Spartan goes to Iceland and brings back a new race format

What Was that Spartan in Iceland All About?

While this is a challenge for all of us who write about OCR, my biggest concern in writing about the Spartan Iceland Ultra World Championship was avoiding overuse of the words “epic” and “grueling.” My solution here is substituting the words “saga-worthy” and “difficult,” because Iceland is a land of difficult terrain that inspired centuries of sagas. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

This summer, Spartan announced that it was launching a new race in a new location: Iceland. I’ve been before, but I wanted to go back, and this seemed like a great excuse. Spartan also announced a new format:  a 24-hour UltraBeast consisting of 5-mile loops. My first reaction was “So, this is going to be World’s Toughest Spartan?” The staff at Tough Mudder must have been pleased, as imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. My next reaction was to note the date: December 16, a month after World’s Toughest Mudder and, more important, a time of year when the sun barely shines in one of the world’s northernmost countries. The flip side of this was that it would make viewing of the northern lights while racing a real possibility.

The Great Unknowns

Racers were stymied at first, as Spartan’s website was ambiguous about what exactly the race would consist of, where it would take place, and who could participate. Many were reluctant to fork over $750 for a race without more details – Spartan promised it would be “epic” and “grueling”, but not much more. Eventually, enough people signed up that Spartan committed to the event and provided a travel agent to arrange hotels and transportation. The exact location was kept secret until close the date of the event, though it was easy enough to guess from Spartan’s description (a quick web search of the term “thermal streams,” one of the course features, pinpointed the site as Hveragerdi).

Adding to this uncertainty was one of the first data points provided by Spartan: a mandatory gear list. While Spartan has made some gear requirements for races in the past, particularly to make sure that racers would have enough water on the Beast and UltraBeast courses, the gear list provided was more reminiscent of what was required for the Death Race or an Agoge. In addition to a pack for water, racers were required to have on their person rain gear, warm clothes, lights, backup lights, and a very specific foot care kit. While I could imagine hikers needing an Ace bandage out in the wilderness, the need for one on a five-mile loop was less clear to me, and an informal survey after the race turned up no one who used it out on the course. The list caused considerable online puzzlement: would we be disqualified before the start if our rain jackets didn’t have the correct type of waterproof taped seams? Would there be pack inspections along the course?

What’s Icelandic for “Athlete Briefing”?

Racers met the day before the race for a mandatory briefing at Reykjavik’s Harpa, a concert hall and conference center, something like Iceland’s Carnegie Hall, but sleek and modern. Before we got to the important race details, we were treated to what might be the Icelandic equivalent of a motivational speaker. Bjartur led us all in a chant, having us cry “Wiking! Yes!” and jump in the air. Yes, Scandinavians have trouble with word-initial v’s, and it’s funny. The next few days included plenty of cheers of “Wiking!”

Next, Spartan Founder Joe De Sena took the stage and explained that staging the race had cost over a million dollars, and he expressed gratitude for some last-minute sponsors who had made the event possible. Given how expensive Iceland is, this was certainly credible. Finally, we were given the details of how the race would work: the loops would be six miles, not five unless bad weather forced the closing of part of the course. We were shown the bling, and we received a lengthy explanation of how that bling would be allocated. The format of the race would have different levels of finishers, one for those who completed over thirty miles, and another for those who completed over thirty miles and did so over twenty-four hours. Calculating the twenty-four hours involved crossing the finish line just after 9:00 am on Sunday, but not after 12:00 noon, which would result in not completing the race at all.

Iceland Ultra medal and belt buckle

At The Start

We picked up our timing chips and race bibs: purple for the elite competitors, black for us civilians, with reflective areas to make us visible in the dark, and so to bed. In the morning (still in the dark – remember, Iceland gets about four hours of sunlight a day this time of year) we were picked up from designated hotels in Reykjavik by bus and taken to Hveragerdi, about 45 minutes away. Iceland is powered by geothermal energy, and Hveragerdi is one of the locations where the steam pours out of the earth. We had been warned to stay on the course during the race because cutting corners could land us in the middle of a scalding thermal pool. Not a good reason to be disqualified.

In addition to pervasive eerie steam, Hveragerdi has an inflatable dome that provides an indoor rec center for the locals – basketball court, putting green, soccer field. This served as the Transition Area, and we were provided tables to store our gear, mandatory and otherwise. Cheerily, it was announced that in the wee hours, there would be cots and inflatable hammocks available for napping or for more comfortable viewing of Christmas movies which were to be projected on the walls.

We geared up, but before we could go outside there were two more groups to take the stage. First was a cohort from the concurrent Agoge that had started the day before. I don’t know what they had been up to on their spiritual and physical journey, but they looked miserable. A crowd of hundreds was cheering their efforts, but they all appeared too exhausted and demoralized to crack a smile. I did not envy them. Next were two Vikings (Wikings?), or the modern reenactor equivalents, who led us in a Viking prayer, which consisted of calling out the names of gods in each direction (Thor! etc.) and pouring out mead.

