Toughest Mudder Northeast – Pain Is In The Mind/Pee Is In The Wetsuit

This is a story about a guy, who doesn’t like to run, had neglected his training for months but loves obstacles of all kinds, especially obstacles involving lots of mud, water, and adrenaline filled challenges…not heavy shit…nor spear…

One day this guy. we’ll call him LB, saw a post on fFacebookfor the new Toughest Mudder 8-hour event presented by Tough Mudder. They advertised 6 events in the Toughest series, with locations to be announced at a later date. When this later date came around and Philly was announced as a venue for this event, LB became very excited. This venue was a mere 45 min. from LB’s house. LB had to run this event.

LB had never done an endurance event before. He had always wanted to do the World’s Toughest Mudder, but used the venue change from New Jersey(1hr30min away) to Vegas as his out as to why he couldn’t do that event. Even though he knew he couldn’t last 24hours. LB’s longest event was a BFX(Battlefrog Extreme) where he completed 3 laps, and a FIT Challenge where he also completed 3 laps. So, he convinced himself that, with enough time before race day, he could increase his endurance level and be ready. Then, life and reality hit LB.

LB had a plan to increase his running distance every day for 2 months leading up to the event, but then LB had some medical issues that landed him in the hospital. By the time LB had clearance to resume training, the event was only a few weeks away. LB was f’ked.

LB set a realistic goal of 3 laps(15 miles) with the hopes of hitting 4 laps. The previous Toughest event was in Atlanta where the cold temps were in the mid 60’s. Two weeks prior to race day the forecast showed a low of 62. By the time the event rolled around the low was showing 51… Awesome. Thankfully LB consulted #TrollTough Pro Team member, Keith(The Kilt) B. Allen, several months prior for gear advice.

Knowing LB wouldn’t need a wetsuit in the future after this event, he found a used one on eBay for $37.. A headlamp for $20.. The rest of the gear he would need he had already owned from running previous OCRs. The days leading up to race day LB.. Or little bitch… Began asking his confidants what they referred to as the newbie questions … Repeatedly. For anyone seeking advice on events, training, gear, or the meaning of life .. Matt B. Davis and Garfield Griffiths are always happy and willing to help so don’t be shy, send them a PM and ask away.. They happily answered all of LB’s questions, eased his concerns, and put his mind at ease (they’re good like that).
The day of the event LB had a plan all laid out…

The day of the event LB had a plan all laid out…
-wake up at 5am
-consume no caffeine
-nap at 1pm to 5pm
-leave home at 8pm
-arrive at venue 9:30pm
-set up in the pit and be ready for 11:30pm start corral ………….

Well that went to shit real quick!
Wake up 5am …..✔️
Consume no caffeine ..✔️
Nap at 1pm ✖️
That’s where it all went wrong. If you have kids you know there’s zero chance of a nap during the day… As I closed my eyes the kids are fighting .. The dogs are fighting ….. A thousand thoughts going through my head … I never fell asleep but still able to leave for the venue at 8pm. Before he left home he took two Imodium(debated both ways on social media) in an attempt to avoid portashitters that were no doubt destroyed during the event held at the venue in the earlier hours and would be frequented by the 700+ participants that night.

 

Upon arriving at the venue LB headed up a large hill(that many referred to as the first obstacle) to a clusterf’k of athletes trying to decipher which line to be in for packet pick up. Pretty sure it was around 10pm that they started checking people in. At that point the line moved quickly. A short walk followed into a large tent area with many connected tables to serve as the athlete PIT area to store your supplies and accessible after each lap for gear change or to fuel up. At 11:30pm everyone was directed to the start corral for one of Sean Corvelles epic start line speeches. After the National Anthem and rule review the runners were off.

Many wore the required headlamps with a strobe attached to the back of your headlamp strap. With the open rolling hills of this venue and 700+ participants once the field opened up a bit the view of all the colored strobes from behind was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. This venue is very open with little to no true trails or trees. Lots of hills and lots of grass…. I’m LB btw .. There’s your M. Night Shyamalan cliffhanger ….

The first lap was a “Sprint Lap” meaning no obstacles were open, but each had set times to open and the volunteers were nice enough to yell as you were going by “we open at 1:30am!!” The volunteers were awesome by the way. Knowing the open times of the obstacles you could easily get through two laps without doing some of the more physically or mentally challenging obstacles. I actually got through two laps without doing “Hang Man” a variation known as King Of Swingers, during the day time event. But more on that later …

After my first lap(Sprint Lap) I started to notice the cold set in …I started the race in compression pants and a long sleeve thermal compression top. I originally thought my biggest challenge with cold would be my hands locking up but I began to feel my entire body succumb to the cold.. I made sure to keep moving as much as possible. When I heard the announcer in the distance state “all obstacles are now open” I knew the fun was just beginning. The obstacle placemat was brutal, for example Arctic Enema(ice bath) followed by Funky Monkey(modified monkey bars) making what are usually difficult obstacles near impossible. To my and others delight, the water under the monkey bars felt very warm, making it enjoyable to wade through after failing the obstacle.

Many obstacles had fail penalties that were required after failing an obstacle but all obstacles had to be attempted. The penalties were a separate path from the path you’d take if you had successfully navigated the obstacle. It was usually uphill and some involved a sandbag carry. After completing my second lap, I checked the temp on my phone and it showed 47 degrees. It was time to get the wetsuit out. To be honest, I wouldn’t have made it through my 3rd lap and would’ve gone the way of a medical DQ that many did after succumbing to the cold, had it not been for the wetsuit advised by Keith and the neoprene gloves he loaned me just before the event started.

