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 Sacramento

The first OCR that I ever did was Tough Mudder in Lake Tahoe, California back in 2011. Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to do many more all over the country (and Canada!!). While each is special in its own way, I always look forward to returning to Lake Tahoe each June.

Well, a funny thing happened in California this past winter. It rained. Like, a lot. Then it kept raining. Then it continued to rain. Record amounts of rain hit the state. As that rain hit the Sierra Nevada mountains, it became incredible amounts of snow. So much snow fell during the winter of 2016/17. That the NorthStar resort had to tell Tough Mudder, “Sorry, we can’t host you this year”.

The good folks at TMHQ did their best to find an alternative location in the Tahoe area, but all of them were also buried in snow.

Enter…. SACRAMENTO!!! For those who don’t know, the city of Sacramento is the Capital of California….and that’s about it. If political corruption and a crappy NBA team is your jam…you’d love this place!

It’s pretty much the anti-Tahoe. It is flat, it is hot, and…. well yeah, it’s the Capital of California.

As you may be able to tell, I was less than enthused by the choice of location for this event. But…if you set up an OCR event within 2 hrs of my house, chances are I’m going to show up. So, I did. And as an added bonus, I convinced my teenage son to run with me (and my daughter to spectate).

The event was held at the Gibson Ranch County Park, which was a surprisingly pretty 30+ acre parcel scattered with green grass, a large lake, and some adorable farm animals (more on them later).

Parking was well managed, and check in was a breeze. Tough Mudder has really streamlined the check in process over the years thanks to those handy barcode scanners.

I avoided the $10 bag check fee by strapping a backpack to my daughter, and reminding her of all those Disneyland trips that I’ve taken her on over the years.

TM Sac Map

The start corral for this event was wedged awkwardly into a pocket of trees, which would end up being the most shade that we would experience for quite a while.

Start line MC extraordinaire Sean Corvelle got our 8am wave all primed and pumped, and sent us on our way right on time.

As for the course itself, here’s a mile by mile break down with highlights and low lights:

Mile 1: Literally nothing. There were zero obstacles within the 1st mile. The only highlight was watching my son take off like a bat out of Hades. He kept looking back for me and smiling, giving me that “Catch up, old man!” kinda look. Tortoise and the hare, son. Tortoise and the hare.

Mile 2 & 3: Three obstacles during this span. The Berlin walls, a climb over some hay bales, and Skidmarked (an inverted wall, whose title made my teenage son giggle like a school girl). The highlight of this portion was my son wanting to stop for a moment because he “got something in his shoe”. Welcome to OCR, son.

TM SAC Skidmarked
Mile 4 & 5: Eight obstacles were packed into these two miles, making it one of the best parts of the course. My son managed to scale Everest 2.0 on his own, something I’ve never done. So that was equal parts exciting…and annoying. Also in this grouping of obstacles was Mud Mile 2.0. I give Tough Mudder credit for their version of this mud run staple. The trenches are dug so deep, that this baby is virtually impossible to navigate without some help from a fellow Mudder. The water was over waist deep, and the walls of the trenches were slick and crumbly.

Remember those farm animals I mentioned earlier? Well we didn’t see any, but the irrigation ditch that we had to slog through as part of Kiss of Mud was a not so gentle reminder that there were some around. Kiss of Mud? Possibly. Kiss of Feces? Most likely. This was also the part of the course where my son developed a blister on the bottom of his foot. Must have been from that blazing start he had. Welcome back to the pack, son.

TM SAC KoM

Mile 6 & 7: The highlight of this stretch, which had four obstacles, was Funky Monkey the Revolution. The 2017 version of this obstacle is very fun and challenging. Easily one of my favorites on the course, and something I’m finally able to complete consistently. My son failed this obstacle, missing the transition from the 2nd ring to the straight bar at the end. HA HA HA HA HA! I mean, good try son. Dad still loves you.