Genuine Wikings

Icy Start

We filed out of the dome into what little daylight there was. The weather called for rain, freezing rain, snow, some clearing, and then more precipitation. In short, a miserable day to be outdoors. Still, there was a race to complete, and twenty-four hours had to start eventually. At noon we took off for a 5K “prologue” through the town. This was a clever way to stretch out the field, and it gave us a taste of what the conditions were like: icy. Even before we started on the trails, we had to figure out how to keep upright on slick surfaces. Running up even a slight incline on ice is tricky.

After the prologue, we headed to the hills and the obstacles. One of the first obstacles was a pipe that was part of the landscape and replaced the usual hurdles that can be found on Spartan courses. Some of the obstacles (Monkey Bars, Twister) were closed on the first lap to avoid backups, and we soon came across another nod to the local conditions: the “farmer carry” obstacle had racers carrying… ice. Handles had been frozen into large blocks of ice. Nice touch, Spartan, and I always appreciate it when races that somehow acknowledge the course settings (think tire carries that used to be part of the Tough Mudder course at Raceway Park in New Jersey).

Why they call it Iceland

Soon we were directed up the side of the mountain. Spartan has steep climbs in its races, but this was among the steepest and most difficult I could remember. This wasn’t running, but rather climbing up the side of the mountain, pulling yourself up on whatever you could grab and hope that your footing wouldn’t slip. Also, hoping that you weren’t inadvertently kicking loose rocks into the faces of those below you. Video of that climb here

At the top of the mountain, it became clear exactly how treacherous conditions were: winds of more than 40mph pummeled racers on the exposed summit. The combination of the slick ice underneath your feet and the strong winds made it tough to stand even on a flat surface, and the wind was powerful enough to blow the snot out of you. Apologies to anyone who might have been downwind from me.

Going down the mountain was not easier: there was simply not much stable footing. Between the ice and the freezing rain on top of the ice and the wet terrain below the layers of grass, my feet were wet, cold, and unstable. The obstacles were spaced out fairly well as a distraction, but when your hands are cold and wet and the surfaces are icy, even simple obstacles like a rope climb are challenging. A complaint I heard from several people was that the sandbag carry was the most difficult obstacle; the sandbags were 60 pound Spartan “pancakes” (who knew they came in this size?), but these bags had been left out in the freezing rain, where they absorbed water and froze into awkward shapes. One noteworthy innovation: Spartan had replaced the typical round of thirty burpees with other penalties for some failed obstacles. Instead, some obstacles had short penalty loops, bucket carries or barbed wire crawls. In another twist, the elites had to carry a “passport” with them where volunteers recorded how many obstacles the racer failed. At the end of each loop, the elites did all of their burpees in one session.

All that steam eventually turns to ice

The obstacles were all familiar, which was a relief given the unknowns of the terrain. As it got darker and as the rain started fogging my glasses, it was tougher and tougher to see the course markings, though I was brought back on course by helpful fellow racers. As I trudged up yet another hill, I had one of the highlights of my OCR career: I got passed by Robert Killian. As he danced up the hill past me, he said “Good job!” What a mensch! [Editor’s Note: Mensch is a person with honor] It says a great deal about our sport that one of the top elite athletes would spare the breath and brain power in the middle of a race to offer some encouragement to someone at the back of the pack. Thanks, Killian.

Robert Killian, OCR mensch

Throwing In The Towel After Throwing In The Spear

I was cold, wet and not sure how I was going to finish one loop, let alone keep going for twenty-four hours. As I tried to figure out the best way to get to the next marker, I found myself asking “What would Bear Grylls do?” I also remembered that Bear had once taken on Iceland.  But I’m not Bear Grylls, I’m definitely not Robert Killian, and the appeal of warm air and dry clothes back at the dome was overwhelming. I also realized that I should have signed up for the Sprint, not the Ultra, and one loop was going to be enough for me. Trying to hit the spear throw is difficult enough, but doing it in heavy winds, in the dark, and then having to do burpees in an inch of freezing water? I know when to say when, and I opted to avoid the risk of a broken wrist, or worse, from slipping on icy paths.

After admitting defeat, I settled into the world of the Transition Area, the dome where racers warmed up, changed clothes, recovered from each lap and refueled. There were cots and water jugs supplied, and the overall appearance was that of a refugee camp, albeit for especially buff refugees fleeing a repressive Gore-tex based regime. The dome was a veritable festival of DryRobes. There was food for sale, the camaraderie of fellow racers, a festival atmosphere for the few spectators and crew, and loud top-40 hits to keep the mood high. Myself, I took a nap in one of the Spartan-branded inflatable hammocks (pro-tip, Spartan: if you are going to note how expensive the race was to mount, maybe hold back on putting your logo on the hammocks next time).

It was warm and dry in here.

Deflated by De Sena

As I recovered, wedged happily in one of the hammocks, who should stroll by but Joe De Sena. Knowing his goal to yank the world up off the couch, I asked him if he was going to revise his pledge to rip 100 million people out of their inflatable hammocks instead? “They also deflate, you know” he replied.

All through the night, racers trickled in and out. At about 1:30 in the morning, an announcement was made: the skies had cleared and the northern lights were visible. This was enough to get me out of the warmth of the dome, and it was enough to justify the entire adventure. Photographs do not do the phenomenon justice, but this natural wonder was augmented by the tiny lights from the headlamps of the racers out on the course. Saga-worthy.

