How not to poop your wetsuit

I often joke that endurance races are as much of a running competition as they are an eating contest; I love both so no wonder these types of races are my favorite. But the truth is: several hours into the race, eating, just as running, becomes hard. But you can’t quit – because if you stop eating, eventually you’ll run out of fuel, and your legs will no longer let you move. You can never fall behind on nutrition, and if you rely on your hunger to know when to eat another snack you’re already behind.

Knowing this I came into my first ever endurance OCR event, WTM 2017, with a plan: eat often, eat foods high in calories and easy to process, and I would never have to stop running. That plan worked well until the reality of the wetsuit hit me – when you’re covered in layers of neoprene that are covered by more layers of bibs and windbreakers, eating too much (or eating the wrong foods) is just as much of a disaster as eating too little. Wetsuits are expensive and spouses only have so much patience to deal with our crap (pun intended), so I was determined to figure out my nutrition, study my body’s response to different foods, and test new strategies in endurance events throughout the year to come into WTM 2018 better prepared.

Everyone is different

The most important thing to figure out is what kinds of foods work well for you. Now is a great time to start – throughout the year, notice which foods give you energy, what puts you to sleep, what you can eat 5 minutes before a workout or a run and not barf. Most importantly, figure out which foods make you poop – I started making notes of things to avoid based on how soon after the meal or a snack I was running for the toilet. For me, two of those are nuts and watermelon, which would otherwise be perfect in a race (nuts are high in calories and watermelon is full of electrolytes). When you’re running around in a wetsuit, however, electrolytes aren’t going to help you much if you turn hypothermic stripping out of your wetsuit every 10 minutes (if you’re lucky enough to be able to do it in time).

sad-food

Your choice of food should probably make you a bit happier than this. Photo credit: Jake Ramsby. 

Know your diet

Another important thing is to know your diet, and not deviate from it significantly during the event. I generally eat healthy, with almost no processed food (other than cereal) and I haven’t had a dessert other than fruit in years. While it’s true that any calories are better than no calories, I have no idea how my body would respond to things such as cookies, Snickers bars, or other heavily processed foods so I tend to avoid those. You can certainly eat foods you don’t normally eat on a run, but I would avoid things you never eat. Similar goes for energy gels – a lot of those are basically a mix of fructose and maltodextrin, the main reason for my GI issues before I switched to real food based gels. You might be fine if your stomach is used to processed foods, but if your diet generally consists of meals made from scratch you probably want to find something your stomach will know what to do within a race as well.

pizza-and-coca

Pizza and hot chocolate are a popular nighttime snack. Photo credit: Joe Tabor.

When to eat

Once you have your list of deliciousness to look forward to, just how often should you consume them? I went into WTM 2018 with a plan to have one Spring energy gel every 20 minutes and real food at every pit stop. What I didn’t account for was that my watch was both caked in mud and hidden beneath layers of clothing. You could set an alarm, but it’s unlikely you’ll hear it under all of the layers keeping your head warm. Instead of going by time, I decided to go by the feel – not hunger, but rather energy level. As soon as I started to feel a bit more sluggish, I tried to eat. If I started feeling cold, I tried to eat. I had mental checkpoints along the course, places where if I hadn’t had anything yet by then on that lap, I would eat something there whether or not I felt like I needed it.

eat-on-the-go

Eating on course saves you a lot of time. Photo credit: Brad Kerr Photography

Immodium is your friend

Even with all of the above, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to run for 24 hours without needing to visit a porta potty at least once. Don’t try to hold it longer – you won’t make it through the race anyway, and it will only make it worse and probably give you a stomachache. If you notice that your stool is loose, I highly recommend Immodium – in fact, I recommend this as a precaution as well, and I always take one before a race. I took two of those after my poop lap in Atlanta, after which my stomach calmed down and I was able to keep on racing without any more trouble coming my way. And make sure to note how you feel afterwards – one thing I’ve noticed is that pooping always makes me so hungry soon after, so I make sure to increase my food intake during the pit stop that follows.

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Lines between gear and food get blurred as the temperatures drop below freezing: and warmer or a cookie? Photo credit: Benjamin Keith Riley 

Bottom line

At the end of the day, we are all different and figuring these things out takes a few races to troubleshoot and learn on mistakes. Hopefully, yours will be less smelly than mine.

poop-patrol

Anne Clifford helped both me and Kris Mendoza strip in and out of our wetsuit on the course. The real hero of WTM 2018. Photo credit: Mathieu Lo

 

There is no DNF in a timed, looped, race.