TM SAC Funky Monkey

The final three miles had eight obstacles scattered across them. Arctic Enema: The Rebirth was one of the first we faced. Much like Funky Monkey, I LOVE the 2017 version of this obstacle. The initial slide down sends you under the freezing water, as it did last year. For 2017 they’ve added a short Cage Crawl element to the 2nd half of it, which also requires you to get under a dunk wall. The combo of these two elements has you spending more time under water than you ever had before in this obstacle. My son genuinely hates the cold, so this was easily his biggest challenge of the day. It took lots of patience and encouragement, but he managed to get through it. I was genuinely proud to see him overcome a fear of his. Well done, son.

TM SAC Arctic

The last mile or so was a very pleasant trail through a nice wooded portion of the property. We then got routed down into another irrigation ditch for something called Swamp Stomp. Swamp Stomp + farm animals = Well, you get the idea.

As is always the case with any Tough Mudder, the course ended with the infamous Electroshock Therapy. I originally told my son that I would go through this with him. However, as the day progressed, I remembered how much I utterly hate this obstacle. Fortunately, my lad was a trooper and barged through it solo…only getting two or three shocks along the way.

We crossed the finish line together, and then had the following conversation:

“Did you have fun, son?”

“Yeah.”

“Great! Would you do another one with me sometime?”

“No.”

Fair enough.

Great job, son.

TM SAC Duo

 

Toughest Mudder South Race Review

In today’s OCR landscape, there is a plethora of events featuring numerous different course lengths and difficulties to suit every taste.  However, the more hardcore crowd who enjoys pushing themselves for multiple hours through endless obstacles was dealt a tough blow last year when BattleFrog shuttered operations.  Their BattleFrog Extreme (BFX) option allowed racers to complete as many laps of the standard 5 mile circuit from 8 am to 3 pm and were a favorite among the ultra OCR enthusiast crowd.  Tough Mudder clearly saw this opportunity to seize that market segment and announced the first ever Toughest Mudder Series.  These events would be 8 hours taking place from 12-8 am, competitive with prize money, broadcast on CBS, and feature a 2 course layout with unique obstacles.  The inaugural event in Los Angeles last month was hailed a smashing success by competitors and media alike.  Therefore, I was keen to check out if Tough Mudder Head Quarters (TMHQ) could duplicate the same triumph at the second stop in Atlanta – let’s hope for Godfather Part 2 and not 2 Fast 2 Furious.

As with any great sequel, the setting is critical and Bouckaert Farms seemed to fit the bill.  This 8,000 acre equestrian park is teeming with gentle pastures, lakes, and woodlands along a 12 mile stretch of the Chattahoochee River.  The road leading up to the event site was well marked and an electronic road construction sign was placed at the site entrance.  Two options were offered for parking – premium for $30 (could only be purchased in advance) right beside Mudder village and standard for $20 ($10 in advance).  Standard parking required a decent 15 minute walk which was quite a task when toting all the gear and nutrition needed for an 8 hour event.  Mudder Village was set up inside the equestrian competition venue with registration setup at the main gate.  Drop zones for pit stops left a lot to be desired though as they were located inside the equestrian horse stalls.   While TMHQ did make good on their promise to provide a 2 by 4 foot covered area, these stalls were narrow and had a very tight entrance.  Undeterred, participants eventually crowded into the starting corral to receive their final briefing.

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TMHQ officials covered primary rules and course specifics before handing over the mic to their hype man, Sean Corvelle.  The Tough Mudder pledge was recited, a few chants were uttered, and the official start was issued promptly at 12:00 am.  Channeling the spirits of the thoroughbreds which normally graced the grounds, participants charged out of the corral onto the first loop.  The first lap is described as a “Sprint Lap” with only some of the 12 obstacles being open.  This allows the field to thin and prevent back logging on obstacles.  There is also a standalone award for the first male and female to complete the first lap.  However, it seemed a large portion of the field went out at a pace more suited for a 2 hour race and would come to regret that decision later in the night.

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The first mile of loop number one led away from Mudder Village and directly into the surrounding forest for a nice technical section of trail running.  Nestled amidst the Georgia pines was the first obstacle, Berlin Walls, which would showcase a devious twist from the race directors – a double obstacle.  There are normally two flat 8 foot walls participants must scale, but the course was doubled back after successful completion to conquer two more (total of 4 walls).  Even better still, the second set had an added horizontal shelf at the top which made that set much more difficult and strength intensive.  Little did we know, TMHQ would utilize this sneaky technique on other upcoming obstacles throughout the event.