Being a wetsuit noob, I managed to get my wetsuit on, after much struggle and the assistance of a fellow runner. After doing so I was prepared to go back out for my third, and ultimately final lap, as I realized I had to stop at the shitters to relieve myself (#1…… Not #2 …The Imodium was holding strong) … I got into the shitter before realizing, I had JUST put my wetsuit on.. There was no way I was getting that off to pee and getting it back on. So I stood there and relieved myself in my suit(which was a nice fix for the cold) before heading out for lap 3.


The wetsuit made a world of difference. I had minimal mobility(what do you expect from a wetsuit under $40) but was able to deal with the low temps in the mid to low 40’s and the water of “Augustus Gloop”, Funky Monkey, Arctic Enema and Hang Time. I failed many obstacles on that last lap between the mobility issue, gloves and obstacle conditions at that point. Which certainly extended my total lap time but I said from the start I didn’t care how fast I ran, as long as I lasted the entire 8 hours. At some point on lap 2 I jacked my foot up and could barely apply pressure but once I got into the icebath it numbed enough to get me through the final lap.(the next day I couldn’t get a shoe on it, but so worth it).

After completing my 3rd lap, seeing the sun rising halfway through the lap, I knew I had completed what I set out to do, and learned a lot for the future along the way. The obstacles were world class, high quality and innovative. The setup and execution couldn’t have been more organized or laid out. You can tell TM is learning and adapting as they go with the format of this event. First, several events had two separate 5-mile loops, one opened at 12am with limited obstacles. That loop would close at 4am leading to the opening of the 2nd loop and remaining obstacles. This event was one 5 mile loop with 17 obstacles with staggered openings but by 2am all 17 obstacles were fully operational. Between the weather conditions, rolling hills and high obstacle density this was pegged as the hardest toughest event to date. And many if not nearly all in attendance would agree.

If you’ve never ran one of these events. Do it.
If you’re of the mindset that you can’t, you can.
Learn from my mistakes
Take what you will from my successes
And above all else, don’t be too proud or ego-driven to ask advice of others. Some may get tired of answering the same questions repeatedly… F them. Ask somebody else.
You’ll find somebody happy to lend a hand or some words of wisdom, and it may ultimately make a world of difference in the end. I know it did for me. #FMBDIHA

P.S… For my short visit in the PortaPotties, they were impressively clean for that amount of traffic. Do what Phoebe Brimer suggested and use the one furthest from the shitter entrance.
💩💩💩/💩💩💩💩💩

Photo Credit: Tough Mudder and the author

Europe’s Toughest Mudder 2017

There’s something so appealing to UK residents of travelling to Vegas for the infamous World’s Toughest Mudder– if anything, it’s a holiday rolled into an extended race weekend (with the small matter of navigating a 24-hour lapped obstacle course!). So why would anyone in their right mind want to travel to the UK in Spring to essentially run the hardest part of this race in typical UK conditions – rain, wind, and cold? Because every participant was there to push themselves to their physical and emotional limit

As the third race in the new ‘Toughest Mudder’ series, Europe’s Toughest Mudder promised to be the toughest course competitors had faced yet. Competitors are required to complete as many laps of a 5-mile course between the hours of 12 midnight to 8am: now, I don’t know about most people, but I am usually tucked up cozy in my bed by this point in the night! Even with the unconventional start time, Tough Mudder managed to attract 775 willing participants – the highest attendance at a Toughest Mudder yet – to take on the grueling course through the night.

On arrival at Belvoir Castle, there was free parking and a short walk to registration – two things that often don’t come hand in hand with UK races! Registration was pain-free and we were on our way to setup our kits for the night; the pit was situated in the marquee that had been used for the regular Tough Mudder event earlier that day; this was a nice bonus, as it meant our pit crew would be dry and warm waiting on our return (nobody wants a grumpy wet crew!). Once we were strobed up with our bibs inappropriately named and wetsuits at the ready, the race director called all competitors to the start line; this is arguably the best part of any Tough Mudder event – music blaring, everyone bouncing around with adrenaline, and the MC putting the fire in you to go out and get your goal!Start-line-EuropesToughestMudder

At 12 midnight the race began with the standard obstacle-free sprint lap to break up the crowds of runners and give you a feel for the course and its terrain. The event had been setup slightly differently compared to previous Toughest events as there was only one 5-mile loop, but the obstacles would be opening at different times… there was a certain excitement of reaching an obstacle on each lap to find out whether you would have to take it on or not! By 4:00 am, all of the obstacles were open for business, and it quickly became a blessing to have any stretch of running in between to regroup before the next obstacle came along.

Craig-Kong-EuropesToughestMudder

Now, as I mentioned before, the weather in the UK in Spring is not exactly tropical – combine the low temperatures, wind, and rain with the mandatory Arctic Enema, Augustus Gloop, and Blockness Monster and this was a recipe for hypothermia if you were not prepared. Inevitably, the conditions claimed a lot of runners, and by half way through the race, a lot of the lesser prepared competitors had called it a night. I had luckily decided to run in a full wetsuit from the word go; so I managed to keep relatively warm on the first few laps. Arctic Enema did, however, start to take its toll, and it was a swift pit after lap 3 (mile 15) to recruit my neoprene hood as extra backup – this guy saved my race!

