Written by: Montana Ross
Despite the chilly 48 degree weather, it was a beautiful day for the season opener of Tough Mudder in Milton, FL. Groups congregated around the warm up zone and the check in tents preparing to take on the 11.3 mile course. Many were repeat Mudders; headbands of green, blue, yellow and pink adorned the head of participants eagerly waiting their turn at the start line. Team MudRunFun entered the start chute for the 9 am wave along with 200 other Mudders to listen to Sean Corvelle give the start line speech. Something that really resonated with me was when Sean said, “Some people will call you crazy, and you wear that as a badge of honor. The people who say that about you are just insecure because you’re out here doing something they can’t even think about doing. Look at the Mudder to your left and right. Shake their hands. These are your teammates. These are your friends. You will help each other on the course. That’s what Tough Mudder is all about.”
Sean had us all recite the Tough Mudder pledge and sent us off with a countdown. Everyone was eager to experience the new obstacles we’d been hearing about for months. Those of us who had participated in Tough Mudder events before knew the old favorites: Arctic Enema, Funky Monkey, Everest brought various sensations of excitement and dread to our minds. But what about obstacle such as Cry Baby, King of the Swingers and the Liberator? Many were curious as to what crazy challenges the course designers had cooked up for us this time.
The first few miles were low on obstacles and high on terrain to cover. It was at least a mile before we hit Kiss of Mud 2.0. Not much changed in this obstacle; the barbed wire crawl is a course favorite for many different obstacle races across the nation. Tough Mudder upped the challenge factor here by having the barbed wire closer to the ground and adding piles of hay in the middle that we had to crawl over. The challenge was to keep your body low so that you didn’t get scratched by the barbed wire when climbing over the hay in the middle. Rolling won’t work on this obstacle! Soon after we found one of the new for 2015 obstacles, Birth Canal. I have a feeling many shared my opinion of this obstacle; to be honest, I didn’t think it was that great. There’s a lot of water placed in a tarp that’s stretched across wooden boards. “Canals” are dug and participants have to crawl under the heavy tarps. This is supposed to replace the Cage Crawl obstacle, which I personally haven’t experienced, but I think I would have preferred.
Funky Monkey experienced a complete revamp; rather than slanted monkey bars, it now comprises of monkey bars up, a trapeze bar in the middle and then a single pole participants have to shimmy across to finish. I’ll be the first to admit this was HARD. Our team was 4 of 6 for this one; two of us fell into the icy cold water below after making it to the trapeze bar. Arctic Enema 2.0 was next. Although they added a slide into the freezing, ice filled water, this obstacle still feels just about as good as it ever will. This time instead of going underneath the board in the middle, Mudders climb over the top. Thought you were done? Think again…after you climb over the board you have to jump back in to complete the trek across.
The Liberator was the first new obstacle we came to. An “A” frame wooden structure with peg holes in the first side and ropes on the second side, Mudders must use small pegs to strategically climb up side A, swing their legs over to side B and lower themselves down with the help of the rope on the other side. I enjoyed this obstacle. It was challenging and fun. It also added a different take to the typical wall obstacle you will find on most courses. Beached Whale is an obstacle that made its debut in the 2014 Central Florida event, this one is definitely a lot more challenging than it looks. A large inflated tube sits in the middle of dirt and mud. It may seem easy while looking at it from afar but the challenge comes when the balloon starts to deflate, making it difficult to get a grip on the rubbery surface. As always, teamwork is the most efficient way to help your fellow Mudders over.
Taking the idea of Glory Blades to a whole other level, Skidmarked is a 12 foot slanted wall with a small foothold on the bottom. Pulling your weight up while you’re already leaning back is challenge and that’s where the help of teammates comes in. Brian stayed at the top of the wall to help pull us up. Once we got our weight on the top of the wall, we had to turn around and slide down the back side. The only leverage we had were large tires placed about halfway down on the wall that weren’t very well inflated so climbing down was a slight balancing challenge. Another fun obstacle in my opinion.
Warrior Carry is an old favorite, this one didn’t get so much of a revamp as the added bonus of carrying each other through a muddy pond. Actually this may have made the ‘obstacle’ easier due to the fact that you’re lighter in the water. If it weren’t for the mud pits that sucked our shoes into them and caused some to trip up, it probably would have been the easiest one on course. Balls Out was probably one of my favorite obstacles, a slanted board with thick ropes about 3 feet apart across the length of the board. Mudders were required to stay on the board while traveling from rope to rope across the obstacle. With the help of my teammates, I was able to successfully cross this obstacle. The challenging part is reaching the ropes, especially if you’re a shorter person and don’t have a long reach.
