll thrown by a petulant toddler. I hit the water with an impressive smack, taking almost the full brunt with my bald-headed giggle stick. The frog-lady in the water looks at me with concern. I think it was concern. Who can really tell given the goggles and the regulator? Fear not lady, I am quite used to the many ways I can inconvenience my wife’s best friend during an OCR.

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18. HOLY SHIT! That was awesome. I need to do that again!!!
19. There is cheering and support for other members of the team and then it’s off for a second swing. The bell went ‘ding-dong’ again without the dong being dinged.
20. I go off course and run downhill through the wild flowers, flapping my arms and acting the fool. Life is grand.
21. The second hydration station offers up gummies. Yum! I feel guilty, as if I’ve raided Lil’ B’s stash of princess fruit snacks; they are delicious. Then I remember sage words of advice I once read from more seasoned OCR runners; “don’t try anything new on race day”. OOPS! We’ll see how these little gelatinous morsels of modern chemistry affect me. I avoid the blue piss of Beezzlebub.
22. The team continues to remark how beautiful the surroundings are. “Still doesn’t make the fucking hills any flatter”, I mutter.
23. The damn bars on Funky Monkey (…..2.0 even) are small. I’m talking old school, 1970s era playground small. I HATE small diameter bars. You engage your thumbs the bars can tear your hands apart, hook them with just your fingers and you always have a chance of slipping. The trapeze thingy and the bars make for a cool variation. I stay dry today. It’s a great atmosphere at this obstacle and we are cheering on our ladies to be the first females of the day to get across. The grit they showed was tremendous, they hung in there like a hair in a biscuit. But alas, it was not meant to be. Next race!
24. Back into the open meadows and oh joy………more hills.
25. One of our young, OCR newbie teammates (exactly why in the hell are we letting two 18 year olds set the pace wonder the grey powers of the group?!…..) standing at the holes of Mineshafted asks, “Do I go in feet first?” “No! Head first!” was the resounding answer from the more seasoned (weathered, aged, well worn, grizzled, wizened….) members of the team. Sliding downwards you really feel like you are going deep underground. We pop out into a deep pit with a small but slippery slant wall. There’s just enough room to get a good two step run up to it.
26. As we drop down into the wide open spaces of the main meadow, we can see Everest up on the hill to our right. We should be there in no time……
27. Toilets and bananas; these water stations are no joke! It’s no use. I can’t fight the need. I’m worried about my calves. I must drink the blue bile of Nosferatu. I do a 50-50 mix with H2O.
28. I crouch down low to ease myself into the Birth Canal. As there has been no mud or water for quite some time, I feel inadequately lubricated. I plunge inward on hands and knees with ease. This ain’t so bad at all! And then WHAM……the inescapable reality of Hydrodynamics comes crushing down on my neck and shoulders, and I narrowly avoid planting my proboscis in the pampas. I had merely been pushing the water forward and when it could go no further it stacked up and squashed me. The last few feet I become one with the grass.
29. There is much laughter as the team makes all manner of indelicate comments regarding birth. We have no class.
30. The problem with open field running is you can see how fucking far you have to go.
31. My knees are starting to ache with the previous 3 weeks of competition still fresh in the muscle memory banks.
32. As we stare down into the pits of Mud Mile 2.0, I think we all had a collective “oh crap!” moment. These monsters were deep! “She puts the lotion into the basket” kind of deep. And there were 4 of them. Unless you punked out and went to the edges (and even that looked sketchy) there was no way you were getting out of those pits alone unless you had:
a. A jetpack. I left mine at home
b. Toe picks and a grappling hook
c. Strange mutant powers of the levitating/flying kind
d. A small dog for a hostage
33. The water was deep and the squelchy muddy bottom was constantly sucking at your feet. The pit walls were sheer cliffs. The dirt mounds offering nothing but handfuls of loose soil. Between the heaving and ho’ing, there was more ass grabbing then at a Tailhook convention. The air was filled with the sound of people having serious amounts of fun despite the serious amounts of effort being expended. We finish and one our teammates says, “Look we get to do it again on the way back!”
34. Back into the woods and it’s a slippery, muddy muckfest of a trail. I start to twitch as my memorabrarian (you know…..your memory librarian) goes and retrieves the Savage Race and Battlefrog replay reels. At least it’s flat. My hips and knees tell me to fuck off.
35. Beached Whale seemed to be underinflated as everyone gravitated towards the center and we became a scrum of bodies just trying to get to the other side. The fine mud grit between body and vinyl doing exfoliating wonders on exposed skin.
36. At mile marker 6 I looked at my watch and it said 7.5 miles. This kind of discrepancy had been the case for many miles. Clearly Tough Mudder miles are longer than mere normal human miles. My legs cried “but HOW will we know WHEN it will end?!?!”
37. The Berlin Walls were tall. Escape from New York kind of tall. The tallest of any race I have done. Even using the slippery 2x a couple of feet up with a weird step hop move, I barely got fingers over the greasy top. Myself and a couple of teammates camp out on top of the wall and help hoist people up, legs and ass going all over the place, while one of our other gentlemen helps from below. Ahem!

