2014 Tough Mudder Obstacles

While the focus of Tough Mudder is on teamwork and camaraderie, you also test your all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and determination. Individually you must be ready to “dig deep” in order to overcome your fear as you step up to challenge the Tough Mudder obstacles. For some it’s narrow, dark places, others sub-zero water or even heights. Tough Mudder obstacles require a variety of strength and skills, as well as teamwork in order to accomplish them.

While we didn’t experience all the obstacles in the Tough Mudder last year, we were introduced to 9 new obstacles and one big ass mountain; Mt. Pluto with a summit of 8,610 feet. This year TMHQ introduced the Legionnaire’s Loop, two additional obstacles for participants who have run in multiple Mudders. Below are a summary of each obstacle. Prior to getting into the starting pen we experienced a small wall you must get over before you tackle the rest of the course. Listed below in order of appearance on the course map are the 20 obstacles we challenged in Lake Tahoe, not to mention the 11+ miles of running and the 2400+ feet of altitude we climbed.

tm_gloryblades1. Glory Blades: These are 8′ wooden walls with a 25-30 degree slant toward the approach side. On the back side of the slated wall, is a smooth surface to slide down. With no foot aid to assist in grabbing the top of wall, this obstacles might require a teammate to give you a boost. This is just one of many obstacles that require a Mudder to pull themselves up in order to kick one leg over the wall before transitioning to the smooth, downside of the Glory Blades. Some of our team used the wooden braces on the edge of the obstacle to help them get a footing and get over the slanted wall.

Warrior Carry2. Warrior Carry: This obstacle required you to pick up and carry your teammate about 30 yards before coming to a change point, which required teammates to switch positions. Unlike last year, this obstacle was early on in the event, with a nice wide, rock free trail. No real challenge, unless you couldn’t hold your teammate. I made sure I teamed up with a partner was close to my weight and we cruised through the obstacles under control and maintained our balance and got through the Warrior Carry without falling.

3. Devil’s Beard: It was early in the event when I experienced the first “WTF?” in regards to this obstacle. It wasn’t difficult, not even challenging, which made me wonder why is this even included in Tough Mudder? Maybe without a line of Mudders ahead of me, the net would have been more difficult to get under and get going, but I didn’t experience that. It was a straight forward walk, on your hands, uphill in order to get to the far side of the Devil’s Beard. Hopefully this doesn’t return in 2015.

4. Pitfall: This obstacle was the first opportunity to get “down and dirty” in the mud. As you approached muddy water, you needed to get on your belly and slide through electrified wires, down a mud berm into the water. The muddy water was only about waist high (I’m 6′-0″ tall), but you had to take it slow as you made your way through the pit that was dotted with holes you had to be wary of. Not difficult at all, but a nice little warm up of what was to come on the course.

Mud Mile5. Mud Mile: Just down the trail we were confronted with the Mud Mile. Watching from the aid station, this looked to be a very slow obstacle, having no idea how soft the mud was or how rough the terrain was under the water. Berms divided the course into separate areas requiring Mudders to climb the berms in order to move through each section of the Mud Mile. The muddy water was cold and soft but had no concern about losing my Luna Sandals. At no point did I get stuck in the mud. The biggest problem was the lips on either side of the berm that seemed to drop off into the muddy water, making the obstacle slow going. Words of encouragement and helping hands were available for those who needed an added advantage.

Prarie Dog6. Prairie Dog: Not sure where the challenge in this obstacle was. It was nothing more than a black, plastic tube you climbed into and slid down. At the exit you made the decision to go feet or head first. I rolled onto my back, grabbed the top of the tube and pulled myself, ungracefully out of the tube and fell into the muddy water. From the base of the tube to the bottom of the mud was about 4′, so it was a bit longer of a drop than expected. Last year I found Boa Constrictor much more challenging, especially pulling yourself up these muddy tubes.

Hold Your Wood7. Hold Your Wood: This obstacle tested your stamina and strength as you were required to carry a log or stump of wood 1/4 of a mile. This course was circular in nature and started uphill on a narrow, woodchip laden path. The trail was very soft with good footage, at the bottom of the hill you had to carry your wood over a small improvised berm that had been built. It didn’t matter how you carried the wood, some throw it over their shoulder, others above their head or holding it tight against their chest. This year I combined with two other teammates and carried a larger log around the course.

Pole Dancer8. Pole Dancer: This obstacle had me a bit concerned, much like Funky Monkey did last year. Pole Dancer requires upper body strength and determination to make it up and down the parallel bars. Most of the images I saw ad the bars in a ‘V’ shape, but it was in an ‘A’ shape for Tahoe. There was “inspirationally deep” water if you fell off. The THMQ volunteer was telling participants it’s better to make it over anyway you can rather than fall off. So many Mudders were putting their legs on the bars and pulling themselves across. I surprised myself making it across. Can’t say it was easy, as my legs were swinging wildly from side to side. I was able to keep the arms straight and walked my arms little by little over the bars until I reached the far side.

9. Kiss of Mud: A replay of an obstacle we experienced last year, but this year it was much muddier and cold than last. The TMHQ volunteer was constantly wetting the obstacle and Mudders, as we get down and dirty belly crawling through about 20′ feet of mud. The catch, the barbwire that is just 12″-14″ above the mud. It’s a must to keep the head and butt down, using forearms to pull you forward. With our early start time the obstacles wasn’t as muddy as expected (see image). Unlike some pictures I had seen, we were not pulling ourselves through a sea of brown water. In fact one lane had virtually no water in it and very little mud, as a results some Mudders decided to take the “easy” way out of this obstacle.

