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

Europe’s Toughest Mudder 2017

There’s something so appealing to UK residents of travelling to Vegas for the infamous World’s Toughest Mudder– if anything, it’s a holiday rolled into an extended race weekend (with the small matter of navigating a 24-hour lapped obstacle course!). So why would anyone in their right mind want to travel to the UK in Spring to essentially run the hardest part of this race in typical UK conditions – rain, wind, and cold? Because every participant was there to push themselves to their physical and emotional limit

As the third race in the new ‘Toughest Mudder’ series, Europe’s Toughest Mudder promised to be the toughest course competitors had faced yet. Competitors are required to complete as many laps of a 5-mile course between the hours of 12 midnight to 8am: now, I don’t know about most people, but I am usually tucked up cozy in my bed by this point in the night! Even with the unconventional start time, Tough Mudder managed to attract 775 willing participants – the highest attendance at a Toughest Mudder yet – to take on the grueling course through the night.

On arrival at Belvoir Castle, there was free parking and a short walk to registration – two things that often don’t come hand in hand with UK races! Registration was pain-free and we were on our way to setup our kits for the night; the pit was situated in the marquee that had been used for the regular Tough Mudder event earlier that day; this was a nice bonus, as it meant our pit crew would be dry and warm waiting on our return (nobody wants a grumpy wet crew!). Once we were strobed up with our bibs inappropriately named and wetsuits at the ready, the race director called all competitors to the start line; this is arguably the best part of any Tough Mudder event – music blaring, everyone bouncing around with adrenaline, and the MC putting the fire in you to go out and get your goal!Start-line-EuropesToughestMudder

At 12 midnight the race began with the standard obstacle-free sprint lap to break up the crowds of runners and give you a feel for the course and its terrain. The event had been setup slightly differently compared to previous Toughest events as there was only one 5-mile loop, but the obstacles would be opening at different times… there was a certain excitement of reaching an obstacle on each lap to find out whether you would have to take it on or not! By 4:00 am, all of the obstacles were open for business, and it quickly became a blessing to have any stretch of running in between to regroup before the next obstacle came along.

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Now, as I mentioned before, the weather in the UK in Spring is not exactly tropical – combine the low temperatures, wind, and rain with the mandatory Arctic Enema, Augustus Gloop, and Blockness Monster and this was a recipe for hypothermia if you were not prepared. Inevitably, the conditions claimed a lot of runners, and by half way through the race, a lot of the lesser prepared competitors had called it a night. I had luckily decided to run in a full wetsuit from the word go; so I managed to keep relatively warm on the first few laps. Arctic Enema did, however, start to take its toll, and it was a swift pit after lap 3 (mile 15) to recruit my neoprene hood as extra backup – this guy saved my race!

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For the first time during a race, I felt like I did not want to eat ANYTHING and for me, that’s unheard of – picture a hamster stuffing its cheeks with food then scuttling off – this is usually me at endurance races. Luckily, I had my pit crew there to force feed me on each lap, preventing me from bottoming out half way through the race even when I thought I could manage without. I cannot stress enough to anyone who is planning on taking on a Toughest Mudder event the importance of having someone to support you. Sometimes your head says ‘you’ve got this!’ but really, you definitely are high on adrenaline and should be eating or drinking or changing gear at this point.

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During the first couple of laps, the obstacles were relatively easy but as the night wore on and the rain got heavier the obstacles also got more challenging- at points I felt as though I might as well have poured lube on my hands and I’d have the same penalty runs as I got during the middle laps! The mud in the UK is great for a regular Tough Mudder event where it’s all fun and games and you are having a laugh with friends, but smear that stuff onto Hang Time (modified King of the Swingers) at 4:00 am and I’m lucky I didn’t need heart surgery from falling off those bars – obstacles that didn’t cause me any trouble in Vegas suddenly were my nemesis. I didn’t let this get me down too much as a few of the world-class racers appeared to be having the same issues as us mere mortals and were on their way round penalty runs just as the majority of us were.  I even saw Jon Albon running the penalty lap for Hang Time…now tell me that isn’t a hard obstacle.

