Train Like a Pro: Rea Kolbl

Rea-Kolbl-Bucket-Carry-MontereyIf you haven’t heard the name Rea Kolbl before, there’s a good chance that will change soon. One of the newest members of the Spartan Pro team, Kolbl has excelled in the early stages of her career.

Because she mostly ran local Spartan races, Kolbl was a virtual unknown at last year’s Golden State Classic in Monterey, one of the five Spartan U.S. Championship races on NBC. So much so, that one of the race referees had asked her to spell her name while she was finishing burpees. Kolbl went on to finish 4th, under a minute from hitting top three in what was her first ever elite race.

Despite being caught off guard by the cold (like many were) at the 2016 Spartan World Championship in Lake Tahoe and having to complete 150 burpees, she still managed a 7th place finish at the site of the 1960 Olympic Games. That included an untimely fall on the descent, one of her typical strengths. “Usually I’m pretty fast on the downhill because trail running is what I do, but I was so cold that I was shivering and couldn’t see the ground at all,” Kolbl recalls.

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Originally from Slovenia, Kolbl came to the United States almost seven years ago to attend U.C. Berkeley before moving to Stanford, where she is currently a full-time grad student.

Like many other athletes on the team, she’s had to find a healthy balance of work, training and personal time: Working full-time, this means a morning run, a full day of work, then getting in a second training session with her husband, Bunsak. Kolbl attributes him for most of her ability to keep up with training. “He does all the cooking beforehand and all the cleaning and shopping,” she says. “I do dishes to do my part, but I’m definitely lucky from that perspective.”

Having a full schedule is nothing new to her, however. “Being on the gymnastics team when I was younger,” she recounts, “I had like seven hours of practice (every day)…and I still did school full time so there was always a balancing of the two.”

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This year, keep an eye out for this up and comer as she takes on more of the Spartan U.S. Championship Series races and looks to improve on her finish (and burpee count) at Tahoe. She’s already started 2017 with a bang, winning both the Sprint and Super races at the SoCal event in January.

Below is one of Kolbl’s favorite training sessions. She generally performs it the day after a rowing session, and follows it up with a low impact cardio day. As you’ll see below, the Stairmaster is one of Kolbl’s favorite forms of low-impact cardio. “It really pumps my heartbeat, but it doesn’t really work hard on my knees or ankles,” she explains. The rest of her week includes some training on a track, trail/mountain running and another HIIT session.

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MORNING

RUN
This part should always be done in the morning. Go for a nine-mile run at an increasing pace. The second half of the run should be at maximum sustainable effort. For Kolbl, this consists of a sub-7 minute per mile average pace on a loop that has almost 800 feet of elevation gain.

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AFTERNOON

PART ONE
20-MINUTE STAIRMASTER CARDIO
Begin at 96 steps per minute. This is usually level eleven. Incrementally increase each level at the following times:

  • 2 Minutes – Increase to 103 steps per minute
  • 5 Minutes – Increase to 110 steps per minute
  • 8 Minutes – Increase to 117 steps per minute
  • 11 Minutes – Increase to 126 steps per minute
  • 14 Minutes – Increase to 133 steps per minute
  • 17 Minutes – Increase to 140 steps per minute

Pro Tip: If a Stairmaster is unavailable, substitute 20 minutes on a rowing machine or exercise bike. Any form of low impact cardio will work.

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PART TWO

TABATA
Perform each set of two exercises in alternating fashion, executing 20 seconds of work with 10 seconds of rest. Complete each one four total times so that each set ends up being four minutes long. Rest 30 seconds between each set. Kolbl usually does this part with an elevation mask set at 12,000 feet.

