For as long as I can remember, a large swath of us obstacle racers has been begging for a short course. Hobie Call tried to get one going Junyong Pak did too, and one of the best I’ve done, Alpha Warrior, had an incredible one but they couldn’t sustain (but seem to be trying to make a comeback), Spartan has tried but done an awful job marketing their time trial event and haven’t really made the push they should create a short course. Well, at long last, someone is doing something about it, Tough Mudder launched Tough Mudder X last year and now they have less than a handful of events this year. The concept is great, the execution needs some tweaking, but I think this time next year, we will see the rise of the short course. It’s what everyone wants, spectator friendly, and exciting battles. As fun as these long challenging racers are, the Spartan World Championship is a very boring race to watch, especially on tv, why do you think Spartan is no longer on NBC Sports, no matter how many cool angles we shot (I had a blast shooting with the Transition Productions crew last year), it’s hard to make a 16 mile obstacle race that takes 2+ hrs for the fastest to complete, exciting. People need speed and intensity to be captivated and short courses can do just that. It’ll be exciting to see how Tough Mudder’s CBS Sports Network broadcast of these events turns out.
So a week before my big race, the Georgia Death Race, a 74ish mile race with 40,000’ of elevation change, I decided to hop on a flight to San Francisco so I could connect with my good friend, Kien Lam of Where and Wander, and we went to Sacramento to take on “The Toughest Mile on the Planet”. Since my training was geared toward the long slow distance, I knew I was in for surprise at how underprepared I was for this race. Nevertheless, I just wanted to try the race to see what it was like, I went in knowing I had zero chances of performing well since my training was the opposite of what I needed for this event. I really liked this event and I think there is a ton of room for improvement so here are some things I liked and didn’t like about Tough Mudder X – Sacramento.
7 Things I Liked about Tough Mudder X
- The overall length of the course and the time it took for the first place finish was perfect, 1 Mile and the fastest finish of 10:30 by the one and only Hunter McIntyre.
- The heavy sandbag cleans – what an incredible challenge and wake up call. My current training isn’t tuned for high-intensity CrossFit and this specific obstacle showed me what happens when you only do body weight exercises for your fitness. The lack of weight bearing activists, as well as HIIT, left me grossly unprepared. I’m excited to add strength training back into the mix.
- The obstacles were all fun and made the race exciting. I really enjoyed Just the Tip and the Funky Monkey obstacles.
- The compact nature of the course, it created a lot of great viewing areas and the good news is Tough Mudder could improve this with a venue that wasn’t completely soaked days prior, obviously the weather was not something they can control.
- Because this is a smaller event that is still somewhat unknown it had that old feeling I got when I first started racing at obstacle races back in 2011. It had the smaller community and it was a lot of fun hanging out with everyone who came out. I like these smaller more intimate events so much more than the big events with 5-10k bodies throughout the course of a weekend. This won’t last, without spectator friendly this event is, I could see swarms of people doing this type of short course event. I always said Alpha Warrior had it figured out. Now Tough Mudder has a chance to steal the show since Spartan hasn’t been smart about rolling out a consistent short course format.
- The fact that the finals, which I did not make, switched up a few exercises to add a new level of difficulty. It added a level of excitement to the finals that wouldn’t have been there had it been the exact same course all over again.
- The exercises selected are a great bunch for this type of event. They allow crowds to cheer athletes on, in a sequence they will destroy runners, which forces all of us to balance our strength and conditioning along with running and speed work.
5 Things I Did Not Like about Tough Mudder X
- Sandbag cleans, fucking hell. Those were awful. Almost everyone agreed. This was the exercise that crushed souls, especially mine. The first 4 reps weren’t so bad, but after that, I felt so weak and pathetic. Time to change up the routine!
- The inconsistency in the judging I saw out there, some judges would allow things and then call other people out for something that they let another person get away with doing moments earlier. This is always the issue with events, using volunteers for judges, it just doesn’t work.
- The fact Tough Mudder didn’t think to get some plywood to make a walkway across the very mucky section next to the Funky Monkey obstacle which would have given more people access to the back obstacle area. Obviously, some people aren’t going to want to get their feet wet and I saw this as a simple, cheap allow spectators to follow their runners through the course.
- Not enough obstacles, while there were some good staples of Tough Mudder, I felt like the overall number of obstacles was limited, there were more exercises than obstacles, this isn’t an exercise race, it’s an obstacle race. Break up the runs and add more obstacles!
- The Tough Mudder website is surprisingly difficult to work with, the photo viewer has some issues and they only post highlights from the race and they don’t share individualized photos, something Spartan has always excelled at.
Overall, I loved the race and the format and I hope more companies will shift the focus to short courses. If Obstacle Racing is ever going to become an Olympic sport, short courses are the future.
Gear Used for Race
Shoes: Altra King MT
Compression Shorts: Reebok Compression Shorts
Watch: Suunto Spartan Ultra