Tough Mudder Allowing Votes for Favorite Obstacles To Appear in 2018

 

TOUGH MUDDER OPENS OBSTACLE “VAULT” FOR 2018 SEASON

Tough Mudder will be releasing an obstacle archive known as “The Vault” for the 2018 season. Does this make anyone else think of Disney? Will these obstacles only come around once every 50 years?? What is this vault, you ask?! The Tough Mudder vault will include “blueprints, design renderings, whiteboard drawings, retired challenges and more of the 200+ obstacles designed by Tough Mudder’s industry-leading innovation obstacle lab today. Mudder Nation will be able to find info on such classics as Ballshrinker and Dingleberries as well as unique obstacles such as Hot Shots and Massive Turd that only appeared on the course one time.”

“Tough Mudder will begin to disclose on “Mudder Leaks” at https://toughmudder.com/tough-mudder-obstacles-2018 from now through December 31st, iconic obstacles, and files from “The Vault.” The remaining roster of possible “Vault” obstacles will be revealed on January. 11, 2018 when, for the first time in Tough Mudder history, Mudders will then be able to vote online that day on which obstacles they would like to see back on course in 2018. In addition these classic “Vault” obstacles, Tough Mudder will be debuting brand new obstacles for the new 2018 season on January 11th as well.”

We know that Tough Mudder loves to innovate with new obstacles that test us more than we can imagine while we silently chuckle at the cheeky names Will and his crew like to bestow upon these ball-busters.

“The first historic Tough Mudder obstacle from “The Vault” announced today on MudderLeaks at https://toughmudder.com/tough-mudder-obstacles-2018 is Human Gecko. This classic obstacle tested participants upper body strength while navigating across two walls decorated with rock climbing hand grips – all while dangling over a water pit.

While the information released from “The Vault” is unpredictable, key dates to visit the website for information include Nov. 23, Dec. 7 and Dec. 21. Follow @ToughMudder on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and follow hashtag #MudderLeaks for additional “Vault” secrets. And check out this video on Youtube: https://youtu.be/QTMXsHQq8mM.

In addition to hints from the Vault, Mudders looking to get the inside track on more obstacle secrets should tune-in live to ToughMudder.com and the Tough Mudder Live Show Page on Facebook (Editor’s Note: where our own, Matt B. Davis will be commentating) on Nov. 11th and 12th. The 24 Hour race is considered one of the most extreme endurance events in the world and, with an unprecedented 1,600+ competitors from 21 countries participating this year, is the ultimate Tough Mudder obstacle testing ground. World’s Toughest Mudder features a five-mile loop course, containing diverse desert terrain, steep hills, mud pits and more than 20 obstacles – some might even be “Vault” leaks – which can only be found in this 24-hour, timed event.

The complete World’s Toughest Mudder Livestream schedule with more than 14 hours of programming is as follows:

  • World’s Toughest Mudder Day 1 Kick Off:
    • Saturday, Nov. 11th, 11 am PST to 5 pm PST (2 pm EST to 8 pm EST)
  • World’s Toughest Mudder Midnight Special:
    • Sunday, Nov. 12th, 12 am PST to 1 am PST (3 am to 4 am EST)
  • World’s Toughest Mudder Day 2 Finish:
    • Sunday, Nov. 12th: 7 am PST to 2 pm PST (10 am to 5 pm EST)

 

If one misses the Facebook Live Show, Mudders are encouraged to watch The World’s Toughest Mudder one-hour special on CBS on Dec. 23 at 12 p.m. ET.

To experience the industry’s best obstacles, purchase 2018 tickets by visiting toughmudder.com now through Nov. 10 for 50 percent off event day prices.

 

About Tough Mudder:

Founded in 2010 with the launch of the Tough Mudder obstacle course event series, Tough Mudder Inc. has become a leading global sports, active lifestyle and media brand. With more than 3 million participants, the company hosts more than 130 non-competitive (Mini Mudder; Tough Mudder 5K, Tough Mudder Half, and Tough Mudder Full) and competitive (Tougher, Toughest, Tough Mudder X and World’s Toughest Mudder) events annually in 11 countries including China, Dubai, Indonesia, and Australia through its partnerships with IMG, Seroja and Sports Media and Entertainment 360 (SME360). The company’s content arm provides the more than millions of engaged online brand enthusiasts with fitness, nutrition and wellness content delivered daily across social and digital platforms. Tough Mudder broadcast, OTT and Live Stream programming can be seen worldwide through partnerships with CBS Sports, Facebook, Sky Sports, The CW Network and ESPN Media Distribution. Other sponsorship and distribution partners include Merrell, Amazon, KILL CLIFF, Jeep, Aflac, Guinness, Vega, Samsung, Olympus, Lucozade Sport, Nexcare, For Goodness Shakes, Bosch, TREK, Head & Shoulders, L’Oreal Men Expert, Käserei Loose, Snapchat and Live Stream.”

