Tough Mudder

Tough Mudder Seattle 2015 Unofficial Course Preview


The 2015 Seattle Tough Mudder is this Saturday and Sunday (September 19th & 20th), and like many other pre-registered participants, I just received the course map via email. As it’s been in previous years, Seattle Tough Mudder 2015 will take place at Palmer Coking Coal Company in Black Diamond, WA. The terrain is varied, the mud is coal-black and gritty, and the weather is usually perfect. I’ve run the Tough Mudder course at this location for the past two years, and feel like I’m beginning to know the area pretty well. So this post is an “unofficial” course preview, based on the course map, my recollection of the general terrain at Palmer Coking Coal, and my experience with the last two years’ Seattle Tough Mudders.

Speaking of which, I wore a GoPro during my first Seattle Tough Mudder in 2013 (we ran as “Squeal Team Six”), and included some of our team’s highlights in this YouTube video. I wish I’d tilted the camera just a wee bit higher, you can at least get a general idea for some of the terrain (and the quality of the mud) at this great location:

Looking forward to Seattle Tough Mudder 2015, here’s a link to the satellite view of the course area on Google Maps. You can match up some landmarks on the lower resolution course map from Tough Mudder, that includes the course layout and obstacle locations.

So with full disclaimers that this is just my best educated guess on what to expect, here’s what I think is in store, based on the 2015 Seattle Tough Mudder course map. If the obstacle has an official description page on the Tough Mudder website, I’ll link to it from the obstacle’s name.

The Start

The course starts out with a run of about 1.25 miles before the the first obstacle. With the big crowd, a “hype man” at the start getting you pumped, music blaring, and anticipation (and adrenaline) high, it’s very tempting to sprint this first mile. However, overcooking it on this first portion could punish you for the rest of the course. I recommend using this opening mile(ish) as a casual jog (or even walk portions of it if you’re not a conditioned runner), to get completely warmed up for the longer runs and the obstacles. If you ignore this advice to warm up properly, you’re at a high risk of muscle cramps around mile 7, where you’ll be forced to run/walk/limp for the remainder of the course (don’t ask me how I know). It’s a long course. Don’t sabotage yourself out of the gate.

Warrior Carry

If it’s anything like the last couple of years, you just throw a fellow Mudder over your shoulder and walk 50-75 yds, then switch and let the carry-ee become the carry-er. .Sometimes it’s uphill, and sometimes it’s flat. It’s generally best to pair up with someone near your own weight class, but if you’re running solo or on a team with odd numbers (like I was in 2014), one of the volunteer course marshals will let you carry them.

Water Station

It’s less than a 1 mile run to the first water station, which is just past the 2 mile mark. To avoid cramping, you should always drink as much as possible at every water station, even if you’re not thirsty.

Skidmarked

At the 2.3 mile mark, just past the water station, is the first “real” obstacle of the day: Skidmarked. It’s a moderately tough obstacle with a high “camaraderie” rating, meaning teams need to help each other up and over.

Creek Crusade

It’s a short run to Creek Crusade — a very easy obstacle. On this course, it’s usually just a wade through a muddy knee-to-waist-high creek. But watch out for sudden drops, as they sometimes dig holes in the bottom of the creek to fool you.

Balls to the Wall

It looks like about a 1 mile run to the 3.4 mile mark, where you’ll meet Balls to the Wall. If you have any upper body strength at all, this shouldn’t be difficult. Grab a rope, pull yourself up a wall (the wall has steps), then use another rope to lower yourself down the other side. The rope even has knots, making this obstacle only moderately difficult for most.

Cliffhanger

It’s a very short distance to the next obstacle: Cliffhanger. On the 2014 course, I believe this was the location for Abseil, an obstacle where you lower yourself down a steep incline with a  rope. But on the 2015 course, Cliffhanger appears to be where it was in 2013: you’re climbing up that hill. Cliffhanger is deceptively difficult on this course, and is usually one of the most physically tiring obstacles here, as it requires arm and leg strength, as well as stamina. It’s always very steep, and very slippery, with the added problem of other Mudders losing their grip and sliding down into you (which makes it a great way to meet new friends!). Eventually, you’ll reach a muddy cargo net near the top for the steepest part, but it’s always a workout to get there. Grippy trail running shoes will help, but this is generally one of the physically toughest parts of this course. If you look up this obstacle up on YouTube, it doesn’t look tough on other courses — and it’s not, because the other courses don’t have the steep terrain available at the Seattle location. Climb slowly and steadily and you’ll reach the top without wearing yourself out early – because there’s still a long way to go!

