No Norovirus? No problem! The wildly contagious virus that plagued several hundred Tough Mudder Michigan participants in 2013 did not repeat its performance in 2014.
The Michigan Department of Public Health determined that in 2013 an already sick participant in an early Saturday wave contaminated a mud or water obstacle. This led to the virus outbreak that infected hundreds who participated at the event held at the Michigan International Speedway (MIS).
Noro did not return to MIS in 2014, but on September 20, Tough Mudder did and sent a reported 26,000 through its familiar challenge of climbs, crawls, slides, and jumps. The 12 mile course wrapped through the 1,400 acre grounds surrounding the “fastest track in NASCAR” located in the scenic Irish Hills area of southeastern Michigan.
The MIS parking lot is equipped to handle tailgating crowds of well over 100,000, so parking at this venue was no problem. The lot was well paved, well-marked, relatively close to the festival area (no shuttles were required), and was easy to exit.
As with most Tough Mudder events, the registration process was smooth, with plenty of well-organized volunteers quickly moving participants through the process.
The race was run mostly on grass over small, but persistent, rolling hills. At times the course wound onto paths through wooded areas, but was primarily out in the open, within view of the gigantic grandstands of MIS.
The 2014 edition of TM Michigan was tougher than 2013, according to second time participant Geoff Roether, a 44 year old from Minneapolis, MN, who traveled to Michigan to race with a group of buddies organized by Michigan resident Mark Simmer.
“We ran for a mile or more before we got to the first obstacle this year,” Roether said. “The Hold Your Wood log carry was longer, the mud hills of the Mud Mile were more slippery with fewer footholds.”
Roether also mentioned that several new obstacles were more challenging than previous versions, including Pyramid Scheme — a favorite obstacle among his group of friends.
Pyramid Scheme is a quarter-pipe wall type obstacle. Other quarter-pipe obstacles (including Tough Mudder’s own Everest) leave plenty of room in front so participants can get a running start to scale the wall. Others (including Savage Race’s Colossus and Battlefrog’s Tsunami) have ropes hanging down to help participants scale the wall. Pyramid Scheme has neither. A deep, water filled trench lines the approach to the obstacle, preventing a running start and there are no ropes to help.
To scale this obstacle, racers are forced to work together, stacking themselves in a human pyramid to help each other climb to the top.
“That was my favorite part of the race – the camaraderie. Helping and being helped by teammates and total strangers,” said Dave Navetta, who traveled from Denver, CO, to join Simmer’s group.
“The team aspect of it made it fun,” adds Mark Seward, from New York City. “Tough Mudder should have more team-oriented obstacles.”
“The Michigan event was better than Tough Mudder Chicago,” said Dave Stannard, who lives in suburban Chicago, “It was tougher, longer and I loved the legionnaire obstacle – Fire in the Hole.”
Fire in the Hole is a water slide through honest to goodness flames, one of several obstacles on the Legionnaire’s Loop, a small section of the course open only to repeat Mudder participants. The slide is legitimately fast and the flames legitimately hot. Very exciting and very fun.
“The Monkey Bars (Funky Monkey) seemed easier this year and Artic Enema wasn’t as cold,” said Roether. “And the drinking water on the course was nasty brown.” The nasty brown drinking water is something Tough Mudder HQ should look into.
Another change from last year was the safety improvements of Walk the Plank, the platform jump into a deep pool of water. The platform was noticeable lower, but the real change was the organization and the number of emergency rescue personnel.
Volunteers and staff closely monitored who was jumping and when they jumped. Five jumped at a time and a volunteer was responsible for each jumper. Every jumper was accounted for and cleared the water before the next round was released to jump. In addition, there was at least one water rescue diver in the water at all times and another rescuer on shore.
Tough Mudder Michigan 2014 was another example of a solid entry in the Tough Mudder series. Although some may find that a few obstacles are easier than in the past, the series appears to be maturing with improved obstacle construction, safety measures, and other features to improve the experience for both participants and spectators.
*Photos By: Tough Mudder, J.D. Allen, and Debbie Dawson
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