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I’d forgotten what a surreal feeling it was to witness the sunrise whilst on course, it’s something that can instantly change your game even if you’ve hit rock bottom- everything seems just that little bit more achievable once daylight starts to surface and you get your second wind. By the morning it was noticeable that there were only a fraction of the runners who had started still out on the course. The tough terrain, cold weather and constant water submersions had claimed more people than I think even TMHQ expected! It was a lonely and what seemed like a never-ending final lap and one which I won’t forget in a hurry, I had completely reached my physical limit around 1 mile into lap 6 and quickly realised I needed sugar by the bucket load if I was to try and make it to the end. One runner was passing me as I wandered about in a daze and gave me a packet of caffeine shot blocks- the kindness of others during obstacle races and in particular, Tough Mudder races, never fails to amaze me. I plodded on with friends I had caught up with up ahead of me and attempted the final obstacle Kong, while others jumped straight down to the crashmat- I was partly over-confident that I had managed this on the lap before and it was a huge gamble to take knowing I had extremely limited time left on the clock to cross the finish line. In the end, the gamble cost me 6 official laps as I fell from the final ring on Kong, and was timed out 10 meters from the finish line… I have never been so devastated at the end of a race! All of the emotion and sheer exhaustion came to the surface at this point and my friend rescued me from the teary heap I was in and dragged me across that finish line- it was camaraderie at its finest (and I also felt like a Brownlee brother!).

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The buzz of the race and the incredible achievements by all on the day in the first race of its kind in the UK will definitely not be forgotten in a hurry! It was a surreal experience from start to finish and one which I think any serious competitor in obstacle racing or endurance running should take on. I for one will certainly be back on that line in 2018 eagerly awaiting what TMHQ has planned for us.

Photo Credit: Tough Mudder

America’s Toughest Mudder West

On a cool Spring evening late last month, approximately 450 men and women assembled in the Southern California desert to compete in the inaugural America’s Toughest Mudder West. The event was part of Tough Mudder’s new race series, in which participants race a 5 mile looped course from midnight until 8am, completing as many laps as possible. Unlike a typical Tough Mudder event, this is a competitive race with prize money at stake for the top 5 men and women’s finishers.

America’s Toughest Mudder West was the first of six of these events that will be taking place around the US, Canada, and the UK in 2017.

The event took place at Glen Helen Raceway, in the desert of San Bernardino County. This location is notorious for its gusty winds, and its seemingly unlimited supply of calf burning hills. The course designers were sure to take full advantage of the latter.

The course was made up of two separate 5 mile loops, each with around 11 obstacles scattered through them. Competitors ran on one loop from midnight until 4am, and then switched to the second loop for the reminder of the race.

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Although Tough Mudder always seems to supply a solid arsenal of challenging obstacles (and this event was no exception), the real punishment at this event was doled out by Mother Nature in the form of hills. Loop #1 (aka the “easy” loop as it was dubbed) had roughly 940 feet of elevation gain per lap, while Loop #2 (aka “F#*K that loop!”) had over 1400 feet of elevation gain.

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The race began with a sprint lap of sorts, where no obstacles were immediately open. However, unlike World’s Toughest Mudder, in which the obstacles were all opened after the first hour, for this event, a variable opening was employed. This meant that certain obstacles opened at random times during the first lap, while others did not open at all.

A fun wrinkle that was employed at Toughest was to take traditional Tough Mudder obstacles and modify them to make them more challenging. This was done quite successfully with obstacles like Funky Monkey, the Berlin Walls (added protrusion at the top to navigate over), and King of the Swingers (swing to a cargo net and tyrolean traverse down a line – bonus, success kept you dry).

Toughest West Berlin Wall

The event was truly a tale of the two loops. While Loop #1 definitely had its challenges, namely a one-mile stretch where you were basically trekking uphill the entire time, Loop #2 was where most of the agony truly set in. Not only was it beset with a gaggle of upper body taxing obstacles, but it also seemed that somehow you were running uphill for the entire 5 miles. The worst of which was the aptly named “Death march”, which was a relentless boulder infused climb that seemed to last forever.

