Is Facebook Taking Over OCR? Or is OCR Taking Over Facebook?

Once upon a time, “It’s not on real TV, but you can see it online” meant you were scraping the bottom the barrel. You aren’t on TV? Well, you must not be legitimate/big time/ready for primetime. In 2017, that is no longer the case.

It has been said that the mobile phone is much like the “Big 3 TV networks” were back in the day. Radio, believe it or not, ruled our entertainment choices at one time, until television came along. ABC, NBC, and CBS were bringing pictures into millions of homes, and by doing that, they were putting myriad radio stars and advertisers out of business. Today, mobile devices and streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon are the new champs, with “traditional television boxes” being the radio.

Enter Facebook. If I was a tech writer, I could go on and on about worldwide mobile users, FB users, data, and usage. I am an OCR writer, so let’s just say Facebook is Facebook. It rules your life and mine, in and out of obstacle racing. Earlier this month, FB launched something called Facebook Watch, which is their new home for “channel style” content.  Facebook will launch original content, as well as partnering with brands for additional content.

Last week, Spartan Race announced it had partnered with Facebook to provide live streaming race coverage for one of those new channels. This new deal will be exclusive as Spartan previously provided that content in real time, and for later streaming on both FB and YouTube. You can view that Facebook channel here. Most Spartan fans are already aware of the US Championship Series and The Tahoe Champs being aired online. As part of the press release, Spartan announced 4 additional broadcasts for fall races in Atlanta, Dallas, Sacramento, and San Francisco.

Today, Tough Mudder announced their own partnership with Facebook and are launching two new channels: Tough Mudder Live and Tough Mudder Bootcamp Live.

According to the TMHQ press release.

  • Tough Mudder has partnered with Facebook to deliver original, live event sports and fitness programming on Watch, Facebook’s new platform for shows. 
  • Facebook will be the exclusive video platform for the new $50,000 Tougher Mudder Championship race series and Weekly Tough Mudder Bootcamp fitness studio classes. 
  • Fans can add this programming to their watchlist by following the Tough Mudder Live and Tough Mudder Bootcamp Live show pages. 

If you recall, the Tougher Mudder Championship Series was just announced last week and offers additional prize money for 4 Tougher events. You can read more about that series here.

As we first heard in The Rise Of The Sufferfests, “Obstacle racing may be the first sport that social media launched.” Should it be any surprise that the two industry leaders, along with the social media leader are doubling down together?

Tough Mudder Press Release

TOUGH MUDDER TO DELIVER ORIGINAL LIVE EVENT PROGRAMMING ON FACEBOOK’S NEW WATCH PLATFORM

 The New “Tougher Mudder Championship” Series To Be Broadcast Exclusively on Facebook

The Live Programming To Include Weekly Tough Mudder Bootcamp Fitness Classes

BROOKLYN, NY – September 25, 2017 –Tough Mudder, Inc., the leading sports, active lifestyle and media brand, announced it has partnered with Facebook to deliver original, live event sports and fitness programming on Watch, Facebook’s new platform for shows. Facebook will be the exclusive video platform for the new $50,000 Tougher Mudder Championship race series and Weekly Tough Mudder Bootcamp fitness studio classes. Fans can add this programming to their watchlist by following the Tough Mudder Live and Tough Mudder Bootcamp Live show pages.

The new Tougher Mudder Championship race series will feature four events beginning with the first regional event on October 7th at Tougher Tri-State in Englishtown, NJ and culminating with the Tougher Mudder World Championship on November 4th at Lake Elsinore, CA (see full schedule below). The Tougher Mudder Championship race series will feature the world’s top OCR, endurance runners, and functional fitness female and male athletes tackling 20+ signature Tough Mudder obstacles, such as Kong, Everest, Funky Monkey: The Revolution, and Arctic Enema, over 10 grueling miles for a chance to take home weekly cash prizing (up to $2,500). Top finishers will qualify for the Championship and respective winning purse of $10,000 each for the first place male and female finishers. The coverage on Facebook will feature live feeds from multiple obstacles throughout the course, “point of view” head cams and aerial drone footage, as well as behind-the-scenes “everyday hero stories” along with hosted commentary and engaged social interaction with viewers from Tough Mudder personalities Eric “E-Rock” Botsford and Kyle “Coach” Railton.

Viewers will also be able to get in shape with weekly, live fitness classes streamed from Tough Mudder’s new fitness studio offering, Tough Mudder Bootcamp. Tough Mudder’s training expertise and fitness content is coveted by millions of people within the Tough Mudder community, as well as by active lifestyle enthusiasts around the world. The partner-based, 45-minute HIIT workouts are sneak peaks at what franchisees will be offering around the United States beginning in fourth quarter of 2017. Classes are centered around four fitness pillars: strength, power, agility and endurance.

“Tough Mudder has become a leading innovator of building sport around community. With our highly engaged global community of millions, Tough Mudder has excelled at delivering a unique, highly social way to consume live sports programming. With Facebook being the exclusive video platform for the Tougher Mudder Championship series, this partnership is a great complement to our linear video programming offerings and partners, and bolsters Tough Mudder as one of the leaders in the future of sports,” said Jerome Hiquet, CMO, Tough Mudder Inc.