  • Set 1
    • Burpees: If you’re an avid OCR fan, chances are you know what a burpee is. Just in case: Begin in a standing position with your feet together. Touch your hands to the floor and kick your legs back so that you are in a push-up position. Perform a push-up, then bring your feet back up in between your hands and jump straight into the air.
    • Star Jumps: Stand with your feet slightly spread apart and arms at your sides. Bend at the knees and explode up, spreading your arms and legs out. Your body will create a star shape. As you land, bring your arms and legs back in. It’s similar to a jumping jack, except you aren’t landing on the jump out.
  • Set 2 
    • Squat Jumps: Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Squat down and jump up in the air. Land softly.
    • Lunge Jumps/Split-Squat Jumps: Get into a lunge position. Jump up into the air while simultaneously switching legs. You should land so that your front leg is now your back, and back is now front.
      • Writer’s Tip: This one is not fun. If you run out of gas, rather than stopping, modify if you need to. Instead of jumping straight up in the air, bring your back foot up with your front, sending the previously front foot back almost instantly. If you can, still try to ensure each foot is off the ground at the same time (at least a little) during the switch.
  • Set 3 
    • High Knees: Run in place, but make sure you are bringing your knees to at least a 90-degree angle when it leaves the ground.
    • Mountain Climbers: Get into a push-up position. Bring one knee towards your chest and tap your toe on the ground. As that foot returns to its original position, bring the opposite foot up and tap that toe. Be sure your butt does not stick up. Your body should form a straight line from head to toe.
  • Set 4 
    • Back and Forth Frog Jumps: Squat down and bring your hands to the ground in front of you. Jump forward, briefly bringing your hands above your head. Then do the same, but backward.
    • Kettlebell Swings: With a 25-pound dumbbell or kettlebell, stand with your feet at least shoulder width apart. With a slight bend in the knees, hinge at your waist so that your back is parallel to the ground and the weight is between your legs. As you transition into the standing position, thrust your hips forward so your body forms a straight line. Simultaneously swing the weight in front of your chest, while keeping your arms straight.
  • Set 5 
    • Push-ups: Your hands should be at least a little wider than shoulder width and your back should remain straight through the each repetition.
      • Writer’s Tip: If doing a push-up normally hurts your wrists, grab a pair of dumbbells that won’t roll (hex-shaped or adjustable normally).
    • Elbow Plank with Knee to Elbow: Get in a plank position with your elbows touching the ground. Your first set, bring your left leg up to your elbow and back. Alternate to your right on the second set, so that you are doing two total sets per leg
  • Set 6 
    • Russian Twists: Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet touching the ground in front of you. Lean your torso back, while keeping your back straight. It should be roughly 45-degrees off the ground. Straighten your arms and clasp your hands together. Rotate your arms to the right, pause, then back in front of you and to the left.
    • Sit-ups: Lay on the ground with your knees bent and feet touching the ground in front of you. With either your hands across your chest, or touching the side of your head, use your core to lift your torso up to your knees. Return to the starting position.

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PART THREE

GRIP STRENGTH
Perform one minute of jump rope. Once finished, immediately dead hang from a bar for one minute. Repeat this five times with no rest, totaling ten minutes of work.

Writer’s Tip: As odd as it sounds, jumping rope may be a bit difficult if you aren’t used to it. If you can’t quite get the hang of it, just keep going. You’ll find that you’re rope jumping will improve each round!

Writer’s Note: Thank you to Rea for sharing her favorite workout. You can follow her on Instagram and catch her training at King’s Camps and Fitness.

Photo Credit: Rea Kolbl, Spartan Race

Check out past Train Like a Pro articles:

Train Like A Pro: Ryan Atkins

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Few athletes dominate their sports the way Ryan Atkins has dominated OCR in recent years. He has emerged victorious at World’s Toughest Mudder four years running, most recently completing 105 miles with partner Jon Albon, and Atkins also finished on top in the first ever Spartan U.S. Championship Series.

At the Spartan World Championships, he has finished in second place three years in a row, missing first place by just 00:27 in 2016. The fourth main event in the sport, OCR World Championships, hasn’t slowed him down either. He won the 3k short course this year and finished second in the 15k Classic.

