Welcome again to Popcorn and Burpees, a Solo Mudders view on the various OCR offerings in the world of TV, film, podcasts and books. Today we will be reviewing episode 2 of Sky Sports Mix’s original series Mission Mudder.
If you are not familiar with Mission Mudder then check out my earlier blog which provides a brief background.
One tiny correction to that post is that I described Jade Jones as the most famous of the athletes. In terms of sporting achievements that is probably true, however a friend who follows cycling has enlightened me on Jess Varnish. I understand that she is an excellent cyclist however recently her cycling career has been overshadowed somewhat by inadvertently becoming a whistle blower over alleged sexism in the GB cycling camp. I was aware of the story but was not aware of the athletes involved. Obviously the ins and out of such allegations are beyond the scope of this blog other than to say that sexism in any form is wrong and I am so glad to be part of a sport in OCR in which women and men compete on as close to a level footing as possible. However, if you had heard of Jess Varnish prior to Mission Mudder and are not a fan of cycling then sadly this negative news story is probably why.
Anyway with that out of the way let’s grab that popcorn and watch episode 2 of Mission Mudder.
Episode Review (SPOILER ALERT)
We start with a quick introduction to the show and then join the stars at the airport. Jade Jones, Jess Varnish, Perri Shakes-Drayton and Anthony Fowler are heading to LA to take part in a Tough Mudder Half. Aimee Fuller is again absent due to a snowboard competition and Ashley McKenzie is also not making the trip for as yet undisclosed reasons.
In the airport lounge it’s revealed that its Jade’s birthday and the other Olympians have bought her a Colin the Caterpillar cake to celebrate. If you are not a UK based reader you will probably have to Google the cultural icon that is Colin the Caterpillar.
We then a quick montage of our four stars boarding the flight before taking in some of the traditional sights of Hollywood.
No Coach Sam this week, instead we are introduced to this week’s first guest coach Hunter McIntyre. For those who are unfamiliar with Hunter McIntyre, it is probably accurate to describe him as someone who has reached or is close to the pinnacle of OCR. A great racer who has won multiple races and is probably in the top 10 in respect of making money in the sport. Hunter is also known for his ability in the short courses which makes him perfect as a Coach before they take on the half.
The athletes meet Hunter at the Los Angeles memorial colosseum the home of the LA Olympics. Hunter puts the Olympians through a crossfit type work out with stair sprints, grip exercises, medicine ball slams and kettlebells. This is all interwoven with various talking spots by Hunter who comes across as a genuinely nice guy.
The final challenge is to get over a concrete wall. Sadly this section didn’t look great as it is fairly obvious that at most the first step at the wall was around five feet. So the Olympians had to pretend that it took teamwork to get up and over. In reality I would suspect that most of them could have muscled up.
When then move on to some scenic shots of the Olympians talking of what they have done overlooking LA. They are then joined by our second guest trainer for the day, Kyle Railton who is better known as Coach. UK based readers may know him from the Coachified videos but if you are unfamiliar with him, he is the USA’s warm up guy for Tough Mudder events. There is a quick intro from Coach and he makes it clear that he views Tough Mudder not as an event but as a way of life.
Coach takes the Olympians into the desert for his version of training which includes rock carrying, press-ups with hand slaps and another hero carry spot. Coach then speaks about how athletically the Olympians are good specimens but that they will need to face their fears. The narrator then explains that a major fear is Artic Enema. This is followed up by highlight reels of Artic Enema. I can’t help feeling a little jealous watching these highlights as it looks more ice filled than I’ve had for a while.
Coach thereafter takes them to a cold water spring deep in the mountains. The stars obviously react with shock but get in the cold water anyway. They are soon having fun before Coach also introduces them to a hot spring. A fairly short segment that seems to serve the purpose of allowing the show to have highlights of the Olympians in swimwear as opposed to being a serious training exercise, but maybe I’m just being cynical.
We then catch up with the two missing Olympians who are busy competing in Czech Republic (Aimee) or training back home (Ashley). There is a nice skype chat between Ashley and Anthony which highlights their budding bromance. Aimee sends a nice video message confirming she has finished fourth and qualified.
Coach then gives the team a quick pep talk about facing the Tough Mudder half before the stars each give their thoughts. The Olympians drive to the site in which they meet with Will Dean. There is a bit of banter back and forth in which Will goes through some of the obstacles in which they will face. Will advises that 10,000 Mudders have had a Tough Mudder tattoo on them before asking if any of them will get it. Jade turns round to cheekily suggest she will get it on her behind causing everyone to break into hysterics.
We then join the Olympians at the start line. Sadly we don’t get too much of Sean Corvelle, Tough Mudders famous MC before they are off for their first five miles.
The course is presented in a linear fashion with the athletes running, talking a little, taking on an obstacle before continuing on. In order the Olympians take on the following:
- Mud Mile – sadly not the best mud mile I’ve seen. It looks like this is late in the day as it was relatively busy and some of the trenches had all but collapsed. They try to add drama here but in truth they all get through it fairly easily.
