Tough Mudder Sale To Spartan Getting Closer?

Kyle McLaughlin, former CEO of Tough Mudder, wrote Tough Mudder ambassadors with a message of hope this afternoon. The post informs the community that he has been working behind the scenes with Spartan CEO Joe DeSena on a solution to get Tough Mudder back in business.

A week ago, 3 creditors filed an involuntary bankruptcy petition against Tough Mudder. 2 days later Spartan filed “In Support of Emergency Motion of Petitioning Creditors To Appoint A Chapter 11 Trustee”.  This motion asks the court to speed up the process for a 363 sale. It states in part:

“There is significant risk that the value of the Alleged Debtors will evaporate if a sale is not consummated in the near term. Upon appointment of a chapter 11 trustee, Spartan would immediately engage with the trustee to discuss the terms and conditions of the previously negotiated LOI and the framework for a potential section 363 sale. Such potential sale to Spartan may allow previously scheduled Tough Mudder events for the 2020 season to occur, thereby preserving many jobs and providing a return to the Alleged Debtors’ creditors.”

What does this mean for the OCR community: The hope is the judge rules in favor of the bankruptcy, the sale moves forward with Joe as the buyer, and ticket sales get reopened. Then Joe reinstates Kyle and his TMHQ team and we get a full 2020 Tough Mudder season. Our video from Friday explains it a bit further.

Kyle’s complete post is below:

Hey Ambassadors—

Thank you SO much for all the support, love and positive vibes over these past few challenging weeks. I know the lack of information and the drip feed of news reports and rumors must be just as frustrating for you as it is for me.

I’m a volunteer now, and as you’ve seen in the reports, Joe and I have been working diligently on a plan to save Tough Mudder and keep this experience we all love alive.

And the good news is, we’re making progress. There are still several obstacles to overcome, and we’re crossing our fingers that the courts move fast.

But I have hope— and a belief that if we get another crack at this, that the community is going to rally back stronger than ever.

Keep up the #SaveToughMudder posts and stories— it truly has been making a difference.

I’ll leave you with this thought from the one and only Teddy Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Read the most recent articles, and how we got to this point here.

Leaked Tough Mudder Document Sheds Light On Tough Mudder Case

Giles Chater - Managing Director UK Tough Mudder

At 12:50pm EST today a confidential source sent us the resignation letter from Giles Chater, the former head of UK Tough Mudder. One week ago, Giles sent the letter to Will Dean and several staff members listing his reasons for stepping down as Managing Director. The letter alleges Mr. Dean may be the reason the current Spartan acquisition is at an impasse, and paints Will Dean in a negative light.

Giles states in his letter  “Despite management’s best efforts you have refused to pursue one of these paths in good faith and have actively blocked our attempts to act in what we believed to be the best interest of creditors, customers, employees and wider stakeholders” He went on to say that Mr. Dean recently engaged in  “unacceptable behavior including harassment, threats, name-calling and vulgar language.”

According to additional sources we have been working with in the US and UK Offices, Will Dean may be the sole reason Tough Mudder is currently not open for business. They allege Mr. Dean’s behavior has been selfish and erratic, including the recent firing of  board member, Brad Dietz. Mr. Dietz was hired in March of 2019 as a “turnaround specialist” and from everything we’ve been hearing, had Tough Mudder trending in a healthy direction. Firing Mr. Dietz, and other recent alleged behavior caused the remaining board members to step down. This, in addition to several other factors, eventually led Kyle McLaughlin, American Tough Mudder CEO, to resign.

There is still unfinished business on many levels within this ordeal. There are three unpaid vendors who are attempting to put Tough Mudder into involuntary bankruptcy. Their goal was to have the Delaware Bankruptcy Court take the company out of Will Dean’s hands and put it into the hands of a Trustee who will take over the finances. The recent filing by the vendors and an additional filing by Spartan are requesting the courts have the Trustee put Joe in charge. Joe Desena told us his acquisition deal will “Put Kyle McLaughlin and his team back to work as soon as possible on Tough Mudder events”. Joe went on to tell us he hopes the court rule in his favor and said “my deal gets everyone paid, and allows the company to move forward”

Read the complete resignation letter below:

3rd January 2020

TO: CC:

William Dean, Director, TM Ltd Guy Livingstone

Tough Mudder Management Team Tough Mudder London Office Matthew Martin, Pennington Manches Frank Young

Dear Mr Dean

It is with deep regret that I write to inform you that I have no choice but to resign from my position as Managing Director, Europe, effective 12pm GMT today. Please accept this as my formal letter of resignation. In light of my recent experiences with yourself, as Director of TM Ltd, and shareholder(s), I consider my position untenable and feel obligated to resign under the conditions.