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38. For the next million miles it’s a slog of nasty mud; slicker than a harpooned hippo on a banana tree. My knees really are starting to hate me.
39. We stop at a water station after climbing the world’s tallest mound of mulch. A volunteer is greeting us with high fives and boundless enthusiasm. I’m now at a 3:4 ratio of Vulcan piss to water. Fifty yards away we can see the second loop of Mud Mile 2.0
40. MM2.0 second round is even worse than the first time. We hump it through with as much grace as a herd of water buffalo on rollerblades.
41. The running is flat but tiring through the thick grass.
42. I vowed not to do Cry Baby because of the multiple surgeries I have had on my left eye and not wanting to do anything to my remaining good eye. Besides, like Electroshocking, it’s just a stupid obstacle. Nonetheless I cheer on my teammates as they enter the toxic box and then pop out the other end, blue mentholated smoke trailing behind them. They all reek of Vick’s vapor rub 2.0 as we continue our adventure.
43. More open field running. More hills. It never ends.
44. The young’uns are kind enough to keep us in sight.
45. We make our way along the front side of Mudder Village and the Mini Mudder course until we arrive at Arctic Enema 2.0. All ice water obstacles are fucking cold. It’s just a cold hard (see what I did there) fact of Thermodynamics. But after the first time, any subsequent races are just varying degrees of cold and no need for panic (remember; slow, controlled breathing). Now, when you have to slide down a ramp under a chain link fence that disappears into the murky water to unknown depths, THAT’s a whole different story. One teammate and I are sitting at the top of the ramp and I’m thinking this icy mess has the color of the world’s largest skinny-half-caff iced-mocha-latte. Anything to keep my mind off the impending underwater negotiation around the leading edge of the fence. “3..2..1, go!” the slide is slick and fast, and we are in, under and out from the fence quicker than green grass through a goose. Peripheral vasoconstriction starts quickly, but testicular retraction is instantaneous as I bid my betty swollocks a fond farewell for a few hours. We climb over (there are those RDs in the OCR world that would have had us going underwater again TM. Just sayin’…) the middle barrier and make a quiet and dignified exit. We catch up to the vanguard of our team doing jumping jacks while they wait for us.

