Slippery In Chicago Spartan Super U.S Championship Series

“You’ll know at the finish line” is the famous motto of the Spartan Race. But, if you ran the Chicago Super you probably knew by the time you reached the parking lot at The Richmond Hunt Club.  The rain had hammered the area the previous week and since this race was part of the US Championship Series most racers were super curious about the course conditions.

Well, thanks in part to my 4×4 Jeep I could park on site and from the moment I stepped out of my vehicle and sank into 4 inches of mud I knew this was going to be a long day. Grabbing my ID and picking my way through the slop to the festival area I made my usual pit stop at the restrooms. Upon opening the door, I found that I really couldn’t distinguish where the muck stopped, and the actual toilet started due to the high levels of mud. Although after finding the seat I realized this may have been the only dry spot to sit on the entire property. I’ve raced from coast to coast for many years and this may have been the worst slop that I had ever encountered. If ankle-deep muck was the only thing to walk through from my Jeep clear to the start line what was the rest of the course going to be like? One word, Nasty.

Spartan started the 8.1-mile Super at the far end of the festival area and immediately threw athletes along a trail on the edge of a cornfield which made racers shoes feel more like concrete blocks. The small streams along the trail were swollen with water due to the storms but provided a small opportunity to rinse off some of the built-up muck.

A series of low walls were placed in this location to thin out the crowd a bit before testing racers grip strength on the Monkey Bars. A short distance away the inverted wall was set-up leading to the Herc Hoist. The ropes on the hoist had already become slick with mud by the time I got there making this obstacle much tougher than usual. Hands still slick from the constant slop made Twister an adventure as the burpee zones were so packed with people that racers just started doing burpees wherever they could find a spot. The bucket brigade, which was next up, was relatively short thankfully but the Atlas Stone carry a bit further down the line was brutal as each stone had a coating of thick mud around it making even the strongest competitor dig deep.

The Rolling mud and dunk wall were next up combined with the first of two barbed wire crawls. My initial thought upon seeing this was “Why do we need more water with a dunk wall”? You really noticed the stench of the standing water as you made your way under the barbed wire. And just to be cruel, after getting finished with the crawl which left you caked with mud Spartan threw the Z wall at you.

There is nothing worse than a slick Z wall, all obstacles were made much worse as you never really had a chance to get your hands dry during the race. Now approaching the halfway point of the race, the effects of the sloppy conditions could clearly be felt as athletes were struggling with obstacles that normally didn’t slow down most competitive racers.

I noticed that at the 8-foot wall, which was the next obstacle on the course, there were way more people doing burpees than I’ve ever seen. The bender followed up the wall climb, and this obstacle was a new one to me. This new obstacle consisted of a series of ascending vertical pipes starting about 7 feet off the ground with bars placed about every 2 feet apart. The structure curved back towards an athlete and reminded me a bit of the Battlefrog delta ladder.

The race was now at its furthest point from the festival area and the trail meandered through a section of the property used for paintball games. Along this stretch, Spartan placed their second barbed wire crawl along with their vertical cargo net climb before sending racers back to running alongside the rows of corn.

The Stairway to Sparta and a series of hurdles were the next obstacles athletes encountered on the trail leading to a hay bale wall. Just let me say right now that mud and hay stick to you like nothing else! I mean, don’t some sections of the world use mud and hay to built houses? And what better obstacle to try to traverse while carrying a house on you than Olympus right? As an added bonus, if you failed on Olympus the burpee pit was in a solid foot of muck. These were the worst burpees I’ve ever done in my life as you brought up 15 pounds of mud with each repetition.

The plate drag and rope climb? These two tasks were next up and close to impossible to complete. Dragging that sled through the thick mud? Yeah right. Climbing a rope slick with mud? Welcome to the burpee train. Now the sandbag carry only consisted of a single bag, and the distance of the carry wasn’t that far, but it kind of felt like trying to ice skate with a small child on your back.