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As for the race itself, the lure of a $5000 first prize brought out many of biggest stars of the ORC community. The highly competitive field did not disappoint. While Lindsay Webster ran away with the women’s title, the men’s side was not decided until the final lap. 2015 World’s Toughest Mudder Champ Chad Trammell had built what appeared to be a fairly comfortable lead (9+ minutes) going into the final lap.  However, Ryan Atkins proved once again why he is the greatest OCR athlete currently living on planet earth. Atkins ran each of his last four laps at a faster pace than the one before, and ultimately reeled in Trammell to take the victory. Along with the $5,000 first prize, Atkins earned an additional $5,000 for hitting the 50-mile mark….something that the folks at TMHQ had said would be virtually impossible at this venue.  It should be noted that Chad Trammell too hit 50 miles at this venue, and but for a single failed obstacle, would have been victorious.  The lesson here, as always, is never underestimate Ryan Atkins.

Toughest West Atkins

Photo Credit: Tough Mudder

Tough Mudder Arizona 2017

Tough Mudder Arizona

Last weekend I had the opportunity to visit Arizona, so naturally I decided to take part in the 2017 Tough Mudder with friends I’d never met before in person. This is how most of my races go now. What did I learn? I learned that Tough Mudder is changing to rapidly become an even bigger hitter in the OCR world. Read more to learn why.

STATS AND STUFF

Event Location: Mesa, Arizona.

Actual course distance: 10.2 miles for the Full/Tougher Mudder Course

Weather: 26°C/86F, some gusty winds. Hot.

Terrain: Arid desert plateau. Minimal elevation gain/loss. Ground underfoot ranged from hard pack, powdery dust, sand, broken asphalt, desert brush, and some gravel. Oh, and mud… duh.

Events offered: Tougher Mudder (Competitive Full Course), Tough Mudder (Full Course), Tough Mudder Half, MiniMudder.

Getting there: The race takes place on the crumbling ruins of an old Nascar circuit, just on the south side of Mesa. It’s practically walking distance from Mesa Gateway airport, so it’s easily accessible. Cost of parking: $20 US.

Facilities: Porta potties in Mudder village and on course. First aid. Merchandise and food tents. Beer tent. Bag check. Rinsing area. Changing tents. ETC

Equipment needed: I ran in my Merrell All Out Crush OCR shoes, which were idea for the conditions because they drained exceptionally well. I took a hydration pack, and a couple of gels. The course chewed up my running socks and shirt a bit, so don’t go wearing your expensive duds.

Swag: A great quality tech running shirt from Merrell/Tough Mudder, a Tough Mudder headband. Brags.

IN DEPTH

Difficulty

The course for the Arizona Tough Mudder is very flat, which means it’s a suitable race for participants of almost any athletic ability. Obstacles are always optional in Tough Mudder, but some obstacle training and a background in running would make the experience a lot more fun. By entering the original Tough Mudder, you should find that slower pacing and the non-competitive atmosphere means that exhaustion doesn’t play as large a role as it might in other OCR events (shorter and competitive versions of the event are also available if the full isn’t to your liking). The biggest challenge by far in Arizona is the heat, which even in early April, can be considerably more than out of state visitors to Tough Mudder Arizona might be prepared for. 

Water

Multiple water stations were located across the course. Some of the water stations also provided 🍌 halves for participants. I counted at least five water stations. I brought a hydration pack, but didn’t really need it – call me paranoid – but this is the desert. I never felt thirsty.

Obstacles

If you’ve never done a Tough Mudder before, let me give you an introduction. The format of the original Tough Mudder is that of an event rather than a race (the new Tougher Mudder competitive wave with prize money is brand new in 2017), with the most popular iteration being the 10-12 mile distance, or the FULL Tough Mudder.  The obstacles found in a Tough Mudder are among the best in the industry, and while they may not always be the most challenging or punishing, they are always very well designed, very well built and amusingly named (See “stage 5 clinger” and “Snot Rocket”). While some of the obstacles are one person at a time kinda deals, many of them are team based, forcing you to work together. This is a critical part of the Tough Mudder. 