Arctic-Enema-EuropesToughestMudder

For the first time during a race, I felt like I did not want to eat ANYTHING and for me, that’s unheard of – picture a hamster stuffing its cheeks with food then scuttling off – this is usually me at endurance races. Luckily, I had my pit crew there to force feed me on each lap, preventing me from bottoming out half way through the race even when I thought I could manage without. I cannot stress enough to anyone who is planning on taking on a Toughest Mudder event the importance of having someone to support you. Sometimes your head says ‘you’ve got this!’ but really, you definitely are high on adrenaline and should be eating or drinking or changing gear at this point.

Mud-mile-EuropesToughestMudder

During the first couple of laps, the obstacles were relatively easy but as the night wore on and the rain got heavier the obstacles also got more challenging- at points I felt as though I might as well have poured lube on my hands and I’d have the same penalty runs as I got during the middle laps! The mud in the UK is great for a regular Tough Mudder event where it’s all fun and games and you are having a laugh with friends, but smear that stuff onto Hang Time (modified King of the Swingers) at 4:00 am and I’m lucky I didn’t need heart surgery from falling off those bars – obstacles that didn’t cause me any trouble in Vegas suddenly were my nemesis. I didn’t let this get me down too much as a few of the world-class racers appeared to be having the same issues as us mere mortals and were on their way round penalty runs just as the majority of us were.  I even saw Jon Albon running the penalty lap for Hang Time…now tell me that isn’t a hard obstacle.

KOTS-EuropesToughestMudder

I’d forgotten what a surreal feeling it was to witness the sunrise whilst on course, it’s something that can instantly change your game even if you’ve hit rock bottom- everything seems just that little bit more achievable once daylight starts to surface and you get your second wind. By the morning it was noticeable that there were only a fraction of the runners who had started still out on the course. The tough terrain, cold weather and constant water submersions had claimed more people than I think even TMHQ expected! It was a lonely and what seemed like a never-ending final lap and one which I won’t forget in a hurry, I had completely reached my physical limit around 1 mile into lap 6 and quickly realised I needed sugar by the bucket load if I was to try and make it to the end. One runner was passing me as I wandered about in a daze and gave me a packet of caffeine shot blocks- the kindness of others during obstacle races and in particular, Tough Mudder races, never fails to amaze me. I plodded on with friends I had caught up with up ahead of me and attempted the final obstacle Kong, while others jumped straight down to the crashmat- I was partly over-confident that I had managed this on the lap before and it was a huge gamble to take knowing I had extremely limited time left on the clock to cross the finish line. In the end, the gamble cost me 6 official laps as I fell from the final ring on Kong, and was timed out 10 meters from the finish line… I have never been so devastated at the end of a race! All of the emotion and sheer exhaustion came to the surface at this point and my friend rescued me from the teary heap I was in and dragged me across that finish line- it was camaraderie at its finest (and I also felt like a Brownlee brother!).

Europes-Toughest-Mudder-Finish

The buzz of the race and the incredible achievements by all on the day in the first race of its kind in the UK will definitely not be forgotten in a hurry! It was a surreal experience from start to finish and one which I think any serious competitor in obstacle racing or endurance running should take on. I for one will certainly be back on that line in 2018 eagerly awaiting what TMHQ has planned for us.

Photo Credit: Tough Mudder

Spartan Race Tri-State New Jersey Ultra Beast 2017 – Too Easy?

As it got closer to the 2016 Tri-State New Jersey Ultra Beast at Mountain Creek Resort, participants found out that the course had been rerouted from the previous year to include an additional 1,000 ft climb. Although this year, complaints filled the air that the course included less elevation gain and was too easy. In 2016, Francis DiSomma finished the Beast course in 2 hours 55 minutes with a whopping 21 minute lead on second place. However, this year the first 16 finishers of the Beast course beat his time. Could this have something to do with Norm Koch leaving Spartan Race? Possibly, but it does seem indicative of an easier course. It was a true Ultra Beast nevertheless: 2 laps of the Beast course covering over 26 miles with 60 obstacles on rugged New Jersey terrain. For those who had been attempting an Ultra Beast for the first time, it was plenty challenging; but for Ultra Beast veterans, there was no comparison… except for the brutal bucket carry right at the finish.

The first heat of the day was delayed 30 minutes and immediately I was having flashbacks to Killington. As soon as we were given the go, racers took off, running up the mountain for the first of many times that day. I jogged for about a minute and dialed it back to a power hike knowing it wasn’t worth wasting the energy. Throughout the entirety of the first lap, I was jockeying back and forth with a few people who insisted on running the climbs, but I wasn’t worried. I kept telling myself that the first lap was the warm-up and that the race didn’t begin until the second lap. I spent a lot of miles distracting myself by meeting other racers, talking about our past experiences and how the obstacles were going that day. Since it rained briefly before the start of the race, the monkey bars were pretty wet when we got to them, causing many racers to slip and start the race off with 30 burpees. For many, it was also the first time we encountered Olympus and Bender.

NJ-UB-2017-Olympus

All of this made for good conversation and I soon realized that I was actually enjoying my time spent on the mountain, rather than just grinding it out and psyching myself out. On the steep climbs, I took it slow and steady and began passing a lot of people, apparently more than I realized. I was having a fantastic race. The tyrolean traverse and herc hoist, amongst others, had never felt easier. I even made it over the 8 ft wall on my first try with no assistance – a new best for me!

By the time I came down the mountain to the final 3 obstacles – the bucket carry, twister and rope climb – I was one of the first 20 females. The bucket carry was the longest and steepest one I’ve ever done and in my opinion, it was the most challenging obstacle on the course. Completing it was quite the task in of itself, but I had also developed a splitting headache over the previous hour.

