Train Like a Pro: Robert Killian

Robert-Killian-2017-Spartan-Pro-Card

Success came early in Robert Killian’s Spartan career. In his fourth Spartan event, he won the 2015 Spartan World Championship. Most of his success from that race can be traced back to his first event, a Spartan Beast he ran four months earlier in Breckenridge, Colorado, where he placed 3rd overall. Breckenridge is known for having a high elevation gain and being one of Spartan’s toughest races.  “When I did that race, I kind of was like, ‘Okay, this must be what all the races are like. This is how I have to prepare,’” he recalls.  Because of Breckenridge, Killian immediately began running more mountains, carrying everything from sandbags to logs, and increasing his grip strength.

Although, at the time, he’d only run in four Spartan races, that doesn’t mean he was inexperienced. Before ever attempting a Spartan race, Killian had already won numerous triathlons, competed internationally on the Army Biathlon team, and won both the individual and team categories of the military division at the Ironman World Championships in Kona. He was also named 2010 Army Athlete of the Year. 

Robert-Killian-Obstacle-In-Fatigues

Killian has served in the United States military for about fifteen years. During that time, he was able to participate in numerous competitions, gaining experience moving through obstacles. Though they were urban obstacles, Killian had to learn how to properly navigate terrain, move through windows and tunnels, repel, and even climb chain ladders. “It just kind of became second nature,” he explains. “We’d do it so much that once I was introduced to OCR on a normal course, it was just a combination of all the running and orienteering that I had done in the military.” 

After winning the World Championship, Killian joined the Spartan Pro Team and was able to use 2016 as the first year he could dedicate to being a professional athlete. In the inaugural Spartan U.S. Championship series, he finished 2nd overall and never finished worse than 3rd in any of the five series races. When it came to the 2016 Spartan World Championship race, he narrowly missed defending his title, placing 3rd, under three minutes behind winner Hobie Call. Six weeks later, Killian and partner, Chad Trammell, placed 2nd at World’s Toughest Mudder, completing a remarkable 100 miles in 24hrs. Outside of OCR, Capt. Killian won the 2016 Best Ranger Competition with partner, Staff Sgt. Erich Friedlein, becoming the first National Guard duo to do so. 

Robert-Killian-Cycling

To maintain such a high level of performance, Killian continues to focus on cycling, swimming, mountain running and cross training. Many days, he does what he refers to as “power hours.” “Every hour I take five or ten minutes just to do one OCR task,” he explains. This includes carrying a sandbag, spending time on his rig, and climbing his rock wall. In order to help prevent over-training, Killian sticks to workouts that involve what he would see in a race.

The below workout is one that Killian includes in his training program on LeaderBoard. He uses it to practice throwing the spear and performing heavy sandbag carries during stressed effort levels. You will want a station set up for the spear with two or three spears and a 40-pound sandbag (or bucket) ready to go. For more information on LeaderBoard, stick around at the end of the article.


Robert-Killian-Spear-Throw

WARM UP

  • 5-minute progressive warm up jog. Start easy and build up to a moderate pace.
  • Dynamic Drills (10-15 minutes)
    • Two or Three 50-Meter Strides – Run just shy of max speed for the allotted distance.
    • High Knees – Concentrate on ensuring your knees are getting at least as high as your waist. Make sure that you stay on the balls of your feet.
    • Butt Kicks – While keeping your upper body straight, run while bringing your ankles up to touch your butt. Try to keep from kicking your whole leg back. Your knees shouldn’t pass behind your body.
    • Skips – Like high knees, try to get your knee to come up to your waist. While one knee is up, the other foot should “skip” off the ground. Alternate between left and right legs.
    • Walking Lunges – Step out with one foot, keeping the knee at a 90-degree angle. Try not to let your opposite knee touch the ground. Bring the back foot forward so that leg is now the front leg, again, keeping your knee at 90-degrees. Don’t let it pass in front of your toes.
    • Karaoke – Move side to side, crossing your trailing foot in front of the other, then behind it. Allow your hips to twist as you go. Alternate going to the left and then to the right.
    • Progression Sprints for 100 Meters – Slowly build up speed until you are running at almost a full sprint.
    • Jumping Jacks – Start with your feet together and hands at your sides. Bend slightly at the knees and jump a couple inches off the ground, bringing arms up above your head and your legs out to the side. Jump again and bring your arms and legs back to the starting position.
    • Side to Side Ski Hops – Stand feet together, bend at the knees and bring your hips back so that your torso is at about a 45-degree angle. Bend your arms like you would if you were holding ski poles. Jump up and to the left. As you’re jumping, allow your arms to come up, bringing them back down when you land. Repeat to the right.

