2016 Spartan Race U.S. Championship Series: Ryan Atkins, Lindsay Webster and destiny

This weekend is the fourth race in the Spartan Race U.S. Championship Series – The Southeast Showdown in Asheville, North Carolina. Ryan Atkins and Lindsay Webster have finished in first place in each of the first three races: the Big Sky Sprint in Montana, the Golden State Classic in California, and the Blue Mountain Challenge in Pennsylvania. With a strong showing this weekend in Asheville, they can lock down the wins in the inaugural U.S. Championship Series and claim the titles of 2016 Spartan Race U.S. Champion.

The Spartan U.S. Championship series is a five race series with the points from an athlete’s four best races counting toward their final standings. First place in a race is worth 300 points, second place is worth 299 points, and so on down the line. A “perfect” score with four (or five) first place finishes is worth 1,200 points.

Mens Standings

Ryan Atkins has finished in first place in each of the first three races. If Atkins finishes in third place or better at either of the last two races he will win the 2016 Spartan Race U.S. Championship. If Atkins finishes in 4th place or worse at BOTH the Asheville Super this weekend and the Breckenridge Beast on August 27th, both Robert Killian and Hunter McIntyre will have a chance at catching him.

Womens Standings

Lindsay Webster is in a similar position as Atkins. She has won all three of the Spartan U.S.C.S. Races so far and can secure first place in the series with a win or second place finish this weekend or at the Breckenridge Beast. If Webster finishes in third or worse at both Asheville AND Breckenridge, she will be within reach of Faye Stenning. If Webster finishes in sixth place or worse at BOTH upcoming races, KK Paul and Rose Wetzel will also have a shot at first place.

For all the results as they happen this Saturday, follow ORM on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.

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Spartan Race announces venue for 2016 World Championship.

Spartan Race announced the 2016 Spartan Race World Championship will be held in Lake Tahoe, California. This will be the second year the race will be in Tahoe after several years in Killington, Vermont.

Spartan World Championship 2016

With Warrior Dash discontinuing their championship race this year, there are four major races that make up “OCR Championship Season” for 2016:

Spartan Race World Championship, October 1-2, 2016 – Lake Tahoe, CA.

OCR World Championship, October 14-16, 2016 – Blue Mountains, Canada

World’s Toughest Mudder, November 12-13, 2016 – Las Vegas, NV

Battlefrog Series Championship, December 3* – Location TBD

             *Battlefrog has not officially announced their championship plans for 2016. This date is based on their 2015 Championship and their 2016 calendar of events.

World’s Toughest Mudder (WTM) 2016 – Venue Announced

Yesterday, Tough Mudder sent out an email to some of the participants from last year’s World’s Toughest Mudder. The email announced WTM 2016 will be returning to Lake Las Vegas for another year.

WTM 2016 Venue

3-Time WTM Champion Amelia Boone was happy to hear the race would return to Las Vegas, and she sent a tweet to Tough Mudder with a request for more time with the infamous Cliff obstacle.

Boone Cliff Tweet

Tough Mudder was happy to oblige their most famous ambassador.

Tough Mudder Cliff Tweet

Tough Mudder Unveils New Obstacles for 2016


Tough Mudder unveiled their new obstacles for 2016 last night. This is the second year in a row they’ve announced new obstacles along with several returning obstacles updated and tweaked to keep their returning Mudders on their toes, and attract new participants.

Block Ness MonsterBlock Ness Monster

New obstacles include Block Ness Monster, a team-intensive obstacle that cannot be completed without the help of your fellow Mudders. Called “Roll the Dice” in Vegas last year, this obstacle was the unofficial “rookie of the year” obstacle at the last World’s Toughest Mudder. Tough Mudder says it is their highest rated obstacle of all time. It is as fun as it is difficult.

