GORUCK Tough: Sleepy Hollow Halloween

GORUCK Tough: a 12+ hour team building endurance event. Participants carry weighted rucksacks, cover 15-20 miles and do whatever the cadre tell them to. Events are often jam packed with heavy carries and PT (physical training) exercises, such as squats and presses with your ruck. Every team must have an American Flag as well as a team weight. Halloween events are done in costume.

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Our event started at 9 pm at Peabody Field in Sleepy Hollow, NY. From the very beginning, we could tell it would be a cold night. However, no one was complaining about the cold during the welcome party.

THE WELCOME PARTY
The event began with a bear crawl down the hill in front of us to a soccer field. We then had to sprint down the soccer field and back. Once everyone returned, we performed a drill for advancing on enemy lines across the soccer field. “I’m up, they see me, I’m down.” Beginning on our stomachs, we popped up, sprinted as far as possible for about one second, and then dropped to the ground.

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Upon arrival at the other side of the field, we formed 4 ranks and were told to complete 100 ruck thrusters, a squat to an overhead press. We also had to repeat every rep we did not complete together as a team. When the cadre felt that people were really cheating, we all had to hold our rucks over our heads for 10 seconds and restart if anyone dropped. By the time we got to 100, we had probably completed about 150 thrusters, counting all the reps we had to do over, and held our rucks over our heads for a total of 2 minutes. But it didn’t end there. The cadre told us to continue the exercise until they said so and we didn’t stop until we got to 200. With the same rules in place, we probably completed around 300 thrusters total.

Next, we had to bear crawl back down to the other end of the soccer field. Some people really struggled with this, especially after all of the thrusters. While we waited for everyone to make it across the field, we formed 2 ranks and cheered them on. One participant told someone else what to do (a huge no-no) and he then got a lot of individual attention. He was brought back to the far end, and from what I could see, he did lunges, burpees, and thrusters. On his way back down the field, not only did he bear crawl, but he also had to do the “I’m up, they see me, I’m down” drill. In the meantime, the rest of us had to hold our rucks over our heads waiting for him.

Upon his return, he apologized to all of us. The welcome party had ended. A few people already dropped out from the event, but I don’t think many, if any, dropped out after that.

THE MAIN EVENT
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We were a large class with 3 cadre so we got broken up into 3 groups.  (Side note: I do miss the days of smaller classes, where by the end of the night you knew everyone’s names, but with the inceasing popularity of these events, small classes seem to be few and far between. Breaking us up into smaller groups works too, but it’s not the same.) One group ended up carrying a log and a bunch of sandbags, the largest weighing 120 lbs, as well as 2 team weights, each weighing 25 lbs. One group, amongst other things, went in the water in the middle of the night to do hydro-burpees. They  forgot to take their team weight with them from the start point which is why the other group had 2.

My group carried our team weight and 2 of the most massive logs I have ever seen at one of these events for 2 miles. We had a 45 minute time hack, but it took us 2 hours and 15 minutes. This was probably the most miserable part of the event for me. We all took turns and tried to help as much as possible, but the log was so short and wide that we couldn’t get many people on it at once. Those who were carrying it were carrying a ton of weight. Additionally, it was extremely awkward to carry because it was so bulky, which is ultimately why it took us so long. Surprisingly there was no punishment. We were right near the water when we dumped the logs and everyone thought we were going in, but we didn’t. I personally believe it was only because we were running way behind on time.

We began rucking for quite some distance with no additional weight and hopped 3 different fences to get where we were going. We arrived at Sleepy Hollow Middle & High Schools where we met back up with the other 2 groups.

At this point, we were given a substantial break to refill our hydration bladders as well as share paranormal activity stories. Once the break ended, we split up into 2 new groups.

The group I was not in ended up going in the water, which meant that some people ended up going in twice. By some Halloween wizardry, my group did not go in the water. We knew that our cadre was looking for a way to get to one particular pond from where we were, but it wasn’t working out and he was wasting a lot of time so he decided to scratch the idea. He told us that he’d rather spend time doing quality things with us. So at the end of the event, there were people that had been in the freezing water once, slightly bitter people that had been in twice, and then a few lucky ducks like me that hadn’t gone in at all.

