While everyone else in the country is talking about gearing up for 2018, it’s odd to say that the Tough Mudder Miami would be my last race of this season. Well, the last race of the Spring season. Of course, we have a Fall season, but no major races in the summer. So it’s no surprise that I was looking forward to this race, my longest event this year and my first Tough Mudder (TM) since 2015. As it was, temperatures were in the low 80’s and sunny.
Getting to the Event
Parking was well organized and the surprisingly long lines early in the morning at registration seemed to be moving just fine for most everyone. Despite some initial confusion for me at registration, TM’s Katie finally got me set up and into the festival area. I’ve always believed it’s not what you know but who you know. In Obstacle Course Racing (OCR), always look for the person with the most radios and mics hanging off their vest! How your morning goes has a big effect on how your race day goes. Thanks to her, my yin and yang were back in balance and I was ready for a great race experience!
Turnout seemed to be exceptionally high, as evidenced by the early lines at registration. Tough Mudder (TM) hasn’t been down to Miami for a while and the Mudder Nation obviously missed them. Tough Mudder was also doing something at this event that others have tried and I was very curious to see how well they pulled it off. They were offering a Full Mudder (appx 10 miles), a Half Mudder and a 5K, on the same basic course. I was doing the Full Mudder, which was somewhere over 9 miles according to several racers who clocked it. Because of that design though, I would actually be able to experience all three distances.
Like most races, they started off with a stretch of running to thin out the field. They did cover some ground at Amelia Earhart Park I hadn’t seen before and it wasn’t long before I started worrying that I hadn’t carried my hydration pack. But that concern didn’t last long as I soon ran into the first of several water stations on the course along with bananas and electrolyte drink. During that first stage, we also hit two wading water obstacles. In fact, TM had a number of water obstacles. Some of that water you only experienced if you failed the obstacle. In the Miami heat, I’m not so sure that was a penalty. More like a silver lining…which I felt obliged to take advantage of more than once! It would be rude to waste all that water (and before you ask…no, I have no shame). During that long loop around the lake, they also mixed in a very short wood carry and a tire drag/carry (what is it exactly about OCR and tires anyway?!).
Another obstacle in that loop surprised me though…Devil’s Beard. It’s basically going under a cargo net lying on the ground, which didn’t appear to be difficult at all. In a group, I guess, the weight is shared. But I was alone at that point and instead of doing a bear crawl like my last race, it seemed that walking through lifting the net overhead would be just fine. Well…another life lesson…that was tough! Fortunately, toward the end, a couple of guys were holding up the net, so my arms were finally spared. The fact that they were actually holding it for the women coming up behind me made no never-mind!
Although they could have used additional directional signage at the course intersections, they did do a pretty good job with adjusting the difficulty of the various courses along with the distances. The 5K wasn’t terribly tough until the end when you got to the last series of obstacles: the Berlin Wall (I love walls!), Everest, Block Ness Monster and Happy Ending. Throughout the courses though, TM stressed teamwork, starting with the Hero Carry and including these last few. Most of these obstacles require help to complete for everyone except the elite racers. It appeared to me that the people running in teams actually enjoyed the challenge of working together, as much or even more, than doing the obstacles individually. At this point, I really have to give a shout out to the MC at Happy Ending! I didn’t get her name but she was giving play-by-play on the efforts, as well as safety tips and suggestions on how to clear this obstacle. Something that was certainly enjoyed by the groups working their way up and over.
Besides the 10’ Berlin Wall (did I mention I love walls?), they also had a pretty challenging inverted wall…again all but guaranteeing that racers would not be able to get over without some help. And of course, no OCR race would be complete without a barbed wire crawl. This one was done nicely through some sand pits with hay bales mixed in. They even had a short section of wooded trail right after that crawl…something we haven’t seen at Amelia Earhart in a while. Somehow, I missed out on one of the water obstacles (very possibly a loop of the course) and also missed out on Everest. I think missing Everest was divine intervention though since our last meeting didn’t end well (hint…Everest came out of that meeting just fine). One obstacle I didn’t miss was Electroshock Therapy. I’ve done it twice before and pre-race I’d decided that twice was enough. What can I say…I’m an idiot. Really, who pays someone to deliberately electrocute them?!
There were also a number of obstacles I’ve never attempted before. While I did surprisingly well on Funky Monkey and King-Infinity (that rotating wheel of death was seriously intimidating!) one of my favorite moments was finally taking a spin on Block Ness Monster. I’ve been waiting to try that one out since seeing it in World’s Toughest Mudder. The fact that we were back in water didn’t hurt, but it just looked like fun. After all, despite the difficulty in many obstacles, I’m still just a kid at heart…out to have some fun while still pushing my physical limits.
Speaking of limits, I spent some time on the course with a new OCR friend, Tom. He’s a long time Mudder and an avid biker. It was interesting to hear him talk about something that many races are still adapting to today. How to keep courses challenging for the serious veteran racers, while at the same time, not turning off the novice or casual racers that seem to make up the fastest growing part of the OCR market now. I’d have to say that TM did a pretty good job of that in Miami. They managed to keep the 5K from being overly difficult, then giving them a taste of the more challenging obstacles. At the same time, they rewarded the Half and Full Mudders with some additional, more difficult obstacles.
All the while keeping the three distances within the same footprint at the park. While there are certainly some logistics to work out with better directional signs and staff at the intersections, they did a respectable job in creating a multi-distance course in Miami. Now, I’m preparing for a long hot summer…waiting for my next event. And after a great race, like always, it will be tough waiting until I can do my next Tough Mudder. Hopefully, they’ll come back sooner than later….
I would give the Tough Mudder Miami a 5/5…
Have you done an Tough Mudder?
Leave your own Tough Mudder review and feedback...