The last section of the course led back towards the festival area where family and friends could easily see you miss your spear throw and roll around in more soup doing your burpees. If you happened to get lucky and hit the spear, then your hands were still dry! Until you ran around the corner and found the Yokohama tires sitting in the same shit you’ve been battling all day.

Those tires were already tough to get a grip on without trying to flip them in a batch of Montezuma’s Revenge. The burpee pit for that? Yup, more slop.

By this time, you could see the finish line and I’m guessing most people were thinking the same thing I was. Please, don’t let me fail another obstacle and have to burpee in more mud. Luckily the A-frame cargo was next up, no failing this! Then the slip wall. Not a problem, I might finish strong here. Only one last obstacle before the fire jump, the multi-rig. The rig set-up for this event wasn’t the worst ever. Three rings on each side separated by a vertical pipe traverse. But like all the rest of the obstacles on this course, this one too was slippery with farm mud.

So, unless you had the grip strength of Thor or the running ability of Mercury this event was pretty much an unending burpee train.  My final thoughts on this event are as follows. With good weather conditions this course would not have been terrible, maybe not even U.S. Championship Series worthy as the obstacles were what you expected, the track was flat, and the distance wasn’t overwhelming.  But the massive amount of rain turned this race into a brutal suckfest that was worthy of a Championship race.

Red Deer Spartan Race Weekend

The Spartan Race weekend in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada 2018

By Kody O’Brien and Nancy Loranger

Red Deer (8)

DAY 1 – Kody O’Brien – Spartan Sprint

On Saturday June 9th the obstacle course racers from Edmonton and Calgary met in the middle of Alberta once again at Heritage Ranch in Red Deer anticipating the start of the 2018 Spartan season. This venue is located centrally along a highway between two major cities making it a short venture from either city, and also allowing most Racers to travel home for a good night’s rest and saving money on accommodations.

The first day would be the Spartan sprint with a posted distance of 8km and 25 obstacles (actual 7.7km) this is longer than most Sprint distance races held here by a few kilometers and much more like the USA sprint distance of 5 miles. This had racers a bit anxious (usually Sprints in Canada are about 5K/3miles) and rethinking possible game plans and strategies, wondering if they should be bringing fuel and reanalyzing pace.

The weather was perfect with overcast skies and temperatures around 19 degrees C as the elite men started to jump the wall and into the starting gate. As I looked around I saw many new and familiar faces, but everyone looked pumped up! I realized that this was going to be a very fast race. Seasoned racers knew it would be important to get out quick and secure a spot out front knowing that once the single-track approached it would be next to impossible to pass other racers.

Red Deer (4)

The first kilometer was a blistering 3 min/km pace down the paved Road and into some single track then headed back towards the festival area. This is where Spectators got their first chance to witness the carnage, where the vertical cargo, the barbed wire, Hercules hoist, 4 foot wall, rolling mud, dunk wall and A-frame were all stacked together. Note to course designers: It’s really awesome not just for spectators but as a racer to run through the festival area hearing people yelling and screaming, it fires you up! There wouldn’t be another chance to come to the festival area again until the end of the race, missing the exciting obstacles such as the rig and Olympus.

Wall Red Deer

Once leaving the festival area the course turned back into the single-track trail for about 800 m in order to to get us to the next cluster of obstacles in the field, this is where grip would be tested. Obstacles here were 7′ wall, multi rig, Olympus, and tractor pull. The rig was fairly easy if you knew how to work your way through, skipping every other distraction hold (rope, t-bar, low ring, nunchuck) and using only rings, easier said than done, this obstacle left many racers stranded in the burpee pen.

Rig Red Deer

A quick hop over the inverted wall and the next 4-5 km had only 3 obstacles spaced out in between (6′ wall, water crossing (swim) and the Atlas carry. This proved to play well into the hands of strong runners, spanning across a variety of single track and paved/gravel roads allowing racers to push the pace, but this section split opinions at about 50/50, with strong runners loving it and obstacles junkies wishing it would end already.

As the kilometers passed, eventually we reached a sign that we were getting close to the end of the course: The base of the dreaded heritage ranch stairs unveils itself. It’s about a meter 80 climb to the top these stairs, and they will leave even the best of athletes with heavy legs at the top.