Spartan’s professional photographers capture the northern lights.

Northern lights plus racers in the night, as taken by my phone.

International Attendance

While this may happen more often at Spartan races in Europe, one notable aspect of this race for me was how international the field was. Joe De Sena has worked hard to build the race series around the world, and the athletes that traveled to Iceland had come from over thirty-five countries. According to Spartan, 48% of the racers came from the US, with 40% from Europe and the rest from even farther away. It was an eye-opener to see how global OCR has become. Also, it afforded a few entertaining cross-cultural opportunities:

Me: “So, where are you from?”

Another American Spartan: “I live in Scranton.”

Genuinely bemused Spanish Spartan: “Wait, that’s a real place? Not just on ‘The Office’?”

American Spartan: “Yes, it’s real. But they made some stuff up for the show. We don’t actually have a Chili’s in Scranton.”

Shortly after 9, Morgan McKay crossed the finish line to win the race for the women, and not long afterward, Josh Fiore claimed the title for the men. He did so in romantic style, having carried an engagement ring in his pack for the entire race and popping the question at the finish line.

ORM’s Matt B. Davis MC’s the proposal from the warmth of his DryRobe and my borrowed warm socks.

You can read more about Josh’s race experience here: Not to be left out, Morgan got engaged soon after.

Iceland Recap

Apart from diamonds, what are the takeaways from Spartan Iceland Ultra? To be sure, there were some rough spots. I try to keep in mind that this was a debut of a new product at a new venue. As an organization, Spartan does not shy away from a challenge, and I respect them for their daring. Still, I’ll point out some mistakes, some of them that were probably avoidable. Too many details were kept under wraps for too long. It’s one thing to tease, but if racers are going to commit to training for an endurance event, they need to know what the event is going to require of them. I was unsure if Spartan HQ was being coy for much of the run-up to the event or they were just not sure what they wanted to produce.

My biggest criticism of the event was one that struck me as soon it was announced: December is the wrong month for the race. I appreciate that the weather and the darkness were part of what made the event so difficult, but bringing an event to a place of spectacular natural beauty only to schedule it for a time when participants can’t see the scenery seemed like a waste. My suggestion: try March instead. You still get 12 hours of darkness, the weather is just as unpredictable, the northern lights could come out, and dates that are not so close to Christmas and coincide with school vacations would all bring out more racers. It also avoids the end of season conflicts with Spartan’s other championship event, with OCRWC, and World’s Toughest Mudder.

Downsides

Iceland is remote. This is part of what makes it appealing, but it also means that it is an expensive trip for everybody (well, almost everybody). There will never be one place that is convenient for everyone, but no one was going to be piling into a car for an affordable road trip for this race. And on the topic of accessibility, the initial price point of $750.00 was off-putting, especially given the additional costs of travel to the venue. Discounts were offered, and hotels turned out not to be too expensive in Iceland at this time of year, but sticker shock was enough to keep many away.

There were other problems that might have been avoided: the timing software was not yielding updated results throughout the race, which is particularly crucial in a twenty-four-hour race, where elite racers’ strategies can be built on how many laps competitors have completed. Even for regular racers, the results were not finalized for weeks after the event, which made the medal vs. belt buckle element confused at the end of the race. Speaking of which, apparently many of the medals that made it to Iceland for the Ultra had ribbons denoting Hawaii as the location. While both are remote volcanic hotspots, the contrast could not be greater. Another gear-related snafu was that there was supposed to be unique Spartan Iceland-themed swag on offer, but only samples were available at the race, to the disappointment of many. I understand that the setting made everything more difficult (absolutely everything: I heard that Spartan lost not one but two drones to the heavy winds, resulting in a lack of aerial footage that definitely would have been described as “epic”), but shipping race merchandise should be a no-brainer.

Final Complaints

Of all the obstacles not to bring to Iceland, there was no fire jump. Normally I think of this as a silly photo-op rather than an obstacle, but when you are in the Land of Fire and Ice, you bring the fire. That’s just what you do, especially when the race is mostly in the dark. I’m hoping a risk-averse landowner was to blame for that. More seriously, Spartan once again has problems measuring its courses. The original plan was five-mile loops, and the day before the race we were told loops would be closer to six miles. In reality, the loops were closer to 6.8. I raise this because it is a flaw I have seen at almost every Spartan course. This isn’t a matter of under-promising and over-delivering. Getting the distance right at an endurance event is Race Management 101. Spartan has enough experience by now that even at a new venue they should get this right.

In the end, the event was a success. It was difficult: 600 racers started the Ultra, and only 322 finished (208 finished the two sprint waves out of 250 who registered). This is not an event for everyone.  While the race could not have been a financial success, it was a way to launch a new product, the Ultra, which appears to be getting its own series separate from the Beast. Exactly how this is going to happen is still murky. The only clear message we received about the new product is that its colorway is going to be purple. However, in the same way that Tough Mudder has used the Tough Mudder distance to generate the multi-loop Toughest Mudder event at its regular venues, it appears that Spartan is using this format to create a much longer event without having to wrangle a longer race course. Very clever.

