Archive for category obstacle courses/racing

Anudder Tough Mudder

the Krav Maga team after a river crossing and rope ladder climb

Two days ago I drove 7 1/2 hours round trip to watch my son, Gavin, and his friends run the Tough Mudder Obstacle Course in New Jersey. The two-day event attracted 10-15,000 warriors who each complete the 12-mile run in about 3-4 hours. I’d written about Tough Mudder before, but here I was with a friend following along and avoiding the flying mud splatters as participants tackled various obstacles. Being at events is always more exciting and messy than experiencing them via computer/TV.

How did the donkey see?

The biggest problem was finding my son and his eight friends, because spectators can’t access all 22 obstacles, and the runners are moving much faster than we walking onlookers. Then most participants wore black. A few people wear costumes and outlandish outfits for fun that distinguishes them. I saw a donkey head, men in pink tutus, someone with deer antlers, a guy in a superman suit. Of course all these items are quickly covered in mud. It’s called a Tough MUDDER for a reason. My boy made it easier by wearing yellow shorts and a Russian, Cossack-style, cold weather hat with earlaps that also has a stuffed penguin sewn on top. He stood out pretty well, because he is 6 1/2 feet tall without the hat, which he manufactured and sells. But finding the group more than once was still my biggest challenge of the day.

One of his teammates easy to spot was a young red-haired woman in a greenish-blue, teal-colored shirt. Her name is Amy Serfass, and she is a fitness trainer as well. All the team members study or teach the deadly Israeli martial art, Krav Maga. No wonder they felt strong enough to take on this course.

many people fall in the mud crossing the Peg Legs

a 15-foot jump into mud

On the other hand, there were a few people who were not in the best shape. I saw some who were fat or even obese. At one place where there was a rope ladder, they simply walked around. I bet there were other obstacles that they and others who were thinner couldn’t complete. But it was admirable to see them trying. A way to lose some poundage and build up confidence. Just walking 12 miles through that mud is a real achievement. One frightened woman sat for 10 minutes on a 15-foot-high platform called Walk the Plank before jumping into a mud hole. Her teammates’ urgings and yells helped her make the leap.

The pictures are of my son’s group and a couple of random shots from the day.

Everest: No Quit In Here...a half pipe that's hell to climb in muddy shoes when you are exhausted so people slide down many times

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90 Stories Of Weight Losers

Ryan Norton at 305 pounds—1/15/2012

Just bumped into a slide show (at bottom of the page of this link) of 90 people who lost weight, showing the before and after pictures. Amazing. Also included are the stories of how they gained and lost weight and what it took to finally start dropping the pounds. Pretty inspirational. Check ’em out And here are photos from one of the stories by an ex-marine who lost 74 pounds when his buddies forced him to prepare for a Tough Mudder obstacle course challenge that I have mentioned in an earlier post .

Ryan at 231 in the Tough Mudder—Summer 2012

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Russ St. Hilaire Describes Tough Mudder Challenges—Part 2 of 2

Russ St. Hilaire has completed three Tough Mudder challenges in one year

Russ wrote yesterday about why he was attracted to this obstacle course. Think you are ready for it?

So let me give you a brief description of the fun. Lets start with taking your Tough Mudder pledge (look it up at ). Then out the gate and run up a long hill. Down the other side and across a river. Up a full ski slope on a mountain—with the snow makers turned on—keeping you nice and soaked. Jump into an ice bath four feet deep and swim under a wall and out the other side. Run down the mountain—run up the mountain. Hang upside down from a rope and cross a large pond. Climb up the mountain again. Crawl under barbed wire in the mud. Climb through sewer pipes down into a pond. Cross some water under more barbed wire and go back up the hill in another sewer pipe. Run through the woods. Use a rope to climb a tower and then jump out of the tower into a freezing lake. Swim out. Go up the mountain half way—grab a 30-40 lb log and finish going up the mountain. Run down through fields of mud. Splash into a pool of water and mud and slosh through it while electric fence wires zap you on your back. Get out and run. Crawl through a zigzag of underground tunnels. Run through the woods and down a river with logs and barbed wire across it. Run back up the mountain while people with large water cannons try to blast your legs from under you. Run through a gauntlet of burning hay bails and inhale rancid smoke while tripping in the mud. Cross a huge jumble of giant logs and then run a hillside of tires, stepping in and out of each one. Run down a hill and try to run up a half pipe and pull yourself over the top. And finish the day with running through a tunnel of electric fence wires, while climbing over hay bails and through the mud—being shocked the whole way.

