Tough Mudder Sacramento

The first OCR that I ever did was Tough Mudder in Lake Tahoe, California back in 2011. Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to do many more all over the country (and Canada!!). While each is special in its own way, I always look forward to returning to Lake Tahoe each June.

Well, a funny thing happened in California this past winter. It rained. Like, a lot. Then it kept raining. Then it continued to rain. Record amounts of rain hit the state. As that rain hit the Sierra Nevada mountains, it became incredible amounts of snow. So much snow fell during the winter of 2016/17. That the NorthStar resort had to tell Tough Mudder, “Sorry, we can’t host you this year”.

The good folks at TMHQ did their best to find an alternative location in the Tahoe area, but all of them were also buried in snow.

Enter…. SACRAMENTO!!! For those who don’t know, the city of Sacramento is the Capital of California….and that’s about it. If political corruption and a crappy NBA team is your jam…you’d love this place!

It’s pretty much the anti-Tahoe. It is flat, it is hot, and…. well yeah, it’s the Capital of California.

As you may be able to tell, I was less than enthused by the choice of location for this event. But…if you set up an OCR event within 2 hrs of my house, chances are I’m going to show up. So, I did. And as an added bonus, I convinced my teenage son to run with me (and my daughter to spectate).

The event was held at the Gibson Ranch County Park, which was a surprisingly pretty 30+ acre parcel scattered with green grass, a large lake, and some adorable farm animals (more on them later).

Parking was well managed, and check in was a breeze. Tough Mudder has really streamlined the check in process over the years thanks to those handy barcode scanners.

I avoided the $10 bag check fee by strapping a backpack to my daughter, and reminding her of all those Disneyland trips that I’ve taken her on over the years.

TM Sac Map

The start corral for this event was wedged awkwardly into a pocket of trees, which would end up being the most shade that we would experience for quite a while.

Start line MC extraordinaire Sean Corvelle got our 8am wave all primed and pumped, and sent us on our way right on time.

As for the course itself, here’s a mile by mile break down with highlights and low lights:

Mile 1: Literally nothing. There were zero obstacles within the 1st mile. The only highlight was watching my son take off like a bat out of Hades. He kept looking back for me and smiling, giving me that “Catch up, old man!” kinda look. Tortoise and the hare, son. Tortoise and the hare.

Mile 2 & 3: Three obstacles during this span. The Berlin walls, a climb over some hay bales, and Skidmarked (an inverted wall, whose title made my teenage son giggle like a school girl). The highlight of this portion was my son wanting to stop for a moment because he “got something in his shoe”. Welcome to OCR, son.

TM SAC Skidmarked
Mile 4 & 5: Eight obstacles were packed into these two miles, making it one of the best parts of the course. My son managed to scale Everest 2.0 on his own, something I’ve never done. So that was equal parts exciting…and annoying. Also in this grouping of obstacles was Mud Mile 2.0. I give Tough Mudder credit for their version of this mud run staple. The trenches are dug so deep, that this baby is virtually impossible to navigate without some help from a fellow Mudder. The water was over waist deep, and the walls of the trenches were slick and crumbly.

Remember those farm animals I mentioned earlier? Well we didn’t see any, but the irrigation ditch that we had to slog through as part of Kiss of Mud was a not so gentle reminder that there were some around. Kiss of Mud? Possibly. Kiss of Feces? Most likely. This was also the part of the course where my son developed a blister on the bottom of his foot. Must have been from that blazing start he had. Welcome back to the pack, son.

TM SAC KoM

Mile 6 & 7: The highlight of this stretch, which had four obstacles, was Funky Monkey the Revolution. The 2017 version of this obstacle is very fun and challenging. Easily one of my favorites on the course, and something I’m finally able to complete consistently. My son failed this obstacle, missing the transition from the 2nd ring to the straight bar at the end. HA HA HA HA HA! I mean, good try son. Dad still loves you.