Tough Mudder Arizona

But don’t be fooled, these are not really easy obstacles;  it’s just that some of the obstacles are designed to mess with your amygdala more than your muscles. There’s a fear factor here, and the race designers play with almost all the phobias through a series of elaborate stunts and tasks. We get to experience the fear of heights, water, tight spaces, tight spaces with water, getting dirty, getting cold, being unable to overcome an obstacle, or even getting electrocuted in front of a crowd (not even joking). Welcome to the twisted sense of humor of Tough Mudder.

Yet it’s the simple things that put the ‘Tough” in Tough Mudder. Some of the most difficult sections of the Arizona course involved simple mud traps and pits. Best to be prepared for that. 

Tough Mudder Arizona

“Everest 2.0” requires speed and power to launch high enough to be grabbed by helping hands, but a relatively dry ramp at this event meant that failure was rare on this obstacle. For me, Pyramid scheme is the beating heart of the Tough Mudder experience and remains a stroke of pure genius. Why? The obstacle is designed to deliver muddy mayhem at every turn, and it requires massive amounts of teamwork to complete. Conquering it as a team results in a huge sense of accomplishment and multiple fist bumps. Just make sure you tighten the waistband of your shorts before making yourself part of the pyramid. Someone will pants you. It happens. Block Ness Monster is another highlight. This obstacle is just sheer bliss and entertainment value – note to course designers for next time – It’s much better when you can’t touch the bottom of the pool. But like I said earlier, it’s the simplicity of the setup that becomes the canvas for the adventure.

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New or notable obstacles:

SNOT ROCKET/AUGUSTUS GLOOP
A vertical climb inside a tube, while you are being sprayed with water from above. This one looked pretty awful, but like nearly all of the water obstacles, it came as a welcome way of cooling off. 

Tough Mudder Arizona

BIRTH CANAL
A crawl beneath heavy, water filled tarps. This didn’t seem to require any kind of team effort and was not visible enough for any real spectator value. This obstacle should have been twice as long.  

Tough Mudder Arizona

KONG (Legionnaires only-so run another Tough Mudder and come play on this bad boy)
An impressively​ tall ring set. Although it looks cool, this is the far less interesting alternative to Electroshock Therapy. It’s presence is likely there to challenge the Tough Mudder timed event participants since electroshock therapy isn’t a suitable finish for a race I guess.

Tough Mudder Arizona

SHAWSHANKED
Think Andy Dufresne crawling his way to freedom and dropping into the muck of the sewer (this is a very literal interpretation).  A narrow horizontal tube and rope crawl, terminating in a headfirst drop into a pool of muddy water. The intimidation factor of this made it a great addition to the Tough Mudder experience. Make sure you hold your nose next time. 

Tough Mudder Arizona

Notes on the Tougher Mudder Competitive wave:

Those running the competitive wave will have found themselves much more challenged by obstacles that are meant to be completed with a more willing set of team-mates. It’s a pretty exciting addition, but I couldn’t make it to the race in time to run competitively. Plus, I had my awesome team THE ANGRY RACCOONS to run with. 

Safety

Safety on course was great. Tough Mudder has developed a solid protocol for safety and ensuring the obstacles on offer are sturdy and well tested so at the minimum, I would advise you to bring sunscreen, listen to the safety briefings, and read the signage. More than once I saw people entering deep water and needing to be rescued by very experienced looking lifeguards, but everyone was warned multiple times about the risks at Tough Mudder. The heat was probably the thing to be most concerned about at this particular event.

Turnout

HUGE. It wasn’t too hot. It wasn’t too difficult so I saw a lot of people on course clearly enjoying themselves. The staff seemed happy to be there. There were plenty of laughs. If you’re in Arizona, definitely check it out. 

CONCLUSION

Tough Mudder still manages to keep the incandescent appeal of the obstacle course alive and well in Arizona, and it is refreshing to see a company being progressive and thoughtful towards its participants. There’s buzz and movement there. Why? They have lowered the bar of entry to the Tough Mudder by expanding the shorter entry level events, and yet maintained the spirit of the original Tough Mudder. But that’s not all (this is sounding like an infomercial), TM has moved into a new arena of highly engaging competitive races that seems to hold up well against the other major players in the sport.  In short, Tough Mudder is becoming one of the most broadly appealing and interesting series of OCR events worldwide. 