 

What obstacles are you hoping will appear on Tough Mudder courses in 2018? Any particular obstacles that you miss, or even ones that you hope never show up on a course again? Let us know in the comments here or on Facebook!

 

Kill Cliff: The New On Course Recovery Drink for Tough Mudder

TOUGH MUDDER AND KILL CLIFF PARTNER TO BRING CLEAN ENDURANCE AND RECOVERY SPORTS DRINKS TO 2018 – 2019 US EVENTS

KILL CLIFF Equips Athletes With Extended Energy And Necessary Recovery To Dominate World Class Obstacles As The Official Sports Drink Brand For Tough Mudder And Serve As Presenting Sponsor Of Tough Mudder X Series

ATLANTA/BROOKLYN– Nov. 7, 2017 — Tough Mudder, Inc. and KILL CLIFF have partnered to provide KILL CLIFF’s clean label endurance and recovery sports beverages for the 2018 and 2019 US event seasons in its capacity as the official sports drink brand for Tough Mudder and presenting sponsor of the Tough Mudder X Series. Tough Mudder X is the one-mile race with 10 obstacles and 10 workout zones that tests competitors from across multiple disciplines to determine the fittest and fastest athletes in the world. The series debuted this summer on CBS with millions watching its first World Championship.

At all Tough Mudder events, KILL CLIFF will provide its ENDURE clean endurance sports drinks on the course during events to help participants experience longer energy maintenance as they push harder through the course. KILL CLIFF recovery drinks will be handed out at the finish line to provide electrolytes and assist in participants’ post-event clean recovery and hydration. KILL CLIFF will leverage its relationship with gyms around the country to further the Tough Mudder brand through its product offerings.

The partnership will kick off at this year’s World’s Toughest Mudder at Lake Las Vegas on Nov. 11-12, 2017. World’s Toughest Mudder is considered the most extreme, insane, imposing, pulse-pounding, heart-stopping 24-hour obstacle course race on the planet that is viewed by millions globally via Livestream and also on CBS. KILL CLIFF will be the official sponsor of one of the event’s most infamous obstacles, The Cliff, a 35-foot cliff jump into the chilly waters of Lake Las Vegas that begins at midnight on Nov. 12. KILL CLIFF will also have its own TEAM KILL CLIFF tackling the course.

“Partnering with Tough Mudder as the official clean sports drinks sponsor is a great next step for both of our brands, as well as the dedicated warriors of the Tough Mudder,” said KILL CLIFF CEO Joe Driscoll. “We are getting our drinks into the hands of hundreds of thousands of athletes who are challenging their fitness, while Tough Mudder is partnering with a cool brand that is disrupting the artificial, sugar-filled sports drink category. We are incredibly excited about being the presenting sponsor of Tough Mudder X race series, which is a fast, exciting event that is a great crossover for many of our CrossFit athletes and gyms.”

“KILL CLIFF’s Kill the Quit attitude, clean label products and brand awareness in the HIIT category makes them a great partner fit that will not only elevate the Tough Mudder brand to a broader audience and new category of athlete but enable us to offer Mudder Nation great hydration and recovery drinks for everyone to be at their best as they tackle Tough Mudder’s demanding courses together, ” commented Rich Abend, VP, Global Partnerships, Tough Mudder. “We are also proud to name KILL CLIFF as the first presenting sponsor of TMX, which has garnered significant interest from the industry since its’ debut this past summer on television.”

KILL CLIFF drinks have gained popularity in HIIT gyms across the country, and the brand has led in the emerging clean sports drink categories at places like Whole Foods and Amazon. The KILL CLIFF brand has been on a rapid growth trajectory with a loyal and passionate following of the world’s toughest athletes.

About KILL CLIFF:

Founded and created by a Navy SEAL with the spirit of giving back to the community, KILL CLIFF® makes clean sports beverage products. KILL CLIFF Recovery Drinks deliver clean recovery, providing the hydration and nutrients without all the junk so many beverages have today. Headquartered in Atlanta, the KILL CLIFF team includes civilians and accomplished military veterans, and is absolutely committed to serving and supporting the Navy SEAL community. KILL CLIFF honors the dedication and sacrifice made by these warriors and their families by donating a portion of the proceeds through their Official Partnership with the Navy SEAL Foundation. KILL THE QUIT™. Visit KillCliff.com and follow KILL CLIFF on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram @killcliff.

