World’s Toughest Mudder 2018

Prologue

As a World’s Toughest Mudder novice, I was not sure what to expect, going into the race. I read the rules, I listened to pre-race podcasts, asked advice from past participants, followed the social media frenzy leading up to the event, and I scoured through articles and information provided from prior years. Planning for World’s Toughest Mudder was quite an ordeal in itself! While I had previously competed in other Ultra distance obstacle and trail races, preparing for a 24 hour event was a marathon of research, prepping, packing, and list-checking. At the advice of others, I purchased a full body wetsuit, neoprene gloves, neoprene hats, and a waterproof headlamp. I organized my nutrition, made a plan with my pit crew, and teed up at the start line with my heart on my sleeve. I knew it would be difficult and cold; I knew that I was embarking on the longest, most challenging athletic event of my amateur career to date. I was a little nervous and scared, but I was more excited than anything: excited to test my gear, test my legs, and test my strength against 24 hours of OCR. I knew that this competition would (obviously) be about the mileage and the ability to complete obstacles, but I had no idea this race would end up as more of a contest of grit than any other physical skill or athletic proficiency.

Course Design

The 5 mile loop was relatively flat with only about 600 feet of gain per lap. There was not a lot of single track or technical trail running, and most of the course was gravel roads and dirt paths. Leading up to the race, there had been heavy rain in the area. Most of the course was extremely slick and muddy, with Georgia clay turning into slimy, shoe-sucking smush. The slickness of the running paths resulted in poor shoe traction, excess mud on obstacles like Everest and Mudderhorn, and the slowing of cadence. There were a few steep downhills in the woods that required the use of branches and tree trunks as stabilizers, but the course was still relatively “runnable,” despite conditions. The rain caused traditionally “muddy” obstacles like Mud Mile, Happy Ending, and Kiss of Mud to become swamps of thick mud that engulfed competitors like quicksand. TMHQ maintained the standard rules of allowing (and encouraging) competitors to assist each other through the obstacles and penalty laps were offered in lieu of obstacle completion; across several obstacle failures, participants would max out at an additional 1.6 miles in penalties per loop.

Stoking the fire a bit, TMHQ had some special rules and variations in place that allowed runners to make strategic choices about their race and to earn a “Golden Carabiner,” which worked as a “get out of jail free” pass to either skip obstacles or take alternate routes on course. Runners could earn a Golden Carabiner once hitting the 25 mile (5 lap threshold), as well as by completing more difficult lanes of specified obstacles on course. In the late hours of the night, both Funky Monkey and Leap of Faith included Golden Carabiner lanes that made the regular obstacle even more complex; completion of one of these lanes earned the competitor a Golden Carabiner. Runners could redeem their Golden Carabiner at any other point during the race, either skipping a specific obstacle or being allowed to take an alternate route on course that bypassed a stretch of obstacles. Another spark of ambiguity was a fork in the road halfway through the loop that opened at 8:00 PM; TMHQ had devised two unique routes that competitors could choose between, one having standard obstacles (Quagmire, The Bloc Ness Monster, Leap of Faith, and The Guantlet) and the other having electrocution obstacles (Eletroshock Therapy, Entrapment, and Operation). This “pick your poison” and Golden Carabiner approach to course design maintained the integrity of the 5 mile loop distance, regardless of the route taken.

The Race

The race started at noon on Saturday, and the sun was shining! With a little bit of a wind chill, the temperatures were still warm enough for the short sleeves and smiles. Our first lap was a 5 mile tour and preview of the course-no obstacles; competitors took a Golden Carabiner route through the first lap, bypassing a view of some of the obstacles. For the first hour of the race, none of the obstacles were opened; beginning at 1:00 PM, obstacles were methodically opened via a rolling start through the course. By 3:00 PM, all of the 26 obstacles were opened (except for The Stacks, which opened at midnight). Most competitors started their first lap with a strong pace, full of excitement and energy about the day that lay ahead of us. I saw and felt that speed and enthusiasm on course, as runners continued into laps two and three.