Flying Squirrel Flying Squirrel

Another new obstacle introduced at World’s Toughest Mudder 2015. Called Tramp Stamp at WTM 2015, it requires the most American Ninja Warrior-like skills to complete. After making a short jump onto a mini-trampoline you need to grab the suspended bar much like King Of The Swingers. Once you’ve grabbed the bar all you do is hang on and you’ll slide across the water below to the end of the obstacle. This obstacle was noted by 3 time WTM champion Amelia Boone as being the most difficult obstacle of the race. Of the 15 times she faced the obstacle she failed it each time. This will be a Tough Mudder Half exclusive obstacle and the final obstacle before you earn your new white headband.

Rain ManRain ManTough Mudder has taken their most stressful obstacle and ramped up the difficulty even higher. Rain Man is an updated version of Cage Crawl that Tough Mudder describes as “The Ultimate Mental Grit Obstacle.” It requires you to pull yourself along a chain link fence that’s suspended a few inches above the top of the water. Your body is completely underwater as you go, except for your hands reaching up for the fence and the front of your face kissing the fence for that sweet sweet air. The updated part includes them pouring water into your face as you go. I already hate this obstacle so much.

BackstabberBackstabberAnother Legionnaire exclusive is Backstabber, a more difficult version of Liberator. They took Liberator and took out most of the holes you use to pull yourself up the obstacle. Liberator was always one of the more difficult upper body obstacles. These changes will make Backstabber one of the tougher obstacles to complete.

Shawshanked

Shawshanked

At the 2014 World’s Toughest Mudder, this obstacle was rolled out as “Sewage Outlet”. Participants crawl under some barbed wire, then pull themselves through the standard large black tubes we find at most events. The twist is, a the end of the black tube, participants have to somehow get their bodies turned around to safely drop into some water. At this year’s WTM, this obstacle was reversed and called “Upper Decker”. In this layout, mudders started the obstacle in the water, and had to climb a rope to get themselves into the black tube. It was reversed back to “Sewage Outlet” a few hours into the event, because it was proving too difficult.

Frequent Flyer’s Club

Frequent Flyers ClubAs a Tough Mudder Legionnaire you’ve always had the option of bypassing Electroshock Therapy. Now you can do it in style. New for 2016 is Frequent Flyer’s Club, an obstacle that will be set up next Electroshock. Participants will zip right past EST and land on giant crash pads. The crash pads, appear to be repurposed (and are the only thing left) from last year’s Urban Mudder.

At the beginning of 2015, we spoke with TMHQ, for what was then called “Tough Mudder Redefined”. It was very exciting as many in the community had commented that Tough Mudder had “lightened up” in 2014, with easier obstacles. If TMHQ plans on doing this year in, year out, they will continue to lead the industry in obstacle innovation.

We will be hopping on another call with them this morning, so stay tuned for more details on this year’s roll out.

2:35pm EST Update – That call happened shortly after this post went up. Here is a recap.

Five questions for World’s Toughest Mudder 2016

World's Toughest Mudder Black and White

Tough Mudder held its fifth annual “World’s Toughest Mudder” race last month. World’s Toughest Mudder is the final event on the Tough Mudder calendar and is widely known as the most difficult championship race in Obstacle Course Racing. It is a 24 hour race on a five mile looped course with 21 obstacles each lap. This years course was considered to be one of the most difficult Tough Mudder has held.

Following the victories by Chad Trammell, Amelia Boone, and Team Sinergy, and as we look forward to WTM 2016, here are five questions we would love to have answered.

1. Can Junyong Pak win another WTM? Can he FINISH another one?
Junyong Pak Is Cold

Junyong Pak became a bit of a legend in the Tough Mudder community by winning the first two WTM’s ever held and finishing second in year three to a rookie named Ryan Atkins.

However, in 2014, Pak had his first truly disappointing performance at a World’s Toughest Mudder. He finished with “only” 45 miles and his first WTM DNF. Atkins repeated as champion with 95 miles. 

