Tag Archives: Florida mud runs

‘Baddest Mud Run’ Preview

By Pete Williams

With so many obstacle races on the calendar, it’s a bold statement to call yourself “The Baddest Mud Run.” But Dan LaPlaca believes his event, coming up Nov. 3-4 at the Hernando County Fairgrounds in Brooksville, is deserving of that title.

We spoke to Dan this week on The Fitness Buff Show to preview the event, which also features a kids’ race. You can listen to that show HERE.

 

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A Hog Wild Discount

By Pete Williams

Ready to go hog wild?

The Hog Wild Mud Run, which takes place near Tampa on July 21, is offering a 2-for-1 discount to anyone who registers over Father’s Day weekend.

Sign two people up on a team by 11:59 p.m. on Sunday by using the discount code WILD (case sensitive) and the second person gets in free. Register HERE.

 

 

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Mud Crusade: Finding a Niche?

By Pete Williams

DADE CITY – Had Mud Crusade debuted a year ago, before Florida became saturated with obstacle mud races, athletes probably would have been quite impressed with how the Dade City Motocross and Pasco County Fairgrounds was converted into a short, muddy course over the weekend.

Now it’s tough for any mud run or obstacle race to stand out in a crowded field. Considering many of the 5,600 or so athletes who participated over the two days paid $25 or less via various early-bird promotions, it would be tough to say they didn’t get their money’s worth. Nobody seemed too bent out of shape about getting an insulated tumbler instead of a T-shirt. If the course fell short of the advertised 5K mark by a few tenths of a mile, well, that was okay too.

But given the fierce competition in the obstacle race category, led by national series such as Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, and Warrior Dash, along with Florida-based tours that have put on at least two successful races (Savage Race, Highlander), it might be a challenge for Mud Crusade to establish a foothold, especially if it doesn’t plan to offer $25 discounted entries the next time.

Race director Marshall Chmura says he’ll continue the aggressive early-bird marketing efforts that in January caused him and his partners to revise their projected attendance from 1,800 to more than 5,000. With so many getting in for under $25, T-shirts became cost prohibitive and Chmura erred on the side of caution with the course layout, not wanting to take out too much parking. That turned out to be unnecessary, he said, but it accounted for a course that likely fell shy of 5K.

“Our whole philosophy was to keep it affordable,” Chmura said. “When you’re new to the game, you’d be naïve to think you could challenge Tough Mudder and Warrior Dash. We wanted to build a reputation and build for the long term. There’s a niche group of people who do these events willing to give you a shot, but you’ve got to make the most of that first opportunity.”

We liked the flow of the course. Traffic moved well and there were few backups. It’s difficult at this point to come up with new obstacles, but navigating a lengthy fishnet was a different wrinkle. All of the obstacle race staples were there: balance beam, monkey bars, cargo net, mud/barbwire crawl, water slide, walls of various heights.

There wasn’t a signature obstacle nor anything involving ice or claustrophobia. If this was your first obstacle race, and it was for about half of the 50 crazies I ran with, it was perfect. For those coming off Savage Race in Clermont last month or the Spartan Race in Miami in February looking for a greater challenge, however, it might have seemed a bit of a letdown.

Given the escalation in entry fees for obstacle races and how the category – unlike triathlons and most road racing events – charges $10 for parking and does not provide free refreshments beyond the first beer, we think there’s a place for a race like Mud Crusade — if it keeps its rates at $59 or less. None of its obstacles were so big they couldn’t be easily moved around the state by the event’s Jacksonville-based owners. In that sense, it could fill the first-timer obstacle race void left when Muddy Buddy left the Sunshine State after last year.

Chmura says he plans to launch registration next week for the Sept. 15 Mud Crusade at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Registration is $49 through June 30 and Chmura says he might provide discounts comparable to those given in January for those who signed up early for the Dade City event.