Hitting obstacles as they started to open, I finished my second lap wet. The heat of my running pace and the sunshine kept me comfortable, and the blue skies created a beautiful backdrop to the event. Coming back around Mudderhorn and into the pit area at the completion of my third lap, the sun was moving towards the horizon. The Georgia autumn wind started to pick up and I began to realize just how cold this race was going to be. I was able to complete three laps fairly quickly and hit my pit crew before sunset. My wetsuit and headlamp went on for lap four, and the wetsuit never came off until I crossed the finish line. Watching the sunset from Ladder to Hell around 1.5 miles into my fourth lap was a special memory from that day; this tall obstacle was placed at the top of a hill, giving a panoramic view of the streaked paintbrush of dusk settling over the race. By the time I came into my pit for my fifth lap, the sun had settled over the edge of the woods.

As soon as darkness hit, the temperatures began to drop. Many competitors decided to opt out of active participation and camp out in their tents, avoiding the course in the cold. Throughout the night (my laps six to nine, approximately 10:00 PM to 6:00 AM) the course was relatively empty. I experienced long stretches of running alone, occasionally being passed my elite men and spotting other headlamps through the woods in the distance. With the temperatures in the low thirties, many obstacles began to ice over – even the grass and trees surrounding the course began to freeze. Around midnight, the TMHQ team began to methodically shut down certain obstacles, specifically those that resulted in total head submersion, as well as some of the obstacles that had dangerously slick frost. As a precautionary measure to ensure runners’ safety, obstacles such as Under Water Tunnels, Lumber Jacked, Skidmarked, Berlin Walls, Cage Crawl, and The Gauntlet were closed until sunrise. Many of the other water obstacles did remain open throughout the night, including Augustus Loop, Mud Mile, Twin Peaks, Funky Monkey, Happy Ending, and The Stacks (once opened at midnight).

Even with the improvised TMHQ safety modifications to the course, competitors that continued to fight overnight for mileage remained wet, muddy, and cold. The vibe on the course had shifted from energy and excitement to quiet perseverance and steady focus. Runners fought the conditions and their own demons to sustain a pace quick enough to stay warm, but slow enough to maintain shoe traction amidst slick running paths and icy obstacles. Once the sun began to rise on Sunday morning, the dawn brought warmer temperatures, many obstacles re-opened for completion, and the hibernating competitors came back out on course to continue their quest for mileage goals and the desired “24 Hour” finisher headband. The course began to refill with participants, pit crew began to awaken with a renewed sense of vigor, and the festival area began buzzing with excitement again.  By late morning, I was embarking on my final two laps, eleven and twelve; my pace had slowed to intermittent periods of jogging and walking, but I was determined to finish what I had started and reach my 60-mile goal. My last two loops were surreal and dreamlike, with the warmth of the sun back on my shoulders and the realization of the mortality of the event: my 24 hours was almost over. Despite the pain in my legs and the fatigue in my body, I felt so alive running across the finish line. This was my first World’s Toughest Mudder, and certainly not my last.

Epilogue

As I mentioned before, World’s Toughest Mudder became less of a competition of obstacle proficiency and running speed, and more of a test of mental fortitude and determination. Less than 25% of competitors reached 50 miles and less than 2% completed 75 or more miles, which were lower than most of the previous years’ result statistics. There was a clear division amongst competitors (and ultimately, finishers): those that succumbed and submit to the cold, and those that found comfort and resolve in the rawness of the adversity of their circumstances. Only a small group of competitors remained actively on course through the cold, ice, and solitude of the night; less than one-third of the twelve hundred participants maintained a continuous progression of laps through the dark. These are the racers that were able to put their heads down, remain determined, and march onward towards coveted mileage bibs (50 and 75 Mile threshold bibs). World’s Toughest Mudder 2018 was just as I expected it to be; it was an obstacle course race designed to challenge your speed, obstacle technique, physical endurance, and athletic performance.  But World’s Toughest Mudder 2018 was also something that many (including myself) did not expect it to be; it was a trial of overall tenacity, perseverance of will, and the mental grit that it takes to move forward in spite of cold, doubt, fear, and difficulty.

