Back in December 2019 I ran Tough Mudder Florida on what would be the final event weekend as a brand for almost a year and a half. With Joe DeSena’s Spartan saving the brand from complete destruction, I was feeling a little wary about coming back to Tough Mudder. Would it have the same feeling? Would it be Spartan-ized? Here’s what I thought of Tough Mudder’s 2nd event weekend of 2021.
Check In: Check in has been streamlined as compared to pre-2020 Tough Mudder. Instead of one Tougher check in line, all lanes were open making the check in process faster and smoother. Upon entering the festival we were routed directly through the merchandise tent, something which I liked because I got to see the newest swag from the brand. As a marketing move I also think it’s a good idea kind of like how Disney rides always have you exit through the gift shop.
Terrain: The event took place at Cedar Lake Cellars, a winery and former home to The Battlegrounds race. I’ve run this venue twice for Battlegrounds and once for Mud Run Guide’s Summer Splash (both of those races were five miles or less). Tough Mudder course took me to parts of the venue I’ve never even seen before and managed to put in more than 10 miles of course. I was expecting it to be short of the 10 miles, but it actually ended up being a little longer than 10…which felt like an unpleasant surprise as I was trying to hold my placement in the race. The course was flat, fast and even used a couple of the streams running through the property to mix things up.
Obstacles: Tough Mudder brought their standard set of obstacles like Mudderhorn (the largest A frame cargo net in OCR), Blockness Monster (rotating blocks in water that require teamwork) and then some. I was happy to see the inclusion of several upper body obstacles including:
–Rope a Dope: jump to a rope over water, climb up the rope, slide down the angled pole
-Funky Monkey 2.0: monkey bars to rotating wheels and then a traverse pipe
-The Gauntlet: balance beam to superman style pipe traverse to rings to grips. New to the Gauntlet was several lanes had rock climbing grips at the end instead of the usual pegs/trailer hitches
Two electrical obstacles (EST and Electric Eel) were included in the long course as well as Arctic Enema (the ice bath), making it especially chilly for this 50 degree race day. Overall, Tough Mudder brought the quality they are known for giving the Midwest that big Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) brand feeling, something that doesn’t happen very often.
Atmosphere: The best emcee in OCR, Sean Corvelle was present at the start line and my favorite commentator for Electro Shock Therapy (the hanging electrical wires), Clinton Jackson, was there at the end. They’re sometimes inspiring and sometimes hysterical commentary bookended the event experience making for great memories for first timers or those with 50x+ finishes. Add in some of the regulars for the Tough Mudder Community combined with the friendliness of Midwest locals powered by excess levels of caffeine provided by free Reign energy drinks and the experience felt more like an outdoor party than anything else.
Tougher: I ran in the Tougher wave, Tough Mudder’s one timed competitive wave for the day. As Sean Corvelle said (and I agree), “this is the largest Tougher Mudder wave I’ve ever seen.” After the competitive wave finished they held the podium ceremony faster than I can recall at any race. Podium swag included gifts from Every Man Jack.
Overall: What else can I say? Tough Mudder is back and I would argue is better than ever. Same great Tough Mudder feel and same great community with some improved efficiencies brought to you by Spartan-eque influences. I’ve expressed my concern for the future of Tough Mudder before (over here “Why I’m Concerned About Tough Mudder”) but if the turnout and quality of this event is any indication of the future, Tough Mudder and the sport of OCR is in good shape. Looking forward to seeing some of you at the first Toughest Mudder of 2021!
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