For the 2015 race, Atkins and several other strong racers moved to the team division, leaving the perfect opportunity for Pak to reclaim his throne, but it would not happen this year. Pak had his second WTM DNF in a row, leaving with 50 miles.

We won’t know the answer to this question until November of 2016, but here’s a hint: This past December, Pak raced in the inaugural Viper 2 Four race in Malaysia. Viper 2 Four is the only 24-hour race in Asia. Pak won the race handily, completing 87 miles. The race was held during monsoon season in Malaysia and two hours were lost when they stopped the race because of lightning strikes.

The competition at WTM will be more intense and more skilled than Viper 2 Four, but I would never bet against Junyong Pak.

2. Will Amelia Boone 3-peat?
Amelia Boone Gutting It Out

Amelia Boone has won the past two WTM’s and three of the past four. In 2012, she was nine minutes shy of winning first place overall, narrowly losing to Junyong Pak. She is unquestionably the most dominant WTM racer in the women’s division and maybe overall. Tim Ferriss recently called her “The Michael Jordan of Obstacle Course Racing”. When they sell tickets to World’s Toughest Mudder, they have to pay royalties to Boone because she OWNS this race.

But for how long?

Lindsay Webster, the best female racer not named Amelia Boone, told Matt B. Davis in a recent interview that she’s going to compete for the first time at WTM 2016. Webster had an amazing 2015. She won both the independent OCR World Championship and the Battlefrog Championship. She also placed second in the Spartan Race World Championship, finishing one minute and change ahead of Boone. 

World’s Toughest Mudder 2016 will be a great race.

3. Will Ryan Atkins keep chasing the $100k or go back to the individual category?
Ryan Atkins Leaping Logs

Tough Mudder and Cellucor announced a new prize this year: $100,000 to the winning team, but only if they completed 100 miles. 100 miles has only been reached once, by Ryan Atkins in 2013 when he had three guys on his tail who each finished with 95 miles. After winning the solo championship in 2013 and 2014 Atkins moved to the Team Division for 2015. His team, Sinergy Sports, won with 80 miles. Sinergy finished well ahead of second place but well behind its 100-mile goal.

First place in the solo division comes with a $10,000 prize. First place in the team division comes with a $12,000 prize split (at least) four ways. If you can’t reach 100 miles with a team, it’s much more profitable to go for 100 miles by yourself.

Atkins is recently engaged to Lindsay Webster. You can pay for quite a honeymoon with $100,000. Go for it Ryan!

4. Can the Wolfpack make a comeback?
Spartan Wolfpack on the WTM Podium

The Spartan Wolfpack entered the 2014 WTM unknown and if you asked them, disrespected. They won the WTM Team Division last year with 76 miles. For 2015, they were considered one of the favorites to make a run at the “$100,000 for 100 miles” team prize.

They had a disappointing race this year. One of their team members had an injury and the team was unable to finish the race. Wolfpack chose to disband in the middle of the night. Adding to the disappointment was Team Sinergy Sports’ winning with 80 miles, just above Wolfpack’s total from last year. The anticipated Wolfpack/Sinergy battle would have been great to watch if Wolfpack was at full health.

Wolfpack hasn’t announced their plans for 2016, but everyone loves a good comeback story. Come back fellas!

5. Who will win WTM 2016?
Nobody knows – but I’ll tell you.

First, the dark horse picks.
Men: Trevor Cichosz
Women: April Hartwig
Team: Getting Tough

Cichosz has finished in third and second in the last two WTM’s. 2016 could be his breakthrough year. Hartwig led the women for most of the 24 hours, before Boone passed her for the win, and will only be better next year. Getting Tough won second place last year and did it with six guys. If they trim down to four guys, they’ll be faster and could give Atkins and Sinergy Sports trouble.

My actual picks to win.
Men: Junyong Pak
Women: Amelia Boone
Team: Sinergy Sports

Yes – those are mostly favorites. Yes – Chad Trammell had an impressive win (and Trammell could easily repeat. He’s a stud!), but the way it looks now, these are my picks to win.