Europe’s Toughest Mudder Berlin

This year saw the first Toughest Mudder series in Berlin, Germany and there was a lot of anticipation around the race, bringing competitors from across the globe. One would assume with the location and elevation profile that the weather would be sweet and the running would be easy- TMHQ made sure this was certainly not the case…

On arrival to the race site, it was a lengthy walk from the car park to registration and with a heavy kit bag, it felt like we had landed mid Spartan race in the bucket brigade (silver linings- warmup?). To make up for this, registration was fairly quick and painless and soon the pit tent was full of mudders eager to get started, some first-timers, oblivious to the eight-hour beasting that was ploughing their way. Improvements on last year’s ETM pit tent included easy in-and-out doors for runners and big screens with live male and female standings for support crew to monitor without braving the elements.

In a warm 17 degrees, competitors strolled into the start chute for the race briefing. Now, although my German is limited to ‘Ya!’ and ‘Nein!’, it was clear from the start there were a significant number of German runners and so the briefing was done mostly in German which was a nice touch from TMHQ as you could see it was getting racers fired up for the course ahead. For the minority of us we were blissfully unaware of 90% of what had been told to us but this seemed to calm my nerves rather than wait in anticipation knowing what was coming!
Toughest-Mudder-Berlin-Start-Line

The sprint lap flew by and before we knew it 95% of the obstacles were open for business. This differed to the previous ETM where they had staggered openings and closed/opened new ones as the 8 hours went by- this time everything was open and stayed open until the finish which made for a pretty intense 5 miles (with some modifications being made to harder versions in the later hours). I think most people had anticipated pretty warm racing conditions which, as the obstacles opened, was soon to be the opposite- 3 back to back water obstacles (including Blockness Monster, Cage Crawl, and the very very Arctic Enema) were within a mile of one another. I managed to run one lap of this before stuffing my neo hood into my wetsuit for extra protection- brain freeze and exhaustion left me wondering what else I could be doing on a fine Saturday night which wouldn’t result in me picking out ice cubes from my kit! For me personally, I find the water affects my mental state more than any other obstacle and it’s always a constant battle to fight off the ‘I just want to curl up in my Dryrobe’ thoughts and push through.
Toughest-Mudder-Berlin-Everest

The more laps that went by, the more aching I could feel in my legs as a direct result of the hard packed trail and concrete running we were doing- I would take hills for days over this type of terrain, as I’m sure many others would agree. With no elevation, there was no opportunity for that tactical ‘walk-break’ on the uphill which inevitably fatigued everyone faster than they probably anticipated. By 5/6am there were a good chunk of runners down and out which made the later laps pretty lonely- running with only one or two people in sight for miles. No Toughest Mudder is complete without a curveball and so the heavens opened from around halfway through the race which naturally pushed those runners not possessing Hulk-like grip to the penalty runs.
Toughest Mudder-Berlin-Kong-Infinity

I thoroughly enjoyed the course and whole feel to the race (if you can describe beating yourself up for 8 hours during the night as enjoyment) and would definitely have this on my list again for next year. It’s always refreshing to see a stream of first-timers at Toughest events which means this sport is still growing and TM aren’t losing their edge. Often when I describe the event to friends or family they will say ‘why would you want to do that?!’ but the 8-hour event, in the dark, cold and (often) wet night is where you really find your limit and pushing through those limits is something everyone should experience at least once in their lives.
Toughest-Mudder-Berlin-Finish

Tough Mudder Whistler Weekend {Journal Entry}

Whistler once again hosted the Tough Mudder Weekend & it was pretty epic!  I ran both days, Tougher on Saturday & the Half on Sunday.Tough Mudder Whistler Weekend -01

I’m more of an experiences man, if you’re looking for a short & concise detailed race recap, you’re reading the wrong blog post as I tend to write more about the whole experience. This is why I will now be appending these types of posts with {Journal Entry}

 

I traveled to Whistler with my wife; Charity, and a friend of ours; Troy. The cost of lodging in Whistler has almost doubled in the last three years.  I don’t know if it’s because the owners now know that TM happens all in the same weekend & therefore jack the prices up, but all I do know is that a two-bedroom hotel room only cost me around $250 for the weekend three years ago, that same room last year was around $400.  We ended up staying at the Whistler Athletes Centre this time & paid about $500 for our own townhouse which saved us some money thanks to the Pit Momma herself, Traci Watson.  A similar room was now around $600.  If you want to save money next year, reach out to her, I hope she is able to get such an awesome group deal again!  It was great staying here as there were quite a few other Mudders around to chat with.  We ended up helping out a fellow Vancity OCR teammate, Nathan, & gave him our extra pull out couch to crash on.  On Friday night Traci & I ended up hosting a pretty good sized Pot Luck dinner.  Heck, even TM’s finishing man Clinton Jackson popped by to greet his fellow mudders & partake in the festivities.  After dinner, we all chatted a bunch & a few of us ended up going to one of the shared living room spaces & playing a Trivia Game.  It was quite an entertaining night.