What our group did instead was travel a substantial distance carrying multiple casualties (designated people that had to be carried) as well as the smaller log, the 120 lb sandbag, and a team weight. Cadre Cleve spoke to us on many occasions about keeping our heads on swivels, staying quiet, working together, and tactics to help us complete our missions more efficiently, which definitely added value to our experience.

We arrived at Rockefeller State Park Preserve and learned how to tie swiss seat harnesses. Once the cadre and a few GRTs established a single rope bridge, we boosted each other up, locked in with carabiners, and traversed the bridge. This was definitely the highlight of the event for most.

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ENDEX
Cadre Cleve told us that the other group was ready to wrap up the event and the other cadre were wondering where we were. Once we finished up with the rope bridge, we began hustling toward the endex. Once we met back up at the start point after those final few miles, we were given a few closing words, lined up in ranks one more time, and were patched. The event ended right around 10 am: 13 spooky hours.

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Although I did not, some went on to complete the GORUCK Light that same day and even the GORUCK Scavenger the next. At the Light, however… EVERYONE went in the water. I think I left just in time!

Photo Credit: Jirina Harastova, Deanna Dawn, Jessica Madura, Delilah Talbot, Alex Stavdal

A 100 Mile Journey: A WTM Recap

This year, I came into World’s Toughest Mudder (WTM) with one simple goal; improve on my 80-mile performance from last year. I felt that 90 miles was a significant but attainable goal to reach. Coming into this years WTM, I felt better than I had in previous years, but knew things would have to go just right to reach my goals. With everything from stomach problems, to horrible weather, and everything in between, I felt that by aiming for 100 miles, I would give myself enough cushion to attain my goal of 90 miles. To be honest, I never thought I would be able to reach 100, but put it up there as a “Dream Goal”, so even when I did fall short, I would still be within my 90 miles that I wanted to get.

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One of the things I enjoy about these races is going into them free from anyone’s expectations but my own. Unfortunately, things changed a little bit when I was listed as one of the “top men to watch” (darn you Matty Gregg). I know the pressure got to me for a little bit, but I realized that I needed to just focus on what I had to do and what I had control of.

Thankfully, I was invited to join Team Goat Tough by Jim Campbell, who helped support me getting the prior gear I needed along with the support out on course that I would need throughout the 24 hour grueling race. I think Jim believed in me more than I believed in myself. It was awesome to have 12 other people out on course who I knew were there

I started out the race wanting to get as far as I could during the sprint hour without pushing myself too hard. I found myself keeping up with the leaders throughout the sprint hour, following Junyong Pak, Ryan Woods, and Nickademus Hollon. I settled into a comfortable pace, and found myself running faster than I needed to but was feeling good.

Laps 3-4 I was mostly running with Ryan Atkins and Jon Albon. It was hilarious hearing those guys run together, singing songs and laughing, like it was just another day on the playground. I knew they would eventually take off ahead, but it was a perfect couple of laps to keep the pace up and the mood light.

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After I finished lap 5, I decided to change into my Frogskins, since it was starting to get dark. I was about 45 minutes ahead of the pace I wanted to keep and was feeling pretty good. My pit crew was perfectly in sync and helped me get out of the pits in seemingly no time at all.

Lap 6 proved to be more challenging than expected as it was a little too hot for the Frogskins, and 2 of the water obstacles were closed that lap. I remember seeing Sharkbait that lap who was experiencing the same problem, but neither of us wanted to get caught in an extreme drop in temperature, something we were both too familiar with from years past.

I was keeping on the pace I wanted during miles 30-50 without any gear changes. My lap times were consistent and I was still getting through most of the obstacles just fine. I was still behind Pak and Woods, but wasn’t concerned with what they were doing. Even though each lap time was consistent with one another, I was encountering significant ups and downs each lap, due to some stomach problems. It was nothing terrible, but enough to slow me down for parts of each lap. I was sticking to what I had used in the past, mainly bars, Cliff blocks, and Tailwind. While there were many small problems, it was nothing out of the ordinary for 50 miles

I remember finishing mile 50 around 10pm and thinking “This is what I finished with the entire 24 hours 2 years ago.” I had obviously come a long way since my first WTM, but didn’t think I was ready for the big jump that was about to come.

