WTM 2016 – Drop it Like it’s Hot!

World's Toughest Mudder 2016 - Start

The 2016 World’s Toughest Mudder at Lake Las Vegas was epic! By showcasing to the world many new obstacles along with improving a few from the past, Tough Mudder was able to utilize the same Lake Las Vegas track while making the course feel new and even more exciting and challenging than 2015. The weather cooperated in 2016: minimal wind and this year’s mean temperature was almost 10 degrees warmer, with the lowest temp during the night 50 vs. 39 in 2015, a huge difference for WTM 2016!

Winners

OCR popularity continues to climb, and thanks to world class events like WTM continuing to push the obstacle limits, more and more competitors are getting into the races.  This year was no exception and the competition was fierce.   While everyone who tackled this event should be proud of stepping up to the plate, the winners really busted tail.  The winners of the team competition were “Team Goat Tough”, Ryan Atkins and Jonathon Albon, who logged 105 miles with “Team America”, 2015’s individual male winner Chad Trammell and Robert Killian, Jr.,  just behind logging 100 miles.  Trevor Cichosz won the individual male competition with 105 miles, while Austin Azar (2nd) and Kristopher Mendoza (3rd) each logged 100 miles.  Stephanie Bishop won the individual female competition with 85 miles followed by Susanne Kraus with 80 and Morgan McKay with 80, a mere 6 minutes behind Susanne!  There were some all female teams, although the team competition doesn’t differentiate, and “Lions, Tigers, Bears, Oh My!” logged 50 miles and “Bounce Squad 55” logged 50 miles a mere 10 minutes behind!

2016 saw 6 racers achieve the magic 100 mile mark…an honor that, until now, was held solely by Ryan Atkins.

Obstacles

World's Toughest Mudder 2016-Double Rainbow

Compared to only a year ago, this year’s WTM had a slew of new and absolutely E.P.I.C obstacles including Stage 5 Clinger, Funky Monkey Revolution, Double Rainbow (the new rendition of King of Swingers), and Kong. You can listen to Matt B. Davis’ podcast with Eli Hutchison of TMHQ here: Obstacle Podcast

World's Toughest Mudder 2016-Kong

If you completed those on every lap you should have come away with some uber extra satisfaction.  Those afraid of falling or heights had a hard time with these and all required solid grip strength and mental fortitude.  The Cliff was again the final obstacle, opening at Midnight.  Roughly the same height as last year, about a 1.5 second free fall, water just as soft for the landing (or hard depending on your technique).  Change this year was if you didn’t have a 50-mile bib on the final lap you were not allowed to make the final jump (which alleviated the back-up seen last year).

World's Toughest Mudder 2016-Funky Monkey Revolution

Only a few obstacle snafu’s that this author heard about while on the course.  Twinkle Toes was shut down in the early AM due to low water levels for safety reasons, so when you fell (and this author did a few times) you felt it where you didn’t need to.  Second, during nighttime ops, they changed Kong to overhead pipes and a slack line.  Apparently, someone jettisoned themselves off the slack line a bit too close to the edge of the crash pad so they took the slack lines away (which made the obstacle challenging again).  And third, grips.  Difficult to keep the bars dry but TM make a good attempt to do so on Double Rainbow by adding sticky tape – unfortunately, the tape came off of most of the bars throughout the event.  Not a big deal and to be expected.

WTM Experience 2016 vs. 2015

As a second year participant in WTM, this year was quite a different experience than last.  For one, last year I had no idea what to expect and was able to “just get out to Vegas and get it done”. This year, knowing what I went through last year, I was able to think about what I was about to undergo.  This “thinking” started shortly after Labor Day and occupied more and more of my thoughts up until Saturday.  Thoughts like “will I land wrong on The Cliff”, “will I be able to suck it up through the cold”, and “will my tent be in a good place” began to take up more and more of my thoughts.