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46. People walking up the main access road enjoy the spectacle of tired cold wet runners before we disappear around the corner. “You’ll get yours soon enough…”
47. I’m chugging Smurf sewage like it’s Cristal. I no longer bother cutting it.
48. The water station is in the shadow of a spectacular barn; five star accommodations for the well-heeled horse. A huge earthen cliff, the remnants of the construction process is our next obstacle; Cliffhanger.
49. We run up a dirt ramp so that we can rappel down a 12 foot+ cliff. The rope is a monster and weighs a ton. This is some sketchy shit right here. We circle around and then climb a 30 foot face covered in cargo netting. “This is going to scare the fuck out of some people”, I muse.
50. More beautiful trail running. More fucking hills. I’m getting a hitch in my stride.
51. Bear crawling at The Liberator (This name makes absolutely no sense. Fire that intern TM!) works well and raised the net up sufficiently to help those behind me. A teammate slams her knee into an unmarked stump (Where’s the orange paint TM?) while crawling.
52. More running.
53. Will it ever end?!
54. We skirt along the backside of Mudder Village before dropping back into the trees. We are close!
55. THAT is the tallest inverted wall I have ever seen at any race! Skidmarked? What the hell does that have to do with anything?! It is a BIG leap just to get to the lip. Thankfully the lip is dry. Our team is alone at this obstacle, so we make short work of it with generous amounts of lifting and pushing. Some tires and a large corporate logo on the backside clears up the name confusion. Still makes no sense.
56. The location is ridiculously idyllic. There is a perfect little lake with a perfect little dock, just begging for cannonballs. I would drown at this point.
57. We round the corner and see Funky Monkey. We have done a monstrous figure-eight. A compulsory figure writ large over miles of woods, meadows, and mud.
58. What is this?! A teammate drops into a small creek along the roadside and immediately sinks up to his chest. It is the grossest, nastiest stretch of water in the history of OCR. I don’t even know what to call this fucking mess of mud, leaves, grass and god knows what else. At one point I literally felt I was going to disappear below the surface; sucked down by the mysterious muck below. One teammate doggie paddles across. She had the right idea.
59. We arrive at Everest covered in quickly drying black goo. The sun was shining and the end was near, and that HAD to have been the last hill or I was gonna fucking lose it. We take stock of the ¼ pipe that is Everest. It didn’t look that tall, though it did have an unusually large rounded lip. I take first crack at it. Run! Launch! Good height! Reach for the back of the lip and……….BUBKISS. The back of the lip had to be at least a foot beyond where my hands were now grasping for nothing but smooth plastic. My slide back to terra firma is quite elegant. I finally exhibit a bit of grace for the day. Second time’s the charm though. With two other teammates at the top we get everyone over the lip, and then help out a few more. It occurs to me what bravery and trust it takes to run up that beast and just jump towards outstretched hands hoping you will be caught.
60. Everest allows for a commanding view of the rolling hills and Mudder Village. It’s all downhill from here baby!
61. I promised my wife I would not do Electroshock, and I wasn’t going to do it anyways. It’s a stupid fucking obstacle with no physicality to it and nothing but downsides health wise. Luckily Deadringer was a Legionnaire’s option for bypassing electroshock. So, I bandit it. I was dying to try it. Some teammates joined me, others went the 10k volt route. “Hey, is that a BAR over there. I’m thirsty!” It was weird at first using the rings, but I eventually got into a rhythm. An Elaine Benes kind of rhythm, but a rhythm nonetheless and I made it across.

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62. We all convened at the exit of both obstacles and confirmed we would all be crossing the finish line together. Some were feeling the sting of electricity and some were lucky to have emerged unscathed.
63. We ran eight abreast through the barn, cheering ourselves, as we approached the finish line.
64. And then it was done. I am tired.
65. That was FUN!! I am no longer a Tough Mudder virgin! However, 11.81 miles in 3:11:34 a week after a brutal Battlefrog made it more like an uncomfortable romp in the backseat of a subcompact versus sweet love on a rose petal covered bear skin rug in front of a roaring fireplace at a ski chalet. Nonetheless as a team event it was a blast. I cannot speak to previous Tough Mudders, but Tretsch says DO it.

POSTSCRIPT

11:26 AM, Mudder Village – I just went through a gauntlet of swag. Towels, T-shirts, protein bars, supplement stuff, and beef jerky. I tear into the beef jerky package ravenous with hunger. Now I know what pairs perfectly with Satan’s blue ball sweat. Luckily a trash can is close by to spit this nastiness out.

11:30 AM, Mudder Village – I go to the bag check to retrieve my gear, while the others go check out Fire in your hole….I mean Ring of Fire and the hamster wheel thingy. The volunteer at the table shakes my hand and congratulates me on a job well done. All the volunteers today have been top drawer.

11:40 AM Mudder Village – I reluctantly get my beer. Am I the only one who hates Shocktop? Two races in a row with this crap. First world problems. The staff at the beer tent are just a wonderment of friendliness and service. The beer sucks, but their employees are aces!

11:45 AM Mudder Village – I’m whoopin’ it up watching some of my teammates attempt Satan’s bunghole……I mean Ring of Fire. I do not partake. I am not a Legionnaire and I am too much of a cheapass to pay for it. The action photo provided is a nice touch though.

Noonish, Mudder Village – The two young’uns appear, one has both her palms completely wrapped in gauze; the hamster wheel thingy has claimed another victim. We continue yucking it up and taking pictures, and then team members start to peel off.

12:45 PM, Mudder Showers – As I stand there on the hill, soaking up the sun, rinsed off as much as one can be with an old school spray nozzle, I reflect on the choices I made to get to a sport where I can stand amongst a crowd in nothing but my blue and black striped Voltron boxer briefs, and no one gives a rat’s ass.

12:47 PM, Mudder Showers – I meet one of my teammates coming out of the Legionnaire shower trailer (warm shower facilities?! There really is no other reason needed to run another TM), and we chat as I walk towards the changing tent. “Oh my gosh, I almost walked in there with you!” she says. “Ha, nothing to see but small shriveled [index finger and thumb a couple of inches apart]……..” I say loudly.