Spartan-NJ-UB-2017-Bucket-Carry-1 Spartan-NJ-UB-2017-Bucket-Carry-2

By the time I finally got to the twister, my headache had grown to the point where it hurt to look up into the sun to see the handles. I quickly fell and that’s when it really hit me. I was in so much pain that it took me about 20 minutes to do my 30 burpees, occasionally laying on the ground for a few minutes. Needless to say, I was no longer in the top 20, but by some miracle, I completed the rope climb and still finished my first lap in under 4 hours.

Once I got to the drop bin area, I just wanted to lay down and close my eyes for a moment. This quickly attracted the attention of the medics and I thought it was all over… again. I was about to be med-dropped. They brought me to the medical tent and gave me water and medicine, but nothing helped. They determined I wasn’t dehydrated and that it was just a migraine. All I could do was wait it out, but they urged me to pull myself from the race. I was beyond frustrated that this had happened. I’ve never felt so fresh coming off of a Spartan course as I did that day. My body felt amazing but I could barely open my eyes. TWO AND A HALF HOURS LATER, it finally started to ease up a little. In a rage that a mere headache was holding me back from completing this race, I decided to just go back out and see what happened. I ate some chips, filled my hydration pack, grabbed my headlamp, and went back out on course for lap two.

Within minutes, I felt amazing again. The fact that I was back out on the course re-energized me. I was quickly passing other Ultra Beast racers who said that their legs felt dead. I even began passing Beast racers who had just begun their first lap. Not long after, I had even caught up to some people I was running with in my first lap. I was cruising! The obstacles went exactly the same as they did in the first lap, although I probably did the bucket carry faster the second time. I failed the Multi-Rig, Olympus, & the Spear, which were all in a row, as well as the Twister, both laps for a grand total of 240 penalty burpees. All in all, I still finished the second lap in about 5 hours.

Spartan-NJ-UB-2017-Twister

I could have actually put up a decent time if it weren’t for the amount of time in between laps, and that bothers me, but in comparison to what happened in Killington, I was just glad to finish. Although I am now the proud owner of a Spartan Ultra Beast belt buckle, and many have congratulated me on earning my redemption, I’m still planning on getting back out to Vermont to give it another shot. In all honesty, the courses do not compare; and in my mind, the medals do not bear the same value. The 2017 Tri-State New Jersey Ultra Beast had 1,046 finishers whereas the 2016 Killington Ultra Beast only had 204. Which medal would you rather own?

The Complete Guide to Toughest Mudder

I can picture it now… The Tough Mudder team is held up in a room trying to figure out what kind of event they can come up with to both bring together their most devout followers from the World’s Toughest Mudder (WTM) Community as well as possibly entice the average Joe racer to consider THE most epic of obstacle race down the road. If you were to create a “Baby” WTM experience what would it look like? What can we do that is more badass than a Tough Mudder and kind of resembles that 24 hour sufferfest but is something doable for most people and how do we include the most unique pieces of WTM so that we have a totally different event that people want to both participate in as well as interesting to watch on TV? Well you need to have this event go for a long distance or time in order to elicit a similar effect as WTM. You also have to have that unique component of darkness so it’s going to have to be at night. Lastly, we need to make sure we up the ante on the obstacles because those are our staple! Throw all of those things together and you come up with…Toughest Mudder?!?! While the name may not be all that original, the events are and I think they will bring a whole new experience to the sport of OCR!

Ok so now we have this awesome new event that’s going to attract a lot of new people to our sport but if these virgins step into these races without proper education then what you could end up with is a train wreck of athletes who show up ill-equipped and unprepared for what lies ahead of them. Such was the case after WTM moved to Vegas where this race was basically a new environment to everyone. In order to avoid issues that could occur from confusion for what will be necessary in the seemingly warmer environment of the Nevada dessert like the often asked question “do I need a wetsuit?” World’s Toughest Mudder Facebook Community Admin, Keith Allen, came up with the idea that maybe I should write both a Nutrition and Thermoregulation Hack to help people prep for WTM. I feel that these have a been a great help to many a competitor so when I heard about some of the difficulties after the premier of the Toughest Mudder series I figured this series needed its own “manual” so-to-speak. The following is more of a guide than it is an article and it is based on my five years of experience at WTM as well as my varied knowledge from within the sport of OCR since I began my involvement back in 2010. When necessary, I have also sought out input from others in the field whom I respect and I feel can add some valuable information. There are many ways to approach a race such as Toughest Mudder but it’s my hope that this piece will be a reference and at least help guide you as to how you might take on Toughest Mudder.

Toughest Mudder is NOT WTM!
For those who have participated in WTM and are now doing a Toughest Mudder, let’s get something straight right off the bat. You pretty much cannot approach these two events the same at all. Your pre-race prep, gear selection, nutrition, and most of all your racing pace/ tactics will pretty much be entirely different. Sure, you will most likely have everything that you need but how you utilize the gear and your race experiences will only slightly resemble WTM. I will try to break things down as best I can so you can be ready for what you will face at Toughest. Remember, for many participants WTM is more of the ultimate sufferfest. Toughest Mudder, on the other hand, is a full-fledged OCR!

Another key thing to realize about Toughest Mudder versus WTM is the difference in the environmental stresses between the two races. One of the most difficult aspects of WTM is the thermoregulation issues that can go on with each participant. The human body can adjust to being too warm; the body can also adjust to the cold. However, when you ask your body to quickly switch from being warm to being cold all while you are fighting overall fatigue it can sometimes mean flirting with a medical DQ due to hypothermia. God help you if you make the mistake of going from overheating in a wetsuit to actually removing that wetsuit rather than just venting it or taking it down. This will, most certainly, not end well as the body is now in “heat loss mode” and before it can readjust you will be hypothermic which at WTM often means your race is over. The Toughest Mudder races are different because you will start the race at night when the temps have already dropped. Therefore you will start cold and since the race ends not long after sunrise there will not be much change in temperatures overall. This means you will most likely never need a wholesale gear change, but only slight changes which will help out immensely. This is why having flexibility in your gear is much more important at these events but I will go more into this in the “Gear” section below.

