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- Quick Glance:
- Host: Tough Mudder
- Shoes: N/A I did not run this due to a recent training injury, But I would have done it in KSO’s
- Venue:Longhorn River Ranch: Beautiful & Tough with Challenging Trails,Rolling Hills, and STEEP Climbs…it looked like fun…
- Overall Impression: Once the industry leader, Tough Mudder may have gotten too big to do what they do best.
First things first: Why didn’t Muddy J run the Austin Tough Mudder?
Even if you aren’t a Board Certified Radiologist, I am fairly certain you can see that there is something wrong with my Great Toe in the X-ray images above, even at their low resolution!
How did this happen? Was it a running injury? No it wasn’t a running injury, it was much easier and ENTIRELY avoidable.
Simply put, some knucklehead balanced a sixth weight on a rail that was meant to hold only five…as soon as I touched the plate, it fell from its precarious perch and crushed my poor toe. As a result, I am left unable to run for the time being and swimming is a chore. I am ok on a bike as long as I shift gears VERY carefully…so, despite my broken toe, I will still be participating in the Windcrest Freshman Triathlon next week…but enough about me, I mean you are here to read the race report on the Tough Mudder I didn’t actually run in…so on with it.
Tough Mudder is, in my humble opinion, one of the industry leaders when it comes to mud runs and obstacle courses. In my review of an event they held in Austin (October 2012) I proudly stated: Muddy Toes rating: 20 out of 10! This is how an obstacle race/challenge should be done! I truly wish I still felt that confident in TMHQ, but this last event left me with the impression that TM may have stretched itself a little bit thin…many events on the calendar for this year are happening in the US on the same weekend. In truth, I am being hard on TM because they set the standard, but there were numerous issues I noted this weekend that, if left unchecked, will greatly diminish the Tough Mudder brand in the eyes of the general public.
Even though I wouldn’t be running the Tough Mudder, I still have friends that would be…so to show them some love, I packed my camera bag and loaded my car on Friday night to spend a day at the event. I received and digested a final email from TM giving directions to the event, and information on parking, etc… all important stuff. I made a copy of my DD214 to show at packet pickup, printed the directions they had suggested, and set off to bed early…..here’s some important text from the email:
“Look for signage for Tough Mudder traffic to be routed onto a service road located on the right. There will be traffic control to direct you into the lot.”
“In an effort to reduce traffic and deliver a great event day experience, we ask you to carpool as much as possible. We are offering FREE parking for cars with 4+ passengers. For all cars with 3 or less passengers, parking will be $10 cash only. Credit cards will NOT be accepted.”
Keep the text above fresh in your mind, I am going to reference it in a moment.
Somewhere around 4am on Saturday morning, I rolled over onto my broken toe (which can not be casted) and shot bolt upright, wide awake with pain. I checked the time on my phone and decided that getting out of bed right then would allow me a nice leisurely pace to get out the door and on the road by 0530. I prepped to leave slowly, brewed some coffee to go, and headed out into the chill morning air. (40 F)
The directions sent by TMHQ were simple enough to follow, and with no real problems I arrived in the general area of the event… as evidenced by cars parking in a field off the road…was wasn’t apparent was ample signage or well-informed parking area attendants to direct me as to where to go. The participant/spectator parking was located 2-3 miles up the road, (passing several turn-offs along the way) and along that distance, I only saw 2 small signs pointing me onward. I drove right past the turn-in to the parking area as it was not marked. I turned around at the next opportunity, and got into a short line, patiently waiting my turn to pay the $10 parking fee and park.
Tough Mudder reminded me (in the text above) that there would be a $10 parking fee, but the signs to my right and left which read “Parking Fee $10” ALSO had the added text: “EXACT CHANGE ONLY”
I rarely carry cash, and drawing the cash from the ATM the night prior to have cash on hand to attend this event was a special trip. The ATM I drew the money from dispensed $20 bills, as most ATM’s are prone to do. The “exact change” requirement was a heaping helping of unfairness and bullshit. The car in front of me experienced the same issue, and, instead of arguing with the attendant, he simply instructed him to apply the balance to the next car in line. For me this was a good thing, but for that guy…not so much. When we parked, I got out of my car, knocked on his window to thank him, and asked him if I could pay him back somehow( I didn’t have change either) He was upset about being taken for a ride, but told me it was no biggie, and that I could buy him a beer if we ran into each other on the event grounds. Never one to try to take advantage of unfortunate circumstances, I agreed and those who know me know I would have made good on it. Though I didn’t see him again, I am certain his good faith and selfless behavior resulted in good fortune.
