Toughest Mudder Midwest… It’s Colder Than You Think!

Rockford, IL is the location for the Toughest Midwest. Being that it’s summer in the Midwest… It’s going to be hot, right? Not so fast there, Speed Racer! Actually, Northern Illinois can get a bit chilly this time of year.

The current forecast notwithstanding, you are looking at a much colder feel for Toughest Midwest than we felt in Atlanta for Toughest South even though the current AccuWeather forecast shows pretty much identical weather for this upcoming race. Now before everyone gets their panties in a bunch let me explain why this will be the case.

Me @ Toughest South

Training for the Cold

Many of the participants at this event have been training in the dead of Summer. In the US, the average temperature for most places is likely in the low to mid-80s during the day with low temperatures in the low 70s at night. As I prepared for toughest South I was doing most of my running and training in the cold of winter in the Midwest. This means colder running temperatures as well as colder water during my submersion training.

Basically, my body was getting used to an event in the cold even though I was racing and Atlanta where it would prove to be much warmer. It’s going to be the opposite case at Toughest Midwest. For this event, participants have acclimated to warm-weather training and racing during the summer months. Now racers will most likely face a much colder environment than they’ve acclimated too and there will be no opportunity for the sun to help keep stave off hypothermia.

Prevent Hypothermia

Of course, this doesn’t mean that everyone will have issues with the temperatures. People who live in the northern US will be much more used to the weather. Hopefully, those who have been in a much warmer climate throughout the summer will have planned a way to train in cold water.

My Battle Corps teammate, Kelly Dzierzynski, scheduled a trip to Southern Wisconsin this week that is actually part of her training for what will be her initial go at a Toughest event. “I’ve had issues with hypothermia at OCRs in the past so I’m not taking anything for granted. I’ve been subjecting myself to progressively longer early morning submersions in Lake Michigan when the air temps are in the 60’s like they are supposed to be on the night of the race. Then, in between submersions while I’m still soaking wet, I have been throwing in some bear crawls, and running in the sand while dealing with that wind coming off the lake. Since this is all new to me I want to be ready for anything!”

Kelly Dzierzynski in Lake Michigan

A lot of you Mudders out there aren’t as fortunate as Kelly, so you will have to be more creative with you preparation. Now my World’s Toughest Mudder brethren out there can see what’s coming… The following are some tried and true recommendations that many of us use in preparation for the granddaddy of all obstacle course races so I suggest putting these into play for this “baby brother” version of that event.

Training

– Start taking cold showers or ice baths ASAP!

– Run cold/wet. If the weather isn’t that cold then get wet and run in the early morning to ensure you are facing the lowest temperature possible.

– When you do your “wet runs” do so in clothing that will not dry quickly (cotton, etc).

– Turn the air down in your house or at the office and wear minimal clothing. Get comfortable being uncomfortable!

– Find a largest/deepest body of water near you in which to swim (deeper water will be cooler).

 

Race Prep

– Bring your wetsuit/shorty.

– Pack your Neptune Thermoregulation System or Frog Skins, or Hyperflex Vest, shorty wetsuit or whatever you have to use as transition gear.

– Don’t forget your windbreaker. This should almost be a required item!

– Bring your Dry Robe (just in case).

Evan Perperis @ Toughest NE

Wetsuit Optional (Or Is It?)

As a veteran of five World’s Toughest Mudders and one Toughest Mudder, I have learned through my experience that you need to come to a race like this prepared for anything. You need to bring most, if not all, of your gear and have a plan in place to deal with pretty much whatever mother nature throws your way whether that be a sand storm in Vegas or a rain storm in Rockford.

WTMer, Evan Perperis finished 7th at the Toughest Northeast race has a similar philosophy, “I always bring a lot of options to the Pit and then make a game-time decision. My choices range from just shorts with no shirt and then adding various accessories like a hat or hood or maybe my Neptune shirt all the way to a full wetsuit.”

Funny thing…There is an ongoing joke in the World’s Toughest Community, “no wetsuit necessary.” This refers to the poor souls who show up to WTM without a wetsuit. While a wetsuit isn’t necessarily required for this event I definitely wouldn’t underestimate the variability of MidWestern weather patterns. However, if you do come unprepared and need some help come find me in the Pit. I’ll be crewing for a few people but I’m happy to lend a hand!

Photo Credits: Tough Mudder, Battle Corps, Subjects’ Own

Steeplechase Challenge 2017

Steeplechase-Medal-Dan-Stowe

Another weekend, another excellent locally-run OCR in the books for the great state of Minnesota!  This time, my adventures took me to the hilly Zumbro River valleys of Mazeppa at an event called the Steeplechase Challenge.