It was pretty fun and a little nerve racking when the camera crews started rolling late into the night, and began to follow me on some of the obstacles (It makes Operation a little bit harder with a camera staring down at you). I knew I had to be near the top if they kept getting clips of me, which kept my spirits up.

I planned on slightly slower lap times for miles 50-75, but I was still keeping a steady pace. After completing Grappler on lap 12, I noticed the cameras shifted from me to the person who was right behind me. It was Trevor Cichosz! I was so excited to see him and knew he was going to make a late night push to the front. I have never been so happy to be passed up by someone and surprisingly; it gave me an extra boost of energy. I knew the race was on and I told him to go win this. I never thought I would be near the front like I was, but I wanted Trevor to breakthrough and finally win this event.

15042048_1118517344910222_1594517493638149194_oI hit the Cliff on lap 12 just after midnight and was ready for 12 hours of my least favorite obstacle of all. By this point, there was no way I would consider running the extra 0.6 miles and faced this necessary evil for the remainder of the race. Once I hit 60 miles around midnight, I began to believe that I could make it to 100 miles! While I created a plan to hit 100 miles, I never thought it was possible. Only the heavy hitters, the Ryan Atkins and Jon Albons of the world could make it to 100. I never gave myself a shot at it.

Even with a glimmer of hope at 100 miles, I struggled through lap 13 as I was still facing some problems with my nutrition and began facing a few extra penalties per lap. I could feel the race begin to wear down on me. I knew that it would be getting colder, so I decided to put on a thick wind-breaker. As far as my nutrition was concerned, my mom (aka awesome pit crew member #1) asked if I wanted hot chocolate after lap 13. This sounded like the perfect thing to keep me going. After lap 13 I began eating a steady diet of peanut M&Ms, Snickers Bars, and hot chocolate to keep me going. They seemed to do the trick for my stomach, as I continued the rest of the race without any significant stomach problems.

As I came in after lap 14 I really felt good. My stomach was fine, my body felt good, and I was ahead of the pace I needed to get 100 miles. On that pit stop, with 70 miles under my belt, I told my pit crew, “I am getting 100 miles!” Everyone was on board and they knew that from here on out, there was one goal in mind. I forgot about what place I was in, and focused on getting to 100 miles.

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Lap 15, I secured my silver bib and was pushing to get as many laps in before sunrise. I continued on the same pace through lap 18. As I was looking to finish up my last 2 laps, I knew that lap 19 would be a tough one to pull through. I aimed at starting my last lap by 11:00am, giving me 2.5 hours to finish my last lap if needed. I struggled through lap 19, and was able to get back to my pit in time. I decided to take off the windbreaker and carry my pack as usual. I had more than enough time to finish my last lap, I was over a lap ahead of 4th and 5th place, and 1st and 2nd were already locked. ALL I HAD TO DO WAS FINISH ONE MORE LAP! It was such a feeling of relief. A caught up with Mike Delanty, one of the first people I ever met at WTM, and we cruised on our last lap, taking our sweet time and enjoying each other’s company. We jogged the last little bit of the lap and I was never happier to be at the peak of the Cliff.

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As I finished that last swim, I got to the final stretch and decided to walk it and soak in the moment. I remember closing my eyes and felt the sun soak in. It was here! This was what all that training was for. I was the fifth person ever to reach 100 miles at WTM.

As I crossed the line, I was lucky enough to get my 100 mile bib from none other than Sean Corvelle. It was such an honor to get my bib from him as he always is such an amazing motivator, an awesome person, and his voice constantly reminds me to give it my very best.

Coming into this race, I put in a lot of hard work, but could have never imagined that I would be the 3rd Place Individual Male and reach 100 miles.

I couldn’t have done it without my amazing Pit Crew: Mom (Katie Mendoza), dad (Danny Mendoza), Tim Slaby, Kelly Druce, Melissa Morgan, and everyone else who was there. I also want to thank Jim Campbell, Dustin Partridge, John Fagan and the rest of Team Goat Tough who were so supportive throughout the entire time. Thank you to my friends, PJ Catalano and Reny Kaufmann (7th Place Woman), who I shared a tent with. Finally, thank you Trevor Cichosz (WTM CHAMPION), who told me before the race if I didn’t get 100 miles, he would take away my coveted Ground Pounder hat.