12:47:05, Changing Tent – 12 men turn around simultaneously as I walk in. Not a fucking sound. Outer space is noisier. Then they all bust out laughing……..

1:05 PM, Endless Gravel Road – The long trek back to the car is easier than in the morning. There is sun on my shoulders, story telling, and endless people watching.

*Photos By: Tough Mudder

 


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Tough Mudder Michigan- No Virus, No Problem!

No Norovirus? No problem! The wildly contagious virus that plagued several hundred Tough Mudder Michigan participants in 2013 did not repeat its performance in 2014.

The Michigan Department of Public Health determined that in 2013 an already sick participant in an early Saturday wave contaminated a mud or water obstacle. This led to the virus outbreak that infected hundreds who participated at the event held at the Michigan International Speedway (MIS).

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Noro did not return to MIS in 2014, but on September 20, Tough Mudder did and sent a reported 26,000 through its familiar challenge of climbs, crawls, slides, and jumps. The 12 mile course wrapped through the 1,400 acre grounds surrounding the “fastest track in NASCAR” located in the scenic Irish Hills area of southeastern Michigan.

The MIS parking lot is equipped to handle tailgating crowds of well over 100,000, so parking at this venue was no problem. The lot was well paved, well-marked, relatively close to the festival area (no shuttles were required), and was easy to exit.

As with most Tough Mudder events, the registration process was smooth, with plenty of well-organized volunteers quickly moving participants through the process.

The race was run mostly on grass over small, but persistent, rolling hills. At times the course wound onto paths through wooded areas, but was primarily out in the open, within view of the gigantic grandstands of MIS.

The 2014 edition of TM Michigan was tougher than 2013, according to second time participant Geoff Roether, a 44 year old from Minneapolis, MN, who traveled to Michigan to race with a group of buddies organized by Michigan resident Mark Simmer.

“We ran for a mile or more before we got to the first obstacle this year,” Roether said. “The Hold Your Wood log carry was longer, the mud hills of the Mud Mile were more slippery with fewer footholds.”

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Roether also mentioned that several new obstacles were more challenging than previous versions, including Pyramid Scheme — a favorite obstacle among his group of friends.

Pyramid Scheme is a quarter-pipe wall type obstacle. Other quarter-pipe obstacles (including Tough Mudder’s own Everest) leave plenty of room in front so participants can get a running start to scale the wall. Others (including Savage Race’s Colossus and Battlefrog’s Tsunami) have ropes hanging down to help participants scale the wall. Pyramid Scheme has neither. A deep, water filled trench lines the approach to the obstacle, preventing a running start and there are no ropes to help.

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To scale this obstacle, racers are forced to work together, stacking themselves in a human pyramid to help each other climb to the top.

“That was my favorite part of the race – the camaraderie. Helping and being helped by teammates and total strangers,” said Dave Navetta, who traveled from Denver, CO, to join Simmer’s group.

“The team aspect of it made it fun,” adds Mark Seward, from New York City. “Tough Mudder should have more team-oriented obstacles.”

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“The Michigan event was better than Tough Mudder Chicago,” said Dave Stannard, who lives in suburban Chicago, “It was tougher, longer and I loved the legionnaire obstacle – Fire in the Hole.”

Fire in the Hole is a water slide through honest to goodness flames, one of several obstacles on the Legionnaire’s Loop, a small section of the course open only to repeat Mudder participants. The slide is legitimately fast and the flames legitimately hot. Very exciting and very fun.

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“The Monkey Bars (Funky Monkey) seemed easier this year and Artic Enema wasn’t as cold,” said Roether. “And the drinking water on the course was nasty brown.” The nasty brown drinking water is something Tough Mudder HQ should look into.

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Another change from last year was the safety improvements of Walk the Plank, the platform jump into a deep pool of water. The platform was noticeable lower, but the real change was the organization and the number of emergency rescue personnel.

Volunteers and staff closely monitored who was jumping and when they jumped. Five jumped at a time and a volunteer was responsible for each jumper. Every jumper was accounted for and cleared the water before the next round was released to jump. In addition, there was at least one water rescue diver in the water at all times and another rescuer on shore.

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Tough Mudder Michigan 2014 was another example of a solid entry in the Tough Mudder series. Although some may find that a few obstacles are easier than in the past, the series appears to be maturing with improved obstacle construction, safety measures, and other features to improve the experience for both participants and spectators.

*Photos By: Tough Mudder, J.D. Allen, and Debbie Dawson