Robert-Killian-Sandbag-Carry

MAIN SET

800 meter runs should be performed at a 10k race pace. Do 10 penalty burpees for each missed spear throw.

  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw.
  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw followed by a 200-meter sandbag carry.
  • Rest two minutes.
  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw.
  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw followed by a 200-meter sandbag carry.
  • Rest two minutes.
  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw.
  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw followed by a 200-meter sandbag carry.
  • Rest two minutes.

Writer’s Tip: Try to maintain the 10k pace, especially early on. You may be tempted to run the first couple 800m at a quick pace.

COOL DOWN

  • 5-10 minute light jog or walk. Then stretch the major muscle groups.
  • Go for an easy one-mile run.

 

Robert-Killian-and-his-son

 

Writer’s Note: Thank you to Robert for providing this workout. You can follow him on Instagram and Facebook.

Check out past Train Like a Pro articles:

LeaderBoard is where Killian and fellow Spartan Pro Team member, Brakken Kraker, coach elite athletes. Anyone can sign up for a free LeaderBoard Takeoff, to get an idea of how the program works. During the two-week Takeoff, athletes will complete five “Benchmark” tests. After completing a few of these tests, the athlete will be invited to a one-on-one chat with either Kraker or Killian in order to personalize his or her training.

After the Takeoff is complete, you can book a free seven day trial of either one’s program, plus a discount after the trial is up. The full program is personalized and includes a community chat, so you can communicate with other athletes or the coaches at any time. For more information, go to www.leaderboardfit.com.

For those just getting into OCR, or looking to take the next step beyond an open heat, Killian recently introduced his 12-week SGX program on LeaderBoard. Included in the program are detailed workouts, instructional videos, plus technique and pacing tips. Athletes also receive discounts on gear, nutrition products and non-elite wave races. To sign up go to https://leaderboardfit.com/signup-sgx/.

Photo Credit: Robert Killian, Spartan Race, NBC

The Future Of OCR : Acre Breaker Adventure Race

Now that I have your attention, let me explain. I stumbled across this event on a random email I received from a newsletter that generally lists road and trail races, not OCRs. I usually quickly browse the emails prior to deleting on the off chance an event piques my interest. To my surprise I found an OCR listed in the email. First thing I checked was distance to my house…1 hour 17 minutes. For anyone that does OCRs regularly that’s like a drive to the grocery store for many of us as opposed to the standard 2 hour drive. I got excited and decided to dig deeper into the event.

What I found out was that this was the first event by this brand. It advertised 12 obstacles in a 4K. They offered several varying options such as 4K individual, 4K team of 2, 8k(2 laps of 4K course) and 8k team of 2. Included in the marketing was the fact that you will get muddy – I was sold.

Upon arrival, there was a2-minutee shuttle ride to an open corn field where registration was held. Quick and easy check in and packet pick up, organized, FREE bag check and off to line up for my heat. I was registered in the 9am wave but got there just after my heat went off, giving me a 30 minute stroll around the start area until the next heat(9:30). The event was untimed but had a running clock at the finish line so you could gauge your total time with a little math.

Acre-Breaker-Mud-Pit

After a quick rundown by the emcee, my heat was off and running. First obstacle we came to was a small drop into an ankle deep water/mud pit. If you’ve read my reviews, you know I’m all about getting muddy and wet. Never been a fan of stadium races for this reason but hey.. variety, spice of life and all that. This was a good start for what I hoped for not having any expectations going into it.

Acre-Breaker-Hay-Crawl

Next came the super fun(sarcasm font) sandbag carry. I was pleased to find something like this in a new race, telling me they had a decent idea about what to include in an OCR. This carry was on minimal elevation but involved, what seemed like, unlimited down and back paths with the “back” section going slightly uphill. Later in the course, I also came up on a bucket carry. All racers, male and female, filled the bucket 3/4 full and walked a loop.