After some more trail running, the forest opened up to Pyramid Scheme which was tweaked for this individual event into a slippery (water pit at the base), slanted wall with a rope assist.  Shortly after, mudders encountered the first decent hill at 1.5 miles into the course that gained approximately 100 feet at a 20% incline.  The path turned at the summit and would meander along the river front for the next 2.5 miles.  Along the way, some of the more mundane obstacles would be met including Devil’s Beard (cargo net crawl), Hold Your Wood (log carry), Lumberjacked (horizontal logs to jump over), and Bale Bonds (hay bale climb).  The relaxing jaunt through the foggy meadow abruptly came to an end with the emergence of a beast, the Block Ness Monster!  Teamwork was a necessity because these slick, rotating barriers were heavy and situated in deep water.

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With heart rates raised and muscles pumped, the path would only get harder from here.  Skidmarked, an 8 foot slanted wall (towards athlete), was hiding only a few hundred yards around the corner.  This lead directly into Kiss the Mud 2.0 (barb wire crawl) and Mud Mile 2.0.  Muddy mounds are not normally an obstacle people fear with most barely remembering them post race, but this is Toughest Mudder!  Mud Mile 2.0 was by far the hardest and most energy consuming obstacle on loop one.  These mounds were tall with no hand / foot holds and the water pits were deep with no ability to launch upwards.  Competitors united to push and pull each other over the 10 slick mounds at a brutally sluggish rate.  The hard work was rewarded with two additional obstacles before the finish – Pitfall (variable depth water crossing) and Everest 2.0 (half pipe with rope assist).

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Challengers would complete this same course as many times as they could until between 3:45 – 4:00 am when TMHQ would begin routing people to the second loop for the remaining 4 hours.  Obstacles on the first loop all closed around 3:30 am to usher all runners to the second loop as quickly as possible.  Loop one could definitely be summarized as teamwork based with no single obstacle causing a high rate of failure and was aimed at sapping leg strength.  Loop two, on the other hand, would be much more individual focused and require upper body / grip strength plus obstacle proficiency.

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Waiting conveniently atop the first hill was Balls to the Wall, the 16 foot vertical wall with a rope attached at its peak.  No time to rest though because down the other side of the hill ran you into Augustus Gloop.  This was comprised of wading thru a water pit and directly up a vertical tube as more water rushed in from above.  After being thoroughly soaked, TMHQ decided to be funny and place the shockingly (pun intended) tricky Operation.  Similar to the children’s game of old, a metal pole had to be placed thru an electrified opening to grab a small ring hanging flush against a backstop.  Successful completion moved you directly into another double obstacle section, Stage 5 Clinger and Reach Around.  If you were not feeling the burn by now, a modified King of Swingers (no bell, replaced with cargo net to Tyrolean traverse over the water pit) was a short distance away to push your muscles to the limit.  All of this came before the 2 mile mark of loop two!

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Fortunately, the obstacle density was scaled back after this point with longer running sections.  Arctic Enema the Rebirth would be next up after a half mile jog to cool any burning forearms and really shock the system.  Another half mile stretch was waiting to warm participants’ core temperature just in time for another log carry, Hold Your Wood Dos, and Funky Monkey the Revolution.  The first half was the same upward sloping monkey bars as previous years, but the remainder had been revamped to include a series of revolving wheels.  Thick fog from the humid Southern air provided a nice coating of dew for added enjoyment.  The remaining two miles of the course was fairly subdued with a 200 foot hill climb, Ladder to Hell (simple up and over), Quagmire (thick mud pit), double obstacle – Birth Canal and Black Hole (low crawls under fluid filled canvas), and lastly Kong (5 gym rings suspended 30 feet in the air).