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If you follow him on social media, you may not be surprised at all of the accolades. Atkins is an avid climber, runner, mountain biker and skier, not to mention proud Alaskan Malamute owner. A typical winter day for him includes a morning ski, fatbike ride and even a snowshoe hike or run for up to three hours. That’s usually followed by an afternoon climb or workout.

Below is one of those afternoon workouts, with climbing included. Atkins will generally warm up with four or five easy bouldering routes. 

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Do part one followed by part two and repeat four times.

PART ONE

BOULDERING 

Boulder near your limit for approximately 20 minutes. If you are unable to find a place to climb, perform the following six exercises as a circuit, doing 30 seconds of work followed by 30 seconds of rest. Repeat four times:

Dead hang – Plank – Pinch-plate carries – Kettlebell swings – Pull-ups – Wall sit

Pro Tip: Try to avoid using chalk to make previously easy routes seem harder, or to simulate wet hands in a race. After you have warmed up, go hard for the bouldering session. You’ll want to rest about one minute between difficult routes.

Writer’s Note: I don’t normally have easy access to a rock wall or mountain, so I opted to do the 30/30 circuit. I also used my homemade hang board, at times, to feel a little more like I was actually climbing. To mimic bouldering, I placed a chair a bit behind the board so that my toes were the only part of my feet touching. I then worked back and forth on the board, sometimes moving my feet from the left side to right side of the chair. Because I added this in, I did the circuit three times as not to over-exhaust my muscles and increase injury risk. 

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PART TWO

WEIGHT ROOM CIRCUIT

  • Wall Balls (20 reps): Stand in front of a wall and assume a squat position. When you come up, throw a medicine ball up in the air towards a target above you on the wall. As you catch the ball, return to the squat position. Atkins uses a 35-lb medicine ball.
  • Mountain Climbers (40 reps): Get into a pushup position. Bring one knee towards your chest and tap your toe on the ground. As that foot returns to its original position, bring the opposite foot up and tap that toe. That is one rep. Be sure your butt does not stick up. Your body should form a straight line from head to toe.
  • Side Planks (2 minutes per side): Lay on the ground facing sideways, with your hand, forearm and elbow on the ground. Your elbow should be under your shoulder. The only other part of your body touching the ground will be your bottom foot. Raise your body up so that you form a straight line and hold that position. Your free hand can either be on your hip or in the air. Focus on not allowing your hip to dip down toward the ground. 
    • Writer’s Tip: Use a yoga mat to make it more comfortable for your supporting arm.
  • Toes To Bar (8 reps): Grab a bar with an overhand grip, your hands shoulder-width apart. Engage your core and bring your toes to the bar. Be sure to perform each rep slow and controlled. Your body shouldn’t swing at all when you come into the lower position.
  • Weighted BOSU Ball Lunge Squat (20 reps per leg): With a BOSU ball under each leg, stand in a lunge position. Hold weights at each side or at your shoulders. Lower until your back knee almost touches the ground, making sure your front knee doesn’t pass over the toes. Return to the starting position. Atkins uses 20 lbs. 
    • Writer’s Tip: If you struggle too much to have a BOSU under each foot, start off with one and work your way up. 
  • Weighted Goblet Squat (20 reps): Hold a kettlebell or one end of a dumbbell at your chest, with your palms facing in. Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart. Squat down, retaining a straight back, and return up to the start position. Atkins uses 30 lbs.
  • Calf Raises (30 reps per leg): Stand on one leg, either flat on the ground or on a step with only the toes and ball of the foot touching. Raise your heel up, then lower it back into the starting position. 

Pro Purpose: Part two is a great way to allow your arms to recover from climbing. It also gives you some good leg and core strength training.

Pro Tip: Pace yourself during the strength section. The main purpose is to rest your arms and build functional, injury-free fitness.

Ryan-Atkins-Log-Hop

Writer’s Note: Thank you to Ryan for sharing this workout. You can follow him on Facebook and Instagram. For more workouts from Ryan, check out his Obstacle Course Training (a joint venture with Jon Albon and Matt Murphy): they are offering 20% off for the holidays.