We’ve seen a lot of one-and-done mud runs in Florida in the last year including Iron Crusader, Champions Mud Bash, and Ragin’ Warrior. All had visions of moving beyond the state, though we’ve yet to see a Florida-based promoter pull it off. Savage Race has a number of out-of-state locations planned, though no dates announced. Mud Crusade would be the first to open registration for an out-of-state event. The Miami event listed on the Mud Crusade website for Dec. 1-2 will change, Chmura says, since he does not want to go up against Tough Mudder, which takes place in Fort Meade the same weekend.

Will Mud Crusade ever be as challenging as Tough Mudder or Spartan Race? Probably not. But it could fill a niche staging compact, lower-cost events in central locations within striking distance of its Jacksonville headquarters.

“I simply think that we can deliver as good or better a race at an affordable price,” Chmura said. “I don’t determine what these races cost. Ultimately, the consumer does. Based on what we did here working, we’re going to build better, bigger obstacles, and refine our technique. We did this with not a lot of experience, but a lot of determination and hard work. We’re looking forward to taking it to Atlanta.”

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GoPro Cameras and Endurance Races

By Pete Williams

We’re big fans of GoPro cameras, which might be the most popular gadgets on the market without an Apple logo. Skiers, surfers, and race car drivers strap the cameras to their helmets, chests, or equipment and the result is a dazzling first-person viewpoint.

Not surprisingly, GoPro cameras have become especially popular among the obstacle race crowd, to the point where some races have contracted with vendors who will rent cameras and then provide an edited video of your race experience.

Last month I ran with a group of two dozen friends at the Savage Race in Clermont. For $52, we got a camera for the duration of the race and the edited video above. Anyone who edits video knows how time consuming that process can be, so this was a tremendous value, especially when you have two dozen people involved. (It no doubt helped the editor that most everyone in our group was wearing a green kilt.)

I’ve seen GoPros at Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, and Muddy Buddy, along with some trail runs. They haven’t caught on with triathlon yet. Wearing a GoPro would be cumbersome in the swim and you’d lose some transition time between the bike and run unless you had two cameras. But somebody will figure it out.

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Savage Race – Dialing up the Intensity

By Pete Williams

Exiting the 'Colon 5000'

CLERMONT – The second edition of the Savage Race held here at Revolution Off Road Saturday proved that it’s possible to stage a compelling obstacle race without the mega-distance of Tough Mudder, the simplicity of Warrior Dash, or the pound-you-over-the-head pummeling of Spartan Race.

If Savage Race, a creation of Sam Abbitt, 30, and Lloyd Parker, 31, is to make the Big Three obstacle race series into a Big Four, it will do so because it manages to be all things to all competitors. The second running of the event, held just six months after the debut, took the previous course and extended it a half mile to 4.7 miles and added a number of obstacles as challenging as any in the industry.

About 3,500 competitors, nearly double the initial attendance, tackled 30 obstacles including Davy Jones’ Locker, a 12-foot jump into a lake; the claustrophobia-inducing Colon Blow 5000 crawl through dark muddy tubes; and the Shriveled Richard, a grosser version of Tough Mudder’s notorious Chernobyl Jacuzzi. Unlike that obstacle, where clean competitors jump into dumpsters full of iced Kool Aid early in the race, Savage Race sent muddy athletes near the end of the event into vats of what looked like, ahem, iced coffee.

Navigating the Nutt Smasher

Then there was the Nutt Smasher, a deceptively difficult balance beam over water that seemed to send at least nine out of 10 athletes into the drink. Only one competitor in our 23-member, kilt-clad Running Commando team – an athletic group which won post-race festivities for best spirit — managed to get across dry. (I went in quickly.)

Other challenges were lengthened to add to the degree of difficulty while last year’s 150-yard swim was shortened to encourage more people to brave the water rather than perform 30 Burpees and take a 5-minute penalty. The swim loop was rung with ropes, buoys, and lifeguards offering flotation devices to anyone in need.

Mach 7 waterslide

Obstacle mud races have exploded over the last 18 months by marketing successfully to the 21-to-34 demographic, drawing a younger crowd than triathlon and road racing. Many groups of friends and office mates race together, enjoying a day of mud, fun, and post-race reverie.