There have not been many things in my life that have caused me so much anxiety.   Checking the Henderson temps on a daily basis somewhat dissipated my hypothermia fear, but The Cliff kept coming back.  Turns out, the only thing that really bothered me this year was the cold, and if I’m honest with myself that was mostly mental.  The obstacles, and The Cliff, after completing each one each lap, reminded me that people can overcome their fears if they just give themselves the opportunity.  One of the things I really love about OCR is, like life, once you get on the course, you can be amazed at what you can do if you JUST TRY.

Final Perspective

Few things I’ll likely do different next year (yes, I’m already committing to WTM 2017): 1) bring a pit crew, 2) not change my wetsuit/shoes/socks (if it’s working, why did I change? – bad idea), and 3) train a bit for long distance as my body this year didn’t handle it as well as last year.  I’ll also not sweat it as much as the WTM 2017 draws nearer.

This year’s WTM was a huge success and better than last year (although last year was darn good as well).  The camaraderie among the participants was exceptional, the pit crews seemed as awesome as ever, and the bagpipes kept spirits lifted throughout the event!

World's Toughest Mudder 2016-Bagpipes

Overcoming obstacles is something we all have an opportunity to do every day.  Most of the time, overcoming obstacles is easier than we think!

How to Prepare for an Endurance Event

I’m not going to claim to be an expert, however I have participated in plenty of endurance events such as multiple BFX events, Spartan Hurricane Heat, Spartan Agoge Class 002, multiple road races and an ultramarathon. If you are interested in testing the waters or pushing your mind and body to the limits, you want to be as prepared as you possibly can for anything that might happen. Here are a few of my basic tips on how to prepare for an endurance event:

  1. Always follow the gear list. Then double check it. It may sound stupid, and you may think “I don’t need that item,” but you will. For instance, on my most recent Spartan Race HH12HR event, some of my gear list required 3 balls any size, a condom, a sharpie, a bucket with no handle, a headlamp, 1 gallon of water and a bag/ruck sack with 20lbs for females and 30lbs for males. If you don’t have everything you need, you may not finish. You have no idea what the item will be used for. You may or may not use all the required items during the event, but at least you will be prepared. Also always have duct tape, even if it’s not on the list. You can use duct tape to strap on all kinds of things to your bag or body to keep your hands free. Trust me, duct tape is a life saver.
    HH12 gear list
  2. Create a mantra. Ok, I know this sounds corny, but when you are exhausted and think you can’t continue another step it comes in handy. Being mentally strong is a big part of the battle during endurance events. You will be physically exhausted, but more times than not, it’s not the physical exhaustion that causes people to quit or DNF. It is the negativity that creeps into your mind that will make you feel like you can’t continue another step. Just know that whatever pain you are in, it’s only temporary and you can do it. I personally keep it simple. I just keep repeating to myself, “Don’t stop. Don’t quit. Just keep moving.”
  3. Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. If I have an event on Saturday, I start hydrating on Monday or Wednesday at the latest. Cut back on caffeine, because it is a diuretic. My 7 hour drive to Nashville from South Carolina took 9 hours, because I stopped every hour on the hour to pee. Peeing every 10 seconds like a 9 month pregnant chick sucks on a long drive, but, if I hadn’t been hydrated I may have not finished. That wasn’t fun, but I was adequately hydrated for my event the next day. Not drinking enough fluid before a race, can lead to fatigue and muscle cramps. I personally experienced this a few weeks ago at the Asheville Spartan Super, I was so dehydrated that my run turned into a crawl. Fatigue from dehydration is no joke. For reference, if your urine is clear or pale you are well hydrated for race day. For you beer lovers this means, if your urine looks like a pale ale or IPA, you need to drink more water.