The Ultra Appeal

Who will sign up for this new product? Plenty of people, apparently. One refrain I heard from several racers was that the race was not challenging enough. At first, I thought this was bravado, but when I talked to these racers, many were coming from an ultrarunner background; their events can be longer and more difficult than what they encountered in Iceland. There is a market for very difficult events, and remember that Joe De Sena has a background in adventure races. Those events are frequently multi-day challenges that test not just athletic endurance levels but also raw survival skills. The question remains whether the Spartan brand can pull together enough new racers into a product with this level of difficulty, either from those who regularly do more difficult events or from those who are attempting their first twenty-four-hour race.

Spartan is definitely going to try: after the race, it sent out a survey asking where racers would be interested in having next year’s Ultra Championship. Iceland was an option, and after the money and research expended to find this unique spot, it seems a shame not to go back. However, other Scandinavian countries were on the list, as were some closer to home. Wherever the Ultra Championship lands next year, one thing is for sure: it will be both epic and grueling.

Central Florida Beast and Sprint 2017

The End To A KICKASS 2017 Season

     Mulberry, Florida hosts Spartan Race for one last day in the mud. As the 2017 season comes to a close, athletes are looking to wrap up trifectas and qualify for next years OCRWC and have one last kickass race. Spartan delivered a grueling 13.5 mile Beast and a 5.5 mile Sprint to Central Florida. Spartan has tried in the past to bring Floridians a Beast but sadly was unsuccessful, until NOW. The response of racers for the beast was astounding as first time trifecta chasers entered the start corral.

Brian-Mahon-First-Trifecta                                          First time Trifecta Tribe member- Brian Mahon

       Brian Mahon of Davenport, Florida states that “the course was well designed using every bit of the terrain between obstacles…and a few cows on the course. I’m very happy with the fact that I earned my first ever Trifecta here in Florida and I do hope the beast makes a return to our state. Maybe even see a trifecta weekend here one day.” The weather made for an additional obstacle. Brian says that the Beast was his longest and coldest race to date. At a brisk high of 52 degrees Fahrenheit Floridians had no idea how to prepare for such chilly conditions.

Central-Florida-Spartan-Map                                Beast and Sprint Map 2017- Photo Credit: Spartan Race

Venue:

Mims Ranch in Mulberry, Florida is located about 70 miles southwest of Orlando with swamp-like, flat terrain. Being that the venue was completely new for 2017, athletes had to expect the unexpected. Thick and deep mud crossings made for the perfect shoe sucker scenario. Although Florida is known to be quite flat, the venue did offer a few foothills around the course. While running the Beast I did happen to spot a few unused bigger hills in the distance that would have been a nice addition as well. The course overall was laid out beautifully and even had a few racers stopping mid-race to check out the woodsy scenery.
Noticeable changes once again to the beloved Twister obstacle. Traditionally, Twister is known to have three sections of the spinning monkey bars, but in Mulberry, only two sections were offered. Additionally, the grips last saw in Spartanburg were non-existent. Perhaps Spartan is removing one section and the grips to avoid hand injuries. Either way, I was able to conquer this obstacle, no problem.

Elites

Palmer-Killian-Beast-Podium-2017Tiffany Palmer and Coach Robert Killian
Photo Credit- 
Killian’s Instagram 

      Impressive back to back podiums by Tiffany Palmer and her coach, Robert Killian who finished the 13.5-mile beast in ONE HOUR AND THIRTY-TWO MINUTES !! The double wins for the two elites help to secure top spots in the US Elite Point Series. While other elites are now in their offseason, these two did not waste any time to showcase their skills in Florida to get a few extra wins before next season. Killian states “Déjà Vu. A perfect way to end my last US race of the season, clinching a win in both the World and US Elite Points Series. I’m feeling even better today than yesterday and ready to take on the Iceland Ultra World Champs.” He adds “Big congrats to Tiffany for locking down 3rd overall in the US Elite Points Series after another dominating weekend”

Santa-Spear-Sprint

Santa’s like Spear Throws too.

Bucket-Brigade-Sprint-2017

Thank you to ORM for making this season possible and for all the amazing people I’ve met along the way.

 

 

Donut-Weight-JpopJessika Signature
Check me out on Instagram !! 🙂

Photo Credit- Myself unless otherwise stated.

Why My Wetsuit Played A Huge Role At World’s Toughest Mudder

There is something about a 24-hour race that you can never fully be prepared for. I could train harder, run faster, complete more pull-ups, and carry heavier things, but that doesn’t guarantee anything at World’s Toughest Mudder (WTM). Training is imperative to success, but there is a limit to what your physical prowess can provide. There are moments when you have to rely on our emotional and psychological strength to push you through, but even that gets tapped out at a certain point. Just like any race, there is utmost importance to prepare physically and psychologically, but unlike other races, gear plays an essential role in this 24-hour grind.

 

Coming into WTM for the fourth time, I knew what to expect, but there is only so much that prepares you for 24 hours of the unknown. Unlike previous years, I was competing in the Team Relay competition instead of the individual category. This would throw in a whole new dynamic to the once familiar race. Instead of slowly grinding my way throughout the race, I was tasked with racing hard for a short time and then stopping.