Here’s a bonus pick: Amelia Boone and Lindsay Webster are going to push each other hard. Whoever wins the battle between them will also finish in the top three overall.

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Check out 4 years of WTM Archives over here.

Joe DeSena talks about his childhood, hard numbers, and Olympic ambitions

Joe Desena, Spartan CEO
On Wednesday Joe DeSena gave a talk to retailers at The Running Event (TRE), a conference and trade show for Running Specialty Retailers. This is the 10th TRE, and the first time they created an “experiential zone” that featured Spartan and other OCR centric brands.  Obstacle News  was able to broadcast Joe’s thirty-minute talk via Periscope. It can be seen in its entirety here.

The title of the presentation was “Adversity,” with DeSena giving an overview of the ethos and history of Spartan Race and obstacle course racing. When describing the history of Spartan Race, he went back to his childhood and gave credit to his mother for a major lifestyle change in their family. “I had monks in our living room…it went from literally “sausage and peppers” to “branch sandwiches”. He told the story of how, as a young teenager, he and his sister woke up to find his mother had thrown away everything they owned. His mother wanted to teach them they shouldn’t be attached to material things. “I said – Mom, that’s great, but YOUR material things. You don’t do that with OUR material things”. With that upbringing in mind, DeSena described Spartan Race as a “40-year-old start-up”.

DeSena continued his talk with thoughts on the philosophy behind Spartan Race. One of their goals is to change peoples’ “reference points” for their level of comfort with adversity. After talking about his morning routine of hundreds of burpees and a cold shower, DeSena shifted his talk to the hard numbers of the obstacle race business.

Spartan Race projects four million people will participate in an obstacle course race in 2016. DeSena says that dwarfs the number of people running marathons, half marathons, and triathlons. Of the four million people doing an obstacle course race, one million of them will race with Spartan. The average Spartan racer will do two races per year. Of the one million projected Spartan racers this year, 200,000 will do nine races or more.

DeSena referred to his recent move to Singapore when he talked about the global reach of Spartan Race. He believes Asia will “be much bigger than anything else we have going on anywhere else in the world”. This year Spartan will hold 170 events in more than 20 countries worldwide.

DeSena showed a slide entitled “Who is racing Spartan?” Spartan racers are 63% male and 37% female with a median age of 33. 88% of Spartan racers have college degrees and they earn about $85,000 per year.

When Spartan was first beginning to advertise in 2010, DeSena said he had a “moment of insanity” and was spending about $300,000 a month on digital marketing. In what could have been a warning to potential competitors looking at the Obstacle Course Racing business, DeSena said if he were to attempt to reach that same amount of people today it would cost about eight times that $300,000 monthly expense. “It would be hard for us to recreate that today”.

DeSena briefly talked about race fees. He said pricing in the industry is completely wrong. He said an Ironman triathlon has an entry fee of $725. The average Spartan entry fee is $88. “To put on our event is probably five times as expensive as it is to put on an Ironman.”

Spartan has a considerable reach in social media and traditional media with about five million fans on Facebook, 210,000 followers on Instagram and 140,000 followers on Twitter. In addition, they also have a TV show on the NBCSports network. DeSena gave the surprising statistic that NBC gave them 200 hours of television airtime last year. 200 hours is a remarkable number given that NBC only covered six races in 2015. Another upcoming TV show is the recently announced “Spartan Race” competition show with eight episodes scheduled to air immediately after American Ninja Warrior in 2016.

In a closing question and answer session DeSena said he is focused on getting Obstacle Course Racing into the Olympics. “All day, every day, that’s something we’re working on, (for) 2024”. He described some of the requirements and hurdles to overcome to qualify a sport for the Olympics and explained why this goal is so important. “If we can get this in the Olympics…then it’s not a fad.”