I’m VERY excited to see Tough Mudder continue to make inroads into the race calendars of more pro and competitive obstacle course racers.

Your move Spartan…

The Angry Raccoons

Photo Credit: Gameface Media and Tough Mudder

A 100 Mile Journey: A WTM Recap

This year, I came into World’s Toughest Mudder (WTM) with one simple goal; improve on my 80-mile performance from last year. I felt that 90 miles was a significant but attainable goal to reach. Coming into this years WTM, I felt better than I had in previous years, but knew things would have to go just right to reach my goals. With everything from stomach problems, to horrible weather, and everything in between, I felt that by aiming for 100 miles, I would give myself enough cushion to attain my goal of 90 miles. To be honest, I never thought I would be able to reach 100, but put it up there as a “Dream Goal”, so even when I did fall short, I would still be within my 90 miles that I wanted to get.

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One of the things I enjoy about these races is going into them free from anyone’s expectations but my own. Unfortunately, things changed a little bit when I was listed as one of the “top men to watch” (darn you Matty Gregg). I know the pressure got to me for a little bit, but I realized that I needed to just focus on what I had to do and what I had control of.

Thankfully, I was invited to join Team Goat Tough by Jim Campbell, who helped support me getting the prior gear I needed along with the support out on course that I would need throughout the 24 hour grueling race. I think Jim believed in me more than I believed in myself. It was awesome to have 12 other people out on course who I knew were there

I started out the race wanting to get as far as I could during the sprint hour without pushing myself too hard. I found myself keeping up with the leaders throughout the sprint hour, following Junyong Pak, Ryan Woods, and Nickademus Hollon. I settled into a comfortable pace, and found myself running faster than I needed to but was feeling good.

Laps 3-4 I was mostly running with Ryan Atkins and Jon Albon. It was hilarious hearing those guys run together, singing songs and laughing, like it was just another day on the playground. I knew they would eventually take off ahead, but it was a perfect couple of laps to keep the pace up and the mood light.

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After I finished lap 5, I decided to change into my Frogskins, since it was starting to get dark. I was about 45 minutes ahead of the pace I wanted to keep and was feeling pretty good. My pit crew was perfectly in sync and helped me get out of the pits in seemingly no time at all.

Lap 6 proved to be more challenging than expected as it was a little too hot for the Frogskins, and 2 of the water obstacles were closed that lap. I remember seeing Sharkbait that lap who was experiencing the same problem, but neither of us wanted to get caught in an extreme drop in temperature, something we were both too familiar with from years past.

I was keeping on the pace I wanted during miles 30-50 without any gear changes. My lap times were consistent and I was still getting through most of the obstacles just fine. I was still behind Pak and Woods, but wasn’t concerned with what they were doing. Even though each lap time was consistent with one another, I was encountering significant ups and downs each lap, due to some stomach problems. It was nothing terrible, but enough to slow me down for parts of each lap. I was sticking to what I had used in the past, mainly bars, Cliff blocks, and Tailwind. While there were many small problems, it was nothing out of the ordinary for 50 miles

I remember finishing mile 50 around 10pm and thinking “This is what I finished with the entire 24 hours 2 years ago.” I had obviously come a long way since my first WTM, but didn’t think I was ready for the big jump that was about to come.

It was pretty fun and a little nerve racking when the camera crews started rolling late into the night, and began to follow me on some of the obstacles (It makes Operation a little bit harder with a camera staring down at you). I knew I had to be near the top if they kept getting clips of me, which kept my spirits up.

I planned on slightly slower lap times for miles 50-75, but I was still keeping a steady pace. After completing Grappler on lap 12, I noticed the cameras shifted from me to the person who was right behind me. It was Trevor Cichosz! I was so excited to see him and knew he was going to make a late night push to the front. I have never been so happy to be passed up by someone and surprisingly; it gave me an extra boost of energy. I knew the race was on and I told him to go win this. I never thought I would be near the front like I was, but I wanted Trevor to breakthrough and finally win this event.