Swamp Stomp

There’s another water station just before mile 4, then it’s a short jog to Swamp Stomp. Not unlike Creek Crusade, this is usually just a march through a muddy ditch, intended primarily to get you wet and dirty.

Funky Monkey 2.0

Immediately next, at the 4.4 mile mark, is Funky Monkey 2.0. This one is all upper body strength. The original version of this obstacle was inclining and declining monkey bars over a pit of water, but the updated 2.0 version now has a swinging bar and a downward sloping pole at the end. I won’t lie, as a 5′ 7″ stocky dude with a short wing-span, I’m not looking forward to this one… but I don’t plan on surrendering, either. 🙂 Here’s a preview:

Kiss of Mud 2.0

It’s a short jog to Kiss of Mud 2.0. In previous years, it’s just been a crawl through the mud under barbed wire. The 2.0 version adds hay bales to crawl over. Keep your head down, use your forearms and your feet to propel yourself forward, and you’ll be fine… as long as you enjoy the taste of fine-grain black mud!

Abseil

It’s a very short distance to Abseil, where you lower yourself down the side of a hill on one of three ropes. If you’ve got gloves, this is a fairly straightforward obstacle. The hardest part is waiting in line, as this is usually a course bottleneck.

King of the Swingers

It looks like another short jog to this next obstacle at the 5 mile mark. I’ve never seen before, but I am really looking forward to it! On King of the Swingers, you climb a tower, swing out on metal bar, hope you let go at the highest point of the arc, then reach out your hand to swat a suspended bell before plunging into the water below. The video looks awesome:

Artic Enema 2.0

Just after you get out of the water from the previous obstacle, you go right into the dreaded Artic Enema 2.0. The original Artic Enema was bad enough, where you’d jump in an icy pool, swim under a wooden barricade, then climb out the other end. The 2.0 version adds a sliding entry with a chainlink cage, and now you have to go over a barricade in the middle then plunge back in again before climbing out.

I’m actually glad to see this obstacle in the first half of the course this year. In previous years where it’s been closer to the end, the icy water can cause serious cramping (my left calf lit up in the ice two years ago).

Here’s what v2.0 of Artic Enema looks like now:

Berlin Walls 2.0

About a half mile later comes Berlin Walls 2.0 (at around the 5.5 mile mark). The 2.0 version means that they’re higher than they were originally — I’ve heard reports that they’re now 10 feet high. They have a small foot-hold about a third of the way up, but the best way to get over these taller walls is with a “boost” from a buddy for the initial jump. Pull yourself up, get one leg on top, climb over, hang on the other side, and drop to the ground.

There’s a water station just on the other side of the walls, where you can re-hydrate before heading off for the “back portion” of the course, where the runs are longer and obstacles farther apart.

Devil’s Beard

It looks to be about a mile run, past the 6 mile mark, through the forest to Devil’s Beard. It’s a huge, heavy, and wide cargo net that is best negotiated as a group. A couple people should lift and hold the net up, let others come under it, then take your turn holding it up for others. Using this technique, it’s not a difficult task.

Beached Whale

The run to Beached Whale looks to be about 3/4 of a mile, at the 7.1 mile mark. Another new obstacle for 2015, this is basically a large inflatable jumpy toy… with no ladder. You’ll need at least one person’s help to get up on top, but don’t forget to take your turn pulling at least one or two others up with you — whether or not they’re on your team.

Lake Loop

Though not officially listed as an obstacle on the Tough Mudder course map, this run of about 2/3 of a mile circumnavigates a peaceful lake in the woods. The trail, however, is sloped downward toward the lake, and requires you to avoid tree roots along the way. It’s always a part of every Seattle course. There’s a water station just as you come out of the forest near the main parking lot. You’ll keep running for another half mile (past the 9 mile mark) to reach the next obstacle.