TM SAC Funky Monkey

The final three miles had eight obstacles scattered across them. Arctic Enema: The Rebirth was one of the first we faced. Much like Funky Monkey, I LOVE the 2017 version of this obstacle. The initial slide down sends you under the freezing water, as it did last year. For 2017 they’ve added a short Cage Crawl element to the 2nd half of it, which also requires you to get under a dunk wall. The combo of these two elements has you spending more time under water than you ever had before in this obstacle. My son genuinely hates the cold, so this was easily his biggest challenge of the day. It took lots of patience and encouragement, but he managed to get through it. I was genuinely proud to see him overcome a fear of his. Well done, son.

TM SAC Arctic

The last mile or so was a very pleasant trail through a nice wooded portion of the property. We then got routed down into another irrigation ditch for something called Swamp Stomp. Swamp Stomp + farm animals = Well, you get the idea.

As is always the case with any Tough Mudder, the course ended with the infamous Electroshock Therapy. I originally told my son that I would go through this with him. However, as the day progressed, I remembered how much I utterly hate this obstacle. Fortunately, my lad was a trooper and barged through it solo…only getting two or three shocks along the way.

We crossed the finish line together, and then had the following conversation:

“Did you have fun, son?”

“Yeah.”

“Great! Would you do another one with me sometime?”

“No.”

Fair enough.

Great job, son.

TM SAC Duo

 

America’s Toughest Mudder West

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

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

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

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

Toughest West Loop1

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

Toughest West Loop2

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

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

Toughest West Berlin Wall

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

Toughest West Swingers

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

Toughest West Atkins

Photo Credit: Tough Mudder

Jim Campbell: Da Goat becomes Da Legend

If you’ve ever run a Tough Mudder event, and I mean anywhere in the world, you’ve probably seen Colorado native Jim Campbell. His signature blue shirt, hydration pack, and hat/beanie (always adorned with the Colorado state flag) have been around since TM’s earliest days. He is an ambassador to the sport in the truest sense of the word. Last weekend Jim, or “Da Goat”, as he is more widely known, elevated his status to Mudder Legend as he became the first person to complete 100 Tough Mudder events.

campbell-and-me

While the feat alone is impressive, if you know anything about Jim’s background, this story quickly goes from impressive to inspiring.

A horrific motorcycle crash almost took his life back in 2009. While he managed to survive and somehow escape permanent paralysis, he spent the next six months in a cerebral halo. Rehabbing from his injuries was slow and arduous, with multiple setbacks along the way. Through it all, Jim remained undeterred. He had been an athlete all his life (formerly a top ranked AMA racer and a 1984 USA Olympic windsurfing team qualifier), and he refused to slip quietly into a life of inactivity.

Through a friend’s Facebook post, Jim discovered Tough Mudder back in early 2011. He would participate in his first event in June of that year, in Beaver Creek Colorado. Although that first event tested him physically and mentally, it also got him hooked. In the years that followed, Jim would travel the world attending more and more events. He’s completed six events in Canada, four in Ireland, four in Scotland, four in England, and two in Germany. He’s also one of only a handful of people who have competed in all five World’s Toughest Mudder events.

Campbell gear

As previously mentioned, Jim’s first Tough Mudder was in his home state of Colorado back in 2011. In 2014 he completed his 50th Tough Mudder, also in Colorado. So it was pretty much a no brainer that when he was plotting his path to 100, he made sure that he hit the mark in the Centennial state.

When you attend as many events as Jim, you manage to make a few friends. Or in his case, hundreds of them. And many of them flew in from all around the country last weekend to help him celebrate his monumental achievement. The Saturday morning 8am start wave at Tough Mudder Colorado in Snowmass was packed with friends and admirers, all wearing gear with his signature #GOATTOUGH logo.

Tough Mudder did a wonderful job of recognizing Jim throughout the day, including  a presentation from start line MC Sean Corvelle prior to the launch of his wave.

TMHQ also had a media team shadowing his movements along the course, and live-streaming some of the action on Facebook. Throughout his lap, Jim did as he always does. He cruised along at a steady pace, chatting and laughing with friends and strangers alike. Always there with a helping hand, should one of his fellow Mudders need it.