10. Lumberjacked: This was a log based obstacle, one in which we experienced last year, but unlike the previous challenge these logs were about 7′ high with no foothold to aid in boosting you over the log. I did see some Mudders with the upper body strength jump up, grab the log and pull themselves over, but the majority of Mudders used the team concept and boosted teammates up to the apex of the log, where they threw their legs over and came down on the far side. Running up to and jumping up was challenging but possible.. We saw Mudders able to jump and grab, but lacked the strength to pull themselves up. Unlike last year I had the speed and strength to get my torso on the cross member and pull myself over a series of these logs.

Arctic Enema11. Arctic Enema: It wasn’t until nearly mile 7 we approached the sub-zero temperature of the Arctic Enema. Much had been made about this obstacle on how to pass it. Unlike the pretty green water I saw in You Tube videos and images, our pool looked shit brown. After a short climb to the top of the platform I decided to jump as far as possible before hitting the freezing water. A step or two forward and I felt for the bottom of the wooden wall that divided the pool and quickly submerged myself, coming up on the other side. A few quick steps to the edge of the pool on the far side and I pulled myself out. Once out of the pool, you climb off the structure and start to regain your body temperature. This obstacle was a letdown as it was NOT freezing. There was no ice in the water, nor were TMHQ volunteers adding any,which led me to believe they might be out of ice at the time we ran.

Pyramid Scheme12. Pyramid Scheme: Another new obstacles for 2014 and the first that required a total team effort in order to accomplish. Looking similar to Everest, but considerably muddier teams had to use team members to build a base on which others would climb on to assist them up the muddy wall. At the top of the wall another team member would lean over, being held by their feet to help pull them up the wall until they had a grasp on the top of the obstacle. Probably the most fun of the new obstacles and truly a challenging team obstacle. With a good base and a strength at the top, teams can be successful with this “scheme.”

Walk the Plank13. Walk the Plank: No fear to overcome this year at the top of the structure. I waited for the volunteer to say “Go!” and I didn’t have a second thought and jumped. It was repeated over and over that ou should be a strong swimmer to challenge this obstacle. If you can’t swim, don’t jump into the water. TMHQ had plenty of personnel ready to jump into action if required. This obstacle was slow going because of the climb to the plank and then waiting a short period of time before the water beneath you was clear. At the top of the structure it was “show no fear” and don’t think about the height, just jump. When the water was clear it was quick run and leap into the air. Once in the water it was a short 1-2 stroke swim and grabbed the cargo net to climb out of the pool.

Cliffhanger14. Cliffhanger: Much like Devil’s Beard, this obstacle didn’t live up to expectations, based on what I read and videos I watched. Described as “all about teamwork and camaraderie…to get up a 15+ meter cliff of slippery mud angled at 45-degrees.” The only mud involved was that of the wet trail leading away from the previous obstacle. From my estimate, this was a 400′ climb up a steep quarter mile hill. I didn’t find it all that difficult, then again I am comfortable with hills and in good shape. But many struggled getting up this hill, which wasn’t covered in mud and didn’t require assistance from teammates outside of encouragement.

Berlin Walls15. Berlin Walls: No other obstacle saw more Mudders on our team “sit this one out.” Not sure if it was the height, their comfort level, strength or tiredness but only a few succeeded. This obstacle is a series of two 12′ high wooden walls. About 4′ up is a 2×4 that Mudders us as a foothold in order to boost you up in order to grab the top of the wall. At that point the wall is only half conquered. Upper body strength is required to pull yourself up in order to kick that leg over, as you pull your up. On the back side of the wall, it was necessary to get the second leg over and hold the top of the wall, letting your body swing down before dropping to the ground below. No issues getting up and over this year, best of all didn’t experience any leg cramps throwing my leg over the top.

Balls to the Wall16. Balls to the Wall: Another new obstacle similar to the Berlin Walls. This time around it’s one 12′ wall with a knotted rope hanging down. Positioned on the wall, 2×4 to act as footholds. The object, pull yourself up and the wall and descend the back side. With upper body strength it was simple enough to lean back, go hand over hand on the rope, using the footholds to get you to the top. I did see a few using an arms only to climb the rope. At the top, it was a quick climb down to finish the obstacle.

Ladder to Hell17. Ladder to Hell: The last of the new obstacles this was an over sized ladder about 15′ high. Your challenge, to get up and over and back down. Five large 2×8 boards made the up the ladder rungs. Even for me it was tough to climb, but I managed, one leg at a time to reach the top of the ladder. I threw one leg over, followed by the other and it was time to descend the back side. It was slow going and the most difficult part was mustering the energy to beat this obstacle.

Funky Monkey18. Funky Monkey: Strangely enough the monkey bars were my biggest fear again this year. I was not sure how my left shoulder would fair because of ongoing pain. I fully expected to find the drink and swim out the other side. I stepped up and grabbed as far forward as possible (3rd rung I believe) and started off. I felt good and was surprised when I got to the apex and was half way home. I did wear gloves for the obstacle and had no grip issues while moving through the rungs. Nearing the end I underestimated the remaining distance to the platform and I let go just a rung early, but still landed (on my ass) on the platform. After completing Funky Monkey I had a new found confidence for the remaining obstacles. The only help your team can help with are words of encouragement, this obstacle is up to you and your grip strength.