Honestly, I don’t think Everest got harder; in fact, it was easier for me this time than the last time I faced it. Typically, Everest is muddy and slippery from the thousands of muddy participants that make their way up the half pipe during the event. It was surprisingly dry here. For this obstacle, Team MudRunFun was 6 for 6! Every one of our teammates made it up this obstacle. Right after Everest was Cry Baby. Going into this one, I was a little nervous because I wear contacts and have sensitive eyes, but in reality it felt like crawling through a tent full of Vicks Vapor Rub. Very mild stinging ensued, but it was nothing compared to what I was expecting. Two of our teammates have actually been through real tear gas and they also said that this doesn’t even compare to real tear gas. Everyone was disappointed.
Mud Mile 2.0 incorporated a lot of running. Mostly all of mile 8.5-10 was running through hills and clay like mud pits. We jokingly called this the “Grand Canyon of Florida.” This is where many of our team became exhausted. There were several opportunities for awesome MudRunFun photos here though! The Rope Climb was the only way out of the steep pit everyone found themselves in when they finished walking through the muddy hills. With shoes full of mud and clay, a little extra weight followed us up this climb!
By this point, most of us were tired and ready to go home. We walked most of the rest of the way, coming across Pole Dancer and King of the Swingers, which made its debut at the World’s Toughest Mudder in Las Vegas last year. Participants have to jump from a platform to a trapeze, swing across and hit a bell before dropping into the water below. Many didn’t attempt to jump to the trapeze and instead treated this just like Walk the Plank, jumping straight down from the platform. The trapeze was pretty far from the platform and many said it was difficult to reach. Brian was the only one on Team MRF to successfully navigate this obstacle, but those who did try it gave it their best shot and that’s what’s important!
The end was in sight; we just had to complete the legionnaire’s portion of the course and Electroshock Therapy. Dead Ringer mimicked an obstacle seen on American Ninja Warrior, only on a much smaller scale. Legionnaires (those who have completed 2 or more Tough Mudders) were handed two metal rings that they had to move from peg to peg while hanging. Then it was decision time: to electro or not to electro?
All of Team MRF took advantage of our status as Legionnaires and passed this obstacle as we were all so tired we didn’t feel we could run- and we certainly weren’t walking through live wires!
Personally the most disappointing factor for me was the fact that I thought they took away from the overall legionnaire experience in an effort to add to the Mudder Village. Placing Fire in Your Hole in the village makes the exclusiveness of the obstacle a little obsolete, and being able to do that obstacle was one of the things I was most looking forward to. At the end of the course I was so exhausted that my main concern was getting my green headband, grabbing food and rinsing off, so I didn’t end up waiting in line to do that obstacle. It was also sort of a hassle to get our finishers shirts; at first they had stated in 2015 that they weren’t giving finishers shirts at their events anymore which upset a lot of people. They amended this statement to say that those Mudders who had registered prior to February 1st would be eligible for a finisher’s shirt. They sent out emails with a ‘ticket’ you could turn in to claim your finishers shirt, but in order to do so you had to first register with the ‘Information’ tent who would then hand you a chip once they found your name on their list. You then could take this chip over to the tent to claim your ‘free’ finishers shirt, which otherwise would cost $35 for those who didn’t register in time. Although it was a hassle obtaining the shirts, I’m glad I received mine. I wouldn’t pay to get one, however.
Overall, Tough Mudder had a challenging course that was also a great experience. Repeat Mudders seemed to enjoy themselves and new Mudders I talked to said they would definitely be participating in another event. The course left many of us feeling exhausted but satisfied that we gave it our all out on course. At the finish, each member of team MRF had earned a different colored headband to add to their collection, and though some said they were participating in their last Tough Mudder, everyone had a good experience. I wouldn’t have wanted to run it with any other team!
Who is Montana? Montana ran her first obstacle race in 2014 when a friend introduced her to Team MudRunFun and was hooked! On weekends when she’s not racing she enjoys blogging, yoga, spending time with family and friends and drinking butter beer at Harry Potter World.