Photo Credit: Ryan Atkins, Spartan Race, the author

Check out past Train Like A Pro articles:

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!

Tough Mudder Introduces New Obstacles for 2017

Tough Mudder has released details about the new obstacles for 2017, and it is clear that they will keep Tough Mudders wet, disoriented, and dangling in midair. Which is how Tough Mudder likes it.

Most of these obstacles will debut at World’s Toughest Mudder, which takes place this weekend outside Las Vegas, and those who are curious are bound to get glimpses of the new obstacles during the copious live feeds that will be broadcast.

In the meantime, you can also see many of the obstacles in this dramatic video: 

Once you have picked your jaw up off the floor, you might want to know more about the individual obstacles you just saw. The most impressive is called Augustus Gloop. Why is that name familiar? If Johnny Depp is your WIlly Wonka, then you will remember this:

However, if you go old school Gene Wilder, try this instead

Sadly, this obstacle does not involve a river of chocolate. Rather, Mudders will climb up a tube while water rushes down at them. I spoke to obstacle designer Eli Hutchison, who explained that while the tube itself will not be difficult to climb, the force of the water flowing down will make it feel like you can’t breathe. “Just keep your head down”, he advised. Thanks, Eli.


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Another brand new obstacle is called Reach Around, which requires participants to climb almost 20 feet in the air to a point which requires some problem-solving to get past a point before climbing back down. This obstacle combines both the need for upper body strength as well as the need to overcome a fear of heights.

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The remaining two new obstacles are the latest updates on successful obstacles from the past. Arctic Enema was originally just a dumpster full of ice water separated by a fence, requiring you to dunk yourself completely to emerge at the other side (and originally it was called “Chernobyl Jacuzzi”, but that’s another story). Version 2.0 introduced in 2015 forced Mudders to slide into the ice under wire fencing, preventing you from hesitating on your way down. The latest version, Arctic Enema – The Rebirth, replaces the fenced-in slide with a tube, reminiscent of the old obstacle “Boa Constrictor”. The catch? You’re supposed to go down the tube head first, which means you get more submersion, more cold, and a greater element of fear. Well played, Tough Mudder.

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Also updated is Funky Monkey. This was originally just a monkey bar climb over water, and it was updated to add a transition from monkey bars to a pole. If you have finally mastered this skill, in 2017 you get to try Funky Monkey – The Revolution, which adds moving wheels to the mix of items you need to grab to get across. This innovation may or may not have its inspiration from the American Ninja Warrior courses.

Legionnaires, those who have already completed a Tough Mudder, will have more options this year as well. Three obstacles will feature Legionnaire Lanes, where an obstacle has been adapted to be just that much tougher (and get an even more aggressive name). You might call these versions “enhanced”, with the same meaning as “enhanced interrogation”. Augustus Gloop will become Snot Rocket, and Legionnaires will have to approach the entrance to the tube through a wire covered pool of water, reminiscent of Cage Crawl, with only a few inches of water between you and the fencing. The Legionnaire Lane for Reach Around is called Stage 5 Clinger and will require you to climb to the top at an even steeper, more technical angle. Birth Canal has been adapted as Black Hole, requiring you to crawl under heavy bags of water, but this time in complete darkness (WTM insider alert: this obstacle will not be present at Vegas this weekend. Now you know!). Finally, instead of Electroshock Therapy, Legionnaires will be able to opt for something called Kong, which will require you to swing from ring to ring high in the air. The twist is that the rings are spaced farther and farther apart as you cross the obstacle.

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Tough Mudder has shown that it can innovate by introducing new obstacles and keep the event fresh by updating old ones. The focus is on making obstacles that are challenging, but entertaining.I know that I can’t wait to give Augustus Gloop a try. Even if no chocolate is involved.

Bonus: You can hear the podcast with the entire conversation between Eli, ORM’s Matt B. Davis and myself, here.