This is a new-comer to the local OCR scene, as this is only their second year of holding this weekend-long event.  The event focuses on the charity Toys For Tots and brings in donations for the local chapter.  There’s a 5K or 10K distance to choose from, with plenty of families and weekend warriors alike tackling the course either Saturday or Sunday.  Registration and festival area are within walking distance of the parking area, as everything is on-site.  Everything was clearly marked and easy to get through.

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Steeplechase-Parking-FB
Course / Venue:

The venue is hands-down one of the best in MN.  The family that runs this event owns about 170 acres of pristine Zumbro River Valley beauty at the Steeplechase Event Center (hence the race name), hills and all.  The site used to be an old ski resort and chair lifts are still standing to this day but not functional anymore.  This paves the way to some truly fantastic trails, mud, hills, single-track (even through what was dubbed ‘Rock Canyon’ where rock boulders had to be climbed over uphill) and… more mud & more hills.  Anytime you can do an OCR in Minnesota and get over 1200+ ft of elevation change in a 10K (watches varied, so I’m going with that number as an average) is a huge plus.  I’ll let some of the photos do the talking:

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Obstacles:

One of the standout obstacles was the addition of a 300-foot water slide, which everyone young to old enjoyed (some of them multiple times, I ran the 10K on Sunday and was told a woman on Saturday went up/down the slide 11 times!).  Some fun random ones: hitting a tractor tire 10x, hitting a junked car with a sledgehammer (seriously more fun than you’d think!), and a spear throw that was longer than a standard Spartan Race distance.  There were some challenging ones as well, with the signature challenge (other than the terrain) was the log carry up to a shorter but very steep climb towards the end of the 10K distance.  Talk about a quad burner!

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The obstacles themselves may not be as technically challenging as other races, but the terrain/venue/heavy carries back up the ‘Challenge’ claim in full.  It’s a great feeling to see both young and old, newcomers to veteran racers enjoying some of the best that MN has to offer when it comes to OCR racing.  See you again in 2018!

 

Photo Credit: Author

Warrior Dash Maryland 2017

The Location

I recently participated in Warrior Dash Maryland, which was a very fun and challenging experience. The event took place at the legendary Budds Creek Motocross Park, which is a world class venue known for its many popular motocross events. This location has also become well known for a variety of the top OCR events over the past few racing seasons also.

The Obstacles

The race length was around 3.2 miles and involved over 12 obstacles that were placed throughout the muddy terrain.

The challenging obstacles included:

  1. Trenches
  2. Under the Wire
  3. Goliath
  4. Muddy Mayhem
  5. Pipeline
  6. Warrior Roast
  7. Fisherman’s Catch
  8. Bridge The Gap
  9. Upslide Down
  10. Magic Carpet Ride
  11. Pallet Jacked
  12. Mud Mounds

Some personal favorites from the obstacles included:

Goliath involved climbing two stories and then going down a 30-foot slide feet first. This was a fun obstacle because it was not only a great view of the course, but it was also an adrenaline rush sliding down into the cool water.

Warrior Summit was a great upper body workout that involved climbing up a 30-foot incline with the help of a rope and then climbing down the other side. Strength, quick feet, and balanced coordination helped to get up and over this obstacle efficiently.

Muddy Mayhem was the final obstacle in the event, and it included an army crawl under barbed wire across a 100-foot mudpit. I have a background in competitive swimming, and this experience was unique because it felt like a combination of both swimming and floating in slow motion through the thick mud. Definitely a great obstacle to finish out the event.

The Experience

As soon as the event began, there was a nice amount of distance to get the heart rate up and the blood circulating throughout the arms and legs. With the distance of the race being 3.2 miles, the rugged and hilly terrain added that extra degree of difficulty, especially on the steep hills and drops that are used in the motocross circuit. Some hills had such an incline, that it was a team effort with the other athletes to get to the top.

Slow and careful steps back down the hills were also critical. For this reason, I’m very glad that I put some extra time over the past few months into my trail running abilities because it helped in the ascending and descending throughout the course. A pair of shoes with an adequate amount of grip is also recommended for added stability, not just in the obstacles, but also on the trail sections.

For this reason, I’m very glad that I put some extra time over the past few months into my trail running abilities because it helped in the ascending and descending throughout the course. A pair of shoes with an adequate amount of grip is also recommended for added stability, not just in the obstacles, but also on the trail sections.

There was a fair share of obstacles that involved crawling through mud and under barbed wire throughout the course, so core workouts and preparation for crawling in tight spaces are helpful.