Here was the plan, start the race as a four-man team and then alternate two people every lap, minimizing pit time, until the wheels fell off. I was hoping that faster laps would allow me to wear a thinner wetsuit than previous years, knowing full well that things can go downhill quickly. I prepared my usual gauntlet of wetsuits and layers just in case. The plan was to start off in shorts and a t-shirt.
Once the sun went down, I switched into long compression gear. Then the Blegg Mitts and a windbreaker came on for a little more warmth. I knew that temperatures would quickly drop and more water obstacles at night meant that we would be cold and wet for the duration of the race. During previous years I wore full wetsuits ranging from 3/2mm to 5/3mm, often making it difficult to move. The relay calls for quicker laps, so I needed something that was warm enough, but less constricting than a full wetsuit. The plan was to use the Hyperflex VYRL 2.5mm Shorty Springsuit with a front chest zip and the 2.5mm Neosport Wetsuit Cap with an adjustable chinstrap from Wetsuit Wearhouse.

I wish I had more to tell you, but the truth is, this combination worked like a charm. Every lap, my teammate and I would start our lap in cold, wet gear. Putting those cold clothes on every lap added a whole new dimension of suck to WTM. Less than a mile into the lap, my body would warm up and it was off to the races. While the water temperature threw a wrench into many people’s plans, my layered outfit was perfect for staying warm on-course. When we finished a lap, we would quickly strip out of our wet clothes, throw on something warm, and try to recover for the next lap. While it would have been nice to have two wetsuits that I could alternate, this was a small wrinkle in the scheme of things. Plus, this is WORLD”S TOUGHEST MUDDER. It isn’t easy. While it was hard putting on wet clothes as we prepared for another lap, it didn’t rival the psychological ups and downs of the relay format.

All in all, it was a tough race. Starting and stopping throughout the night was a whole new challenge that I have never experienced. I was forced to stay loose while trying to recover in time for my next effort. My laps felt like an all-out sprint at times and it gave me a whole new experience at WTM. Our team managed to finish 2nd overall in the Team Relay category and I am so proud of my teammates and pit crew for helping us along the way. While Atlanta will bring a whole new challenge to WTM, I can only speculate that people will underestimate the conditions and forgo bringing a wetsuit. Don’t be one of those people. World’s Toughest Mudder is a race of unknowns, so always be prepared. I can’t wait to see all you crazies out there!

Dallas Spartan Race Weekend: How I Survived My First Ultra Beast

My first Spartan Ultra Beast was in Dallas on October 28, 2017. There was laughter, there were tears, there was a mess. Seriously though, there were some things I learned that I hope might help others during their first Ultra Beast.

Transition container – What it is, why you need one, and why you don’t have to use a 5 gallon bucket!

First, I didn’t even know what the transition container was all about or why you even needed one. I saw people post pictures of theirs but had no idea what was supposed to go in it or what it was used for. After doing some research and asking questions I found that it was pretty helpful to have a resupply of food, water, and clothing at the halfway point.

I was under the impression you had to use a 5-gallon bucket with a lid and decorate it up so you could find it in the sea of other buckets. I found, through some great groups on social media, that you can actually use pretty much anything. If it’s going to rain you certainly want to keep things dry and secure so the buckets are a great choice, but there are many options. Some of the containers I saw were plastic totes, backpacks, duffle bags, fabric grocery store bags, a shoe box, and even a plain old garbage bag. Since I was flying, I was hoping for an option that would be easy to carry on the plane and didn’t require bag check, as I didn’t want to take a chance of my luggage being lost.  I opted for a backpack so I could put it in my suitcase for traveling and fill it up at the hotel.

What went into the transition container:

-IMPORTANT: I lined the backpack with a trash compactor bag in case of rain

-Food for transition included baby food squeeze packets (chicken and rice, sweet potato, and banana). Someone listed this on a site and it was great. Quick, easy, and didn’t weigh me down.

-Food to resupply my pack for the second half of the race included homemade energy balls (date-based with nuts, chia, coconut, etc.) and honey stinger gels

-Food for after the race was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to get me by until I could drive to get dinner

-2 Liters of Water to refill my bladder (quicker to pour it in than switching out for a new one)
-Electrolytes
-Towel (to clean feet at transition)
-Shoes and socks
-Extra top and pants
-Garbage bag for dirty clothes
-Gloves
-Sunblock
-Advil
-Body Glide
-Band-aids

What I actually used from the transition container:

-1 liter of water
-Electrolytes
-Change of shoes
-Garbage bag for dirty clothes
-Sunblock

What worked:

Backpack – I was very happy with the garbage bag lined backpack. Easy to transport on the plane and easy to carry to the drop site at the race (nice being able to put it on my back instead of doing an early bucket carry)

Trash compactor bag liner – they are much heavier than garbage bags and won’t rip unless it’s an extreme case

Food – I sorted the three categories of food into their own gallon baggies so they were easy to pick out

What didn’t work:

Sunscreen incident – At the beginning of this article, I mentioned tears, laughter, and a mess. Well, I didn’t close the sunscreen all the way when I reapplied at transition and it leaked inside my bag. Yes…..it wasn’t pretty! Putting it (and this goes for all liquids) in a baggie would have prevented a big mess. Lesson learned.