About Tough Mudder:

Founded in 2010 with the launch of the Tough Mudder obstacle course event series, Tough Mudder Inc. has become a leading global sports, active lifestyle and media brand. With more than 3 million participants, the company hosts more than 130 non-competitive (Mini Mudder; Tough Mudder 5K, Tough Mudder Half, and Tough Mudder Full) and competitive (Tougher, Toughest, Tough Mudder X and World’s Toughest Mudder) events annually in 11 countries including China, Dubai, Indonesia, and Australia through its partnerships with IMG, Seroja and Sports Media and Entertainment 360 (SME360). The company’s content arm provides the more than millions of engaged online brand enthusiasts with fitness, nutrition, and wellness content delivered daily across social and digital platforms. Tough Mudder broadcast, OTT and Live Stream programming can be seen worldwide through partnerships with CBS Sports, Facebook, Sky Sports, The CW Network and ESPN Media Distribution. Other sponsorship and distribution partners include Merrell, Amazon, KILL CLIFF, Jeep, Aflac, Guinness, Vega, Samsung, Olympus, Lucozade Sport, Nexcare, For Goodness Shakes, Bosch, TREK, Head & Shoulders, L’Oreal Men Expert, Käserei Loose, Snapchat and Live Stream.

MEDIA CONTACTS:

FOR TOUGH MUDDER 
Angela Alfano
(703) 447-5629
Angela.Alfano@ToughMudder.com

FOR KILL CLIFF
Reina Porritt
(651) 789-1272
reina@kohnstamm.com

Robert Zimmerman
(917) 543-1046
Rob@zimstrategies.com

Tough(er) Mudder Seattle 2017 Race Review

Initial Impression

Tough Mudder has returned to the Palmer Coking Coal Company venue just south of Seattle for the 6th year in a row, but this time they brought their new competitive wave: Tougher Mudder.  For an extra $20 on top of a regular registration, you could join the very first wave of the day which includes a nice yellow race bib, official timing of the 10-mile loop, and a chance at a small prize pool if you finish top 3 in your respective gender.

While I’m no stranger to Tough Mudder and other obstacle course races, this event was both my first attempt at a Tougher wave and my first time running at the Seattle venue.  While this particular race had its share of quirks (and a brutal, awful, no-good Mud Mile…), the overall experience was awesome and I would be excited to sign up for the event again in the future!

Tough-Mudder-Seattle-2017-Start-Line

The Start Line

Let’s start with one of the weirdest experiences I’ve ever had at an OCR start line.

It was the first wave of the first day of the event, so something like the generator tripping out causing the music to stop, and the large start line inflatable arch to deflate into the crowd can be expected, twice.  Even starting a few minutes late wasn’t a big deal, but the start line MC definitely left something to be desired for this first wave of the day.

For a competitive heat with prize money, you would at least expect a brief overview of the rules right?  Maybe a clarification on whether or not you were required to complete every obstacle, if there were penalty loops of any kind, or if any of the obstacles didn’t apply for the Tougher Heat?  Well, we got nothing like that.  This was particularly concerning when we arrived at the Everest obstacle in the middle of the lap where a volunteer was telling everyone that they weren’t allowed to help each other.  What?  That doesn’t sound like a Tough Mudder event at all, especially when some of the other obstacles required assistance from your fellow competitors to complete.

Anyway, we did get a few minutes trying to hype us up which went pretty well, but there was no national anthem and we didn’t even recite a Tough Mudder pledge.  The MC brought us into the middle of the start area to put our hands in and counted down for us all to chant “Tougher Mudder”.  And… surprise!  It turns out that same countdown was the one to start the race, so after we all looked around confused for a few seconds, the start of the pack took off and the rest of us followed.

Not far away from the start line, a fellow racer commented, “That was the weirdest start line experience ever,” and I would have to agree.

Tough-Mudder-Seattle-2017-Map

The Terrain and Obstacles

This venue has a wide variety of different terrain and Tough Mudder did a great job of sending us up, over, and around just about all of it.  The start line opened up into a large field which is great when everybody is bunched up at the start but eventually led into some fairly technical single-track through the woods after the first obstacle, Kiss of Mud 2.0.  A theme on this course appeared to be that “mud” actually meant “rocky wet asphalt” and this barb wire crawl was one of the lowest I’ve done.  Rolling wasn’t even an option (and I think is against the rules anyway?) and almost everybody going through it was catching their clothing or bib on at least one barb.

After that we headed into a wooded trail where the single track opened up at a few different points to provide enough room for Skidmarked (inverted wall), Devil’s Beard (crawl under a cargo net with a sandbag!), and Berlin Walls (~10 ft walls with a kicker) before narrowing back up and eventually crossing over itself before we were able to head back out into open ground near the 2 mile mark.

After the course opened up, we approached a crowd-favorite obstacle, The Block Ness Monster, which involves two giant rotating rectangular prisms in a pool of water about 4 feet deep.  This obstacle requires a little bit of organized teamwork and despite this being a competitive race, everyone was super eager to help each other out.  We were able to alternate moving different people over the blocks and pulling down on the opposite side to help the next person over before moving onto the next block and eventually out of the obstacle.