Warrior Dash Culture

The atmosphere at the athlete area, as well as throughout the course, was friendly, fun, and motivational. Everyone was cheering for each other throughout the various obstacles, and even though I ran the event by myself, there was definitely a strong support system among all the participants.

One of the other things that I liked about the Warrior Dash was that there were no additional costs for parking or spectators. Race medals were awesome too!

Overall, an event I highly recommend for any experience level.

Photo Credit: Author and Warrior Dash

Rugged Maniac Calgary 2017

Rugged Maniac Calgary 2017 Swing

Last year I called Rugged Maniac a gateway drug into the world of OCR. This year, the addiction for OCR has again seriously taken hold and I found myself heading up to Calgary for my next fix.

Was Rugged Maniac 2017 a success? Read on to find out. 

Limbo

Rugged Maniac Is In Its Own Category

It’s a combination that works well for other races in its area of the market. This isn’t a Spartan or a Savage Race. Rugged is Rugged.  It has a distinct place and identity. It’s a lot of… well… just a lot of fun.  Expect a great atmosphere with a great view of the final obstacles.

At Rugged Maniac you can expect onstage antics like the Stein holding competition, the pie eating competition, or the pull up contest to be just as much of an attraction as the race event itself. 

Beer

Rugged Maniac Festival Area

Having a festival area program is something some races seem disinterested in. My wife is yet to be bitten by the OCR bug, but when she attends races with me, she lets me know that there is nothing worse than a dull spectator area with nothing going on apart from an obscure view of the race.

If I were visiting as a spectator, I would want something to do. I could be there for hours in the sun or rain. I’d want somewhere to sit and things to occupy my kids. Maybe some games I can get involved in. Some good music. Maybe a little shade. Good food options.

I don’t want to spend half an hour walking to the venue or taking a school bus, then to pay $15 entry to the venue, only to find it is a muddy, inhospitable mess underfoot, with nothing but a row of porta potties and a bad view of the obstacles. So many race events drop the ball in this regard. However, Rugged Maniac writes the playbook on good times for spectators. Parking was excellent. Everything worked. 

Rugged Start

I ran my little heart out on this race. It’s a fierce race if you want it to be. I ran hard, getting chased down by Kody O’Brien and one other dude whose name I forget. It destroyed me, but that’s just my competitive silliness kicking in.

If you want it to be, it can be a gentler introduction to the OCR world if this is your first event. This isn’t meant to be a statement of suffering, but a chance to enjoy a challenge and experience a bit of fun.

The agenda at Rugged Maniac is for inclusion. Obstacles are all mostly easy to complete with a couple of exceptions and participants of all levels should be able to make it through without much difficulty.

Splash

About the 5k

The distance is 5k and the surface is mainly flattened grassy pasture. Despite the somewhat toned-down intensity of the obstacles, it’s a snappy race if you push yourself. The quad burners were incredibly steep: four mounds of loose dirt, increasing in height and depth really took a toll on my pace.

The rings were tough for me. I lost momentum and had to find a way to reach over beyond my normal capacity. Water balance obstacles are also surprisingly hard. Both Gauntlet and Frog Hop both created a significant energy sap as I tried to run through them. It looks easy, but it’s not. Gong

MUD + Obstacles

One impression I have of the course is of multiple level changes. Most of the obstacles took runners from the upright to prone position breaking up the ability to form a working pace.

Another simple but effective signature of Rugged Maniac is to create a pile of excavated dirt after many of the obstacles. For those who want to run this race competitively, throwing these loose mounds in creates a constant rolling assault on the cardiovascular system. As the day wears on, mud begins to make these even more chaotic and interesting for all.  

Rugged Maniac is largely devoid of heavy carries. There was an easy sandbag carry near the end of the course, but it wasn’t punishing or brutal. I should mention that for those who are pyromaniacs, you get to jump over THREE fire jumps at Rugged! This makes you feel like a legend.

Anti-Gravity (a trampoline and rope net jump) simply makes you feel like a kid again.

Slide

The final obstacle in the Rugged Maniac race is Mount Maniac and the Accelerator combo. A warped wall, a rope net climb, a ladder climb resulting in a giant slip and slide into a pool of water in front of a cheering crowd. 

Acellerator

Kody

NOTE:  Rugged Maniac had a few problems with timing last year. This year someone took the names and times of the winners for the race, which was much simpler. I don’t think there were any issues at all with the manual recording system!

Winners

Conclusion

So  was Rugged Maniac 2017 a success?