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I want to thank everyone I saw out on course that made this the most memorable WTM experience ever! There were so many people who constantly encouraged me and supported me throughout the event and I am so lucky to be a part of this great WTM community. I hope to see many of you out on course very soon and I love you all very much!

Ugly Sweaters = Festive Holiday Fun Run

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It is FINALLY the holiday season! It is my favorite time of the year: the cold lukewarm, crisp winter air, the lights and trees everywhere, and Dear God – the FOOD. I needed to do a holiday themed run. The Ugly Sweater Run was the obvious choice! Not only is it festive and holiday themed, I get to dress up! On top of that, there are tons of runners and at the end there is hot chocolate (with Kahlua if you’re over 21!).

SO – this past Saturday (December 3rd), I grabbed one of my good girlfriends, a really awesome/ugly sweater and headed to Piedmont Park. We were not able to make the packet pick up on Friday, but the wait to pick up our numbers day of was not bad at all- maybe 10 minutes. The swag is super on point with the theme: a sweet winter knit beanie with a little poof ball on top! There were a lot of people – and everyone was pretty festive: SO many ugly sweaters… and onsies, matching outfits, and dogs wearing ugly sweaters! I tried to get a picture of the people running in a multiple person ugly sweater but it was way too blurry to share – it was very impressive to see them run though – major props. Ugly-Sweater-Run-Dog-Sweater! Ugly-Sweater-Run-Group-OutfitsI will warn you: this is not a race to do if you’re trying to set a PR. There are a lot of runners and it is pretty congested in the beginning. There were lots of people walking and right at the beginning, the pavement gets pretty narrow pretty quick. People are just enjoying the park with friends and being festive, nothing wrong with that at all! Just know that unless you are able to get in the front at the beginning of your group leaving the start gate, you probably be ducking and weaving quite a bit if you’re a runner for the first little bit. After mile 1, the crowd thins out and it was really just a fun run through the park. Plus, it was B-E-A-U-Tiful on Saturday. There are water stations every mile. That was clutch because around mile 2, I was saying some pretty choice words about running in a knit sweater. It got warm… FAST.

That being said, Dear Ugly Sweater Run Race Directors – Thank you! You put on an awesome event – it was an absolutely fun, hilarious and sweaty time! Some definite positives – the race time started at noon so I had plenty of time to search frantically for my really hideous sweater and go to Target to buy a new one when my search was unsuccessful, you had SO many port-a-potties which is AMAZING, the inflatables throughout the run were super fun and festive,  the hardware + swag is super on point, AND WE GOT TO SEE SANTA!!!!!! The picture would have been so much better if I hadn’t blinked but still – SANTA!Ugly Sweater Run - SANTAAlso – something really, REALLY SMART – your medal ribbon color was based on age: 21 years old + got the Red Kahlua ribbon and under 21 years old got a blue ribbon with snowflakes on it. It was a very clever way to separate the crowd for the delicious beverages shared post run!

Dirt Runner: Warrior Rush Winter Soldier

dscn0724Dirt Runner, the permanent obstacle course located in Northern Illinois, held this year’s first winter OCR – Warrior Rush Winter Soldier – on Saturday December 3rd. With the popularity of cold weather races starting to rise, I figured I’d better bundle up and join in on the fun. Dirt Runner, the former home of the Illinois Spartan and Battlefrog races, is known for its rugged terrain and demanding obstacles. With temps hovering around freezing most of the day and light winds, I was just praying to God that there weren’t any water obstacles on the course! Winter Soldier offered a one lap option for the open class, a 2 lap option for the elite class, and a three lap option for those who really wanted a test.  Each lap was a 2.1 mile juggernaut packed with 30+ obstacles that were bad ass.