Next up was Hero Carry which seemed odd for a competitive event, but we paired off and carried each other anyway.  Soon after was the obstacle I will probably have nightmares about: Mud Mile 2.0

Normally, Mud Mile 2.0 is a series of muddy trenches with water in them that you have to pull yourself over, step your way to the top of, or get some assistance from others to make your way through, but this was no normal mud mile.  As I alluded to earlier, this wasn’t “Mud” that we were navigating over, but rather a ground down and compacted asphalt-type material that would scratch your skin if you even looked at it the wrong way.

Tough-Mudder-Seattle-2017-Mud-Mile

Add in the fact that they dug the trenches to be about 7-8 feet deep and only included a token amount of water at the bottom of each one and this made for one tough obstacle.  Not to mention they made us go down and back for a total of 16 trenches!  Luckily I arrived at the same time as a couple fellow mudders and we were able to team up to get through it.  We quickly worked out a system where two people would boost the first to the top, then one would boost while the person on top helped pulled the second person out, then both people on top pulled the third person out, then repeat, and repeat and repeat and repeat…

While it felt like we were pretty efficient by the end of it, Mud Mile took a lot of time and managed to scrape up any part of your body that was exposed while tiring out your arms a bit.  It was an interesting obstacle for a competitive race, but certainly, one that embodied the Tough Mudder spirit of encouraging teamwork.  For the waves beyond the initial Tougher wave, they modified the obstacle to only require going through each trench once which cut it in half, but it was still one of the toughest obstacles on the course.

Up until this point was relatively flat, but the course turned towards the larger hills of the venue which made for some interesting terrain based obstacles.  First was an Absail down a steep hill of very loose dirt with a help of a set of ropes.  Next, we came to Everest 2.0 which had the ropes down for the Tougher wave.  Even with the ropes, it’s tricky to navigate yourself over the rounded lip of the halfpipe, especially with a volunteer telling everyone they weren’t allowed to help each other.  I’m not sure if this was a miscommunication with Tough Mudder or a special rule for this obstacle on this course, but it seemed odd.

Tough-Mudder-Seattle-2017-Elevation

Next, we navigated up the largest hill on the course right around the 4-mile mark.  The front half was very steep and required the help of a cargo net to reach flatter ground, but that “flatter” ground still kept going upwards until we eventually reached the back side of the hill for the second Absail obstacle of the course.  This one was even steeper than the first but wasn’t more difficult if you kept your hands on the rope and controlled your speed during the descent.

I also want to note that there was an awesome guy playing bagpipes throughout the course and he somehow managed to get on top of this huge hill with the bagpipes!  I certainly didn’t see any easy way to get up that hill, on course or not, so he’s a champ to have made the climb with bagpipes in tow.

Quagmire was the next obstacle but just ended up being a short trek through a shallow swampy area that was a couple feet deep, but not very muddy.  Finally to finish the first half of the course (or the entire course for anyone running the Tough Mudder Half that day) was Pyramid Scheme.  This slippery wall was made easy for the Tougher wave thanks to a set of ropes coming from the top.

The back half of the course wound its way through varying terrain including more wooded single-track, a portion through a wide open quarry-like area between huge piles of rocks, and some minor hills before eventually returning to the wide-open terrain that led back into Mudder Village and the finish line.  Obstacles seemed more spread out an in the second half and included:

  • Snot Rocket – A modified Augustus Gloop where you submerge your body before coming up to the bottom of a tall tube that you climbed a wooden ladder in while water was sprayed down on top of you.
  • Lumberjacked – Two elevated logs you had to navigate over
  • Black Hole – A very dusty crawl underneath large sheets of water that weighed down on you
  • Balls to the Wall – A tall wall climb assisted by a rope and wooden beams
  • Bale Bonds – Climb over bales of hay (Note: this obstacle was totally destroyed by the time the afternoon waves arrived)
  • Stage 5 Clinger – A tricky climb up an inverted wooden ladder before you have to pull yourself over and around to get on top of the obstacle and climb down the other side
  • Killa Gorilla – Simply navigated up and down the side of a steep hill 3 times, not much of an “obstacle”.
  • Mineshafted – This one was new to me and involved navigating down a long tube with the help of a rope.  This led to a mini-cavern that we then climbed out of using a large wooden ladder of sorts

The final three obstacles were some of the most fun that Tough Mudder offers starting with Funky Monkey The Revolution, a set of uphill monkey bars leading to a series of three wheels that must be held on to while they spin you to the next.  A good test of upper body strength over a green pool of water waiting to greet you if you fail.

Tough-Mudder-Seattle-2017-Funky-Monkey

Next, we sprinted across a large field where we picked up a large bag of ice and carried it ~100 meters to Arctic Enema The Rebirth where we dumped the ice into the obstacle before following it down into the frigid water.  Not only was the water freezing, but they forced you to submerge your whole body to navigate under a small fence portion and a set of tires before finally being able to pull yourself out of the end of the obstacle.  If you weren’t awake up until this point in the race, you certainly are now!