You have clearly, and repeatedly, been presented with viable options for preserving Tough Mudder as a going concern. Despite management’s best efforts you have refused to pursue one of these paths in good faith and have actively blocked our attempts to act in what we believed to be the best interest of creditors, customers, employees and wider stakeholders. Both by action and in writing you have refused to engage with multiple requests for governance and direction.

This refusal to engage with me, fulfil your duties as a Director and effectively provide governance to our organisation left me with no choice. Your callous contemptuous attitude towards our creditors, customers and employees is reprehensible. We have a clear duty to prioritise the interests of our creditors and in failing to do so you have placed me in a morally and professionally compromising position – continued occupancy of which may expose me to personal liability I’m unwilling to risk.

On numerous occasions I have witnessed, or been subject to, unacceptable behaviour including harassment, threats, name-calling and vulgar language. Requests to provide a safe working environment free from this behaviour were belittled or ignored.

Watching this business unnecessarily run into the ground has been excruciating. I have remained unwavering in my commitment to our creditors, customers and amazing team this year and resign as an absolute last resort.

I care deeply for this brand and the incredible community which has built up around it. I am truly heartbroken at the suffering this will cause for so many, not least our loyal talented employees and suppliers.

Please be advised I have set an external out-of-office directing people to you.

I reserve all rights and remedies available to me at any time under my employment agreement and applicable law in each case against and with respect to the Company and Director(s).

Giles Chater Managing Director Tough Mudder Ltd.

Read the most recent articles, and how we got to this point here.

The Active/Mudder/Spartan Standoff

Catch up with the latest Tough Mudder news

Last week Spartan CEO Joe De Sena issued a press release announcing that it has an option to purchase Tough Mudder’s international (i.e. non-US) operations, and that it is in negotiations to purchase the entire company. Joe spoke with ORM’s Matt B. Davis and Josh Chase about the plans, saying that he wanted to expand Spartan’s mission to rip people off their couches, but that he was not planning to change the fundamental look and feel of Tough Mudder events. Yesterday, Tough Mudder founders Will Dean and Guy Livingstone gave an interview with Matt B. Davis, contradicting some of what Joe said. On the surface, it would seem that either one side is telling the truth, or the other side is telling the truth. Or, to be less charitable, it would appear that someone must be lying. However, in circumstances like this, it’s worth taking a closer look to see what is really going on.

The key take-away, where both sides agree, is that Spartan is moving towards taking over Tough Mudder’s operations. While Joe and Will gave different indications about how far along that process has gone, the goal appears to be the same for both Spartan and Tough Mudder. Observers should keep in mind that this is a sizable business transaction, and negotiations are likely to be complicated. Both sides are going to make statements that prop up their status at the negotiating table, whether or not they are 100% true. Also, both sides are going to keep negotiating, using whatever means they have, in order to get the most money out of the transaction. This is the same whether the business deal is over obstacle course racing, real estate or airlines.

There were a couple of points where the two parties seemed to contradict each other. Will says that Spartan has no enforceable option to purchase the international operations at the moment, but that he hopes to work it out. Joe says not so: “After listening to this awesome podcast I thought maybe I’ve entered the Twilight Zone (a show I watched growing up). I was so confused that I had to check my own head by calling others involved in the matter, and they too are baffled. That said, I’m sure reality will reappear within a week or so.”

So, is all this just posturing between two companies involved in a take-over bid? Not quite. There are two major clouds on the horizon for Tough Mudder. First, if you’ve tried to buy a ticket for a Tough Mudder event for 2020, you may have noticed that ticket sales have been shut down for the past week. Why? This goes back to Tough Mudder’s original money woes, which you can read about here.

