Tough Mudder, Teamwork and Toilets- Philly Review

After 3 laps of Warrior Dash New York on Saturday I was headed to Tough Mudder Philly on Sunday. This was the perfect weekend for fun OCRs with mid-60 temps and off/on rain throughout both days. During my drive to the venue for on site parking, I certainly understood why Saturday’s event with a much higher attendance had shuttle parking offsite. The last several miles to the venue had sharp turns on roads that could barely fit 2 cars. There was adequate parking on-site, but for 5x the racers on Saturday, it would be impossible to do on-site.
I always prefer Sunday races when available because parking is easier/closer, registration is quicker, obstacles are less crowded and that was certainly the case on this day. Registration was quick and efficient, bag check was an organized and secure drop and go process, and after a quick bathroom stop, I was on my way to the start. Quick note on bathrooms since BattleFrog’s acclaimed world class portajohn reputation has upped the ante here: Sunday crappers are never fun and any had out of order signs, I’d assume in need of maintenance after several thousand nervous racers destroyed them the day before. That left maybe 5 out of 20+ available for Sunday’s racers. On to more important shit now…..

I’m always very excited for a Tough Mudder and similar untimed, obstacle heavy events because it’s a relaxed, enjoyable environment. Tough Mudder certainly DID NOT disappoint.
The warm-up area was an electric environment with motivated,nerve-rattledd athletes. Known race junkie Billy Richards, was invited onto the warmup stage to elaborate on his admirable, U.S.A. Flag carrying awareness mission, and that sent us onto the start area. After a solid Sunday pep talk, we were off to the course.

There’s two kinds of racers, “me” and “we” . Tough Mudder targets the “we” crowd. Their obstacles aren’t for the elite, aroo, competitive, mandatory crowd. Many obstacles require the assistance of your fellow racer to even make completion possible. I personally love the use of water and mud in an event….you can keep your pavement and dry course. With that being said this event was everything I wanted it to be and more. This event would make my 10th Tough Mudder in total and I still get nervous and excited for certain obstacles. Entering the day I have heard much feedback on the incorporation of several new TM obstacles and hadn’t had the opportunity to try. The two obstacles I was most looking forward to were aptly named “King of the Swingers” and “Block Ness Monster”.
Tough Mudder Philly Course Map Tough Mudder Philly Course Map

Philly Tough Mudder had all the obstacles I was looking forward to and missed out on during their last event last season in Jersey City. Instead of boring you with the full walk through of obstacles you can view that above (course map). I’ll inform you of their best obstacles and why. I mean honestly, that’s the best part. Every obstacle in some way utilized mud or water whether directly or mentally (underneath you) to increase the difficulty.

Two of my usual favorites, Funky Monkey (monkey bars) and Arctic Enema (ice bath) are now altered from their original versions (2.0 versions) to set them apart from other races that utilize these classics. Funky Monkey is now a straight row of monkey bars over water, that transitions to a swinging bar that, once you commit to, swings you to a straight bar. Shimmy down the straight bar to dry ground and you’ve completed this new twist on monkey bars.
Funky Monkey 2.0: Photo Courtesy Gameface Media Funky Monkey 2.0:  Photo Courtesy Gameface Media

Arctic Enema was originally a dumpster filled with ice water that contained a partition in the middle that required you to submerge yourself to go underneath in order to exit the dumpster. This was always a classic mind fuck but their 2.0 tweaks have put a fresh take on an old classic. Now they took away the “jump to the center” option by requiring you to sit on a slick inverted wall, laying on your back underneath a cage that kept your from sitting up. The wall which is partially submerged leads you to the ice bath. Once you’re clear of the cage you make your way to a center partition that you climb over and make your way to the exit steps. Again, another cool twist on an always fun(or horrible) obstacle.
Arctic Enema 2.0: Photo Courtesy Gameface Media Arctic Enema 2.0:  Photo Courtesy Gameface Media

Block Ness Monster was first introduced at last years Worlds Toughest Mudder. The reception the obstacle got was so great that TM opted to incorporate it as a standard obstacle(AMAZING idea). Multiple large, rotating 4×4 squares positioned in water, that are too heavy to rotate by one person, too large to climb over from a standing position, and I wouldn’t even try going underneath. This is one of many teamwork necessary obstacles. Participants on each side rotate the square while two people max(volunteer enforced) go over the top on each rotation to then assist on the other side before moving onto the next block. This is a very creative, unique obstacle and a blast to do.
Block Ness Monster: Photo Courtesy Chun Zack Lee Block Ness Monster:  Photo Courtesy Chun Zack Lee

“Shawshanked” was another fun obstacle and one of the few on-course that was able to be completed solo. An elevated tube generally used as a tube crawl at most events. The tube was elevated upwards with a rope at the top, inside of the tube. Volunteers instructed participants to lay on their back and use the rope to make your way up the tube. Once you made it completely through the tube you come to realize you’re about to drop into a water pit, backwards. This made for another fun obstacle that was mentally challenging for some as the drop was a distance beneath you.
Shawshenked: Photo Courtesy Gameface Media Shawshanked:  Photo Courtesy Gameface Media

Another obstacle that was originally introduced at WTM, and one I’ve been most excited to try, was “King of Swingers”.  An obstacle reminiscent of “Walk the Plank”(jump from an elevated platform into water) with an added twist. You must jump outwards, above the water, and reach for a small horizontal pole grip. If you get a hold of it, the pole swings you out above the water and towards a hanging bell. If you release too soon, you plummet to the water. If you release too late, you plummet to the water. If you release at the peak of the pole swing and project yourself towards the bell you may have enough extension with your arm to hit the bell. In which case, you plummet to the water. Are you noticing a pattern? Either way you win, and get wet. The height of the original platform and the distance you’re released above the water is intimidating for many. I observed a lot of participants watching the others attempt the obstacle and opt to continue on the course instead of trying their hand at it. That’s another great aspect of Tough Mudder. I witnessed no ridicule or shaming from other participants towards those who opted to forego an obstacle, which is something you’ll regularly see at other events. I was very pleased and impressed with this. Oh yea, I missed the bell by a mile but it was such a rush and awesome experience.
image King of Swingers:   Photo Courtesy Gameface Media

The most teamwork intensive obstacle, “Pyramid Scheme”, I encountered once before in a freezing Pocono Raceway TM. This time the weather made the experience of this obstacle extremely enjoyable. Trust and teamwork, most likely from complete strangers, will successfully get you through this one. Take an inverted wall, fill the base of the wall with mud and water, and make it slick with no grips and no traction. Take one person and have them stand in the muddy water with their back going up the base of the wall. Climb that person and stand on their shoulders while you invert yourself up the wall. Now the fun part, somebody climbs the original person who’s in the water, makes his way up you and to your shoulders. At this point you’re still not high enough to reach the top but the awesome participants at the top of the wall are cool enough to hang themselves from top of the wall to pull you up. The display of camaraderie and teamwork at this obstacle alone truly defined the theme to what makes Tough Mudder a challenge, and not a race.
Pyramid Scheme: Photo Courtesy Gameface Media Pyramid Scheme:  Photo Courtesy Gameface Media

I thoroughly enjoyed everything about this event. The entire arrival process, the start line, venue itself, obstacles(insanely fun), finish line energy, event area(even for a Sunday). I’d truly have to nitpick to find any negatives about this event…maybe the portapottys not up to Battlefrog standards? If I wasn’t before, I’m certainly a “Mudder” now.

Mike Natale

Mike Natale is an OCR addict who loves life, family & medals!