Christie Lake Conservation Area is one of the most beautiful lake settings on the Niagara Escarpment. On September 14 and 15, the site hosted the biggest event of the Tough Mudder series of the current year. Being the only event in Eastern Canada, an impressive number of runners have come together for this festival of mud and fun. No less than 12000 runners took one of Saturday starts and another 2500 on Sunday. You read correctly ... 12000 people in one day! As many people on a course also means congestion to predict. Already early in the morning, access to parking was quite arduous due to the long queue. On the other hand, once the transaction was completed, the volunteers quickly directed the vehicles to the right place. With so many people on the site, one would think that registration would also be problematic. But Tough Mudder not being at their first rodeo, meets expectations once again and registration was done pretty quickly. Its computerized system greatly simplifies the process and the timeliness and quantity of volunteers greatly contributes to ensuring that everything goes as planned.
To my surprise, the entire emcee team is on site. As usual, Sean Corvelle takes care of the starts and prepares the racers to face the course. Clinton Jackson animates the Electroshock Therapy area with humor that makes the crowd laugh. And this time, Kyle Railton, a.k.a. Coach T. Mud, animates the festival area with music, competitions and his legendary hip move! The village is very well laid out and has several elements. Some kiosks are present to present their products including one that offers yogurt to runners. Several "Food trucks" are also available for those wanting to fill a bigger appetite. Traditional after-race beer is also available, but in a confined space by fences and security guards. There were also some activities for the little ones who waited like pocket games or giant Jenga. An axe throwing kiosk was also a bit off the village in order to offer another form of entertainment to everyone present on the site. The spectator road gave visibility on some obstacles in exchange for a little walk, but three of them were easily accessible directly in the village (Everest, Mudderhorn and Electroshock Therapy).
Two options were available for the runners in terms of distance: The classic version of 12km or the 5k. The first wave of the day known as Tougher Mudder was (like all the others) busy. The racers wore the famous yellow and black bib identifying them as a competitive runner. This wave gives access to the podiums and ensures a minimum waiting time at obstacles. Its price remains high enough, but is a necessary passage if you wish to receive the holy grail that you are given when you participate in the three types of competitive event (Tougher, Toughest, World's Toughest) within the same year. This is also the only wave where you will get an official race time. Again, time management of the Tougher wave remains a small problem in terms of accuracy since no timing chip is used. It is rather a person with a tablet that enters your number in the system as you cross the finish line. It is your responsibility to make sure that person captures your time. Obviously, when several runners arrive at the same time, it gives a weird and imprecise time sheet. The second small problem of this wave is the penalty in case of failure of an obstacle. It is mentioned before the race that the obstacles are mandatory and that the penalties must be completed in case of failure. Some penalties are just too easy compared to the obstacle or just not applied. I take the example of Funky Monkey in this edition where the penalty was to touch a flag that was about ten feet from the obstacle. However, during the 12h and 24h editions, the penalties are costly in terms of distance and time. The last little problem is certainly cooperative obstacles like Hero Cary. The obstacle as such is not the problem, but the fact that some will do it, some will not. Three small problems that it would be easy to provide a solution and that would make the competitive wave of Tougher Mudder more credible.
The course was quite interesting and passed as much in the fields as in the wooded areas. There were some places that could be confusing as to where to go since a small path was split in two by cones and orange paint on the floor. Moreover this separation was still in progress while the competitive wave was on the course. A good use of the available land was in place with the passages in the water of the river and the small hills. Some classic obstacles were absent among which Pyramid scheme and Devil's Beard. A new obstacle (at least for me) was instead: Tight Squeeze. Many mentioned that this was the most difficult obstacle of the day despite the simplicity of it. A video is available on our Facebook page if you want a preview of it.
12000 runners obviously mean to say a notorious waiting during regular waves where everyone waits and helps each other. The lines were particularly long at Everest throughout the day. But that's part of the Tough Mudder experience. As in any race of this company, the mud was present. There was, however, a beautiful shower arrangement with soap provided by a sponsor so that the runners could leave the mud on the ground rather than bring it back in their vehicle. Cloakrooms were also fitted out. A large-scale event where Eastern Canada has responded and Tough Mudder has filled in the bank! Let's hope that the craze for the event will be just as important for the 2020 edition!