On a cool Spring evening late last month, approximately 450 men and women assembled in the Southern California desert to compete in the inaugural America’s Toughest Mudder West. The event was part of Tough Mudder’s new race series, in which participants race a 5 mile looped course from midnight until 8am, completing as many laps as possible. Unlike a typical Tough Mudder event, this is a competitive race with prize money at stake for the top 5 men and women’s finishers.
America’s Toughest Mudder West was the first of six of these events that will be taking place around the US, Canada, and the UK in 2017.
The event took place at Glen Helen Raceway, in the desert of San Bernardino County. This location is notorious for its gusty winds, and its seemingly unlimited supply of calf burning hills. The course designers were sure to take full advantage of the latter.
The course was made up of two separate 5 mile loops, each with around 11 obstacles scattered through them. Competitors ran on one loop from midnight until 4am, and then switched to the second loop for the reminder of the race.
Although Tough Mudder always seems to supply a solid arsenal of challenging obstacles (and this event was no exception), the real punishment at this event was doled out by Mother Nature in the form of hills. Loop #1 (aka the “easy” loop as it was dubbed) had roughly 940 feet of elevation gain per lap, while Loop #2 (aka “F#*K that loop!”) had over 1400 feet of elevation gain.
The race began with a sprint lap of sorts, where no obstacles were immediately open. However, unlike World’s Toughest Mudder, in which the obstacles were all opened after the first hour, for this event, a variable opening was employed. This meant that certain obstacles opened at random times during the first lap, while others did not open at all.
A fun wrinkle that was employed at Toughest was to take traditional Tough Mudder obstacles and modify them to make them more challenging. This was done quite successfully with obstacles like Funky Monkey, the Berlin Walls (added protrusion at the top to navigate over), and King of the Swingers (swing to a cargo net and tyrolean traverse down a line – bonus, success kept you dry).
The event was truly a tale of the two loops. While Loop #1 definitely had its challenges, namely a one-mile stretch where you were basically trekking uphill the entire time, Loop #2 was where most of the agony truly set in. Not only was it beset with a gaggle of upper body taxing obstacles, but it also seemed that somehow you were running uphill for the entire 5 miles. The worst of which was the aptly named “Death march”, which was a relentless boulder infused climb that seemed to last forever.
As for the race itself, the lure of a $5000 first prize brought out many of biggest stars of the ORC community. The highly competitive field did not disappoint. While Lindsay Webster ran away with the women’s title, the men’s side was not decided until the final lap. 2015 World’s Toughest Mudder Champ Chad Trammell had built what appeared to be a fairly comfortable lead (9+ minutes) going into the final lap. However, Ryan Atkins proved once again why he is the greatest OCR athlete currently living on planet earth. Atkins ran each of his last four laps at a faster pace than the one before, and ultimately reeled in Trammell to take the victory. Along with the $5,000 first prize, Atkins earned an additional $5,000 for hitting the 50-mile mark….something that the folks at TMHQ had said would be virtually impossible at this venue. It should be noted that Chad Trammell too hit 50 miles at this venue, and but for a single failed obstacle, would have been victorious. The lesson here, as always, is never underestimate Ryan Atkins.
Photo Credit: Tough Mudder
Carlo is one half of the not yet world famous YouTube duo known as "The Pis-N-Cox Show".