I slowly made my way to the shuttle area and boarded a school bus to ride to the Event Grounds. The field that served as a parking area was active pasture land, as evidenced by varying mounds of animal fecal matter..EVERYWHERE… and we all know how I feel about “poop-land” in a race that involves CRAWLING IN MUD. (1) (2)
You should never question whether or not it was really mud you were crawling in…’NUFF said!
The shuttle dropped us off a fair distance from the packet pick-up/spectator entrance. I am a little cranky because of my toe, but the distance we had to travel from the shuttle drop-off/pick-up area seemed a tad excessive…
I headed to the waiver area and filled out a participant waiver, then I was off to packet pick-up. I had my ID in hand for all checks, as well as my DD-214. I previously mentioned that I was impressed with TM’s policy to prevent fraudulently claiming a military discount which requires you to present a valid Military ID or DD-214, or pay a $60 CASH ONLY fine. At the previous event I attended in October, there was a separate check in line for Military and veterans, staffed by a TMHQ member (that’s what the shirt said at least) who knew what they were looking at. There was no such area at this event, nor was there anything on my packet denoting my veteran status, so I was not asked for my DD-214. This really isn’t a huge issue, I don’t expect, nor do I care much for red-carpet treatment because of my veteran status, but I did like the fact that TM previously had procedures in effect that prevented people from faking it.
As per TM policy, I could have transferred my registration to another event (for a $30 fee), but the next time they come to TX will be October 26th, and I have it on good authority that my personal favorite event series, The Gladiator Rock’n Run will be making it’s triumphant third return (possibly with a second LONGER course added)to San Antonio that same weekend, at the SAME venue I thought was so nice, I ran it twice!(on the same day) This will be my third time attending a Gladiator Rock ‘n Run, so I will have to run it at least three times…barefoot of course!
I met up with some friends, with whom I was supposed to run this event. They knew about my toe, and my inability to run the event. I spotted my very close friend and fellow ultra-marathoner (who I am desperately trying to turn into a BF runner) Amanda as she was picking up her participant packet…
… we exchanged hello’s and she attempted to steal my body heat via hug, and we set off together in search of the rest of our group…which wound up being an extremely short search…
Passing these iconic obstacles left me with an empty sadness that I wouldn’t be taking them down today, but I was happy that my friend and fellow ultra-runner Amanda (in the sleeveless “for Boston” ) planned to “carry my spirit” with them in the form of Muddy J T-shirts! When Eliz-a-Beast realized I was wearing another one, she asked me if I would like her to wear my colors through the event…I took the shirt off my back and gave it to her right away….
We crossed a small creek to get to the starting wall, passing the Tough Mudder’s final warning sign:
…and there was the starting line wall. For those unfamiliar with Tough Mudder, the obstacles begin before you even get to the starting line….
The MC delivered his speech and pumped the crowd up, and though he wasn’t the same one that was in Austin in 2012, he did a good job of entertaining the runner’s who had signed a death waiver while imparting necesarry information to them. The National Anthem played over the PA system, and the runner’s were released. Amanda’s wife, Sam, had gotten the day off at the last minute, and would be spending the day with me as a spectator! We hurried off after they were released, taking a shorter route to the obstacles we could see… 1st up, The Kiss of Mud: which my friends made short work of… I laid on the poop grass to get some of these shots…
Being veteran Mudders, they finished the KOM in short order and were off as Sam and I hustled to the second obstacle, Walk The Plank, to cheer them all on and to try and get some more great photos…and despite my broken toe we made it to the obstacle ahead of them, allowing me to get photos of Amanda jumping off…I should mention now that Eliz-a-beast is like a ninja when it comes to these things and she dissappears into the crowd, despite being clad in a bright blue hood and neon orange Muddy J tee…
After that the track wound away from the spectators and Sam and I strolled to the next obstacle we could see: Fire Walker, a jump OVER a fire pit and into a mud pool… it was entertaining to watch to say the least. After a short time, Amanda, Eliz-a-beast and the rest of the crew came into view and jumped…seemingly having a great time!