15337427_1165541256869919_8648084033648005401_nStarting off in the main festival area, athletes were led along a muddy trail to a series of over, under, and through obstacles and low tunnel crawls, which served as a warm up for the weighted carries that were to follow. Snaking through the trail of prairie grass, D.R. set up a concrete block carry, followed closely by a rock filled bucket carry, and ending with a large log carry. Next up was a series of wall climbs ranging in size from 6 to 10 feet, and luckily, that 10-footer had a cheater step! Now back into the forest, we were led along a trail that was really more mud than trail. Hope you had your shoes tied tight or you might lose one here! It was along this trail of slop that D.R. had set up their monkey bars before sending us back into the woods and ravines – a D.R. hallmark. This trail wasn’t muddy but instead filled with leaf chocked hills and valleys.

dscn0806Now being led back towards the festival area, athletes came upon a couple of wall climbs. A delta ladder and an inverted wall were blocking our path as we made our way around on the trail and onto some of the signature D.R obstacles. A series of three spinning balance logs suspended 5 feet in the air was a sure test of balance which led us to a series of sternum checkers that varied in size all the way up to 6 feet. Now it was on to the frog hops, set in a water-filled pit, logs of varying heights were placed to test your balance or to test if your shoes were waterproof. Next up was a tire and rope climb after which athletes were led to an underground long ass low crawl. Once out of the tube was a rope traverse over some very cold water and a balance log suspended over a marsh pit. From here, we ran along the trail back to the festival area for the last bunch of physically demanding obstacles.

dscn0727The obstacles came fast and furious at this point of the race with very little running in between. A wall climb was followed right away by a Z traverse wall. Then it was onto a series of inverted walls and two delta ladders. Another spinning balance log was next up followed by a 10X semi tire flip and on to a giant slip wall. After climbing down the slip wall another short slip wall needed to be flipped over before climbing up a huge log structure imbedded into the ground. At the top an athlete had to then run down the hill and climb a suspended rope ringing a bell at the top before making their way to a cargo net traverse and an uphill barbed wire crawl. Last but not least obstacle wise was a unique tire drag. D.R. placed a 72 pound Atlas stone inside the semi tire. So you first had to move the stone, then drag the tire, then drag the tire back, and finally retrieve your stone and place it in the semi tire! Now that was the last obstacle, but wait! Before you rang the finisher’s bell 50 burpees were in order. Yep, all that nastiness plus burpees. Now imagine all that for two or three laps!

dscn0774Although the number of athletes competing was low, those who did compete found we really got our money’s worth.  The volunteers were helpful and knowledgeable as always. Never have I raced a short course with so many physically demanding obstacles. As always, parking and pictures at a Dirt Runner event were free and medals, trophies and plaques were presented to participants. Dirt Runner had music pumping the whole time and provided a large bonfire to warm up athletes after the race. As far as winter racing goes, you have to ask yourself a question. Do you have the mental grit to complete obstacles and deal with the cold? Well do you? Try a winter OCR and find out!15380350_1164051037018941_8422100261116383019_n

WTM 2016 – Drop it Like it’s Hot!

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The 2016 World’s Toughest Mudder at Lake Las Vegas was epic! By showcasing to the world many new obstacles along with improving a few from the past, Tough Mudder was able to utilize the same Lake Las Vegas track while making the course feel new and even more exciting and challenging than 2015. The weather cooperated in 2016: minimal wind and this year’s mean temperature was almost 10 degrees warmer, with the lowest temp during the night 50 vs. 39 in 2015, a huge difference for WTM 2016!

Winners

OCR popularity continues to climb, and thanks to world class events like WTM continuing to push the obstacle limits, more and more competitors are getting into the races.  This year was no exception and the competition was fierce.   While everyone who tackled this event should be proud of stepping up to the plate, the winners really busted tail.  The winners of the team competition were “Team Goat Tough”, Ryan Atkins and Jonathon Albon, who logged 105 miles with “Team America”, 2015’s individual male winner Chad Trammell and Robert Killian, Jr.,  just behind logging 100 miles.  Trevor Cichosz won the individual male competition with 105 miles, while Austin Azar (2nd) and Kristopher Mendoza (3rd) each logged 100 miles.  Stephanie Bishop won the individual female competition with 85 miles followed by Susanne Kraus with 80 and Morgan McKay with 80, a mere 6 minutes behind Susanne!  There were some all female teams, although the team competition doesn’t differentiate, and “Lions, Tigers, Bears, Oh My!” logged 50 miles and “Bounce Squad 55” logged 50 miles a mere 10 minutes behind!

2016 saw 6 racers achieve the magic 100 mile mark…an honor that, until now, was held solely by Ryan Atkins.

