2018 America’s Toughest South – Central Texas

I loved the 2018 America’s Toughest Mudder South event in Central Texas.

Yes, it’s true. The America’s Toughest Mudder series may have lost some of its grandeur. But, it’s also true that I couldn’t keep a smile off my face throughout this 8-hour, overnight event. So, please stick with me through the negative of this review to read why I would still recommend this Toughest Mudder to endurance-style obstacle racing enthusiasts.

 

This event seemed to be scaled down and scaled back from what Tough Mudder offered at the end of 2016 and through 2017. Where have the huge, epic obstacles gone? The ones that took your breath away just looking at them? That made you feel like a conquering hero when completing them?

Remember photos from 2016 World’s Toughest Mudder? That gigantic a-frame cargo net with the huge, iconic Toughest nuclear man logo on the side. It stretched into a glowing, other-wordly desert sky. (I don’t have the copyright to the images, but feel free to search Google for them).

Wow, that was impressive. And, okay, maybe we can’t expect that at every event, but there hasn’t been anything comparable.

Kong was once king – crossing multiple stories towering over Hollywood stuntman-like crash pads.

Obstacles like Rainbow, King of Swingers and other t-bar style trapeze obstacles flung you into the sky like some gosh darn superhero or something.

Even Artic Enema was multi-tiered with a ramp sliding you at high speed into the icy water.

Now, Kong took you up only a standard height. The trapeze obstacles were missing. And Artic Enema was just a plop into a giant bin of ice water. So, even though I had fun, I couldn’t help to feel as if something was missing.

But I DID have fun.

The format, starting at midnight and running through the night — watching the moon rise, set, and give way to the rising sun — is amazing.

The venue of McMahan Ranch in Smithville, Texas has wooded paths, some technical single-track trails, ponds, and creeks. All of which were put to use to make a fun, challenging running course.

The running course may have been my favorite part.  Thanks to heavy rain the days before, it varied from slippery mud, grabbing mud, sloppy mud, and in some places, just a little bit of mud. There were twisting, turning single track trails with roots, rocks, and low hanging branches. There were also plenty of wider, dryer paths where you could really run.

The coolest aspect of the course was a quarter mile stretch (it seemed longer) that ran through a rain-swollen creek. I don’t mean it crossed through a creek. I mean you ran in the creek. I am 5’10 ¾“ (I usually round up to 6’4” online) and at times the water level was up to my muscle-rippled chest. And it was dark and lined with encroaching trees. Branches and vines hung down just over head. It made for a cool, surreal experience that reminded me of passages from Hearts of Darkness…. At least it was cool until my fourth loop, when I found myself going through the creek alone. It was very dark. I couldn’t see much of anything past my headlamp, which was dimming by the minute. It was kind of spooky (but still fun).

Between the running in the creek, other natural water crossings and water-based obstacles (including the ever popular The Blockness Monster), you were constantly in and out of water. Thankfully, none of the water was too cold (other than Arctic Enema), the air temperature didn’t drop far below 60 degrees, and wind was negligible.

Just because the obstacles may have been scaled back, doesn’t mean they were all easy.

There were plenty of mud mounds and walls to get over and a small percentage of competitors successfully completed the new Funky Tough variation of Funky Monkey and few could do the grip strength-based Just the Tip (we all have some things to work on).

The race was well run and organized with sufficient volunteers and support.

Most of all I love the opportunity to be out there to compete, challenge myself, and interact with all the great people that make up the OCR community.

J.D. Allen

Originally from Detroit, he has spent time in Chicago and Boston and now lives just outside Atlanta. He has raced in many events across North America, including Ironman Wisconsin. J.D. is a director on the Georgia Obstacle Racers and Mud Runners (GORMR) leadership committee and is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.