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No new laps could be started after 7:45 am and a 30 minute grace period was provided to finish any current lap.  Any athletes still not finished at 8:30 am were pulled from the course and transported back to Mudder Village.  This would not count as a DNF, just no partial credit would be given for that last lap.  When it was all said and done, your top men were Ryan Atkins (1st – 50 miles), Ryan Woods (2nd – 45 miles), and Luke Bosek (3rd – 45 miles).  On the women’s side, the top performers were Lindsay Webster (1st – 45 miles), Allison Tai (2nd – 40 miles), and Alex Roudayna (3rd – 35 miles).  Currently in the lead for annual mileage are Ryan Atkins (100 miles) and Lindsay Webster (85 miles).  The next stop for Toughest will be across the pond in the United Kingdom.

So did Tough Mudder successfully pull off their Godfather sequel?  Based off the 500 maniacs (this author included) who paid hard earned money to torture themselves for 8 hours, it would seem TMHQ made us an offer we couldn’t refuse.  The courses were comprised of technical running with enough hills to keep it interesting, but not daunting.  Obstacles were well placed, challenging, and contained surprising alterations like doubled versions.  It was a very polished event as one would expect from one of the most well established OCR companies.  Perhaps the only unanswered question will be how these events translate into the CBS broadcast later this summer.  To paraphrase Michael Corleone, “We know it’s you, Tough Mudder.  So don’t break our hearts!”

Spartan Race Tri-State New Jersey Ultra Beast 2017 – Too Easy?

As it got closer to the 2016 Tri-State New Jersey Ultra Beast at Mountain Creek Resort, participants found out that the course had been rerouted from the previous year to include an additional 1,000 ft climb. Although this year, complaints filled the air that the course included less elevation gain and was too easy. In 2016, Francis DiSomma finished the Beast course in 2 hours 55 minutes with a whopping 21 minute lead on second place. However, this year the first 16 finishers of the Beast course beat his time. Could this have something to do with Norm Koch leaving Spartan Race? Possibly, but it does seem indicative of an easier course. It was a true Ultra Beast nevertheless: 2 laps of the Beast course covering over 26 miles with 60 obstacles on rugged New Jersey terrain. For those who had been attempting an Ultra Beast for the first time, it was plenty challenging; but for Ultra Beast veterans, there was no comparison… except for the brutal bucket carry right at the finish.

The first heat of the day was delayed 30 minutes and immediately I was having flashbacks to Killington. As soon as we were given the go, racers took off, running up the mountain for the first of many times that day. I jogged for about a minute and dialed it back to a power hike knowing it wasn’t worth wasting the energy. Throughout the entirety of the first lap, I was jockeying back and forth with a few people who insisted on running the climbs, but I wasn’t worried. I kept telling myself that the first lap was the warm-up and that the race didn’t begin until the second lap. I spent a lot of miles distracting myself by meeting other racers, talking about our past experiences and how the obstacles were going that day. Since it rained briefly before the start of the race, the monkey bars were pretty wet when we got to them, causing many racers to slip and start the race off with 30 burpees. For many, it was also the first time we encountered Olympus and Bender.

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All of this made for good conversation and I soon realized that I was actually enjoying my time spent on the mountain, rather than just grinding it out and psyching myself out. On the steep climbs, I took it slow and steady and began passing a lot of people, apparently more than I realized. I was having a fantastic race. The tyrolean traverse and herc hoist, amongst others, had never felt easier. I even made it over the 8 ft wall on my first try with no assistance – a new best for me!

By the time I came down the mountain to the final 3 obstacles – the bucket carry, twister and rope climb – I was one of the first 20 females. The bucket carry was the longest and steepest one I’ve ever done and in my opinion, it was the most challenging obstacle on the course. Completing it was quite the task in of itself, but I had also developed a splitting headache over the previous hour.

Spartan-NJ-UB-2017-Bucket-Carry-1 Spartan-NJ-UB-2017-Bucket-Carry-2

By the time I finally got to the twister, my headache had grown to the point where it hurt to look up into the sun to see the handles. I quickly fell and that’s when it really hit me. I was in so much pain that it took me about 20 minutes to do my 30 burpees, occasionally laying on the ground for a few minutes. Needless to say, I was no longer in the top 20, but by some miracle, I completed the rope climb and still finished my first lap in under 4 hours.