YES. In summary, what Rugged brings to the table is balance. Fun for spectators and a great race for participants. I’m gonna just come out and say it. Rugged Maniac is one of my favourite events in the western Canadian OCR calendar. It’s about the atmosphere and the execution. There’s a classy, well-designed polish to the event. People are happy at the race. There are no complaints about course design or whether this obstacle or that obstacle was present or not.  It’s a race with a beaming, colorful identity, great quality control, excellent staff and staging, and an ability to not take itself too seriously. Come on back to Canada next year!

Edit: I was sad to hear that later in the day someone disobeyed one very important rule not to wear football or soccer cleats on the course and as a result damaged the accelerator – putting it out of commission. Read the rules people!

All Photos Credit of Gamefacemedia and Rugged Maniac

Asheville Spartan Super-Southeast Showdown


Spartan-Race-Logo

Southeast Showdown

“The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it”
-Moliere

Never fear, ORM is here
In case you missed the NBC Sports and Spartan Live coverage of the Spartan Super in Asheville, North Carolina, I am here to save the day. Below is the good, the bad, and the muddy of what you missed at the Spartan Super in Asheville.

        First off, I was unaware this was a U.S. Championship Series Race when signing away my life… I mean registration. I just saw, “Asheville, North Carolina” and thought, hell yeah, good beer. After doing a tad of research before this event I found out that last year’s event was nothing shy of absolute torture. So, since I’m a sucker for a good craft beer, I thought “better get to work” and laced up my sneakers and hit the pavement.

Mountain_Top_Super_Spartan_Asheville

Time Trials

Spartan Race introduces a new way to spend your Pre-race Friday night by attending the open house and time trials. The time trials will run you about $49 if you chose to compete, or free to spectate. The course is a mile dash through 10 of the most popular obstacles, including Twister, Slip Wall, and the Hercules Hoist. Athletes were sent out in small waves to battle each other to be the top 20. After the top 20 were chosen, one final heat remained in order to award the top three male and female winners.

If you don’t wish to compete, you can still practice on the obstacles to get a feel for the madness. Certified SGX Spartan Coaches are on site to help with any tricks and tips to aid you in conquering the obstacles before race day. As usual, Spartan had its swag for purchase along with light refreshments and water. I was disappointed that there was not a pre-race discount on shop items for time trial competitors and spectators. Maybe next time ! 😉

 

Start_Line_Asheville_Super

The Elites

       Hobie Call, had an astounding time of 1:18:02, just fast enough to beat out Ryan Atkins with his time of 1:18:48. Brian Gowiski and Robert Killian fell just shy of the top two with insane speeds of 1:24:37 and 1:26:48. Obstacle Racing Media spoke with Robert at the time trials and he let us in on a secret of his. Robert is able to keep up his endurance at these races with the added help of Tailwinds nutrition. Robert pre-mixes the electrolyte and hydration fuel in a collapsible bottle to have on hand during longer events. Thank you for the tips Robert! Going to have to give it a try!

As for the females, Lindsey Webster delivered amazing times of 1:34:01 for the race, with Rea Kolbl and Faye Stenning right on her tail with their times of 1:34:30 and 1:34:50. Close finish for these top three females! Lindsey states that she really had to push to come out with the win at this year’s Asheville. “I caught second place with Faye on the log carry and we bombed down the final hill together. So fun to race side by side again with this girl, just like last year!” She adds, “It took me a little while to internalize that I had won!” Congrats Lindsey!

Entrance_Asheville_Spartan

Top athlete, Brakken Kraker and NBC sports host, David Magida state that this year’s Asheville Super was quite “easier” than last year. Although I did not race the course last year, it has been the topic of discussion for some time now how difficult last year was. The last 1.7 miles of straight mountain climb were excluded from this year’s race. I do like to Go Big Or Go Home, but I was ecstatic to hear the deletion of the last mile, (and so were my calves).

The Obstacles

“The moment when you want to quit is the moment when you need to keep pushing”

        Black Mountain without a doubt caused some damage that day. In typical Spartan fashion, the challenging venue just wasn’t enough. Spartan made every obstacle “championship” hard, meaning, heavier, taller, and slipperier. The noted tire flip increased in weight to a total of 400 pounds for the men and 200 pounds for the females! It took three females to get the men’s tire to flip just once! Another, incredibly difficult obstacle was the already dreaded Spartan Bucket Carry. Imagine carrying a full bucket of heavy stones and rocks up the side of a mountain when you’re already 4 miles in and about 2,000 feet in elevation. Talk about murder for this Florida girl.

