Spartan AG Etiquette

Spartan-Flag
I’ve been racing with Spartan for almost three years now. Although I haven’t been around a long time, I’ve seen several changes. Not with their obstacles per se, but with some of the ways that things are run.

One of the more significant changes in the system has been the addition of the Age Group Category. Formerly known as Competitive, the Age Group category provides an opportunity for people to challenge themselves to elite rules, who may not feel entirely confident for the elite competition. Or, they see more of an enticing opportunity for recognition among peers. No matter the reason, the Age Group category has become very popular.

I normally run elite, but wanted to give AG a shot during the Asheville Super. Although a fun course, I can say that I was frustrated with a lot of it. Not necessarily the course, but the attitude of several other runners. Now, this article is not meant to say anything negative about AG runners as a whole. Again, I had a great time, just a few things stood out to me that I felt the need to address. I’m also well aware that most of the people who don’t follow general race etiquette won’t care to read this article, but maybe someday they’ll stumble upon it and feel curious.

So, here are just a few things I’d like to address:

1) Let’s Talk Start Line
The start line can be one of the most nerve-wracking elements of the race. It’s where all of the emotions are pent up and released, all at a single moment. It can also be one of the most crucial places for athletes–how you start may not only determine your overall start place but the attitude that you will carry through the entire race.

Which is exactly why, for many, this portion of the race is the most important. It is also one of the most aggravating portions of a race.
When you race, you have goals in mind. Whatever your goals are, know that they are respected, and they are not any more or less valuable than the goals of the Spartan racing beside you. The goals that you set for that particular race should help you determine where you will line up at the start. I know I don’t have to say it, but if you are aiming for a top finish, you go toward the front of the pack. If you are an athlete who is not concerned with your time or place and intend on doing a lot of walking, please head toward the back.

One thing that is also important to note is that in the Age Group Division, you’ll often see men and women have heats together. Listen fellas, just because you’re big and do CrossFit 6 times a week does not mean that it’s not cool to let a girl line up before you. Some of the girls who race are intense, and, if you know the running isn’t your strong suit, it’s totally okay.

Please pick a start line placement that is appropriate for your current physical capabilities.

2) Passing on the Course
During a race, there is a chance that you will need to pass at least one other athlete. If you do, it’s totally cool, and I promise their feelings aren’t going to be hurt that badly. But, if you’re going to pass someone, be a doll and let them know you’re coming. There’s nothing like being in the zone and then all of the sudden you’re getting knocked over by a sweaty stranger flying down a hill with no heads up. Just give them a heads up! My personal favorite is to alert by letting them know which side I’m going on. Just the phrase: “coming on your left!” lets them know to expect you.

3) Getting Passed on the Course
It happens. It stinks, and nobody enjoys being passed, but it’s a part of racing. My suggestion to you is: we all know you don’t like to get passed, but don’t be a jerk. If someone is running down the trail and shouts “coming on your left!” to you, move to the right.

This does not mean you are expected to completely stop your race so that they can run theirs. Keep your pace up, but move it over to the right. I see a lot of “coming on your left!” which is followed by the passee turning around, assessing the runner, and then sprinting on the left, making it difficult for the other runner to proceed. Don’t be that guy. If you get passed, it’s totally fun. Just run your race!

4) Single Track Trails
As a runner, I love single track trails. During Age Group races, I really don’t like the single track trails. Why? Because if you are in a later heat, they tend to get stopped up really easily.
If you’re running single track trails, please move as quickly as possible. That sounds obvious, but these areas are not great for casual strolls, because there are others who want to move around you. If you’re in an area that you’re struggling in and you know it’s going to take you a while, it’s okay to let other runners pass you. Single track trails are definitely not a place to stop for selfies or snack breaks.

Speaking of breaks…

5) Taking a Break on the Course
You don’t know how you’ll feel at all points during a race, and sometimes, you just need to take a break. Totally cool! But, if you do, please move off to the side. Whether it’s a break for a snack, getting something out of your hydro-pack, pictures, cramps, or just because you’re tired, please move over to the side. I don’t feel like I need to really explain this one much further. Plus, if you’re cramping, I’m sure you will get some offers for mustard packets!

6) Taking a Break on Obstacles
WHAT?!
Let me explain this one.
I was running Asheville and had just hit the 8-foot-wall. I am a small person, so I have to use the red blocks to help me get up. I went over to the left side of the wall, and a woman was sitting on top of the wall touching her toes and chatting with a friend who was already off the obstacle. I went to line up to complete, and the volunteer told me I needed to wait…which was fine, except the girl wasn’t moving. The right side started to line up with women. After a couple of paces between sides, I committed to the left side because the girl wasn’t at the top anymore. The volunteer told me I still couldn’t proceed though because the girl was sitting against the wall on the other side due to a cramp in her foot. It wasn’t for another minute or two that I was able to complete the obstacle.