Campbell group-colorado

As Jim and his team approached Electroshock Therapy, the final obstacle of his 100th event, they were joined by even more of of his friends. Many had finished their laps earlier, and had waited around to witness Jim’s great achievement. EST hype man Clinton Jackson then presented Jim with a hand crafted steel “100th Tough Mudder” headband, that TMHQ had made for him. As the headband was placed on his head, Jim joked at how similar it looked to the steel cerebral halo that he had been confined to for all those months following his accident. In a way, it was a fitting reminder of how far he had come, and how much he had achieved.

After receiving his headband, Jim locked arms with his friends and made a human chain. In true Tough Mudder fashion, they all stomped their way through the Electroshock Therapy obstacle together as a team, and crossed the finish line the same way.
Campbell EST Down in the Mudder Village following his lap, Tough Mudder and Merrel presented Jim with an impressive “schwag bag” of gifts that included everything from shoes to leggings to a jacket, all of which were embroidered with the Tough Mudder #100EVENTS logo.

Campbell gear

Jim spent the rest of the time laughing and reminiscing with friends, posing for photos with admirers, and soaking in all of the love that Tough Mudder and its community has for him.

It was a great day, dedicated to a great man. So congrats Jim Campbell, or I should say “Da Goat” on your centennial achievement. Here’s to 100 more.

Photo credits: Jim Campbell, Cory Ott, Matty Gregg, and the author

Tough Mudder Colorado: Uphill, All Stars, Dogs, and Da Goat

Tough Mudder returned to Colorado this past weekend, and for the third year in a row, the beautiful community of Snowmass was the host. With a base elevation of 8,100 feet and a course that seemed to go uphill the entire time, the only things burning brighter than the sun were your lungs and calves.  This was my first trip ever to the Centennial State, and it certainly did not disappoint. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the highlights from the event.

THE COURSE:
The base altitude alone was enough to slow you down, but this course had a handful of brutal climbs and some fun single track trekking through forested areas. Depending on whose GPS you believe, the course distance was right around 12 miles, with an elevation gain of about 3,000 feet. The first mile or so brought you through the Snowmass Village and downhill along the parking area. After that, it was pretty much all uphill…or at least it certainly seemed like it.

TM Colorado Map  

ALL STAR ATTENDEES:
Runners in the first wave on Saturday morning shared the start corral with some of the biggest names in OCR. Three-time World’s Toughest Mudder champion Ryan Atkins (and his dog Suunto) was there, accompanied by his new bride (and 2016 Spartan U.S. Championship Series winner) Lindsay Webster. Alongside them was Broken Skull Champion (and self-proclaimed Macho Man) Hunter McIntyre, and current American Ninja Warrior and former Spartan Race Pro Rose Wetzel (watch for our interview with the woman who loves to challenge herself).  They all shared the start with Jim “Da Goat” Campbell, who was in CO to run his 100th Tough Mudder (but this story is coming soon).

NEW (TO ME AT LEAST) OBSTACLES:
Paying homage to the gold rush history of Colorado was an entertaining obstacle called Mine Shafted. The obstacle required participants to crawl down a sewage tube, which would drop them into  and 8-foot deep pit that had knee-deep muddy water. The pit itself is covered with dark screen, which blocked out a good portion of the sunlight. After trudging across the pit, there was an 8-foot wall that needed to be scaled in order to get out. The wall got muddy and slippery in a hurry and required a good amount of teamwork to get out.

TM Colorado Mine Shafted

FOUR LEGGED ATTENDEES:
Of all the venues that I’ve been to, Snowmass is easily the most dog-friendly Mudder that I’ve ever attended. Whether it was in the hotel, or in the village, or on the course…there were dogs of all shapes and sizes everywhere. As if I needed a reason to run slower, it was very difficult to resist running off course for the opportunity to give a healthy ear rubbing to these warm and fuzzy spectators.

Suunto

MOTHER NATURE:
Colorado is right up there with Lake Tahoe and Whistler as the most visually spectacular venues that I’ve ever attended. At almost any point along the course, you could look up and your eyes would be treated to absolutely wonderful views. Mountains, streams, Aspen trees, annoying thistle things that get stuck in your socks, there’s just so much scenery to feast upon up there. There was also plenty of deer and fox sightings. It’s truly an amazingly beautiful place to hold an event.