The course included some standard crawls, one between hay bails(pictured above) positioned to allow a very narrow space to crawl through. With my slender frame it wasn’t as easy as I’d expected, causing me to wonder how a person with a stature larger than mine would navigate it, along with a barbed wire crawl (which I love seeing a new race use barbed wire). There were also several unique obstacles, which were a very pleasant surprise for a first-time event.

Acre-Breaker-Drumroll

One unique obstacle was a plastic drum filled and sealed with liquid inside. The objective was to roll the drum uphill to a designated row of hay bails. With the shifting liquid and uphill trajectory, this was no easy feat, especially once you got further uphill. The most interesting part was the trek back down with the drum. The weight of the liquid and downhill path provided a challenge in itself to keep the drum under control while not speeding downhill without you. This was definitely fun as it’s a change of pace, but I could certainly see this (or the path at least) being altered for future events to avoid injury risks of speeding barrels.

Acre-Breaker-Cage-Traverse

We’re beginning to see some companies use metal caging or fencing in their obstacle setups now (think Savages “On The Fence”) so it was definitely exciting to see this utilized at a new race. Even more interesting was the type of fencing. This obstacle featured a thin wire fencing and a decent distance required to traverse sideways without touching the top of the fence or feet to the ground. The thickness(or lack thereof) in the fencing definitely could shred some hands up… I loved it.

Acre-Breaker-Ladder

Another interesting obstacle was labeled a “fence climb”, which proved difficult for many new racers (who comprised the majority of the event) as the transition from the second to last to the top board was a distance apart, making the “over the top” transition quite steep… Again.. Loved it. There was a metal, box-shaped frame towards the end which was odd in setup, and seemed like a random add in obstacle as opposed to a planned one. It required a climb to the top and traversing along a thin metal pole to the other side where you drop down…(picture a random enclosed bus stop along the side of the road and climbing on top and across it).

Acre-Breaker-Metal-Climb

My favorite obstacle of all which was towards the beginning of the event was a water crossing. Chest high depending on height, on a morning that I woke to see 37 degrees out. It was mid 40’s by race time but this was COLD…. LOVED IT! I was admittedly a little confused by the direction to cross as I was redirected by the volunteer, causing a much further walk through the water, which I was certainly ok with.

Acre-Breaker-Water-Crossing

The race wrapped up with a fire jump, then being told I came in first overall in my heat and directed to collect my award. A very pleasant surprise as it seemed the first overall male and female of each individual heat and each team wave was awarded a very…. Unique…. Award.

image

Yes, if you can’t tell that’s a raccoon skull mounted to a plaque. Certainly the most interesting award next to the cement brick received from the “Down & Dirty”(RIP) Brick division races. But instantly a favorite to be displayed(my wife told me areas of the house I can NOT display it) 😂. The medal was a standard gold circle with brand logo on a red/white/blue striped ribbon. Early registrations received a T-shirt and beer stein.

Back to my original proclamation that this could be the future of OCR. The event was filled with, what seemed to be, a largely local gathering of participants from the area and community. The Race Director informed me they expected around 100 participants, they closed at around 250.. That’s awesome.. They now plan on future events. One for super bowl Sunday(not sure that’s the best date for optimal attendance) and looking at possibly 4+ in the next year. From a first impression and attendance, they easily could succeed with some adjustments and possible tweaks for future events and here’s my suggestions.

Emcee – as opposed to standard course briefing everyone loves some pre-race hype to head on course all pumped up.

Elite heat- I’m all for the current awards per heat. They may want to look at condensing that to one competitive wave for cost purposes but if they choose to do each heat with awards, that’s an EXCELLENT promotional point to increase attendance of medalwhores(which encompasses 80% of this sport)

Additional obstacles- The RD expressed expanding to additional and more challenging obstacles. The easy recommendations are of course rope climb, rope traverse(over the water crossing maybe?) rig, and of course, monkey bars

All about the volunteers- the volunteers were good, but we all know volunteers are the heart and soul of any event, and equally capable of making or breaking an event.