APPROACH TO RACING
Race Day Prep: Toughest Mudder starts at 12am. Pretty much no participant is used to this. Most of us race early in the morning and even WTM started at noon in 2016. With this night start you have to be careful how you approach your daily nutrition as the wrong choice of a food that is difficult to digest during the latter half of the day could land you in the Port-a-Potty early in the race. To avoid this scenario you might want to consider flipping your daily diet upside down so that you are eating your typical pre-race foods closer to the event.

I would also plan on getting to the event location as early as TMHQ will allow you (9pm?). Remember that this event is new to Tough Mudder as well so expect things to go a little rocky for the time-being. Getting there early will also allow you a better staging area for your food and gear.

Remember this is an eight hour event so you should be able to run a lot of this race. Three time WTM champ and winner of the inaugural Toughest Mudder race, Ryan Atkins, actually recommends your pace for Toughest be “comfortably uncomfortable.” This is basically what exercise scientists call a high Zone 3/ low Zone 4 on the Heart Rate Zone scale. For a simple general calculation for using your heart rate (HR) to pace you can use this formula:

 (180-your age) + 5 to 10 = Heart Rate Goal in beats/min for the race

This type of pacing should allow you to run a lot and keep you moving as long as you are taking in the proper nutrition. Ryan told me that he thinks your best bet is to “shoot for even splits for your lap times.” Combining your monitoring of your HR and checking your lap times should keep you going at a decent clip and allow you to properly gauge whether you will reach you distance goal for this event.

One of the other major differences between WTM and Toughest Mudder is the “pit” area… or lack thereof at Toughest. The pit station we have become accustomed to at WTM has been reduced to a small area inside a tent within the festival area. This tent also serves as the participant gear tent for the regular Tough Mudder so this all sounds like a major pain in the you know what. Given the fact that this is actually off of the course tells me you need to plan on making limited trips to this stage area. If you have a pit crew then have a list prepared for him/her ahead of time so that person knows what to bring you and have him/her meet you at the proper spot to hand off your gear and nutrition. This will greatly speed the process and decrease the congestion in the staging test. I plan on using my Hydration pack to carry enough nutrition so that I will only need to pit after every other lap.

GEAR SELECTION
Depending on the location of the Toughest race, you could springtime rainy weather, summer time warm weather, or a feeling of nip in the mountain air of Whistler. My recommendation is to maybe not bring ALL of your gear…but bring more than you think you will need. It’s better to have it and not use it than to wish you would have brought something. If you are purchasing gear for these events I am a big fan of versatility. The more ways you can use an item then more value it will bring to you. As an example, there is pretty much no point in having a 5mm full wetsuit for a Toughest Mudder unless you plan on walking the entire thing on a cool night. A good plan is to have clothing that you can vent or partially remove should you get hot or if there is a portion of the course where you remain dry and don’t need the extra insulation. Items such as a quick drying windbreaker, possibly a front zip short wetsuit, and a Neptune Thermoregulation System all allow you to use them in a variety of temperatures and in a variety of ways to provide you a lot of flexibility during a lap to make sure that you stay comfortable. The Neptune allows you add chemical body warmers (you can choose how many you need based on the environmental exposure of the event) and easily wear a jacket over it to help keep you covered. Should you get hot you simply open your jacket to vent the heat. Worst case scenario you can dump the body warmers mid lap. Another item that is recommended by WTM vet Keith Allen is the Hyperflex 50/50 Polyolefin Top. “This shirt/vest can be layered over the top of a base layer to help keep you warm during the coldest portions of the race and then quickly removed between laps should you get too warm or it can be worn by itself depending on your needs.” The one downside is that this top cannot be vented so you still risk overheating mid-lap but at least it can be quickly removed in between laps if necessary.

Certain items can present issues based on their design. The problem with using something like Frogskins is it cannot be vented nor easily removed. In fact, Battlegrounds Battle Corps racer and WTM vet, Leah Hensley, told me “I wore my Frogskins during one of the races at the 2016 OCRWC and one of the biggest issues was the lack of venting and how freaking hard it is to get on and off. It’s so damn tight you can’t even lift the shirt to get air in to vent it!”

The point of reviewing this information is to understand how your plan to use your gear to keep you moving at the fastest pace possible. I have listed some of the items that I recommend you have for this event as well as some that I don’t recommend below. This is not a complete gear list by any means but it’s a start!

Recommended

NOT Recommended

  • Full wetsuit over 3mm
  • Frogskins Top
  • Insulated clothing of any kind that will hold excess water
  • Gloves (they usually don’t improve your grip)… and they make dry obstacles wet! L
  • Neoprene socks (these won’t insulate your feet as well as Medium weight Smartwool socks will)
  • Sunscreen… The race is at night!!!