    IMG_0893 (1) My 7th pee stop on a 7 hour drive :/

  4. Switch up your training. I’m guilty of gravitating towards the weight section of the gym way too much. I’m not claiming to be a great endurance athlete, but I do know plenty of them. They alternate weights, with trail/hill running, HIIT (high intensity interval training), plyometrics and more. They don’t focus on one type of training, because in endurance events you can be doing anything from heavy carries up hills, sprints to regular PT (i.e. burpees, bear crawls and squats). Endurance athletes must be well rounded. And if it’s a Spartan endurance event, absolutely be prepared to go for long distances under heavy loads.
  5. Eat healthy for you. Now, I’m not going to say carbs are bad or good, or that you should only do a certain type of diet. We all can’t be amazing #wafflehouseelite athletes. Different diets work for different people, but you should try to eat foods in moderation. A well balanced diet that includes protein and carbohydrates to replace the glucose that is burned during  activity is important. Try to eat more natural foods versus processed foods. You can’t out train a bad diet. So eating pizzas, cake, and cheeseburgers aren’t going to make you feel that  amazing while running 10 miles. Common sense people.

    mind over matter

  6. Train your brain. This may go hand in hand with mantras, but honestly endurance events are just as mentally challenging as they are physical. Train your mind to avoid the negative. When you start to think negative thoughts like, “I can’t do this anymore” or “I’m too tired to go on” you need to change your thoughts. Focus on one thing at a time. Focus on that one task or obstacle, not how much more you have to do because it will overwhelm you. Think about how much you have already completed versus how much time you have left. Why quit when you have finished 10 out of 12 hours? 2 hours is nothing compared to all the hard things you already put yourself through! When times are really rough, vision yourself at the finish line getting your finishers medal or patch. Visualization is one of the best techniques that even Olympians have used to help them focus. Finally, just believe in yourself. If you had the guts to sign up for an endurance event in the first place, you must have had some faith in yourself that you could finish. So take that faith, work hard and make it happen.

Good luck and I hope to see you at a future endurance event! Next stop for me is the Spartan Agoge in China!!

HH12 Nashville

Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest – Wembley, London

This month’s race was the Rat Race Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest. Based around Wembley, UK, the 10k obstacle course was 100% man-made and 100% tough. Rat Race is known in the UK for their incredible atmosphere, base areas, and impressive obstacles… and that’s exactly what we got.

Men's Health Survival of the Fittest Keg Bars

The first thing you saw as you approached the start zone was a tower of shipping containers, three stories high with people climbing up and down them. There were also some enormous obstacles around the finish line, but we’ll get to that later. The registration process was simple and there were no queues. The bag drop was secure, as well as having a separate valuables drop-off point which was free of charge and could only be accessed using your password.

Now for the fun stuff.

Men’s Health really stepped their game up again this year. I’ve done the past 3 years in a row and every time the obstacles have somehow managed to beat the previous year.

Once in the starting area, there was a warm-up video before setting off around London. Obstacles began quickly, with hay bales and hurdles before being soaked by a fireman’s hose, which was much appreciated in 29c heat, as we went on to tackle the stairs of Wembley Way repeatedly while carrying cones and sandbags.

The route back down Wembley way was a lot faster, as we slid down a water slide. Obstacle after obstacle, there were new challenges as we climbed scaffolding, did tightrope walks and leapt in and out of water before the real fun began.

Men's Health Survival of the Fittest - Slide

The course took us down into a knee-depth river where we found a tunnel. The tunnel was enormous and seemed to go on for a good few minutes, but participants eventually made it to the end and found the light again after stumbling around in the pitch black for a while.

The next area was called the ‘playground zone’ and it was exactly as you’d imagine. It began with a space-hopper race, which may have seemed easy as a child but it turns out they are exhausting when you are of adult size. We leaped over pommel horses, went head-first over spinning barrels and made our way through a giant net full of exercise balls.

Men's Health Survival of the Fittest - Spool Over

With obstacles to test upper body as well as core strength, this 10k was a proper workout, and left you feeling it afterwards, but had small foam mats at the bottom of some obstacles. I can’t imagine they would have helped much if you did fall, but they made it feel a lot safer at the time.  Having run through shipping containers filled with dry ice, and crawled through tunnels made from scaffolding, the course was almost over as we approached the main obstacle zone.