Once I got to the drop bin area, I just wanted to lay down and close my eyes for a moment. This quickly attracted the attention of the medics and I thought it was all over… again. I was about to be med-dropped. They brought me to the medical tent and gave me water and medicine, but nothing helped. They determined I wasn’t dehydrated and that it was just a migraine. All I could do was wait it out, but they urged me to pull myself from the race. I was beyond frustrated that this had happened. I’ve never felt so fresh coming off of a Spartan course as I did that day. My body felt amazing but I could barely open my eyes. TWO AND A HALF HOURS LATER, it finally started to ease up a little. In a rage that a mere headache was holding me back from completing this race, I decided to just go back out and see what happened. I ate some chips, filled my hydration pack, grabbed my headlamp, and went back out on course for lap two.

Within minutes, I felt amazing again. The fact that I was back out on the course re-energized me. I was quickly passing other Ultra Beast racers who said that their legs felt dead. I even began passing Beast racers who had just begun their first lap. Not long after, I had even caught up to some people I was running with in my first lap. I was cruising! The obstacles went exactly the same as they did in the first lap, although I probably did the bucket carry faster the second time. I failed the Multi-Rig, Olympus, & the Spear, which were all in a row, as well as the Twister, both laps for a grand total of 240 penalty burpees. All in all, I still finished the second lap in about 5 hours.

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I could have actually put up a decent time if it weren’t for the amount of time in between laps, and that bothers me, but in comparison to what happened in Killington, I was just glad to finish. Although I am now the proud owner of a Spartan Ultra Beast belt buckle, and many have congratulated me on earning my redemption, I’m still planning on getting back out to Vermont to give it another shot. In all honesty, the courses do not compare; and in my mind, the medals do not bear the same value. The 2017 Tri-State New Jersey Ultra Beast had 1,046 finishers whereas the 2016 Killington Ultra Beast only had 204. Which medal would you rather own?

Spartan U.S. Championship Series 2017: Emerald City Open

Seattle is home to coffee, grunge, and the Pike Place Market. This weekend it was home to the first race in the 2017 Spartan U.S. Championship Series. Not only was it the first race in the series, it was also live streamed. A playback video link can be found at the end of this article.

It was surprisingly dry and relatively warm on race day with just a few showers and temperatures in the low 60’s. Storms rolled through earlier in the week, ensuring there was no shortage of mud. The race would incorporate this natural obstacle in so many ways.

This is my hometown, so the race is extra special. Our team, BeastsOCR, received the biggest team award! They are an amazing group of people!

 

The Elites lined up and were underway. Hobie Call was back and placed 2nd, with Ryan Atkins placing 1st, and Robert Killian 3rd. Alyssa Hawley, Lindsay Webster, and Nicole Mericle rounded out the top three elite women. They are so fast and just amaze me every time I see them.

It was time for us to jump the wall and enter the corral. We took off and started with a pretty long run through corn fields and a trail that followed the river. We kept our pace moderate as it was going to be a fairly long super today at approximately 9.7 miles. We came to the hurdles and the O-U-T (over, under, through).

 

We made our way to the back section of the race venue and the mud hit with a vengeance! It seemed as though it was about a mile of solid mud. Probably wasn’t quite that far, but it sure did make the legs cry for mercy. There was one section that was particularly sticky and it looked like people were sinking in quicksand.

 

The double sandbag carry was up next! It was probably a quarter mile or more, with rolling hills and mud on the upper portion.

 

The new obstacle, Bender, was hard for me the first time I tried it, but I found it was all mental as I was able to go right up and over without a problem this time. Guess it’s a good lesson to not be intimidated by new obstacles and just jump in there and try it.

 

We trekked back through the mud and up some pretty steep hills towards the festival area. Seattle is known for a relatively flat course, but there are some sections that are definite challenges. We came to a second carry with wreck bags and then the spear throw. Missed and did the required burpees, along with several others. I believe these Spartans all made it.

 

Back up the trails and through the forest. The mud was thick and sticky again. We tried to do controlled slides going down, but they weren’t always successful. We found the inverted wall and then the Bucket Carry! It was a little unusual in that it went downhill first. The trail was muddy and uneven, making it very difficult to navigate. Several people fell and dropped their buckets. They had to get all of the gravel back in or start over. We rounded the bottom and made our way back up. Once the end was in sight, we realized this wasn’t the end at all! We had to go back down and up one more time! It was mentally defeating, but we gritted it out and got it done.