Tougher Mudder Championship Series Programming

Oct. 7th             Tougher East, Englishtown, NJ

Oct. 21st            Tougher South, Mt. Pleasant, NC

Oct. 28th           Tougher West, Lake Las Vegas, NV

Nov. 4th             Tougher World Championships, Lake Elsinore, CA

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, 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:

Angela Alfano

(703) 447-5629

Angela.Alfano@ToughMudder.com

Robert Zimmerman

(917) 543-1046

Rob@zimstrategies.com

Ethan Metelenis

(917) 882-9038

Ethan.Metelenis@ToughMudder.com

Spartan Race Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Spartan, the World’s Largest Obstacle Race and Endurance Brand, to Bring Live Content to Facebook’s Watch Platform

Exclusive Facebook Live Streaming of Spartan Events Launches with 2017 Reebok Spartan World Championship in Lake Tahoe September 30

BOSTON, MA (September 21, 2017) – Blood, sweat, athleticism and pure grit will stream exclusively on Facebook’s new Watch platform thanks to a partnership between Spartan and Facebook. The partnership will feature live streaming of men’s and women’s obstacle races (OCR) through the 2017 Spartan season, kicking off with the Reebok Spartan World Championship September 30 and October 1 in Lake Tahoe, CA. The broadcasts will be dynamically produced with multiple cameras, drone coverage, graphic packages, audio commentary, replays, and behind-the-scenes content.

“Spartan draws some of the world’s most talented athletes to obstacle racing to battle technical terrain and punishing obstacles, which creates fierce competition that is unlike any other broadcast sport,” said Spartan COO Jeffrey Connor. “Producing live broadcasts of our races was a major focus for us in 2017 and an important part of Spartan and the OCR industry’s growth. Partnering with Facebook to stream our events exclusively on Watch will bring the action to sports fans across the globe, showcasing the pure grit of the fastest growing participation sport while helping Spartan spread its message of healthy transformation to a new audience of millions.”

In addition to broadcasting the race events, Spartan’s Facebook Live streams will feature interviews with competitors and major players in the industry along with a host of socially-driven content optimized for a mobile audience, including live-polling and real-time engagement. Spartan will also produce a weekly workout session exclusively for Facebook’s Watch platform. People can add this content to their watchlist by following Spartan LIVE.

“As a producer of lifestyle content that spans sport, nutrition and training, Spartan has more than five million Facebook followers and established television shows on NBC Sports Network and NBC primetime, which makes this partnership a natural next step as we expand our media programing,” said Spartan Founder and CEO Joe De Sena. “The live streaming broadcasts of our events this year received tremendous views, averaging more than one million for each, and as we expand our Championship Series to more than 30 countries across the world in 2018, we’re excited to grow those numbers globally as we work with Facebook.”

Spartan’s militaristic-style obstacle races push the bodies and minds of competitors to the limit across miles of unforgiving terrain while they conquer signature obstacles such as the spear throw, bucket brigade and barbed wire crawl. Spartan is a leader in transforming obstacle racing into a mainstream endurance sport, having been the first brand to feature timing, rankings and a Global Championship Series. The 2017 Reebok Spartan World Championship is the pinnacle event of the obstacle racing season and features a field of elite athletes from more than 50 countries battling the mountainous terrain at Squaw Valley during the 16-mile “Beast” race for more than $100,000 in cash and prizes. This year’s event features a new World Team Championship, which will see coed teams of three from 25 countries facing off in a team-style competition.

Following the World Championship, Spartan plans to broadcast races in Atlanta (October 21), Dallas (October 28), Sacramento (November 11) and at AT&T Park in San Francisco (November 18), which is part of the Spartan “Stadium Series” that unfolds at the hallowed grounds of the most beloved ballparks across America.

ABOUT SPARTAN RACE, INC.
Spartan Race is the world’s largest obstacle race and endurance brand, and the first in-sport to feature timing and global rankings. With more than 200 events across more than 30 countries in 2017, Spartan Race will attract more than one million global participants offering open heats for all fitness levels, along with competitive and elite heats. The Spartan Race lifestyle boasts a community of more than five million passionate social media followers, health and wellness products, training and nutrition programs, and a popular NBC television series, which has made obstacle racing one of the fastest growing sports in the world. Spartan Race events feature races at three distances, 3+Mile/20+ Obstacle “Sprint,” 8+ Mile/25+ Obstacle “Super” and 12+ Mile/30+ Obstacle “Beast,” culminating in the Reebok Spartan Race World Championship in Lake Tahoe, Calif. Visit http://www.spartan.com for more information and registration.

MEDIA CONTACT: Jonathan Fine, 781.248.3963, jonathanf@spartan.com

 

Tougher Mudder Nashville: Tall Grass, Muddy Fun, and Timing Issues

Change In Location for Tougher Mudder Nashville

Nashville usually hosts a Tough Mudder at Milky Way Farms, which has been the venue for many races, including the Warrior Dash and Warrior Dash World Championships.  This year racers got to visit a new cow farm in Lebanon, TN, for some not-as-hilly-but-still-stinky-cow-mud fun.