Here is Russ conquering one of the course obstacles in the video above. You can see and hear that it is a team effort. And you can imagine the effort and strain it takes to reach the other side.

Now doesn’t that sound like fun! And I probably left out some obstacles. And what do you get for your suffering—a terry-cloth headband with the words Tough Mudder on it and a beer and a T-shirt. But those three small things are treasured items! So treasured that people wear those orange headbands to work! They are prized items, because finishers are in an elite crowd that have proved to themselves and others that they ARE Tough Enough to finish a challenge like that. So tough that I have seen people crawl through the finish line with injured knees, or carried through the finish line with broken legs. I have literally seen plenty of blood, sweat, and tears on that course. But when you are done—other challenges in your life seem small and easily surmountable.

This is why I do the Tough Mudder. It may have started out as just a challenge and a way to prove to myself that being 50 wasn’t going to stop me. But it turned into something much more.

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Russ St. Hilaire Is One Tough Mudder—Part 1 of 2

Russ St. Hilaire enjoys another Tough Mudder obstacle

I wrote earlier about the Tough Mudder obstacle courses that have attracted 500,000 people in just two years to these incredibly demanding physical challenges now at 28 different locations. Russ St. Hilaire has done three of them in just the last year. He also teaches kobukai jujitsu at his dojo in East Hartford, Ct., which you can learn about at his web site.

The Tough Mudder—what can I say? The name says it all. It is very muddy and it is very tough! 10-12 miles of dirt and cold and water and mud and suffering. It would be just as easy to do a 10-mile road race and only suffer a little sweat and tired feet. But no—I had to go find the toughest race on the planet. Why, you may ask? Well I think everyone has their own reasons for wanting to torture themselves for 3-4 hours, but I had some of my own specific reasons.

A little background first. I have been practicing and teaching one of the most physically demanding martial arts in the world: Jujitsu, for over 30 years. In that amount of time I have achieved a 7th degree black belt, and have accumulated numerous hematomas, injured elbows, a neck injury, and a knee injury resulting in surgery. So you see—maybe there is something a little “off” in my head already.

But it was natural for me to want this physical challenge. My own parents brought it on. They took me hiking and rock climbing and camping, since I was a little kid. I grew up feeling like hiking the White Mountains was natural. Swimming in freezing cold mountain rivers was just something we did and enjoyed. Later in life, I took on swimming as a sport in high school and did very well, going to several state championships. After that I took up weight lifting and fitness as a hobby, as well as the martial arts. After receiving my black belt, I joined the Army. Why? Because I wanted the challenge. I loved the long ruck marches. I loved the obstacle courses. I loved rappelling out of a helicopter. I wasn’t a big runner, but I could hold my own.

Now decades later, I still train and teach Jujitsu three or four times a week. I still lift weights. I still run. I still camp and hike the mountains. But I wanted more of a challenge.

So there I was a couple years ago—49 years old, doing all of these physical activities. Physically fighting with men 10 and 20 years younger than me in Jujitsu several times a week. Taking my whole dojo on crazy runs up hills, through the woods, across rail yards, in the snow—and I felt good! I still felt good! I wanted more.

Just by luck someone told be about a 5k Mud Run put on by Merrill. I gave it a try, having no idea what to expect. It had a dozen obstacles and some mud and runs through the woods. I had a blast—but it was way too easy. Then my girlfriend’s son Sean told me about a race he just heard formed called the Tough Mudder. I researched it and found out just how crazy it was supposed to be—and immediately signed up. That was a year and three Tough Mudders ago! I found the type of physical and mental challenge I was looking for. Plus it combined teamwork and camaraderie. It attracted military and fitness folks, and it gave money to the Wounded Warrior Project. It was—well—perfect!

Here is Russ and his buddies walking and falling in the mud. You really get a sense of how gritty and sloppy this particular obstacle is. Ready to do it yourself?

