The Tougher Mudder Championship Series continued its 4-part series in the 2018 season here outside of Chicago in Rockford, Illinois, at the Tough Mudder Chicago event. The absence of Tough Mudder Pro Team members Hunter McIntyre, Ryan Atkins, and Lindsay Webster meant the podium was wide open for anyone to claim. With temps in the mid 70s, overcast skies, and a flat, winding course through the cornfields, we saw a very competitive race between Tougher Mudder rookies and veterans alike. On the road to the World Championship on September 22nd in Seattle, here's how the event played out.
The Tougher Mudder Midwest Championship course featured 17 obstacles over a relatively flat but wet and muddy 10-mile course through the cornfields of rural Illinois. A downhill start on fresh grass gave the sprinters a chance to open their strides and establish an early lead. A unique feature to the Tough Mudder Chicago venue, Kishwaukee Krusade, brought the athletes through a 300-ft river crossing with water up to head high. A quick u-turn brought everyone to the 15’ tall Everest 2.0 all within the first mile. A series of Tough Mudder classics—Mud Mile 2.0, Berlin Walls, and Cage Crawl—comprised the first 5-mile circuit and made sure every competitor got very dirty for the remainder of the 10 miles. The course then winded through soybean fields farther downriver with Arctic Enema, a tribe favorite and true test of mental grit. A challenging sequence of upper body features of Just the Tip, Funky Monkey, and Hold Your Wood then brought Mudders back to Kishwaukee Krusade for a second pass through the bone-chilling 50-degree water. A final spin cycle through The Block Ness Monster landed athletes at Happy Ending, a massive obstacle requiring both agility and timing when climbing up the front face as well as a stable core when sliding down the back.
Rich Ryan got out to an early lead ahead of rookies Michael Bailey and Joby Peake. Ryan, a Tougher Mudder veteran, was looking for redemption after coming off a disappointing 3rd place finish at the Tougher Mudder Championship Series race earlier this year in Philly. Unable to keep up with the pace of Bailey, Ryan dropped to the 2nd spot by mile 4. The rising temperatures and diminishing cloud cover spread out the competition, leaving Joby Peake in 3rd place a full 5 minutes behind Bailey as they approached Kong - Infinity. Coming around on the second lap, Bailey’s lead was just 20 seconds ahead of Ryan passing through Arctic Enema. Only 1.5 miles later, Ryan would overtake the lead as Bailey slipped off Funky Monkey - The Revolution, falling into the water pit and forced to take the penalty. Seeing an opportunity, Ryan surged ahead squarely in the lead with 3 miles remaining. Fully soaked and defeated from a costly penalty, Bailey was unable to recover his lead, with Ryan redeeming his first place finish after completing Happy Ending in a blistering 1 hour and 11 minutes. Bailey pulled in just 90 seconds later, earning a cool $1,000. Joby Peake edged out JC Cross by just 19 seconds to finish in 1 hour, 18 minutes, securing the 3rd place spot and final spot on the podium.
Here’s how the Top 5 Men Finished:
1. Rich Ryan — 1:11:00.0
2. Michael Bailey — 1:12:37.0
3. Joby Peake — 1:18:15.1
4. JC Cross — 1:18:34.1
5. Jason Harley — 1:29:09.7
The competition was just as strong in the women’s heat. Rose Wetzel, a household name from American Ninja Warrior, took the early lead through Bale Bonds over Nell Rojas and Lauren Taksa. Tough Mudder veteran Deanna Brasz sat close behind in 4th place through Everest 2.0. But by 45 minutes into the race, Wetzel began to lose her early lead to Rojas, sitting just 30 seconds behind in 2nd place through The Block Ness Monster. In a similar sequence of events to the men’s heat, Wetzel’s struggle through the difficult upper-body section of the course allowed Rojas to claim the lead and capture 1st place with a time of 1 hour, 31 minutes, earning her $2,500. Wetzel’s speed and obstacle experience edged out Taksa by just 90 seconds for the 2nd place spot, with Taksa claiming 3rd place on the podium with a time of 1 hour, 36 minutes. Brasz, unable to catch the speedy Taksa for 3rd place, settled into an impressive 4th place finish just under the 100-minute mark at 1 hour, 38 minutes.
Here’s how the Top 5 Women Finished:
1. Nell Rojas —1:31:23.5
2. Rose Wetzel — 1:34:11.4
3. Lauren Taska — 1:36:38.9
4. Deanna Brasz — 1:38:05.4
5. Kelly Williams — 1:49:01.5