Don’t be this girl. If you can, muster through the obstacle, and when you’re done, head off to the side of the trail for your mustard or pickle juice. Please please please do not stop in the middle of obstacles if you can avoid it. Obstacles only have limited carrying capacities, and by stopping on them for stretch breaks is limiting the number of runners that can pass through.

7) Taking a Break at Water Stations
If you see a line of people, I don’t recommend standing in front of the pitcher if you are refilling your cup. Again, there is only a limited number of people who can go at a time, so please be respectful toward those around you.

8) Thank your volunteers
We see this all of the time, and this will come as no surprise to you. We know that volunteers receive either free or discounted races because they are volunteering. But, by doing so, they may be giving up the start time that they’d prefer to run. And, these volunteers are people, using their time to ensure that you have a good race. Please thank them!

9) Be a Good Sport
At the end of the day, all of us are in this for the fun of it. We all pay lots of money for training, gear, and races. We all come to races with the expectation that we are going to have a positive experience, and part of the positive experience includes the community. Make an effort to smile at someone, to high-five a stranger, or make someone’s first Spartan Race feel like the best thing they’ve ever done.

Did I leave anything out? Add any additional “etiquette” suggestions in the comment box. Happy racing!

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!

 

Finding Your True Self Through OCR

Background

Brittney Bagley grew up in a genetically blessed family on a ranch in Florida and had an active lifestyle running track, dancing, and playing soccer and volleyball. But when she was forced to quit the Air Force ROTC in her junior year of college due to health issues, her poster-worthy lifestyle started on a downward spiral of making poor decisions. She started embracing a college life of drinking heavily and eating poorly, which made her reassess where she wanted to be.

“I’m one of four children in my family, one of whom is a twin sister to me. Being so close in age and appearance to my sisters, I’ve always found it hard to find my own identity. That, combined with a string of very unfortunate losses, made me venture out to see what the rest of the world offered,” Brittney shared.

College-Brittney

Brittney’s Travels

At 22 years old, and in her last semester of college, she moved to Alaska for a summer job working at a rafting company. For the next few years, she focused all of her time on traveling and jumping from seasonal job to seasonal job. This lifestyle laid claim to residencies in Alaska, Utah, Colorado, Florida, and even Nicaragua for a short time.

“I remember the first time I ever heard of or saw an obstacle course race was while working a promotion at a Tough Mudder in Colorado. I fell in love instantly but never would have imagined I’d be participating myself one day,” she said.

Heading back to Florida in 2014, she realized that she still wasn’t in a place she wanted to be, and hit rock-bottom finding herself in a destructive relationship and a desk-job she didn’t enjoy.

Her Turning Point

Brittney said, “When I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize the person looking back at me, I knew it was time to make a change. I had become this lazy person who made excuses, and I had always hated that person. I was known for seeking adventure and tackling seemingly impossible challenges, but I had somehow become this watered-down version of myself. All of my decisions were made based on someone else, and their happiness, and I knew it was time to seek my own happiness”.

She started out with a goal to complete a few 5km races and then was looking for something more to challenge herself. Tough Mudder was coming to her area for the first time so Brittney signed up and convinced a few of her friends to join her. She started running every day after work and even bought lights to put on her sneakers so she couldn’t use the dark as an excuse. In March of 2015, she ran and finished her first Tough Mudder, with her brother and dad watching on.

Brittney’s OCR Experience

“The race was hard on me and I just barely stumbled across that finish line, but it was a starting point for a whole new addiction. In 2016 I moved to Virginia and signed up for another Tough Mudder and shortly after was introduced to my first Spartan Race, and haven’t stopped running since.”

She now has a partner to train with, having met a man a year ago whom she quickly introduced to the OCR life and he found himself addicted alongside her. Together they set out and obtained a few sponsors. They have since signed up for 5 OCRs and 3 runs this season and will be celebrating their anniversary while crossing the finish line and earning their first Spartan Race trifecta in Fayetteville on September 23.

Brittney says some of her favorite things about OCR are watching weeks or months of preparation pay off and each race becoming slightly easier. But her biggest obstacle is without-a-doubt her grip strength in her left hand, having lost the use of her pinky finger 5 years ago playing on a recreation kickball league.

“The camaraderie and teamwork you find in OCRs are things that make the experience even more indescribable because everyone is there supporting one other while also working on their own obstacles.”

“I never want to be the person who wakes up and lives the same day repeatedly, hating every second of it. I always want to be better than I was the day before and I want to spend every second I’m given making memories I can be proud of,” she says.