The Liberator

This is another new obstacle for me: The Liberator. First, using removable pegs, you pull yourself up one side of a 10 foot A-frame, climb over the top, and lower yourself down the other side with a rope. It requires a lot of upper body strength, and the fact that it appears in the late stages of the course means you’ll be more tired than normal.

Berlin Walls 2.0… 2.0!

Just before the 9 mile mark, you’ll get a second shot at getting over 2.0 version of the Berlin Walls. Hopefully you learned something the first time that will make this attack easier! You’ll be tired, and teamwork will be more important than ever.

Mud Mile 2.0

It’s about a mile run to the final section of the course, where six obstacles are stacked pretty much back to back. At the 9.4 mile mark is the Mud Mile 2.0. It’s not actually 2.0 miles of mud… or even a mile for that matter. The original version used to be a slog through ankle-deep mud… but this year, the 2.0 version puts you in waist-deep mud, extra-high entrance and exit mounds of dirt, and higher vertical mud obstacles in the middle. This used to be an obstacle you could get through with little or no help from teammates. But this newer version is pretty much impossible without a little help from your friends… or even some complete strangers!

Mystery Obstacle #1

There’s always at least one wild card thrown in every year. This is the first one!

Everest 2.0

A Tough Mudder staple, the Everest obstacle is their version of the “warped wall.” At exactly the 10 mile mark, the updated Everest 2.0 is now 18″ higher, has a rounded top, and to really make things tricky… there’s water flowing down the wall! It used to be possible to get up Everest alone… but we’re all going to need help to get over this updated version.

Avalanche

I wasn’t able to find too much info on this obstacle, but it appears to be kind of like what the original Everest was: run fast up a wall, reach for the top, pull yourself up and over… usually with some help.

Mystery Obstacle #2 (Legionnaire’s Loop)

If you’ve finished at least one Tough Mudder before this course, you can tackle this additional “veterans only” obstacle. I have no clue what it is this year, but last year’s Legionnaire’s Loop included some extra climbing, some extra crawling, some electrical shock, and a more extreme route up a taller Everest. I can’t wait to see what this year’s loop brings… but I’m really hoping for Fire in Your Hole — a giant waterslide, through flames, with a big drop into a pool of water.

Electroshock Therapy

This much-feared obstacle has always come last at the Seattle course. For some, it’s the final moment of dread before crossing the finish line. Of course, as with any obstacle, you can choose to walk around it. However, if you do, I insist that you get a white paint marker and put an asterisk next to “Finisher” on your T-shirt. I’ve seen many strategies to get through this obstacle: walking through slowly (lame), bobbing and weaving your way through trying to avoid the wires (lamer), crawling on the ground to sneak under the wires (lamest!), or some other variations on those same themes. The best strategy for this obstacle is to keep your arms out in front of you, put your head down, and run straight for the finish line, while jumping over the hay bales. When (and not if) you get shocked, take it like a champion. If the jolt knocks you down, git right back up and keep running. There is no honorable way through this obstacle without getting shocked. Accepting that reality now will help you on race day. 🙂

Finish Line

At the 10.1 mile mark, a headband, a finisher’s T-shirt, a protein bar, and immortal glory await you at the finish line. Congratulations! Wear that T-shirt with pride, and be sure to give a high-five throughout the year to anyone else you see wearing one around town.

The Showers

I actually consider this the final obstacle. Free showers are available to help rinse off at least part of the mud that has worked its way into your shoes, clothing, hair, and the… uh… “nooks and crannies” all over your body. But the open air community showers are freezing cold, so it almost feels like another visit to Arctic Enema. But it’s also a great place to re-live memories of the course, chat with and congratulate fellow Mudders around you, and dream of the double cheeseburger and “bottomless” fries that await you at the Red Robin on your way home.

I wish all of you the best of luck at this year’s course!

As always, I welcome your questions, comments, and feedback below!

Check out my Recommended Tough Mudder Gear page for my favorite shoes, socks, and clothes when running a Tough Mudder!