Tire_Flip_Asheville_Spartan

Spartan Race course designer, Steve Hammond states that the “signature” moment for this race was the water crossing. I would personally agree with Steve on his statement!! The scenery was absolutely breath taking!! The only problem was, at that elevation, I didn’t have enough breath to give! There was even a shark sighting out there! That’s definitely memorable! Haha!

 

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Bucket_Carry_Asheville_Spartan
Sandbag_Asheville_Super

“It is then when your heart takes over and takes the lead.”

Based on the terrain and elevation alone, I would not recommend this particular course for a beginner OCR athlete. I have done many races in my short two year career and THIS one right here made me question myself and my athleticism. I had to push myself past a mental barrier that I have never felt before. The race was designed to make or break athletes and I can say I felt broken up until I actually crossed that finish line. I genuinely cried at how proud of myself I was to have finished the race and that I didn’t quit even though my mind and my body both told me I should.

My heart proved stronger that day and carried me to finish! I rewarded myself with a complimentary Zombie White Ale from Catawba Brewing Co., a North Carolina craft brew. I also scored this sweet Asheville Southeast Showdown dri-fit t-shirt for $30.

Medal_Spartan_Super

 

If you have decided to make this Super a MUST DO on your race schedule for 2018, I suggest these breweries and restaurants to visit when in town!

Asheville Brewing
Hole Doughnuts
Tupelo Honey Cafe
Wicked Weed
Sunny Point Cafe

Thank you to ORM and Spartan Race ! Stay Dirty and Stay Fit 💪🏻😊

Jessika_Poppe_signature

 

Photos by: Myself and Spartan Race

America’s Toughest Mudder South – Broadcast Review

Welcome to Atlanta, home of hills, humidity, and thick mud!!!

The America’s Toughest Mudder – South is the second in a series of regional events in which the participants hope to win an elite spot at the 2017 World’s Toughest Mudder.  They also hope to earn some dollars for their effort. The 1st place men’s and women’s finisher will each get $5,000, and the first person to do 50 miles during the event also gets $5,000.

Taking place just south of Atlanta at the beautiful Bouckaert Farms, local obstacle racers are familiar with this location having been the Atlanta home of Tough Mudder for a many years now.

The show started off with a recap of the first race of the series that took place in LA just a month earlier. In that race, Ryan Atkins and Lindsay Webster finished on top, and they were back in Atlanta hoping to meet again atop the podium.

Unlike LA, the course in Atlanta has a couple of things that could be a game changer… mud and humidity. While the event took place at night, it was about 76 degrees with about 80% humidity. That can take a lot out of a participant. And then add in mud that bogs down your legs, and can make the effort to run even that much more difficult. Yes, this was not going to be an easy event for anyone.

The course in Atlanta consisted of two 5-mile loops. Loop 1 the racers will run on from 12am to 4am. Then they switch over to Loop 2 from 4am to 8am. Each loop presenting it’s own challenges. The Mud Mile 2.0 on loop one proved to be one of the most daunting obstacles.

Much like the first episode, the show focused primarily on the elite races, but at the halfway mark of the show, they did a short feature on local racer, “Blind” Pete Cossaboon. In one shot he can be seen wearing his GORMR shirt, making all of us on the GORMR team proud.  Pete does not allow his blindness to get in the way of enjoying life and getting dirty on the course. He is an inspiration to all that see him on and off the course. By the way, Pete finished 330th out of 444 finishers.

Also making an impressive appearance in Atlanta was first time Tough Mudder KC Northup. KC managers to come in 4th overall in the female finishers category snagging an elite entry into the Worlds Toughest Mudder later this year in Las Vegas.

There were a total of 444 participants that completed the course in Atlanta. The top 5 finishers were;

WOMEN’S

  1. Lindsay Webster – With an impressive 45 miles completed *
  2. Allison Tai *
  3. Alex Roudayna *
  4. KC Northup
  5. Sara Knight *

MEN’S

  1. Ryan Atkins finishing with 50 miles *
  2. Ryan Wood
  3. Luke Bosek
  4. Tyler Nash
  5. Van Tran
* Previous Qualifier

We saw 5 new racers qualify for the Worlds Toughest Mudder 2017 in Las Vegas.

In closing, I want to give a shout out to the oldest racers at the event. Local racers and Grey Berets, Scott Bennet, 59 and Richie Taylor, 58 came in first and second for the 55-59 group and were among the oldest male finishers at the event. And congrats to Lauren Andrews, the oldest female finisher at the age of 53. While many people think you have to be young to compete, these participants show us all that age is just a number.

Next up, America’s Toughest Mudder – Northeast, from the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia.

Photos Courtesy of CBS Sports, Tough Mudder 2017, and Gameface Media, Inc. All rights reserved