One of the key things that attracted me was that with each successive race, I began to see more and more people 50+ years of age taking on the challenge. They, like me, had kept very active over their lifetime and still craved the physical challenge. Many of them were smoking the young guns on the course. That really sparks something in me. It shows me that age is just a thing. It happens. But it doesn’t have to happen the way we are taught growing up. You don’t have to become frail and feeble and doddering. You can be active and an athlete well into your oldest senior years! (Part 2 posts tomorrow)

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Tough Mudder Was Created By Harvard Student For Class Contest

The video above has commentary by the two founders of Tough Mudder, who are also on camera as they describe their first ever event in May of 2010.

In just two years this start up has attracted 500,000 participants paying $90-200 each, depending upon when you sign up. This year there will be events in 28 locations. A great and growing success. You can learn more in yesterday’s post .

What’s more impressive to me is that Tough Mudder was founded by Will Dean and Guy Livingstone. Dean developed the concept while studying at Harvard Business School, where Tough Mudder was a finalist in the annual business plan contest. Wow! Those Harvard guys can really come up with some earth-shaking businesses: facebook, Microsoft, etc, etc…

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Tough Mudder Obstacle Course Claims It’s The Toughest

Kate St. Hilaire told me her father is a toughmudder. I wasn’t impressed until I found out what that means. Tough Mudder events are hardcore 10-12 mile obstacle courses designed by British Special Forces to test your all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie. With the most innovative courses, 500,000 inspiring participants (25% women), and more than $2.5 million dollars raised for the Wounded Warrior Project, Tough Mudder says it’s the premier adventure challenge series in the world.

Those who comple one of these courses are convinced they can do almost anything else. It’s an ultimate physical achievement. In 2012 there will be Tough Mudder courses held in 28 different locations, mostly in the US, but a few overseas. Some have as many as 32 military designed obstacles, including running through fire and hanging electric wires, jumping into pools of water and ice cubes, swimming through mud, climbing walls/ropes/rope ladders, running up large hills (sometimes carrying heavy logs), walking balance beams and ropes over freezing water (one video I saw was held in 38 degrees), going through long and narrow pipe tunnels, walking up a mountain bent over under a net, crawling many yards under 18 inches of barbed wire…you get the idea.

Now check out this video above and decide if you have what it takes to accept this challenge! It was shot by Ryan Tworek who completed the course wearing a head cam, so you can see every obstacle in the October 2011 Virginia event.

I love Ryan’s hot tip about the electric shock obstacle: “Yes, they had 10,000 volts or 3 car batteries hooked up to it and you didn’t know which one’s are live as it’s alternating current! I got hit 3x and you definitely know when you touch one of the live wires! It’s yellow rope with a metal wire in the middle of it.”

Wikipedia’s description of Tough Mudder includes a list of upcoming events, which the New York Times wrote are “more convivial than marathons and triathlons.” Contestants are not timed, and organizers encourage ‘mudders’ to demonstrate teamwork by helping fellow participants over difficult obstacles to complete the course. The prize for completing a Tough Mudder challenge is an official orange sweatband and a free beer. It is estimated that 15-20% of participants do not finish.

You might also want to compare this obstacle course with two others I have written about: the Tough Guy and Spartan Racing. There are also many painful long-distance running events you can explore under the “running” category on the Home Page

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The Tough Guy Obstacle Course Challenge


I found an amusing article for those who want more challenging physical experiences. It’s aimed at exercise junkies who really want to make it hard for themselves. Impossibly hard. Painful and life threatening, in fact. Which is what makes it so interesting. It summarizes 10 events that I will describe over a number of days. I have to leave in the article’s opening sell copy.

Is your daily routine at the gym boring you? Is your jogging route not giving you the same satisfaction it once did? And are you tired of athletic events that only last a couple of measly hours? Then it sounds like you need more pain and suffering in your life! Luckily, there are numerous sporting challenges that have been designed for the sole purpose of torturing their participants with insane demands. Taking part in any one of the following events should be enough to ensure that you never want to exercise again!

10. The Tough Guy

The founder claims that it is the safest most dangerous event in the world.