Tough Mudder Lawsuit

Tough Mudder’s creditor is Active, which is itself owned by the multi-billion dollar company, Global Payments. When you buy a ticket to a Tough Mudder event, your money goes to Active, which passes it along to Tough Mudder, presumably so that Active can make sure that Tough Mudder keeps paying Active back (note that Will characterizes the loan from Active as a “quasi-debt instrument”, but for the rest of us, it’s something that sounds a lot like a loan). According to Will, Active recently started withholding payments from ticket sales. Tough Mudder, in turn, turned off ticket sales to get leverage with Active.

We reached out to Active, whose spokeswoman replied: “Since late 2018, as a service provider to Tough Mudder, Active Network has supported its financial restructuring and turnaround efforts. Occasionally merchants like Tough Mudder are unsuccessful in turnarounds. Active Network has unfortunately been placed in the middle of disputes that have nothing to do with us. We remain steadfast in our commitment to the Active community of event participants, organizers and customers. This matter is immaterial to us.”

This is a little disingenuous. Stepping back again to treat this as a generic business transaction, there is a buyer (Spartan), a seller (Tough Mudder) and the seller’s creditor (Active). As with any such transaction, the creditor is going to be involved in aspects of the sale that will have an impact on the creditor’s financial interests. Will went to great lengths to emphasize that everything is going well at Tough Mudder and that the company’s financial future is bright.

Tough Mudder Active Registration

Which leads us to the other dark cloud: there is, once again, the question of whether Tough Mudder is currently solvent. At least one vendor reached out to us, off the record, to inform ORM of  large receivables due. There are rumors of additional vendors not being paid, and it is unclear whether the staff is getting paid. According to a source close to the situation, Kyle McLaughlin, Tough Mudder CEO, has stepped down from that position in frustration over his inability to get the board to provide the funding to keep the lights on and make payroll. In his interview, Will denied that Kyle has stepped down, and Kyle told us flatly “Unfortunately, I’m unable to comment at this time”.

Reading between the lines, it seems that Spartan, Will and Active are all in negotiations to keep Tough Mudder afloat long enough so that Spartan will have something to buy. Reaching a deal would benefit everyone. Joe has stated that he does not intend to change the product that is Tough Mudder (keyboard warriors: please stop saying that he’s going to make Tough Mudder participants do burpees. That’s not going to happen). The question remains whether or not Tough Mudder will be around in 2020, transitioning to ownership under Spartan or in some other format. Until all the parties come to an agreement, the situation is, unfortunately, dynamic. With any luck, the high-powered lawyers and savvy MBA’s on all sides will come together so that the rest of us can have fun running around in the mud next year.

I Miss The Good Ole Days Of Obstacle Racing

The 2019 Obstacle Racing season is well underway, and from what we’ve seen so far, both participation rates and TV viewing numbers are at record highs. Well, that’s just peachy, I guess.

I should congratulate Spartan. They’ve done the unthinkable: taken a cheesy fad and made it mainstream, leaving opposing companies face-down along the road in their wake like Battlefrog competitors during a double sandbag carry. Joe and company have even persuaded huge mainstream sponsors to buy in and Olympic dreams to swell…but listen, I can’t do this. I’ve made my name as a straight shooter, so I need to be honest with you: not everyone is happy with the progress the major obstacle racing series is making, yours truly included. I’m sure many of you loyal ORM readers feel similar. Progress has occurred at the expense of the community. Do you also remember (and miss) the good old days? Let’s get into it.


Obstacle Racing Media was given an exclusive look at early injury numbers (measured via medic reports submitted at venue) during 2018. These usually cover anything from cramps and IV’s to serious injuries and on-course fatalities. And guess what? They’ve dropped massively in every category this past year, continuing a three-year downward trend.

Roots-Stretcher

Back when racing was hardcore

But to be clear, this isn’t just about injuries. I hope you don’t think we’re that obtuse. What this IS about is how soft, how white-washed this sport has become. This is what happens when companies sell out. I know I’m not alone in thinking that by fixating on moonshot Olympic dreams and Yelp reviews, Spartan has left many of its core members in the dust, and in doing so has lost some of the draws it once had. Some industry experts I’ve spoken with agree and worry that Spartan Race is losing its edge. This can be attributed at least partly to recent changes focusing on safety that has sullied the race experience and proven divisive at best.