NUTRITION
The old saying goes “you are what you eat.” In regards to racing, what you eat before and during an event can definitely determine whether you have a good race or a bad one. The key thing to understand when it comes to race nutrition is that you must find what works for you. This means it’s a good idea to trial and error, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider what “Science” says as well when considering what and when you should be consuming your nutrition! J

Research shows that the average endurance athlete can absorb about 200-350 calories/ hour while exercising (assuming they practice eating while training). If you are following the guidelines of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, this will equate to 40-50 gr of carbs, 10 gr of protein and 5 or so gr of fat (about the content of a Cliff Bar) per hour. The fact that these events are only 8 hours versus the 24 hours at WTM means you can get away with eating less but I would still use this as a goal for each lap. I also recommend at least some of this food be taken in during the lap and then loading up in the staging area.

Some key points to remember prior to the event:

  • Start carb loading about 5 days before the event. Take in a 30-50% more carbs that you have been eating. I even utilize a carb depletion phases during training to allow my body to adjust to fueling in this state. I do this again starting about 13 days out and then at 5 days I start loading.
  • On the day prior to the event make sure that you eat a lot of carbs while limiting your excess fat at every meal. Please be careful on the portions on both Friday and Saturday during the day prior to the event. The last thing you want is to miss-time your bowel movements and have to hit the head during the event. You also want to up your electrolyte content on the day prior to the race since the Sodium/Potassium pump system has a correction period of about 18 hours. The morning of the event should include a high carb and low fat meal. Fat not only slows the absorption of the meal, but it also can cause gastric distress during exercise leading to “the trots.” Fat, however, is not the only culprit of digestive issues during exercise. Keep in mind that single source sugar can also cause problems so try not to eat too much fructose or sucrose at one time before nor during the race. This is the reason that products like Gatorade and Tailwind utilize two forms of sugar in their products. Another thing to consider is the fact this event starts in what is basically the middle of the night will throw most people off so I think you might almost be better off flipping your meals on the Saturday of the race. For example, my dinner (with my usual race day breakfast foods) will be around 8pm. Then I will have a Clif Bar around 10pm and my 32 oz of Gatorade from 11pm-12am when the race begins. This is the same routine as my normal race morning.

Keep in mind, you must eat and drink constantly throughout the event in order to keep fueled. If you wait until you are hungry or thirty to replenish then you have already failed!!! It takes a minimum of about 18-24 hours to replenish your muscle glycogen stores after strenuous exercise much less while you are still moving when your digestion isn’t all that efficient during exercise.

Some key nutrition/hydration points during the race:

  • I suggest having an electrolyte drink either in your hydration pack or at least as your main source of fluids in the pit. Liquids absorb quickly so this will help you immensely. Tailwind seems to be the most highly recommended for this purpose. During the pit stops, have a plan with about what you need to eat so you get enough calories. You will get less hungry as you become more tired. This is a natural effect as your body is trying to conserve digestion energy to keep you moving figuring that you will eventually stop to fuel but as endurance athletes we can’t stop moving. You simply have to keep eating! Again, this is where calorically dense foods and engineered foods help you get in those calories.
  • Due to the higher level of intensity during this event versus WTM it will be much more difficult for your digestive system to do its job. This is the reason most ultra distance runners resort to liquid only nutrition such as Tailwind. I recommend that Toughest Mudder participants limit their “real food” intake to avoid the increased possibility of having issues. Instead, I believe it is more prudent to rely on “engineered” foods because these supplements will not only be easier to digest and provide less bulk but they are also easier to carry and faster to ingest. I will include a list of recommend types of nutrition at the end of this section.
  • As far as hydration goes, your body needs about 8 oz of water every 15 minutes (1 liter per hour) during exercise. The easiest way to ensure you get this is to have a hydration pack but as long as you drink when you can then you will be fine. I drank about 35 oz per lap (14 laps in 25 hours) last year at WTM and my level was spot on for me. A great gauge on this is how often you urinate. If you are doing so once a lap then cut back on the fluids. If it’s like once in the first three hours then you want to pick up the pace!

Nutrition List

  • Liquid Options
    • Gatorade
    • Tailwind
    • Hammer Nutrition
    • Cytomax
    • Endurox R4
    • Acclerade
    • CarboPro
  • Gels/Gummies
    • AccelGels/ GU/ Boom
    • Clif Blocks/ Gatorade Chews/ Sport Beans
    • Apple Sauce/ Fruit Sauces
  • Energy Bars
    • Clif Bars/ Powerbars/ Complete Protein Cookies
    • Granola Bars/ Nutrigrain Bars/ Snickers Bar
  • Other options
    • Beef jerky
    • Pickles/ Pickle Juice/ Pickle Juice pops
    • Mustard Packets
    • Hammer Salt Tabs
    • Hammer Perpetuem Solids
    • Stimulants- Cellucor/ caffeine pills/ Monster/ Red Bull

Remember that every person is different in how they like to approach a race. This guide represents a coherent approach toward tackling Toughest Mudder. Take this collection of information and use it as a base to develop a plan of attack as you prepare for the Toughest Mudder events. It is my goal to help prepare you so that you can give your best effort out there when the rubber hits the road… or trail in this instance.

Good luck and Godspeed!

Are you fit for the F.I.T. Challenge?

A short OCR course, based in New England. This OCR brainchild of Robb McCoy, brings its racers a non stop experience. With three words defining it, fortitude, integrity, toughness, F.I.T. Challenge tests physical capabilities on a multitude of levels. So are you fit enough for the F.I.T. Challenge? According to McCoy “Everyone is fit for the F.I.T. challenge.” His question is to what degree is your challenge? Covering distances and skill levels from multi lap survivor to mandatory obstacle completion, open waves and even coming out for a fun time as a team. “…there are so many challenges with in the one event you cant go wrong.”  Still unsure? Here’s a quick peak behind the curtain.