There is no DNF in a time, looped race.

Here is how it goes.

1. The timed, looped race starts at a specific time.
2. Your job is to run for as long, and as far as you can, until the time runs out.

  • Want to take breaks? Do it!
  • Want to sleep? Do it!
  • Stop 12 hours in and go home, Cool.
  • Want to go balls out, no matter what, all through the night!?

3. The race ends at a certain time.

When the final horn goes off, whoever has the most laps in the fastest time, wins! Next highest laps in fastest time is 2nd place, next highest is 3rd, and so on. (In World’s Toughest Mudder’s case, 1209 racers)

The only way to get a Do Not Finish is to get disqualified by cheating.

Many cry  “But I stayed out all night, and that person didn’t.”

That was your choice and you got as many/more/less miles than that person, and can be happy/sad/thrilled with that result.

Follow along with me in this example:

It appears as though all of these athletes stopped well before 8:00am.

Yet, here they are listed as the 53rd-57th place. If the argument that “I stayed out all night mattered”,  their placement would show up beneath anyone that doesn’t show a finish time of at least 20 hours, or would be DNF altogether.

It means they would score lower than someone who ran one lap, slept for nearly 24 hours, then ran a morning lap. That makes no sense logically or competitively.

Age group awards are being handed out this year. Did TMHQ keep track of all the AG leaders as they come in each lap? Are they on radios, and handing out leader bibs tracking down top 3 in each age group?  I would not expect them to, and I assert, it’s time and resources better served doing other things at this event.

Seems like the official rules need some adjustment, or have a lot of angry people come awards time, or in OCR’s case, probably both.

2018 World’s Toughest Mudder Preview – Eli Hutchison


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New World’s Toughest Mudder obstacles, earning World’s Toughest golden carabiners, and more with Eli Hutchison.

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Atlanta, Georgia – Tough Mudder 2018


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Europe’s Toughest Mudder Berlin

This year saw the first Toughest Mudder series in Berlin, Germany and there was a lot of anticipation around the race, bringing competitors from across the globe. One would assume with the location and elevation profile that the weather would be sweet and the running would be easy- TMHQ made sure this was certainly not the case…

On arrival to the race site, it was a lengthy walk from the car park to registration and with a heavy kit bag, it felt like we had landed mid Spartan race in the bucket brigade (silver linings- warmup?). To make up for this, registration was fairly quick and painless and soon the pit tent was full of mudders eager to get started, some first-timers, oblivious to the eight-hour beasting that was ploughing their way. Improvements on last year’s ETM pit tent included easy in-and-out doors for runners and big screens with live male and female standings for support crew to monitor without braving the elements.

In a warm 17 degrees, competitors strolled into the start chute for the race briefing. Now, although my German is limited to ‘Ya!’ and ‘Nein!’, it was clear from the start there were a significant number of German runners and so the briefing was done mostly in German which was a nice touch from TMHQ as you could see it was getting racers fired up for the course ahead. For the minority of us we were blissfully unaware of 90% of what had been told to us but this seemed to calm my nerves rather than wait in anticipation knowing what was coming!
Toughest-Mudder-Berlin-Start-Line

The sprint lap flew by and before we knew it 95% of the obstacles were open for business. This differed to the previous ETM where they had staggered openings and closed/opened new ones as the 8 hours went by- this time everything was open and stayed open until the finish which made for a pretty intense 5 miles (with some modifications being made to harder versions in the later hours). I think most people had anticipated pretty warm racing conditions which, as the obstacles opened, was soon to be the opposite- 3 back to back water obstacles (including Blockness Monster, Cage Crawl, and the very very Arctic Enema) were within a mile of one another. I managed to run one lap of this before stuffing my neo hood into my wetsuit for extra protection- brain freeze and exhaustion left me wondering what else I could be doing on a fine Saturday night which wouldn’t result in me picking out ice cubes from my kit! For me personally, I find the water affects my mental state more than any other obstacle and it’s always a constant battle to fight off the ‘I just want to curl up in my Dryrobe’ thoughts and push through.
Toughest-Mudder-Berlin-Everest

The more laps that went by, the more aching I could feel in my legs as a direct result of the hard packed trail and concrete running we were doing- I would take hills for days over this type of terrain, as I’m sure many others would agree. With no elevation, there was no opportunity for that tactical ‘walk-break’ on the uphill which inevitably fatigued everyone faster than they probably anticipated. By 5/6am there were a good chunk of runners down and out which made the later laps pretty lonely- running with only one or two people in sight for miles. No Toughest Mudder is complete without a curveball and so the heavens opened from around halfway through the race which naturally pushed those runners not possessing Hulk-like grip to the penalty runs.
Toughest Mudder-Berlin-Kong-Infinity