Possible chip timing?(first heat?)*see elite heat, but again, 110% for keeping awards per each heat

Photos- this is a big one for 98% of participants. I know it may not be cheap but someway of establishing photographers at the most unique obstacles. There were pictures taken by a local photogrpaher(all pics featured in review) but pics were minimal. I didn’t see any from my heat and was in the second wave of the day.

Marketing- I’m not sure what type of local advertising was done, obviously enough to pull 200+ people and myself through a local email blast, but it was clear the normal OCR junkie contingent of racers you’d normally find at an event were not present. Marketing through OCR focused outlets(Obstacle Racing Media….for example 😉) would certainly increase the exposure of the brand to the right demographic.

All in all if a local brand can start up, follow the right path and athlete devoted business practices can succeed. That’s a great sign for the future of our sport. I’ll certainly be rooting for this brand as those behind it truly seemed to want to learn and succeed.

Savage Race Maryland- Got Grip?

Anytime you go to a race you leave thinking one of two things. Either how great of a time you had and how much you enjoyed the race. Or something turned you off, be it a bad showing on your part….bad weather .. lines at obstacles ..your favorite pants ripped… forgot where you parked leaving you to walk for 20 minutes with your hand above your head, holding your keys trying to decipher if that’s your car horn or someone else’s. Rarely does someone walk away from a race, driving home and think to themselves… “Wow, that course layout and obstacle placement really elevated that race to another level”. Well today was that day…getting savage at Savage Race.

Savage-MD-Finish-Line

We all know by now what to expect from a Savage Race. They’ve set themselves to a high standard that’s known by many from experiencing an event first hand, hearing someone rave in a social media setting, or reading a previous review. They’ve accepted the challenge of doing what needs to be done to exceed the standard they’ve set for themselves by adding fresh, innovative obstacles each year. They’ve also instituted an award program(Syndicate) to incentivize repeat registrations with a medal that appeals to the medal whore in all of us and providing world class customer service with a personable feel.

So going into this event, I knew what obstacles to expect. I was aware of the medal I was receiving. I wanted more, as we all, of course, want more than expected to be satisfied. To accomplish that, I opted for the Savage Pro wave. I didn’t care about my time. To be honest, I wanted the cool blue Savage Race wristband that was given to Pro Wave participants to determine 100% obstacle completion. Complete all the obstacles and keep the band. Fail an obstacle after unlimited attempts and surrender the band.

Savage-MD-Sawtooth

The course map was released a week prior to the event, so on this rare occasion I took a look at it. Immediately I noticed the obstacle placement was arranged to raise the level of difficulty. I also noticed a 30% chance of rain at the time of Pro Wave, with the likelihood of rain increasing throughout the day. Savage loves grip strength based obstacles.. Which I’m all about, you can keep your heavy shit, that doesn’t appeal to me. But with their array of grip based challenges(ascending/descending monkey bars over water, hanging horizontal cage traverse over water, rotating wheel traverse over water, rig) any additional moisture would certainly increase the level of difficulty.

Fortunately the weather held off for the first wave but as I previously mentioned, obstacle placement would play a huge factor in the outcome of this race(and ultimately if I kept my cool blue wristband…because that’s what’s truly matters). For example Davey Jones Locker(15ft. Jump into 15ft. deep water) was located just before Sawtooth(hardest monkey bars in OCR IMO). So, jump in water.. Soaking wet.. Now climb monkey bars=increased difficulty.
Savage-MD-Richard
Shriveled Richard,(ice bath) my personal favorite, is usually found at the very beginning of the course as the first obstacle. Some have complained that this setup causes backups as you sprint off the start line, only to come to an obstacle with very limited flow through that only 4 competitors can attempt at a time. Not to mention hesitation by many from nerves of jumping into a dumpster of ice water causes longer wait times and ultimately wait lines. I have only ever seen this obstacle located anywhere other than the beginning on a Garfield Griffiths course design in Pennsylvania the previous year. This was a welcomed alteration but again, interesting placement. Shortly after exiting the ice bath, when your grip is compromised from the cold, you come upon Wheel World(series of 5 consecutive rotating wheels positioned over water). Another new obstacle that isn’t overly difficult but the placement ups the ante.