Facing Davy Jones' Locker

The organizers hired a lineup of popular local bands, including Chris McCarty. That, Abbitt said, contributed to a larger than expected crowd of spectators, which caused traffic tie-ups later in the morning. Traffic also was an issue on the course, where competitors waited as long as 10 minutes to get through Davy Jones’ Locker and the Mach 7, a steep waterslide added to the course this year.

Abbitt, who is planning Savage Races for Austin, Atlanta, and Virginia later this year  says he’s exploring options for traffic flow for what will be an expected return to Clermont, probably next spring. Expanding waves beyond 1 p.m. is a possibility, along with fewer people than 500 per wave. The water slide will be widened and a more durable material used to prevent the tears and delays of this year’s model. Additional parking could be procured from an adjacent property owner.

Crawling toward the finish (Photo by Julie Austin)

We like the layout of the Savage Race course, roughly around a lake, which makes it both scenic and spectator friendly. The lake also provides easy post-race cleanup. No race does a better job of branding than Savage, which places logo flags on every obstacle, paints many of them orange, and has an Army of volunteers clad in orange T-shirts. Even the barbwire is painted orange.

Last year Savage Race, along with the Highlander Adventure Run, was among the first to introduce the soft, fitted blended Tultex T-shirts. Abbitt said that was the plan this year but the initial shipment was defective, forcing a late order for more traditional 100 percent Hanes products. We can’t recall receiving 8×10, UV-coated race maps upon arrival at any race, which was a nice touch.

Most Spirited: Running Commando

The challenge for any obstacle race is to keep things fresh and challenging. Like a house that’s been remodeled, this year’s Savage Race brought the same footprint, with a 10 percent expansion, and managed to create a more polished product with upgrades. If it can fix the traffic flow both before and during the race, it could take on the Big Three of Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, and Warrior Dash.

(Listen to Savage Race co-founder Sam Abbitt talk about the event several weeks ago on The Fitness Buff Show.)

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Spartan Race: Toughest Obstacle Event?

By Pete Williams

Guarding the Spartan Race finish line

MIAMI – If the measure of an obstacle race is how sore you feel afterward, then the Spartan Race is the toughest, most challenging event in the category.

After finishing Muddy Buddy and Warrior Dash, I felt like I could get back in line and do them again. At the end of Tough Mudder, I was tired but not sore.

After completing the eight-mile Super Spartan Race at Oleta River State Park here Saturday morning, I’m sore all over. My legs are scraped, feet blistered, ribs bruised, head pounding. During the course of the race, which included running through woods and brush, pretty much everything but my shorts was ripped from my body: race number, timing chip (which I carried the rest of the way) and even my RoadID.

Does that make Spartan Race the best event in the category? Perhaps. But it definitely could be with a few tweaks.

There are things Spartan does better than anyone, starting with adapting to the venue. At a Spartan Race I did last June at a paintball facility in Virginia, snipers fired paintballs at competitors. At another point, we were given guns and given one chance to hit a target. Failure to do so earned you a 30-Burpee penalty.

Navigate this or face 30 Burpees

Perhaps the coolest challenge here at Oleta River was rappelling down an overpass ramp. At the bottom, athletes were given a six-foot rope attached to a five-gallon bucket, which they had to drop about eight feet into the water below. The idea was to get as much water into the bucket as possible – it was tough to fill it more than half way – and hoist it back up, where it was poured into a 30-gallon trash can. Once the trash can was full, it was dumped and the athlete climbed the rope back up the ramp.

It was a terrific mental and physical challenge – I almost fell with the bucket into the drink – one of many at Spartan Race. Tough Mudder is perhaps more effective at making the athlete uncomfortable, whether it’s with claustrophobic dark underground tunnels or the Chernobyl Jacuzzi ice plunge. But Spartan Race does a better job breaking athletes mentally and physically. I’ve done a dozen of these races and the two Spartans were the only ones I considered quitting because of the challenges.

