- Associated Press
Wednesday, September 24, 2014

CHESTERTON, Ind. (AP) - Ask Mike Durkin how one of his recent weekends went, and he’ll likely say, “It sucked.”

Ask him how much it sucked, and he might explain, “I started out being 5-foot-9 on Friday and ended up being 5-foot-7 on Sunday.”

Don’t accuse Durkin of exaggerating. He’s backed by scientific proof.

“Medical students were there studying the effects this had on the competitors,” Durkin told The Times in Munster (https://bit.ly/1msuskH ), referring to the research done at The Ultimate Suck, a 36-hour extreme fitness competition held Aug. 27 through 29 in Cuba, Illinois. “One of the things they did was measure our height before and after the event.

“With all the heavy lifting I did, it compressed my spine to where I shrunk 2 inches. Taller guys shrunk even more.”

Nonetheless, Durkin, 36, of Liberty Township, stood tall at the end as he placed runner-up to 2014 Ultimate Suck champion Mark Jones, of Vermont. Out of the 50 Ultimate Suck competitors, only 15 finished.

“Some dropped out on their own; others were eliminated because they either took too much time between challenges (15-minute max) or were not doing the challenges correctly,” said Durkin, who earned a paid berth to the Ultimate Suck after winning the Northeast Region Suck on May 30 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

Heralded by Livestrong.com as one of the Top 10 “most extreme fitness tests in America,” The Ultimate Suck is a combination of back-breaking (and back-compressing) farm chores, military boot camp training, trail running, middle-of-the-river traversing, human-versus-tractor pulling, Atlas stone lifting, telephone-pole heaving, truck-tire flipping, backpack-filled-with-dirt-and-mud hiking, pond-scum swimming, 50-pound buckets-of-water carrying (no spills allowed), pitch-black tunnel-crawling, poison-ivy itching. … OK, it sucks. But at least you don’t get electrocuted.

“I admit, I have a hard time dealing with that,” Durkin said of the electroshock treatment usually in store for Tough Mudder participants.

The Ultimate Suck doesn’t use electricity, but it does employ gas.

“They gassed up a barn consisting of high-definition pepper spray, and we had to go in there with no mask and perform sets of burpees,” Durkin said, describing doing rapid four-count aerobic movements while gasping for air.

The Suck was conceived by Gut Check Fitness founder Joe Decker, who broke the Guinness World Record 24-hour Fitness Challenge in 2000. Decker, who also served in the U.S. Army, dubbed his fitness endurance events “The Suck” in tribute to the common greeting combat veterans give new recruits entering hostile lands. As in, “Welcome to The Suck.”

Durkin was inadvertently welcomed to the world of suck when his wife, Nicole, tried to get him to sign up with her at a local Tough Mudder event three years ago.

“I ran road races back then, but I thought running and crawling through mud and all that was kind of absurd,” Durkin said. “Then someone at my gym asked if I was going to do it. No. Not interested. Then someone else asked. No. I’m not doing it.

“About the fifth time being asked, I finally said, ‘OK, I’ll do it.’ “

Next up for Durkin is the World’s Toughest Mudder on Nov. 15 in Las Vegas. Last year, Durkin did it alone. This year, he will be a part of a four-man team called The Buggy Boys.

Aside from the divergence from electric to gas, there are other things that differentiate Mudders from Sucks.

“Mudders are more like obstacle courses,” Durkin said. “There are some obstacles in The Suck, but they consist more of intense calisthenics, strength challenges … crossfit-like functional training.”

Also, unlike most Mudders and Mud-a-Thons where just finishing is the main goal, Sucks are competitive events where winners are crowned.

“I’m a very competitive person,” said Durkin, who won both the regional 12-hour Sucks he’s entered. The Ultimate event is the only Suck he didn’t win.

“I like to test myself … push myself to the limits. Second place can be improved on, and I can’t say I really like finishing second.”


Information from: The Times, https://www.thetimesonline.com

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