Tough Mudder Press Release:

BROOKLYN, NY (November 10, 2016) – Tough Mudder Inc., the leading active lifestyle brand, announced today its new obstacles for the 2017 event season which feature four new challenges – a new Legionnaire finish obstacle (for participants who have completed at least one Tough Mudder event) and three Legionnaire-only features. Select new obstacles will debut at World’s Toughest Mudder, the grueling 24-hour extreme endurance race presented by Cellucor, on Saturday, November 12 at Lake Las Vegas at 12 p.m. PST.

Fans can watch the world’s leading ultra-endurance athletes take on these new challenges for the first time and compete for a $100,000 grand prize by viewing the Tough Mudder/CBS Sports’ World’s Toughest Mudder Livestream at ToughMudder.com.

The new 2017 Tough Mudder obstacles are:

New Extreme Obstacles:

  • Augustus Gloop – Participants must enter into a chest-deep pit of water before ascending up a vertical tube. As they attempt to ascend through the confined tube, they must fight off a cascade of water gushing down on them from above.
  • Funky Monkey – The Revolution – A literal “spin” on Tough Mudder’s classic Funky Monkey obstacle. Participants test their upper body strength to complete this challenge while transitioning from monkey bars to traverse a series of revolving wheels – all while dangling over a water pit.
  • Arctic Enema – The Rebirth – Participants slide down a confined, dark tube head first into an icy pool of water, navigate across one section and must submerge themselves yet again under a wall to escape this freezing vessel of ice water.
  • The Reach Around – Playing upon one’s fear of heights and one of the most challenging obstacles on the course, this nearly 20 feet tall obstacle forces participants to climb up and go beyond vertical in an inverted 45 degree angle to overcome it.

For those who have completed a Tough Mudder event, known as Legionnaires, Tough Mudder is providing new challenges – in the form of special Legionnaire-only lanes to enhance their experience in 2017. The lanes will be new twists on classic challenges, as well as an all-new Legionnaire-only finisher obstacle that will test participant’s upper body strength and fear of heights.

Enhanced Legionnaire Lanes:

  • Snot Rocket (Augustus Gloop Legionnaire Lane): Before attempting to enter the vertical tube of this kicked-up Augustus Gloop, participants must pull their way through a steel fence-topped trench while floating on their back with only a few inches of air between water’s surface and the fence.
  • Black Hole (Birth Canal Legionnaire Lane): Participants must crawl and push their way through a confining gauntlet of 100 lb water-filled barriers suspended above them in total darkness.
  • Stage 5 Clinger (The Reach Around Legionnaire Lane): In addition to scaling one of the tallest and toughest obstacles on the course, Legionnaires will have to come up with a new strategy to navigate across a now 90 degree angle to reach its peak.

Legionnaire Finish Obstacle:

  • Kong: Taking Legionnaire finish obstacles to new heights, literally, this giant, 30-foot obstacle will have participants swinging like Tarzan, traversing from one floating ring to another with increasing distance between them.

“The 2017 enhancements set a new standard of excellence in obstacle innovation and showcase the physicality and intensity which makes Tough Mudder unique,” said Will Dean, CEO and Co-Founder of Tough Mudder, Inc. “The mental and physical challenges participants experience is ­­­­what makes Tough Mudder the industry leader. We remain committed to exploring and engineering ways to present new challenges and increase obstacle difficultly to keep our events fresh and exciting. We look forward to welcoming thousands of new and returning participants to Mudder Nation in 2017 to face these challenges together.”

Deemed as “probably the toughest event on the planet,” Tough Mudder tests teamwork, while pushing pushes one’s physical abilities and mental grit limits. With more than 2.5 million participants to date across four continents, Tough Mudder events challenge people across a 10-12 mile course featuring 20-25 signature obstacles.

In addition to the Live Stream of World’s Toughest Mudder, CBS Sports will premiere its series of programs on the World’s Toughest Mudder in December. Viewers can tune into Road to the World’s Toughest Mudder on CBS Sports Network on December 15 at 9:00 PM EST for a behind the scenes, in-depth look at the obstacles, the competitors and preparation leading up to the grueling 24 hour competition. On December 25 at 2:00 PM EST on CBS, viewers will get to experience all the excitement, drama, agony and joy from the 2016 World’s Toughest Mudder. Immediately following the World’s Toughest Mudder program, CBS Sports Network will host a post-event roundtable World’s Toughest After at 3:00 PM EST, featuring the winners and top competitors.