I thoroughly enjoyed the course and whole feel to the race (if you can describe beating yourself up for 8 hours during the night as enjoyment) and would definitely have this on my list again for next year. It’s always refreshing to see a stream of first-timers at Toughest events which means this sport is still growing and TM aren’t losing their edge. Often when I describe the event to friends or family they will say ‘why would you want to do that?!’ but the 8-hour event, in the dark, cold and (often) wet night is where you really find your limit and pushing through those limits is something everyone should experience at least once in their lives.
Toughest-Mudder-Berlin-Finish

Tough Mudder Whistler Weekend {Journal Entry}

Whistler once again hosted the Tough Mudder Weekend & it was pretty epic!  I ran both days, Tougher on Saturday & the Half on Sunday.Tough Mudder Whistler Weekend -01

I’m more of an experiences man, if you’re looking for a short & concise detailed race recap, you’re reading the wrong blog post as I tend to write more about the whole experience. This is why I will now be appending these types of posts with {Journal Entry}

 

I traveled to Whistler with my wife; Charity, and a friend of ours; Troy. The cost of lodging in Whistler has almost doubled in the last three years.  I don’t know if it’s because the owners now know that TM happens all in the same weekend & therefore jack the prices up, but all I do know is that a two-bedroom hotel room only cost me around $250 for the weekend three years ago, that same room last year was around $400.  We ended up staying at the Whistler Athletes Centre this time & paid about $500 for our own townhouse which saved us some money thanks to the Pit Momma herself, Traci Watson.  A similar room was now around $600.  If you want to save money next year, reach out to her, I hope she is able to get such an awesome group deal again!  It was great staying here as there were quite a few other Mudders around to chat with.  We ended up helping out a fellow Vancity OCR teammate, Nathan, & gave him our extra pull out couch to crash on.  On Friday night Traci & I ended up hosting a pretty good sized Pot Luck dinner.  Heck, even TM’s finishing man Clinton Jackson popped by to greet his fellow mudders & partake in the festivities.  After dinner, we all chatted a bunch & a few of us ended up going to one of the shared living room spaces & playing a Trivia Game.  It was quite an entertaining night.

 

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Saturday: Tougher

I’ve done a few TMs in the past in Whistler and the weather has typically been rather cold & rainy but the forecast this year said it would be sunny and warm.  A happy change!  I packed everything from Shorts to Frog Skins.  I seriously prefer to have to lug all my gear with me and not need it over not bringing it & needing it.  I looked over the updated forecast in the morning & decided on wearing my warming leggings & long sleeve shirt but to bring shorts to change into for afterward. It was rather early and brisk out & I am a wuss when it comes to being cold and I knew I’d be facing Arctic Enema.  I got dressed & headed out with Nathan.  Charity and Troy would be doing the Full together later that evening so I knew I would meet up with them afterward in Mudder Village.  I arrived on-site about 45 mins before the 7:30 am start time & ended up waiting for another 15mins or so before they opened the floodgates to allow us to register.  There were approx., 70 Men & 17 Women & TMHQ decided to break us up into a Men’s & Women’s group with the women leaving around 8 am.

 

There were 22 obstacles on the map and I was feeling pretty good even knowing that Arctic Enema was in the first quarter of them or so.  I would rather have had it closer to the end after the sun had been up for a while, but I knew I had to suck it up!  Our heat was let go pretty close to on-time after Sean gave a great speech.  The course was different again this year.  I am enjoying the fact that TM keeps changing it up each year.  Last year they had us basically going in the opposite direction as the year before.  I was still a bit concerned that I would be “On my own” for a bunch of the obstacles.  I’m used to having plenty of others around me for help is needed.  This was also my very first race.  Yes, I have done tough Mudders & other OCRs in the past.  But they were always at a Jog/Walk pace.  The Tougher wave would be the first time that I could see what I had.

I was filled with fear & anticipation as I knew I could get it done, I just didn’t want to be dead last.  Heck, even if I was, I would know where I stood.  I was rather proud of myself for getting over “Berlin Walls” again, without a boost from someone, & we were told there would be something special waiting for us at the “Hero Carry” but there was nothing there for us at all when we reached it. I’d say I was able to keep up with the middle of the group until around halfway.  I kept a pretty good running pace up until around “Ladder to Hell”.  I started to slow down to a Jog around this point which I was fine with.  I was just pleasantly happy that there were others around me still at this point.