The Tough Guy is a 12km foot race, but don’t let the short distance fool you. The creator of the course, believing that nature can’t provide a racetrack that’s hardcore enough for him, has built a series of obstacles that combine aspects of American Gladiators with the Vietnam War. Competitors climb up log walls, shimmy up poles to slide across high ropes, run through fire pits, navigate through sewer pipes, wade across chest deep water and crawl under barbed wire while smoke bombs go off over their heads. Oh, and it takes place in the middle of January. Sounds fun, right?

The event, which is held on some crazy British guy’s private land, can attract up to 6000 people each year. Injuries are common, and two people have even been killed, which is why you have to sign a “death warrant” before taking part. All in all, it sounds like an amazing competition to sign your friend up for while you heckle him from the sidelines.

Here is ESPN’s segment on the 2007 race.

Here are more details. Tough Guy claims to be the world’s most demanding one-day survival ordeal.

First staged in 1986, the Tough Guy Challenge is held on a 600-acre (2.42 square km) farm in Perton, Staffordshire, near Wolverhampton, England, and is organised by Billy Wilson (using the pseudonym “Mr Mouse”). It has been widely described as “the toughest race in the world”, with up to one-third of the starters failing to finish in a typical year.

After 24 stagings of the winter event, Wilson still claimed nobody had ever finished all the course according to his extremely demanding rules. The race, and its summer equivalent, has suffered two fatalities during its history.

Taking place at the end of January, often in freezing winter conditions, the Tough Guy race is staged over a course of between seven and eight miles (about 12 kilometres). It consists of a cross-country run followed by an assault course. The organizers claim that running the course involves risking barbed wire, cuts, scrapes, burns, dehydration, hypothermia, acrophobia, claustrophobia, electric shocks, sprains, twists, joint dislocation and broken bones.

Although the course is adjusted each year, its features have included a 40-foot (12.2 meters) crawl through flooded underground tunnels, balancing planks across a fire pit, and a half-mile wade through chest-deep muddy water. Marshals dressed as commandos fire machine-gun blanks and let off thunder flashes and smoke bombs over the heads of competitors as they crawl under a 70-meter section of barbed wire. Until 2000, some runners took part in the event carrying heavy wooden crucifixes.

Entry fees range from £80 to £1,000, depending on the sign-up date. Entrants have to be 16 years old or older. The event regularly attracts fields of up to 6,000 competitors, many from the United States and more than 20 countries around the world.

Before taking part, entrants must sign a “death warrant”, which acknowledges the risks and dangers, and which the organizers claim absolves them of any legally liability in the case of injury. First aid is provided by St. John Ambulance.

In case you want to see more, here is a video that is a bit hard to understand, but the visuals and interviews of the participants are terrific.

Tough Guyâ„¢ Intro from Mr Mouse on Vimeo.

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Obstacle Racing For Athletes Who Like Mud Crawling

Here is a kind of athletic challenge called Spartan Racing. Are you tough enough to even think about doing it? Below is some info from the Spartan Race web site . You can also see video clips of a number of Spartan Races here. It reminds me of the obstacle courses I had to complete in the military. And there is a lot of crawling through mud, just like I did one winter, but without the live machine-gun bullets I had flying above my head.

Obstacle Racing at its Toughest! You thought mud runs and trail races were tough?

This video describes some competitors who have overcome personal hardships that would stop many…but these athletes are now Spartan Racers. If they can do it, then we can, whatever our choice of athletic event.

Spartan Race™, the global leader in Obstacle Racing since 2005, was designed by seven insane ultra athletes and a Royal Marine. If you have tried trail races, mud runs, tough guy fun runs, or a warrior dash, it’s time to step up to a brutal Spartan Race obstacle course. You can tackle a Spartan Sprint, a Super Spartan, but only a few of you will have the heart to graduate up to our Death Race; the world championship of obstacle racing, and an endurance race like NO other. Are you unbreakable?

Why Spartan? Because the Spartans were tough as nails. Why race our obstacle course races? Because we all thrive under pressure, survival of the fittest. Our goal is simple… to get you off your couch, throw you in the mud & trails, and feed you one tough endurance event day that will be the adrenalin rush of your life.

An obstacle course race is designed to test your resilience, strength, stamina, quick decision making skills, and ability to laugh in the face of adversity. We want to own obstacle racing and our unique obstacle course trail races will demand every ounce of your strength, ingenuity, and animal instinct.

You will understand at the finish line…

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