Brittney-and-Clay

Photos: Brittney Bagley and Tough Mudder
Follow Brittney’s blog at https://thewatercolorwanderer.wordpress.com/

Muddy Warrior 2017 Review

Muddy Warrior Start line

Muddy Warrior

Muddy Warrior 2017 is here! At Obstacle Racing Media, we feel it is just important to support the smaller, first time efforts as it is to support the larger races annnd….. Since I live pretty close, I thought I would go and check out this local race.

Muddy Warrior is a brand new, small scale mud run organized by a small group of OCR enthusiasts and supporters in Cardston, Southern Alberta Canada.  It’s early days for this race company so it’s fun to see the genesis of these smaller events. Even the bigger races started out small.

Check in

On the day, the weather was a little cool, which may have hindered spectator turnout a little, but parking was easy enough and we didn’t have a long way to walk to get in or a long time to get cold. The venue featured a live DJ/MC and a kids playground very closeby to keep the little ones entertained enough. There was a bag check, and race photography available on site. A food truck also showed up. For spectators, there was a bouncy castle and inflatable zorb type things you could bounce around in. Not bad for a first event!

Zob
Muddy Warrior bouncy

Check in was simple and the course used an effective timing chip system and racing bib numbers. The event was attended by a relatively small number of participants but those who attended seemed to all have a good time at the race. Remember. Small beginnings.

The Course

The course distance was 5 kilometers in a river valley, starting from the athletic fields and working its way out and back at a turnaround point with a water station near the halfway mark which could be accessed from either direction.

I logged about 100m of elevation gain and loss over the distance, which is quite manageable for experienced athletes but the hills may pose a good challenge for first-time racers or other casual muddy warriors. In all though, I would say the terrain itself wasn’t too challenging. Almost everyone could do this race quite happily without too much hardship.

Muddy Warrior wedgie maker

Obstacles

The obstacle course included a slip n’ slide (AKA the wedgie maker), a tire drag, tire flip, tire hops, hurdles, an 8 ft wall, a large hay-bale stack, two mud pits covered with string netting, a traverse wall including a rope traverse, a pair of old cars, over/under/through walls, a pyramid wall with ropes, 4 angled ninja platforms, a Zig-Zag balance beam, spider web sections and a great riverbed running section.

Muddy Warrior through

Muddy Warrior Crawl

RESULTS….

I finished in second place. Yeah, sometimes I podium. Someone faster always tends to show up when you need to be humbled. Today was such a day.

This was a first-time race from the course organizers so naturally there are a few things to tweak here and there. I’ll start with the issues I had on course, and then talk about the great stuff that worked really well.

Muddy Warrior Skip

Things to learn from

  1. Double check the course marking. This is easy to correct for next time by just adding in a few more arrows on the ground or on trees between breaks in the course marking tape. Some obstacles were too easily missed.
  2. There were no instructions on some of the obstacles that were unmanned.
  3. Some of the volunteers needed better instruction. 
  4. Many of the obstacles were not visible to the spectators, which meant that it was hard to get spectator participation or interest.
  5. I couldn’t find the defining signature of this race. More on that later and why that is important. That will happen as it develops.

The good stuff.

You can’t ever beat running over the top of cars. It’s just great fun and it makes you feel like you’re in an action movie.

Muddy Warrior Car

I also really enjoyed the massively tall slip and slide because of the speed and opportunity to catch my breath after the hill that led to it. The hay bale mountain was a really tough challenge and I would have welcomed more of those mountains in a row!

The Z wall/rope traverse was great. It was a really fun obstacle that offered enough challenge without being impossible – it wasn’t too short, but I would love to have another section to complete, making that into a uniquely challenging keystone obstacle of the race.

Muddy Warrior traverse

Running down the river-bed at high speed was probably my favourite part of the whole thing – the battle for first place took place along the riverbed and that added drama and a dynamic challenge underfoot.

Muddy Warrior River runners

Final Thoughts – Developing Identity

Many of the elements were superb and the setup is to be applauded. I loved the fact that this was a smaller local race. The course was laid out with optimism and a clear love of obstacle racing. people were having a great time. The formula is good, but with a few small adjustments to the layout and obstacles, this will continue to develop into really cool things for Cardston and Muddy Warrior.

Tips:

Showcase the awesome – Placing a few more of the key obstacles within the race-ground arena to allow participants to enjoy more interaction with the spectators during the event would be cool. Stimulate competition by letting the battles for position take place in the arena. The obstacles were awesome. Showcase that more!

Muddy Warrior Tire

Make it tough – make people carry heavy stuff up and down the hills during OCR. They like it – they showed up to go to the crazy zone. Honestly, they do – they come back next year for the unique challenge they struggled on. Bring in the heavy stuff. People will not be put off.

Muddy Warrior climb

Define yourself – Find a keystone/defining obstacle, moment or set of obstacle movements that become and define the identity of the race. Whether it’s three walls in a row, catching a chicken, or doing a Z wall with a blindfold, I don’t care. Make people change levels or positions most often.  Throw in more crawls, more cars to climb over, more heavy carries or water based obstacles than any other race, or even a pile of horse dung at the end – identify yourself as the race with the thing-a-ma-bob that makes Muddy Warrior what it is.