Everest19. Everest: This obstacle is essentially a quarter pipe that requires you to get a running start in order to reach the top lip of the structure. From there you must pull yourself up in order to accomplish the climb. The best part of this obstacle are the people who are at the top to lend a hand in order to help pull people to the top of the quarter pipe. More so than last year, this obstacle lacked any mud or grease that was advertised to be all over the fiberglass pipe on the front of the structure. Many Mudders made the top of the obstacle with no problems, both men and women. Being this late in the event I had my doubts, as I was the first of our team to run it. I had enough speed, grabbed the 2×4 at the top and easily pulled myself up to the platform. Like a few of the previous obstacles, Everest was a bit disappointing.

Electroshock Therapy20. Electroshock Therapy: The quintessential Tough Mudder obstacle you must go through in order to earn your orange headband and a cold Dos Equis. One of the few obstacles you can compete as a team in order to feel a sense of accomplishment. Prior to tackling the high voltage, TMHQ volunteers were spraying Mudders down with water before they started their run. Myself and two teammates locked arms and went charging through the mud and electrical wires. The uneven terrain was tough to navigate while getting shock after shock from the wires. I did find this a bit more challenging than last year and was shocked countless time. We made it about halfway before the guy in the middle was struck and went down, we followed suite, got back up and finished the obstacle. We were rewarded with the orange headband and a cold beer at the bottom of the hill.

After Everest and prior to Electroshock Therapy returning Mudders had the opportunity to run the Legionnaire’s Loop, which included three additional “mystery” obstacles. Part of the draw this year was me was to run some of these obstacles. Unfortunately after spending 6.5 hours on the mountain, pushing nearly 4pm we made the decision not to run this loop.

The three obstacles were near the start/finish line and we saw them for a long time before actually getting to them. Also, from what I hear after the fact included another Prairie Dog type type obstacle with (reportedly) high voltage wires prior to entering the tube. The next obstacle was built on Funky Monkey, instead of pulling yourself over the ‘A’ frame of rungs, you pulled yourself across two piece of pipe hanging over the water. At the mid point you had to transition to the second pipe. This looked tough.

Finally to finish the Legionnaire’s Loop one of the most impressive obstacles called Leap of Faith. Mudders would run off a platform, jump over a muddy pool and grab a cargo net in an attempt to use all your upper body strength to pull yourself up. The challenge was to get onto the net, if not you were going for a swim. For those lucky enough to make the jump, you climb the obstacle and descended the net on the far side. Great looking obstacle, hopefully we have the opportunity next year for this.

 

The trail running was more challenging this year and based on my Garmin FR210 I logged 11.61 miles from start to finish with a elevation gain of 2,489 feet. The first 6 miles were virtually all uphill, minus the first half mile that let Mudders run downhill. At points it felt distances were longer between some obstacles, with 14 obstacles within a 5-10 minute walk of the start line for spectators. There were some challenging ascents, which many Mudders walking. The descents were very technical with slower Mudders walking, soft dirt and many visible and loose rocks and the occasional single track. Surprisingly for 2 years now, the altitude has not bothered me, not sure than can be said for all though. Get your running in before you challenge Tough Mudder, especially in Tahoe.

I wasn’t impressed with the course layout. I understand the idea of positioning obstacles closer together so spectators can watch their loved ones, but to have 11.61 miles of running I feel there could have been better placement. As I mentioned previously, there were a few obstacles, which were an out and back configuration. The worst offender being the Berlin Walls, which was probably just over a 2 mile run from the obstacle before it, to the obstacle following it.

The only steep ascent was on Cliffhanger, this was a short climb just over a quarter of a mile, but it was steep and claimed many Mudders who stopped to rest or wait for teammates. The only other climb that was slow was a half mile from the start, which led to Glory Blades, but the climb wasn’t as steep, but as the rule of thumb goes in trail running, if you can’t see the top, walk. Many Mudders did just that.

Hopefully these brief descriptions of what our team experienced in Lake Tahoe will help, in preparation for an upcoming Tough Mudder event. I now have a much earned respect for the obstacles and have a better understand of how to approach them in order to be successful. I do believe all obstacles can be accomplished without aid from team members, especially if you carry the upper body strength to pull yourself up. With that said, there is no shame in approaching obstacles with the “TEAM” concept in mind. Our team accomplished every obstacle as one, even though our group was divided between obstacles. Continue “digging deep” and pushing yourself for reward awaits once you cross that finish line.

Tough Mudder Obstacles

tm_obstacle_01While the focus of Tough Mudder is on teamwork, you also test your all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie. Individually you must be ready to “dig deep” in order to overcome your fear as you step up to challenge the Tough Mudder obstacles. For some it’s narrow, dark places, others sub-zero water or even heights. For me, it was monkey bars, must be some childhood memory I have stashed, but I had never been very strong, which left me a few rungs short when playing on the monkey bars. Tough Mudder obstacles require a variety of strength and skills, as well as teamwork in order to accomplish them.

tm_startingpenwallWhile we didn’t experience all the obstacles in the Tough Mudder – 2013 Lake Tahoe event, we did challenge 19 obstacle and one big ass mountain; Mt. Pluto with a summit of 8,610 feet. Below are a summary of each obstacle. Prior to getting into the starting pen we experienced a small wall you must get over before you tackle the rest of the course. Listed below n order of appearance on the course map are the 19 obstacles we challenged in Lake Tahoe, not to mention the 10 miles of running and the 2000+ feet of altitude we climbed.

tm_gloryblades1. Glory Blades: These are 8′ wooden walls with a 25-30 degree slant toward the approach side. On the back side of the slated wall, is a smooth surface to slide down. With no foot aid to assist in grabbing the top of wall, this obstacles might require a teammate to give you a boost. This is just one of many obstacles that require a Mudder to pull themselves up in order to kick one leg over the wall before transitioning to the smooth, downside of the Glory Blades. Some of our team used the wooden braces on the edge of the obstacle to help them get a footing and get over the slanted wall.