Many of us miss the good old days before Spartan sold its soul in exchange for TV money and hastened to rid itself of everything that made it great in the first place. First to appear was Reebok- the soulless, trend-hopping, neglected cousin of Nike. Desperate to capitalize on the sport of functional fitness, the brand peppered overpriced gear with our hallowed logo and treated OCR shoes like iPhones, releasing a new, mildly disappointing update each year, with grip one can only assume was directly inspired by a banana peel that had been soaked in warm coconut oil.

Then the gladiators disappeared- which, as many of you remember, led to a nation-wide boycott of races by the cosplayer community. But it’s not just people who like to play dress-up who have been hurt by policy changes.

To have a sweat-soaked, muscular, cape-wearing hunk take you down and dominate you at your most vulnerable…I still get chills just thinking about it. In fact, that rush alone was excuse enough for a season pass for many of us. But sadly, those days are gone.

Chuck Whipley, head of Kermit the Flog, a BDSM club based out of Atlanta, echoed this sentiment during a recent FB messenger conversation.Part of the allure of Spartan used to be the idea that you were paying not just to race, but to be publicly humiliated, both physically and emotionally, and if lucky, sometimes in front of large crowds.” Whipley continued, “I know [fellow club member and OCR industry insider] Matt Davis feels similar, and he’s the guy you should get in touch with.” Through a spokesman, Matt declined to discuss the matter but did deny ever meeting or communicating with Chuck.

And the courses? They used to be TOUGH. In the past, racers were guaranteed at minimum several ravine tumbles, a rolled ankle, and maybe even a few deep slashes across the back, courtesy of barb wire. These days you’re lucky to experience one of the aforementioned if at all, and rumor has it barbed wire is next to go.

Come Monday I used to show up to work an absolute wreck. Mornings were spent limping around the office, regaling anyone within the distance of the tribulations I had undergone while they had spent a lazy Saturday sipping breve lattes or comparing paint finishes at Home Depot. I know they were impressed with me, maybe even a little jealous, even if they didn’t show it. How could they not be? My body was hardened by burpees, my confidence sky-high. Cracked scabs oozed puss through my dress shirt as I bent to fill a mug with my signature brew (bulletproof coffee mixed with one-and-a-half sticks of butter). It was clear I had returned from the edge, from something extreme, having stepped beyond what was normal or expected of a man and emerged better for it. Chafed nipples leaked tiny droplets of blood onto my pastel-striped Brooks Brothers shirt, like Rorshach tests that served to inform my coworkers of their own daintiness. I imagined David Goggins looking proudly down from Heaven, a single tear rolling down his stern face. Editors note: David Goggins is alive and well. I was Ed Norton in Fight Club; bruised and battered, but free, and completely numb to the corporate BS. The opposite of present-day Spartan.

Gone are the threats of sepsis and paralysis, replaced by participation medals and special interest stories on NBC. We ran to honor the flag; now people run for Instagram likes. Which makes me wonder what will happen to participation rates if Instagram actually deletes ‘like’ tallies from photos.

Roots-Stretcher                                Why race when you can purchase the experience from your couch?

I’m sure I sound bitter, but this is just the truth.

Google trends confirmed my suspicions. As of this writing, searches for “How to get feces out of barb wire cut” were at a 4-month low, while queries for “Frostbite on wiener, how to tell?” had grown flaccid at best.

Also gone these days, the ability to utilize the spear throw area to literally gun down competitors. For several years now the spear has been tied via rope to the fence, eliminating the once-fan favorite game of Frogger that would occur while volunteers rushed into the line of fire to retrieve spears from the target.


A higher-up with Spartan who wished to remain unnamed acknowledged my concerns. “We’ve seen some of these early 2018 figures, and yes, we’re a little concerned over the perceived sell-out status of our brand. But in the long run, we believe fans will understand the changes we have made,” he said.

In Spartan’s defense, there are signs it has turned from its foolhardy ways and has even begun to show some common sense by returning back to its roots and core community.