Piggy back red deer

Now in the heart of the ranch, the rope climb and plate drag are piled together among other piles of horse patties… (No shortage here). Once through these obstacles and over a couple fences and the course dives back into the single track, headed towards the sandbag carry. The previous year’s sandbag carry brought many great memories and photos, heading down the river bank along wet slippery rocks, through the river and back up the other side. Many racers were disappointed with this year’s carry, saying it was too easy and that they were anticipating the river trek again. Once we dropped the sandbag off and we were on the final stretch, which was a zip through another 500 m of single track and back towards the festival area for the finale.

Log Carry Red Deer

If you had saved gas in the tank for a final push, now is the time to let ’er rip!

The final four obstacles, Monkey bars, Spear throw, slip wall, and fire jump crammed together are all that stands between you and the finish. Having the spear at the finish always makes a close race very interesting, as proved by the men’s elite finale when Josh Stryde and I showed up at the same time battling for 2nd, one stuck it while the other missed, securing the top 3 finishers.

A few notes from the Spartan Sprint race: The course was marked very well and 3 water stations were distributed evenly. Racers didn’t get a chance to see obstacles such as (bucket brigade, Tyrolean traverse, tire flip, z wall, stairway to Sparta and the twister which is still yet to be seen in Canada)

A live feed was provided by fellow elite racers Stefan Wieclawek and Linzee Knowles through the @spartanracecanada Facebook page, providing an exciting and highly entertaining bonus for all interested in following along. I also have to add that I recognize the hard work went into this race by Spartan Canada and it is much appreciated by all.

DAY 2 – The Spartan Super – Nancy Loranger

Rise and shine….hmm…more like Rise and Rain on Sunday for the 14km Spartan Super in Red Deer. After a full night of heavy rain, the skies remained gloomy and the wind picked up as racers and spectators huddled under coats and tents waiting for the Men’s Elite heat call to the start line.

Red Deer (7)

Thirty minutes before the men were scheduled to start, the announcer came out with an alarming statement to notify us that the previous night some assholes had vandalized the entire course! Course markings were torn down, water stations on the course were speared, smashed and thrown in a nearby creek, Olympus was overturned; the course was left in a state of disaster. The announcer specified that the @spartanbuildcrew had all hands on deck and were working feverishly to rebuild the course. Despite being warned that start times could be bumped upwards of 30 minutes or more, Spartan Race was ready to go for the original start time! Aroo!

I and every other person I talked with was very impressed and super grateful (no pun intended) for the hard work the crew had put into getting it back to race ready!

Inverted Wall Red Deer

The Spartan Race Super course followed the same first 2 Kilometers as the Sprint course, passing through the Festival area and its gauntlet of obstacles. Racers were already cold and wet from the rain and wind but then had to brave the frigid waters of the dunk wall before hitting the A-frame cargo and back into the forest on twisty single track.

This is where we ventured onto new trails not seen in the previous day’s Sprint course, heading north along the sandy banks of the Red Deer River. Heritage Ranch boasts some gorgeous, tight, technical trails, full of roots, downed trees, and sharp turns. It’s obvious why Spartan Race Canada choose to come back year after year. Racers were forced to look up and pay close attention to course markings or risk the chance of heading off course on a trail less traveled.

This section demanded a fair bit of running before the next obstacle, the log carry. This was a quick but very steep climb up a grassy embankment and down through a muddy swamp before returning to lighten your load and pick up the pace again. We headed back into the single track for another 2 km until the trees divided to reveal a football-sized grassy field and the Stairway to Sparta towering in the near distance.Log Red deer

Red Deer Z Wall

This field, scattered with the likes of Z-wall, Tire Flip, The Platinum Rig, Olympus and Tractor Pull, requires the racer to run lengths of the field while completing these grip-intensive obstacles. I think it would be appropriate to call this section “The Field of Burpees”. It was a challenge for everyone in that field to complete all obstacles without penalty burpees and only a handful of racers likely walked away with a ‘clean’ race. Spartan race tends to get a lot tougher in the wet!