Kiss of Mud2. Kiss of Mud: The first obstacle that lived up to it’s name as Mudders get down and dirty as they are required to belly crawl over about 20′ feet of mud. The catch, the barbwire that is just 8″ above the mud. It’s a must to keep the head and butt down, using forearms to pull you forward. With our early start time the obstacles wasn’t as muddy as expected (see image). Unlike some pictures I had seen, we were not pulling ourselves through a sea of brown water. In fact one lane had virtually no water in it and very little mud, as a results some Mudders decided to take the “easy” way out of this obstacle.

Arctic Enema3. Arctic Enema: After a quick mud bath and a short run it was time to face the sub-zero temperature of the Arctic Enema. Much had been made about this obstacle on how to pass it. Unlike the pretty green water I saw in You Tube videos and images, our pool looked like shit brown, as volunteers were madly pouring bags of ice into the pool. After a short climb to the top of the platform I decided to jump as far as possible before hitting the freezing water. A step or two forward and I felt for the bottom of the wooden wall that divided the pool and quickly submerged myself, coming up on the other side. Unfortunately, the individual in front of me stopped and I was delayed getting out of the pool on the opposite site. There is no step inside the pool to assist in getting out. This is also the first obstacle in which you could experience cramps due to the cold water. Once out of the pool, you climb off the structure and start to regain your body temperature.

Just the Tip4. Just the Tip: From my understanding there was a similar obstacle last year to Just the Tip. This year it seems they removed the lower strip of wood which Mudders used to cross a pool of cold, colored water. Using small, wooden steps Mudders climbed up onto the structure and took hold of a 2×4 that was attached to a plywood wall. You were then required to move your hands horizontally in order to cross the pool of water, while your legs serve as a pendulum in order to create a swing-like movement to assist you. Nothing too difficult about this obstacle, the most difficult part is having adequate grip strength. For taller Mudders being able to grab as far down the 2×4 as possible shortened the distance they were required to travel to make it safely to the other side.

Logjammin5. Logjammin: This obstacle was a series of logs and barbed wire that required you to go up and over or down and under in order to achieve the objective. The logs were about 4′ high, as you grab the log, you would pull yourself up and over and come down the other side. This was followed by strings of barbwire that required you to go under the following log. It was a series of 8-10 logs to complete before come out the far side of the obstacle. Some assistance might be required for teammates who struggle with upper body strength.

Limberjacked6. Lumberjacked: I was somewhat surprised to see a similar obstacle to that of Logjammin as the next obstacle. It was another log based obstacle, but unlike the previous challenge these logs were about 7′ high with no foothold to aid in boosting your over the log. I did see some Mudders with the upper body strength jump up, grab the log and pull themselves over, but the majority of Mudders used the team concept and boosted teammates up to the apex of the log, where they threw their legs over and came down on the far side. Running up to and jumping up was challenging. We saw Mudders able to jump and grab, but lacked the strength to pull themselves up. Another Mudder I saw jumped and grabbed the log and then fell onto the ground. Team concept worked well here.

Trench Warfare7. Trench Warfare: This was the first of a few obstacles that challenged those who might be claustrophobic. As you come up on the obstacle, all you could see was the entrance and exit, as the top was covered with plywood and earth on top it. Once you got to the entrance, it was a 3′ wide trench as I started into the darkness I realized it was not as bad as I thought it would be. There was light being let in by holes in the ceiling. As you enter the obstacle you cannot see the exit. Why? This trench jogs to the left and the right, requiring you to navigate the corners before seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

Electric Eel8. Electric Eel: The Eel was the first of two obstacles that had high voltage associated with it. Much like the Kiss of Mud this obstacle required you to belly crawl through mud over a slippery surface while high voltage wires hung down from the 2′ high wooden structure. I heard the voltage zap a few Mudders while pulling myself though the Electric Eel. I saw the damage after the fact, when a Mudder too a jolt off the top of the forward, leaving him with blood streaming down his face. I was fortunate, I had no zaps, as I kept my head and slowly crawled my way through. As I neared the exit, I rolled onto my back and pulled myself out by grabbing onto the wooden structure.

Berlin Walls9. Berlin Walls: No other obstacle claimed more Mudders in our group than the Berlin Walls. This obstacle is a series of two 12′ high wooden walls. About 4′ up is a 2×4 that Mudders us as a foothold in order to boost you up in order to grab the top of the wall. At that point the wall is only half conquered. Upper body strength is required to pull yourself up in order to kick that leg over, as you pull your up. On the back side of the wall, it was necessary to get the second leg over and hold the top of the wall, letting your body swing down before dropping to the ground below. We had 3 Mudders come away with leg cramps, myself included after finishing the walls. Our toughest Mudder of the day required help getting onto the wall and assisting him to the top of the wall. Unfortunately he rolled his cajones and ended up losing his grip and slipping off the backside of the wall with a loud, “THUD!” With the exception of Everst, the Berlin Walls required a team effort to get everyone safely over the walls.

Kis of Mud #210. Kiss of Mud #2: Much like the second obstacle, it was another belly crawl through mud in Kiss of Mud #2. Much like the first mud crawl, this was a straight forward obstacle. Being able to keep your head and butt down and pull yourself forward with with forearms made accomplishing this obstacle straightforward and easy. Much like the first Kiss of Mud, they had a TM staff member constantly spraying water onto the obstacle. Still it was not as muddy as I expected it to be. That could have changed as the day wore on and more Mudders went through it. Stay low and crawl!