For more information on the 2017 Tough Mudder obstacles, World’s Toughest Mudder, the Tough Mudder CBS Sports special or to register for an event, visit ToughMudder.com. Join the conversation by following Tough Mudder on Twitter at @ToughMudder or Instagram at @Tough_Mudder.

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About Tough Mudder, Inc.:

Founded in 2010 with the launch of the Tough Mudder event series of 10-12 mile obstacle courses, Tough Mudder Inc. has since grown to become a leading active lifestyle company. The brand includes Tough Mudder Half, an obstacle challenge bringing the thrills of Tough Mudder to a 5-mile course; Mudderella, an obstacle course series created by women for women; Fruit Shoot Mini Mudder, a custom event for children ages 7-12; Toughest Mudder Series, the eight-hour, overnight competition series; World’s Toughest Mudder, a grueling 24-hour endurance competition; and an extremely vibrant engaging social and digital destination for leading fitness, nutrition and wellness content delivered across multiple platforms. The Tough Mudder family of brands and online community is united by a commitment to promoting courage, personal accomplishment and teamwork through unconventional, life-changing experiences. With more than 2.5 million participants to date, Tough Mudder Inc. will produce more than 120 events worldwide in 2016 across five continents, including Asia through its partnerships with Seroja and IMG. More than 20 of the world’s leading brands are sponsorship and content distribution partners, including Merrell, Old Spice, Shock Top, Cellucor, Volvic, Jeep, Britvic, L’il Critters, US Army, Virgin Active, Olympus, Bosch, Live Stream, The CW and CBS. To join the conversation, follow Tough Mudder on Facebook at facebook.com/toughmudder, on Twitter @ToughMudder, and on Instagram @Tough_Mudder.

World’s Toughest Mudder

Known as one of the most extreme endurance events in the world, the World’s Toughest Mudder event, presented by Cellucor, is the only competitive event that Tough Mudder, Inc. hosts in 2016. Competitors are eligible to win a total of more than $170,000 in prizing, including a grand prize of $100,000 for teams that complete at least 100 miles together. Like all Tough Mudder events, World’s Toughest Mudder encourages Mudders to work together, help one another overcome obstacles and push past their physical and mental boundaries. While competitive in nature, World’s Toughest Mudder is about finding one’s personal limits and putting teamwork to the test, and hundreds of participants take part in the event as a team. The course is a grueling, five-mile loop featuring diverse desert terrain, steep hills, mud pits and more. Prizes are awarded to participants who complete the most miles within 24 hours, and the team of two or more that completes 100 miles together wins $100,000. Competitors take on 20-25 of Tough Mudder’s most challenging obstacles including The Cliff, Human Operation, and Gut Buster, in this 24-hour, timed event to be deemed the toughest man, woman and team on the planet.

Tough Mudder PR Contacts:
Angela Alfano
(703) 447-5629
Angela.Alfano@ToughMudder.com

Jodi Kovacs
(732) 597-2094
Jodi.kovacs@toughmudder.com

Tough Mudder Dallas – Where’s the mud?

It’s 7am on a chilly Saturday morning in Dallas and the sun is just rising behind the distant clouds. While some lay asleep in their beds, several thousand excited people descend on a residential estate in Arlington, Texas, ready to get down and dirty. This can only mean one thing – it’s Tough Mudder time!

After a two-year hiatus from Tough Mudder, it was time for me to return and see how the American Tough Mudders compare to Australia’s.

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The energy was electric as 500 people followed Coach’s warm up routine in the warm up zone before climbing the walls to get into the start corral. I was disappointed at the lack of Tough Mudder pledge but Sean (Tough Mudder Emcee) still managed to get us all pumped up and ready for 5 or 12 miles of fun.