There was the 100-yard tire carry, a 100-yard rock pull, heavy tire flipping, a pulley requiring the athlete to raise a 5-gallon bucket of cement 15 feet, and an endless (3 mile?) twisting run through the woods where it seemed you had to turn every 15 yards, all the while making sure you didn’t go the wrong way. There were just enough pieces of red tape hung to keep athletes on course. (Jon Watson did a terrific video on the event.)

Burpees and more Burpees

But what makes Spartan Race more challenging than any other race, including Tough Mudder, is that it issues 30-Burpee penalties. If an athlete fails a challenge at Tough Mudder or other races, he simply moves on. At Spartan Race, she must do 30 Burpees, the jumping, thrusting, push-up like move that’s tough under any circumstances, especially in muddy clothes after running several miles in Miami heat.

There were five challenges with Burpee penalties: monkey bars, balance beam, climbing 8-foot walls, scaling a knotted rope about 15 feet, and moving across a peg wall. Screw up any of them and do 30 Burpees, though the monkey bar penalty was only 10. (Women could jump onto a board nailed on the 8-foot wall about 18 inches up.)

So that’s potentially 130 Burpees. I did 90, having fallen off the balance beam and peg wall and given up on the knotted rope.

But here’s where Spartan Race was disappointing. It featured two swimming challenges, neither of which involved Burpees, for those who couldn’t or wouldn’t swim. The first was 150 yards and everyone could – and did – walk across. The second was only 30 yards or so, too deep to walk across, and for this Spartan Race provided ropes equivalent to lane lines to hang onto. Life jackets also were available.

Life jackets? Really? Give 30 Burpees to athletes who fall off a balance beam but give floaties to those who won’t swim?

Somewhere King Leonidas is shaking his head.

Rowing 200 meters, one of the easier challenges

Obviously there are safety issues. But if you’re not going to swim, you should face a Burpee penalty and your finish time should reflect it. At the Savage Race, the popular Central Florida event coming up in Clermont in two weeks, there’s a 150-yard swim in deep water. Athletes who can’t or won’t do it must perform 30 Burpees and take a 10-minute penalty. When the race debuted last August, there was a 5-minute penalty (plus the Burpees) but race organizers didn’t feel that was enough of a handicap since, after all, it could take five minutes to swim that distance in shoes – or take five minutes to remove shoes, swim, and put shoes back on.

But at Spartan Race, some of the top finishers didn’t swim. Sort of runs contrary to the tough-as-nails, ultimate athlete vibe Spartan likes to promote, doesn’t it?

Climb rope, ring bell

Here’s another beef with Spartan Race. The final obstacle involves getting past five meatheads wielding these double sided mallets. These guys take their gig way too seriously. Yes, I know I’m going to take some shots going one-on-five toward the finish line. It’s part of the race. But it must be embarrassing to fall for a head fake delivered by an exhausted guy 15 years older than you. Why else would you deliver cheap shots to the back of my head after I’ve blown by?

Might want to work some speed and agility training into your next WOD, fellas.

Spartan Race also takes the spartan theme a little too far. I counted three water stops, which isn’t nearly enough for a race in 80-degree temperatures that takes most more than two hours. As for free post-race refreshment? Even by obstacle race standards, a bottle of water and a banana is pretty chintzy. Keep the free beer. My kingdom for a Mix1 or Muscle Milk.

Spartan Race continues to issue black beefy cotton T-shirts with the year’s schedule of events on the back, a concert shirt look that went out in 1989. (Tough Mudder is just as guilty, though their shirts are gray). This year Warrior Dash has followed the lead of several of our popular Florida obstacle races (Highlander, Savage Race) and switched to the softer, fitted T-shirts.

Obviously it’s about the race not the shirt. I have more race shirts than I could ever wear and, besides, I aged out of the coveted 18-to-34 demographic that makes up most of these events some time ago. You don’t want me wearing your shirt. But judging from the lines of twenty-somethings waiting to get on race shuttle buses from the designated parking lot at Florida International University, you do want those kids serving as walking billboards for your brand, especially when it’s the coolest brand in the category. Print some fitted red Tultex shirts with the Spartan logo that they’ll actually wear.