 

The dunk wall and slip wall were next, followed by the atlas carry. They had the big tires here today, 200 lbs for women and 400 lbs for men. They are very flat on the bottom, making them hard to get under. They were also being held to the sand with suction from the water. Flipped one way and then the next and we were off, to what we dubbed, “burpee hill”. The new obstacle, twister, was perched on top of a short hill. With exhaustion setting in, in addition to wet muddy hands, I didn’t stand a chance. Gave it a shot and dropped right off. 30 burpees!

Only a few more obstacles and we would be approaching the finish line. There was a waterway with cording, similar to barbed wire that we floated under. Then, we came to the Herc Hoist and the classic Multi-Rig. The Herc Hoist felt a little heavier than usual as the bags were wet from the rain the night before.

Finally, we jumped over the fire and received our well-earned medals!

 

Photo credit: Kim Collings, Adam Birgenheier, Jenn Reed, Spartan Race

Spartan Race was live streaming at this event and can be replayed here:

How I got 50 miles at World’s Toughest Mudder

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Lap: 1 (Sprint Lap – No Obstacles) Miles 1-5

Gear
ORM MudGear Shirt
Merrell Buff
Shoes: 
Hydration: 
Start: Geigerrig 500 (2L) filled with H20
Halfway Water Station: 1 cups water 2 cups Cellucor
Issues: Rocks in the shoes
Obstacles Failed: N/A
Time: 1:06:07   (Lap complete at around 1:15pm)
Bonus Fun Fact: Number of Eminem/Slim Shady/PonyBoy Comments: 10
Pit Food prior to next lap: Banana
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Lap: 2 (1st full obstacle lap) Miles 6-10

Gear
Same as previous lap
Shoes: 
Hydration: 
Start: Geigerrig 500 (2L) filled with H20
Halfway Water Station: 1 cups water 2 cups Cellucor
Issues: More rocks in shoes
Obstacles Failed: Funky Monkey Revolution, Kong
Time: 1:52:46   (Lap complete at about 3:10pm)
Pit Food prior to next lap: 1 PB&J
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 Lap: 3  Miles 11-15

 Gear
(Change to) Neptune System Top
Merrell Buff
Shoes: 
Hydration: 
Start: Geigerrig 500 (2L) filled with H20 and a little Gatorade
Halfway Water Station: 2 cups water 1 cup Cellucor
Issues: Slight occasional heartburn
Obstacles Failed: Operation, Funky Monkey Revolution, Double Rainbow, Kong
Time: 2:02:02   (Lap complete around 5:30pm)
Pit Food and Hydration prior to next lap: 1 can of Chicken Noodle Soup,  3 Tums
50-miles-at-worlds-toughest-mudder-lap-2

Carrying sandbags on one (of many) penalty loops

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Lap: 4 Miles 16-20

Gear
Same as previous lap
Shoes: 
Same as previous lap
Hydration: 
Start: Geigerrig 500 (2L) filled with H20 and a little Gatorade
Halfway Water Station: 1 cups water 1 cup Cellucor
Issues: Slight occasional heartburn, chafing near right arm pit
Obstacles Failed: Operation, Double Rainbow, Funky Monkey Revolution, Kong
Time: 2:08:33   (Lap Complete around 7:45pm)
Pit Food prior to next lap: 1 PB&J, some cookies , Walmart Peanut Butter Trail Mix, 3 Tums
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Hydration: 
Start: Geigerrig 500 (2L) filled with H20 and a little Gatorade
Halfway Water Station: 2 cups water 1 cups Cellucor
Issues: None
Obstacles Failed: Operation, Double Rainbow, Funky Monkey Revolution, Kong
Time: 2:22:18   (Lap complete around 10pm)
Bonus Fun Fact: 4/4 on Twinkle Toes including this lap. Sadly, they closed this obstacle moving forward.
Pit Food prior to next lap: 1 can of ravioli
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Lap: 6 Miles 26-30