Dude, where’s my shirt?
On a slightly negative note, not that merchandise is considered a major part of an event…but if you’re going to have it, please make sure that you have an ample supply. The first wave on Saturday launched at 8am. According to the merchandise employees, the Tough Mudder Colorado specific t-shirts were sold out by 9am.  There were even instances in the afternoon where people were offering cash to buy the shirts off the backs of people who had purchased them earlier. I’m not sure how you gauge merch demand so poorly, but Tough Mudder has been doing this for a while now, and this kind of a thing just shouldn’t happen. At least not on the first day of your event.

Despite my lack of event shirt, I’m happy to report that Tough Mudder Colorado was still a wonderful experience. A demanding course with fun and creative obstacles, spectacular views, and lively festival area. Throw in a few OCR All-Stars (and dogs….don’t forget the dogs!), and you’ve got one of the best events that TMHQ has put on this year.

TM Colorado Dogs

 

Photo Credits: Matty Gregg (Suunto) and GameFace Media for Tough Mudder

Tough Mudder (and Tough Mudder Half) NE – 2016 Review

Tough Mudder descended upon the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, NH this past weekend. As a native Californian visiting this part of the country for the first time, I’d like to personally thank Mother Nature for doing me a solid. After a couple of days with oppressive heat and humidity leading up to the event, we were greeted on Saturday morning with mild humidity and temps in the mid 70’s.

Both the “full” Tough Mudder, and the new Tough Mudder Half were held on Saturday. The full course measured about 10.5 miles and featured a total of 22 obstacles, while the half was just a tad over 5 miles and had 13 obstacles.

TM NE Full and Half

This is the first event I’ve attended in which the Half wasn’t held on a separate day. Waves for the full Mudder started at 8am, while the first wave for the Half didn’t launch until 10am. Both events shared the same route and obstacles until the 5-mile mark. At that point, the course was split, with the Mudder Half participants basically hanging a wide U-turn and heading back to the finish line. Sadly, unlike at previous venues, there was no final obstacle to complete prior to crossing the finish line for them.

Here’s my good, bad, and ugly observations from the weekend:

THE GOOD:

  • Course Layout: Despite a relatively flat/open location, the design team did a great job of utilizing the surrounding landscape whenever possible. They even managed to fit in a nice wooded trail section between miles 8 an 9, which would account for a majority of the course’s elevation (which could not have been much more than 100 feet).
  • Obstacle mix: While it’s always nice to see the bigger, most popular obstacles out on a course (King of Swingers, Block Ness Monster, Funky Monkey 2.0) it’s also nice to see a couple pop up that we may not have seen in a while. Hold Your Wood 2.0 made an appearance out in New Hampshire. This obstacle had been absent from any of the west coast events that I’ve done this year. It’s an obstacle that truly embodies Tough Mudder’s idea of teamwork and camaraderie, and I was happy to see it out there.

TM NE Hold Your Wood

  • Turducken: This is the second time that I’ve encountered this obstacle, and it’s quickly becoming a favorite of mine. While not necessarily challenging, I enjoy it because it is multifaceted, and it includes multiple water entries. There was one unwelcome addition (unintentionally) to this obstacle in New Hampshire, but I’ll cover that a bit later.

TM NE Turducken

THE BAD:

  • No Flying Squirrel at the Tough Mudder Half finish line. This obstacle is marketed as an exclusive item for the TM Half, and one that I find very enjoyable. Not having it (or any obstacle, really) at the finish line made the completion of the Half very…uneventful.
  • Devil’s beard: Why? Why does this obstacle still exist? Seriously. It’s not challenging, nor is it fun. It’s just kind of….there. It’s like a filler obstacle, and one who’s time has come to be retired. How many times have you approached this obstacle and heard someone say, “Oh sweet! Devil’s Beard is up next!” Exactly. Me neither.

TM NE Devils Beard

THE UGLY:

  • Wolf Spiders are MUCH bigger out east, and they can swim: I don’t mind spiders, but swimming death spiders that are the size of my hand? Nope! I  encountered one of these during the second half of the Turducken obstacle. I escaped its watery lair of doom unscathed on Saturday, but I cannot speak for the other participants.