 

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Saturday: Tougher

I’ve done a few TMs in the past in Whistler and the weather has typically been rather cold & rainy but the forecast this year said it would be sunny and warm.  A happy change!  I packed everything from Shorts to Frog Skins.  I seriously prefer to have to lug all my gear with me and not need it over not bringing it & needing it.  I looked over the updated forecast in the morning & decided on wearing my warming leggings & long sleeve shirt but to bring shorts to change into for afterward. It was rather early and brisk out & I am a wuss when it comes to being cold and I knew I’d be facing Arctic Enema.  I got dressed & headed out with Nathan.  Charity and Troy would be doing the Full together later that evening so I knew I would meet up with them afterward in Mudder Village.  I arrived on-site about 45 mins before the 7:30 am start time & ended up waiting for another 15mins or so before they opened the floodgates to allow us to register.  There were approx., 70 Men & 17 Women & TMHQ decided to break us up into a Men’s & Women’s group with the women leaving around 8 am.

 

There were 22 obstacles on the map and I was feeling pretty good even knowing that Arctic Enema was in the first quarter of them or so.  I would rather have had it closer to the end after the sun had been up for a while, but I knew I had to suck it up!  Our heat was let go pretty close to on-time after Sean gave a great speech.  The course was different again this year.  I am enjoying the fact that TM keeps changing it up each year.  Last year they had us basically going in the opposite direction as the year before.  I was still a bit concerned that I would be “On my own” for a bunch of the obstacles.  I’m used to having plenty of others around me for help is needed.  This was also my very first race.  Yes, I have done tough Mudders & other OCRs in the past.  But they were always at a Jog/Walk pace.  The Tougher wave would be the first time that I could see what I had.

I was filled with fear & anticipation as I knew I could get it done, I just didn’t want to be dead last.  Heck, even if I was, I would know where I stood.  I was rather proud of myself for getting over “Berlin Walls” again, without a boost from someone, & we were told there would be something special waiting for us at the “Hero Carry” but there was nothing there for us at all when we reached it. I’d say I was able to keep up with the middle of the group until around halfway.  I kept a pretty good running pace up until around “Ladder to Hell”.  I started to slow down to a Jog around this point which I was fine with.  I was just pleasantly happy that there were others around me still at this point.

I arrived next at “Boa Constrictor” which I can’t say I had seen before.  Perhaps the volunteer wasn’t paying that much attention but I saw the person ahead of me go into the tubes feet first so I followed suit. It wasn’t until the next day when I did the same obstacle during the Half that I would see the small sign off to the side that said Head First!  Going in feet first kinda made sense as it angled down into water that had barbed wire over it & then you climbed back out through a tube on the other side.  I figured, skootch down, use your feet & legs to help you get out of the tube then crawl to the next one.  Well, that didn’t work so well in practice & I experienced the reason why you should go head first.  Sure, your face & head would be in the water first, which I really didn’t fancy, but there was enough room for air.  I am not a fan of confined spaces & I tell ya now, I started to freak out a bit.  As I worked my way down the tube the water started getting deeper & deeper & I started to float.  To the point where I could barely go any further down.  After a bit of squirming & wiggling, I hooked my foot on the top of the edge of the tube & slowly pulled myself out.  I was breathing heavily & hated every second, it felt like minutes, of it.  But, I got through it!