Boa Constrictor11. Boa Constrictor: Here was another obstacle that caused me a bit of pre-Mudder anxiety. I am not claustrophobic, but did have one incident in an MRI chamber once and these drainage tubes reminded me of incident. This is a series of 2 drainage pipes, the first descends into a pool of muddy water and the second ascends back uphill, where you exit the obstacle. Going in on your belly and sliding down the first portion of the obstacle was easy. The muddy water wasn’t deep and you could crawl on your knees to the next pipe. The problems were twofold. First, going into the pipe too soon required you to stop and wait in the pipe, probably not the most comforting feeling if you don’t like close spaces. Second starting into the second pipe you quickly found out you had very little traction and not much to grab onto in order to pull yourself up the pipe until you could reach the edge of the pipe and pull yourself out. Some Mudders required a hand to assist them up and out the pipe. Looking back, this obstacle was not as challenging as my mind made it out to be.

Funky Monkey12. Funky Monkey: Strangely enough the monkey bars were my biggest fear headed into Tough Mudder. I felt I did not have enough strength to carry myself 20′ over monkey bars set in an ‘A’ frame. I fully expected to find the drink and swim out the other side. There were rumors that the rungs moved in your hands when you grabbed them. That was not the case during Tough Mudder. I stepped up and grabbed as far forward as possible (3rd rung I believe) and started off. I felt good and was surprised when I got to the apex and was half way home. What helped me was the support of a teammate just to the right on another set of monkey bars. I did wear gloves for the obstacle and a few of us had experienced our gloves starting to slip off our hands as we came to the finish. After completely Funky Monkey I had a new found confidence for the remaining obstacles. The only help your team can help with are words of encouragement, this obstacle is up to you and your grip strength.

Mud Mile13. Mud Mile: After coming away from another aid station we were confronted with the Mud Mile. Watching from the aid station, this looked to be a very slow obstacle, having no idea how soft the mud was or how rough the terrain was under the water. Berms divided the course into separate areas requiring Mudders to climb the berms in order to move through each section of the Mud Mile. The muddy water was cold, but not so soft I had to concern myself with losing a shoe. At no point did I get stuck in the mud. The biggest problem was the lips on either side of the berm that seemed to drop off into the muddy water, making the obstacle slow going. Words of encouragement and helping hands were available for those who needed an added advantage.

Hold Your Wood14. Hold Your Wood: This obstacle tested your stamina and strength as you were required to carry a log or stump of wood 1/4 of a mile. This course was circular in nature and started on downhill on a fairly smooth path, but as you made the turn at the bottom, the climb got a bit technical. We did see many Mudders sitting along the side of the pathway taking momentary breaks. It didn’t matter how you carried the wood, some throw it over their shoulder, others above their head or holding it tight against their chest. For me it was a combination of all three ways with no resting. After the technical climb it was back to the wood pile and the completion of the obstacle.

Walk the Plank15. Walk the Plank: My last fear to overcome, jumping off a 20′ platform into a muddy pool of water. I guess my only concern was brought to light when my sister told me a Mudder drown during the West Virginia event. It was repeated over and over that should be a strong swimmer to challenge this obstacle. TMHQ had plenty of personnel ready to jump into action if required. This obstacle was slow going because of the climb to the plank and then waiting a short period of time before the water beneath you was clear. At the top of the structure it was “show no fear” and don’t think about the height, just jump. When the water was clear it was quick run and leap into the air. Once in the water it was a short 1-2 stroke swim and grabbed the cargo net to climb out of the pool.

Cage Crawl16. Cage Crawl: This obstacle looked to be simple and should not have caused any problems. Looks can be deceiving this obstacle was a bit more challenging than I expected. Two reasons why this obstacle was tough, the first the number of people in the water made for very slow going. Second there were portions of cage that hung very low to the water. What made that worse the cage hung even lower, sometimes in the water when you grabbed it to pull yourself forward. This became a problem when the people in front of you stopped, which was usually at the exit of the obstacle. It also felt as if the water got deeper the further you moved yourself though Cage Crawl. I did suck in quite of bit of water because of the slow going and had to favor the side of the cage to prevent me from staying submerged in water.

Warrior Carry17. Warrior Carry: This was the home stretch as we descended Mt. Pluto. From this obstacle you could see the remaining course ahead of you. This obstacle required you to pick up and carry your teammate about 30 yards before coming to a change point, which required teammates to switch positions. The only difficulty with the Warrior Carry was the fatigued that had started to set up. Tired legs, being out in the warm weather, but still driving by that cold Dos Equis waiting for you at the finish line. I made sure I teamed up with a partner was was close to my weight and we cruised through the obstacles under control and maintained our balance and got through the Warrior Carry without falling.

Everest18. Everest: This obstacle is essentially a quarter pipe that requires you to get a running start in order to reach the top lip of the structure. From there you must pull yourself up in order to accomplish the climb. The best part of this obstacle are the people who are at the top to lend a hand in order to help pull people to the top of the quarter pipe. What this obstacle lacked was the “grease” or mud that was advertised to be all over the fiberglass pipe on the front of the structure. I saw many people making it to the top of the obstacle with no problems, both men and women. I was tired by this point and didn’t get a good running start and needed some help to get my leg up on the top of the platform to finish the obstacle.