FINAL THANKS!

I’ll be back next year to see how things develop! Thanks for the great day and for being so accommodating Muddy Warrior.

 

Muddy Warrior River

Muddy Warrior Balance

Glenn runnin

 

 

TM Long Island 2017 Review & Team Spotlight: MUDCRO!

Tough-Mudder-LongIsland2017MudcroLeaders

MUDCRO

Running a world renowned badass race with one of the most badass teams on the planet, Sons of Mudarchy, or MUDCRO, for my first Tough Mudder ever was truly a one of a kind experience. Damn it feels good to be a gangst..errrr I mean mud runna. They also happen to be one of Tough Mudder’s favorite teams and the feeling is mutual. “Bleed orange” is a motto that many members of the Sons of Mudarchy like to say, and of course that means, “Run a Tough Mudder! It’s not as scary as you may think, especially with a team!”

The Sons of Mudarchy (MUDCRO) was born out of the love of the TV series, “Sons of Anarchy.” Edward Buonocore who is better known as “Papa Smurf” due to his patient demeanor, positive attitude, and his wickedly awesome Poseidon beard. His right-hand man and 2nd in command Gene Johnson and Matt Blakely first wore, “The Reaper” at a Tough Mudder event in Western NY in July of 2014.

This is where the similarities to the show end. There is no gun running (say yes to fun running instead kids!), drug dealing, pimping, murdering, or any other sketchiness going on. I make it sound awful but it truly is a riveting show, but I digress. MUDCRO is just a great bunch of mud running hooligans that want to squeeze every drop of happiness that life has to offer with no regrets and no what ifs.

Their primary goal was to run OCR events and have as much fun as possible. Along with the fun never stopping, MUDCRO has continued to grow here in the United States with chapters in NJ, Texas, Arizona, and the Badlands of SD. They also have a global reach with chapters in the U.K., Australia, Denmark, Germany, and Spain. The Sons have raised money and awareness for Cystic Fibrosis, our military, and T1D. They say that when you join MUDCRO you’re not just joining a team, you’re becoming part of a family.

Their teamwork and love show not only on the courses they grace with their presence but off the course as well. MUDCRO hosts and takes part in many other charitable events all throughout the year as one big happy family. It’s not all about racing or being a badass, a wannabe badass, weekend warriors, fun runners, and whatever else you may think about MUDCRO.

MUDCRO truly is what they affectionately call a “framily.” A cute mix of friend + family. Can’t choose your family? Now you can with a ‘framily.’

“So what does MUDCRO have to do with Tough Mudder, besides running the races?”

HISTORY OF SONS OF MUDARCHY

S.O.M was started when a couple of guys were looking for an identity for a team. While the T.V. show, “Sons of Anarchy” gave them the look and the value of brother and sisterhood, Tough Mudder provided the format and the spark for MUDCRO. They like to keep the core values of teamwork, camaraderie and the “no one left behind” mentality. To always have fun, remember to thank your volunteers, and to remember at one time we were those people on the course needing help and encouragement!

I’m sure some of you reading this have been helped by a MUDCRO team member when they were volunteering or racing at an event. On the course MUDCRO will help anyone who needs it. I have seen, and been a part of, Papa Smurf and the rest of what I like to call his “dysfunctionally functional village” as we helped each other over obstacles, while shouting words of encouragement and gratitude to the volunteers who sat or stood in the hot baking sun for hours in order for this event to happen. A heartfelt thank you goes out to all of the obstacle course racing volunteers worldwide. These events would probably be triple the price or they wouldn’t happen at all without you bunch, and we love and appreciate you for it.

Since 2014 MUDCRO has grown across the US, Europe, and Australia with each chapter keeping to those strong core values that have many racers wanting to don “The Reaper” on the course as well.  The founders just can’t help but smile when they think about doing their first Tough Mudder, to where the group known as the Sons of Mudarchy/MUDCRO is today.

While there are many teams, they just want to be the “Best Team on the Planet” by putting their money where their mouths are, the same motto as the Tough Mudder volunteers. Without Tough Mudder there might not have been a MUDCRO and that’s a sad thought to this racer and fellow MUDCRO member. I’m very proud to call myself a member of MUDCRO because of these wonderful people. Before experiencing running with MUDCRO firsthand, my husband and I just wanted to run our own race, be lone wolves together (I don’t know how that works either) and make a few friends along the way.