Finally was a short jog over to Kong, a set of 5 rings suspended over a large airbag waiting to catch you like a movie stunt performer if you fall.  For the Tougher wave and any Tough Mudder Legionnaires, there was no electricity on the course as we were able to skip Electroshock Therapy while attempting Kong, which backed right up to the finish and Mudder Village.

Mudder Village

The Mudder Village at this venue was a little smaller than some others I’ve attended but still had its share of vendors selling products and handing out free samples.  There were plenty of restrooms off to the side with a large rinsing area and changing area behind.

My only complaint was the minimal selection of food options, especially as the village got crowded in the afternoon.  There were only two food trucks selling food and both had sizable lines.  I think I managed to choose the longer one in my attempt to get a burger, but it took an unacceptably long time to actually get my food.  About an hour and a half from getting in line to actually eating by my count which made for some grumpy people hovering around the food truck waiting on their orders.

While the food was slow, the beer garden was fast and there was no wait for the free beer once you made our way over there.

Verdict

Overall, this was a great Tough Mudder event and the small quirks here and there wouldn’t stop me from signing up again.  Doing the Tougher wave was a great experience and a chance to meet some awesome mudders both before and during the race, some of which have run dozens of events.  Plus, not having to wait at any obstacles was a nice change of pace from doing a wave in the middle of the day where lines begin to form.  In addition, knowing that we’re being timed is a great incentive to push myself even harder on the course, even if I don’t expect to find myself on the podium anytime soon.  If you have a chance to run a Tough Mudder in Seattle in the future, I recommend it.

 

Photo Credit:

  • Tough Mudder
  • My wife, Becky Bouillon

Tough Mudder CEO Will Dean writes “It Takes a Tribe”

In the tradition of CEOs penning their memoirs while their companies are still growing, the founder of Tough Mudder has written “It Takes a Tribe: Building the Tough Mudder Movement”  which outlines where the company came from, explains why it is such a success and hints at where it might go in the future.

These books can be a branding exercise – I know that I got handed more than one free copy of Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s “Delivering Happiness”, which combined the up-from-nothing story of his company with a manifesto about how and why his company was so great. It has never been clear to me who exactly is the intended audience of this genre: MBA students? Potential investors? Prospective mid-level employees? They tend to be an easy read and provide a polished PR version of the company and its origins, but the format can be predictable.

There is one clear audience for these books: superfans. If you love Tough Mudder, you will love reading about how it came to be. “It Takes a Tribe” provides the inside scoop on how Will Dean turned his idea into a successful brand, how he helped create an industry that had not existed before, and how he has changed the lives of many who have joined Mudder Nation.

Happily, I may be something of a Tough Mudder fanboy, so I thoroughly enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look at TM’s origin story. And since I am a fanboy, I had heard many of the stories before, but it was entertaining to hear them again, and it was good to get Dean’s spin on many of the company legends.

In particular, it was fascinating to get Dean’s version what I think of as OCR’s Original Sin, the controversy over Dean’s using the concepts developed at the Tough Guy race by its creator “Mr. Mouse” and applying them to the Harvard Business School project that later became Tough Mudder. For those not familiar with the story, you may wish to watch Rise of the Sufferfests by Scott Keneally (which you should watch regardless, as it is a great documentary). The outline of the story is that Dean observed the Tough Guy event, consulted with Mr. Mouse and then built on those ideas to create Tough Mudder. Mr. Mouse sued and Harvard took Dean to task for violating the “Harvard Business School Community Values of ‘honesty and integrity’ and ‘accountability’”(and yes, if you find the concept of Harvard Business School trying to shame one of its graduates over ethics to be comical, you are not alone).

I had heard this narrative in Keneally’s film and in other sources, but for the first time in “It Takes a Tribe,” I got to see Dean’s side of the story. His version is convincing, but more than that the reader learns about the personal toll the litigation took on Dean and his colleagues. Dean also gets the opportunity to snipe about Harvard Business School days and his shabby treatment by the school after he graduated.

Dean is the tall Englishman on the right.

On the one hand, Dean does not hold back about his opinions about Harvard and his fellow HBS students. Similarly, he is not silent about his opinions of his former employers at the British Foreign Office, where he had a brief career before moving to the US. On the other hand, he frequently cites his experiences at both institutions in this book and uses them to demonstrate lesson after lesson about how he has used those experiences to make Tough Mudder the company it has become.

Like all MBAs who become CEOs, he compares himself with other entrepreneurs he admires, mostly ones he has worked with over the years. Of course, every entrepreneur wants to be compared to Steve Jobs, who gets name checked in the book more than once. In reality, Dean’s counterpart is, instead, Bill Gates: driven by numbers, looking years down the road, but not as obviously a genius. Dean has worked hard and kept focus, and his company has made steady, relentless growth by careful analysis and cautious progress. The bright orange obstacles with the cheeky names are thoroughly tested, tweaked, and re-launched to maximize the challenge they offer and to keep the customers returning. A very MBA approach to numbers guides everything the company does, and its success might be a tribute to that Harvard Business School education that keeps Dean so conflicted.