As has happened multiple times this year, I left Tough Mudder Northeast with a smile on my face and a satisfied feeling in my heart. Tough Mudder continues to do a wonderful job at putting on these events. From the blaring dub-step of the Warm-Up Zone, to the giggling and splashing of the Mini Mudder kids course, these events continue to evolve and grow. These events truly have a little something for everyone, and this one was no exception.

TM NE Warm Up

Tough Mudder Whistler: Mud and Mosquitoes

Tough Mudder descended upon Olympic Park in Whistler, British Columbia this past weekend. If there is a more beautiful location for TM to hold an event, I’d love to see it.

On Saturday, over 8000 people braved the cold and rainy weather for the opportunity to tackle the 20 kilometer course (that’s 12.4 miles to us Americans). A total of 21 obstacles were scattered throughout, including 6 that were water based (and particularly bone chilling, given the weather conditions).

TM Whistler Scenery

Here’s a rundown of some of the highlights (and one low-light) of this wonderful event.

The People: Seriously, I know it’s a bit cliché…but these Canadian folks are some of the nicest people that I have ever met. Whether it was a fellow participant on the course, or a volunteer at the water station, or even some guy I accidentally bumped into while walking past…all of them, and I mean ALL of them seemed to greet me with a smile (or an apology). No wonder we’ve never invaded them.

The scenery: Here’s the thing. If you ever do this event, do yourself a favor and take the time to look up. This course is surrounded by some of the most breathtaking views that I’ve ever seen. There are snow capped mountains on all sides, lush green forests with crystal clear streams carving through them. There was even the occasional black bear sighting. This didn’t happen to me personally, but there were a few reports of guest appearances on Sunday.

TM Whistler Pyramid Swingers

Bigger/Badder obstacles: There were two instances on this course where “standard” TM obstacles were larger and more difficult than in other events that I’ve done this year. Skid-marked, which is a basic slanted wall obstacle, was considerably taller in Whistler. For a shorty like me, this is a bit of a problem. Normally I can maneuver this obstacle on my own with no assistance. This one however, I had absolutely no shot.

TM Whistler Skid marked

The other was Pyramid Scheme, an obstacle that already seems to induce a high rate of injuries. In Whistler, this obstacle wasn’t necessarily taller, but it was certainly steeper. The soft mud at the bottom only served to slicken the obstacle more, making it even more challenging. I’ve seen a few people clear this obstacle solo at other events, but that was not happening in Whistler.

TM Whistler Pyramid Scheme

Nature’s own obstacles: When people hear that you’re headed to Whistler, they warn you of two things…the bears, and the potential for rapid changes in weather. While bear sightings were minimal, and the weather closely matched the forecast, there was one thing that we were not warned about. Mosquitoes. Lots and lots of mosquitoes. We’re not talking about little fellas either. Some of these buggers could have had guest appearances in the movie Jumanji. They were HUGE, and everywhere. I lost count of how many times on course a conversation with a fellow Mudder was cut short due to an accidental mosquito ingestion. Not to mention the ones that seemed to fly directly into your eyes, like some kind of insect kamikaze. I know I mentioned earlier that there were 21 obstacles, well I’d live to revise that and make the Whistler mosquito population an honorary 22nd obstacle.

No Block Ness? Just a few days after it was named Tough Mudder’s #1 most popular obstacle, Saturday’s competitors were saddened to discover that Block Ness Monster was not operational. Actually, it was more than just not operational, it was still being constructed. This was the second to last obstacle on the course, and to come that far and discover that it was down was definitely disappointing. I spoke with a rep from TMHQ after my lap, but could not get an explanation as to why it was not ready. Whatever the reason, the obstacle was completed and ready for use on Sunday.

It’s easy to see why Whistler ranks right up there with Lake Tahoe as one of Tough Mudder’s most popular events. It is truly a “destination event”, which draws people from all over the world. From the idyllic scenery of the Whistler Blackcomb area, to the friendliness and generosity of the locals, to the challenging course that the folks at TMHQ always seem to put together, this event truly has something for everyone.

Photo credit: Gameface media