Leaping from a platform onto a stunt mattress, we set off up the three-storey shipping container pile, crossing a cargo net and making our way back down again, before arriving at the final obstacle.

It was, of course, the travellator. Being the second travellator I’ve encountered in UK OCR’s, this was definitely at a faster speed than the previous one, but it was one last push to the top of the obstacle and a leap down to the finish.  After collecting your medal, there was a free photo with your finishing time above your head, and a load of merchandise to look at, as well as being given a free rubber bracelet, headband and t-shirt.

Men's Health Survival of the Fittest - Car

The only negative aspects of the race were the fact that photos had to be bought (unless you were happy with the watermarked ones) and the water stations were a little too far apart for the temperature. But if those are the only two faults, you’re not doing too badly.

For a race with innovative, fun obstacles and the perfect mixture of challenges and achievable obstacles, I’d recommend Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest to anybody, from first-time runners to the experience.

Go get yourself signed up!

Spartan Race Beast – Krynica Zdroj, Poland

Spartan Race Poland StartOn July 23 and 24 was the Spartan Race Poland weekend near Krynica Zdroj, Poland  on the ski hill Jaworzyna Krynicka. I raced the Beast on July 23. It was a tough course with many hills and technical terrain. My Suunto watch recorded 22.5km and 1850m in elevation gain. This was comparable to the steep inclines of Montana race (Beast 2015) and Sun Peaks race (Beast 2015).

Spartan Race Poland Hurricane Heat

To begin, the Hurricane Heat started early morning at 5am on Saturday. A group of SGX coaches lead the hurricane heat. It was very early so I can’t recall all the details. There was about 50 participants. It looked really fun! Burpees was an essential part of this.

Obstacles that I believe are different from America and Europe: precision log hopping. There was a total of 8 short vertical logs/stumps in the ground that measured about 4 inches in diameter (~10 centimeters) and about a meter apart from one another.  With a decent pace, you lightly jump from log to log without falling to complete this obstacle.

Poland_bucket_carryThey also had 2 bucket carries. One of the buckets were already pre-filled with a sandbag. The other longer bucket carry was an uphill carry where you had to fill your bucket to the top and start climbing up a hill. If you didn’t think this was enough they also had a sandbag carry right before you cross the finish line!

 

 

The infamous memorization Sandbag carrytest. Each racer received a bib number. Somewhere in the first half of the course there was a board from #00 to #99 with 6 numerical/alphabetical figures that followed. You had to take the last 2 numbers of your bib and memorize the 6 figures that followed your bib number. While climbing the mountain I was repeatedly saying the figures to myself for approximately 1km. Much later in the race (8km later) there was volunteers asking for those 6 figures. If someone forgot their code it resulted in a 30 burpee penalty.

Spartan Race Poland Terrain

Furthermore, the part I enjoyed most about this Beast Race was the technical terrain. There was a long 2km run down the stream with rocks and current. The competitive racers were running through this but it was easy to twist an ankle on the uneven terrain. There was a long tunnel in the water we ran through as well. Let’s just say hydration was not a problem in this race! During the entire race I believe there was 5 hydration stations. Aside from the water trails, there was multiple steep inclines and single track trails. I remember climbing up the hill and every time we reached the top there was another hill to climb, classic!

Other than the terrain, Spartan Races in Europe use the same obstacles from venue to venue. They have a multi-rig but I found it to be the same set-up in comparison from the race in Slovakia and Poland. They have around 30 different obstacles. I found that the volunteers at each obstacle clearly directed you in the correct direction and explained what to do on each obstacle. Can’t thank enough for those volunteers!

Spartan Race Poland Festival

The Festival Area in the venue was in a great open location on the bottom of the ski hill. It had a gondola that went up all the way to the top of the hill for the spectators to watch all the racers as they hike up and down the mountain. It was a great venue. They were selling food, ice cream, and beer. It even had a Garmin tent as its sponsors. In the afternoon, Spartan Race was giving away prizes for top 3 male, top 3 female, and top 3 fastest teams. They were also giving away a couple of Garmin watches, and some goodie bags with protein and shakers.  All in all, it was a great event!