There is an obvious companion to “It Takes a Tribe,” namely Spartan founder and CEO Joe De Sena’s book “Spartan Up!” In fact, a recent search on Amazon has the two books listed under “Frequently Bought Together.” The two books are good representations of both CEOs and both brands. Dean’s book involves less derring-do, fewer personal exploits, and less lecturing. “Spartan Up!” also glosses over Spartan’s own Original Sin, its treatment of early Spartan superstar Hobie Call.  Both books include profiles of people whose lives have been changed by taking part in these events, and those who love transformation stories will get their fill in either book.

As the two dominant brands in OCR grow, they appear to be coming closer together. Tough Mudder was founded as a challenge-not-a-race, but the past few years have seen the introduction of competitive events from Tough Mudder ready for TV broadcast. Likewise, the fiercely individual Spartan Races have been emphasizing the role of teamwork in their summer reality series Spartan Ultimate Team Challenge. Both brands have launched exercise classes, Tough Mudder Bootcamp and Spartan Strong. Both have major clothing sponsors and both are expanding overseas. While their offerings start to converge, having a book like “It Takes a Tribe” will be a useful way to remember how the two companies and their founders are profoundly different.

Check out Will Dean on our Obstacle Racing Media podcast here

Motivational Mudders: America’s Toughest Mudder Midwest

Competition Vs. Camaraderie?

To be honest, I didn’t know what to initially think of the Toughest Mudder series. Besides World’s Toughest Mudder once a year, Tough Mudder always emphasized teamwork and camaraderie over course time. Finding your personal best and having fun were two of its distinguishing characteristics from other races and I didn’t know how this new series would effect Tough Mudder’s culture. I was worried that the inspiration and motivation I drew from these events would be overshadowed by competition.

But there I was, pulling into the final race of the 2017 Toughest Mudder Series. The stage was set. Five races down, one to go. Coming into this race, I sought out inspiration and motivation from my fellow competitors. I wanted to find something more than just competition at these races. I could only hope that the Tough Mudder culture and the spirit would be upheld.

Starting the Day at Toughest Midwest

As I arrived at the festival area, it was filled with welcoming hugs, hellos, and nervous energy as people prepared for eight hours of racing at the Rockford International Airport. Toughest Mudder Midwest had the highest registration and it was obvious as the energy was immediately palpable. I noticed a mix of first time and repeat Toughest competitors. There were even a few people who attended all six Toughest Mudder events including Jim “Da Goat” Campbell, Melissa “Sharkbait” Dugan, Sara Knight, and Mark James.

Mark James, Sara Knight, Melissa Dugan, and Jim Campbell.

Whether athletes were out there for a podium spot, earn WTM contender status (25 miles) or experience an event unlike any other, everyone was equally excited and nervous for what the night would bring.

As we prepared for the race, it was noticeably warmer at the start line. With a chance of thunderstorms looming in the distance, we weren’t sure how long these near ideal conditions would last. Every endurance event brings an element of the unknown and I was all too aware that conditions can quickly change. While elevation gain would not be a factor in this race, I knew Tough Mudder would have a few surprises for us along the way

Countdown to Midnight

As the countdown to midnight began, we were shuttled away from the pit area, giving many competitors a chance to warm up to the start gate. Surrounded by tall fields of grass, we were isolated in our own little world. Sean Corvelle inspired us like only he knows how to, with a riveting speech about achieving our personal best and overcoming our obstacles on the course and in life. His spirit is behind every one of these events as he reflects on the inspiration he draws from the community. Just like that, the tone was set and we were ready for what the night would bring.

Sean Corvelle at the Starting Line

The countdown ensued and just like that, we were off.

The elevation profile pointed to every sign that this would be a fast course and it lived up to the expectation. In TMHQ’s attempt to slow us down, we quickly encountered a river crossing known as the Kishwaukee Krusade. With no way around it, the river crossing was the only obstacle open from the very start. As the obstacles began to slowly open, it was clear that without epic hills of LA or Whistler, the double mud mile of Atlanta, or the cold from the UK or Philadelphia, that this was going to be a fast course. It held true throughout the race.

Obstacles

The flat fast course was mitigated by the obstacles, which slowly opened until 02:00 am. It was clear that TMHQ wanted to keep us wet, with multiple water obstacles scattered throughout the course. “Operation” had a shockingly (pun intended) long penalty, enticing competitors to at least attempt it. Arctic Enema was placed right before Funky Monkey, making it cold and wet for the grip-strength intensive obstacle. Everest 2.0 and the Grappler both had ropes that competitors could use, but the slippery slopes of the quarter pipe still left them difficult to complete.