Obstacles

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Compared to only a year ago, this year’s WTM had a slew of new and absolutely E.P.I.C obstacles including Stage 5 Clinger, Funky Monkey Revolution, Double Rainbow (the new rendition of King of Swingers), and Kong. You can listen to Matt B. Davis’ podcast with Eli Hutchison of TMHQ here: Obstacle Podcast

World's Toughest Mudder 2016-Kong

If you completed those on every lap you should have come away with some uber extra satisfaction.  Those afraid of falling or heights had a hard time with these and all required solid grip strength and mental fortitude.  The Cliff was again the final obstacle, opening at Midnight.  Roughly the same height as last year, about a 1.5 second free fall, water just as soft for the landing (or hard depending on your technique).  Change this year was if you didn’t have a 50-mile bib on the final lap you were not allowed to make the final jump (which alleviated the back-up seen last year).

World's Toughest Mudder 2016-Funky Monkey Revolution

Only a few obstacle snafu’s that this author heard about while on the course.  Twinkle Toes was shut down in the early AM due to low water levels for safety reasons, so when you fell (and this author did a few times) you felt it where you didn’t need to.  Second, during nighttime ops, they changed Kong to overhead pipes and a slack line.  Apparently, someone jettisoned themselves off the slack line a bit too close to the edge of the crash pad so they took the slack lines away (which made the obstacle challenging again).  And third, grips.  Difficult to keep the bars dry but TM make a good attempt to do so on Double Rainbow by adding sticky tape – unfortunately, the tape came off of most of the bars throughout the event.  Not a big deal and to be expected.

WTM Experience 2016 vs. 2015

As a second year participant in WTM, this year was quite a different experience than last.  For one, last year I had no idea what to expect and was able to “just get out to Vegas and get it done”. This year, knowing what I went through last year, I was able to think about what I was about to undergo.  This “thinking” started shortly after Labor Day and occupied more and more of my thoughts up until Saturday.  Thoughts like “will I land wrong on The Cliff”, “will I be able to suck it up through the cold”, and “will my tent be in a good place” began to take up more and more of my thoughts.

There have not been many things in my life that have caused me so much anxiety.   Checking the Henderson temps on a daily basis somewhat dissipated my hypothermia fear, but The Cliff kept coming back.  Turns out, the only thing that really bothered me this year was the cold, and if I’m honest with myself that was mostly mental.  The obstacles, and The Cliff, after completing each one each lap, reminded me that people can overcome their fears if they just give themselves the opportunity.  One of the things I really love about OCR is, like life, once you get on the course, you can be amazed at what you can do if you JUST TRY.

Final Perspective

Few things I’ll likely do different next year (yes, I’m already committing to WTM 2017): 1) bring a pit crew, 2) not change my wetsuit/shoes/socks (if it’s working, why did I change? – bad idea), and 3) train a bit for long distance as my body this year didn’t handle it as well as last year.  I’ll also not sweat it as much as the WTM 2017 draws nearer.

This year’s WTM was a huge success and better than last year (although last year was darn good as well).  The camaraderie among the participants was exceptional, the pit crews seemed as awesome as ever, and the bagpipes kept spirits lifted throughout the event!

World's Toughest Mudder 2016-Bagpipes

Overcoming obstacles is something we all have an opportunity to do every day.  Most of the time, overcoming obstacles is easier than we think!

How a Clydesdale reached 75 miles at World’s Toughest Mudder

World's Toughest Mudder 2016 - Black HeadbandI have been getting a lot of messages from people asking me how I accomplished 75 miles at World’s Toughest Mudder (WTM) this year. I weigh in at over 200 lbs (Clydesdale status) and do not look anything like a runner who can accomplish this kind of feat. Some are curious how I managed the distance, some want advice and tips on how they can up their mileage next year, and I’m sure some are just asking out of morbid curiosity. I wasn’t really expecting the questions or even the curiosity, but maybe my story can help people pick up some tricks to up their performances in their future events.

First, a little back story about me.

