By Pete Williams
TAMPA – Eric Stratman showed no mercy during Tough Mudder training this morning at The Next Level training center in Westchase, dialing the session up to 75 minutes and, as usual, increasing the degree of difficulty.
That hasn’t stopped attendance from growing, with about 50 victims, er, athletes showing up for the free biweekly session in preparation for the Tough Mudder, which takes place in Dade City in December.
Back for a third consecutive session was the dreaded weighted “Prowler” sled. Teams of 3-4 people took turns pushing the beast 400 yards through the parking lot. This time, we also flipped tires for 15 reps at a time, climbed ropes, and dealt with something called a “slosh pipe,” a heavy PVC pipe with water inside.
The challenge was to carry the pipe overhead and keep it balanced as the water sloshed from side to side. I used the singing strategy I learned as a kid when carrying water or eggs. Not sure if it helped, and it only added to the torture of my fellow trainees, but I gave it a try. Those arriving at the obstacle with no slosh pipes available got to carry tires.
In between obstacles, Stratman had us run one-mile loops through the office park, up from the 800-meter distance of recent sessions. All told, I finished six obstacles and six loops before time was called.
I managed to keep up with Eric Keaton, who mentored me into triathlon four years ago (and encouraged me get into it years earlier). Keaton, who is the public communications manager for Pasco County, reports that Tough Mudder is expecting 10,000 participants daily over the two-day event in December.
After finishing fourth in my 113-man age group at the Savage Race last weekend, I was feeling pretty confident about this morning’s session, especially after finishing the last two with gas in the tank and opting not to participate in Chase Kosterlitz’ stand-up paddleboarding race in St. Pete this morning. But today was tough, a reminder that there’s much work to be done in order to finish Tough Mudder, which takes more than two hours. Good thing Mix1 rep James Bellamy brought plenty of product to expedite recovery.
Stratman’s Tough Mudder prep sessions at The Next Level continue on Sept. 17 and every other Saturday until the race.