Savage-MD-WW

In previous years, Savage Race would close out your day with Colossus(warped wall followed by 24ft of a near vertical drop on a water slide). They felt compelled to mix it up this year placing a rig with varying holds and grips, just after colossus… But wait … There’s more … they added another challenge to go along with the rig. Savages newest obstacle “Tree Hugger”. A rotating series of wooden and metal poles that you’re required to traverse through without letting your feet touch the ground or the plastic bases of the wooden poles. The word I got from previous events was that this obstacle had 12 lanes, that followed a sequence of metal/wood/metal/wood/metal/wood poles to traverse. It seems they switched it up this event by making it 6 total lanes with 12 poles to traverse(6 wood/6 metal).

Savage-MD-Tree-Hugger

So now, in order to cross that finish line, you must make your way through a rig that consisted of, in order, 2 ropes, 2 close handed grips, one horizontal straight bar and bell for completion. Followed by a long lane of metal and wooden pole traverses. While still dripping wet from the water slide. Stand alone, these obstacles are doable, yet challenging for many. Add in the placement factor and decreased grip strength from water obstacles and you’re in store for a challenge.

Savage-MD-Rig

More so than anything this was just the tweak I was hoping for, but not expecting when I had originally registered. A great course design is just another way Savage can keep you on your toes and not grow complacent with the high standard of execution we’ve all come to expect from the brand.

P.S. It began to rain shortly after the first couple waves making some obstacles near impossible.

P.S.S. Matty T killed it at the start line as usual.

Savage-MD-Startline

P.S.S.S…. Excellent Portashitter to registrant ratio. Clean, well maintained, and solid TP supply.
4💩💩💩💩 out of 5💩💩💩💩💩 rating

P.S.S.S….S? ….. Mission accomplished … See… Cool blue

Savage-Bracelet

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Spartan Race UK Peterborough Weekend

Last year was the first year that Spartan Race UK used the gorgeous Elton Hall as a Spartan Venue, and it it was one of the main turning points for the company in the UK; it also very quickly became a favourite among the UK racers, This year’s Sprint & Super cemented that.

Spartan-Peterborough-Sprint-Super

This was a long week for me, but as always with a looming Spartan Race, I was looking forward to a brutal exciting weekend. We weren’t disappointed.

Finishing work at 5am, quick walk to the train station and it began. 4.5 hours later and a lift from the train station by a dear friend, I arrived at the venue.  If you’ve never been to Elton Hall, you need to visit. Spartan UK has a habit of picking iconic, beautiful venues and Elton Hall is near the top of that list.

Saturday was a bit of a washout when it came to the weather, lovely and sunny in the morning and then the rains came.

After spending most of the morning volunteering on the finish line. We lined up for the final wave,  and I was glad we skipped the warm up. Usually I’d enjoy the group burpees in the start corral, but at this stage we just really wanted to get out on the course.

While they change the format, Spartan usually use the same type of obstacles per race. Peterborough was no different. The first kilometre was a nice mixture of 4ft walls, inverted walls & OUT’s. (Over, Under, Through for those who don’t know). Running through the forested area provided a nice break from the rain and for me, it always adds to the beauty of a run.

We soon came across the rope climb (or in my case the start of my burpees). Another run through some forest and we came across the barbwire crawl. In all my Spartan Races I have to say that this barbwire crawl was second only to the French Beast last year. It wasn’t long but the twists, turns and mud pools made it fun. I’ll admit we may have spent more time than needed playing around in the mud.

Spartan-Peterborough-Barbwire

(Side note – it was here that the Sprint & Super course separated, but more on that later.)

Continuing on we had the atlas stones, Z-walls, and the block drag.  A bit more running through a forest and finally the finish line was in sight. A couple of 6 ft walls, made slightly more difficult by the rain and mud, Herc Hoist, 8ft walls and the sprint to the fire jump.

I’ll admit by the time we got to the finish line for the sprint I was looking forward to a shower, food, and sleep. The super was coming and I had a time limit to run it in.

Spartan-Peterborough-Block-Drag

So, after a cheeky Nandos with friends, curling up on a surprisingly comfy air bed, my wonderful band of misfit friends & I arose to tackle the Super. Now I mention that I had a self imposed time limit to complete the run. Well, I had a train booked back to Edinburgh at 1300 as I had work at 1800. My time limit worry wasn’t just for myself though. I was running with a friend who is somewhat new to our wonderful world of OCR.