I turn 38 next week, a bit old to be trying to really perform in this sport, and I’m also a Clydesdale. Certainly, people in their late-30s can perform, but nearly all of them, I imagine, would tell you it would’ve been easier in their 20s.  5 years ago, I was pushed into this sport; it was not my choice. I was an ever-expanding man approaching my mid-thirties, and probably tipping the scale at around 250 lbs. I’m not even sure about the weight, because I refused to weigh myself after I saw the scale hit 240 once. Also, I have always and still dislike running.  My wife signed me up for the Minnesota Warrior Dash in 2011. I was pretty much told I had no choice, pour myself into some gym clothes and get out there to run that ski hill event. I finished that event, and I felt like I was dying. I wasn’t fast, I wasn’t good, and I probably wasn’t standing after crossing the finish line. What I most certainly was, was inspired.  A switch had been flipped, and I wanted more.

More is somewhat misleading. Sure, I wanted to find more 5K events, but there was no way I was going to sign up for that freakish 10-12 mile OCR event called Tough Mudder that only crazy people do.   No. My friend Dan Kuvaas did, however, sign up for the next year’s Minnesota Tough Mudder, so I went to go spectate with a backpack full of beer. I walked around pounding beers and watched this event and all of its participants, as I got more and more upset I wasn’t actually out there with these people. Dan saw this and looked into future events. He found out the Wisconsin Tough Mudder was just a 5-hour drive, and happening in just a few months. We had to go, and this started the real madness.

To date, I have completed 26 Tough Mudders, including 2 WTMs. I have also completed plenty of other OCR events (Spartan, Rugged Maniac, Warrior Dash, etc), 2 marathons, dozens of half marathons, and a handful of Ragnars. Each year, due to my increased OCR activity, I was dropping more and more weight. I was getting better at the events, and overall just feeling healthier. I also make it a point to use Orange Theory Fitness for HIIT training. These classes come in very helpful especially a week or two before an event to jumpstart my cardio if I didn’t have an event the weekend before. My madness started with one Tough Mudder on a Sunday, then both Saturday and Sunday. Next was the crazy idea that we could travel around more, run the course twice on Saturday and once Sunday. This leads up to this year where I participated in a bunch of destination events and started running Saturday 3 times and threw in a Sunday Funday run. If you’ve run more than a few Tough Mudders, you’ve seen me. I’m the guy who runs in the Fishnet shirt.

World's Toughest Mudder 2016 - Pit

In 2015, I ran my first World’s Toughest Mudder. I was lucky enough to have met a few people on past courses who had run the event and had good advice. I studied up, learned their tips and tricks, and headed out to Vegas to see what I could do. I finished 50 miles that year in 24 hours 19 minutes and was in 210th place. I was pretty happy with myself. The one thing I did know was that next year would come up quick and that record wouldn’t mean anything anymore, and I wanted to see how much more I could do. Even though I was happy with my performance, I knew the last three laps I was pretty much phoning it in. I knew I had enough time to power walk the course and hit my goal of 50 miles. This would later bother me knowing I didn’t push myself to see how much farther I could go, this wasn’t my best.

If you’ve read this far, great. I promise you it was needed to paint a full picture of how I managed to do what I did this year at World’s Toughest Mudder.

This year, I had a pretty good idea of what I had to do, but I also knew there were a lot of things out of my control such as weather, course, rule changes, etc. The things I could control were nutrition, gear, pit times, course strategy, and overall giving myself the best chance I could going into this event healthy.  I’ve struggled with nutrition for years when it comes to physical events of all sizes. I’ve hit the wall more times than I care to admit due to just not being prepared. This wasn’t going to happen this race. Last year I did very well by eating a whole turkey sandwich each lap and making sure I was properly hydrated. I didn’t want to carry around that much extra mass on course this year so I changed it up a bit with even better results.

Tailwind was my nutrition of choice this year; one premixed bottle each lap. I would also have a couple of bites of a turkey sandwich in the pit with a small candy bar. Throughout the race, I also managed to eat a whole jar of pickles, with all of its juice, and half a thermos of hot chicken broth. I had no stomach issues, and my energy levels were up the entire time. I made sure all necessary items were pre-measured and easily accessible to both me and my pit crew member so I could keep pit times down to a minimum. Leading up to the event, I carb loaded for 4 days. I also drank enough water that I was peeing at least 12 times a day. I switched to Pedialyte 2 days before the event. I also didn’t consume any alcohol for 2 weeks before the race.