As a Tough Mudder I pledge that:

          I understand that Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge.

          I put teamwork and comradery before my course time.

          I do not whine. Kids whine.

          I help my fellow Mudders complete the course.

          I overcome all fears.

On Sean’s “Go” everyone ran along the banks of Lake Viridian towards the first of 20 obstacles (10 obstacles for the Tough Mudder Half folks). The first few obstacles were old Tough Mudder staples – an inverted wall, cargo crawl, kiss of mud (barbed wire mud crawl), berlin walls and hero carry.

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The first wave of the day is often the least muddy as thousands of people haven’t yet had a chance to turn the dirt into epic amounts of sludge. After Kiss of Mud, we were all still clean, but that all changed as people approached the mud mile. Teamwork was key as we pulled and pushed our fellow Mudders up and over the mounds before rinsing off in the lake.

Pyramid Scheme turned Mudders into human chains as people leaned against the slip wall and others climbed over their backs to get to the top. Some people got up successfully the first time while others slid back down into the water. Shawshank saw people crawl through mud and under barbed wire before pulling themselves up a tube and finally dropping down into water below.

tough-mudder-dallas-pyramid-scheme

The Blockness Monster (a new obstacle for 2016) required plenty of teamwork as two people held on to the block while their fellow Mudders pushed and pulled them over. The volunteers were offering advice on how to complete the obstacle along with yelling support at all the muddy people.

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Those who went through the middle of Birth Canal found it challenging to crawl through dry dirt with the weight of hundreds of litres of water pushing on their back, but eventually everyone made it through. After conquering Tough Mudder’s oldest obstacle, Everest, the full Mudders said farewell to the Half Mudders as we continued on for another seven miles of fun.

tough-mudder-dallas-everest

King of Swingers was the first obstacle that only the full Mudders got to conquer. I watched as people stood atop a 15’ platform and jumped onto a swinging bar and attempted to hit a bell before dropping into the water below. I may have been a bit chicken initially, but after doing it once I wanted to go again and again.

tough-mudder-dallas-king-of-swingers

The first half of the course had taken us around Lake Viridian and involved running along footpaths, wide trails and grass before getting back to the festival area. The second half of the course led us past new houses which were being built, then along the back of the housing development area before going into the bush and along some fun trails.

We were all thankful for the sunlight after sliding into the coldest Arctic Enema I’ve ever encountered. Luckily there were no kids around as there were some profanities coming from people’s mouths at that obstacle!

Legionnaires (those who have run a Tough Mudder before) were in for a treat when arriving at the Backstabber and Rain Man. Both obstacles had two similar lanes, one with an easier version of the obstacle for first time Mudders, and one for Legionnaires. The Backstabber was a peg board and required some assistance from the ground, whilst Rain Man sprayed water in your face as you dragged yourself backwards through muddy water.

tough-mudder-dallas-backstabber

I was glad to see the monkey bars changed up at Funky Monkey 2.0. First Mudders had to go up ascending monkey bars, reach for a bar and swing to a long pole which would take them safely to the other side of the water.

After receiving a new Legionnaire’s headband, we were directed to High Flyers Club whilst first-time Mudders were directed to Electroshock therapy. High Flyers club involves jumping off a high platform, hitting a bar that matches the colour of your headband, and landing on an inflatable pillow. I could hear the zaps from Electroshock therapy as I jumped off Frequent Flyers Club and was thankful that I no longer have to get zapped!

tough-mudder-dallas-frequent-flyers

The location was definitely an odd choice for Tough Mudder as it was at a residential development. This meant that a lot of muddy obstacles were followed closely by a water-based obstacle to get people clean again. They hit the nail on the head with the toughness, but there was a distinct lack of the ‘mudder’. I was happy to see so many water stations and bananas available out on course. Overall it was a great event and the sunny weather meant everyone stayed back and enjoyed a cold Shocktop beer after the event.

Photo credit: Vanessa Letts