Tough Mudder Whistler Weekend -03

I knew “Block Ness Monster” & “Everest 2.0” would be coming up soon & I knew I’d need some help with that.  Apparently, I had fate on my side as earlier, back at “Arctic Enema”, which took me a while to get chest deep into but I got it done!, one of my other Vancity Team Mates, Amin, passed me while I was getting up the nerve to complete it.  I could now see him & a few other Vancity peeps up in the distance.  This was a huge load off.  I decided to pick it up a notch & catch up to them.  We stuck together the rest of the way, helping each other through any obstacles that we may need help with.  Sure, I may have been able to push myself harder & to go ahead of them, but I was very happy with how my performance was up to this time & the old me kicked in, the one that likes to talk to & enjoys the company of others, and I knew I could always try the same Tougher heat again next year.  In the end, I ended up failing the two obstacles I knew I would.  “Kong-Infinity” & “Funky Monkey” I GOTTA work on my grip, arm & shoulder strength! The penalty loops were quite short, like 250ft max out and back on a flat or slightly elevated hillside. We all ended up finishing “Happy Ending” & crossed the finish line together.  The Tougher wave was an awesome experience.  I plan on partaking in it again next year in Whistler & I have also signed up for it in Seattle in a few months.

The Tougher/Full course ended up being about 16.79Km (10.43Mi) and took me about 3hours and 20minutes.   Not too shabby!  I ended up taking about an hour off of our typical Jog/Walk time so I felt pretty good about that.

Tough Mudder Whistler Weekend -04

Sunday: Half

This was the very first time that I had attempted to do any physical activity like this more than once within a week or two of a gap.  I was feeling pretty good though.  I wasn’t sore, just a bit stiff.  I’m assuming Clinton Jackson could tell that because as soon as he saw me he came over & gave me the absolute best shoulder, back & neck massage I have EVER had, bar none!  He has such wonderful large monkey hands as he puts it.

The Half ended up having 13 Obstacles, it was approx. 10.63Km (6.58Mi) and it took us 2Hours and 30mins to complete.  We pretty much walked the whole thing & stopped to smell the roses & chat with other participants along the way.  We veered off course a bit at the very end to go through “Electroshock Therapy” which I ended up just sauntering through.  It’s really not that big a deal anymore.  Sure I was afraid of it the first time or two, then two years ago I decided to show everyone how much of a *cough* badass *cough* that I was & just walked on through it nice & slowly.  There’s not much to go into about the half that I didn’t pretty much cover from Saturday’s write-up above.  I ended up getting TM #4 in the books, did the Half as a shakeout “run” & got my 2x Repeat Offender headband because of it all (I’ll be getting my 3x RO in Seattle when I finish the 5K).  It was quite a fantastic weekend & I can’t wait to do it all again!  I still to this day though don’t fully understand why I keep putting myself through all of this other than, I am making up for lost time in PE class from high school, and I just enjoy the whole #OCRCommunity WAY too much!

 

Tough Mudder Whistler Weekend -05

BTW, did I mention how gorgeous Whistler is?  If you haven’t been to this event, you really need to come check it out!

Tough Mudder Whistler Weekend -06

Tough Mudder Whistler Weekend -07

Cheers!

 

All photos credited to Tough Mudder

PS. Please forgive the lateness of this article, I was having issues uploading pictures a while back.  Now that the issue has been resolved, you can expect a couple of these entries to come your way.  =)

Tougher Mudder KY: Laps and Live Music

Let me start by saying this: Great job, Tough Mudder!  That feedback email that you get after a race? Tough Mudder really seems to have paid attention.  Year after year, they have consistently gotten better.  If you read my review for the Tougher Mudder TN last September, then you understand why I made a point to start with some praise for the improvements!

With Tough Mudder starting their competitive series just last year, they were playing the sort of catch up game that any runner who has ever fallen off an obstacle or come from behind should understand (I know I do!).  They realized that Mudder Nation needed improvements, and they did what many OCR brands do not do well: They listened to constructive criticism and made changes.

VENUE and PARKING: Kentucky Speedway, Sparta, KY

One of the aspects that I most love about racing, other than the amazing and supportive OCR family, is getting to see so many different parts of the world that I would not see otherwise.  Although we didn’t race in or just around the Kentucky Speedway, getting to drive by it on the way in to the venue was exciting (I do NOT excite easily).

 Parking was in three different sections, and I went with the “General Parking” option.  It was a half-mile away, but it wasn’t a half-mile of wondering where the entrance was, as for the entire walk to registration, I could see part of the course, several obstacles, and a portion of the festival area.  Parking was quick and easy.