Red Deer Tire Flip

As kilometers clicked by, racers were met with more trail running and the last remaining ‘classic’ Spartan obstacles – rope climb, sandbag carry, monkey bars and spear throw to name a few.

The last section of the Red Deer Spartan race super mirrored that of the day before allowing racers to play with the familiar ground and dig deep to push the pace for a strong finish. This was perhaps the most exciting segment of the race for both spectators and athletes. The last 200m was stacked with an uphill pavement slog to slippery Monkey Bars followed by good ol’ Spear Throw. The burpee pit was an active hang out place at both obstacles before hitting the extra slick Slip Wall and finally Fire Jump to the finish.

Overall, the Spartan race Super delivered a challenging, fast-paced course that brought most athletes to their knees upon crossing the finish line!

Red Deer (6)

Photos from Spartan Race Canada/Sweatworks.net

Kids Obstacle Challenge Chicago

It’s tough to coordinate things when you and your kids head to an OCR event. Bringing extra clothes for everyone and managing start times so everyone can be seen can be a major headache. Here’s an idea though, why not find a Kids Obstacle Challenge race near you? It’s just for the kiddies, although parents can run along within the non-competitive waves and everything is designed just for your little one! I had the great pleasure of attending the June 16 event held in Chicago with my 3 little ones and found it to be a great way to get the kids active and enjoy some family fun. KOC had set-up 14 obstacles along a 1.75-mile course within the Ned Brown Preserve in Rolling Meadows for a thrilling test for the youngsters. There was plenty of space at the park and KOC made great use of it by keeping their course in easy viewing for the multitude of spectators watching their little ones having a blast. Registration was a breeze in the early going as not many parents signed their children up for the opening competitive wave, but the lines became much longer later in the day when the open runners checked in. So, a little hint here mom and dad, if your child is competitive sign them up for the early wave as I found this to be the least attended wave of the day and had virtually no obstacle backups. Your child will get chip timing and could win a Razor product if they finish in the top 3 of their respective age group. Later on in the day when the open waves race I found the course to be really packed up at obstacles with many more athletes as well as their parents on the course at the same time.

 

KOC set up their starting corral next to the festival area where the emcee for the event got the kids pumped up for the start. Using a super soaker water gun only added to the excitement on this 95-degree day. Once we were thoroughly drenched the air horn blew and waves of parents with their children took off. The first obstacle along the way was a series of suspended punching bag type balloons which required racers to weave their way through before continuing to a series of A-frame type walls that needed to be traversed. Next up a shallow pool of ankle-deep water filled with colored floating balls needed to be crossed before dropping down on all fours for a set of low crawls. An A-frame with rock climbing holds sat in a pool of water and required racers to cross from one side to the other. I found this to be perhaps the toughest obstacle of the day and possibly the most fun for the youngsters. KOC followed up with an adult obstacle, the sandbag carry, but scaled it down to 5 and 10-pound bags with the carry distance being around 20 yards total.

The trail became a bit soggier now as the rain the previous night drained into this section of the course. Racers now encountered a spider web of bungee cords on them leading to a fun rope swing across a shallow water pit. I noticed the kids really liked playing Tarzan on this rope! No obstacle course can be complete without a cargo net climb, right? KOC chose this section of the trail to install their A-frame cargo climb with a group of car tires set up a short distance away for the high knees obstacle. The distance between obstacles lengthened a bit now during the last section of the course. Ladder walls, which the racers could either climb or go under was the next obstacle presented. A suspended balance pole with hanging ropes proved a tough task to manage as racers made their way around the last turn of the course where a rock climb with a slide down to the stickiest mud ever waited. I personally had to pull one of my kids out of this mess and I’m sure many a parent went looking for missing shoes in this muck after the race. The last obstacle along the way to the finish became a messy one as a net was suspended over a mud pit which got kids low and dirty before crossing the finish line and picking up their unique medal.