Electroshock Therapy19. Electroshock Therapy: The quintessential Tough Mudder obstacle you must go through in order to earn your headband and Dos Equis. One of the few obstacles you can compete as a team in order to feel a sense of accomplishment. Our team locked arms, two separate groups and went charging through the mud and electrical wires. The uneven terrain was tough to navigate while getting shock after shock from the wires. This obstacle was played up a bit more than I expected. The shocks were not all that painful, but you got a good jolt when struck. It was over quickly as we came out the other side and crossed the finish line to be rewarded with our orange Tough Mudder headband. This was a great way to finish off the day, as a team completing Tough Mudder 2013 – Lake Tahoe.

Let me also mention the amount of running that could potentially be involved. If you haven’t run much, you better get out your kicks and start putting the miles in. I read another comment before this event saying something to the effect of being able to run 3-4 miles with requiring water. Fair enough, since none of the aid stations are spaced that far apart on the course.

Tough Mudder TeammatesEven with all the ascents, especially in Lake Tahoe, I would look to push your to run a few times a week, but include a long run on weekend as you build up to your Tough Mudder. I could not tell you how many people were walking the course. I know because I was one of them for various reasons. Initially I stayed back with my team through about 3 obstacles and then broke out with another team member as we wanted to put in a few miles running.

Then there were the steep ascents up Mt. Pluto, especially the final haul to the summit, which was steep! The rule of thumb goes, if you can’t see the top of the mountain, walk. That is what many participants did. For me, it felt great to run between obstacles, as it appeared I was pushing myself, considering all the running I did leading up to my first Tough Mudder. You will be the judge when you climb over the wall into the starting pen how you will approach the trails between obstacles.

Tough Mudder TeammatesHopefully these brief descriptions of what our team experienced in Lake Tahoe will help, in preparation for an upcoming Tough Mudder event. I now have a much earned respect for the obstacles and have a better understand of how to approach them in order to be successful. I do believe all obstacles can be accomplished without aid from team members, especially if you carry the upper body strength to pull yourself up (get to those pull ups!). With that said, there is no shame in approaching obstacles with the “TEAM” concept in mind. Our team accomplished every obstacle as one, even though our group was divided between obstacles. Continue “digging deep” and pushing yourself for reward awaits once you cross that finish line.

Who do I draft?

In the 29 years I have been participating and managing a league in fantasy football, I still haven’t seen everything. Sure I saw an owner (me) draft a kicker in round 1, even saw another owner draft a player because he liked his name (Louie Lipps). This year will bring another season of unknowns that fantasy owners must sort though and make decisions on. A common question I hear, “Who do I draft in round 1?” Not sure why there happens to be so much debate and question when it comes to the first pick or the first round in the fantasy football draft. What you should be more focused on are the players in the middle to late rounds.

Take a look at the fantasy football resources you use. Chances are pretty good the top 3-5 picks look exactly the same. We could probably diagram round 1 out with accurate results. Depending on your league setup, rules and starter requirements there could be some discrepancy. Take example the league I manage, we can start 2 QBs, so the last few years we have see 8-9 QBs drafted by the end of round 2. This goes against what many ADP charts have plotted. Right now we see 3 “elite” RBs going in the top 3, Arian Foster, Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy. We also know there are 3 “elite” QBs, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady.

When you start your draft preparation, more time should be invested into players you draft later. Much of rounds 1 though 3 can be scripted but what’s your strategy when you get to round 10? What questions do you ask when you are looking for a bench player who might only get a few starters this season? There is a good chance your season won’t be lost on your draft #1 (unless you make my mistake and draft a kicker), but poor late round selections could hurt your chances at finishing in the money.

When I started preparing for my draft I read what information is available on the Internet about each team and their offensive players. Rarely do I watch much pre season football as it really only clouds my judgment on players I might be targeting. I do take some items into consideration, such as the NFL schedule for weeks 14 through 16. These usually correlate with fantasy football playoffs. You might also add the NFL strength of schedule ranking, but these numbers are a bit ambiguous as the season gets rolling, which is why I like Russ Bliss’s fantasy points per game of FP/PG. Unfortunately this method cannot be applied at the start of the season, but you can refer back to last season, but take it with a grain of salt for the upcoming season.

I don’t believe I am a majority voice when it comes to backing up all my players. This comes from the many years we played without having access to a waiver wire, but using supplemental draft picks every 4th week of the NFL season. You had to draft 18 players and run with them all year. Injuries? Hopefully you backed up your starting QB or TE because you didn’t have a chance to add one during the season. These days many people vigorously work the waiver wire to build their team AFTER the draft. I don’t subscribe to this method of team building. I believe you build a successful team in the draft and use the wire as necessary, when necessary to supplement your team. After all if you build a strong, competitive team you shouldn’t have to chase the hottest players of the week. Right?

One of the more common strategies when drafting is the handcuff. If you draft Arian Foster, then you should make plans for adding Ben Tate to your team. You might even need to jump on him earlier than anticipated, as another owner could take advantage and draft Tate before you. The handcuff usually applies to the running back position. More recently I have seen owners reject the idea of drafting a back up QB, opting for adding depth at RB or WR. For the bye week, they may drop a lesser used player and pick up a QB to cover a BYE week. I subscribe to drafting a back up QB. Chances are if you lose your #1 QB your season will be hosed anyway, especially if your QB was Rodgers, Brees or Brady. It’s very difficult to recover from losing a player of this caliber at ANY position. Make the sacrifice and plan to draft a back up. You might refer back to weeks 14-16 of the NFL and see if there are any QBs who have soft match ups.

Many players in the later rounds could fall under the label of “sleeper,” which is used quite often in fantasy football. These days with so much information available on TV, radio and the Internet, the true sleeper has gone to bed. Many will still put together a list of sleepers, but the names on that list might be well known come draft day. For example a WR like Michael Crabtree, while known could make a sleeper list. Based on the last few years he hasn’t put together great stats and has been injured. This year with the addition of Mario Manningham and Randy Moss, Crabtree might develop into a solid #2 WR.