Back on site and back in the start corral for the Elite wave. Now, I’m by no means elite. I run purely for me and the joy it brings, but sometimes the extra 20 mins can be handy.  Once more into the fray, and once again we spent more time than needed in that barb wire crawl. The course change from the Sprint to the Super led us through a gate and into a darkened forest.  I may run too many Spartan races (is there such a thing?). The forested area had a nice hilly chicane where my first thought was that it would have made a great area for a sandbag carry.

I may run too many Spartan races (is there such a thing?). The forested area had a nice hilly chicane where my first thought was that it would have made a great area for a sandbag carry.  The forest opened up and led us to a rather lovely reservoir to wade around. I wasn’t expecting that to be as killer on the calves as it was. Nice to wash the mud off though. A rather slippery cargo slip a frame followed by the the Z-wall rope traverse (Burpee time again).

Back on course, we’re once again hit with some firm favourites, another barb wire crawl, multi rig, Bucket brigade, log drag and a lovely vertical cargo net climb. Side note – I really do need to learn the flip technique at the top of these. Onto the log carry and the finish line is in sight again just across a field so we know we’re near the finish again, or at least close to rejoining the sprint.

More trail leads us around towards the A-Frame and spear through. I’m actually quite happy that I nailed my spear throw in the super, not so much in the Sprint though.
On a note one of the Spartan did well within this course was that the kids course ran alongside parts. Both the kids and the big kids started from the same start line which I think really brought it together as a family event.

Spartan-Peterborough-Finish

Back down to the walls, hoist, and onto the finish.

Spartan Race is one of the companies within in the UK that folks like to complain about, but ever since Peterborough last year, I think they have fewer legimite reasons for those complaints.

I’m aware that I’m biased. My first ever OCR was a Spartan, but they have come a long way since then (2014 Edinburgh sprint!) I know that race back then couldn’t hold a candle to the courses they build and put together now.

Overall, Spartan Peterborough was a huge success. With the support of the Volunteers and Spartan staff it was a day to remember for all involved.

On that note, I can only look forward to the Sprint & Beast in Windsor with excitement. Shall I be seeing you there?

Z Mud Run NJ-Bagels, Yogurt, Chocolate Milk… And Mud

I went into the Z Mud Run with minimal background on the event itself. Turns out minimal background translates to minimal expectations. Whatever expectations I had pulling up to the event were blown away and then some. Here’s what I knew about the event based off a friend’s experience during last years Zmudrun and a brief glance at their website prior to race day.

  • All net proceeds go to a charity called “The Happy Home”. As per the website here’s the info on the cause…“The Happy Home” is  a growing orphanage that was started in southern India to care for children with HIV/AIDS  who have lost their parents and been abandoned by their extended families and in some cases left on the hospital’s doorstep.
  • Free onsite parking
  • Free bag check
  • Mud
  • Water

As for my experience itself, if you’ve glanced at my previous reviews, you know I’m a major advocate for having fun while competing. To me, fun is mud; fun is water; fun is all the things this sport allows us to do that we did as kids without a care in the world. I don’t need technical terrain. I don’t need intense, challenging obstacles(though that doesn’t hurt). I don’t need to feel I’m better than anyone based on placement. I need fun and fun was certainly provided on this day.

Zmudrun-Mud-Crawl Photo Credit:  Mathew Renk Photography

The first wave was filled with participants of all ages, from teens to middle aged. There were no egos, no brand promoting temp tats or supplement logoed headbands. There was laughing, smiling and the expectation of fun on every face in the wave. The race started after the national anthem. We headed off onto a straightaway stretch of grass that moments later lead you to a creek with water that came just above my knees. That was just the beginning of the days fun.

The obstacles were basic, but the course was loyal to the term “Mud Run”. There was multiple water crossings, one which required traversing over floating boards. Followed by a trek through waist deep water that had an unassuming amount of mud beneath the surface. So much so that you literally had to use your hands to lift each leg, step by step, if you didn’t move along at a brisk pace. The level of fun during this section was infectious. People falling into the mud left and right, causing laughter from those around, with a helping hand always stretched out.