The KOC was an awesome family adventure as I saw smiling faces everywhere. The obstacles here were geared a little more towards younger racers as there wasn’t anything that older racers would fail to complete. KOC offered cool Razor Scooter products to the top 3 winners in each competitive age class and although the competitive waves were small, the competition for those scooters appeared fierce. One thing I noticed is a bit of an obstacle back up during the open waves. As a veteran racer I’d suggest making smaller waves staggered every 10-15 minutes apart instead of the larger waves every half an hour, or by adding another obstacle at each location along the course. Additionally, having a computer or tablet available for competitive racers to view their time would have been a valuable addition. The only people who knew their times were the top 3. The rest of the racers had to wait until Monday to see their results.  Parking and pictures were free at this event which was certainly another plus. So, if you’re an OCR enthusiast, and I’m guessing you are if you’re reading this, grab the kids and hit a KOC event so that generation next can enjoy their own special race!

 

2018 Spartan Sprint D.C. – Fast and Furious

Spartan-DC-A-Frame-and-Carving

Maryland International Raceway, just south of our nation’s capital, is usually filled with revving engines, screeching tires and roaring cheers. This weekend, the cheers were still there, but the tires were replaced with the sound of feet running through the woods. The engines were replaced by splashing water, ringing bells and spears hitting hay. Spartan Race had returned for its popular Sprint distance.

Parking and Registration

Personally, the two biggest things that make a race great, other than the course itself, is parking and registration. Parking at D.C. was on-site, which is always great. Generally, if I see there’s a shuttle, I’m less likely to add that race to my list. Parking at Maryland International Raceway was extremely easy, and the lot was only about a 3-4-minute walk to the registration tent. Check in was smooth and quick early in the morning and I didn’t notice any long lines in the afternoon.

Spartan-DC-Registration-Lines

I know a lot of Spartan diehards were down in Dallas for one of their bigger stadium races of the year, but turnout still seemed relatively strong. There weren’t a ton of vendors, but this made the festival area seem less congested and easy to navigate. Regardless of festival vendors, there were still plenty of free goodies to be had both at the finish line and around the festival area.

The spectator area didn’t extend far into the course, but after watching racers start, they were able to view Hercules Hoist, Multi-Rig and Rope Climb all within about a quarter mile of the course. There was also an area outside of the festival to watch Monkey Bars and Vertical Cargo. At the finish, spectators watched racers emerge from the woods to take on the A-Frame and finish with a Fire Jump.

Spartan-DC-Spear

The Course

Out of the handful of Sprints I’ve done in the past, DC was by far the flattest. Though there were plenty of short hills with varying inclines, the total ascent was low for your typical Spartan. Though 300 feet over a little over 4 miles is nothing to scoff at, many other venues easily hit 1,000 feet or more in the same distance. This led to quick times for the Elite racers, with the male winner, Tyler McCredie finishing in 39:48 and the female winner, Tiffany Palmer, coming across in 50:42.

Most Spartan Races and obstacle races, in general, only include a few obstacles in the first mile. Mostly, this is to keep the field spread out so there isn’t a lot of backup. The D.C. Sprint, however, included seven obstacles in the first mile. And not just hurdles or barbed wire, either. Those were included, but so were the Spearman, Bucket Brigade and Olympus. Initially, I expected this to cause some unusual backups. But, to my surprise, I didn’t face any significant obstacle lines. That went for both heats I ran, once in Age Group at 8:00 am and the second being Open at 11:30 am.

Spartan-DC-Sprint-Finish

In all, the course tallied up about 4.25 miles and racers faced 22 obstacles. That early run of obstacles meant no crazy gauntlet at the end of the race. The last half mile only included Monkey Bars, Vertical Cargo, A-Frame and Fire Jump. So, if you had enough juice in your legs, you could make a solid finish with the lack of strength or grip obstacles. Personally, I like having a string of obstacles right before the finish, but each design has its strengths and weaknesses.