What a difference a great team can make to the mud running experience however, and I can see why Tough Mudder is a good training ground for those wanting to branch out a bit from other races that they like the most, such as another well-known race with never ending death marches, heavy carries like orange buckets full of rocks instead of Orange Kool-Aid, and insane terrain.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words and in this case, Tough Mudder’s obstacle named “Pyramid Scheme” which is the infamous slip wall where you need a team or to have another team temporarily adopt you (it is totally possible to run Tough Mudder alone or with a smaller group) is where MUDCRO’s teamwork really shined. Let’s just say that if we were on the NBC Spartan show, we would have won the slip wall. The camaraderie everyone from those that were anchors to those that were grabbers went off without a hitch. Beautiful job team MUDCRO, and this is truly an amazing team building obstacle.

There were a few obstacles that were, “lone wolf friendly” but to truly experience a Tough Mudder, bring your friends. As a matter of fact bring your friends to all of your races… because if you’re fun-running, it’s much more fun with a team. A true team, not just drive there together and ditch them on the course. That’s no fun.

One of the scariest obstacles that day was Kong, coming at you with a 15 feet high drop if you failed, no teammate can help you here and with rings not being my strong point at all. Let’s just say that you do get the wind knocked out of you when you hit the giant air mattress below. Tough Mudder still has not replied to me regarding why it wasn’t placed over the traditional water pit, but I do believe it’s due to New York state or venue restrictions about digging too deep. It’s probably the same reason that one of their signature obstacles called, “King of the Swingers” wasn’t at the Long Island venue. Falling into a giant air mattress is no fun so I need to work more on rings.

ToughMudderLongIsland2017Kong

A few people did say to me that running the Long Island course is like a Tough Mudder lite. For those that are going, “How can a TM be lite? Looks pretty scary to me.”

Yes, there were definitely some scary obstacles such as Kong, or torture obstacles like Electro shock, but other than that you had your slip walls, 2 of them including Everest 2.0 which now has the fitness option of a rope, much like Savage race’s Colossus. I truly appreciated this because I am not good at running up slip walls unless it involves a rope. The thought of bashing my head into the lip of the wall isn’t really appealing, and having teammates push you up is not the same. That kind of defeats the purpose of the slip wall in my opinion, so the addition of the rope is a great touch.

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Speaking of fitness options, this is where Tough Mudder is great regarding obstacles. There are signs and lines for Tough Mudder Legionnaires at various obstacles, and a line for first timers where the obstacles were very challenging but nowhere as hard as the one on the Legionnaire line. No, you don’t have to be a Legionnaire to be in that line. They are just the same obstacle as the first timer side just modified to be harder. For example monkey bars instead of an inverted wall and then a climb up to a high platform on an obstacle called, “Reach around”.

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What is a Tough Mudder Legionnaire? It’s when you run 2 Tough Mudders within 1 calendar year. Click here for information on Tough Mudder’s Legionnaire program.
The Funky monkey may be one of the most fun and rewarding obstacles that I have seen outside of American Ninja warrior. Watching people beast this obstacle is so satisfying!

As for Arctic Enema, we went out at with a later wave so it was mercifully not ice cold because they do stop pouring ice in at a certain time or if they run out. So it was not bad at all. I’ll probably hate it when it’s full of ice because not only do you slide down a tube into some chilly ass water, you have a second to catch your breath before having to go under fencing where you are boxed in with no room to stand, and then finishing by going under a tire wall. I can definitely see why this would suck if it were colder.

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Electro Shock therapy. FUCK THAT SHIT, I skipped it big time and I regret nothing. Another popular race series that is known for being, “Navy SEAL tough” issued a statement on their page last year on why they do not use electrocution obstacles on a course. They stated, and I don’t quote verbatim that, “Electrocution obstacles serves no purpose aside from humiliation” and I agree with that sentiment.

As for Tough Mudder racers not caring if you skip an obstacle. Yes, they do care. Other Mudders will side-eye you (aka give you dirty looks) for skipping electro-shock therapy. Ask me if I give a shit though. Actually, don’t because you already know that answer. I walked by that obstacle like, “Yeah, go ahead and try and make me fuckers.” Bad attitude I know, but seriously fuck Electro Shock therapy.

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You see this? Yeah! FUCK THAT!

Let’s get to my personal favorite Tough Mudder Long Island obstacles.

The Blockness Monster. You’ve seen it in ads, pictures, and you’ve seen it on TV, yes it is as fun as it looks. No, you do not have to be a good swimmer to do this, the water is not that deep, 5 feet at the deepest point I believe the lifeguard said. Yes, I could stay in there all day.

The block itself is just that, a huge rectangular clock that forms an upside down V hump mimicking pics (real or fake) of good old Nessie the Lochness Monster. It’s like jumping onto a 4-foot platform, turning around and then grabbing the platform as you come down keeping a constant rotation of the block going. Some of the most fun was pulling the block down for people on the other side, and then try and get out of the way before they slid into you. Lots of fun, this one definitely lives up to the hype.