Bottom line, don’t get caught up in the hype at the top of the draft board. While the first few rounds are usually scripted, surprises can and will happen. Remember to be flexible when it comes to draft. Don’t get caught not knowing who was just drafted. Being prepared is a key to be successful in your draft. While there are other aspects that are out of your control, do what you can to learn the players and know how to implement your strategy when it comes to your draft picks. A bit of extra time now preparing will save you a draft day headache and answer the question of “Who do I draft?”

Fantasy Football Team #3

I guess this is really the only way to track more than one fantasy football league, let’s call this Team #3. Yet another Throwball Heroes team looking to contend. I signed up to participate in a friend’s 12-team Yahoo league. Scoring is standard with a few modifications. The draft was 16 rounds, 8 players and 1 defense start each week (QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, TE, 2 FLEX, K, DST). I was randomly assigned the #3 draft slot and here is how the draft went last night.

1.03 Ray Rice RB BAL

Even though we are non-PPR I decided to roll with Ray Rice this season and skip on Chris Johnson, even though he had signed a new contract earlier in the day. While CJ2K might end with better stats, I am taking a chance that he will be slow on the start. Rice has been there since day one and has a new lead blocker, which means he could have a career year rushing and receiving in BAL.

2.10 Hakeem Nicks WR NYG

Things got really weird in only round two when Nicks slipped to me in the 10 spot after Kevin Boss and Joseph Addai were selected. Megatron went just before my decision to draft Nicks. I have been pretty consistent with him drafting him in all three leagues. Not as big named or as flashy as some of the other top WRs, but should have outstanding numbers this season. Feel lucky to get him at the end of round two.

3.03 Peyton Manning QB IND

Maybe the neck injury scared some owners when it was time to draft a QB. No surprise to see Vick, Rodgers, Brees, Rivers  and Brady selected by the end of round two. It was just too hard to pass up a staple in fantasy football named Peyton Manning. Neck injury and all I will take my chances in the third round. Now gives me a top RB/WR and QB. This sort of goes against my personal rule of drafting injured players, but the potential here very high for another successful year.

4.10 Jahvid Best RB DET

I was watching 3 players in particular as this round started; Miles Austin, LeGarette Blount and Ahmad Bradshaw. Unfortunately by the time I was on the board, all three of these players had been selected, but Jahvid Best was still out there, so he ended up being my #2 starter. Again, too bad it’s not PPR as Rice and Best make a nice duo. Only concern with Best is his ability to stay healthy, missing much of last year with turf toe and had a previous concussion already in the pre-season.

5.03 Antonio Gates TE SD

The TE position in the 5th round probably isn’t popular with many owners, sort of like drafting a kicker. The only player I could see taking in this round at TE is Antonio Gates. He is so skilled at his position and can produce some big points, to the degree you could consider him another wide receiver. Look at what he did in 10 games last year. He is now healthy with Rivers and Vincent Jackson, this was one of my better picks, even though it was early in the draft, it was the best available on the board.

6.10 Knowshon Moreno

Not sure how Moreno slipped past so many owners. Maybe they were going off what he did last year. From all the reports he has played well and looked good in pre-season. But we know not to buy into the hype. If he is healthy with Orton back at QB and John Fox at the helm, Moreno could break 1000 yards this season. My only worry is Willis McGahee vulturing some TDs this season and when Fox puts Tebow in to run the option near the goal line. Still Moreno is a quality #3 running back.

7.03 Kenny Britt WR TEN

I was hoping Santonio Holmes was slide as we started this round, but with the first pick he was off the board and I was back comparing a small pile of wide receivers. I had Kenny Britt, Percy Harvin and Plaxico Burress on my short list. I wasn’t fond of the offensive line issues in MIN and McNabb’s ability to get the ball downfield to Harvin. Burress returning after a stint in jail didn’t excite me, so I took the headcase in TEN, Kenny Britt. He is a home run type player with the ability to get down field quickly. He won’t be suspended and now hopefully Hasselbeck can get him the ball…a lot!

8.10 Robert Meachem WR NO

I should have been looking RB in round 8, but four picks prior to my turn Brandon Jacobs was selected. He was the last “big name” running back I had been watching and now that he was off the board I was looking for value. Robert Meachem has been talked about quite a bit this season with Colston a bit slow to recover from last year’s injury and Lance Moore was nursing a groin. This left the door wide open for Meachem who could have a breakout season with Brees in NO.

9.03 Daniel Thomas (r) RB MIA

Never been much for drafting rookie players, as many of them don’t pan out their first year. Thomas has the skills, but is still learning on the job. I suspect he won’t get much playing time early in the season, especially with the more experienced Reggie Bush on the team. He was somewhat of a flier in round 9 in hopes he can get into a RBBC with Bush as the season progresses.

10.10 Danny Amendola WR STL

Another great PPR wide receiver, but even though we get no points for receptions, Amendola still had a great number of targets last season, partly due to Mark Clayton being injured. He is the #1 WR in St. Louis and has a very strong rapport with Bradford at QB. I look for him to only get better and increase his statistical out put this season.

11.03 Ryan Fitzpatrick QB BUF

I jumped a bit down on the tier chart to draft Fitzpatrick over guys like Orton, Sanchez and Cassel. I am hoping Buffalo can put up some good offensive numbers like they did last year, which surprised many fantasy owners and found them scrambling to the wire for this team’s talent. This season I was really just looking for a bye week cover and a player who could be an every week starter if I needed him to fill a full time role.

