Jul. 11, 2012 - Issue #873: The Big Cover-Up
A little mud never hurt anyone
Mud obstacle races challenge body and mind
A roster of mud obstacle races, including Mud Hero, Tough Mudder and Spartan Races, have been introduced internationally over the past decade, and each brings along its own set of challenges designed to test participants, but make sure they have a lot of fun along the way.
While several have wrapped up their Alberta dates for the year and others have sold-out, there's plenty of time to get in top shape for next season. Even if you're not participating this time around, these races are just as entertaining to watch. Not to mention, there's a big party at each of them once the chaos is all said and done.
Mud Hero, which has been dreamt up by the Crazy Canuck Events team, takes place on Sunday, July 22 in Kananaskis Country. It's completely sold out for the year, and Crazy Canuck co-founder Ted McLeod, who has 20 years of event management experience as well as spearheading Chico racing, credits its overwhelming popularity to people wanting to break out of the gym routine to get some exercise.
"They don't want to just go out and do a run, they want to do a run and do something else along with that run, so I think that's been the rise in popularity of this type of event," he adds. "People just want to challenge themselves in a new and different way."
It's an opportunity to have a ton of fun while conquering fears of mud and mayhem. The adrenaline-pumping course is designed with participant enjoyment in mind, rather than pushing yourself to your breaking point.
"A lot of other obstacle courses, they really want to test the mettle of the participants and they have exceptionally challenging obstacles. We still want people to have fun," McLeod adds. "We think that people can get a little dirty, a little dusty and still have a good time while doing it. That's always kind of been our mantra in the past in all of our events is making sure participants are still challenging themselves ... but we want to make sure people are having fun too."
Throughout the 6 km sprint around the ranch, participants will encounter obstacles such as an uphill tire run, mud bash balance beam, hay bale hurdles, hero walls, and a few surprises. McLeod says there's a sense of camaraderie amongst competitors, since they're able to sign up with friends, as well as make new ones along the way. Helping one another over difficult obstacles is not only allowed, but encouraged.
"It's about challenging yourself and getting yourself through it, and sometimes, as with life, you have to rely a little bit on others to do that, so that's the reason why we promote that aspect," McLeod notes.
Participants don't have to be in peak physical condition to participate in Mud Hero. They do, however, need to be 15 or older by the end of this year. McLeod says participants who are more fit are pushed to the front and different waves are run in order to match people of similar abilities.
Tough Mudder made its Canadian debut in Whistler, BC at the end of June, but you've got from now until July 20 and July 21, 2013 to get ready for the next round. This race is not for the faint of heart and requires some more intense training prior to participating. The race bills itself as "probably the toughest event on the planet," and for good reason.
The 16-19 km was designed by the British Special Forces to test the strength, stamina, mental grit and camaraderie of participants. Like Mud Hero, Tough Mudder was designed to provide a reprieve from typical running races and even though its tough, the fun-loving atmosphere continues. As the website states, participants are met at the finish line with a beer and a live band to reward them for sweating it out.
A word to the wise, don't sign up for Tough Mudder solo. The course boasts 15 military-style obstacles involving mud, fire, ice-water and 10 000 volts of electricity that require some encouragement from your teammates. There's also 12 ft walls and underground mud tunnels to contend with where you may need a boost. No one gets left behind, and like Mud Hero, it's encouraged that participants help each other to the end. It's not about beating a time here, just challenging yourself physically and mentally.
The challenges awaiting those brave enough to take on Tough Mudder include swimming through an ice bath called Arctic Enema, trying to stay out of more cold water during Ball Shrinker, which requires Mudders to walk along a rope while holding onto another overhead; dodging live wires through Electroshock Therapy and navigating flames four feet tall in Fire Walker.
Rocky Benz, 24, is one of this year's participants who finished the entire course, which has a 70 percent completion rate. He and his friend Justin DeMontarnal joined approximately 15 000 people at the race in Whistler.