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Augustus Gloop aka the Snot rocket. This one is a lot of fun. Have you ever wanted to climb out of a sewer like a Teenage Mutant Ninja turtle while water poured down on your head? Me neither, but this obstacle was surprisingly a really good time. There were two fitness options there so I took the first-timer one since it was my first Tough Mudder ever.

It’s a tall straight tube (about 15-20 feet up?) with a clear plastic window that is just there for lighting, you can’t see much with the water pouring down on your head anyway. You basically wedge yourself into the side of the tube and there were little side grips in which to pull yourself up and out with. I have no idea what the Legionnaire side was like. It probably was missing the side grip holes, please post in comments if you feel like schooling me on the Legionnaire side of Augustus Gloop.

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The heroes carry, I only liked this one because I hate heavy carries and I make no secret of this. As a matter of fact I, do believe I complain about heavy carries in every article, but with the encouragement of my MUDCRO teammate, I carried my 160-pound husband piggy back style with great success and ease. This is the only reason I am putting it at number 3 because I was afraid of not being able to find a partner that I could carry. The thought of dropping someone and potentially hurting them was definitely on the forefront of my mind, and not only overcoming this fear but finding out that I’m way stronger physically than I give myself credit for felt really good. People over buckets? Not up and down a ski slope though.

THE CONS

Hey you, an article with no bitching? Did Tough Mudder do that great of a job with everything? The answer is, “NO!”

Let’s start the bitching off lightly. They had plenty of port-o-potties on and off the course and yes, they were clean. There were water stations galore. The water stations were awesome, some even had sports drinks and water, others were just water, some were food and water like bananas and protein bars. People, including myself, were joking about how this race has more aid stations than they do obstacles.

I’m kinda annoyed with that. The long boring stretches of road and trail are boring, very boring. This is why you need a team as well, you want people to talk to in between what seemed like miles of no obstacles. Good thing there were actual trail snacks on the course.

Yes, Tough Mudder Long Island had legitimate trail snacks. Not the kind that comes in a bag with granolas and carob chips. There were wild berry bushes and peach trees dotted all along the course. Between the aid stations, the wild berries and the peaches… I think this might be the only race where I ingested more calories than I burned.

I think it was boredom eating though, because yes Tough Mudder your obstacles are awesome, but why are you so cheap with the amount of them on the course? What was it, 9 miles and 18 obstacles? That’s 1 obstacle every 1/2 mile. Seriously fellow runners, bring your friends or join a team if you are running Tough Mudder. I can’t recommend that enough. It helps with the no obstacle for miles blues. I almost wished for an orange bucket of rocks even with a team. Almost, I didn’t say I actually wanted one.

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Nothing for miles! This looks like a half assed death march to me.

Parking

Their parking situation was ridiculous according to my friend who took their shuttle. The parking lot for this event was a 20 minute ride down the highway, quite a few towns away from the event. So for this venue the lot is extremely far, it’s still $10+ to park, but the shuttles are plenty and they run regularly. Just get there earlier than planned for a long ride, and hope that your shuttle doesn’t hit NY leisure traffic.

Bag check is not secure. It’s walk in and walk out with your own bag situation. No kind volunteers and security staff members babysitting your bags and only allowing entry to authorized persons. Tough Mudder just lets you walk right in, and walk right out. Sure they check your bib number to the number on the bag, but nothing is stopping anybody from rifling through your bags while in a crowded tent with other racers and 2 people at the entrance and exit. They charge $10 for this! Weaksauce Tough Mudder, really weak. That’s easily fixable though with a more secure bag check program like the other brands.

On the brighter side, Tough Mudder does not serve race piss, aka Coors Light, anymore. It is now a Guinness Blonde, much to the delight of many racers.

Other than the miles of no obstacles, bag check being lax and expensive to boot, along with parking and shuttles being too far from the venue, the obstacles are definitely worth a try. Did I mention to bring a posse? Like these guys. They look like a lot of fun to run with too.

Photo credits: Louis Liquori, Poly Poli, Tough Mudder

What I love about (S)Crewing

First of all – the disclaimer: the title of this article is intentionally misleading; the article itself has nothing to do with screwing.

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Teasing my friends on the WTM group page. I’m not afraid of reveling in the suffering of my closest friends; especially when I have front row seats.

I had this moment the week leading up to WTM, while I was instigating my friends and acquaintances that would be running Worlds Toughest Mudder; teasing them with a group post about the misery and suffering they would endure while I played the chipper support crew on the sidelines, push them into another pain filled lap.

The personal relief I felt knowing that I would not be a party to that level of misery was quickly replaced by a tinge of shame. No, not shame. More of a sissy factor. Like I’m a chickenshit for not being as bad ass as my friends by undertaking the enormous feat of participating in an endurance event of this kind and rather to opt out and sit on the sidelines. (I think there are others who understand that feeling, right?).