- The hills of LA, not an obstacle but Will Dean makes a point of bringing up how hilly the course is.
- Devils Beard – slightly different to the UK version as there is no obvious haybale but the cargo net is uphill and longer. Only Anthony seemed to work out that you can hunch over and walk through it.
- Quagmire – Not even popular enough to be mentioned by name but the athletes get through the “baby” mud mile quite easily.
- Unnamed tyre obstacle – two rows of tractor tyres that you have to scramble up. This is quite challenging for all but Perri who leaps over them.
At this stage they show the athletes hitting the Mile 1 marker when they think they have gone a lot further. We have all been there.
- Hero carry – this is after a massive hill which is quite evil. The athletes power through this given their training including doing some squats halfway through.
- Ladder to Hell – Not often seen in the UK but around a 12 foot structure which resembles two giant wooden ladders back to back. The hardest point is at the top because there is around a foot between the two ladders making it hard to straddle over. The stars get through it unscathed.
- Block Ness Monster – A favourite of many a Mudder. Quite rightly gets a decent amount of time on the show with various talking heads. They also time it so all of the Olympians get over it at one. Quite disappointingly once over the first part the Stars simply move on to the next set of blocks as opposed to staying and helping.
- Skid Marked – The girls struggle a little but get over with help. Anthony does pullups to show that it is relatively easy for him. The walls were slightly different to the UK walls with assistance slots on the climbing side and tyres on the back side. There also only appeared to be one set.
- Pyramid Scheme – They struggled on this one like a lot of us do with Pyramid Scheme, of note the USA version has a pool of water in front of it just to make it that little bit harder. The show did a good job of showing how they needed other Mudders to help them. Meanwhile Will Dean gives a talking head spot about how the obstacle was designed for teamwork. Once completed they take off whilst the commentator wonders why they have not stopped to help the next Mudders.
- Shawshanked – The stars complete this quickly but make a little bit of a meal of it by looking to bring their whole body out of the tube before jumping in the water. UK based Mudders will know that our water safety teams are fairly clear about the need to fall back first.
- Berlin (Hero) Walls – There was quite a queue here with only three walls on each row. The Olympians appeared to be man handled up the wall as opposed to using the heel hook technique favoured by many. There was quite a crowd of people close to the wall which could have made the heel hook dangerous. I am unsure if the lack of using the technique is an American thing or (more likely) if it was because most of the Mudders were new. The Olympians did learn a lesson that we all face with the walls, they are quite daunting to get down from.
- Kiss of Mud – This looked almost identical to the UK version and the Olympians didn’t half struggle with the same. Most people will agree that Kiss of Mud is a “more difficult than it looks obstacle” but the stars really did struggle. A mild spoiler but I know from my own experience that they also struggled at ETM with this obstacle so I’m presuming the next three weeks will not be Kiss of Mud training montages.
- Everest – The Olympians get the 2.0 version of the obstacle with the top lip. Good montage of all of the celebrities completing it first time. Jade sadly learned that sometimes it can be dangerous to help when Jess in full flight punches her in the mouth. Perri is last to go and rightly states that all eyes will be on her. However she powers up it handily although she may have jumped a little early.
A quick jog to the finish and the Olympians are done. We get some nice post event chats in which they explain how much fun they have had. The commentator then gives a preview of the team taking on a full Tough Mudder before showing highlights of next weeks show which appears to focus on them all trying each other’s sports.
- Sorry Sam but Hunter and Coach both came across as better trainers of the athletes. It may be because I am more familiar with them; however they both seemed to have more credibility with their training sections well thought out. That’s despite Hunter’s wall team challenge coming off a little flat.
- Coach’s talking head moments were a real treat. He loves Tough Mudder and it showed.
- The training sections achieved what they needed to. No one is watching this show to see the Olympians do push ups so making the actual exercise sections shorter was a smart move.
- The face your fears thread that has been carried on from episode 1 is a good idea. In respect of creating drama, you are going to struggle to convince us that these Olympians are not fit enough to take on 95% of the course, however the Olympians being scared of some of the mental challenges is believable.
- The introduction of Artic Enema was well done, first time viewers are likely to go WTF at the highlight montage.
- Aimee missing most of the show again is a bit of a depressing pattern. Whilst I understand that the producers may have wanted a Winter Olympian in to mix it up and for the inevitable “Artic Enema is no match for our Winter Olympian” sound bite, surely it would have been better to have another Olympian who could commit?
- The Olympians lack of team work with others on course was disappointing. The commentator pulled them up on it at Pyramid scheme. Will be interesting to see how this develops in the series.
I will give this episode 8 out of 10.
Maybe it’s because the show showed an actual run but I really enjoyed this week’s episode. The training parts, whilst perhaps a rehash of what had been done in episode 1, were short enough to not be offensive. Also Hunter and Coach excelled in their roles. Coach in particular has a real passion that shone through.
I can’t say I am too excited for next week being a Olympian “job-swap” but I will try to look at it with an open mind.
Anyway time for us all to get off the couch and get back to training. Join me next time for some more popcorn and burpees.