View-from-Parking-Area

 

REGISTRATION/CHECK-IN:

There is some room for improvement here, although it is better than the last Tougher I competed in (Thank you, TM!).  With plenty of lines for the non-competitive heats (makes sense, since there are far more participants in these areas), there were only two lines and two tables for Tougher Mudders.  While it was a smooth check-in with zero issues, maybe adding a table or two would help, as the check-in volunteers were three to a table, so there was congestion.  Overall, though, it took me maybe three minutes to show my ID, get my bib and timing chip, and move on.  I also come prepared, though, so that always helps those volunteers, as well as speeds up the process for other participants.

Registration-and-Check-in

Registration-tents

There were also tables set up with plenty of markers and zip ties for timers, as well as scissors to cut the loose ends off of the zip ties.  Convenience at its finest!

STARTING LINE, GOOD TIMES, and THE COURSE (of course)

After being told that there were some starting line issues this year already, I was a little nervous about being sure I was at the gate early.  I must say, it was hard to hear any announcements and I was constantly checking my watch and looking toward the starting line.  Thankfully, it seemed like volunteers were deployed to find anyone wearing a Tougher Mudder bib and to be sure we were headed to the starting line on time.

The way people were organized into corrals by time, then sent to the starting line, was a pretty cool change from the norm of people just heading to the start and getting a wristband or something else checked.  I spoke to a few of the runners from each type of race (5k, Tough Mudder half, Tough Mudder full), and how they felt about being able to start all in the same wave.  Everyone I spoke to loved the idea of being mixed with others with different, yet the same, goal-to finish stronger and together! No one felt left out or “called out” for running a shorter race.

After I finished my race, I met up at the starting line to visit with DJ Will Gill, who is always, always a superstar at the starting line and gets everyone motivated.  He announced me when I walked up as the Tougher female winner, and that was pretty sweet.  Not a lot of starting line people really get me going, and he is one of the few. Unlike other race venues, DJ Will Gill even let me sing the National Anthem for one of the heats!  Tough Mudder allows a moment of silence and the National Anthem before each and every wave of runners.

National-Anthem

Once runners lined up, they had a flat start that went to the top of a small hill, and then it was ON!  Tougher Mudders had to follow course markings like everyone else, but we had Lap 1 and Lap 2 challenges.  We pretty much had the course to ourselves for Lap 1, but once we hit Lap 2, we were intermingled with non-Tougher Mudder runners, and while it caused some congestion, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  My husband, who ran his first OCR, was part of the 5k crew, and he felt just as part of everything and every obstacle as everyone else.  For this being his first OCR, and with him not being a runner at all, I worried he would not know where to go on the course, but he says the course was marked so well, there was no chance for any confused at all.  (He also is planning on running another Tough Mudder, “at least a half”, he says!).

Runners also crossed over where others were just getting to the race and having the cheers and encouragement as I ran by was pretty nice. I also think Tough Mudder did a great job with changing up a little how the Tougher Mudders had to compete, such as we had to complete the King Kong Infinity, and we had to swim across a pond (I couldn’t even touch the bottom!).  Towards the end, Toughers had an ice bag carry, and we carried it to the Arctic Enema, broke it open, and poured it into the water before getting in and swimming to the other side.  As one who doesn’t like any weather below 70 degrees, this wasn’t my favorite part, but I do appreciate it being towards the end of the race!

DJ-Will-Gill

Starting-Line

RECOGNITION and MUDDER VILLAGE

Not only did Tougher Mudder decide to create medals for the top three male and female finishers, they also added a podium ceremony.  I do wish the podium was out in the middle of the venue, rather than being crammed at the end of the finish line.  This allows for people to enjoy watching the announcements, as well as others, getting pictures up on the podium just for fun; HOWEVER, for Tough Mudder to have made the changes with medals and recognition, and in such a short time, was pretty rockstar of them!

Podium-Ceremony

And guess what? There was a LIVE BAND in Mudder Village, as well!  There was other music being played, but the band did a super job covering top songs, and this was a wonderful difference from so many other venues I’ve been to.  The ATM was in a building on the way in and set aside and well-marked.  There were new obstacles and others from the past were brought back, as well.  It was nice to go into a race and not know exactly what to expect.