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Spartan Race Milan, Italy 2016 – “Where are the obstacles?!”

My love for obstacle racing was born on February the 14th at the Tampa Stadium Spartan Race and from that day, I was hooked. One thing I always wanted to do was to race in my country – Italy. I was born and raised there, and when I learned that Spartan Race was going to have races twice a year in Italy, I knew I had to go there and see how it was.

Spartan-Race-Milan-People-Helping-Wall

The race was hosted in Malpensa, close to Milano (Milan) at the “Crossodromo del Ciglione,” a Motocross Park. The first difference I noticed was that Spartan doesn’t distribute the course map before the race, but apparently everyone can go to the race site the day before and get an idea of the course. This year the Italian Spartan organization was claiming record attendance for the Milan Race – over 6000 people. The atmosphere was great; if you’ve ever met an Italian, you know what I’m talking about – laughs, smiles, friendship, enthusiastic people ready to take the course. The coed elite wave started at 9.00am and there were 29 women racing the Super Elite and 52 in the Sprint. Just before the start, there was the usual Spartan wall to jump over. The one in Italy is a little taller but the real difference is that as soon as the elite was called at the Start line, people started to push each other against the wall, leaving no space to climb over, smashing each other’s hands while climbing the wall and… it was normal for them. From the outside, it looked weird and kind of crazy.

We lined up at the start line and one of the Spartan Organization Member took the microphone to give instructions to the athletes. If you ever raced in the U.S.,  you know this process can take several minutes while you are instructed about the course; the judge tells you what obstacles are mandatory, what you can and you can’t do and tells you about the burpees and the fact that you are recorded while you do your penalty. In Milan, the guy talked not more than one minutes, in a broken English/Italian and told us to “do all the burpees if you fail an obstacle” and that ” the burpees are 30″.

At the start line, I immediately noticed two things. First, a couple of meters after the start, there is a big wooden box in the way of all the athletes on the right. Judging how fast the people start a race i ask myself how many people will crush right into the box and why there is such a dangerous thing in the course. Second, after 100 ft, there is the first “obstacle.” A puddle of water, extremely narrow, too little for the number of people that, in a couple of minutes, will be jumping, running and crowding in it. As I thought, the start was a real massacre. Spartan-Race-Milan-water-puddle

In the water i got pushed, elbowed, pulled by my hair and i had my ankle smashed by a guy who jumped in trying to pass , people were CLIMBING on others. A guy fell and they just ran him out. It was a shock. I’ve never seen something like this before. the first two obstacles were a little wall and an hurdle. There was ONE obstacle. Not more. It was the first time in my life i had to wait in line in an elite wave. There was no way we can all pass smoothly. And also here it looked more like a bar fight than a race. The lack of organization for this race was unbelievable. I am surprised that a name like Spartan Race, known in the world, was so sloppy , superficial and mediocre. Speaking with other athletes i learned that lots of people had their race ended by the dangerous conditions of the course. It is ridiculous bragging for “record of presence” and then put the athletes in danger, without a single judge or even a volunteer to supervise those situations. As we start running it felt like they forgot to put obstacles in this race.

SpartanRace-Milan-Herc-Hoist

It was supposed to be a super with 9.6 miles with obstacle in between but it was really the first 6 miles of pure trail running  with a few obstacles. Everything was at the end. The location saved the day helping to make the final miles interesting. There were lots of steep hills, with two kinds of carry. Logs and Chains. Spartan-Race-Milan-Log-Carry

I really enjoyed the chain since it was new and tough. The barbed wire were two in pure “Spartan Style” with extra mud, inclined and fun. The obstacles were very easy compared to the one we are used to in US. They don’t have the monkey bar and the platinum rig but they have what they call the “multibar” a combination of a regular monkey bar (no wide bars), traverse pole and 4 handles in a cool spartan helmet shape. The z-wall looks like the regular one but the blocks are bigger and thicker. Herc Hoist and Atlas ball are lighter than usual and there was no Bucket Carry to challenge the grip strength. All the walls, even the shorter ones have the step for the women. The infamous “slack line” made her way also here collecting more burpees than the spear ( most of the spears were completely bent in a funny “banana shape”).