Packet pickup:

I arrived the afternoon before the race to pick up my packet. I decided to store my transition bag the next morning as I came directly from the airport and didn’t have time to completely pack last minute items in it.

Race day:

I live in Seattle and chose Dallas for my Ultra Beast partly because it’s warm! Well, it ended up being colder in Dallas than Seattle that day. Very, very cold. My start time was 6:15, so I arrived at 5:15. I heard it was 28 degrees and I believe it. It was still dark, so I broke in my headlamp as I took my bag to the transition area. As I set it down I saw the grass sparkle from frost. I grabbed my neoprene gloves (they are the best thing in the cold and have great dexterity). We headed to the start line.

The Ultra Beast Elites went out first. Things were a little behind schedule, so they sent both open wave UB’s at the same time. We were off! It was dark, cold, and a bit crowded through the first few trails. It was awkward to run with the headlamps and uneven ground.

As the sun rose, the terrain came into view and it was a spectacular site. We started to spread out and came to the hurdles and short walls.

There was a lot of rough terrain,  more walls, and then we came to one of my favorites, Bender! Once it was complete I could see something looming in the distance. It was the first sandbag carry. These were old school sandbags which were duct taped in a criss-cross fashion. They were firm and had no wiggle room to drape over a shoulder. Just a solid bag of sand to carry. I was able to get mine on my shoulder which helped. The second time through was a bit easier as the bags had become unraveled a bit. I was able to hold onto an end this time.

The hardest part about the carry was the ground. There aren’t many hills on this course, but they utilized the ones that were there to the fullest extent. The sandbag was on a short steep hill with very loose gravel and some spots you had to step down quite far. With the bag on the shoulder, it made it harder because your weight isn’t distributed evenly. I almost went down a couple times but saved myself.

We came to the barbed wire crawl which was long and had a lot of dry hay like grass. I like to roll, so this went pretty fast. Next up was the Ultra Beast loop. It was about 1.5 miles and consisted of hay bales to jump over, the memory test, and the Cormax flip. Then up more hills, over water crossings….more hills, more water. It seemed like that went on a long time.

When I reached the Tyrolean Traverse I talked with a gal who had paced most of the first half of the first loop with me. We ended up hitting it off and running the rest of the race together. She was so much fun and so interesting. Vanessa and I were both running in the open heat, so we were able to help each other along the way.

The UB group didn’t have to cross the “Ball Shrinker” the first round, but the second one was cold as heck! I tried to keep my shirt dry but it didn’t work. Went into a hole and it was all over.

A very interesting development occurred at the Olympus. The obstacle was the same, but the penalty was not the standard 30 burpees! If you failed the obstacle there was a loop you ran instead. I was very curious if this is something they are testing or if they may incorporate more alternate penalties at future races. I like the idea of varying penalties.

We reached the festival area and had the usual obstacles including the rope climb, spearman, A-frame cargo net, and multi-rig. Usually, that means you’re getting towards the end, but not this time. Next up were the bucket carry and about six more obstacles and a rather large distance to travel before reaching the transition area.

To enter the transition area we recited our memory test word and number combination and received our pinney to wear during the second loop. I applied sunscreen (messy incident moment previously discussed), changed my shoes, and ate. I caught up with a couple of my team members and Wes looked a bit concerned about my baby food pouches, but they worked like a charm. I had chicken and rice, sweet potato, and banana. They settled right into my stomach and I couldn’t even tell I ate anything. They were great! I thought about leaving some of my layers behind as I was wearing four shirts, but it barely got up to 60 degrees that day so I opted to keep them all on and I was very glad I did.

Round two began and my new friend and I were underway. The second loop started out fine, but as time went on I could tell that the obstacles were going to be more of a challenge. I particularly noticed it with the atlas carry. I could barely pick up the stone. I got it up about knee height and duck waddled to the flag, burpeed, and duck waddled back. They also had a second atlas stone, but this one had a chain attached. You just carried it to the flag and back without burpees. This was the first time I’ve seen it. It was a bit awkward and hard to decide whether to carry centered or off to one side.

We finally made it around and reached the wonderful, marvelous fire jump! I had been waiting for this moment for quite some time and it was here at last! We did it!!!

It was funny because I introduced my new friend Vanessa to my Seattle friends and they knew each other already! Such a small world! We went to the results tent and received our belt buckles. What a great feeling! It is something I will cherish as it holds memories that will never be forgotten. Oh, and a quick side note….if you notice the white slip of paper you will see that my bag was randomly selected to be checked at the airport. I bet they loved it when they unknotted my double garbage bag full of cow mud covered clothes! AROO!

Photo credit: Spartan Race, Kim Collings, Patricia Glaze

 

Tough Mudder Allowing Votes for Favorite Obstacles To Appear in 2018

 

TOUGH MUDDER OPENS OBSTACLE “VAULT” FOR 2018 SEASON

Tough Mudder will be releasing an obstacle archive known as “The Vault” for the 2018 season. Does this make anyone else think of Disney? Will these obstacles only come around once every 50 years?? What is this vault, you ask?! The Tough Mudder vault will include “blueprints, design renderings, whiteboard drawings, retired challenges and more of the 200+ obstacles designed by Tough Mudder’s industry-leading innovation obstacle lab today. Mudder Nation will be able to find info on such classics as Ballshrinker and Dingleberries as well as unique obstacles such as Hot Shots and Massive Turd that only appeared on the course one time.”