Zmudrun-Mud-Pit Photo Credit: Mathew Renk Photography

After you made your way out of the water and back onto dry land you were led around the outside of a corn field. The transition of terrain was very much welcomed compared to an open view of a course that I often experience at events. A little side note, there was roughly 7 water stations throughout the 5k course that offered Gatorade or water. It was unheard of to be approaching a water station around nearly every turn, but awesome nonetheless.

As far as obstacles go, it was mostly terrain related with water and mud, short of a cement block drag through sand. One massive mud hill had a rope to assist in the climb but not before, you guessed it, a water/mud pit at the base of the hill. Several hay bale climbs, wall climb that provided three options for completion(tall wall-no assist, medium wall with foot supports and medium inclined wall with rope assist) and one of my event favorites, a water slide.

Zmudrun-Final-Obstacle-Part-1

One of the most welcoming aspects was the energetic, enthusiastic environment of the festival area where the finish line was located. After navigating the walls and water slide you come around a corner to see the final, fun-filled obstacle. You climb a small hill that leads you into water. Navigate through a tube crawl that allows just enough space for your neck up to be above water. After exiting the tube you crawl under a net, still submerged in water on your knees to another small mud mound to the finish.

Zmudrun-Final-Obstacle-Part-2

The event is untimed and not competitive, but the crowd an event like this attracted was so excited, they cheered me on and let me know I was the 2nd finisher to come through. The emcee was feeding off the crowds energy,so much so, he gathered the top three finishers to pose for pics at the top of the final mud mound. An energy level for self accomplishment I don’t often experience at non-competitive events.

After finishing and composing myself while standing with a friend, another racer approached us with a huge smile on his face. He wanted to congratulate us on our race and proceeded to inform us, this was his first race and he had so much fun, he “couldn’t wait to do another one”. That moment right there is what I hope for at every event and gives me hope for the future of the sport. But wait, there’s more!

Zmudrun-Refreshments

As I approached the post race refreshment table for my water and banana, something caught my eye. Something…. Amazing… Something … Rare… Something unheard of…. It… Was…. Beautiful….. Bags and bags of bagels, pastries, gummy fruit snacks, varying flavors and brands of yogurts of the regular and Greek options. I was beside myself with joy. Not expecting anything to top this moment ….something marvelous happened… an angelic looking woman sought my attention… and she said to me… “We have chocolate milk over here… Follow me” …. And I did . Fast forward three cups of glorious chocolate milk later, I made my way to the stand up showers that actually had water pressure.

Zmudrun-Kids-Race

The kids race was well organized with fun obstacles for varying ages and enjoyed by all, evidenced by the sheer joy on the faces of the miniature athletes. The course was filled with families and large groups of friends. An event capable of catering to a broad range of athletes. Serving as a good reminder to the experienced athlete why we love the sport that affords us the opportunity to be a kid again

Z Mud Run had everything I look for in an event, and some things I never thought to look for.
Let us recap….

  • Free Parking
  • Free Bag Check
  • Great volunteers
  • Abundance of water stations
  • Mud
  • Family friendly
  • Water
  • Chocolate milk
  • Bagels
  • Above average medal
  • Chocolate milk
  • Mud
  • Chocolate milk

I certainly will be adding this to my 2017 race schedule when they announce next year’s event………………

Zmudrun-Potty
Last but not least…. They had some high quality crappers. Adequate amount for total participants and excellent level of cleanliness
💩💩💩💩 out 5…….Battlefrog would be proud (R.I.P.)

Tough Mudder Half – Northeast: A Tough Mudder Virgin No More

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Back in November of 2015, Tough Mudder announced the creation of the ‘Tough Mudder Half’. As described on the Tough Mudder website, the Half is “designed to test teamwork and grit on a 5-mile obstacle course without fire, ice or electricity. It’s all the mud with half the distance and the first step to joining a community of 2 million strong around the world.” Tough Mudder understands that there is a segment of racers out there that may not be ready for a full 10 – 12 mile event and thus, the Half was born – and it’s Northeast debut is where I found myself this past Saturday morning.

Until this summer, I was a Tough Mudder virgin. I’ve been running OCR’s since the summer of 2012, but in full disclosure, the thought of electrocuting myself, willingly, wasn’t quite as appealing as jumping over walls or conquering a rope climb. Over time however, I began to see the appeal – overcoming your fears in an effort to explore the true appreciation of the life we live. My only regret is that it took me this long to jump on the Tough Mudder bandwagon.