Spartan-Race-Milan-Chain.

The lack of volunteers and the fact that there are no judges whatsoever made things easy for the cheaters that unfortunately are worldwide. I saw elite racers skipping obstacles, cheat on burpees and be the exact opposite of the value that this sport wants to communicate.

Spartan-Race-Milan-multibar

I also realize that in Italy, obstacle race is a newborn creature and the space for improvement is large.

While there are a lot of dishonest people there are also a huge amount of good, fair and talented athletes. In a couple of hours, we met some amazing, positive and passionate people who follow this sport with enthusiasm. Even if the race wasn’t what they expected to be those people were there, giving it all, hustling, having fun and cheering each other. Just like all the obstacle racers in the world. I saw a blind guy climbing the slippery wall and running all the Super while we were cheering on him.Spartan-Race-Milan-Blind-Guy-Racing

People overcoming fears, not holding back and all of a sudden it was just like be here in a normal Spartan in Us. Yes because if you put your focus on the people that are the real hearth of this sport, everything is the same. We are all Humans.We all have something we fear, we all want to overcome the obstacles in our life. And this is what makes this sport so special. This is what connect all of us. I really hope for a bright future for the Italian OCR community and i’m looking forward to see more Italian Athletes in the European and World races. This year at the OCRWC we will be 4 but this is jus the beginning!

Spartan-Race-Milan-rolling-mud

Adrenaline Rush – London: 2016 Race Review

This year I was invited to Adrenaline Rush in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. The event was publicized brilliantly with a lot of online hype before the race, and even Macmillan’s own Snapchat filter at the event village.

Having caught the train into Stratford, there was a walk around the Olympic Park to the event village where music was playing, and you could see a mass of obstacles… And every single one looked amazing. Registration and bag drop were quick and Macmillan staff had green war-paint for all runners, before lining up at the start line and setting off in waves every five minutes.

The race began with a lot of running, but being at such an amazing venue kept even the running fun. The course was complicated, with marshals at every single turn making sure everyone knew which way to go, and also giving the best support I’ve ever seen at a race. Before long, the number of obstacles started to pick up and as you began to hear the music from the event village, it was obstacle after obstacle. Although I’d never come across this in a race before, it was a nice change to get the running out of the way at the start of the course and then have an overload of obstacles towards the end.

Adrenaline Rush London - Slant wall

With everything from warped walls to the ‘big balls’ obstacle from Total Wipeout, Adrenaline Rush had a variety of exciting challenges. Inflatable obstacles added a fun factor and bubbly water slides had everybody sliding around, adding difficulty to the final obstacles. There was a water break before doing a second lap of the course, and it was time to get the running done and get back to those obstacles again.

Adrenaline Rush London - Inflatable

Adrenaline Rush London - Olympic Park

Lap two was just as fun as the first time round, with obstacles to test everybody. Balancing beams, cargo net crawls and rope swings broke up the running and marshals even remembered me the second time I passed them! Spacing participants out in waves of every five or so minutes also meant there was no waiting for obstacles, which is always a plus!

Adrenaline Rush London - Swinging

Back at the event village, there was one final obstacle added onto the first lap… The leap of faith. Climbing up to a 5m high platform before jumping onto a stuntman’s airbag, then a run to the finish where motion activated cameras took photos. This was another nice touch I’d not previously seen, making sure everybody got a picture crossing the finish line.

For a fun race with plenty of challenges and a lot of different obstacles, ranging from monkey bars to leaping off 5m high platforms, Adrenaline Rush is one brilliant day out, and I’d recommend it to absolutely anybody.

Adrenaline Rush London - Jump

Will I be back next year? Definitely, and I can’t wait to see what Adrenaline Rush brings in 2017!