"Since we both played sports and go to the gym regularly, we decided that this would a fun event to try," says Benz, who had never participated in a mud race before and completed Tough Mudder in three hours. However, he says his time would have been faster if a couple of the obstacles hadn't been congested with people.
Six weeks prior to the event, Benz and DeMontarnal took on a race-specific training program. Three days a week they would work out doing a triplets program, which involves six triplet sets with three exercises per set. They would complete three sets of each exercise with 10 reps each.
"We wanted to build muscle endurance with this workout," Benz explains. "The other three days we would go for a run, usually around five to 10 kilometers depending on how we were feeling. Friday was a day off from both."
The Tough Mudder website has a section dedicated entirely to training and offers a boot camp fitness program combining resistance training with high-intensity cardio workouts to get prospective Mudders up to speed.
After all the training and preparation, Benz admits he was slightly nervous on race day, but excited at the same time to take on such an intense challenge.
"The emcee at the starting line really got everyone going and pumped up before start time," he recalls. "The atmosphere was great throughout the entire race."
While the obstacles provide a gauntlet to wipe out even the toughest of competitors, Benz says the hardest aspect was 12 miles of running on a mountain, since it involved lots of rocks and inclines.
"The race took a toll on my body and it took a couple of days to recover," Benz says, adding his feet and legs were sore from the rocks. "The event comes to Calgary next year, so Justin and I will probably do it again. Although, this time, we are going to try and get a large group together."
Spartan Race hits Calgary on August 18, as well as September 22 in Squamish, BC. The franchise hosts 50 races worldwide and claims to be obstacle racing at its toughest and a step above the rest.
"Well, we do time people, so everyone gets their own time, plus we have penalties, so if you don't complete some of the obstacles, you have to do burpees," says race director Dean Stanton. "It's better to take your time and achieve completion of the obstacles than to race through it and not finish. You'll go through your energy pretty quickly if you're having to do burpees."
Spartan Races offer three levels of obstacle courses complete with its own set of challenges. Unlike other obstacle races, participants go in blind, as the maps and obstacles are not released ahead of time.
"People have an idea what the obstacles are, but we don't tell what the route is or what all of the obstacles are, because the element of surprise is something we really like our competitors to experience," Stanton adds.
The easiest of the ranks is The Spartan Sprint, which offers participants a taste of the challenge with three miles and 15 obstacles including mud runs, trail racing, as well as physical and mental challenges. The race has a 99 percent completion rate and the top three male and top three female racers gain free entry into a Super Spartan race. Participants must be 14 years of age or older to compete.
Super Spartan is the next in the Spartan Races hierarchy and ups the stakes with eight miles and 20 obstacles in a battlefield of mud. The top three males and females take it one step further and move on to the Spartan Beast, a 12 mile, 25 obstacle course dubbed the "Race from Hell."
If that weren't enough, Spartan Races is also host of the Death Race, a 48 hour back-breaker which comes complete the intimidating slogan, "you may die." However, Stanton says that's for show, as no one's actually died, and in all Spartan racing events, injury rates are lower than traditional running races.
The Death Race is designed to challenge body and mind through intense tasks, such as lifting 10 to 30 lb rocks for five hours, crawling through mud under barbed wire, chopping wood for two hours, carrying a 20 lb stump or after 20 hours of racing, test your mind and memorize the names of the first 10 US presidents or a Bible verse, hike to the top of a mountain and recite it back in order.
The Death Race, however menacing it sounds with a 15 percent completion rate, ties into the Spartan Race goal of improving participants' overall body fitness.
"I really think where these things came out of is people were just getting really bored of doing the same old, same old, which is sort of running races and what have you," Stanton notes of the obstacle races. "I mean really, you show up at the start line and a lot of people are all dressed up and everyone's acting crazy and it's kind of got the energy of a rock concert." vueweekly.com comments: powered by Disqus
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