This is a racing brand that has been around for some time, now, and if you haven’t run one yet, go do it!  If you have, think about doing it again!

I’ll be back, Tough Mudder!

 

2018 Toughest Mudder Dates And Venues Announced

Tough Mudder has announced the dates and venues for the Toughest Mudder races for 2018.
March 3: Toughest Mudder West: Los Angeles
May 5: Toughest Mudder South: Central Texas
May 12: Toughest Mudder Midlands: UK
June 2: Toughest Mudder Midwest: Michigan
June 16: Toughest Mudder Scotland
June 23: Toughest Mudder Northeast: Boston
2018 Toughest Mudder Schedule
March 3: Toughest Mudder West.
In 2017 Toughest Mudder West was held at the Los Angeles venue at Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino. Tough Mudder is moving to a new venue for 2018 at Polsa Rosa Ranch. Polsa Rosa Ranch is a popular location for movie filming. Among movies that have used the ranch are Titanic, The Lone Ranger, and Windtalkers.
May 5: Toughest Mudder South.
Last year Toughest Mudder South was held near Atlanta. The 2018 race will be held at the Central Texas venue, about an hour outside Austin, Texas. More on Atlanta later.
Toughest South Webster Finish
May 12: Toughest Mudder UK: Midlands.
This date and venue was already announced, but with the new North America dates announced we now know Toughest Mudder Midlands will be held one week after Toughest Mudder South. In 2017 Toughest Mudder Philly was one week after Toughest Mudder UK and Sara Knight suffered an overuse injury that bothered her for the rest of the Toughest races that year. Knight was one of the “Four Horsemen” that ran all six Toughest Mudder races in 2017.
June 2: Toughest Mudder Midwest
The 2017 Toughest Mudder Midwest race was held outside Chicago. In 2018 the Midwest race will be held in Michigan, about an hour north of Detroit and a little over an hour west of Sarnia, in Ontario, Canada. With no Toughest Mudder Canada announced yet, this may be the closest Toughest for Mudders north of the border.

Allison Tai Toughest Chicago

June 16: Toughest Mudder UK: Scotland
Along with the Midlands UK race, this date and venue were previously announced. Like Midlands, this race is separated from another US Toughest race by one week. Toughest Mudder Northeast will follow Scotland one week later.
June 23: Toughest Mudder Northeast
The sixth and (as far as we know) final Toughest Mudder of the year will be held on June 23rd. In 2017 the Northeast race was held outside Philadelphia. In 2018 it will be held at a brand new venue: Boston.
Toughest NE Funky Monkey
With the exception of Toughest Mudder Midlands, every Toughest Mudder in 2018 will be at a brand new location. Even though the West race is “in” Los Angeles, it’s at a new venue. The Boston venue for the Northeast race is new to all of Tough Mudder. Scotland is an entirely new venue for Toughest Mudder, and Michigan and Texas are returning Tough Mudder locations, but brand new for Toughest Mudder. Even if you ran every Toughest Mudder in North America last year, every race in 2018 will be at a new location for you.
What about World’s Toughest Mudder 2018?
Several months ago Matt B. Davis noticed the 2018 date for Tough Mudder Atlanta was later than usual. Much later. In fact, Tough Mudder Atlanta will be held three weeks before the weekend WTM is usually scheduled for. In the past Tough Mudder Vegas has been held two to three weeks before World’s Toughest Mudder. WTM has been held on the second weekend of November in Las Vegas for several years. With Tough Mudder officially announcing 2017 will be the last year in Vegas, Matt connected the dots and predicted WTM 2018 would be held in Atlanta. After a recent appearance on Fox News Will Dean, the CEO of Tough Mudder passed on some info to a member of the WTM community. He wouldn’t give the exact location, but Dean said next year’s WTM would be on the east coast, and it would be warm. Toughest Mudder Atlanta was widely considered the warmest of all six Toughest Mudder’s last year, and even in November, Georgia should be a warm venue. Even though there are arguments against Atlanta (it has a terrible airport) it looks like the site of World’s Toughest Mudder 2018 will be Atlanta, Georgia.

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