As many of you know, back in 2016 Spartan was forced to indefinitely postpone their second annual cruise after the ship was quarantined following a post-trip coast guard inspection of its pool and hot tub. However –and this will probably be news to most of  ORM’s readers– this August the arduous two-year disinfection of the Royal Princess is slated for completion. Finally!  The official Spartan release stated as much: “We can announce with pride that the hot tubs will officially open again. Spartan and hedonism will once again be synonymous as Spartan and the (recently-unstickied) Royal Princess will return to Stirrup Cay, Bahamas in 2020. Bring your swimsuits…or don’t- anything goes.”

Our sources within the industry echoed that all is not lost, adding that they’ve seen a solid uptick in ACL tears, compound fractures, and rolled ankles over the past 18 months, most of which the industry can thank the Tough Mudder X series for.

Finally, while Warrior Dash’s recent demise has certainly shocked the industry, grassroots races are quickly popping up in its wake and just might sway hoards of disinterested racers into getting back on the course. The front-runners to fill Warrior Dash’s hole include Florida’s Co-ed-Croc race, in which competitors are teamed up with an alligator over a 6+ mile course, and the Black-and-Blue race, a 24 hr enduro event during which racers are tasked with completing as many laps as possible around the Roswell, Georgia police station while donning Collin Kaepernick jerseys.

Do you also miss the good old days of the sport? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Toughest Mudder Central Review

It all started in 2011 when I was provoked by a Facebook challenge: “Are you tough enough?” I clicked the link and found an advertisement for Tough Mudder, a 10-12 mile race with military-style obstacles. Crawling under barbed wire, sloshing through mud pits, traversing monkey bars, this was the coolest thing I had seen in years!  I immediately signed up and brought new life into my training regimen. I had a goal, to crush Tough Mudder. That Mudder taught me many lessons and I have made many changes and corrections to both my training and pre-race prep. Recently came a new challenge, Toughest Mudder. A 12 hour, overnight race complete with obstacles… I had to get in! This would be the next step on the way to World’s Toughest Mudder, which I have not been able to get into yet, but has been on my bucket list for several years.

I wasn’t completely prepared. I hadn’t trained the way I wanted to, my toddler and busy schedule made sure of that. I would like to have gotten a lot more miles in to prep my ligaments, but that didn’t happen. I was able to maintain basic muscle strength at the gym with my two workouts a week. Would that be enough? I have mental grit, it would have to be. 

In the days leading up to the event, I tried to keep everything perfect. Getting good rest (toddler didn’t understand that and continued to wake us up in the middle of the night), taking it light in the gym and eating appropriately. Well, 2 out of 3 is good! I was very careful not to get any stupid injuries like slicing a finger cutting veggies or getting sick by touching anything in son’s daycare center. Success, I found myself at the airport ready to go with 2 days until the race. I would get 2 nights of good rest because my boy was staying home for this one! These 2 days were spent with my Dad who lives in Minnesota; relaxing, and getting the final items for the race. I found out at the last minute that you need to have a flashing strobe light or glow stick in addition to the headlamp to be allowed on the course after dark. I had electrolytes, Strawberry Fig Newtons (my go-to between each lap), Bob’s Red Mill Peanut Butter Coconut bars, oranges, bananas and some secret sauce (NOS energy drink) to give me a kicker for the final hours. I tried the NOS toward the end of the first Gauntlet event and discovered its power! On the way to the event, I realized I had left the electrolytes at my dad’s place so we stopped and picked up a couple of bottles of Pedialyte. They worked like a charm! I had two goals for this event: 1. Consume the nutrition properly to fuel me the entire 12 hours maintaining consistent energy levels 2. Reach 40 miles and earn contender status for World’s Toughest Mudder in November. Around 6 PM I had arrived at Wild Wings Oneka, the hunting preserve in Hugo Minnesota where the Central Division Toughest Mudder was about to commence. 

The festival area was quiet with the final Mudders clearing out from the day’s normal events. The registration desk went smooth and I went to the pit area to set up. I brought a backpack, small cooler and plastic bin with food, dry goods, and extra clothes. There were rows of tents, canopies, and coolers spread throughout the pit area with contestants making their final preparation.  I put on a cool dry-fit lycra shirt, Athletics 8 compression pants, non-cotton socks, and Saucony Excursion TR12 trail shoes. These shoes were a great option at for under $80!