15042048_1118517344910222_1594517493638149194_oI hit the Cliff on lap 12 just after midnight and was ready for 12 hours of my least favorite obstacle of all. By this point, there was no way I would consider running the extra 0.6 miles and faced this necessary evil for the remainder of the race. Once I hit 60 miles around midnight, I began to believe that I could make it to 100 miles! While I created a plan to hit 100 miles, I never thought it was possible. Only the heavy hitters, the Ryan Atkins and Jon Albons of the world could make it to 100. I never gave myself a shot at it.

Even with a glimmer of hope at 100 miles, I struggled through lap 13 as I was still facing some problems with my nutrition and began facing a few extra penalties per lap. I could feel the race begin to wear down on me. I knew that it would be getting colder, so I decided to put on a thick wind-breaker. As far as my nutrition was concerned, my mom (aka awesome pit crew member #1) asked if I wanted hot chocolate after lap 13. This sounded like the perfect thing to keep me going. After lap 13 I began eating a steady diet of peanut M&Ms, Snickers Bars, and hot chocolate to keep me going. They seemed to do the trick for my stomach, as I continued the rest of the race without any significant stomach problems.

As I came in after lap 14 I really felt good. My stomach was fine, my body felt good, and I was ahead of the pace I needed to get 100 miles. On that pit stop, with 70 miles under my belt, I told my pit crew, “I am getting 100 miles!” Everyone was on board and they knew that from here on out, there was one goal in mind. I forgot about what place I was in, and focused on getting to 100 miles.

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Lap 15, I secured my silver bib and was pushing to get as many laps in before sunrise. I continued on the same pace through lap 18. As I was looking to finish up my last 2 laps, I knew that lap 19 would be a tough one to pull through. I aimed at starting my last lap by 11:00am, giving me 2.5 hours to finish my last lap if needed. I struggled through lap 19, and was able to get back to my pit in time. I decided to take off the windbreaker and carry my pack as usual. I had more than enough time to finish my last lap, I was over a lap ahead of 4th and 5th place, and 1st and 2nd were already locked. ALL I HAD TO DO WAS FINISH ONE MORE LAP! It was such a feeling of relief. A caught up with Mike Delanty, one of the first people I ever met at WTM, and we cruised on our last lap, taking our sweet time and enjoying each other’s company. We jogged the last little bit of the lap and I was never happier to be at the peak of the Cliff.

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As I finished that last swim, I got to the final stretch and decided to walk it and soak in the moment. I remember closing my eyes and felt the sun soak in. It was here! This was what all that training was for. I was the fifth person ever to reach 100 miles at WTM.

As I crossed the line, I was lucky enough to get my 100 mile bib from none other than Sean Corvelle. It was such an honor to get my bib from him as he always is such an amazing motivator, an awesome person, and his voice constantly reminds me to give it my very best.

Coming into this race, I put in a lot of hard work, but could have never imagined that I would be the 3rd Place Individual Male and reach 100 miles.

I couldn’t have done it without my amazing Pit Crew: Mom (Katie Mendoza), dad (Danny Mendoza), Tim Slaby, Kelly Druce, Melissa Morgan, and everyone else who was there. I also want to thank Jim Campbell, Dustin Partridge, John Fagan and the rest of Team Goat Tough who were so supportive throughout the entire time. Thank you to my friends, PJ Catalano and Reny Kaufmann (7th Place Woman), who I shared a tent with. Finally, thank you Trevor Cichosz (WTM CHAMPION), who told me before the race if I didn’t get 100 miles, he would take away my coveted Ground Pounder hat.

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I want to thank everyone I saw out on course that made this the most memorable WTM experience ever! There were so many people who constantly encouraged me and supported me throughout the event and I am so lucky to be a part of this great WTM community. I hope to see many of you out on course very soon and I love you all very much!

WTM 2016 – Drop it Like it’s Hot!

World's Toughest Mudder 2016 - Start

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

Winners

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

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

Obstacles

World's Toughest Mudder 2016-Double Rainbow

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

World's Toughest Mudder 2016-Kong

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

World's Toughest Mudder 2016-Funky Monkey Revolution

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

WTM Experience 2016 vs. 2015

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

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

Final Perspective

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

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

World's Toughest Mudder 2016-Bagpipes

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