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The Fall Fit Challenge VII was located in Cumberland, Rhode Island, a 3+ mile course stacked with 40 obstacles and a solid 1,100 feet of elevation gain. Needless to say, this is not your average 5K in the woods. Taking off, racers immediately hit their first climb. A direct shot up the mountain. What goes up, must come down, right? Lucky for us it goes back up too. After making the first descent we hit a back to back climbs over walls, vertical cargo nets, over-under-through combo walls, before the first of two carries, the log carry. A quick, but steep loop followed by hitting to more jumps and a floating inverted wall, before our next climb. Are-you-fit-for-the-F.I.T.-ChallengeAre-you-fit-for-the-F.I.T.-Challenge

This climb wasn’t as rough, but the obstacles that followed were stacked. Descent into a hoist, pulley curl, Double Ups, and a, choose at your own risk, Wreck-bag carry. If you were questioning your fatigue now F.I.T. presented you with the first Destroyer before going back into the trails. Where we faced a cargo net style monkey bar, back to back peg board and rope climb. Hitting an incline, army style crawl then a final steep rolling hill and climb.

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Just when you think your out of the woods and in the clear, F.I.T. Challenge makes sure to get in some of its toughest obstacles. Over-Under Rig, walls, The Destroyer 2.0, 3-optioned Rig, Atlas Balls, and a slip wall, with a few walls and crawls sprinkled in between, before you were able to cross a finish line you know you earned.

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So, are you fit for the F.I.T. Challenge?

Yes, your physical capabilities will be tested in many areas, pure brute strength, cardio endurance, lifting and carrying, along with speed and agility, if your racing it, but being super human is not a necessity. F.I.T. Challenge opens itself to catering to many different athletes, whether interested in an Elite, open, or Multi-lap Survivor option.

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If your looking to have a challenging, but fun race, check out the open wave option. With ability to take your time and learn the obstacles, you’ll be able to build your confidence. Joe Crupi, founder of Team Panda Fit Camp SGX, says going out as a team is one of his favorite ways to take on a course “…It makes for an outstanding and fun experience, helping each other over walls, coaching each other through challenging obstacles like the rigs, and motivating each other to try our best and discovering abilities you never new you were capable of”.

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“Signing up for the elite heat in F.I.T. challenge is definitely intimidating” – Sarah Kelly

Ready to fight for your band and take on the Elite course? If 3 plus miles of quick elevation climbs and 40 obstacles wasn’t tough enough, F.I.T. Challenge has a mandatory obstacle completion for its Elite wave. Upside is you get to give that Multi-Rig another shot if need be. Female Elite, Sarah Kelly’s advice is to be confident. “It’s a small and stacked group…but it’s a great way to see what your made of and how hard you can push yourself, since it’s such a brutal course.”

Are-you-fit-for-the-F.I.T.-Challenge

Now if Open and Elite waves don’t quite feed your appetite, F.I.T. Challenge offers you the Multi-lap Survivor wave. Giving you a solid 5 hours to get in as many laps as possible, with a mandatory last lap start before the final noon wave takes off. Get three or more laps in and earn yourself a handmade block to show off your toughness. Taking on a multi lap course, competitively, takes a bit more grit and mental preparedness then the others. As competitive multi-lapper and elite racer Antoni Favata would say its “an entirely different animal.” Aside from training, he stresses the necessity of having fun in order to keep a good and competitive mental state on the course. His advice is to “…get familiar with pacing. Train time on feet!” and to toss out the “cookie-cut 60 minute workout window”.

Whether Open wave, Elite racing, or Multi-lap Surviving, or having fun, the best way to see if your fit for the F.I.T. Challenge is to cross the start line.

Are-you-fit-for-the-F.I.T.-Challenge

Spartan Race – Killington Ultra Beast 2016: No Small Undertaking

The 2016 Killington Ultra Beast was no small undertaking. Two laps of one of the toughest Spartan Races on the map is not a feat to be taken lightly. One of the most challenging aspects of the Ultra Beast for me was knowing on the first lap that I would have to complete everything in front of me not only this time, but another. And when I dared set foot back out on that monstrous course for lap two, I already knew every last detail of what waited ahead.

I had never raced at Killington before, let alone attempt the Ultra Beast, but I figured why not. I know I could do the beast. Let’s push it a bit here.

My drop bin was prepped long before we arrived at the venue emblazoned with the words “You ran FIFTY MILES… You got this.” I was surrounded by family and friends, words of encouragement and good food leading up to the race. I was ready. Nothing much was different from any other race.

Saturday morning, my friends picked me up and drove me to the venue. They dropped off my bin so I could go directly to the start, being the only one in the 6 am heat. Standing around waiting, I got to talk to many friends I wasn’t expecting to see at the start, but I felt like I was in a daze. After a 15 minute delay and then 10 minutes of explaining the rules and singing the national anthem, we were finally off by about 6:25. Consequently, the cutoff times were all pushed back 30 minutes.

killington-ultra-beast-2016-start

From the very beginning, racers got spread out based on power hiking ability. The course started with a 1,000 ft ascent and from just those beginning miles, I was already thinking about lap number two – how much I didn’t want to do this twice. I knew it was far too early to think like this and I redirected my thoughts to each step, one by one.

It didn’t take long before I realized I was somewhere near the front of the pack. I could count the women in front of me: three. I wasn’t moving like I normally do through the obstacles though. I felt extremely sluggish through the first barbed wire crawl and practically powerless on the vertical cargo net. Something wasn’t right, but I knew I had to get it done; so I opted to keep my eyes on the women who kept passing me on the obstacles. I made sure I passed them back on the runnable portions of the course as well as the climbs seeing as that’s my strength.