“Tough Mudder will begin to disclose on “Mudder Leaks” at https://toughmudder.com/tough-mudder-obstacles-2018 from now through December 31st, iconic obstacles, and files from “The Vault.” The remaining roster of possible “Vault” obstacles will be revealed on January. 11, 2018 when, for the first time in Tough Mudder history, Mudders will then be able to vote online that day on which obstacles they would like to see back on course in 2018. In addition these classic “Vault” obstacles, Tough Mudder will be debuting brand new obstacles for the new 2018 season on January 11th as well.”

We know that Tough Mudder loves to innovate with new obstacles that test us more than we can imagine while we silently chuckle at the cheeky names Will and his crew like to bestow upon these ball-busters.

“The first historic Tough Mudder obstacle from “The Vault” announced today on MudderLeaks at https://toughmudder.com/tough-mudder-obstacles-2018 is Human Gecko. This classic obstacle tested participants upper body strength while navigating across two walls decorated with rock climbing hand grips – all while dangling over a water pit.

While the information released from “The Vault” is unpredictable, key dates to visit the website for information include Nov. 23, Dec. 7 and Dec. 21. Follow @ToughMudder on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and follow hashtag #MudderLeaks for additional “Vault” secrets. And check out this video on Youtube: https://youtu.be/QTMXsHQq8mM.

In addition to hints from the Vault, Mudders looking to get the inside track on more obstacle secrets should tune-in live to ToughMudder.com and the Tough Mudder Live Show Page on Facebook (Editor’s Note: where our own, Matt B. Davis will be commentating) on Nov. 11th and 12th. The 24 Hour race is considered one of the most extreme endurance events in the world and, with an unprecedented 1,600+ competitors from 21 countries participating this year, is the ultimate Tough Mudder obstacle testing ground. World’s Toughest Mudder features a five-mile loop course, containing diverse desert terrain, steep hills, mud pits and more than 20 obstacles – some might even be “Vault” leaks – which can only be found in this 24-hour, timed event.

The complete World’s Toughest Mudder Livestream schedule with more than 14 hours of programming is as follows:

  • World’s Toughest Mudder Day 1 Kick Off:
    • Saturday, Nov. 11th, 11 am PST to 5 pm PST (2 pm EST to 8 pm EST)
  • World’s Toughest Mudder Midnight Special:
    • Sunday, Nov. 12th, 12 am PST to 1 am PST (3 am to 4 am EST)
  • World’s Toughest Mudder Day 2 Finish:
    • Sunday, Nov. 12th: 7 am PST to 2 pm PST (10 am to 5 pm EST)

 

If one misses the Facebook Live Show, Mudders are encouraged to watch The World’s Toughest Mudder one-hour special on CBS on Dec. 23 at 12 p.m. ET.

To experience the industry’s best obstacles, purchase 2018 tickets by visiting toughmudder.com now through Nov. 10 for 50 percent off event day prices.

 

About Tough Mudder:

Founded in 2010 with the launch of the Tough Mudder obstacle course event series, Tough Mudder Inc. has become a leading global sports, active lifestyle and media brand. With more than 3 million participants, the company hosts more than 130 non-competitive (Mini Mudder; Tough Mudder 5K, Tough Mudder Half, and Tough Mudder Full) and competitive (Tougher, Toughest, Tough Mudder X and World’s Toughest Mudder) events annually in 11 countries including China, Dubai, Indonesia, and Australia through its partnerships with IMG, Seroja and Sports Media and Entertainment 360 (SME360). The company’s content arm provides the more than millions of engaged online brand enthusiasts with fitness, nutrition and wellness content delivered daily across social and digital platforms. Tough Mudder broadcast, OTT and Live Stream programming can be seen worldwide through partnerships with CBS Sports, Facebook, Sky Sports, The CW Network and ESPN Media Distribution. Other sponsorship and distribution partners include Merrell, Amazon, KILL CLIFF, Jeep, Aflac, Guinness, Vega, Samsung, Olympus, Lucozade Sport, Nexcare, For Goodness Shakes, Bosch, TREK, Head & Shoulders, L’Oreal Men Expert, Käserei Loose, Snapchat and Live Stream.”

 

What obstacles are you hoping will appear on Tough Mudder courses in 2018? Any particular obstacles that you miss, or even ones that you hope never show up on a course again? Let us know in the comments here or on Facebook!

 

Kill Cliff: The New On Course Recovery Drink for Tough Mudder

TOUGH MUDDER AND KILL CLIFF PARTNER TO BRING CLEAN ENDURANCE AND RECOVERY SPORTS DRINKS TO 2018 – 2019 US EVENTS

KILL CLIFF Equips Athletes With Extended Energy And Necessary Recovery To Dominate World Class Obstacles As The Official Sports Drink Brand For Tough Mudder And Serve As Presenting Sponsor Of Tough Mudder X Series

ATLANTA/BROOKLYN– Nov. 7, 2017 — Tough Mudder, Inc. and KILL CLIFF have partnered to provide KILL CLIFF’s clean label endurance and recovery sports beverages for the 2018 and 2019 US event seasons in its capacity as the official sports drink brand for Tough Mudder and presenting sponsor of the Tough Mudder X Series. Tough Mudder X is the one-mile race with 10 obstacles and 10 workout zones that tests competitors from across multiple disciplines to determine the fittest and fastest athletes in the world. The series debuted this summer on CBS with millions watching its first World Championship.