 

 

Photo Credit: Spartan Race and the author

Aston Down South West Super, Sprint and Hurricane Weekend 2018

Spartan returns, once again, to the Aston Down Airfield used by the RAF from the First World War. I have a love-hate relationship with this place, mainly stemming from my solo experience with the Spartan Super last year. Going into my first Super alone was certainly a daunting task and the aching, bruised body after certainly made it a day never to forget. This year, a little more of a seasoned racer and a little better prepared for what is to come, I have decided to return to Aston Down and be one medal closer to the Trifecta in 2018. This time, I’ve got friends.

“Every step you take gets you closer to the finish line”

Karl Allsop, Race Director at Spartan Race UK, ran his first Spartan Sprint at Bassingbourn Barracks in 2011. Karl spent some time talking with me about his love affair with Obstacle Course Racing that spawned from his first ever Spartan race. As Director of Race Operations, Karl has complete responsibility in the operational planning of Spartan Races within the UK.

 

The design of the Aston Down course, for Karl and his team, has really been a process of looking back on previous years and learning from them. I can tell that the course this year has been meticulously planned out, ensuring that the racers experience a challenging yet not impossible race that will really push them to their limits. “We really have had the benefit of being able to say, if we place this obstacle here, then what next? If we have the Atlas Carry here do we really want to be going into Bucket Brigade? Are our racers really going to be able to do it? But what we don’t want to do is sort of deflate our racers.” As a racer, it’s nice to know that those behind Spartan are interested in helping participants reach their goals even if it is in a painful, brutal way.

“Aston has become sort of synonymous with the ‘Death Valley’ it’s this valley that we flood with obstacles.”

I asked Karl how he felt this season, and the approach that has been taken to it is different from the last. “I think we have seen some great growth, not just for Spartan, but for the sport as a whole over the last few years. I think Aston South West is a great example of how we have seen it change and grow. The first year we had maybe just over a 1000 people for the race day. We then grew to just over 3000 last year and we’ve topped just over 4000 this year.”

As the numbers have grown, I really felt that Spartan Race has focused on listening to their racers and strived to make changes based on their experiences. “A lot of our obstacles have been upgraded for this race and the reason for that is that our racers are getting better, they’re getting faster, they’re getting stronger. It’s great that we now have to adapt to our racers”.

The desire that every racer will have the same experience when taking part in a Spartan Race is what drives the team to talk to the racers and spectators to get their views on what would make race day more enjoyable. Aston will improve on Spartan’s ‘rocking festival’ area where spectators and tired racers and finishers, can enjoy the Spartan atmosphere. It’s free to spectators and will even contain ‘festival obstacles’ to entertain throughout the day. “We spent a lot of time last year asking what do you want, what do you want to see, how do you want to do it? So this year we have more spectator areas and have designed the course a little differently just to give the spectators something to look at.”

And finally, an important part of enjoying the course rides a lot on the support you have around you. Not only the friends you run with but the encouragement you get from Spartan volunteers. My experience of these guys has been nothing but positive. I’ve seen many cheering, clapping and dancing the racers through the tough challenges that Spartan puts them through. “You get the guys who are just smiling, they’re laughing, they’re high fiving everyone you know there is mud flying everywhere and its infectious isn’t it?”

“A big focus this year has been on what does the racer actually want in terms of when they come to a Spartan Race? What do they want to see, what do they want to feel? And how do we slowly adapt and progress to that?”

A final round-up of Aston Down? The course layout for Spartan Race is always kept under tight wraps until race day but Karl was sure to let me know the gist of what to expect come Saturday. “If people want intensity, but they also want fun, then Aston is a great place to do it”. It’s going to be bigger and better than ever.

Aston did me right last year, it took me, chewed me up and spat me back out a better stronger racer. I’m glad to hear that Karl and his team have really taken these races up a notch and have done everything they can to make sure that those racing really get the most out of their time and out of themselves. Aston Down proves to be a show-stopping weekend of OCR magic and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

There are limited spots available for this weekend’s South West Super, Sprint and Hurricane Heat in Aston Down, Gloucestershire. Visit http://www.spartanrace.uk to book your place and get further information.

Photo Credits: Epic Action Imagery (www.epicactionimagery.com)

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!