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Crewing? Screwing? It’s all the same, right?

So as I wandered the aisles of the local Winco that morning I thought about why I had chosen to opt out of WTM and crew instead. That time of reflection afforded me a greater understanding of being an athlete in this particular sport of racing. It was then that I had the idea that I would write up an article about crewing. I sent Phoebe a message about my brilliant plan which, (as you can see included here), thanks to auto dictate the play on words for the title of this article was created. (It was definitely a good laugh.)

So If you were looking for a deviant behaviors article, this may not be what you are looking for. (You are still welcome to read it though, I won’t judge you…who am I kidding, I would totally judge you.) But if you want some insight regarding the growth opportunity you’ll be afforded as a racer by being a support crew member, then you should enjoy this article. Or some of you will likely think everything I am saying is something you can’t relate to, in which case, please post nice things anyways; I’m delicate.

Regardless, here is a short bit about crewing for someone during an extreme endurance challenge, why myself and others like to do it, and why you should do it as well.

Favorite thing about crewing #1: THE SHIT SHOW
One of my favorite parts is what I like to call the Shit Show. Roll back to my first crewing experience, the 2014 Death Race. During  DR2014 I remember the shock I received every time I would catch up, wake up, or show up to whatever part of the action was going on. Like time trials, cement bag carries, 20-mile hikes with logs strapped to participants backs. Every time I turned around I saw people breaking over seemingly mundane issues, their snapping points. The complete breakdown of the human mind long before the body gave out. Multiple days of sleeplessness will do crazy things; people become focused or they lost their shit over next to nothing. They just wanted it to end. I couldn’t believe what I saw; I thought there couldn’t be anything worse.

Fast forward to World’s Toughest Mudder 2014 six months later and well, game on. That shining sun and those happy spirits faded at night fall when a very typical desert wind storm appeared out of nowhere, and took the whole race, including staff, to its knees.

Obstacles were knocked over with what looked like 90% of the tents and pop-ups ending up in Lake Las Vegas, hypothermic nonsense spewing from racers (you know who you are, part of getting you to behave has become the highlight of your crews post race stories; heart.), and just the complete breakdown of civilized codes of conduct (I spent an hour in a portapotty with one guy because he was too afraid he’d be pulled from the race if he went to the first aid tent so we just huddled under an emergency blanket to get him warmed up).

Again the carnage seen at these events are better than any Griswold family nightmare you could come up with. I specifically upgraded my phone just before the race so that I would have plenty of video capacity to capture this year’s favorite moments (of which there were many.)

Favorite thing about crewing #2: Figuring out the type of athlete YOU are. (This should actually be # 1.)
Another element of crewing that I think should be noted and, more importantly respected, is a person’s desire to not race but still want to be a part of the event, to watch their friends, and help the sport(s) in a volunteer capacity.

Example: I don’t race well in the cold. It hurts, brutally hurts. I can work in certain short-term exposure, and if it’s a cheap race and travel is easy, I will show up and suffer with my friends because, hey, I like my people. But you would have never seen me run a New Jersey WTM in November or a Winter Death Race because surviving the cold is not what I consider, FOR ME, a physical challenge that I can test the limits of my strength. I can’t beast out on the things I’ve trained for when the hypothermic fog hits.

Also WTM Las Vegas? I live in Vegas. Being a runner here is rough. I run on that shitty, fossilized ground every. single. weekend. My hips, ankles, feet, back, knees,..all of it suffers from the effects of running on some of the toughest ground in the northern hemisphere. I don’t need to find out if I can race on that for 24 hours at a cost of $600.00. But after crewing for Death Race, when the chance for a Death Race entry came up it barely took a nudge before I committed. And races that have the participants on their toes, figuring things out, with minimal help? Apparently that my bag because I have a DR skull and I just bought my ticket to Nicaragua for Fuego y Agua. So see, watching these races helps a racer pick their races wisely.

Favorite thing about crewing #3: THE L-O-V-E.
Being part of the OCR community makes us a family, we’re a team. A community team. I know there is a misconception of racers being tough, badasses, and competitive among our preferred race brand, but really it’s the most closely knitted, heart touching, groups of ‘shirt off their backs’ types of people I’ve ever met. Every race I’ve done this past year I can remember at least one instance where some small gesture touched me. We support each other in whatever capacity to help the other avoid a DNF. Hot hands, duct tape, trash bag jackets, a leg up; whatever it takes to help you finish; if you need a hand, you’d be hard pressed to find another racer in a matter of minutes who wouldn’t pause their race to make sure you’re gonna be ok. Even our competitiveness is good natured; we train, travel, hang out with our fellow athletes. We love our racing family.

One of my favorites stories is from WTM14 when I dragged my friend Daniel out to help crew for the Women’s SWARM team. The team disbanded once the bad weather hit and we ended up assisting various racers as they came through.