At all Tough Mudder events, KILL CLIFF will provide its ENDURE clean endurance sports drinks on the course during events to help participants experience longer energy maintenance as they push harder through the course. KILL CLIFF recovery drinks will be handed out at the finish line to provide electrolytes and assist in participants’ post-event clean recovery and hydration. KILL CLIFF will leverage its relationship with gyms around the country to further the Tough Mudder brand through its product offerings.

The partnership will kick off at this year’s World’s Toughest Mudder at Lake Las Vegas on Nov. 11-12, 2017. World’s Toughest Mudder is considered the most extreme, insane, imposing, pulse-pounding, heart-stopping 24-hour obstacle course race on the planet that is viewed by millions globally via Livestream and also on CBS. KILL CLIFF will be the official sponsor of one of the event’s most infamous obstacles, The Cliff, a 35-foot cliff jump into the chilly waters of Lake Las Vegas that begins at midnight on Nov. 12. KILL CLIFF will also have its own TEAM KILL CLIFF tackling the course.

“Partnering with Tough Mudder as the official clean sports drinks sponsor is a great next step for both of our brands, as well as the dedicated warriors of the Tough Mudder,” said KILL CLIFF CEO Joe Driscoll. “We are getting our drinks into the hands of hundreds of thousands of athletes who are challenging their fitness, while Tough Mudder is partnering with a cool brand that is disrupting the artificial, sugar-filled sports drink category. We are incredibly excited about being the presenting sponsor of Tough Mudder X race series, which is a fast, exciting event that is a great crossover for many of our CrossFit athletes and gyms.”

“KILL CLIFF’s Kill the Quit attitude, clean label products and brand awareness in the HIIT category makes them a great partner fit that will not only elevate the Tough Mudder brand to a broader audience and new category of athlete but enable us to offer Mudder Nation great hydration and recovery drinks for everyone to be at their best as they tackle Tough Mudder’s demanding courses together, ” commented Rich Abend, VP, Global Partnerships, Tough Mudder. “We are also proud to name KILL CLIFF as the first presenting sponsor of TMX, which has garnered significant interest from the industry since its’ debut this past summer on television.”

KILL CLIFF drinks have gained popularity in HIIT gyms across the country, and the brand has led in the emerging clean sports drink categories at places like Whole Foods and Amazon. The KILL CLIFF brand has been on a rapid growth trajectory with a loyal and passionate following of the world’s toughest athletes.

About KILL CLIFF:

Founded and created by a Navy SEAL with the spirit of giving back to the community, KILL CLIFF® makes clean sports beverage products. KILL CLIFF Recovery Drinks deliver clean recovery, providing the hydration and nutrients without all the junk so many beverages have today. Headquartered in Atlanta, the KILL CLIFF team includes civilians and accomplished military veterans, and is absolutely committed to serving and supporting the Navy SEAL community. KILL CLIFF honors the dedication and sacrifice made by these warriors and their families by donating a portion of the proceeds through their Official Partnership with the Navy SEAL Foundation. KILL THE QUIT™. Visit KillCliff.com and follow KILL CLIFF on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram @killcliff.

About Tough Mudder:

Founded in 2010 with the launch of the Tough Mudder obstacle course event series, Tough Mudder Inc. has become a leading global sports, active lifestyle and media brand. With more than 3 million participants, the company hosts more than 130 non-competitive (Mini Mudder; Tough Mudder 5K, Tough Mudder Half, and Tough Mudder Full) and competitive (Tougher, Toughest, Tough Mudder X and World’s Toughest Mudder) events annually in 11 countries including China, Dubai, Indonesia, and Australia through its partnerships with IMG, Seroja and Sports Media and Entertainment 360 (SME360). The company’s content arm provides the more than millions of engaged online brand enthusiasts with fitness, nutrition, and wellness content delivered daily across social and digital platforms. Tough Mudder broadcast, OTT and Live Stream programming can be seen worldwide through partnerships with CBS Sports, Facebook, Sky Sports, The CW Network and ESPN Media Distribution. Other sponsorship and distribution partners include Merrell, Amazon, KILL CLIFF, Jeep, Aflac, Guinness, Vega, Samsung, Olympus, Lucozade Sport, Nexcare, For Goodness Shakes, Bosch, TREK, Head & Shoulders, L’Oreal Men Expert, Käserei Loose, Snapchat and Live Stream.

MEDIA CONTACTS:

FOR TOUGH MUDDER 
Angela Alfano
(703) 447-5629
Angela.Alfano@ToughMudder.com

FOR KILL CLIFF
Reina Porritt
(651) 789-1272
reina@kohnstamm.com

Robert Zimmerman
(917) 543-1046
Rob@zimstrategies.com