Things were calm, too calm, like the calm before the storm and we all knew what laid ahead. With the 8 PM start time approaching, Sean Corvelle got on the mic to rev up the crowd. We all took a knee and listened to his words of inspiration. We recited the Tough Mudder oath and waited for the start gun. He offered the “Mental Grit Award” which was $20 to the last Mudder to enter the course prior to the 7:15 AM cutoff and not stopping all night long. Soon enough we were off on the “Sprint Lap”.  On this first lap, all of the obstacles were closed and the first person to finish would be awarded a free entry to The World’s Toughest. I knew I wasn’t the fastest and I had a long night ahead so I took it easy observing each of the 20 obstacles as I passed. I was excited to get in there and try them out, my anticipation building but I knew that this lap would allow me to conserve energy and get ahead on time. 

There was a planned rolling opening of the obstacles starting at 9:30 and I made it through the first lap quickly. I was pleased to be able to skip by electroshock therapy without penalty! The second lap allowed for time to be made up in advance as I passed closed obstacles wondering which would be the first. I got past the newly created Gauntlet, Funky Monkey, Augustus Gloop, and many others. The one that finally got me turned out to be Block Ness Monster, close to the end of the lap. The guys in front of us passed on by as three of us were flagged into the now open obstacle. We jumped in the water happy to finally cool off and struggled to make it over the first monstrous rotating block. They were waterlogged and it took everything we had to get it to flip with a guy hanging on. I was able to get over the blocks on my own and we all decided that was the best way forward. The next obstacle – the dreaded Electroshock Therapy. I was all too happy to avoid the dangling wires by taking the penalty lap, a short run out of the way and back. After that, we encountered the new obstacle Mudderhorn which was a huge (seemed like 50 feet tall) a frame cargo net with an outer cargo netting layer. It was easy to get caught up in all that netting and proved to be an obstacle to slow you down, pull your headlamp off and tangle up anything hanging or dangling from your body.

By the next lap, most of the obstacles had opened and we were all in full swing of the Toughest Mudder. We climbed the inverted wall at Skidmarked, carried logs, traversed slacklines in Black Widow and Spread Eagle, Crawled through the Devil’s beard, dipped in and out of mud pits in the mud mile, climbed up the ladders in the water-spewing tubes of Augustus Gloop, and confronted one of the new 2019 obstacles; The Gauntlet. This started as a 2X4 balance beam to a plank position crossing about 10 feet long to swinging rings to the final segment which was a horizontal piece of wood big enough to get your fingertips on which you worked your way across to a doorknob, followed by a piece of wood handle, another doorknob, another wood handle, another doorknob and another fingertip crossing to the end. This obstacle could be attempted 4 times, each failure incurring a penalty lap on a short loop nearby. 

Another exciting new obstacle was the leap of faith. You had to jump out 5 feet over water to grab vertical cargo net.  You climbed the net to a pole which you shimmied down to dry land on the other side. This was fairly simple and lots of fun! ‘

Another new obstacle was Hydrophobia which was crawling through a small tube submerged in water. I was happy to see Funky Monkey which was an inverted monkey bar to a horizontal wheel which rotated you around to a large vertical wheel which spun you to a smaller vertical wheel which whipped you to a pole you would work down to the other side. Certainly a grip zapper! I found the cage crawl to be relaxing. There were long trenches filled with water and topped with cage sections which you pulled yourself through on your back keeping only your mouth and nose above water. This was very peaceful as your ears were underwater and you could only hear the sounds your breath as you worked your way through. Of course, we endured Berlin Walls – 8 ft walls to overcome, Everest 2.0 with some guys who selflessly spent much time at the top helping everyone through. Pyramid Scheme, which had a rope to help out when you were solo. You still had to get up a slippery surface to get to the rope as it only reaches a short distance down from the top. Nobody’s favorite Arctic Enema was included (construction container full of ice water) and some used the 4th lap wristband to be excluded from the torture. 

At the end of the 4th and every subsequent lap, we were given a blue wristband which could be used to surpass any obstacle without penalty. They were often given up at The Gauntlet and Funky Monkey and Electroshock Therapy.

