So this past Saturday I ran the Tri-State Tough Mudder in Englishtown, NJ. This race had been on my calendar since about a week after the Tough Mudder at Beaver Creek in Colorado, and I’d been looking forward to this. I have to say that having run the half-marathon a few weeks ago took a lot of the trepidation out of this race. I figured that if I could run 13.1 miles without stopping, 12 miles with stops for obstacles wouldn’t be too bad. I was also encouraged by the fact that oxygen would actually be present on this sea level course (as opposed to the thin air above 8,200 feet in CO).
Unfortunately, my lovely wife was unable to join me for this race because of an injury, but she did a great job cheering us on. It was nice to have a fan out there. I ran it with a bunch of her co-workers, and I think we all had a good time (aside from one sprained knee). I did learn however that if you have a larger group (we were ten total), you either need to all stick together, or figure out a better way to keep track of everyone. At one point, as I was helping other mudders up a hill, I’m pretty sure the rest of my team passed me without seeing me. I blame that on the fact that after the “Mud Mile”, we were all pretty much unrecognizable due to the thick coating of mud. But we managed to meet back up and stick together for the rest of the race. I was happy that I made it across the “Twinkle Toes” obstacle, and that I was able to clear the “Berlin Walls”, but I was bummed that I missed on the rings and monkey bars. I guess there is always the next race.
Overall, I think this course was easier than the CO one. The biggest factor was probably the flat nature of the NJ track (it was held at a raceway) vs. climbing up a ski mountain. But also, I feel like the obstacles were easier (ie, not as long/as high). But the NJ course was without a doubt muddier. We had about 12 hours of rain the day before, so almost the whole course was nice and sloppy. I was very happy I was running in my Vibrams, as they seemed to do a nice job of cutting through the mud without getting too mucked down. I know one member of our team was forced to do some of the obstacles carrying her shoes as they simply got sucked off her feet. But it did take 4-5 rounds of rinsing my race clothes in buckets to get them clean enough to put in the washing machine.
We had gorgeous weather, a good team, and a great time. The actual race, while not as good as the previous one, was well done.
That said, I do have some major issues with the way it was run. Those of us running on Saturday had to park 18 miles from the course, and get bused in. It took us at least 30 minutes of clutch-burning stop-and-go traffic to get into the parking lot. If the idea is to avoid excessive congestion by moving the parking off site, then at least do it somewhere where it you actually AVOID excessive congestion. And quite frankly, there were just too many people on the course. We waited well over 20 minutes for the rings, and we had waits at almost every obstacle. The maximum wait we had in Colorado was 2-3 minutes. And I don’t know if there was just a better general level of fitness in CO, but it seemed there were a lot more people really struggling on the obstacles. Finally, there seemed to be major confusion in the attempts to bus people back to the parking areas, resulting in significant delays. It’s great to be coated in mud, waiting for the buses as the sun (and temperatures) drop. I know that Tough Mudder is a business, and they are looking to turn a profit, but with these issues, either move the event to somewhere that can handle the crowds, or limit the number of participants.
The fun of running the course with friends outweighs the negatives of the event, but I think if we do another one together, I will look to do it at another location.