12.10 Lawrence Tynes K NYG

I might have screwed this pick up. I had forgot Tynes is battling a quad injury and might not be ready for Week 1. I don’t want any leg issues when I am drafting a kicker, but I overlooked the injury and selected him anyway. If he is not ready to play, chances are high I will drop him and pick another kicker off the waiver wire. There is enough talent out there I don’t feel this will cause many issues at all with my team.

13.03 Marion Barber RB CHI

Another running back in new colors is Barber. He continued to slip and I continued to watch him, as he could play a goal line role in Chicago. Give Forte the brunt of the work and give Barber the ball inside the 20s. I can live with that. Right now I don’t intend on Barber starting regularly, but he is a good bye week cover and most likely Forte’s replacement if an injury occurs.

14.10 Rob Gronkowski TE NE

How do 11 other owners continue to skip over Gronky? Round 14! Are you serious? I was very surprised to see him still at the top of my TE cheat sheet in this round. Having Gates I probably didn’t need a #2 TE and goes against conventional wisdom of other fantasy owners. Still when looking at “BPA” (best player available) Gronky was it, even at TE.

15.03 Emanual Sanders WR PIT

Another one of my sleepers was still on the board and I was never really worried he would be drafted. Although it was no surprise another owner jumped on the hype of Antonio Brown, leaving me to draft Sanders. Now over the foot injury I think Sanders will put up good numbers as the season progresses. He adds quality depth to my team.

16.10 Arizona

Many owners put very little thought into kickers, I put very little into my defense. Rarely will a defense mark or break a week or my season. I could probably end up playing match ups all year and get by. Arizona has good match ups the first 3 weeks, opening against a rookie QB in Cam Newton. Their defense was also ranked relatively high, now hoping they can improve on the points against, which is really the only thing worrying me.

So my third and possibly final draft of the season. I was pleased with how it went I like the foundation I created with Rice, Nicks, Manning and Gates, all of whom could be top players at their respective positions. Being a 12 team league, talent did thin out a bit quicker than I am normally use to in a 10 team league, but I feel I maximized my value in each round.

The rookie, Daniel Thomas is a minor concern as well. He has been a bit slow to pick up on the offense, so the potential time share with Reggie Bush might not happen early in the season. Bush has had durability issues and if he is hit with an injury that could open the door for Thomas to have an impact. Thus I am not a big fan of drafting rookies, as I mentioned earlier. Thankfully I do have Knowshon Moreno slated to be a flex starter leaving Thomas and Marion Barber on the bench.

I like the depth of my WRs, Robert Meachem ends up as my flex WR with Amendola and Sanders on the bench with Gronkowski at TE to cover my bye weeks. My starters are solid, big play receivers, but I am somewhat concerned with Britt. I was not really desiring a headcase on my squad, but it came down to talent and what he did last year. While I don’t like his antics off the field, as long as he is the #1 in TEN, keeps out of trouble he could put up some good #2 WR numbers for me.

I have no doubts I will make the playoffs with this team when comparing it to how the other owners drafted. I believe the auto draft guys are already out of luck, as those 5 teams are not going to be very competitive. The other 6 teams have some good players, but are not very well balanced. Then again a balanced team is not always a winning team. Fantasy football does take a dose of luck, so while I believe I have a good team I will take all the luck I can get this season.

Fantasy League #3 Tonight

Tonight is my third and possibly final fantasy football draft, unless of course the group on the Fantasy Football Starters Forums need a 12th owner. In 28 years of fantasy football I have never played more than 2 leagues. It has only been the past 3 years I have participated in a league outside of the one I have managed since 1983.

I am playing with a group of guys I don’t know well, so I have no idea to what degree they know football. The league commissioner is the friend who invited me and I helped him set the league up. It will be a 12-team Yahoo league, non-standard Yahoo scoring though. We will draft 16 players and start 10: QB/RB/RB/WR/WR/TE/2 FLEX/K/DST.

I have already ranked my players using FFS and am deciding on what strategy I am going to employ. I will probably bring a few with me, including my standard draft strategy, which builds a balanced team with RB/WR/QB in the first three rounds or the more unconventional WR/WR/WR, alternative draft strategy, which I believe I implemented very well in my work league. I discussed this strategy at length a few days ago.

This will also be the first time I participate in a league with more than 10 owners. A 12 team league. That might sound a bit odd considering I have played fantasy football for 28 years now. But it has really been the last year and a half now I have a renewed enthusiasm for fantasy football. 28 seasons can get a bit long in the tooth, so to speak. We have updated rules, added teams, introduced the waiver wire, but it wasn’t until I joined FFS last June, 2010 that I was excited about the upcoming season.

That excitement has carried over to this season, as I am staring at possibly 4 leagues to participate in. Maybe it’s the fact that I am able to share the knowledge and insight I have gained over those years playing fantasy football that makes it fulfilling. I am only 2 years removed as champion in my league, the TFL and based on the draft of last month I have a strong team that should be able to compete and challenge for the trophy.

Regardless of what happens, playing in multiple leagues will allow me to use different strategies and combine players in ways that are outside my comfort zone. I would like to think the draft tonight will be one in which I excel. As mentioned I only know one of the guys real well and his teams last year were not all that competitive. Then again I did not make the playoffs in my league, but ended up blowing out all the owners in my work league.

As with any year I consider it a successful year if I am able to take something new away from a league. This year looks to be interesting since I was able to employ a new draft strategy. I also believe I will be able to compete in both the leagues I have already drafted in. We will soon see.