My third lap went without fail, all obstacles completed but I started feeling tightness in the ligaments behind my left knee. I knew this was going to be a problem the rest of the night and would have to dig deep to beat it or drop out of the race early to avoid injury. I wasn’t born to be a quitter so I pressed on. I earned my 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th lap bracelets which I used for the Gauntlet and Funky Monkey in laps 6 and 7. I had not failed any obstacle at that point (I did take the penalty lap at electroshock each time) and using those wristbands saved me time. One thing I noticed around 2 AM was that there was a lack of volunteers at most of the obstacles. There was one at Gauntlet, Funky Monkey, Electroshock Therapy, Blockness Monster, and Mudderhorn but most of the rest had nobody. It was concerning at the least to think that it would be easy for some to pass the obstacles and the penalty lap without retribution. Also concerning was the fact that if there was a serious injury, who would know? Volunteers often bring energy to the races and encourage you to keep going, but this lack of their presence really made this event quiet. You would feel the energy every time you got back to the finish line/pit area as there were plenty of people around.

When I was in my sixth lap I knew I had to dig deep if I were to complete two more laps to achieve my 40-mile goal. Each lap was 5 miles with 20 obstacles. I completed the seventh lap, swung by the pit to quickly refuel and get back on the course by 7 AM beating the cutoff. I knew I didn’t have enough time to finish the eighth, but I wasn’t going to quit without trying.  I got 4 miles before I heard the finishing bell which rang promptly at 8 AM. It was a bittersweet sound as the race was over and I had my results – 39 miles. Just one short of my goal. I managed my disappointment by reminding myself that I didn’t really deserve the contender’s bib because I hadn’t put in the necessary time training, I was winging it. Something that my ligaments were reminding me with every step I took. When I got back to the festival area I was greeted by fellow Mudders who had endured the night and waited excitedly for the awards ceremony. First, Second and Third place awards were given to top males and females in age groups as well as winners of 2 person teams and 4 person teams. 

I hobbled around the festival area which was starting to wake up in anticipation of Sunday’s events. I Tried out some products like Tin Cup whiskey, Every Man Jack Beard Butter and Endoca CBD oil. I was impressed with all of these products and found relief for my aching muscles immediately upon applying the lotion! New Mudders and the energy of a new day filled the area as I reviewed my accomplishments and failures in my mind. I had made it through the night with excellent nutrition, was full of energy and even won the mental grit award (yes, I made Sean give me the $20).

I reminisced the sun going down as we started the race and the mosquitos coming out. You put on Deet at each pit stop which was washed off at the first water obstacle. We were serenaded by a chorus of bullfrogs and I even heard a few coyotes around midnight. There were crickets and owls and some rumbling things in the bushes that couldn’t be identified. I remembered when the morning sun brought new energy (and deerflies) and the chance to remove the headlamp and run in the light. I reveled in how myself and over 350 other Mudders did what many think is crazy and impossible. I reminded myself this was just the warm-up. The next big thing happens over 24 hours in November.

Spartan Race Palmerton Super and Sprint Weekend 2019

Spartan-Super-Palmerton-Course-Section

 

“This is insane!” 

“What the f***?!” 

“You’d think they’d run out of hills!” 

 

These are just a few of the things I heard while out on the course this weekend during Spartan’s Super and Sprint weekend at Blue Mountain Resort in Palmerton, PA. If you’re new to Spartan Race or OCR, you may have even heard how challenging Palmerton is. Year after year, regardless of course design, the slopes at Blue Mountain are sure to remind you just how punishing they are. 

Spartan-Palmerton-Start-Line

Parking and Festival

As you pull into the parking area, you get a good look at just how large of a mountain you’ll have to deal with. Luckily, all parking is on-site, which means no shuttles! This is a big plus for a lot of people as shuttle lines are known to move slowly.

 

This year they did switch up the festival a bit, compared to previous races at Blue. The new setup flowed a lot nicer and even left them room for a large merchandise tent. Usually, the merch is just back behind volunteers and staff who are up in a trailer. They still were, but adding to it was a large open area with more shirts and gear, including shoes and clearance items.