World's Toughest Mudder 2016 - Nutrition

My gear selection this year was interesting. Last year I brought a full wet suit and 4 pair of Speedcross 3 shoes with Align insoles. I only used one pair of shoes in that 50 miles, so I over packed, lesson learned. My temperature was on point, and I was comfortable the entire race. This year I brought the same suit, but I also brought a pair of Lava pants with me just in case, and I’m very happy I did so. I put my wetsuit on for lap 4, and regretted it the whole time. I came back into the pit and tore that off, switched back to a T-shirt and the lava pants. 4 AM I switched to a long-sleeve shirt, but that was it. I ran the rest of the event as minimally dressed as I could. This was a bit unsettling to Sean Corvelle and the medic crew, as the medics grilled me each time I went out after nightfall with just a T-shirt on. I finally convinced them my Minnesota blood thrives on this weather, and I was good to go. One pair of shoes with insoles served me well the whole race, but of course, I had a back-up pair just in case.

Pit Times are a time suck. Every minute you are not on the course moving forward adds to opportunities lost. I kept all pit times around 5-7 minutes. This was done by having an on-point pit crew member and also having all my needs pre-made and pre-portioned out ready to go. The Cliff opened at midnight, and I was one of the first few off of it. I returned to my pit and made a bold decision to put more pressure on my pit crew member Angie Tieri. I had 40 miles done in 12 hours, but I knew my lap times could potentially get slower on the second half. I told Angie there was a change of plans: I wanted her to anticipate my lap times and carry a backpack with my pre-mixed tailwind, a sandwich, candy bars, and the hot chicken broth to entrance into the pit. My lap times were pretty consistent, just over an hour and a half, so I would run in, eat as fast as I could, and bring my tailwind with me on to the next lap. I was in and out under 3 minutes.

Planning a course strategy is crucial to this event. I love flashy obstacles as much as the next person, but I will forgo the obstacle if I think it’s an energy suck, or if in the long run, it has any potential to seriously hurt my abilities to perform later in the race. If the penalty lap is going in the same direction as the course direction, like Everest, I will take that short welcomed cooling down swim and carry on.World's Toughest Mudder 2016 - Betcher Revolution

I am the hills’ Bitch. I hate them, and they know it. I deal with this by a very fast power walk. A 14-minute mile walking pace is wonderful if I can keep that up. Watch next time you are on a hill, I bet if you power walk it fast enough, you will almost keep up with people who are running it. The difference is you won’t be tired when you get to the top and the other person will possibly be panting at a dead stop when you breeze by them. I always make up as much time as I can down the hill. If the course is flat, I am running.

Never stop moving forward. Don’t be afraid to tell your friends you have to leave them and reach for your goals. My race was very lonely, and I will say I didn’t get a lot of time to actually enjoy the subtle nuances of the course and event. I was either running too fast for most, or I wasn’t fast enough to keep up with the Cichosz, Atkins, or Mendozas of the race. The people I knew who were my speed I would never see because we were all speeding up and slowing down at the same rates but spread out through the course.

When I made my goal announcement “Facebook official” that I was shooting for 75 miles I could feel the collective eyebrow raise and smirks. I look nothing like a person who can put up that kind of mileage. I look like a guy who loves beer and pizza, mainly because I truly love beer and pizza. I race to eat, and in an odd twist of focus, I eat to race. A week before the event I weighed in as low as 206, and as high as 212, depending on my hydration levels. This kept me solidly in a Clydesdale status.

I put this lofty goal out there so I would have something more substantial to reach for. I expected to land around 60-65 miles, so did many others who knew me well. With some good weather, good planning, and a little bit of cockiness, I was able to not just settle for that goal of 60-65; I reached further and completed my goal of 75 miles. You could say that my best truly did make me better (and that makes us all better).

I went into this race knowing two things: I have never been so prepared, and I wanted 75 miles more than I could even explain. In the end, I was the last person to cross the finish line, I was the last person to officially lock in 75 miles, I needed every last minute. I felt like I was dying, but I placed #62 and I was finished with the event, the greatest event I’ve ever run. I cried like a baby when they handed me my Silver bib and they told me it was official. World's Toughest Mudder 2016 - Betcher RunningWorld's Toughest Mudder 2016 - Betcher Finishing

I am a Clydesdale who just ran 75 miles at World’s Toughest Mudder 2016.

World's Toughest Mudder 2016 - Bletcher Celebration