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Amelia Boone, all crazy haired and fat check’d out. Champ, you make endurance racing look easy!! Photo courtesy of Tough Mudder

One of those racers happened to be Amelia Boone, who is the David Bowie of OCR racing; a living legend. (She’s still a total icon, but over the year I have had the pleasure of seeing her personal side, a genuinely authentic, wonderful woman.) Anyways, during the shit show sand storm Daniel hears a rustling sound outside our descended pop up and looks outside to find Amelia digging around for M&M’s or Poptarts or something and then heading to her tent. This is well after midnight and what was evident was that the stoic, rock solid unbreakable reputation had a very human side to it because outside our pop up was a cold and miserable racer; struggling with a windbreaker’s zipper. Daniel leaps from the tent as she cries out in fear that the zipper is broken, runs over and tells her it will be fine, re-situates the zipper, and zips it up. She thanks him as he sends her back out with some generic words of encouragement.

Hours later she’s in her black down jacket, holding a fat check and wearing her infamous grin. She won, and in some small way, that momentary interaction between them was a part of that. He cherishes it, and I cherish that I was the one that dragged him out there.

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My road dog, my partner in crime; Daniel Villarruel, just finishing 50 miles with minutes to spare. A pit crew’s ultimate job is to make sure their racer finishes, no matter what! no matter what! no matter what!

And now this year I pitted for him and I can’t help but believe part of it is because he saw and felt so much camaraderie during last year’s event. So those moments of service, I know what it means when I give them but I also know what it means in that moment to receive them from others.

Even during my own race, DR2015, I remember the rain coming down that last night in a complete mess of a storm. The directors were so concerned for the safety of the racers that they messaged all of the friends and family of the racers’ who had come with them to the event and offered them the option to finally come crew, but only if those that came agreed to help every racer, not just their own.

I didn’t know this until afterwards but all of the people that would check on me, whenever I came down from a time trial lap; I can’t remember faces or words, I just know that when they asked me what they could do for me I felt like they genuinely knew that I was suffering out there. I was able to pull it all back into focus when someone was there; I was able to remember what my purpose was. Their words would bring me back to focus on what I’m doing, which is finishing.

It’s an authentic human connection; when somebody recognizes that you hurt but believes you can push through to meet your goals. So when you crew, whether it’s for a complete stranger, a racing icon, or that friend you’d suffer through a rain or sand storm for, you love somebody and somebody loves you back.

Favorite thing about crewing #4: IT’S A PARTY!
Everyone knows this. Just because you can’t race, or don’t want to, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t show up. I spent the better part of this years race season out with various injuries from over training, but I had plane tickets and sleeping arrangements already paid for. I’m a good time kind of girl; I like to have fun. So there’s no way that I was going to eat all that money just to sit home, eating my feelings and being lonely while I watched my friends have fun on Facebook. Did it suck watching my friends at that starting line without me? You betcha. But the feeling last momentarily; then you see them out there looking miserable and think ‘thank god I’m not in that much suffering!’, and you’re there at the finish line, handing them all medals and making plans for food and festivities afterward. So if a race is close by, stop by and say hi.

Better yet, be out there on the course as a volunteer, encourage your friends as go through, cheer on random strangers, help make somebody’s race more amazing; that goes back to the L-O-V-E thing. And since you’re there helping out in the festival area, volunteering helps you make friends with the race staff, who always appreciate happy people who understand the in’s and out’s of the race. And you’ll make new friends because there is always some other racer on the sidelines helping out, saving it for the Sunday race or injured too. Bonus: when you’re hanging around the race site during the race you get some chat time with the other personalities in our little world. (You know you’ve been on the sidelines more than a couple times when Tim Sinnett and Matty Gregg greet you with a hug. Love those guys). Being on the sidelines is full of jokes, fun, good vibes, and minimal physical misery.


So that’s my perspective on being a support/pit crew for racers. If you want to race, race. But if you can’t, crew. Show up, help out. Be of service. Encourage, support. It doesn’t matter if it’s your spouse or random stranger, they appreciate that you were a rock to steady them when the world was spinning. You’ll feel good about yourself, better understand how and why these races are run, and hopefully understand more about yourself as a racer too.

By the way, I have to dedicate this article: it was written with my first crewing experience in mind. Death Race 2014, four of us, three crew and one racer, showed up. We made amazing friends, helped out, learned a lot, and took the next steps in our athletic roles as a direct result of our experience at that hot mess. So this is for my girls: Vox, Eagle, and Rickshaw. One crazy leap can change everything.

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Me and the girls: Death Race 2014. The planning adventures alone were some of my most treasured memories and I realize now that, because of this experience, I started to embrace the adventure side of life. Photo courtesy of Doug Kline