Gear

Same as previous lap plus

Shoes: 
Same as previous lap
Hydration: 
Start: Geigerrig 500 (2L) filled with H20 and a little Gatorade
Halfway Water Station: 1 cup water 1 cup Cellucor
Issues: None
Obstacles Failed: Operation, Double Rainbow, Kong
Time: 2:38:41   (Lap complete around 1am)
Bonus Fun Fact: Cliff is Open!
Pit Food prior to next lap: PB&J
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Lap: 7 Miles 31-35

Gear

Same as previous lap plus

BleggMitts

Shoes: 
Same as previous lap
Hydration: 
Start: Geigerrig 500 (2L) filled with H20 and a little Gatorade
Halfway Water Station: 2 cups water
Issues: Sleepwalking
Obstacles Failed:  Grappler, Funky Monkey Revolution, Double Rainbow, Kong
Time: 2:14:41   (Lap complete around 3:30am)
Pit Food prior to next lap: Walmart Peanut Butter Trail Mix
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Lap: 8 Miles 36-40

Gear

Same as previous lap

Shoes: 
Same as previous lap
Hydration: 
Start: Geigerrig 500 (2L) filled with H20 and a little Gatorade
Halfway Water Station: 2 cups water 1 cup Cellucor
Issues: None
Obstacles Failed:  Grappler, Funky Monkey Revolution, Double Rainbow, Kong
Time: 2:24:24  (Lap complete around 6:00am)
Bonus Fun Fact: Number of times peed in wetsuit on this lap : 3 
Pit Food prior to next lap: Honey Stinger Waffle, Walmart Peanut Butter Trail Mix
worlds-toughest-mudder-lap-8

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Lap: 9 Miles 40-45

Gear

Same as previous lap

Shoes: 
Same as previous lap
Hydration: 
Start: Geigerrig 500 (2L) filled with H20 and a little Gatorade
Halfway Water Station: 2 cups water
Issues: Everything Hurts And I Want To Die.
Obstacles Failed:  Operation, Grappler, Funky Monkey Revolution, Double Rainbow, Kong
Time: 2:50:02   (Lap complete around 9:30am)
Pit Food prior to next lap: PB&J, Walmart Peanut Butter Trail Mix
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Lap: 10 Miles 46-50

Gear

Took off BlegMitts, Cap, and took down wetsuit to waist mid lap due to heat.

Shoes: 
Same as previous lap
Hydration: 
Start: Geigerrig 500 (2L) filled with H20 and a little Gatorade
Halfway Water Station: 2 cups water, 1 cup Cellucor
Issues: I am so glad it’s almost over, all pain is irrelevant.
Obstacles Failed:  Funky Monkey Revolution, Double Rainbow, Kong
Time: 2:58:17   (Lap complete around 12:40pm)
Bonus Fun Facts:
  • I had more than enough of everything including: I purchased $60 worth of food and $30 worth of gus/gels/bars, I ate about 25% of it. I had an additional Hyperflex wetsuit layer I never had to use.
  • I jumped off The Cliff 4 times total (Laps 6-9).
  • I thankfully avoided my biggest fear, which was suddenly having to poop and going in my wetsuit.
  • My Garmin Fenix 3 battery in UltraTrac mode lasted the entire time.
  • The first place we went after the event was Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop. Visit Capriotti’s while in Henderson, tell them I sent you.
theres-no-crying-in-ocr

Thank Yous: My partner who was, then wasn’t, yet always is: J.D. Allen. My new bestest lesbian buddy Ashley Conti.  A pit crew of Josh Grant, Yvette Tetreault and several more that took care of me. Kyoul Cha and Jay Bode who did a fantastic job on social media covering for Obstacle Racing Media.

Additional Thank Yous: The following companies provided items specifically for this event Olight, Wetsuit Wearhouse, BleggMitts, Athletics 8/Marena Sport.

Photo Credits:

Featured Photo – Dario Cantatore/Bob Mulholland.

Lap 1 – Ryan Meade GoPro Still.

Lap 3 -Tyra Gruzinga.

Laps 8 and 10 – Kyoul Cha