I arrived next at “Boa Constrictor” which I can’t say I had seen before.  Perhaps the volunteer wasn’t paying that much attention but I saw the person ahead of me go into the tubes feet first so I followed suit. It wasn’t until the next day when I did the same obstacle during the Half that I would see the small sign off to the side that said Head First!  Going in feet first kinda made sense as it angled down into water that had barbed wire over it & then you climbed back out through a tube on the other side.  I figured, skootch down, use your feet & legs to help you get out of the tube then crawl to the next one.  Well, that didn’t work so well in practice & I experienced the reason why you should go head first.  Sure, your face & head would be in the water first, which I really didn’t fancy, but there was enough room for air.  I am not a fan of confined spaces & I tell ya now, I started to freak out a bit.  As I worked my way down the tube the water started getting deeper & deeper & I started to float.  To the point where I could barely go any further down.  After a bit of squirming & wiggling, I hooked my foot on the top of the edge of the tube & slowly pulled myself out.  I was breathing heavily & hated every second, it felt like minutes, of it.  But, I got through it!

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I knew “Block Ness Monster” & “Everest 2.0” would be coming up soon & I knew I’d need some help with that.  Apparently, I had fate on my side as earlier, back at “Arctic Enema”, which took me a while to get chest deep into but I got it done!, one of my other Vancity Team Mates, Amin, passed me while I was getting up the nerve to complete it.  I could now see him & a few other Vancity peeps up in the distance.  This was a huge load off.  I decided to pick it up a notch & catch up to them.  We stuck together the rest of the way, helping each other through any obstacles that we may need help with.  Sure, I may have been able to push myself harder & to go ahead of them, but I was very happy with how my performance was up to this time & the old me kicked in, the one that likes to talk to & enjoys the company of others, and I knew I could always try the same Tougher heat again next year.  In the end, I ended up failing the two obstacles I knew I would.  “Kong-Infinity” & “Funky Monkey” I GOTTA work on my grip, arm & shoulder strength! The penalty loops were quite short, like 250ft max out and back on a flat or slightly elevated hillside. We all ended up finishing “Happy Ending” & crossed the finish line together.  The Tougher wave was an awesome experience.  I plan on partaking in it again next year in Whistler & I have also signed up for it in Seattle in a few months.

The Tougher/Full course ended up being about 16.79Km (10.43Mi) and took me about 3hours and 20minutes.   Not too shabby!  I ended up taking about an hour off of our typical Jog/Walk time so I felt pretty good about that.

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Sunday: Half

This was the very first time that I had attempted to do any physical activity like this more than once within a week or two of a gap.  I was feeling pretty good though.  I wasn’t sore, just a bit stiff.  I’m assuming Clinton Jackson could tell that because as soon as he saw me he came over & gave me the absolute best shoulder, back & neck massage I have EVER had, bar none!  He has such wonderful large monkey hands as he puts it.

The Half ended up having 13 Obstacles, it was approx. 10.63Km (6.58Mi) and it took us 2Hours and 30mins to complete.  We pretty much walked the whole thing & stopped to smell the roses & chat with other participants along the way.  We veered off course a bit at the very end to go through “Electroshock Therapy” which I ended up just sauntering through.  It’s really not that big a deal anymore.  Sure I was afraid of it the first time or two, then two years ago I decided to show everyone how much of a *cough* badass *cough* that I was & just walked on through it nice & slowly.  There’s not much to go into about the half that I didn’t pretty much cover from Saturday’s write-up above.  I ended up getting TM #4 in the books, did the Half as a shakeout “run” & got my 2x Repeat Offender headband because of it all (I’ll be getting my 3x RO in Seattle when I finish the 5K).  It was quite a fantastic weekend & I can’t wait to do it all again!  I still to this day though don’t fully understand why I keep putting myself through all of this other than, I am making up for lost time in PE class from high school, and I just enjoy the whole #OCRCommunity WAY too much!

 

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BTW, did I mention how gorgeous Whistler is?  If you haven’t been to this event, you really need to come check it out!

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Cheers!

 

All photos credited to Tough Mudder

PS. Please forgive the lateness of this article, I was having issues uploading pictures a while back.  Now that the issue has been resolved, you can expect a couple of these entries to come your way.  =)