All of the above are easy tweaks. I’ve gotten up twice while writing this story and feel it more than after any obstacle mud run, running race, triathlon, or paddleboard event. Spartan Race seems to have succeeded in becoming the toughest event.

Postrace cleanup

Joe DeSena modeled the Spartan Race after the Death Race, the brutal no-set-time challenge he stages in Vermont each June. When I had him on the Fitness Buff Show earlier this month, he bristled at my use of “mud run,” stressing that Spartan is an obstacle race.

That’s a good point and perhaps a distinction that could give Spartan an edge over Tough Mudder in the long term, even though TM is drawing bigger numbers at the moment. Tough Mudder is an untimed event with no results posted, with the goal of finishing together with your teammates, helping them over obstacles. Spartan bills itself as a race, a new endurance sports category, where athletes must get through on their own or do 30 Burpees along the way.

At the moment, Tough Mudder has an edge in popularity and sponsorships, which include Under Armour and EAS. Tough Mudder provides all-you-can-consume EAS protein drinks and energy bars at the end of its races. Spartan Race’s Miami event was sponsored by “Dial for Men.” The soap came in handy at the post-race showers, but the “Dial for Men” banners everywhere gave the event a bit of a “Meet the Spartans” feel. Seems like sports marketers are missing a great opportunity with Spartan Race.

I hesitate to lob constructive criticism at DeSena, though not because he comped me into his race as a member of the media. DeSena has a track record of taking suggestions and making his events harder. Several athletes I spoke to in Miami who did last year’s race said this year’s edition was much tougher. One guy said he finished in 1 hour, four minutes last year but took nearly two hours this time. “And I was much better prepared,” he said.

DeSena has a Wall Street background and knows a thing or two about building businesses for the long haul. If Tough Mudder and Spartan Race were stocks, I’d be bullish on both, but it seems Spartan Race could be the better long-term play.

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Ragin’ Warrior: Mud Runs Go Rambo

By Pete Williams

Coming to Ocala March 3

Donny Jones admires the success that obstacle races such as Tough Mudder and Spartan Race have enjoyed attracting athletes for a couple hours of muddy strength and endurance tests.

But the creator of the Ragin’ Warrior, which takes place at Florida Horse Park in Ocala on March 3, thinks the category could use more noise, some pyrotechnics, and perhaps even a little gunfire.

Athletes navigating the 11.5-mile Ragin’ Warrior course might feel like they’re in a warzone says Jones, who wants them to get at least a small taste of what it’s like to deal with the mental and physical stresses of combat. He consulted with former U.S. Special Forces personnel to create a course that will include guys dressed as drill sergeants barking orders, smoke grenades going off, and “explosions that feel real as hell.”

“There’s going to be dust and mud flying everywhere and you’re going to have to keep calm and collected while all of this is going on around you,” Jones says. “You’re going to have deal with 24 obstacles, most of which won’t be similar to anything that’s been done by Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, or anyone else.”

Most mud runs require athletes to go under barbwire. For Ragin’ Warrior’s “Shock and Awe,” athletes must crawl under electrified barbwire while a 50-caliber machine gun fires compressed air overhead.

“It’s just compressed air, but it sounds like a 50 caliber firing 350 rounds a minute,” Jones says.

Other obstacles include “Icy Burrows,” where athletes must crawl through large metal culverts partially buried in ice water, and “Mount Ragin’,” two metal cargo containers stacked to form a 17-foot obstacle athletes must climb with ropes.

The military theme continues after the race, when athletes can test their target skills with paintball guns. The Ragin’ Warrior has partnered with the Lone Survivor Foundation as its official charity. Post-race will include bands, beer, and vendors selling food.

The Ragin’ Warrior was moved from its Jan. 28 date after the original race site was sold. Now the event is in the middle of a busy Florida obstacle race calendar that includes Spartan Race (Miami, Feb. 25-26) and Savage Race (Clermont, March 10).

“Our goal is to not be a regular mud run,” Jones says. “We want to provide a challenge that’s as much mental as it is physical.

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