Negatives

I like to end with the positives, so allow me to start with what could have been better.

Check-in: I ran the Tougher Mudder (hence my title), and check in was slow moving.  There were many check-in lines, yes, but no one knew until he/she got to the front of the line that they were organized by last names, so there was much grumbling.  That being said, once the code was scanned, it was very quick.

Timing: It is very, very frustrating when the timing is messed up.  My time is over 15 minutes WRONG.  I contacted TMHQ several times but still haven’t received an answer.  I’m talking, they have me at 15 minutes SLOWER than I actually ran.  My watch isn’t official, no, but I have seen many time-stamped photos that say the same about times.  My time isn’t the only one that is wrong.

Finishing: There was really nothing.  A Tough Mudder finished, got a headband and a T-shirt, and walked away.  I had to find someone to report that I was done. I was then was told there was no podium, no timing tent, no winning money.  I’d have to wait for my times to be emailed (got them 12 hours later and they were wrong), and winners still haven’t received payment information.

Parking and bag check: $20 to park, which not everyone paid, and $10 to drop my bag on a table, just to find it buried later?

 

Positives

Volunteers:  The volunteers were STELLAR and I thanked every single one I ran past.  They were so helpful and treated all runners far better than the Tough Mudder event staff.

Course Markings: Sure, this can always be better, and more people should have been placed to ensure runners were going in the right direction, but it was fair.

Obstacles: There were a lot of water obstacles, and some were 100% new to me. Volunteers were thorough in explaining what to do and were also very encouraging.  The challenges went beyond the usual grip strength/run fast that I am used to.

Overall

What I thought would be a faster course was offset by the tall grass. This turned many miles into high knee drills.  It was a blast to run a competitive raced that required teamwork and individual push.  The new venue was easy to find and had super volunteers.

If Tough Mudder is serious about (suddenly) starting all these competitions for money, they need to be more organized and definitely need to handle the timing and money situation better.

Tough Mudders are always fun, and I viewed this as a training opportunity.  To win my first Tougher Mudder was cool, but the way the winners were treated (this is coming from talking to the 1st and 2nd place male winners and the 2nd place female, as well) needs to be handled much differently.

As always, big thanks to the volunteers, and because the Tough Mudder was my first ever OCR and it is what got me into OCR racing. I’ll always have one on my racing calendar!

 

 

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

Tougher Mudder Championship Season – The Money Continues To Roll In

This morning, TMHQ announces even more money to their growing list of events with payouts. Tough Mudder which has always promoted teamwork and camaraderie first and foremost, (including very prominently in CEO Will Dean’s recent book release) is announcing additional dough to be won this year at their Tougher event series. It’s called, The Tougher Mudder Championship Series. 

For those that don’t know, Tougher Mudder is Mudder’s version of the “elite wave”. It’s the first wave of the day, athletes are chip timed, and there are penalties for failing obstacles. First one to the finish line wins. Anyone can enter once they pay an additional $20 fee on top of whatever they paid for the event. At the “regula” Tougher Mudder events, which were launched earlier this year, the payouts have been relatively small. Top men and women both take home $500 for first, $250 for second, and $100 for third. Money you will happily take home, but nothing one is going to get on a plane for.

The Tougher Mudder Championship Series begins with the “Regional Champioships” which payout nearly 4 X more. Men and women each win $2500 for first, $1000 for second and $500 for 3rd.

The World Championship pays $10k for 1st, $2,500 for 2nd, and $1000 for third.

The most interesting part of this series is not the payouts, but the timing. Rather than roll this concept out in 2018, Tough Mudder is launching it now. As in now, now. As in the first event is in less than a month.

Here are the dates and locations:

  • 10/7     Tougher Mudder East Championship at Tough Mudder Tri-State
  • 10/ 21  Tougher Mudder South Championship at Tough Mudder Carolinas
  • 10/28   Tougher Mudder West Championship at Tough Mudder Las Vegas
  • 11/4 – Tougher Mudder World Championship at Tough Mudder SoCal

In order to qualify for the World Championship, you must run in a Tougher at one of the 3 Regional Championships and finish in top 10. The other way is through a waiver application and list your athletic prowess for considerations. 

The obvious schedule conflicts for the most serious OCR athletes are the Spartan World Championships in Tahoe on September 30th, The OCR World Championships near Toronto, Canada on October 13th weekend, and of course World’s Toughest Mudder on November 11th.

Will the best in the business add any of these races to their training and racing schedule this late in the game to cash in? Or will this be a great opportunity for the athletes that hover in the 3rd-6th range at similar races to steal the show? As of press time, we had not reached any athletes to get confirmation on their attendance.

We also asked TMHW what the 2018 Toughest Championship Series will look like, and they told us it has yet to be set.

PS For a full accounting of all the money Tough Mudder events and dollars associated given out this year, we are confident Will Hicks and The World’s Toughest Podcast will have something up very soon.

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