After about 11 miles, 22 obstacles designed by British Special Forces, more mud than I could have imagined, bruises, cuts and awesome team camaraderie, I am officially a Tough Mudder. Yesterday when I toed the line with hundreds of people I’d never met and my team of about 15, I had no idea how important we would all be to each other for the next four hours of our lives. The Tough Mudder is considered one of the toughest events on the planet and I couldn’t agree more. While marathons test endurance and mental strength, the Tough Mudder also requires overcoming fears, risking the unknown, trust and teamwork.When asked which was more difficult, I would answer they are just different and probably not for everyone.
To train for the Tri-State Tough Mudder I didn’t change my running program much. I continued to run about 20 – 25 miles a week, with one long run (10 – 13 miles) on the weekend. However I decided to start strength training to try to pull my own weight during the race. For the past seven weeks I did the weights portion of P90X three days a week. While I feel I was stronger, I was hoping to be able to complete a few more of the obstacles without falling directly into the muddy water (i.e. the monkey bars…AKA Funky Monkey and the rings…AKA Hangin Tough). Next year I’ll definitely start doing my push ups and pull ups earlier!
That being said, the event really isn’t intended for anyone to be able to do it alone. Like the shirt says, “It is a challenge, not a race and no mudder is left behind” I think the most memorable part of the amazing day was how complete strangers and teams came together to help ever “mudder” complete each obstacle. As you ran up to the Berlin Wall or the Ladder to Hell, you’d see every mudder reaching to help someone else up and over each obstacle. It was so inspiring to see so many people come together. Also, I credit much of the positive experience to our awesome team. Without them I’m not sure it would have been such a successful day. We ended up running in a group of nine and as we approached each obstacle I knew together we would get through it…or over it, under it, etc. From words of confidence to being carried wounded warrior style through a field and diving forward just trusting someone would catch me, it was a sense of security to be with such great people who had our backs. We even had two teammates get their faces stepped on, but you didn’t hear anyone complain (because only kids whine).
It was one of my most memorable experiences and I can’t wait to do another one. Going into the event I was most worried for the live wires (Electroshock Therapy) and the halfpipe (Everest), but turns out I didn’t need to worry. Adrenaline, awesome people and mental strength will get you through. While it’s tough to train for most of the obstacles, here are some of my recommendations to have a great Tough Mudder experience:
- Sign up with a team of people you trust and who want to have a good time – you’ll need them
- Wear your bib number on your back, unless you don’t mind losing it on the course
- Wear tight fit clothing (spandex) if possible – guys, I’d wear it under your shorts
- If you have a late start time, eat a big breakfast because you probably won’t get real food for about five hours
- Have your team wear matching colors or shirts so you can spot each other easier – the brighter the better
- Bring flip flops to change into afterwards – everything is muddy and wet, so it’s just easier if you leave your sneakers to be donated
- Bring a lot of towels and maybe even a blanket – it was 70 degrees on our race day and we were freezing from the wet mud
- Bring plastic bags for your wet, muddy clothes and something to change into
- Shop at the Tough Mudder store before you run
- If you want to try to save your knees and elbows, wear long sleeves and capris/pants…it helps, but you’ll still get scratches/bruising
- I didn’t really find that wearing gloves helped – everything was so muddy and wet anyways, that if you are going to slip, they don’t help
- Trust your team and fellow mudders – sometimes you just have to count to three, jump and have faith that someone will catch you
- When you are tired or want to quit, remember our soldiers do this everyday….with boots on and carrying gear
- Have a friend or family member come to take pictures because there aren’t a lot of photographers and usually they can’t read your number
- Don’t race, but work hard – It’s muddy, slippery, uneven terrain and we saw a few injuries…we called what we did a trot
- Do your best to get in shape before the race to prevent injuries, conquer the obstacles and have the most amount of fun
- It doesn’t hurt to have a cheerleader or two on your team, they know how to build human pyramids, throw/catch people and encourage the team
- One of the guys on my team warned that “while mud slides look fun, they are incredibly painful. And never go down on your stomach.” – Remember these courses are in nature so most of these mud slides have sticks, rocks and tree stumps
- Wear your orange sweatband with pride and enjoy the post-race beer, you earned them!
Thanks to Tough Mudder, my team and all the strangers for making yesterday so awesome! I’m sore today but can’t wait to see you next year.
Any other Mudders have advice for new Mudders? Leave it in the comments. Hooray!