Tough Mudder isn’t concerned with how long it takes you to finish, but it is made very clear that they care that you DO finish.

For those who have not experienced Tough Mudder, it is difficult to describe the appeal of this event, but I think it can be narrowed down to a few simple things: teamwork. camaraderie. conquering your fears, and of course, physical achievement. Tough Mudder isn’t a Spartan Race. It’s not a Savage Race or Battle Frog. There is no timing chip.   Other races would rather see you defeated (See my Montreal Ultra Beast review);  however, Tough Mudder wants to see you succeed. I’m guessing the brass at Tough Mudder doesn’t care about saving a few bucks on swag that they don’t have to issue out for folks that DNF. Quite the opposite. Tough Mudder has you swimming in swag from the moment you enter the festival area.TM NE Full and HalfCheck in is simple. Show your confirmation code, email, or phone number and you’re assigned a bib on the spot. No packets to be stuffed, no bib numbers to look up. Bag check is a very affordable $5 USD, which comes with a huge covered, secured tent that is manned all day by members of “Mudder Nation”. Your path to the start line isn’t without encouragement, that’s for sure. You’re given the choice of pre-workout drinks by Cellucor, one of Tough Mudder’s premier sponsors, and another sponsor, Merrell, is also onsite in case you pull a “me” and forget your shoes on race day. You’re taken then into a starting corral where you’re warmed up by the Tough Mudder deejay – a good way to get your blood flowing and get yourself amped up for an awesome day of conquering obstacles.

From the shoot of Tough Mudder Northeast, you were met with a few simple flats to get the nerves out, before heading into a few mud crawls and inverted walls. Again, the main theme of Tough Mudder being teamwork ensures you’re not going to run into many “hotshots” who want to blow past you in order to hurdle an obstacle with speed and precision. I’d consider it more a “You go, I go” mindset. I quickly learned that, before I got myself over any obstacle, it was my duty as a newly indoctrinated Mudder to get someone else over the obstacle first. It started simple with 10-fingers at the walls, to letting folks stand on my shoulder to get over the Mud Mile. It got better and better as the course went on. Tough Mudder’s obstacles are amazing enough to conquer solo but even more rewarding when you see others do them by your side. At one point, I found myself hanging upside down, my feet being held by two girls I had never met before, just so I could help one Matt B. Davis get up Pyramid Scheme – a slick wall requiring teamwork in order to scale its face. That favor was then returned as other Mudders helped haul my ass up Everest 2.0 – a signature obstacle for Tough Mudder. It was shortly after Everest that the Half course broke off onto its own track towards the finish line. You had a real sense of achievement in the obstacles you conquered during the Half without having to completely overcome those fears that may have kept you from registering for a Full – however, I can’t imagine anyone finishing this race and not immediately wanting to sign up for another event, especially since they tease you with views of Electroshock Therapy and other great obstacles as you cross the finish line.

Tough Mudder Great Northeast Pyramid Scheme with Josh Chase

I had the chance to interview finishers of the Half, and the common theme was quite prevalent: “Awesome.”, “So much fun!”, “The camaraderie on the course was amazing!” Look for the video here on ORM, coming soon but don’t wait that long to register for the next Tough Mudder Half in your area – the list of upcoming events can be found here.

If you’re still on the fence, know this: Tough Mudder takes care of its racers. There was never a concern that I would be without hydration on the course. Five to six water stops were intelligently placed throughout the Half and Full courses, complete with huge buckets of water that could easily serve 12 – 15 racers simultaneously. If you needed energy to continue, there was also Cellucor Aminos, bananas and fit bars to get you through to your complimentary beer the end. Other events could stand to take a few pages out of Tough Mudder’s book when it comes to on-course nutrition and hydration.
SUMMARY
Overall, the Tough Mudder Half Northeast was an amazing race. The racers I spoke with on Saturday shared in my enthusiasm for this particular event, and Tough Mudder as a series. I’ll absolutely be back.

To hear more on my Tough Mudder experience, check out the New England Spahtens Show podcast, where myself, Paul Jones and 21-time Mudder finisher Sandy Rhee discuss this weekend’s race and all things OCR.