Competitors

The race provided plenty of room for competition. Ryan Atkins dominated in his usual fashion and Allison Tai stayed well ahead of the competition throughout. The competition between second and fifth place was heated throughout the race as athletes continued to change places throughout the night. Amidst the competition, I was searching for inspiration to keep me going throughout the race. These races are difficult, period. No matter who you are, whether you are going for 50 miles or 10, everyone is out there trying to find their “personal best”. It is the very thing that Sean Corvelle preaches at the starting line, yet is something that is often hard to reach. I looked to my fellow competitors for inspiration and luckily found it throughout the night. Amidst the dark of night, competitors brought the light.

Men’s and Women’s Top Five.

Inspirational Athletes

Dan Kosick was one such athlete. With his sights set on 25 miles and contender status at WTM, he fell just short at the Toughest Mudder Northeast. Even though he knew he didn’t make it, he completed the final lap just minutes past the 08:30 am cut-off time. As I saw him finish, the look of defeat covered his face as he crossed the finish line. I was proud of what he accomplished, but it was clear he wasn’t satisfied. That defeat turned into motivation as he returned for another shot at 25 miles at Toughest Midwest. Throughout the race, his no-quit attitude resonated in his voice as he continued his relentless forward progress. This time, the course would not stop him. He overcame disappointment at Philly to complete 25 miles in less than 8 hours to earn contender status at WTM.

Jesi Stracham, a wheelchair bound athlete, took on the course with a team of friends throughout the night. I saw the definition of teamwork portrayed throughout the night with her group. She proved that Tough Mudder is more than physical ability as her spirit and determination propelled her and her team to complete 15 grueling miles of the Toughest course.

Yancy Culp (often referred to as Yancy Camp), a legend within the OCR community, is another example of using racing as fuel to overcome life’s challenges. After battling cancer over the last year, he credited obstacle course racing as giving him a purpose to stay healthy throughout the chemotherapy process. He didn’t let cancer stop him from crewing at World’s Toughest Mudder in 2016 and even though he didn’t compete, it served as one of the most defining events of his athletic career. He knew he wanted an event to circle on the calendar for 2017 and chose to tackle Toughest Mudder Midwest. It was during the race that he found the joy of running and competing again. He wasn’t out there to win, but rather enjoy the process of racing and living life to the fullest. While he said the Tough Mudder community inspired him throughout the race, he is an inspiration to all of us.

Billy Richards was another inspirational individual as he carried the American Flag throughout the entire event. Every time I saw him and the flag on the course, it gave me chills. It is one of many ways Billy shows his patriotism. After serving as a United States Marine from 1999 to 2003, Billy decided to honor our military and law enforcement by carrying the American Flag in every race he does. So far, the flag has traveled with him to over 150 races, including four 100 mile ultra marathons (more information on his endeavors can be found at the link under the photo).

For more information click here.

Inspired By The Midwest

If I took anything from Toughest Midwest, it is that this is an awesome community, filled with amazing people. I came to the Midwest looking for inspiration and I found it.  While this race is a competition, it is much more than that, filled with incredible stories of everyone who accepts the challenge of completing 8 hours through the night. The final race in the Toughest Mudder series was a memorable one and only time will only tell what next year’s Toughest series brings. One thing is for sure; the finale at World’s Toughest Mudder is destined to be the best one yet. I’ll see you in the desert one last time!

 

Photos Courtesy of Melissa Dugan and Tough Mudder

Tough Mudder UK Southwest 2017

 Tough Mudder South West UK 2017 – Badminton Estate

Last year, I joined a number of my work colleagues in my first ever Tough Mudder. I have always been skeptical about this event. I had previously taken part in two Spartan races, Invncbl, and some other minor obstacle course races in my area. For some reason, Tough Mudder had never appealed to me. I think I felt like I didn’t want to be tortured for a distance of 10 miles for a headband. But in the end, I mostly decided to take part because it was an excuse to do something ridiculous with a bunch of my friends.

 

All it took was the Kiss of Mud and I was hooked.

 

On the day, it actually took our team an unexpectedly long time to get through that first Tough Mudder, but I really felt that we took ‘team effort’ to a whole new level. At every obstacle, we waited for all of our crew to join us before moving on. From the Arctic Enema to Everest, we helped each other tackle the next nightmare whilst covered in mud and freezing cold (cheers Britain).

 

For weeks after, pictures circulated the office and we laughed at how epically we failed at some of the obstacles. We reminisced about how I got dropped on my back, how my legs cramped endlessly and how my manager almost chickened out of ‘Electroshock Therapy.’ It wasn’t long until I found myself wanting to do the whole damn thing again.

I thought everyone had shared my insane love of this form of torture. I was wrong. When the time came, I sent the obligatory chirpy email around the office attempting to recruit members for my team. Much to my dismay, big fat “no way!” responses were all I got.

Crap. I had spent the year training for Spartans and my ultras, thinking that I would be ready for Tough Mudder when it came to it… well at least I would be ready for a team challenge.  I slowly realised that I was going to have to go it alone.