 

Once through the tent, it was your pretty standard Spartan festival area. Changing tents were off to the side with a row of hoses. The food and beer tents were nearby, along with a row of vendors. Something a bit new was that Spartan had a section open for some obstacle lessons and tips. 

Spartan-Palmerton-View-From-The-Top

The Sprint

I know the Sprint was Sunday and the Super was Saturday, but we’re going to work backward. Palmerton’s Sprint hit just about 3.6 miles, which is on the shorter side for a Spartan Sprint. Just because it was under 4 miles, though, doesn’t mean it was easy.  In that 3.6 miles, they managed to add in over 1,400 feet of ascent. Over 1,000 of that was in the first mile alone. 

 

The course was pretty much straight up the hill, down and up a double black diamond for the Sandbag Carry, a few obstacles at the top, then back down for the rest. 

Spartan-Palmerton-Sandbag-Carry

Sprint Obstacles

If you just ran the Sprint on Sunday, unfortunately, you didn’t get to try the new obstacles for 2019. This is only the second Sprint I’ve run this year (March – Greek Peak), but much like the first, they stuck to the classics.

 

During the one-mile climb to the top, the only obstacles were Hurdles and Overwalls, which is pretty standard. After the Sandbag Carry, there was a mini-gauntlet with Z-Walls, Atlas Carry, Rakuten Rope Climb and Monkey Bars all at the peak. During the descent, the only obstacle was the Inverted Wall. Then, toward the bottom, you had standards like the cargo nets, Spear Throw, Bucket Brigade, and Barbed Wire Crawl. 

 

As with past years at Palmerton, there was a Water Crossing, though it was more of an out and back, rather than crossing as they used to do. Apehanger, an obstacle at very few venues, was in the Super but left out of the Sprint.

 

I know Spartan wants to use the Sprint as the gateway to more races, so maybe they are continuing to make them a little more basic as to not scare newcomers away. Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing Apehanger, a rig with more than just rings, or some brand new obstacles.

The Super

The Super on Saturday was almost 5 miles longer than the Sprint, coming in around 8.25 miles. The total ascent was over three times as much as the Sprint, forcing racers to climb over 3,100 feet. 

 

Usually, the longer races include everything in the shorter race, with one extra area. Not this year at Palmerton. There were three extra parts on the course for the Super versus the Sprint. And Spartan didn’t waste any time. They deviated just over a mile into the race, right after Z-Walls, when runners thought they were in for a nice break back down the hill. 

 

Instead, the downs were followed by several steep ups along the way. Let me put it to you this way, the first steep climb up took almost exactly one mile, and had over 1,000 feet of ascent. By the time racers reached the bottom, they had hit almost 3.5 miles and faced over 2,000 feet of ascent. 

Spartan-Palmerton-Hercules-Hoist

Super Obstacles 

On the Super course, runners got a look at several new obstacles, including Pipe Lair, The Box, and Beater. Olympus and Twister are two other obstacles that had been included in most Sprints but were only in the Super course. 

 

The Rakuten Multi-Rig consisted of several rings, a bar, then more rings before the bell. I’ve seen ropes in the past, but they were left at home for Palmerton. The Luminox Hercules Hoist was in both races and at a heavier weight than if it were just for a Sprint alone. It was super late in the race and sat at the bottom of a muddy hill, making it feel even heavier. 


One thing that stuck out to me about the obstacles, overall, was the amount of grip needed. A lot of times, they leave a couple grip heavy obstacles out, but they all made an appearance in Palmerton. 

Spartan-Mountain-Series-Super-Medal

The Medals

Since Palmerton is part of the Spartan Mountain Series, both Sprint and Super finishers received a Mountain Series Medal. It’s probably one of the best looking medals I’ve seen Spartan dish out. The mountains on this year’s Mountain Series medals stand out and really make the 2019 medal blow away the 2018 medal. 

 

Honestly, I don’t think it’d be a bad idea for Spartan to include some homage to the Mountain Series on the Trifecta medals as well. If you finish the Palmerton Super and Sprint, plus the Killington Beast, that is one tough Trifecta. Compare that to running some of the more flat courses to get your Trifecta and it feels like the mountain courses should get some extra love. 

 

 

Photo Credit: Spartan Race, The Author