Immediately following the Fire puddle of doom was a short run to everyone’s favorite, the Arctic Enema…though we tried like hell to get to it in time to take some photos, Sam and I didn’t make it, though I did manage to get some photos of Eliz-a-beast as she jumped into the icy waters…
Sam and I hustled, with me cursing silently about every other step…my toe had been swelling all morning as I moved from obstacle to obstacle to set up and take photos, and with the swelling came more and more pain… we hauled ass (as fast as I could move, I told Sam to leave and go cheer em) and I made it to the opposite side of the Boa Constrictor in time to catch them coming out the other side…
According to the spectator map, the course would wind away from areas where we would be able to spectate…we passed by Everest again, and as we passed by Victory Lane, I grabbed a person wearing a TMHQ shirt and explained my broken toe, asking if I could still get my T-shirt and headband…she was sympathetic to my toe, and walked me through Victory Lane, instructing staff/volunteers to give me the swag I was due… I am a Veteran Mudder, so I don’t really feel like I am faking the funk by collecting another headband/t-shirt it just means that I have an extra for the trophy case when I wear one…
unearned swag collected, we hurried off towards Funky Monkey to try and catch our crew… we didn’t make it to see them attempt the few obstacles in a row, but we did watch a few people attempt Funky Monkey. The course came into spectator view and turned left (if you were running on it) to an Aid Station.. some not-so-bright spectators complete idiots decided to use the course as a short-cut and knocked over a barrier…and then not pick it up. As a result, runners came across the concrete path that stretched over the river and kept running straight… Sam and I yelled at errant runners to get their attention and keep them on course while Sam ran over to fix it… No sooner had she put it back up, then yet another dumbass knocked it down again, leaving it there AGAIN (REALLY) I said something kind of rude to them and fixed it while Sam re-directed runners this time. It may seem like a non-issue after the fact, but I have gotten turned around on trail races before… and it SUCKS… the exhaustion of the running and the confusion you suffer from being electrocuted and frozen while running up and down hills soaking wet…this course marker failure struck me as yet another way that TM was showing itself to be stretched a little too thin…
I did get some really good shots though @ Funky Monkey though:
While we waited for our crew to appear on the backside of the course at the Lily Pads…(a bunch of floating boxes strewn across a river that sink as soon as you jump on them…think Wipe-Out with no padding)after an extremely long wait, The Crew finally came back into our view and made their crossing attempts….
Then they faced a short run up a little tiny
Knowing that they would be back out of view for a while, Sam and I decided to get some food into our famished bellies…we had been running around all morning on nothing to drink and a handful of Pringles…
We each got a cheeseburger and split a basket of fries… the food was…edible…nothing to write home about, but it sure tasted good because it had been so long since I had last eaten. (I skipped breakfast) Our hunger and thirst slaked, Sam and I headed over to the backside of Everest to wait for our friends to make their approach to the final few obstacles. Again I was struck by how TM seemed to be a little thin for this event… a steady flow of Mudders was heading towards Everest, but there was no staff on hand to direct them, or to insure the safety of those attempting the obstacle, or even to summon medical personnel if someone were to get injured. Thankfully, the Mudder sense of comraderie prevailed and those who could make it to the top on their own stayed put to help those who didn’t have ability get up and over. I have never seen a poorly constructed obstacle at a Tough Mudder, but this incarnation of Everest seemed like it could have been put together a little sturdier…often when Mudders would slam against it, the top layer would flap around as if it was not secured properly, leaving me to wonder what might have happened if a brisk wind picked up.
A short jog after Everest and they arrived at Electro-Shock therapy and the only thing standing between them and their well-earned Orange Headbands was a field of wires with 10k volts pulsing through them… They made short work of this, with a few of the team opting to go around for medical reasons: (those few did some burpees, a medical reason is a reason to take another avenue, not an excuse to go around!)
After the team swaggered through Victory Lane, I took some posed shots of everyone covered in mud with their well earned Orange Headbands:
Tough Mudder is one of the biggest names out there. As such they have some really big shoes to fill…their own. Though I did not encounter any problems so large as to prevent me from attending another Tough Mudder Event at a future date, I probably will not be doing any more this year…they need some time to adjust to how large thay have grown.
….just a few more days until my first TRIATHLON!
Stay Muddy My Friends!