Tough Mudder relies heavily on teamwork. This was something I had made great use of in 2016. And now, I would be going it alone. I hated the idea but was determined that despite my obvious lack of a team, I would do the race.

So the day came, I woke up bright and early ready for some mud.

Getting signed up for parking was easy (dare I say expensive, £10) Editor’s note: roughly $13 USD. Registration on the day was pretty simple, just filled in a few forms and was on my way. I was given a standby wristband as I wasn’t on a specific wave. So I took my time as there were waves leaving every 15-30 mins. I got in line for standby but wasn’t too impressed with the wait. We were in line for a good hour and a half before being let in. People in the ‘pig pen’ consisted of latecomers, those who were running the race again (absolute nutters), and those who were running for magazines or websites. Still, it took too long.

Finally, we got into a wave and took part in the obligatory workout and pep talk and pledge recital.

Then we were off!

If there is one thing that I have learnt from this year’s Tough Mudder, it was that I absolutely LOVE this stuff.

The course eased you into a grueling 10 miles of blood sweat and tears. It started with a short jog to ‘Skidmarked’ which really got us into the spirit of ‘leave no man (or woman) behind’.

On to Bail Bonds, Kiss of Mud, and Pyramid Scheme. The lack of helping hands at Pyramid Scheme made it difficult to do it properly. Was a bit disappointed. On the Hero Walls is where I really showed some grit. I was devastated last year to be dropped by a team mate. I made it up one wall this time. Small victories.

Arctic Enema came just after mile 3. For which I was eternally grateful. Plenty of time to recover, rather than be freezing cold.

Agustus Gloop or Snot Rocket (Legionnaires) were new to 2017 and were a heck of a lot of fun. Next came Devil’s Beard. I didn’t really get this one last time and still don’t (not my favourite).

Blockness Monster was just as fantastic as before, despite the water being just a little too deep for most people to even get a grip on the floor to help push it over. We relied heavily on the tall mudders to get it to the tipping point.

The Liberator, Birth Canal, and Lumberjacked. All solid obstacles. I didn’t stick around, I just got it done and moved on.

The course was very well planned out. 2016’s layout left a lot of next-to-impossible obstacles. In comparison, last year’s course was poorly planned out leaving many obstacles too slippery to have a good go at.

Last year,  Funky Monkey saw even the fittest racers fall at the first rung. This year was far more fun and more manageable that even I, EVEN I, got halfway across before face planting the water and almost winding myself. All part of the fun, hey?

‘Mud Mile’ was one of the highlights of my previous Tough Mudder experience. I loved every second this year but wished it was longer. Definitely was not a mile long – last year was longer. The racers really lived up to the Tough Mudder pledge in this one though. It was hard not to stop and help out your fellow mudders. Everyone really just wanted everyone else to make it to the end. My faith in humanity was restored.   

‘Hold Your Wood’ saw me joining forces with a team I was waiting in line with. What I really liked about this race was that despite me completing the obstacle with another team, there was no obligation on either party to then stick together. A quick chat, get the job done, a round of “well-done mate and good luck” and off they ran.

So, that was 9 miles down. 1 mile to go. I was getting TIRED.

With just Hero Carry, Everest, and Electric Shock left, I was getting worried. Everest was my nemesis from last year. It was one of the few obstacles that I just could not do no matter how hard I tried.  The Hero carry came and went without too much trouble, and although I wasn’t looking forward to it, I knew I could do Electro Shock Therapy.

But Everest…. I didn’t want to stand in line for 20 minutes, freezing and covered in flies, to try countless times to then have to walk around, ashamed of myself. As I rounded the corner from the Hero Carry I could see it. Thank goodness there were no queues and I had well and truly dried off from the epic face plant at Funky Monkey. I was ready for this.

Took a decent run at it, reached two hands (yes), held on (YES), swung my leg up and some other tough mudder (an absolute legend) grabbed it and pulled me up. YES!!!! I was beyond ecstatic (cue the awkward fist pump to myself – but I didn’t care). I ran up the final straight toward the finish line grinning like a goon. Just one more obstacle to go.

I had a choice, as a legionnaire I could choose Kong or Electroshock Therapy, I knew at this point my arms were shot and if I failed the last obstacle I would be devastated so I took on Electroshock Therapy instead. As I ran through I thought, “Dammit, should have done Kong!” I regretted calling all my teammates wimps last year for avoiding Electroshock Therapy last year. This round nearly floored me. I started running and got a shock that propelled me into a hay bale (in the course I might add). Face full of mud I straightened up only to get a shock in the face. These pictures are going to be incredible. Only a couple more strides to go. Inches from the finish, I sucked it up and rubbed some dirt in it. Crossed the line and was presented with some well-deserved rewards.

This Tough Mudder was definitely 10 miles of blood (bloody elbow), sweat (so much sweat) and tears (promise, there was just some mud in my eye). Epic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo credit: Tough Mudder and Author