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When we neared the festival grounds, my pace improved greatly, that is until I stepped into the lake. For the remainder of the swim, I was gasping for air because the water was so frigid. I climbed the ladder and made it to the top but chose not to go across the Tarzan Swing since one of the ropes was not knotted and I knew I would slip. I climbed down, swam the rest of the way across and completed my 30 burpees. Back in the lake, rocks and sand in my shoes, and then finally back on solid ground for some more power hiking – rocks and sand still in my shoes because I wasn’t taking them off.

Almost more treacherous than the ascents were the knee shattering and ankle rolling descents. If we weren’t hiking through dense woods on extremely technical “trails” then we were on the ski slopes. Usually, I’d be cheering myself on at this point because downhill running is another strength of mine and typically where I would make up a lot of time, but not on this course. A few steps into each descent and I could feel the pressure building up in my knees. I decided to go swiftly, but not too daringly, at a jog.

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I missed the spear throw… SHOCKING. And then a few obstacles later, I made it to the final and easiest object on the multi-rig, the pipe, but just could not shift my left hand forward. I fell. 60 burpees right there at the end before I could get to my sweet salvation: potato chips, sour patch kids, and chocolate covered espresso beans. But why was I so out of it?

After the multi-rig, just before the slip wall (one of the final 3 obstacles), was an exit off to the left which brought us to the transition area. As I entered the transition area, there was a woman holding white bibs. She proceeded to hand me one and said congratulations, you’re in seventh. That was probably the first smile I cracked in several hours. I was extremely proud to be amongst the top 20 females, but I also knew how exhausted I felt. I long thought about stopping here, but it wasn’t what I set out to do. I needed to get back out there for another lap.

After 5 minutes of searching for my bin, which I just couldn’t seem to locate, others began to help and ultimately found it for me. I was greeted by my water, Gatorade, Clif Bars and Bloks, gummy bears and other treats as mentioned earlier. I also had a med kit, towel and extra socks, none of which I used. Very unlike me, I couldn’t be bothered to take my shoes off. A racer nearby took a massive container out of his bin and asked if anyone wanted a peanut butter & jelly. He must’ve had ten sandwiches! So yes, I ate one. I refilled my hydration bladder and packed my race vest with all of my new morale-boosting snacks as well as some solid calorie foods and I was off.

We set out on a short trail run beside the start chute which quickly reconnected to the course. It was there that it was apparent who had just begun the course and who was on lap two. The Ultra Beast participants jogged or even walked as Beast participants sprinted on by. But for the first time this race, I was running with people I knew. And as we approached that first climb once more, we got down on our hands and knees, crawling forward. Before long, I was by myself again and moving slower than everyone around me.

All of the obstacles were textbook Spartan with no real surprises. The course started off with some of the easier obstacles and proceeded to diminish your spirits and crush your soul as you went along. But by lap two, nothing was easy. The Bucket Brigade must’ve taken me 20 minutes the second time around. And at the Tarzan Swing, I barely made it up the ladder at which point my grip was fried. I reached out and grabbed the first rope and then let myself drop into the water. “Well, my headlamp’s gotta be dead now…” And it was.

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The burpee area was a mud pit by now and I was thankful we were getting back in the water afterwards. Upon exit of the lake, I took out my Ziploc baggie filled with sour patch kids and espresso beans, drained the lake water out, and ate the espresso beans. It only took 6 miles at a snail’s pace to realize that this would give me the boost I needed. The power hiking expert me was back.

As I climbed up through Norm’s trails in the woods once more, I was soon stuck in a very slow-moving line. I used every opportunity to climb rocks and tree roots just to pass people. Many cheered me on saying, “You go, Ultra Beast,” but I replied “More like ultra idiot.” Although I was completing the obstacles with the most ease I had all day and really began to boost my pace as I watched the clock tick down to 6:30, I was only at the plate drag. Regardless, I sprinted down the mountain to the sandbag carry, got it done as quickly as possible, and sprinted toward the cutoff. I heard a stranger say good for you for finishing strong just before I reached the rope climb… 15 minutes too late. I topped it off with a smile and a heel click, just what I said I’d do when I finished, but it wasn’t long before my timing chip was cut off and I could no longer hold back the tears.

We had 15 hours to complete the course twice. We had to be out of the transition area by 2 pm, giving us exactly 7.5 hours per lap. I completed my first lap in 6.5 hours and despite the extra hour, I still didn’t make it. Approximately 28 miles into the 32 mile Ultra Beast and all that remained from that point was the Death March with a number of obstacles back down at the base right before the finish. The Race Directors knew that racers wouldn’t make it to the finish by 9:30 pm if they didn’t get through the rope climb with at least three hours left to complete the final 4 miles. I knew if I could catch my friend and my mom doing the Beast I would make the cutoff, but I never caught up to them.

As I returned to my drop bin, I received consoling words from friends as well as strangers, none of which seemed to help. Still now, I’m not quite sure how to explain exactly what it is I’m feeling, but one thing I know for sure is that I earned my DNF.

I watched headlamps line the mountain slopes as racers completed the final ascent and descent while I waited by the fire. Everything about it was remarkable: from the simple beauty of the lights to the incredible challenge Spartan Race put in front of us on such a magnificent mountain. Although what stands out most is the physical and mental resolve of the competitors who took on, and more so those who were able to finish, the 2016 Killington Ultra Beast: no small undertaking.

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Photo Credit:Kevin Donoghue, Bill Durando, Spartan Race, Justina Rosado


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